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

Unusually booked this over a year ago as my father was wanting a look at the new Britannia. Party of 8 with three inside cabins. Two cabins were lucky and received upgrade to balcony. Mine had four sharing so no upgrade. This is very much ... Read More
Unusually booked this over a year ago as my father was wanting a look at the new Britannia. Party of 8 with three inside cabins. Two cabins were lucky and received upgrade to balcony. Mine had four sharing so no upgrade. This is very much a ship due to huge size that cabin location could prove very important. No such thing as just popping back to pick up something. Britannia is huge. Embarkation Embarkation was a total disaster. P & O have tried to implement timed boarding which nobody seems to follow. Such a short cruise does mean most people want to arrive early and make the most of the facilities. The terminal was mobbed. Some of out party arrived approx. 30 mins before us and somehow went straight on. We got to the terminal about 1330hrs. Our proper boarding time was 1500hrs. We were given letter Z and at 1500hrs were still only on letter P. Somebody said boarding was late starting due to training. My wife does use a walking stick and we were fortunate to have a seat. The terminal was very hot and after making enquires we were finally allowed to board using the mobility desk just after 1500hrs. Never waited so long to board before. When travelling to Southampton its very difficult to arrive dead on proposed boarding time. Not sure what the answer is but this was chaos. Britannia Britannia is amazing. Beautiful decor and we loved the atrium. Other than the atrium this is not a ship with huge open spaces. Many rooms are accessed with twists and turns and entrances are sometimes not obvious. Everything however is very modern and contemporary. The size was never an option and seating was easily found in all venues. Some places got busy at start and finish of show and dinner but largely she copes with the crowds very well. Issues with very busy lifts and frankly some very rude and ignorant passengers who would not allow disabled passengers to board lift first. As has been previously mentioned some restaurants and deck areas have to be accessed in a certain way via particular staircase or lift. This did not cause any issue as I quickly worked out the best route around. Normally avoid the buffet but we found this are on Britannia was very well designed and fitted out. Plenty of seating. Loved Crows Nest. The theatre and subsequent show 'Sound of the Underground' was a high quality show and the production on the state of the art stage amazing. We ate in Oriental which was lovely. Enjoyed all food onboard and found it to be of good quality. Personally I find it strange that a British ship does not have a covered pool but all pools lovely and spacious with plenty of swimming options. Kid clubs not busy but very well organised. Disembarkation Cases outside at midnight. Went for breakfast at 0700hrs and walked off about 0900hrs. Very smooth and no huge line to get off. Conclusion We loved Britannia and would not hesitate to book a longer trip. Boarding was a shambles and the only low point of the weekend other than two nights is just not long enough. Some will not like her size or lack of proper promenade deck but I felt she does have a 'wow' factor. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
to be fair, it didn't start well, with long queues for the car parking at the dock, but it all moved forward reasonably well, and after getting inside, I went straight through booking in and security. The reason I tried such a large ... Read More
to be fair, it didn't start well, with long queues for the car parking at the dock, but it all moved forward reasonably well, and after getting inside, I went straight through booking in and security. The reason I tried such a large ship, was because they had introduced new purpose built single cabins. Although compact, the design was very well thought out, with good storage, same size shower room as the other cabins, as was the balcony. Very well situated on deck 16 forward, so just a brisk walk to the Horizon for breakfast, near the stairs and lifts for the theatre and also next to the Crows Nest, couldn't be better. I booked for traditional dining in the Oriental, and the food was good, but not extra special. Being rather cynical, could it be that it was a way to encourage you to eat in the other restaurants where you pay!! I didn't try them, but heard very good reports from other people. I had excellent company on my table, and enjoyed the sailaways very much. The day that the Queen overtook Queen Victoria was the best sailaway I had ever had. The show company was excellent. They even managed to get us all off by tender into Guernsey reasonably quickly, where I bought a beautiful new Italian dress in the first shop I went into, and of course no VAT. I would certainly go again, and would recommend for all ages and families. Disembarkation was very smooth Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Travelled on a feeder coach which was part of the holiday and well organised though there was a hold up with boarding, by which time the restaurants were closed to prepare for the drill and we were hungry, having travelled all day. ... Read More
Travelled on a feeder coach which was part of the holiday and well organised though there was a hold up with boarding, by which time the restaurants were closed to prepare for the drill and we were hungry, having travelled all day. lt's a pity that there was no food available in the check-in area. The food was excellent in the restaurant and our table had a window overlooking the sea at the back of the ship. l preferred eating in the restaurants as l found the self service cafe area a bit of a free for all. Most evenings we watched the show but made the mistake of sitting too near the front and found the music far too loud. On later evenings we sat nearer the back. We also watched several films in the cinema. We had an inside cabin which was spacious enough and had plenty of open hanging and storage space and was kept clean by our steward. l had researched our ports so we did our own thing in each one and didn't go on any organised excursions. ln La Rochelle we followed a route on a local circular walk, seeing the main points of interest. ln Gexto we walked to the transporter bridge, had a ride across it, a coffee nearby then took a local train into Bilbao and went to the Guggenheim and took a tram to the old part of the city. We had difficulty finding the buses to return to the ship as they were not where we had been told they would be. We had intended to book a local tour bus in La Coruna but was told on disembarking that they were not available so we had a taxi tour which was very good. There was a special celebration on leaving La Coruna and we were given union flags and sang patriotic songs Our day at sea was relaxing, with apparently the smoothest crossing of the Bay of Biscay they'd had all year and some people saw dolphins from their balcony. ln Guernsey we visited the occupation museum underground, which was interesting and also took a local bus round the island. We got off part way round but although we waited over an hour no other bus came so we got a taxi back to the port and visited the Guernsey tapestry, which was very interesting. On disembarking we sat for over an hour on the coach as one couple had apparently been given the wrong time for it leaving. The driver had locked the on-board loo and didn't want to stop the coach till his designated service area so it was an uncomfortable journey and a disappointing end to our holiday. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Hi everyone. Hubby and I, along with my brother and sister-in-law, have today just returned from our cruise on P&O Azura I want to write this review whilst everything is still fresh in my mind. I am going to give you information that ... Read More
Hi everyone. Hubby and I, along with my brother and sister-in-law, have today just returned from our cruise on P&O Azura I want to write this review whilst everything is still fresh in my mind. I am going to give you information that I only wish that someone had written before we left for our cruise. Hopefully this information will give you an advantage of what to expect in the way of the whole ship experience of the Azura. So hope you are sitting comfortably, got your slippers on, your cup of tea, coffee or glass of wine to hand and don't fall asleep on me!! For those who have never cruised with P&O before, I can tell you that our first impression when we alighted from our 5 hour journey by coach to the port of Southampton was one of great admiration at the new P&O Terminal. Very impressed indeed again at how organised everything was. It was a relief to know that we didn't have to worry about our cases in the Coach hold as these were taken care of and the next time we would see them would be outside our cabin within the hour. We were able to take our hand luggage containing of course the necessary documents, ie passports, E-Tickets and valuables etc. As you enter the Terminal, passengers are allocated into groups of 100 or so with a ticket with a letter of the Alphabet and you sit there until your letter is called. (about ten minutes at the most). You then make your way to the security desks (loads of them so no waiting) where your passport and E-ticket is scrutinised and your photo taken. you and each of your party will then be given a boarding card which is very important as you will need it every time you embark or disembark the ship at each port. The boarding card is also the key card to gain access to your cabin. (will go into this in a moment). You then make your way on board via the gangplank (as I call it). This was the our first close up sight of the Azura and my goodness, we were quite overawed at the sheer size of the ship itself. After cruising with Thompson ships prior to this, our first P&O cruise, it was absolutely massive !! We were given a map once on board showing the way to the deck and cabin we had been allocated and there were ample lifts to take us there. Once outside our cabin, one of us slid the card into the cabin door which opened it, then we put the same card into another slot just inside the cabin door which operates the lights. Now I appreciate that some reviewers have been rather scathing about the quality of the ship, its surroundings and the cabins but let me reassure you as one of the most fussiest women on this planet, you have absolutely NOTHING to worry about with regard to your cabin. I was very pleased indeed at the quality of everything in that room, from the bed, bedding, furniture and the shower room which we had. Our steward came along and introduced himself. lovely man, couldn't have been more helpful. All the stewards are the same, they cannot do enough for you. There is a telephone in your cabin. if you need reception it shows the button to press, also your steward, and especially room service which operates 24 hours and is completely FREE ! your breakfast if you wish to have it in your cabin instead of going to the restaurants is also FREE! although it is a continental breakfast only with fresh orange juice, tea or coffee, croissants, muffins etc. pitfall.....we only used it once for Free coffee to be delivered, as did brother and sister-in-law but found although delivered in very nice silver pot with milk jug, the coffee wasn't hot enough for us so didn't bother after that. There is of course tea, coffee, sugar, milk etc with electric kettle already in your cabin which is replenished every day by your lovely steward. There is a hairdryer but no Iron !! they don't like you to bring an iron with you either and insist rightly that if you use any electrical item you must take it out of the plug before leaving your cabin. The showers are heavenly with easy to use switches. (wish I could have brought it home with me) lol. What else can I tell you about the cabin? the beds are lovely and comfortable with two soft pillows each. Oh, almost forgot, there is of course the television with remote control. it has the Ships webcam (channel 1) showing the view from front of the ship, it also has a channel so you can listen to all messages from the bridge and the weather forecast etc. but more importantly it has Sky News (channel 6) BBC International News (channel 5) and Sky Sports News (channel 7) and Sky Sports (channel 8) which hubby was chuffed about because he was able to watch his team Arsenal play. Finally on this subject of the cabin, you will have been left in your cabin, your allocation to where you will be eating if you wish waiter service. the choice is The Meridian Restaurant or the Penninsular Restaurant, we were allocated freedom dining at the Meridian Restaurant. This means that we could choose to eat in the Meridian restaurant anytime between the hours of opening by just going along and asking for a table for just ourselves or if you don't mind, sharing with others. We preferred a table just for four so were happy if one not available, to be given a pager and called when table was free (never more than twenty minutes and an excuse for us to retire to the nearest bar for pre-dinner drink!). If you have been allocated club dining, this means you have the same table, the same time, in the same restaurant with the same waiters for your cruise. Most have the freedom dining I believe but not sure. You also have the choice to eat at the self-service