Eastern Caribbean December 14- 28th 2013 This was our first cruise (we travelled with our daughters aged 21 & 16)
Airport check in at Manchester, breezed through check in as we had opted for the Premium upgrade, bigger seats, good food, free drinks, headphones & a goody bag...great start.
We got off the plane and straight onto a waiting bus, no baggage to collect or immigration queues, just straight to the ship! Enjoyed the commentary from the bus driver too. Easy check in on the ship, quick photo and swipe of the credit card and on board.
Cabins: We had outside balcony & inside cabins on C Deck. Both lovely and clean and we were well looked after by cabin stewards Lilybeth & Domnic. Nothing was too much trouble; both were really friendly and genuinely concerned that we had everything we needed.
Baggage arrived at our cabin just before we had to go for our meal (informal on first night) we had toiletries in the cabin so managed showers before dinner.
All areas of the ship looked clean. One or two looking a little bit tired in places, but on the whole nothing to complain about.
We opted for the 8.30 sitting at dinner and were in the Bay Tree restaurant. Waiters were very efficient (almost too efficient sometimes, when dinner felt a bit rushed) It did slow down the second week to a more leisurely pace. I wonder if this is because the waiters here also have to work in the other bar areas during the evening. Food in the evening was to a good standard, portions sizes just right if you want 3 courses. Never managed to complete all 5!
The menus were varied and wine prices were reasonable. We had opted to pre buy the Commodores package, it does work out a bit cheaper.
Christmas day there was the full turkey dinner option or many other choices, hats & crackers etc on the tables made it more traditional.
We mostly ate lunch and breakfast in Waterside which offered a very good choice of dishes, good quality, we tried afternoon tea once or twice too. Tables were cleaned and cleared quickly so no problem finding a table. They enforced the use of hand sanitizer, which given the recent norovirus outbreaks in the UK I was pleased that they did this.
We dined in the White Room and East also. Both very good quality, worth the extra cost as the service is a bit more personal.
Outside spaces & pools -- Only went in the adult pool near the spa, which was good it has the resistance option so you feel like your swimming against the tide, so can't comment on the other pools. They never really looked overly busy. Kids seem to enjoy them!
I did have a bit of a fear of not getting a sunbed after reading reviews that people leaving towels on them all day but not turning up. It's obviously busier on the at sea days, but to be honest we never found it difficult to get 4 sunbeds together, and we didn't get up at the crack of dawn and put our towels on, we just went when we were ready and there were always beds available. That might be why you can barely get your foot in between them in some places. Guess that they do this so there are enough, but in some areas it did feel a bit close!
Gym: Went 3 times during the two weeks, had intended to do more honest! Gym was well equipped, didn't really get too full, and was nice being on the treadmill looking out at the passing Caribbean islands!
Bars/Entertainment -- We liked Red bar for pre dinner cocktails and champagne. Piano player was good in there too. Entertainment was ok..Nothing that outstanding, but it is a cruise ship. Freddie Mercury tribute act was good, even though I wasn't a fan of the real Freddie, this guy was quite entertaining. Also saw Headliners which were good.
I admit to cringing when I've seen some of the sail away parties on DVDs but well you just have to join in when you are there. Neil Oliver the cruise director and his team did a really good job of making the sailaways fun.
Shops: The essentials shop did sell just that...the things you may have forgotten, prices were more expensive than at home but not overly so. Jewellers did seem to have some good prices on things you can compare eg Watches. We had recently bought our daughter a watch for her 21st Birthday and could have got it on board around 20% cheaper...will know for next time. Perfume & Cosmetics shop didn't have a huge range but adequate.
When it was time to leave, we packed our bags the night before left them outside the cabin and they were taken away and put on board, so again no luggage to check in, in fact no check in at the airport either, as you get your seat allocation and boarding cards for the plane while on board. It was a very efficient service, couldn't fault it at all.
Would certainly cruise P&O again, in fact already booked for Dec 20th 2013 before we left the ship.