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Real ale comes to Oriana


Fresh back from her refit in December, Oriana is now the second ship ever – and first in the P&O Cruises fleet – to serve draught real ale on board

A member of the bar team serving draught ale from Oriana’s real ale pump

Oriana is the second ship ever to serve draught real ale on board

At the end of last year, Oriana sailed to Hamburg to undergo a refit. As she left the dry docks, she became the second ship ever – and the first in the P&O Cruises fleet – to be fitted with a technology that enables guests in her pub to relax with the quintessential British drink, a perfectly pulled pint of real ale.


Why is this such big news?

What makes real ale different to normal beer, and so difficult to get right, is that it is a natural, living product. Most draught beer throughout the world is pasteurised and kegged, with fewer factors affecting tastes and flavours. Real ale, however, is brewed using traditional ingredients and is left to mature in the cask from which it is served, meaning that it has a limited shelf life and needs to be carefully looked after, including keeping it at a certain temperature (11°C compared to a normal draught beer at 4°C). All of this means that serving real ale away from where it is brewed can be a tricky business.


In terms of serving real ale on board our ships, the two main challenges the Beverage Services team has always faced are stopping the sediment being disturbed to avoid cloudy pints (a difficult thing on the high seas), and keeping the ale fresh for whole cruises – typically it has a shelf life of four to five days.


As P&O Cruises always strives to offer on board what our guests can enjoy on dry land, the Beverage Services team, headed up by Anthony Habert, has been working with Lincolnshire brewer Batemans and Dark Star brewery in West Sussex to develop a way to offer two very different real ales to P&O Cruises guests.


Both of the guest British ales are from the P&O Cruises Great British Beer Selection. Dark Star is a bright beer and so has no sediment, meaning it’s easier to keep clear at sea. Batemans’ real ale, however, does have sediment, and this is where the new technology comes into play. The details behind the new cask system are all top secret, but the result is that the sediment is kept at the bottom of the cask, and the brewer is able to keg the beer with very little or no atmospheric air, slowing down the rate of deterioration. Bright beer has a small amount of CO2 added at kegging to give it a fresh feel, but the real ale from Batemans has zero added gas – the beer makes its own. The casks served on board have around 10 weeks of life and once ‘tapped’ have to be consumed within 10 days – giving you plenty of time to enjoy these tasty tipples.


The Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) chief executive Tim Page is supportive, saying: ‘CAMRA is delighted to hear that P&O Cruises has worked with brewers to serve traditional real ale on board Oriana. Real ale is a live beer that continues to ferment and develop in whichever container it’s served from, so it is particularly impressive that P&O Cruises has managed to take cellar-craft to sea with them and ensure their guests can enjoy beer at its best.’


Head of Beverage Services Anthony Habert agreed: ‘Since time immemorial, the challenge of serving real ale at sea – or even away from the UK – has been a genuine obstacle to serving a proper pint, so we are now truly delighted to offer real ale on Oriana. After months of testing, we are very pleased with the results. Real ale is such a hallmark of British life and I love the idea that our guests could be drinking a pint of real ale while looking out across Monaco’s harbour – that has to be a first!’ 


Get a taste of the good stuff on your next cruise – real ale can be enjoyed in the pub on board Oriana.


The introduction of real ale on board is part of Oriana’s latest refit, which rejuvenated her look while staying true to the integrity of this special ship. Improvements included new soft furnishings and carpets, a fresh colour scheme, upgraded lighting and increased seating in some of the dining spaces. The spa has a new pedicure station and upgraded salon equipment. 


Find out more about Oriana’s refit 

Read an overview of this adults-only mid-sized ship