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409 P&O Cruises Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

My mother is now 84 and although mobile, following heart ops etc. not really up to flying. Last year my brother and I took her on the Britannia, our first P&O cruise (my wife and I have cruised plenty of times before). That was out of ... Read More
My mother is now 84 and although mobile, following heart ops etc. not really up to flying. Last year my brother and I took her on the Britannia, our first P&O cruise (my wife and I have cruised plenty of times before). That was out of Southampton un up the Norwegian Fjords. Such a successful trip that we agreed to do another and with the weak Pound another P&O cruise (rather than any other line) out of Southampton seemed the thing to do. Choices of destinations that can be reached in a max of one week are limited to an itinerary that included Vigo, Lisbon, Porto and Guernsey seemed ideal. of those only I had been to Guernsey before (cruise stop) so plenty to look forward to. Our agent ensured that we got good adjoining large inside cabins on the Riviera deck, close to midship. We decided that the significant extra cost of even just one balcony cabin wasn't worth it (unlike on the Fjords). Mum has pay pay almost double (single supplement) but we had some onboard spend and free parking so all seemed good. Being in Hertfordshire our drive to Southampton and the parking was as perfect as could be and it was probably less than three hours from home to lunch onboard. Cabins were better than expected, our attendant did a great job (bucket of ice every day for my carry-on drinks) and only issue was that the A/C didn't get the cabin as cool as we would have liked. P&O offered numerous excursions, cheap by comparison to other cruises in my experience and our trips to Bayana (Vigo) and Obidos (Lisbon) were excellent and back to the ship in time for a bite to eat and off the ship for another hour or so before back for sailaway. At Porto I had booked a classical walking tour privately and that turned out to be a real highlight. Not for us the trips to the wineries as bruv doesn't drink. Sadly our stop at Guernsey was abandoned due to Storm Hector so it was a slow steam home to Southampton and a very efficient and relaxed disembarkation (unlike some lines where they seem to shoo you off like vermin on the last morning). Food was ample, tasty and varied. Wines that we sampled were excellent in all respects and service very good, as you would expect. Only issue, if I'm being picky, was that sometimes the food looked and tasted as if it was prepared hours ago (which it generally is of course). The entertainment team worked very hard and there was numerous things going on, especially on sea days. The big headliner shows were amazing and, even if it's not generally your cup of tea, worth watching and a great highlight to our holiday. So why the slight negative in my title and score. I guess this council estate boy is getting snobbish in his old age as it did seem like Butlins at sea sometimes. Perhaps not a surprise on a cruise but the number of morbidly obese people did make me feel guilty about my second slice of cake. I think I just like the more global mix found on other cruises...this was 95% Brits and that limited conversation at times. I still can't decide if I preferred the newer Britannia but it doesn't really matter as they both delivered everything expected. Will we do another P&O? Probably not unless we can't find a suitable cruise next year on NCL for example. Might have to drag the old girl to a European port after all. I love my fellow countrymen and women but, for holidays, want to broaden my horizons. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
This was a seven day Southampton to Southampton cruise, Embarkation was quite quick and efficient. We were soon on the ship but it did seem to take a while for the cases to come, but it is a big ship with a lot of passengers so it was only ... Read More
This was a seven day Southampton to Southampton cruise, Embarkation was quite quick and efficient. We were soon on the ship but it did seem to take a while for the cases to come, but it is a big ship with a lot of passengers so it was only to be expected. The ship didn't feel very full, there were a lot of spaces in the MDR and the theatre was never full. The cabin was a good size with a good size balcony, we have been on Azura and Ventura before so knew what to expect. The food in the MDR and Buffet was good and the service in the MDR was excellent. Theatre shows were good and well performed as were the shows in the Bars. It is just a shame that P&O insist that all Brits want to have quizzes during the evening that disrupt the flow of musicians. Dis-embarking was very quick, we chose to take our own cases off and this worked very well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We selected a 7 night cruise on P & O Azura to fit round my working commitments, my wife being retired. We chose to drive to Southampton from home in Lancashire and set off nice and early at 5am even though it was a Saturday ... Read More
We selected a 7 night cruise on P & O Azura to fit round my working commitments, my wife being retired. We chose to drive to Southampton from home in Lancashire and set off nice and early at 5am even though it was a Saturday sailing. Traffic and conditions were favourable so we had a great trip and were in Southampton for 9am so stopped at Tesco and COSTA Coffee and arrived in the CPS car park at 11am. That was very efficient, close and soon we were seated in the terminal. We awaited the embarkation process which commenced, as last year for Ventura, just before 12 noon and was as efficient as last year. Once on board we made our way to the buffet for a spot of lunch. Whilst in the buffet they announced that cabins were ready early so we made our way to Australia Deck, deck 12 and A223, our home for the 7 nights. A wonderfully clean and bright balcony cabin on the front starboard side of the ship with a very comfortable bed, arm chair, small but adequate TV and an ample bathroom. We met BB, our cabin steward who was excellent in the way he took care of everything brilliantly without being noticed at all. The cases arrived quickly so we unpacked we decided to check out the ship and found it most pleasurable and almost a copy of both Crown Princess and Ventura. We were also pleased to see we have been allocated Freedom Dining unlike last year and this we enjoyed. We were allocated the Peninsular Restaurant and the service was excellent in all areas that we got seated during the week. We really prefer to be on a table for two so had this option every meal time which was great. We had nice meals in every evening, so much so my thought of booking Sindhu and Bay Tree evaporated. The food was a notch up here to that on Ventura last year. Breakfasts were always taken in the restaurant and were of an excellent standard. We did the emergency drill on time and sailed almost on time. We had a nice sea day on the Sunday and of as it was a hot day it was busy on the outer decks with everyone taking advantage. We availed ourselves of most bars over the cruise but as we are not huge drinkers so it was more for a change of scenery than anything else. We enjoyed two of the three production shows (missed the last as we were late in the restaurant) that the Headliners cast put on and both were enjoyable, WE3 were a fantastic act, Tucker enjoyable. In other lounges the singers and bands were good, the second comedian, Tom Binns, in our eyes poor but of course entertainment is very subjective. We enjoyed the port stops and also the warm weather. We don’t book ship trips but made our own way without spending silly money. We enjoyed Hamburg & the layover in Amsterdam and did city tours at each and after dinner walked around Amsterdam taking in the sights on the second night when we had better weather than the rain of the previous evening. Second sea day was spoiled by a sea mist all day but that's no the fault of the ship or company. Le Havre was quiet, we walked round, visited a couple of churches plus some shops and if I went again I would take some form or tour or hire a car to get out and see the surrounding parts. The night sail back to Southampton was very pleasant without helicopter medical emergency as last year on Ventura. The captain was excellent and efficient in telling you about the cruise, the interactive map on the cabin TV could be better. My wife was disappointed with the Pilates class but that was a minor negative in a week of positive. Disembarkation was first class, we chose to take our own luggage off and literally had breakfast and walked off the ship, no customs issues or waiting in lounges for times to leave and we were in the car hitting the road back North by 8am. Despite some average to poor reviews I have seen recently on various sites I thought Azura was probably on balance the best of the three P & O trips we have had and I would not hesitate in booking again. I would mark this as a 4.5 / 5 (you have to choose 4 or 5 on here so I have put 4 but it was above that but not a 5) to be honest and chatting with many others on the cruise I think most had a good time and would hope they would also offer a positive review. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
I found a great deal for a 7 night cruise over my birthday with P&O Britannia but had no sailed with P&O before so was doubtful whether I should book. However after getting feedback from my cousins who had been on another P&O ... Read More
I found a great deal for a 7 night cruise over my birthday with P&O Britannia but had no sailed with P&O before so was doubtful whether I should book. However after getting feedback from my cousins who had been on another P&O ship last year, I went ahead and booked it and so glad I did. We drove to Southampton port and took only 1hr 20mins from North West London which was great. We were informed by P&O beforehand that our boarding time was 3pm which I have never been informed of by any other cruise line. We generally like to get to ship early so can enjoy the lunch and get familiarised with the ship before emergency drill procedure begins. So we took a chance and got to port at 12.30. We had to wait in a short queue for 5 to 10mins and then drove to baggage drop off area whereby a guy was standing to pick up our car. We took the luggage off the car and a porter came and took them straight away and the driver took the keys from us and drove the car off. Wow what an efficient service. We were highly impressed! Went inside terminal and were given a boarding card with a number and were asked to take a seat. We were called within next 15mins and after getting a photo taken and collecting our cabin key cards and proceeded to this very elegant ship. When we got on board, we were asked to proceed straight to our cabins if we wanted, to drop off the hand baggage. Hence we took the central elevators and went to our mid ship balcony cabin on deck 11. As soon as we got to our cabin, rest of the luggage arrived which was the quickest ever cruise luggage delivery service we had ever witnessed. We were very impressed with the cabin. Although, it was slightly on the smaller side with a smaller balcony than we had on other ships, it had everything we needed. The bathroom was small too but had a shower door rather than a curtain which was great. There were many power points around the cabin and a large flat screen TV. Storage space was limited but sufficient for a 7 night cruise. We went to have lunch straight after and enjoyed the choice of vegetarian options on offer. Loved the grab n go area where you could pick up sandwiches, baguettes, wraps etc. Also pizzeria and burger counters by pool side offered lovely veg burgers and different types of pizzas. After lunch we went to explore rest of ship which had great decor through out. From the central atrium area which had the most beautiful central show piece I had ever seen on a ship to the various art deck pieces in every area of the ship, this ship oozed with beauty and elegance all through. Loved all the public rooms like Brodies pub, live lounge, crows nest, theatre etc. Also like all the restaurants including the one we were allocated called meridian restaurant for our anytime dining. The only other restaurant we went to was Sindhu which had a great ambience. We saw other speciality restaurants like Epicurian and glass house which seemed great too but never visited those for a meal. In fact the buffet restaurant was one of the best ones we had ever seen on a ship with plenty of seating area and nicely laid out such that we never encountered any queues for food or hunt round for seats. Service on the ship was generally average except for our room steward who was excellent and so was a gentleman called Abhijeet who looked after our vegetarian order requests every evening. Other than these 2, we were not highly impressed with service in any areas. I guess this is where P&O could improve. We were surprised to see table cloths not being changed in dining rooms after patrons left a table and before new ones arrived. All crumbs on table were thrown on the floor! Never seen this before in anybody the ships we have been on like NCL, Princess or Royal Caribbean. Staff generally didn't engage much like we had seen with other cruise lines. Service in speciality restaurant Sindhu was much better though. However food in all restaurants was excellent and there was not a single meal that we didn't enjoy. Food was the best ever from over 20 cruises we have been on. Choice is slightly limited especially during breakfast, however if the food tastes great and is of good quality, it doesn't really matter. Entertainment was very good too. Plenty of production shows and loved their new show 'Astonishing' which is one of the best we have seen on a cruise ship. Also the guest entertainers like Jai Mcdowell, Sam Bailey and Tom Binns were excellent. We saw Jai perform twice, once in theatre and next in live lounge and were highly impressed. We missed Vernon Lewis though and from what o heard from others, he was great too. So overall entertainment would rate amongst the best we has seen. Plenty of activities were happening around the ship on sea and port days to keep everyone busy. Loved