Travel Review: Getting the royal treatment aboard P&O Britannia
PUBLISHED: 15:31 05 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:28 05 December 2016
Charlotte Skidmore spends 12 nights aboard P&O Britannia to see if the biggest ship built for the British market lives up to its royal title
Having cruised with a number of companies before, I have come to learn that every one of them has their own way of doing things and an individual style.
How would I describe the P&O style after a 12-night cruise from Southampton around Iberia and the Canary Islands? ‘Classic British cruising for the whole family’ is exactly how I would sum up this experience. And the convenience of starting our holiday just two hours up the road from Somerset was a real bonus.
There’s everything from bridge, ballroom dancing and bingo to an extensive kids club with a 2am crèche and a whole host of things in between onboard Britannia.
This great ship’s signature initiative is to run food hero cruises with the likes of Marco Pierre White, Eric Lanlard and James Martin hopping aboard to delight passengers with cookery masterclasses and hosted dinners.
Read on and we’ll look a bit more in depth at what P&O offers for a holidaying experience.
What struck me when we booked this cruise is that every outside cabin has a balcony, which for me is a feature that can really make the difference between a great cruise and special cruise. OK, so it wasn’t the biggest balcony in the world but it accomodated two chairs and a table comfortably, so what more do you want?
Our cabin was a superior deluxe balcony cabin, bigger with added extras like a bath in many and two flat screen televisions, which came in very handy when trying out the wealth of programmes and films on offer, mostly at no extra charge.
White Company toiletries are used for the cabin bathrooms, a lovely bit of luxury, and touches like a pair of binoculars and an umbrella were great additions.
The fridge was of a good size and came in handy for storing water, soft drinks – and wine!
It was really lovely to have the separate lounge area with a sofa and dressing table, divided from the sleeping area by a curtain – it meant my travelling companion and I weren’t falling over one another throughout the trip.
The highlight of my cruise was the Cookery Club masterclass hosted by well-known chef and Britannia ‘Food Hero’, James Martin. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience from start to finish, with great fun, tips and everyone sitting down to eat their creations with James at the end in a fabulously buoyant (excuse the pun) atmosphere.
This is P&O’s USP, but be warned – the masterclasses and other cookery sessions book up quickly, as do the hosted dinners!
If cooking isn’t your thing there are plenty of other things to do, from dance lessons, West End shows and piano recitals to comedians, quizzes and deck quoits. We did enjoy the odd music quiz or two and a race night in Brodie’s Bar (a great list of beers there for those who enjoy a pint or two) and it just happens to be next to the casino where I admit we did find ourselves until the early hours on a couple of occasions.
If a quieter setting is more your cup of tea then borrow one of the many books from the absolutely lovely, well-stocked library.
The Britannia show cast did a fabulous job of entertaining passengers in the evenings with their shows in Headliners and there were some well-known faces from the world of entertainment to boot. There is also a cinema, showing multiple screenings each day, the Live Lounge, which was packed to the rafters on the Take That tribute night, the beautiful crystal room where the ballroom dancing takes place and themed sailaway parties.
Let’s not forget the pools and the two hot tubs, in which I spent hours of my holiday and the really well equipped gym with great views out to sea (yes I did use it a few times in order to work off some of the food!).
The spa offers an extensive menu of treatments and I enjoyed a lovely pedicure there. Do book The Retreat, a private area in which to relax and be spoilt, early, as the day passes go fast.
Another of my favourite experiences onboard was trying the select dining – it was outstanding.
Michelin starred Atul Kocchar has brought his talent to Sindhu, where guests can expect modern, superb, memorable Indian cuisine with a British twist.
Meanwhile the Epicurean is very much the traditional fine dining restaurant. Lavish surroundings mix with traditional service to give this venue an atmosphere to match a top London restaurant. Eating here is very much about the senses, with the likes of melon and mint lollipops and raspberry sorbet lipsticks providing a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Main course was the chateaubriand to share, carved at your table and so beautifully tender, it really was divine. Dessert was equally as exciting with crepe suzette flambéed in front of your very eyes.
The Epicurean also serves an Eric Lanlard-designed afternoon tea, which is an elegant affair. It looks beautiful and is a must-do experience if you have a sweet tooth, but be warned this isn’t your regular cream tea, there will be some surprise combinations.
Select dining wise there is also The Glass House for the likes of steaks, sausage and mash and other traditional British fayre. It also does wine pairings with well-known expert Olly Smith, who has selected dozens of wines from around the world for passengers to sample every day of the cruise.
I can’t forget to mention the Limelight Club either, somewhere I regret not trying. A first for P&O Cruises, it’s is an adults-only venue that combines great food with dazzling entertainment. I did poke my head round the corner and I was very impressed with the plush surroundings.
Every passenger is given either set dining at 6.30pm or 8.30pm in the Oriental restaurant or freedom dining in the Penninsular or Meridian restaurants, where you can turn up from 6.30pm onwards and request a table. We started off having freedom dining and then realised we preferred the traditional method of sitting with the same people each night and making new friends on a cruise. I can however see how freedom dining would work for families and those who prefer not to mingle too much.
The main buffet restaurant, The Horizon, has a great selection of food until 2am, with themed evenings most nights for those who want a more laid back approach to dining. It does breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and then late snacks for those who really want to make the most of it.
There are also a number of good options for fast food, with a pizza takeaway on the lido deck near the swimming pool, burgers, hot dogs and southern fried chicken nearby and a grab and go option with sandwiches, wraps and salads to takeaway.
Want a holiday that offers total relaxation or as many activites as you want to join in with, fabulous food and drink and evening entertainment to rival the best London stage shows?
Want to wake up with a new place to explore every other day? Cruising is for you.
Want to do it in style? Britannia is for you.