One of the complaints about Britannia has been the absence of midships stairs above the Atrium level. Have a look at the deckplan images below – they show the midships area of deck 7 (left) and deck 8 (right). You can see that while there are stairs on deck 7 (which extend downwards from there to the bottom of the Atrium on deck 5), there are no stairs on deck 8, nor in fact any deck above. The only way of getting between higher decks or between the higher decks and the Atrium decks in the midships area, is by the lift, and this can become very busy. The alternative, off course, is to walk to either the forward or aft stairs which do extend across all decks, but that can be quite a long walk.
However, this may change. I’ve read a comment on the Cruise Critic Princess Cruises forum to the effect that guests on Royal Princess (sister ship in this regard to Britannia) have been told that she is due to have her centre staircase opened for passengers at her refit later this year. What centre staircase, I hear you ask…. Well, in fact there *is* a midships staircase running the full height of the ship, but it’s for crew only. It may not be a continuation of the public staircase linking decks 5 to 7 – I have a feeling that it’s in the white space shown immediately below the stairs in the left-hand image – but it does exist, on all of the Royal Princess class ships.
I ought to add the usual words of caution. First, this is at best a second-hand report of a comment made by an on-board officer (the hotel manager, reportedly) and not an official announcement by Princess Cruises. Secondly, even if true there’s no word yet if this change will be extended to Regal Princess or Britannia; and thirdly, even if it is, it can only be done in the context of a refit and in Britannia’s case that won’t happen for a while yet. That said, it’s interesting that Royal Princess is going into dock for a refit this year – having gone into service in June 2013 she’ll only be a bit more than three years old. In-dock refits are usually only for structural work as cosmetic maintenance can be done while the ship is in service, and this seems earlier than I would have expected for such work to be needed on Royal Princess. But there have been many complaints about the staircase issue on these ships in both the Princess and P&O forums so perhaps this has been a trigger for it.
(It’s also possible that Majestic Princess, currently building at Fincantieri, may be delivered from new with the midships staircase open, but we’ll have to see.)