We are two guys who decided to take our respective Mums on Britannia to celebrate their 80th Birthdays. We have cruised with P&O, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We chose this cruise because of the date as it encompassed ... Read More
We are two guys who decided to take our respective Mums on Britannia to celebrate their 80th Birthdays. We have cruised with P&O, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We chose this cruise because of the date as it encompassed one of their birthdays, the itinerary because it was the Canaries and should deliver better weather at this time of year and finally it was a chance to try this new ship with its focus on a British clientele which we thought would suit our Mums better. We had veered away from P&O in recent years due to their two tier fare structures but the lure of double on board credit (£320 pp) incentivised us to try Britannia departing 28th March.
There is a lot of detail here but there is a summary at the bottom should you wish to skip my ramblings.
We had two adjoining obstructed view balconies on Deck 8, G510/G512. We knew about the lifeboat obstruction but the price difference for a non obstructed was too much especially when paying for two cabins. The lifeboat roof came up to about a third of the glass balcony screens with a clear view out to sea, so not fully obstructed at all however the cabin next door had two large white mechanisms in front of their balcony and looking to the aft several cabins down the lifeboats where taller and came above the balcony rail so we were very pleased with our choice. The balconies are all the same size and are the smallest we've encountered. Equipped with two reclining chairs, a table and foot stool. The divide between the balconies can be opened but given the limited depth the folded back door then obstructs about a foot of the balcony door of one cabins.
We had seen the promotional pics online and knew what to expect. The specific grade of cabin was an IC which we knew had the benefit of a sofa instead of a chair and has two instead of one bedside tables (most standard balcony cabins have a single chair and the vanity unit performs a dual function as a sort of bedside table i.e. 2 less drawers available for storage due to missing a bedside table). The sofa was nice to have but is compact and cannot be used as a sofa bed. The cabin is approx 18" longer than a standard balcony cabin as exhibited by the way these jut out into the corridor more than the other type. The layout worked fine with a large walk in wardrobe, a tall cupboard with shelves and a safe and a vanity unit by the balcony door which has a wide drawer containing the hairdryer but space for much more and a mini fridge and chair. The decor is pretty contemporary and modern. There is a large flat screen tv on the wall with a wide choice of free tv episodes, 6 live TV channels and a good choice of TV and mainly free films. Strangely though you cannot access your onboard account or order room service via the TV. The TV cannot be angled and the HDMI ports are not accessible. There are no individual bedside lights. To read you would need the three overhead lights on over the bed which would affect anyone else in the room.
The bathroom is compact. A similar size to Ventura and Azura but with a glass shower screen rather than a shower curtain. Its functional but lacks storage having just three shelves but in particular it lacks colour. Its just a white room. Compared to Celebrity Eclipse the bathroom disappoints.
We found the bed very comfortable, firm but very nice with lovely new bedding. The cabin steward was lovely and very efficient. We made a small list of a couple of issues with the TV, a towel rail and wardrobe rail and within hours maintenance fixed them all. All in all a comfortable place to come back to.
We've done 5 previous P&O cruises. We departed to Celebrity for the last three and thought the food was a lot better on Celebrity. This was a return after 2 years to P&O. We thought the food was excellent. Firstly the buffet is vast. Yes it is busy however its the largest buffet we have seen and is very well laid out. Imagine a H symbol but with two across lines each of which is a buffet section. Each buffet section mirrors itself so there are two of every serving station at each buffet section. You can cross from seating on one side to the other easily. The seating areas are well laid out in rows so its easy to pass between tables. There is a choice of seating, from large booths, tables for four or two and high seat tables and benches. It really is about the best designed. buffet area on a ship Ive seen. We always managed to find a table whenever we were there. Yes its busy as there are lots onboard but credit to the designers.
The choice is very good. Breakfast has everything you could want, full English, continental, porridge, buns, pastries, omelet station and eggs to order. A nice touch is that mugs are laid on tables and servers circulate to offer tea and coffee if you don't want to help yourself during breakfast and afternoon tea.
