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Firstly I would like to say that we are very fortunate to be very experienced cruisers, and have tried quite a few cruise lines in the past and have 2 new lines to try later this year. As a line that caters very well, largely for British cruisers, P & O have offerings that for the overall experience can be rated as very good and will be a good place for new cruisers to start. We have to be open and say that there are several things which may have caused dissatisfaction with this cruise / ship which could lead to the negative feelings. Among these being:- • The big build up over many months, gave many the expectation that this would be a very ‘Special’ experience. Unfortunately it wasn’t and P & O did little to make it so. The substitution of the normal musicians at send off for the superb Royal Marines, a few fireworks as we left and a commemorative cup and saucer left many wondering when the ‘Magic’ would start. It didn’t, so we ended up largely with a standard P & O offering. Which as stated cannot by any means be regarded as bad, but not what the preconceptions of this maiden cruise would be. • The weather was not good by and large but what could we expect for March in the Med. A little sunshine does a lot to boost the temperament of members of this island race. • This ship was supposed to have been the ultimate in design for British cruisers with their input being very closely considered. I would dispute this. • We have never encountered such a bunch of moaners as on this cruise. Whilst we may have agreed with much that was said, frankly it was a bit disheartening to hear such constant negativity, sometimes even to the point of verbal aggression. • Our cabin E442 (inside family cabin on deck 10) had a very annoying creak in any increased level of sea. We had visits from 4 engineering teams all of whom left and simply left the problem. This left us very tired after disturbed or sleepless nights and at one stage due to not having perfect health, I was absolutely exhausted to the point of feeling ill. Not only did engineering fail us but the reception staff totally failed to take ownership of the issue and see it through to resolution. It seems that once the problem has been passed on they lose all interest in it, instead of seeing things through to resolution. We had to manage the whole situation ourselves and finally on the last night we were move to one of the ‘Vacated’ balcony units. Very shoddy customer service. • To finish on a positive note, the actions of the captain and crew to ensure passenger safety when returning from a delayed tender return in Monaco in difficult conditions, can only be hugely applauded. So to the review: Cabins The initial cabin felt rather small compared to other P & O ships we have been on. The fixtures and fittings were of course all new so no problems there. This cabin had 2 fold down bunk beds, one of which seemed to be giving the afore-mentioned noise problem. I must say that we were not the only ones to experience this problem with the engineering teams always turning up with lists of cabins to visit for the same issues, many of which seemed to be fixed by the liberal application of sticky backed foam strip. It is a new ship after all and if only ribald travel agents have used the cabins before any creaks may have been muted by the ‘arms of morpheus’ (or Johnny Walker to the rest of us). Storage was adequate for the 2 of us but quite how a family of 4 will cope for 2 weeks or more without leaving at least part of their luggage in their cases is a bit of a mystery. For some reason the normal drawer set in the cabin itself have been converted to a cupboard which is much less useful. The bathroom is small by any standards but the inclusion of a fixed shower door instead of a curtain for us is positive. However, you have to squeeze between the toilet and the washbasin to open the door, which is quite narrow. I can foresee that some of the larger guests, of which there were many, would have a problem. The room was supplied with an empty fridge which was very useful, as was the hair drier which can be plugged in in the cabin which was welcome to ‘SHE’. The power outlet for shavers in the bathroom did not fit UK razor plugs and at this time you will need an adaptor for this. Adaptors obviously sold out in the shop in the first few hours, but P & O now know about this anomaly and hopefully will fit the correct socket in the very near future. Rooms come with the standard (for P & O) kettle together with tea, coffee and biscuits. This is not often the case on other lines and if an early morning cuppa is a deal breaker either cruise P & O or use room service, which may not deliver the required brew timeously or hot. The balcony cabin E408 had a little more floor space but otherwise was not really any different to the inside unit. The balconies are very small and in my mind not worth the extra cost. An anomaly in both cabins was the design of the lighting. There are simply no reading lights for the main bed occupants whether in twin or double bed configuration. The only reading lights are two linked spotlights in the ceiling which are intrusive if only one occupant wants to read. When the extra bunks are let down they have a reading light but the shadows on the adult or bottom bunks preclude reading at all as the aforementioned spotlights will almost certainly disturb the upper bunk occupants. In-cabin entertainment included free films but the useful port presentations and account information access have gone Food: Food is available in 3 main dining rooms, a buffet restaurant, a grab and go station, a pizza bar and a hot-dog / burger bar as well as speciality restaurants. The food is generally of good quality and the range of available venues enables you to have a quick snack instead of always feeling obliged to have full service dining, which for most people for two weeks could feel excessive. The design of the buffet Horizon was excellent and we did not experience any queues at all. The extra cost of the speciality restaurants was acceptable to me for the extended range and style of the offerings, although we didn’t eat in the top venue the Epicurean. We did leave the Glass House once though due to being completely ignored by the service staff for 40 minutes, who not only did not clear the table from the previous customers but in fact were not even evident for that time period at all. When we eventually ate there the food and wine selections were good although my personal preference when eating any form of pate is for some type of biscuit you can actually spread it on without said biscuit breaking to many fragments in my lap. I got a bread roll in the end. Nice flavours though. Drink; Alcohol prices for beer were pretty much what you will pay in a City bar at around £3.75 for 500 ml, wine is a about 50% more