We have been on several cruises with other lines and had arranged to come on this cruise with five friends including a couple who had never cruised before. We had all been looking forward to the cruise on the P&O Flagship Britannia but ... Read More
We have been on several cruises with other lines and had arranged to come on this cruise with five friends including a couple who had never cruised before. We had all been looking forward to the cruise on the P&O Flagship Britannia but have to say we were all incredibly disappointed with the ship.
The embarkation process was efficient and well organised and staff were as pleasant and helpful as could be expected when coping with the large number of passengers.
Initially we felt the ship was going to live up to our expectations.
In the weeks leading up to the cruise we were advised by our tour operator that we had been upgraded and moved to a room mid-ship on A-deck. This turned out not to be such a positive arrangement.
When we boarded the ship there was some delay in finding a lift to take us up to Deck 15 but obviously, with a lot of people finding their way around we were not unduly surprised, though we were taken aback by the size of the lifts themselves - once we found a lift with space, it became apparent why there was such a delay. It was uncomfortable fitting more than 10—12 people in them - in spite of the maximum capacity being shown as 18! The lifts are small and slow, and the lift management system appears to be very poor.
We were a little disappointed to find the rooms were very much smaller than we have been used to on other ships, but they were well planned, clean and comfortable, albeit the balcony was “cosy” – indeed, so cosy that it is not possible to have the chairs arranged facing out but necessarily always at an angle. One very positive point, our steward was very friendly and extremely helpful.
We unpacked and after the Emergency Drill we had arranged to meet the others in our party on the deck for the sail-away. This is when the biggest frustration became apparent. Lack of stairs in mid-ship necessitated us HAVING to use the lifts just to get to Deck 16. With people from 10 decks below all wanting to get to Deck 16 at the same time, lift after lift stopped and went on, having stopped at every floor on the way up they were invariably full! It was over 15 minutes before a lift stopped with space for people to “squeeze in”! This was true throughout the fourteen-day cruise. Why on earth are there no stairs for passengers mid-ship on a ship of this size with the large number of guests on board? Even the emergency stairs seemed inadequate for the number of people trying to move to the muster areas during the Emergency Drill on the first day.
Whilst on the subject of the lifts, early evening on the first night we spent a short time in the Live Lounge. When we left we waited for a lift. One came, along with other guests we started to fill the lift, There were perhaps 10 or 11 people in the lift – getting full but not crowded. As another person attempted to enter the lift there was a clunk. At first we took no notice. There was another clunk, then a third. The last two people in got out. As the doors closed we noticed that the lift cage had dropped by 6-8 inches! 11 or 12 people does rather make a mockery of the 18-person limit!
Compared to other ships, the corridors are slightly narrower meaning one has to stop and allow others to pass. More problematic when housekeeping trolleys are in use and they take up over half the space, or when buggies or wheelchairs were parked in the corridors.
The smoking area on Deck 16 is almost fully enclosed. At some times of the day, especially first thing in the morning and late evening, the smell of smoke in lift lobby area on Deck 16 is quite strong. Quite frequently, there is a strong smell of smoke in the lifts descending from Deck 16, even into the lift area on Deck 15.
The lack of a proper promenade deck was another feature that we missed having enjoyed them on other cruise ships. The small “promenade deck” around the smoke stacks is a very poor substitute, especially as fallout of smoke smuts makes walking in this area far from pleasant. Clearly the smoke fallout is a regular problem as the deck furniture in this area is badly stained and I understand that guests in the rear facing cabins were regularly complaining of smoke smuts on their balconies and furniture.
The promenade deck on Deck 5, such as it is, was regularly closed for no apparent reason, certainly not because of the weather that was very light throughout the whole cruise.
We felt the Live Lounge and the Headliners Theatre are not large enough for the number of passengers that the ship carries. Whilst the entertainment is exceptionally good, they are invariably full to overflowing, standing room only! In the live Lounge the lack of space is exacerbated by the choice of furniture. The heavy “drum” chairs prove to be almost immovable meaning frequently chairs are unused as they can’t be moved - even sufficiently to enable somebody to sit on them.