their quizzes in the pub, game shows similar to Pointless and the chase and talk shows in theatres. Also plenty of films were shown in the cinema and also some in theatre which I have rarely seen on a ship. Also plenty of films to choose free of charge in cabin and we did see quite a few good ones. The only department we were not happy on this cruise were the photography team. This was the first cruise we didn't have a single photo taken. They ignored us in the dining rooms, gangways at various ports and within public areas of the ship. Not sure why though and something their manager needs to address his teams regarding not excluding men and people from other ethnic backgrounds. The captain was hilarious and loved his daily updates over the tannoy system. During captains formal night, loved his speech and it was a great atmosphere in the atrium area with free drinks. Drinks generally were not badly priced and we were expecting to end up with a big bar bill. However despite ordering bottles of wines at dinner, having beer and cocktails in their various bars and also sometimes having costa coffees, we only ended up with a bill of £100 each which was not bad at all. Ports of call were all good with great weather at most ports except La Rochelle where it rained few hours in the morning. Guernsey was our favourite though. Went to castle ourselves in the morning and did a Gin tasting excursion with the ship in the afternoon which was excellent. Also did excursions at all other ports. In La Coruna we did a tapas trip which was very good and in afternoon walked into town to see the sights there. In Santander, we did a cave and gaudi building excursion which was very good but were not allowed to take pictures in the caves which was a shame. The city of Santander was 15min shuttle ride away. Couldn't go there as we got back around 3.30 and didn't have much time thereafter. In La Rochelle we did a trip of city and outer islands. Luckily rain stopped when we did the walking tour which was good. On the whole we enjoyed all the excursions we did with P&O. All were reasonably priced too compared to other cruise lines. The only design flow with ship was not having stairs in central area which caused the elevators to be always busy. On the whole we really enjoyed this cruise and would sail with P&O again for sure, may be on a different ship though as we like to sail on different ships unless an exciting itinerary comes along. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Birthday suprise cruise. Absolutely amazing, had a fantastic time. Nothing was to much to ask for. 3 ladies together, treated so well. Thank you so much, will be looking to cruise again, as this was a first experience. Loved every minute. ... Read More
Birthday suprise cruise. Absolutely amazing, had a fantastic time. Nothing was to much to ask for. 3 ladies together, treated so well. Thank you so much, will be looking to cruise again, as this was a first experience. Loved every minute. Staff were courteous, helpful, attentive. Some went over & beyond to give a great service. Food was fresh & plentiful. Always a great choice. Pool areas were kept clean, not to much water on floors for slips. Tables always clean, no litter, bins were always emptied regularly. Public toilets were clean & fresh. Good changing facilities near swimming pools. Medina restaurant was exemplary, service spot on. Birthday cake arrived for my 60th, Fantastic ambiance, waiters sang Happy Birthday. Trips were available, but we decided to do our own thing, went ashore for shopping, staff were great on tender transfers. Always something to do, but great if you just want a relaxing break. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
It was our anniversary and we saw this 2 night cruise so thought we’d book it. We’ve cruised many times before; mostly RCI, NCL, Princess and Holland America. We were excited to give P&O as we haven’t cruised with them before. ... Read More
It was our anniversary and we saw this 2 night cruise so thought we’d book it. We’ve cruised many times before; mostly RCI, NCL, Princess and Holland America. We were excited to give P&O as we haven’t cruised with them before. Overall it was OK. Not sure what we were expecting, but something seemed lacking. It didn’t have any wow factor or oomph The worst part was check in. What a ridiculous way of doing it, we’ve never done it that way before. You’re given a time to get to the terminal and if you’re early you still have to wait. 2 1/2hrs in our case. Just give people a card as they arrive like they usually do. Cabin was lovely and Clean and the bed very comfortable. We had freedom dining and the usual wait was 30-40 mins. We weren’t overly impressed with the food, it was barely warm one night and the sticky toffee pudding was chewy where it had been left under lights to keep warm and the toffee sauce was thin and bitter. They really seemed in a rush to get you in and out. Usually you get a bit of time between courses but it was take that plate and here’s your next course. Not a relaxing experience. The buffet was fine, everything you wanted, again only warm though. The shows in the theatre were good. Again, a first for us, was that there was no drinks service in the theatre. We took our own in once we knew. The major thing we found, which we’ve never experienced before, were the staff weren’t very happy or friendly. They didn’t seem to engage with people. We tried chatting to a lot of the waiters but they didn’t want to know. They work hard and weren’t rude, but there wasn’t any personality or friendliness coming through like you normally get and I would say it was 85% of the staff we came across. None of this was awful, but we felt worth mentioning. We’ve tried P&O but don’t think it’s for us. Something was definitely missing which was friendliness and atmosphere. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
For a Flag Ship & so new, certain areas looking tired already. Our mistake was not appreciating a "weekend" cruise would be full of badly behaved stag/hen parties! Also, Freedom Dining, as included was very average & the ... Read More
For a Flag Ship & so new, certain areas looking tired already. Our mistake was not appreciating a "weekend" cruise would be full of badly behaved stag/hen parties! Also, Freedom Dining, as included was very average & the buffet very underwhelming. The specialised restaurants were much better but of course at a price - not only a supplement but food supplements too. As a small group who wanted to sit together for dinner - not unreasonable - the only option to be able to book a table at a sensible time, was to dine at one of the specialised restaurants! Catch 22 situation. The "Formal" dining night requested was rather extreme for the ship/the clientele. Having been on a couple of other cruise ships, nothing about this experience will get us rushing back to this ship or PO I'm afraid. Recommend you read the reviews very carefully before committing. Overpriced for what it is, sadly. Lesson learnt. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
5 adults and 1 child Pros - suite was large with lots of extras - epicurean restaurant fantastic - peninsula restaurant also very good - fast embarkation - great service - staff in kids club and kids club great ... Read More
5 adults and 1 child Pros - suite was large with lots of extras - epicurean restaurant fantastic - peninsula restaurant also very good - fast embarkation - great service - staff in kids club and kids club great Cons - swimming pools too small and too deep. Not at all child friendly. - children’s splash area very poor. - 2 night attracts a lot of hen and stag parties. Didn’t notice them at night but during the day by the pool there was some raucous behaviour. - small details in the cabin. Thin towels and not enough of them. Dressing gowns only appeared on the last night Would sail again on a short cruise. Not sure there is enough on there to keep a 4 year old busy for a week cruise or longer although the kids club were very friendly and I would have felt comfortable leaving her there. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Living just 40 minutes from Southampton docks means we can take advantage of short two and three night cruises regularly, in fact this cruise was booked much further in advance as we were going as a group of six taking two passengers on ... Read More
Living just 40 minutes from Southampton docks means we can take advantage of short two and three night cruises regularly, in fact this cruise was booked much further in advance as we were going as a group of six taking two passengers on their very first cruise ship, we booked the cabins on a select fare meaning we could choose our cabin, dining preference and also receive an on board spend of £25 per person. We travelled to Bruges which we have been lucky enough to go to a couple of times and on this occasion we stayed on board and enjoyed the sunshine from the adult only pool on the top deck but if you have never been it is well worth a trip into, it’s very picturesque and also has some of the finest chocolate shops of anywhere in the world and they almost always give free samples. Boarding Britannia was docked at the Ocean Terminal, we turned up at the allotted time of 1300 on our ticket and were straight into the check in system without a wait, we queued for less than 3 minutes before we were seen, it was quick and efficient and after a short check in we were heading to security, we were on board within 30 minutes of arrival at the terminal, boarding into the stunning atrium and after a quick picture it was up to the buffet. Cabin GE Grade clear view balcony with sofa, G deck forward. First impressions were that the cabin was clean, light and airy. As you walk through the door you see the usual cabin layout, I was particularly impressed with the doing away off closed wardrobes with it instead being open and walk in rather than the standard closing door wardrobes. Moving into the bathroom we had a larger bathroom than the other members of the fleet, excellent bath products from the white company, moving through to a comfy queen size bed and two seater sofa which in our cabin could also be made into a sofa bed. The balcony as other passengers have said is a little on the small side and when opening the gate to the next door cabin it was hard to get in and out of our door. Restaurant We were seated both evenings on a set dining at 2045 in the Oriental restaurant, first impressions of the restaurant was it was smart, spacious and clean. On previous experiences with P&O I have found the food offering to be very middle of the road, nothing to write home about. Britannia has done some great work in restoring my faith in P&O’s food offering. I won’t bore you with the details of menus but the highlights for me were the Hampshire smoked trout starter, the beef wellington and as always they still offer a really great cheese board at the end of every meal. A quick note on the service, which was excellent, the waiter, his assistant and the wine waiter were all very happy, smiley and knowledgeable, making the service look effortless. A quick note on the buffet which also had an excellent range of food and was a much more pleasant space than many ship buffets, it was more spacious than some of the slightly older ships. Bars We particularly enjoyed the crystal room, it was a beautiful room with a large dance floor and offered a slightly more adult disco, the live lounge had a fantastic band playing although it was completely packed. We also visited the crow’s nest which was considerably larger than many ships it was also very beautiful with wonderful views, all bars we went into seemed to to have comfortable chairs with clean menus and an efficient staff. Spa Like most things on board the spa is large in expanse, however I was slightly disappointed as the thermal suite which we added was on the smaller side and neither steam room worked, the thermal pool however was very nice although the noise of the shower and bubbles being produced somewhat made the relaxation beds a little pointless and I found the general appearance lacked compared to other areas with pool towels and glasses everywhere which was a little bit of a shame. Those travelling with us took massages and were incredibly happy with both the deep tissue and the hot stone massage. Entertainment Aside from the excellent music playing in the bars during the evening, there was the theatre which hosts two shows each evening, the theatre itself is not huge for the number of passengers on board so if you don’t want to stand at the back it is worth to get there a little in advance, the show we caught was a Four seasons tribute which I think they do often have on these shorter cruises, they were a professional act and the show came across this way with excellent lighting and acoustics to match. During the day if the weather permits as mentioned above you can take advantage of the pools on the top deck, the adults only area towards to front end with pool and ample seating and bar was far more relaxing than the family area in the mid section where they had loud music playing throughout the day, it was a real positive that they had these two very different areas catering for almost everyone, there is also a small pool at the aft of the ship with a further bar this again was slightly quieter. We were not travelling with children so cannot comment on their facilities. Disembarkation Much like all disembarkation's it was very smooth, we disembarked at our allotted time after breakfast and picked our luggage up from the terminal and we were on our way home. General ship view The one thing that will hit you when you just arrive at the port is that the ship is huge, this view won’t change on boarding, a wonderful atrium with bars, shops and winding stair cases, be sure to get some pictures here on formal night. The one downside to Britannia’s size is that everywhere is a long distance walk but always worth it as the product on board is stylish and offers a five star style environment that I think P&O have lacked slightly on their other ships. Everybody also seemed to dress to the occasion and there were very few passengers who didn’t dress for the formal evening with black tie in abundance. An extra note was that as this was a two night cruise we didn’t have a full chance to experience everything and it would almost certainly have more to offer on a longer cruise. I have to praise P&O as the staff on board we all excellent, and they have certainly upped their game in terms of ship appearance. Overall this was an enjoyable two night break on board their flagship and I would not hesitate to return. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