restaurants (2) called the Verona and the Venezia, both which are located on deck 15. All the food served in all the restaurants are the same high quality so don't hesitate to mix and match. You also have a Pizza take away on deck 15 by the second pool. The only restaurants where you have to pay a surcharge if you wish to eat in there are the Sindhu (indian) the Glasshouse (Wine bar) and Epicurian (fine dining) So to the rest of the ship...... Honestly now, even after 9 days, I was still confused about the layout of the ship. I guarantee you will be too !!! Deck 18 is the Planet Bar but the bloomin main lifts only go to the 16th deck which was very confusing. Apparently one can only access deck 17 and 18 by going along to the back of the ship and getting into the lift on deck 6 which takes you to the two elusive decks. Ho Hum. 16th Deck has an outside bar with loads of sun loungers and tables/chairs. I promise you, there will be no fighting for sun loungers on this ship. They have loads of them all over the ship. For all you smokers, you can enjoy your smoke here as long as you stay on the left side of the way the ship is sailing. Ha, no use telling me port or starboard, I don't know my left from right, anyway, all the tables have ashtrays on them so it won't take you long to find your table. You can smoke anywhere on the left the way the ship is heading as long as it is an open area 15th Deck - here you will find two swimming pools, the outside cinema screen, hundreds of sun loungers, an outside bar, The grill bar which is open all day and most of the evening offering chips, burgers and hotdogs (Free) a Pizza bar (Free), Dessert fridge (Free) and an Ice Cream Parlour (Free). it is also where the two self-service restaurants are located. There are numerous bars all over the ship, also several Costa Coffee Shops. which you have to pay for the coffee £2.40 for a medium costa latte but...... make sure if you buy a coffee you ask for the free pastries or muffins that go with your coffee. You only get them if you buy a coffee though. ( I note that they don't exactly publicise the fact !! LOL.) There are numberous decks where you can buy a costa coffee. The Casino and Brodie's Bar (the pub) is on Deck 5. In here is where most men go to watch the matches on several huge television screens all over the place. If your man goes missing, try here first !!! I hope the above has been of some help to those who are taking their first cruise on the Azura. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with the plentiful entertainment for both adults and children. Please don't worry about any bad reviews. You will really enjoy yourselves on here and believe me, the food is to die for, my waistline will vouch for that !! enjoy your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
When Britannia was being built, and right up to the launch. I was really excited about the prospect of the cruise that I had booked over 14 months ago to go around the British Isles in July 2015. As I started to read the reports that ... Read More
When Britannia was being built, and right up to the launch. I was really excited about the prospect of the cruise that I had booked over 14 months ago to go around the British Isles in July 2015. As I started to read the reports that were coming back from passengers I was starting to get a little concerned – surely it can’t be as bad as that – IT WASN’T. The embarkation was a little slow, taking about 2 hours from arriving in the car park to getting onto the ship. I have never understood how Celebrity mange the process in about half an hour, but it wasn’t a major problem. We were booked in a Superior deluxe cabin and were really impressed with the size of it. There were a couple of areas that could have been better (eg individual bedside lights, more powerful shower) but these were more than offset by the drawer space and the “walk-in” wardrobe. The bed and the chairs were extremely comfortable and I really liked the TV’s with the webcam, maps and the news channels. There were also films and TV programmes but we never seemed to have time to watch them. The balconies have received some criticism. My wife and I could both sit on the balcony with the seats reclined and a table between us. I’m not sure what we would have used any extra space for. We were midships on the 11th deck, and so were probably in one of the best places to experience the reported lift problems. THERE WEREN’T ANY. If we got to the midships lifts and there were more than a dozen people waiting we would just walk to the other lifts. Most of the time we had to go to one end of the ship or the other anyway, so we had no further to walk. If we were going somewhere central it was just about 80 paces one way, get the lift or the stairs, and 80 paces the other. Since my nearest pub at home is half a mile away, and the nearest theatre is 5 miles, I don’t think it is much of an issue. But I should stress that most of the time we got a midships lift within a couple of minutes. I suspect that it was more difficult for any disabled people on the middle decks as the lifts were probably full by the time they arrived, but that is an issue on any ships. The service that we received from the cabin steward was first class. We rarely had to call on him for anything out of the ordinary, but he kept the cabin spotless and well supplied with all the essentials. The food, on the whole was pretty good. We ate in the Peninsular on Freedom Dining for most of the meals, and the longest that we had to wait for a table for two was 10 minutes. It was in the dining room where I was most disappointed, not with the food but with the service. At times it was a bit slow, and the waiters seemed to wish that they were somewhere else. I could sense the wine waiters snarling on a couple of occasions when we just had water with our meals. This was in marked contrast to the Beach House and the Limelight. The Beach House has a more relaxed atmosphere and the food, whilst generally a little simpler than in the main restaurant, was excellent. We decided to try the Limelight early on in the cruise. This was because we wanted to see Dean Andrews, but also so that if we enjoyed the concept, we could go again later. The whole occasion was excellent, the food and service were very good and “Deano” put on a really good show. We saw saw Jaki Graham later on in the Limelight. A good performer but a bit too much chat. The food in the buffet for breakfast, lunch and, on a couple of occasions, dinner, was satisfactory without being exceptional. The layout of the buffet was better than a number of other ships but didn’t quite get the “island” concept as well as on the Eclipse. We decided to book the afternoon tea on the last sea day. We were in two minds about this as it is on the same day as the last formal evening, but we scheduled our evening meal for after the first show, so still managed to have a 5 hours gap between the two meals. It would probably have been better if they started serving the afternoon tea a little earlier than 3.30 though. The food itself was quirky but very good. Who would have though that duck went well with a chocolate macaroon – but it did. The entertainment on the ship was of varying quality. The Headliners were excellent. Although it is not my cup of tea I could appreciate the skill and effort that went into the show, and if that’s the kind of entertainment that you like you would not be disappointed. I wasn’t keen on the Opera Boys, or the comedian (I shudder when they bring out a box of wigs) For me, the best entertainment was the band and the singer who were providing the music for the dancing in the Crystal Room. I don’t really like dancing but we caught them on the way to another venue and after that spent a number of very pleasant evenings listening to them. We did 4 of the ships excursions. They were very well organized with little waiting around to get on the coaches, and the local guides were excellent My overall impression of the ship was very favourable. The décor is very smart, there was plenty of seating, even though for the cruise that we were on the weather had made the pool a virtual no-go area. Weather – 2 days good, 9 days rubbish – but who cares. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
This was our 6th cruise (3rd with our 2 boys) and we really enjoyed our holiday although the weather was not the best :-) Firstly, we are very impressed with the décor of the ship which is very sophisticated and contemporary and this ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise (3rd with our 2 boys) and we really enjoyed our holiday although the weather was not the best :-) Firstly, we are very impressed with the décor of the ship which is very sophisticated and contemporary and this further extended to our larger inside cabin which has been the best of any cruise ship we have been on. The shows were fabulous and with a one-night only policy for the entertainers resulted in a great variety every night. The activities and excursions were a little on the pricey side but this was made up for by the complimentary transport available into the major cities that again was better than the 4 other cruise lines we have cruised with in the past. The kids club was really enjoyed by our children and the staff did an efficient job although Princess Cruises tend to have slightly better activities as well as a more vibrant atmosphere. The only thing that was perhaps not as favourable as our other cruises was the food which admittedly was catering to a local taste which was different to ours and therefore not the fault of the ship. Having said that, the curries on board were incredible and actually rivalled some of our favourite restaurants at home!! The strangest things was that we did run into was a small number of people who complained about the ship being too big?!?! These people must be living under a rock as it was advertised as the biggest ship to service the UK... We would highly recommend this ship and we would love to travel on the Britannia again some day. Maybe the Caribbean next time :-) Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
I and my mum have just come back from a weekend cruise on board the Britannia from Southampton to Guernsey. I am in my mid thirties and we are both first time cruisers. We travelled down to Southampton by train and got a taxi to the ... Read More
I and my mum have just come back from a weekend cruise on board the Britannia from Southampton to Guernsey. I am in my mid thirties and we are both first time cruisers. We travelled down to Southampton by train and got a taxi to the Ocean Terminal where the ship sailed from. On our e-ticket we had been given an arrival time of 1230 to turn up at the cruise terminal. This in fact was misleading as many passengers seemed to ignore this and just turn up when they felt like it. So the terminal was very crowded. There were not enough seats in the terminal to handle the full complement of passengers. For those first time cruisers like us it might help if I go through the embarkation process. You turn up at the Ocean Terminal and leave your luggage at the Baggage Drop Off Area by the taxi rank outside the terminal. The staff will then load the luggage on the ship for you and it will turn up in your cabin. You then go up to the passenger lounge and get given a blue or red EMBARKATION CARD with a letter on it. This is used to call you forward to the check in desks. This usually takes about 1 hour. At check in you then show your passport and e-ticket and you will be issued each with a cruise card. This is your boarding pass and is also used for any spending on board. You then proceed to the security area and then to the ship. Once boarding the ship we went straight up to our cabin which was A415 on A Deck (15 floor) and on the starboard (right) side. This was a Superior Deluxe Balcony cabin and was nicely appointed in a modern contemporary style. We later found out that the Lido Deck was just above our cabin and this can cause noise disturbance due to the Sailaway party and people moving the deck furniture about. So something to note, one deck down on B Deck (14 floor) may be better next time. The bathroom is compact but practical and the toilet is vacuum suction operated so makes a loud whoosh when flushed which is exciting and very effective. Note there is a step down from the bathroom into the cabin which you can easily forget about and fall over. Our cruise was in July so school holidays and therefore the passengers on the ship were very mixed in ages with lots of younger cruisers and families on board. Britannia is also a family ship. If you sailed on an Adults Only ship then you may be more likely to have the passengers dominated by P&O traditional type of over 60s. It being a weekend trip also helped for younger cruisers. I imagine that if you went in quieter times of the year then the passengers would revert to the P&O traditional type of over 60s. So if you are one of the younger crowd then I would recommend sailing on a family ship in July or August or school holidays when you are more likely to get younger generations on board. After boarding and going to the cabin. We like most on board went straight up to the Horizon Restaurant on the Lido Deck (16 floor) for lunch. Note that only the aft and forward staircases on the Britannia cover all floors with the Midships ones only going to some floors. So there is a reliance on lifts in the midships area unless you walk to the aft or forward stairwells. Therefore at busy times the lifts can be packed and