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103 P&O Cruises Repositioning Cruise Reviews

Boarding at Valparaiso went well. Our cabin was great, and we were on G deck, the lowest passenger deck. The cabin was very clean, and certainly larger than what we have had with other cruise lines at a similar level. What was good ... Read More
Boarding at Valparaiso went well. Our cabin was great, and we were on G deck, the lowest passenger deck. The cabin was very clean, and certainly larger than what we have had with other cruise lines at a similar level. What was good that our suitcases slipped under the bed, which we have not been able to do with some cruise lines. Our cabin steward Johnny was first class. Cabin was left immaculate each day. The ship was very clean throughout. Newsletters for the UK and Australia were available daily, which meant we did not feel disconnected from the World. The theatre shows were very much hit and miss for me. I have a low tolerance regarding entertainment, and if I am not enjoying a show within the first 10 minutes, I have no hesitation in leaving. I only stayed through 4 shows in the 20 days sailing. Some acts were dreadful unfortunately. We were on Freedom Dining, and unfortunately in the main, it was not a pleasant experience, to the point that we used the buffet more than the restaurant. We felt rushed most times, with being seated, handed a menu, and before we had even had time to introduce ourselves to the other table members, let alone time to study the menu, we were being asked what we wanted to order. The food was so so. My wife had to send her meals back twice due to asking for no meat to be served with blood in it, and having it delivered oozing blood. On one occasion, she ordered roast pork, and it was mainly fat and gristle, so she left most of the meal. If that had happened on our preferred cruise line, the waiter would have asked what was wrong, and would have offered a replacement, but the plate was just whisked away. Ordering the ice cream or sorbet was a joke, because each time itcould be drank from the bowl because it was melted. No good putting ice cream in hot dishes guys. One other thing on it. We are used to the table waiter going though the menu, explaining what each item was, and making his recommendations, then waiting a short while before taking orders. I am not French, and could not understand what some of the meals were with the menus referring to the meals using French words. A dumbo maybe, but surely, plain simple menus in English would not be too hard to do. The buffet was great. No problems there at all. The tables were cleared quickly, the choice of food was good, and we could take as long or as little time as we wanted to, to eat. Also, a nice touch seeing the tables in the buffet laid up for the evening dining. The pub, the Crows nest, and The Globe were evening hangouts for us, and we enjoyed each venue. The musical entertainment was good, the quizzes were good, the staff were great. The Battle Of The Sexes was great fun, but I would have liked to have seen some debates on World issues take place. The itinerary was not great, but we knew that, so no issues on it at all. Unfortunate that we could not get into Bora Bora, and disappointed to hear some passengers complaining about it. We have been there before, so no issue on not making it in. The dress code was relaxed in the main, though I think it could have been slightly more relaxed for the buffet in the evening, with the wearing of dress shorts and a shirt, or collared top allowed, especially so on boarding day and port days. It was good seeing the staff asking people to leave because they were wearing shorts, but disappointed that on one occasion they asked a man to leave, and 2 minutes later ignored a young woman that came In with thigh high cut off jeans with ragged ends. The dress code is a close thing, because on several occasions we seen women wearing what would be termed shorts being allowed into the dining areas, whereas a man wearing pants the same length would have been refused. Disembarking in Sydney was great. We self disembarked at 7:15am, though I staff member tried to prevent us leaving, because he said that he had not been informed that clearance had been given. We soon convinced him that it had, and that we were going off like it or not. From ship to the airport in 30 minutes using the train from Circular Quay. Cost $14 each, which included the airport access fee. (Seniors fare for Australians holding a Seniors Card. I think a couple of $$ more for those that do not hold one). This was a first cruise with P&O for us, after spending some years using another cruise line, so I guess the question is, would we book with them again. A close thing, but the answer would be yes. There was nothing drastic enough that would prevent us booking again with them. We managed the dining problems we encountered by simply using the backup option, and that was fine. When leaving the shows early, we simply went and listened to entertainment in another venue. Overall satisfaction was not excellent, but certainly good. Some tweaking of the entertainment and training of dining staff would have brought an excellent rating from us. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Two week cruise on Britannia from Southampton to Caribbean via Madeira, sailing on 23rd October 2015. Four days before sailing P&O advised the ship would call at Tenerife instead of Madeira - disappointing as we had been to Tenerife ... Read More
