As regular cruisers we chose our first P & O cruise for its exciting itinerary. Hong Kong to Dubai on a leg of the Arcadia World Cruise.
The itinerary did not disappoint and there were some good features on the Arcadia, tea and coffee facilities in the good sized balcony cabin, which you do not get on many American Boats, good headline acts in the theatre, and our evening waiters were efficient.
The problem was the standard of food which they were given to serve. The menu was filled with fancy descriptions but what was produced was reminiscent of school dinners. Universally sloppy the only thing with texture was the steaks which were as tough as old boots. A piece of salmon, one scallop and one prawn does not make for a gala night seafood grill, vegetables were either overcooked or stuck together.
Breakfast in the buffet offeredplenty of 'English' fare but bacon and black puddings were swimming in grease and the one and only omelette station kept breaking down. We tried the main dining room for breakfast and found slow service and food not cooked to order, i.e. I asked for dry scrambled eggs and after a full 40 minutes got slop!
To top it all the lack of finesse was astounding. We drink decaffeinated coffee and the best on offer in the main dining room was a sachet opened and poured into a cup in front of us then topped us with hot water. We tried, in some desperation, to get a decent coffee by paying for it in the coffee shop only to spot the staff putting the same sachets in to the cup, topping it up with frothy milk and charging us for a cappuccino. On complaining we were told 'everyone knows that P & O don't carry decaf coffee'
There was a prevalent attitude of P & O can do no wrong or, if there was an obvious problem, 'It isn't my job'. This was particularly prevalent on the embarkation of tours, which were totally disorganised.
Being a leg of the World Cruise we found that many of the passengers were very elderly and the atmosphere on board was almost depressing, with little activity in any of the evening venues other than the theatre. Musicians were playing but with next to no audience they looked board to tears, we fancied going to the disco on Abba night but were too embarrassed to dance as we were the only ones there. We felt quite sorry for these entertainers and were not surprised to meet passengers who said that they were ready for going home. We also met P & O die hards who said that Arcadia was the worst ship in the fleet.
It was not all bad, but when the food is poor then the overall enjoyment of the holiday is compromised.