Hotel General Manager Daljit Sharma heads the largest department aboard Britannia, encompassing the dining, the activities and the entertainment as well as the accommodations. In short, just about everything that involves passengers. Therefore, we asked him for his insights into the cruise experience provided on Britannia.
Walking aboard Britannia, passengers find themselves in a contemporary but elegant environment. It is not flashy like some cruise ships nor is it a traditional ocean liner style. “Richmond International was the company that designed it. They design hotels. So it is designed like a hotel rather than a contemporary cruise ship. The Atrium looks like the lobby of a grand hotel.”
“The color scheme is a unified color scheme coming from forward to the end. It just flows through. You do not pass through and say this is a different lounge because the color scheme just flows through to the end. The ship is almost 390 meters long. You travel on a journey from the front to the back without knowing that you are going to different things. You just keep on walking and looking at things. That's what they wanted to do, not segregate the lounges. The Crystal Room [for example] has got a different décor but it is not loud enough to shout out that it is a different lounge. It does not happen that all of a sudden the restaurant is yellow and bright and this here is brown and subdued. No, it just flows through.”
Britannia is the sister ship to Princess Cruises' Royal Princess and Regal Princess in that they were built to the same design by the same shipyard. However, Britannia is not a mere clone of her Princess relatives. “Here, if you stand in the Atrium, it gives you a feeling of grandeur. It expands the whole width of the ship. On our sister brand, Royal and Regal, they have two staircases [in the atrium] going up, we've got only one because wanted to give it a feeling of openness. They have the balconies coming out in an arch. We don't have that because of the square structure in the center. The brands are different and for their brand it works. For us this works perfectly fine.” (See separate pictorial).
At over 140,000 gross tons, Britannia is the largest ship yet designed for the British market. “For some people, their first impression is that it is too big. 'We'll have to stand in queues everywhere - - that is what the first impression is.' The biggest fear that people have got is standing in queues in the buffet and the theater. [However,] I think they have eliminated that.”
“The buffets are designed in such a way that there are lines on both sides so it does not look full.” In addition, because of her size, Britannia can offer an array of dining alternatives which include not just the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants but several casual venues. Thus, the buffet is not the only option if you want something to eat.
Similarly, Britannia has an array of entertainment options. “If you have a strong show in the Headliner [Theatre], there is a strong show in the Live Lounge. In the middle, we have light instrumental music going there, or a violinist or saxophonist, somebody playing there. You want to watch a movie, go to the Studio. For those who like dancing, we have dance instructors in the Crystal Room. Some people want to watch football. They can stay in the pub [with its large LED screens].”
“So we've got places where people can pocket themselves and choose what they want to do. That eliminates the lines or queues. We give people choices.”
In the publicity for Britannia, much was made of the notion that the ship was designed for the British market but how is the cruise experience on Britannia more British than the experience on other cruise lines?
“On this ship, the décor, the art work is all British. We have got the beers from small little breweries across Britain. We have got different gins, a traditional British thing. We've got 24 different cheeses, which are traditionally British. Our menus are tailored to the British market. Our beverages, beers, food - - everything is tailored to the British market. That's what we call the Britishness of the product - - everything that we use aboard the ship relates to certain British elements.”
“Our entertainment is British, totally. Our British Sailaways, with the Union Jacks and everything, is an event. All the songs are well-known British music. People relate to it. It is an occasion. The whole open deck, all you see are Union Jacks.”
And there is the fact that the line has been serving the British market since 1822. “I think that is the legacy and the history that we carry. We know exactly what we are doing for the British market. We say we are a British company and tailored for the British market.”
As a result, on Britannia, “98 per cent [of the passengers] are British. We are very open to other markets. But [Britain] is the market that we are well-known in and that we do best for.”
While Britannia is a new design, P&O Cruises has sought to incorporate popular elements from the rest of its fleet into Britannia. “We have the best elements form all the ships. We have got the Select Dining Rooms like Sindhu and the Epicurean, which are on other ships. People who are used to Arcadia, which has a crow's Nest, [will find] there is a Crow's Nest here too. Like the Retreat we have on Deck 17 forward, previously it was only on Ventura and Azura. So we have mixed everything and brought it aboard the Britannia. We have put [them] on Britannia to ensure that [the ship] suits everyone's tastes. Because the ship was big, we had the flexibility of doing that.”
As interest in cruising has blossomed in Britain, more cruise lines have been basing first tier modern cruise ships in British ports. However, the focus on Britannia is internal rather than on these other ships. “We are the leading brand in the British market. [The passengers] told us what they want and that is what we have tried to achieve. Our challenge is not the other [cruise lines], our challenge is the passengers. If we can keep the passengers [happy], we do not have to worry about the competition. They are our crucial elements - - the people who have paid for the cruise and come are the crucial ones.”
Cruise ship interview - P&O Cruises - Britannia - Hotel General Manager