Two week cruise on Britannia from Southampton to Caribbean via Madeira, sailing on 23rd October 2015. Four days before sailing P&O advised the ship would call at Tenerife instead of Madeira - disappointing as we had been to Tenerife before but never visited Madeira. Embarkation: rather shambolic, P&O apparently employing a new system. Our check-in time at Ocean terminal shown on tickets as 12-3pm, we arrived 12:15. Boarding commenced 12:30 but was suspended after 20 mins as there was a "problem with the airbridge". This lasted 45 mins. Eventually boarded at 3pm. Cruise overall: OK, but we were disappointed with the quality of the ship. Prior to this we had been on Celebrity twice, Oceania once, Fred Olsen twice and P&O once (Azura). We would rate Oceania the best, then Celebrity, then Olsen then P&O. On Britannia we found the balcony tiny, also the bathroom (although the toiletries were good quality (White Stuff), we could hear next cabins TV, there were no nibbles with drinks at the bars unless it was formal night, for a supposed flagship the atrium had no 'wow' factor, and there's no facility to check your account or order wine etc on the TV. Dining: We opted for 2nd sitting in the Oriental restaurant as opposed to Freedom Dining. Lunches were in the Horizon buffet, which was a bit of a crush, and there were three other venues where you paid a supplement. On the whole the quality of the food was OK but no more, for example there was no fillet steak choice unless we paid a supplement. Also disappointing was the lack of attention to hygiene. On the first night and the following lunchtime the crew dispensed hygiene gel but after that there was no enforcement of hygiene practice. Service: Our cabin steward from Goa was excellent, dining room staff varied (some were cheerful, others quite surly), service was slow on occasion, bar staff OK though few seemed to want to enter into conversation, let alone a bit of banter. Deck areas: As soon as the weather improved near the Canaries the sun deck was packed, the pool filled most of the time with children. We didn't pay for entrance to the Retreat. Smoking was allowed in certain areas, but not on balconies. We were on port side so the sun was on our balcony most of the time. Entertainment: We could never get a seat in the LIve Lounge where various cabaret-style acts were on, and seats were difficult to find in the Headliners theatre. Brodies was a pub which had quizzes and karaoke, the Crows Nest was a piano bar but the pianist wasn't on for long. The atrium is three decks high with masses of seating and two bars but we felt Britannia has missed a trick by not having any entertainment here at all (eg pianist, acoustic artist, classical trio etc, which other ships have had). We went to the Limelight Club twice (£22 per head supplement) and saw Kiki Dee and Madeline Bell - very good. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
WE set sail in rainy conditions but the weather soon picked up as we were on our way to Tenerife, an Itinerary change that occurred just before we were to go. However i enjoyed the Mt Teide cable car trip even though we had to queue for ... Read More
WE set sail in rainy conditions but the weather soon picked up as we were on our way to Tenerife, an Itinerary change that occurred just before we were to go. However i enjoyed the Mt Teide cable car trip even though we had to queue for nearly 3 hrs before we finally made the ascent! After that it was sun all the way to St Maarten. Obviously as the sun got hotter the sunbeds became fewer which was a bit of a problem especially as they had been placed so close together. People were out bagging them at 7 am despite daily warnings in Horizon magazine not to. The entertainment was varied during the cruise but I particularly enjoyed Kiki Dee in the Limelight club, The Beatles experience and Peter Howarth (The Hollies). However it would be so much better if there could be 3 performances every night in the Headliners theatre for those eating on the late sitting as there are never enough seats and it would be better if they introduced a ticket system to stop people who have already seen the performances earlier watching again and blocking the seats . OUr deluxe cabin was great , very roomy and slightly bigger balcony than in standard size cabins. We had full size bath, dressing gowns, slippers, fruitx1, canapes x2, chocs and chilled champagne on departure.That was wonderful. The meals in the Epicurean and Glass House and Sindhu and Beach House were great. They always have such beautiful steak even in the MDR.We had a table of 6 and met some very nice people . Dominica was great where we did Whale watching, and Grenada the lobster snorkelling in a sailing boat ws also a great trip even though we were drenched with torrential rain at the end! Good flight with Thos Cook to Gatwick in Premier which i would recommend if you can afford it. Great holiday overall. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Having read quite a few negative reviews and comments about Britannia in her first few months of operation, we set off on our journey to Southampton with open minds, determined to try her for ourselves and to have a great cruise. We were ... Read More
