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Britannia

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Britannia was named by HM The Queen on March 10, 2015, in a glittering ceremony in Southampton. The Queen last named a P&O Cruises' ship almost 20 years ago -- the 1,800-passenger Oriana -- then the largest ship in the fleet, which ushered in a new era of modern UK cruising.

Fast forward 20 years and Britannia, arguably, does the same. The ship is by far the biggest in P&O Cruises' fleet, carrying 3,647 passengers and weighing in at 141,000 tons -- 27,000 tons heavier and carrying 547 more passengers than the line's previous biggest ship, Azura. Britannia is also the biggest ship ever built specifically for the UK market.

Though ultimately owned by a U.S. company (Carnival Corp.), and built in Italy, the ship is registered in Southampton (due to European tonnage tax laws), and has a very British feel to it. For the first time a British design company, Richmond International, has overseen the whole of the design of the ship's interiors rather than parts. Richmond International has worked on a number of great British hotels -- including The Langham, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Intercontinental Hotel London and Four Seasons Hampshire -- and it shows in Britannia. The ship has the feel of a luxurious boutique hotel, with expensive-looking textures of wood, leather and glass in every public space and lavish use of marble.

The ship is not showy (except perhaps in the atrium); it's all about understated luxury. The overriding colour scheme throughout is nautical blues and creams, soft greys and touches of gold and silver. Stand-out features include the stunning three-tier atrium complete with a star burst sculpture made from shards of aluminium and bathed in coloured light. The atrium is intended to be a destination -- rather than a place to pass through on your way somewhere else -- with Eric Lanlard's Market Cafe and Olly Smith's the Glass House both central features and the reception desk shifted to an adjacent corridor.

Britannia takes the most popular features of the rest of the fleet -- such as The Glass House, Sindhu restaurant and the Crow's Nest Bar -- and adds some brand new features such as the Cookery Club and a TV Studio. The aim is to incorporate P&O Cruises' 150-plus years of history, but use modern design touches and a non-traditional cruise ship look and feel to try and bring in new-to-cruise passengers. Celebrity chefs are an obvious draw, as are Britannia's Strictly Come Dancing link-up and intimate performances by stars in The Live Lounge. Families can take advantage of the biggest and best children's facilities of any P&O Cruises' ship.

Another big emphasis is on the food. Marco Pierre White creates the Gala menu on board across the whole fleet and he also hosts intimate dinners and masterclasses in Britannia’s Cookery Club on selected sailings, as do acclaimed Patissier Eric Lanlard and wine guru Olly Smith -- although Olly’s take place in the Glass House. Eric “Cake Boy” Lanlard has also recently given Britannia's sweet treats a makeover, with new menus in the Market Cafe as well as his Afternoon Tea in the Epicurean. Britannia is also big on art, with a huge collection of more than 6,000 pieces. You can see these pieces everywhere -- in the cabins, the corridors and the restaurants -- and all are originals from British artists, commissioned by the line.

Overall, the ship is elegant and refined and perfectly captures the spirit of modern Britain.

A typical two-week cruise will have four formal nights and the rest will be 'evening casual', which is defined as open necked shirt and 'tailored trousers' or smart jeans for men; dress or casual separates for women. Most passengers err on the side of smart.

Note that even though this ship is family friendly and has a more relaxed vibe -- formal still means full black tie in the public rooms. Britannia might break many of P&O Cruises' traditions, but dress code still rules -- and that also applies to older children.

Theater

Headliners Theatre is a 936-seat venue at the front of the ship on decks 6 and 7, which hosts musical performances and theatre productions in the evenings. It's a hi-tech space and features a giant LED screen, which provides digital scenery and acts as a backdrop to musical performances.There are three shows per night -- at 7 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. -- and all last about 50 minutes.

On Britannia, there are four main shows which all use the LED screen to great effect. Brand new is “Astonishing”, a magic and illusion show devised by Britain’s Got Talent magician Stephen Mulhern -- it will leave you thinking "how did they do that?" from start to finish. Other shows include: "Sounds of the Underground", which is a trip through mid-90s London complete with a "Cool Britannia" soundtrack; "Once Upon a Time", a more family-orientated show billed as a 'wedding day fantasy adventure'; "I've Got the Music in Me!", which is a revue show featuring a variety of tracks from the most popular West End and Broadway musicals; and "Gravity", a more daring show billed as a 'futuristic rock musical'. It's a first for P&O in that it's quite risque and the music is modern (i.e. within the past 20 years). The shows really show off the theatre's gadgetry, with stunning lighting and sound effects and dancers 'flying' through the air and over the audience.

