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12 Southampton to Caribbean - Southern Cruise Reviews

Dates fitted our holiday window, so we gave it a go. Lead up all went good, emails and info supplied. Boarding was swift and free from issues. Met by friendly staff and went to our cabin. Cabin was small but found it to be cosy ... Read More
Dates fitted our holiday window, so we gave it a go. Lead up all went good, emails and info supplied. Boarding was swift and free from issues. Met by friendly staff and went to our cabin. Cabin was small but found it to be cosy and well equipped. We had our first evening meal in the Lobster restaurant. We had different meals and found the food to be far from restaurant fair. Mostly tasteless with "Michelin style descriptions" which we did laugh at. We were led to a table for 6 first, and expected to join total strangers, after me asking for a table for two, this was arranged with little effort. I don't mind the odd night with strangers, but this would have been set in stone for each and every night after. Due to the disappointment from the Lobster, we used the buffet on night two. Food average and fairly well laid out with a fairly good choice. Pizzas were fantastic without fail. Night three back to try the Lobster, food just as bad, completely tasteless and made up to be something to blow your mind, and really far from the descriptions again. The British head chef came out to meet everyone in the restaurant. I did make a joke to my wife,"If I was him I wouldn't show my face, service up that rubbish" I don't know if the chef is to blame, or the budget he has to work with. The entertainment was not great and had a distinctly European based feel, not really for the UK pallet. We do like a good drink and a dance to a good band. MSC did lack this for us. We had a bit of a culture shock regarding the general rudeness of the mixed European passengers, during leaving the ship on tours, particularly completely ignoring ques and just barging in anywhere. The same behaviour on the ship, while in the buffet and waiting for lifts. We generally don't do drink packages and usually buy as we go. The first night we ordered two beers with our meal and ended up with a bill for 14.95 Euros. This frankly is daylight robbery for two 33cl beers. We then filled our back pack with cans of beers during city visits and had no problem bringing these aboard, on our return. A bucket of ice and two cold beers later, then repeat. We also like a nice coffee, and found that the special coffees on offer were tasty, but very tiny and around 8.00 Euros for two. There is a lot on board that you find to your peril, after ordering, ending up with a larger than average bill for. There is also a charge of 14.95 Euros added to your room bill every day for tips, this does anger me as I have always been of the opinion that a tip is for service over and above the normal. We did remove all tips in the end, as felt that we were being ripped off at every turn by MSC, and felt this was our only form of getting our own back. We do give cash tips directly to staff who do give exceptional service. The ship is a stunning well equipped ship with as good as the best out there offer, however, we did feel that overall the mixing of several nationalities does tend to back fire to a large degree, the general poor quality of the food on offer and the very high prices charged for beverages does mark this ship/company down considerably. As we only went on this trip as a fill in break during Easter time off, and a break away, we did enjoy it generally, we did mange to laugh at the poor and miss described food, the rows and squabbles amongst passengers. The rip off prices, that led us to used plan B. The endless 6 language announcements that can grind you down. If you treat most things like water off a ducks back, then MSC is a great, different experience of cruising. Give MSC a go. If however you look for value for money, first class dining, a great time being entertained during your evenings with the drink flowing, without busting your wallets, I would leave MSC well alone and stick with the UK/USA ships instead. Happy Cruising....... Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
What we liked : - Beautiful ship - Cabin is fine and was kept very clean, the cabin steward did a great job. - Disembarkation was very smooth, we were allowed to stay on board till around 10 o'clock which is appreciated. ... Read More
What we liked : - Beautiful ship - Cabin is fine and was kept very clean, the cabin steward did a great job. - Disembarkation was very smooth, we were allowed to stay on board till around 10 o'clock which is appreciated. What we disliked : - embarkation was bad. We arrived around 13:00 and was not even allowed to get into the departure building and had to wait in the waiting area at the arrival hall (this is Southampton). They started to call for black card members to go to the departure building around 1400 and after that the rest of the passengers. So around 1415 all guests waiting at the waiting area went over to the departure building where a huge line formed. It took more than 45 minutes to go through this line which is totally not necessary if they would let you wait in the departure area when you arrive. -Food is bad, buffet food always only lukewarm and old (sitting there for too long )At first, we thought it was because we had late lunch, due to the bad embarkation process, we only got on the ship at around 1530 so quite late. Next day, we went at 1230 when the lunch started and the food was also cold or lukewarm. No matter what time you go there, food is just not warm. Breakfast is much better as sometimes you will get hot and fresh pastry items. Limited choices in the MDR and food quality is average at best. -We could not get our desired dining time(even we have booked the Fantastica experience). We went to see the restaurant manager on embarkation day but he would only get us on a waitlist and we never heard back from him. We prefer 1e sitting but was not able to get that and 2e sitting is just too late for us.(dining at 21:00 is just not our thing) -service is hit and miss. We did have an excellent server but we also encountered some very rude staff. (guest services, photo studio staff etc) We don’t expect service to the extreme but do expect to be treated friendly and courteous but it is not always the case. -Entertainment lacking. Shows were bad too, only 1 or 2 shows that was good, other than that just a singer or two singing a few songs. This is not what I expect to see in the theater every night. Lacking activities, there is not much to do on board. Just some dance lessons, stretch exercise and a trivia that is done in 5 languages. It's a pain to sit through that. Most people just sit in the different bars/lounges to listen to some music. Summary : I guess it is "you get what you pay for" but I do not feel we have paid a cheap price for this cruise so we do feel disappointed. If you have paid a bargain price then you may find things OK. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this ship and P&O because Cunard did not sail at the time we wanted. It was our first time to the Caribbean and coincided with our 40th Anniversary. We had not expected Ventura to rival Queen Elizabeth and chose a Superior ... Read More
