The two-level Palladium Theatre, located forward and accessible from Deck 1, 2 and 3, presents solid cruise ship entertainment. You won't find West End shows with jaw-dropping special effects, but you can expect a good spread of crowd-pleasing song and dance revues, bands and comics aimed at British tastes. On our cruise there was a fantastic male harmony group, The 4 Tunes, who performed songs from the shows and a great set of numbers by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Comedian John Martin, who holds the Guinness World Record for non-stop joke telling (101 hours and 39 minutes), certainly put his rib-tickling stamina to the test. One night, when the resident in-house performance group Headliners Theatre Company were forced to pull the plug on their "Killer Queen" show, due to a combination of injury and illness, John stepped into the breach at the very last minute and took the stage with another complete show (and, possibly not surprisingly, a whole new repertoire of jokes).
The theatre hosts two shows nightly, at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., to accommodate the two set dining times. There are two small waiting areas near the lower entrance, where you can sit and have a drink next to giant egg-shaped sculptures. Inside, the theatre offers comfortable raked individual seats and banquettes, plus stools against bar-style tables in "the gods" at the back of the auditorium on Deck 3 (useful for any late arrivals). There are also two boxes with six seats in each, but the large plastic safety screen across the front is reflective and rather distracting if you want a really good view of the stage.
Organised activities include traditional staples such as shuffleboard, deck quoits and talks about forthcoming ports or general interest topics including art. From 2 p.m. the entertainment hosts spin easy-listening tunes around the Aquarius Pool, where things liven up during sailaway dance parties featuring a cocktail of the day (additional charge).
The versatile Globe venue (Deck 2) screens recently released films twice daily (on our cruise these included "Wild", "The Theory of Everything" and "Into the Woods"). There is no need to reserve seats for these films. The Globe is also used for prize bingo. Team and individual quizzes are held regularly in various lounges, and passengers can also pick up trivia and quiz sheets from the library to fill in at leisure.
The intimate 30-seat Screening Room cinema, on Deck 3, shows the same films as the Globe at 12:05 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 8:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. daily. Due to the small size of the room, complimentary tickets need to be reserved in advance from the librarian. The huge, extremely comfortable high-backed seats, which include a drink holder and small table beside each one, can be almost fully reclined and when the lights went down in the dark red room I'm sure we weren't the only ones to nod off at some point!
Complimentary dance classes take place on all cruises with seven or more days at sea and there are also art classes, bridge sessions and guest speakers (two on cruises over 20 nights duration).
There's live music at various bars and lounges around the ship. Karaoke fans can exercise their vocal chords in the Rising Sun, while the Globe moves seamlessly from Latin and ballroom dancing at the beginning of the evening to a disco for night owls. The large Monte Carlo casino, on Deck 2, has slot machines and gaming tables and is open from 8:30 p.m. until late.
Arcadia Bars & Lounges
Intermezzo (Deck 2): This classy, small bar is richly decorated in shades of deep blue and red and is ideally placed for a cocktail before dinner at the adjoining Ocean Grill. It is open from 5 p.m. until late. Throughout the bars, drinks are reasonably priced compared with other lines and don't incur an additional service charge. Draught beers, such as John Smith's and Carling, are £3.85 a pint, the majority of cocktails are £4.50 and a glass of wine starts at £3.75.
The Rising Sun (Deck 2): Decorated with sporting and musical memorabilia, the vessel's popular "pub" offers a selection of bottled and on tap beers, broadcasts sport on wide-screen TVs and has a small stage for resident bands and karaoke fans. The pub is open from 11 a.m. to late.
Spinnaker Bar (Deck 2): The ship's largest bar is next to the lower level entrance to the Meridian Restaurant, so gets busy around dining times. The maritime-themed area is broken up with some interesting seascapes, detailed models of old sailing ships and a brass ship's bell. Open 8 a.m. to late.
The Globe (Deck 2): Also completely renovated during the refit, this area has now been completely closed off to improve the sound quality inside and reduce the level of noise outside. Party animals can dance the night away without disturbing other passengers. After any daytime activities, the venue is open in the evening from 7 p.m. until late.
Caffe Vivo (Deck 3): Lacking natural light, this small, tucked away cafe seems to be a bit of a space filler and afterthought. The cakes and pastries look delicious, but you need to buy a speciality coffee or other drink in order to get one. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Piano Bar (Deck 9): Another elegant area, providing a wonderful view of the circular richly coloured atrium roof with its subtle changing light patterns. Open 10 a.m. to late.
