If you've seen the TV series "Benidorm" you'll have some idea of what this ship is about! Not quite as down-market but getting there.
Pre-cruise and our outward journey were excellently done. Boarding a coach at M'cr Airport at 0630 wasn't too much fun but better than arriving 3 hours before a 0630 flight! Luggage was loaded by the driver and we didn't need to bother with it again until it arrived in our cabin. Journey was painless and registration/embarkation was quick and smooth. Went straight to the cabin (didn't know we were supposed to wait) and were quite content. Top marks to P&O so far.
The ship is impressive but initially very confusing. Layout is nonsensical and hard to navigate.
Found the MDR for lunch and excused poor service and mediocre food as down to embarkation day problems. Sadly, the quality of the food served up was consistently much lower than I expect on a cruise ship, the menus were unimaginative/repetitive and the service was patchy: some was good, occasionally very good but too often poor, with apparently demotivated and humour-free staff. Towards the end some seemed to loosen up somewhat and interact more with passengers.
Ships Officers were stand-offish even during the Captains reception, standing in groups and refusing to mingle. On previous cruises the staff generally seemed to be much more communicative and happy to engage with the customers.
The entertainment was a mixed bag. There is insufficient room in the main venues to accommodate the number of people wanting to see the shows so even the standing room was all taken quite some time before each show started. Quality of the entertainment was varied but I accept that my view is very subjective here. The main attraction (David Essex) met all my wife's expectations and even impressed me!
For the first few sea days the weather was poor, resulting in severe overcrowding in the inside public areas - had we made a mistake booking a transatlantic cruise? Later sea days were spent largely on the open decks and whilst it was impossible to find a vacant sun lounger by the pools, there were some available on higher decks, if you got there early enough.
The speciality restaurants (XVII, Sindhu and Glass House) each provided a very much higher standard of dining - great food, well prepared and cooked, very well served and much enjoyed. The excellence here highlighted the poor standards of the MDR.
The ports visited were all different and as a first-timer in the Caribbean all exciting too.
By Day 13 I was still confused by the ship's layout. Hard to figure out which way was forward or back, where to find venues or which way to turn when getting off the lifts, or even whether to go up or down. Somebody eventually explained - all the lifts face forwards, except those that don't.
Disembarkation was equally as smooth as Day 1 - a great plus point for P&O and one for other cruise lines to aspire to. None of the hustle to get you off at dawn. Luggage was collected by midnight the previous day and we never saw it again until back at the airport arrivals hall. That's a great bonus.
This was not one of the adults only ships but the children on board were few and all well-behaved and controlled. No obviously rowdy behaviour although we did hear a report of a fight in one laundrette!
Drinks prices are UK pub equivalent with no added service charges so another win for P&O.
The clientele on this trip was almost exclusively UK resident. Some were very happy at this. Personally I missed the chance to meet and discuss things with other nationalities and learn a little about the World beyond what is fed to us by Sky, BBC and British papers.
Overall I think the cruise was good value for my money. My great disappointments were the food in the MDR, lack of space in the entertainment venues and utterly confusing layout of the ship (I was very obviously not the only baffled one).
Would I do another transatlantic cruise? Yes, but only on an Autumn E to W one. Will I use P&O again? Possibly but would have to be an itinerary that I couldn't get on my preferred lines and at a price that is sufficiently low. Would I recommend it to others? Only if they are content to accept mediocrity.