P&O Cruises Australia

Cruise Reviews by Cruise Critic

Cruise Line Overview

P&O Cruises can trace its roots back to 1837, when Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company started a passenger and mail service from the U.K. to Spain and Portugal. The service network expanded rapidly and by the 1860s embraced India, China, Japan and Australia. While the main purpose of the company was to carry passengers and mail, it also sent vessels on occasional cruises as early as in the 1840s. The company's ships evolved from wooden paddle steamers to iron-hulled screw driven ships, and eventually steel replaced iron as the construction material. Until the late 1920s, its ships remained conservatively designed, slow, and mainly powered with old-fashioned engines, while many other companies preferred using newer steam turbines and diesel engines. However, with Viceroy of India (1928), P&O was a pioneer of turbo-electric drive, and Orion (1935), of associate company Orient Lines, introduced simple, clean, yet pleasant art deco-inspired interiors and abandoned period styles in interior design. Post World War II vessels mainly hovered between modernity and reference to older styles, until the original Oriana (1960) and Canberra (1961) introduced a leap to modernism. P&O Cruises is the biggest operator catering to the British market, and it has developed its fleet and introduced new features rapidly since the debut of the current Oriana in 1995. In 2003, P&O Cruises became part of Carnival Corp. & PLC, the Anglo-American cruise giant, and at the same time 77,400-ton sister ships Oceana (built in 2000) and Adonia (1998) were transferred to the fleet from fellow Carnival Corp. company Princess Cruises. The ships sail from Southampton for most of the year, and most of the cruises are about 14 nights in duration. However, each year its ships offer a host of shorter mini-breaks of two to seven nights, as well, and Arcadia, and Aurora, undertake long cruises of 80 to more than 100 nights, some of which take them around the world. The 710-passenger Adonia, the smallest of the fleet, emphasises destination-rich, off-the-beaten-track itineraries. However, from March 2016 it will be seconded into service as the first ship of the fleet from new Carnival Corp. eco line, Fathom, and will not replaced. Oceana, Ventura and sister Azura spend winters in the Caribbean, based in Barbados, where they offer mainly 14-night cruises. Oriana, meanwhile offers Caribbean and European cruises from Southampton. P&O Cruises' newest -- and biggest -- ship, Britannia, debuted in spring 2015. Britannia is the largest-ever ship built specifically for the UK market and was named by HM The Queen on March 10, 2015, in a glittering ceremony in Southampton. The ship is also 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.

The Fleet

P&O Cruises' operates a fleet of eight ships, serving the U.K. market. Thirty years ago, the line was best known because of Canberra; that ship served until 1997 and was at one time the only P&O Cruises' ship based in the U.K. and serving the British market. For a time, Canberra served together with Victoria (earlier Sea Princess and built as Kungsholm of Swedish America Line in 1966). Canberra also, famously, saw service as a troop carrier in the 1982 Falklands War. In 1995 P&O Cruises introduced the 69,000-ton Oriana as the first modern cruise liner designed with the British market in mind. Aurora -- at 76,000 tons a larger and more modern version of Oriana -- followed in 2000. In 2003, P&O Cruises became part of Carnival Corp. & PLC, the Anglo-American cruise giant, and at the same time 77,400-ton sister ships Oceana (built in 2000) and Adonia (1998) were transferred to the fleet from fellow Carnival Corp. company Princess Cruises. The latter reverted back to Princess as Sea Princess in 2005 as P&O Cruises introduced Arcadia, at 83,000 tons P&O's largest ship and also most modern design-wise. In April 2008, a 116,000-ton new-build, Ventura, entered service aimed at families with children and with a stand-out Italian restaurant by Marco Pierre White, The White Room. Ventura also has a rock school for teenagers, a Scalextric Formula One racing track for all ages and Mr. Bump for the tiny tots. In April 2010, Azura -- which is a sister ship to Ventura -- joined the fleet. Azura is geared to couples and has a strong focus on dining with an Indian restaurant created by Michelin-Star Chef Atul Kochhar. Azura also has 18 dedicated single cabins -- then a rarity for new ships. In March 2015, the largest ever ship built specifically for the UK market, the 141,000-ton, 3,647-passenger

P&O Cruises Australia Fleet

Onboard Experience

P&O Cruises has a fleet of eight ships offering holidays tailored to British tastes. Its larger and more modern ships -- Britannia, Azura, Ventura, Arcadia and Oceana -- are contemporary and innovative, with a focus on a new-to-cruising younger crowd as well as attracting seasoned cruisers. Aurora, Oriana and Adonia offer a more traditional cruise experience. Arcadia, Adonia and Oriana are exclusively for adults; the rest of the fleet welcomes families of all ages and has supervised children's clubs offering round the clock entertainment for children aged two to 17-years-old. Passengers cruising on Britannia, Azura, Ventura, Arcadia and Oceana can choose Club Dining (traditional set seating) or Freedom Dining, where they can choose where to eat and when. Aurora and Oriana offer Club Dining; All ships have speciality restaurants as well as main dining rooms and Azura and Ventura have more than ten different places to eat. P&O Cruises places a strong emphasis on cuisine and has numerous tie-ups with celebrity chefs, including Marco Pierre White, who has a high-end restaurant on Ventura, The White Room; he also oversees the menu in the Ocean Grill restaurants on Adonia, Aurora, Oceana, Arcadia and Oriana. He has no restaurant on Britannia, P&O Cruises' newest ship, but oversees the Gala menus in the main dining room The line also has a long-running relationship with Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar, who has a speciality Indian restaurant, Sindhu, on Azura and Britannia; and Seventeen, which offers pan-Asian cuisine on Ventura. TV wine expert Olly Smith is another P&O Cruises' favourite, and his The Glass House -- a wine bar for which has selected over 30 different wines, all available by the glass and paired with gastro pub tapas style light bites -- is on Azura, Ventura and Britannia. Britannia saw tie-ups with even more celebrity chefs, amongst them TV-favourite James Martin and master patissier Eric "Cake Boy" Lanlard; as well as The Cookery Club -- the first at sea. P&O Cruises made the astute move to link up with the wildly popular Strictly Come Dancing series, and you'll find 'Strictly' cruises on different ships throughout the year with guest appearances from pro dancers and judges. Fitness and spa facilities took a leap forward with The Retreat on Azura -- an adults-only covered and open air spa haven which is also on on Ventura and Britannia. The ships sail from Southampton from April to October and while some ships remain there year round, others offer Caribbean cruising from Barbados or longer world voyages. The fleet flies the British flag, but all ships except Britannia are registered in Bermuda to allow for weddings at sea which are conducted by the captain and are extremely popular. Britannia is registered in Southampton due to European tonnage tax laws.

Fellow Passengers

As the ships differ markedly from each other, and the duration of the cruises the company offers range from two nights to more than 100, the passengers they attract depends largely on what ship and what cruise you are on.

Broadly speaking, in school holidays on the family-friendly ships, expect a thirty- to forty-something crowd and a lot of kids. On the adults-only ships the age range spikes significantly, and averages around 55- to 65-years-old.

However, there is one common denominator: whatever ship you're on you'll be travelling with Brits.


For much of the year, ships are based in Southampton and sail to the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Atlantic islands, but there are also cruises to the Caribbean as well as the world voyages mentioned above. These can be booked in sectors for those without the time to circumnavigate the globe.

Shore Excursions