To celebrate its 175th birthday, P&O Cruises is organising a number of events to mark the occasion.
P&O, Britain’s largest cruise liner, was set up in 1837 and known as the ‘Peninsular Steam Navigation Company’. The company at this point was a cargo company, delivering British post on behalf of the government to the Iberian Peninsular. The Spanish and Portuguese heritage is reflected in the P&O flag; the white and blue triangles represent the 1837 Portuguese flag and the yellow and red represent the Spanish flag.
In 1840, the company won a second government contract to deliver post to Egypt and the company included ‘Oriental’ in its name; hence P&O was born. As the Company grew, it extended its shipping routes to Singapore, Hong Kong and India.
Some steam routes were introduced for passengers, notably between Portugal and Spain, but the main business of the company remained focused on postal services until World War One. Between 1914 and 1939, the business grew as P&O acquired many of its competitors. At the company’s peak, it had a fleet of 500 ships in the 1920s, becoming heavily involved in the passenger and commercial shipping business. It was during this time that the famous ‘white hulls’ replaced the black hulls on the P&O cruise liners.
Despite losing many ships during both World Wars, the business continued to prosper until the 1950s and 1960s when aviation became a more convenient and popular way to travel. In response to these changing market conditions, P&O concentrated on passenger liners to Australia, offering British passenger £10 tickets to emigrate and start a new life ‘Down Under.’ Over one million British citizens left for Australia in the period after 1945, with many of the passengers travelling on P&O ships.
The 1970s saw the P&O cruise business diversify into luxury cruises, focusing more and more on offering cruising for pleasure. P&O now has a fleet of seven luxury liners, including the Oriana, built specifically for British passengers, and the 2011 addition of the Adonia.
To celebrate this wonderful history, the company is organising a range of special cruise deals
throughout their anniversary year, with special entertainment on board and an anniversary gala dinner. ‘Ten Pound Poms’ are even being offered the opportunity to recollect their memories and experiences of travelling by ship to Australia.
It’s rare that a company has had such a colourful and interesting past, and P&O’s success is evidently down to its ability to adjust its sails every time that market conditions have changed.