busy. This is a noticeable design flaw in the Britannia we found and many past reviews have noted this also. Particularly at meal times or lifeboat drill or in the evening. So you may find it better to use the other two stairwells. The Horizon Restaurant is a no dress code self service restaurant and is always very popular. Most people also go here for breakfast. You are also allocated a main dining room for the evening depending on your cabin and dining style. We had chosen Freedom Dining and so were allocated the Peninsular Restaurant. We found that the food in the Horizon Restaurant and the main restaurants was adequate and fairly ordinary. So I suspect that P&O Cruises are doing this to encourage people to try the alternative dining venues which have an extra charge attached! The first night was formal night and the dress code was strictly enforced and applies to all the bars, lounges and restaurants. Therefore if you are not keen on formality then you are relegated to the Horizon Restaurant. We found that most of the younger cruisers were put off by the formality and so preferred the Horizon Restaurant for meals. Also all the restaurants had hand washing facilities outside them to prevent norovirus and this was strictly enforced by a crew member standing next to them to make sure you washed your hands. At busy times there can be queues for many of the restaurants. There are three main restaurants on the ship and several extra charge alternative dining venues. The hospitality staff (hotel and restaurant side of things) on board the ship are mainly Indian or Asian we noticed because of P&O's historic traditions from colonial times sailing from the UK to India, Australia and the Far East. They were always very helpful and polite. But sometimes their English could be a little rusty and they didn't necessarily understand first time. My favourite room on board the ship was the Crow's Nest. This is accessed from the forward stairwell via a port side corridor. Along this corridor is the Epicurian Restaurant, the Ivory Suite (function room), and the Marlow Suite (card room). The Marlow Suite rarely seemed to be used. On the starboard side accessed from the Crow's Nest is the Library. The ship is huge so it takes time to find your way around her and you can easily get lost. But you get a lot of exercise walking from one end to the other and up and down all the stairs and finding the various dead ends there are on certain decks. Most of the public rooms are on decks 5-7. On lido deck the only way through from bow to stern is via the Horizon Restaurant. There is a lot of walking through rooms to get to other rooms as some of the rooms cover the width of the ship and there is no side corridor to go round so forcing you to go through rooms instead. In terms of outside areas the decks 16-18 are the main areas and there is no promenade deck below the lifeboats like on some ships. There are small areas of open deck on Deck 7 near Sindhu but these often seemed closed and there is no equivalent on this level to a promenade deck. At about 4pm on the sailing day, there is the mandatory lifeboat drill. On your cruise card you will see your muster station. We were F. On the back of your cabin door this location is defined in more detail as the Peninsular Restaurant. About 20 minutes before the lifeboat drill the First Officer makes an announcement throughout the ship. All passengers are then required to go back to their cabin to pick up their lifejackets and then proceed down to the muster station (in our case the Peninsular Restaurant). This can cause difficulties with the lifts in the midships area which massive queues. So walking may be better or using the aft and forward stairwells instead. If you arrive at the muster location without your lifejackets you will be sent back to your cabin to get them. This lifeboat drill according to maritime law must take place before the ship sails from Southampton. The ship sailed from Southampton at 1730 and the Azura had already sailed past us from Western Docks. We then sailed next followed by the Anthem of the Seas and the Azamara Quest. So it was quite a parade of cruise ships heading down the Southampton Water! The following day we arrived in Guernsey at St Peter Port and anchored. We went to breakfast once again at the Horizon Restaurant. Landing was to be via the ship's tenders. The daily Horizon newsletter is very useful in terms of giving information and advice about activities on the ship and the destination. The location for assembling to board the tenders was notified to be the Headliners Theatre if you were not on a shore excursion and travelling ashore independently. When you wanted to go ashore you had to go to the Theatre to collect the tender tickets and then wait in the Theatre to be called. This was like a raffle again waiting for your number to be called. Due to the numbers there was a long wait for some causing them to give up and go back to their cabins. So they gave their spare tickets to the nearest person and there was a bit of an illicit trade in tender tickets enabling people to jump the queue from the original ticket they were issued with. so there was a lot of passing tickets around to help everyone. Once called we proceeded down to Deck 4 (one below the Reception / Atrium area) and boarded the tenders. The Destination. Guernsey is a lovely place. On the day we went it was very warm but being a Sunday most of the shops were closed. This is worth noting. But there was an open air market on by the harbour and lots of activity. So not boring by any means. The tenders drop you off at Albert Pier in the centre of St Peter Port. Peak summer season is best time to go as more of the attractions are open such as Castle Cornet. I would highly recommend a walk around the harbour to the lighthouse and Castle Cornet. You get fantastic views across the harbour from here and of the ship anchored offshore. The last tender back was at 1730 but it is always best to go back a lot earlier than this as the tender cannot take all the ship in one go! The tender operation was very quick and easy. That evening we sailed at 1800 and later we went up to the Horizon Restaurant for dinner. This is more flexible than the main restaurants and you can have as much as you like. Disembarkation. The information provided by P&O Cruises about this process was quite misleading stating that disembarkation was from 1030 in the Meridian Restaurant (in our case, may vary depending where your cabin is). But what this actually meant was that you had to disembark the ship by 1030. So for first time cruisers it can be confusing if you are only used to the hotel check out system. It also said that you had to pack and leave your luggage outside the cabin by 20:30 or prior to going to bed. Most people ignored the 2030 stipulation and just did it prior to going to bed. This enables the cabin steward to take your baggage down to the unloading area overnight. Once the ship arrives back at Southampton at 0645 the luggage is then unloaded. This usually takes 2 hours and is complete by 0845. So in practice you can actually start checking out from 0845. If you don't leave your luggage out the previous night or want to depart early then you will be required to check out and take your luggage with you between 0700 and 0800. They start breakfast early on disembarkation day from around 0600 in the Horizon Restaurant. Likewise most people tend to have breakfast there rather than the main restaurants. Disembarkation in the end, once you understand the process, is relatively speedy. You go down to the designated check out room after 0845 and there you will either wait or be allowed straight off the ship. You will go into the cruise terminal and down to the baggage collection area (under the passenger lounge where you embarked) and there the passenger baggage is laid out according to Deck. After that you proceed through security and customs and straight out to the front of the terminal. From there we got a taxi back to the rail station and got the train home. So we had a lovely cruise to Guernsey. Britannia is a fine ship but very large so you may need a week to find your way around her. There is a practical issue with the lack of a staircase (public one) in the midships area and this causes the lifts to be busy at certain times. P&O Cruises information can be a little misleading and confusing about embarkation and disembarkation especially if you are a first time cruiser. They generally assume that their passengers know their procedures and processes already! But first time cruisers will not and may be more used to airline or hotel procedures rather than cruises. EMBARKATION basically involves: 1. Drop off luggage at the "Baggage Drop Off Area" outside the terminal by the taxi rank. 2. Go upstairs to the passenger lounge and get issued with an Embarkation Card. 3. You will then be called forward to the check in desks according to your Embarkation Card letter and colour. 4. At check in they will look at your passport and e-ticket and then issue you with a cruise card for each passenger. This is your boarding card to enter the ship and cabin. It also is your security id for getting on and off the ship and is also used for any onboard spending. 5. You will then proceed through the security area and then via the gangways to the ship. 6. You can then go to your cabin. Your luggage will arrive there later via the cabin steward. Most passengers then go up to the Horizon Restaurant for lunch. LIFEBOAT DRILL on embarkation day on the ship: 1. On embarkation day there is a mandatory lifeboat drill for all passengers joining the ship. This is to comply with maritime law and takes place prior to the ship sailing. 2. 20 minutes before the drill the First Officer will announce and then you have to go straight back to your cabin to collect your lifejackets and proceed to your muster station. Your cabin steward may give you advance warning of this so you can beat the crowds. 3. Your muster station is denoted on your cruise card. e.g. Muster Station F. This location then is defined on the poster on the back of your cabin door. i.e. Peninsular Restaurant. 4. At the muster station the crew will brief you on safety and show you how to put the lifejackets on. You will then have to put the lifejacket on as a demonstration. If you haven't got your lifejacket you will be sent back to your cabin to get it. DISEMBARKATION from ship on departure day: 1. On the previous day to departure you will be asked to leave your luggage outside your cabin prior to going to bed for the night. You will be also told a disembarkation room to go to when you are ready to leave the ship. e.g. Meridian Restaurant. 2. The cabin steward will then collect your luggage overnight and enable it to be unloaded from the ship for you on arrival at Southampton in the morning. 3. Ship usually arrives at 0645 and luggage unloading takes about 2 hours and is usually complete by 0845. 4. Once you are ready to leave the ship, you go to your disembarkation room. There you will be told to wait or whether it is ready to allow you to leave rightaway. Normally you should be able to leave the ship from around 0845 and at the latest by 1030. 5. You will then proceed to the cruise terminal and pick up your baggage. The passengers for the following cruise may already be waiting to board in the cruise terminal as the ship nowadays turns around in one day. Arrival in the morning, disembark the passengers by 1030. Then the crew have a couple of hours to tidy the ship before the new lot of passengers embarks in the afternoon and the ship sails at 1730. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
A short two night cruise with three couples. 2 couples had never cruised before. The Ship Loved the new ship. Decor wasn’t “over the top” but very impressive. Other reviews have criticised the fact that there is no central ... Read More
A short two night cruise with three couples. 2 couples had never cruised before. The Ship Loved the new ship. Decor wasn’t “over the top” but very impressive. Other reviews have criticised the fact that there is no central staircase but we didn’t find that a problem, especially as other large ships we have been on also didn’t have a central staircase - we simply walked to the aft or forward stairs / lifts. However, we do agree the lifts were too small and that it seems silly that the central bank of six lifts aren’t controlled by one call button. Four middle lifts are all on a single button, but then each side lift has its own button. So naturally everyone presses all three call buttons when they want a lift. We also agree that the Headliners Theatre simply isn’t large enough to accommodate 4300 people in two shows, although obviously it depends on what’s on. The first night we got in to the second show easily and the theatre wasn’t full. On the second night the second show was standing room only. Our Cabin - D501 Very well laid out and very comfortable. Yes, the balcony is a little small but as we spent very little time in our cabin or on the balcony it wasn’t a problem. The food Excellent! We were on Freedom dining in the Peninsular restaurant, there was a good choice of food and the portions were a good size. The waiters were all very friendly and efficient, especially with my wife’s gluten free diet which has caused problems on other cruise lines. Whatever she wanted from the menu they simply made a gluten free version. We wouldn’t actually use freedom dining again. It sounds like a good idea but in reality there never seemed to be a table available for anyone on Freedom dining. We did get in straight away on the first night but most couples and groups of four were being given pagers - as were we on the second night. Drinks in the main restaurant were reasonably priced with wine at around £15.00 a bottle. The Horizon restaurant was also excellent although there wasn’t such a huge choice of different dishes as on other cruise lines. It was well laid out and there was always somewhere it sit. They also had a whole selection of gluten free puddings. We didn’t use any of the restaurants where you have to pay a cover charge so can’t comment on them. The “grab & go”, pizza and burger grills by the pools seemed to be a huge success. The Bars There are a number of bars around the ship. We used Brodies and the Blue Bar. Both were comfortable and well decorated. The prices were very reasonable. The entertainment The evening shows in the Headliner theatre were very good as were the acts in the various bars. However, we weren’t particularly impressed with the entertainment during the day as nothing seemed to be organised. For example, the Horizon newsletter said that there was shuffleboard or deck quoits at a certain time. We expected this to be an organised competition with someone to explain the rules - as did other people who turned up at the appointed time - but no one arrived so we simply had a quick go ourselves. Overall we were very impressed and would certainly sail on Britannia again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
