Founded in 1837, this year we celebrate 179 years of heritage. The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) first offered voyages known as 'excursions,' when passengers from England travelled with the Royal Mails to ports on the Iberian Peninsular and the Mediterranean, returning home on other P&O mail voyages.
The company really began in 1815 when Brodie McGhie Wilcox opened a ship-broking firm in Lime Street, London. After partnering with a former seaman, Arthur Anderson, the company called Wilcox and Anderson began trading with a small fleet of sailing ships between England and the Iberian Peninsular countries of Spain and Portugal. Wilcox and Anderson prospered and worked hard to secure return cargoes. The two countries allowed the firm to combine their colours - the blue and white of Portugal and the red and yellow of Spain, to form the company flag. This flag would become synonymous with passenger shipping services and cruises from England to the East and Australia.
In 1840 Wilcox and Anderson were awarded a new contract to extend their service to the Egyptian port of Alexandria via Malta. The new contract required that the voyage from England to Alexandria be accomplished in 15 days. The first vessel to open this service was the newly built 1,787-ton paddle-wheel steamship ORIENTAL, reflecting the Company's arrival in the East. Hence the title Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Though P&O's main focus was mail delivery, it soon became clear to both men that there was more to a life at sea than just getting from A to B. And so leisure cruising was born, with the very first leisure cruise departing London bound for the Mediterranean in 1844.
When P&O pioneered cruising from Australia in 1932 the new 23,000-ton mail steamer STRATHAIRD carried 1,100 passengers on the first cruise to Brisbane and Norfolk Island - a sailing which sold out in just one day.
From 1945 to 1972, it was from the decks of P&O ships that over 1 million United Kingdom migrants caught their very first glimpse of their new Australian homeland. Known as Ten Pound Poms, this mass arrival was a scheme devised by the Australian and British Governments to help populate Australia.
Today P&O Cruises is the South Pacific's largest cruise operator sailing to more than 80 ports across Australia and New Zealand, throughout the remote Pacific Islands and to the far reaches of South East Asia. We cruise from Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Cairns, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore.
Our local fleet includes 70,285 tonnes PACIFIC DAWN with 1,950 passengers; the 70,310 tonnes PACIFIC JEWEL carrying 1,900 passengers; the 63,786 tonnes PACIFIC PEARL carrying 1800 passengers; the 55,820 tonnes PACIFIC ARIA carrying 1500 passengers and the 55,820 tonnes PACIFIC EDEN carrying 1500 passengers.
In 2017 we welcomed the 77,441 tonnes Pacific Explorer carrying 2000 passengers.
P&O Cruises continues to expand its local offerings with even more regional ports on the horizon. Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden will become the first cruise ships to call at Queensland’s Fraser Island in 2016, with Gladstone also set to be added to P&O’s itineraries this year. In 2015 P&O cruised to new destinations including Hamilton Island, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Portland on the Great Ocean Road, Eden on New South Wales’ south coast and Esperance and Busselton (for Margaret River) in Western Australia.
Our sister company, Princess Cruises, bases three ships in Australia year round. The Dawn Princess, Sun Princess and Sea Princess now offer cruises tailored to Australians sailing round Australia and to Tasmania, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and even world cruises.