Reasonably (though still a bit dear) priced 14 night cruise to the eastern Caribbean in a balcony cabin, boarding at Castries, St Lucia on the Britannia, visiting 9 islands in total, mainly in the Lesser Antilles group.
First timers with P & O, though had cruised several times with Celebrity X and once on Royal Caribbean.
Good flight out on a chartered Thomas Cook Airbus A330 (I think), disappointed to find that although flight time was about 1.25 hours less than scheduled, had to sit on plane for about that time or longer without full ECS, because buses weren't available to take us to the ship until the scheduled time. Why we weren't allowed to disembark and wait in the airport I guess was down to the rather small size of the airport and its limited lounge facilities, though this was rather uncomfortable given the temperature and following the long flight.
Travel to port was in rather cramped mini bus type vehicles, the small bottle of water we were each given was very welcome if a bit minimal for the 1.5hr journey.
Had to wait quite a time on arrival at the port to register and get on to the ship, and by that time nerves were a bit frayed.
On first sight cabin and its balcony and bathroom seemed very small compared to other ships, though subsequently felt they were adequate after a day or two. Bit surprised to find that the cabin fridge did not contain any drinks for purchase.
The ship itself seemed very smart with a nice, perhaps slightly understated opulence without being at all spectacular.
Dining and general eating experiences were fairly good, our evening dining was in the ship's Meridian restaurant, we like to dine with others so after the first evening (when we couldn't be asked to change after travelling and ate in the self service Horizon restaurant on deck 16) we joined a table for 8, food and service in the Meridian was of an acceptable standard generally, though some times main portions seemed a little small and were not always particularly hot. Though these points were willingly remedied by the staff.
We took breakfast in the Horizon self service a number of times, which was a bit of a bun fight at times, and mirrored the British wish for a big "fry-up" to start the day, also using on some mornings the quieter ambience of the waiter served breakfast in the Peninsular or Meridian.
I was a bit critical of the lunchtime or later in the afternoon meal availability of food in the self service, particularly after returning to the ship at around 3pm after a trip ashore when choice seemed rather limited because the range of food available say at about 1pm had largely been consumed and not fully replaced, several times I was unable to find things like fresh lettuce or tomatoes etc. to knock-up a nice salad.
We did not use the speciality or premium restaurants.
Alcoholic drink prices were generally excellent, much, much cheaper than other ships I have sailed on, in fact very competitive with pub prices in the UK particularly with draught beers and lagers and a vast array of spirits and bottled beers.
I also was happy with shore excursion prices which were good value and offered a great variety of opportunities to experience local attractions, with the added safeguard of not missing the ship an extra benefit. These seemed significantly less expensive than previous experiences.
On board entertainment was very good with a variety of types, from well produced muscal shows in the theatre of "West End" quality, as well as solo shows with two performances to fit in with dining times. Also disco, pop, or intimate cocktail bar type music in the smaller venues. In fact something available to suit all tastes every evening including ballroom dancing. In addition there were many different themed quizzes and cash prize bingo to have a go at as well as movies and interesting talks to attend.
The "sail away" shows on the pool deck were definitely not to be missed.
Disembarkation, which of course,is always a low point went ok, though was not too impressed with having to remain in one place without easy access to drinks or food for over an hour while waiting for the coaches to arrive, as it felt a bit like we were being treated like school children who could not be trusted to be at a specific place at an exact time. You may note I said "coaches" as unlike the vehicles used at the start of the trip, this time the transfer was in the comparative luxury of 40-50 seat, very new, coaches.
I was unhappy with having to pay £20 each to reserve specific seats on the aircraft home as we were told that was necessary to ensure my travelling partner ( who is a slightly nervous flyer) and I would have seats together. Like many other travellers, I guess, we really have no particular preference for where we sit on the plane, as long as we have adjacent seats to each other.
As the seats were allocated whilst still on the ship, there seems to me to be no reason why this wish could not be met free of charge. This practice of charging seems to be coming a standard way of effectively increasing the cost of flying without openly appearing to do so.
On balance, I enjoyed the cruise and would certainly cruise with P & O again, strong points for me were the itinerary, drinks and excursion prices and entertainment.
Small reservations re food and cabin, balcony and bathroom sizes would not deter me though price would be a determining factor with these in mind.
Felt cabin was a little small, same goes for balcony and bathroom.
Cabin steward was excellent.