Before I start my review, although I may be from the younger cruise market, I think I have a good overview of the offerings from a variety of ships, having sailed previously on the Ventura (twice), Azura, Thomson Celebration, Carnival ... Read More
Before I start my review, although I may be from the younger cruise market, I think I have a good overview of the offerings from a variety of ships, having sailed previously on the Ventura (twice), Azura, Thomson Celebration, Carnival Sunshine and Fred Olsen Braemar (Christmas 2014).
I choose this cruise as myself and partner wanted to go to the Baltics especially St Petersburg and also experience a new ship.
We opted for an inside cabin, décor was much brighter than other ships, although we did find the corridor between the bathroom and the wardrobe was not as wide as on Ventura and Azura. Tea/coffee facilities and biscuits were replenished daily; nightly chocolate was available but disappointingly not one towel animal throughout the whole cruise. Also annoyingly if one of you wanted to read you could not switch on just one bedside light, both stayed on. The selection of free films and TV series’ available was good. But the fact you can no longer view your account on the TV, order wine, book trips is a complete backward step. I did ask at reception (once I waded through the queues of people asking for statements) about this oversight, and they said they hope to include terminals at reception with this functionality, but did not know any timescales. The Cabin steward was a bit lax, forgetting to clean the cabin on one occasion and not replacing both beach towels after use. Also brought us the survey and said “I hope you tick excellent for me” I think not!
We were originally on A deck forward, but were upgraded to D deck midship. Couldn’t really see what we got for our upgrade, but it was quiet and we felt no movement of the ship. We did however, meet people from A deck who had issues with noise from staff putting out and moving sunbeds.
As with previous reviews, the most frustrating element was the stairs / lifts midship. There is no stairs after deck 7 midship, there is a door marked with crew only. The only time these were open were during the muster drills. The lack of lifts gave way to some very rude attitudes and I was appalled at the amount of times I saw people crowd into a lift leaving a wheelchair user waiting on the next one. Also there should be punishments for people who go up or down one floor only, especially those people who are clearly able to use stairs.
Studio – I liked the selection of films on offer, going to see The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game. My only frustration is why P and O thought it was a good idea to have a screen which goes to the floor. Anyone not in rows 1 or 2 have no hope of seeing the full screen. Most viewings I attended were full. I was however disappointed that they showed the same films in the following week, so if you’re on for 2 weeks, don’t watch everything in week 1.
The studio also doubles as a kitchen for cookery demos and more intimate musical recitals.
Crystal room – total waste of space, aimed at the 60+ market of line dancers and ballroom dancers. P and O needs to move with the times and introduce gameshows, both Carnival and Thomson offer these with hilarious results. This is the perfect arena for this.
Theatre – the digital screens add an extra element to the shows, however it doesn’t draw away from the fact that there are only 3 decent singers (I’ll use this term loosely) among the showcast. The choreography is muddled and the links between songs are tenuous. However, never failed to find a seat at the late showing. The guest artists were very good, especially the 4Tunes.
Live Lounge – enjoyed resident band Pulse, up to date music, The Beatles Tribute was also enjoyable but please get new comedians and ditch Tucker, his jokes are old hat and it was cringe worthy. The main problem with the Live Lounge is that sometimes they got the entertainment in the theater and the Live Lounge the wrong way round, making it difficult to find a seat if you were on the late sitting. It was normally full by 10pm.
Crow’s Nest – enjoyed this relaxing bar on deck 16, with its mix of piano music.
Library – tucked away next to the Crow’s nest, no book swap facility, cramped with only 4 chairs and a couple of terminals, not really fit for purpose.
Cookery club – I didn’t use this facility, although I was tempted, but those I met did enjoy the classes. Generally £45pp for a 3 hour session.
Gym – good facilities, but you cannot use the spin bikes without booking a class due to health and safety. All classes were £7 a session and were generally fully booked.
Spa – Looks lovely when I went for the tour, especially the Hydrotherapy area, but we did not use the facilities offered.
Atrium – various shops with a good selection of products, usual sales of over priced products. There is a market café and a bar on deck 5 and Costa is on deck 6. Service was efficient in both.
Brodie’s and Casino – traditional English pub with live entertainment and quizzes, always busy. Did have a flutter in the casino and won £16 from £1 on the slot machines.
Glass House – we shared a selection of 6 tapas for lunch one day. The quality was good and for £5 for 3 reasonably priced.
Sindhu – bad start being given a table under the air conditioning and cramped between 2 other couples, but after a quick word we were swiftly moved to a more appropriate table. Food, presentation and service were fantastic, well worth the £15pp surcharge.
Epicurean – we decided on Eric Lanlard’s afternoon tea. Very disappointing. We waited over 15 minutes to be served tea and by this point the cakes were melting. The selection of what was meant to be savory included chocolate macaroons with duck, and what with the cakes and scones the whole experience was sickly sweet and we were craving something savory. No top up’s of anything but tea was offered, even the Dorchester gives you additional sandwiches, cakes and an exclusive goody bag. Definitely not worth the £15pp surcharge. Go to Market café and spend £2.95 on an Eric Lanlard cake for the same if not better experience. Between this and the £28pp surcharge we decided against dinner in the Epicurean.
