MSC Opera Ship Visit

If you are on Facebook, I suggest you like MSC Cruises, Or follow them on twitter. MSC have been arranging tours onboard the MSC Opera, and they are telling you about them through Facebook & twitter.

The ship visit was in Southampton, unfortunately living in Liverpool and not being able to drive, a 5 Hour train journey is required, so I decided to go down on the Monday and stay overnight in Southampton. I stayed in the etap hotel, which is a sister chain to Ibis, the hotel was basic but for one night at £39, it was value for money. The hotel is right over the road from the station and by the main shopping centre.

The MSC Opera was built in 2004 at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, the same yard that build the Normandy and Queen Mary 2, So has true Atlantic pedigree. She accommodates 2,000 passengers and has 740 Staff. As the last vessel in the Lirica class her sisters are MSC Lirica, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Armonia. She has 4 restaurants, 6 bars and 2 pools. MSC is a true European Cruise Line with its customers coming from across the EU.

The day started at Southampton’s City Cruise Terminal, where we where process through security and welcomed onboard the vessel. In total there was around 25 people on the tour, which included a mixture of new cruisers, regulars and travel agents.

The tour was conducted by one of the cruise lines social hosts, who walked us around the various areas onboard, he provided an interesting insight into how each of the lounges, bars and restaurants worked when the vessel was on a cruise. My favourite room being the Disco, looking out over the back of the ship. The outside area ‘Il Patio open Restuarant’ was a great area next below the funnel.

MSC Opera has an excellent theatre with 99% of seats having unobstructed views (a few seats at the back are slightly obstructed). We were also shown some of the cabins; an inside double, outside double and outside twin. All other cabin grades were full. These rooms are decent sized, with large bathrooms.

Afterwards there was a short question and answer session, where you can ask questions about MSC’s cruise products across the fleet and offers available. Following this we were taken to the dining room for a six course lunch, wine and soft drink where also available.
The food was amazing, I had a delicious soup and the sirloin steak was the best I have ever had. MSC also has amazing real Italian Ice Cream which I recommend!

Overall I think the ship looks great and I would definitely recommend it, if the effort that was put into the ship visit is matched by the cruise you will have an excellent time.

MSC has 11 vessels, and MSC Opera is currently operating on cruises out of Southampton Exploring Northern Europe, the Baltics, and a new cruise sailing to Amsterdam, La Rochelle, Bilbao and La Coruna. Check if you are interested.

MSC has a very interesting all-inclusive package, which can make the cost of the cruise much more defined from the outset, and I think it is an interesting concept, one which I will write about in a future blog post sometime next week. We have also posted additional pictures from the day on our Facebook page so have a look.

The MSC Staff were really helpful and interesting, I would like to thank them for the great day 😀

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Book Review : Selling the Sea

Since our last book review ‘Wind Star : The Building of a Sailship’ went down so well, and was included on the Windstar Blog, I thought I would do another one, This time I am reviewing the First Addition of ‘Selling the Sea’ By Bob Dickinson and Andy Vladimir.
My copy of the book has no front cover (it was very cheap) but this is what it looks like:

Now, as I went for the cheap and cheerful copy mine is the first edition, and there has been subsequent revisions. This is of importance as I find, while this book was published in 1997 as a contemporary book, highlighting the current state of the cruise industry. It is now a nostalgic look back at cruising in the 90’s.

This nostalgic look back is of particular interest as Renaissance Cruise Line is still operating, and Celebrity Cruises is not yet merged with Royal Caribbean and Seabourn and sea-goddess are unrivalled. Also during this time NCL was heading for bankruptcy. Remember in 1997 there was no Voyager of the Seas, No Queen Mary 2.

As Bob Dickinson was the (at the time) President of Carnival Cruise Lines, the book has a focus on that company, interestingly however many other industry executives are quoted from a variety of lines.

The book focuses mainly on the relationship of the cruise line and travel agents, and very little is mentioned about the changes the internet has made to the industry, probably as the internet had not yet reached that scope of use.