Having read quite a few negative reviews and comments about Britannia in her first few months of operation, we set off on our journey to Southampton with open minds, determined to try her for ourselves and to have a great cruise. We were not disappointed! There is a lot that P&O have got right with Britannia. First, let's get the little "niggles" out of the way. In our stateroom, grade HF Balcony, there was only one set of bedside drawers - so - put your underwear somewhere else! There was no bedside light, only lighting that stretched right across the back of the bed - so - take a tiny torch so you don't wake your sleeping partner up by having to put the lights on. You can easily get lost on your first few days - it's a big ship for heavens sake - you more than likely will get lost. However:- The staterooms are well decorated with comfortable beds, a large, wall mounted, flat screen TV and, in our stateroom, two full length mirrors. The shower is larger than most with glass surround rather than a shower curtain and it has two very useful shelves inside, as well as a ledge which is useful to put a foot on to be able to wash your feet! Most of the public rooms are beautifully decorated with well chosen furniture and furnishings. We particularly liked the Crow's Nest, the Crystal Room and the Atrium. We never failed to get a seat in the Horizon buffet or the Costa coffee shop. We enjoyed all our food on Britannia and the service was excellent. Entertainment on board was, for us, fair rather than good, but we enjoyed all the quizzes and the LED screen in the theatre was a great enhancement to the shows. Dancing in the Crystal Room was ballroom, no sequence, which was a disappointment as it's a lovely room and great not to be having to dance in the Atrium, as on some P&O ships. Embarkation and disembarkation were quite reasonable. There was a slight hold up getting on the ship because of an air-bridge fault and there was confusion getting off because reception were giving different advice to that of the disembarkation crew. Our main "gripe" on this cruise was nothing to do with Britannia - it was, in fact, the behaviour of some of our fellow passengers. It is quite evident that some people just regard themselves as "special". We joke about some of our European cousins putting towels on sun loungers to reserve them but, believe me, some Britannia passengers beat them easily! There are plenty of loungers for everyone if people will not reserve them and leave them empty for hours at a time. Sadly, despite notices in the daily Horizon, this happened all the time. There are some very comfortable 3 seater settees on deck and you would see one person laying down on them whilst others were walking around looking for somewhere to sit. Almost all of our evening meals were disturbed by a young couple on a nearby table who insisted on bringing their tired and crabby toddler down to diner. In fact on more than one occasion the father literally dragged the youngster along the carpet to the table. The toddler, most nights, screamed his way through the meal. On disembarkation there was drama when one woman flatly refused to obey an officer's request to return to the deck above, even when a lift was called for her - pure soap opera stuff! The Atlantic crossing was a good one and overall we were very happy with Britannia and would happily sail on her again. Just bear in mind that she is a big ship and carries a lot of passengers and this is where, if we have one, our hesitation to travel on her again would be. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Lovely ship - quite understated decor. Voyage great - one sea day over the Bay of Biscay a little rolling felt a little sea sick but soon overcame it. Food very good - Buffet excellent, Dinner - did not offer cheese and biscuits ... Read More
Lovely ship - quite understated decor. Voyage great - one sea day over the Bay of Biscay a little rolling felt a little sea sick but soon overcame it. Food very good - Buffet excellent, Dinner - did not offer cheese and biscuits always had to ask - unlike previous cruises on P&O whereby always offered. The service was a little rushed. Cabin fantastic. Top deck. Balcony Grab and go hut not operational for the whole voyage - notice up saying under maintenance which I felt was a lame excuse as it was not operational all the voyage. Ports of call very good - most of them able to be independent if you wish. Excursions expensive - one of the excursion was poor as the sun shades you had to pay for and kept on getting harassed by sellers. Sun beds difficult to find one easily but did eventually. Entertainment excellent especially the Headliners. Activities on board were excellent There were children on board (half term) but did not see or hear them. Flying back from Babados in the Dreamliner aircraft was excellent - extra leg room and plenty of films to watch. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
I Suppose you get what you pay for. Our experience of cruising is limited and entirely related to late booking saver fares involving allocated interior cabins. Presumably, any responses to complaints (and any sympathy) is likely to be ... Read More
