We arrived early morning at the cruise terminal (Southampton) and found that the check in process was straight forward, with the check in staff being efficient despite some technical hitches with the computers for passport and cruise card details the staff were very apologetic but helpful.
The ship was splendid. We have previously cruised with P&O on several of their ships (myself ten times and my wife over twenty cruises) so we are in my opinion reasonable experienced cruiser clients. We found the dining in the main restaurant excellent and on using the signature restaurants, Blu and Tuscan, these only heightened the experience. What impressed me with the Tuscan in particular was the staff. Their attitude and service were first class and not only di they have excellent knowledge of the menu's and wine list but their enthusiasm for what they were serving was apparent.
We felt that the general ameneties on the ship were very good and offered a broad range for all More
and if experiencing bad weather I feel that there would more than enough to entertain the passengers. One problem that can occur on ships is the dreaded SUNBED hunt and although the areas around the pool were generally full on sea days or good weather days, generally if you were prepared to look at other deck areas near or above the main outside pool you generally find a sun lounger.
A general observation but not a complaint is that for the size of the ship and the passenger numbers (2850) the pools could have been larger when designed. The variety of bars on the ship give you the opportunity to enjoys different atmospheres depending on your mood or time of day you want to use them. The Martini bar for example in my opinion was a good place to go after thge show(s) whereas the Sunset bar was good for sail aways. The staff were excellent be it the cabin steward and his assistant, the waiters, shop staff etc. The shops offer a range of merchandise that caters for all needs at sea and the photography section was again good and well staffed.
The ship decor and fabrication seem to be of a high standard adn my wife and myself are looking forward to returning to the ship in September for a cruise to the Venice, Dubrovnik et al to celebrate our tenth anniversary and although one should not wish one's life away we can not wait to get back on board the ship. A final footnote, people tend to compare ships and state they would/would not go back to various ships or indeed other cruise lines. Although my wife and myself do have ships that we have been on before that we have enjoyed, we tend to look for the 'plus' side on each ship and take the good points. We would not rule out going on any of the previous ships we have been on as each holds different memories for us.
We had an inside cabin and we were pleased with how spacious the cabin was. The cabin has the same square footage as some balconies so therefore the inside cabin has more room.
The room facilities were very good and you did not have the 'on top of each other' feel that some other ships cabins have.
Generally we do our own thing when going ashore as if the prot we are going to is a place that we have not previously cruise to or visited we carry out an online investigation of the area prior to joining the ship. We have been to Madeira before and the port is one of our favourites. We like to explore the town and there is a small square that most people from ships find with a selection of restaurants/bars to sit and watch the world go by. We have on previous cruises visited Reeds for afternoon tea and we book this ourselves. On a previous cruise on the Ventura during her inaugoral season we did this and the tour was offered to the passengers. We were able to enjoy tea overlooking the bay and after tea wander around the grounds, however people we spoke to that evening who had booked the excursion were made to take tea on an inside room with no air conditiong and apparently not allowed to look around the grounds.
Again we di our our thing looking around the port and going to the beach. I have previously done the dolphin and whale watch excursion and I felt that this was good value for money and yes we did see some whales.