We have cruised several times in the past few years and found this cruise to be one of the best.
Embarkation – this was so simple and straightforward – well done P&O – we were directed to the buffet to have lunch and wait for the announcement that the staterooms were ready.
Stateroom – excellent – we were on a low deck with a picture window – the stateroom was quite spacious as was the bathroom – first time we have had a bath which made the bathroom seem much larger. Our steward Vincent was excellent – he kept the stateroom to a high standard and was always very helpful. Having a kettle to make tea and coffee as you wished was excellent and having a couch meant we could play cards, scrabble etc at a table rather than on the bed.
Breakfast – on the majority of mornings we dined in the Meridien dining room – the menu was good and it was interesting to chat with different people – service was very good and staff were willing to accommodate any needs.
Lunch – most days that we were onboard we had lunch in the buffet – we found the cold meats and salad were excellent – we avoided the fried food most of the time and on a few days took dessert back to our stateroom to have later with a cuppa. We did have sandwiches on the pool deck and it was great that they were made while you waited – couldn’t get fresher than that.
Dinner – we were at the early sitting at a table of 8 people – we all got on well and it was good company. We thought that the menus were of a high standard as was the quality of the food – really appreciated the waiters bring round a small dish of additional vegetables once the main course was served for those who wanted them – great concept and I’m sure it cuts down on wastage (I love vegies so I was delighted to be able to have extra variety) – our waiters were excellent and within a few nights of sailing they knew who drank what etc. Certainly ranks up with the best of the ships we have sailed on food wise for quality and variety.
Specialty Dining – we dined (as a treat) at the Marco Pierre White restaurant and it was worth every cent we paid – from the moment we were greeted at the entrance until we left it was silver service the whole way – food was superb, of course we ate too much and could hardly finish our dessert but it was magnificent – I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone and the cost was very reasonable.
The Headliners company were brilliant – every other night they put on a different show – we were very impressed with the standard of the dancers and singers – their ‘Killer Queen’ show was superb.
Other performers were good – the comedian was great the first time but on his second appearance he seemed to use the same material and the show was a bit flat.
Some of the other singers were just ok, however Robert Meadmore was excellent.
Every night after the show we would go to the Rising Sun Pub and there was usually a quiz of some sort or karaoke – they were great fun and everyone got involved – best area of the ship for atmosphere !!
Kristiansand – a delightful little town within walking distance of the port – we just wandered around and took in the sights.
Copenhagen – caught a Hop On Hop Off bus from the dock – excellent way to see this beautiful city – after one loop picked out the best spots and got off in the city square and wandered around – it was within walking distance of the ship but I felt that the bus was worthwhile.
Warnemunde – train station was about 250 metres from the dock – we caught the train and tram into Rostock – majority of the shops were closed as it was a Sunday but we had a good look around admiring the beautiful architecture – then back to Warnemunde where it was buzzing around the canal – beautiful weather and people everywhere – buskers, lots of shops and stalls – great port.
Tallin – we caught the shuttle provided by P&O as it was too far to walk – another very old city full of interesting buildings and history including the city wall – this was the cheapest place by far to buy souvenirs etc. Back at the wharf there was an extensive market with a wide range of souvenirs, glassware, clothing etc and good value.
St Petersburg – of course this was the ‘jewel in the crown’ and eagerly awaited by all – on the first day we took a P&O excursion to visit the Hermitage museum – we were gobsmacked at the absolute beauty of the treasures – we had a brilliant guide and he was very informative – we had about 2 hours at the museum and covered a fair bit of the museum at a good pace – there are 1000 rooms and we did about 200 !! You would need a full week to really explore it.
The following day we took another P&O excursion – our first stop was St Isaac’s Cathedral – unfortunately we were too early to be able to go inside !! Next stop was the Church on spilled Blood where we had about an hour free time – this is the most beautiful amazing place I have ever seen in my life – we were in awe of the magnificent workmanship outside and inside the church – words cannot do justice to this building. We had time to wander through a small market but didn’t buy anything as at this stage we hadn’t been able to exchange any money and if you paid in euros they charged double !!!
Next stop was the Nevtsky Prospect which is the main street in St Petersburg – we had about 3 hours free time here – we changed some money and had a great wander around this beautiful city. The prices of the P&O excursions were good value, however I think the order on the full day trip could have been changed to allow people to go into St Isaac’s and also to change money before going to the church market – you are not able to change money on the ship for Russia as it is against the law to take their currency out of the country. Maybe P&O might give this some thought.
Helinski – Caught the P&O shuttle into the city and then did a 2 hours sightseeing tour which was very interesting – when you get off the shuttle there are plenty of people offering tours – they all seem to be about the same price and we thought that they were reasonable value. We were dropped off at the Market Square after the tour and we checked out the stalls and had some lunch there – another really lovely place to visit.
Stockholm – Caught P&O shuttle into the city centre – we then took a sightseeing boat for a cruise around as the weather was looking threatening – this gave us a different look at the city – had a quick look around and then decided to get back to the ship – unfortunately we were caught in a downpour at the shuttle stop with no shelter !!! Of course once we got back to the ship and dried off out came the sun again – this was the only rain we had on the whole cruise so we weren’t complaining too loud.
Overall, I felt that this was the best cruise that I have been on (we have done 5 in the past 6 years), it was good value, crew were good (especially David at the Customer Service desk), food was excellent, cost of drinks was acceptable, entertainment superb and there was always plenty to do on sea days. From playing Scrabble, going to the movies, playing cricket or tennis, going to talks on different subjects or just sitting reading in a quiet place our days were very full.
We went to several port talks, however we felt that the young lady delivering them was very ‘wooden’ and the majority of the time she spent spruiking P&O excursions. The talks were informative but a bit too much of a ‘sell’ really.
During the cruise we had a problem with a very loud noise waking us several times in the night (8 times one night) – we reported this every time it happened and with the help of David (Customer Service) it was escalated to the attention of the Chief Engineer – it was eventually resolved and the Hotel Manager visited us one afternoon and offered us compensation – this was in the form of a % of the cost of our cruise being taken off of our stateroom account – we gratefully accepted this compensation and were impressed that they didn’t just try to give us a free day on our next cruise (which is what some cruise lines do).
I would not hesitate to recommend P&O to anyone thinking about cruising with them – although the ship was going in for a refit shortly after our cruise we did not feel that it was terribly run down at the time of our cruise and it certainly did not deter from our enjoyment. It was well worth the long flights from Australia !!