The book has some excellent quotes from people across the ages, one of my favourite being ‘The people who use these ships are not pirates, the do not dance hornpipes; they are mostly sea sick American ladies, and the one thing the want to forget when they are on the vessel is that they are on a ship at all… If we could get ships to look inside like ships, and get people to enjoy the sea it would be a very good thing; but all we can do is to give them gigantic floating hotels’ – Interestingly this was written by Arthur Davis, who was the Cunard designer in 1907, not much having changed since!

I do recommend this book, But from a Business perspective, as it is not a Maritime History book, It discusses topics like Yield Management, Tariffs, Charters, etc. One thing of interest is that the book continuously worries about over capacity in 1997, and that there is too many ships, I find this interesting as it is a worry being sounded now, 14 years later.

We have launched a new online store, imaginatively named ‘ : Our Store’, And we have copies of this book and newer versions from £9.92. Find them Here.

We hope you liked the review, more will follow 😀 Let us know by Facebook, Twitter, Comment & Email.

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Project Breakaway

Well the hype of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Project Breakaway appears to have hit a peak today, with CruiseCritic interviewing NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan about what might and might not be carried over from Norwegian Epic. You can find the link at the bottom of this post.

To create additional hype NCL was using the twitter hashtag #nclpb to keep people updated, but it is set be a busy night with #cruisechat occurring at the same time.

Before this announcement there has been alot of speculation about these vessels, which are to be smaller than Norwegian Epic, is that they will be built at Meyer Werft in Germany.

NCL is returning to Meyer Werft having built Epic in STX France, Meyer Werft has a large amount of new build orders from a variety of lines, including Disney, NCL, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.  The last vessel Meyer Werft built for NCL was the Norwegian Gem. They will be the largest cruise ship ever built in Germany, taking the title away from Disney’s Disney Dream.

The Project Breakaway vessels will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths. At 143,500 gt these vessel will be large ships indeed, significantly bigger than the other ships in the NCL fleet (other than EPIC). In his interview with CruiseCritic NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan commented how this was appearing to be a standard size with Royal Caribbean’s Project Sunshine being of this size.

This announcement showed us some of the staterooms for the vessels, which are being described as a Boutique Hotel at Sea, the ship is expected to have over 1000 Balcony Staterooms. It has also been confirmed that the toilets that have been so heavily criticized on Epic will not be making it onto the new vessels, but from the pictures it would appear that ‘new-wave’ cabin design will be making a reappearance (we believe), thought more refined. We really do like them and think they look very contemporary.

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A re-invented Princess.

The original Royal Princess has re-emerged as Artania for the German Market under operator Phoenix Reisen. The vessel appears to have had a significant makeover with addition balcony cabins being added.

The ship was original built by Wartsila in Finland, in 1984. She carries 1,200 passengers.
According to ‘P&O PRINCESS: The Cruise Ships by Roger Cartwright’ She was the first ship since the Wilhelm Gusloff of the Nazi ‘Strength through Joy’ movement to offer all outside accommodation.

This was a ship which made balconies, atriums and public rooms at the bottom of the ship, cabins above layout which is so popular now. With the significant amount of balconies and the forward thinking design, it interests me why Carnival were still building the fantasy class in the late 90’s, with so few balconies.

While this ship is now 27 years old, its design, well ahead of the competition has meant it has not required such drastic action as Mein Schiff 2, Carnival Fantasy and Costa Victoria, which have all been retrofitted with balconies which varying levels of aesthetic success.

In 2004 it was announced that in the following year she would transfer to P&O Cruises serving the UK market under the name ‘Artemis’ – named after the Greek goddess of Hunting. While serving as Artemis she was an adults only cruise ship,

In 2009 it was announced she was to be sold to Artania Shipping, However she continued to serve P&O as Artemis til April 2011. Now she is moving to Phoenix Reisen, and is having additional balcony cabins added for many years of additional service!

Phoenix Reisen has provided an excellent photo journal of the refurbishment, and I do recommend you check it out. Royal Princess now has legendary status for Princess Cruises who have announced their new cruise ship will be named Royal Princess. The second Royal princess has followed in her elders footsteps and has joined P&O as their new Adonia.

As a name Artania is interesting choice, sounding like a Cunard vessel from the past, I myself was never a fan of Artemis, it always sounded a bit drab, and false., abit like the over-the-top named The Portunus Club, Thanksfully being renamed P&O Cruises Peninsular Club, Greek must have been a theme at P&O at the time! All too Poseidon for my taste! 

