Western Mediterranean Cruise, E116. June 18th - July 02nd 2011. Our first impression upon boarding this ship was one of shabbiness. The carpets are all fraying, with holes and dirt all over them. The wall panels along the corridors are full of dirty marks and dents. One evening as we walked along the corridor, we saw water pouring from an overhead light. When we reported this to reception, we were told they were aware of this matter and not to worry. Water and electric combined, but not to worry?
A couple of hours later, we noticed that the water was still pouring from the light, but the crew had placed a bucket on the floor underneath, so that the carpet didn't get wet !!!
All the woodwork around the decks is in dire need of a coat of varnish.
The sun-loungers are desperate for a good jet-wash, if not in need of replacement.
As we boarded the ship in Southampton, we were informed that our cabins had yet to be released and we should make our way up to the "Plaza" restaurant and help ourselves to a drink and a meal.
After a few days of being on this cruise, some people started to refer to "The Plaza" as "The Canteen", "The Cattle Market", or even "The Piggeries"..... If those titles don't give you an idea of the state of the place, then I don't know what will !!!
To be perfectly honest, I have eaten far better food in a works canteen !!!
When we eventually got to our inside cabin, we entered a box that was anything but "Tardis" like.
It was all of 10ft X 11ft, contained a double bed, a double wardrobe, a dressing table - with mirror, a bedside cabinet and another tall cupboard containing a fridge and T.V.
The shower-room was off this area and measured approximately 5ft X 3ft.
Now this may all seem quite functional, but when one of you is stood up getting dressed, the other has to lie on the bed, as there is no floor space left for anyone else !!!
There are far too many passengers allowed onto this ship for comfort, leaving very little open space for anyone, at anytime, even in the so-called better restaurants.
When we booked this cruise, we stated that we didn't want anything too formal.
We like to get dressed up, but in a more casual way - shirt and trousers, as opposed to suit and tie.
Our Travel Agent assured us that the formal theme was only an option and so long as we where smartly dressed, then everything would be fine.
We did take our formal wear, as once in a while isn't too bad, but when we are on holiday, we wish to be relaxed; we don't particularly wish to be formal.
The ship set sail on the Saturday.
On the Sunday, we received two newsletters, both contradictory, stating that evening's dress code.
Needless to say, everyone on ship was confused and later that afternoon, it was announced over the tannoy system that it would be a formal evening.
Better late than never, I suppose !!!
The following day, the same thing happened again.
We did not wish to have two formal evenings together, so we dressed smart-casual.
As promised by our Travel Agent, this wasn't a problem, not in the restaurant or theatre later.
However, after we had been to the theatre, we decided to go to one of the bars (Magnums) for a last drink.
Imagine our horror and embarrassment when the bar attendant told us quite loudly, in front of other people:
"I'm sorry Sir, this is a formal evening and you are not suitably dressed. Could you please leave the bar".
This particular evening just so happened to be our tenth anniversary, so made the situation even worse !!!
Nobody books a P&O Cruise to be humiliated.
We complained about this matter four times, twice verbally and twice in written form, but not once, did we receive any form of acknowledgment or apology.
We now realise that P&O stands for Pretentious & Obnoxious !!!
The trips ashore are on the expensive side and not very well organised.
We did the Florence and Pisa excursions.
In Florence, our guide was Italian.
When we arrived, she gave us all a transmitter with ear pieces to place around our necks, for the guided tour.
Not one of the transmitters worked, all that we could hear was crackling, everyone complained, but the guide took no notice.
Consequently, we walked all around Florence, not knowing where in the City that we where, or what we were looking at.
We then went onto Pisa, which was to be for one hour only, as time was tight.
However, we hadn't been told that within this one hour, we had to do a ten minute walk from the coach and a ten minute walk back.
As we arrived at approximately 3.0pm, we were informed that in order to climb the leaning tower, we would need to purchase tickets and book in for the next available tour.
The next available tour was at 5.50pm.
A three hour queue to climb the leaning tower is the norm, so why only take us there for one hour?
This trip cost £74 per person, £148 in total, for a shambolic day out and again, no apologies !!!
The so-called "entertainment" was something else, apart from one turn (Steve Larkins as Mercury Rising - a Freddy Mercury tribute) they were dreadful.
Steve Larkins as Mercury Rising was on for four nights on the run though, a bit much, even if he was good.
The rest of the turns were so bad, they wouldn't have stood a chance of getting through to boot camp on the X Factor.
They would have been paid off and told to leave the stage in any working mens club.
One particular night, there was a so-called Magician appearing, I've never actually seen anyone die on stage before, but not even his "magic" could make him survive that night, people were actually walking out mid-performance !!!
The award for the worst act throughout the whole holiday though, has got o go to "The Headliners Theatre Company".
This group couldn't have carried a tune in a bucket.
I've seen better turns in an eye.
From the screeching that was supposed to pass for singing, to the crashing about that was supposed to pass for dancing, to the annoying girl screaming "WOO" and kicking her leg up every ten seconds, it was all too much !!!
One night, the comedian was so bad, even the "entertainment" staff kicked him off stage and cancelled his show for the following evening.
To "compensate" for this "loss", a film was shown in the cinema - The Kings Speech - a film that had been repeated over and over on the ships TV, all that day !!!
The whole experience was on a par with Butlins or Hi-De-Hi being at sea.
The only difference being, Hi-De-Hi was extremely entertaining !!!
All in all, a very bad experience aboard a so-called flagship company, one that we shall never be repeating !!!