P&O Cruises revealed this week that their next ship currently building at the Fincantieri yards at Monflacone, Italy will be named BRITANNIA. Scheduled to arrive in March, 2015 the new ship will be the largest in P&O history at 141,000 gross tons with a length of 1,083 feet and a hull that is 125 feet wide. Based on double occupancy the ship is slated to carry 3,600 passengers, but could hold up to 5,000 with all available berths filled. Her 15 decks will contain 13 bars and restaurants, and a £1 million pound art collection. The BRITANNIA will become the eighth ship in the current P&O fleet, upping the line’s capacity by 24%.
Construction began May 15, 2013. The design is based on the newest ships of Princess Cruises, the recently introduced ROYAL PRINCESS (iii) and the REGAL PRINCESS (ii) arriving in the Spring of 2014. One pleasing difference in the exterior appearance is the revival of twin funnels in the traditional buff color scheme of P&O. Renderings indicate that the “Sky Walk” extending over the sides of the Princess ships has been eliminated on their British cousin. The popular forward-facing Crow’s Nest Bar above the Bridge will be retained and new signature venues, particularly in the area of dining, will be added. Four swimming pools will be found onboard and the spa will be larger than on the line’s other vessels. In addition, more single cabins will be offered.
The name BRITANNIA is such a revered and iconic name that at first glance, it seems an unusual choice. The now retired Royal Yacht was of course named BRITANNIA as well. But it turns out this is actually a name that has been part of P&O history. In 1887, P&O built a quartet of “Jubilee” class ships to commemorate their own 50th anniversary, and the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Each were given patriotic names, the second vessel of 6,525 gross tons bearing the name BRITANNIA. The others were named VICTORIA, OCEANA and ARCADIA. So, the new ship will actually be the second company vessel to bear the name. David Dingle, the chief executive officer for P&O Cruises, Cunard Line and Carnival U.K., said “BRITANNIA is a fitting name for the newest addition to P&O Cruises, which, with its long and famous heritage remains Britain’s favourite cruise line.” To be on the safe side the company sought permission to recycle the name, which is synonymous with the former Royal Yacht. “Yes, it is fine that we’re using BRITANNIA,” Dingle confirmed. The press releases describe the ship as a “modern classic” that will “capture both the contemporary spirit of P&O Cruises and the spirit of Britain today.” While the purpose of ships is different these days, as is the clientele that sail in them, P&O still remains as the world’s oldest passenger shipping line. And the new BRITANNIA will be the largest ship ever built exclusively for the U.K. market.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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