This was our first P&O cruise, and probably our last. The ship has a lovely decor, plenty of different spaces/places to go to, we had an excellent itinerary and to top it all it was a Strictly cruise. However, I cannot help but be ... Read More
This was our first P&O cruise, and probably our last. The ship has a lovely decor, plenty of different spaces/places to go to, we had an excellent itinerary and to top it all it was a Strictly cruise. However, I cannot help but be disappointed with P&O's flagship.
Firstly the good bits...
The cabin decor was finished to a high standard and in tranquil colours. There was plenty of storage space for our clothes and cases. Yes, it is smaller (in width) compared with the cabins we have had on Royal Caribbean, but during the day it was perfectly formed. There was a large fridge and tea/coffee making facilities and at least 3 easily accessible UK sockets. The TV was flat screen and wall mounted. Although we didn't watch them, there were a number of films and other TV programmes. The shower was massive and the bathroom well planned. The balcony is smaller again than we are used to but enough room for the two of us on the slightly reclining chairs, and the table doubled up as a footstool.
The sun deck with the main swimming pools was popular. The grab and go (breakfast snacks, sandwiches, salads, desserts and the odd hot pasty/samosa) was a nice touch if you wanted a break from over eating at lunchtime. The pizza and burger bars situated here were also popular for a quick snack (and they did do salad there too). My son loved the ice cream bar, which was a reasonable price (magnums were £1.80, calippos £1 and ice cream £1.75 for 1 scoop up to £2.25 for 3 scoops). They also did ice cream milkshakes and costa coffee for the parents.
As I mentioned above, it was a Strictly cruise and there was a full programme of events from professional demonstration shows to fashion shows, passenger competitions and question and answer sessions. On board, we had Kevin and Karen Clifton, Aljaz Skorjanec and his partner Janette Manrara, then for the second week we had Ian Waite and Camilla Dallerup. We were also joined by Russell Grant and Arlene Phillips. This was in addition to the usual onboard teachers, 4 daily lessons whilst at sea and nightly dancing to a live band. If you love dancing, this was certainly the cruise for you.
In fact, the whole entertainment schedule was packed with plenty to do. Unfortunately, you sometimes had to make a hard choice and miss out on something, but c'est la vie.
The Beach Hut. If you go on Britannia, do not miss this place! There is a £5 cover charge per person and additional £1.95 or £2.95 for some of the main courses. The food was excellent. The service was up there with the best I have had on any cruise ship with the waiters interacting with all the guests and setting puzzles for the kids with sugar packets between courses. My only negative point - I wish we had discovered this earlier in the cruise. There was a wait every night if you didn't go at the opening time, so get there at 6.30pm (even so, we still had to wait until 6.45pm before we were seated).
On to the bad...
The cabin at night was a nightmare. We travelled with our son and booked a GB cabin with a sofa bed. Unfortunately, when the sofa bed is out, you cannot access the fridge, hairdryer or the balcony. The sofa bed takes up all the room between the wall and the dressing table, with perhaps an inch or so to spare. To access the fridge or the hairdryer, you have to lift the sofa bed up, and it then gets stuck on the coffee table when lowering it. The tea/coffee making facilities is also in this corner so you have to go without first thing in the morning, which is when you are usually gasping for a cuppa, or lean over the bed and risk scalding yourself or the bed occupant. Poor design P&O.
Many people have commented on the lack of a central staircase and this was a big issue, especially on port days as the gangway was inevitably midship when coming back to the ship. Most people also used these lifts to access the freedom dining restaurants, theatre and bars and shops around the atrium. Whilst there are forward and aft lifts/staircases, it was only on deck 7 that you could walk through to the back of the ship, so this really is a poor design feature. It is also quite a big ship with a large 'older' clientele (especially considering this was a school holiday cruise), so I think this should have been thought about more carefully.
On the subject of the atrium, this didn't really provide a focal point and lacked in atmosphere. This was a problem in many areas of the ship, whilst it was nice it just lacked a je ne sais quoi. Some of this, I suspect, was related to the indifferent service. On most ships poor customer service is an exception. Unfortunately, on Britannia it was the rule. No-one was rude but they just didn't seem to care. There were exceptions to this - the Beach Hut bring one, a couple of waiters in the dining room and a barman in the Crystal Room - but it really wasn't what I expected. I also visited/spoke to reception about a couple of minor issues. Their response on every occasion was that it wasn't their fault it was someone else's department. Whilst this is true, a better way of dealing with these issues might have been 'Thank you for bringing this to our attention, unfortunately I cannot resolve this but I will pass it on to someone who can' rather than a blame attitude. The ultimate outcome was the same, but I was left feeling that I was being chastised for raising the issue and dissatisfied with my interaction.
Food was also not quite up to the standard I would expect. Someone needs to teach the chefs how to cook eggs as they were usually undercooked with unset whites or uncooked centres in the omelettes. The buffet menu choice was limited, although every day there was salad, carvery and themed dishes. There were waiters taking drinks orders and pouring tea/coffee at breakfast and evening meals. However, on many occasions we would be able to eat all our meal and dessert without being asked if we wanted a drink.on the one occasion we did manage to order, my son had finished his meal and dessert before it arrived. It is far easier to get your own.
As far as being a family friendly ship, it is certainly less so than Royal Caribbean. The kids club shuts for 1 hour at lunchtime and teatime, and doesn't start until 10am. This can make attending activities without kids in tow difficult as often these would start at 10am or 2pm and you might be queuing up to sign into kids club for 10 minutes or so when it first opens. Kids cannot sign themselves in or out until they are 13. Also, you cannot leave the kids on board in kids club whilst you go ashore. We had a lovely wander around Cadiz, but ended up curtailing it because our son got a bit too hot, tired and bored. It would have been nice to have taken him back to the ship, and then gone back for a couple of hours. Just means we need to plan a long weekend there whilst he stays with the Grandparents...
Finally, for a ship that big, the dance floor in the Crystal Room is far too small.
In summary, lots of good points but plenty of bad too. The British have a reputation for moaning, and we heard plenty of comments particularly about the lack of central staircase and level of service. The design issues are not major problems and could be overcome with information (and we worked our way around the central staircase issue by going forward or aft). I wouldn't have booked the cabin grade that we had, had I known about the bed issue, and I would have paid more for a higher grade cabin so that we could be. Ore comfortable in the cabin at night. However, it was the general ambience and poor service that let it down for me. There were people who seemed to love it, but also many who didn't (more who seemed to say they would go back to another P&O ship rather than Britannia, but then we do like to moan). It is a bit of a marmite ship. I don't think Britannia was for us. Read Less