Lime Light Club – I believe the surcharge to be around £22pp. Some of our dining colleagues attended and said the food was awful, very little choice, with side dishes which resembled the buffet food from lunch. The entertainment was poor and they left early stating “money down the drain”. As the acts were all unknown to us, we gave it a miss.
Beach House – there is a surcharge of £5pp, and then on top of that some of the other dishes also have a further surcharge. We enjoyed the food here for something different; however service was slow and not attentive. This may have something to do with the fact the entertainment team dine here and the waiters were crawling all over them. I overheard someone complaining the next day at reception as it took them 2 hours to have a meal and the wrong food was brought out. I personally do not think the entertainment team should be allowed to eat and drink in customer restaurants, especially when people were being turned away, they should be treated as equivalent to the rest of the crew.
Buffet – we ate here most days for breakfast and lunch. Always a good selection of hot food and the personal omelette chefs are excellent. There are things missing such as smoked salmon, and I did find it odd that you can only get Eggs Benedict once a week in the sit down restaurants (Meridian and Oriental) for breakfast. I did find the afternoon tea a waste of time, as mainly it was just the leftover food and cakes from lunch. This has definitely gone downhill.
Grab and Go – excellent facility of hot sandwiches 8-12pm, cold baguettes, salads and fruit, 12-4pm. Good to stock up for shore days, just remember to go the day before.
Burger / Pizza bar – perfect if you’re after a snack or light lunch
The Oriental – having chosen to dine at 8.30pm we were allocated table 142 for the 2 of us. This must be the worst table in the restaurant, right next to the kitchen and in front of the waiter station, with no-one around us to make conversation. Service was abysmal and there was a constant draft from the kitchen door opening and closing. The following evening we had a word with the maître’ d who moved us to a much more appropriate table. We had excellent dining companions on either side of us and perfect waiters. The portions have shrunk and there is no longer silver service, but our waiter did give us extra vegetables and ice cream and if we wanted anything additional we just had to ask. The quality of the petit fours is poor and repetitive, no longer fudge or intricate biscuits. I’m not really sure I like the design of the Oriental, it is not open like many dining rooms, and it comprises of small compartments which makes it quite dark. When the chef’s do their parade, minus the baked Alaska, only a handful of people could actually see them.
Upper decks, due to being in the Baltics no issues with finding sunbeds. Enjoyed the Jacuzzi most evenings to relax after a day on shore. Did enjoy table tennis, shuffleboard and quoits which were available on deck 17.
Sea days were boring and repetitive; quizzes, talks trying to sell you something, dancing and bingo. Lots of things missing, no craft classes, and no tour of the kitchen, there was a ship tour on the first sea day. No chocoholics buffet, thought the waiter said there was. No staff showcase of their talents from each department on sea days.
We chose to do our own thing in every port except Stockholm where we booked a P and O trip of Stockholm highlights at £49pp. First of all the ship docked about an hour late, but we boarded the bus and set off for the city hall, after a whistle stop tour, 2 people were late back to the bus which lost us 20 minutes. Onto the Vasa museum, wow amazing ship, quick talk from the guide (10 minutes) who then explains you have 25 minutes to look around, seriously it’s a 6 floor museum. We tried our best but didn’t see half of the exhibits. Then onto the old town. The guide kept hurrying everyone and said right I can give you a 5 minute walk and then the bus is going back to the ship. We opted to stay in Stockholm and make our own way back. I felt totally cheated by this experience and complained to Shore Excursions the following day. After a 2 day investigation we received a letter in which they admitted the trip had been cut short due to the buses being required in the afternoon, and gave us a free bottle of wine with dinner to apologies. Not much in the way of compensation and after this experience I will never book another shore excursion with P and O.
Kristiansand – failed to dock due to high winds
Oslo – had an unexpected overnight stop. Went for a walk around the harbour at night. Booked bikes through Viking Biking, Curtis was really helpful and provided us a map of how to get to Viegland Park and the Viking Museum.
Copenhagen – shuttle bus with P and O to the centre of town. We then met up with a guy called “Bike with Mike” for a 3 hour cycle tour, highly recommended, and did a boat trip in the afternoon.
Tallinn – having been before opted for a spa day at Tallink Spa near the harbour. Great fun with a swim up bar and the treatments were very reasonably priced.
St Petersburg – ignored the P and O spiel about you can only book the ships trips otherwise you need a visa nonsense and booked privately with a company called Alla Tours. The tour ticket is your visa; they were on time both days, excellent itineraries and a nice group of just 11 of us.
Helsinki – shuttle bus to centre of town. Boat to the sea fort and then a walk round the market and a visit to the Rock church in the afternoon
Brugge – shuttle bus to centre of town, and then train from Zeebrugge to Brugge. 20 minute walk into the Centre of Brugge climbed up the belfry and went on a canal boat trip before loading up with chocolate.
Overall, I enjoyed the itinerary but that is why I booked the cruise. However, I really feel P and O have missed a trick with Britannia, and alienated themselves from the younger cruise market. There is nothing new and radical; everything is still aimed at the older generation. No slides, mini golf, climbing wall, flowrider, mixology bar. No active trips, we booked private cycling trips in both Oslo and Copenhagen. It’s just a corporate money making machine. The quality of food and service has definitely slipped and even one of the staff advised us to try Royal Caribbean, says it all really. I’m not saying we would never travel with P and O again, but I think there are better cruise lines out there with much more to offer for your money. Read Less