We sailed on P&O Britannia on 4th - 18th January visiting the Caribbean. It was our first cruise and we booked it months in advance as a surprise for my mum’s 60th birthday. Before booking I read lots of reviews on Britannia and I felt that some of the more negative reviews would likely be unjustified or people just being fussy.
So I went on the cruise with a completely open mind and write this review to give a completely honest account of our experience as first time cruisers with P&O on their current flagship Britannia.
Unfortunately our holiday didn’t get off to the best start, I rang to purchase some extra weight allowance for our luggage via the cruise personaliser as unfortunately some of my formal wear was particularly heavy. I paid £80 for an additional allowance of 10kg each way, so taking my weight allowance from 23kg to 33kg.
I questioned the person on the phone to ensure one bag could weigh upto 33kg having previously worked for an airline that allowed baggage to only go upto a max. 32kg per bag. I asked if I would I need to split it into two bags but I was advised one bag was fine to be upto 33kg as that was TUI policy and since I had paid for the additional weight it didn’t matter if it was in one bag or split across more.
So I packed my case accordingly, on arrival at the airport I went to check my bag in & was advised it was too heavy - their policy is 25kg max. per bag despite paying for the additional weight it couldn’t be in one case and would need to be split into an extra bag. I ended up having to take 10kg of out of my suitcase and check in my hand luggage bag. I sorted it, but it was a massive inconvenience and embarrassment when all could have been avoided had I of been advised correctly beforehand when I had asked. Nevertheless, it happened and we sorted it.
The flight with TUI on Dreamliner was okay, having previously travelled on Dreamliner to Mexico and loved it, we found that this time there wasn’t two options of food and that there was a lot less choice of films etc, unsure if this is because it was a chartered flight opposed to scheduled. The crew going out were lovely the crew coming back were absolutely miserable, they announced they had run out of tonic water and red wine before we’d even set off due to a busy outgoing flight. I didn’t think this was good enough when (I assume like us) everyone on our flight had paid a supplement to fly from Manchester. This must happen every single time. Just poor to say we paid an extra £200 pp supplement plus £60 charges to book seats to fly from Manchester. There was three flights from Manchester and back so there is clearly a demand for flights from Manchester. Paying for the privilege but with a reduced service on the way back is not good enough when you’re paying a supplement in my view.
Our transfer to the ship straight from the airfield by coaches was well organised and the embarkation process went smoothly with our luggage arriving within 4 hours direct to our cabins.
The ship itself is very elegant, the decor is neutral and quite understated. The atrium is nice but I wouldn’t say it has the wow factor, lined with bars and duty free shops, it’s a bit of an odd space where evening drinks and duty free sales rails meet. I think for size of the ship and number of people on board, it’s quite a small space and never really came to life as we expected it would on formal nights, instead it was more of a people watching space.
We travelled as a group of six (age range 30-64) and all had balcony cabins with a sofa (F130, F131, F132) the cabins are a good size with a reasonable sized balcony. The design and decor is nice and the beds were very comfortable. We felt very at home in our room for two weeks. The cabin included Tea & Coffee making facilities, a mini refrigerator with a chargeable mini bar, walk in wardrobe space, bathroom with shower & White company toiletries and a writing / vanity desk. Overall we liked the cabins and had no complaints.
Our steward was very helpful and attentive. I learned whilst on the ship that the steward and waiting staff work split shifts with no full days off each week which made me feel really uncomfortable to be honest. They work exceptionally hard and you could often see the same staff on the breakfast shift as the late evening shift. The stewards seemed to work from dusk till dawn yet always had a smile on their faces to greet you - it was very apparent that there was a staff hierarchy system on board Britannia.
As mentioned it was my mum’s 60th birthday on our second day, I had tried to organise some ‘Little luxuries’ from the P&O cruise personaliser a few weeks prior to sailing, over the phone. However was advised it was much easier to book once on board. So on our first day we went to reception and as a surprise we booked a birthday cake, champagne breakfast, chocolate dipped strawberries and some flowers, all to be delivered on her birthday at certain times throughout the following day to her cabin as a surprise. In short, none of these happened as they should, with the exception of the flowers.
