Britannia Cruise Review by Gary1962
- Sail Date: December 2018
- Destination: Caribbean
We went on Britannia in May, so we're familiar with the layout, but for some reason if you can't see the sea and your direction of travel, you still end up in entirely the wrong place. As has been said before, the main criticism is that the stairs in the middle of the ship take you only as far up as deck 7 where the lifts are busiest (a bit annoying for us with cabins in the middle of the ship on level 8).
We were on freedom dinning, meaning table service at the peninsular restaurant for breakfast and lunch, and the peninsular or meridian restaurant for dinner. The meridian is a bit more modern in its decor, but the service and food is the same in both. You tend to get seated in similar locations and if you make the effort with the staff and fill out feedback forms, it goes a long way with them, and there is nothing they won't do to help you. We much prefer the restaurants to the Horizon self service, unless you need to be somewhere quickly, and the food was consistently good without being repetitive (lunch in the restaurants is a lighter menu).
We had £1,000 room credits between us, and ate at Sindhu, Epicurian, Glass House (x2) and Beach House, with Glass House our favourite. The others are good, but the Epicurian just tries too hard to be different. The credits made the cruise virtually all inclusive, as we aren't big drinkers, but a bottle of proseco is £20 and a beer around £4.
We aren't big on needing to be entertained during the daytime, as most days you are off ship anyway, but on the sea days we did find the activities to be a bit repetitive. The guest speaker was on how to be 'happy' and the films were often old school eg ET and Goldfinger. The headline theatre entertainment we had seen much of the ship crew shows in May, and they can be a bit amateurish, but did enjoy the visiting entertainers especially the psychic comedian. I would guess that the average age on the ship was around 60, with 600 kids scheduled to land as we left. Never any issues with finding sun beds, and our weather for the fortnight was excellent at around 29 degrees, and very few rain showers until the last couple of days
We didn't book any tours from the ship, as for 4 of us it was just too pricey, however with some research before hand you can sort it all out yourself for half the price. What I would say though is that everyone's opinion of the islands is heavily influenced by what they do when they get there, eg in Dominica we had a great time, but if we had just stayed in the port town we would have been back on ship after half an hour.
Arrived Friday evening so had all day Saturday before 6pm sailing, and as usual awake at 5am after long haul flight. Had booked a taxi on line with David Gittens at Nakendra taxis, and for $40US each he took us on a 4 hours tour of the south of the island, he was recommended by a neighbour and gave us a proper tour guide experience, rather than a taxi driver one. We saw the nicest beaches of the whole trip namely Bottom Bay, Crane Beach and Foul Bay, and early morning these were deserted and picture postcard perfect. Ended up at Bathsheba and across to Bridgetown so top of the island will have to wait until next time, and had planned to walk down Carlisle Bay next to the port in the afternoon and around town, but a heavy downpour forced us to delay that until our final day.
If Disney had designed a carribean port, then this would probably be it. The old Rif fort at the entrance has been combined with shops and restaurants, and the Renaissance Hotel chain with high end shops. Pass through this to the swinging bridge and into the old town and it's brightly coloured buildings. DIdn't venture away from the town, so can't comment on the island itself, but nice experience and good for photos.
The island like Curacao seems much more geared for American visitors e.g. Renaissance hotel above a shopping mall with Prada, Gucci shops, unlike the other islands where the towns are geared towards the locals. DIdn't make much of the town itself, and wouldn't bother with the free tram through town that works on a very very very slow loop !
Got a $15US taxi for 4 of us up to Eagle beach which is less commercialised, and has the tree on the beach that any tourism photo of Aruba features. It's a short walk then on the Palm beach which is much more commercial with big hotels RUI and Hilton on the beach front, and good beach bars on the piers (Bugaloe or Momba). Local bus back to the port for $6US for 4.
Had planned to take one of the brightly coloured school buses outside the port gates for $20US tour each, but places it visited seemed a bit mundane, with best bit the beach we went to anyway. Must say however that late in the afternoon a couple of red busses pulled up next to the ship returning guests (must have been a ship trip) blaring out YMCA and everyone playing maracas which looked to have been fun.
From all I had read, this was to be intimidating because of poverty. It was poor, but didn't find it at all threatening, in fact it was the only place we visited where they employed people in purple tops throughout the town to give information and act as guides. Didn't do a trip and just got a taxi $20US for 4 up to the Botanical gardens at the top of town. It is actually walkable as we walked back, if you just go to the end of town, it is $2US entry each, and you can pay for a guide on top, nothing to write home about, but it's probably the best show in town. Had a drink at the Cobblestone Inn on the Main Street in the centre of town which has a small roof garden.
