Looked into cruising a little, but always felt daunted by it. Took the plunge based on the rights dates and great last minute price. To give an idea of what type of travellers we are, We are a married couple, both 37, who enjoy good food and wine, sightseeing and relaxing on holiday. We travel anywhere from traditional Spanish resorts, to Bali and Malaysia and skiing. Here's a list of what we thought.
Travelling from and to Southampton was brilliant. There was a wait of around an hour to get on the ship, but so easy once checked in. We used the recommended car parking company and it was so simple, like meet and great. We chose self disembarkation. This is not really explained well, but basically means you leave before 8.45 in the morning. I.e. Before the hoards of people enter the massive luggage claim area to try and locate their luggage.
Breakfast is best in the main restaurants, but only served to 9 on port days and 9.30 on sea days. The buffet is ok for breakfast, but of lower quality. I'd avoid the buffet at any other time, it's ok but there are so many better places.
Not a lot was explained to you. Being a new cruising puts you in the minority. Thus, ask, read the horizon guide each night and explore the ship fully in your first day or so.
We found food in the main restaurant bland other than on gala nights. They are catering for a mass market after all. It was very good, but needed seasoning, herbs, spices etc.
The additional paid for restaurants are wonderful, and good value. Yes, you can eat for no extra cost, but for a feeling of going out for a meal, they are great. Service is quality and there is not the noise and bustle of a mass catering environment. The glass house is fabulous, a must try. They do wine flights, 3 x 125ml wines for around £10 or £11. Lots of different ones to try. The tapas plates are brilliant. Sihdu was also very good, with scallops and lobster on the menu. The beach house is a great American BBQ style, and excellent value. You get more generous portions in the paid for restaurants. Note, the glass house do a tasting menu with wine paring for £30 a head. This is something not advertised until the day before in the horizon magazine. However, all regular cruisers know about it, as they rush to reception to book as soon as they get on board. I don't blame them, but unfair of P and O not to advertise in advance so us new people can also get a chance to try. Other restaurants and events are easily booked on board, and some you can't book anyway. We never had a problem. Good tip, the glass house serves food till 10.30 ish, an hour after all other restauarants.
There is so much entertainment, you have to pick what you want to do. Most is duplicated in the evening, at 8.30 and 10.30, which for us seemed too early to have finished dinner then go, and too late to always go after dinner. However, most things last 45 mins to an hour. Have a run around on the first night or two and work out what you like. We like live bands and music more than the shows, so planned accordingly. The live bands were very very good. There were two comedians on our cruise. One was brilliant, the other ( who has been doing the cruises since i was born) was awful, clearly the material is getting a little tired.
Cabin (balcony) was bigger than I expected. However, it had a sense of the hospital room about it. Wiped down walls, plastic moulded work tops, bad pictures on the wall. The bed was comfy. The to was awful. News channel and that was it. Loads of films to watch but the to was so bad, the picture and sound was not good. There is free room service, which is good quality and fairly speedy to arrive. Shower is powerful. There is a full size bottle of white company shower gel attached to the wall, plus 100ml size of white company shampoo, conditioner and lotion. I'm sure you can ask for more if needed.
The ship itself was impressive due to size. Some public areas were canteen like or reminded me of bars in Benidorm hotels. Other areas more elegant, such as the glass house, art gallery and metropolis bar. Something for everyone so you just find what you like.
Getting on and off the ship was easy. We experienced a queue only when you had to use the shuttle bus, but it was only 20 minutes or so. Going from Southampton means you can take on drinks etc with you and keep in your fridge, just top up at each port.
Drinks on board we brilliant. Extremely good wine list and all low prices, cheaper than in the uk. About £17 gets you a great bottle and most were in that region, rather than one or two then loads at higher prices. Cocktails about £5.50 to £6.50.
The vast majority of men are in black bow tie for gala night. I dont think I saw a standard suit. However, there are areas you can dress casual ( the buffet).