This cruise was my 70th birthday celebration, a short cruise with 4 destinations. Because of the engine problems we were late getting to Vigo in Spain, Late to Lisbon and missed out Oporto in Portugal altogether. Very disapointed with ... Read More
This cruise was my 70th birthday celebration, a short cruise with 4 destinations. Because of the engine problems we were late getting to Vigo in Spain, Late to Lisbon and missed out Oporto in Portugal altogether. Very disapointed with this spent an extra day at sea, 4 days out of 7.The cabin we had had broken lampshades with holes in them and a chair that was threadbear with holes in the arms. We complained but only our cabin stewardess was interested and she fetched light shades from another cabin to replace the ones with holes. The food is definitely going down hill with P& O we have been on many cruises and this is noticable. The entertainment was average we spent an extra day at sea with not much to do.At Guernsey we waited 90 minutes to get on a tender ashore and an hour in the harbour to get back. Put us off cruising for good. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We have just returned from this cruise and were somewhat disappointed because we did not stop in Oporto because of problems with the ship. The ports we visited were Vigo which was lovely, then Lisbon where the stay was extended in ... Read More
We have just returned from this cruise and were somewhat disappointed because we did not stop in Oporto because of problems with the ship. The ports we visited were Vigo which was lovely, then Lisbon where the stay was extended in order, I believe, for repairs to be made to the ship. We should have left at 5 pm but infact the visit was extended until the early hours of the following morning and we left at about 5 am. Because of this we had an extra day at sea, which was not ideal bearing in mind the following day was also a sea day, and as it was only a 7 day cruise I did not book to be at sea for two consecutive days. The visit to Guernsey was lovely, apart from waiting for nearly one and a half hours for the tender to get into port. Coming back although there was a long queue the tenders seemed to be operating much quicker. Putting our disappointment aside the holiday was fine. Our cabin was well looked after, the entertainment good and the food was well served although someone did comment that it seems P and O are catering more for fish eaters than meat eaters these days. Having said that there was also plenty of choice and the meal was always finished off with coffee or tea. We did not use of the shore excursions advertised by P and O but instead did our own thing. We find using local services and hop on hop off buses suits us fine. All in all it was a good break but must say there was something missing although neither myself nor my husband can pinpoint what it was as except to say there did not seem to be the same sparkle as on previous cruises. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Eight of us decided to go on this two night cruise as a birthday celebration. Friday to Sunday. The layout of the ship is confusing. Cabin acceptable but carpet had stains and the toilet did not work on the final morning. On arrival ... Read More
Eight of us decided to go on this two night cruise as a birthday celebration. Friday to Sunday. The layout of the ship is confusing. Cabin acceptable but carpet had stains and the toilet did not work on the final morning. On arrival the safe was not working and was not fixed until Saturday morning. As a Baltic tier member I am entitled to slippers. I requested these on three occasions and they were eventually delivered to the cabin on Saturday evening. On the first night we arrived at freedom dining at 8.00 pm to be told there was an hour wait. We were eventually seated but the waiters were overstretched and consequently we missed the show in the theatre. At breakfast the following morning I asked for a latte but was told the machine was broken. We arrived at 7.00 pm on the second evening, not through choice but concerned if we left it later we might have the same problem as on the previous evening. I am not sure what the garlic butter consisted of but it was nothing like I have been served in the past! Myself and several members of the party were very disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We chose this cruise for a fun hen party of 30, we had all ages from 20-70 and found the ship and staff catered extremely well to entertain all age groups. We enjoyed the food, hot tubs, pools (i was pleased to find there were separate ... Read More
We chose this cruise for a fun hen party of 30, we had all ages from 20-70 and found the ship and staff catered extremely well to entertain all age groups. We enjoyed the food, hot tubs, pools (i was pleased to find there were separate pools and entertainment areas for children), this allowed a much more serene and relaxed experience when enjoying the leisurely spa. entertainment and brugge itself. I didn't love that the dinner staff wouldn't leave our bottle of wine on the table. Or that you have to be out of the room at 8am following formal night. Generally speaking the cruise and entertainmemt staff were great and i would give them five stars for value of money. Unfortunately in my experience the dinner staff and cabin staff really let doen the ship. I also found the personal hygiene of some of the staff working with food disconcerting. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We chose this cruise because the date suited us and we had never been to Lisbon city centre, Cherbourg town or Oporto, We cruised extensively over the last few years but mostly with American-based lines, ie Celebrity, Princess, Disney ... Read More
We chose this cruise because the date suited us and we had never been to Lisbon city centre, Cherbourg town or Oporto, We cruised extensively over the last few years but mostly with American-based lines, ie Celebrity, Princess, Disney and RCL and also with Viking Oceans, and I had slight reservations about whether we would find this ship 'too British'. It undoubtedly is very British in ways in which others are not, ie decent tea served, kettles in cabins, British bacon and probably more curries on the menu, but nothing I would regard as a negative. After reading the Cruise Critic's P&O forum, I was also a bit concerned about fellow passengers because many on there are very vocal about removing automatic gratuities. standards of dress on formal nights etc. I wish that P&O would include gratuities in the fare for the UK market to put an end to this nonsense and to prevent me from feeling that I am helping to make up the short-fall from those who remove them but say they are tipping their cabin steward and waiters in the Main Dining Room (MDR). What about the others who assist you? This cruise was at the tail-end of the staggered Easter holidays and we met more than one couple of moaners who told us they would not have booked had they realised that! I have no idea why they objected because almost every child we saw on this ship was well behaved and well dressed for the dining room. Okay so we got in one lift after two teenage boys fled only to discover that all the floor buttons had been pressed; I am sure they thought they were the first ones ever to do this but it was soon sorted by a couple of presses of one button which cleared them! Hands up, it was my husband who did this and I don't know which button. Our cabin, B534 was centre-aft, and was kept in very good order by Wilton, our cabin steward who was one of the most efficient we had had and was tipped extra for his excellent service. The cabin was good and the bed comfortable. I liked the private wardrobe/dressing area but did not care for the shower curtain, but then again, the bathroom is so small, it is probably a necessity, and a trade-off for the wardrobe arrangement. We did have some very rough weather one evening, just before we entered the Bay of Biscay and I was pleased to be close to the centre of the ship and have a good supply of medication for the event. This was our second of five cruises this year, (we did five last year also) and each other time we have chosen to have the variable dining time option but on here we opted for early seating fixed dining and we were happy with our choice on account of being allocated a table for two next to a partition and with a good space between us and the next table. We did share tables for breakfast and lunch and so did meet a good number of our fellow passengers; most of whom were good company and interesting (and not moaners!). We were happy with food on most occasions, and when we weren't it was generally because one of us had not chosen well. I had read previously that you are given more veg on a P&O ship and I would agree with this, so a big tick for P&O on that score. There was a difference in the level of presentation of the food on the Azura and the other ships we have been on, in that presentation is not rated as highly in my opinion. One meal in particular made me smile - it was turkey, gravy, roast potatoes, and carrots and it was plated up just as I would have done at home! Not a criticism by the way, just an observation. My roasties would have been better and the cranberry sauce not of a pouring consistency, but otherwise, the taste was fine. The service in the dining room was a tad slow and our waiters were just okay but nothing special, so they were not tipped extra and that is unusual for us, because although we do variable dining on other ships, we usually end up on a table we like after a day or two and stick with it and the same servers for the rest of the cruise. I loved that a MDR was open for lunch each day, including port days, which has not been the case on other lines. Probably the weakest aspect of the Azura was the buffet area, which we used only twice and at quiet times, but even so, there is little room to move around the areas where you get your food, so it must be real chaos when it is very busy. I was surprised not to have a choice of a soft drink to accompany a meal, only water. The entertainment was a bit disappointing because one cast show had to be cancelled because of the bad weather and a film was shown in the theatre that evening, which was fine, but I would have hoped that the missed show could have been performed the next day, which was a sea day. The guest speaker, Eileen Goulding, who spoke on topics such as 'Mystical Systems and Signs of the Ancient World' and was a bit monotonous if you did not find the subject fascinating, which we didn't. However, the Utterly Revolting Science show (performed in the theatre but aimed mostly at children) with Stefan Gates and an assistant was great fun and informative to boot! We were not interested in the art talks or anything else aimed at parting you from your money. Which remind me, P&O owe me money and I have not had a reply to my complaint made 7 days ago. I had OBC and checked my account mid-week, although my spending for the full week amounted to two coffees, two alcoholic drinks, one alcohol-free cocktail and a day's internet use. I purchased nothing else. Very easy to keep track of when you are not spending loads. However, my final bill showed £7.70 allegedly spent in the Oasis Spa - where I had never set foot! I of course went straight to the front desk and the young man told me twice that *if* there was an error, it would be corrected. I told him twice that it *was* an error, but here we are 9 days after the cruise ended and it has still not been returned. Oh and they have charged a mystery £1.65 to my credit card which is not even show on my bill. So watch your bills is my advice! I was very impressed that the shuttle buses were included in the price we had paid and used them in Lisbon, Oporto and Cherbourg. We did not take any excursions on this trip because it was the city/town centres that we actually wanted to see. We had been to Vigo in November and both times we caught a service bus (C1 I believe) from across the road and does a circular tour for 1.30 euros. This cruise we were in Vigo on a Sunday and so we saw more on the bus than when it was busy on a weekday, and also there was a festival happening not too far from the ship. It rained heavily in Oporto but we still enjoyed our walk around although did hear people express their disappointment with this port. We did not share this view and if the weather had been better would have walked down to the river. I went on this cruise thinking that P&O would be a 'one-off' for us, but whilst on board I realised that it would be great for my grandsons and so we are likely to be with them again, with the family next year. Really, I hesitated between the three dot 'average' and the four dot 'very good' because just a few little things would have elevated it for me. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Mini cruise to Zeebrugge. This cruise was a nightmare from start to finish, as we spent half the cruise queuing. Departure delayed for over 4 hours, muster delayed 45 mins, passengers left standing. We missed our Dinner Friday night as ... Read More
Mini cruise to Zeebrugge. This cruise was a nightmare from start to finish, as we spent half the cruise queuing. Departure delayed for over 4 hours, muster delayed 45 mins, passengers left standing. We missed our Dinner Friday night as pagers did not work. Arrived 3 hours late in Zeebrugge, Missed our Segway experience. We waited over 45 minutes to get off the ship, There were 3 gangways out, only 1 in use. waited over 30 minutes to get back on, again 3 gangways out but only 1 in use.There was no organisation the staff were like headless chickens. Reception staff ignorant & miserable, very unhelpful. Watched an entire show, but could not get a drink. Some of the Captains announcements were inaudible, and his tone sounded more like Butlins at sea. Still no bill provided, money including what should have been on board credit was taken from our banks. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
