Cruised with P & O on previous occasions and have always been very satisfied, but not so on this disastrous mini-cruise. We only had two ports of call on the itinary but Zeebrugge was pulled from the programme before we got on board, leaving us with basically a ferry trip to Le Havre.
Worse still - no apology or even a mention from the captain or officers of this change. From our first lunch it was clear that the quality of food and service had plumetted. This continued throughout the 'cruise' with overcooked or warm dishes, food that had not been fully thawed and even tinned peaches for dessert served by disinterested and unfriendly waiters. Together with other passengers it seemed clear to us that we had been abandoned as a '3 day' crowd who were not worth the effort.
Many thought the captain had in fact remained in Southampton until the second time when he deemed to 'broadcast' prior to our leaving Le Havre. P&O continued to astound with their total lack of organisation relating to Russell Watson concerts, where ticketing arrangements had not been organised and general chaos ensued, crowds of very angry people battling to get into the theatre. Following pressure from passengers P&O finally relented and produced some sort of system for the last night.
Overall a pathetic performance from P&O further exacerbated by the fact that four weeks after writing to the Managing Director not even an acknowledgement has been received. Disgusting!!!!!!!!!
1. On embarkation (3 December) we were handed a letter from Nick Burrows, Head of Customer Services , which informed passengers that 'severe winds are forecast for our call to Zeebrugge' and that this was being 'pulled' from the programme. Some passengers were not even handed this letter, and we later found out that Zeebrugge was not on the schedule already printed in Horizon and given to passengers who had taken a back-to-back cruise from the Canaries, but that Le Havre was.
2. From our first lunch (12.30 hours) it was clearly obvious that your cuisine as displayed in The Belvedere was lacking in quality and presentation. The hot salmon dish was very overcooked, dry and served warm; the noodles with prawns were not hot enough and neither was the curry dish. Waiters were not welcoming, were unfriendly and few in number; tables were not being cleared quickly enough. Anyone who had not cruised before must have been very unimpressed.
3. The Captain, Ian Walters, addressed passengers via. tannoy to explain the emergency drill but failed to apologise or even mention the fact that Zeebrugge had been pulled from the schedule. If as Nick Burrows suggests Zeebrugge was shelved due to bad weather then obviously we all accept and welcome such a change, but surely any reputable Captain should have the manners and courtesy to apologise. In fact none of Captain Walters' officers apologised or mentioned Zeebrugge in any form. Obviously most passengers were very disappointed to miss out on their visit to Bruges.
4. Our first dinner in Meridian (table no. 48 for eight guests ) was extremely disappointing. The dishes we had which were supposed to be hot were barely warm, the quality of the food and the presentation were far below the cuisine we have enjoyed on past cruises. Our waiters were totally disinterested and did not introduce themselves -- the service we endured was unfriendly, surly and slow. On past cruises the section waiter, wine waiter and our table waiters have introduced themselves and were only too happy to be of service. The wine waiter even pulled a face when those at the far end of the table could not hear what he was saying. He then made no attempt to come over to repeat himself but just stood in the same spot cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted. On a number of occasions waiters and other staff pushed in front of passengers showing no courtesy whatsoever. It seems that P & O should be training their staff in manners and how to treat their guests.
5. Breakfast in The Belevedere on Sunday morning was a complete fiasco and more like a cattle market than a renowned cruise ship dining venue. People were struggling to find a table and the queues at each serving station were very long. Waiting time to reach the serving area was approx. 10-15 minutes and again the food was barely warm. As previously the waiters could not cope with clearing the tables quickly enough. Whilst waiting in the queue we were told by a couple who had never cruised before that although they had reserved a table for two for dinner they were forced to dine alone on their first night -- one dining in the upper level of Meridian and the other in the lower level!!! Unbelievable.
6. Sunday dinner was much the same as the previous evening. With the exception of Chicken Caesar Terrine which was quite frozen and had to be sent back, plus Poached FRESH Peaches in Champagne and Vanilla, which actually turned out to be TINNED SLICED PEACHES IN A BOWL WITH A SIDE PORTION OF HALF MELTED ICE CREAM. The waiter actually admitted the fresh peaches had "run out" and therefore the peaches being served were tinned!!!!
So much for P & O's Food Philosophy statement on the cover page of each dinner menu:-"..............silver-service waiters who become friends, .......................we offer a wealth of unique dining experiences created for the British palate using, wherever possible, the finest local and sustainable ingredients such as ................., we are dedicated to the continuing development of our ingredients, menus, venues and service, ..............all our dishes are thoughtfully and freshly prepared to ensure the most exceptional dining experience with every meal."
Needless to say you can see from the above comments and complaints that a lot of the claims in your Philosophy Statement do not bear any resemblance to the food you actually serve or the service your staff are giving.
7. Arcadia's staff and officers really excelled themselves over the disorganisation of the Russell Watson concert. Despite having known for months about the 3-day mini cruise it was obviously impossible for P & O to consider well in advance how to efficiently organise the seating arrangements for both 8.45pm and 10.45pm concerts. Following hundreds and hundreds of passenger complaints regarding the viewing arrangements, Arcadia's staff eventually came to their senses and realised that some organisation was required. They came up with the idea that passengers would present their table card at the theatre entrance which would be marked. However after rushing our dinner and missing coffee, we were amongst a couple of hundred passengers who missed out on Sunday's performance. Needless to say the mood was disappointment, frustration and anger. Staff were confronted by irate passengers wanting complete reassurance that they would be guaranteed good front row seats for a further performance on Monday night. Because of complaints we had already submitted on board, we had a meeting with an Assistant Food and Beverage Manager, Craig, who was polite and courteous. He assured us that we would be served quickly at dinner that evening so that we could get to the performance in plenty of time. Luckily we had excellent seats and thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
8. Captain Walters finally deemed to address passengers for the second time since embarkation at approximately 8.15 p.m. on the Monday evening to inform us that we would be leaving Le Havre at 9.00 p.m. Once again no mention of Zeebrugge and inconsiderately no mention of the Russell Watson seating fiasco or 'thank you for sailing with P & O' or 'hope you have enjoyed your cruise'. We have not been at all impressed by his captaincy as regards passenger relations. Most passengers were of the opinion that he had either stayed in Southampton or had enjoyed a two day four hour vacation at our expense. We have not spoken to any passenger who actually saw Captain Walters wandering around his ship. No other officer has deputised on his behalf to make announcements on the PR side.
All in all we are extremely disappointed and disillusioned with the whole P & O experience on board Arcadia. The mood among fellow passengers appeared to be the same as ourselves and many considered the fact that it was because it was a 3-day mini cruise which didn't require standards to be as good as longer cruises. Is this the case? From our previous P & O cruises experiences, we consider that your standards have dropped dramatically. Although we complained about much of the above on board, we have felt compelled to write to you for your comments.
Sandra and Ian Hampton