BRITANNIA Waives the Rules
By Peter Newall
All images copyright Peter Newall.
BRITANNIA arriving at Southampton.
Despite the introduction of a series of new ships P&O Cruises has struggled to shake off its rather old fashioned image, not helped by the fact that it has continued to reflect on the heritage of P&O despite being no longer owned by the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company. With the introduction of the 142,000gt BRITANNIA P&O Cruises has at long last shrugged off the past with a new livery and a new ship which reflects the best elements of modern British design.
Constructed at Fincantieri’s Monfalcone shipyard, BRITANNIA was handed over to her owners on February 22, 2015, arrived at Southampton on March 6 and will be christened by Her Majesty The Queen on March 10.
Whilst her hull, machinery and internal spaces are virtually identical to ROYAL PRINCESS and REGAL PRINCESS, her interior design is very different from the rather glitzy Princess Cruises’ ships. The task of designing the stylish interiors was given to the British design company Richmond International which has specialised in hotel design for some forty five years. Among its many projects was the transformation of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Chicago tower into the luxury Langham Hotel. Richmond International was entrusted with all aspects of the décor from cabins to public spaces. This single designer approach has resulted in a cohesive design across the whole ship which reflects modern British understatement. The main colours are cream, bronze and black with hints of shades of blue. With so much to see it is only possible to provide a selection of the key aspects of the ship.
The three-deck high Atrium is the social heart of the thirteen-deck BRITANNIA. Unlike the grand statements on other large cruise ships this central lobby area has virtually no curves and is a wonderfully calm space for relaxation. The angular patterned carpets and smart tub chairs add to the contemporary feel and sense of modern design. The centrepiece of the Atrium is the spectacular eight-metre tall Star Burst sculpture which is part chandelier and part sculpture. The colours of the 280 acrylic shards, which are lit by LED lights, range from deep blue to gold and silver.
Java BRITANNIA’s chic coffee shop situated on the Atrium starboard side of Deck 7 also has an outdoor terrace for a relaxing sea view and coffee.
The Glass House
On the Atrium portside of Deck 7 is the Glass House, a popular venue for wine buffs which can also be found aboard VENTURA and AZURA. Here passengers can sample a wide range of wines and enjoy an informal selection of food.
The Glass House
Aft of the Atrium on Deck 7 is the Studio. This is a multifunctional entertainment space for talks, radio shows and music recitals.
The Live Lounge and Headliners Theatre
BRITANNIA has two main live entertainment venues – the 936-seater Headliners Theatre forward on Decks 6 and 7 with its simple design and perfect sight line and at the aft end of Deck 7 is the 410 capacity Live Lounge which has great funky décor.
The Crystal Room
Dancing has been a feature of P&O ships since the 1920s. The Crystal Room is the main lounge for dancing and has a wooden floor, chandeliers and comfortable chairs.
Stairwells and lifts
An extraordinary aspect of BRITANNIA’s décor is the calm simplicity of the designs which extend beyond the main public spaces to the lift lobbies and stairwells.
The Crow’s Nest
The Crow’s Nest panoramic observation lounge has been a feature of P&O-designed passenger ships since ARCADIA in 1954. This cosy lounge forward on Deck 16 also has an adjacent library and card room.
Crow’s Nest (detail)
BRITANNIA has been designed with foodies in mind. Not only is there a dedicated Cookery Club there are also a number of speciality restaurants. For fine dining there is the elegant Epicurean on Deck 16 and for lovers of Indian food the menus in Sindhu on Deck 7 have been designed by the Michelin-star award winning chef Atul Kochhar.
Pools and the sports decks
There are three large swimming pools on Decks 16 and 17. This lido-style area has been well designed with contemporary pool furniture and sun loungers. At the forward end of Deck 17 is the Retreat, an exclusive outdoor spa area similar to those on ROYAL PRINCESS and REGAL PRINCESS.
BRITANNIA is registered at Southampton and is the only ship in the P&O Cruises fleet to be registered in the United Kingdom. The probable reason for this is that it would not be proper for The Queen to be naming an Italian-built, United States-owned ship, aimed at the British market, with the Union flag on its hull, called BRITANNIA and registered in Hamilton, Bermuda. This means that weddings at sea cannot take place aboard BRITANNIA and that the ship will be subject to British and EU labour laws. No doubt at some time in the future she will join the rest of the fleet on the Bermuda register.
New colour scheme
A major part of P&O Cruises’ rebranding was the change in the hull and funnel design which has generated a mixed reaction from passengers and ship lovers. Although the blue and gold funnel markings do not seem appropriate for the tall single funnel ships in the P&O fleet they do work, especially in bright light, for BRITANNIA with her raked, twin funnels. This gives her a very distinctive profile whilst the Union flag on the bow area provides a more streamlined look and detracts from the rather stumpy, short bow.
Both P&O Cruises and Cunard are led by my former British Airways colleague, the affable David Noyes, Chief Executive Carnival UK whilst Captain Paul Brown (seen here) and Captain David Pembridge alternate as BRITANNIA’s masters.
David Noyes, Chief Executive Carnival UK
Captain Paul Brown
There can be little doubt that BRITANNIA will become a popular and successful ship not only for her design but also for the variety of activities and facilities for passengers to enjoy. She may have been built in Italy but is like CANBERRA in 1961 a proud expression for everything that is great about contemporary British design.
For more details about BRITANNIA and her itineraries visit pocruises.com
A well-known shipping writer, cruise journalist and cruise ship lecturer,
Peter Newall is a former British Airways executive who has, in the past 57
years, visited and travelled on many famous ships. As well as numerous
articles he has written nine highly acclaimed books including the
definitive histories of Union-Castle, Orient and Cunard Line. He also owns
the Newall Dunn Collection, the extensive collection of historic merchant
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