As well as the shows, Headliners hosts musical performances from impersonators as well as the real thing: R&B great Jimmy James packed out the theatre on several nights of our cruise. During the day it becomes a cinema.

Daily Fun

You won't be bored on Britannia: there's a plethora of games and activities all day, from quizzes and trivia to cooking demos and even line dancing.

Located on Deck 15, The Cookery Club is flooded with light and fitted with the most up-to-date kitchen cookware, TV screens, speakers and a dining table for eating your creations. It fits 25 people (including one disabled-accessible workspace) and more when family classes are fun. All the preparation is done for you, as is the washing up. The current resident chef is Terrence Alexander – who will guide you through the three-hour sessions (£45). Or if the celebrity chefs are on board you can have a class with them. The classes with Marco Pierre White cost from £100 per person; Eric Lanlard’s are £75.

Because the Cookery Club does not have space for an audience, cooking demos take place in The Studio on Deck 7. They are hosted either by one of the two chefs from The Cookery Club, or a celebrity chef if he or she is onboard. The Studio also hosts afternoon films, live radio broadcasts and talks from onboard speakers.

A rolling set of quizzes, trivia and bingo takes place throughout the day in Brodie's pub (Deck 6). The Crystal Room, llocated on Deck 7, just behind the Headliners Theatre, hosts talks from guest lecturers during the day.

There are two venues for dancing in the day: the Live Lounge and the Crystal Room. The entertainment team hosts line dancing and the like in the Live Lounge; the Crystal Room is where the more serious students of dance go to learn new ballroom moves from the ship's two instructors.

Bridge and whist take place high up at the top of the ship in the Marlow Suite, the ship's card room. Enrichment activities such as language classes take place in the Ivory Suite next door (Deck 16). Both rooms are exquisitely decorated in white and gold, and it's easy to imagine a wedding blessing taking place in these suites (which they are designed for, as well as card games).

You’ll find live music throughout the day across the ship. The resident conortations duo Sarah and Ben play regularly in the Starburst atrium. There’s a DJ on the Lido Deck pool throughout the afternoon which is where sailaway parties also take place. And the Live Lounge is also a popular music venue at night, where sounds alternate between the DJ and resident Party Band PULSE.

Outdoor activities include everything from deck quoits (Deck 17) to basketball and table tennis tournaments in the Arena (Deck 18).

At Night

The Limelight Club (Deck 5): is a combined entertainment and dining venue in the tradition of a supper club (see Dining), just off the main atrium. Its big draw is the chance to see entertainers and guest performers from stage and screen up close and personal. Acts vary from theatrical performances to live music, such as jazz, pop, blues and soul. The format is thus: starters and main, followed by a short 'taster' show (an introduction by the star, plus one or two songs), then dessert and the main act, which lasts about 45 minutes.

Booking is essential. Cheryl Baker and Chesney Hawkes were the sell-out star attractions when we were on board. However, once the live entertainment finishes, the venue turns into a late-night club and people can drop by for drinks and dancing – and to catch a glimpse of the acts before they depart. They’re usually happy to sign autographs or have a chat. The club is open from 7:30 p.m to midnight.

The Crystal Room (Deck 7): Dance enthusiasts should not miss the Crystal Room, a show lounge dedicated to the love of Latin and ballroom dancing. It's got a wooden floor, chandeliers, silver and black decor and a special exhibition of dancing memorabilia donated by famous dancers, including those in "Strictly Come Dancing", with which P&O has a long-term link-up. Located just behind the Headliners Theatre, the Crystal Room is a delightful spot that turns into a dance hall in the evening with live bands performing. Each song is introduced by dance type -- foxtrot, tango, rumba etc. -- rather than the song title, and couples of all ages will leap to the dance floor to show off their moves, which is an absolute delight to watch. It will be the main venue for all Strictly-related activities when the stars are onboard. It's open 7 p.m. to late.

The Live Lounge (Deck 7):For a different kind of dancing, make your way to the Live Lounge, the ship's late-night disco, situated right at the back of the ship on Deck 7. Though billed as a night club, it has the look of a performance venue, with a tiered semi-circle of seats round a small dance floor backing onto a stage. During the day, it often hosts kids' themed parties. In the evening, it showcases singers, bands, comedians and tribute acts of varying quality. Once the live entertainment ends, the venue turns into a nightclub with a DJ. It's open 7 p.m. to late.