We went on our first one week cruise having previously been on ones of two weeks or more.The embarkation process at Southampton was very efficient we quickly had our car parked and went aboard the ship. We were mid ships in cabin F328. ... Read More
We went on our first one week cruise having previously been on ones of two weeks or more.The embarkation process at Southampton was very efficient we quickly had our car parked and went aboard the ship. We were mid ships in cabin F328. Which had a large comfortable bed and a two seater settee and table which was ideal for us. We were on freedom dinning which was okay. The first night the service was very slow and we missed the show, due to issues but after that it was very good. The gala dinner was particularly good. We both enjoyed our holiday on this ship. The only thing that we found annoying was the lack of stairs mid ships. We were on deck 9 and normally would have walked down to the atrium area on deck seven but unless you walk a huge distance a lift is required which were small and often crowded. We noticed also that many wheelchair/notability scooter users were waiting ages to get into these lifts. We went aboard at every port and had no problems getting on and off although other passengers took ages at La Rochelle on the bendy buses. Overall a lovely break. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We are platinum on Carnival. This is our 16th cruise. We took this cruise because we wanted to try a British Line. We had just come off a Transatlantic on the Brilliance of the Seas. We stayed at wonderful small hotel in Southampton. ... Read More
We are platinum on Carnival. This is our 16th cruise. We took this cruise because we wanted to try a British Line. We had just come off a Transatlantic on the Brilliance of the Seas. We stayed at wonderful small hotel in Southampton. The Blue Keys was really great. Our experience on embarkation was swift and courteous. Waited about 40 minutes to board. Took a cab from hotel to Ship probably no mote than 10 minutes. Cabin was ready by 2 pm. The cabin was really large its the biggest balcony we ever had. Took 3 shore excursions, two in Amsterdam one on the channel islands. Since my wife has trouble walking we did bus tours. All were good. Just wish we could have gotten on the tour of Ann Franks House. It was sold out way in advance. The entertainment was really good the 4 seasons Jersey Boys group was really good. Having seen the show in New York twice we can say that those men did a really fine job. We ate most of our meals in the main dining room food was OK not great but OK. Not much selection in the buffet. That's why we like the MDR. Disembarkation was quick and went well off the ship self assist by 7:30 am. We really enjoyed meeting many people all really nice. I believe that we were the only Americans on board. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Never used P&O Cruises before apart from their ferries. We like Thomson Cruises and were looking for something that would be along those lines or better than. P & O Ventura did not dissapoint on our first cruise with her . ... Read More
Never used P&O Cruises before apart from their ferries. We like Thomson Cruises and were looking for something that would be along those lines or better than. P & O Ventura did not dissapoint on our first cruise with her . We had booked an inside cabin deck A and was upgraded to a obstructed viewbon E Deck and was impressed by the space,clean,modern room with a vey comfy double bed and very quiet with no motion when at sea . The room fridge came with two bottles of water free and our cabin steward Prakash was great in re-supplying our teas,coffee and biscuits everyday and he always had time to make sure we were ok and ask how our day had been . The bathroom was very modern and everything worked , nothing faulty and came with toiletries that seemed decent. Although the ship was full we never felt over crowded and seemed plenty of staff to go around . We never had to wait long apart from our one night in the Bay tree Restaraunt, which to us was painfully slow service . We were first in the queue and and shown to our table ,despite this we and the table next to us had to wait 25 minutes for a menu our own waiter even managed to serve starters to some of his other tables before he even came back to us and it got no better. We used the Beach House & Waterside self service for the rest of our cruise and the food was hot ,tasty and well presented a lot of dishes served in individual pots and dishes , to be honest we looked forward to eating in these places ,so did not use any of the pay to eat restaraunts. We never had problems finding a table to eat our meals at and the views from up there through the large windows were great. Going for a drink the Ventura gave us eleven bars and a show bar to choose from and the service was fast and friendly and the staff were not stuffy as we had read on other forums. Just our opinion but unlike Thomson who seem to encourage staff to stop and chat , P& O want customers to be served asap ,so they move to the next waiting customer rather than stop and chat. All the bar staff we spoke to were friendly and would spend the odd moment chatting but then would be off serving or off doing other bar duties. We found them to be ok. The Headliners show team put on two very good shows and had the advantage of a high tech theatre and lighting plus sound system compared to Thomson ships we had used . This is one of the places where Thomson win hands down as their show teams put on two shows as well but at least six nights per week , the crew even do a show in the theatre. Having said that we were happy with the shows we saw with P&O . The first day on Ventura , we were no sooner on board and were pounced on with the big sell .. Photo's ,Spa's and drinks packages but to be fair we said no thanks and never was bothered again . Keeping tabs on your spending was easy with the interactive TV giving you an up to date balance and the TV gave a lot more ,ships web cam , captains log and map plus loads of TV programs some pay per view but loads are free. The ship on our week had a good mixture of passenger ages and the ones we met were friendly and considerate to their fellow passengers and used the hand gels at meal times. The ship was very stable even in bad weather ,you had to look out of a window at times to remind you that the ship was moving ,the chances of being sea sick should you suffer from it must be very remote . The ship has a promenade deck with plenty of chairs should you wish a stroll or sit and watch the world go by or go up to the sun deck should you wish to lay on a lounger . Given the chance we will be back on the Ventura it's a good family /couples and singles ship and everyone seems to have a good time with plenty to do on board . I hope we sail on her again and soon . Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We really enjoy these short breaks and we look forward to spending a few days on board, as we live not far from Southampton it makes it easy for us to get to and from the port. The embarkation time we were given was 12.30 and we got to the ... Read More
We really enjoy these short breaks and we look forward to spending a few days on board, as we live not far from Southampton it makes it easy for us to get to and from the port. The embarkation time we were given was 12.30 and we got to the port by 11 - we waited for our letter to be called and it was all very easy, we were on board and eating in the self service retaurant by 12.45, the food was very good and we were pleased that there were plenty of wine waiters so we didn't have to wait long to have a glass of wine. As usual it was very busy but we managed to get a table by the window and queued up for our lunch, the food was very good with lots of choice and the view from the top of the ship over Southampton water was great. We we booked this as a guarantee cabin and only found out a few days beforehand that we were going to be on Riveria Deck which was deck 14. We had booked a balcony cabin and were slightly disappointed that we weren't lower down the ship where the balconies are bigger. However the cabin was very comfortable although we did have 6 bottles of water left for us with a note to say we could buy the pack if we wanted to. We put this under the small table but it was in the way. Our cabin steward didn't come and introduce himself and we only saw him once when he let himself into our cabin and then told us we should have put the "do not disturb sign" out. We were supposed to find out our dining arrangements once on board and when this has happened before there is usually a card left on the desk for us. This time there was nothing and we were worried as if we were eating at 6.30 we would need to get ready in a hurry. We phoned down to reception who said we would need to contact the dining manager, we tried ringing but the phone was constantly engaged or just kept ringing. We ended up going down and were told that we were able to eat at any time so we took it we had been allocated Freedom Dining. It took quite a bit of time to get this sorted which is annoying when you are only on a short trip as every hour is precious. Freedom dining suits us best so we were pleased with this, but saying that we did find we had to wait over an hour to get a table as P&O seem to have increased the amount of freedom diners. We had a drink in the Metropolis Bar, the Raspberry Brulee which is my favourite cocktail. We did notice that on this cruise there were a lot of hen parties which were very loud and some of them were very drunk. This was particularly disappointing in the restaurant, the noise levels and general rowdiness spoilt a lovely meal and as it was Gala Night it would have been nice to keep the feeling of elegance going but unfortunately women were being vulgar and some were rude to the staff. The entertainment for the first night was the ships company, Headliners, doing a review of songs from a variety of stage shows. We really enjoyed it and were very impressed with the quality of the singing. The second night was a comedian that we didn't find very funny and particularly didn't like the way he included the audience as it makes us feel uncomfortable, especially when questions that need to be answered in front of the whole audience. When we returned to our cabin on the first night we went to fill out our breakfast card so we could have some tea and some fruit juices in the morning with a fruit and cold meat platter. The cabin steward had removed our folder so we couldn't do this. I did phone room service and they brought some cards up for us but by this time it was 1.00 am and we had to wait for the cards to be delivered. I don't know why our steward removed the folder, it also meant that the postcard of the ship had gone and we like to collect these on the ships we have been on. We were woken the following morning to our tea and fruit and we enjoyed this in bed before getting up and going for a walk around the ship, our balcony had a view over the port of Zebrugge which was very industrial but interesting to watch all the work going on. We then went up to the self service breakfast where we had some coffee and a small bite to eat. P&O provide a free shuttle service to the local town where you can get the train into Bruges but as we had done this before so we opted to have a walk round the town. We went to the Storm Centre on the pier which on the website sounded interesting but in reality was not that good although we did spend a couple of hours walking around, it was a shame that there wasn't much in English so it was difficult to understand all the things they had on display. The weather wasn't that good so we only walked round for a couple of hours before heading back to the ship. The shuttle bus was waiting for us and we were back on board in time for lunch. The two days went very quickly and we did enjoy ourselves, the food is very good and we had a lovely evening in the Glass House where we tried a few of the wines. We also enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails both evenings as well as the chance to look round at the beautiful works of art they had in the gallery. Our cabin was clean and very comfortable, the towels were changed each time we seemed to leave the cabin. We also appreciated having a fridge and a kettle with tea and coffee available in the cabin. The choice of entertainment and different bars in the ship are able to accommodate everyone without making you feel you are in a large ship. We tried all the bars apart from the pub, although we did go to the casino which was busy and seemed a bit too complicated for us, we are not really big gamblers and might have bet a few pounds but the tables had minimum stakes, as did the slot machines. You had to use your cruise card and it was a minimum of £10 which put us off. Disembarkation was the usual hectic struggle to find somewhere to have breakfast, you have to be out of your cabin by 8.00 am and then wait to be called for disembarkation. If you want your luggage taken off by the porters you need to put your cases outside your cabin the night before but we only had small cases so decided to take them off ourselves. We left our cabin and ended up sitting outside by the pool as the restaurants were too busy. We had a relaxing time drinking coffee and doing a bit of people watching - something cruises are really good for. We weren't in a rush as we were getting picked up about 10.30 so didn't mind waiting around and once the restaurant started to thin out we got something to eat. Despite all the hiccups we still enjoyed this cruise, so much so that we are now booked for another short cruise in June on P@O's Aurora which is a new ship for us. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
