Families waving from a P&O ship in the 1980s

1980-2000 – Modern times

The 1980s heralded a new era for P&O, with the introduction of the Larne-Cairnryan, Hull-Rotterdam and Hull-Zeebrugge routes, unlocking popular European destinations to the masses.

In 1987, P&O celebrated a very special birthday- their 150th. To mark the occasion, a dinner was hosted on board the Pacific Princess (with the Queen in attendance), while a full scale replica of the William Fawcett, P&O’s first paddle-steamer, was moored alongside. Throughout the year, more celebrations ensued, all to remind the company how far it, and maritime travel, had come in 150 years.

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The Duty Free era reached peak levels in the late ’80s and early ’90s, seeing a surge of holidaymakers taking advantage of affordable travel and tax-free shopping in mainland Europe. Day-trips were in huge demand, particularly from Dover-Calais, while non-landers (passengers who would take advantage of duty free deals without leaving the ferry) started to emerge.

Dining on Board

Whether it’s relaxing with a glass of wine or tucking into a hearty dinner, dining on board has always been a highlight for holidaymakers looking to make their journey extra special. To recreate this at home, the following comes from Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

Braised Beef in Red Wine Recipe

By Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary

‘P&O not only operate cruise ships and holiday destinations to Europe, they also offer lifeline freight and passenger services to some of Britain’s outer islands.

Between 1977 and 2003 they ran the ferry service between the Shetland Islands, a tiny island archipelago in the North Sea, and the mainland of Scotland. Britain’s most northerly food blogger, Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, emigrated from Canada to the Shetland Islands during this era and she remembers these overnight North Sea journeys very well.

Her trip to Shetland on the P&O Ferries St. Rognvald was the first open sea ferry crossing she’d ever made.

To help celebrate 180 years of P&O Ferries, Elizabeth did some research and has managed to source a recipe which was made and served on board the St. Clair during that time. This braised beef with red wine recipe was made by galley cook David Leybourne, who remembers making six trays of this recipe at a time, with each tray fitting 20 pieces of steak. Any leftovers not eaten by passengers were served to the ferry crew, much to their delight.

Braised Beef with potatoes and vegetablesThis is a very simple and incredibly delicious recipe to make. It’s become one of Elizabeth’s family favourites ever since David gave her the recipe.

Simply flour the braising steaks and sear them in hot oil, add the remaining ingredients, cover well and slow cook in the oven for three hours for a delicious tender beef. Serve with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables.’

For more on P&O’s 180 years

‘The P&O Heritage Collection, with its vast and diverse collections from archives to art, furniture to films, menus to murals, photographs to plates and almost everything in between, tells the unique story of P&O and nearly two centuries of British shipping along the way’

– Susie Cox

Senior Curator, P&O Heritage Collection

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All images © P&O Heritage Collection, used by kind permission.

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