Aquarius Bar (Deck 9): This bar serves the pool of the same name and is buzzing during sailaways and al-fresco entertainment sessions. Open 10 a.m. to late.
Neptune Bar (Deck 9): The semi-circular bar can also be found beside its pool namesake and is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Crow's Nest (Deck 10): Situated forward, right at the top of the ship, this lovely venue was transformed during the refit, with new flooring, seating, lighting, an extended bar and partition walls to break up the space. With its panoramic windows, it's the perfect spot to relax during the day and enjoy pre- and post-dinner drinks with live music in the evening. It is open from 11 a.m. to late.
East Bar (Deck 11): A contemporary Asia-themed bar, with wicker seating and pretty plant decorations, it overlooks the Neptune Pool and is popular with guests dining in the adjoining East restaurant. Open to all passengers from 5 p.m. to late.
Arcadia Outside Recreation
There are two pools on the Lido Deck (Deck 9). The Aquarius Pool, located aft and used for sailaway parties, is the noisiest and most crowded, particularly on sunny days. It has ample sunbathing space, two whirlpools and a sheltered area with tables and chairs. The midship Neptune Pool, on the same deck, has three whirlpools and a retractable glass roof. It's a much quieter area, where many passengers snooze or read, in between taking an occasional dip. Both pools have a good depth, more so than American ships, and you can have a proper swim.
Fun and games are traditional rather than full-on. This is not the ship for waterslides and climbing walls. There are golf nets and a sports court for deck tennis, football and other games on the top Sky Deck (although I never saw anyone using them during our cruise). You can also play quoits, shuffleboard, and table tennis by the Neptune Pool.
A standout feature is the traditional wraparound Promenade Deck (Deck 3), which is completely open apart from the small covered forward section. The reclining chairs, which are comfortable but not luxurious, provide a good vantage point to sit and watch the sea and enjoy some fresh air. The Sun Deck, on two levels around the Aquarius Pool, is the favourite spot for catching the rays, but fills up quickly. Although rather characterless, there's a large area of empty deck space forward on the Sky Deck. There are no facilities, other than loungers, making it an ideal spot for passengers in search of peace and quiet.
The library on the Promenade Deck (Deck 3) is outstanding, with large windows, squashy sofas, tables spread with glossy magazines and a vast collection of books -- popular and classic novels, non-fiction and travel guides -- that are free to borrow and colour coded in 10 different categories, making it easier to locate different titles. You need to check them out with the librarian who is on duty from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. There's also a shelf with books that other passengers have finished and fellow cruisers are free to take (with an especially good choice at the end of a world cruise!). DVDs are also available free of charge for passengers to watch on their laptops. There's also a card/jigsaw table and a selection of jigsaws and board game that passengers can borrow.
The Internet room (open 24 hours) is within the library, with a printer and seven computers available for guest use. P&O Cruises offers three 24-hour internet packages, which can be purchased onboard or prior to sailing.
The Connect Package (£7.75 for 24 hours) provides social media access and internet messaging services; The Browse Package (£12.50) offers internet browsing (with the exception of video streaming), internet messaging, email and social network access; and The Works Package (£24.95) offers web browsing, including YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music streaming, video calls, email, instant messenger services and social media access.
Arcadia's Piccadilly shopping area, also on Deck 3, underwent a complete revamp and expansion during the 2013 refurbishment. It has an open-plan layout with sparkling glass cabinets, display units and LED lights. Aiming to create the feeling of a small department store, it includes famous names such as Harrods, Givenchy, Benefit, Gerry Weber and Ted Baker, luxury watch and jewellery brands, perfumes, P&O logowear and souvenirs, plus everyday items and essentials.
Next to the shopping area is the photographic studio, and on the same deck are the quiet multi-purpose Ocean and Bay rooms, used for pursuits such as whist and bridge and also available for private meetings. With no space taken up by children's facilities, another multi-purpose room is the Viceroy, high on the Sky Deck. Among other things, it is used for weddings and vow renewals and can seat up to 25 guests. The Retreat, on the Sun Deck, is a larger multi-purpose room with floor-to-ceiling windows that can accommodate 40 guests for weddings.
There are very detailed presentations on all ports of call, which are also screened on the TV in the cabin.
The large walk-through art gallery can be found on Deck 2, and the reception and shore excursion desks are located next to each other on Deck 1.
There are public laundry rooms, with washing machines, dryers and ironing boards on Deck 4, Deck 5 and Deck 6.