This is truely a ship before its time! Have you been onboard, what did you think? Let us know! Facebook, Twitter, Email and Comment!
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Excellent Photo Journal from Phoenix Reisen –

The Oasis. The Royal. And The Halo.

On the 3rd March 2009 Royal Caribbean stock was low, in fact very low at $5 a share. This was during the construction of the worlds largest cruise ship, The Oasis of the Seas.
Now, Just over two years later the stock price has soared, despite rising fuel costs and instability during the Arab Spring. The below stock value graph can be clicked on to make it bigger.

Now while some of this can be said to be the growth and improvement of the economy as a whole, I believe a lot is based on the initial disbelief that Royal Caribbean were adding a huge vessel in a terrible economic environment. Something which I remember Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean dismissing as irrelevant due to the growing nature of the cruise industry.

Also at this time Azamara Cruises where struggling to shine, with Oceania proving tough competition. Since then the Azamara product has been redefined, and that line appears to be now making its own mark, with the ships being voted highly in the recent CruiseCritic cruisers choice awards.

Many will remember that Azamara was split at last-minute from Celebrity Cruises meaning that the ship was unfinished and departed on her first cruise late.

Furthermore Celebrity was about to accept a continuous stream of new vessels, the largest they had ever ordered. All these capacity increases in troubled economic times worried investors. However the shares now stand at $34.19, a remarkable investment if anyone committed.

The buzz surrounding Oasis of the Seas was huge, the features onboard this vessel along with the news coverage of cruising during this time is likely to have filled a few cruise ships up. It was the early news coverage that encouraged my parents to book.

The size of the vessel, Central Park in the middle, the Boardwalk and the hundreds of other features on this vessel (zip wire, rock climbing, flowrider…) entertained the media who had previously only talked in such detail about Queen Mary 2, which is not the mainstream cruise experience. This vessel gave the industry a kickstart in the recession.

I think this has been good for the rest of the fleet who have benefitted from being associated with Oasis of the Seas and now Allure of the Seas. Like the iPhone & iPod for apple, Oasis & Allure have enlightened new people to the concept of cruising, and specifically that of Royal Caribbean.

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Why hasn’t ‘Low-Cost’ Crusing Taken Off?

In the growth of the Cruise Industry in the past few decades, there has been several attempts at launching a ‘Low Cost’ Cruise Line, non seem to have met any significant success. So I decided to investigate, I have chosen the little known ‘Vacation Liners’ and Stelios’ ‘EasyCruise’.

In air travel the opposite is true with many Low-Cost airlines Like Ryanair, EasyJet, Southwest (for our American readers), So why has this failed so badly in cruising?


I first heard about Vacation Liners in ‘Liners & Cruise Ships -3’ By Anthony Cooke, and to be honest that’s the only place I have heard them since. They purchased a Short Sea container ship in 1982, and transformed her into a small cruise ship for the budget traveller, The ship had a small swimming pool, a Piano bar and a restaurant that served as a disco at night. It could accommodate 176 passengers and had a crew of just 29. The ship was named Vacationer.

Vacation Liners BV provided a very basic service Buffet Meals, Little Entertainment and if you wanted a clean cabin, you cleaned it yourself! The idea was to sail the vessel out of Gibraltar to, Seville, Tangier and Malaga before returning to Gibraltar, The week-long cruise was targeted at the British Market, During the winter seasons the ship was laid up in Malaga.

In 1983 the cruise ship was featured in a british travel program and interest increased, However the people who booked had expectations far higher than what was provided, and even though they had a great deal they expected that the ship would have the mod-cons. They were let down, and that seems to have been the problem that then plagued this ship, That customers expectations of the floating accommodation is higher than the reality, and Business which fails to live up to expectation will find the are underwater sooner than they think.

