We have sailed with P&O many times (10+) before, and we choose this particular cruise because 1. the cruise was over some ones birthday, 2. it visited a few new (to us) islands and a few old ones we have not visited for some time, and 3. to see what Britannia was all about. And we wanted to see frigate birds, flying fish, turtles and dolphins again, and hoped to see a whale again (alas none seen).
Although the weather was a best mixed, this didn’t spoil the experience when the sun shone it was hot, strong and good, when it showered we found shelter (sometimes) as usual it was warm rain. Except for one day at Dominica where there was occasional heavy rain and prolonged periods of light rain and a cracking electrical storm as we left port. Most of the islands are so green because of the rainfall, so hey “No Problem”!
All in all the islands we had visited before had hardly changed from our last visit except that there were a few new buildings, the taxi drivers are cheekier than before and many prices (beer etc.), had risen slightly. The new islands where delight to explore as each has its own little way of doing things.
The flights to and from Barbados where good, we flew in a “Tui” ‘dreamliner’ (or Boeing 787) overall quite comfortable, with plenty of room, air not taken from near the engines and the cabin kept at a slightly higher pressure than normal. The chaos at the booking sheds at Barbados where as usual, but the queues kept moving.
First impressions of Britannia where it’s new and its seems big, but when you consider that it only carries some 500 or so extra passengers than say Ventura or Azura – then where has all that space gone? Going aboard her for the first time is exciting like any new experience, and the atrium seemed glitzy and glamorous. But after a few days I began to get the impression that the interior designer(s) had an off day – or their brief was poor. We have all read the about the lifts and the stairwells and I will not comment on this but it was soon my impression is that while the restaurants, shops and show areas are well designed and laid out the rest of the ship was simply placed or adjusted to fit and without consideration to managing pedestrian flow or passenger comfort. There were a few oddities such as whoever designed the buffet area left two deck support pillars 6 inches in front of the buffet area, worse still the crew still placed buffet food awkwardly behind said pillars- amazing!!!
We both liked the show areas (althought they appeared to under utilized) and the expanse of the sun decks including ‘Serenity’ area. We missed the use of a complete promonade circuit at deck 7 and think it was a mistake to leave this out form the design. We were impressed with the hand washing facility at the entrances to the buffet area (deck 16) however its use was only really enforced for the first two days, and usual stereotypical culprits still just bypassed this basic hygienic control as though D&V happens only to other people.
In conclusion Britannia is not my favourite ship in the P&O fleet, we would cruise on her again but not out of choice, i.e. only if the itinerary and agenda coincide with our requirements.