We chose this ship and P&O because Cunard did not sail at the time we wanted. It was our first time to the Caribbean and coincided with our 40th Anniversary. We had not expected Ventura to rival Queen Elizabeth and chose a Superior Deluxe Balcony cabin for the extra room and facilities indicated. In this respect Ventura provided all we asked for with a good walk-in clothes space and a generous-sized bathroom. However the soft furnishings were rather shabby and the bed/settee sagging and uncomfortable. This is inexcusable when you have paid extra for a comfortable cabin which you want to spend time in. Nor did four days without heating help - or the lack of interest by the staff on reception - one of whom suggested we were lying about ever having complained. All was eventually sorted - but it is not how you wish to start your holiday. At least we were near the lifts and just two decks up from the main dining rooms, so it was easier to walk. Our cabin steward was friendly, efficient and helpful. Whatever else the Ventura is, it is not Cunard and has little wow factor or style about its public areas. The grand atrium is anything but and the scenic lifts are bit of a gimmick. I was surprised to learn that the dance floor at the bottom was introduced in a recent refit as it seems something of an afterthought. Photographs of the tightly packed sun loungers around the various pools on the upper decks suggested these would be like Clacton on a Bank Holiday Monday and so they proved. As we are not into sunning ourselves to a dark shade of mahogany this was not on our agenda and one advantage of cruise liners of all kinds is that you can pick and choose the parts you wish to inhabit. My partner, however, greatly appreciated a swim at the crack of dawn with a few other hardy souls. Both of the daytime speakers - criminologist going out and army/war-time expert on the return leg - were excellent. And they played to packed audiences. There were some good films on most afternoons and later on we discovered more were available on the TV. Entertainment could be found in some of the bars and club areas but the headline acts were in the theatre. The Headliners house troupe of singers and dancers were excellent and of West End standards. But the support acts on other evenings were somewhat second rate and the three comedians without exception terrible. One was so bad we walked out - only to find half the audience following us. Someone needs to do some equalities training within the entertainment department. Some of the 'jokes' are not acceptable in the 21st Century and given that the average age of the paying guests on this trip were 60 and over these comedians need to tailor their acts rather more - it is not clever to insult your audience. Food - well there's plenty of it. But not of very high quality, rather bland and, with very few exceptions, very forgettable. The menus are huge - and given that you are given very little time to peruse them it would be better to reduce the options and improve the quality. Marco Pierre White was supposed to have devised menus for formal nights but this got a bit out of kilter on this trip which rather spoils the point of dressing up for something special. And expensive ingredients are sometimes highlighted but are actually subservient when they appear on the plate which is just not on. We had a regular table for two on the second sitting and I must say our table crew worked their socks off and were always affable and obliging. There are other dining options at extra cost. The Epicurian calls itself fine dining and aims higher but falls victim to gimmicks which are unnecessary at best while on a long 28 day cruise like this one become stale and rather irritating. Wine is generally far cheaper that on Cunard albeit with a more limited choice. Another paid-for dining experience is Sindhu - an Asian establishment overseen by Michelin starred Atul Kucher - but we found it very little if at all better than our local in London. And who ever thought that the horizontal bamboo screen was a suitable sound barrier from the cacophony of chatter as people walked by on the main internal deck? Or for that matter, the walls of passenger mug shots outside to gaze upon? The biggest surprise was Ollie Smith's Glasshouse wine bar. Food can be a bit hit and miss at many wine bars but this had that standout ingredient TASTE. My first lunch here was calves liver - two large, tender, perfectly-cooked pieces simply bursting with flavour. On later visits we had excellent fish and chips and you could also opt for light bite platters by choosing three items from an extensive list. All excellent. Port and shore excursions were generally as we expected but while initial embarkation had been faultless disembarkation was a nightmare. This was made worse by us being from the theatre. We were encouraged to come down from the rear of the theatre - where most people enter from - and then the person in 'charge' got all huffy about people standing and started spouting health and safety. All the outer seats were taken by people with mobility issues so we had to scramble over them carry heavy hand luggage. My back was put out for several weeks as a result. The MC then said people would leave from the front row but he completely ignored dozens of others streaming down from the higher tiers on the far side until people in the second and third rows complained very vocally. To be fair he was on his own and back-up stewards were really required to prevent cheating. But this fiasco made a mockery of health and safety. The cruise was good overall, with calm seas and excellent weather. That said we will probably not venture on the Ventura again or any other large P&0 cruise liner. We have booked Oriana later in the year and hope that this may be more us. We've heard good reports and it has just had a refit. Here's hoping. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
in jan the weather in uk is rubbish so why not do a caribean cruise from southampton to break up the winter . .the drive from scotland is 450 m so we stop near oxford for an overnight break and then on to southampton the folowing day.the ... Read More
in jan the weather in uk is rubbish so why not do a caribean cruise from southampton to break up the winter . .the drive from scotland is 450 m so we stop near oxford for an overnight break and then on to southampton the folowing day.the port parking in southampton is so expensive we use park at my house .com or similar and use taxi to get to p&o terminal .in the past we allways payed the tips up front but due to lack of intrest from some off the staff on board we now cancell tips and reward the staff that we think deserve the tips .at this point i would have to say p&o represent good value for money and you do get what you pay for . the majority of the staff are very good and unlike most off the cruise ships we are permited to bring a bottle off spirits on board for consumpsion in the cabin.p&o are very uk orientated and are used to uk market the bars are pub prices the wine a litle expensive in the restaraunt .we book our own shore excursions with an independent company.day time entertaiment at sea is very good.embarcation and disembarcation is a hit or miss. our first cruise with p&o was on the canberra p&o decided to cancel all our previous points attained with them and also with the princess line .princess which was sister ship company to p&o have given all the all the points for p&o cruises that we have done so sailing with princess we have lots more benifits and loyalty with princess than we have with p&o which is a little sad but there you go .its good you can wash your clothes in the laundry and get all the gossip much more goes on on a cruise ship than you think good bye Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
