Down here in the South Pacific, we hear the name P&O a lot - but P&O Australia and P&O UK are two very different cruise lines. Here's what you might not have known about the older sibling to our fun-loving cruise provider!
P&O Cruises: A short history
The first thing to note is that P&O (here used to refer to the line based in Southampton and not P&O Australia) is a very prestigious and storied line - in fact, the oldest in the world.
P&O formed in 1822, and under the name Peninsular Steam Navigation Company began a shipping line between England and the Iberian Peninsula. The next few decades saw mail contracts for the line to deliver mail to the Peninsula and Egypt. In 1840 the company was incorporated by the Royal Charter, merged with the Transatlantic Steamship Company and tweaked its name a little to become the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
Passenger services made an appearance in 1844 and "sea tours" were offered to exotic destinations like Malta and Athens - the ancestor of the cruises we know and love today. From there, the itineraries diversified and the ships became larger. The company fought back after losing 156 ships in World War Two, survived the introduction of commercial aviation and joined the Carnival Corporation to emerge as the beloved eight-ship fleet in operation today offering a range of different cruise experiences out of their home base in Southampton, England.
The P&O difference
P&O cruise has a few points of difference which make it a line to consider for your next cruise holiday. Here are some of the things which set it apart from other lines:
- The fleet includes three ships built and operated exclusively for adults. This is great news for those who enjoy peace, quiet and grown-up fun on their holidays.
- P&O have a distinctly British style to their cruises which a lot of people love. Said style includes perfect cups of tea.
- Strictly Come Dancing themed cruises are fantastic for those who value the glamorous ballroom side of ocean travel.
- P&O passengers enjoy great service including cabin stewards, nightly turndowns, pool attendants, and more.
- Understated and elegant, s this line is a little more on the traditional side - not quite Cunard, but certainly no extravagant and flashy Carnival ship. Some cruisers love that, some don't.
- World Cruises and lengthy itineraries are a specialty.
Is P&O for me?
Who should cruise P&O? We recommend it to couples and singles of any age wanting an adults-only experience, although families are welcome on the line's five bigger ships and it's a very valid choice for those with children too. It's also a great choice for those who like the British way of living, and are turned off by the more exuberant North American-style cruise lines. Of course, fans of Strictly Come Dancing could opt for no other line.
Won't somebody please think of the children?
The three adults-only ships are a great feature of P&O because of the novelty factor - but the line wants everyone to know that families are welcome in the five other vessels - in fact, they are celebrated! The Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Oceana and Ventura were created with all ages in mind and have special facilities for kids, splash pools and family accommodation options.
The P&O kids clubs for passengers two to seventeen years of age provide dedicated entertainment and activities for four separate age ranges - Splashers for two to four year olds, Surfers for five to eight year olds, Scubas for nine to twelve year olds and H2O for thirteen to seventeen year olds. Age appropriate facilities for each group means there should be no complaints from the little ones - even the hard-to-please teens are likely to love their lounge with computers, table tennis, video games and more.
Diversity of options
The P&O fleet is by no means uniform in size, decor or almost anything else - this means that you can find the right itinerary and ship to suit you with a little bit of research. Intimate small ship cruising, activity-packed big-ship journeys, short breaks or long voyages, relaxing adult-only atmosphere or family fun, it's all there.
Arcadia, Aurora, Ventura and more: What you'll find on the P&O fleet
It's hard to generalise the P&O onboard experience, because the line has such a range of ships, from the 3,647-passenger Britannia to the 1,800-passenger Oriana or even the 710-passenger Adonia which will move in 2016 to the social impact travel line, fathom. Here are a few P&O features you might love which are found on various ships in the fleet:
This is something that P&O does a lot of, and does well. Circumnavigations and lengthy, in-depth itineraries are the domain of the mid-sized family-friendly Aurora and the mid-sized adults-only Arcadia and Oriana. Designed for long ocean passages, these ships are a chic, comfortable way to see the world, or some of it, while enjoying the great service, food and entertainment of a P&O cruise. If you are considering a world cruise, we would put forth P&O UK as a strong contender.
The line offers both Club (set-seating) dining and Freedom dining in their main restaurants, and all have a buffet and some other casual options, as well as a specialty restaurant or two depending on the size of the ship. You can expect great classic dishes and a bit of a UK influence - look out for meat pies at dinner and full english breakfasts in the mornings!
As far as specialty restaurants go, Ocean Grill by Marco Pierre White is the best for fresh, contemporary British cuisine, and anyone who's been to England knows that an Indian restaurant (Sindhu, found on quite a few of the line's ships) is a given. The Glass House is another favourite, an a-la-carte restaurant and wine bar. The for-fee eateries vary from ship to ship.
Get a taste of London's West End at sea on a P&O cruise! The main theatres on each ship host productions and variety shows, and of course the Strictly Come Dancing spectaculars on the themed cruises. Each ship also has a range of bars and lounges in which evenings can slip past almost unnoticed - complete with piano serenades, dancing, live music, sports games or just a quiet ambience depending on the venue you choose.
A unique highlight of a P&O cruise is the opportunity to spend a night in selected destinations, so you can experience an evening onshore. Overnight port stops are marked on itineraries and might include such gorgeous cities as St Petersburg, Venice, New York, Dublin, Barcelona and more.
Spending a day at sea? The spa, pool, gym trifecta is present on every P&O ship, and there is also a program of talks, workshops, dance classes, trivia and traditional deck games - that's just to start.
It's the small things which reflect P&O UK's long nautical history and British heritage. Black tie formal nights, afternoon teas, porters at embarkation, quoits on deck, ballrooms and more fabulous aspects of a P&O cruise take passengers back to the glory era of ocean travel. On the patriotic side of things, anglophiles will appreciate the hearty food, pub pricing and domestic beers, fantastic comedy, Horlicks available at bedtime, curries and of course the tidbit that a majority of passengers are, in fact, from the UK and come complete with accent.
Did we mention that every cabin has its own tea-making facilities? No wonder Brits have chosen P&O as their favoured cruise line - that alone is a case closer.
P&O's newest addition, the Britannia, is a fantastic ship named by her majesty the Queen on the 10th of March 2015. It's said she ushers in a new era of modern UK cruising, and understated luxury is the name of the game. With some great features like a cookery club, four fantastic new shows in the state-of-the-art Headliners Theatre, and a proud Union Jack livery, the Britannia is a fantastic asset for the line.
P&O UK for Aussie cruisers
Keen cruise passengers in the South Pacific can easily get onboard a P&O UK adventure by joining a sector of a World Cruise departing Sydney or Brisbane. A look at our P&O UK cruises will reveal many one-way options with exciting destinations.
If that's not your style, you can head up to the northern hemisphere to give P&O a go. There are numerous itineraries departing the line's homeport of Southampton on the Britannia, the Ventura and the Azura and taking in the history, cuisine and stunning scenery of the Mediterranean, the British Isles, the Baltic or the Norwegian fjords. You can even combine a transatlantic voyage with a port-hopping itinerary and try one of the no-fly cruises from Southampton to the Caribbean and back.
Make it a port-intensive week with one of the Oceana's Mediterranean cruises departing Venice or Genoa, or head right into the Black Sea on the Adonia for a month of amazing sights and sounds. P&O UK has it all!