P&O Cruises

Fodor’s Expert Review

Cruise StyleMainstream
Ship SizeLarge

Since 1937, P&O Cruises (originally the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) has been a force in passenger shipping. Although the company’s suggestion that they invented leisure cruising cannot be proven, P&O is assuredly a pioneer of modern cruising. The company acquired Princess Cruises in 1974. P&O then purchased Sitmar Cruises and merged it with Princess in 1988, and the passenger-cruise business—known as P&O Princess—was spun off in 2000.Read More

P&O Cruises is the oldest cruise in the world and remains Britain’s leading cruise line, sailing the U.K.’s largest and most modern fleet. The ships are equipped with every traditional big-ship amenity, including swimming pools, stylish restaurants, spas, bars, casinos, theaters, and show rooms.

Seven ships in the P&O fleet offer a diverse range of venues for relaxation and entertainment, including cocktail bars, nightclubs, cinemas, games rooms, and cabaret lounges. Enjoy live bands, dramatic musicals, and deck parties, cabaret singers, comedians, specialty acts, classical recitals, and concerts. Theme evenings include tropical, 1960s and ’70s, or Black and White Ball. Other activities include quizzes and panel games, with prizes awarded to winning teams. A select number of itineraries offer the opportunity to spend the evening, or even overnight, in port.

An abundance of balcony and outside cabins on P&O ships ensures that a view to the sea is never far away. Accommodations, from inside cabins to lavish suites, cater to a wide cross section of budgets and tastes. In the interest of passenger health and safety, smoking has been prohibited indoors, including in all cabins and suites and on private balconies. Outdoor smoking venues are published on board.

To offer passengers a variety of choices, P&O has adapted their fleet to match the preferences of their primary markets. Although most of the ships cater to families as well as couples and singles of all ages, Arcadia, Adonia, andOriana are adults-only ships. The Aurora, Azura, Oceana, and Ventura complete the P&O armada and welcome both adults and children. Following customer feedback, P&O announced major refurbishments for the Ventura, Oceana, and Arcadia in 2013.

Top Reasons to Cruise

Service. Personalized British leisure cruising with a generous two to one passenger-to-staff ratio..
Value. The line offers good value for the price with snacks, entertainment, and basic facilities included. New Vantage fares offer cabin choice plus either onboard spending credits, coach transfers, or parking..
Cruising the World. A range of destinations that span almost every region of the world..
Good Shore Excursions. Well-planned shore excursions linked with local operators for comprehensive touring..
Entertainment. A wide variety of professional international entertainment consists of live music, original stage shows, themed parties, and special performances..

Is This Line Right for You?

Choose this Line If
Don’t Choose this Line If
You are British or an aficionado of all things British. The vast majority of P&O passengers hail from the U.K.
You like to do things your way—P&O allows more flexible dining options than most other European cruise lines.
You like theme cruises: P&O has a wide range of them.
Formality isn’t your thing. Passengers generally expect their fellow travelers to adhere to dress codes.
You are looking for the latest cruising trends. The fleet is modern, but the experience is more traditional than trendy.
You prefer a small ship: P&O’s smallest ship, the Adonia, carries 710 passengers.

What to Expect on Board

Fitness & Recreation

P&O has jumped on the choice bandwagon in dining and offers a somewhat dizzying number of options, although actual menu offerings vary quite a bit across the fleet.

Club Dining, with assigned seating, is available on all ships; Select Dining in specialty restaurants requires reservations and carries a small charge; Freedom Dining is an open seating dinner offered in certain restaurants on Oceana, Azura, and Ventura. Meals are tailored to Western tastes with celebrated international chefs Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochhar. Requests for special diets such as diabetic, fat-free, vegetarian, and gluten-free can be satisfied with advance notice. A children’s menu is available, and baby food can be provided on request. Afternoon tea is served daily. There is a charge for items ordered from room service, which is still available 24 hours a day, but every cabin has free tea/coffeemakers.


The large theaters on all ships welcome between 550 and 800 passengers to showcase a roster of well-known U.