I Suppose you get what you pay for. Our experience of cruising is limited and entirely related to late booking saver fares involving allocated interior cabins. Presumably, any responses to complaints (and any sympathy) is likely to be viewed on that basis. However, our previous two cruises were with Cunard (QM2 and QV) on these arrangements and we would rate both of these as excellent. These cruises are, therefore, our benchmark and we approached our first P&O cruise expecting something similar (we paid slightly more, on a per day basis, than on the Cunard cruises). Firstly, there were some positives. The Oceana is a comfortable, clean and generally attractive ship, comparable, in many ways, to the Cunard QV. The embarkation procedures were highly efficient and the allocated cabin was exactly what we expected. The Cabin steward was a smiling, friendly and efficient young man on his first cruise. The itinerary was attractive and the weather was fine. The staff was generally polite and friendly and the entertainment was generally very good (Vernon Lewis was outstanding). A major problem became apparent on the first night. The allocated cabin was on Deck 6 below the Yacht & Compass pub which featured live music until 12.15am. This was apparent in the loud transmission of bass sounds (you know what I mean – you can’t hear the music – just a continuous thumping sound). This drowned out the television and made any attempt at sleep impossible – we are early risers and prefer to be in bed and asleep by before 11pm. We naturally complained but with little result – apparently no other cabins were available although we were offered an upgrade, for around £400, but with no guarantee of peace and quiet. Anyway, the P&O representative assured us that it would not occur every night (it did!). Thus we were obliged to keep out of the cabin until after midnight, going to the late shows and amusing ourselves in the ship until then. The other major disappointment was the food. We were allocated to Freedom dining which generally worked well apart from a chaotic evening when other passengers boarded at Genoa – we abandoned the long queues that evening and ate (I hesitate to say dined !) in the Plaza buffet. The food in the Ligurian restaurant was pretty standard fare for the first few nights then appeared to deteriorate rapidly until some of the food toward the end of the 17 day cruise can only fairly be described as awful. Examples were two chicken dishes consisting mainly of chicken wings and skin, lobster consisting of shell with virtually nothing in it and a desert (Bananas Foster) which seemed like tasteless black substance with a few flakes of pastry and a little syrup. The omnipresent curry dishes were virtually all the same flavour (the naan bread was like rubber) and the Wednesday breakfast special, kedgeree, turned out be a curry with a few egg slices in it. Fine dining? I don’t think so! The service in the restaurant also deteriorated with menus being snatched away and obvious signs of impatience when making selections from usually quite unattractive menus. The Plaza buffet was best avoided most of the time, particular to avoid that small, but growing, number of cruise passengers who have never been introduced to any concept of good manners and respect for other people. This group, of course, ignored all dress codes and, presumably because of political correctness, these were not enforced. In contrast, the great majority of the many children embarking in Genoa were well dressed and extremely well behaved and a credit to their parents. We were informed by a fellow passenger that a lot of the problems could be attributed to a transfer of experienced staff to the new Britannia. Certainly many of the dining room staff seemed awkward and poorly trained and the attitude of the reception staff could be much improved. Well, as we say, you probably get what you pay for and cruising is generally quite attractively priced. We largely enjoyed it because it is always our intention to do so - concentrate on the good points and try to live with the bad. Every cloud has a silver lining – weight gain (for two) after the last Cunard cruise was 11lbs whereas we lost 2lbs during this one. We never say never but a further cruise on P&O in highly unlikely unless there is no realistic alternative. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We had a wonderful cruise on Oceana and enjoyed our time on the ship and the different ports of call: Lisbon Cadiz Gibralta Barcelona Cannes Livorno Genoa, back to Livorno Naples Dubrovnic and overnight in Venice. Cabin good, food good, ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise on Oceana and enjoyed our time on the ship and the different ports of call: Lisbon Cadiz Gibralta Barcelona Cannes Livorno Genoa, back to Livorno Naples Dubrovnic and overnight in Venice. Cabin good, food good, entertainment good. Weather was perfect apart from showers in the afternoon in Naples. Sail in to Venice with a very good commentary was wonderful. Our only complaint and it was a big one: Lack of communication regarding transfer back to Southampton from Gatwick. We booked online following an email about the cruise and checked to see how we would get back to Southampton from Gatwick. No problem, there would be a coach transfer. No there wasn't! We only found out by talking to someone at dinner (freedom dinning is great) We asked at reception about a coach and were passed to future cruise desk. The lady didn't know but said she would look into it and to come back next day. When we returned the next day we were told by a very smug man Lee Mudkins that there wasn't a coach and that their contract with us ended at Gatwick, end of story, however he knew straight away the cost of a taxi £150. No help, advice, assistance given whatsoever. We were not the only ones in this position and one poor lady only