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This was the end of 2018/2019 Winter Caribbean Season repositioning cruise, as Britannia returned to Southampton on the 29th March leaving Barbados on the 16th evening. The price (at least for us) included a Thomas Cook charter flight from Gatwick to Barbados, transfer to ship and at the end of the voyage in Southampton, a free coach taking us back to Gatwick to collect the car. This also applied to those who had flown from Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Bournemouth. The transfers worked very well. We paid the extra £149 pp to turn left at the top of the stairs when getting on the aeroplane and this was worthwhile but why they then charge for you to book your preferred seats defeats me. We had an obstructed LARGE balcony cabin on Deck G. The large cabins have a sofa to sit on rather than a single chair and are about 14sq. ft. bigger. Barbados/Bridgetown. We opted for the 14-day cruise option, that is arriving in Bridgetown on Friday 15th March, the day BEFORE Britannia sailed for St. Lucia. This meant we had time to sample the delights of Bridgetown on the Saturday. Some opted for excursions, but there is enough to do and see in Bridgetown independently. The town is approx. a 20-minute walk from the cruise terminal. Cave Shepherd has two stores in Bridgetown, the larger having excellent free WIFI in its café on the First Floor. St. Lucia. We did our own thing walking from the ship into the town, finding a café with free WIFI and doing some shopping. Many from the ship either walked to the nearest beach, or took a taxi. Ship excursions were (anecdotally) more expensive than making a bargain with one of the numerous taxi drivers just outside the terminal gates. St. Kitts. We had a ship’s excursion (Best of St. Kitts) including the Wingfield Estate and Romney Manor plus the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At each place the inevitable market stalls were in abundance, but all worthwhile and easy enough. Could have probably done with more time at each stop. Antigua. We had another ship’s excursion to, broadly speaking, Shirley Heights and English Harbour with its Nelson’s Dockyard, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was an excellent tour, but again with limited time at Nelson’s Dockyard and its inevitable market stalls. If we went again, we would only go here and spend half a day - there are numerous bars and restaurants and quite a lot to see, or just pass the time. Ponta Delgada. Again, did our own thing walking to the botanical gardens and the covered newish shopping centre set above the lower town, about a 35-minute walk from the quay. Britannia? Much has been written before about the weird central lift and stairs arrangements where you cannot go from top to bottom by the stairs alone. We understand this is being rectified in her late-2019 refit. Food in the main restaurants (Freedom Dining for us) was only Harvester or Holiday Inn standard to be honest. On the two Marco Pierre White themed nights, they just about managed to do a decent Beef Wellington, but the second so called half-lobster offering was dismal. It seemed they had scooped the meat out of the shells, mixed it into a sort of saucy potato mash and re-inserted - very poor. If you wanted something rather more exceptional for dinner, then you had to pay and that seemed to be the general conclusion. Sindhu, The Glass House and The Beach House were all used by us and are extremely good value and super food in all of them. We did not try The Epicurean, which seemed very expensive in comparison to the other alternatives. Buffet was decent enough. At least you could get a made to measure omelette rather than the cardboard variety dished-up in the seated dining rooms and what they did to the ‘Kedgeree’ was absolutely disgusting. My wife rarely complains, but it looked like someone had vomited over the plate when served in the seated dining room. Entertainment was generally so-so, but the FlyRights guest act was very good. The speakers included a decent enough ex-SAS guy who regaled us with stories of daring, training etc; someone else who seemed obsessed with discussing murders, murderers and hangings such as Ruth Ellis, Crippen, Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe etc., and a guy who talked mainly about what made a good pop star. In other words, apart from the SAS guy, not exactly scintillating. Cabin was kept spotless and our steward was well worth the personal tip on disembarkation day. On the sunny hot days – yes, sun loungers were reserved when they shouldn’t be and P&O did nothing about it (probably too few crew members now?). Formal Nights – most made the effort to match the dress code but some did not, perhaps trying to make a statement about their independence? Service in the bars – excellent in the Crow’s Nest, but could be slow elsewhere unless you were sitting in a prominent place. In summary, it was what we expected. Definitely in terms of catering not up to Cunard standard and the bar and restaurant service not so good or as quick either generally, but it was value for money, we did not starve or become ill and the ship went where we wanted to go and we made it ‘work’ for us. We are booked on Ventura (again) later this year for the Canaries having booked that cruise last year. It is now much dearer we note. Booking another cruise onboard? Be careful as P&O like others, adjust prices according to demand so if you are booking something major, you can find its price later drops significantly if they are having trouble filling a ship, but it could also go up. We have in the past cancelled and rebooked, writing-off the 2 x £50 booking fee because the same cruise and an adjacent cabin was later offered at £100’s less or with an additional huge amount of on board spend. If you want 5* dining included in your standard fare, then you won’t get it on P&O, but if you want a holiday on a ship with mostly British guests, then it is fine and generally what I would call of a ‘Holiday Inn Plus Standard’. Good enough for us!

Dumbing down a bit, but still okay!

Britannia Cruise Review by Essex Man

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: March 2019
  • Destination: Caribbean
This was the end of 2018/2019 Winter Caribbean Season repositioning cruise, as Britannia returned to Southampton on the 29th March leaving Barbados on the 16th evening.