In the second season the vessel was taken to the Caribbean for perform cruises there, In April of 1985 she grounded and had to be towed to port with a damaged propeller. On her return to Gibraltar in June 1985 she was briefly arrested for debt. Within the year she had been sold to and changed her name to Carib Vacationer, but this made no change to her schedule operating in the Med in the summer and Caribbean in the winter. However in 1987 she was laid up, In 1992 she was almost reactivated, but the concern collapsed and the vessel, now renamed ‘Coral Princess’ seized on behalf of her unpaid crew.

Since then there has been little news of her, and It would be wonderful if anyone could provide us with any further details of where this ship has been?


Most Europeans have heard of EasyJet, it’s a popular low-cost airline, Founded by Business personality Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Simply known as Stelios. he has founded a chain of subsequent businesses with the easy branding with various level of success.

In 2004 he purchased the small cruise ship Neptune 2 for use in his cruise line. The vessel is formerly of Renaissance Cruises (a cruise line we will cover in another upcoming blog), was refurbished with new cabins, of which due to a time constraint outside cabins did not have the portholes included. The cruise ship was debuted in the mediterranean in 2005 aimed at a younger cruise customer, the vessel stopped at a new port everyday and stayed well into the night.

The media instantly picked up on Stelios little orange boat. now named easycruiseone. The ship, like Vacationer before, operated in the Med in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter.  It was possible to join the ship from any port of call and you had to stay a minimum of two nights.

EasyCruise soon followed this up with a second river cruise ship operating round Amsterdam, this was known as easycruisetwo, however financial troubles at it parent company, easycruisetwo was franchised, the cruises terminated. All the time Sky TV and the TRAVEL Channel followed producing a documentary called Cruise with Stelios, Three series were made.

The cruise line did appear to have a successful first year, however they tried alternative routing and changed the product into a more full cruise experience, things changed completely with the sale of easycruiseone, and the arrival of EasyCruise Life in 2008. This change meant the product being offered onboard was now significantly different from the budget model which made easyjet the success it was. The ships where now grey with an orange hint, a million miles away from the ship that caught the attention of the media at launch.

In 2009 Stelios announced the sale to Hellenic Seaways for £9 Million, they then transferred the ship to Blue Ocean Cruises, who renamed the ship Ocean Life, and ended the EasyCruise venture. I believe with a little more time and suitable promotion this could actually have been better managed, the continuous changes to product meant nobody knew what EasyCruise stood for, Like the way we know what Crystal Cruises stands for, Easy Cruise should have been the budget equivalent

I also think the Caribbean is a bad place to relocate a budget ship for the winter, I think the Canary Islands, with the good transport links and more suitable weather would have been more suitable.

It is our understanding that people cruise as they want to be looked after,  they enjoy the comforts of a cruise, otherwise the cruise is just a ferry, taking people from A-to-B, and like Cunard once said, getting there is half the fun. It is because of this that these cruise lines have never been able to develop as customers dont understand what they are, if they did they would meet customers expectations better and have the potential to deliver strong results.

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EOSEAS – A concept worth thinking about?

This isn’t a new concept, its been around since 2009, but I think it is an interesting one, and one I would like to discuss. The design is by STX Europe and the ship is a five hulled vessel, it’s an environmentally friendly concept which reduces CO2 emissions by 50%.

As a cruise ship it is an interesting vessel , a mix between Radisson Diamond and Oasis of the Seas, with a bit of Windstar thrown in for good luck, I have tested some people on what they think of the ships appearance and results have been missed, my mum saying the sails look terrible, but for me that was the main selling point, it looks so different.

As the above video will point out the vessel will use and LNG engine, I believe this would be the first cruise ship to be powered in such a way, the sails also add to the power. STX says the vessel will have a passenger capacity of 3311 passengers. The cabin design is also interesting, as the video points out, the ship has a ‘Double Skin’ which improves the air circulation, and the vessel has both traditional balconies and communal balconies providing access to the cabin, I don’t believe this would appeal to most cruisers, however I do believe it would appeal to some and would make an interesting feature.

I actually like this ship so much I’m getting a model made of it, I will post some pictures once it is delivered.

It does make me wonder why some of the features have not be carried over to other ships, I am aware a few cruise ships have solar panels to assist, and a lot are increasingly green, but i think a prototype ship like this showcasing the technologies is needed to encourage more lines to turn to green ways of working. The price of oil is expected to continue rising, and cruise lines need to find an alternative before it’s too late! How long will it be till we have Cruise ships powered by LNG? Sails are problematic, as cruise ships need to fist into ports, and bridges could stop the ships with their masts getting in, It is my understanding that EOSEAS could NOT fit into New York.

