This was our first "C'mas & New Year" cruise and only our 2nd with P & O. Intriguingly, the first was on Arcadia back in 2006. Subsequent experiences on Cunard and Regent may have tainted our view of this cruise ... Read More
This was our first "C'mas & New Year" cruise and only our 2nd with P & O. Intriguingly, the first was on Arcadia back in 2006. Subsequent experiences on Cunard and Regent may have tainted our view of this cruise tbh.
For the most part it was, pretty much, what we expected. We opted for freedom dining and we had an aft suite on the port side. We met some interesting & friendly people and enjoyed the "shared table" experience quite often, particularly at lunch time.
P & O do a few things very well - embarkation was surprisingly painless and swift, we had a lovely buffet on arrival. Sadly that was the only "lovely buffet" we had all trip. Entertainment is, generally, first class. The ship entertainers varied from mediocre to outstanding. We particularly liked the lounge pianist Steve Kingsbury who entertained us regally whether it be afternoon or evening. His range & versatility, the ability to switch from classical to musicals and "pop" was terrific. Lovely guy too, enjoyed chatting with him around the ship, he helped to make our cruise special. Equally, Small Talk duo were very good and the Headliners group were excellent, except for a couple of very "shouty" lead female singers whose performances were often marred by them simply screeching instead of singing. Guest entertainers varied too but some, like the Base Tones, Runaround Kids (on C'mas day) and, remarkably, Bernie Flint were fantastic in our view. Elektra and Ida were also very good - it just seems so long since we saw them performing! Others ere ok, sometimes just not our taste
The fine dining options were superb, we chose to eat 6 times in Ocean Grill and 5 in Sinhu - they were that good. Food and service in both is excellent. The additional "extra supplement" charges for some items in OG is really irritating though. We ate breakfast in Sindhu too as we were in a suite. This is an example of P & O getting it right. Comfortable surroundings, assigned table, great service and good food options. Nadia and the rest of the team there are all very good.
The main dining room was very good for lunch and the food in the evening was usually hot and well presented. Not always the most inspiring menu choices, perhaps, but everything was fine The real disappointment on the food side was the buffet - which was fairly awful for both lunch and dinner. We only bothered occasionally but I have never seen such a poor selection of salad items, desperately sad looking cold meat and fish offerings and the hot food was generally themed but always seemed to lack any imagination. Most of the time the cold selection did not vary from day to day - but it was a miracle if the same dressings appeared. Never been a fan of scampering around to find a table anyway but the lack of seating in the buffet, particularly, at busy lunch times is quite marked on this ship.
I enjoyed the spa, used it most days, and had several massages - Sophie and Shanda are excellent therapists. The Spa Manager, from Zimbabwe, was lovely and extremely courteous and professional - not sure how you spell her name, Kundzi or similar, I think - sorry I didn't take note of it because she was great.
Unfortunately,the crossing was lively so we didn't get to use the pools much. Which brings us to some of the problems: The Captain decided to re-route to avoid bad weather but his some pretty huge swells and bad weather anyway. The first few nights were atrocious and sleep was almost impossible at the aft of the ship due to the excessive vibration and incredible noises that emanated from the back of the vessel. We also had a few technical issues with the suite, these ranged from a loud banging all day and night - which I discovered was due to a badly fitted dividing panel between us and next door's balcony. We were told the shower would be re-grouted but waited over a week, including days when we were off the ship on trips, for that to happen, when it did it was when we returned to the suite at c 5.00 pm & wanted to prepare for dinner, so the lack of communication was an issue there. A similar issue in respect of a broken lounger chair handle also occurred.
The change of route also cost us our first day in port at Bermuda, which was major disappointment for many of us - who chose the trip, in part, due the stop over in Bermuda! When the ship came loose from its moorings and floated around Hamilton harbour at 3.00 am we, seriously, started to question the overall control and management of the vessel. The Captain's attempts at humour and glib comments about the mishaps didn't do much to endear him to us either. I would not wish to be on a ship if he was at the helm again - I've never had to think about that before. Along with several others that I spoke to who shared the same opinion,, we found him to be far too aloof and, basically, cavalier about the whole thing.
The good news was that we enjoyed the ports, although Nassau was a bit of disappointment. The "best of " excursion left quite a bit to be desired there. However, Antigua, St Lucia Grand Turk and Barbados more than made up for that, as did a wet nd windy stop in the Azores. Terceira was very interesting and we loved visiting the city of Angra as well as Praia de Vittoria, a quaint and colonial port.
We were baffled by the shore excursion process - no staff to control it just a free for all getting of the ship, which was frenetic and caused long queues in several ports. Local guides did all the controlling & shore excursion staff simply pointed people, vaguely, in the right direction to find them. That was just plain weird tbh and could be handled far more efficiently and effectively. Fortunately, in our case, the local guides were first class and managed to rescue the situation well on each occasion.
My other gripe is the fact that public lounge areas are not the most practical for a ship this size. The Piano Bar is actually just a corridor with seats in it! Many of which are not suitably positioned to hear/see the entertainment on offer. Likewise, the Crows Nest seating arrangement is awful - half the seats face sideways or directly opposite the stage area. Intermezzo is a strange and not particularly comfortable lounge that rarely gets used and looks a bit of an after thought.
Overall, there were some highlights, some disappointments and some serious flaws - it will be some time before we consider cruising with P & O again tbh. I would have to say that we did enjoy spending the festive period on board but wouldn't rush back to repeat it. I think the advantage of not flying was outweighed by the lack of variety of day time entertainment on the ship and, on this trip, the risk of a bad crossing at that time of year but we prefer smaller ships anyway.
Bit of a lengthy review but it was an eventful cruise! Read Less