P&O Cruises’ £500 million new ship Britannia took to the ocean for the first time yesterday, starting sea trials off Italy.

The vessel, due to be named and launched in a ceremony in Southampton in a March, is the first British ship to have a cookery school, which will be run by celebrity chef James Martin.

The state-of-the-art ship will carry Britain’s biggest art collection at sea, a multi-million pound collection of more than 6000 pieces of original artwork.

The sea trails will continue this week before Britannia returns to its shipyard in Italy for final fitting out.