Our 15th cruise with P&O and our first on Arcadia, which means that we have now been on all ships in the P&O fleet at least once, so can make direct comparisons between them all. We booked this cruise as we wanted to see the Fjords to Flaam and Olden, as our previous attempt (on Britannia) failed as P&O cancelled both ports a few months before (this has happened at least 6 times that I know of with Britannia).
The itinerary certainly didn't disappoint. Both places were lovely and the cruises down the very long fjords were spectacular, especially as we had an aft corner wrap suite, which enabled us to enjoy some evening meals on the huge balcony whilst soaking in the views. Stavanger was pleasant (but we have been twice before) and Haugesund was interesting but like a ghost town - even though we were there Friday lunchtime!
Although we very much liked our suite and we particularly enjoyed the Ocean Grill (Marco Pierre White restaurant), we found the main dining room (Meridian) to be the first poor one that we have experienced with P&O. The food was fine, but the layout is very poor. Tables for four were too small and a large proportion were alongside the main thoroughfare around the restaurant, so were not relaxing at all. We are used to having to take a pager for evening meals at peak times (Freedom dining) but have never had to stand around waiting for a table to become available at lunchtime before - yet we had to do this several times. I was told by a staff member that the waiters don't like this particular restaurant either and, frankly, you could tell. We are great fans of the main dining rooms elsewhere in the fleet (especially Aurora, which is superb) but not this one.
P&O had just introduced new lunchtime menus on this ship, which are downright confusing. Rather than just list starters, main courses and desserts, you now have all sorts of random headings and now don't know whether what you have ordered is a starter or main course size - or whether it's hot or cold! This was catching a lot of people out, not just us.
Given how poor the main dining room was, we really missed not having a Glasshouse (which we enjoy for a late lunch after a morning ashore, or when the main dining room menu doesn't appeal) or a Beach House (for when you are after something more casual). We avoid the buffet like the plague, but our adult daughters used it and said that the food areas were too small and had limited choice.
We very much enjoyed the ability for suite passengers to have breakfast in Sindhu and the staff there were fantastic. It also saved us 7 further visits to the poor main dining room. We had one evening meal there and, again, the table was too small for four (tables for two were the same size). Even though curry is my absolute favourite food, I do not like Sindhu's take on it (same on all the other ships) but the three ladies all loved it (as they always do), so do not be deterred.
The Headliners troupe on this cruise were all very good (that's not always the case) but none of the other entertainment appealed and, as has become the norm, daytime entertainment was dire.
Embarkation was a little delayed due to a problem with the air bridge at the QE2 terminal. This still hadn't been fixed by our return, so we disembarked at City Cruise Terminal so, as well as now having travelled on all P&O ships, we have now used all Southampton cruise terminals!
So, overall, it was the itinerary and the fact that we were very relieved to have booked a suite that made the cruise acceptable, but we wouldn't rush to return to Arcadia as it is now our least favourite P&O ship. By contrast, Aurora is our favourite, although the absence of an Epicurean restaurant (the one on Britannia is our favourite restauarant at sea) means that no ship is perfect.
Smaller than the suites on Britannia (especially the bathrooms) but perfectly adequate. Loads of wardrobe space but several had no hangers at all. In total, there weren't enough hangers for a one week cruise, let alone a longer one. The cabin steward provided more (wire ones) on request. Having enjoyed the lovely big marble bathrooms with huge showers with glass doors on Britannia, this one was low rent in comparison, with a tiny shower cubicle and horrible clingy curtain. The balcony was perfect. Very deep at the rear, with 50% covered (for shade) and 50% open, as well as a fully covered side section. We enjoyed a few evening meals, served by the Butler, on the balcony as we cruised down the fjords. Best of all, we didn't have any of the soot issues that blight the aft cabins and suites on Britannia.
The best port to depart from as you transit Southampton Water, then the Solent past the fabulous Isle of Wight. The QE2 terminal wasn't great as the air bridge wasn't working (which resulted in delays) and there was no air con, so it was stifling.
A lovely port although you can have a good look around in just an hour or two. We did a 'Leisurely Stavanger' excursion the last time we visited and it was rubbish, so this time we just wandered around.
A lovely port from where we did the Glacier by Troll Car excursion, which was lovely. Great scenery on the way and we were relieved to have a lift in the troll car as it was a very long uphill walk. We were lucky that, as we reached the glacier, there was a noise like thunder and we saw an ice fall
A picture postcard place with a beautiful fjord approach. We were lucky to berth as tenders are a complete pain and wheelchair users are unable to disembark. We were pleased to have done the Flaam railway, even though it wasn't quite as spectacular as you are lead to believe. The train was also very hot.View All 212 Flam Railway Reviews