We have just returned home from a 2 week Western Mediterranean cruise on the P & O Britannia, their ‘flagship’ boat. Upon booking the cruise, we were eager to see a new, modern boat, designed specifically for the British market. ... Read More
We have just returned home from a 2 week Western Mediterranean cruise on the P & O Britannia, their ‘flagship’ boat. Upon booking the cruise, we were eager to see a new, modern boat, designed specifically for the British market. Having been on 2 previous cruises, one being on the P & O Azura and the other on the Celebrity Silhouette, of which the latter was very impressive, we expected this boat to be full of innovative technology and stylish décor seeing as it was only launched less than 18 months ago.
However, upon embarkation onto Britannia in Southampton, our mind-set quickly changed, as it felt like we were being loaded onto the boat via the back door, with no up-lifting welcome from the staff or complimentary drinks, which was not the best start to our holiday on board what is regarded as the front runner in the P & O fleet. Our first glimpse of Britannia was the Atrium or in other words the central area of the ship which was like a shopping mall with a Costa Coffee and a range of other shops which, despite constant advertising of sales and additional reductions, the items were not in fact much cheaper than high street stores.
This moves us nicely onto the attitude, friendliness and professionalism of the staff which particularly amongst the Officer ranks and certain members of the Entertainment team was virtually non-existent, with many choosing to ignore and simply not acknowledge passengers, creating an air of superiority amongst some members of the crew. Also, some seemed to forget that their duty was to ensure the safety of the passengers, for example when embarking on a tender operation to reach St. Peter Port, Guernsey, many officers had their sunglasses on and were chatting amongst themselves rather than ensuring people got safely on and off the tender boats and further to this, whilst on a tender boat we witnessed one member of the Britannia Show Cast thinking it was amusing to take control of the tender boat from the designated driver whilst it was in motion on the sea – surely this is deeply unacceptable as passenger safety in this moment should be of the highest priority? The same cannot be said for the waiters and bar tenders, as they never failed to welcome you and look after you whilst on-board the ship.
However, what must be mentioned is the Entertainment programme which is run on board on a day to day basis, headed up by the Entertainment manager and her team. Whilst we appreciate that this was a Mediterranean cruise and for this reason, many passengers were happy to sunbathe and relax on the upper decks of the ship, this assumption cannot be made for all passengers on board. This resulted in the choice and variety of Entertainment on board being very limited for some people – if you liked quizzes and beauty demonstrations you would be fine, but other than that there is the odd film shown in a cinema which is unbelievably impractical seeing as it is on one level surface meaning you can actually only see the whole screen if you are sat on the front row.
Also, you may be lucky to get a Guest speaker when on board- we were treated to two – yippee! One being Dale Templar who we enjoyed listening to and the other Dr Nick Slope who gave very interesting talks on a variety of historical periods and events ranging from the Re-conquest of Spain in the 14th century to the Ok Corral cowboys story in the USA. However, the Entertainment team let themselves down by there being a printing error on the Horizon magazine as Dr Nick had to do a talk on the Ok Corral despite him having a talk on Rome planned seeing as this was our next destination – it was amusing at the incompetence of the planning yet from another perspective deeply disappointing that staff seemed unable to apply common sense to situations – perhaps it may be an idea for the Entertainment manager to take time out of her busy schedule to proof read the Horizon magazine prior to distribution each night to eliminate these basic yet frankly embarrassing mistakes.
Next, we feel it is necessary to mention the logistical issues that impede the smooth flow of passengers throughout the ship which is something that many people complained about during the 2 weeks with some, including myself, being unable to easily locate places on the ship even on day 13 due to the poor layout. For example, the mid-ship stairs abruptly end on Deck 7 meaning that you are left with no option but to either wait for a lift that is likely to be crammed full of people or walk to the front or back of the ship if you wish to continue on the stairs to reach the upper decks. This seems to be a major design flaw as surely stairs in the central area of the ship should take people to all decks and coupled with this, there are no clear signs, maps or staff available on hand to help if you are struggling to find somewhere, which is not exactly the excellent customer service you would expect on a P & O ship. Moreover, with 3600 passengers on board, the theatre is far too small holding just over 900 per sitting, resulting in the more popular shows having to be performed 3 times per evening to maximise people’s chances of seeing the shows, although this does not hide the fact that P & O realise themselves that this is a major issue in the ship’s design by creating a theatre that is so small.
Like with any cruise, many people go in the hope of freshly sourced food which is served hot and is varied and suitable for all passengers on board. However, we felt there were a number of issues with particularly the Horizon Buffet restaurant including the fact that most of the food is bland, served cold and lacking variety, particularly in terms of vegetarian options. Also what annoyed many passengers was the system whereby the fruit juices were freely available at breakfast time from the self-service machines, yet for the rest of the day these were unavailable. This seems to be a money-making initiative which forces people to buy a drink from the bar tenders as water is only available free of charge, despite the high cost people have paid to go on a cruise whereby you would expect at the very least fruit juice to be made readily available particularly on a ‘school holiday cruise’.
This moves us onto the initiative of charging for ice cream during the day despite it being a cruise designed to accommodate children during the holidays. A suggestion P & O could take on board is that instead of using Carte D’Or Ice Cream which is clearly an expensive brand, why not use a cheaper version of ice cream and make it the case that each child receives one free ice cream per day in the summer months whereby they advertise these cruises as being a ‘school holiday cruise’? Having been on the Celebrity Silhouette during the summer months, both ice cream and fruit juices were both available free of charge during the daytime.
Finally, we would like to mention a few things about the staterooms. In terms of first impressions, the cabins are spacious and welcoming yet we soon discovered a few issues in terms of practicalities. For instance, we cannot understand how this is supposedly a ship designed for the British market yet there are European shaver socket plugs in the bathrooms, meaning that we had to ask for an adaptor. Surely for a ship that is advertised to appeal to the British market, appropriate steps would have been taken by P & O to ensure that things like shaver socket plugs are suitable for the majority that travel on the Britannia, i.e. people from the UK? Furthermore, in the latter part of our cruise we could not help but notice an unpleasant aroma from the bathroom despite it being cleaned regularly by our cabin steward. Again, it seems there is a problem, this time with the Ship’s sanitation and pipe systems causing this unpleasant smell, of which we were not the only people to complain about this.
Overall, whilst on board Britannia, we could not help but think that this ship has major design flaws which resulted in logistical issues for many passengers that were not just noticeable by ourselves and also some of the ship’s personnel did not at times conduct themselves in a way that is to be expected on board the P & O ‘flagship’.
I’m a Celebrity get me out of here! Read Less