Our second cruise on this ship since November 2016, this time with elderly and wheelchair using relatives.
Initial embarkation and final disembarkation could not have been easier or smoother. Absolutely brilliant checkin, checkout and security staff at Southampton.
The ship overall had a completely different feel to it compared to the November trip on a similar sort of route - not surprisingly. The holiday camp feel of the summer holiday crowd was all pervasive and the entertainment, whilst complete torture to me, was clearly enjoyed by many.
Other reviewers have mentioned visible wear and tear on the ship - we didn't see much sign, but then again we saw numerous ongoing maintenance eg. new carpet sections being glued in place which explained the odd bubble gum smell in some of the stairwells.
The enrichment activities included a speaker whose talk was entitled: "Serial Killers" plus an added "bonus talk" about the Yorkshire Ripper. Wasn't expecting that!
We had 2 cabins for 4 of us - an accessible, balcony cabin - excellent, spacious and well designed for the wheelchair user. Ours was a nearby inside cabin - enough space given it was the cheapest type of accommodation and it served its purpose. But the loud creaking noises apparent during the crossing of the Bay of Biscay were disturbing on many levels, especially since reading a previous review where a crack appeared in the structure of this ship during a storm. The weather was fine throughout our trip and yet the roll and sway of this mega-sized ship at times kept one of our group in bed. I got some time lapse video of the swimming pools sloshing all over the place!
With Freedom Dining the waiting time for a table for four was sometimes about an hour and that meant wasting loads of time during the rest of those evenings with the resulting logistical show-starting-time dilemmas. Everything took so much longer, and needed more planning, with a wheelchair user. We imagined, wrongly, that Freedom Dining would provide greater flexibility for us. It actually tied us into eating much earlier than we wanted.
The food quality and choice in Freedom Dining had reduced since my last trip I guess because there were so many empty tables in the select dining restaurants that incentives are needed. Eating fish and chips whilst being required to wear black tie was faintly ridiculous. The one night with decent quality food was when the celebrity chef came aboard and created a signature set of dishes of the same quality that I had experienced previously.
The self service buffets were fine and staff were really helpful with assisting our wheelchair user access the food. Finding a seat was sometimes something of a scrummage and not easy with a wheelchair.
Our group didn't receive an individual safety briefing at the start of the cruise (which we expected because of the wheelchair user who is totally unable to walk). In preparation for the emergency drill we were told to take the lift to deck 7 rather than attempt to simulate a real evac. In the event of a real emergency I do not actually know what we would have done.
Disembarkation during the stop at Guernsey was incompetently managed. Due to wind/choppy conditions the tender service could not operate during the morning of arrival and all morning excursions were cancelled. But when the weather improved at lunchtime, the crew announced the tenders were running. However, they failed to manage the queuing system as over 1,500 passengers wanted to get off the ship all at once. A queue zig zagged chaotically around the atrium and whole central section of the ship and the crew disappeared rather than attempt to manage the aggressive outbursts which occurred. It was a vile experience. It took 2 hours to get off and a further hour to queue to get back on leaving 2 hours in St Peter Port. Contrast this experience with final disembarkation which was superbly handled and phased to perfection.
Ship WiFi at £12 per 24 hours for the medium package was not good value. I measured download speeds of between 0.16 and 0.40 Mbps. With free mobile data packages now available on many UK mobile phone tariffs I waited till port to catch up with home.
Ports were good:
Vigo - did an accessible P&O excursion to Baiona - well organised and very talkative and informative guide.
Lisbon - accessible transfer vehicle to the centre only takes one carer per wheelchair user - so the group was split. We walked back to the ship rather than use the shuttle.
Oporto - there was no accessible shuttle transfer to the town so we got one to the port gates and walked along the huge beach.
St Peter Port - garden tour of Guernsey was cancelled sadly.
On balance won't be going with P&O again.
We had 2 cabins for 4 of us - an accessible, balcony cabin - excellent, spacious and well designed for the wheelchair user. Ours was a nearby inside cabin - enough space given it was the cheapest type of accommodation and it served its purpose.
Shuttle transfers for wheelchair separated the group. So we walked back to the ship.
Friendly welcome on land. Excursion cancelled due to weather.
No accessible shuttle available so we got to the port gates and walked around the local area / beach.
An accessible trip - well organised and informative guide. Mini bus with two groups.View All 11 Bayona Waking Tour Reviews