P&O might be the essence of all that scares us most about cruises. You might have had an elderly relative who spent every March visiting the same Canary Isles with them. For decades, their flagship was the SS Canberra, a ship “beloved by guests”, who seem to have been mad for the shared bathrooms and the “innovative” cabin courts that, somehow, turned cupboards into airy and spacious rooms for the discerning. Aherm.
P&O have been on a journey since the days of Canberra; one which hasn’t met with universal approval by those who long for deck quoits and communal showers, but which may have moved them closer to something you might consider.
The original replacement for Canberra was the mid-sized Oriana (1995), joined by the similar Arcadia in 2000. Both of those ships were aimed at traditional P&O customers and today, along with the smaller Adonia (soon to return from a sister line) are adults-only. Other ships added to the fleet since then have seen a continual increase in size with a focus on families and new cruisers.
This process culminated in 2015’s Britannia and a re-branding that saw the traditional buff funnels replaced with royal blue and a giant splash of the Union Jack across the bows. An even larger, 5200 passenger behemoth, has been ordered for delivery to P&O in 2020.
P&O offers a product which is unashamedly aimed at the British market. This means “pub” themed areas alongside the cocktail bars and a menu focused on “British favourites”; speculation that this included some excellent Indian dishes was not entirely true in practice.
Being UK-focused, the line offers a wide range of cruise options, particularly for those who want to completely avoid aircraft. In addition to epic World Cruises, “no-fly” voyages are regularly offered to the Mediterranean and Caribbean, for those that have the weeks to spare. P&O also offer a wide programe of short cruises from Southampton, ideal for those wanting to dip a toe in the water or to arrange a group getaway.