Like everyone else, this cruise was a big event for our family. We had high expectations. Having recently done a couple of Carnival Cruises, I was very excited to try out P&O. After all it's part of the Carnival Cruise Mother Company and with a Shiny refurbished ship - it is bound to be perfect. Or NOT as the case turned out. Sadly, I don't think I met one guest of board who felt like ever returning to P&O. I know I NEVER will.
I hardly know where to begin. It would be easier to list what's right with it (shorter) than list what's wrong, but I will try.
First of all, don't be fooled by the idea that it is completely refurbished. It isn't. Unlike other ships I have been on, there is no "wow" factor as you walk into the atrium. It's nice, but nothing special. We quickly found our room which by the way had been allocated on a completely different floor to the rest of the family despite our request to be close by each other. Whilst it looked acceptable, the furniture obviously wasn't new and had a decent amount of wear and tear. Never mind -it's ok - just not as sparkly as I had hoped. But then as I looked to see if my case would fit under the bed, I discovered an extensive amount of rubbish that had been missed by the housekeeper. There were bits of paper, foam, cocktail sticks and ground up biscuits. Urgh. Not a nice surprise. Then in the bathroom I discovered other peoples hairs still on the walls and left over soap and scum in the soap dish that hadn't been cleaned. Alarmed by the severe lack of cleanliness I asked a nearby housekeeper if someone could give our room another once over. She told me it wasn't one of her rooms but would pass on the message. I think it was about day 7 when I got on my hands and knees and picked up all the rubbish under the bed and broken biscuits. I too washed the foreign hairs down the drain as it appeared nobody on board intended to.
Now off to the pool - but alas there are 4 of us in our room and only 2 pool towels. So off I go to find our housekeeper. Sorry he says - I don't have any. It's change over day so they are all being washed. Bum. Never mind. The next day after our room is serviced, I find we STILL only have 2 towels. I am again told that they don't have any more as they are being washed. This went on EVERY single day. By Day 10, I was getting pretty peeved so I went to reception to offer some constructive criticism and suggest they get some more towels before the next trip. He told me it was a busy day that day. I told him it was day 10 and I had not yet had enough towels for all the people in my cabin. Some then arrived in my cabin a few minutes later - yippee! So we carefully hung them up after use so that they would dry, and be ready for our next swim, but low and behold, the next time I returned to my room they were gone and only 2 clean ones left behind. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
There is a general lack of care on the ship. I noticed at least 2 clocks not working : one in the Buffet restaurant and one in a bar. Nobody fixed them the whole time we were there. I mentioned to one of the bar staff that their clock had not been working the whole trip - they told me it hadn't ever worked.
The restaurant. Oh. What a disappointment. The buffet food was diabolical, so we mostly ate in the restaurant. Our waiter was lovely, but so run off his feet. The first night we were served all at different times and generally the food was luke warm - never hot. At least one of us would get the incorrect dish each night. If became the family joke - why order at all if we get something completely different. lol. Oh I forgot. On our first day, we had lunch at the restaurant. We were offered a wine list, but no one ever came back to take our order. Eventually we managed to catch someone's eye who then told us it was too late to order wine as the bar had closed. We were none too impressed and pointed out that we had been sat waiting to order wine for 20 minutes. We had arrived before the lunch session had finished and couldnt comprehend why we couldn't have wine. Reluctantly someone went and got us wine. There were other diners in the restaurant - it was all very bizarre. If you choose to eat in the Buffet restaurant - be ready to queue.
Oh - really important to know - especially if you have done other cruises - food is NOT available all day from the restaurants. You can pay for room service if you get hungry between meals, but otherwise you starve till the next meal period. Discovered this by accident. I had two small children (5 & 6) and we fancied a little afternoon tea. I went up to the buffet to find it closed. I was told I had just missed a proper afternoon tea in the restaurant and so would have to wait or purchase something at additional cost. The next day my mother took my children to the proper aftenoon tea in the restaurant. She tried to order a juice for the children to be told they were only serving tea and coffee. Long story short - this ship is not great for children. There was no ice cream machine like on the carnival ships - that was a tragedy for us. I think this applies to most ships, but unlike some parents, part of my enjoyment is spending time with my children. You can palm your kids off to the childcare centre, but you can't do any of the activities with them. My children would rather die than be seperated and frankly I WANT to spend time with my children. The daily entertainment schedule was strictly for adults only. So the only thing left to do as a family is the pool. I am normally ok with this, but we were plagued with cyclones so the pools were closed and we were stuck at sea for 4 days. There are games in the library if you have older children, but nothing for kids under 8. Fortunately I took my own games. Why don't the ships schedule some family fun for perhaps the few of us that like to do activities with the whole family.
Avoid P&O - they have FAR too many creases to sort out. It did not offer good value for money.
On the up side - the Salt Grill restaurant was outstanding. You have to pay extra for it but in the end, we felt we had no other choice. The food was so substandard in the main restaurant and buffet.
Someone told me that Carnival and Celebrity Cruises are 4 star and that P&O is 3 star. I would give P&O 2 star. Save it for the back packers.