P & O – A Brief and Fascinating History

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P&O Cruises has a rich and colourful history that can be traced back to 1837 and the formation of the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company (PSNC). Founded by Arthur Anderson and Brodie McGhie Wilcox, the company quickly gained momentum as a key player in British shipping industry.

When was P&O founded?

On September 1 of the same year, PSNCwas awarded a lucrative British Government contract commissioning its fleet to carry mail from London to the Iberian Peninsula. This saw the re-naming of the venture to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, better known as P&O. At the time, the ships also carried passengers however this was purely a practical arrangement with little or no emphasis on enjoyment and entertainment.

How did the idea for leisure cruises come about?

Yet Anderson had been long nursing the idea of leisure cruises, supposedly placing a fake advertisement for ‘cruises’ around the Shetland Isles to the Faroes and Iceland. While this was initially to fill advertising space in the first edition of his ‘Shetland Journal’ newspaper, two years later the idea became a reality.

With PSNC picking up an ever increasing number of contracts, the entrepreneurial gentlemen began offering round trip ‘leisure cruise’ tickets to a selection of exotic destinations including Egypt, Greece and Malta. P&O kicked things off with by offering William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair, a complimentary cruise to Egypt. This gained a huge amount of publicity for the company and sky-rocketed the concept of recreational cruising into the public arena. 

1904 saw P&O purchase its very first full time cruise ship, Vectis. Teaming up with travel agent Thomas Cook, the liner offered a complete cruise holiday programme including onshore excursions. P&O never looked back!

What are P&O like today?

Today, the world renowned company has an impressive fleet of eight dedicated cruise liners, fully equipped with an array of entertainment, dining and luxury accommodation facilities. These include mid-sized Aurora and Oceania, family friendly Azura and Ventura, adults only Oriana, Adonia and Arcadia and the brand new Britannia, custom built for the British market. The company sets industry standards for quality, service, comfort, safety, reliability and innovation, making a P&O cruise a truly unforgettable experience.

Cruise 1st offers a wide range of P&O cruises to suit every age, budget and itinerary. From sun soaked Mediterranean getaways to spectacular Scandinavian adventures, Cruise 1st has something for every cruise lover!

Where Can I Find Out More?

If you’re interested in reading more about P&O’s fascinating history, please visit P&O Heritage.

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About Author

Charles Bond

Charles lives in Glencoe, WA. He is in his late 40’s and has 2 children aged 6 and 11. His next cruise booking will be a Carnival cruise around Australia.

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