October 2018 and this was our 12th cruise with P&O.
This time we boarded Britannia on Friday 12th October 2018 on a two week cruise to the Mediterranean. 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 get on earlier. This was our 3rd trip on Britannia as we had already been to the Canary Islands this year. This time the boarding process was very good and we were on by 2:00 pm. Our bags were waiting for us outside our cabin.
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 a Balcony Cabin on F Deck which was a good size with a nice bathroom with a shower cubicle and there was plenty of hanging space for 2 weeks’ worth of clothes.
We were on Freedom Dining in the Meridian Restaurant. We never had to wait for a table and 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 Limelight Club was £25pp which included a visiting celebrity singer.
The entertainment was varied with good shows from the Headliners Theatre Company and visiting artists including Laura Magan (singer), Steven Bayliss (singer), Duo Esencias, Paul Eastwood (comedian), Kieran Powell (ventriloquist), Dean Standsby (singer), Nick Page (an appalling comedian), Duo Balskatt, Richard & Adam (Brilliant Singing Duo).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 becoming the norm, more P&O cost cutting? The speaker was Ricky Bastin, who did a number of talks on Aircraft Accidents and the outcome of investigations. All were very interesting.
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. The shops are very expensive, beware.
Our first port of call was Alicante, Spain on Tuesday 16th. where we did an excursion taking a panoramic Coach trip with a visit to the Valor Chocolate Factory and visiting the coastal resort of Alta. Next was Barcelona where we have been a number of times so we just walked around the city. We then stopped at Toulon, France where took an excursion to Sanary Sur Mer which is a quant fishing village/resort seeing some lovely countryside on the way. Then it was La Spezia, Italy where just wondered around the town as the excursions where mainly to Pisa and Florence which we have visited before. At Civitavecchia which is the gateway to Rome, where we have been many times so we decided to do an excursion to Marta, a lakeside town which was extremely quiet and visited a winery, Antica Cantina Leonardi, for wine tasting and nibbles. Absolutely brilliant and bought bottles of wine to take home. Last port of call was Gibraltar which we have visited many times so we walked into town and did some Christmas shopping.
The weather was kind to us with sunny days and temperatures of 21/24C, except Gibraltar where the weather was overcast with showers but still 20C.
The service from our cabin steward was good and all the staff were mainly helpful. The only fly in the ointment was the jigsaw puzzle which we were doing in the Marlow Suite. On 3 occasions this was put away until we got reception to put up signs asking people to leave it in place for the duration of the cruise. The other problem was someone kept taking pieces, 13 in all, which were returned, anonymously, on the last day. Also on the last day I left my Kindle in the toilet and when I went back 5 minutes later to retrieve it, it was gone, never to be seen again.
A note about the décor in the ship. It is mainly good as the ship is only 3 years old, but things are not getting fixed. Two of the diving wall figures in the Horizon Restaurant are broken (they were last cruise) and the carpet had trodden in food stains which were not bring cleaned. Also a couple of the buttons in the lifts has lost their numbers which have not been replaced since our last cruise. Come on P&O it’s not rocket science keeping on top of minor repairs.
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 we had no problems with the lifts which only got very busy at the end of a show and also with quite a number of mobility scooters on this cruise. The lack of a staircase with the central lifts did not seem to pose a problem
A good sized cabin with a slightly small balcony but usable.
The town of Marta was deserted. However we went to a winery. Lovely.