The small casino adjoins Brodie's pub on Deck 6 starboard. It features a number of slot machines, as well as gaming tables for roulette and blackjack. Tournaments take place throughout the day, including afternoon roulette and live horse racing (via a satellite feed, of course). The slots are open from 10 a.m. to late; the gaming tables are open from noon to 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to late.

Quiz addicts who can't get their fill during the day should head to the Horizon Restaurant where there is a team cruise quiz most nights. You'll find karaoke in Brodie's on certain nights.

Britannia Bars and Lounges

Most of the bars and entertainment venues can be found in or just off the atrium, with a couple of exceptions. They are all very much designed to appeal to British tastes and current fads -- whether that be sampling wines from around the world, discovering obscure regional beers from around the UK or enjoying an artisan gin looking out from the top of the ship.

The Blue Bar (Deck 5): This is an odd little space tucked to one side of the atrium and a bit hard to find. It's an elegant cocktail bar in silver, black marble and midnight blue that should, in theory, be an ideal pre-dinner meeting place, but it isn't. (That honour is taken by Olly Smith's The Glass House.) During our five-day cruise, I didn't see a single person in there. Open 10 a.m. to late.

Brodie's (Deck 6): Set in a large space just off the atrium, Brodie's is popular throughout the day, with a variety of entertainment including quizzes and live football screenings, as well as live music and karaoke in the evening. Designed in smart tones of brass, wood and a black-and-white geometric floor pattern, it's designed to resemble a large pub and is named after one of the founders of P&O Cruises, Brodie McGhie Wilcox.

Brodie's also has The Great British Beer Menu, which features an astonishing 70 different bottled beers, ales and ciders from 56 UK counties including pilsners, ales, stouts, gluten-free beer and speciality beers such as Chocolate Tom from Robinson's Brewery in Cheshire, Ginger Hare from Bath Ales in Somerset and Orange Peel from the Wadsworth Brewery in Wiltshire, starting at a cheaper-than-pub price of £3.85 per bottle. The casino adjoins Brodie's. Open from 10 a.m. to late.

The Glass House (Deck 7): Wine expert Olly Smith's wine bar is a very popular gathering place all day, given its central location at the top of the atrium. Smith has chosen a range of 40 wines to offer by the glass, half of which are new to P&O. They are partly influenced by the ship's itineraries, so he has drawn from Croatia and Italy; but you can find wines from farther afield, including vintages from Uruguay and Japan. The 'Wine Flights' are fun, allowing you to sample three regional varieties, complete with Olly's tasting notes, from £9.95 for three 125 ml glasses. You can accompany the wine with a fine selection of tapas-sized dishes, as well as more filling mains (see Dining). Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The Crow's Nest (Deck 16): Located high atop the ship, this bar takes up a prime piece of real estate right at the front and affords spectacular views. It's a P&O Cruises' favourite, appearing on most ships in the fleet, and on Britannia it's the biggest yet. The venue is done up with a generous use of marble and floor-to-ceiling windows. During the day it's quiet and peaceful, and indeed we saw a number of people fast asleep on the very comfortable chairs and sofas dotted about. At night, it turns into a sophisticated pre- or post-dinner venue. You don't chance upon the Crow's Nest -- you head here -- and it's ideally situated if you're dining in the nearby Epicurean. It also adjoins the library and the nearby Marlow Suite, which is the ship's card room.

The Crow's Nest features The Great British Gin Menu, which includes 20 British-distilled gins from around the country including small, artisan brands such as The Botanist Islay Dry Gin (Argyll), Tarquin's Dry Gin (Cornwall), Darnley's View (Edinburgh), Silent Pool Gin (Surrey) and Ely Dark Chocolate Gin (Cambridgeshire), as well as big names such as Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray and Hendrick's. A selection of tonic waters, including Fevertree, Fentiman's and Bottlegreen, complement the gins.

Riviera (Deck 16): The partly covered Riviera bar is the main bar for the Lido Deck. Open 8 a.m. to late.

Lido (Deck 16): This outside bar is opposite the Riviera, on the other side of the two main pools. Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunset (Deck 16): This popular spot, right outside the Horizon Restaurant, takes up the whole of the aft of the ship. It's perfect for sundowners and smokers, who can smoke on the port side.

Serenity (Deck 17): This bar is solely for the use of passengers who have booked The Retreat. Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Britannia Outside Recreation

Pools

There are two main pools on the Lido Deck (Deck 16). Sailaway parties take place here, with a live DJ and dancing. It's a large space and, despite the number of passengers onboard, it never felt crowded. There is a shallow paddling pool between the two main pools, for toddlers. (Swim nappies are OK here.) There is also a plunge pool at the aft of Deck 17.