P&O Arcadia 25/11/2015 to 19/12/2015 Madera – Antigua – St Kitts – Grenada – Dominica – Barbados – Azores – Vigo The cruise was uneventful and very relaxing as you spend 16 days at sea and even in a force 10 on the way ... Read More
P&O Arcadia 25/11/2015 to 19/12/2015 Madera – Antigua – St Kitts – Grenada – Dominica – Barbados – Azores – Vigo The cruise was uneventful and very relaxing as you spend 16 days at sea and even in a force 10 on the way home which is why we could not get into the Azores and went to Vigo instead the ship was as steady as a rock. The condition of the ship was a different matter as for 11 days decks 2,3,4,5, mid ship stank of sewage and drains which was very strong at times, there was also a problem with the slatted aluminium roof strips on the viewing deck 11 port side as several had been ripped off by wind and others were rattling loose and had stress fractures which should they have come loose could have taken your head off and after reporting it to the reception, security and 2 bridge officers over 5 days I was amazed nothing was done even thought it was at most a 15 minute job to secure the strips. The person who said the stern cabins were brilliant on the Arcadia did not have the Benidorm lot we had on the ship ( A165 ) cabin is the last on the starboard side before the corner suite and right under the rear sun deck and the Benidorm contingent decided at 6am to come and throw their sun loungers in position before the rush and even after trying to be nice and ask them to be quite the abuse from their welsh spokes women was so bad the crew taped off the deck every night and did not open it until after 8am so we could sleep which was appreciated. The problems with the food was the variety as we had theme nights and the Asian night was curry the Indian night was curry the Thai night was curry which gets a bit much for anyone but all food was cooked well just one comment for the Neptune grill please get some proper beef and onion burgers and use the sausages we had for breakfast not the German boiled bratwurst and small finger rolls with proper fried onions not stewed tasteless sea weed, we as adults do not need American style giant hotdogs do them like we do on the barbi at home. Freedom dinning is great the meals are well cooked and if you want two steaks it’s no problem and the cheese and bickies are great. All praise to the Captain who can put this ship against a lolly stick of a jetty better than I could do with a rowing boat and his skill and attitude was a great inspiration to the wellbeing feeling of us and the crew. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. It was a lifetime experience for me. The service was excellent, the cabin was excellent and the food was excellent. There was plenty of good entertainment, all for free. I would go again given a chance, but ... Read More
I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. It was a lifetime experience for me. The service was excellent, the cabin was excellent and the food was excellent. There was plenty of good entertainment, all for free. I would go again given a chance, but my partner had a tough time of it. She had bronchitis whilst on board as the air conditioning was too dry for her. She could not breathe very easily at all. She spent many hours in the medical centre having nebulizers and oxygen. Because of this we could not get off the ship for some of the trips we had booked. The cabin we had was excellent as we were upgraded to a larger cabin with a separate sitting area. Cabin No. 193 C level. The one thing I did not like was the Marco Pierre White restaurant. We had to pay £25 just to go in there. It was no better than all your other restaurants, in fact it was lacking in choice of food offerred. There were two separate menus for different nights. We did not know this and were not told about this. We therefore did not have a choice as to which menu we chose from. The food was no better than that provided by all your other restaurants which were excellent. Why is the Restaurant there. It is a complete rip-off. The staff looked untidy too as they had greyish long aprons which looked a mess on them. The short aprons that all other waiters had were much better, and looked much smarter and cleaner. I cannot complement this ship and staff enough, everything was brilliant, from the boarding system and the disembarkation system. Why can't all airports that run like that. It was brilliant. The ship was pretty stable even though we were in quite a rough sea. The stabilisers did their job. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We have just returned from the Caribbean Christmas and New Year’s cruise and can only say we were very disappointed. This had been out tenth cruise with Cunard on all of their three ships and can honestly say their standards have not ... Read More
We have just returned from the Caribbean Christmas and New Year’s cruise and can only say we were very disappointed. This had been out tenth cruise with Cunard on all of their three ships and can honestly say their standards have not only slipped, but slid quite away. The daily activities was virtually none existent, take the bridge classes, Spa Ranch, pub quiz, bingo and minority group meetings from the daily program and there was very little left. The guest speakers were a welcome break from the monotony, although not all were to my interest the auditorium was packed out on each of their presentations. The evening shows were second rate although the Cunard Dancers were very professional only let down by the Cunard Singers whose singing was amateur to say the least. The two comedians, one of home who is a house hold name in the UK had material not changed since the 70s and the other’s humour or lack of it was to take the mick from different nationalities. However, on the East Bound Atlantic crossing back to Southampton the Fly Rights were brilliant, we had to wait 3 weeks for some decent entertainment, which was this. One afternoon and one afternoon only the entertainment staff along with the production staff acted out a Murder Mystery Suspense Thriller to music where the audience participated. Very slap stick but the audience loved it. The food in the Britannia Restaurant was adequate and served cold on more than a few occasions although this was rectified each time we complained. The food in the Kings Court Buffet was acceptable and a good variety in choice. I’m afraid Cunard has had its day, surviving on its history and White Star Service which is a shade of grey now. Most people we talked to were very disappointed and talked of other Cruise Lines they had been with being far better. Cunard, your Platinum and Diamond members are not going to live forever and you need interest the future generations or sail with empty ships.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We set off from Glasgow on our Eavesway coach at 3:45 a.m., which was a very early start so as a result we slept most of our first sea day asleep!! We stopped en-route for pick-ups in Carlisle, Lancaster and Stafford, and had two meal ... Read More
