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5 Things You Didn’t Know About P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises is the largest British cruise line and has a fleet of six ships (soon to be seven when Iona arrives next year). With a wide range of departures from ports like Southampton and Dover, they are popular with cruisers who love the ease of sailing directly from the UK.

With such a long history behind them, there are plenty of interesting facts that you may not know about P&O Cruises. These are a few of our favourites.

Peninsular and Oriental

Peninsular Restaurant

You may have often asked yourself what the letters P and O stand for and the answer points to a former incarnation of the cruise line. They originally started out as the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company back in 1822, making them the oldest cruise line in operation today. The name came about because early trade voyages mostly took place along the Iberian Peninsula, and then a partnership with the Transatlantic Steamship Company brought a vessel called Oriental into the fleet. Although the name was eventually shorted to P&O Cruises, the Peninsular and Oriental elements are commemorated as restaurants on board Azura.

SS Ravenna

Steel Cutting

P&O Cruises has had several iconic cruise ships over the years, but the line can also lay claim to the first ever vessel to be entirely built from steel. SS Ravenna was constructed in 1880, during a period of fast expansion for the company, and incorporated the ground-breaking decision to produce a superstructure from only metal. Not long after, SS Valetta become the first ship to feature electric lighting.

Venues Named After P&O Cruises Alumni

Anderson's Bar

We mentioned that Azura’s main restaurants bare aspects of the company’s original name, but these are not the only onboard venues named after things from P&O Cruises’ history. Two bars that can be found on a number of different ships are named after the two men who originally brought the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to life. Arthur Anderson and Brodie Wilcox struck up a partnership when the former joined the latter’s insurance firm in 1822. They partnered to create the beginning of P&O Cruises and are now immortalised by Anderson’s (a gin bar) and Brodie’s (a classic British pub).

The Advent Of Leisure Cruising

Leisure Cruising

Even though P&O Cruises, in one form or another, has been operating for more than 175 years, the company didn’t begin to focus on leisure cruising until the early 1900s. Before that, passengers where just a small part of the business, with major focuses also being on mail and cargo. Those people who did sail on board the ships only did so to get from one point to another and it wasn’t until 1904 that the first season of ‘pleasure cruises’ was operated. Mail steamer ‘Rome’ was transformed into a luxury yacht and renamed Vectis in order to capitalise on a form of travel that was growing in popularity.

Treasured Memories


Many regular cruisers hold the recently departed Oriana in high regard and created a wealth of memories on board her decks during her time with P&O Cruises. When she launched, in 1995, she was one of the largest cruise ships in the world but, by the time she left, she was dwarfed even by other members of her own fleet. Named after the original Oriana (1960 – 1986), she also earned the Golden Cockerel trophy as P&O Cruises’ fastest ship, something she inherited from legendary vessel, Canberra. Now in the hands of Chinese line Astro Ocean, Oriana has been re-christened ‘Piano Land’.

To learn more about the ships in P&O Cruises’ current fleet and to book a cruise on board one of them, call the Fred.\ cruises team on 0800 035 0701. You can also sign up to our mailing list and receive enticing offers every week.

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