There is another outdoor pool on Deck 17 in The Retreat. The Retreat is an adults-only enclave at the top and front of the ship, and is technically part of the Oasis Spa on Deck 5. It has a capacity of just 84 people and numbers are strictly controlled; you gain access by purchasing a one-day or full-cruise pass. It's open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The area is serene and calm, with day beds and cabanas for spa treatments. You also get a designated lounger, bathrobe, slippers, towels, free fruit and smoothies, and unlimited access to the two hot tubs.

Passes for The Retreat cannot be pre-booked, but are available to purchase onboard at the Oasis Spa, subject to availability. They tend to book up quickly on the first day of the cruise, though one-day passes are sometimes available on the day. Passes to The Retreat can also be obtained when booking a spa package. A day pass costs £25 per person. Prices for full-cruise passes for one person or a couple are: £120 per person (£200 per couple) for seven nights; £180 (£300 per couple) for 10 to 12 nights; or £240 (£400 per couple) for 14 nights.

You can also eat up here by ordering food via the 'Resort Stewards'. Breakfast (9 a.m. to noon) includes smoothies, cereals and paninis for free, but drinks will set you back £2 for a small orange juice, which is a bit steep. Lunch (noon to 3:30 p.m.) includes salads and light dishes such as smoked salmon and paninis. Afternoon tea includes sandwiches, pastries and scones from a buffet (served from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.)

Recreation

Outdoor fun is centred around the purpose-built Arena at the aft of Deck 18, the Sports Deck. The Arena is designed as a basketball court, but offers a range of equipment for playing various sports including short tennis, cricket and football. Friendly tournaments for adults and children take place during the day, and some evenings the Arena doubles as a sailaway venue when the weather is particularly inclement. (It's open, but far more sheltered than the Lido Deck.)

The Arena is surrounded by tiered viewing decks and even has an adjoining bar. Screens on either side of the bar are set up for passengers to play the latest motion-sensing video games. There is also a ping pong table and two golf nets near the Arena.

Sun Decks

The Sun Deck is up on Deck 17, overlooking the Lido Deck. It has two hot tubs, one on either side looking down on the main pools and plenty of sun loungers. You could also head up to Deck 18, which is quieter and doubles as the tiny Promenade, but you'll have to share it with joggers.

Britannia Services

Reception is off the main atrium on Deck 5. Taking the front desk out of the atrium itself is an inspired move because it means the atrium is left to savour and enjoy, with the lines of people enquiring about their bills relegated to a corridor.

The shore excursions desk is diagonally opposite and beside it is a shop selling essential goods and logo items. All the rest of the shops are found on Deck 6. These include shops selling watches, duty-free items and jewelry. Brand names sold onboard include: Omega and Chopard, Beaverbrooks, Rituals, Desigual and Crew Clothing.

The photo gallery is on Deck 7. There are a few passenger photos on the walls for you to peruse, but mostly you look for your own photos and choose what you want via touch screens. Future Cruise Sales is next door if you'd like to book your next cruise while onboard.

The library is all the way up on Deck 16, right at the front of the ship, just behind the Crow's Nest. It's well stocked and a good size. All the books are in English, and you can take out two books per person and keep them for one week. There are also four computers for passenger use. The ship has Wi-Fi throughout, available in three 24-hour package options; The Connect Package (£7.75 for 24 hours) provides social media access and internet messaging services; The Browse Package (£12.50) offers internet browsing (with the exception of video streaming), internet messaging, email and social network access; and The Works Package (£24.95) offers web browsing, including YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music streaming, video calls, email, instant messenger services and social media access. There's also a new "Pay As You Go" option which costs 65p per minute. 

The library is open 8 a.m. to noon, 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on port days. On sea days, it is open 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and then 7:30 to 9 p.m.

The games rooms -- the Marlow Suite (named after P&O's long-serving former boss, Carol) and the Ivory Suite -- are in the opposite corridor. There are bridge tables for bridge and whist in the Marlow Suite.

There are two free self-service launderettes toward the aft of every floor. You can buy washing powder from the ship shop opposite reception on Deck 5.

Spa

The Oasis Spa is at the front of the ship on Deck 5, just beyond reception. It's an odd spot, somewhat marooned, and it's unclear why P&O has chosen to put it here when the 'outdoor spa' area -- The Retreat -- is 12 floors above it. Theoretically, you could be wandering around the ship in your dressing gown if you booked a day in The Retreat along with your spa treatment.