Lunch has the typical P&O selection of a roast dinner, pies, lots of curry choices and an extended salad selection plus a wide choice of desserts.
We didn't eat in the buffet in the evening but each night had a theme, Seafood, Indian. Mediterranean etc which was strongly adhered too and there was a nightly quiz in there.
The decor is clean, modern and stylish and the food serving areas very bright and well thought out. Well done P&O. I have to mention hygiene though. There are trough like sinks as you enter the buffet with three taps and they look impressive but are pretty pointless given the high throughput of passengers and after the first day most gave up on them particularly as the sensors for the water and soap were very temperamental. There are Purell dispensers by where the trays are provided however many ignored them and if you walked straight into the buffet food stations and grabbed a plate without a tray you would not encounter a gel machine. Possibly the ship most likely to spread Noro that we have been on particularly as there is not even a hint of enforcement. (edited.........one of our Mums got Norovirus on day 8. She is extremely careful about hygiene and uses gel and hand washes continuously. Our first experience of Noro on 10 cruises and although its impossible to be sure our guess is the buffet was the culprit. We did sit the next day at lunch and looked at one entrance to the serving stations and less than 1 in 10 used the gel machines.
Out on deck is the burger/hot dog/fried chicken outlet and offerings are placed like fast food joints on the counter and you help yourself. The burgers for instance are fully loaded with onions tomatoes cheese etc but if you want a specific request then you can ask and its quickly taken care of. The burgers were delicious and our favourite. Think McDonalds but way better.
There is a pizza station and again the pizza was always available and you helped yourself to slices. There was an ice cream outlet (chargeable) plus a first as far as we know a Grab n Go section. Here there was a chiller cabinet with a good choice of ready made salads, pre-packed sandwiches and desserts (think M&S take away section) plus opposite were some warm items such as pasties or other warm tasty items pre-wrapped. It was a popular outlet and a really nice touch though whether all its customers really needed more food was questionable. Breakfast take away muffins with egg, bacon, sausage combinations could also be 'grabbed'.
I cannot comment on the speciality restaurants as we didn't visit any (we walked past the Epicurean at afternoon tea and only saw 6 tables of customers). The main reason we cannot comment on the paid restaurants.......the main dinning room food was too good! We ate in one of the two freedom dining restaurants, the Meridian. This is below the other freedom dining restaurant the Peninsular just off the atrium. Club dining is in the Oriental restaurant wayback on deck 6 aft. The layout of the Meridian was really nice. Whilst a large area, there was a feel of separation with wine bottle walls, glass walls, and panelling so it felt a lot more intimate and more like a restaurant at home. We did visit the Peninsular (the other freedom dinning restaurant) for breakfast several times and it has a different decor and layout and not quite so much separation. The decor in the restaurants is modern, clean and pleasant with good lighting and space between tables was the best on any ship we have sailed, even the tables for two were well spaced and plentiful. Breakfast in the restaurant was excellent and choices were very nicely cooked. In the evening we turned up at various times and only had to take a buzzer twice for a max of 25 mins. The choice of food was excellent. The right hand menu changed nightly and on the left was the always available menu. My OH is a veggie and was brought a veggie menu each night to select from for the following night that had around 6 starters and mains plus they brought the next nights main menu to view which had at least one veggie starter and main.....to quote someone who is use to compromising...' The best food choice out of 10 cruises'.
The atrium is impressive and is the hub of the ship. Its a pleasant space and the starburst sculpture centrepiece impresses and the mood lighting changes throughout the day. Interestingly the reception has been moved to an offshoot corridor as has the more routine shop selling books, giftware and toiletries. The ground floor has the Market Cafe and the Blue Bar to each side with the Blue Bar servicing the ground floor atrium seating too. We never saw anyone buying a cake from the Market Cafe throughout the cruise despite how nice they looked (do we need to pay £2.95 for cake when its free in the buffet or with a coffee from the Java coffeeshop?)
The next floor up has the high end shops and the top level has The Glass House and the Java coffee shop each side with lots of seating. The glass house is a little disappointing compared to Azura as its smaller and open to the atrium so has less of specific character. Even so it was very popular and a good spot to people watch.
