Britannia Cruise Review by Adrian G
- Sail Date: September 2018
- Destination: Canary Islands
As with all of my other P&O cruises, P&O have got this to a fine art. I had to be out of my digs at 1200 and I arrived at Southampton Docks around 1300. My car was taken to a long-term car park (provided free by P&O) and I went into the main check-in hall. This hall is huge with literally hundreds of people waiting. There were dozens of P&O check-in people on one side and we all had a coloured card with letter for our times. My check-in time was 1530 so I had a while to wait. I eventually checked in at 1500 and was onboard by 1530. I will say that there wasn't any refreshments available in the hall so if you're a bit hungry/thirsty, you'd have to wait till you're onboard or bring something with you.
In a first, when I did get to my cabin, my bags were already there. On my last years cruise (also on Britannia) I had one bag there but the other I didn't get till around 2200-and this was after a "heated" discussion at reception.
Disembarkation was very easy. I'm a "walk off". Thats someone who can carry their own bags with them. Walk-offs have to be off the ship between 0700 & 0800 (you have to be out of your cabin by 0800 anyway). I picked up my car and I was on my way home by 0830.
Exclusively British. I didn't hear any other accents onboard apart from the crew. As we travelled outside of the school holidays, there wasn't many families-and the ones that were had pre-school kids under five years old. The average age of the passengers I estimate to be middle age or a little higher-exactly what I expected. I was on another P&O ship in the Easter holidays in 2017 with around 400 kids. This was a nightmare with screaming kids running amok all over the place-but this time we had peace and quiet.
The ship and it's crew.
The vast majority of the ships crew are either Fillipino or Indian with the officers either British or European. All of the crew are extremely helpful and nothing is too much trouble. The ship itself is another story. Britannia is now three years old and is beginning to show her age. Carpets are looking worn and there are paint chips all over the place. The outside paintwork is starting to show rust patches and the general feel of the ship says that it's had a hard life. I've been told that Britannia is going for a full refit in October 2019-and I have to say that it's about time. I will add that the crew kept the ship spotless for the entire cruise with all of the public areas and toilets clinically clean. My stewardess-Gladys-kept my cabin perfect all the time (and she got a generous tip from me).
Food and drink.
I was on select dining (in the Peninsular restaurant) and had my evening meal at 1830. I was on a table of 9-all solo travellers. The food on offer was excellent and I can't fault it at all. Our waiters were very attentive-although I will say that sometimes they wanted to rush things along a bit-but they did have another sitting at 2030. The daily menus were a little underwhelming on occasion with fish and chicken being the dominant ingredient. We did have (Michelin starred chef) Marco Pierre White onboard for this trip and his menu one night was fantastic. Mr. White's Beef Wellington was superb.
The Horizon Buffet on Lido deck was also very good. Breakfasts were usually "Full English" but there were other options including cereals, smoked fish, fruit, muffins/Danish (for breakfast?), yogurts...The list is almost endless. Lunch and dinner were equally as good with wide selection each day. There were themed menus too-curry night, British Pub Lunch, Italian. Again, the list is too long.
As to alcohol...Thats another story. As with every other P&O review I've written, I still say that P&O are overcharging the passengers for alcohol. P&O claim that they charge pub prices. Not from my point of view they don't. Pints were around £3.95 to £4.50 with premium bottles (330ml) around the same price. In my regular pub, I pay £3.25 or a pint and if I go to my local Wetherspoons (to non-British readers, Wetherspoons is a major UK pub chain) I pay around £2.50 for a pint. So, no P&O are not charging pub prices. It's about time cruise companies lowered their alcohol prices and I'm certain that their passengers would appreciate it.
We visited (in this order) La Coruna (Spain), Madeira, The Canary Islands-Las Palmas/Tenerife/Gran Canaria and Lisbon (Portugal). The weather was quite good all the time with temperatures in the mid-to-high 20'sC-sometimes in the low 30'sC.
I did several trips in most of the ports (all official P&O excursions). Sightseeing in La Coruna, Volcanoes in Las Palmas and Tenerife and a coffee plantation on Gran Canaria. In Madeira and Lisbon I did my own thing just having a walk around.
NOTE. If you do your own thing in ports of call and you miss the sailaway, the ship will not wait for your return. It will then be your own responsibility to get to the next port at your own expense. If, on the other hand, you take an official P&O excursion and you're delayed, the ship will wait for your return.
There was the usual in-house troupe "Headliners" doing shows in the main theatre. There was also several guest singers/tribute acts and in the Limelight Club we had Claire Sweeney (UK actress/singer), Cheryl Baker-formerly of Bucks Fizz and a couple of others. I did hear reports of the "Headliners" not being too good but as I didn't attend any shows, I can't comment. Brodies had the usual pub quizzes, kareoke, live football matches (thats soccer to non-British readers). We also had Professor Peter Roberts-a retired archeologist who gave a series of lectures on volcanoes in The Canary Islands and others. The Professors lectures were very interesting but sadly not well attended. P&O need to get more people like Professor Roberts.
All of the passengers were very friendly but...In the buffet one day (a late breakfast) I bumped into one of my fellow diners-an elderly lady who had a fall the day before. She had a very nasty black eye, stiches in her lip and severe bruising ot her left arm. I was enquiring as to her health when an elderly guy with a tray of food shouted "EXCUSE ME!". Just before this, someone had dropped a tray of food and drink and one of the crew was clearing it up. I couldn't move backwards or sideways to accomodate this bloke and he again shouted "EXCUSE ME!". Then he just barged his way through almost pushing people out of his way. I reacted to this bloke by shouting "YOU DON'T HAVE TO SHOUT!". This he ignored. I again repeated "YOU DON'T HAVE TO SHOUT!" but again this was ignored. By this time I had around 200 to 300 people watching. I will admit to not being a "people person" but this was just plain ignorant.
Also on our dinner table there was an elderly lady with a southern (London or south coast) accent. She claimed to be travelling with "a friend" but we never met this friend and the lady said her friend preferred to dine at her own time. Why would two people travelling together not be dining together? Anyway, this lady thought that she was better than the rest of us and talked down to us all the time. She was also quite rude when she did talk to us but I had to bite my lip as I was in polite company. She didn't attend on a couple of nights and we all breathed a sigh of relief. I hope that I don't meet her again as I don't think I could hold back with comments about her atttitude.
Overall, this was a good cruise but as I have been to some of the ports we visited on previous cruises, it did get slightly boring. Going on cruises does give you the chance to visit several countries on one holiday and you get to meet new people-but as the ships go to the same places all the time, it's getting difficult to find something new. I'm going to the Caribbean (again) in 2019 but I'l be looking further afield for 2020. I'm already looking at India or the Far East. As a solo traveller, it's not cheap do do cruises. I really want to visit Australia/New Zealand but as I'm a solo traveller, the costs are still far too high for my budget.
The daily charge (£7 per person per day over 12 years old) was still in force on this cruise. This could be removed by filling in a form at reception. BUT as of May 2019, P&O are abolishing this charge-and about time too. This daily charge is VERY unpolpular and everyone I spoke to had removed the charge. It's about time all of the cruise companies stopped doing this. These trips are expensive enough without cruise companies taking more money out of your pocket.
The ship-a bit tatty and in need of a refit.
Food & drink-again excellent but I maintain that the beer prices are far too high.
Our intinerary-ok but as I wrote above, I've been to some of the countries already.
Marks out of 10? I'll give this eight out of ten. I've knocked off a couple of points for too high beer prices and the ship looking a bit tatty.
I would recommend Britannia to first-timers and seasoned cruisers-but wait for the refit in October 2019.
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