Britannia 2015
Itinerary Show Map
Wednesday 11th March-Southampton, UK
Thursday-at sea/anchor
Friday 13th March-Southampton, UK

Nights on board2
Days at sea1

More photos of Britannia's Southampton arrival >>
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The new Britannia arriving in Southampton on 6th March

Gerry joined me for this exclusive "Friends & Family" opportunity to sample this brand-new P&O ship on a "shakedown" preview-cruise, prior to the ship's official Maiden Voyage on the 14th March. We had been on "new" ships in the past (Splendour of the Seas in 1996 for instance) but this was the first time we had been able to sample a brand-new ship even before her official Maiden Voyage!

The photos of Britannia's arrival in Southampton and our Preview Cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

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Wednesday 10th March 2015
Embarkation in Southampton
Just 24hrs earlier, Her Majesty the Queen had been at the Ocean Terminal naming the ship, so the flowers were not for us! We were among the first to arrive at 11.45am for our allotted 12noon boarding, but we were then told that boarding would not start until 1pm! There was a delay, they said, with no further explanation. So we waited patiently, as the crowds began arriving.

As it turned out, check-in commenced at about 12.30pm and by 1pm, we were on board and in the Starburst Atrium, so called for its impressive 1-tonne sculpture by Hoad Design, comprising 280 reflective acrylic shards.

A Tour of the Ship
As we were among the first to board while it was still relatively quiet, we took the opportunity to tour the ship, taking as many photographs as possible!
(right) The Starburst Atrium and its sculpture by Hoad Design, consisting of 280 reflective acrylic shards
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The Starburst Atrium
& its spiral staircase
Brodies Bar & Lounge - the ship's Pub The Casino

Forward of the Starburst Atrium on Deck 6 is Brodies' Bar & Lounge, the ship's pub, named after Brodie Willcox, one of the founding fathers of P&O. The bar is also perhaps a nod to the famous "Long Bar" of Raffles Hotel, Singapore. The adjacent casino is modest by American-style cruise ship standards but then, Britannia has been designed specifically for British tastes, or so we are told.

Britannia's interiors were designed by Richmond International, well known hotel interior designers, so it's no surprise that the lift lobbies look a bit like those of a hotel or office building!

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Forward Lift Lobby
Headliners Theatre
Decks 6 & 7
(dark & claustrophobic)
Canyon-like Theatre entrance Deck-6 The Crystal Room
Deck 7 - The Dance Lounge

However, Gerry & I agreed that Headliners Theatre is dreadful. Sandwiched between two decks instead of the more usual three these days, the stage seems remarkably small and while seating is raked with good visibility, the overall atmosphere is dark and claustrophobic. Also, the Deck-6 entrances slice, canyon-like, through the main seating to the very front, wasting a lot of space. Perhaps it's a deterrent to that scourge of the cruise-ship, the after dinner late-comer?

Meanwhile, the Deck-7 Theatre entrances are high-up at the back, leading to The Crystal Room, the ship's Ballroom or dance-lounge, which is quite pleasant but unremarkable.

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The Glass House
Wine Bar, Deck-7 Atrium
The Java Café
Coffee Lounge, Deck-7 Atrium
Boat Deck View
from the Java Café

The upper level of the Starburst Atrium (Deck-7) features The Glass House, a wine bar by wine guru Olly Smith and the Java Café, a coffee lounge run by Costa Coffee. Both lounges offer views of the Atrium or out onto the Boat Deck, where there are more chairs and tables.

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Sindhu Restaurant (Deck-7)
Traditional Dishes with an Indian Flair
Sindhu Dinner Menu
by Atul Kochhar
Bar Lounge
outside Sindhu

Sindhu is one of various alternative dining venues and is the brainchild of TV Chef Atul Kotchhar. It's attractive and inviting and the menu equally interesting, giving an Indian style and flair to traditional dishes. The cover charge is 15-25 for dinner, depending on the length of the cruise.

Aft on Deck-7 is The Live Lounge, the ship's Nightclub/Disco. Like the Theatre, black is the primary theme, in this case more appropriately, except that the black marble bar has a hidden feature which may result in a number of drinks being spilled down unsuspecting revellers' clothes!

