Assuredly a very damning summary - but we disembarked from Arcadia on the completion of this voyage very disappointed at what we had endured for so long. We are not new to cruising, nor are we new to Grand Voyages - but this was our first experience of Arcadia and of P&O -and it will certainly be our last. Anyone who has booked, or is contemplating booking a 'Grand Voyage' cruise on P&O's Arcadia should very seriously think again.
The Cruise : The first half of the cruise from Southampton to Sydney was a nightmare - by the time the ship reached Sydney the morale of the passengers was such that as well as the 600 plus Australian passengers who were desperately glad to be disembarking, the vast majority of those remaining on board would have joined them if they possibly could. Particular details of all that went wrong can be gleaned from the vast number of adverse reviews and comments already on the Internet relating to how passengers on the Arcadia were treated on this voyage. In short, no-one likes feeling that they have been duped, cheated, short changed, commercially exploited and are being treated with dismissive contempt. Moreover, the dismissive contempt continued once back on dry land. Communications with P&O regarding their gross negligence in NOT complying with their own 'Booking Conditions' were replied to 'cut and paste' responses consisting of sequences of platitudes and gibberish totally unrelated to the issues raised
IF P&O had fulfilled its contractual obligations and the ship's management had treated passengers as if they were on a Cruise Liner rather than as interlopers on a Cargo Vessel - would we have enjoyed the cruise ? - Definitely not - and here are some of the reasons why :
The 'Grand Voyage' : The Arcadia carries well over 2000 passengers - and at any one time 75-80% are on board for only one or occasionally two sectors of the 'Grand Voyage' Arcadia is one of the newer breed of 'Vegas' resort ships designed to provide the mass market with relatively short 'fun' cruises with lots of alcohol,gambling, mindless loud music and very dim lighting in all public areas from 1800hrs onwards, holiday camp/end of pier quality entertainment and singalongs coupled with the provision to gorge for 24hrs a day on mass produced,low quality meals typical of a works canteen or supermarket cafeteria. The so called 'Grand Voyage' was nothing more than four such 'fun' cruises (sectors) strung together. When the first sector was complete everything (menus, entertainment, lecture topics, films etc - even the errors and mis-spellings in the daily entertainment guide were for the most part repeated on each following sector.
The 'Ship' ; Consistent with the 'resort ship' model large areas of Arcadia are devoted to revenue generating activities in contrast to the minimal space afforded to non-revenue services addressing the interests and comfort of passengers. eg: the small library with cramped seating for 10, the 30 seat 'cinema' and the ridiculous laundries are 'not fit for purpose'. In contrast the casino,totally unoccupied for most of the day has an enormous floor area housing four card tables, two roulette tables and 65 slot machines and boasts a seating capacity for 112 passengers. Public toilets are small in both space and number, are often 'out of order' and very basically equipped. The buffet restaurant has the ambiance of a motorway cafe with formica topped tables,unset for breakfast and lunch - pick up a tray,plate and cutlery, join the long queue to choose your food and then search for a seat !!
Again consistent with the 'resort ship' model all vestiges of past elegance and refinement associated with cruising - particularly on Cunard - and to a lesser extent on P&O - have disappeared from Arcadia and been replaced with pretentious nonsense which fools but few. The most glaring examples relate to evening dining in the main restaurant: To gain access one must adhere to the ship's 'dress codes' - Problems occur when the dress code is 'Smart' - interpreted by P&O as meaning 'gentlemen must wear a jacket' - Hence, males wandering around the decks in trainers, baggy trousers and T-shirts can grab a jacket and gain access unchallenged whilst gentlemen elegantly dressed for dinner in tailored trousers,smart shirt and tie are refused entry!
Upon gaining entry you will be presented with a menu adorned with dishes described in mouth-watering language with lots of 'juz' and 'drizzles' which bear little relation to what eventually appears from the kitchen. Set plates are augmented by 'silver service' - consisting of never more than potatoes cooked in a different style from those already on the set plate plus one other,usually overcooked and tepid vegetable.
On the topic of food, apart from the general low quality of what is provided in the 'set menu' restaurant, prospective passengers should be aware that many items- particularly fruit, salads and cold meats and seafood - displayed in the 'buffet restaurant' are often well past their 'sell by' date - photographs of heaps of sweating, rotten bananas, pears etc are available on request. Also on view in the buffet from 3.00am onward would be tray after tray of pre-cooked fried eggs left to rubberise until being reheated when the restaurant opens!!! I could go on and on but .....!!!