The Champagne breakfast never arrived - it was supposed to be delivered at 7.30am, I rang to find out where it was to be told I hadn’t booked anything, had I not of had print outs of everything I’d organised and the person’s name of who I’d dealt with on reception the previous day, they would have continued to tell me I hadn’t made any bookings.
It took three phone calls to reception to finally be advised they hadn’t organised it at their end and they would sort it. By this time the surprise was ruined as we had to tell my mum about it to stop her from going for breakfast. Eventually the breakfast arrived over an hour later. The breakfast was lovely but the surprise ruined.
Because of this mess up, I ensured I double checked the arrangements for the other little surprises I’d booked and all was confirmed as organised.
Unfortunately that evening the chocolate strawberries were meant to be delivered at 5pm for us all to enjoy pre- Captain’s welcome party in our cabins to have a toast to my mum’s birthday, 5pm came and they did not arrive, after two phone calls to reception they arrived 50 mins later just as we were walking out of the door to the welcome party alongside the birthday cake which should have been for the restaurant. At this point I was really annoyed that not one thing I had organised and paid for had been taken care of properly. In the end we came back to our room after our meal to find them and the cake just left melting on a tray on our bed. I called reception to for them to be taken away, reception staff seemed absolutely useless, no ownership of anything, just completely disorganised and rude. At no point did anyone from reception apologise for any of the mix ups on their part.
Feeling frustrated. I spoke to the customer service manager Jan Fernandez to log a complaint, as it put a damper on not only what should have been a special day for my mum but also caused a lot of unnecessary inconvenience all due to the fact the reception staff were completely incompetent and they are some of the higher ranking staff on the ship!
Jan dealt with our complaint efficiently and offered an apology but this was only our second day so it wasn’t the best start to our holiday. It just felt like no matter what you booked or organised, it was 50/50 chance whether it would actually happen as no one seemed to care or take ownership of anything. There were so many people complaining at reception about various things I get the feeling the customer service manager is a very busy man! One mess up I could have overlooked but not absolutely everything I had organised. The whole day was just a series of errors on their part from the beginning to end and I felt like I just shouldn’t have bothered trying to organise anything special because the day was remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Another issue we encountered twice during our stay was the laundry service was completely disorganised, my husband organised the day before each of the formal nights to have his shirts ironed for an additional charge, both times, it took over 24 hours for this to happen and each time he was told the shirts would be delivered by 4pm on the formal evening, however they never arrived at the time advised and it took 2/3 phone calls for them to be chased up for them to then arrive over an hour late cutting into our formal evening. One of the evenings, he had to re-wear a shirt as the laundry service could not locate his shirt or give an answer as to when it would arrive. Just very disorganised and not what you would expect, if I’d have known how much of a hassle it was I’d have just ironed the shirts myself in the ironing room but for a couple of £ it seemed value for money to get them done professionally. The ship seemed to offer services that it could not fulfil or meet the demand for.
We could not find fault with the food on board. We booked freedom dining so were able to dine whenever we liked and in two weeks we never had a bad meal, there was always plenty of choice.
Meridian Restaurant - we dined here most of nights during our cruise and were seated in the same area so we got to know the waiting staff who were fantastic and could not have done more to make our meal times pleasant - special mention to Olav and Lawrence who looked after us. The menus were varied and all six of us enjoyed everything we tried. The portion sizes are perfect. Being a British cruise line, there was always an option to cater for the traditional British taste plus plenty of other choices. The staff work exceptionally hard in this restaurant and I can only imagine how many people are needed behind the scenes to make it run as smoothly as it does.
