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4 P&O Cruises Arcadia Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We flew from Gatwick (Thompson charter) to join Arcadia at Barbados, sailed to Aruba, then through the Panama Canal, then Costa Rica, then Huatulco and Acapulco in Mexico, then finally to San Francisco, from where we flew back to Heathrow ... Read More
We flew from Gatwick (Thompson charter) to join Arcadia at Barbados, sailed to Aruba, then through the Panama Canal, then Costa Rica, then Huatulco and Acapulco in Mexico, then finally to San Francisco, from where we flew back to Heathrow (but via Munich on Lufthansa scheduled).These bizarre flight arrangements were not explained to us when we paid for our holiday - we only knew when the tickets arrived. If I had known of these Gatwick-out, Heathrow-in-via-Munich arrangements, I would not have booked. This is principally a criticism of the travel agency but is also indicative of P&O's indifferent attitude to customers' comforts off-ship.Our outbound flight was two hours late, which meant we hardly saw Barbados. More importantly, two other Thompson charter flights from Gatwick were 14 hours late, so the ship sailed from Barbados very late, and lead to a shortened visit to Aruba. After that, the ship went back on schedule.Arcadia is a good ship, and we were pleased with our balcony stateroom. it was a bit smaller than MSC, but was comfortable, and we had a supremely comfortable bed. The cabin steward (Lloyd) was superb, and helped us with minor problems like electrical adapters with no fuss.The ship is large but seemed to have an endless number of public rooms, so it never felt full (it was fully occupied). The facilities on board were excellent, and there was a very wide range of activities freely available throughout the trip to help pass the time - on this cruise we had at least 6 days at sea so it was important to have something to do other than read or sunbathe! Our main disappointment with this cruise was the choice and quality of the food, both in the self-service area, and in the main silver-service restaurant. We had assumed that P&O was a cut above the likes of Thomsons, but in fact the reverse is true in our view. However I have to say that the selection of wines and cocktails was superb and very, very good value.The entertainment in the main Palladium theatre was again reasonable, with a couple of very good celebrity acts, but their in-house dance troupe wasn't really good at all - again Thomson's were leagues ahead.The few shore excursions we did were superb value for money and well-organised - a real plus for P&O.The overall ship organisation left something to be desired. There were several cases of inconsistent information being given out. The worst fiasco was in San Francisco where having told us to be aware that we were under the Golden Gate Bridge at 0500 (and to be immigration starting at 0645) it took no less than 5 hours to process all the passengers for immigration by 12:00 - contrary to popular rumour, the American immigration staff were very friendly, fast, and armed to the hilt! It was Arcadia who forgot to tell passengers to come down for processing, having previously told everyone NOT to attend at the published times due our late arrival in port (due to headwinds, no one's fault).P&O did redeem themselves a bit in that they took us off ship to the airport at 14:00 (flight not due to 21:00) but treated us to an excellent 3 hour free tour of San Francisco - but why not tell us?! Most people didn't know they had a 3 hour tour, hadn't gone to the loo or eaten - they were just expecting a fast transit to the airport to sit around for 6 hours - as it turned out, we saw all the sights, and got to the airport just in time to check-in - excellent! All-in-all, a superb cruise, the highlight being our transit through the Panama Canal. The cruise director provided a superb commentary throughout.We did also dine in the Gary Rhodes 'franchise' restuarant for a modest extra cover charge of £10 - worth every penny - superb service and food -in fact just like the main restaurant shoud be.Bascally a very good ship and itinerary, let down by the standards of catering and entertainment, which smacks of dumbing dowm/cost cutting by Carnival Corporation. I am afraid I now wouldn't recommend ANY Carnival-owned line to anyone - stick with Olsen, Thompson or MSC. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Arcadia,embarked Southampton 05 January; 1900 on board, mostly Brits with 400 Aussies going home on the return leg of a World Cruise. No virus on board, unlike the Vic,it stayed that way. The officers and crew took every precaution in a ... Read More
