We originally booked to go to Buenos Aires on Adonia but felt that the ship had limited facilities/entertainment so we transferred our booking to Arcadia but now including Chile & the Pacific Islands to Australia. We are first time cruisers & knew that we were taking a risk but we saw it as a romantic adventure travelling with a well established company, P & O Cruises.
Our first disappointment was the cancellation of the visits to all the Argentine ports. We were not able to pull out without losing our deposit but our primary reason for going had been removed from the schedule. The 4 days missed were replaced with one day in Salvadore & an extra day in Montevideo - hardly a generous substitution.
When we embarked at Southampton there were long delays in the process and we took 2 hours to get on board. Our cabin was quite adequate, but what a tiny TV screen and the bedside lights were archaic, placed behind the head. Lets hope that the planned refit sees to some upgrading of the cabin fittings.
Our first days were an eye opener. Everyone seemed to have cruised extensively and many had done world cruises several times. They were only too pleased to relay their experiences, but most ended up with a litany of complaints, especially against P & O, which seemed odd as they were returning cruisers. We determined not to moan but to enjoy the good parts. But the cruise turned into a curate's egg - good in some parts but poor in others.
The good parts were that the ship was very stable and although we rocked & rolled a bit she comfortable to travel on. The whole vessel was very well maintained and the cabins and public rooms were very clean & cared for. Our cabin girl, Jocelyn was first class. Likewise all the staff were approachable and cheerful - none more so than our waiters in the Meridian who were quick and efficient, cheerful and nothing too much trouble. We found that this extended to all the other service areas. First class gym and amazing Palladium theatre. Very good shows at night and plenty of activities to choose from during the sea days. Good sail away parties and pool events like the crossing of the equator. We felt that the Entertainments Team worked very hard and maintained an incredible cheerfulness in all circumstances! Also some of the more ad hoc shows such as the Arcadia Pantomime and talent show were well recieved. The food was good in the Meridian - not over-facing and the Belvedere self service offered a good choice. The daily Horizon was well produced, informative and always on time.
But the down-side starts with the Arcadia cough - well catalogued from previous cruises. In the Palladium theatre the coughing & wheezing had to be heard to be believed. Whilst most of the germs were probably transmitted person to person there has to be a question about the air conditioning. How often are the ducts & filters cleaned? Is this an item that will be followed up on the refit? One boards the ship in good health and disembarks with a barking cough which some 3 weeks later still persists. Someone at a senior level should take responsibility for sorting this out. Perhaps the ship should have a red cross painted on her to designate a hospital ship until the cause is found & rectified!
The ports that were missed have already been mentioned, but the turn round & flight from the Falklands was another disappointment. Easter Island was a slow cruise by, too far out to see much. The excursions were well planned and executed, but there was always the time pressure to get back before the ship was due to sail.
The internet facilities and cost were not appreciated. Often very poor connections (we were advised to use our Notebook in our cabin with the door open to get better reception), and from time to time the ship left the cover of one satellite before coming to another. We needed to stay in touch with family & business in the UK throughout the cruise but were often frustrated. The exodus of passengers and staff to use the WiFi facilities at the ports was noticeable and this was sometimes free or charged at modest rates. As the majority of passengers nowadays have laptops, notebooks, Ipads etc could not the internet facilities be charged in the ticket price? Most good hotels provide WiFi foc nowadays. And will a better internet facility be installed at the refit?
Overall we enjoyed the cruise but there are so many frustrations not least all the queuing and short tempers that then ensued. For a first timer it was an experience. We are glad that we did it and we saw the periphery of South America & some South Pacific Islands that we would never have seen otherwise. Would we do it again? I am afraid not because we found that we lost our independence.