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An Introduction To P&O Cruises: British Quirks & Comforts At Sea

An Introduction To P&O Cruises: British Quirks & Comforts At Sea

P&O Cruises are the quintessential British cruise line that cater for British quirks and comforts on the high seas. They are the world’s original cruise line, starting way back in 1837 as the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, travelling to the Peninsular and the Orient (see what the name represents?)

In their early years (as far back as the 1850’s), P&O Cruises were the first liner to transport thirsty British tea lovers their tea leaves from China.

Whilst times have moved on, P&O Cruises continue to offer a world of experience and their levels of customer service are proven by an unbeatable amount of returning passengers and legions of fans.

Whether you want a quick weekend away or a 106-night world cruise, you can wake up in a different port almost every day in over eighty countries around the world with P&O Cruises. This is your definitive guide to P&O Cruises: here is everything you need to know…

Is There a “Typical” P&O Cruiser?

With a history of cruising dating back to 1837, P&O Cruises know a thing or two about how to make passengers happy and how to give them the holiday they’ll never forget!


They offer more departures from the UK than any other cruise line, all announcements on-board are made in English and all transactions are in sterling. Other British touches include tea and coffee making facilities in every room, your classic afternoon tea and British restaurants with British chefs available for cooking demonstrations.

P&O Cruises cater to both family and adult-only audiences, ensuring that everyone has a cruise tailored to their taste. Whilst P&O Cruises are suitable for anybody (whether they have a hundred cruises under their belt or none) they still offer a particularly great insight into cruises for first-timers by showing new sea travellers everything the cruising world has to offer with style.


The typical P&O Cruises traveller is someone wanting a home away from home with a British cruise line known for their quality, heritage and maritime knowledge. If you want an experience modelled on British tastes, whether that be cuisine, excellent levels of customer service or stylish entertainment, then P&O are the cruise line for you!

Meet The Fleet

Unlike other cruise companies, whose ships are fairly identical in all but name, P&O Cruises offer a unique fleet with ships that each have an individual personality…

Family friendly ships:


Iona – The newest ship in the fleet Iona, is the first ship exclusively built for a British market. Accommodating 5,200 passengers and 1,800 crew. Iona will offer the ultimate luxury cruise experience while also being P&O Cruises most environmentally friendly ship.


Britannia – The last addition to the fleet is the largest cruise ship ever designed exclusively for the British market. Its exciting new innovations and features offer guests, even more, entertainment with so many more dining options that guests are spoilt for choice. However, she is still in keeping with P&O Cruises stylish fleet with boutique-style rooms and a starburst chandelier in the Atrium


Azura –This family-friendly vessel is the second largest of the fleet, taking up to 3,100 passengers. With plenty of unique features including an open-air cinema “SeaScreen”, and a New York inspired show lounge, there is plenty of glamour to be had on the Azura.


Aurora- A family-friendly, mid-sized ship that is instantly recognisable by her elegant tiered stern. Designed as a classic ocean going vessel she is perfect for world cruising and has a very “classic” feel, with a Lalique-inspired waterfall in the atrium, floor-to-ceiling windows and marble flooring. Aurora was also the first P&O Cruises ship to feature the Union Jack livery.


Ventura- This large, family friendly vessel also has exclusive features for independent travellers. With a more relaxed dress code than other vessels (no smart jacket evenings), the Ventura also offers a 24-hour buffet restaurant so passengers won’t have to worry about set dining times unless that’s what they’ve opted for.

Adults-only ships:


Arcadia- This adult-only cruise ship caters to a larger audience with up to 2,016 guests. It offers a relaxed yet extravagant feel with signature features including glass-fronted lifts and an expansive art collection. Ideal for spa and pamper lovers, it has plenty of places to while away an hour or two in a sophisticated atmosphere.

Did you know? Arcadia is almost exactly the same ship as Cunard’s Queen Victoria in terms of layout, design and history! It was originally designed for Cunard before it joined the P&O Cruises fleet, hence its similarities to the Victoria which was built afterwards to replace it. 

Entertainment Onboard

Style and elegance doesn’t have to mean boring; you won’t find a shortage of things to do with P&O Cruises and you’ll have a Horizon newspaper (P&O Cruises daily paper detailing the day’s activities) delivered to your room to make sure that you never miss what’s going on.

All of the ships have swimming pools, whirlpool spas, saunas and steam rooms (at Oasis spa and salon), hosted deck games, a library, a bookshop, a gym, golf nets, dance classes and shops.