The Oasis Spa has 16 treatment rooms, a relaxation room, a lecture room, the Oasis Villa and a thermal suite. The Oasis Villa is an exclusive-use area where you can hide away for a few hours in cushioned chairs and take a dip in your private whirlpool spa. Reserve your time there (for an extra fee) at spa reception.

The thermal suite has a hydrotherapy pool, six heated stone loungers, three aromatic showers and two water beds. There are also two saunas (a mild one and a Finnish one) and a steam room. The thermal suite is very popular and fills up quickly. It costs £25 per person, per day.

Spa treatments start at £36 for a 25-minute back, neck and shoulder massage and rise to £125 for a 75-minute stone massage. There are also couples treatments, acupuncture and facials on offer.

One odd omission: the only drink on offer is water. It seems strange not to have all the various jasmine or ginger-infused teas that you get in most spas.

A salon attached to the spa offers haircuts, manicures, pedicures and men's grooming.

Lectures and seminars go on all day -- everything from how to tackle puffy eyes to improving the way you walk and how to control unruly hair. Look for discounts, such as 'buy three treatments and get a 10 percent discount', especially on port days.

The spa, thermal suite and The Retreat all get booked up early, so make your appointments or purchase your passes as soon as you get onboard -- particularly, if you'd like a treatment on a sea day.

Fitness

The gym is on Deck 17 toward the back of the ship. It's well equipped with plenty of treadmills and bikes and a weight training area. The cardio equipment faces the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, so there are great views and plenty of light.

There is a large studio for group fitness classes. The gym offers a wide range of fitness classes, some of which are for free (such as stretching and cycling) and others with a charge, including yoga and Pilates (£7.70) and -- a first for P&O Cruises -- TRX (£14 per class). You can also hire a personal trainer by the hour (£47) or join a Boot Camp (three 45-minute classes) for £74.

The jogging track is also up on this level.

A wide number of walk-in seminars, such as foot clinics and wellness advice, take place every day.

Free Dining

The quality of food in the three main dining rooms is of a high standard, and you won't be disappointed -- or bored -- if you choose to eat here every night. The menu changes daily, and there is a special Gala Menu on formal nights, designed by Marco Pierre White.

In two of the main dining rooms you can eat anytime you like. Just turn up between 6 p.m. and 9:30 pm, and you can sit with whom you want and enjoy a five-course menu (six-course on Gala Nights), in the traditional surroundings of a large cruise ship dining room.

Meridian (Deck 5 midships): This is one of the two main dining rooms offering open seating from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It's accessible just off the atrium. What's surprising is the restaurant is not laid out like most traditional cruise ship dining rooms, but rather sliced up into different sized spaces by glass dividers. This gives the feel of a much smaller space, and also allows for intimacy if you're dining on your own or with a companion. The color scheme of the carpet and the fittings is white and gold. Service is brisk, efficient and friendly.

The five-course menu varies daily and, as P&O puts it, "is an opportunity to celebrate all things British" -- but with international influences. Ingredients are sustainably sourced from the UK, and starters might include Scottish smoked salmon or Welsh rarebit, as well as pate from Ardennes. This course is followed by a soup then a choice of four main courses, including one vegetarian option. Mains might include Scottish trout, Hampshire lamb or Gressingham duck. Ice creams again reflect U.K. heritage, so you might find Purbeck Dorset or classics such as sherry trifle. This is followed by a cheeseboard, sadly not those picked by cheese expert Charlie Turnbull.

There is also a daily special, often reflecting the area or port stop, or an Indian dish to reflect the nationality of the waiters.

The menu will also always include 'Classic Favourites' such as Caesar salad, prawn cocktail and tomato soup to start. Classic mains are fillet of salmon, sirloin steak and chicken breast.

Marco Pierre White -- a strong presence across the P&O fleet -- has no dedicated restaurant on Britannia. However, he does oversee the Gala Night menus on formal nights. Dishes might include smoked flaked haddock to start, followed by New England split lobster.

Peninsular (Deck 6, midships): The Peninsular, which is directly above the Meridian, has a more traditional layout with larger tables and glass pillars. The colour scheme is burnt orange and red. It features the same menu as Meridian, but this restaurant is also open for breakfast (8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (12:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.), afternoon tea (4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.) and open-seating dinner (6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.).

Oriental (Deck 5, Aft): The Club Dining restaurant offers traditional, fixed-time, same-table seating at 6:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. It also uses the same menus as the other two main restaurants. The colour scheme is dark woods and deep red carpets, with a number of larger tables, interspersed with tables for four.