Horizon Buffet - The buffet restaurant was a great easy no fuss option for breakfast, lunch or dinner and also provided late night snacks. The food served was generally similar each day with some different themed dishes added to mix it up, so if you found something you liked you could rely that it would be there most days. We liked the fact that the Horizon buffet was more relaxed with self service so you could be in control of what you wanted to eat, how much and when. Only complaint about the buffet was the rudeness of other guests, there seemed to be a lack of common sense amongst other guests with people barging past with trays and no real system to the buffet so at busy times it was frustrating and dangerous, twice I saw guests drop their food and smash things due to the chaos. Another note, the automatic doors into the buffet kept shutting on people, the sensor only worked if you walked under it head on, we got trapped in the doors a couple of times and they shut completely on us, I witnessed a woman carrying a baby get caught in them and an elderly woman who needed medical attention after they closed on her walking through them and she fell backwards onto the tiled floor. Britannia really need to sort this out before someone gets seriously hurt!
Grab & Go - There was always a selection of sandwiches etc available if you preferred to take your lunch back to your cabin or ashore.
Lido Deck Grill - Freshly baked pizzas, hot dogs, burgers and chips. Typical fast food that was always readily available.
We found the standard of cleanliness and hygiene on board to be excellent. We saw most people observed the washing hands/using sanitiser prior to entering the restaurants or when embarking the ship after being in port. There was people on board refilling their personal water bottles using the restaurant water machines, the staff soon put a stop to it to ensure no spread of germs.
Glasshouse - The Glasshouse is a wine bar which also offers small plates, tapas and main meals for an additional charge. We ate here one evening and the food was absolutely fantastic, we had a selection of tapas dishes to share including Tempura prawns, Kebabs and scallops followed by Steak & chips. It was all absolutely delicious and well worth the additional charge (which was still very reasonable - 3 tapas for £6.85/ Sirloin steak and chips £8.50)
LimeLight Club - We booked a meal and a show (Kevin Kennedy) the food again was lovely and the entertainment better than we expected. I would say well worth paying a cover charge to spend an evening enjoying some fine dining and special entertainment. The Limelight club is also one of the best decorated bar areas of the ship so we enjoyed being somewhere a bit different.
Sindhu - We booked a meal at Sindhu after reading good reviews about it and we weren’t dissappointed. All the food was delicious - the soft shell crab was exceptional and the service fantastic. Definitely worth the cover charge but book early to avoid disappointment as we would have liked to have dined here a couple of times during our cruise but it was always fully booked.
Epicurean - We booked afternoon tea here, the restaurant had lovely decor and felt very elegant. The afternoon tea was nice, there was only three table occupied when we had it and it was a sea day so unsure why it was so quiet but nevertheless enjoyed it and service was good.
Crow’s Nest - Our favourite bar on the ship, situated at the very front of the ship just below the bridge, we loved starting our evenings here especially on formal nights where you could sip a cocktail whilst watching the sun setting and listening to the on board pianist who was fantastic. The crow’s nest is also one of the bars on the ship which is well designed and feels opulent with plush high back chairs and ambient lighting. The cocktails here were also in a different league than those served in the other bars on board.
Brodie’s - We usually love a pub quiz in a good English pub but we surprisingly found Brodie’s to be our least favourite bar on board. The entertainment always seemed very cheesy or not to our taste (bingo/horse racing games) and the drinks were poor in comparison to other bars on board, there was also always a bit of a dull atmosphere, it kind of felt like a waiting area instead of a pub.
Live Lounge - Another area of the ship we looked forward to before we came but then disliked, tucked away I’m guessing because of sound proofing as it was the only place offering entertainment after a certain time. On formal nights when everyone wanted somewhere to try make the most of the night it was always really busy with standing room only, there never seemed enough tables and chairs. We watched the ships entertainment band Pulse play here for an 80s night and also came down a few times for the late night disco. I have to say we didn’t really enjoy any of the entertainment here as all were disappointing, we love to have a good drink and a bit of a dance but there was never a real party atmosphere. The drinks we ordered in here were absolutely terrible (Porn Star Martinis & Rum Cocktails) both were barely drinkable. So the difference in drink quality across the bars on board varies a lot.
Atrium - The bars and coffee shop in the Atrium were okay, we didn’t drink often in the bottom of the Atrium as it felt like a reception area. The coffee shop sold Costa Coffee and there was some nice seats looking out over the deck.