This was a short mini cruise to Bruges but I didn't realise when booking quite how short it would be! Our embarkation time was 3.30pm Fri yet we were left waiting in the terminal for over 2 hours making us almost the last on board! ... Read More
This was a short mini cruise to Bruges but I didn't realise when booking quite how short it would be! Our embarkation time was 3.30pm Fri yet we were left waiting in the terminal for over 2 hours making us almost the last on board! Only to find other passengers had been onboard enjoying the facilities since midday. Then we found out we had the earliest disembarkation time of 08.15am Sunday! We felt sort changed to say the least! Add to this a 4hr delay in sailing meaning our time in Bruges was severely curtailed without as much as a 'sorry' and the rest of our time was spent either queuing for the bar or to get on and off in port! We had select dining and ate in the Oriental restaurant. On the first night the waiting staff rushed us so much that we were onto mains before the drinks even arrived and coffee was served during dessert. Plus all 8 meals were lukewarm at best and 5 were sent back cold! Drinks at the bar are tiny and overpriced when you do finally get served. Information on the various entertainment is limited if it even arrives at all and none of the staff seem to know anything about the rest of the cruise beyond their own small part. Food did improve though on the gala night and could even be described as 'lovely' and the choice in the buffet is good too albeit some of it is cold and again there is a queue. Overall the boat (what I saw of it when I wasn't queuing!) is nice. The cabins are reasonably sized but with tiny tiny bathrooms and there are some nice touches like white company toiletries (but only single ply loo paper!) all areas seemed clean but public loos were often without paper and if course there's not enough of them so again more queuing! Not a great cruise experience but issues exacerbated given the high cost of such a short sailing. If you do go my top tip is get a cab from the Port into Bruges - easy and far cheaper than the coach, take your own loo paper and of course be prepared to queue for England! Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We have never been on a cruise before and we thought it was a good idea to try the mini cruise to Brugge. How wrong was I? To start with, we were heavily delayed in Southampton and did not start to sail till very late at night, I do ... Read More
We have never been on a cruise before and we thought it was a good idea to try the mini cruise to Brugge. How wrong was I? To start with, we were heavily delayed in Southampton and did not start to sail till very late at night, I do understand it was a technical fault but this resulted in a very short day trip to Brugge which was something I had planned for myself and 2 kids for a year! However, whilst waiting for Britannia to start sail, the kids thoroughly enjoyed the swimming pool and the outside Jacuzzi, they loved the pool area where the party and entertainment was, we all looked so forward to the sail away party but we never got one as the ship was very very delayed! Food - We are not fussy eater, we enjoyed the food. Children clubs My children enjoyed the children clubs very well. Service charges I was not aware that £6 per person was payable per night. Nobody mentioned this to me when my debit card details were taken on board. I am not happy with this and so I have complained to P&O Excursions I would have preferred more time in Brugge, due to sail away from Southampton that was heavily delayed, we got to Brugge later than anticipated, by the time we got off the ship and got on coaches to take us to station for trains going to Brugge, it was well past 12 noon, we only had few hours in Brugge as we had to get back to coach to take us back to the ship. Ship Overall the ship was OK to us, we loved exploring it. In Summary, the kids thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I did not enjoy the experience due to so many things, heavy delay, our on board picture taken had a stranger's face in it, I had to complain which was time consuming. We were better off going to Brugge by train! Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We have traveled before with P&O and we have always been impressed with the entertainment, however this cruise we were left feeling ‘Is that it?’ Embarkation was slow, with us waiting an hour and a half, due to everyone ... Read More
We have traveled before with P&O and we have always been impressed with the entertainment, however this cruise we were left feeling ‘Is that it?’ Embarkation was slow, with us waiting an hour and a half, due to everyone arriving before their designated time. The food was brilliant as always, however, I felt some of the menu was repeated, almost as if they were trying to get rid of what they had left. I was also surprised by the amount of fish on the menu, not with sauces, just bland fish. Some of the ships layout was a bit odd, as to get to the Alexandria restaurant you had to go up to 7, go across the ship, and then come down again; otherwise the ship was nice, and the size was good compared to the amount of people onboard. The reception was very festive with decorations and a charming gingerbread village. The cabin staff were very friendly and they were always saying hello as you came out of your cabins. The entertainment was a different story, while the shows were enjoyable, some of the singers were a bit screechy and when they sang together (especially in that dreadful Michael Jackson rendition) it seemed they were trying to drown each other out and I think everybody in that theatre wanted to leave. I also felt that they were limited by the theatre size and as a result, they weren’t able to perform shows we had seen on other ships. The entertainment team did quizzes every night which we did partake in, but in the run up to Christmas, I don’t think anybody could do another “Guess that Christmas song” quiz. Continuing from that, on Christmas Day, the variety of things going on was very lacking, with nothing on apart from ‘Love Actually’ in the cinema. The Boxing Day panto was worth a watch, with it being very amusing in a car-crash type way. Unfortunately, our call to Amsterdam was cancelled and we were disappointed that there were no alternative arrangements in place after the previous time the ship was due to dock, it could not, similarly this happened the year before. Disembarkation was delayed as the gangways had disconnected; however this was beyond their control and they tried to correct it as quickly as possible. Overall, we would consider going again, but this is not a certainty. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Sailed from Southampton and on board for lunch in the Waterside buffet. We chose Freeedom dining, which gave us the opportunity to mix with different people each evening, so never a dull moment. The next day (at sea) proved to be really ... Read More
Sailed from Southampton and on board for lunch in the Waterside buffet. We chose Freeedom dining, which gave us the opportunity to mix with different people each evening, so never a dull moment. The next day (at sea) proved to be really rocky and by the evening we were experiencing high winds. Unfortunately, we missed out on Ibiza. The entertainment by the Headliners was first class. Before dinner most evenings, we took part in a quiz either in the Red Bar or the Exchange. On the 6 sea days, I attended the Ventura choir practice which resulted in a performance in the Atrium on the last evening. My husband attended the free art classes. The entertainment was provided by Ben Makisi,Lloyd (singer), Lloyd Davis (comedian), Peter Howarth (Hollies), Jeff Stevenson (comedian) and Helen Ward-Jackson. The day time speaker on past murders was not to our liking! Wish P & O would book something more suitable! The ports visited were:- Lisbon, (took a taxi to the Jesus Christ Statue over the River Tagus), Cadiz - walked along to the old fort of Castle of San Sebastian), Valencia - shuttle to main area and indoor market, Cartegena - boat trip around the harbour, Gibraltar and finally Vigo (unscheduled stop due to medical emergency). There was a chocoholics afternoon tea in the Bay Tree Restaurant one afternoon which was well received by all. We had dinner at the Beach House one evening, £7.50 cover cover but well worth it. The Headliners performed Jingle Bell Rock, which was their first ever performance. There was also a festive radio style pantomime. We also played numerous deck quoit competitions. The cruise was thoroughly enjoyable despite the rocky seas! Disembarkation was easy after breakfast in the main restaurant. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
On the whole I was pleasantly surprised by Oriana after hearing a lot of bad press about the ship. The thing I enjoyed most about Oriana was the deck space, I thought it was wonderful and so much better than more modern ships, ... Read More
On the whole I was pleasantly surprised by Oriana after hearing a lot of bad press about the ship. The thing I enjoyed most about Oriana was the deck space, I thought it was wonderful and so much better than more modern ships, there's so much room for everyone, we sailed in winter but I can imagine there's ample space if going to hot destinations. The inside of the ship is finished to a high quality also and I found the bed in our outside cabin incredibly comfortable. Only downside of the room was the noise from the bathroom which seemed to come from the air extractor. Otherwise, the room was very pleasant albeit it was larger as we had a disabled cabin. Food is of a standard to other cruise ships and varied as usual with service being attentive in the main restaurants, I think the buffet restaurant on Oriana could be bigger, we didn't visit the Beach House which has used up part of this space on top deck but in my opinion it would be better served as an expansion in space for the buffet. The layout of the ship is interesting and a little confusing, a lot of lifts don't go to all places and if you push a wheelchair like I was doing you have to do a bit of preplanning, I would seriously advise downloading the detailed map of the cruise on to your phone, the one they give you on check-in isn't that great in my opinion. The itinerary we went on was quite enjoyable to Zeebrugge and Amsterdam, will share some tips with you for both and some suggestions if on a wheelchair. - Zeebrugge: I highly advise skipping the shore excursions to Bruges and instead just use the free shuttle to Blankenberge train station. There are hourly trains to and from Bruges for €5 return and even further afield so can easily do a half day or day. They also have a lift onto the shuttle if you have a wheelchair and subsequently you can get assistance on to and off of the train so this is also a viable option for wheelchairs, just be aware of the cobbles in Bruges although there are some more favourable routes to the centre. - Amsterdam: It's great how the ship arrives right in the centre, you can easily walk to most sites, tram lines go by frequently and there's nothing stopping you going further afield in the Netherlands as the central train station is next door to the cruise port! If you're in a wheelchair I would highly recommend a firm called 'Staxi' - they will take you anywhere in Amsterdam for €25 on their wheelchair accessible van, this is a great option and we used it to go to the Rijksmuseum (awesome for wheelchairs) and on an accessible canal cruise. Overall I enjoyed Oriana and would be happy to sail on the ship again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
3 Nt cruise from Southampton to Zebrugger November 24th to 27th 2017. My partner and I have returned from a short cruise. I enjoy cruising and this was about my 20th cruise in 10 years. I felt the need to write this review as we felt ... Read More
3 Nt cruise from Southampton to Zebrugger November 24th to 27th 2017. My partner and I have returned from a short cruise. I enjoy cruising and this was about my 20th cruise in 10 years. I felt the need to write this review as we felt the service on board was sub standard. The ship itself is very tired looking but what really let us down was the service. I appreciate P & O do not offer a drinks package and advise drinks are of "pub" prices. If these are Pub prices than there that of London prices! We were charged £9.95 for a bloody Mary cocktail. The queues to be served in most of the bars were long. At lunchtime in the Buffet we had to search out and ask for a waiter to be served or offerred drinks. The tables around the swimming area on Deck 15 were often full of empty plates/cups, I seldom saw any member of staff cleaning as I have on other ships. The crew staff were not friendly, it was a rare occasion when any of them would say good morning/evening exc..... Disembarkment was a nightmare, we were advised to wait on deck 6 when we got there they said to go to deck 5 and then when we went down to deck 5 they said to go back up to Deck 6...this happened again and then finally we were told to go to the Cinimon restuarant to wait further instructions. When we did finally swipe our card leaving the ship we were asked by security to return to Reception. We had no idea why we were being recalled and unable to leave. We returned to the reception area to find out there was a computer glitch with there payment systems and although I had cleared our account with cash the night before, the system had deleted our payment card details which they required us to complete again. I questioned why this was being asked as we had paid our bill off night before but was advised the system lost a few members accounts...a computer glitch and they required this information before we could leave????. The ship was due to dock Southampton at 6am we did not dock due to ill weather until 10am. My partner suffered sea sickness in the night due to bad weather, this was mentioned to one of the staff members when we were asked to move downstairs to deck 5 from Deck 6 a second time. As soon as this was mentioned we were advised we HAD to go back to our rooms and contact the Nurse/Doctor because it could be the Nero virus. We did as instructed and waited for half hour for a nurse to contact the room when she decided to give us the all clear and allow us to leave the ship. In the end we were very thankful the cruise was only 3 nights and glad leave. Usually when I finish a cruise I look forward to planning the next one.......not this time. We will never sail with P & O again. Unhappy P & O customer From Swansea Wales Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
