However, delays due to the coronavirus outbreak, has put back the launch of the 5,200-passenger ship to an unspecified date later this year.
Captain Dunlop took time out to tell us how he has spent his unexpected time at home and about the destinations he looks forward to returning to when the P&O Cruises fleet set sail again.
**How are you spending your days at the moment? Have you done anything that you don’t normally get a chance to do?
Spring cleaning! Lockdown has afforded me a brilliant opportunity to have a good old-fashioned clear-out of the various items I appear to have accumulated after 20 years at sea. Many of them brought back lots of fond memories from various adventures across the globe.
I’ve also taken the opportunity to delve further into one of my passions, which is cooking. I miss (as I’m sure we all do) the wonderful dining options we have on board. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I feel I can rustle up a curry that would give our fabulous Sindhu chefs a run for their money -- but don’t worry, I’m not planning a change of career just yet!
What do you miss most about being at the helm of a cruise ship?
Aside from the exciting destinations, the beautiful ships and the sumptuous food, I’m really missing the interaction I have with our guests and wonderful crew. Over my four years with P&O Cruises, I’m so lucky to consider many of our guests and crew dear friends and I can’t wait until we can all join one another again on board.
Where would you go for a blast of sunshine and surprises?
I’m a huge fan of Lanzarote in The Canary Islands. Sure, the beaches are beautiful. But venture beyond Lanzarote's shoreline and you'll be rewarded with an out-of-this-world experience. The landscapes here are often compared to those of an alien world: with volcanic terrain and vineyards that grow grapes in moon-like craters, you'll feel like you’ve sailed to another planet -- though unless I've done made some serious navigational mistakes, you’re definitely still on planet earth! For more stellar beauty, check out the work of artist Cesar Manrique dotted all over the island.
**Which cultural city do you fancy revisiting as soon as you can?
Hamburg is an epicentre of cool. It mixes old and new, unpolished and glamorous to intoxicating effect -- you never know what you'll find around any given corner. Explore the Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus district, one of the world’s largest warehouse complexes. It's linked together by narrow streets, bridges and canals and home to harbourside pubs and charming restaurants. Culture vultures should head to the stunning Elbphilharmonie concert hall, whether for a show or simply to marvel at its eye-popping architecture.
Is there one destination that ticks all the boxes for you?
Valencia has gone the lot. It's a great all-rounder, offering impressive architecture, beautiful beaches and mouthwatering food. For a hit of architecture, go Gothic at the cathedral or make it modern at the City of Arts and Sciences. Craving some sunshine? Park up on La Malvarrosa beach (a local favourite) and feel the sand between your toes. And when you’ve worked up an appetite, you can’t miss the opportunity to sample paella in its birthplace -- its success is judged by the socarrat, the crispy crust of rice at the bottom of the pan.
Is there any message you’d like to pass on to P&O Cruises guests?
First and foremost, please stay safe. There is no doubt these are unprecedented and challenging times for us all. However, by following the Government's advice, I'm sure it won’t be too long before my fabulous crew and I can welcome you on board and together we can set sail to a destination of unforgettable holiday happiness.