This was our first cruise & booked at short notice as it came up as a good price comparable with a 4 star AI in the Canaries over the New Year(our usual destination at this time of year).I rang P&O several times to get info as i wasnt sure what the temperature would be,how much space there would be in the cabin & although they were very polite it transpired their info wasnt very useful.I was told there was lots of space in the cabin for storage(wrong) and they gave no advice on the temperatures at that time of year.Therefore i packed clothes for four of us (2 adults & 2 children)for warm & cold weather resulting in several large bags & nowhere for it all to go in the tiny cabin.
My husband is tall & struggled stooping to get under the top bunk to his bed.We found the conditions we endured trying to cope in the space unacceptable considering the price of the holiday.There was only one plug socket,a small flatscreen Tv & a fridge which was a total waste of space.I was quite shocked at how basic it was considering the lavishness of the rest of the ship.On the plus side the bed was comfy & the cabin staff cleaned daily(nothing was too much trouble for our cabin member).
After looking around the ship we made our way to the top deck to see a sail off party finishing.We were not made aware it was even taking place.Generally though each day you are given a list of events for the next day so it was just the first day that it was lacking.The internet is NOT free and it cost us Â£100 to purchase minutes as i needed this to keep in touch with work.It worked out at 30p per minute.
The first full day was awful going through the Bay of Biscay.The kids were sick all day,the weather was cold & grey and the only place we all felt ok was on the top deck watching the water in the pool splash over the sides as the ship rocked from side tor o side.At this point i was wondering why on earth i booked this holiday & wanted to get off at the next stop.It wasnt until we reached the Canaries when it heated up and it was warm enough to sunbathe (5 days after departure).We had 2 warm days and then it was back to coat wearing.
FOOD & DRINK
Food was either in the buffet on the top floor,formal dining in another restaurant, a grill(extra charge)or Cafe Jardin(extra charge) but we didnt try that one.I cannot fault the food at all & the waiters all worked 24 hours to produce a good selection of foods for all tastes.The waiters & chefs behind the scenes were a pleasure & i commend them.Water is free & the drinks are reasonably priced but when you are not paying every day the bill can soon add up.
The entertainment was very good & saw us through days& nights.There were shows by headliners theatre co,talks on this & that,i cannot fault that at all.
The kids club was as you would expect but tucked away at one end nr the gym.My kids are not fans of the clubs so didnt spend much time in them so i cannot comment on these.Many parents seemed to quite happily leave their kids there but i wanted to spend time with mine as work prevents me spending as much time with them as i would like.I have to say that this ship seems more aimed at the elderly and not families but does offer the kids club up as a gesture.
The Library was a quiet sanctuary with jigsaws & board games but i never found the book cabinets open and i didnt see it manned at anytime of day.
The pools were all outside & unheated apart from one adults pool.Another fact that makes me believe this isnt a family ship. There were Jacuzzis but i only saw one work. They were in demand because of the cold pools.Lots of unused sunbeds but on the warm couple of days you had to get there quick to get a bed.
GYM & SPA
I used the gym a lot which was well equipped & at the back of the ship with nice views.The classes cost extra so they were not popular.I also used the Spa a couple of times and paid a whopping Â£80 for a back massage which lasted 30 minutes.I then tried a mini spa with a different member of staff towards the end of the holiday so the price had come down,i got an hour & half and she was a lot better.They hard sell you Elemis products but i guess they get commission.The same with the talks from the gym staff the end punchline always results in mentioning a Â£29 body report.
The length of time spent ashore was disappointing. I expected full days but the first in OPORTO was 3 hours,the second was 5 hours in TENERIFE.This gives you little time to navigate around somewhere new and clock watching so you dont miss the last bus back.OPORTO was a nice surprise,Santa Cruz is a Port town so not pretty,no beach but some shops(dont get the sight seeing bus at 16E each there is not enough to see here.Las Palmas in Gran Canaria was lovely.The ship goes right into the town,theres a large shopping centre accross the road,a long beach with a promenade abd plenty of good quality shops.The weather here is the best you will have on your trip in winter. My favourite was MADEIRA,very pretty even in winter,dramatic landscape and a lovely town of Funchal.LISBON is a large City with Historical sites and shops.
In summary cruising we found wasnt for us as it was too restrictive for us normally independent travellers.The formality was stifling at times & v old fashioned.Time in port wasnt long enough to get a feel for any country & being sea sick with children is horrible.