Cruise review - P&O Ventura 10th - 13th November 2017 Part One The Ventura if you haven’t been on it, is a ‘Grand Class’ ship and as such is pretty much identical in layout as The Azura and many of the Princess ships such ... Read More
Cruise review - P&O Ventura 10th - 13th November 2017 Part One The Ventura if you haven’t been on it, is a ‘Grand Class’ ship and as such is pretty much identical in layout as The Azura and many of the Princess ships such as The Grand, Emerald, Crown and Caribbean. Right, that’s the educational part of this review over...let’s get cracking with the nonsense. We were asked to go on this cruise to act as carers for our good friends, from Colchester...can’t say the names because one of them was supposed to be at work. For this reason, they shall be known as Betty and Barney. So, a relaxing three day cruise to look forward and we decided to make it a bit longer by going down to Southampton the night earlier and stayed at the Ageus Hilton, which is at Hampshire County Cricket Clubs ground. Very nice it is too. Being only three years old, the hotel is in excellent condition and certainly didn’t fall short of the standards that you would expect at a ‘proper’ Hilton Hotel. Dinner in ‘Beefy’s’ which is a very nice restaurant inspired ex England and Somerset cricketer, Ian Botham...some say ex Northants player Peter Willy would have been a better choice but that’s for you to decide. After a good nights sleep and we headed into Southampton the next morning and having some time to kill, we headed to the West Quay shopping centre (which is a bit like Bluewater on valium) Plenty of shops though, just like we have back in the civilised part of the country but ‘Next’, which is a clothes shop in Lakeside, is actually a funeral parlour in Southampton...who knew?!? A cheeky Costa then it’s time to head towards the port to get the ship. We knew a few P&O Cruise Fans would be on board, including the Litherlands from beyond the wall (Wildlings to you and me) Zoe and Carl who said they were going to be on the ship but I think they literally got on just to get their P&O Cruise Fans hoodies then jumped off again...can’t think of any other reason people would avoid me for three days! (it’s not like they’re family!) After 17 cruises we finally got our first upgrade!...we had booked an inside cabin on deck 15 but ended up with an outside stateroom somewhere in the basement but it was nice to have a window (especially with the waves lapping at it on the way back!) We met up with the Rubbles and the inevitable drinks started to flow, we commandeered the chaises long outside the Glass House and settled in for a session, Betty and Barney hit it hard and for octogenarians it was a pretty impressive sight! Leslieann, fresh from her memories of the first day on the Crown Princess in August with Betty and Barney restrained herself which meant she was awake for dinner a few hours later.... To be continued, I’m a bit tired and want some dinner... Cruise review - P&O Ventura 10th - 13th November 2017 Part Two Did I mention we got an upgrade?... Anyway, it's as if P&O had been monitoring my Facebook posts because our new cabin, was literally yards from the Costa coffee shop on deck 5! That was very handy and having never had a cabin that low on a ship before, I think I liked it, useful for the atrium, reception and prom decks etc - also far enough away from the buffet to make it good news for the FitBit steps quota! Dinner the first night was in the MDR, service was good, food was good and it was a pleasant experience. From there we sampled the casino which is much smaller on the Ventura than we are used to. After a quick dabble on the roulette table, Betty and Barney said they are too tired off to bed (10.30pm) Where these kids get their stamina from is anyone's guess! Day two was a sea day, which is completely unnecessary on a short trip to Zeebruge, we ended up going back and forth along the channel trying to kill time, in fact 24 hours after leaving Southampton, we were off the coast of Eastbourne! I'm trying to remember what we did on day two!...nothing memorable apparently...oh that's right, we went to the cinema, in the theatre which was showing a badly out of focus version of the new Planet of the Apes film, set somewhere in America where it is always snowing...fair play to P&O for making it a realistic experience by turning the aircon down to minus 30 degrees...then moaning when I start a small BBQ to try to defrost my decaf medium latte. The whole idea of going on this cruise was to celebrate Barney's 40th Birthday so we booked a table in Sindu (East) for some of Atul's finest food. We weren't disappointed, the food was excellent, as was the service, I went for a chicken curry thing as a starter then the chicken curry thing as a main, both tasted a bit chickeny to me, I'm wondering if they are starting to cut kormas in the kitchen? So we've just had our main courses and ordered desserts when the waiter appears out of nowhere with a massive cake and puts it down in front of me...without really looking, I point to Barney and say 'I think that's meant for birthday boy' It's then pointed out that the cake is actually for me and is a direct response from P&O Cruises for a post I had put on their Facebook wall regarding the new rules coming out in January! - I had asked if my dragon would still be allowed on the ship and was told that he would, as long as he only brings one bottle of booze with him. What great customer service from P&O!...this wasn't the first time they had responded onboard to comments made on Facebook!...I felt a bit bad about upstaging Barney who also had a small cake presented to him but it had been broken when he unknowingly dropped it on the floor in a carrier bag in the Red Bar beforehand! Dinner over, we talk about going to see a show but the old folks say they are too stuffed and tired and they are going to bed...9.45pm! To be continued...I have work to do! Cruise review - P&O Ventura 10th - 13th November 2017 Part Three Third and final part of the trilogy... After 38 hours at sea, we finally made our destination...in roughly the same time that The Pride of France ferry had made the journey 18 times from Dover! Anyway, a day in Bruge was our much awaited destination so Leslieann, me and the narcoleptics got a taxi into the heart of medieval cit. This cost about 50 euros each way and is a stress free way of doing it. The rain was falling as we got there so a quick stop in one of the many restaurants/cafes in the square for a coffee and a bite to eat (don't forget, it had been over 30 minutes since breakfast on the ship) I live about 20 minutes from Maidstone but worked out that I have actually been shopping in Bruge more times than I had there! Being a Sunday, not a lot was open, we were two weeks too early for the Christmas Market so it was a disappointment to miss out on that disgusting German creation, Gluvine. We wandered around in the rain perhaps regretting not asking the taxi driver to come back earlier than the 3.00pm time slot we had scheduled. So to kill time we popped into another eatery for a snack 9 euros for a plate of chips was the reward. We still had 45 minutes to kill when we left there so another wander down a closed high street and we spotted the taxi we had booked parked up, a full 20 minutes before time! - Never been happier to see a Belgian! Back to the port gates then, and onto a shuttle bus for the 200 yard journey to the ship! seriously! Heavy winds meant the sailing was delayed by about 45 minutes with the captain then announcing that with the forecast 70 knot winds, he couldn't guarantee to keep the ship upright! - maybe he could have worded that better?!? We met up with the Lagerlouts, sorry, Litherlands in the Glass House (or was that the day before?) (No it was Sunday, I remember now) It's interesting when you meet foreigners and listen to their funny accents. It turns out Sue Lagerlout is a bouncer at Mothercare in Warrington, Mike Lagerlout trains undercover goldfish for the Manchester Police and Rubella Lagerlout runs a protection racket in Oldham...who knew? Anyway...dinner was good, Barney didn't fall asleep in the sweetcorn this time but he was close to nodding off in the prawn cocktail. Dinner done, we thought we'd catch a show or go to the casino but the pint of lager had really done Barney in so he and Betty headed for bed, understandable really, given the hour we were getting back, in real time it was almost a quarter to nine... Leslieann Osborn and I did manage to catch a show at last!...we went to see Showmaddymaddy in the Cuban themed lounge at the back end of the ship...I'm not sure if these were the same guys who did the Badness show earlier in the cruise? My thoughts on the Ventura?...I like it, it's the same layout as the Azura but is looking a bit tired now, everything was good though, staff were friendly, service was pretty good and overall it was a good cruise. Tune in next month when I try 4 nights on the CMV Columbus from Tilbury! Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We have cruised before with Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Cunard. We wanted a Southampton sailing, to a warm location, to coincide with our November wedding anniversary so this cruise fitted the bill. We were travelling without our ... Read More
We have cruised before with Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Cunard. We wanted a Southampton sailing, to a warm location, to coincide with our November wedding anniversary so this cruise fitted the bill. We were travelling without our children and are pre-disposed to be optimistic and generally expect to enjoy our holidays. We’d done a lot of research and thoroughly enjoyed this cruise. We used Parking4Cruises which were great value and very efficient. Embarkation at Mayflower was smooth although facilities are pretty basic we felt. We had a 3pm embarkation time and we were called at exactly 3pm. We went straight to our cabin, where we unpacked as cases had arrived. We opted for Freedom dining and were assigned Saffron. People we met said we could use Cinnamon as well. If so, this wasn’t made clear to us officially and we aren’t sure why you would want to anyway, as the menu is identical. We shared a table of 6 or 8 each night and met interesting people. Food was of a good, if not great, quality with about 6 choices of starter, main and dessert. There was an option for salad or soup too and we usually had coffee and cheese/biscuits too. Service was never rushed, one night it took over 2.5hrs but generally the meal was served at a sensible pace and we never had to wait for our wine for long. On the formal nights, the menu included a set menu option – although we later found out you could actually swap dishes around which would have been good to know before! We only used Waterside for the odd midnight snack – usually the cheese board had been decimated by then but there were hot options – pizza, sausage roll etc. Breakfast via Room Service was included in price (all other room service items carry a charge). It was always on time, sometimes 10 mins early in fact! Food was good quality although options are more limited than in the main dining rooms and did become a little restrictive – not enough to make us get up and go out for breakfast though :-) The tables for 2 in the main dining rooms were very close together so rather than dine alone when you aren’t really alone, we chose to dine in Epicurian, Glasshouse and Beach House. The food in these was of a better quality, more tasty with friendlier, more engaged service as clearly they have more time to spare. We also did the Paired menu in Glasshouse which we enjoyed. Be sure to book early in your cruise as places are limited to about 24 people and it only seems to happen about once a week. Our other Glasshouse dinner was tapas style and we enjoyed that greatly, though tempura batter was rather soggy. The wine flights served in the Glasshouse were fun to try too. The food in Saffron would have been fine for the whole 12 nights but we enjoyed all the other venues we tried. Prices for the Select Dining we felt to be towards the top of acceptable range except for the Pairing menu which was better value, at £30 each, as it included 5 small glasses of wine. One meal that exceeded our expectations bizarrely was afternoon tea in Saffron – which we think was available most, if not all, days. Proper clotted cream, mini scones, absolutely delicious tea cakes, fresh sandwiches and lots of hot tea made this a real highlight on the days we could manage it! It did not have the queue we remember from afternoon tea on Cunard (albeit there are no white gloves on P&O) and was nicer than Carnival or Royal Caribbean. On a negative note, we were not aware free icecream/cone was available – this is something we have enjoyed on previous cruises but P&O seem of offer a premium product at an additional charge only, or keep the free icecream hidden from our, admittedly not very diligent, search! We don’t think the ship was full, and it was not overly sunny on this cruise either, although it was warm, but we did not have issue finding a sun bed mid afternoon. Another thing we really liked was the dancing lessons. It might be that we had more opportunity to attend, as we were not travelling with our children this time, but it certainly felt like there were more classes offered. Seas days had line-dancing, two sessions with the dance instructors on a new dance each day and a daily session, with two of the Headliner dancers, on Salsa. We thoroughly enjoyed every session although the Headliners seemed much happier with everyone’s progress than the dance instructors! Only issue is that the Atrium floor is rather small for the number of people who wanted to join in the lessons. Many evenings, the dance instructors also offered dancing in the Atrium where they would tell you the dance for a piece