All ships have a cinema which shows a range of classic British films, family favourites and the latest blockbusters. They are either located in a show lounge or in the theatre.

late shows

Fancy watching a film under the stars? Then you can on Azura which hosts P&O Cruises outdoor SeaScreen cinema, letting you watch the latest flick on-deck.

Comedy performances from comedians like Tom O’Connor, Roy Walker and Adrian Walsh are a regular occurrence and Headliners Theatre Company also stars on ships. It brings a group of sixty highly trained individuals, many of whom have performed in the West End, and features such as traditional musicals or contemporary shows. Britannia’s theatre even has an LED wall to allow audiences to be transported to a variety of scenes.

Enjoying a late dinner sitting and worried about missing the show? Then don’t! Most ships offer two showings of productions to cater for each sitting!

P&O show

P&O Cruises certainly caters to you dance fans out there, with some ships having as many as five different dance floors. On cruises of over seven days, there are coupled dance instructors onboard to give a variety of lessons. One on one tuition is available and members of the Entertainments Team will be happy to partner with those without one.

If you’re a Strictly Come Dancing fan then you’re in luck! The P&O Cruises fleet give you the chance to get involved in dance tournaments judged and mentored by the Strictly guests. With visits from Craig Revel Horwood, Lisa Riley and Mark Foster, the celebrity stars ramp up the glitz and glamour of events, with the additional chance to see some of the real bejewelled costumes and live interviews.

P&O Cruises ships feature a “spotlight programme”- a fascinating series of events which include talks and interactive workshops exploring history, current affairs, the natural world, art, dance and gastronomy. On cruises that are longer than three weeks, there is also the chance to take part in painting, pottery, jewellery making and language lessons. After dinner speakers of recognised TV, sports and radio personalities may deliver personal stories as well.

If all of that isn’t enough for you, P&O Cruises also offer Music Festivals at Sea. Hosted by well-known radio and television personalities, these events are complimented by a team of renowned international artists. It gives passengers the chance to explore opera, music quizzes, interviews and evening recitals. Internationally famous tenors, sopranos, violinists, string quartets combine their magnificent talents to deliver extraordinary performances.

Other entertainment options include a chance to enjoy a four-hour behind-the-scenes tour of the ship hosted by senior members of staff. It’s a chance to get up close and personal with different departments below deck! It includes a trip to the engine room, various displays, exploring the gallery and up to the bridge where you meet the captain and have champagne and small snacks.

Did you know? The sixty members of staff in the Headliners theatre company are chosen from more than 500 entrants!


When P&O Cruises claim to suit British tastes they also mean that quite literally! Many of their restaurants showcase menus developed by British celebrity chefs such as James Martin, Eric Lanlard and Marco Pierre White.

Cuisine is tailored to the British palate, with a cosmopolitan twist, serving everything from fine dining to tapas, authentic Indian dishes to great British favourites.

There are two styles of dining available on all of the ships which are Club or Freedom dining; club dining is a P&O Cruises tradition which allows you to dine at the same restaurant at the same table every night, with a choice of two sittings.

It’s a great way to meet new people and become firm friends with those at your table. Tables for two are available if you want them, but you’ll need to book early! Freedom dining is the same dining experience but at a time to suit you, as you can dine in the main restaurant at any time you wish, with whoever you want, at no extra cost!


In addition to these styles of dining, you also have extra choice of where to eat with select dining restaurants available at a cover charge. These include celebrity chef restaurants and speciality restaurants split into fine dining, alternative, casual and wine and dine categories. For example, Marco Pierre White’s Ocean Grill is available on Arcadia and Oriana.

East offers alternative Asian Fusion from Atul Kocchar, (available on Ventura and Arcadia) The Glass House features a stunning range of food matched to a selection of thirty two wines chosen by Olly Smith, (available on Aurora, Azura and Ventura,) and Sindu offers stunning Indian cuisine also from Atul Kochhar, (available on Aurora, Britannia and Azura.)

main dining room

Iona has the best and most diverse choice of dining by far. With innovative new options such as The Epicurean and The Glass House, you can try everything from authentic tapas to a constantly rotating six-course tasting menu at The Epicurean.

Onboard Britannia, James Martin’s cookery club, is an area of twelve cooking venues as well as a chef’s demonstration station. There is also a grab-and-go outlet available on deck and “The Limelight Club,” a combined entertainment and dinner experience in the style of a supper club. The new market café offers a patisserie from world renowned chef Eric Lanlard and there is also a choice of five other restaurants.


Fan of the Great British Bake Off? Then you’ll be delighted to know that previous presenter, Mary Berry, will be one of ten celebrity chefs sailing with Britannia throughout the year. She will be involved in the ships cookery classes, exclusive chef’s dinners, Q&A sessions and book signings.