As I mentioned, we have been on several cruises, some in fairly rough weather. We found Britannia rolled quite a lot in the lightest of seas. The last couple of nights, there was light wind and a light sea, the ship, and especially the patio doors in our cabin creaked and groaned loudly all night keeping my wife awake (in spite of using ear plugs!)
Another area where there appears to have been rather poor planning is the atrium. One charming lady we sat with, a regular guest with P&O over many years used to cruising 2-3 times a year, likened the atrium as “a London conference centre”. A huge rectangular area similar to a shopping mall complete with Costa Coffee, shops, and bars. It lacks any real atmosphere. A beautiful piano on deck 5 remains unused. There was no attempt to provide any form of live entertainment at any time of day, relying on soulless piped muzak.
Service in the restaurants was efficient but not good. Buying wine at the table usually necessitated us first attracting the attention of a waiter and asking him to find a wine waiter. The wine waiters when we did manage to get one were courteous and helpful, but we would usually be some way through our meal before our drinks arrived.
The food in most of the restaurants was excellent, though the vegetarian choice in the Peninsular restaurant was limited, ie: there was no choice – there was A vegetarian option.
The primarily Indian male staff were efficient, but certainly not proactive. Having been used to multi-national male/female waiting staff on other cruises, the mono gendered staff gave a really different feel to the dining experience.
If we wanted our water topped up we would need to gain the attention of a waiter and ask for the water to be replenished, it was rarely done without prompting. At breakfast we would have to catch the attention of a waiter and ask for tea or coffee refills. This was especially the case in the Horizon Bar at breakfast. To ask for decaffeinated coffee as one of party needs, would throw them into real disarray, it could take 10 minutes to produce a sachet of decaffeinated coffee and hot water.
We did try the Lido Grill on the Lido Deck on one occasion but once again we found things rather less than we had hoped. Instead of finding freshly cooked burgers and hot dogs, we found burgers and hot dogs cooked and wrapped and stacked on a heated shelves waiting to be picked up. Take it or leave it, no choice of filling - all cheese burgers, all luke-warm with rolls soggy with grease from there long wait on the hot plate – very unappetising.
Afternoon tea was interesting. Getting to the Oriental Restaurant was the first challenge, and the lack of through corridors on Deck 6 is another strange “design feature”. The doors to the restaurant opened bang on 4:00 and we were escorted to a table (no choice, we were told where to sit). Tea was delivered, followed by finger sandwiches, followed by scones, followed by crumpets, followed by a tea top up, followed by our plates being removed. No time for a cake. We were out of the restaurant in just under 25 minutes – as the staff prepared the tables for the evening meals. Not exactly the relaxing and enjoyable experience we have had on other ships.
The Limelight Club was very good, and Madelaine Bell was excellent. Service in the restaurant was very good but the menu was very limited. Once again, as a vegetarian, a choice of one! There was no appetiser and no offer of cheese and biscuits.
The swimming pools were a further disappointment. The Riviera Pool and the Lido Pool on the Lido Deck are separated by the splash pool/dance area. The two pools are too deep to allow paddling and too short to allow swimming. The terrace pool at the rear of the ship on the sun deck was effectively a splash pool only large enough to accommodate a very small (friendly) group of people, whilst the pool in the Serenity Pool area was also only large enough to allow a few strokes before reaching the end. None of the pools are covered or coverable and hence not useable in anything less that the good weather.
The formal evenings were well supported by the guests, but there seemed to be little involvement by the staff to the point where, with the exception of the first evening, they felt like any other night.
Drinks at the bars were reasonably priced (hotel pricing) but waiter service tended to be slow in both the bars and the coffee lounges. Waiter service on the decks was appallingly slow – typically over 15 minutes.
The talks we attended in the Headliners Theatre were generally good, but other cruise lines offer the opportunity to catch up on missed presentations by recording the talks and then showing them on the ships CCTV system. Very useful when more than one activity is on offer at the same time, and especially useful when describing the upcoming ports and available excursions.
There were no craft activities the type we have experienced on other cruises. We felt this was a missed opportunity.
This was our first cruise with P and O. It will most definitely be our last on the Britannia, and we will think very carefully before booking with P and O again. Read Less