Horizon (Deck 16): The main buffet restaurant takes up a large part of Deck 16, and includes both indoor and outdoor seating areas. There are new-to-P&O features such as a live cooking station for pancakes, omelettes and noodles and a dedicated salad counter. There is also a daily theme, which might be Indian or Mediterranean or Best of British, which will be reflected in the food on offer. Meals and snacks are available all day. Open 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Lido Grill (Deck 16): The poolside Lido Grill offers a range of grilled items including quality burgers, vegetable kebabs and classic fish and chips. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Pizzeria (Deck 16): Adjacent to the Lido Grill, the Pizzeria offers freshly baked pizzas all day. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Grab & Go (Deck 16): New to the cruise line, this eaterie offers a selection of pre-packed snacks, sandwiches and salads for breakfast and lunch. It's located by the main pools on Deck 16. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Room Service: A Continental breakfast service operates from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. offering cereals, yoghurts and pastries. Throughout the day you can order snacks and sandwiches, some with small supplements. Main courses also carry supplements; for example, seafood pie is £4.50 and a burger is £3.95. There are also lighter meals available from 11 p.m. throughout the night. Wines, beers and spirits are also available.

Fee Dining

P&O Cruises has never gone in for the mind-bending number of for-fee eateries that its U.S. counterparts excel in. However, what you will find is a small selection of very high quality, well thought out venues, which appeal to the British palate. Hence Britannia sees the return of Sindhu, the line's hugely popular Indian restaurant, and The Glass House, which although it is primarily about wine, also has an excellent selection of tapas-size dishes and larger mains.

The Limelight Club (Deck 5); £25: This is the line's first foray into a supper club, and it has a contemporary, not retro, feel. The venue is beautifully decorated in golds and greens, with a bar at one end and the stage at the other. The food is not why people come here though -- it's the chance to see and hear musicians in intimate surroundings -- but like the rest of the ship's for-fee eateries, it's of a very high quality. There is just one dinner/show seating per night, and the evening starts at 7:30 p.m. The three-course menu changes every time the act does (on average, four times a cruise). Dinner might include an appetizer of a pate or a salad, and mains such as loin of lamb with a pulled lamb hot pot or poached fillet of haddock, followed by a trio of desserts (cheesecake, sorbet, meringue). Reservations are essential.

Market Cafe (Deck 5); a la carte pricing: Master patissier Eric Lanlard has long wowed the culinary world with his delectable baked goods. Here he brings his expertise to Britannia's Market Cafe with French-style pastries, fine cheeses, antipasto, charcuterie, tapas and speciality breads. You'll also find an eclectic selection of cheeses from around the world, which you can only find here or in The Epicurean restaurant. The Market Cafe is in a prime spot at the bottom of the atrium, so you can sit and enjoy the ambience. A taster plate starts at £1.95; a sharing board will set you back £10.95. Eric's cakes start at £2.95. If you want the full Eric Afternoon Tea experience, you can book it at The Epicurean on sea days (see below). You can also get excellent coffee from here (better than the Costa coffee served elsewhere onboard and only 10p more). Open 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sindhu (Deck 7); £20: This restaurant has proved immensely popular across the fleet. On Britannia, the Indian restaurant is given a bigger space than on any of the line's other ships (140 covers vs 110 on Azura), with soft lighting, tasteful decor and Indian music. It's a sophisticated dining experience, leisurely and one to be savoured.

Dinner menus are changed twice a cruise and might include gosht murtabak (spiced ground beef flatbread); karara kekda (soft shell crab) and our favourite jai tarang (pan-fried hand-dived scallops) as starters. For mains, it's a tough choice, but Atul's signature plate of coconut prawn masala, chicken curry and lam bhuna and the thattukada duck roast (South Indian-style duck) are outstanding.

Desserts are out of this world, especially the dark chocolate sphere and trio of Indian ice cream. You can even wash it all down with an Indian wine. There’s a red Zinfandel and a white Sauvignon Blanc and both are very drinkable.

Britannia's Sindhu is the first to have its own bar, called Nashta, which offers tapas-style Indian dishes at lunchtime like deep-fried baby squid or paneer and sweetcorn kebabs. There's also a sit-down lunch service in the main restaurant area. The cover charge is by dish – 1 dish £2.25 / 2 dishes £4.25 / 3 dishes £5.95. Reservations are recommended and three dishes per person are usually about right. The restaurant is open 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. for lunch and 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.