P&O Cruises also offer an enomatic wine system on-board Britannia and Ventura, which is a self-service wine system allowing you to enjoy seasonally selected wines by the glass. In addition to the selected wines, you can, of course, choose to purchase your favourite wine by the bottle!

wine selection

Did you know?
There is even an ice-cream package available, so you can pay for up to twenty scoops in advance! And a Chocoholics buffet is available on all ships to replace an afternoon tea, serving everything from bread and butter pudding to doughnuts, gateaux and trifle.


P&O Cruises offers great additional extras to make your holiday that little bit more seamless; on cruises that sail to and from Southampton, your only baggage allowance is the amount that you can fit into your cabin! Perfect for when you unexpectedly splurge in the shops when out on an excursion.

If you’re worried about taking a young infant on-board then rest assured that they will be well catered for, with facilities for bottle warmers and sterilisers, travel cots, push chairs, and baby baths available on request.

Parents can also request food, formula milk or children’s favourite foods at the time of booking.

cabin service

Wi-Fi is available onboard, and laundry services also come included – which is perfect if you have a young family and are in constant need of new clean clothes!

Standard facilities in every room include a daily steward service, TV, radio, telephone, hairdryer, refrigerator, safe, tea and coffee making facilities and air-con.


With a choice of five family-friendly ships, P&O Cruises is a perfect holiday choice for families. As well as being an ideal place for families to spend time together, there is plenty of entertainment, accommodation and dining options catering to a holiday with children.

Most cabins have additional beds that can be pulled down from the ceiling, sofa beds, or extra beds, so you can save money by only booking one cabin instead of two.

“Family Savers” are also available on family friendly ships, which offer price reductions for children up to the age of 16. Aurora even has interconnecting cabins which are ideal to give you and your kids some extra space.

Oceana youth crew

P&O Cruises children’s club “The Reef” offers child care for those aged two to seventeen, and are split into four different age groups. “Splashers” is for two to four year olds, and includes activities like drawing, story time, puppet shows, ball pool play and climbing apparatus.

“Surfers” cater for five to eight-year-olds and consists of video games, arts and crafts, sports challenges, face painting and entertainment from the Mr Men Show with characters like Mr Bump and Little Miss Sunshine.

“Scubas” is for nine to twelve-year-olds and gets kids involved in quizzes on music and film, scavenger hunts across the ship, drama workshops, karaoke and pool games. “H2O” is for the oldest children aged thirteen to seventeen, and offers discos, arcade games, films, sports coaching, rock bands, music and a club DJ.

family friendly

In addition to these child care services, Iona, Britannia, Ventura and Azura all have a dedicated area for children under two. Children are welcome to dine in any restaurant on-board including those that are select dining.

However, if you do want to dine without your children then there’s a special children’s tea serving fish fingers and pizza…(as well as a few healthy options!)

Did you know? If there’s a formal event that you don’t want to miss, but are worried about childcare, then don’t worry because you can put your kids in the night nursery and let them sleep while you slip off. Open between 6pm to 2am, the night nursery gives you the freedom to spend an evening without your little one, but don’t worry – they give you a pager to let you know if your child wakes up! And of course, this service is still completely free.

kids club


P&O Cruises will go to any length to ensure you have the cruise of a lifetime. This means offering top class service, with no extra gratuities. The service charges are all included in the price of your cruise, meaning you never have to stress about under or over tipping the staff.

Formal dinner

Dress Codes

Evening dress codes are often an important part of the cruising experience and P&O Cruises cater to this with black tie or evening casual dress codes on certain nights.

Black tie is attire that includes cocktail or ball dresses, dinner jackets and tuxedos to add a sense of glamour to the occasion; evening casual dress counts as casual separates or dresses for ladies and open polo neck shirts and trousers for men.


During the day casual wear is permitted although fancy dress, aside from the assigned themes, is now banned e.g. personalised t-shirts, slogan wear or novelty clothing.

There are also theme nights, with anything from a 70’s night to a Pirate Party. Events such as Country & Western, Black & White or Tropical themed nights give guests a chance to dress up and have fun with fancy dress codes.

So there you have it, P&O Cruises offers a great cruise holiday, with plenty of added extras, fun, and entertainment! Will your next cruise be with P&O Cruises?

If We’ve Tempted You, Pre-book your Summer 2022 P&O Cruise HERE

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Bulletin Editor

Editor and Creative Copywriter of Cruise.co.uk's bulletin blog, bringing you cruise news, tips and guides daily! - Contact: bulletineditor@cruise.co.uk

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