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OnboardP&O Cruises has a fleet of seven ships offering holidays tailored to British tastes. Its larger ships 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.
Currently, 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 2 - 17.
Passengers cruising on 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 over ten different places to eat.
Azura has Sindhu, a speciality Indian restaurant run in consultation with Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar and Seventeen with its al fresco terrace offering fine dining with an emphasis on local ingredients and speciality dishes prepared at the table.
It also has The Glass House -- a wine bar for which TV wine expert Olly Smith has selected over 30 different wines, all available by the glass and paired with gastro pub tapas style light bites and favourites. The Glass House will replace Las Ramblas on Ventura from April 2013.
Ventura has speciality restaurant The White Room by British chef Marco Pierre White who also oversees the menu in the Ocean Grill restaurants on Adonia, Aurora, Oceana, Arcadia and Oriana.
Fitness and spa facilities took a leap forward with The Retreat on Azura -- an adults-only covered and open air spa haven which will also be on Ventura from April 2013.
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 are registered in Bermuda to allow for weddings at sea which are conducted by the captain and are extremely popular.
The line announced a new-build in May 2011, which will be the biggest ship in the fleet. Britannia will weigh in at 141,000 tons and carry 3,611 passengers -- 511 more than the current largest, Azura. Work began on the ship in October 2012, and is due to be completed in March 2015.
About P&O CruisesP&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. 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. Oceana, Ventura and the newest ship Azura will spend winter in the Caribbean, based in Barbados, where they will offer mainly 14-night cruises.
Oriana, meanwhile offers Caribbean and European cruises from Southampton.
P&O's newest -- and biggest -- ship, Britannia, will debut in spring 2015.
P&O Cruises FleetIn more recent times, P&O Cruises has been well 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), but 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 Noddy 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 -- a rarity for new ships. Work began in October 2012 on a £500 million eighth vessel, which will be the biggest in the fleet. The 141,000-ton, 3,611-passenger Britannia will be launched in February 2015.
Fellow PassengersAs 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. However, there is one common denominator: You will be cruising with British people.