The duty free shopping on board was okay, I didn’t think some of the prices seemed that different from buying the items in the UK particularly the make up and perfume on board. The jewellery seemed more competitive.
Crystal Room - Purely for ballroom dancing. We called in and had a drink at the Crystal Room on occasion to watch the dancers which was nice. This is really a place specifically if you like dancing or if you can ballroom dance to show off your talents. They sometimes had a band on that played jazz music after the dancing finished so it was somewhere we sometimes called in for a night cap. Probably a place to people watch unless you are into your ballroom dancing. Doesn’t really cater for everyone which is a shame as it’s a lovely space which I felt they could have done more with than just the same ball room dancing every night. Would have been nice if they made more of this area on formal nights.
Having never been on a cruise before I wasn’t sure what to expect with the pool area. I did find the main pool on the lido deck (deck 16) to be quite small for the number of people on board, it always felt crowded and not somewhere you could kick back and relax. The adult pool on deck 17 was preferable but again the pool area isn’t big and as everyone is situated around it, so prepare to have everyone watch you getting in & out of the pool. I felt in all the pool areas it was quite crammed in and there was little privacy.
There was lots of people complaining on sea days that people were reserving sunbeds by placing towels on them and there seemed to be announcements every few hours about it. We didn’t have any issue finding sunbeds but we were happy to just spend an hour or so on deck then do something else. I think if you want to spend all day sunbathing, you need to set up camp on sea days early.
We were really disappointed with the entertainment on board. I had read mixed reviews before we came and hoped on the positive side that people were just difficult to please but honestly the majority of entertainment we experienced was really poor and in no way represented what we thought P&O would be like.
Formal Nights - Other than dressing up, there was no ‘special’ entertainment on formal evenings. This was a big disappointment for us, every single formal night on board we dressed up in our cocktail dresses and tuxedos and headed to the atrium where the same entertainment was on as every other night…then once our evening meal was done, it was either head to the Live Lounge (where everyone seemed to go because they obviously like us, wasn’t sure what else to do) or go sit in the theatre for a 45 min show… I could not believe the number of people sat around the atrium in all their beautiful outfits looking bored out of their brains by 10pm. Each formal night I got glammed up and looked forward to having a few drinks and have a bit of a dance but it always seemed we were back in our cabin before midnight as we were fed up of traipsing around the ship looking for something with a bit of atmosphere, it was either that or force ourselves to try enjoy the same entertainment as we had seen the previous number of nights. Just really really poor effort on P&O’s part.
Headliners Theatre - We watched a one night only show here by Victor Michael who was fantastic, he sang lots of musical hits was well as Italian and rat pack classics and he got everyone up dancing, joining in and enjoying themselves. It was a fantastic night but as mentioned he was a one night only show and we by chance had finished our evening meal and decided to call in to see if the show was any good. We were glad we did as we really enjoyed it and it was much needed after the other poor entertainment on board.
A few nights later there was a show called ‘Astonishing’ a magic style show that people highly recommended that was originally developed by Stephen Mulhern and Jonathan Wilkes. Honestly, it was a massive let down, it was full of strobe lighting, neon costumes and some terrible singing and a few magic tricks that we’ve seen a good few times before. Despite being told all the way through that we were going to be ‘astonished’ - we were not. Some people seemed to think this show was amazing, so I guess it just depends on your personal taste but for us, it was terrible. Did not live up to the hype.
Pulse Band - The Ship’s band were just OK, full of energy and belting out the popular songs but not really anything amazing. We didn’t dislike them but we also didn’t plan our day around making sure we got to see them. So I suppose make of that what you will.
Steele Band - Absolutely fantastic, one of the only regular onboard entertainment that we thought was very good and we always enjoyed. Very talented and always got people up on their feet enjoying themselves. Only criticism is we wanted to see them more they were that good! They tended to be on the lido deck during sail aways or occasionally in the atrium but always during mealtimes.
Runaround Kids - There was a band who joined our cruise for a couple of nights and we watched their rock n’ roll show. They were fantastic, really enjoyed their show. But again these were limited night entertainment not regular entertainment.
