Able to trace its roots back to the 1800s, P & O mainly cater for the UK market and sail most of the year from Southampton, including their world cruises. They do, however, operate some popular winter Caribbean cruises, with flights direct from regional airports where the luggage is checked in from airport to ship’s cabin.
P & O introduced its first new modern ship, specifically designed for the British market, in the form of the ‘new’ Oriana in 1995, at 69,000 tons & and carrying around 1800 guests with 800 crew. The ship includes a four storey atrium and waterfall with a Tiffany glass dome. For 2011 Oriana became an adult-only ship and received a refit including the addition of 27 cabins, a refurbished spa area, restaurants and show lounge. At the same time it will see the removal of the children’s area and alterations to the aft deck to make it more ‘adult’ friendly.
The larger half sister, the Aurora was introduced in 2000, an unusual feature being it’s large Crystal Pool area with a Skydome canopy which can be opened up when the suns appears. This ship caters for families and children during school holidays and carries around 1900 guests with 850 crew (76,000 tons). The Oceana, formerly Ocean Princess, was introduced in 2002 after a refit (built in 2000) and has large spacious public areas, many with large glass windows. This ship at 77,000 tons carries over 2000 guests and 900 crew.
In 2004, P & O introduced the brand new Arcadia, an adult only ship, noted for its spacious public rooms. It is 84,000 tons carrying around 2000 guests and 880 crew. The ‘new’ Adonia, formerly with Princess, was introduced in Spring 2011 and is only 30,000 tons carrying around 700 passengers and 380 crew; not to be confused with the previous Adonia formerly the Sea Princess which has since been returned to Princess. P & O and Princess (and others including Holland America) change names of vessels frequently and renaming both new ships and those being transferred with ‘old’ ship names sometimes causes some confusion. In the meantime Artemis is leaving the fleet in April 2011.
The ‘new’ Adonia was originally a R – Renaissance Cruises ship before they became extinct – Oceania and Azamara Club claimed other ships of this class which were originally built in ‘country house style’. P&O Cruises have made Adonia their own by creating the clubby Anderson’s Bar where the casino used to be, and the bright Crow’s Nest, forward on Deck 10, with panoramic views. A further major alteration was to restaurants; the main Pacific Restaurant and the casual alternative, The Conservatory, are unchanged, but the two new alternative dining options are reported to be stunning; Marco Pierre White’s Ocean Grill (steaks, lobster and soufflés) is aft on Sun Deck. Sorrento, a new Italian Restaurant, is another special dining option, decorated in dazzling white with black and striped blinds. The Adonia is a much smaller and more intimate ship and is adult only which will appeal to many.
On the ships above, apart from the much smaller Adonia, dining in the main restaurants (Club Dining) is spread over two sittings, normally 6.30pm and 8.30pm; during the day you can choose to eat in the main dining room or the more casual options on each ship. Occasionally, breakfast and lunch in the main restaurants have to revert to two sittings when demand is high. Select Dining is available at a supplement for various types of restaurant which varies from ship to ship and includes speciality restaurants by Barry Rhodes on Arcadia and Oriana and on Ventura by Marco Pierre White. Freedom Dining, allowing guests to eat and dine when and with whom they want with no supplement, is available in the main restaurants on Oceana (as above), Ventura & Azura (see below).
The much larger Ventura was introduced in 2008 to target the younger market and families. The facilities include a 3D cinema and Scalextric at sea.
P & O’s latest ship. Azura, introduced in 2010, has been designed with adults and couples in mind, with a British ‘feel’, promising high quality service in a traditional yet modern atmosphere. The Retreat is an adult-only sun deck sanctuary. Some provision is made for families, with a dedicated room for Nintendo Wii, and children’s clubs divided into several age groups. It has many dining venues, including a new sophisticated Indian/Fusion restaurant, and a wine bar called the Glass House. There are 18 cabins built specifically for single guests. The ship features a giant cinema screen above its Aqua Pool similar to some of the Princess ships.
Both of these huge superliners are around 155,000 tons, carrying over 3000 guests with around 1200 crew.
Children’s facilities are available on Aurora, Oceana, Ventura and Azura with clubs and activities split into four different age groups from 2 to 17 years. During the evening there is a night nursery for children up to 5 years normally open from 6pm to 2am; parents are issued with pagers for contact purposes.
P&O has announced that it will expand its fleet with a 141,000 ton ship which will enter service in 2015. The as-yet-unnamed 3611 guest vessel will be the largest in the P&O Cruises fleet, as well as the largest cruise ship built specifically for the British market. P&O have reported ‘it will offer a stylish and innovative new design and an unprecedented number of passenger facilities, along with the brand’s classic and iconic features’. Specifications and new product innovations will be announced at a later date.
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Photo: Oceana at Grand Turk (RG) 74