We have just returned from a P&O short cruise to Guernsey and Zeebrugge on the Oriana. A holiday didn't get off to a good start as the ship could not dock due to high winds and our trip was cut short by 24 hours. Our four ... Read More
We have just returned from a P&O short cruise to Guernsey and Zeebrugge on the Oriana. A holiday didn't get off to a good start as the ship could not dock due to high winds and our trip was cut short by 24 hours. Our four night cruise became a 3 night cruise. We live in Lancashire and had already arrived in Southampton before we learned this and it was difficult to gain infromation as the P&O staff were not in uniform so it was hard to establish who they were amongst the passengers. However I take my hat off to P&O for springing into action and finding accomodation for over 1500 passengers in and around Southampton which included dinner and wine. As if this wasn't enough they then added £30 per passenger to our cabin card for spending on board the ship and have written to us confirming we will receive a 50% percent refund of the cost of our holiday to compensate us for the lost night at sea. We were collected from our hotel on embarkation day by coach and taken to the teminal to be checked in and boarded. The entire process took less than an hour and 30 minutes. Very impressive!. You would never get that from an airline. We had an inside cabin which was sufficient for the time we planned to spend in it. The bed was very comfortable and our cabin steward kept it spotlessly clean for us. The nightly turn down service with little chocoloates left on our pillows was a nice touch. The ship itself is a little dated and could do with a refit. The pools looked overdue a clean and many of the pictures in the coridors leading to the cabins had been wiped with a damp cloth and allowed to dry with smears which gave the ship a slightly unkempt look which was a shame as there were other areas that were immaculate. The gym was suprisingly large and well equipped for the size of the ship and the spa looked ok through the window although we never actually went in. The dining rooms were elegant and we particularly liked the ambience of Crows Nest bar with the talented jazz musicians who provided very pleasant entertainment. There was plenty of other entertainment on the ship. We weren't on long enough to sample most of it but there is something for everyone. We were very well fed with excellent five course meals in the evening although we did not always get what we had ordered. We were on freedom dining which meant that we could attend the Peninsular Restaurant at a time to suit us. We had to queue but it wasn't for long and were seated with lovely people every night. The Gala Dinner was lovely with just about everybody wearing black tie and evening gowns. The buffet breakfast was a bit of a free for all, not enough places to sit inside and was not worth the queue. We ordered room service on our final evening and this was very good. The cost of drinks both soft and alcoholic is very reasonable with a bottle of Prosecco costing less that £20 and table wine is also at very good value. The shore excursions are also very well priced, We did the Bruges on your Own and this cost less for the two of us than a return taxi would have cost. We had prebooked a couples massage for our sea day and although the sea day was cancelled we still went ahead with the treatment and shortened our time ashore. I have to be honest and say it was a total rip off. It didn't compare to any professional massage I have received in a salon but cost twice as much at £146 for both of us with an additional 10% added to our cabin card on board for gratuities. The treatment room was a bit clinical but at the same time a little grubby. I appreicate that scented candles would probably create a fire hazard but a bit of ambient lighting and another form of scent would have given it more atmosphere. It was carried out by two girls of oriental descent one of whom sniffed constantly and to be honest it all felt a bit sleazy. Our eyes were kept covered for most of it and towards the end we both became aware of something with a strong smell of vicks or eucalyptus being wafted under our noses. When the treatment was complete we were asked to dress and remain in the room. The therapists returned with water from a cooler for us to drink but then came the hard sell of Elemis products that they tried to convince us they had used by asking us to smell them. The smell was similar but I'm certain it was not the aroma we experienced when our eyes were covered. Nice try but you didn't fool us! In conclussion I would definitely cruise with P&O again and would even sail on the Oriana again too. She's an old girl but has a lovely faded charm. I will opt for a fixed time to dine but would still be happly with an inside cabin as I did hear that the outsides with a balcony got a little cold at night. Well done to P&O for dealing so efficiently with the crisis on what should have been our first day/night and thank you for the lovely accomodation and dinner you provided. We look forward to sailing with you again soon. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
I have just returned from a 4 night cruise to Amsterdam and zeebugge it was my first time on p&o having sailed on royal Caribbean and Holland America before all the cruise lines have good and bad points.the process of dropping the car ... Read More
I have just returned from a 4 night cruise to Amsterdam and zeebugge it was my first time on p&o having sailed on royal Caribbean and Holland America before all the cruise lines have good and bad points.the process of dropping the car off with cps was well organised and smooth as was checking in we arrived about 1145 and were on board by 12 15 .up to the buffet for lunch where the food was Luke warm at best we went outside to try the barbaque which wasn't even Luke warm the cabin were ready about 230 and the suitcase were waiting outside the cabin itself was clean and comfortable with a fridge safe and a really powerful shower.the entertainment was very very good especially the man with the puppets the price of the drinks onboard were about the same price as your local.we had freedom dining which worked well for us only had to wait once for a table for 2 and that was only about 10 minutes the quality of the food was pretty good if the portions for each course small its a good job you got 5 courses.i think p&o should invest in some new knives half the time you struggled even to cut the bread roll.where p&o really let themself down was the price of the tours for example £38 each just to drop you off in Brugge when the price of the train to brugge was only 6 euros return or over £40 for a trip to Anne franks house when you walk to it and pay 9 euros the disembarkment ran smoothly and we were back on the road by 830 overall I joined the mini cruise and would sail with p&o again but not take the tours Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We joined the Arcadia at Southampton for our very first cruise. Embarkation was fairly swift, despite the long queues. Everyone was then directed to the Belvedere Restaurant for a buffet lunch, prior to the cabins being ready at 2pm. ... Read More
We joined the Arcadia at Southampton for our very first cruise. Embarkation was fairly swift, despite the long queues. Everyone was then directed to the Belvedere Restaurant for a buffet lunch, prior to the cabins being ready at 2pm. Plenty of time to explore Arcadia before we went to the cabin to unpack. The first night was a Black Tie evening and we eat in the Ocean Grill (Marco Pierre White) which was absolutely wonderful. The service was excellent despite one waiter saying it was an exceptionally busy evening doing almost 50% more covers than usual. The first night's entertainment was a Badness (Madness) tribute which although we weren't too keen on, others seemed to love. We had breakfast in the buffet Belvedere the next morning where there was a good choice of food, but we much preferred the service and quality of food in the Meredian Restaurant, where we had breakfast on the second morning. The day we arrived in Guernsey (St Peter Port) the weather was lovely and there was a tender to the Port. We managed to get on an early one and were in St Peter Port by 08:30 am. The tenders dock very centrally and right on the edge of town. We didn't book any excursions, but visited Candie Gardens first which were lovely and very tranquil. There was a lovely restaurant/cafe up some steps near the Town Church with lovely views over the bay. Following a walk around the town (very pretty), we visited Hauteville House - the home of Victor Hugo during his exile. We had booked in advance for our one hour tour. If you don't book ahead there's every chance you won't get onto a group of 10 for each tour. Afterwards we strolled around the shops before heading back to the tender. A bit of a queue so best not to cut things too fine. The second evening was casual and we had a drinks in the Crows Nest which we loved, followed by a superb meal in the East Restaurant. Highly recommend both the speciality restaurants! We didn't book until we were onboard, but I believe there is a definite financial advantage to pre-booking as the cover charge is cheaper. The evening went far too quickly and before we knew it it was time to pack, sleep, early breakfast and vacate our cabins. We've now booked a cruise on Oriana in November to Portugal and Spain! Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
We found getting on and off the ship easy and stress free. This was our first cruise and therefore we were uncertain was to expect. Whilst the ship's facilities were positive and the activity schedule appeared to cater for various ... Read More
We found getting on and off the ship easy and stress free. This was our first cruise and therefore we were uncertain was to expect. Whilst the ship's facilities were positive and the activity schedule appeared to cater for various entertainment options, I did find initially there was a lack of information, I felt as if I could do with a mini guide to cruising to help when I initially got on the ship. Day's 2 and 3 were better as we then had a newspaper that listed activities. In regard to food, unfortunately, I was generally disappointed. We were on second sitting, which meant that we were eating at 8.30pm, we arrived at 8.26pm on the first evening to be turned away. The food lacked imagination and flare. It is very bulk standard as was the service. They clearly wanted to rush us, so they could finish work, which was not create a pleasant experience. On the third night, I upgraded to a paid for restaurant, which was better, although still a long way from fine dining but the service was much improved. Our cabin was clean and adequate and our cabin assistant, helpful and friendly as were the staff in the casino and those taking photos, in the cinema and reception. The staff that unfortunately let the side down were the bar and catering team. Generally, overall I enjoyed the experience but for us, now we have been once, we would be more informed of what may suit us moving forward and will try a different cruise line in order to compare. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We had never travelled with this line before but as this cruise from Sydney to Southampton through the Suez was on our bucket list, we packed our formal wear and headed off to Sydney to join our ship Arcadia. Embarkation We had an easy ... Read More