For those who have been on Azura/Ventura there is some similarity in layout with deck 7 being the main deck for public areas from the Headliners Theatre at the fore and the Live Lounge show bar at the aft. However its so much bigger and the walk from front to rear is lengthy. This feels (and is) a much bigger ship than Azura/Ventura. If you enjoy pre dinner drinks in the crows nest but are on club dining in the oriental, then allow a good 15 minutes to get to your restaurant,
The Live Lounge has the house band and visiting acts but its no bigger than its Azura/Ventura counterparts and doesn't rake so much so sightlines are pretty poor and its depressingly dark even when there is no act on. I have to say the house band 'Pulse' was excellent and could take on any style really well. If you wanted to see a visiting act in there then you needed to be in really early, say 45 mins when the Take That tribute were on and even then if you were not sat in the front section your view could be blocked by latecomers standing in front of you.
The Crystal Room is a lovely room for dance and very popular amongst traditionalist with ballroom dancing every evening accompanied by a live band and dance instructors. The band were again excellent.
The studio is a multipurpose space for demonstrations, talks and cinema. We didn't visit it but it looked well laid out.
Brodies is the 'pub' and is a big space, about twice the size of Azura's counterpart and hosts a series of quizzes, musicians and TV sport. Its a very popular venue. The casino is to one side of Brodies and whilst popular is compact.
The Limelight club is a dinner & show venue costing £22. On our cruise non of the acts appealed and the menu looked more limited and less appealing than the main dining room, especially for vegetarians. However as we didn't attend I cannot really pass judgement apart from passing during dinner one evening and noting more empty tables than occupied ones. Is there a theme here re chargeable venues? (The Limelight Club space would have made a lovely area for a larger Glass House).
The Headliners Theatre is another area that disappoints somewhat. Its fairly bland with only one tier and its pretty small for the size of the ship. Celebrity Eclipse carries 1000 less passengers but its theatre holds 215 more passengers.
The Crows Nest is way up high on Deck 16 fore. Its a nice space with great views. The decor departs from the rest of the ship and hints at previous versions on other ships with a more nautical style. It is however very popular and has great views.
The Sunset Bar is aft of the buffet and has masses of seating for those wanting to eat their meal outside or sit and have a drink. It really is a very nice area and surprisingly underused. Most of it is covered so a good shelter from the rain.
The library is small and is a room tucked away up on Deck 16 next to The Crows Nest. You don't need to visit it to get an internet package as you can do it from your PC and phone/tablet. We bought a wifi package and coverage is shipwide, if rather slow.
I cannot talk about this ship without mentioning the lifts. Yes I knew the midship lifts had no accompanying stairs apart from between deck 5, 6 and 7 and yes this is a drawback as it was for with us as we had rooms on deck 8 and may want to go down to deck 7. However there is a lot of pressure on lifts across the ship and if you were planning to get somewhere by a certain time you had to factor in lift waiting time. As people became more unhappy waiting for say a down lift they would get in an up lift and ride it out till it came back down. You could wait for a lift on the top floor of deck 16 midships and when it arrived it could be full of people wanting to go down who had simply acquired any lift. When you caught a lift then it would stop on every floor making journeys lengthy. Also at midship the lifts they are really badly laid out. There is a spread out bank of 4 and two separate ones opposite but you have to press the button on the main bank and on the two separate lifts, three buttons, and the two separate ones act independently. Also the lifts are small, the smallest we've seen on any ship. Our Mums are part time wheelchair users and two wheelchairs would fill a lift requiring us to split up more often than not. Its a design floor flagged up when the Royal Princess had its first voyage and should have been fixed while they had the time during the Britannia build. The circulation areas around the lifts is small and leads to congestion. It didn't help that at midships one lift was out of order the whole cruise and then two lifts out of order for part of the cruise. The lifts also had a habit of reaching a floor and the doors would not open requiring you to go to another floor, get out and try and get another lift. If you are claustrophobic then you may not like the lift set up on this ship as people try to squeeze in.
