Editor's Note: Arcadia will go into drydock in December 2013, some five years after it underwent a multi-million pound refit at the Lloydwerft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany. Some of the planned new features include:
10 single cabins, which will take over the floor space of Electra, the night club onboard, plus part of the current casino.
The Globe, a secondary lounge, will become the new night club and it will receive a facelift and a glass wall to improve soundproofing.
Ocean Grill, the Marco Pierre White restaurant on the ship, will also receive a new look.
Arcadia once sailed as the largest custom-built ship for the British market -- that was until P&O Cruises' Ventura joined the fleet in April 2008. However, Arcadia wasn't always destined to sail under the P&O Cruises flag. Carnival Corp. actually intended this ship to be Cunard's Queen Victoria, but later decided to allocate it to whichever one of its multifarious brands that could make best use of it.
Because of this, P&O Cruises diehards may find Arcadia's international style less to their taste than that of more traditionally British P&O-style vessels like Oriana; though like all the company's ships, Arcadia scores highly on cleanliness and the kind of smooth running operation that results from the deployment of top notch organizational skills.
And the ship proved to be a bit of a ground-breaker for P&O Cruises. Together with Artemis (Princess Cruises' former Royal Princess which was subsequently replaced by Adonia), Arcadia is both an adults-only vessel and one of the first in the P&O Cruises fleet on which -- thanks to its Bermudian registry -- the captain can marry couples while the ship is actually at sea.
The first weddings were conducted in May 2006 in the ship's Viceroy Room, which can be adapted as a wedding chapel, and a variety of wedding packages are available comprising the ceremony, photography, flowers (from the ship's own florist's shop) and a range of celebrations from a simple Champagne reception to lunch or dinner in the ship's top restaurant, Marco Pierre White's Ocean Grill.
The upshot of all these innovations has been the creation of a stylish ship in tune with 21st-century middle class tastes and with enough distinctive features to hold its own in an increasingly competitive cruise market. Arcadia has a few weak spots -- notably the lack of private dining arrangements during breakfast and lunch -- but overall it is an elegant, good quality ship with plenty of facilities and varied activities to keep passengers amused. As always, P&O Cruises' British officers score highly on sociability, and the multinational crewmembers, which includes a large proportion of folks from Goa (in the P&O Cruises tradition), provide very friendly and efficient service.
In 2008 it underwent a refurbishment, which saw a number of major changes including 34 new cabins at the aft of the ship -- most outside, with a few inside cabins; a new bar in the aft area; a revamped photo gallery with more space and privacy given for portrait sittings and the addition of equipment for passengers to download; and a boutique cinema with a raised floor and reclining chairs, which replaced the Cyber Study.
: Prices for various and sundry -- from restaurant service fees to spa treatments -- are in British pounds (GBP). For current exchange rates, please visit XE.com
The majority of passengers are British and you can expect to find everybody from cafe owners to physicians enjoying a cruise. As always with the British en masse, there is a certain amount of subdued - and rather entertaining - social oneupsmanship, but the atmosphere is largely relaxed and friendly.
P&O Cruises still attracts enough middle-class British passengers to make dressing up a competitive sport, for the women at least (some brought along five suitcases crammed with clothes for a fortnight's cruise).
That said, nobody is forced to participate in the fashion-plate stakes, and while most people enjoy dressing up for Captain's welcome and farewell formal nights, on other evenings anything reasonably smart is perfectly acceptable.
The going rate is 3.10 GBP per person, per diem on tips for cabin steward and waiter, which is automatically added to your bill -- adding up to 43.40 GBP per person for a 14-night cruise. Other tips are at your discretion.