We had never travelled with this line before but as this cruise from Sydney to Southampton through the Suez was on our bucket list, we packed our formal wear and headed off to Sydney to join our ship Arcadia. Embarkation We had an easy boarding as we arrived mid afternoon and were on board and into our cabin C129 by 3pm. Our Cabin It was called a midships Deluxe Balcony with Bath/Shower and was clean, muted colours with good size balcony, a very comfortable bed, with a sofa and chair and desk with fridge. The bathroom was small but had a bath. We had plenty of hanging room but few drawers for storage and a safe, the tiniest one we have ever seen. Very narrow passage between bathroom and wardrobes made passing each other difficult if the doors were both open. Good wide screen TV on the wall but as we learnt the rotation of shows was abysmal and repetetive. Plenty of storage room for cases under the beds, poor lighting for reading in bed and for donning makeup at the desk, but better in the bathroom. We had problems with our shower, with no really hot water for the first few days, but this was resolved when we spoke to our cabin attendant. We also had problems with the aircon being too warm and this again was resolved by the ships engineers after reporting it. Our first cabin attendant was rude and unfriendly and only interested in tips (they were his first words to us, how to take the tips off and then just give it to him and when we said we wouldnt virtually ignored the rest of the cruise). However, he kept the cabin clean. Our new Cabin Attendant from Mumbai onwards was fantastic. The Ship Arcadia has a very different layout to other ships we have been on and so this made finding things a little difficult at first, but we found it very well set out with lots of lovely quiet places to sit and read, or chat especially when the weather was cooler. The only complaint was the pool decks that had limited shade and no sun beds in a shady spot for those who dont like being in the sun. Both pools were well used and the Solarium pool with the closing roof was lovely. Unfortunately, the area where pool lounges are on most ships, along the shady sides under cover are taken up on Arcadia with tables and chairs. However, as we are not sun bunnies we didnt find hard to endure as it was lovely to sit outside and eat breakfast and lunch. Sea Day Activities This is an area where this ship absolutely excels. We both thought the range and types of activites wonderfully varied and interesting. We could line, tap or ballroom dance our way across the world, play bingo, go to many varieties of quizzes, (music, geography, progressive, sport, Battle of the Sexes) table tennis, golf putting, tennis, deck quoits, interactive bowling, bridge classes and playing, whist, Spanish classes, knit and natter groups, art and craft lessons, ipad and digital camera classes, pilates, yoga, walk a mile, stretch classes, port talks, spa and fitness classes and talks,classical concerts, Arcadia vocalists and lots of music from various groups throughout the ship in the evening as well as Radio Arcadia run by DJ Martin, who ran music comps and played requests from late afternoon till late. Guest Speakers We had wonderful guest speakers on board. Terry Brown an ex-detective who gave some very interesting and entertaining talks on interviewing techniques, as a prelude for running a 3 say Murder Mystery where there were 12 suspects and the audience was divided into 20 or so groups as the detectives and they had to work out the who, how and whys. Dale Templar, from Human Planet, was a fabulous speaker giving insights into the filming and the photographers for this wonderful series, using film clips and amusing anecdotes. Tony Davies, a retired Squadron Leader in the RAF also provided some very interesting insights into the Vulcans and the Red Arrows acrobatic flying team. John Lyons, who played George from Taste of Frost, was a fantastic speaker giving 3 wonderful talks on his life and then about the series and the pranks that were played over the 17 years of the series with footage and out takes making it very funny. Nick Slope spoke of Ships and Captains, Bligh and Nelson, Nelsons women, then the Battles of the Somme, Jutland, and Gallipolli, all very interesting. Paul from the Amethyst duo also did some wonderful talks and guitar playing in his talks on the History of the Guitar. Entertainment Again, we thought this ship excelled in this area. We had a new Cruise Director, Dom Hones on board from Auckland, and everyone said how the ship had a different feel. We was a magnificent CD excuding energy and inspiring his wonderful Entertainment Team, all of whom were friendly, relaxed, chatty and personable and some of the best Entertainment crew we have ever had at sea. The Headliners theatre group, especially the dancers, were excellent and their Destination Dance and Killer Queen shows were magnificent. The Singers were great some nights and not so great others. But they energetically danced and sang their way through 12 productions as we saw about 3 shows a week, including Reel to Reel, Night of a Thousand Stars, and Another Show, Another Opening. Other night time entertainment included Matthew McGurk a wonderful magician, Brian Conley, a celebrity entertainer and comedian, who was very funny, David Kidd, a Tom Jones impersonator, Kenny Martyn, a multi intrumentalist, Zoe Tyler, a fabulous vocalist, Gareth Oliver, ventriloquist extraordinaire, Eliot Pace, a great pianist and singer, Tim O'Connor a celebrity comedian, Pam Ayers,and Marti Webb, a West End vocalist. The bands on board were mixed, and there was no music between 5.30 -6.30 for those of us on Freedom dining, only Radio Arcadia, so we tended to have a pre dinner drink in our rooms instead of visiting a bar!! Our favourite band was Inspiration, but the Sunshine Band we thought was boring. Amethyst Duo were good, but the piano playing by Clare Saunders was excruciating. The Passenger Talent and Crew Talent shows were also very good. Sailaway Parties and Deck Parties Having never experienced these before we didnt know what to expect. Well, we certainly never missed one after our first, as they were so much fun. We sang and danced and enjoyed a good variety of music led by Dom and his crew, and we experienced the GREAT BRITISH SAILAWAY only once, in Lisbon when the traditional English songs were on show. We just loved these and from Melbourne onwards these were the joyous farewells to some wonderful ports and set the scene for a happy and relaxed cruise. Restaurants Meridian- Freedom Dining. We had never done this before and really enjoyed the experience of meeting new people every night and being able to dine when we wanted. We would ask Rajeev for a 2/4/6 and he would seat us accordingly to what he had available. We only had to wait for 10 minutes one night to be seated at a table for 2, but we were more than happy with that. It seems the most popular times for eating were 6pm so if you avoided that time, you could easily get a good table. We found service was mostly excellent with some off nights, but that happens everywhere. Dinner menus were repeated but there was enough choice that you did not have to eat the same thing. Thought lack of ice cream other than at dinner poor and dessert choices bland. Breakfasts in Meridian were terriific, with the daily specials of Kedgeree on Wednesdays and Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon on Sundays very much looked forward to by us and many others. It was a nice change to have a quiet table for 2 at breakfast without any problems. Otherwise we had room service breakfasts, but these got very monotonous and we would resort to going up to the Belvedere Buffet restaurant and getting our choices and bringing them down to the cabin to eat. We did have breakfast in the Belvedere when we wanted hot breakfast and on port days and choices were good. We found the set up of the Belvedere compared to other buffets at sea rather old fashioned and slow. Their Indian and Thai buffets were excellent and well attended. Deck BBQ's and Pool Deck BBQ had a great choice of food and we enjoyed these very much. Ocean Grill, we enjoyed several times and apart from one long wait for starters one night, was always delicious, with a good choice of mains, starters and desserts (though the size of desserts made wastage a big problem) and service impeccable. East, the Asian fusion restaurant was our favourite and we also visited here several nights. Views over the sea were lovely, the food absolutely delicious and spicey if you wanted it, and the service very good. We noticed sometimes the sauces were overly salted and for our no added salt palates, very hard to like. We thought this was better priced as it was all inclusive for food, whereas, Ocean Grill charges for extras, ie for a prawn with your surf and turf 6 pound!! Shore Excursions We mainly arrange these ourselves, but as our ports in Egypt were cancelled and we had Salalah, Oman and Aqaba, Jordan added, we signed up for ships tours. These ports were excellent and we enjoyed both tours, especially the tour to Petra which included a fabulous lunch. The other port where we had a ships tour was Lisbon, where we opted for the tour to Obidos, which was a gem and we thought the prices were about what other cruise lines ask, so were happy with the pricing. In Malta, after the port talk, we went to the Excursions Desk to talk to Dan, who comes from Malta and he was able to set us up with a private driver and for 8 hours for 4 people at a very reasonable cost, and we had a fantastic day there, seeing many things lots of others couldnt using the Hop On Hop Off buses. The crossing of the Suez Canal was a real highlight for us and we had the experience of the Excursion Team leader pointing out things of interest along the way. This also happened in Lisbon as we sailed up the river. Oasis Spa Several offers were made during our voyage, some better than others, but a haircut was 20 pound plus tip and a session in the hydrotherapy pool and sauna was was 10 pounds per session, but a special of 150 pound for the whole cruise was offered at the beginning of each sector and lots of people used this offer. Other offers included Lime and Ginger body scrub 79 pd save 30 pd and 3 in one offers at varying prices. Dress Codes There are 3, formal, jacket required and casual. We had anticipated this and enjoyed dressing up but it began to pall by the end of 6 1/2 weeks. You were not allowed to wear shorts even into the buffet at night, with several men being informed it was not appropriate dress. Even in the bars, you could not enter unless you followed the dress code of the day. We could see that this is to maintain a standard of dress, but thought it was a bit over the top in the buffet. Overall Impressions We honestly loved this ship, from her Captain, Aseem Hashmi, with his informative and amusing midday talks and updates, to the wonderful crew who looked after us so well, the Entertainment team who made it such fun, the wonderful people who joined us on tours, for drinks, dinners and quizzes, and our wonderful ports of call, it was an amazing voyage, one we will never forget and one we will repeat in the future. Thank you Arcadia for making the whole experience so delightful.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
This was our first experience of P&O having previously cruised with Disney (4 cruises), Cunard (2 cruises) and Royal Caribbean (1 cruise) so I am likely to use these as a comparison. The cruise was a 2 night taster cruise to Zeebrugge ... Read More
This was our first experience of P&O having previously cruised with Disney (4 cruises), Cunard (2 cruises) and Royal Caribbean (1 cruise) so I am likely to use these as a comparison. The cruise was a 2 night taster cruise to Zeebrugge and we had a booked a suite. Embarkation - Parking with CPS was fine and our baggage was taken from us outside the terminal. As we had priority boarding we were guided to the check in line which was surprisingly long considering it was only 11:30. This took almost 30 minutes so not very impressive for priority (we had friends travelling and regular check-in took less time than that, which they found amusing!). Most of the check-in desks were already manned but they were idle which seemed odd when they could have cleared the line quickly. We went straight from check in the queue to board to were on the ship around 12:10pm. After being directed to the buffet on deck 15 we had a discussion with the P&O crew member and were directed to Sindhu as the priority lounge. At around 1pm I asked what time our cabin might be ready and as they answered 2pm I decided to go and make my wife's spa reservations and speciality dining bookings. Even at 1pm she was unable to get the spa appointments that she wanted but we did get the restaurants booked. If I waited for our butler I doubt we would have managed to get any bookings later in the day. We met up with our friends at around 1.30pm as we still hadn't seen the butler or been told that they cabin was ready. We had some wine flights in the Glass House and went to find our suite around 2.30pm. Suite/Cabin - We have previously stayed in a Queens Grill suite on the QM2 and although very similar we preferred this one on Azura. The only disappointments were lots of little things that I would have expected from staying in a suite. Sorry if they seem a bit petty but as we have 3 children we can only get away on short trips alone now and again, so pay the extra to have the extra benefits. With other lines the champagne would have been waiting on ice in the cabin, ours was in the fridge and we never got any ice until I asked later in the evening. All other lines we have been on have had the ice kept topped up right through (maybe this is a P&O thing). When we