A MAJOR multimillion-pound refit to three of Southampton’s best known cruise ships is under way as they prepare for the hectic 2013 summer season.

Extensive work on Ventura, Oceana and Arcadia, all operated by P&O Cruises, will be completed in time for a record-breaking year in the city’s port, which will handle at least 430 separate cruise ship turn-around calls in the coming months.

In depth passenger research commissioned by P&O Cruises sparked the huge investment programme including the introduction of more purpose built cabins for single travellers, the wide-spread replacement of soft furnishings and carpets, new spa facilities, a further restaurant overseen by celebrity chef, Marco Pierre White, improvements to on-board shops, as well as upgraded lighting, and sound equipment on outside decks.

Work on Oceana and Arcadia has already been completed at the German shipyard of Blohm & Voss, while Ventura will go to Hamburg for her 13-day long refit next month.

While in Germany a number of facilities will be added to Ventura, which have proved popular on her sister ship, Azura, also based in Southampton, such as the addition of a wine bar from drinks expert, Olly Smith, the installation of a dance floor in the atrium, and the incorporation of computer and digital technology for passengers.

Company managing director, Carol Marlow, said: “We are committed to the ongoing improvement and refurbishment of our ships so that there is a consistent standard of decor across the fleet.

“Our research showed that the quality of dining is important to 97 per cent of respondents.

“Whilst it is imperative that we continue to research changing trends and tastes, it is reassuring to know that we are offering what our passengers want.”

Last year P&O Cruises marked its 175th anniversary with the presence of all seven of the company’s ships in Southampton on the same day.