Our 3rd cruise on Britannia and our 11th cruise with P&O. Britannia is a superb ship and provides the best facilities of any ship in the P&O fleet.
Cabins are more modern, with lovely bathrooms (including glass shower doors, not clingy curtains) and superb large screen HD fully interactive TV's with lots of free 'on demand' movies.
We find the Epicurean to be the best restaurant at sea and we also enjoy the food and experience of the Glasshouse (great food and superb wine flights) and Beach House (incredible steaks). Sindhu is much liked by the ladies in our family, but I am often a little underwhelmed by the food, which is a surprise as Asian food is my favourite. We had Freedom Dining and the service and food quality in both the Meridian Restaurant (dinner) and Peninsular Restaurant (lunch) was consistently excellent. We read lots of negative reviews about this and can't understand it. We are foodies and are happy to pay top dollar for great dining experiences, but cannot fault what P&O offers in the all inclusive restaurants. We like to experience the Select Dining restaurants, but if they weren't available or we couldn't afford them, we would still have a great experience, food wise.
The itinerary on this cruise was a little more varied than the usual P&O Med cruises, with Cadiz and La Spezia being lovely surprises as they were both great new ports for us and, in the case of La Spezia, a great improvement over dreary Livorno. We were underwhelmed with Marseilles and Cagliari. Lisbon and Monte Carlo are always good locations.
Monte Carlo provided the high and the low in the same day. We have been there 3 times with P&O and they always seem to make a hash of the tender operation. Getting ashore was fine, as we left it until the crowds had eased, but the problem was getting back to the ship. As is often the case here, a swell developed and sea conditions became choppy. Obviously P&O can't influence that, but what they could do (but don't) is delay the departure of each return tender until a few minutes before a docking bay is going to be available on the ship. Rather than do this, they dispatch the tenders from the (calm) port the second that they are full and you end up bobbing around in rough sea for 10-15 minutes waiting for a berth. As a result, countless passengers start to get very sea sick and distressed. Deck officers refuse to accept that they could do this better and the captain always comes on the tannoy and commends the crew afterwards! They steadfastly refuse to accept that they could do this so much better and fail to consider passenger comfort. Very poor.
Thankfully, the day ended on a high with a great firework display (International Firework Festival), which provided the one big positive aspect of having our huge aft (port side) corner wrap balcony as we had the best view of anyone on the ship - and no crowds. It was a shame that we couldn't hear the music that the fireworks were choreographed to, but that's nit picking!
On the run from Cagliari to Gibraltar, we had to make an emergency diversion to Almeria to offload two very sick gentlemen. This was handled very well as it is not a cruise port and a ship had to be moved off a stone loading berth to accommodate us. I really felt for the families of the sick passengers with over 1,000 passengers gawping at them from balconies and open decks during their moment of extreme stress. Your first thought is that you hope that the sick passengers will be OK, closely followed by hoping that they are well insured. It must have cost tens of thousands of pounds to divert and offload them, and I suspect that P&O seek to reclaim those costs, as it's a private healthcare environment, not the good old NHS. In spite of several hours delays as a result, we only arrived in Gibraltar 50 minutes late. Just goes to show how much slack they have in the timings and begs the question as to why they leave ports so early these days (the obvious answer being fuel savings due to running slower).
Entertainment on this cruise was, for us anyway, inadequate. The Headliners Theatre group were very good (far better than the dreadful lot we had on Aurora in May who couldn't sing), but only did a handful of different shows over the two weeks. Bit of a holiday for them as well! Other acts just didn't appeal, other than singer Jenna Lee James, who was very good. We paid extra to see Clare Sweeney in the Limelight Club. She is a good singer and personable, but some of the song choices were dire. Having told us that the average age of passengers on the cruise was 48, why she thought that songs such as Vera Lynn's "We'll meet again" was appropriate I will never know. She put on a show targeted at very elderly passengers, a typical failing of P&O I'm afraid.
We usually enjoy the guest lecturers and have had some great ones over the years. On this cruise, there was just one and she gave talks on one very narrow subject (oceans) only. These didn't appeal, so we didn't go. Furthermore, Horizon magazine gave no indication as to why she was qualified to give these talks. Is she an academic, perhaps a celebrated author? Or maybe just someone who has boned up on a subject (Mastermind style) to blag free cruises? I will never know!
Although Britannia has some design flaws (notably the soot problems at the back of the ship, the lack of a proper Promenade deck and no mid-ships stairs, the latter of which will be rectified at the next refit), we still like her and find her to be the best ship. First time cruisers (of which there were 1,000 on this cruise) will probably leave impressed in almost all respects. More seasoned cruisers will know that other elements can be done better and may find that the overall cruise experience is better on other ships. Hopefully, the new ship due in 2020 will address Britannia's few shortcomings.
We would not book an aft cabin on Britannia again. The combination of constant vibration (and associated rattles), soot on the balcony (unique to Britannia problem) and noise from the Live Lounge collectively became a distraction and the huge balcony, whilst a great feature, doesn't adequately compensate for all the negatives. We much prefer the forward facing suites, even though the balconies are very poor.
Great to be able to do round trips from the UK. Embarkation and disembarkation seem to be getting better.
A great port. Superb transit in and out, under the Golden Gate Style Bridge and all along the scenic waterfront. Lovely city and an easy walk from the ship.
First visit here and very impressed. Lovely tropical parks along the side of the promenade. Lovely historic city centre. All within easy walk of the ship.
Other than a nice harbour, this was a bit of a dump. The ship berthed many miles out of the city centre and the transfer was at least 20 minutes through grimy industrial port areas and unattractive outskirts. Will stay on the ship next time!
A fantastic port and a unique location, but this is nearly always a tender port and the sea often gets choppy. Combine that with P&O often making the tender transfer an ordeal (see review) I think we will stay on board the ship next time and just admire the view and sounds of the super cars flooring it through the tunnel!
The usual stop for Florence and Pisa is dreary Livorno, so this was a welcome change. As the long standing HQ of the Italian Navy, this is a historic town with grand and colourful buildings, grand architecture and real character. Loved it.
We have been to Sardinia before and enjoyed it, but this was our first call in Cagliari, which has seen better days. Old buildings looked decayed, hardly any 'grand' vistas or statues etc and the pavements were very poor (heavily broken up in places, which made wheelchair pushing a challenge) with very wide multi-lane roads to cross between the ship and the town. Wouldn't be in a rush to return here, or would do an excursion next time and go elsewhere on the island.
A bit fed up going here every time, but a necessity to qualify for duty free shopping on board! The town centre was heaving and not pleasurable to walk around. The plus here is that you almost always see dolphins around 30 minutes after leaving. And they arrived like clockwork!