Having been on Britannia before we were very happy to travel on her again, not that we planned to it was just the cruise destinations we wanted were included in her itinery. I will talk about the ship first then the destinations.
Well Britannia, what can I say, so elegant, so smooth when sailing and so cheap compared to many other cruise lines, no tips and prices are in pounds. A lot of regular P&O cruisers were saying that the Azura was better but I could not compare. I know a lot of people complain that you cannot walk straight across the ship and had to come up or down to go from the front to the back but that was not a big deal. The ship itself is very elegant, not in your face and I am glad to say they have got rid of the awful what I can only explain as pensioner's sail away parties. They used to give you union jack flags and sing songs like my old man's a dustman, get the picture. Well now they are helping the environment by not having the flags and they only do a few sail away parties and these include much more modern songs to suit all ages. The entertainment on the ship is good or at least it suits us with a resident group in the club and a typical british style pub where you can sit and chat or take part in karaoke or race nights and quizzes. There is also a pool table. The theatre is Headliners and most of the shows are done by the very talented entertainments team onboard. We only picked which ones we wanted to see and never really felt the need to go to every show. They also had tribute acts onboard such as Jess Glynne and Adele who were both excellent. The food on the ship is excellent whether you go to the Horizon buffet or the main dining rooms. There are also other restaurants where you can pay extra for an exceptional meal. Sindhu is an indian restaurant by Atul Kochhar which is very popular and is so good we went again. We booked the Epicurean afternoon tea this time whereas we had booked the Epicurean evening meal last time and we were a bit disappointed and wished we had booked the meal instead. There were too many sweets and not enough sandwiches/savouries. In fact it won't surprise me if the afternoon tea doesn't get shelved. We had ours postponed because not many people had booked on our day but on the day we did actually go there weren't many then either. The Glasshouse is phenomenal, you pay £6.95 for three starters or three desserts and then the mains prices vary based on what you want but they are not expensive. We went for lunch and had the three starters each(you don't need to book for this) then we went again for Dinner one night but booked this one. A lot of people said the Beach house was fabulous but it was in an extension of the Buffet restaurant so we gave it a miss. We did not do the Limelight club on either cruise because there were no acts we wanted to see, in fact these acts need changing they have been on for several years some of them. Apparently Gary Barlow is now P&O patron for entertainment so hopefully he will make the Limelight club more exciting but we shall see. The ship was full for the whole of the fourteen days and if you did not get a bed early on sea days it was a struggle, I think because everyone has the same coloured towel and P&O just replace them in your room without you having to provide any details of where your old ones went. I think if they opted for a procedure whereby you signed them in and out this may stop people doing this. If you smoke as I do then this ship is a bit different to others in that they do not have a smoking area at the side of the pool. There are three areas, one at the back of the ship outside the Horizon Buffet restaurant, one outside the Live lounge club and one outside Costa on Deck seven. To be fair I had no problem with this as they were positioned ideally if you were eating, sunbathing or being entertained. A tip too if you want to buy tobacco products wait a couple of days in because they do buy three get one free offers and also have discounts on alcohol and other gifts such as Sunglasses, Pandora, etc. P&O offer a drinks package of £39.95 per person per day but you have to have it for everyone in your cabin and you have to take it for the duration of the cruise apart from the first day and the day you depart(it includes bottled water, orange juice speciality coffees and all alcohol apart from expensive ones. . Drinks are not a bad price with a bottle of wine for approx £16-25, beer £4.30 pint and Vodka and coke around £4.40. Cocktails are also reasonable and Prosecco is £20.95 per bottle. Note you can put your bottle away and they give you a ticket for when you next go to the dining room. We drank quite considerably and never thought twice to order anything we wanted right down to Brandies after dinner and we still spent £800 less than it would have cost us for the drinks package. (Two of us)
The highlight of sailing of sailing with P&O is the cabin, we booked a balcony and were upgraded to a cabin with a sofa. The shower has a proper door not a curtain as you would expect these days but don't always get. The main thing though, the bed, oh what a glorious sleep. We are investing in a P&O mattress.
Now onto the islands on this cruise itinerary
1. Curacao - well unfortunately I cannot comment on here, we were very disappointed to miss this port but a flight from Birmingham delayed for 24 hours meant we had to sail out and back into Barbados so we had the planned day at sea a day later and missed Curacao - an excuse to go back eh
2.Bonaire - We booked a ship trip here which was snorkelling and an hour on the beach. It was incredible, you were taken to a local beach and given lifevests then the two guys running it went into the sea with you and you could snorkel amongst the fish and coral. It was stunning and even those who could not swim could do it as long as you weren't scared of being in the water. The vest kept you afloat. We then transferred to a beautiful beach where we actually had two hours and an area of beds were cordoned off for us. When we returned to Kralendijk we went back on the ship for lunch then just pottered around before going back on the ship. It is a very colourful place but not big so you don't need long to look around. Try the Cactus cocktail it is there speciality.
St Vincent was next and I had read that there was very little to do here which is right I suppose. We opted to take the local bus up to the Botanical gardens and walk back into town. Well that was an experience in itself, We boarded what was a large mini bus and waited until it was full then the driver and co driver jumped in, drove around the corner and we all had to get out. He loaded up the minibus with bags of fertilizer and we all sat on top of them and we were off. We then returned to the town and pottered around having a few drinks in what seem like very strange bars which were basically huts with benches outside. On first appearances it is a very poor place and you could feel intimidated but we found everyone to be very friendly and helpful.