of music and sometimes accompany someone without a partner. It was fun to watch and a good opportunity, for the brave, to practice the dances you’d been taught. In general, there were more activities offered than we could attend – partially because we were at the dancing lessons, but also because there seemed to be lots on offer that we were interested in – films, talks, quizzes, art, exercise classes, deck games and on top of all that, obviously the gym, eating, shopping, watching the shows/entertainers, drinking, reading, walking all the way round the ship on Deck 7 (Fabulous!), watching the ocean and afternoon napping! The evening entertainment and shows offered were so plentiful, that we often had to make a choice and usually it was a hard decision, as everything appealed. P&O’s own theatre company, the Headliners, were all talented dancers or singers who worked hard every show to give a West End worth performance. The guest entertainers were singers, impersonators, comedians and we enjoyed them all, along with the ship’s band – Serious Sounds – and the Ventura’s Orchestra too! However, we met people who did not like the entertainment. We think this must just be personal preference, or perhaps they have cruised a lot more than we have, as we often had an early dinner in order to make two of the shows each night (8.30 and 10.30) – they were that good! As previously said, we don’t think the ship was full and we could get seats in practically all the shows if we arrived 10 mins in advance – arriving 20 mins beforehand allowed us a choice of seats. We did not use the library but it was pleasant room with a good selection of books, certainly better than some of our previous cruises. The ship provided a brief, daily news update along with a crossword/Suduko. These can be collect from Deck 6 near the shops and a silent quiz (where the answers are on the back of the sheet, so you are only competing against yourself) could be found each day on the piano in the Red Bar. Generally, we found the service to be efficient but not overly friendly. Staff seemed content and helpful but did not naturally smile as we moved around the ship. There were exceptions – the Headliners /dance instructors always smiled at us, staff in the shops were friendly and we found the staff in Tazzine quite unhelpful – possibly as they were having to work with a silly system requiring us to order coffee from a waiter/waitress but queue up to order cake! This cruise occurred outside school holidays but there were some children on board – both pre-school and those we estimated to be of school age. They caused no issues to our cruise – indeed we were rarely even aware they were on board, except in the Beach House, which is directly under the children’s club and we could hear the stamping and running of small feet above us as we dined. The Captain (Simon Terry) seemed very personable and I enjoyed his occasional tannoy briefings. The ship suffered two power failures during our cruise – once late afternoon for about 30 mins and then on another morning so only continental breakfast was available for a couple of hours. I appreciated that the Captain gave the tannoy updates – we felt it showed he took responsibility and he was clear they were trying to find the source of the problem, as they did not know what the issue was, though my husband thought he apologised too heartily – though we thought that may well be because he knows how quickly some of his passengers will complain! We had been aware the Bay of Biscay (BOB) can be very unpleasant – all our previous cruises have been blessed with calm seas (and avoided BOB) but fortunately, the Bay was calm for both our crossings this time. There was some rolling along the west coast of Spain and Portugal both ways. The Captain did indicate that the seas were expected to be a little rougher, so that if you were prone to sickness you had fair warning to take a tablet. I took Sturgeon, and my husband decided to take nothing, and we were both fine. Disembarkation was fairly smooth though there were no seats left in our designated lounge when we arrived 30 mins before the stated time. We got up at 7, finished packing, breakfasted with our hand luggage at 8 in Bay Tree (where a full breakfast service was offered), went to our designated lounge at 8.50 and started disembarkation at 9.10 finally getting off ship at 9.30. Parking4cruises had automatically been aware we were returning to a different terminal from embarkation, so once our cases had been swiftly retrieved from Ocean terminal (there were plenty of free trolleys), we walked the short distance to pick up our car from the short-term carpark. Despite lots of research we list below the things it would have been good to know: • Set menus in the main dining rooms – are not fixed. You can swap dishes for other menu options if you want. • Carpet on the stairs is brown at the front of ship, red in middle and grey at back – that really helped! • Winning a quiz or activity earns you a stamp which can then be exchanged for a gift at the end of the cruise. Our one win earned a nice pen and key ring so, in our estimation, the prizes on P&O are better than other lines have offered us. • Shampoo, conditioner and body lotions (all 100ml) weren’t replaced. Bring extra unless the higher prices, and very limited selection, in the on board shops are acceptable. • Photos taken by the ship’s photographers can be viewed on the terminals under “Portraits”. However, you do need to know where your photo taken and it might not be obvious – for example Gold 5. So be sure to ask your photographer the name of your location each time you have a photo taken. Alternatively, there is a option once you locate one picture for the system to retrieve related images – using, no doubt, some very clever facial recognition software. However, if you take this option, we found any side on photos were missed – presumably because the half faces did not bear enough resemblance to the original photo!! We also heard, but have no personal experience that: 1. The Waterside buffet restaurant got very busy, with jostling and some difficulty in finding seats. 2. The spa passes on this ship gave you access to very limited facilities, i.e. no pool and the steam room/sauna that were available to spa pass holders only, were out of service for a number of days. Certainly the lady we spoke to felt it was not worth buying spa passes on Ventura (although if the ship was full, and getting sunbeds was an issue, then the pass might be more worthwhile but certainly not for the facilities offered otherwise.) Ports: Lisbon – berthed at Santa Apolonia which was a very short walk into the main area. We took a “free” walking tour with Lisbon Chill Out Tours. It was a good, and fun, introduction to this pretty, hilly city. Tenerife – berthed in Santa Cruz port – it’s quite a walk to get out of the port (10-15 mins) but you are then in town. A shuttle was provided. We wandered taking in this pretty city, visiting Jardin Garcia Sanabria, along the lovely tree lined streets (for example Las Ramblas) finishing up with a very enjoyable visit to the Palmetum and a walk back along the seafront to the ship. We did not depart until 10pm and it was lovely to watch the lights twinkle and disappear as we sailed away. Gran Canaria – berthed right in Santa Cruz again with an easy walk to the new part of town. Did not make it far as the old town, which was perhaps a shame as the new town has little to recommend it beyond bars and shops, though it does have a nice beach if that is your thing. La Palma – took a ship excursion to drive buggies in the centre of this steep, green island. We thoroughly enjoyed it - if I found it a little nerve-wracking, my husband loved it. There was plenty of time on our return to walk into the main town which was the prettiest of all 3 Canary Islands we visited. Much was closed as it was Sunday but we still spent a very pleasant hour wandering. Madeira – possibly our favourite port as we visited 20 years ago, and it was nice to reminisce. There are lots of things to do very close to the port. We visited Blandy’s for Madeira wine tasting, followed by a visit to the Story Centre and then a walk literally down memory lane. In summary - Our research indicated the some people felt Ventura was tired and food/entertainment was poor. Clearly if you have been cruising for a long time, things may well be getting worse but from our fairly new point of view, this was a wonderful, memorable holiday. We would certainly sail with P&O again.....though I suspect we will try another new line next time – it seems to be our theme! Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
DAY 1 - Sunday 22nd October- Southampton Our first back to back cruise, as this followed a 2 day cruise to Zeebrugge which, due to Storm Brian, turned into a cruise to nowhere as we couldn’t dock due to high winds (see separate ... Read More
DAY 1 - Sunday 22nd October- Southampton Our first back to back cruise, as this followed a 2 day cruise to Zeebrugge which, due to Storm Brian, turned into a cruise to nowhere as we couldn’t dock due to high winds (see separate review). The morning passed quickly and just after midday we headed down to the Glass House and ordered a bottle of Peller Ice Cuvée. Lunch (at extra cost) is now available here on embarkation day and is a very civilised start to a cruise, unlike the scrum in the buffet. We also booked the paired food and wine dinner for the evening of our La Rochelle visit After a pleasant few hours, we returned to our cabin, where we stayed until the Muster Drill was over (as passengers in transit on a back to back cruise we did not have to attend), prior to securing poll position in the Crows Nest for the sailaway down the Solent for the 2nd time in 48 hours! Unfortunately, this experience was somewhat spoiled by a very large group of over 30 people who, as more and more of them arrived, became progressively louder and louder until they dominated the entire Crows Nest, ruining the cruise down the Solent for everyone else. We had feared that the preceding 2 night party cruise would be rowdy, but it was tranquil compared to this lot. We had pre-booked dinner in the Beach House and received a very warm welcome from the restaurant manager who we had chatted to two nights earlier on the previous cruise. We were given a nice table by the window (even though it was dark) and thankfully all the other diners were couples and therefore a peaceful meal of fillet steaks on lava stone was enjoyed by both of us. After dinner we went to Carmen’s where we were pleased to see Caravan perform their Eagles tribute, as we had missed this during our May cruise to the Baltic on Aurora (see separate review). Although they didn’t reproduce the vocals with the same level of accuracy as they had the Bee Gees, it was a good performance, although, in the absence of a member of the entertainment team who should have been providing the commentary between songs, the Philippine lead singer really struggled to give an English commentary and it would be better if they just played the hits back to back. Finally, we went to the Curzon Theatre for the comedian Vince Earl. P&O seem to think that anyone with a Liverpudlian accent is a natural comic. Many aren’t and he certainly wasn’t. There were one or two good one liners but the rest of his performance was dated and strained. We left half way through. Another choppy night and I was disturbed by our next door neighbour banging things around at midnight and then turning their TV on too loud. We like the cabins, but the sound insulation between them is terrible. DAY 2 - Monday 23rd October - At Sea The clocks had gone forward during the night but we weren’t entirely sure whether or not our phones had picked up the European time zone. They hadn’t, so we were an hour behind. None the less, we managed to get to the Medina restaurant 10 minutes before they close to new arrivals. After breakfast we headed over to the Curzon Theatre for the port talks on La Coruna and Bilbao. Although these are thinly veiled sales pitches for the P&O excursions, the presenter was one of the better ones that we have listened to. She had excellent presentational skills, was a clear speaker, kept up a good pace and provided useful info for those of us going ashore independently. We skipped past the Food and Beverage Showcase, as it was being held around the atrium, which is a narrow pinch point at the best of times and particularly so when it’s a sea day and the shops have stalls of tat on display. We took up an early spot in The Playhouse for a talk by Chris Walker on The Great American Songbook. Mildly interesting and a different way to spend 45 minutes, but a very easy gig for the speaker (in return for a free cruise), as it was brief biographies of artists that could be found in seconds on Wikipedia interspersed with film clips. Lunch in the Medina restaurant, where the menu was exactly the same one that we’d had two days earlier during our previous cruise. Upon leaving we realised that the evening menu (Marco Pierre White Gala Dinner) was identical as well, so we decided to book a table at Sindhu instead to see if we would prefer it this time, having been disappointed during our May cruise on Aurora, where Sindhu wasn’t anywhere near as good as the versions on Britannia or Ventura. At 2pm I attended the port talk on La Rochelle and Cherbourg, but post lunch drowsiness meant that I didn’t catch all of it! We were now in the Bay of Biscay and there’s quite a bit of movement. Back to The Playhouse at 4.15pm for a Classical Concert by Spanish guitarist Dimitris Dekavalles who was incredibly talented and put on a very enjoyable performance. This was as enjoyable as the performances by Harmony Duo during our May cruise. Having changed into our formal attire for the first of the two Black Tie evenings, we first attended the 6pm Captains welcome aboard drinks reception in Carmen’s. Dinner in Sindhu had to be at 6.30pm as it was fully booked thereafter (our consolation being a free bottle of wine for early diners up to 6.30pm), so we were a bit concerned that Captain Turnbull didn’t arrive until 6.25 (having done the Crows Nest party first). This was the first time that we had seen him since we boarded 3 days earlier, but he seemed a very personable chap. As he finished speaking we dashed up