I don't know if it's P&O's intention to target only British customers, but that certainly seems to be the case with the Arcadia. This ship gives almost no concessions to international travelers who would likely find the food choices/dress codes, etc. entirely attuned to British tastes. If this is the intention, the formula succeeds for I would say that most of our fellow cruisers were British, many of them regular P&O/Arcadia passengers - and they all love it!
But my husband and I are not British and we are experienced cruisers. P&O is the fifth cruise line we have sailed with and it was, by far, the least of an otherwise very good bunch. I won't say "worst" as that implies we were miserable, which we were not, but I would be very reluctant to sail with P&O again.
Good points: the ship had come from refit and seemed fresh and clean with new curtains, carpets (badly fuzzing) and general sprucing up (so we were told). The public areas are well done. We More
had a deluxe balcony cabin which was comfortable and as spacious as these things go, with new beds, good storage, flat screen TV + excellent cabin steward. So all fine there. While it was a nice touch to have the use of binoculars and a world atlas, I would have appreciated the use of robes much more. No robes.
Also on the plus side, we found the ship's shop prices to be very reasonable.
There were two very low points for us. The first was the food. The buffet serves cafeteria quality food in now very old-fashioned cafeteria style: line up and slide along. The food was very ordinary, struggling to make a 3* rating on a ship which promises more. There was no variation on the breakfast menu - same every day. While there was a decent selection of pastries, the toast was supermarket bread with never a bagel, English muffin, or crumpet on offer. It was slimey back bacon or nothing (I like mine streaky and crisp, but that's not very English). On the plus side, there was a good selection of fresh fruit. The "themed" evening menus were pale versions of what they purported to be and were mostly disappointing.
The dining room was OK - better than the buffet, but again, the food was very ordinary and sometimes disappointing to the extent that even our fellow British diners muttered softly to themselves. The staff were willing but seemed under-trained and lacking in experience, often struggling to understand English. It was often best to point to the menu choice.
All that said, our biggest complaint arises from the crew, those not already mentioned. We have heard that P&O has cut back on staff so maybe those working in the buffet, the deck attendants and others were just overworked, but we have never before - on any cruise - encountered such disgruntled and gormless staff. There were always at least 3 staff wandering around looking for drinks' orders, but there was no one to clear the tables. We mostly cleared our own. Someone would be aimlessly wiping a counter while there were no coffee cups to be found anywhere. I saw a tray of dirty dishes sitting on the Promenade deck one day. It was still there 24 hours later, having just been passed by a deck hand busy gazing out to sea. Apparently it takes 3 crew to wash windows: one to hold the bucket, one to sponge the glass and one to wipe it down. This gives them the opportunity to chat, never mind the resulting water swishing around underneath. I could go on, but you get the idea. The crew were under trained, over worked and ready to complain to anyone who asked.
Tipping is a big issue for the Brits. They do not have a tipping culture and appear to resent the automatic addition of gratuities, which are certainly not excessive. Several we spoke to seemed proud not to pay these. While I have major complaints with the service on this cruise, I would never cut the tips, esp as these go mainly to the cabin steward (excellent) and dining room staff. To my mind, it's part of the cost of cruising. If you don't like it, don't go; but don't penalize those who work long hours for very little. I wonder if it's a chicken/egg situation - that the British ships get poor staff because everyone wants to work for ships with an international clientele (esp Americans!) who are more generous tippers. You get what you pay for?! Less
Arcadia Cruises to Transatlantic