Grenada - Again once you leave the Cruise terminal is seems very poor and can be intimidating but again, the people were very happy and very friendly. We got a taxi to Grand Anse beach and whilst the beach was beautiful the amenities left a lot to be desired. The toilets and washrooms were really bad. We decided to get the boat back to the terminal and it was the same price as a taxi $5 each. Once back in Grenada we looked for a bar called Fort Mathew but couldn't find it. We asked a local guy and he decided to take us up hill after hill but seemed to know where it was but alas we were fed up of walking so he took us back into the town to another bar and we had a few drinks with him and the locals.
St Lucia - We hadn't planned a trip here but I had looked at the South of the island, a place called Soufriere and we priced a taxi and shared with 4 other people and took in the tour which included a stop at a Banana plantation, views of the iconic pitons, mudbaths and waterfalls. It cost us $25 each and was well worth it. Once back we explored the markets in the town and went for a few drinks in the local bars which again were nothing like our bars but the people were very friendly and happy.
St Maaren - Our immediate plan was to visit Maho beach and take the iconic photos of the planes landing over our heads. Unfortunately for us it was an extremely windy day and no-one could possibly sit on the beach because the waves were so strong and coming in fast. We shared a taxi with other people and it was cheap enough to get there and back. We arrived at 9.30 to be told the first big plane did not come in until 11 so we sat in a fantastic bar next to the beach and had a coffee. We then went onto the beach and yes took lots of photos as planned. Not too many large aircraft fly in here any more so you wait a while for the next one but it is a must do experience. One thing I would say is avoid the danger zone when the planes are taking off, it is clearly marked, the first couple of small aircraft made no impact so we were all stood there when a small jet took off only to be blown over, my sunglasses flew to the sea, fortunate for me a lady saw them and returned them. Other people were completely blown off their feet. It is clearly marked. By lunchtime the bar was rocking so we went back had a couple of cocktails and headed back to Phillipsburg where we pottered around the shops and had a drink before going back to the ship. This island was definitely more for tourists than the others and I would definitely come here for a holiday. We drank Guavaberry cocktail and ate a lovely Mahi Mahi fish sandwich, two local delicacies.
Antigua - We had only planned to go to a beach here but I also wanted to visit Nelson's Dockyard and as it was dull in the morning we decided to get a taxi with another couple and shared the cost of the trip which was $20 each. The taxi driver was like Morgan Freeman, very nice and very well spoken. He took us to the dockyard which was interesting and nice to see and then he dropped us off at a beach called Darkwood beach which was beautiful. Such clear waters and white sand. The bar where we hired our beds was full of the entertainment staff off the ship so it was obviously one of the better ones to go to. It was about 15 minutes from the Cruise terminal. The other couple did not want the beach so he dropped us off returned them and came back for us two hours later. We walked around St Johns for a bit when we returned and it was pleasant. Antigua is another definite holiday destination to see more of the 365 beaches there, one for each day of the year, you will hear that a lot.
Dominica - I had read that the beaches here were volcanic and not worth a visit so I opted for two ships tours, the first one to a waterfall and hot springs and the second one in the afternoon to do river tubing. Neither disappointed. The waterfall was amazing, you had a lifevest and went into cold water then swam in a cave until you came to the waterfall. It was incredible and a must do activity. It is called Titou Gorge. We then went to some natural springs where there are five pools and all have lovely hot temperatures. The trip in the afternoon to do the river tubing was great fun. The river was not too fast but fast enough at times to be exhilarated. The safety aspect was impeccable with several chaperones ensuring everyone had a lifevest and was kept safe. The scenery and sounds and sights of the birds as you floated down the river for 3 miles was beautiful. I would recommend both trips which made a lovely change from lying on beaches on the other islands. This country may not have the beaches but the beauty is so amazing and well worth a visit.
Barbados - I know we left here initially but we stayed overnight on our return so I thought I would share it at the end. When you arrive here in Bridgetown, you come out into the port and then if you walk outside and keep to the right along the path near the sea wall and keep walking you will come to Carlisle Bay which is a nice area for beach bars and bars. We had read to go to the Boatyard and this is what we did when we first arrived in Barbados, it is a beach bar, you pay $25 which includes two beds one umbrella, a drink free use of facilities, a 45 minute snorkelling trip on their boat and a return taxi to the port. It was really good value for money and the snorkeling alone was worth the money. You went to two separate places the first where you snorkel with turtles and the second where you snorkel at a shipwreck under the water where the fish are so colourful. When we returned to Barbados by the time we got here it was sold out and if you did not have a wristband and bed you weren't even allowed in the bar area. We went to the Lobster pot next door instead and you sunbathe on the same beach and we paid $10 each for our beds which again allowed us to use the facilities and one free drink. No snorkelling though. We wanted to eat local food so we asked the security guy on the door of the Lobster pot where we could get local fish, chicken and rice and a young lad took us amongst the houses and locals where we had some fabulous food at a fraction of the price everywhere else, it was so good. As we were on the ship overnight and could come back on anytime we opted to eat dinner onboard then head out to find local entertainment. We decided to go to Harbour lights which was a club on the beachfront. You paid $25 each, had a wristband and could drink as much local alcohol as you wanted(not wine), we got there a bit early and were the first ones but two hours later it was rocking. Being in our early 50s we enjoyed it but next time would probably go to Oistens which was supposed to be really good with plenty going on on a Friday night but we thought it was too far if we could not get back. When we left the club at 2.30am we knew we wouldn't get food on the ship and the taxi driver offered to take us to the KFC drive thru, there were KFCs everywhere on the islands but no McDonalds, apparently they had opened but closed again due to lack of business.
The next day we were due to leave the ship at 4.30 so just stayed aboard and took advantage of the facilities and food before leaving for our flight home.
We had an incredible adventure and will surely come back to the Caribbean, whether it will be on Britannia, who knows but if we do sail on her again, we will be more than happy to do so.
Love the cabins on Britannia, Beds are so comfortable, Shower has a door, storage is perfect size for two people for 14 night cruise.