Guernsey,France & Spain 6th Aug 2011 7 Nights
My Mother and I are experienced cruisers and have sailed with Princess, P&O, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Fred Olsen & Cunard.
Pre-cruise information by email was good and P&O send a beautifully presented bound folder with all the information about your cruise, excursion information and ready printed luggage labels.
We arrived at the Ocean Terminal in good time and after leaving our car with Cruise & Passenger Services we had a short wait before checkin. Then it was through security and onto the ship. All our cases arrived within a very short time of arriving in the cabin.
Our Balcony Staterooms on Britannia Deck were compact but clean and well presented. There were decent wardrobes and good shelf space but good size drawer space was lacking. The ensuite had a shower only but there was always plenty of hot water. The TV was very out of date and the picture quality was poor. The balcony doors were extremely heavy, and in the case of my elderly Mother's cabin very stiff due to lack of maintenance. Maintenance were called later on but some adjustments made very little difference.
After a freshen up it was off to the Plaza (Lido Cafe) for a drink and something to eat. The food here was generally very good indeed, with a wide range of hot & cold food available, in the evening sometimes with a particular theme. It has to be said however that the level of waiter service and organisation in the Plaza was nothing like as good as on the Crown Princess we cruised on the previous week. Help usually had to be requested and there were much fewer staff available for this. Also Butter, Jam and UHT milk were all in small pots in large bowls, which we felt did not assist hygiene matters (see our separate report of the Crown Princess). We never had to queue when using the Plaza. It is also worth mentioning that hand gel was actively insisted upon whenever anybody entered the cafe and was freely available in all areas throughout the ship.
Our evening meals were taken in the Adriatic Restaurant where we were on a table for eight. Our Table waiter and his assistant were very efficient catering for our every need. The quality of the fish and meat at times however left a great deal to be desired, and pastry items were often very solid.
Afternoon Teas were also served in the restaurant and these were most enjoyable, with a wide variety of sandwiches, cakes and scones to choose from.
The layout of the ship is good, very easy to get around with the Promenade Deck containing most of the public lounges, bars and theatres. The Piazza (Atrium) which covers three decks is the central hub with an attractive Coffee Bar and some shops on the other levels. One major hassle however is the elevators. These are slow and the direction indicators are poor with virtually no audible warning of arrival. On occasions the call button lights would go out but no elevator would appear. All this resulted in much frustration and delay and at times people just gave up and used the stairs.
Attended only one of the shows by the resident company, but volumes were far too loud and so left after a short while. Joined in some of the deck games and evening quizzes which were well run by pleasant entertainment staff.
PORTS OF CALL
ST PETER PORT, GUERNSEY
The only tender port on the cruise. The short crossing to the landing stage was a bit bumpy particularly on return. A local coach driver was our guide for this short afternoon tour, which took us on a circular route around the island. Generally we were not over impressed, it is pretty enough but some how lacked the wow factor. We also missed going through the town, which was closed off due to a charity event.
Did not leave the ship here as we had no tour booked, so can't comment on this port.
It was a pleasure to return to this attractive but very busy port. Our afternoon tour took us first to the little town of Saintes, where we visited the Cathedral of Saint Pierre. The second destination was the La Roche Courbon (Courbon Castle). Transformed into a residence in the 17th Century it was restored in 1920 and a tour of the interior revealed a series of interesting rooms many with painted wood panelling and beams. The gardens, best viewed from the terrace, are beautifully kept with a large ornamental lake dominating the scene. Our excellent and knowledgeable guide provided a continual commentary on the many historical facts of the region while we viewed the unspoilt French countryside on our return journey.
No tour booked here, but took the free shuttle bus into the centre to visit the Guggenheim Museum. You may have to queue to get in, I waited about twenty minutes and a further ten minutes to get my ticket and free audio guide. I found the building difficult to navigate, with galleries scattered all over the different floors and the signage is very poor. The audio guide was OK if you wanted to spend time listening about the building, but not much use for the galleries. On my visit there was a mixture of Abstract art displays and other more 'off the wall' sort of exhibits. However I enjoyed the visit and seeing the building.
Booked a short afternoon tour here and took in some of the city highlights with a stop at the Tower of Hercules, Europe's oldest working lighthouse. We enjoyed some drinks and snacks at a local hotel before returning to the ship. An excellent well informed guide looked after us all.
Disembarkation was smooth and trouble free and all the cases were grouped in Deck Order which made it much easier to locate them.
Overall an enjoyable cruise on a well run ship, with good service, accommodation and food.