Two weeks in the Caribbean 3-17th December 2016
Prior to going on our cruise I briefly looked on the Cruise Critic site and was surprised to see that Britannia only had a 53% approval rating from previous guests however I quickly disregarded this as I have read terrible ship reviews on this site in the past and yet went on to have a wonderful cruise on the same ship being disparaged.
I thought I would write a short review of my experiences on Britannia including both the negative and the positive. Any negative ones should not be seen as a "moan" but are based upon on forty years of travel, furthermore I am acutely aware that to some, any criticism of this ship is harder to take than the loss of a loved one.
1) Embarkation & Disembarkation: Seamless process at both ends of the cruise. I also found the immigration process for the US Virgin Isles and Immigration for Barbados very well organised.
2) Accommodation: Balcony cabin on F Deck. Adequate size for the two of us with enough storage, it was well appointed with a very comfortable bed. The bathroom whilst a little on the small side was fine and the glass shower screen was a nice addition. A large flat screen TV hangs on the wall at the end of the bed it contained enough TV/films for a two week cruise and unlike Royal Caribbean you are not charged for the privilege.
3) Steward: Our cabin steward was called Dillan. He always had a smile, worked very hard and kept our cabin spotless. Note for first time cruisers, if you are going ashore ask your steward if they need anything, just that you have asked will make their day.
4) Food: We were on freedom dining in Meridian. As with cruises on a ship this size this is mass catering but on the whole I found the food to be of a reasonable to good standard with the exception of a couple of meals that were quite frankly inedible. That said, the wait staff were quick to notice and offers of replacements were made.
The Horizon Restaurant was bigger than any self serve buffet I have seen before including the Windjammer on Independence. There was usually something to choose from and we never had a problem finding a seat. The construction of the ship means that you have to negotiate some annoying pillars whilst choosing your food. Sindhu I found to be style over substance. The food was bland and the service was terrible. It could have been an off night but I received no satisfactory answers to my complaints. An evening spent in the Limelight in the company of Dean Andrews was excellent. Good food, intimate atmosphere with great service. We normally chose to be served our breakfast in the Oriental, absolutely no complaints there.
5) Entertainment: I have to be honest and say that we didn't see a great deal of the acts. Headliners theatre is too small for a ship of this size and to be guaranteed a seat I refuse to be seated half an hour before a show for a 40 minute performance. Likewise the Live Lounge which was probably worse because there was a bar in there. A seat could be bagged early and you could have a drink whilst waiting for show. Nigh on impossible to get to see the popular acts as guests would watch the first show and remain in their seats for the second and frankly I couldn’t blame them. Special mention though has to go to the ship band Pulse, who we both felt were excellent, if we ever got chance to see them we tried to do so. I am not a fan but if a quiz "floats your boat" you are in for a treat. The casino was a little on the small side with a couple of the most unfriendly croupiers I have met anywhere. I found sail away parties absolutely cringeworthy but my wife loved them.
6) Bars: I enjoyed the bars on Britannia especially the Crows Nest. I have mentioned elsewhere that I think the wait staff on this ship are probably the best I have experienced on a cruise ship thus far (Raymond was particularly good in Brodies). Prices were reasonable too and reflected hotel prices in Manchester.
7) Customer services and staff: I only had to visit guest relations on three occasions but found the staff to be charming and helpful. I do not understand why your on board account cannot be viewed on your TV therefore removing the queues in guest relations made up by some of those wanting a daily print out of their on board spending. The staff throughout Britannia, with the exception of very few were probably the friendliest and most helpful I have met on a cruise.
8) Fellow guests: Friendly, talkative and well mannered. Most of the people we talked to on this cruise were experienced cruisers a lot of them loyal to the P&O brand. I found almost without exception that those who had cruised on other ships within the fleet wished they were back on them instead of Britannia. Being new to the brand I couldn’t comment on their observations, which by the way I don't describe as a "moan" it is their observation based on personal experience. We met some lovely and interesting people on this cruise most of which were at meal times. Tip to new cruisers, if on freedom dining don't be afraid to share a table, it's the best way to meet people. Plus if there is a guest you don't like its unlikely you'll be put together again:)
9) The ship: As I expected it is large but beautiful nonetheless. Arrival upon her was very understated if a little disappointing. It felt as if I was being loaded along with the luggage but a short walk up the stairs led you onto deck 5 and then the central atrium. The décor reminded me of some boutique hotels I have stayed in, very modern with lots of blues and creams. Around this three tier focal point of the ship you can find several eateries and bars plus the usual shops and duty free. Because of the ships design there is no central staircase affording access to all decks, a topic of conversation with a lot of guests. It wasn't unusual to hear of long waits for lifts. As we were situated towards the rear it was a simple task of walking down two decks to 7 and then along to the atrium which is okay for able bodied persons. It was also strange that lifts only went so far, meaning that on some occasions you had to manoeuvre down and along back up and return to get to where you wanted to be. Trust me if you've been on her you'll understand what it is that I'm trying to explain. I also missed a proper wrap around promenade deck that I have experienced on other ships.
10) Conclusion and verdict: This was our first time on Britannia and our first experience with P&O and I can sit here reflecting on a successful holiday that I had very little to complain about and trust me if I had any complaints worth mentioning you'd have read about them above. We visited some wonderful places, made new friends and had new experiences which is what travel should be about. Those boarding Britannia as their first experience of cruising should love it. Would I book again? Possibly but it wouldn't top my list of choices apart from an itinerary I particularly wanted to do or if there was an offer I couldn't refuse. There are too many ships and cruise lines to experience at the expense of being loyal to one product.
(Finally the ratings on this site are annoying as there is nothing between average and very good)