eventually met our butler he was reluctant to bring extra canapes that evening as we were having friends over for drinks. Then later again (when he delivered a fruit bowl) he tried to talk us out of having tea/coffee/danish the next morning as he said that we had breakfast in Seventeen so wouldn't need it. Maybe we are odd wanting tea and coffee in our cabin before going up before breakfast. We only saw the butler the next morning when he brought tea and that was it. He never asked if we needed anything booked etc. Although the suite was nice we were maybe left with a feeling that we didn't really get any benefit from the extras that supposedly accompanied it. I am sure on a longer voyage that the service may have been better but as this was a taster you could argue that they should be trying harder to impress to try to solicit future business. Food - On the first evening we ate at Sindhu and the food/service was excellent. My only comment was that I asked for 2 desserts from the menu as I couldn't decide. This for me has always been a highlight of cruising with other lines that you could sample other dishes and it has never been a problem. It was an awkward moment when the waiter went into shock and wasn't sure he could do that. He did then agree but I did feel that I might have committed a terrible faux pas. Again this might be a P&O thing. The 2 desserts were excellent BTW! The next morning we ate at Seventeen and knowing that we would be eating dinner there later in the day were a little worried about the service and attitude we encountered. The service was slow and we didn't get offered tea/coffee until around 15/20 mins into breakfast by which time we were on fruit and toast (before cooked items arrived). After that we had a top about every 60 seconds! For lunch we decided to try the Glass House and thought the small plates were very good. At the time that we went it was very quiet and was a very enjoyable place to sit and relax. As I mentioned earlier we had booked Seventeen for dinner and need not have worried that the breakfast service would carry over to dinner. We had pre-dinner drinks at the Planet bar and wandered down around 8.30pm. Although the food and service was very good I would say I preferred the food at Sindhu a little better. We had another awkward moment upon leaving the restaurant when my wife took her half full glass of red wine with her as we had decided to go back to the Planet bar. We got to just outside the restaurant and the waitress ran after us and said she couldn't take the wine with her! This was a little embarrassing, then we were half way up the stairs and she ran back and gave it back to her. Very odd as on other lines it is fine to wander from bar to bar with drinks or back to your cabin. Again this may be a P&O thing. Entertainment - we did visit most of the venues for a drink and see what it had to offer but didn't really sample any of the set entertainment. As it was a 2 night cruise is was a bit of a party feel and I guess the entertainment was there to match. Overall we had a great time due to the good food and the company of friends but you may think from some of my comments that we didn't. It may that some of the issues are not P&O policy as such but maybe down to staff inexperience. On balance I think we would travel with P&O again but maybe not in a suite on a shorter cruise as the benefits were almost non existent. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Our first cruise and we had reservations that we were entering a holiday camp atmosphere. However, that was not accurate. The embarkation process was easy and quick and we were eating our first lunch within an hour of arriving at the car ... Read More
Our first cruise and we had reservations that we were entering a holiday camp atmosphere. However, that was not accurate. The embarkation process was easy and quick and we were eating our first lunch within an hour of arriving at the car drop. The cabin was a little small but otherwise was excellent and we were glad we had the balcony. The food was plentiful, well-cooked, varied and of average taste. However, we had hoped the food would have been more sophisticated. The only poor meal was the one we paid extra for in the Marco Pierre White bistro 'Cafe Jardin'. That was fatty, greasy, sloppy and a triumph of marketing over quality. The sun deck was not a place I felt comfortable in but it seemed great fun for those who liked the small pools, loud music and the bars. There were plenty of other places to lie in the sun. The crew members were wonderful. Excellent customer care and so happy. Cleanliness, infection control and comfort were of the highest standard. The evening entertainment was varied and energetic and most audience members seemed to enjoy the comedian and singers. There were two interesting and well presented lectures on Egyptology. We had one cloudy day and part of that was spent enjoyably watching a newly-released movie. The ship has a very useful gym and lectures on diet. The spa is far too expensive and seemed little used. The ship's photographers took excellent photos but the prices were exorbitant. They must destroy thousands every cruise - dreadful waste of ink and paper. The ports of call - Vigo, Lisbon (beware that the museums are all closed on Mondays which happened to be our day of arrival!), Oporto and St Peter port - were all pleasant. Whilst in Vigo we took a taxi to the nearby beach resort of Playa Samil with its lovely promenade, beautiful sand and warm, clear sea. In Lisbon the old town was captivating. Oporto was our favourite city - charm, feel, aesthetics. Incidentally, apart from St Peter Port we found the taxi, food and bar prices to be very inexpensive. Excellent disembarketion. So, a very enjoyable introduction to cruising.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
We tried this mini cruise to see how we liked P&O. Ventura was quite a big ship and a big difficult to find your way around, Our inside cabin was small but adequate. Overall food not bad but Beach house buffet was really difficult to ... Read More
We tried this mini cruise to see how we liked P&O. Ventura was quite a big ship and a big difficult to find your way around, Our inside cabin was small but adequate. Overall food not bad but Beach house buffet was really difficult to get round with trays, it had narrow aisles, we used Waterside which was fine. We chose freedom dining, if there was not a table for two we were given a pager and never had to wait too long. Tables were a big close together but we did have some lovely meals.We took the courtesy bus to Zeebrugge and then got the bus to Brugge, really loved Brugge, take the canal trip if you go it was lovely. We caught the train back to Zeebrugge. Guernsey was ok, we took the local bus that took you all around the island for £2 Guernsey pounds. You can use English money but you get your change in Guernsey money which you can't spend at home.We found the staff ok but they did not seem to engage with the customers very much. We saw our cabin steward once so did not get chance to have a chat.I would recommend trying the mini cruises as it gives you an idea of what to expect.The biggest gripe we came across was the cost of the cruise as many people had paid a lot more than us, but lots of people were unhappy about the vantage and Getaway fares. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
First of all for the price I payed I cannot really complain, but in just 4 short days i'm not overly impressed with P&O.The good bits - the ship is spotless the cabins and beds fantastic room maid brilliant, food in main ... Read More
First of all for the price I payed I cannot really complain, but in just 4 short days i'm not overly impressed with P&O.The good bits - the ship is spotless the cabins and beds fantastic room maid brilliant, food in main restaurants.The not so good - entertainment (pub & club standard) & timings of shows.The really poor bits - Buffet restaurant quality, pools & spa pools.Let me elaborate on my mini cruise to Brugge & St Peter port on Ventura, check in very good & well organised our room was spotless, we had a quick walk round the ship and soon found ourselves completely lost now your thinking well it's a big ship! wrong it's the smallest we have been on the deck and room numbers don't work shouldn't a room on deck 8 be say 8204 not E204 you get in a lift you don't know where you are going, then you have to map out your journey from one end of ship to the other unlike the independence you can walk from one end to other without changing deck any deck!There should be little signs outside lifts should tell you where you are forward, back, left right etc everyone had a little map it was quite funny watching everybody who was lost!Anyway the food in main restaurants was very good with good service, drinks service a little slower we ended up taking drinks in with us saved the long wait (starters finished & main course started before drinks came).Now the not so good entertainment was not the standard of RCI if you have been on RCI you will know what I mean. If your on 8:30 dining you only get the one show there was six shows on different locations all doing 8:30 and 10:30 starts so when you finished dining you had to make a choice of what you wanted to see we just went to the Arena after seeing some of the acts they were ok just not my cup of tea, the volume level seemed to drown out there ability!Now the bad all but two pools and one spa pool were shut even my lads said it was chaos and didn't go in with the weather fantastic at sea this was really poor and a few people were griping about it.The buffet restaurant choice and quality wasn't very good in fact it was poor again RCI do it miles, miles better, I had a curry at lunch time one day it was by far the worse curry i've ever had period.On the plus side when it shut for lunch and opened for afternoon tea this was miles better and was a pleasure, so we just did this.Tips for excursions on this tripZeebrugge - Get the free transfer bus to train station get the train one every hour staff will tell you the times about 6.50 euros return each then taxi to Brugge town square 7 euros each way go and go early in morning and get a full day.St Peter port - Get up early for the tenders because by 10:30 its manic and get either a taxi or bus from the bus station its 10 min walk along the front to where your going. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
I booked this mini cruise online because of the fantastic price, after a colleague at work highly recommended Ventura and P&O I took my family, my mother and one of my sons mates with us, we had fantastic weather very smooth travel the ... Read More
I booked this mini cruise online because of the fantastic price, after a colleague at work highly recommended Ventura and P&O I took my family, my mother and one of my sons mates with us, we had fantastic weather very smooth travel the boat didn't move, Brugge was lovely and St Peter port nice for the time we had! Apart from that the rest was a little disappointing food in restaurant good but only warm the buffet house was very poor standard and not much choice, (compared to RCI it was really poor!) On the plus side breakfast was great in the restaurants. With only two pools and one whirlpool open they were mobbed by kids, not a problem they are entitled to a holiday as well, but had they got the other pools and splash pools open it may have eased the congestion, my mother was very disappointed not to get in a whirlpool, we sent her to the new oasis spa but that pool was shut so she came away. The entertainment was another bug bear of mine it was very loud maybe this drowned out the poor quality of the acts. Apart from the Take That tribute band who were good the rest were club standard again RCI seem to have quality musicians onboard. Getting off at Brugge was good a free courtesy bus to the train station with a local tour rep telling train times this was a good touch and a massive plus. (taxi from train station to centre square 7 euros) Getting off the ship at St Peter port all I will say is 'get up early'!! Disembarkation just like every other ship chaos!!Would I sail with P&O again....... only if I pay the same price I don't think I would ever pay their full brochure price.Ps :- Room P204 was very good, the room maid fantastic and when docking the ropes and anchor act as a great alarm clock so dont pack one! Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
A packed Ventura set sail on 7 April 2013 for an Easter holiday cruise down to Vigo, Lisbon, Oporto and La Coruna. Myself and two teenagers were in inside cabin C248- a perfectly acceptable cabin with no noise issues. The first night and ... Read More