The price (at least for us) included a Thomas Cook charter flight from Gatwick to Barbados, transfer to ship and at the end of the voyage in Southampton, a free coach taking us back to Gatwick to collect the car. This also applied to those who had flown from Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Bournemouth. The transfers worked very well.

We paid the extra £149 pp to turn left at the top of the stairs when getting on the aeroplane and this was worthwhile but why they then charge for you to book your preferred seats defeats me.

We had an obstructed LARGE balcony cabin on Deck G. The large cabins have a sofa to sit on rather than a single chair and are about 14sq. ft. bigger.

Barbados/Bridgetown.

We opted for the 14-day cruise option, that is arriving in Bridgetown on Friday 15th March, the day BEFORE Britannia sailed for St. Lucia. This meant we had time to sample the delights of Bridgetown on the Saturday. Some opted for excursions, but there is enough to do and see in Bridgetown independently. The town is approx. a 20-minute walk from the cruise terminal. Cave Shepherd has two stores in Bridgetown, the larger having excellent free WIFI in its café on the First Floor.

St. Lucia.

We did our own thing walking from the ship into the town, finding a café with free WIFI and doing some shopping. Many from the ship either walked to the nearest beach, or took a taxi. Ship excursions were (anecdotally) more expensive than making a bargain with one of the numerous taxi drivers just outside the terminal gates.

St. Kitts.

We had a ship’s excursion (Best of St. Kitts) including the Wingfield Estate and Romney Manor plus the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At each place the inevitable market stalls were in abundance, but all worthwhile and easy enough. Could have probably done with more time at each stop.

Antigua.

We had another ship’s excursion to, broadly speaking, Shirley Heights and English Harbour with its Nelson’s Dockyard, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was an excellent tour, but again with limited time at Nelson’s Dockyard and its inevitable market stalls. If we went again, we would only go here and spend half a day - there are numerous bars and restaurants and quite a lot to see, or just pass the time.

Ponta Delgada.

Again, did our own thing walking to the botanical gardens and the covered newish shopping centre set above the lower town, about a 35-minute walk from the quay.

Britannia?

Much has been written before about the weird central lift and stairs arrangements where you cannot go from top to bottom by the stairs alone. We understand this is being rectified in her late-2019 refit.

Food in the main restaurants (Freedom Dining for us) was only Harvester or Holiday Inn standard to be honest. On the two Marco Pierre White themed nights, they just about managed to do a decent Beef Wellington, but the second so called half-lobster offering was dismal. It seemed they had scooped the meat out of the shells, mixed it into a sort of saucy potato mash and re-inserted - very poor.

If you wanted something rather more exceptional for dinner, then you had to pay and that seemed to be the general conclusion. Sindhu, The Glass House and The Beach House were all used by us and are extremely good value and super food in all of them. We did not try The Epicurean, which seemed very expensive in comparison to the other alternatives.

Buffet was decent enough. At least you could get a made to measure omelette rather than the cardboard variety dished-up in the seated dining rooms and what they did to the ‘Kedgeree’ was absolutely disgusting. My wife rarely complains, but it looked like someone had vomited over the plate when served in the seated dining room.

Entertainment was generally so-so, but the FlyRights guest act was very good. The speakers included a decent enough ex-SAS guy who regaled us with stories of daring, training etc; someone else who seemed obsessed with discussing murders, murderers and hangings such as Ruth Ellis, Crippen, Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe etc., and a guy who talked mainly about what made a good pop star. In other words, apart from the SAS guy, not exactly scintillating.

Cabin was kept spotless and our steward was well worth the personal tip on disembarkation day.

On the sunny hot days – yes, sun loungers were reserved when they shouldn’t be and P&O did nothing about it (probably too few crew members now?).

Formal Nights – most made the effort to match the dress code but some did not, perhaps trying to make a statement about their independence?

Service in the bars – excellent in the Crow’s Nest, but could be slow elsewhere unless you were sitting in a prominent place.

In summary, it was what we expected. Definitely in terms of catering not up to Cunard standard and the bar and restaurant service not so good or as quick either generally, but it was value for money, we did not starve or become ill and the ship went where we wanted to go and we made it ‘work’ for us. We are booked on Ventura (again) later this year for the Canaries having booked that cruise last year. It is now much dearer we note.

Booking another cruise onboard? Be careful as P&O like others, adjust prices according to demand so if you are booking something major, you can find its price later drops significantly if they are having trouble filling a ship, but it could also go up. We have in the past cancelled and rebooked, writing-off the 2 x £50 booking fee because the same cruise and an adjacent cabin was later offered at £100’s less or with an additional huge amount of on board spend.

If you want 5* dining included in your standard fare, then you won’t get it on P&O, but if you want a holiday on a ship with mostly British guests, then it is fine and generally what I would call of a ‘Holiday Inn Plus Standard’.

Good enough for us!
Essex Man’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin G508
This was kept immaculate by our mostly invisible cabin steward. We never knew his name as no name card was left on the desk, but he did a fantastic job seeming to know our routine from the first day. A/C was fine and worked well. The shower room and w/c is small, but no different from other cruise lines.