The spa area is very nice, not that we had any treatments but we had a 10 minute tour and its very smart. One Mum had her hair styled which was priced at £37 but her bill was almost double due to up selling, an added tip (never mentioned on any price list of Horizon paper promotion) and a pricing error. We complained and they discounted the original price but with no explanation of why we had been told one price and she was charged a higher one. The gym has been separated from the spa and is way up top on deck 17. Its well equipped but somewhat dark.
There is art around the ship, all of which is abstract and modern. There is no promenade deck around the main public decks, just platforms that sit outside of the glass house, java and live lounge areas. Deck 18 is called a promenade and has a marked walking track around it though it only occupies around a third of the length of the trip.
The feel of the ship and decor is modern but classy. Apart from The Crows Nest its not nautical but more like a classy, contemporary hotel. The furniture is very nice with some lovely seating styles.
The main pool deck area has two pools, a splash area and is pretty large with nice new loungers. Its has a bar, a burger/hot dog outlet, a pizza outlet and a grab n go area. There are loungers in the open and wide undercover seating areas with plenty of mixed styles of seating and tables.
The upper surrounding tier is well laid out with Jacuzzis, plenty of loungers and dozens more stacked up to use. Towards the front there is the serenity pool for adults only. This really is a nice area, very wide with a mix of loungers and lovely seating areas and on our 'during school holiday' cruise was a godsend as the other pools were chock a block with kids. However given we had 600 onboard the lower pool decks were the only place their presence was really noticed. The Retreat area is segregated at the front and takes up very little space, thankfully. Its not visible from anywhere so I have no idea how popular it was on our cruise. The small pool on Deck 17 aft is for teenagers only but has nice seating areas around it.
The layout of the main pool decks is interesting. As well as the loungers by the two main pools there is copious seating underneath the overhang with nice chairs and conservatory seating. The upper tier around the pools has Jacuzzis and a nice mix of seating areas and types. If you are happy to sit away from a pool then there are lots of hidden areas with rows of sunbeds but you may have to climb to deck 18 and 19 to access them. P&O have really excelled themselves here in planning to make use of the space so most can find a place to rest and by providing a mass of sunbeds. It may not be in your favourite spot but if you explore there are places to be found and there are spares loungers stacked up if needed.
As Ive said, this was a cruise over the Easter school holidays with Easter itself sitting right on the middle weekend. We were told we had 2,500 previous P&O passengers and 1,200 people new to P&O plus 600 children. Its interesting the number of people new to P&O that may have been lured by this brand new ship. This did lead to a mix of passengers which was more varied in age than our previous P&O trips with less people of retirement age and more people with families although it has to be spread there was a fair spread throughout all ages which was really very pleasant. Whilst there were a lot of kids as said before they only really made their presence known in the main pools in good weather and appeared occupied by the kids clubs and sports arena up on 18.
Overall passengers were very pleasant and friendly with hardly any moaning types encountered. This led to a nice atmosphere onboard and generally courteous behaviour. There were a lot of wheelchair users as is expected on a no fly cruise. One point here is that during times when rooms were being serviced by the stewards a wheelchair will not fit down a corridor as the attendants trolleys block access. We had to plan well to avoid our Mums repeatedly having to get out and back into their chairs.
The Horizon paper had the usual list of daily entertainment from quizzes, lounge music and deck games. There did seem to be a lot of spa related talks which were aimed at promoting chargeable treatments under the guise of information. The evening brought live bands and visiting acts in various lounges with a nightly piano player in the Crows Next ( not the best piano player we've heard as even when playing gentle numbers he had a tendency to sound a little strident ). The main theatre held shows by the ships resident entertainers. We saw one featuring a mix of music including songs from the musicals which had some great voices and 'Gravity' another music jukebox type show that made great use of floating LED backdrops. We watched 'Adaje', a visiting french mime type act who were excellent physical performers mixing gymnastics with aerial acrobatics....probably the best visiting act we've seen on a ship. As there were only two performances seats were at a premium leaving loads of unhappy passengers who could not get in. The productions shows by the resident performers would have three performances (7.00, 8.30 and 10.30) with visiting acts generally on at 8.30 and 10.30 pm. There was a recent film in the studio two or three times per evening (though always available on your TV). The Live Lounge had a nightly band plus visiting performers. It was sad to see that even though a magician and a comedian were billed as late night adult shows there were families still in there......it made me wince hearing swearing in front of young kids, not the performers fault but the parents.
