We boarded the ship in Southampton on 29/12/13 for a NYE cruise to Amsterdam. We have been on numerous cruises with Royal Carib ( Voyager, Navigator, Freedom etc.) Norwegian ( Epic) and Thomson over the last few years - this was our first P&O and we were expecting higher standards across the board.
We were sadly disappointed in many areas. The staff and whilst extremely pleasant they simply do not understand how to deliver great service in the bars and restaurants ( with a few exceptions). Examples are - sit down in a bar, pick up the menu and instantly they appear asking what you want to order , we ask for a couple of minutes to decide and 30 seconds later they return - this was a regular occurrence. In the restaurants it's the same speed and you are rushed through your meals - as soon as your cutlery is down they whisk your plate away and the next course is immediately presented. Once whilst eating I was asked if I had finished with a side plate, I said yes - and the waiter reached across in front of me and took it - whilst I was cutting my meat on the plate !! The food was decidedly average in the main restaurant on freedom dining - which is another point. A 20 min wait for a table if we had a 2 rather than the 8 we booked for taking 40mins for the 8:30 sitting - ridiculous.
The Grill was far better, more relaxed, better service by far and the food, presentation and speed a huge improvement - in fact the fillet steak was one of the best I have ever had - a very pleasurable 2 1/2 hour dinner - as opposed to 4 courses in 45 minutes in the main restaurant..
Now the cabins - extremely dated all round and not a patch on other ships - basically the whole ship needs a refit and update. The bathroom was dreadfully old fashioned - more 1980's and 90's than year 2002 even when it was built. The shower was ridiculous - two temperatures on a thermostatically controlled unit - red hot or cold - and swapped between the two on its own at any moment. We asked for it to be fixed but noticed no improvement. This is a clear H&S issue - which P&O did not fix nor were interested in.
The TV system - albeit a small LCD , had a woeful selection of channels, you could not check your account, plan trips out, etc. as you can on modern ships - so why even bother with a flatscreen??
The Steward was good though, cabin always prepared and ready for us.
Front desk staff - very hit and miss and all Indian. We rang and asked to be put though to a restaurant re a booking and were abruptly asked why we needed to speak to the restaurant. I explained but the guy just didn't want to put me through and when I asked about making a Reservation he said it was all full - without even checking or asking what day and time.
Essentially the ship is tired and well past it's sell by date when compared to the competition currently available - price for price it just doesn't compete. The predominantly Indian crew is not a plus point unless they are rigorously trained in how to serve/attend properly. This is an Indian trait of old. We have lived in India so seen it first hand. The staff are friendly generally but it's the nuances of service that make it great which they don't have. Personally I put the blame for this fairly and squarely on P&O. It is their responsibility to ensure staff are adequately trained and monitor their progress. God knows what the American market will make of the service standards when Oceana goes there next week.
Would we sail P&O again ? Probably not to be honest, too much better competition vying for our £ and we know from experience is better on a number of counts.
Overall scores : Ship 5/10, food 7/10, service 4/10, Steward 9/10, entertainment 6/10