found out as we disembarded. Poor show P & O. Lesson learned....phone and check everything! We eventually got back to Southampton at just gone 11pm and I cannot praise the parking people at "Meet and Greet" enough. After we phoned them to say we would be arriving at Southampton Central Station at gone 11pm the lady said not to worry they would bring the car to us at the station. They saved us a taxi trip to the port. Well done Meet and Greet. To rub salt into the wounds...people had phone calls or emails to say that they could leave their cars at Gatwick and a shuttle would be there to take them to Southampton. We didn't get a phone call or email. It would have been much easier for us to park at Gatwick which is 2 hours drive from us and we had to pass it on our way to Southampton. As it was a four hour drive to get home and it was so late getting to Southampton we spent the night in a Hotel and drove home next day. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
Having previously cruised with Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity my wife and I were looking forward to travelling with P&O on, what we believed, would be a 'de luxe' cruising experience. How wrong were we!! On ... Read More
Having previously cruised with Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity my wife and I were looking forward to travelling with P&O on, what we believed, would be a 'de luxe' cruising experience. How wrong were we!! On arrival after a very long travelling day we were amazed to find that the 'buffet',which on other vessels, is always open on embarkation day was closed and other than having a meal in the Peninsula at 20.45hrs (later than advertised) the only alternative was a very poor Deck BBQ. Not a good start but a minor niggle compared to what was to come!! Very quickly after arriving in Cabin E230 we became aware of a very obtrusive noise from Life Boat number 8 which was outside the cabin window. This noise can only be described as a hydraulic pump starting with a loud report, running for approximately 10 seconds then ceasing, this being repeated approximately every 8 minutes,24 hours per day! Hoping that the noise would stop of its own accord I did not report the problem immediately but after 3 days I fortuitously spoke to a ships engineer who I saw on deck during a crew emergency drill exercise. On my description of the problem he stated that it possibly was some sort of leak on the Life Boat hydraulic system and that he would speak to the Chief Engineer, he also advised me to report the incident to The Reception Desk. Over the subsequent days of the cruise engineers worked on the Life Boat but the noise would only cease for a maximum of a day and would then commence again, I continued to report the problem to Customer Services, the last report being made on the 29th March but there appeared no further action by engineering staff up to the termination of the cruise, the intermittent noise continuing to be a constant source of annoyance and interrupted sleep and relaxation in the cabin. However a further, totally different problem manifested itself as the vessel commenced the Transatlantic crossing. At this time we were aware of what can only be described as constant loud 'knocking' from behind the wall and ceiling panels in the entrance area of the cabin. This noise was again very obtrusive and constant and yet again our sleep and rest pattern was greatly disrupted. I can only describe it as a form of 'torture '. I again spoke to Customer Services and the manager visited the cabin and agreed the noise was not acceptable. An Engineer also visited but quickly admitted the problem could not be solved and that it would probably be rectified at the imminent refit! Customer Services confirmed that the vessel was almost full and that the only other cabin available would be an Interior, which was not acceptable to ourselves. Finally a compromise was reached whereby an Interior cabin on D deck was made available to us for sleeping, not the most convenient situation but at least some sleep These problems aside we were also very disappointed with the cruise in general. Food was mediocre except in the speciality restaurants, many of the clientèle did not seem to adhere to the normal standards of behaviour expected on Cruises with alleged instances of drunkenness and assault occurring, culminating in the Police attending the vessel at docking in The Azores. The entertainment can only described as poor 'Holiday Camp' standard. The staff worked hard especially our cabin steward but other travellers who had been on the same cruise last year all remarked that standards had dropped considerably, even to the extent of not having a Wine Waiter and expecting untrained waiters to be knowledgeable on all wines! We were very exited to be travelling with P&O but this excitement rapidly evaporated when on board. We describe the trip as 'The Cruise from Hell' and will never cruise with P&O in the future or recommend them to our many friends. Our long awaited holiday was ruined by P&O due to lack of sleep and relaxation. Use this ship if you are happy with mediocrity; avoid if you expect fine dining, like minded passengers with decent standards of behaviour and an informative pleasurable experience. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We cruised on Ventura in 20014 and had a excellent holiday,We had no reservations in booking the P&O Azura transatlantic cruise from Barbados calling at St Lucia, Antigua, St Maarten and the Azores, finishing at Southampton with a ... Read More