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The Live Lounge
Night Club/Disco (Deck-7 aft)
The Oriental Restaurant
for Traditional 2-sitting dining (Deck-6 aft)

Below the Live Lounge aft on Deck-6 is The Oriental Restaurant, for those wishing to enjoy dinner in the traditional 2-sittings. It's pleasant enough but, rather than taking advantage of its potential views of the sea on three sides, it has small windows and is broken-up by columns or partitions, making the overall ambience rather inward-looking. See Menu >>

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The Peninsular Restaurant
Deck-6 Midships
The Meridian Restaurant
Deck-5 Midships

The other two restaurants are located midships, with the Peninsular Restaurant on Deck-6 and the Meridian Restaurant immediately below it on Deck-5. Both serve passengers in open-seating or "Freedom Dining" as P&O call it. All three main restaurants serve identical menus each evening.

Show Menu Full Size Another dining option, however, is The Limelight Club, a cabaret/night club where you can eat and be entertained at the same time. Here the black décor is offset by grey and gold, creating a sophisticated atmosphere. The menu is more limited than in the main restaurants but with a cover charge of 22 for dinner and a show, it's another move towards persuading passengers to pay for something that used to be "free"!

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The Limelight Club
Cabaret/Night Club (Deck-5)
The Blue Bar
(Atrium - Deck-5)
Main Reception

Beside the Limelight Club, off the Atrium lower-level (Deck-5) is the Blue Bar, slightly hidden away for those who prefer not to be in the "thick of things" in the main Atrium.

Meanwhile, further forward on Deck-5 is the Main Reception, while even further forward is the Oasis Spa & Hydrotherapy Suite where, if you want to use its modest therapy pool (the only indoor pool on the ship) it will cost you 24 a day, although you do get the hot beds and sauna included!

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The Crow's Nest
Observation Lounge (Deck-16 forward)
The Crow's Nest
Starb'd side (Gerry's photo)
The Library
a bit small!

Show Picture Full Size On Deck-16 fwd is P&O's trademark observation lounge, The Crow's Nest, spacious and elegant, with a great view and the sophistication of a pianist in the evenings. Just off it is The Library, with only 4 comfy chairs and which also seems to be the ship's internet centre. Clearly, P&O don't want you spending your sea-days reading a book in the Library!
(left) Typical abstract art: Saronic Dawn by Michele Griffiths

Also on Deck-16 is The Ivory Suite, intended as a Wedding Chapel or for the renewing of vows but in fact, it is little more than a set of multi-purpose meeting/conference rooms.

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The Ivory Suite
Weddings & Vows
(Gerry's photo)
The Epicurean Restaurant
Entrance (Deck-16)
Menu 1 - Starters >>
Menu 1 - Mains & Desserts >>
The Epicurean Restaurant

However, next to it is The Epicurean Restaurant. Of the various alternative dining options, the is the "Fine Dining Experience" and the cover charge is accordingly 30 per person. We dined here on our second evening and the experience was certainly unusual - see later.

Our first meal aboard, however, was in the Horizon Restaurant on Deck-16 aft, where the spacious central serveries are well laid-out and matched by ample seating down both sides of the ship.

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The Horizon Restaurant
The self-service restaurant (Deck-16 aft)
The Servery
one of two actually!
My Lunch
Note the tray!

While it largely follows the old-style tray concept, it makes full use of the width of the ship and with double serveries and multiple identical serving lines, it did seem to reduce the usual queues.

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The Horizon Servery
The Sunset Bar
(Deck-16 aft)
The Terrace Pool
Hardly worth mentioning!

We concluded our tour of the ship at the Sunset Bar, outside and aft of the Horizon Restaurant. Its sheltered position and spacious seating will be popular in good weather. It is overlooked by the Terrace Pool, which is so small as to hardly warrant mentioning on the ship's guide!

Show Picture Full Size Our Accomodation
Our B5-grade Suite #A727 was impressive. Occupying 445 sq ft (41sq m) on deck-15 aft, it comprised a living room (equal in size to a standard cabin), a seperate bedroom with flatscreen TV, a dressing area and a sumptuous bathroom, including a seperate toilet/guest cloakroom and whirlpool bath.

