Balcony cabin A510, deck 15. Barbados- St Lucia- St Kitts- Antigua-Ponta Delgada-Southampton.
We chose this cruise as we have always wanted to sail across the Atlantic. This is our second P & O cruise, previously on Azura.
Flew on the included flight from Gatwick to Barbados with TUI on 15th March. flight was good with all drinks, including the bar service, as complimentary. Transfered from the airport directly to the ship (the first night was spent on the ship in port at Bridgetown before sailing the following evening; this gave us a day to look around Bridgetown).
Check-in was fairly swift. Upon boarding the ship there was the usual photographer but other than that, no welcome drinks or anyone to direct everyone to the lifts for the cabins, in contrast to our previous experiences. None of the warm welcomes we have received with a number of other cruise lines. First impressions was of a ship that was rather plain and dull in appearance; the atrium could be any hotel or shopping centre and the long aisles on the passenger decks were totally devoid of any art work or decoration making it look very clinical. Our cabin was clean and adequate, everything in good working order an the bed was comfortable. I like the open wardrobe area on P & O that is made separate from the main cabin area; a good idea! I couldn't help but feel it seemed like a Premier Inn room (not that there is anything wrong with that!) Our cabin steward was excellent throughout the cruise; she was very welcoming, friendly and gave an excellent service throughout; always knowing when we were out of the cabin to do her work. She also gave us lots of advice about the ship. The cabin stewards probably work harder than anyone else on the ship and deserve recognition.
The sailaway party on the upper deck was well organised but had a completely British feel and the music played was very predictable! Not sure what foreign guests made of it all, although, I guess 99% of the guests were British anyway!
We had chose Freedom Dining at the time of booking. We stuck this for the first 3 nights but were very disappointed with the service in both the Meridian and Peninsular dining rooms at night. Eventhough they were not busy, the staff seems totally disinterested in us. Very poor and not our experience on any of our previous cruises or other cruise lines. We asked to be transferred to Club Dining at the 1830 sitting to which they agreed and we were put on a table of 4 other people. In the Oriental Restaurant ther service was very good and efficient; the food in the evening - I though was just ok (better some days than others) but all the menus had a very British feel! One night we booked the Epicurean Restaurant which was £28 per person. The food and service in there was excellent, almost hard to believe it was on the same ship! This felt like the cruises of yesteryear and was the highlight of the dining experiences. We also tried the Horizon buffet on one evening and the food was generally very good. The Horizon buffet restaurant is a bit noisy and chaotic. To me, the layout and appearance of the Horizon Restaurant, with the tables all neatly arranged in rows, almost gave the feel of being on a large ferry rather than a cruise ship; just lacking the style and sophistication of other ships.
One thing I noticed is that they never seemed to wash the outside windows of the public areas when in port eventhough there is an automated system to do this. It was done after arriving back in Southampton obviously since everywhere had become salted-up after the trans-Atlantic crossing.
The Headliners theatre company and the Albion Band performed to a very high standard in all of their performances; they are all very competent professional vocalists, dancers and musicians. Enjoyed all of the performances despite the fact that most were of a very British theme! The other music gigs were all very good and some exceptional. I went to the series of talks on the sea days about the British SAS. It became a bit drawn out, a couple of talks would have been sufficient with the speaker's incessant pacing to-and-fro across the stage. Good thing the audience was essentially British as for an International audience this topic could have been bordering on the unacceptable level!
The crossing over the Atlantic saw calm seas for most of the time. There was one day, after the Azores where there was moderate seas (as described by the captain) that lasted for about 24 hours; I thought that Britannia sailed the rougher waters very smoothly without much disruption (but it should be noted that I enjoy this anyway, lol!) There was a medical emergency a few hours after departing Ponta Delagada and the captain took the decison to return to port, keeping everyone well informed of the situation (a very unfortunate and worst case scenario for the person that took ill; thank God that this did not occur mid-Atlantic).
Taking everything into account - I enjoyed the cruise, particularly the Atlantic crossing. My favourite port of call was Ponta Delgada in the island of Sao Miguel, Azores. Lovely place and we were blessed with unbroken sunshine and a calm day. For me, Britannia lacks the buzz, style, sophistication and wow factor of other ships or other cruise lines. I know that P & O can easily fill their cruises with the British public but the experience is just .....too British. Surely travel is about new cultures and experiences? I don't know what foreign guests would make of this? Maybe cuises are just becoming like any other package holiday as that is what Britannia feels like to me, not really a flagship of the company.
I will continue to use P & O as they offer some great itineraries, year-round from Southampton. Indeed, we have already booked several more trips over the next year and a half. Britannia - luxury flagship? No! Good value holiday cruise ship? Yes! Hoping that Iona will signal the start of P & O becoming an International cruise line rather than the British cruise line at present. The guests in our adjacent cabin mentioned to us that it felt like a holiday camp such as Butlins. I have never been to Butlins but I will take their word for it!