to Sindhu, arriving 10 minutes late, but we needn’t have worried as they were very welcoming and offered the complimentary bottle of wine without us asking for it. Service and food were both very good, although we still aren’t fans of the ambiance and location of Sindhu on Aurora. It’s essentially an extension of the coffee shop during the day and looks like it. It is open to the atrium and noisy as a result. There are some dividing screens, but they are lattice in design, so provide no sound screening whatsoever. As this poor design makes the restaurant feel less exclusive than the versions on other ships, payment of the £40 cover charge (for 2) doesn’t feel such good value here as it does on Britannia or Ventura. There was only one option for the evening entertainment, Jamie Allan in the Curzon Theatre, who was billed as an iMagician. The pre show videos built it up to look quite promising, but the actual show fell a bit short. There were some clever tricks, but he was a bit stilted in his performance and the numerous card tricks on a table became less convincing when you realised that his hand movements were ever so slightly out of sync with the overhead camera shots, which he continually felt the need to say were ‘live’. DAY 3 - Tuesday 24th October- La Coruna, Spain We woke up to an amazing sunrise over the Spanish coast as we reversed onto the berth at La Coruna. From our balcony we had a fabulous view of the harbour and town, including the famous glass fronted Avenida de la Marina. After breakfast in the Medina restaurant, we headed up to deck 13 in order to get our bearings for where we would be walking from the panoramic observation deck. No shuttle bus is needed here as the berth is in the town centre, so we commenced an anti clockwise circuit of the coastal path around the peninsular. First of all we walked out on to a jetty where numerous locals were fishing. This provided a good view of Aurora. The coastal walk very much reminded us of Cadiz, but without the tropical gardens alongside the promenade. After several miles we came to the Tower of Hercules lighthouse, which was originally built by the Romans who traded tin between here and Cornwall. We had coped well with the wheelchair up until this point, but I did the final climb up the ramp to the lighthouse on my own. We then continued anti-clockwise around the promenade until we were the opposite side of the headland to Aurora, at which point we headed inland and walked around the shopping centre before finishing up in the square in front of the ornate town hall, the towers of which had beautiful sparkling bronze coloured roofs. We were too late for lunch in the Medina restaurant, so headed for the Glass House where we enjoyed copious quantities of chilled water (the outside temperature had reached 21 degrees) and lunch, comprising 3 small plates each and a shared platter of Alex James cheeses. A fairly early departure was scheduled (4.30pm) and a chap pushing his wife in a wheelchair was last to board a few minutes after the deadline. We enjoyed the sailway from our balcony which was on the sunny side. In spite of Captain Turnbulls assurances to the contrary, the ship started moving around again once we had moved back out into the Bay of Biscay. After 3 full days of very noticeable movement we had enjoyed our day ashore on terra-firma. This evening was the first meal that we hadn’t enjoyed in the Meridian, as we both had Pollock with Parmesan crust, which was tasteless. DAY 4 - Wednesday 25th October- Bilbao, Spain After breakfast we boarded an accessible shuttle coach for the transfer to Bilbao. We were dropped off within a 5 minute walk of the Guggenheim Museum, which was our first and primary port of call. We received some sort of reduced admission because of the wheelchair and then spent a few hours looking around various galleries of bizarre sheets of metal, splashes on canvas and video clips, all masquerading as art. Not really our thing, but the building itself was impressive, particularly from the outside. As we left the Guggenheim, we decided to follow the promenade along the river towards the old city. This was going well until it petered out and we had to climb up a long slope before realising that we had missed the bridge that we needed to cross over the river. We picked our way back down and entered the old part of the city. It was quite quaint but a bit of a rabbit warren and we somehow managed to get completely lost and exited at completely the wrong end to where we had planned. After trying unsuccessfully to find where we were on the map, we asked some locals who were having a coffee to show us where we were. It looked a long way back to the shuttle bus and potentially hilly, so we chickened out and got a cab back to the shuttle stop and, from there, a shuttle back to the ship. Another late lunch in The Glass House which, yet again, we had virtually to ourselves. The problem with late lunches is that we then struggle with dinner, so after a long rest in our cabin, including watching the sailaway, we still had no appetite. The Headliners Theatre Group were performing for the first time this cruise (note - we are 4 days in!) but it is the show ‘Fantasy’ which we don’t particularly rate as the storyline is a bit daft. In the hope that we would have worked up an appetite by 9.30pm (last admission for Freedom dining) we decided to give the 8.30pm show a try. It was better than the last time we had seen it as the singers could at least hit the right notes this time but, as has been the case every time we have been in the theatre, passengers stroll in throughout the entire performance and then expect those who were seated on time to have their enjoyment interrupted by having to stand mid-performance to let them pass along a row. P&O staff should stop anyone entering the theatre 5 minutes after curtain up. The other thing that is extremely distracting is the tendency of some passengers to feel the need to talk throughout the performance. As the show closed we dashed over to the Meridian Restaurant still with 10 minutes to spare. Although we were happy to share, we were shown to a table for 2, where we enjoyed a good meal and friendly service. DAY 5 - Thursday 26th October - La Rochelle, France Another dry day as we arrived at our penultimate port, La Rochelle in France. Unlike La Coruna, where we had a stunning view from our balcony, this was a commercial port with dust flying around from the gravel mountain that was being moved around by diggers during our stay. As this was a smaller town, we didn’t leave the ship until around 11am. A shuttle bus was required and this wasn’t as efficient as the service we’d had in Bilbao. At each end, one or two local young ladies had been deployed to supervise the loading and dispatch of buses. As a result, this was all taking a lot longer than if passengers had been left to their own devices. After around a 15 minute wait to board, we were then surprised to find that the supposed 3 mile transfer to the centre was far more like 10 miles as we spent 20 minutes driving there, including on a motorway. Our return trip was a shorter route, but no way was it only 3 miles. La Rochelle itself was very pleasant. An old historic French harbour with imposing buildings, a pretty harbour and countless restaurants and shops, all of which looked very good. After a pleasant stroll around, we caught the shuttle bus back to the ship. To show how futile the shuttle bus boarding controls were, our bus pulled away with one more passenger on board than seats and one chap had to sit on the step throughout the journey. Unlike in Spain, the French insisted on seeing everyone’s passport (in addition to cruise cards) before letting us back on the ship. Post Brexit, you can imagine that they will be even more awkward! For the first time this cruise there seemed to be a problem getting passengers back on board. Two gangways we attached. One, to deck 7, looked very steep and was not yet in use. The remaining one, to deck 5, seemed to have a problem as there were long waits between each small group of passengers being allowed on. We eventually boarded after around 20 minutes waiting on the quayside. As we were booked to attend the 6.30pm Food and Wine Pairing Dinner at the Glass House, we decided to have a light lunch in the cabin from the Grab n’ Go area. We then relaxed in the cabin until the sail-away although, being an industrial port, there wasn’t much to see, especially as we plunged into thick fog within a few miles of shore. Aurora’s fog horn started sounding every few minutes, which reminded us of our Baltic Cruise in May where it resulted in us having severely disturbed sleep for 2 nights as we glided along flat calm seas in thick fog. On that cruise, we did not feel a single bit of movement for the entire 14 days, unlike this cruise where it has been almost constant - albeit not enough to cause either of us any issues (other than the loud creaking from the ceiling which has disturbed us a few nights). Thankfully, the fog ended as quickly as it had begun. We had enjoyed the Food and Wine pairing dinner when we had been on Aurora in May, so were pleased to see it was being held on this cruise as well (although there are apparently no wine or gin tastings on 7 day cruises). Clearly the £30 per head charge had put off most people as there were only 6 couples present, spread across 3 tables for 4 people. We finished dinner in time to catch the later of Dimitris Dekavalles’ 2nd performance in The Playhouse at 9.30pm. Another superb performance, this time of Latin American guitar music. Sadly, as has been the case throughout this entire cruise, our enjoyment of the performance was severely impacted by the constant comings and goings of passengers throughout the entire 45 minutes. These passengers, who feel that it is acceptable to walk in half way through a performance and disrupt others enjoyment as they ask people who had been seated on time to stand to let them pass, then seem to feel that it is equally acceptable to hold conversations during the show. All of this, coupled with the fact that the latecomers also leave the door to the main corridor open allowing passing noise to be heard, must be as infuriating for the artists as it is the guests who have the courtesy to arrive on time. It is a shame that the member of the entertainments team who introduces the artist doesn’t put a ‘No Entry’ sign on the door once the performance has begun. DAY 6 - Friday 27th October- At Sea It had taken a long time to get to sleep as the occupants of the adjacent cabin had been crashing and banging around and talking at full volume, in spite of a request in Horizon (which we had never seen before) asking passengers to be considerate about such things given how sound travels between cabins. It’s a shame that they don’t print this message daily as other less important things seem to be. As it was a sea day, we weren’t in quite such a rush for breakfast, but we still managed to arrive at the Meridian Restaurant with only 10 minutes to spare before the 9.30am cut off time. I have always felt that 9am (port days) and 9.30am (sea days) is too early a cut off time for breakfast in the restaurant when people are on holiday. 10am would seem a far more reasonable time to me. After breakfast, I headed to the Curzon Theatre for Chris Walkers 2nd talk, this time on Nat King Cole which was as interesting about the racial discrimination in the USA in the 1940’s and 1950’s as it was for the music. Lunch in the Meridian Restaurant was an easy decision as there was an Asian platter as a starter and lamb jalfrezi for main course. After lunch we went to The Playhouse for Demitris Dekavalles’ last performance of the cruise. Judging by the near full house, we are clearly not the only passengers who prefer our entertainment to be a few levels up from the usual holiday camp style that P&O seems to specialise in. As it was the last sea day, we tidied up a few loose ends, such as completing and returning the customer service questionnaire and returning the book that had been borrowed from the library. It was black and white night and we decided to start the evening with a gin flight in Anderson’s (strangely, they don’t offer these in the Crows Nest on Aurora as they do on Britannia). As well as some nice nibbles, we were surprised to find that the waiting staff (of whom there were many, unlike the Crows Nest) handed out plates of canapés. We shall have to remember Anderson’s as our pre-dinner bar of choice on our future Aurora cruises. Dinner was the Chaine des Rotisseurs version. We said that we would share a table but still had a wait (with a pager). Around 30 minutes later we had not been called, so I enquired at the restaurant managers desk and we were taken straight to a table. Unfortunately, the other 6 guests had already ordered and their starters were arriving as we were ordering, which I thought was pretty poor but, to be fair to the waiters, our starters were served very quickly and we were able to catch up. It was a great table and we really enjoyed the company of all 3 other couples. Half the table (including us) had ordered the lobster. The waiter appeared after some delay and said that there was a wait for lobster. When they eventually arrived, we all had very small portions. It looked as though they had run out and tried to spread what was left between all those they had left to serve. We’ve never experienced that before during 12 previous cruises with P&O. Surprisingly, we had only had one performance by the Headliners over the first 6 nights. Perhaps they were on holiday as well? Tonight it was the girl group called Sister Twist again. They were pretty good. DAY 7 - Saturday 28th October - Cherbourg We had assumed that this would be our least interesting port of call and whilst the town itself was nothing to write home about, it was a 10 minute walk from the ship (shuttle buses were provided but not necessary) which turned out to be quite an interesting walk as fishermen were selling their freshly caught fish, crab and lobsters on the quayside. Cherbourg has quite a large traditional shopping area (in which we purchased some gifts to take home) and, on the other side of the harbour, a modern shopping centre. The highlight of the visit, however, was the City of the Sea exhibition which was immediately adjacent to where