We chose this cruise to fit in with our grandchildren’s Easter break. Having returned to P&O after a few years break cruising with other lines we cruised on Aurora for 10 days last December. We really enjoyed that cruise so we were looking forward to a weeks cruise on Britannia with the family. We checked in on line and boarded with no wait which was excellent, however most people hadn’t used on line check in so there were only a few of us.
First impressions of the ship were good, the interior design Is more contemporary than most ships and not so glitzy but it is understated and quite nice. We had a larger balcony cabin mid ship in good condition and at last a shower with a glass door, no a soggy curtain. As usual we had an excellent cabin steward. Being mid ship we found there were no stairs open for passengers to use. The lifts were not adequate they were constantly full and didn’t stop when the button was pressed. Unfortunately the unlimited food on cruise ships seems to be attracting disproportionate numbers of extremely large passengers and lifts designed for 16 people are often full with about six, and less if on scooters or in wheelchairs. This meant walking to the end of a very long ship, up the stairs and back to the middle, no mean feat at my age with a dodgy knee, but often the only way back to our cabin.
My husband and I didn’t use the buffet at all as the food looked awful, which my family who did try it confirmed, saying it was the worst cruise ship buffet they had used in many years of cruising. Cheap carb heavy dishes and very poor quality. I noticed P&O had reduced the cruise price to sell off unsold cabins so I suspect they cut back on the food budget to compensate. We chose anytime dining, advertised as eat when you want with whom you want, and this works well for us on Princess ships when we cruise with Family, but unfortunately the Peninsular restaurant was was very badly managed. The first night was my Grandsons birthday and I had ordered a cake to the restaurant. We went down at 7.15 and were given a pager we sat down at nearly 9pm! The second night we tried 7 pm and were told dismissively it would be over an hours wait but could be much longer. After 45 mins I went to see the maitre d and he miraculously found us a table for 6. The food quality and choice was ok but ruined as it was served almost cold. We decided then that we would pay extra to avoid the stress as The Peninsula couldn’t manage freedom dining and the staff were borderline rude, obviously the decision to take off the tips has had a demotivating
effect. We ate in Sindu which wasn’t as good as the same ones on Aurora or Azura, and the Beach house which was quite good, the teenage grandchildren particularly liked the fillet steak cooked on lava rock. My daughter and I also tried the limelight club where we paid £28 each for tough steak which we sent back and other tiny portions of poorly cooked food. We did have breakfast most mornings in the Oriental restaurant and the service and food here was excellent it was like being on a different ship.
The entertainment we did see was of a generally good standard, but the venues are too small for the numbers on board and you had to get the the theatre at least 45 mins before a performance to guarantee seats together. There were no seats in the live lounge after early evening, and one evening they had an adult comedian on at about 11pm. Despite warnings it was unsuitable for children, several young children were allowed to remain by both parents and staff.
The ports we did go to were typical of where you can travel in just a week in France and northern Spain. We had been to them before, but we missed Gurnsey because of a threatened storm which didn't seem to materialise, so the Captain wouldn’t use the tenders. This although disappointing we understood, but we felt as we were only 20 miles from France we could have gone to an alternative port which we have done before on other ships. Instead the captain decided to return to the U.K. on the Friday instead of the Saturday which meant all the shops and casino were shut on Friday evening as we were back in port in the U.K.
The final straw was the chaos at disembarkation. The ship had been in port all night and we were due to be off at 8.45 and told to wait in the theatre. We waited and waited, getting hotter and hotter, apparently they only opened one walkway off the ship as it was too windy for the covered walkway. This has happened to us with Princess in Southampton but they opened additional exits to the dock side with no problems.
A passenger told us the Captain had already got off as her son had spoken to him and left the ship in complete chaos. My daughter and family who were due off at 10.15 were off before us as they came down in the lift to go to their departure area they were told they could leave the ship, whilst the passengers supposed to be off at 8.45 were still kettled in the theatre. They eventually opened another exit when most passengers were already off.
The Ship needs a new captain and new management in the food and beverage teams. We found the Captain very patronising with his boys and girls and beddy bye- byes announcements combined with a laissez faire attitude, which seems to have rubbed off on his staff. A bit more professionalism wouldn’t go amiss. We have another cruise booked on Aurora which we hope will match the December one last year, but we will return to Princess or celebrity where the food quality and service are not much better .
I have just read that the Captain on this ship is going to Captain the new Iona. If he can’t manage this size of ship goodness knows how Iona will fare. I for one won’t be going on her.