P&O Cruises

The all-British cruise line leads a slightly schizophrenic life these days, trying to maintain its appeal to a solid core of long- standing customers, while needing to attract large numbers of people who have never cruised before if it is to fill its growing capacity – with the arrival next March of new flagship Britannia,. There’s also the fact that some of its ships (Adonia, Arcadia and Oriana) are child-free havens exclusively for adults, while the remainder of the fleet welcomes families. Perhaps it’s time to consider splitting into two separate brands? The 3,647-passenger Britannia will be the centre of attention next year, and will no doubt draw regulars from the line’s older ships – attracted by variations on a familiar formula but with a few new twists. Nothing as heart-stopping as an ice rink or a shopping mall, but there’s huge emphasis on celebrity chefs, with the Food Heroes James Martin, Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochhar and Eric Lanlard, together with wine expert Olly Smith, taking centre stage. Martin’s name hangs over the door of The Cookery Club and he will be bringing a selection of his best mates on board for their masterclasses, but it will be Rob Cottam – who cut his teeth with Pru Leith and at the Ashburton Cookery School – who will be in day-to-day control. Having taken food to another level, it could be time for P&O to turn its attention to the stage shows – where there is room for improvement. P&O still sell out their traditional world cruises, and as the fleet has grown, it has added Mediterranean and Caribbean fly-cruise options to its year-round Southampton departures – not everyone has the time or inclination to spend a couple of days in the Bay of Biscay at the start and end of a week in the sun. Gratuities not included.