Arcadia,embarked Southampton 05 January; 1900 on board, mostly Brits with 400 Aussies going home on the return leg of a World Cruise. No virus on board, unlike the Vic,it stayed that way. The officers and crew took every precaution in a friendly and persuasive way. Bay of Biscay, into wind Force 11 going to 12, waves 12 metres high. Speed slowed, Due to the weather and possible damage to ship. Captain cancelled first stop Azores, This gave an extra sea day. Onto Barbados, where most passengers just stretched their legs. Then Aruba, crystal blue sea, spent the day on beach with the show's Headliner Dancers Needed to go to the clinic after that! Taxi to beautiful public beach for six people $30 each way. The ship's crew did a big build up on Panama Canal .Loved the experience, in at 0800 hours, out 1700 hours with commentary by Canal Historian. Fair to say no client disappointed. Then Acapulco for the day. Eight Brits took a sight see with a local guide in his people carrier, Saw the Acapulco homes of the famous ( 1940ish stars). Total cost , one third of price for the ship excursions to same places. San Francisco on 24 January and back to Heathrow, upgraded on BA. Belvedere Buffet food okay, but Trevor the Chief Executive Chef, had it laid out like school dinners with hot Brit pudding available every day even in 32C! Always dour, not many smiles in the Chefs Meridian parade. The Meridian restuarant staff were patient, kind and considerate. Headliners Show's were the best we have seen on 12 cruises. Four quizzes every day, plus " The Battle of the Sexes", men versus women at lunch time on sea days. Ladies built a tremendous lead due football being shown at same time. However, the men recovered to win by 203 to 202. This was because the final quiz had questions put forward by the Ladies to the Men and vice versa. Try being aware of the Chief Security Officer's surname and name the food and beverage computer program. Answer Crunch Time. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
My husband and I had done only 1 cruise before embarking on Arcadia in February 2008 to cruise the Caribbean, The Panama Canal and up to Acapulco. Our first cruise was on QE2 and so we thought it would be interesting to compare P&O ... Read More
My husband and I had done only 1 cruise before embarking on Arcadia in February 2008 to cruise the Caribbean, The Panama Canal and up to Acapulco. Our first cruise was on QE2 and so we thought it would be interesting to compare P&O with the Cunard experience. Our flight from Manchester to Barbados was good and we had upgraded on the First Choice Flight. We had been fortunate as people who had travelled with Thomas Cook also from Manchester were disgusted with their flight seats and the space, or lack of it, in economy. Transfer from the aircraft to the cruise terminal in Bridgetown was excellent and we were soon in our cabin. We thought the cabin was about the same size as the one we had on QE2. However, this time we had a balcony which was a definite advantage over the 2 portholes on QE2. The cabin was well appointed although there was no shampoo provided. I thought this was penny pinching to the extreme. You get shampoo in a basic motorway lodge in the UK. Also there were no dressing gowns which we had had on QE2. Our room steward was from Goa and he knew a hotel we had stayed at there some years ago. He was very polite and efficient. We had booked for second sitting at dinner but when on board discovered that this did not start until 20.45. As we did not want to eat that late we changed to first sitting at 18.30. The only alternative to this for dinner (unless you wanted to pay extra) was to go to the Belvedere Buffet Food Court which was about as exciting as a works canteen in decor and facilities. We soon found that dining at 18.30 was a little early as we missed a lot of the sailaway parties so we decided that if we cruised again with P&O we would choose Freedom Dining. The food was OK but a definite notch down from what we had on QE2. The waiter service in the dining room was good except for delivery of the vegetables on to you plate. They were plonked anywhere on the plate (often over the food that was already on there) rather than being nicely placed in a suitable space on the plate (as we had on QE2). Likewise, on QE2, the petits fours came on a large tray and you were invited to choose. On Arcadia, a few biscuits were literally dumped on a small plate - some not even the right way up and the plate just left on the table. I know the waiters are hard pressed to get diners out of the restaurant to get the tables relaid for the second sitting but it is these small things which leave the wrong impression in peoples' minds. The Belvedere Food Court was self - service. We had breakfast there most days but only dined there on 2 nights. It is the most confusing place to find your way around as they have different types of food on each side of the serving area. Getting a coffee or tea was often a scramble as people converged on the 2 machines dispensing the water and coffee. This was not a good place to be if you visited it at a busy time. About a week into the cruise, our wine waitress announced that they would shortly run out of bottles of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and this proved to be true. Then about 3/4 days before the end of the cruise you could not get a proper tonic anywhere on the ship. They had slimline which does not taste right with gin or vodka but no proper tonic!! We think that there should be some tightening up on the re-ordering of items to be taken on board at each port. The weather for the entire cruise was fantastic - virtually wall to wall sunshine every day. The itinerary was varied and interesting and involved new places for us to visit. The Panama Canal transit was the highlight. We did quite a few organized trips when in port. In Aruba we did a snorkeling trip which took us to a shipwrecked vessel. This was very dangerous and most people were out of the water and back on board the snorkel vessel within a few minutes. P&O should review whether to keep this trip on their books. We did an evening trip to Panama City which was billed as a walking