We had heard really positive things about P&O, and so chose them to be our first cruise. We selected a mini cruise of four nights to give us a chance to explore the ship.
Before sailing we read some reviews and forums here and were expecting things to perhaps look a little worn, and that a cruise during half term plus it being short that it might be a little rowdier than normal.
We were thrilled with embarkation- we arrived early due to travel arrangements, and were prepared to wait until our time slot - the free magazines were a bonus. We were called to check in before our time slot and were on the boat 90minutes earlier than expected.
Our cabin was on deck 9, and was a good size (Sup Deluxe Balc) . It looked a little tired as expected, and the sofa bed was certainly worse for wear and wasn't that comfy to sit on due to the slope of the seat cushions. There was a very chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us with chocolates, which was nice to see and a feature of our cabin grade. The sofa bed had a faulty spring, and still was not fixed at the end of our four night cruise, meaning our son slept on a bed on an angle. This wasn't great and I was surprised at the apparent lack of concern over this. The bathroom was a good size, but smelt rather stale.
Our first meal was at the Beach House buffet, this wasn't great. It was a real scrum. The food was average, but felt more like an experience at a motorway service area than the cruise experience we were led to believe we would have. That evening we went to cinnamon as we had freedom dining. There was a wait for tables, and we said we would share. That was a mistake not to be repeated. We were put on a table with a party of five. They didn't interact with us at all, ordered multiple dishes at every course, and the gentleman seated to my side took my cutlery to use, leaving me with just some forks. I had to ask for ,ore cutlery and the waiter serving tutted. It wasn't the best experience.
Overall the food in the Freedom dining restaurants was good, and nicely presented although brought out far too fast - which meant that as a slow eater, some of our meals were not that hot as they were sat on the side whilst I finished my starter. Food in the buffet restaurants was not so nice, often lukewarm at best and poorly presented, name cards for a lot of items were missing. Service was a real mix. Sometimes it was excellent and really friendly whilst at other times it felt like we were being treated with disdain. We often had to ask for water and bread rolls. The final evening we were given just one menu to share between us, with no apology given.
Entertainment and facilities were good, the information about ports was good. Our cabin steward was lovely and friendly, and concerned we weren't eating enough.
Would we go again? Well we had already booked another cruise before this one, so you could say yes, although given our experience I'm not sure I'd go with P&O again, and am tempted to ring them to see about cancelling the next cruise and switching to another cruise line.
The ship docks in the centre, even on an overcast February day this was a great stop. Can highly recommend the Apple pie from Winkel43
Brugge is beautiful- there was a free shuttle to Blankenburge, which drops off outside the church where it's a short walk to the station. Return train to Brugge was €5, this seems to be a cruise special - and appears to be cheaper than buying direct from the internet where the cheapest I could find was €6.20
You can take a 30 minute boat trip for €8 each, fast and fun way to see the canals.
We really loved Brugge, and were very glad not to have paid for an official excursion.