P&O Cruises has vowed to ensure its newest and biggest ship, due to enter service in 2015, will offer a small-ship experience despite accommodating 3,600 guests.

The unnamed ship, which will be the largest ever built for the UK market, will be structurally identical to two Princess Cruises vessels already on order by parent company Carnival Corporation.

P&O Cruises managing director Carol Marlow said the ship would be designed to meet the expectations of passengers in line with customer research.

“It will be quite different from the Princess ships in terms of cabin layout and public rooms. It will have some new sophisticated ‘wows’ and new elements we think our British customers will want.”

Marlow said the vessel would be positioned between its two existing superliners, Ventura, which is aimed at the family market, and Azura, which is positioned for the more traditional P&O client.

She said it was “likely” that the new ship would be based in Southampton for its maiden summer season following a naming in March 2015 but that the line was always “looking at fly-cruise”.

There are no plans to retire older ships when the new vessel enters service. It will become the eighth ship in the fleet.

Addressing overcapacity fears, Marlow said there was likely to be a different economic climate in 2015 and that P&O expected the ship to expand the market by appealing to non-cruisers.