I've previously commented on forums about comparisons between service on P&O and that on US cruise lines generally feeling P&O falls short in this area. Well something has changed. We found service to be pretty much excellent all round. Staff would always greet you if passing by and dining room waiter service was very, very good. Bar service was very good, plentiful waiters always ready to take a drinks order. Waiters all used tablets to place drinks orders and this seemed to work smoothly. I'm sure the pleasant atmosphere generated by this friendly attitude rubbed off on passengers and helped produce a relaxed feel across all onboard.
We did think that boarding and disembarking at ports would be difficult given the size of the ship but in fact it was extremely smooth at all times and very well organised. Our initial boarding at Southampton started at 12.00 and we were onboard within 15 mins. The allocated arrival times issues by P&O were not checked or enforced. Final disembarkation was terrible due to the lift situation. Allow a good 30 mins to get to your meeting point for disembarkation.
I am normally pretty good at getting used to the layout of a ship quickly however this one stumped me often and I had to carry the guide around for the first week. As advertised this is the biggest ship designed for the UK market and it is big. If you don't like big ships this isn't for you. If Azura/Ventura was too big for you then this certainly will not suit you. However if you like a wealth of choice of venues, good food options, a contemporary atmosphere and good service then its a great base to cruise around in. It tries to cover all bases appealing to families with children, ballroom enthusiasts, sun worshippers and those seeking to be entertained or a relaxing corner to read. I cant say we had a wow factor but it is a very pleasant vessel with some nice design touches and a few annoying niggles (lifts, lifts and lifts).
Clean, modern ship with lots of choices for dining and entertainment.
Modern, if compact, cabins
Main dining rooms well laid out with lots of space and very good choice of food
Big pool decks with lots of seating/loungers and areas to explore.
Good service with no additional service charges.
A great buffet layout with lots of choice
Lots of quizzes
Good bands, singers.
Good on board shows.
Lifts, lack of lifts, small lifts, lifts not working, wait for lifts, crowded lifts, lifts not opening on a floor.
Small venues (theatre, live lounge) for the number of passengers.
On the cusp of having too many chargeable restaurants options (The Market Cafe is a waste of space especially with the Java cafe two floors above in the Atrium).
Daytime entertainment relies a lot on spa talks leading to possible extra costs.
Sinks in public toilets have sensors for soap and water:- soap is produced in minute quantities and the water sensor doesn't sense your hands unless you wave them directly in front of them i.e. behind the actual sink. Its impossible to manage to get a steady stream to get hot water flowing and these sensors are in every public WC.
Would we cruise on her again? This is a hard one. For the ships second ever outing there were no teething problems to be sorted out which surprised us. If it wasn't for the lift issue I would say yes if the price and itinerary were good. However I know it may sound like I'm banging on about one issue but it really does affect most aspects of the cruise. Our Mums missed the start of the passenger choir performance despite leaving our cabin 25 minutes before it started as we could not get in a lift. Its an issue pretty much everyone was talking about. Perhaps on a term time cruise with fewer passengers the issue may not be quote so much of a major issue but I can only comment on our experience. When we finally got a lift on disembarkation day someone in it said 'thank god this is our final lift journey on this ship' and everyone laughed. Its something they cannot resolve apart from helping by ensuring the lifts are all working and unfortunately it is caused by trying to replace public space with cabins and on this occasion they have tipped the balance too far. So we are unlikely to be rushing back unless there is a bargain deal to be had.
There is a lot of info here and its hard to ensure everything is covered. If you have any specific questions feel free to ask plus I have hundreds of pics to get round to sorting out that may help others. Read Less