This was our third cruise, comparing with the Carnival Sunshine and the Thomson Dream.
We booked to stay in a family room at the Holiday Inn in Southampton where we left our car whilst cruising, I highly recommend this hotel. We ate in a pub called the Titanic (huge mistake) and I recommend either eating in the hotel or the nearby shopping centre, West Quay.
Embarkation was excellent, very well organised and we were soon on the ship, a bbq was laid on which was very good. We did have a long wait for our bags so I would suggest packing swimwear in carry-on bags in case the weather is good.
Overall the ship was clean and well maintained. We had no difficulties getting sunbeds. The adult pools and whirlpools were great, we didn't use the main pools as they were full of kids.
We found the days at sea extremely boring as there seemed to be nothing to do for our age group. Our 19 year old daughter also found this. On board activities seemed to be aimed at the over 60's. My daughter and I went to one spa seminar however we felt we were intruding as we were completely ignored by staff.
We spent most of our sea days playing cards.
Staff were polite but not particularly friendly throughout the ship. They didn't make you feel welcome or that they were enjoying their jobs.
We did one trip in Gibraltar, Secrets of the Rock, it was excellent. . All other ports we did our own thing and had a good time.
We booked two interior cabins which we found very small. We requested that one room was made up as a double, this was a mistake as the two single beds that they pushed together were of differing heights, this produced quite an uncomfortable double, and my husband and I didn't dare get to close as one of us would end up slipping between the gap in the mattresses.
I also found our room extremely cold, I requested a blanket and that the air conditioning be checked as we had turned it up as high as possible and the room still felt cold, I did receive a blanket but as far as I am aware the air con was never fixed.
Pool towels were provided.
We were woken up several times by noisy neighbours singing at 1am and kids club staff shouting down corridors to each other (they had rooms near us) roughly at midnight.
Every morning at 9am the captain did a ship wide announcement......thanks :-/
We had a fridge in room and kettle (with tea, coffee and biscuits) and the safe was free.
The main restaurant was good and the waiting staff were the best we met on the ship, Thank you Anthony and Stephen. We enjoyed most of what we ate, however it was not excellent.
The burgers and hot-dogs around the pool were good.
The buffet restaurant was at best poor to average, food was often cold. At breakfast seating was a real issue and we often had to eat outside. The food here simply was not good enough and sadly let the whole cruise down.
The Marco Pierre White restaurant (breakfast, lunch and late evening) was appallingly bad. The sandwiches were stale and when I requested what the soup of the day was I was told "it's the left overs from the main restaurant"!
We decided this restaurant was not worth paying for so did not bother having a paying meal there.
Also it is situated in the atrium so people are constantly trying to walk though this area, this is a really bad place to put a "pay extra" restaurant.
There were three formal nights on this cruise, we found it pretentious, lots of people dressed up for no real reason. (All dressed up with no place to go). After dinner we changed out of our finery into more comfortable attire and felt other cruisers looked down on us. There is a real snobbery on P&O which we didn't encounter on Carnival or Thomson. P&O haven't got family cruising right.
One evening we were looking for a quiet place to sit and have a drink but found all the bars either full or loud, so we sat on a sofa in a corridor, we were told we weren't allowed to sit there as my husband wasn't wearing a collar, this was not on a formal night.
Our 16 year old joined the kids club, he enjoyed it so much we never saw him, however he said there were only two video games. Staff were friendly and got the kids joining in with activities and making friends. Some nights they played dodge ball. Overall he said it was good but they do need to increase the number of games available.
The entertainment was of Butlins standard.
The comedian/magician was good, certainly worth watching.
Two female violinists, although talented they were not really main stage entertainment, they probably would have been better in the atrium.
The Headliners theatre company were average, dancers dropped items and tripped over props, singers seemed to lisp. There appeared to only be a few members of the company who were really talented. The fake tap dancing was really noticeable as they wore their tap-shoes for several other songs/dances.
There was a Robbie Williams tribute singer, and although he was very good he performed swing songs, the very next night a different singer also performing swing songs. Not good enough variety.
The main act was Clem Curtis of the Foundations who was excellent however again the music was dated.
One night the main show was a film!
Overall the entertainment was old fashioned and aimed at the 60+ age group. Our 19 year old was bored.
Disembarkation was appalling. Particularly when you consider how good embarkation was. We were asked to gather in one area with hundreds of other people for two hours and all let off in one go. Many people could not find anywhere to sit. The staircases became dangerous, and over-crowded as people queued while the staff checked key cards at the exit.
Overall the cruise ranked as good but not good enough. It was better than Thomson but way short of Carnival. Which seemed strange as Carnival own P&O.
This has put us off cruising with P&O again, and we spoke to several people new to cruising who said they would not bother again based on their experience on this cruise.