We'd flown to Singapore from Phuket, arriving in the late evening on the 4th February. We stayed at the Excelsior Peninsular, a pleasant 4 star-ish grade hotel in what is known as the Marina area of the city. Quite good value for money, at the internet price that we paid. 'Rack rates' in Singapore can be astronomical at the moment.
As we live in Thailand, we'd taken the cruise only option, so we had little joining info to go on. The only information on the cruise ticket said: Arcadia will be docked in Singapore. Imagine your ticket saying: your ship will be berthed in Southampton We rang the port agents who told us to go to the Harbour Front Terminal at 1.30 and we would be taken to the ship in the container port. Having tracked down the tiny office at the back of the terminal, not inside it, we handed over our luggage and were shown outside again to wait in e midday heat, the arrival of the shuttle bus. The shuttle bus took over half and hour to arrive and when it did, people who were clearly P&O crew, (passes round their necks) barged their way onto the bus, in front of others who were waiting to get on. Once at the dock side the same group pushed their way ahead before anyone else was out their seat. Check-in desks were set up on the quayside under tented awnings. The heat was intense and then despite having given them the ticket, they said they DIDN'T HAVE A BOOKING FOR US. A supervisor finally came over, and after many other failed attempts, finally swiped my passport through another laptop that accepted our booking. Cruise cards were quickly issued, but no apologies for the delay, inconvenience, OR the embarrassment they had caused! Having finally passed that hurdle, we were then subjected to a further 15 minutes of unshaded heat, whilst awaiting the non-appearance of a phantom wheelchair passenger to disembark the ship, through the single gangway that was in use, for the entire ship. Again the ship crew came and went as they pleased, but we passengers still had to queue, until one chap finally had enough and insisted we be allowed to get on ship. Once onboard, further chaos reigned, as we went through the security,'sync'-ing our mug shots on the cruise card. Hand baggage was xray scanned and left to drop off the conveyor at the other end, in a heap on the floor, as people were sent back to place more items on the baggage scanner. Hindsight is a wondrous thing, yet I really wish I'd had my video camera going at the time, as that chaotic scene would be showing on You Tube by now, otherwise. Where was the cool, calm, smiling face of P&O in welcome? Simply put, it wasn't there at all. Absolutely NOBODY at all, to offer a hand, a kindly word, help pick up the pile of hand baggage on the floor and give directions towards the cabins perhaps. Seemingly nobody was in overall charge either, who possibly might have attempted to manage or take control of that utterly demeaning situation. A total disgrace from beginning to end. The cases took a further 4 1/2 hours to arrive. We had seen some case left out on the quayside standing in a pool of water in the pouring rain. We were told they were not our cases. (So that was okay then,yes??) Unbelievable. The cabin stewardess didnt show up until after 7.00pm that night, who when challenged about it replied, didn't we want her to have a break?? Well, that reply received a suitable reposte, and also safely kept another £10 note in my possession
Safety muster was yet another farce, set for 8.00pm, at first it was to be just us joiners, then once we were all near enough assembled in the Palladium, they decided it had to be a full ship muster, even though many people were still off the ship sightseeing in Singapore!! All FIRST impressions that we desperately hoped would never be needed to be given a SECOND chance, in a real emergency. P&O, what were you doing on that dreadful day??
That first day set the tone for the entire cruise unfortunately, we found many to be unwilling and unhelpful, and there was plenty more back chat of a similar ilk to that of the cabin stewardess, from others when they thought they might get away with it.(They didn't!) Reception staff always gave the impression that they had something much more important to be doing that actually having to deal with passengers. Many bar staff just didnt seem interested whether they served any drinks or not. Similarly the guys at The Piano Bar, were quite reluctant to take the afternoon orders for wine at dinner, even though a menu is sent up there each day for that purpose. In the end I ordered our choice through the cabin phone Wine Line. Even at the end of the trip, when I wanted to leave 2 leftover bottles from our wine packages, to friends who were joining the ship as we (thankfully) got off, those same two guys just couldn't be bothered and told me to speak to the wine steward that night. (We were dining ashore in Sydney,that night). Where were the smiles, where was the friendliness, and more importantly where was the management team, who should have been keeping an eye on things? In fairness our table stewards and our wine steward were all very pleasant. No problems with them at all. Likewise we thought Marion and Graham from the tours team were fantastic. I didn't actually get to speak to Graham personally, but he had a wonderful way of sharing his experiences, more a friendly chat than a tours lecture. Marion was a wonderfully warm lady, always ready with a smile and a kind word.
Entertainment was quite the best we have ever experienced, and Gary Glading and the show team were excellent. Whilst I doubt that we shall ever set foot on another P&O ship again, we felt it was the entertainment that gave us some feeling that we were there to enjoy ourselves rather than there under sufferance. Representations were made to the management team, but we were unable to see the Exec purser himself, other than a cursory smile in department store in Melbourne.
The ship itself appears to be in good order, apart from our ill fitting cabin curtains and the lower deck rails also seemed to be in need of some varnish. I like the new aft deck and the side wings that provide some welcome added shade areas.
This was undoubtedly the worst cruise that we have ever experienced out of 10 cruises now. Not a lot by some standards, I agree, but enough to know the difference surely? In fact, it is the only cruise from our point of view, where the need to even consider whether such a category ever existed. P&O was not like this in 2005, so why is it now?? We won't be back!