Embarkation :- Arrived at Southampton early due to light traffic, at 10.45. Bags unloaded and car taken away, we were directed upstairs at the Ocean Terminal where we were given a boarding card with the letter B on, and were informed that ... Read More
Embarkation :- Arrived at Southampton early due to light traffic, at 10.45. Bags unloaded and car taken away, we were directed upstairs at the Ocean Terminal where we were given a boarding card with the letter B on, and were informed that check-in would not be opening until 12 noon at the earliest, an hour and a quarter away. We hadn't experienced such a delay previously with P&O or any other cruise line, and subsequently there were hundreds of people in the terminal by the time they did open up, which was about 12.10. However when we did check in we were then treated to a security process which involved taking off belts , shoes, watches etc, which caused a further delay...not a great start. Once on board we went to the Horizon restaurant on 16 for a spot of lunch, after which the cabins were ready.
Cabins :- We were on E Deck (level 10, cabin 402) with a balcony cabin. Lets get the same old points out of the way....Yes the bathroom is tiny and has a large shower with a very low pressure. I'm not a big bloke but did struggle with drying space after exiting the shower. There is no hand wash dispenser over the sink as on other ships, but there is one in the shower which is NOT a hair and body wash. P & O now supply a separate shampoo bottle for you. There is a large amount of hanging space with sufficient hangers, and plenty of other storage space. Yes there are no bedside cabinets, but the desk area does extend across on one side (be careful you don,t bang your elbows). Yes the lighting is strange....you haven't individual bedside lamps so its all or nothing regarding the lights. Also yes the balconies are small compared to other lines, but are comparable to other P & O ships and the furniture is of much better quality. As I think others have mentioned, the TV does not have a bill checking facility on it, which does mean you have to go to reception if you require an account statement at any time. We did notice that on the balcony the separation screens did bang around in the wind against the chairs and had damaged the screens on both sides. Overall being new the cabin was spotless our luggage arrive quickly.
Dining :- We ate breakfast and lunch in Horizon (on 16), and dinner was taken in Meridian on 5, as we were allocated Freedom Dining. The food was generally very good....obviously you always get nights where the menu varies and therefore some are better than others, and the service was good. We thought that the layout in the Horizon buffet was much better than other ships, with none of the one-way system which causes so much congestion. On entry you know have hand washing stations rather than the gel stations, although they do still have these at the food side.
The speciality dining venues we didn't use so cant comment on them.
Entertainment :- The Headliners shows were excellent and unique to Britannia, featuring 4 very strong singers, and amazing digital scenery.The other acts were very good, with the best being Gareth Oliver who is very funny. You will need to get to the theatre at least 30 minutes before the performance starts to get a good seat, as the venue fills up very quickly. We also went to the live lounge and saw a Phil Collins tribute act who was very good. The main reason we went to the Live Lounge several times, was the resident band Pulse....they are without a doubt the best band I've seen on board any ship. We didn't use the Limelight Club as we thought that at £22 per head, it was a bit steep, plus we had already seen one of the acts ,Jakki Graham, on other ship for free, and the other act, Madeline Bell, wasn't really our cup of tea. However it seemed busy on the nights we walked by. If you want a quieter venue after dinner, then try the Crows nest bar forward on deck 16.
Other Facilities :- Yes lets talk Lifts !!! Our cabin was midships and therefore we needed to use the central block of lifts....yes there is no staircase. This can cause some waits at busy times which can be annoying, particularly if you're like us, and tend to use the stairs. For emergency drills they do open a set of doors centrally revealing a central staircase which is normally for crew use.
Ports :- Guernsey - Great planning by P & O brought us here on a Sunday when all the shops are shut. However there was the first in a series of crafts markets along the front in St Peter Port for those requiring to shop. Transfer here is by tender which all went very smoothly for us, though I understand there were some delays in getting people ashore.
La Coruna :- Very nice city with glass balconied buildings. A walk across the town brings you to a beach where we walked along towards the lighthouse, around the headland and back into town. Its about a 5 mile hike but it does take you past trails taking you to various Celt sculptures (one is a copy of stonehenge), a past some lovely beaches. There's a very attractive typical Spanish square with plenty of restaurants and bars, and good shopping area with excellent prices for goods compared to the UK.
Bilbao :- The ship moors about 20-30 minutes from the city and free coach transfers are provided. Bilbao is a very interesting venue with a visit to the Guggenheim museum a must. We also took the Big Red Bus tour which last about an hour and is good value as you get a commentary.
La Rochelle :- Again the ship docks about 30 minutes from the town, and a free transfer was provided, but this was by a normal service bus . This had an extremely low number of seats forcing the majority to stand, including the more senior amongst us, with no on board air conditioning. In my view it is dangerous to have 50 people standing on this journey and P & O need to re-think this as its their duty of care to ensure safety. My advice would be that if there's a group of you...take a taxi and share the cost. The town itself is very picturesque and well worth visiting, with cobbled streets and variety of shops, restaurants and bars. There was a street market in progress and also a large fair was setting up which caused some walking restrictions.
Debarkation :- Was trouble free and we were let off 30 minutes early.
Overall Impression : - Britannia is an excellent ship and being new, is spotless. The entertainment is excellent and obviously P & O has worked hard to get the best acts on board. Yes there are some niggling issues and differences from other ships in the fleet, but we would definitely travel on her again.
The itinerary is very good and we chose this one as we hadn't been to the ports visited. Read Less