we had berthed. This is housed in the old Art Deco buildings of the former grand ocean liner terminal once used by Cunard and White Star Line, including passengers boarding Titanic. After lunch back on board the ship, I went back ashore on my own and had a thoroughly enjoyable visit there, which included a full tour inside a decommissioned French nuclear submarine (La Redoubtable), an aquarium, the old Art Deco Boarding halls and a Titanic Museum. The sail-away was relatively uneventful and at 7pm we headed up to the Beach House for our final evening meal. Service was excellent as ever but the food wasn’t great this time. The chilli squid was absent of any chilli whatsoever and the chocolate fondu, which we had enjoyed on a previous cruise, had been ruined by the use of a very watery chocolate sauce that was more akin to drinking chocolate. After dinner we had some time to kill before the final show, so we went to Anderson’s for a pre-show drink. Entertainment for the final night was a new show called ‘Echoes in the Night’. Performed by the Headliners Theatre Company, in what was only their 2nd show of a 7 night cruise, this was quite a departure from their normal song and dance shows. The story line was more convincing, the acting was less forced and the dancing was excellent. Singing new songs in the style of old songs didn’t work for me, but it was refreshing to see P&O try a need format as their traditional approach to entertainment is really stuck in a time warp. DAY 8 - Sunday 29th October - Southampton Whilst it is usual when returning from mainland Europe to gain an hour back during the morning of arrival back in Southampton, as it was the end of British summer time UK clocks went back an hour overnight so we had to put our watches back 2 hours. Coupled with the fact that Cherbourg is less than 100 miles from Southampton, the Captain had time to kill overnight, so we had headed West along the English Channel towards Devon before turning back towards the Isle of Wight. It was a busy morning in the port of Southampton as Ventura, Oceana, Independence of the Seas and a Fred Olsen ship had all arrived before Aurora, even though we had by far the shortest journey! We vacated our cabin at 8am and then had the usual final morning difficulty of trying to get a lift, as able bodied passengers disembarking the ship insist on using the lifts simply because they are carrying small items of hand luggage, thus making it near impossible for wheelchair users (who are unable to use the stairs) to move between floors. After we had eventually managed to get to the Medina Restaurant, we were pleased to find that there was no queue to enter and we had our pre departure breakfast. At the end of our May cruise on Aurora we had been unimpressed with the assisted disembarkation service, as it was wildly abused by a large number of passengers who didn’t genuinely need a wheelchair to get off the ship but had requested the service in order to queue jump. In frustration, I had pushed the wheelchair off the ship myself and we requested the assistance of a porter in the luggage hall. This time we decided that, if there was a long queue, we would do the same again. When we reported to Vandebelts we realised that there were an awful lot of people in there already (most of whom had coped easily without a wheelchair all cruise, around the ship, on and off in ports and whilst ashore, but suddenly need one to get off the ship on the last morning when there is some perceived advantage), so we didn’t sit down and just followed the next assistance pusher off the ship and grabbed a porter. As we were returning to the QE2 terminal having departed on the previous cruise from Mayflower terminal, we had been concerned that our car wouldn’t be waiting for us. No need to worry as it was there in poll position at the front of the first line of cars! Finally, we have a new favourite captain in Neil Turnbull. Nobody has ever lived up to Chris Wells, whose humour and informative announcements made a huge difference to our enjoyment of the two Cruises we did with him, but Captain Turnbull has personality, humour and professionalism. Few have all three, but he does and we hope to sail with him again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Aurora Cruise R718 to Zeebrugge (Didn’t dock!). Friday 20th - Sunday 22nd October 2017. DAY 1 - Friday 20th October- Southampton Our first experience of a 2 night cruise and back-to-back cruise all in one (although I am doing ... Read More
Aurora Cruise R718 to Zeebrugge (Didn’t dock!). Friday 20th - Sunday 22nd October 2017. DAY 1 - Friday 20th October- Southampton Our first experience of a 2 night cruise and back-to-back cruise all in one (although I am doing separate reviews for each). The 2 night taster cruise to Zeebrugge didn’t start well, as CPS car drop off was, for the first time, poor. The normal arrangement for a 2 day cruise is for passengers to self park in the short stay car park, but I had called CPS many weeks before and they had linked our two cruise bookings, telling me that I could ignore the self parking option and should pull up at the terminal to be valet parked as normal. I had called CPS again the day before the cruise to confirm and was, once again, told this would be no issue and CPS staff would be available at the terminal. As we arrived at the terminal, we first had a battle with the traffic marshal’s, who seemed incapable of understanding what we had arranged (and were quite offhand) and then, as we arrived outside the Mayflower cruise terminal, there wasn’t a CPS operative in sight. After a phone call to CPS (when I was kept on hold for 10 minutes) and a further wait, two CPS staff members eventually arrived. During the time that we were waiting I noticed that the porters were just standing idle alongside the building waiting for passengers to take their cases to them. Even though I had two large cases, a carry case, a wheelchair and my wife to attend to, no effort whatsoever was made to assist. When I asked an idle porter whether or not there was porter service today, he replied “No, there never is”. Perhaps he meant on 2 day cruises, but this attitude was shocking none the less. Thankfully, as we entered the terminal building, first class service immediately took over. We reported to assisted embarkation and didn’t even have to take a seat, as we were escorted straight to check-in and were through security and on board within around 10 minutes. A record for us. Due to high winds when Aurora had docked, the air bridge wasn’t attached, so we had to board up a steep ramp from the dockside. Thankfully we were assisted by two pushers for this bit. Even though we had an embarkation time of 1430, we were in our cabin by 1310 with both cases already present. Very impressed. We were staying in C152 (Accessible Balcony) which was the same cabin that we had stayed in for our 16 night Baltic cruise in May. We instantly noticed an issue with the bed, in that one half was higher than the other! Also, the previous occupants had stupidly left the safe locked, rather than open as instructed. We could not find our steward, so unpacked and stowed the suitcases under the bed. More than an hour later, we eventually found our steward (Lawrence) who told us that the previous occupant had hired a Mobility at Sea special bed and that the normal bed had not returned as planned. He said he would sort it out and called the deck manager to unlock the safe. Next stop the Glass House, where we each traded our Peninsular Club vouchers for a freebie glass of champagne. The staff have all changed since our May cruise, but were just as friendly. We also noticed that food was available during the afternoon, even though it was a changeover day. We had already had an early lunch at Maritimo Lounge in Ocean Village, but will keep this in mind for changeover day on Sunday as we are staying on board. Then to Anderson’s for the muster drill. When we returned our life jackets to the cabin we were impressed to find that the bed had already been changed and was now level! Up to the Crows Nest for a sailway drink and observation as we pulled forward off the berth, turned (as the ship had docked facing inland) and cruised out past the Isle of Wight. Horns were honked between us and Azura as we passed her. Azura is delaying its departure by 24 hours due to former hurricane (now storm) ‘Brian’ which is due to engulf the English Channel tomorrow. As we are heading North, we are departing as normal, although we will have to come back through the remnants of it. During out time in the Crows Nest we were joined by a lovely couple who lived on The Isle of Wight, so were able to have a good chat about the island. We weren’t overly fussed about the main dining room menu, so tried to get into Sindhu, which although only had about 4 couples in it was apparently full! We ended up in the Beach House where the manager recognised us from May. We experienced exemplary service but my beef sizzling platter wasn’t as tasty as before and none of the deserts appealed, so I just had Eton Mess ice cream, which was very nice. We didn’t fancy the Headliners show (Fantasy) as we had seen it in May and didn’t rate it, so we went to Carmen’s for a Showaddywaddy tribute band called Shomaddymaddy. Pure cheese, but we actually quite enjoyed it as the music was good, even though we couldn’t see the band once the dance floor had filled with people dancing! Our final port of call was a repeat visit to the Crows Nest, as the male members of the Aurora Orchestra were performing. However, they were playing jazz, which is about the only style of music that I intensely dislike, so we retired to bed, although I first popped out to the Horizon buffet for a Horlicks nightcap. DAY 2 - Saturday 21st October- At Sea (Zeebrugge cancelled) Although we had heard a lot of people talking very loudly as they passed our cabin late at night, we both managed to sleep well, probably assisted by the combination of alcohol, Stugeron and rocking motion! At 0745 (0645 UK time) we were woken by Captain Turnbull making an announcement that, due to high winds, we were unable to dock at Zeebrugge and would have a day at sea as he had not been able to find a substitute port. Although quite understandable, it’s a shame for those who had booked the cruise specifically to go to Bruges, not least as there are no other stops and this is now a cruise to nowhere! We both commented on how professional and comprehensive his announcement was e.g “the safety of the vessel and all those aboard is, and always will be, my first priority”. We had a leisurely breakfast in the Medina restaurant where the waiter remembered us from our last cruise. During the morning, we cruised up past the Thames Estuary (passing wind farms and gas platforms) into the North Sea, prior to turning around 180 degrees off Lowestoft and heading back towards Southampton - and storm Brian! Lunch in the Medina prior to popping our head into Carmen’s for a singer , Sadie Ebbon, whose 11.15pm show had been brought forward to 2pm due to the unplanned sea day. We stayed for a few songs but weren’t really getting in to it, so we left and went to Anderson’s for a quiet read. By now there were a few more white peaks on the waves and more noticeable movement. We have noticed how busy the ship feels compared to our last cruise on Aurora, which is not helped by everyone having to stay on board and it being autumn, so few people are on the open decks. Although the P&O blurb talks about this being a ‘Discovery Cruise’, the staff on board refer to it as a ‘Party Cruise’ and you can see why. Lots of large groups including quite a few hen parties. We assume that, to keep costs down, they might be sharing 4 adults to a cabin, which also explains the relatively high passenger density. As the ship was busy, we returned to our cabin for a rest and to read. The wind was now force 9 with gusts up to force 11. The balcony divider door is rattling loudly and our patio door out to the balcony is draughty and doesn’t keep out the noise of the wind. We ordered a cream tea from the new room service menu. This took around an hour to arrive. Our steward is pleased that we are staying on board. He explained that on changeover days he works almost all day and evening and has just 90 minutes off during which time he has to rest, eat and call home. The band ‘Caravan’ are on board again, so we decided to go to the 7.30pm Bee Gee’s Tribute show which we had very much enjoyed when we were last on Aurora in May. There was no member of the entertainment team present to provide the commentary between each song and the lead singer attempted to do it but really struggled due to his strong Philippine accent. Thankfully the songs were still good. We decided to have dinner late, so hot footed from Carmen’s to the other end of the ship to the Curzon Theatre for the early (8.30pm) show of a Madness tribute band called Badness. They were the same group that had performed the Showaddywaddy tribute and we enjoyed this performance as much, especially as they didn’t just sing Madness songs but also other Ska groups such as The Specials and Bad Manners. We left before the end as it was 15 minutes before the Medina restaurant closed to new arrivals, so we hope that the show is repeated on our follow on cruise. Dinner in the Medina restaurant was the Marco Pierre White menu, as it was the Black Tie night. Other than the Beef Wellington, I didn’t particularly enjoy the other courses (other than the delicious port infused Stilton to finish) so may dip into the non-Marco choices next time that menu appears. As we had finished dinner very late and the ship was being buffeted by Storm Brian now that we were in it’s path in the English Channel, we retired to our cabin. It was difficult to get to sleep due to the fact that the ceiling of the cabin above the bathroom door was creaking and banging as the ship was being thrown around by the storm. That said, we didn’t feel sick at all and obviously slept well when we eventually got to sleep as we didn’t awake until we were alongside in Southampton. As we were doing our first back to back cruise, there are no disembarkation comments to make and anything beyond this point will feature in the next review. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
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