We set off from Glasgow on our Eavesway coach at 3:45 a.m., which was a very early start so as a result we slept most of our first sea day asleep!! We stopped en-route for pick-ups in Carlisle, Lancaster and Stafford, and had two meal breaks so it was 1:50 when we arrived at the Ocean Terminal. Check-in went very smoothly and although there was a bit of a queue at security we were onboard and in our cabin by 2:30. Our luggage arrived really quickly so although we'd intended to leave unpacking till the first sea day, we just got on with it before the Muster drill then we were ready to set sail. WHAT WE DID IN THE PORTS Our cruise was 35 days to the Caribbean so we spent the first three days at sea before reaching Madeira. It was a Sunday so we didn't quite know what we should do, but actually there was a lot of entertainment around the town and a good bustling atmosphere so we enjoyed just walking around. After crossing the Atlantic, our first port was Antigua, a beautiful island. We took a local bus to Nelson's Dockyard and had a super day. We used Cosol Tours in St Lucia which we'd thoroughly recommend. My husband's a cricket fan we visited the cricket museum and the Kensington Oval in Barbados and in Grenada we took our only ship excursion with the Rhum Runner. We had organised a tour with Aruba Trikes on our next stop and it took us round a lot of the island but to be honest apart from some lovely beaches, there was little to admire. We enjoyed a part-transit of the Panama Canal before heading for Roatan in Honduras. This was a new port for us and for many on our cruise and it was our only rainy day in the Caribbean. It is not too developed yet, and there is a lot of poverty and we were upset by how many hungry street dogs we saw. Our last ports of call were Montego Bay (avoid at all costs!), Tortola where we had a fantastic tour on a jimney (open-sided bus) which was only $20 for 3 hours and finally a shopping morning and a final afternoon on the beach in St Maarten. I must just say that in the P&O info it said there was a "small town beach, but there is probably about a mile of beach, easily accessible using the water taxi from the port ($7 for unlimited journeys). We had quite a lot of wind on the way to Ponte Delgada but luckily we were able to dock and we took the little train which was somehow boring but hilarious at the same time time. We also managed to find the local market which is something I always love to do wherever we dock and otherwise just enjoyed wandering round taking in the atmosphere, although lots of the shops closed at 1:00 p.m. as it was a Saturday. The last leg across the BoB was pretty rough (Force 11 at times according to the crew member we asked) but Oceana coped well with the weather. DINING We opted for second-sitting club dining and although we requested a table for 8, we were allocated one for 6, but fortunately we all got on really well and had great fun every evening talking about everything under the sun. Our waiters, Ram and Alister, as well as our wine waiter Jesus were really nice and attentive but they do seem rushed off their feet and don't seem to have much time just to stand and chat, which isn't their fault. The food on the whole was pretty good. Some nights were better than others, of course, and some nights exceptionally good. In general the steaks were of a better quality than we had experienced recently and were always a good stand-by. I enjoyed Caesar Salad from the alternative menu as a starter and it's worth asking what else is on that menu as you can order from it every night, although it's not well publicised. The Plaza was as hectic as ever although we usually had breakfast there as we never got up much before 9:30 --well holidays are for relaxing. If we were onboard ship, we usually just had lunch there too but always waited till around 2:30 when it was much quieter and as we only had salads, they hadn't run out of what we wanted. We ate in the Horizon Grill one night and it as HUGELY disappointing. First of all, we found the smell of the deep-fat fryer over-powering and my husband who is not at all a fussy eater found his steak tough and inedible. Mine was well done even though I ordered rare but our complaints fell on deaf ears. We had breakfast and lunch in Cafe Jardin but I'm afraid its open location over the atrium doesn't do it for me. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was very mixed, but I think the scheduling was very poor and the blame for that must lie at the feet of the cruise director. He is the first cruise director I have ever seen who took no part whatsoever in any of the sailaways and the only time we ever saw him was when he was doing his interviews with the captain, exec purser, etc. Interviewing was clearly not his forte but luckily all the interviewees more than made up for him and I especially enjoyed the Captain (Angelo Vago) and Mike Doyle They were both hilarious and both deserved their full houses. We tended to use Starlights after dinner whatever was on, although didn't always go the Headliners Shows. They're a very new troupe and still finding their feet and I'm afraid the singers were too much of the X-factor variety -- a bit too loud and off-tune, sorry! Nevertheless, it was a pity that they were nearly always scheduled in Starlights as it's just not big enough for the dance routines. We particularly enjoyed Mike Doyle's show, Steve Larkin, the Johnson Brothers and Jamie Michael Stewart. I must just mention the captain here too. We so looked forward to his morning broadcast making sure we turned to Channel 21 in the cabin so as not to miss it and it was great to see him walking round the ship every day without fail, stopping to chat to crew and passengers alike. We also ended most days in Winners Bar where Protocol played most nights. They're a husband / wife duo (he used to be in Sweet, but don't let that put you off!) and they played a great range of 60s, 70s and 80s music so Winners was the most popular bar onboard. CABIN We had a balcony cabin on C deck towards the aft so knew what to expect in terms of the cabin size .......although it didn't stop us taking far too much to fit into the limited space available. We had hoped the refit would have meant we'd see a real improvement in the soft furnishings but as far as we could see, only the curtains had been changed in our cabin and I wish they hadn't as the new ones didn't block out the light and we really like a dark place to sleep. The cabin was in a quiet location- other than the night we had Force 11 in the BoB and there was a lot of crashing from the Butler's Pantry opposite! Our steward was about to start shore leave and so was a bit demob happy so he kept forgetting things but he was very friendly and helpful and kept us well supplied with biscuits and decaff coffee. OVERALL We've tried various cruise lines and overall P&O suits us best, firstly because we only want to cruise from Southampton as I don't fly. We're also quite happy getting dressed for dinner and we have always preferred the P&O style entertainment. This time, the itinerary was fantastic, we missed the worst of the Winter weather, met lots of lovely people and although Oceana is not our favourite ship we had an amazing time and think we're very lucky to have done it. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
