I have to admit that I was concerned about choosing P&O Arcadia for our cruise from San Francisco - Sydney when I saw all the poor reviews compared to the reviews on our usual cruise line, Royal Caribbean. However, the timing and itinerary was right for us, so we decided to risk it and I'm so glad we did!
From the beginning, we were treated wonderfully by the staff, both our cabin attendant, our waiters and every service member we came across! They were all gracious and kind. My husband has a special diet and the attention and care he received in the dining room was absolutely amazing - special advance ordering of dinner menu's, along with great advice and knowledge on the part of the head waiter in charge of that. Thank you Abel! On one evening, when we were dining in the specialty restaurant, our head waiter even popped up there to take my husband's order for the following evening! We chose early seating dinner (1830, or 6:30pm for us Americans), and met two wonderful couples to fill out our international table of 6 - from New Zealand, Britian and America. When our New Zealand couple disembarked, we had a wonderful gentlemen couple from the UK that we wished we'd had more time to come to know. They were fabulous people and great conversationalists!
Although I truly enjoyed the itinerary and the ports, the sea days were also a real treat on this cruise. The ship was roomy and never felt over-full. We almost always had our choice of lovely places to sit. Drink prices in the bars were very reasonable and no gratuity added to each purchase, as they are on our usual American cruises. I enjoyed watercolor classes each morning and found many friendly passengers, willing to share their tables, introduce themselves and chat. The highlight of this cruise for us was the ballroom dancing classes! Jeffrey and Brenda were amazingly patient, kind and funny teachers who led us through 14 new dances and hosted evening dances in the Globe theater where we could practice our new skills. Out of the 14 dances we had so much fun learning, we only really retained 3 of them for the long-term. Many were "sequence dances" which were so much fun to learn and participate in on our cruise, but aren't popular in the U.S., so we won't worry too much that we can't remember them. But we'll always fondly remember our super fun, overcrowded dance classes and evening dances with all the other wonderful couples - laughing along with Jeffrey and Brenda as we stumbled into each other on the floor. The ship even had a "Tea Dance" with lovely special pastries and teas exclusively for the dance class participants. I'll always remember that lovely touch. I felt that P&O really went the extra mile to include every passenger in "the party". The dance classes and watercolor classes were free with the cruise, and really made the cruise for us, giving us a venue for activities where we could meet others and enjoy.
The entertainment on the ship was top notch. The ships headliners were fabulous and had quite a few different shows. Every one of them was wonderful. I was wowed with the level of talent and always looked forward to seeing what was next.
As Americans, our only disappointment was the buffet, which we found almost always underwhelming. I'm afraid much of that may have been cultural, since we normally eat large salads at lunch time and there didn't seem to be much of a salad selection. Often there would be lettuce, corn, beets, sometimes hard boiled eggs and one or two watered down salad dressings - thousand island mostly. I normally made do with a small salad and the soup of the day which was usually pretty good. Food being food, we managed. And we enjoyed the occasional afternoon tea with all the yummy scones and pastries!
I had to wonder on this cruise if I was on the same ship that I read all the poor reviews on before we embarked? We loved every minute of our 24 days on Arcadia!