Although it is part of the giant Anglo-American Carnival Corporation, P&O Cruises is a quintessentially British line. Its home base is Southampton and the vast majority of passengers are from the UK. Whichever of the eight ships you choose, you can be sure of British tea, proper bacon on the buffet, British beers and entertainment geared to British tastes. There is an element of tradition, too, with dress codes for each night and at least one black tie evening per cruise, which passengers enjoy.

Cosy interior of an Outside cabin on PO Cruises' Arcadia cruise ship

Outside cabin on-board Arcadia

Founded in 1837, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, as P&O Cruises was then called, has a distinguished history of operating grand ocean liners. Now, in its incarnation as a modern cruise line, P&O is careful to appeal to the broadest possible market. Adonia (soon to be leaving the fleet), Arcadia and Oriana are sophisticated, adult-only ships, while Aurora, Azura, the flagship Britannia, Oceana and Ventura are known to have some of the best facilities for families in the industry, catering for children and teens from age two to 17. A new ship, as yet unnamed, will launch in 2020 at 180,000 tons: the biggest ever built for the British market.

Indulgent interior of gold lighting and plush lounge chairs in PO Britannia's Limelight bar

Britannia - the Limelight bar

Luxurious decoration in PO Britannia's Crow's Nest bar

Britannia - decor in the Crow's Nest bar

The experience on each is different, as the ships vary in size and age. Oriana, the old lady of the fleet, has a very traditional feel, while the 3,647-passenger Britannia resembles a beautifully designed, minimalist boutique hotel.

Bright and fun interior of a kid's club on PO Azura

Kid's club on-board Azura

On-board, children’s facilities aside, P&O Cruises prides itself on its association with a whole host of celebrity chefs, from Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar, who has top-notch Indian restaurants on Azura, Britannia and Ventura, to Marco Pierre White and wine expert Olly Smith, whose wine and tapas bar, The Glass House, is also on Azura, Britannia and Ventura. A tie-in with Strictly Come Dancing means there are regular ballroom-themed cruises, with appearances by the judges and competitors from the hit show.

With a sizeable fleet, P&O Cruises offers voyages all over the world, from two-night mini breaks to full world cruises. There is a big programme of ex-Southampton holidays, but also an impressive fly-cruise offering in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Asia, and from 2019, a brand new series of cruises in the Arabian Gulf.

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Sue Bryant
Sue Bryant
Sue Bryant is an award-winning writer specialising in cruising. She is cruise editor of The Sunday Times and also writes for magazines and websites worldwide. She has written and contributed to several travel guidebooks, including the Insight Guide to Great River Cruises and the Insight Guide to Caribbean Cruising. In 2016, Sue was awarded the coveted ‘Contribution to Cruise Journalism’ award by CLIA for her coverage of the industry. She lives in west London with her teenage children and two dogs.

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