In the strive for more balcony cabins surely a multi-hull vessel is an interesting development, and will allow for increased stability. The only ‘large’ cruise ship being the former Radisson Diamond, I do believe that this could be a possibility in the near future.

Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas as well as the Celebrity Solstice and sisters are all armed with Solar Panels, as seen below on Allure of the Seas.

For those who are interested Windstar Cruises has posted our previous article on their blog, have a look 😀

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Links: – EOSEAS Concept on STX Europe’s website – EOSEAS Technical Details

Too Many Ships?

Royal Caribbean’s announcement that Voyager of the Seas will be moving it to Asia next year, instead of to the Med has been widely reported in the Cruise Press, as the vessel is by far the largest vessel to be committed to the Asian/Oceanic region.

The vessel will be joining the smaller Legend of the Seas which is running its 4th season there, this will take Royal Caribbean’s European fleet down to 11 Ships. It makes Royal Caribbean a true international player, which has huge ships in every market.

When built, in 1999, 12 years ago, this huge vessel, which is one of the largest cruise ships in the world, was revolutionary and a belief that it could operate outside the Caribbean was laughable. 12 Years on its larger Independence of the Seas sister has successfully operated out of Southampton and round the Med. Now Royal Caribbean is taking this innovative ship to China and Australia, the vessel was the first in Royal Caribbean’s fleet with the Royal Promenade. This ‘Street on a ship’ feature has now become a staple on the cruise line and an important part of its brand.

This does however call into question the possibility of over capacity in Europe as trouble in the Middle East and North Africa, a struggling European Economy and increasing fuel prices have scared Europeans and Americans away from booking. Cruise Lines appear to be showing very discounted prices for last-minute cruises.

I don’t believe the market is saturated, but I do believe it may be struggling to accommodate the increase in new vessels, as record amounts of cruise ships have headed to the Med in search of better margins. I think this is due to factors outside cruise lines control, political instability and high air fares due to rising fuel prices. But this has been accommodated for by the slow down in cruise ship orders of the last two years.

But is China the solution? Genting Hong Kong, also known as Star Cruises has tried before to launch a cruise fleet in the region and in effect they operate a gambling ships, a floating Las Vegas, and as Cruise Lines have rushed to Australia has Australians rushed back, The recent growth in P&O Cruises Australia, Princess and Carnival in the region with the addition of Voyager of the Seas, do cruise lines not risk depressing margins too much.

Another question now proves of interest, If Oasis of the Seas was originally said to be designed for the Caribbean in 12 years time will be see this ship touring the worlds markets? I’m not too sure these ships offer the flexibility of the Freedom and Voyager class, as the outside areas need good weather, and mediterranean cruises also are very destination intensive, with the ports having a strong history.

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An Epic Idea?

Norwegian Epic : My Secret Love.

Norwegian Epic is an interesting vessel, and I think it provides an interesting concept which other cruise lines may try to copy with upcoming vessels. Overshadowed by Royal Caribbean’s huge Oasis of the Seas & Allure of the Seas, Epic is actually an evolution in the concept of cruising. While its cabin design is not of interest to me they public areas and business aspects of this ship prove to be of interest.

Originally planned as two cruise ships, known as the F3 Project. These cruise ships were intended to show the refined ‘Freestyle’ cruising Concept, this being the third version of the initiative. Ordered at STX France, following an investment by Apollo Management into NCL, the second ship was cancelled and construction on EPIC (at the time 25% Complete) was suspended while changes were made to the design, this lead to the cost of EPIC skyrocketing to $1.2 billion. equivalent in cost to that of Oasis of the Seas. Unfortunately this means that EPIC will not yield the returns that Oasis and Allure do for Royal Caribbean. That does not mean the vessel is a mistake however.

This ship is a very interesting concept, the cabins follow a new design, said to make them more ergonomic and space efficient, while customer comments have been mixed, the split toilet/shower area is not something which I personally like, but is not enough to stop me from sailing on this ship.

