Selected this cruise because we wanted to visit the Norwegian fjords, and this suited out schedule. In reviewing this cruise, I am comparing with a previous experience - Celebrity Solstice one week from Barcelona to Tunisia, Italy and France.
Initially embarkation works quite well. We taxied from Southampton airport to terminal where our bags were whisked away from the taxi and delivered to our cabin. Registration and boarding was somewhat slow, and no complimentary drinks or snacks were served.
See cabin review for cabin details.
There was a choice of dining when booking. Club dining - where you are allocated a restaurant (2), table and a time for eating dinner. Freedom dining - where you are allocated a restaurant (2), but can dine when you like, and at whatever table size you prefer. Menu seemed to e the same which ever option selected.
In addition to the 4 dining rooms allocated to Club and Freedom, there were three specialty restaurants each of which have a cover charge which ranged from about £20 to about £30 per person for a 3/4 course dinner, and a fourth - The Glasshouse - which offered a la carte dining.
Additionally there is a large buffet restaurant operating all day - including dinner - and is excellent for breakfast.
Breakfast and lunch are available from most restaurants as well as smaller snack and pizza type poolside.
Food was good in the freedom - and presumably cabin - restaurants. Service was excellent, even though these restaurants are very large. In freedom, you may have to wait for your choice of table when you turn up. But they give you a pager and you can head off and have a drink while you are waiting. Ask for a window table!
Food in the specialty restaurants was better, but not of a standard that would overly impress. We did not try the Epicurean - which is supposed to be the best.
On day of embarkation there was a guided tour of the ship. This is worth going on, as it can be a little difficult to get detailed information about all the facilities on board. The cabin TV is equipped with a good range of channels and movies, including Britannia's own channels offering information on the cruise and destinations.
However, the destination information is very skimpy, and lacks detail of the individual excursions. Additionally, information about on board facilities is lacking.
We were very luck with weather. Sunny and warm for the whole week. So deck facilities - pools, loungers, etc. - were very busy. There are two pools. One for everyone and one - Serenity - for adults only. For additional cost, you can access the Retreat area. Right at the bow, and quiet and relaxing with two hot tubs. However, quite expensive. They will try and sell you a week pass for about £100 per person. However, we took a day pass option for the first cruising day for £25. Given the subsequent schedule, we didn't use the area again, so that was a good option for us.
WiFi is available on board, but is confusing and expensive. Be careful of the "pay as you go" option. There seemed to be no way to monitor usage, and we ran up a large bill - even though only using our phones for occasional email and messaging. They offer other packages, but these are also very expensive.
Bars on board are well staffed, and have good selection of drinks. However, no alcoholic drinks are included, and they are expensive. Wine typically at about £6/£8 a glass. Drink packages are poorly arranged, limited in their scope and expensive. Only option was to pre-buy a number of bottles of wine. This compares badly with the creative packages offered on Celebrity cruises, where a package could include wines by the glass, beer and basic cocktails.
Entertainment on board was good, but not impressive. We saw two of the shows, and went to the Lamplight specialty restaurant for dinner and a show. Service throughout the ship was good and at times excellent.
West coast Norway is stunning! Particularly as we saw it in lovely weather. In Stavanger, we opted for a four hour walking tour which was not great - probably better options. However, Flam, Allusund and Bergen were wonderful locations. Highlights - the Flam railway trip, the Sugar Lump in Allusand, and the funicular railway in Bergen.
If going to Norway again, we would probably fly to Bergen, and take small cruises from there.
Overall we enjoyed our trip, but would not use P&O again. It is, after all, a British cruise line, and appeals to mostly British people. Britannia has a large number of internal cabins which are offered at quite low prices. So expect a significant number of tattoos and beer! We preferred the more international flavor of Celebrity cruises.
Finally, we would recommend the Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ship Guide. A great book which reviews virtually every cruise line and ship in the world. Their summary of Britannia was very accurate.
We had taken an option whereby we were allocated a cabin - minimum standard, balcony - rather than pre-selecting. We ended up with a mini-suite - 410 - on deck 15. Cabin was excellent. Very clean and well laid out. En-suite with bath/shower, good sized area for clothes and case storage, good sized sleeping area with king double bed and TV. Living area with couch, chairs, TV, table, mini bar separate from sleeping area by blackout curtain. Sliding doors to small balcony with table and two chairs.
Deck 15 is the highest deck with cabins. Deck 16 has pools and restaurants, etc., and over hangs lower decks. So balcony is shaded/sheltered from above. Cabin 410 was under an area where they have occasional dancing/music, so was a little noisy at times.
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