This was our first actual cruise, having done the Southampton-Brooklyn ferry on five occasion my wife and I decided we should try a proper cruise. It should be remembered that all our views are subjective - some will agree some not. So ... Read More
This was our first actual cruise, having done the Southampton-Brooklyn ferry on five occasion my wife and I decided we should try a proper cruise. It should be remembered that all our views are subjective - some will agree some not. So here goes. EMBARCATION. It was the longest queue we have ever seen at Southampton but thanks to the efficient system we were through and on board within 30 minutes. We were anxious to see the results of the refurbishment but everything looked much the same. And it was just like coming home - cabin on Deck 5 spotless and with a warm welcome from steward Jamie. DINING. Food in the Britannia restaurant much the same - excellent service and fine quality. But two major differences - portions seemed distinctly smaller and the food, never hot in the Britannia, seemed to have dropped a degree or so. Some meals were sent back to be warmed up. No matter how they try the King's Court still remains a jumble of nooks and crannies and still resembles a works canteen, albeit an upmarket one. Food here is often lukewarm but the quality and the variety seemed greater than in the Britannia. ENTERTAINMENT. Yes Apassionata is still running along with some new shows and the usual 'headliners', many of whom we had never heard of but turned out to be excellent, especially guitarist Sam Piha whose link up with flautist Louise Garner provided afternoon highlights. Films on board QM2 are nothing more than a disgrace - surely a company of this size can provide a better selection and a better service. Those seen on the outward journey to New York were repeated on the return journey. Enrichment lectures are a feature of Cunard voyages and on this trip there were some absolute crackers - highlight being a former Scotland Yard detective's behind-the-scenes look at the Krays, the Brinks Matt bullion robbery and the M25 killers Kenneth Noye. EXCURSIONS. Cunard's policy on excursions continues to baffle. Two weeks before sailing we received an e-mail cancelling one we had booked, with subsequent reimbursement through a credit card - only to find that it was available from the tours office on board. Another was cancelled by e-mail less than 48 hours before it was due to take place - and again a similar excursion was on offer. Point to remember is that all these trips are billed in dollars which the credit card companies change into pounds sterling - at a cost. NOROVIRUS. No review can ignore the effects of the virus. It changed the whole ambiance of the cruise. And the crew worked hard to contain the spread of the virus. But were those early outbreaks norovirus or food poisoning? The rumours claimed the latter. My wife went down with the bug at 8.30pm on Christmas Eve. Christmas, therefore, was a washout with confinement to cabin for the next 48 hours. I notified the medical department at 7.30am on Christmas Day and the so-called hit squad arrived within 15 minutes to sanitise the cabin and bathroom - an operation repeated three times a day until clearance. The treatment by medical staff and cleaners was superb and could not be faulted. The system however could. The medics provided a menu plan with special meals to be ordered from room service. Unfortunately room service was too busy supplying double burgers and chips to be able to supply any food or drinks to the suffering. A recorded message repeated for two hours on Christmas Eve. What to do? Head to the King's Court and probably spread the virus. I was later told this problem was being addressed with dedicated phone lines for those with the virus. CONCLUSION Our comments should be taken in the knowledge that we love the majesty, the grandeur, the splendour and the opulence of the QM2 and will undoubtedly sail on her again - whether on a cruise or ferry we are not too sure. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Have just returned from Barbados by aircraft, leaving the cruise-ship Arcadia to travel onwards to Alaska, before its return journey to Southampton sometime in June.All staff aboard the vessel were generally hard-working and polite, ... Read More
Have just returned from Barbados by aircraft, leaving the cruise-ship Arcadia to travel onwards to Alaska, before its return journey to Southampton sometime in June.All staff aboard the vessel were generally hard-working and polite, although in the Belvedere self-service restaurant the staff clearing or replenishing various items on trolleys, for some reason expected you to give way as you meandered through the facility. On other ships such staff usually give way and are therefore not really noticeable, but on the Arcadia they are part of the traffic problem, making the staff on other cruise operations somehow even more appreciated.The majority of senior staff - the one's wearing "whites" - were predominantly western European.Not wishing to cast any aspersions on recruitment policy or ladders of opportunity in the P&O operation, to me it just seemed slightly bizarre and rather out of kilter with modern ideology with just a few token non-Caucasian post-holders of junior rank.I became aware of what is seemingly important to the P&O operation and their regulars, by the daily activities on offer which we were alerted to in the very informative daily Horizons newsletter. I must emphasise that before making my booking I didn't complete a pre-cruise questionnaire as to my personal tastes, club or society membership, religious persuasion or general pastimes. So imagine my concern when we were alerted to a Masonic Lodge meeting in the Viceroy Room. I thought this little gathering was meant to be secret?There were other targeted sessions arranged for specific groups including a Rotary Club meeting, a Catholic Mass on the Sunday, various Bridge tournaments, whist-drives, a jigsaw group, and numerous other activities that are usually the preserve of the Women's Institute.In that respect, perhaps these bastions of UK society are where P&O advertise their adventures to this target group who seemingly appear to think that they are a cut above the rest of us. I myself like a little bit of Google-ing in my spare time - but P&O charge for this. I also like gardening, swimming and a bit of car maintenance. None of which were offered as on-board activities. They may argue that swimming was available, but their two dip-pools hardly catered for the monotony of doing lengths at your local pool. I can't really comment on many of the