The year 1887 was a very special year for the P&O Line. The company had been formed in 1837 so this was their Jubilee celebration and co-incidently, it also was the Jubilee for Queen Victoria. To celebrate this special year, the company had a class of four ships built, larger then any of their previous ships measuring 6.500 tons. Dubbed the Jubilee Class, their names were very patriotic. Victoria, Britannia, Oceana and Arcadia. Nice sidenote is that in recent years, P&O used all of the names of this class again.
Britannia as seen docked in the port of Getxo (Bilbao) at the 23rd of august 2016.
The first Britannia was sailing for P&O between 1888 and 1909, when she was scrapped in Genoa. Afterwards, the name Britannia was never again used in the company history, untill at the 1st of june in 2011 the order was placed with the Italian Fincantieri wharf at Monfalcone. The ship was going to be a part of the Royal Class, originally a two ship order for Princess Cruises that had been placed at the 4th of may 2010. The two ships in the class were named Royal Princess and Regal Princess and with 141.000 tons these ships were the largest ever ordered for Princess Cruises. On the 30th of july 2014, another ship in the class was ordered especially for the Chinese market and she will be the Majestic Princess, launching in 2017. Yet a fifth member of the class is now also ordered and is sceduled for delivery in 2019 as Sky Princess.
Construction and general statistics
On the 15th of may of 2013, the keel for the P&O Cruises ship was laid at the Monfalcone shipyard near Triest as yardnumber 6231. She was by far going to be the largest ship ever owned by P&O Cruises, topping the Ventura and Azura with some 28.000 tons. The announcement for her name was made officially at the 24th of september 2013 and now she was indeed known as the Britannia. The floatout was performed at the afternoon of the 14th of february 2014 and Italian tradition is that at this moment a bottle of champagne is smashed against the bow just like with a naming ceremony.
With a tonnage measurement of 143.730 she is indeed a very large ship, just a little larger then her earlier Princess sisters. The ship is 330 meters long, 44 meters wide and she has a draught of 8,3 meters. In total, there are 15 passengerdecks for her 4324 passengers and 1398 officers and crew. She is propelled by two screws instead of the modern pods, driven by two 14-cylinder and two 12-cylinder diesel engines designed by Wärtsilä. Power output comes from four generators connected to two electric motors and the ships normal servicespeed is around 21 knots.
Most visible change in design from her Princess sisters is that she has two funnels instead of one large birdcage funnel. In recent cruiseship design, we have seen many two-funnelled ships like within the Disney fleet, the Solstice-class of Celebrity Cruises and the Vista Class of Holland America Line, as well as many ships with twin uptakes. This isn't only done because it looks cool but these huge ships have huge enginerooms that simply need more space to get rid of the exhausts. When she entered service, Britannia was in fact the 16th modern cruiseliner sporting two funnels and several more are on the drawing boards.
Another visible change is the huge Union Jack at her bow, especially designed for the Britannia but now also applied to the rest of the fleet.The Union Jack at her bow is the largest in the world where-in 420 liters of paint were used. The flag is with 94 meters also the longest Union Jack in the world and it was applied to give the ships of P&O Cruises a very bold and recognizable style. Not only the flag was new, as also the funnelcolours changed from buff-yellow (as they had been since the Strath-liners of the 1930's) to deep-blue with a golden sun logo in the middle.
There is a total of 1837 cabins aboard, of which 27 are single cabins. It is good to see that more and more cruiselines are now also catering for people travelling alone, as those were normally paying much more so cruising was too expensive for lone travellers. As a first in the fleet, all outside cabins of the Britannia have a balcony and the topdecks of the ship are different from her Princess sisters and there is no skywalk.
The ship has four pools, one totally dedicated for teenagers. There are 13 bars and 13 restaurants and café's, one of them being The Cookery Club, develloped by TV-chef James Martin. Here, world-renowed chefs and cheffin's will organize cookingclasses. This is the first cookeryschool aboard a British ship. Also, Sindhu returns as will a restaurant by Marco Pierre White and Olly Smith's The Glass House. In addition to those, The Limelight Club is a venue where entertainment and dining are combined in supperclub tradition. Another feature that comes over from the Princess sisters is a complete TV studio from where broadcasts will be send over the ships systems.
For the interiours of the ship, P&O approached the British firm Richmond International. It is the first time in the companies history that a British firm solely is designing the interiours. Most stunning is the large three-deck high atrium, done in white and royal blue and decorated with a monumental space age sculpture/chandelier named 'Starbust' that has a stunning lenght of eight meters. It was inspired by nighttime stars, that were the guide of old-time sailors and it is attatched to a ceiling-sky done in midnight blue. It is one of 8000 pieces of art, mostly created by British artists, of which most are female.
Below, Britannia is seen from high above the same terminal at Getxo in early 2016.
At the 27th of february 2015, the ship departed the Fincantieri wharf via Gibraltar to Southampton, where she was inaugurated. At the 10th of march she was named by Queen Elizabeth II at the Ocean Terminal, the fifth cruiseship that she has been godmother to. For the ceremony, a nebuchadnezzar bottle of sparkling wine of the Wistor Estate winery in Sussex was used to make also this 'touch' to the bow British. Also Prince Phillip was there so a true Royal gathering. Of course, there was a large fireworks display and the naming ceremony was featuring music, dancers and singers, including the Red Hot Chilli Pipers bagpipersgroup.
On march 14th, the ship departed on her maiden voyage for Spain, Italy and France, sailing a series of European cruises in summer and Caribbean cruises in winter.