expensive than most of the restaurants we visit locally. Put in context though on the American based ships the prices are much higher and also subject generally to a 15% service charge not applied to P & O bills. The range of wine and beer (especially in Brodie’s) on board is really good. A reduction in wine prices to high street levels would be nice. Entertainment The entertainment team put together the usual P & O offerings of quizzes, bingo, sailaways and disco’s fairly well. The venues did not have the capacity for all the passengers on board. Queues were often formed for the more popular shows up to an hour before or entry or the seating positon you like was not guaranteed. The headliners unusually seemed to be 4 diva’s trying to out shriek each other, not helped by the appalling quality of either the sound or the mixing. Most disappointing as they are one of the highlights of any P & O cruise. Volumes were always too high and the band or backing tracks seemed to generally be fighting with the artists for volume. Especially the drummer who happened to be the music director. Entertainment out of the main venues was poor with only a brief pianist presence in the atrium and Crow’s nest instead of many and varied entertainers throughout the ship as we are used to. The Crow’s nest has lost its dance floor, the space now being allocated to the library The guest artists were very nice ‘B’ list P & O standards, but the Patriot Girls who got everybody singing 40’s tunes were a definite feel good group. The theatre has lost the typical plush seating and has narrow flat backed seats, probably to cram more people into a smaller space. It is also quite dark and sombre. It simply isn’t big enough as the queues demonstrate. Another design error was the drink stands screwed to the seats. These are completely stupid and obviously designed for ‘form over function’. Perhaps that is why there is no drinks service in the theatre as it is almost certain that anything placed on the will go the same way as my pint. They also hurt when you knock them. Please remove them and ban drinks in the theatre, it makes more sense. The casino always seems to be busy. There is no art gallery and if they really spent £1m on the art displayed they were robbed The separate Crystal Room dance area is very nice and Brodie’s bar is excellent but is also the main venue for quizzes and bingo as well. The i-studio (cinema etc) has a screen down to almost the floor level which together with the poor incline of the seats means that only the front row of the audience see all the screen. They also turned off all the satellite screens during screening of films which would have helped. Getting around The lack of stairs in the central area of the ship is ridiculous. This added to a lift algorithm that totally confounds, means long waiting times and much frustration. Particularly during peak periods it is impossible to move around in this area, even for one floor, without using the lifts. People got frustrated waiting and were getting into any lift that happened to stop regardless of whether the direction was the one they wanted, This meant that very often, when the lifts condescended to stop at your floor, they were full anyway. There are 2 sizes of lifts but both were labelled as being for 18 passengers. Perhaps we are supposed to sit on each other’s shoulders. The capacity and efficiency of these lifts is very poor. Mostly there was always one of them out of order and they often failed safe with people in them causing more than a little fear amongst sensitive passengers. The only alternative, which we often employed was to walk all the way to the extremities of the ship to use the lifts there or the stairs which are then available of course. There is only one stairway between the levels of the main atrium instead of the usual two. This caused some congestion between passengers moving between the main entertainment areas, shops and restaurants. Especially when the photographers helpfully set up encroaching areas which intruded onto the stairs. The atrium is relatively plain Facilities There is no sheltered promenade deck on this ship I didn’t realise before how much I liked this feature for a post dinner or post show stroll.. Instead there is a walk round deck up on 18 which is open to all the weather and winds. There are three pools but no indoor unit or even one with a sliding roof. This means that in inclement weather everybody has to sit inside meaning that bars / café’s and so forth get full of passengers reading, leaving no space for consumers. You can’t blame them though as there is nowhere else. There are also only 2 public Jacuzzi’s which are out on the open deck 17. Getting out of them on a cold and windy day is not pleasant and one was often cold or out of order. You can of course pay extra to enhance your experience by using the Spa facilities, but this is not value at £25p.d for the benefit … There seems to be a shortage of toilets in the main public areas but perhaps this is due to the poor signage. People who cruise tend to be of a certain age where facilities are becoming more important to them, so it is important that if they are present they are obvious. My wife reports that there are often more cubicles in the ladies than normal. The taps and soap dispensers are once again a great idea that simply doesn’t work properly in the current installation. If you can persuade the sensor in the soap dispensers to give you anything you then struggle to get any, or only an initial very short spurt of water. There are notices on the external toilet doors (as usual) to open the doors with your paper towel, but then no bins are provided to dispose of said towel. The library is small and is no longer ‘allowed’ to run a book swap for passengers read novels. Staff With the exception of the poolside barmen who could be quite rude, all the staff were helpful, pleasant and professional. The cabin attendant was among the best but has extra cabins to clear on this ship leaving him pressed for time to go the extra mile. Summary We so wanted this to be special but sadly it is our least favourite of all the P & O fleet. It is too flawed especially in cooler climes and the other big cruising nation, the Americans, will have problems with fitting into the restricted spaces. Perhaps it was really designed with accountants in mind rather than the myriad of customers who took the time to give feedback as they state… The entertainment is not as good nor prolific as on previous ships and the main entertainment areas are either too small or also used for other uses such as quizzes If your expectations are not too raised, the weather is nice and you are not too worried about the main shows you will probably enjoy yourself. We will only go on this vessel again if the destination and the deal are really right. Very sad and a missed opportunity for P & O..

