TRAVEL REVIEW: Insider’s Take on P&O Britannia

Seriously, I go to a lot of launches. But, wow, this one was the biggie. Alan Greenhalgh reports from the inaugural celebrations of P&O’s largest and newest cruise liner extraordinaire, Britannia.

MV Britannia

Too big to take in – panorama shot of Britannia with a 308 ft Union Jack on its bow

Britannia Inaugural Celebrations

Lights, camera, action – Britannia Inaugural Celebrations

You’ll have seen the coverage over the news, read these pieces here  Inside Look and here’s a review of the actual event. We got sneak peek of the ship before the guests arrived – you can the photos here

Inside Britannia. Before dressing for the Celebration Dinner, party and fireworks. The next was the launch of the ship by Queen Elizabeth.

Photocall for the Britannia Celebrity Chefs

Photocall for the Britannia Celebrity Chefs

It’s a foodies ship,  P&O having signed up a stellar range of  Michelin-star chefs of UK, Marco Pierre White, James Martin, Atul Kochhur and wine expert Olly Smith, French pâtissier Eric Lanard and cheese maestro Charlie Turnbull. We also spotted Pierre KoffmanPaul Rankin and super nice chocolatier Paul A Young on board, too – I wonder if they’re lined up to join the roster soon?

The Gala Dinner on the first night was a very grand affair. Black tie, medals and dressed to the nines gowns for a sparkling drinks reception of Wiston Estate Brut NV . This English ‘champagne’ was chosen for the party and for the bottle to crack on the hull.

Wiston on Britannia for launch ceremony

Charge your glasses for the toast.

Drinks reception on Britannia

The great and the good

Comedian Rob Brydon was there to encourage pride in Britain and in Britannia.

She certainly made me proud. And then on to the celebration dinner.

Each diner was assigned a restaurant and table, we were in the Oriental restaurant – deep purples and rich reds, orchids and dark woods, tables set with white roses, fan napkins and a braided souvenir menu. On offer was show dishes from the food hero chefs – all of whom were sitting at various tables. It looked and tasted like the final of Masterchef.

Oriental Restaurant

Oriental Restaurant

The Celebration Dinner on board Britannia

The Celebration Dinner on board Britannia

Dishes after delicious dishes came, polite nods and conversations with fellow dressed-up diners, a bit of celebrity rubber necking then upwards to the 17th deck to be handed cream pashminas, hot toddies and watch Last Night of the Proms- style music and fireworks.

There were events all over the ship, endless piano in the Crow’s Nest bar, Michael Ball performing an hour-long show in the Headliners Theatre, a Rat Pack act and jazz in the Limelight Lounge and DJs with fantastic strobes in the Live Lounge nightclub. A polite notice in the welcome pack reminded guests to be careful with over consumption of alcohol. We took that seriously – we had an appointment to keep with Her Majesty The Queen the next morning. Best behaviour, and another outfit.

Next day, on a chilly, damp dockside the bands were out rehearsing from seven am.

Royal Marines and Irish Guards Bnads took part in the naming ceremony of Britannia

Royal Marines and Irish Guards Bands took part in the naming ceremony of Britannia

Breakfast was served in all of  the many restaurants before we were ushered out to the quayside to take our places in the stand overlooking the ship. Grasping a hot fruit cordial in a branded steel mug, a handwarmer and souvenir programme we were set for the morning.

Wiston champagne for Britannia Launch

Mind your head!

We spotted the ginormous Wiston nebuchadnezzar on a zip wire precariously dangling above the heads of the audience. Bands played, ballroom dancers danced and the fantastic Red Hot Chilli Pipers ramped up the excitement with their electric guitars, trombones and bagpipes.

There’s a hush as the Queen’s monster car comes into view. “Please be upstanding for Her Majesty the Queen”, out she pops in bright in coral, headed up the steps to be seated beside Britannia’s Captain  Paul Brown and Micky Arison, the billionaire chairman of P&O’s owner, Carnival Cruises.

Britannia Naming Ceremony

H.M. The Queen

Speeches by the MD of P&O and a prayer from the Bishop of Southampton and it’s the naming moment. A firm double press and the bottle was out the trap smashing with a very loud bang above the i in Britannia.

Britannia naming

Smash bang wallop – there was an explosion as the bottle hit the boat. Very unnerving.

Three cheers, hip, hip and hooray for the Queen and she was back in the car, round the back of the hangar and onboard for a private lunch.

Bless all who sail in her.

 READ MORE ABOUT BRITANNIA HERE www.pocruises.com

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  1. […] See Britannia’s Inauguration Ceremony here and read our piece from September 2013 on her green credentials. […]

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