We cruised on Ventura in 20014 and had a excellent holiday,We had no reservations in booking the P&O Azura transatlantic cruise from Barbados calling at St Lucia, Antigua, St Maarten and the Azores, finishing at Southampton with a total of eight days at sea. We were aware the ship was scheduled a refit immediately after disembarkation. We chose an outside cabin on E deck with an obstructed view, that description is correct, all we could see was the large tender outside. What we did not expect was the lack of privacy with crew working on the tender on a number of occasions with a full view of our cabin. All though we did enjoy the destinations we were disappointed the dining experience . We were allocated second sitting in the peninsular restaurant. The lack of staff was very apparent, the decision by P&O to remove the wine waiter from the restaurant is a big mistake. Our waiter was rushed off his feet, serving three tables and taking wine orders, he struggled to cope. On a number of occasions we received our wine order half way through the meal, i feel this will be detrimental for P & O as we will not order a wine package if we cruise with them again. The menu was good and varied, however the quality and presentation left much to be desired, (spongy yorkshire puddings and baked Alaska that looked like it had been bought in Iceland) this was very disappointing after the excellent food and service we received on the Ventura (Marco Pierre White would not be impressed). We used the dining room for breakfast and lunch as the buffet restaurants were extremely busy. The afternoon tea was a joke in the main dining room, with dried up sandwiches and a few cakes, not a pleasant experience. We were disappointed with the daily activities on the long days at sea but the nighttime entertainers were very good. My last gripe is disembarkation in Southampton. We had to vacate our cabin at 08.00 and given a time of 10.45 to disembark and told to wait in the Sindu restaurant. We arrived to find staff cleaning the restaurant and half of the area cordoned off and toilets closed. The organization was dier, you would expect all passengers to have vacated the ship before the staff start cleaning. In summary, We sailed the North Atlantic, enjoyed the destinations, however, The Azura is not a patch on the Ventura and overall very disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
This was our first ever cruise and I must say it was an experience of a lifetime and it won’t be our last. If you have never cruised before there were a number of things to consider before booking the cruise. Type of Cruise The biggest ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise and I must say it was an experience of a lifetime and it won’t be our last. If you have never cruised before there were a number of things to consider before booking the cruise. Type of Cruise The biggest decision you must make is to determine the type of cruise you want. This 15 night “Caribbean Isles – Southampton to Barbados” cruise involved 9 days at sea and 6 days visiting 6 Caribbean islands. If you would prefer more than a few hours on the beach or maybe an overnight stay on an island this trip is not for you. Daily, when docked, you exited the ship at 8 - 9am but had to return by 4.30 – 5.30 pm as the Azura sailed by 6.00pm at the latest. Rough Weather Another point to bear in mind is that sailing from Southampton, even in this huge 150,000 ton ship still meant the risk of stormy weather and at times a heaving ship. I passed on one evening meal on day 2 and my wife felt poorly until Day 4. During this time the ability to walk on deck is limited. The Azura has a promenade deck on deck 7 but hasn’t any deck that allows you to walk completely around the ship. Sun and heat Sunbathing was not an option until Day 6 and our departure from the Azores so if sunbathing is you “raison d’etre” then be aware of this limiting factor. Booking We booked the cruise only 3 weeks before departure. We were reeled in by the good value on offer but by booking late we could not chose our deck or cabin, we gained no onboard spending credit and lost the ability to chose where we ate each night, an option called “Freedom Dining”. Medical P&O site gives little guidance but recommends you visit the UK Government website dealing with foreign countries & their specific diseases. I rang P&O customer services are they said there was no mandatory requirement to protect yourself for this cruise. I decided to get jabs for protection against Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid and as these can last up to 15 years or so if they are not of use on this cruise I will find them useful for future travels. What to bring A shower cap, toothbrushes & toothpaste and a corkscrew bottle opener are recommended. P&O unusually for cruise lines allows passengers to bring drink onboard from the islands the ship visits but few shops sell corkscrew bottle openers. Flip flops, sun hats & glasses and swimming trunks are a good idea but like sun tan lotion, after sun, antiseptic creams and most other things, are available at normal prices on board. Cabins We booked a cabin with an outside window and were delighted with the allocated cabin, a mid-ship cabin P248 on Deck 7. I’d like to thank our hard working and very friendly cabin steward Michael who cleaned twice a day