Flawed Design - Not our favourite

Britannia Cruise Review by C0l0nel

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Firstly I would like to say that we are very fortunate to be very experienced cruisers, and have tried quite a few cruise lines in the past and have 2 new lines to try later this year. As a line that caters very well, largely for British cruisers, P & O have offerings that for the overall experience can be rated as very good and will be a good place for new cruisers to start.

We have to be open and say that there are several things which may have caused dissatisfaction with this cruise / ship which could lead to the negative feelings. Among these being:-

• The big build up over many months, gave many the expectation that this would be a very ‘Special’ experience. Unfortunately it wasn’t and P & O did little to make it so. The substitution of the normal musicians at send off for the superb Royal Marines, a few fireworks as we left and a commemorative cup and saucer left many wondering when the ‘Magic’ would start. It didn’t, so we ended up largely with a standard P & O offering. Which as stated cannot by any means be regarded as bad, but not what the preconceptions of this maiden cruise would be.

• The weather was not good by and large but what could we expect for March in the Med. A little sunshine does a lot to boost the temperament of members of this island race.

• This ship was supposed to have been the ultimate in design for British cruisers with their input being very closely considered. I would dispute this.

• We have never encountered such a bunch of moaners as on this cruise. Whilst we may have agreed with much that was said, frankly it was a bit disheartening to hear such constant negativity, sometimes even to the point of verbal aggression.

• Our cabin E442 (inside family cabin on deck 10) had a very annoying creak in any increased level of sea. We had visits from 4 engineering teams all of whom left and simply left the problem. This left us very tired after disturbed or sleepless nights and at one stage due to not having perfect health, I was absolutely exhausted to the point of feeling ill. Not only did engineering fail us but the reception staff totally failed to take ownership of the issue and see it through to resolution. It seems that once the problem has been passed on they lose all interest in it, instead of seeing things through to resolution. We had to manage the whole situation ourselves and finally on the last night we were move to one of the ‘Vacated’ balcony units. Very shoddy customer service.

• To finish on a positive note, the actions of the captain and crew to ensure passenger safety when returning from a delayed tender return in Monaco in difficult conditions, can only be hugely applauded.