The Glass House (Deck 7); a la carte pricing: Wine expert Olly Smith's temple to superb wines and tapas-size dishes occupies a prime spot at the top of the atrium, which Smith has described as "a place of great honour". The Glass House on Britannia is a good deal larger than on the other P&O ships, but like those it has a number of rooms including a Tasting Room and a Dining Room, as well as a bar area, all with decorative touches using glass in different ways. The menu features a fine selection of tapas-sized dishes, which start at £5.25 for three and might include oak smoked haddock, chorizo sausage and pork belly or chicken tenders. Mains include steak from £5.50 or the catch of the day, Morecambe Bay and Devon crab sliders and lobster buns for £4.95. Accompany your meal or snack with one of 40 wines by the glass or a 'Wine Flight' -- a sampler of three regional varieties.

There are also wine tasting dinners, and when Smith is onboard he'll even lead shore excursions to nearby vineyards. No reservations are needed. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The Epicurean (Deck 16); £28: Britannia's fine dining restaurant offers classic British dishes, re-interpreted for today's modern palates. The sophisticated setting features lots of gold and white decor and somewhat overly bright lighting. No specific celebrity chef has put his name on this restaurant; it's all down to the P&O team, and it's very impressive. The experience is similar to that of a top London restaurant with a name chef attached, except for the price tag.

Chefs at The Epicurean utilise the principles of molecular gastronomy and techniques such as precision temperature cooking, freeze drying and fuming flasks of liquid nitrogen in order to enhance taste, texture and appearance. The menu features a selection of classic and contemporary dishes, with a lot of playful touches: Bloody Mary lollipops to start, with a tiny dash of Worcestershire sauce in the centre, or salt and pepper oyster and jumbo prawn tempura that comes complete with an artist's paint tube, filled with sweet pimento sauce. Palate cleansers might be a sorbet disguised as a tube of lipstick or a 'poached egg' with a 'yolk' of mango and a 'white' of coconut milk.

The starters change on each cruise; we had cream of celeriac and Italian White Truffle and a duo of cured smoked salmon, but you may also find 24 hour slow cooked ox cheek or langoustine and caviar cocktail and a selection of tomatoes presented in inventive ways.

The mains are equally interesting: Black Cod and Lobster Tail with Avruga Caviar gratin, miso glazed rack and slow cooked lamb belly. Prime grills are another major draw here and again, the quality of the cuisine and presentation -- not to mention the service -- are outstanding.

Desserts are fun and inventive: there’s dark chocolate jaffa cake or, if you want to see how it’s made, try the crème brulee and white choclate sphere or crepes suzette, which are both prepared at your table. The restaurant also features an extensive cheese menu. Reservations are essential. Open 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Afternoon Tea at the Epicurean; £15: You can also book Eric Lanlard's afternoon tea at The Epicurean (sea days only), which comes with the master patissier's signature creations, such as herb lobster roll and curried crab and yoghurt tartlet. The blueberry yoghurt cheesecake looks naughty and tastes divine. The Afternoon Tea, which is proving very popular, includes unlimited pots of a wide selection of Twinings teas. Reservations are necessary. Tea service begins at 3:30 p.m.

The Beach House (Deck 16); £5: This is an odd spot, right at the back of the Horizon buffet restaurant on the starboard side, and it's almost as if P&O is not quite sure what to do with it. The problem is it's too close to the Horizon buffet to feel like a speciality restaurant, and in fact isn't: it's a space cordoned off from the main buffet area with the same furniture and decor, just with waiter service and a cover charge. However, having said that, the food is a cut above and plentiful. The influence here is American, so expect clam chowder, nachos, buffalo wings etc. as starters, followed by a wide selection of mains, some of which come with a supplement, such as ribs (£2.95 supplement), burgers (£1.95) and blackened cod fillet or lobster tail (£5.95 each). Reservations are recommended. Open 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Cookery Club (Deck 17); £150: You can book an intimate dinner with one of P&O’s celebrity chefs on selected sailings throughout the year. Either Marco Pierre White or Eric Lanlard will lead a cooking class, then host an exclusive dinner with just 18 guests. Reservations are essential. For more information on The Cookery Club, see Activities.

Java (Deck 7); a la carte: This coffee shop sells Costa coffee from £2.40; the price includes a pastry of your choice. (Pastries cannot be purchased separately.) It's opposite The Glass House and has lovely views over the atrium. Open 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Britannia offers six different types of cabins, including the first purpose-built cabins with balconies for solo travellers on a P&O Cruises' ship. There are 15 Single Balcony cabins in total (and 12 inside singles), in a dedicated corridor at the top of the ship. In another first for the line, all 1,313 outside cabins have balconies. There are 64 suites, 92 Super Deluxe minisuites, 460 inside cabins and 38 accessible cabins.