At other times though, this is not a posh ship. You get the odd one or two people who do dress up every night, but most people are casual or wearing what you'd expect for a normal meal out somewhere.
Pools are all heated, which is fab. The two in the middle were usually busy and noisy. The adult only was closed the whole time we were on board, which is disappointing.
There is a big mix of people. Apologies if I offend any regular visitors here, but I want to be honest. There are a lot of very old people, who would not look too out of place in a care home ( a cruise is cheaper), there are a lot of people who are less able (both medically and die to size), which could be due to being no fly. There were a few families and kids were all well behaved. Couples like us were in the minority, with most resembling our parents (daily mail in one hand, free glass of prossecco in the other).
Spa treatments were good, but overpriced compared to uk, and come with a heavy sales pitch to buy products and Botox. Excursions were overpriced compared to what you get in port, but come with the safety net of not missing the ship. If the shuttle is paid for, generally means you don't need to use it unless you fall into one of the categories I've described above. I thought bingo and the race night were pricey ( no, not our usual sort of thing, but we'd thought we'd try it, especially with a last minute extra sea day due to rough weather).
Every member of staff is brilliant. Genuinely helpful and happy. Not pushing for tips. Always there to offer you a drink or help, but not pushy. A real asset to P and O.
Everything is cash free. You can even gamble and charge to your room ( dangerous). You cannot add tips on to any bill, so would need cash. That said, we saw zero people tipping. We decided to in the paid for restaurants though.
The gym is large, but the equipment is not great quality. Runners were about usable. Cross trainers very light weight. It was also very hot!
Overall, we loved visiting several cities we wouldn't have gone to otherwise in one holiday. It's wonderful to arrive in the port, go on a ( self organised) walking tour, stop for lunch, then hop back on the boat. Being on the ship was relaxing in itself, as you can't go anyway so just sit back and relax. The good and drink was excellent, which we like. The entertainment was great. People watching may not have been exactly what I was expecting, but it's good to know cruising is not always a stuck up affair. We will do a cruise again, and would use p and o and other similar lines.
Bigger than expected. Lots of room for luggage. Separate wardrobe area useful. Bathroom small, but shower great. Tv awful. No channels, bad picture, bad sound. Great to be so close to a pool and a bar, but a quiet one with no children and hardly anyone there. Also easy for a quick buffet breakfast.
Vigo docks right in the town. No bus needed and quite a novelty. Vigo is interesting, but main sights out of town. We used tours 4 cruisers and did a half day tour. They are dressed in national costume when you get off the boat. We saw a lovely beach and had ice cream, went to a lovely house and gardens then had a wonderful view from the fort at the top overlooking Vigo. Saw so much we wouldn't have just staying in port and the tour guide was great. All for €15 each. Back in time for lunch. Avoid the old town rip offs. We found a great tapas bar and deli casa samaniego.
As a port, Lisbon is good. We did find it a little dirty and warnings every where of pick pockets off putting. Did a wonderful walking tour with sademans tours. No booking, no fee, just tip what you like at the end. Learnt so much I didn't know about Lisbon and Portugal. No need to pay £4 each way for the bus. It seems to drive around in circles then drop you in town, which you can walk to in 5 minutes. Only use if you struggle uphil. The bus will drop you at the top of the hill and you walk down. Otherwise, come out the terminal, turn left and walk along to the main square.
Loved this place. Would never have visited here, but it was so pretty. Loads of narrow windy streets, full of bars and boutique hotels. All lead to a beautiful river side. Lovely buildings now used for bars and restauarants, all reasonably priced. Take a river cruise to learn a bit of history and see the view, €12. We will return here on our own for a long weekend. Options seemed to be a) get the port bus, which takes you out the commercial port. Then, I assume, get a taxi bus or metro into centre. B) take the free shuttle which lasts about 35 minutes into town. This was easy enough after a 20 minute wait outwards. No queue coming back around 45 minutes before the last bus, which runs back every 15 minutes.