tour. However we soon found out that the tour guides were to take us to 2 museums instead. This did not go down at all well with us and our fellow passengers. Spending time in a museum at 22.00 after a full day transiting the Panama Canal was not most people's idea of fun. The best trip was in Huatulco where we went on an Eco Bird Watch walk. We were not that interested in taking part in the daytime activities on board ship when at sea, preferring instead to find a sun bed and relax. However, the evening entertainment was pretty abysmal. As mentioned we were in first sitting for dinner and this meant that by 20.15 we were just about finished in the dining room and looking for some entertainment. We soon found that if you did not want to go to the show (or perhaps did want to go but could not get a seat) there was nothing else going on throughout the ship for at least an hour - say between 20.30 and 21.30. We visited various bars including the pub and when we got there the act was playing but as soon as the dining room announced that it was time for second sitting dinner, all the acts closed down and the place was like a ghost ship. This is not good enough. With about 2 days to go to the end of the cruise, it was announced that there had been an outbreak of the Norovirus disease and various cleanliness measures were brought in. Fortunately we were not affected but we thought that in general and prior to the outbreak of the disease, there was a more lax approach to disinfecting hands on entry to restaurants than there was on QE2. Unfortunately the night before disembarkation it was announced that our flight was delayed by 8 hours and as we had to be out of our cabin by 07.00 on the day of disembarkation, this made for a long hot and tiring day before we even got to the airport. It also meant that we were soon mingling with new passengers who had arrived at Acapulco early and who could not all gain access to their cabins!! We were very much on our own at the airport as there were no P&O staff in attendance. I thought this was surprising. It was as if once you had left the ship P&O were not bothered about you. In summary we enjoyed the cruise overall but there were some shortfalls and it was not to the standard we had on QE2. However, undaunted, we have booked to go on Ventura so will see if she is any different. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Overall - Found the cruise to be suited to people in the more advanced years, this was reflected in the musical choice around the different areas, even the pub had a trio playing slow lounge almost background style music. The ship itself ... Read More
Overall - Found the cruise to be suited to people in the more advanced years, this was reflected in the musical choice around the different areas, even the pub had a trio playing slow lounge almost background style music. The ship itself was best described as low key and although fairly well decorated no area could be described as exciting or having a 'wow' factor. For a Christmas cruise the decorations were poor. We will look long and hard before we book with P&O again. Food - 1. Meridian restaurant - Good choice of meals offered but vegetables left something to be desired. Most evenings we were offered new potatoes and one evening I was offered carrots and sprouts with my fish! Wine choice good but both wine waiters and meal waiters were not up to scratch. Too many mistakes made with our wine and wrong choice of food being served. 2. Rhodes restaurant - Spent one evening there, food was good but again the waiters, although they tried very hard, not quite up to scratch. 3. Orchid - Promoted as 'Fusion' food. Spent an evening there not bad but I was expecting something better. The couple next to us asked if they could remove coconut from one of the desserts, they were told it was not possible, which left me thinking they were pre-prepared, not what we were expecting. 4. Belvedere - Self service - Good choice and kept clean and tidy. the layout means you have to travel a long way to see the choice and the drinks area needs improving as it is a bottleneck. Entertainment -As explained earlier, in general the music was suited to 65+. The Arcadian Theatre is the best I've seen and the production company were very good with varied shows. The 'special' acts brought in, two comedians and two singers, were again suited to the older section and not very good, many people left these shows before the end or even halfway through. Photography - Good selection and quite professional, however, like most cruises the cost of the photos and especially the re-prints were far too high. Bring the price down and everybody buys one! Trips - Too expensive for what you get. Most people I spoke to got the same if not better from locals and at less then half price! Flights - Watch out if you're booked on Thompson, everyone we spoke to from 3 different airports all had delays, and some didn't have any food. P&O really need to look at this, Thompson are fine for a low cost European flight but are totally not suited for long haul, spoilt the holiday and I would think they will still be reading the complaints for a while yet! Read Less
Sail Date December 2005
Arcadia Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.6
Family 1.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.4
Enrichment 3.0 3.2
Service 4.0 4.1
Value For Money 4.0 3.4
Rates 4.0 3.7

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