A packed Ventura set sail on 7 April 2013 for an Easter holiday cruise down to Vigo, Lisbon, Oporto and La Coruna. Myself and two teenagers were in inside cabin C248- a perfectly acceptable cabin with no noise issues. The first night and day was marred by a force ten down the English channel and Bay of Biscay. Daughter was ill and loads of people wandering around clutching Ventura medical Centre invoices. Vigo- well a forgettable port. Just glad to get off. Go up the road by the tourist information Office and turn right for literally two minutes to find (left)the most packed mini market shop selling all goods in the suface area of a shoe box. Stocked up on Don Simon wine cartons at 1.45 euros each to put in the cabin fridge! Also cake thingys which would come in useful throughout. Next stop, Lisbon. Lisbon is hideous. Clearly the only industry thriving is that manufacturing paint spray cans. Crumbling and graffitied it is a sorry sight.Stayed 20 minutes. Into yet another area of low pressure heading north, the Captain had to throw away Oporto and we had to endure another rather boring day onboard, tempered only when the sun came out late afternoon. La Corunna was a nice surprise. Clean, well maintained and upmarket. Great British Sailaway- hmmm, I'm patriotic but is this bordering on the jingoistic? We were on freedom dining in Cinnamon- nice crew and reasonable food- I cannot say the food blew me away to be honest. This ship cannot cope on sea days with the breakfast bun fight. Two room service orders to overcome this were "lost" with no apology offered. Kids club good- although a few individuals a bit snooty. Casino was fun. Didn't sample any of the shows. Weather ruined the whole thing- not P and O's fault. Would not sail from Southampton again. Three out of three cruises in the past 12 months were ruined/altered due to the weather conditions. Hey ho. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
We're a young(ish) active couple in our early 40s who booked a week on Ventura cruising the Norwegian Fjords as our first cruise. We didn't want to spend a fortune or go for more than a week in case cruising wasn't for us. ... Read More
We're a young(ish) active couple in our early 40s who booked a week on Ventura cruising the Norwegian Fjords as our first cruise. We didn't want to spend a fortune or go for more than a week in case cruising wasn't for us. My husband hates flying so a cruise from Southampton seemed ideal. We normally holiday in the UK and enjoy walks, photography, good food and in my husband's case, a pint of two of real ale. This cruise appealed because is was sure to be scenic and seemed like a good introduction to holidaying at sea. We travelled by train from Nottingham to Southampton to avoid the stress of driving and the expense of parking. It was easier than getting to the pick up point for the coach. As soon as we got out of the taxi at the Mayflower Pier our cases were immediately whisked away and we joined the line for check in. The queue moved fairly swiftly and within about 30 mins we were on board. We felt a bit lost and not sure what to do but were handed a map of the ship and wandered off to find our cabin. On our way we came across our cases which were waiting on the corridor and wheeled them the rest of the way down to our cabin towards the aft end of the C deck. We'd decided on aft to save £100 each and had read that C deck cabins have the best balconies. This is true. Our cabin had everything we needed, was well tastefully decorated, comfortable and a reasonable size. Our cabin steward, Grazie, introduced herself almost as soon as we'd moved in. She told us where to find our muster station and made sure we were happy with our cabin. She did a great job keeping our home for the week clean and tidy and was always smiling and chirpy. After unpacking (and yes there was plenty of room for our stuff, our cases and enough hangers) we went for a wander and afternoon tea. Then it was time for the safety talk at the muster station (Havana). This didn't take long and was straight forward. We spent the first afternoon exploring although we still managed to get lost a few times, even towards the end of the week! The floors are a bit confusing as some areas don't seem to link up from all 3 staircases but we had some extra exercise finding our way round. We'd opted for freedom dining and ate in the Cinnamon restaurant each evening, We didn't see the point of paying extra to eat in the "select" restaurants as the food and service were very good in our allocated restaurant. We elected not to share tables and never had to wait long for a table for 2. We ate close to 6pm most evenings and were shown a window seat several times. We have no complaints about the food. There was plenty of choice and it was possible to request items that weren't on the menu if you're especially fussy. The service from the waiters was prompt and efficient. Some were more smiley and friendly than others but they were all good at their jobs. We sampled most of the bars on board and preferred the Metropolis bar over all due to the relaxed atmosphere and great views. We also liked the Red Bar as it was comfortable. The drink prices were reasonable and the service was attentive without being pushy. Even in busy venues, such as the theatre and Havana bar the staff did a great job in getting to you when you needed a refill and remembering who ordered what. I don't know how they do it! Hubby was happy with the range of real ales and I enjoyed working my way through the cocktail list and sampling the occasional liquor. We went to some of the shows in the theatre. The Headliners singers and dancers were very good and their shows were professional and entertaining. The comedians were ok but we didn't see any of them for a second time. The Neil Diamond and Tom Jones tribute acts were very good. The older ladies in the audience especially enjoyed the banter from the Tom Jones act! We didn't partake in the entertainment every evening. We were happy just to sit in the Metropolis bar with a drink, enjoying the sunsets and chilled out music. There was a fairly comprehensive programme of daytime activities but most of it wasn't really our cup of tea. We did use the gym which was very well equipped. The classes were a bit expensive but the free "fab abs" class was good. The treadmills and cardio equipment are arranged to give a great view out to sea at the front of the ship. Who needs MTV! There are plenty of swimming pools on Ventura but only a few brave souls made use of them. It was rather nippy in April! If you want to do "proper" swimming you'll find them a bit small. The endless pool wasn't working most of the time but it was too cold to use it anyway. The temperature around the only covered pool was reasonable and if that had been bigger or "endless" we might have used it. Ventura is a family ship so this area was a bit noisy for us although most of the time we didn't really notice many children elsewhere on board as it was term time. You can always get something to eat on the ship without having to pay extra for it. The 24hr buffet had a good choice of food. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea were fairly varied and of good quality. Seating was rather limited and at times we walked circuits around both sides of Waterfront and Beach house to find a table. It probably would be less congested in warmer climates when you could make use of the exterior seating. On our cruise we had 2 sea days and visited ports on 4 days. The excursions were very expensive. We only booked one - the Flam railway trip. This was also pricey but we don't regret booking it. There wasn't a lot to do in the ports other than enjoy the scenery. This was enough for us. Flam and Bergen are covered below. We also visited Stavanger and Olden. Both were interesting and pleasant to wander around. We liked the old town in Stavanger but it felt as though Ventura and its passengers took over the town in a rather imposing and intrusive way. It seemed as though it wasn't quite ready for the tourist season as not everywhere was open and quite a lot of work was being done in the port. Olden has some shops geared towards tourists. We didn't buy anything but lots of people did - they were packed! We found the old wooden church which was worth the short walk to find. Again, some of the shops were closed - they missed a trick there! The prettiest area can be found by turning left and walking down the road back along the Fjord. There's a wooden pier by some conifer trees where we took some lovely photos which look like paintings. There is something surreal about the colours of the landscape and the snow-capped mountains reflected in the water. Yes, Norway is expensive but cruising is a cheaper way to visit as there is no need to pay for food and drinks - you can get them on the ship! We only wandered around in the ports for a few hours between breakfast and lunch so didn't need to get on and off too many times. This was a good thing as queuing to get through security was a bit of a chore, albeit necessary and understandable. We had been a bit nervous before our holiday about rough seas. One night was quite bad although the staff were reassuring, especially the captain who had warned us that there would be a big swell and some noise from the bow slapping down on the sea (gulp!) We wore our anti sea sickness bands and didn't feel ill, just a little anxious. We propped ourselves up in bed and watched the TV most of the night to distract us from the noise and motion. There was some vibration from the stabilisers which i understand was worse on the lower decks. The rest of the time we were lucky to have fairly smooth seas and good weather. We knew it would be cold and packed accordingly. Disembarkation was swift and well organised but no drinks were offered wile we waited to be led off the ship. We would have happily paid for a cuppa in the bar as we'd had to vacate our room by 8am and were not due to leave until after 10am. We could have left earlier, taking our bags off ourselves but we'd have had a long wait at Southampton station. We were expecting the buffet breakfast to be rammed on disembarkation but we beat the crowds by eating before 7am. It was the quietest we'd seen it all week! We would definitely recommend P&O and Ventura and the Norwegian Fjords. In fact I've been missing the ship since we came home! It would be interesting to see how different the experience would be in warm weather when you could sit on deck and enjoy the pools. Maybe next time... Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
A friend and I took a short cruise on the Azura to Bruges, Guernsey and Sark. Embarkation seemed to take an age, one felt rather like cattle being herded and it's difficult for some to have to stand in line for what seemed an age in ... Read More
A friend and I took a short cruise on the Azura to Bruges, Guernsey and Sark. Embarkation seemed to take an age, one felt rather like cattle being herded and it's difficult for some to have to stand in line for what seemed an age in a very stuffy 'hangar'. We booked a twin cabin with balcony, which was fine, and thankfully quiet, and we had a super sunny balcony on Saturday when the sun shone. However night 1 I couldn't open the balcony doors and when I asked our cabin boy the following day about this, he took hold of my shoulder and said push like this to open it = correct, but I was tempted to tell him to 'unhand' me. I travel a great deal to India and have never before had anyone there take hold of me, without permission. Getting into Bruges was a bit tricky ie bus, train, taxi, but the train (3 tiers) was interesting and actually we found we had more time than we thought in Bruges as we got a taxi back to the ship, tho @ a cost of 50euros! A pity the ship couldn't arrange transport directly there and back @ less cost. However, our trip to Sark was good value and luckily both the weather, and sea, were favourable, and I think this excursion was very good value, and I'm glad we didn't opt for just Guernsey only to find out, at the last moment, that in fact the shops would be closed, it being a Sunday! Also, our tickets were not delivered to our cabin, but we were able to get duplicates. The meals in the Peninsular restaurant were I thought good, nothing like the ones on the month long cruise, but one has to bear in mind the good value of this short break. Some of the crew however were a little forward rather than friendly ie when I asked for hot toast for breakfast I was informed - hot like you Madam! Hmmm. And toasters in the dining room would be very useful, or at least covered toast, as is done for breakfasts taken in the cabins, ie would then be warm at least! One always gets the feeling of being rushed, but are aware of how much the crew have to do in a day, they do work very hard indeed. This was a 'transition' break and very good value though I heard some moans about things not being as good as on a 'normal' cruise, or as good as the Royal Caribbean line, but I believe one can't have it all @ such a low price and I loved this break! If ever you want a stowaway, let me know! I spent a month on the Ventura over Christmas and New Year in 2010 cruising around the Caribbean and preferred that ship ie the Tapas bar in particular, and the crew, though our table captain was, as on that cruise, excellent. I think the Captain could have a discreet word with the crew and try to explain the difference between friendly and forward, as I found the crew on the Ventura wholly respectful at all times, though daresay there were one or more women who egged the unsuspecting young crew on rather too much on the Azura! I also had need to visit the ship's doctor and he was great. Also, I must say I wss glad to find the passengers far more decorous than those on the Christmas cruise, many of whom were the worse for wear most of the time, and very loud with it. This was far more restful. Disembarkation was swift, thankfully, and well-executed. Oh! And my friend enjoyed Charlotte and Jonathan very much though felt seats should have been reserved for 1st timers as we knew some had come for the 2nd and even 3rd show, perhaps their cards could have been swiped to prevent this happening again? All in all, very enjoyable thank you! Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
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