Tracing the history of P&O as we know it today the origins start back in 1822 when the peninsular steam navigation company (catchy name) first started on its cargo sailings from Dover to the Iberian Peninsula.
With a reliable regular service and excellent pricing the company was soon pushing further and onward into the Mediterranean – reaching as far as Egypt by 1840.
The first passenger “sea tour” was offered by the company in 1844 offering adventurous Victorians a chance to go and wonder at the distant spectacle of Gibraltar – this paying passenger trade is widely recognised as the first “cruise” as we know it and gives then the distinct honour of the oldest cruise line still in operation.
Business on these new Sea Tours was excellent and led to the peninsular navigation company ordering new ships specifically designed and built to carry passengers further and further Also whilst still offering the successful cargo routes. In 1918 the company took the bold step and merged with the Orient Steam Navigation company so they could offer journeys all the way to the orient and beyond – they became the Peninsula and Oriental Steam packet company.
During the Second World War their fleet was mostly commandeered by the British government as troop carriers, The war cost P&O dearly and over the war 150 of their ships were sunk.
Post War the company got into the Expat relocation voyages carrying Britons and Europeans to Australia onboard their brand new ships – however the Jet age was hitting them hard in the 1970’s the company was forced to have a massive over hall and re-organization of their business.
The Cargo division became P&O ferries and the passenger Division was sold off and abbreviated to P&O cruises.
Margins were slim during the late 70s and 80s but the company held on and became part of the ever expanding Carnival Corporation and the company became the line we know today.
Since then the company has gone through a renaissance and with some of the finest ships afloat the some of the most advanced ships on the order books this is a boom time for the oldest cruise-line in the world.
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