other activities such as the shows and lectures available throughout the day, as I didn't do any. All entertainment is optional, unless it's not entertaining and you wish it to be so. I have witnessed a few shows at sea and always come to the same conclusion that the shows could be dropped and thereby allow free internet access to the customers, and do away with the show-girls and resident bands and dubious guests and one-hit-wonders. I could go on about the P&O operation and no doubt will. However, the following little episode regarding the evening's dining arrangements just about sums it up, speaking volumes as to what this company is seemingly all about.During the booking process we had requested to be sat at a table for six on the second sitting, and the second sitting we got, although we were sat at a table for just 4. However, we were sat at least sat at Table Number 6. So perhaps it was a reasonable attempt on their part.Anyway, no confusion and no questions. Hand in card, sit were shown, and eat meal. Splendid.Unfortunately if you are sat at table number six with six as your preferred party size, then it is understandable to the mere mortals that conduct the restaurant operation that confusion can set in. And it set in the following evening when we were joined by a different couple. They explained that on the first night they had not shown up to dinner, as by 8.00pm neither had their luggage. We were then joined by couple number one from the previous evening although they seemed confused as the table now had all seats taken. Despite the confusion, we merely requested that we be reallocated to a table that would at least sit us all, only to be met with shockwaves from distraught restaurant staff. The unfolding incident quickly attracted the attention of the Restaurant Manager himself. His manner and overall demeanour may be engaging to some; brown-nosing the elite diners with his well-honed patter, but to deal with any issues that are somewhat beneath his station obviously caused him some distress. His general manner to the restaurant staff appeared to be a knock-back to the days of the Raj. I digress slightly, so please allow me to recount his opening line when he got wind of our table/party size issue."Did you book in 2009?"That's it.'Did I what?' sprang immediately to mind, but really his line of enquiry speaks volumes if not screams them, and as I let the enormity of his statement sink in. Just imagine for a minute, Gordon Ramsey being asked the same question as he sat in preparation for some culinary delights.I wish I could have responded in true-Ramseyesque fashion because boy did this grotty man deserve it."Did you book in 2009?""I'm sorry, what do you just say?"As if it matters when you book. Does it suggest a sliding scale of quality?Nobody at the table responded as they all appeared to be stunned by his line of enquiry. I suggested that a discussion wasn't really necessary and all they had to do was deal with the issue. And to be fair, they did just that and we were relocated to a different table and were even joined with a further two diners on the subsequent night. Perhaps this table may have been designated for troublemakers, riff-raff or general ne'erdowells. Who knows?Nevertheless, our dining experience appeared to be similar to that of other diners in the vicinity of our new location, although it was apparent that we weren't exactly fawned over like some of those earmarked as elite, with attentive waiters pouring more wine at every opportunity, removing crumbs and creases from the tablecloths or replenishing the ice-bucket.We had attentive staff who delivered what we asked for and were on hand to deal with any dining issues. To me this is more preferable than having a squad of waist-coated waiters terrorising me with requests as to whether I was enjoying my meal, or re-iron my serviette, or ask if I needed my bread roll smeared with more butter, or even have my steak cut in to delicate morsels so as to avoid me being hospitalised with repetitive strain injury."Did you book in 2009?"God, it plagued my mind for days afterwards, and still does for that matter. What on earth was he expecting as a response? What action would he take on this apparent sliding scale of service?If I had let slip that I only booked the day before setting sail, perhaps he would have had me keel-hauled, or thrown overboard. To be honest we actually booked about six weeks before sailing, but not being a member of any particular lodge or golf club, I still expected equal treatment to the other guests on board. "Did you book in 2009?"What the hell do you mean by that? Does it form part of a Restaurant Manager training seminar back at P&O Headquarters? I would complain to them directly, but having previously tried complaining on other cruise lines, my experience suggests the procedure is like "peeing into the wind".While we are on with the dining experience, P&O celebrate your adventure with what they consider to be a gesture of goodwill and fond memories. On the last evening meal of your cruise you are issued with copies of all the evening menus to which we had been subjected, all in a nice little glossy wallet-file entitled, 'Something to remember' or 'Your unforgettable dining experience'. Unfortunately I can't actually remember the name of the brochure as I didn't bring it home as a keepsake. Deliberately so.I do though remember that most diners were unhappy with the lobster on one particular evening, which was actually filled with prawns and not lobster. Where do you buy just lobster shells so that you can fill them with some cheaper fishy offering? Or more importantly, Why? Seems rather fishy to me. On the whole, the evening meals were indifferent, occasionally very good, but overall nothing more than okay and more often than not, disappointing. There were a few additional regular options at the bottom of the menu if the delights of the main menu weren't that appealing, with grilled chicken, sirloin or salmon available.Nobody tried the chicken at our table, but I had the salmon one evening and it was rather good. This was during the lobster sketch, so I may have just been thankful for not having been won over by the mouth-watering description of Maine lobster. Others who chose the steak option were less impressed. I presume it is quite difficult to prepare a medium or medium-rare sirloin steak with all the flavour removed, although this was alarmingly consistent from the kitchen, where they appear to have mastered flavour removal from what is a good looking platter of food. I would therefore recommend a mustard or pepper sauce accompaniment, so at least you get to taste something.On a positive note, I particularly liked the Baramundi dish that was served up one evening, but overall I wasn't blown-away by any of the main meals. I'm not a big sweet eater, but did occasionally sample some of the desserts. The New York cheesecake was rather good, and by all accounts the liquorice ice-cream was a true delight. However, I didn't realise that Tiramisu was now actually available in Angel-Delight packets, because that's what I appeared to get. Or then again it could have been Instant-Whip...Asda here I come - a fine flavour but not particularly fine-dining. Semi-skilled