We has wanted to get the ferry from right next to where the ship docks across the Bequia island for the day, but we docked at 8am and just missed the first ferries. If you take the later ferries then it all gets a bit tight on return sailings to not miss the ship.
As I said, you can only speak from your own experiences, but this was the island that we did find intimidating in a way that just didn't happen anywhere else. Our impression was that most islands were just happy to have you there, but this one has 40% unemployment, and therefore everyone is trying to make money from you in whatever way they can in more of a pressured way.
We took a taxi on spec for a tour for 2 hours at $70US for 4, and getting anything out of the driver was hard work, money changed hands between the person we thought was taking us on a tour inside the building, to the one we were handed over to outside. We stopped I requested at an isolated spice shack to be shown the local produce and felt obliged to buy produce. The locals at all the islands talk to each other in an English or French slang that most tourists can't understand which is fine, but here it felt like it was done to ignore you. We visited Annandale Falls, Grand Etang Park (volcano lake) and Fort Frederick, all an additional $2US entry each and optional guides cost. These sights were OK, but to be honest I wouldn't bother again.
Walked though the tunnel in town and around the Caranege harbour, and in the afternoon took the water taxi next to the ship $10US return each to Grand Anse beach. NIce beach with cruise visitors at one end, and visiting American college kids at the other end, stopping at Umbrellas bar set back from the beach half way down, and it was like New Year's Eve !
Drove through the town so can't comment on Castries, but had pre booked at trip with Cosol Tours in advance, $75US each. There were 60 people who had done the same, but we were in buses of 12, not in convoy, but we did meet at place for drinks and food. Our driver was Baptiste and was excellent as a guide. We had as much drink as you wanted, and great local food fro breakfast and lunch. We stopped for photos a long the way, and visited a banana plantation, the Pitons, speedboat to Sugar beach between the Pitons for snorkelling, the drive in volcano for a sulphur mud bath, and waterfalls to wash it off. Without doubt this was our best trip and would highly recommend, as Baptiste made the trip educational, fun and entertaining.
Chose not to do any tours, but walked into town with what seemed like the rest of the ship and the other 2 in port. A bit like Aruba it seemed to be a bit more American, but without the big shops. nice long beach in town to walk along the promenade, and sit and have a bucket of local beers. Most of the beach is taken over by sun beds.
We're going to vista Maho beach to watch the planes land, but didn't manage in the end.
Probably our favourite island along with St Lucia. Walked to West Bus station, and took the 17 local bus $6US for 4 down to Nelsons Dockyard at English Harbour $8US entry each but includes Shirley Heights entry. Really well preserved area with museum and fabulous yachts. Taxi up to Shirley Heights for the view down onto the harbour $24US return as need to wait for you, or you can walk down to galleon bay and get a water taxi back to the dockyard.
Bus back to St Johns and took the 22 bus to Turner Beach and Darkwood beach. Both small but unspoilt, and bus back from roadside. Worth catching some of the local small buses for the experience at some of the islands, as very economical
Based on reviews on there being very little in the port, which did seem to be the case, we booked a tour with Levi Barron on Bumpiing Tours in advance $55US each. Just 10 of us on the tour which included drinks but not food, and Levi was excellent. As soon as we drove away from town, it was clear that the island had been decimated by the hurricanes the previous year, as lots of debris around and rebuilding work going on
Went to Champagne Reef to start which was just a pebble beach and didn't look promising, but we had gone to snorkel and Levi led us for an hour showing us different fish and corals, rather than just leaving us to swim around. LIke some sort of Disney film, the bubbles do come up in streams from the seabed for you to swim through all around you.
We also went on to Titou Gorge which was used in one of the Pirates of the Carribean films, and swam through the gorge to the waterfall and climbed around the waterfall, and from there onto Trafalgar falls and various view points. This was probably our most unsettled weather of the trip, but didn't seem to matter as we were in the middle of a rainforest doing mainly water based activities
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No issues with the rooms as everything works and is kept clean by cabin steward, and towels and beach towels replaced daily. Took 4 bottles of spirits from duty free, and bought mixers locally at ports throughout the cruise, and cabin steward provided ice buckets each day for sunset / port sail away drinks on the balcony each evening.