We joined Arcadia for her 15 day Baltic cruise in August. Overall we had a wonderful time and would recommend her to those who like a medium sized slightly more formal adult's only ship. This was our second cruise on her, our first was a short 3 nighter, and we hated her, dirty, in need of maintenance and the staff gruff, we nearly cancelled this Baltic cruise. But we were so glad we didn't, she was clean with plenty of fresh paint and the staff were excellent, a very different experience.
We stayed in Southampton the night before, as we always do at the Premier, just perfect. We did not get complementary parking so instead of paying the exorbitant costs for dockside parking we found a gem on the parkatmyhouse website. We will definitely do this again the next time we cruise from Southampton. Check in as always with P&O was efficient and quick and we were on the ship early at about 12.30.
Our port side balcony cabin was ready by 2 and we were very pleased with More
it. We were extremely well served by our steward, one of the best we have ever had, the cabin was spotless. He didn't miss anything; including making sure our ice bucket was replenished every day. We were in E133, a glass fronted balcony, and not all on E deck are, in line with the lifeboats, right by the lifts. Our only complaint is that it was rather noisy. We like being by the lifts and have never had this problem on other ships, inconsiderate pax holding conversations outside the door, and banging from a crew door to the kitchens on the promenade deck below were not good. This did not spoil out enjoyment of the cabin overall but a couple of cabins further towards the aft would probably be quieter.
We had a really lovely table for 8 on the MDR upper dining level right in front of the big aft windows, perfect. We spent very enjoyable evenings with our table companions, though the MDR did suffer from vibration from the engines on occasion, maybe a maintenance issue? The food was very good, British silver service, but still very good. Out waiters and the wine waiter were all efficient though they did not interact as much as we would have liked.
The buffet for breakfast and lunch was generally good, though the layout of the servery did occasionally result in long queues. The food was of a good quality, though perhaps not always as hot as we would like and sometimes choices ran out and were not replaced promptly, it was also slightly repetitive. Overall good, but we prefer the server layout of the newer bigger ships. We never had a problem finding seats, though often had to share. But why do they have long blinds down the window obstructing the view, maybe this will change when she goes into dry dock.
We liked the Neptune grill in the inside pool, only limited opening times and a sometimes along wait, but the food, jacket potatoes, burgers etc, was freshly cooked and well come when returning from a port visit.
We visited both the Orchid and Ocean Grill extra charge restaurants. We always visit the speciality restaurants at least once for a change. The Orchid was lovely; we had an excellent meal, good value at Â£10 each. The Ocean Grill was a different matter. This was our 5th visit to a White's restaurant on P&O and our first disappointment, we had experienced some outstanding meals, including during our first Arcadia cruise. We did not want to make a fuss in the restaurant as it was clear others were enjoying their meal but when asked if we enjoyed the food we explained that the pork was far to fatty, and inedible. The restaurant manager then started to argue with us at the table. This was unacceptable to us to we left without paying and went straight to the customer serviced desk. Without going into the boring details we ended up with an apology from the food and beverage officer and did not pay for the meal.
We did DIY in all the except St Peterburg ports where we did a 2 day grand tour and the ballet with Alla tours. I have reviewed them elsewhere but would highly recommend them. Apart from Russia all the ports were easily do-able yourself. P&O were really good in providing a free shuttle in all the ports where we were not docked in the city centre. I did quite a bit of research beforehand and had a good idea of what we would do in each port. We followed the really useful Fodders guide walks in some of the ports (available on their web site).
The entertainment overall was very poor, this was a comment that we heard many times. The shows were okay, but a couple of the singers awful. There was little other entertainment, this is one of the reasons were prefer larger ships. We went to a couple of the talks but found the timing not good for us. This was a fairly port intensive cruise and on sea days we found the timings too early. We normally really enjoy the talks on P&O and this was a disappointment.
We had good weather overall better than expected, only a little rain. The weather and temperature advice given in the Horizon newsletter each day and confirmed by the captain was generally accurate. Some days we needed a light jumper or fleece, rain a couple of times but mostly we were in short sleeves. The seas were really kind, even the North Sea was calm. The sunsets were amazing.
Overall a really enjoyable cruise, though we would not go on Arcadia again for a long cruise, though would consider a short one if it was over a weekend, we both work! We have also decided that we prefer Celebrity to P&O, the service and the quality of the food and drink is much higher, 5 star as against 4. We find the cost of P&O higher than Celebrity up front, but spend less on board so the cost for us ends up about the same. Having said that we would consider cruising on P&O again if the price and ports were attractive. Less
We went on the Grand 2 day tour with Alla in August and have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone visiting St Petersburg. The tour was co-ordinated by a friend we met on the cruise's roll call, though we each had to book and communicate our booking directly with Alla so they could arrange a group visa. The cost for the 2 days was $300 (Â£200), paid direct to Alla at the beginning of day 2, we paid by visa others by cash, clean unused notes only.
We were met in the cruise terminal and after a brief discussion to decide who should be in each mini bus we were taken to meet our guide for the 2 days, Svetlana, and driver Uri. We were soon on our way. We were each issued with headphones that were used when we were on the tour to ensure we could hear Svetlana's commentary and bottles of water.
This is a very intensive tour, the first day we had a packed lunch that we ate on the hydrofoil, the second day we went to a lovely restaurant for the traditional Russian lunch. We visit everywhere that was covered by the ship's tours including a boat trip, early entry to the Hermitage, St Catherine's Palace, Peter and Paul Palace gardens, Church of the Spilt Blood, Yasalov Palace, a metro station, etc, etc....
Svetlana was amazing, she got us into all the buildings quickly, cleverly bypassing the long queues, we never queued! Her commentary was informative and interesting. We all loved her!
We also went to the ballet in the evening once again with Alla, an extra $110 but worth it for the experience.
St Petersburg is a beautiful city and not at all what we expected, its vibrant and busy very European.