With 20 bars and restaurants, my favourite feature is the use of the pool deck as a club by night, this is excellent, why it wasnt considered before is beyond me! It also has an Ice bar. One of only 14 in the world.

For families there are three water slides, pools, bowling alleys and much more. This ship does provide an interest read for onboard activities. It’s for this reason that I wish NCL would run a few shorter cruises perhaps 2/3 Nights, As this ship would make a great weekend escape. With all the bars and clubs to choose from I’m glad this ship is currently sailing the Med.

While this ship wont win any awards for its design, Jane Archer of the Telegraph said ‘Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Epic is the most unattractive ship to launch this year – but also the most exciting.’ Which is true, the design of the ship isnt great, but this is the third largest cruise ship in the world, larger than Cunard’s excellent Queen Mary 2. Now the QM2 is my favourite ship but Norwegian Epic is just so different it excites me.

Now economically, as I said before this ship cost the same as Oasis & Allure of the Seas,  and the lack of any sister ships would appear that NCL aren’t truly happy with the finished product, but I believe this ship does serve a market very well-fitting in between Thomson and P&O/Royal Caribbean. If this ship was marketed towards a younger market, perhaps special ‘club’ cruises (like a posh club 18-30) NCL could further improve yield and margins. NCL are already running a Nickelodeon Cruise, so why not a 3 Night Cruise from Ibiza with some DJ’s? Partnered with a hotel. It is an idea which could work.

The ship has also starred in the US version of Undercover Boss, Which has led to changes in the onboard product available, unfortunately we in the UK cannot see it, So if anyone at NCL is reading, can we have a copy? (or a cruise?:D)

I hope to get a last-minute cruise some time in September with a few friends as this ship seems to fit the bill as a cool escape.

Have you been onboard? Let us know what you thought!


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Telegraph Review:


P&O for Britain

P&O has ordered a new cruise ship for Britain, the largest ever ordered specifically for the UK market. Developed from american sister line Princess the as yet un-named ship is a sister ship to Royal Princess. The vessel is set to be P&O’s eigth ship in the fleet since Adonia joined last month, will carry 3110 fare paying passengers and at 141,000 GRT is similar in size to Norwegian Epic, Celebrity Solstice and MSC Fantasia. The Daily Mirror commented that this could be cruise lines backing away from massive Oasis & Allure of the Seas vessels, but another blog will follow on that!

This is not the first time P&O has borrowed designs, and even vessels, from Princess Cruises, the first Adiona, Current Adonia and Oceana have all come from Princess.
Earlier Victoria and Arcadia (now Pacific Pearl) have both headed across the Atlantic.
Also Ventura & Azura are both designed from Princess Cruises Grand-Class Cruise Ships.

Both P&O And Princess are divisions of Carnival Corporation & Plc, the world leading dual listed cruise company. Other brands are Cunard, Holland America, Carnival Cruises, Aida, Costa, P&O Australia.

This new ships is a massive signal in confidence in the UK market by Carnival, they are committing an untried vessel design to the UK market. It is also the largest ship designed for the UK market. This is a significant commitment to the British market, where analysts (generally) are predicting slow economic growth due to government austerity measures. However in delivery in 2015 there may have been a change in policy.

From the rather simplistic picture is would appear the ships is going to be significantly different from Royal Princess. The vessel will be constructed by Fincanteri Yards of Italy for delivery in 2015. So we dont have many details of the inside of the vessel, understandably. Interestingly the vessel has two funnels, which follows on from the design of Zuiderdam and its sisters and Celebrity Solstice and its sisters for having two funnels. This seems to be a growing trend, one which I personally like, It also differentiates the new vessel from its Princess sisters.

Now on internet forums there has been chatter about the name, I think it should be Canberra, The old Canberra was an interesting vessel which served in the Falklands war, and had a long history before being scrapped in 1997.

If anyone in P&O is listening I would love an invite to the naming ceremony 😉 (even if it is four years off) The PR department seem to have done a great job as I’ve seen it everywhere, even if I am a bit behind the curve.

What do you think? What would you name it? Let us know!



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Links: – Excellent Site about the SS Canberra. – P&O Press Release