Impressions of the P&O Ship Arcadia
After our First Class rail journey from Durham to Southampton, we were delighted that our check-in was swift and we were soon directed to an inside Cabin C 184, which was spacious and very well appointed. My only criticism of the check-in and the security procedure was that the staff concerned showed little interest in the many mature and aged people. A pleasant word would have been comforting to some anxious customers. The cabin C 184 had plenty of storage facilities. However the lighting in front of the wardrobes was poor. Our cabin steward introduced himself and soon agreed to exchange the duvets on the beds for sheets and blankets. We attended the routine boat drill before dinner. Having attended many Captain's cocktail parties in the past, we decided to miss our invitation and relax before dinner on the second evening.
Dining. Throughout the cruise, we ate in the Meridian Restaurant. We shared a table for eight. The standard of our meals was extremely high. The waiters were efficient and patient. We had no complaints. On one evening, my wife quietly stated to her table companion that she wished that she had chosen a different course. Our waiter overheard and pleasantly and quickly changed her meal. There was much choice at all meals, from the exotic to the simple. I heard no complaints. Sanitisation of hands was available. We used the gel on every occasion, but many diners did not. We think that there should be more insistence by P&O for this safeguard.
Entertainment. We made our way to the Palladium Theatre after dinner on the first night of our cruise. There were no seats available, so we stood at the back. The singing was raucous. Even the song "I'm leaning on a lamppost at the corner of the street", a romantic song, seemed to be sung at the maximum volume. We tried other shows later, but the amplification offended us and we did not stay for very long. The classical pianist Naomi Edemariam gave us much pleasure. Her playing was of a high standard. Our grumble concerning her concerts was that they were badly timed. A 5.15pm start for First Sitting cruisers, left very little time for us to prepare for the evening meal. The cinema on the ship was abysmal, with few seats and a poor screen. We thought that the choice of films was depressing. The art lectures were very informative and I must say that the one on "Turner" was one of the best I have heard. We also attended two lectures on health by the Deputy Manager of the Spa. He was both amusing and very interesting. He has left us with much to think about after the cruise. It was somewhat annoying that the lectures were given in open areas, with passing cruisers, whose chatter could be disruptive. It would have been more satisfactory if the lectures had been given in the many closed areas of the ship.
Fellow Guests. Throughout the cruise we found much friendliness among those whom we came into contact. Politeness and good conversation made for a pleasant atmosphere. We thought that the disabled passengers were heroic and, despite their difficulties, very good humoured.
Ports of Call. June 4th. Our first call was to Malaga, where we were very keen to visit the Cathedral. We were not disappointed and at a cost of 4 Euros each we spent a fruitful time in The Cathedral and in the Museum. We were also able to join in a Mass service in an adjoining church. A satisfying morning excursion.
June 7th. We wended our way on to Dubrovnik, via the Straits of Messina, with good views of the Italian and Sicilian coasts. One could see the snow covered Mount Etna in the distance. The Captain announced that on arrival in Dubrovnik, he had permission to enter the port for only one and a half hours, after which he would manoeuvre the ship to anchor in the bay for the rest of the day. This meant that we could go ashore by the gangway, but we had to return in a tender. This did present a problem for some elderly passengers. Dubrovnik was magnificent, with its glittering walls and pavements. One felt that one was experiencing a perfectly preserved medieval city. There was little evidence of the bombing of the city by the Serbs. We returned to the ship with a pleasant memory. We were able to attend a Mass at the Monastery of St. Francis.
June 8th. The entry into Venice was spectacular, as the ship slowly sailed past the many interesting sights. At a cost of £8 each, my wife and I joined others on a large motor launch and were deposited at a landing stage very close to St. Mark's Square. We achieved our objectives, visiting St. Mark's and seeing the Titian painting in the Frari, but at great effort. The crowds in the streets were enormous and we were pleased to take the launch back to the ship. With all its wonderful sights, I do not think that this visit was too sensible. The majority on the Arcadia were mature people and those we talked to said they found the visit exhausting.
June 9th. The visit to Split was a revelation. Leaving the tender, we were faced with a very modern front to the harbour. Thoughtful construction had resulted in the idea of antiquity in a modern setting. Glittering pavements combined with simple garden areas to give a most pleasant result. However it was the remains of Diocletian's Palace which gave us the greatest thrill of our holiday. There was much exciting evidence of life in Roman times. The Catholic Cathedral had been built on the site of the palace and the building seemed to merge into what was left of the original buildings. A museum adjoining the Cathedral had many fine exhibits, which demonstrated the history of the area. Our short visit made us contemplate a holiday in this city in the future.
June 10th. Our visit to Corfu was very disappointing. On leaving the ship, we were faced with a continuous excess of traffic, pollution, crowds, litter and overwhelming heat. We visited a Catholic church near to the harbour and made a pilgrimage to the famous cricket ground. We returned early to the ship. We would not return.
June 11th. Our voyage from Corfu to Zakinthos was short and completed overnight. A cloudless warm evening, combined with a very calm sea, plus the slow movement of the ship through the water, created a magical atmosphere on deck. We strolled on a deserted Promenade Deck after dinner. Our fellow cruisers were busy at shows or at activities within the ship. We would not have exchanged our romantic moments with anyone. Anchoring at Zakinthos, we were taken ashore by tender, where our first local attraction was the sight of a dead dog in the harbour. Moving into the town, we were face with heavy traffic, much litter, dirty streets. Visits to a Catholic church and two Orthodox churches were interesting. We were particularly impressed by a number of men who were making visits to the Orthodox churches. They sang as they moved around and kissed a number of icons in various parts of the churches.
Gibraltar our last port of call, was largely unchanged from our previous visits. Alistair, in Reception, directed us to the Cathedral in Main Street, where we attended the Cathedral for the 9.0am Mass.
As regular cruisers, we were invited to an evening party aboard ship in the Viceroy Room, given by Chief Engineer Jewkes. Making our way to Deck 10, I asked a passing white-suited member of the ship's crew for directions to the party. He answered, "I'll show you". He then led us up stairs and along corridors to the party venue. As he turned to leave us, I said, "What do you do on the ship?" He answered, "I'm the Captain". He was not joking. We both laughed.
As the cruise developed, my wife Mary complained of a unpleasant smell in the toilet area in our cabin. We complained to the cabin steward, who reported the matter to the Deck Supervisor. He visited the cabin and ordered the steward to use more chemicals. This made no difference and we pursued the matter, both with the Deck Supervisor and with the staff at Reception. A plumber attended and after an attempt at repair declared that the problem could not be put right quickly. I pressed for another cabin and eventually we were transferred to cabin B85, which was a mini-suite. We were pleased at the upgrade, but were disappointed that it took so long (four days) to remedy the unpleasant situation. My pressure brought an interview with Helen Skoins (Head of Passenger Oganisation), who pleasantly arranged for her deputy, Karen Wright, to transfer us to the better cabin.
Strangely, our experience with the defective toilet did not spoil our holiday. On the whole our accommodation was good. The cooking on board was of a very high standard. I have often praised the food on the Queen Mary 2, but the meals on Arcadia were better. Service by staff was excellent. We enjoyed our cruise and would not hesitate to sail on Arcadia in the future.