So to the review:

Cabins

The initial cabin felt rather small compared to other P & O ships we have been on. The fixtures and fittings were of course all new so no problems there. This cabin had 2 fold down bunk beds, one of which seemed to be giving the afore-mentioned noise problem. I must say that we were not the only ones to experience this problem with the engineering teams always turning up with lists of cabins to visit for the same issues, many of which seemed to be fixed by the liberal application of sticky backed foam strip. It is a new ship after all and if only ribald travel agents have used the cabins before any creaks may have been muted by the ‘arms of morpheus’ (or Johnny Walker to the rest of us).

Storage was adequate for the 2 of us but quite how a family of 4 will cope for 2 weeks or more without leaving at least part of their luggage in their cases is a bit of a mystery. For some reason the normal drawer set in the cabin itself have been converted to a cupboard which is much less useful.

The bathroom is small by any standards but the inclusion of a fixed shower door instead of a curtain for us is positive. However, you have to squeeze between the toilet and the washbasin to open the door, which is quite narrow. I can foresee that some of the larger guests, of which there were many, would have a problem.

The room was supplied with an empty fridge which was very useful, as was the hair drier which can be plugged in in the cabin which was welcome to ‘SHE’. The power outlet for shavers in the bathroom did not fit UK razor plugs and at this time you will need an adaptor for this. Adaptors obviously sold out in the shop in the first few hours, but P & O now know about this anomaly and hopefully will fit the correct socket in the very near future.

Rooms come with the standard (for P & O) kettle together with tea, coffee and biscuits. This is not often the case on other lines and if an early morning cuppa is a deal breaker either cruise P & O or use room service, which may not deliver the required brew timeously or hot.

The balcony cabin E408 had a little more floor space but otherwise was not really any different to the inside unit. The balconies are very small and in my mind not worth the extra cost.

An anomaly in both cabins was the design of the lighting. There are simply no reading lights for the main bed occupants whether in twin or double bed configuration. The only reading lights are two linked spotlights in the ceiling which are intrusive if only one occupant wants to read. When the extra bunks are let down they have a reading light but the shadows on the adult or bottom bunks preclude reading at all as the aforementioned spotlights will almost certainly disturb the upper bunk occupants.

In-cabin entertainment included free films but the useful port presentations and account information access have gone

Food:

Food is available in 3 main dining rooms, a buffet restaurant, a grab and go station, a pizza bar and a hot-dog / burger bar as well as speciality restaurants.

The food is generally of good quality and the range of available venues enables you to have a quick snack instead of always feeling obliged to have full service dining, which for most people for two weeks could feel excessive.

The design of the buffet Horizon was excellent and we did not experience any queues at all.

The extra cost of the speciality restaurants was acceptable to me for the extended range and style of the offerings, although we didn’t eat in the top venue the Epicurean.

We did leave the Glass House once though due to being completely ignored by the service staff for 40 minutes, who not only did not clear the table from the previous customers but in fact were not even evident for that time period at all. When we eventually ate there the food and wine selections were good although my personal preference when eating any form of pate is for some type of biscuit you can actually spread it on without said biscuit breaking to many fragments in my lap. I got a bread roll in the end. Nice flavours though.

Drink;

Alcohol prices for beer were pretty much what you will pay in a City bar at around £3.75 for 500 ml, wine is a about 50% more expensive than most of the restaurants we visit locally. Put in context though on the American based ships the prices are much higher and also subject generally to a 15% service charge not applied to P & O bills. The range of wine and beer (especially in Brodie’s) on board is really good. A reduction in wine prices to high street levels would be nice.

Entertainment

The entertainment team put together the usual P & O offerings of quizzes, bingo, sailaways and disco’s fairly well. The venues did not have the capacity for all the passengers on board. Queues were often formed for the more popular shows up to an hour before or entry or the seating positon you like was not guaranteed.

The headliners unusually seemed to be 4 diva’s trying to out shriek each other, not helped by the appalling quality of either the sound or the mixing. Most disappointing as they are one of the highlights of any P & O cruise. Volumes were always too high and the band or backing tracks seemed to generally be fighting with the artists for volume. Especially the drummer who happened to be the music director.

Entertainment out of the main venues was poor with only a brief pianist presence in the atrium and Crow’s nest instead of many and varied entertainers throughout the ship as we are used to. The Crow’s nest has lost its dance floor, the space now being allocated to the library

The guest artists were very nice ‘B’ list P & O standards, but the Patriot Girls who got everybody singing 40’s tunes were a definite feel good group.