and delivered fresh crisp towels, the ships Horizon newsletter and chocolates nightly. In hindsight I’d probably pay the extra for a balcony next time but several of those travelers with balconies claimed not to use them much. Laundry is self-service and there was a room on Deck 7 with a washer, a drier, iron and ironing board. Powder tablets are sold in a shop on board for 60p. A payable laundry service is also available. Meals Breakfast & daytime eating Food is available 24 x 7 at self service restaurants on deck 15 where it alternates from the Venezia to the Verona and back, as they close, clean, re-stock and reopen them. The Peninsula Restaurant provides a waiter served, open seated, breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea if that’s what you’d prefer. Open seated means that as you enter they staff check if you are prepared to share a table and just sit you with the people around you in the queue. The Aqua Bar & Pizzaria provides snacks, pizzas, chips etc by the pool on Deck 15, all at no extra cost. Evening Meals – the Peninsula Restaurant We were delighted with the food and service we received in the Peninsula restaurant, where we sat on a table for two. Yes, we missed the banter the travelers enjoyed with each other on the eight seat tables but on the plus side it allowed us to focus on the food which nightly was varied and of the highest quality. The food was beautifully presented and served piping hot and within minutes of ordering. We had a great relationship with our waiters Welber & Alvin, not to mention our wine waiter Lester who made us feel rather like a “lord and lady” rather a “Mr and Mrs”. I compared the eating experience, to our family, on our return as similar to sitting down to the office Christmas evening dinner for 15 nights on the trot. We were allocated a second sitting slot by P&O but the Peninsula’s Manager managed to amend that to a first sitting by Day 3. It’s a numbers game for the restaurant management as people allocated sitting seek to switch times in both directions. On this occasion they were able to facilitate us. The first sitting was 6.30pm while the second is 8.30pm most nights. The only extra charge for the evening meal was the wine which we drank nightly and cost between £15 -20 per bottle and came chilled. If, as many nights we didn’t finish the bottle it was kept for us to enjoy the next night. I’m no expert but I thoroughly enjoyed Chilean white Chardonnay Reserva, Vina Mar, Casablanca Valley (£15.95) and it become our wine of choice for most of the cruise. We saw no need to use the two restaurants where you had to reserve a meal and pay extra to visit. “17” costs an extra £28 per person and Sindhu costs £15 extra per person. The standard and quality of the food in the Peninsula was fine for us. Black Tie Dinner Events The cruise involved four Black Tie dining evenings which all took place before we reached the Caribbean and are optional though most passengers partake. We found it fun to get dressed up and P&O uses the event as an opportunity to sell photographs. Throughout the Atrium and the restaurant’s the ships photographers seek to capture that magic moment when you both look at your best. One can view the picture at £11.80 as a snap that on its return to land will rarely see daylight or you can view it as a cheap way to get a portrait shot of both of you “glammed up and looking hot”. We bought two pictures over the course of the trip but I’d guess the photography team took as many as 30 snaps. If they halved the price I’m sure they’d sell many more pictures. God knows they must shred 95% of all pictures taken at the end of the cruise. Also why not supply a soft copy with/ instead of the hard copy? It’s of no further use to P&O once the cruise is over but people would probably show it to their family & friends on Facebook which might provoke more interest in P&O cruises. Throughout the cruise we had Sailaway parties as we left each port and a Caribbean night in the restaurant when even the waiters went Caribbean. At Antigua we left port, in the gathering darkness, with a US ship alongside and the “Best of British” sailaway party saw the upper deck festooned with Union Jack bunting, hundreds of passengers waving Union Jack flags and singing songs from Ireland, England Scotland and Wales. It was similar to the atmosphere and scenes captured on the “Last night of the Proms”. Quite what the bemused Americans made of it was anyone’s guess but we were partying away and singing loudly until the island and its US boat became a distant glint on the skyline. On Board Activities We found the days at sea just perfect for us. Our routine was to rise by 7.00 am, have a hearty breakfast and join at 8.00 am a group of fellow passengers for a one mile walk round the ship which took about 20 minutes. We then took coffee & a croissant in the Peninsula restaurant where we chatted away to fellow passengers, all more experienced cruisers than us, before enjoying a bit of sunbathing. By 12 noon you could have found us gathered in the Planet Bar on deck 18 where an Azura choir (circa 50 passengers) was formed on Day 1 and rehearsed an hour a day until performing in the ships atrium on Day 8. The Azura Choir I must pay special tribute to Ms Emma Alexander, Assistant Entertainments Manager who along with Robert, the Azura pianist made our cruise experience entirely special by investing their immense talents in the voices of this bunch of