Seriously, I go to a lot of launches. But, wow, this one was the biggie. Alan Greenhalgh reports from the inaugural celebrations of P&O’s largest and newest cruise liner extraordinaire, Britannia.
It’s a foodies ship, P&O having signed up a stellar range of Michelin-star chefs of UK, Marco Pierre White, James Martin, Atul Kochhur and wine expert Olly Smith, French pâtissier Eric Lanard and cheese maestro Charlie Turnbull. We also spotted Pierre Koffman, Paul Rankin and super nice chocolatier Paul A Young on board, too – I wonder if they’re lined up to join the roster soon?
The Gala Dinner on the first night was a very grand affair. Black tie, medals and gowns with a sparkling drinks reception of Wiston Estate Brut NV flowing freely.
Comedian Rob Brydon was there to encourage pride in Britain and in Britannia. She certainly made me proud. And then on to dinner.
Each diner was assigned a restaurant and table, we were in the Oriental restaurant – deep purples and rich reds, orchids and dark woods, tables set with white roses, fan napkins and a braided souvenir menu. On offer was show dishes from the food hero chefs – all of whom were sitting at various tables. It looked and tasted like the final of Masterchef.
Dishes after delicious dishes came, polite nods and conversations with fellow dressed-up diners, a bit of celebrity rubber necking then upwards to the 17th deck to be handed cream pashminas, hot toddies and watch a “Last Night of the Proms” music and fireworks.
There was something happening all over the ship, endless piano in the Crow’s Nest bar, Michael Ball performing an hour-long show in the Headliners Theatre, Rat Pack and jazz in the Limelight Lounge and DJs with fantastic strobes in the Live Lounge nightclub. A polite notice in the welcome pack reminded guests to be careful with over consumption of alcohol. We took that seriously – we had an appointment to keep with Her Majesty The Queen the next morning. Best behaviour, and another outfit.
On a chilly damp dockside the bands were out rehearsing from seven am.
Breakfast was to be had in any of the many restaurants before heading out to quayside to take our places in the stand overlooking the ship. Grasping a hot fruit cordial in a branded steel mug, a handwarmer and souvenir programme we were set for the morning.
We spotted the ginormous Wiston nebuchadnezzar on a zip wire precariously dangling above the heads of the audience. Bands played, ballroom dancers danced and the fantastic Red Hot Chilli Pipers ramped up the excitement with their electric guitars, trombones and bagpipes.
Please be upstanding for the Queen, bright in coral who headed up the steps to be seated beside Captain Paul Brown and Micky Arison, billionaire chairman of P&O’s owner, Carnival Cruises.
Speeches by the MD and a prayer from the Bishop and it’s the naming moment. A firm double press and the bottle was out the trap smashing with a huge bang above the i in Britannia.
Hip, hip hooray for the Queen and she was back in the car, round the back of the hangar and onboard for lunch.
We’ll have a review of the food here shortly.
READ MORE ABOUT BRITANNIA HERE www.pocruises.com