Sail aways- We tried to go to every sail away party. The Great British Sail away was by far the best and felt very patriotic the other sail aways were just a bit tacky and felt very butlins. We always got involved and tried to make the most of the atmosphere. A lot more could be done to make the sail aways more special.
This is an area that needs vast improvement based on our experience. We felt really disappointed by our experience with the Spa onboard - the staff, services and handling of our complaint was appalling.
Before coming on the cruise, we pre-booked and paid for treatments via the cruise personaliser as a treat for our birthdays. On the second day the three of us arrived at the spa looking forward to our treatments (ELEMIS quartz facials, deep tissue massage and hot stone massages in total we had spent over £400 on these treatments between the three of us)
The staff at the spa reception were less than welcoming and unfriendly when we got to the spa, we felt we were in some way inconveniencing them by being there. We were shown to a waiting room. No offer of a drink, or showing of facilities, not a good first impression. The spa is also located in one of the busiest areas of the ship - reception which I found really odd, it wasn’t a tranquil relaxing space but instead was a walk through area with people passing through constantly.
The massage I had was nowhere near the quality I have received previously at other spas, which I found disappointing as my expectations were high for a cruise ship Spa. My treatment was 50 mins, the lady doing my massage spent the first 15 mins talking to me about stress then went into a hard product sell for the last 15 mins of my treatment and then when I said I wasn’t interested in purchasing any of the recommended products she was visibly frustrated…then asked for a gratuity. I found it all less than relaxing and a bit embarrassing for us both to be honest.
The other treatments the party had were okay but again they didn’t like the hard product sell afterwards.
I asked where the sauna/hydrotherapy pool was and was advised it was an additional £30pp to use these facilities for the two hours we had between treatments or we would have to leave to spa and come back for our second treatment later - I’ve never experienced a spa that doesn’t have an area for guests to relax in and facilities to utilise between treatments.
It wasn’t clear when I made the online booking that the use of any of the spa facilities was an additional charge which granted could have been my error but given that we had all paid full price for all of our treatments we weren’t prepared to then pay a further £90 for us all to use them especially when the spa was offering the treatments we had pre-booked and paid for in full - now at a discounted rate. In short, we were penalised for pre-booking and paying in full price for our treatments when people could book the same treatments for much less when on board. We found this unacceptable.
I also booked for a ‘red carpet’ treatment package as I was given an on board gift voucher for the spa by a relative, there was a mix up at fault of the spa and I didn’t receive the treatments in the package, so I made a complaint whilst on board covering all of these issues. The spa manager was somewhat helpful but didn’t really take any ownership of the complaint. After numerous discussions over a number of days with different members of spa staff eventually I was offered to rebook the treatment however it was by then the last days of my holiday, so instead I eventually got a full refund. Finally the issue did get resolved but it wasn’t easy to sort out with the spa manager and eventually Renee from reception managed to sort it all out. It was just a really frustrating experience and the Spa staff really couldn’t have cared less.
On our 14 day cruise we tried to book a day pass to THE RETREAT numerous times and each time the spa staff laughed and said it’s fully booked - so clearly if you wish to use the retreat you need to book it immediately when you board (pre-booking isn’t available), as from the reaction from the spa staff, it seemed like there’s hardly ever availability. I imagine due to the poor design of the pool areas on board, THE RETREAT is an attractive option for most wanting a relaxing day, so it is likely always fully booked. Another example of an area not fit for purpose and that isn’t designed to support even a decent % of the people on board the ship.
Lastly, the spa staff seem to behave in a way that suggests they are higher up the hierarchy in terms of the ship’s staffing. This is something a number of other guests also commented on. Regardless of the complaints we have about the spa and the repeated mistakes regarding the treatments, the service we received in the spa was by far the poorest across the whole ship.
I largely believe this is because P&O Britannia clearly have a staff hierarchy system and the spa staff are ranked higher than the waiting staff so seemingly have the belief that they do not need to make as much effort. The spa staff came across as arrogant & unfriendly and at times rude with a very commission based attitude. We did not find this of any of the other staff on the ship.