milk, Angel-delight tiramisu mix, whisk to a thick-ish consistency and add a bit of chopped flake - marvellous.I must point out that the cheeseboard was fairly good and reasonably consistent, so I usually stuck to that.Oops, I've missed the starters, which to be fair were generally okay except for one particular platter. The shellfish and crab pate served on delicate melba toast sounded rather tempting. Unfortunately the subsequent Kit-e-Kat on Rivita was not what I had in mind as an opener to that night's dining experience. My wife ordered Whitebait as a starter one evening and ate only one delicate morsel before tucking into her bread roll. Not being a huge fan of this particular offering I can only convey that whitebait to her is usually crispy and covered in a light batter coating, and not gooey and smothered in oil; be it extra-virgin, vegetable, or sun-tan, although the oil wasn't really the issue. It would be like grilling custard or roasting some salad, if that God forbid isn't presenting the chef with some future ideas for his menu. Anyway I hope you get my point.We did venture into the Gary Rhodes inspired Arcadian Rhodes restaurant, although this was only for the lifeboat drill. I had no desire to return to eat in this establishment, although if necessary there were one or two handsome bottles of red that might require saving during an actual lifeboat alert. The glass doors to this venue were dirty, and not what one would expect. If you can't clean a glass panel - would you really want to eat in there?I mentioned briefly about the clientele aboard and the bawdy golf-club types and even those that move in the circles of the rather secretive Masonic Lodge. These people supposedly keep secrets going back way back when, with some illustrious former members such as Isaac Newton and George Washington to name but two. I have no doubt that these notable historical figures may possibly have had information which may have been truly revealing or even startling. However, putting yourself in their eminent shoes just for a moment, who would you really trust with imparting such knowledge to? There surely would be no other alternative than to create some secret group or society whose members rise up through various degrees and demonstrate via various acts that they have become truly worthy of harbouring such information. That being said, it would sadly appear to be the case that some senior Masons may have possibly met their sad demise before passing on their invaluable information to entrusted members rising through the ranks. That being the case, then you're essentially left with a gentleman's club that has a secret that none of its members no longer know, but they have a jolly time dressing up and pretending that they know something, but that's the biggest secret of all. They don't know it anymore, and the secret is now pretending that they do. They have no current knowledge of the knowledge that they were once supposedly entrusted with. But shh... don't tell anyone I told you. It'll be our secret.One lunchtime I actually overhead some diners mentioning something about unit-cost, which actually made me grateful for not having booked in 2009. If you're not responsible for on-shore purchases for the P&O operation, then why on earth would unit-cost be a topic of conversation for anyone on board?I even overheard some "I'm an important person" type passenger questioning the special guest concert pianist as to his arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. The musician seemed somewhat dumb-struck as to his cross examination whilst he partook in a light lunch. To me his examiner seemed just plain dumb.The cruise on the Arcadia was offered as an adults-only holiday. The problem of booking an adult only cruise is that no-one really qualifies what is meant by the word adult. Over 18? Over 21? Having a job? Being married? Being a Mason? Essential Golf Club membership? Understanding the rudimentaries of bridge? Who knows?I have at least five of my own little tykes plus a granddaughter, so adult-only adventure was an appealing angle on a holiday. You were therefore not plagued with little miscreants pestering you to get them some lager, pressing all the buttons in the lifts, or screaming and bawling at not been allowed yet another ice-cream. Aah Bliss.Instead of all these delights, you become aware of some other menace that can be equally annoying to any brat causing havoc in the lifts. The regular lift menace on this cruise was caused not by youngsters but obviously adults in this case. There were rather disturbing aromas in and around the lifts, as someone quite possibly mistook them for a lavatory or just couldn't help themselves passing wind between floors. This proved quite popular with some guests and as we were on the second sitting for dinner, you could get a clear indication of what was on that night's menu long before you even arrived at the restaurant.Some of the more portly guests seemed to enjoy the Jacuzzis out on the sun deck. However, when they had finished immersing themselves for their therapeutic session, the amount of water left in the receptacle was less than half; such was their experimentation in displacing a volume of water. Eureka indeed...I must point out that on other occasions some of our lift-friends didn't even need to switch the Jacuzzi on.The Arcadia itself is a slightly tired vessel, and on two different occasions it moored alongside a gleaming Royal Caribbean ship, and it was evident that P&O don't overdo the painting side of things.There were other areas on board which could only be described as adequate, although the Palladium Theatre is better than average. The Library is a tad disappointing and barely adequate, but did house the Jigsaw Society. These were a rather disturbing group whom I alerted our dining colleagues to. One of them proposed a black-ops mission in order to remove a few pieces, or even swap lids on the boxes or exchange a handful of pieces amongst the various unopened puzzles...There was an abundance of walking aids on board, ranging from traditional walking sticks to motorised scooters, and a seemingly endless supply of cotton socks to match that day's tailored shorts along with traditional open-toed sandals.There were limited shaded areas on the open decks and the promenade deck was usually oversubscribed by individuals dribbling their breakfast as they took a well-earned nap in the morning sunshine. Perhaps though, they'd been there all night. I wonder if anyone checks before nightfall?The bar prices and venues are fairly typical of what you find at sea. However, there is one redeeming feature that other cruise lines need to take heed of. You can take your own booze on board - even at the destination ports. On most cruises this is not the case. You can book into the best hotels in the world and nip down to the corner shop and get yourself some goodies to enjoy in the comfort of your hotel room. No search squads, teams of security, nor does it apparently contravene any hotelier protocols. But you can't do this at sea, and any alcohol is usually removed and returned to your stateroom on the last night of your cruise. Not anymore though. P&O allow reasonable allowances, and they will even deliver a