The theatre has lost the typical plush seating and has narrow flat backed seats, probably to cram more people into a smaller space. It is also quite dark and sombre. It simply isn’t big enough as the queues demonstrate. Another design error was the drink stands screwed to the seats. These are completely stupid and obviously designed for ‘form over function’. Perhaps that is why there is no drinks service in the theatre as it is almost certain that anything placed on the will go the same way as my pint. They also hurt when you knock them. Please remove them and ban drinks in the theatre, it makes more sense.

The casino always seems to be busy.

There is no art gallery and if they really spent £1m on the art displayed they were robbed

The separate Crystal Room dance area is very nice and Brodie’s bar is excellent but is also the main venue for quizzes and bingo as well.

The i-studio (cinema etc) has a screen down to almost the floor level which together with the poor incline of the seats means that only the front row of the audience see all the screen. They also turned off all the satellite screens during screening of films which would have helped.

Getting around

The lack of stairs in the central area of the ship is ridiculous. This added to a lift algorithm that totally confounds, means long waiting times and much frustration. Particularly during peak periods it is impossible to move around in this area, even for one floor, without using the lifts. People got frustrated waiting and were getting into any lift that happened to stop regardless of whether the direction was the one they wanted, This meant that very often, when the lifts condescended to stop at your floor, they were full anyway. There are 2 sizes of lifts but both were labelled as being for 18 passengers. Perhaps we are supposed to sit on each other’s shoulders. The capacity and efficiency of these lifts is very poor. Mostly there was always one of them out of order and they often failed safe with people in them causing more than a little fear amongst sensitive passengers. The only alternative, which we often employed was to walk all the way to the extremities of the ship to use the lifts there or the stairs which are then available of course.

There is only one stairway between the levels of the main atrium instead of the usual two. This caused some congestion between passengers moving between the main entertainment areas, shops and restaurants. Especially when the photographers helpfully set up encroaching areas which intruded onto the stairs. The atrium is relatively plain

Facilities

There is no sheltered promenade deck on this ship I didn’t realise before how much I liked this feature for a post dinner or post show stroll.. Instead there is a walk round deck up on 18 which is open to all the weather and winds. There are three pools but no indoor unit or even one with a sliding roof. This means that in inclement weather everybody has to sit inside meaning that bars / café’s and so forth get full of passengers reading, leaving no space for consumers. You can’t blame them though as there is nowhere else. There are also only 2 public Jacuzzi’s which are out on the open deck 17. Getting out of them on a cold and windy day is not pleasant and one was often cold or out of order.

You can of course pay extra to enhance your experience by using the Spa facilities, but this is not value at £25p.d for the benefit …

There seems to be a shortage of toilets in the main public areas but perhaps this is due to the poor signage. People who cruise tend to be of a certain age where facilities are becoming more important to them, so it is important that if they are present they are obvious.

My wife reports that there are often more cubicles in the ladies than normal. The taps and soap dispensers are once again a great idea that simply doesn’t work properly in the current installation. If you can persuade the sensor in the soap dispensers to give you anything you then struggle to get any, or only an initial very short spurt of water.

There are notices on the external toilet doors (as usual) to open the doors with your paper towel, but then no bins are provided to dispose of said towel.

The library is small and is no longer ‘allowed’ to run a book swap for passengers read novels.

Staff

With the exception of the poolside barmen who could be quite rude, all the staff were helpful, pleasant and professional. The cabin attendant was among the best but has extra cabins to clear on this ship leaving him pressed for time to go the extra mile.

Summary

We so wanted this to be special but sadly it is our least favourite of all the P & O fleet. It is too flawed especially in cooler climes and the other big cruising nation, the Americans, will have problems with fitting into the restricted spaces. Perhaps it was really designed with accountants in mind rather than the myriad of customers who took the time to give feedback as they state…

The entertainment is not as good nor prolific as on previous ships and the main entertainment areas are either too small or also used for other uses such as quizzes

If your expectations are not too raised, the weather is nice and you are not too worried about the main shows you will probably enjoy yourself. We will only go on this vessel again if the destination and the deal are really right. Very sad and a missed opportunity for P & O..
C0l0nel’s Full Rating Summary
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