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The Living Room & Dressing Area
with convertible sofa, flatscreen TV, cd-player, fridge & tea/coffee alcove
The Luxurious Bathroom
& seperate toilet/guest cloakroom!
The Balcony

While the living-space was not large for entertaining, the balcony was enormous, wrapping around the corner of the ship. But it was overlooked by the Sunset Bar above (so perhaps that's why ours was the lowest grade of the suites!) Hanging-space was good but there were few deep shelves and the tiny drawers were everywhere except the dressing area. However, the huge shower and heavenly whirlpool bath made up for any inconvenience! Show Picture Full Size

There was also the usual fridge and tea-making facilities, plus a coffee-maker, although it took a few goes to get a decent cup of coffee out of it! The main bonus in a suite though, was the Butler service, provided very well by Sumatra, plus a welcome bottle of bubbly and P&O chocolates!

Boat Drill with a Difference
At the usual Lifeboat Drill (or "Safety Drill" as they prefer to call it these days!) we were introduced to a new-style life-jacket with an extra crotch-strap and we all had to put ours on at the end of the presentation, so that proved interesting! There was no outdoor line-up for the boats but given the design of the ship, I have my doubts that 3,500 passengers could be accommodated on the limited Boat Deck at the same time and I imagine that the boats would be embarked direct from the muster-stations on Main Deck. But the added complication of the new crotch-strap just served to increase the level of confusion and chaos in the room, not to mention the increased hazard afterwards, with all the extra straps trailing everywhere!

Show Picture Full Size Departure from Southampton followed shortly afterwards, about 6pm, and as Butler Sumatra delivered canapés to our suite, we finished off that bottle of bubbly and changed for our first Dinner, in the Oriental Restaurant at which we also enjoyed some lively conversation with our 4 table-companions.
(left) Dinner in the Oriental Restaurant See Tonight's Menu >>

I had the Sautéed Kidneys, Broccoli Soup & Three Bird Roast and it was all very nice but the Mille Feuille for dessert proved disappointing. Service was efficient but reserved (although first nights are sometimes like that). However, the chair-gap between tables in our section was too narrow and the waiters kept brushing against Gerry to get by. Not good.

After dinner, neither of us was drawn by the luke-warm attractions of the Show in the equally unappealing Theatre, so after another stroll around the ship, we finished with a night-cap in the much more attractive Crow's Nest before retiring to our luxury suite for the night!

Thursday 12th March 2015
A Day at Sea
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By morning, we were off the coast of Normandy and we eventually dropped anchor just out-of-sight of land, so I suppose this still qualified as "a day at sea"! Evidently, on this "Cruise to Nowhere", "nowhere" proved to be 13 miles outside of the port of Le Havre, France, where we spent most of the rest of the day at anchor, while the crew carried out training exercises with the boats.

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Preparing the Boats & one of the large Tenders
Stbd side, view forward, outside Java Café
Boat Embarkation Companionway The limited Boat Deck
Stbd side, view aft
outside the Java Café

Meanwhile, from the unusually limited open deck available, it became clear that any mass-embarkation of the boats could only take place via narrow companionways, which would, in the event of an emergency, be accessible from all the muster-stations located along this deck (Deck-7).

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View Aft
from Deck-19
Sundeck Aft
The Promenade
Running Track, Deck-18
Riviera Pool
& Lido Pool

Deck-16 from Deck-19
Midships Sundeck

The first thing that struck me about this ship was her height, 232 ft from her keel to the top of her funnels; that's only 4ft less than Queen Mary 2 and yet she's 49ft shorter and 10ft narrower. Her outer decks go up to Deck-19, which is 3 decks higher than Celebrity Eclipse. She's extremely tall!

And reflecting the absence of a proper Promenade Deck where it should be, the Running Track on Deck-18 is called "The Promenade"; and even then, it only wraps around the aft section of the ship!

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French Coffee
Real cream! (Gerry's photo)
The Serenity Pool & Bar
(Deck-16 fwd)
The Retreat
An exclusive facility for users of the Oasis Spa

However, Gerry & I had no problem finding our morning liqueur coffees; my French Coffee from the Java Café was probably the best I've had and it used real cream instead of "squirty cream"!

Back outside and the Serenity Pool forward was clearly designed with the idea that it could be covered. Unfortunately, it isn't and the lack of a covered swimming pool is a major draw-back in my book, especially for such a large ship. Further forward on this deck is The Retreat; it's very nice but it's reserved for users of the Oasis Spa & Hydrotherapy Suite, so you have to pay extra to use it.

