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A unique perspective


Guest Brian Smith spends his free time travelling to shipyards all over the world, photographing cruise ships as they are built. Such is his love for one member of the P&O Cruises fleet, he even named his daughter after her

Brian inside Meyer Werft’s building hall

Brian inside Meyer Werft’s building hall

‘Life is pretty hectic’, says Brian Smith, with some understatement. ‘I have a tough job as a police inspector in London, two young children at home in Southampton, and a hobby flying all over the place photographing wonderful cruise ships being made. So when I go on holiday – on a cruise of course – I like to bag a deckchair and do absolutely nothing.’


Brian’s hobby began as a youngster, taking pictures of the car ferries chugging to and from the Isle of Wight. His obsession with cruise ships took hold at the age of 30 when, in 1999, a fellow enthusiast invited him to the Meyer Werft yard in Germany to see the P&O Cruises ship Aurora being built.


‘My first cruise was also on Aurora,’ recalls Brian. ‘I was so excited, I booked as soon as she entered service. In my opinion she is still the finest cruise ship ever built and she has a special place in my heart – I got engaged to my wife Laila on board, and we named our daughter Aurora, too.’


Access all areas

Since that first fateful encounter, Brian has carved out a unique position for himself, working his contacts to obtain exclusive access to shipyards across Europe. While there, he catalogues every stage of a cruise ship’s construction, from the steel cutting and keel laying, the engines going in and funnels being placed, right down to the final decorative flourishes.


He has a library of around 20,000 photographs and is the author of three books on the P&O Cruises fleet, most recently about our flagship, Britannia. ‘No one else does something like this as far as I know,’ he says proudly.


Building a cruise ship typically takes about two years and, during that time, Brian will come to the shipyard roughly every two months, including visits for the float-up and handover ceremonies. Unsurprisingly, he has developed an unparalleled understanding of the many stages that go into making a sea-worthy vessel, and knows everyone on site, from the chief engineer to the gantry operators.


‘They are all happy to talk to me,’ Brian says, ‘which is surprising sometimes, as they are busy people, under a lot of pressure and dealing with complex bits of machinery and schedules.’


Because of the dangers involved with entering a shipyard, Brian has his own special insurance – which came in handy when he was given permission to ascend to almost 70m above the dock floor at Fincantieri’s Monfalcone yard, near Venice, to get the perfect bird’s-eye shot of Britannia. ‘Once you’ve been up there you have a new perspective. It’s an energy rush going to the top – you have to keep going back!’

Brian and a picture of his Britannia book

Brian’s first-hand experience shines through in his books

Cruising’s a pleasure

It’s a wonder Brian finds time for a day job at all, but once off duty, the family man comes into his own. ‘We’ve sailed on all of the ships in the P&O Cruises fleet,’ he says. ‘The kids are totally addicted to cruising, too!’


Aurora, now aged five, and her six-year-old brother Noah (running with the boat-building theme) splash in the pool or go to the children’s clubs, while Brian and Laila like to relax. ‘The best thing about a cruise,’ enthuses Brian, ‘is spending time with my wife, and having a wonderful meal in the evening.’


And any tips from the man who knows P&O Cruises ships literally inside out? ‘My favourite part of the ship is the atrium,’ says Brian. ‘That sets the tone for what you can expect on board. And when choosing a cabin, always go for two floors down from top deck, so you’re still close to the action but it’s nice and quiet.’


Brian’s books

Brian’s latest book, Britannia: Inspired by the past. Designed for the future is available to buy in the main shop on board Britannia, or directly from the publisher Ferry Publications. Brian’s books on Aurora, Oriana, Azura and Ventura are also available to purchase online from the publisher.


P&O Cruises guests can buy Brian’s books online at at a discounted rate using these codes (postage is not included and will be charged at checkout):

  • To buy all three books at a 25 per cent discounted rate, use the code POC25 at checkout
  • For 20 per cent off Aurora & Oriana, use the code POC20A1
  • For 20 per cent off Azura & Ventura, use the code POC20A2
  • For 20 per cent off Britannia, use the code POC20B


Find out more about cruising on Britannia >