Princess' parent company, P&O, has illustrious history
By Stefano Fermi (18/11/97)
Standing for the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the initials P&O are among the most familiar in Europe and many other parts of the world.
With a name evocative of Victorian and Imperial grandeur, P&O, which was incorporated in 1840 and is the parent company of Princess Cruises, is numbered among the few British companies bestowed with the honor of operating under a Royal Charter.
The company originated with a partnership formed in 1822 between a Shetland-born former Royal navy clerk, Arthur Anderson, and Brodie McGhie Willcox, a London shipbroker.
Together, with their own fleet of small sailing ships and management of other people's steamers, they built a business linking Britain with Spain and Portugal, the Iberian Peninsula.
To demonstrate their appreciation for the services Willcox and Anderson provided during the Portoguese and Spanish civil wars of the early 1830s, the Royal Houses of the two countries granted Willcox and Anderson the right to fly thier colors - the Portuguese blue and white, and the Spanish red and gold - flown proudly to this day in the P&O flag.
Malay, China and the Pacific
In 1836, the partners began a regular steamer service to Iberia under the name "Peninsular Steam Navigation Company."
After incorporation as P&O in 1840, the company forged ahead with routes to Egypt and India, using the overland route across Egypt until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
By 1845, P&O's regular steamer service reached Malay and China, hence the addition of "Oriental" to the company's name.
Twentieth century P&O expansion and acquisition brought many other services under the company's helm, with new routes to New Zealand and across the Pacific to Canada and the western United States.
The Leisure Business
P&O entered the leisure cruising business when, in 1844, essayist W.M. Thackeray traveled to Malta, Greece, Constantinople, the Holy Land and Egypt in a series of P&O ship connections.
He told of his "delightful Mediterranean cruise" in an elegantly written book entitled "From Cornhill to Grand Cairo."
Subsequently, Kipling, Forster, Trollope and other famed authors have written of leisurely life on voyage aboard P&O passenger ships.
The "Big White Ship"
Present-day P&O Cruises has inherited the "Big White Ship" image of P&O's former regular liner services to India, the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and across the Pacific, which ceased in the 1970's.
Since then, cruising on modern luxury ships has developed into a major industry.
In 1974, P&O acquired the U.S.-based Princess Cruises, which quickly grew to become an industry leader, with a fleet of five state-of-the-art cruise vessels.
P&O's desire to maintain its leadership position in the burgeoning worldwide luxury cruise industry was most recently evinced with the 1988 purchase of Los Angeles-based Sitmar Cruises, which was merged with the Princess Cruises operation.
The acquisition has since given the line nine ships which cruise worldwide destinations.
A Diversified Group
While widespread shipping interests still represent a third of its total assets, today P&O is far more than a shipping company.
Its historic flag is flown not only on ships, but also can be found on office buildings, exhibition centers, resort properties, shopping centers, oil drilling equipment, road vehicles and aircfraft livery.
The quartered flag serves as a proud corporate symbol for a diversified group of some 200 companies operating in over forty countries throughout the world.
For further information: P&O