I was also told by a member of the spa’s staff that they have two days off every week, can go ashore, have deck privileges on days off and can enjoy formal nights etc. So it is no wonder they believe themselves to be a cut above others if they are treated with better privileges in comparison to other staff.
Really disappointed with the Spa on Britannia and from speaking to other guests I know we weren’t the only ones. The spa offered daily treatment packages at discount prices and there was continuous leaflets being posted to our cabin on the various deals the spa was offering each day, so it was clear they were not booked up or they were struggling to fill appointments. It’s a shame the quality of the treatments and service was so poor as I would have likely booked to use the spa numerous times during my cruise had I of had a positive experience. P&O really need to look at the quality and experience of the staff in their Spa, would not recommend anyone else doing what we did and wasting a good deal of money on their services.
We read in lots of reviews before we went, that the lifts were a big issue. We didn’t experience this to the extent people have mentioned in other reviews. We found that there were busy times particularly when disembarking/embarking from port as you’d expect but other than that, we didn’t have any issues. We did find that some guests were not giving priority to those with limited mobility which was unacceptable.
One of our biggest complaints of P&O - the wifi charges are extortionate. It worked out cheaper for us to use our data when in port than it was to pay for any on board wifi charges. P&O really need to address this as so many guests were complaining about it. If guests cannot upload holiday photos to social media P&O are losing out on some invaluable free marketing, if you search Instagram for other cruise lines you can locate hundreds of photos, if you search for P&O it’s quite limited as people are more likely to upload as they go rather than once they’re home.
Also whilst we were away our niece was in intensive care and we weren’t able to keep in touch with family regularly unless we were in port, fortunately we only had four sea days so we managed. But in 2019 there should be a better more affordable wifi option on board. You spend the first hour of being in port looking for wifi to try keep in touch with family etc.
When you book a cruise, in my opinion you are aware and accepting that there is an onboard dress code that you will adhere to. It’s clearly stated when you book and on board there is reminders in the Horizon daily paper you get to your cabin and around the ship’s TV screens of what that evening’s dress code is.
Formal nights- most people we saw had made effort however there was some people purposefully ignoring and choosing not to adhere to it. The night we visited Sindhu there was two couples not in formal wear (one had jeans on) who were turned away by the restaurant team for not wearing formal attire. However they were so rude back to the staff and kicked off shouting and threatening that eventually the staff gave in and accommodated them much to the frustration of other guests who were abiding by the rules.
I have read on other reviews that the dress code is not strictly enforced however my experience of this is that it is the guests who choose not to partake that make it awkward and difficult for not only the staff on board but also the other guests. I’m almost certain some guests choose to ignore the dress code and test the boundaries just to make an exhibition of themselves, I would personally be embarrassed to be turned away from a restaurant for not being dressed appropriately but some of these guests seem to do it for the argument, seriously if you don’t intend on making an effort to abide by the dress code, don’t book a cruise. Football shirts and sometimes on an evening we saw people in smart shorts, which it stated were not allowed, but we did not see anyone enforce this.
I would say as a taster holiday for the Caribbean islands that this is an option to see a little of a lot of places, but we found our days quite rushed by the time you have disembarked and explored enough to get your bearings you have to be back on the ship, it's a shame they don't dock later in each port. We were especially disappointed that the Captain announced just before our last port of Antigua (somewhere we were really looking forward to on the itinerary) that we would need to be back on board an hour earlier than usual cutting a day there very short.
Overall, for a first time cruise, we booked P&O as we were led to believe that P&O were more prestigious than other cruise lines and we felt we would be experiencing a once a lifetime holiday for a special occasion. Having travelled all over the world everything from back packing to 5* luxury hotels, our expectations for a cruise were high, but were not met.
The reality was, it did not live up to our expectations in many ways and we have come away with mixed feelings.
There was some positives - the itinerary, the food and the quality of service from some of the staff but the negatives for us, much outweighed all of this to the point we are unsure if we would ever try another cruise and would more than likely choose a different cruise line if we do. Far from the relaxing, luxury experience we had imagined. P&O definitely need to up their game if they are to sustain a future customer base. Read Less