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The Market Café
Pastries by Eric Lanlard & Cheeses by Charlie Turnbull
The Menu - Market Café
An extensive selection
Our Mixed Platters
More than a mouthful!

For lunch, Gerry & I decided to try the Market Café in the Starburst Atrium, a Patisserie and Deli where, for modest extra cost, you can order various platters of fish, meat & cheeses selected by expert Charlie Turnbull and pastries by celebrity pätissier Eric Lanlard. Because of the interest in this novel concept, there were some service issues but when we eventually got our platters, they were delicious and well worth waiting for!
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Afternoon Tea in the Horizon Restaurant
A Pleasant Surprise!
Another Bottle of Bubbly!

By 4pm, we were still too full for Afternoon Tea but I was nevertheless pleased to see a good selection of cakes and sandwiches available in the Horizon Restaurant. Traditional Afternoon Tea was also served in the Peninsular Restaurant but for extra charge, a more indulgent version could be enjoyed in the Epicurean Restaurant, courtesy of Patissier Eric Lanlard

A Pleasant Surprise!
The arrival of Sumatra the Butler late that afternoon heralded the delivery of another bottle of Bubbly, which came as a complete surprise. It was a gesture of thanks in advance and a polite reminder that we had agreed to vacate our suite earlier than normal tomorrow morning. P&O were on a tight schedule and our suite had been designated for publicity purposes prior to getting it ready again for its next occupant later the same day. To us, vacating early was a minor imposition but I thought it uncharacteristically thoughtful of P&O, not only to thank us but to do so in advance! It never would have happened in Kylie's day! (see "Service Not Included" - Arcadia 2007 >>)

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Our 2nd and final Dinner aboard was P&O's "Fine Dining Experience" and an experience it was; the "Amuse-Bouche" of a Bloody Mary Lollipop may not have been to everyone's tastes (definitely not Gerry's) but it was certainly imaginative, as was the lop-sided glass my seafood starter was served in!

My White Crab, Langoustine & Caviar Cocktail was very tasty but could have done with a bit more seafood and rather less of the "pea & chervil custard". As for the Cucumber Mojito on the side, it didn't seem to add anything to the dish and seemed to me to be superfluous.

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Bloody Mary Lollipop!
Menu: Starters >> Crab, Langoustine
& Caviar Cocktail

(& Cucumber Mojito)
Menu: Mains & Desserts >> Poached Lobster Tail & Pavé of Beef Short Rib

Not surprisingly, (this being only the second night in full operational mode), there were some long delays and we had to wait ages for our main courses but service was otherwise good, very polite and correct. I chose the Poached Lobster Tail & Glazed Pavé of Boneless Beef Short Rib, which was covered in what looked like chocolate sauce but tasted delicious! A variation on "Surf 'n Turf", the lobster tail was a bit on the small side but the overall dish was extremely good and very filling.
Some of Gerry's photos.....

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The Epicurean Restaurant
Fine Dining P&O Style (Gerry's photo)
Goat's Cheese
& Hazlenut Crotin
Lamb Rack, Lamb Breast
& Crafted Shepherd's Pie

We were both far too full for desserts, so we slipped along the corridor for a late-night drink instead, listening to the tinkling strains of the piano in the lovely Crow's Nest Lounge. see photo >>

And after a walk on deck in the cold night air in the middle of the English Channel, it was to bed - on the one occasion when we have not had to pack our suitcases the day before disembarkation!
(right) The Riviera & Lido Pools by night
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Friday 13th March 2015
Disembarkation in Southampton
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As we each had just one medium-sized suitcase, we had elected to go "self-help", thus giving us the rare privilege of not having to use one of our cruise days to do packing. As it was, it didn't take long in the morning, as we arrived alongside at 6.00am and were ready to vacate our suite early (as requested) by 7.15am. After a leisurely breakfast in the Horizon Restaurant, we left the ship about 9.00am.

Britannia was a surprise in a number of ways, most of them pleasant ones and while the ship lacks the WOW!-factor, she is quietly elegant and a very comfortable hotel-at-sea. But Britannia IS quite large and is VERY tall, so I'm not sure how she's going to behave in a really rough sea!

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 260 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 186,866 n miles

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