The launch of P&O Cruises' Britannia -- the largest ship built especially for the UK market -- heralded a new age in British cruising, with a sleek, modern design; a strong emphasis on British food and drink; and an ongoing partnership with the BBC hit show, 'Strictly Come Dancing'. P&O Cruises has long had a celebrity chef link-up with Michelin-starred chefs Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochhar, as well as wine guru Olly Smith. On Britannia, the line enlisted the help of a few more for good measure: TV favourite James Martin and master patissier Eric Lanlard.
Here are our picks for seven things you can only find on Britannia.
1. The Cookery Club
The first Cookery Club at sea debuted on Britannia in March. This dedicated kitchen space, full of shiny new equipment and giant flat-screen TVs, gives you the chance to learn a new skill or improve an existing one; on selected sailings, you get to cook with a celebrity chef. TV favourite James Martin and master patissier Eric Lanlard are just two of the big names lined up to guide the three-hour classes. And the best bit? You get to have an intimate dinner with them afterward.
2. The Atrium
All ships have atriums, but few (if any) have one as lovely as this. The standout feature in this triple-height space is the Star Burst sculpture hanging down from the centre, which changes colour depending on the time of day. The Atrium is not just a meeting spot, though; it's a place to relax or get a morning coffee, take afternoon tea, read a book or meet for a pre-dinner drink. What it's not is where Reception is. That's been moved to a corridor just off it, so you won't have queues of people lining up querying their bills.
3. Single Balcony Cabins
For the first time, P&O Cruises has given solo travelers their own balcony cabins, which the line has put on a dedicated corridor at the top of the ship. Balcony cabins for solos mean the line is finally recognising that a lot of cruisers travel alone, and they should not be confined to an inside or ocean-view. (The line missed a trick, however, by not putting aside some space for a dedicated singles' bar, as Norwegian has done for those booked in its Studio Cabins.)
4. Eric Lanlard's Market Cafe
One of the standout spots on Britannia is Eric Lanlard's Market Cafe on the ground floor of the main atrium, where you can sample some of the master patissier's delicious creations. You'll also find French-style pastries, fine cheeses selected by cheese expert Charlie Turnbull, antipasto, charcuterie, tapas and speciality breads. If you haven't yet sampled Eric's creations (all priced very reasonably), then we're sure you'll be suitably impressed.
5. Eric Lanlard's Afternoon Tea
Served in The Epicurean, the fine dining restaurant at the top of the ship, this is not your regular Afternoon Tea. Lanlard's signature dishes include smoked salmon on spinach bread and cherry tomato and baby mozzarella tarts, as well as melt-in-your-mouth macaroons and trifles.
6. A Wide Range of Beers and Gins
Did you know there are 86 counties in the United Kingdom and Britannia has sourced a bottle of ale from 56 of them? No? Neither did we until we sampled them (not all, of course). The ship has a total of 70 different bottled beers, ales and ciders, including pilsners, ales, stouts and gluten-free beer. Meanwhile, several floors up in The Crow's Nest bar, you'll find 20 different UK-distilled gins on offer, complemented by an equally wide range of tonics.
7. The Limelight Club
The Limelight Club is an entertainment and dining venue in the tradition of a supper club, which gives diners the chance to get up close and personal with current and past artists from music, theatre and TV. The beauty of this venue is its intimacy (just 90 covers), so the performances feel much more personal. The main shows last about 45 minutes, after which the star will often hang around speaking to passengers, signing autographs and taking selfies.