Art has been commissioned from British artists for all the cabins and contributes to the overall contemporary look. The decor embraces beige, cream and chocolate tones, so nobody could accuse designers Richmond International of creating something garish./p>

All cabins have tea and coffee making facilities, a fridge, safe and flat screen TVs, which vary in size. Oddly the TVs are not interactive, so you can't check your bill or book restaurants via the TV. You can order movies on demand, watch UK TV shows and listen to cruise radio. There also five live TV channels: BBC World News, Sky News, Sky Sports News, a Sports Channel and a lifestyle channel.

Plug sockets are plentiful and UK three-pin. All the rooms are climate controlled, so you can adjust the temperature -- though you can't turn off the air-conditioning.

Despite some concern, the balconies are not as small as many people feared -- they comfortably house two chairs, with plenty of space on either side, and a small table and foot stool.

Bathrooms all have glass shower screens, consigning clingy curtains to the dustbins of history (at least, we hope so). Bathroom products come courtesy of the White Company and include bottles of shampoo, shower gel and hand lotion, as well as a fixed dispenser in the shower. As with the cabins, the shower rooms have been well thought out, with two shelves to place toiletries. The only omission is a recessed space for the soap bar.

Unlike on some of P&O's other ships, there are no dedicated family cabins. You'll either have to plump for a suite or a Super Deluxe cabin, or book two beside each other (there are no interconnecting cabins). Or you could cram into a four-berth inside cabin, which has beds that come down from the walls. (The balcony cabins do not come in three- or four-berth configurations.)

Thirty-eight Disabled Cabins come with a specially designed bathroom and extra-wide doors.

Inside: Interior cabins feature a small corridor, two beds (or one pushed together), walk-in wardrobe, desk, TV, chair and coffee table. A number have beds that come down from the walls, so you could fit four. Insides measure 161 to 170 square feet.

Balcony: All of Britannia's outside cabins have a balcony. There are two single beds, which can be converted into a double; two bedside tables, a desk, chair and a small coffee table. The 'walk-in' wardrobe is just the space beside the bathroom -- there's no door -- and it has plenty of hanging space, shelves and a safe. There is a large flat-screen TV in front of the bed. Balcony cabins are 212 square feet with a 36-square-foot balcony.

Minisuite: Minisuites on Britannia are called Super Deluxe cabins. The bedroom area is exactly the same as an outside cabin; the difference comes in the living area, which is neatly divided by a curtain, making these cabins perfect for families. There is a sofa-bed, coffee table, two chairs, a large desk and another TV. You also get Champagne and chocolates on arrival, fresh fruit, canapes on the first and last formal nights and a pair of binoculars and a bathrobe and slippers (for onboard use). Superior deluxe cabins are 281 square feet with a 36-square-foot balcony.

Suites: The majority of the suites are on Deck 14, with two aft and two forward suites each on Deck 11 and Deck 12. All of the corridor suites (as opposed to the aft or corner suites), are laid out with a living room with a sofa-bed, two chairs and a coffee table and a room divider, which is taken up mainly by a giant TV. There is also a coffee machine as well as a kettle and a fridge.

The bedroom consists of a big double bed, two bedside tables, a desk and a large TV. There are six wardrobes, so plenty of hanging space. The bathroom consists of a separate cloakroom, accessed from the living room area, and a bathroom/shower area, accessed from the bedroom. The bathroom is stunning: all marble and chrome, with a separate shower and a whirlpool bath. You also get larger sizes of White Company products.

All the suites are butler-serviced and receive the following extras: Champagne and a box of chocolates on arrival, a bottle of water, fresh fruit and canapes daily, a pair of binoculars, exclusive access to breakfast in Epicurean and priority tender passes.

The balcony stretches the length of the rooms so there is plenty of space for sun loungers and deck chairs.

The difference between the aft suites and other suites are a wider balcony, and with the forward suites you get a longer balcony. The basic layout and amenities of the room are the same. All suites are 382 square feet with a 72-square-foot balcony.

Single: Britannia offers 12 single inside cabins and 15 single balcony cabins. Inside single cabins measure 134 square feet and are square in shape with a single bed, a bedside cabinet, a wardrobe with three doors, a desk and a chair. There is a small, wall-mounted flat screen TV. The single balcony cabins have the same square footage (just with an added 36-square-foot balcony), and have been really well thought out to maximize space. You enter via a short 'corridor' (really just the space alongside the bathroom), and you are met with a room divider, which acts as the back of the bed, but also divides the room neatly. These also have a triple-length wardrobe, a desk and a chair. The shower rooms and the balconies in both single cabin categories are exactly the same as double rooms.

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