We arrived in Southampton just after midday for our 7-day cruise around the Norwegian Fjords. Embarkation was very smooth and easy, which is important to us as our daughter is in a wheelchair. The cruise terminal (Ocean Terminal) was extremely crowded, but we had no problems..
Once onboard, our main concern regarding Britannia, having read numerous reviews, was soon confirmed - the lifts on this ship are totally inadequate for its size. This is made worse by the fact that there are no midship stairs (except between decks 5 and 7), meaning everyone has to use the lifts to access their cabins unless they are located aft or forward, or they are willing to take a long walk - not good planning at all! Having a wheelchair, finding a lift that wasn't full proved extemely challenging at times.
Having been on approximately 30 cruises on almost as many different ships with various cruise lines, I can honestly say that the lift situation on Britannia was the worst we have experienced. For a ship with 4,000+ passengers, the lifts are just too small and there are not enough of them.
Other than the lifts, our experiences were mostly positive. The ship itself is very clean and the public areas are very spacious. Our cabin was comfortable (IE Grade Balcony - Obstructed View). We were lucky as the obstruction (lifeboats & tender boats) was small compared to some of the other similar cabins on deck 8, as ours was in the gap between two tender boats. The cabin was kept very clean by our cabin steward and our request for a shower seat for our daughter was actioned immediately (we had been unable to book an accessible cabin).
The food was generally excellent, both in the main restaurants and the Horizon Buffet. We were on the first dinner sitting in the Oriental Restaurant which was aft. Again, the only problem here was the accessibility, as the restaurant (on Deck 6) is only accessible by lift from the deck above due to the galley being between other areas of the ship on this deck and the restaurant. We generally found that the only way to access the lifts when going to dinner was to go up and then down again, as the lifts going down were always full. we avoided the Horizon Buffet on sea days as it was very crowded, but on other days it was fine, with a good selection of food.
Having cruised on Azura and Oceana, which had assigned priority lifts for wheelchairs, we were surprised that this was not the case on Britannia, being a newer ship (only one or two small easily-missed signs near lifts suggesting that priority be given to wheelchair users). At least two or three of the lifts were also out of service throughout the cruise, which made matters worse.
The food and service in the restaurant were very good, although we found the crew and staff to be generally less friendly and the service less personal than we had experienced on the Oceana, which could be to do with the size of the ship.
The shows in the theatre were all excellent, with a very high-quality cast and a good variety of guest artists. Accessibility was also good with a number of aisle seats being reserved for companions of wheelchair users with parking spaces for wheelchairs next to them.
The ports were all excellent and we were extemely lucky with the weather (smooth, almost calm seas throughout and warm, sunny weather in each port). The views in the Fjords were spectacular. We particuarly enjoyed the captain's daily informative and amusing briefings.
Our disembarkation was also very smooth and problem-free.
To summarise, Britannia is generally a nice ship but the layout in some areas, particularly the lifts and stairs, are badly planned. Unless modifications are made to these areas, we would not recommend this as the best ship to choose if you are travelling with someone who has mobility problems.
The cabin was very comfortable and quite spacious, with plenty of storage and hanging space for clothes. The balcony though was very small, with only barely enough space to accommodate the two chairs on it. The bathroom, although smaller than average, was well laid out.
We had tried but been unable to book an accessible cabin, as our daughter is in a wheelchair. We manged well with the space available, however. We requested a shower seat from our cabin steward shortly after embarkation, and this request was immediately actioned.
Overall we were happy with the cabin other than the size of the balcony.
Quick and efficient embarkation and disembarkation, despite being crowded.
The ship docked right in the town so it was easy walking distance.
Lovely scenic port in the Fjord. Scenic Mountain Railway for spectacular views.
Easy walking distance to the centre of town.