litre of branded spirits to your room for under £12. Well done P&O, very well done.As for being done, well they provide you with comprehensive information on tipping and even provide you with envelopes and how much you should tip. They seemingly pride their operation on not applying gratuities up front, but then have the cheek to request that you reward high standards by telling you who and what to tip. If they don't pay their staff appropriate wages, why should we subsidise it by stumping up a bit more for a service that we've already essentially paid for, just so that P&O shareholders can maximise their dividends.Pay the staff appropriate salaries and put the cost up - you never know people may still leave tips.For some bizarre reason we pay the cost of new clothing by paying the price on the tag, but for some reason the price on a menu isn't ever quite right, or the drinks for that matter. Why is this? In a shop: Greet, provide information, fold garment, complete transaction. No tip.In a restaurant: Greet, take order, bring drinks and meal, remove empties, bring bill, complete transaction. Wait for tip.Why have we allowed this financial intimidation to evolve?Nevertheless, I left a fiver in an envelope marked "Captain" - Well steered mate, excellent job.So where did we go on our adventure?Madeira was quite charming - if you call a walk along the front at Funchal a full and proper exploration of this historic volcanic island. We decided against the suggested toboggan rides and cable cars, having had no real desire to partake in such activity. So a stroll it was- and as I said it was pleasantly surprising and quite charming. It is unfortunate that the resort still bears the scars of last year's inclement weather with numerous damaged bridges, and the depositing of all the debris caused by the storm in one area along the seafront. Apparently there is no more money left in Portugal, so there is no possible solution on the horizon. Unless of course they get bailed out by the EU.However, you never know they may add this eyesore as a shore excursion as the famous storm debris plateau where guests could collect some samples...They could even erect a hut in traditional Madeirian style in order to house local craftsmen who could fashion intricate jewellery from the spoil.After six days at sea crossing the Atlantic, you finally spot land. It is a seemingly endless journey, but your admiration goes out to those who have made the crossing in vessels lacking GPS systems, or engines for that matter.A few days of 'Yeahhh Maan' were on offer at Antigua, St Maarten, St Lucia and Barbados.For me Barbados is rather forgetful and a tad disappointing, as to is Antigua. The other two islands on this cruise made you want to go back, which shouldn't really be that hard in the Caribbean. They both had charm, warm people and wonderful scenery.The humpback whales off Antigua were a surprise and a delight to behold. There are plenty of other wildlife to see during a cruise, although patience is required as the oceans are rather vast, and the critters doesn't just leap out of the pond at the sound of a whistle for a dangled dead herring, before returning to the ocean depths with a double-piked re-entry.The temperature goes up significantly on this adventure, and you find that the heat begins to erode your general response time, and you find yourself in need of a nap in the afternoon and one-or-two too many beers. In that sense you get an indication of the lifestyle that the locals lead on these islands, as you too begin to behave in a similar manner...Time is altered in these parts. Perhaps the earth turns slower, or the magnetic lines interfere with chronometers, but in general, five minutes equates to about half-an-hour on a normal clock, but nevertheless you eventually get used to it, even if you have to wait five minutes or so.It's difficult to rate this adventure as we only did part of it. But the dining experience was poor in comparison to other cruise operations - but being fair we weren't hospitalised or plagued with dysentery. It was just as I said, disappointing.The ship is probably in need of a make-over, although this opinion is probably skewed slightly by my previous experiences at sea which were undoubtedly better. It's a difficult thing to categorise, but essentially I can only measure the experience by asking if I would I do the cruise again. No, not really. Not even if I had booked in 2009.Would I use P&O again? Well yes, possibly, but it wouldn't be my first choice, no matter how appealing it is taking your own booze on board. But be aware, it is now very difficult to book anything in 2009 if not impossible - so be prepared, as you might get asked, "Did you book in 2011?"Enjoy - whenever you book... Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
The itinerary was very good and we really enjoyed the whole trip because of that, but:1. The ship was very crowded, especially when the weather prevented people from going on deck.2. We had a balcony and a good cabin, but often there were ... Read More
The itinerary was very good and we really enjoyed the whole trip because of that, but:1. The ship was very crowded, especially when the weather prevented people from going on deck.2. We had a balcony and a good cabin, but often there were workmen on our balcony painting and repairing. Also, we overlooked the promenade deck where workmen were often using noisy power tools. The experience was rather like an uncompleted Spanish resort.3. The food was quite good, not exceptional, but we would have liked an alternative menu and restaurant, even if we'd have had to pay a premium.4. The evening shows were good, but the daytime lectures were poor.5. There is only one theatre which has a flat floor which makes viewing from the rear obstructed. There is no cinema.Overall, would we recommend Fred Olsen? Probably not, unless the itinerary was exceptional, and the trip was quite short. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
When we arrived at the ship we had a greeting that made you feel special from the start. It didn't take very long to find your way around, as the layout is very simple. We had first sitting in the dinning room (Peninsular) We were met ... Read More
When we arrived at the ship we had a greeting that made you feel special from the start. It didn't take very long to find your way around, as the layout is very simple. We had first sitting in the dinning room (Peninsular) We were met with a very warm welcome and shown to table to be feasted on the finest food possible. (and plenty of it). The waiters could not do enough for us Always with a smile. The conservatory is well worth a visit we went every day The cabin steward was always very helpful and was there for all your needs. The evening entertainment in the theatre was outstanding The Headliners Theatre Co Martin Daniels Bobby Crush 10/10 What made it real special were the People we shared our dinner table with Annie Dave Mick Sonia & Chris Also the Staff Captain Chris Bourne went out of his way to make our stay on board very memorable. And also we must say Jane in the Anderson bar was most helpful too THANKYOU ALL Read Less
Sail Date November 2009

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