We last went to the Canary Islands in 2008 so we thought a return visit was long overdue.
This was our 2nd trip on Britannia as we had already been to the Caribbean on a fly cruise in November 2017 and was our 11th cruise with P&O.
This time we boarded Britannia on Sunday 8th April 2018 on a two week cruise to the Canary Islands. We stayed overnight at our preferred hotel, New Place Hotel , Shirrell Heath, Southampton where we got a taxi to the port. We always arrive early prior to our designated boarding time as we usually manage to get on earlier. This time the boarding process was a bit of a shambles as the coloured ticket/number system of asking passengers to go to the boarding desks kept being interrupted by the arrival of the coaches whose passengers took priority over those already in the terminal. So some people, including us, missed our ticket being called. When I complained I was told not to raise my voice, which I had not done, and was told just to get in line. We did as we were told! Also boarding was halted for 10 minutes as there was an unspecified problem with the security checks.
The ship is lovely and is well laid out, although more use could be made of the Atrium area which is only seating and no activities took place there except the Passenger Choir on the last sea day. We had an inside cabin on D Deck which was more than adequate with a nice bathroom with a shower cubicle and there was plenty of hanging space for 2 weeks worth of clothes.
We were on the first sitting of club dining in the Oriental Restaurant. The food was very good but the menu was not as varied over the two weeks as we have experienced before. We used the Horizon Buffet Restaurant for lunch and occasionally for dinner. There was plenty of choice and we were always able to get a table without any problem. My wife is a Type 1 diabetic and although the main restaurant was very good in accommodating her dietary requirements, we found the Java Café no longer offered diabetic cakes and the choice for diabetics in the Horizon was extremely limited. We always go one evening to the Sindhu Restaurant which serves fabulous Chinese food, pick the right night and you get a free bottle of house wine, all for £20 a head.
The specialty restaurants were heavily promoted during the cruise to get passengers to part with their cash. The Epicurean Restaurant is now £18pp for afternoon tea and £28pp for dinner.
The entertainment was varied with good shows from the Britannia Singers and visiting artists including The 4 Tunes, Steve V King (from the Drifters), John Clegg (impressionist), Gareth Oliver (ventriloquist), Claire Maiden, Nick Page (an appalling comedian), Paul Rack (The music of Eric Clapton), Tiptonic and Jane Middleton as Annie Lennox. All very enjoyable, except the so called comedian. You had to get to the Headliners Theatre at least half an hour before a show to get a seat.
We only had one guest speaker on this cruise which is unusual as we have had several speakers on past cruises, more P&O cost cutting? The speaker was Sue Baic whose bag was dietry and nutrition to a healthy living. We did not attend any of the talks, too busy eating our way through the restaurants!
The shops are open on sea days and in the evening when in port. They have stalls in the atrium virtually every day doing so called sales selling ornaments, bags, watches, perfumes etc. You can easily get carried away if you are not selective and careful.
Our first port of call was Funchal, Madeira on Thursday 12th where we did the excursion taking the Cable Car up the mountain and coming down in the Wicker Toboggan Sled Ride, great fun. As we spent two days in Funchal we spent the second day site seeing in Funchal on foot. Next port of call was La Palma where we did an excursion to the Volcano and a Local Winery, all very enjoyable although we were not overwhelmed by the Canary Wine. Next was Tenerife. It was a Sunday and we did not do an excursion as we had been to Tenerife before so just wandered around the Santa Cruz and had a coffee as most of the shops were closed. Next was Gran Canaria which we had been to before so we did the excursion to the only Coffee Plantation in Europe. Fascinating to see coffee grown in a sheltered valley on the island. Next was Lanzarote where we did the Hidden Lanzarote excursion which took us to the old capital Tequise, then to an Aloe Vera farm, the seaside town of Niemes and finally a Cactus Garden. It made for a great day. Last we stopped at Lisbon on the way back. We have been here several times before so took the shuttle bus into the centre of town and did a bit of shopping, had a coffee and watched the world walk by.
The weather was kind to us with sunny days and a temperature on 20C in Madeira and 21/22C in the Canary Islands. Lisbon was also sunny and 20C.
The service from our cabin steward was excellent and all the staff were very helpful. The only fly in the ointment was they still only had one jigsaw available which was the same one that we had done whilst in the Caribbean. We asked that they get some more before the next cruise!
So, we had a very relaxing and enjoyable cruise and would recommend the ship to those thinking of taking their first cruise as although it carries over 3500 passengers it does not feel like a large ship and never feels crowded. We very much like the ship and No! we had no problems with the lifts which only got very busy at the end of a show. The lack of a staircase with the central lifts did not seem to pose a problem.
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