K. and international performers. Other evening entertainment venues include cocktail bars, nightclubs, and casinos; live bands and deck parties are regular events; cabaret singers, comedians, and specialty acts like magicians entertain in smaller venues. Classical recitals and concerts are offered on all vessels. Each ship also hosts a formal Black and White Ball while providing its own distinct forms of entertainment.

Fitness & Recreation

Spa menus include a variety of massages, body wraps, and facials; a full range of hair and nail services is offered in the salons.

Each ship has a well-equipped gym and exercise classes, as well as deck space designated for joggers. Fitness Instructors are on hand to offer a range of services, including body composition analysis and personal training. Deck quoits, an informal shipboard form of ring toss (rope rings are thrown alternately by players at round targets on the deck), is popular with passengers, and areas are set aside for the game.

Key cruising tips

P&O cruises are steeped in British traditions. Afternoon tea is a daily affair, and passengers dress formally for dinner on designated nights.
Onshore excursions can be booked up to three days prior to sailing with the cruise’s reservation center.
Table seating for four, six, or eight is allocated using a computer system. Groups or families wanting to sit together must book with the restaurant manager using the same dining link code. Couples should book well in advance to ensure a table for two, which may not always be available.
You can bring your own bottles of wine and champagne into the dining room, bar or lounge, but expect a £10 corkage fee charged to your onboard account.
Diabetic, lactose intolerant, or have food allergies? P&O chefs can customize special meals as long as you make arrangements in advance.

Your Shipmates

Count on fellow passengers to be predominantly British singles, couples, and families. Depending on which ship you are sailing on, the age demographic and passenger profile will vary; you may find Scandinavians, Americans, Australians, and other Europeans on board for some sailings in addition to the primarily British clientele. Passengers must be 18 or older to sail aboard the all-adult ships.

Dress Code

Daytime attire is appropriately casual; evening wear falls into three traditional categories: formal, informal, and smart casual. Formal is either a tuxedo or dark suit for men and informal generally requires men to wear a jacket to dinner. For women, cocktail dresses or elegant ensembles are the norm. Check P&O’s website for specific theme night dress codes for each ship and itinerary.

Junior Cruisers

The Reef Youth Program, with facilities for children and teenagers, is P&O’s free onboard service for kids ages 2 to 17. Activities are split into four age groups, organized daily by qualified counsellors called Reef Rangers, to keep children of all ages entertained and to ensure that they have the chance to make friends in their own age group. The groups are Splashers (ages 2 to 4); Surfers (ages 5 to 8); Scubas (ages 9 to 12); and H20 (ages 13 to 17).

Facilities for the youngest cruisers are filled with toys and fun play areas, including a ball pool and squishy activity corner. Activities include story time, movies, games, puppet shows, and contests. For pre-teens and teens, facilities have PlayStations and arcade machines, and activities range from scavenger hunts and sports competitions to pool and karaoke parties. For a fee, cruisers 12 years of age and older can enjoy some star-style pampering at the TeenSpa.


Expect friendly, yet proper, service throughout the fleet. British English is the language most heard on board by passengers, crew, and officers.


A daily amount of £3.10 per person over the age of 12 is added automatically to passengers’ on board accounts and is shared among the waitstaff and cabin stewards. Pre-payment is not possible. Should you wish to amend this amount, you can do so by visiting Reception during your cruise.

Past Passengers

As of April 2012, the Peninsular Club is P&O Cruises new loyalty program. The club consists of six different tiers named after world oceans and seas: Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Baltic, and Ligurian (the smallest sea and most exclusive level). Entry into each tier requires a minimum number of nights to have been spent on board a P&O Cruise ship, plus at higher levels, a degree of recency and frequency of cruising.

The two highest levels, the Baltic and Ligurian tiers, are rolling tiers. Membership is only granted into these tiers on a cruise-by-cruise basis dependant on whether or not you have completed the required nights in the three years preceding each cruise. Therefore, the highest level P&O would ever permanently confer is the Caribbean tier. Benefits include priority booking, 10% discount on travel insurance, and invitations to inaugural events.


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