Well, the hoopla has died down and it’s time to have a think about what the ship will offer.
The truth is that as yet, we don’t have very much hard detail. Of course, Royal Princess exists, and as she’s the first ship in the same class as Britannia we can look at Royal Princess and learn a lot about Britannia. But P&O have promised that there will be differences, although so far they’ve been coy about defining them. Here’s a list as far as I can work out:
- it will have a ‘British’ feel to it – they have employed a UK-based design consultancy to advise them. In their statement they said this: “Britannia will underpin P&O Cruises unique commitment to building ships specifically designed to anticipate the tastes of today’s Britain“.
- We believe it will have a Crows nest, though it’s not clear where. From the fly-by animated video it looks as if it’s at the front of the Lido deck, but there are cabins there on Royal Princess. Above that, on the Sun deck, is the Sanctuary; and above that is nothing. So it’s either got to at the front of the Lido deck, which would reduce the number of cabins and hence revenue; or perhaps it could go where the Sanctuary is, in a new deck house, and have the Sanctuary above that. But stability becomes an issue if you start adding new deckhouses that high up;
- The range of bars, restaurants and lounges will be different from those on Royal Princess, although they’re very likely to be in the same places;
- It will have single cabins, possibly quite a lot of them, of all types. The statement actually said “it will also have more single cabins than any other cruise ship, many of them with balconies” from which I infer that there will be some single cabins without balconies;
- There’s a hint that there will be more pools on Britannia than on Royal Princess, right aft on the Sun deck. You can see something like a small pool in that location in the video (about 35 to 37 seconds into it), and Royal Princess doesn’t have a pool in that location;
- Unless it’s just because the ‘fly-by’ animated video isn’t detailed enough, it looks as if there isn’t a Skywalk on the starboard side, although there is a definite bulge there, and on the port side, on the Lido and Sun decks. So perhaps they’re going to give us a SeaView bar on both sides. Or perhaps nothing;
- Again, it might be a video issue but the balconies aren’t as varied as those on Royal Princess;
- I’m going to assume that the casino on Britannia won’t be anything like as large as that on Royal Princess, just as the casinos on Ventura and Azura were smaller than on the Princess sister ships. That earlier P&O pair had a pub in the space left vacant (The Exchange on Ventura and Brodie’s on Azura) and I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar was done on Britannia.
Then there are number of things which we know, or are pretty certain, will be the same as Royal Princess. Obviously the overall hull, number of main decks, and the arrangement of the decks will the same – it pretty much has to. But there are other points. We know that she won’t have a wrap-round promenade deck; indeed, like Royal Princess, it won’t really be possible to walk along the promenade at all. The only access to the open air at that level will be direct onto those seating areas that you can see in the video, and that access will be directly onto it – it won’t be possible to move along that outside at all. Princess issued this guidance about Royal Princess “The Royal Princess Promenade deck will have limited access to passengers. In order to transit fore/aft from the forward passenger area, passengers will have to go inside the ship” and I’m sure that will be true of Britannia as well.
Finally, there’s the question of who this ship is intended to appeal to. The announcement and initial comments have talked about ‘resonating with existing passengers’. Well, they’ve got to say that, I feel. However I have read various unofficial comments to the effect that Britannia’s real target is new customers – if you like she will be P&O’s (and therefore Carnival UK’s) answer to Independence of the Seas, which has done well in the UK market. Attracting new customers opens up all sorts of questions about whether or not existing P&O tradition will be maintained or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was more provision for Freedom Dining than for traditional dining; indeed, it’s always possible that there might be no provision for the latter, though that might be a step too far at the moment. I also wonder if there will be formal nights. Perhaps it might be changed so that just one restaurant observed that dress code, and elsewhere did not. But that’s just speculation.
Britannia will go into service sometime in mid-2015, I think, which means that she will definitely feature in next year’s brochure. That means that all the details I’ve raised above will have to be settled by not long after the turn of the year. So we’ll know a lot more than we do now pretty soon.