knackered older singers. Emma chose and led us through 12 songs that ranged from touchingly sentimental to stridently regimental, from loud to soft, from solo to four part harmony. Standing on heaving decks and tilting furniture Emma displayed incredible control and brilliant communication skills and really took the choir to tackle arrangements we had no right to attempt. I believe she is moving onto the new liner Brittania in 2015 and will be Azura’s loss. Other Activities Similarly the ships entertainment team organized an Azura’s Got Talent competition which involved rehearsals and a show as well as an Azura’s Strictly Ballroom competition, firmly based on the BBC format. Both led to passengers getting a chance to perform on the Playhouse stage and watched by an audience of several hundred who applauded warmly their efforts. Still more daily activities were football, golf and basketball on Deck 19, line dancing, ballroom dancing, card sessions, art classes, lectures on the islands yet to visit and of course work outs in the gym or spa sessions in the Oasis Club. The casino & one armed bandits in Brodies provided alternative options for people with different interests. The library on Deck 6 also provided WIFI at a price and a table in that area offered free books left by other passengers. A book & magazine shop on deck 6 provided fresh reading material and the ship publishes a daily UK/ World newspaper which you could collect for free from that area. The Playhouse theatre, the Malabar and the Manhattan on Deck 7 all hosted daytime sales sessions that P&O portrayed as educational sessions. For example a 10.00 am session on “Arthritis & Back Pain Solutions” in the Malabar bar is actually an opportunity for the Oasis Spa Acupuncture therapist to sell her skills to passengers. Similarly the information sessions on the various islands are hosted by the Sales Team members who seek to inform / sell you the P&O trips available and press home the fear of missing out as trips may be fully booked when we reach the island in question. However there were events of a purely informative nature with interviews with the ship’s captain and other staff along with “behind the scene” visits to the kitchens or staff-only areas of the ship. Sunday Service On both Sundays the ship’s Polish captain led the Church Service which was held in the Playhouse Theatre. A broadly Christian affair it was a mixture of readings and hymns and was particularly moving on the Sunday before Poppy Day when we reflected on our good fortune to be alive when sailing the seas was for pleasure and not for country. We finished each service with the first verse of “God Save the Queen” which reminded both of us of the British’ness of the P&O line and actually added to our enjoyment of the experience as we are from Ireland. The on board shops had rolling sales events focusing on watches & jewelry one day, clothes the next, alcohol and cigarettes another day and so on. The ship has an art gallery and art to sell at prices from a few hundred pounds to several thousands and they ran a few seminars on aspects of art for those interested. Evening Entertainment The Evening Entertainment was varied and each night multiple activities were on offer. Jazz in the Planet Bar and the Glass House, West End style shows with the excellent Headliners, Comedians, ventriloquists, impersonators in the Playhouse, singers in the Malabar Bar, movies up on the large outdoor TV screen on Deck 15 & 16, Ballroom dancing most nights in the Atrium and more we never got to! We found several performances in the Playhouse of visiting performers got filled quickly so we tended to arrive 20 minutes before the show to get seats. You cannot reserve seats. It’s all a first come first served basis. Newspaper Each night a Horizon daily activities ships newspaper was slipped under your cabin door which detailed the numerous activities going on the next day. It was more than sad not to receive it on our next to last day as it signaled P&O’s lack of interest in us as passengers even though we remained such for another 14 hours. P&O Trips The P&O Trips Ashore which we took were a major disappointment in two of the three occasions. Pass to Fairview House, St Kitts - £19 each. The driver was excellent and told us about the buildings we passed on the 15 minute drive and the house upon arrival was a restored plantation owner’s house. The guide spoke for about 10 minutes in the reception room and left us all to wander for the next 3 hours. Truthfully we looked forward to the tropical gardens but there just wasn’t that much to see. Some exhibits detailed on a sign the full latin name of a plant or shrub but behind the sign only a stump stood! The sugar cane example was dead. The whole garden took about 10 minutes to walk around. Perhaps the time of year might have meant less was in flower but there wasn’t much of a garden anyway. My own was bigger! Waterfall & Gardens St Lucia £45 each was an even bigger disappointment. We travelled in a packed coach with tiny seats and a struggling air conditioning unit for over an hour and a half around hairpin bends and up and down hill and dale to reach a very ordinary waterfall. The fall of 30 feet is far from spectacular and the appearance of concrete and chicken wire as part of the waterfall made it almost un-photographic. The pool it fell into was tiny and tricked away into a stream heading off to the right. Hundreds of other tourists streamed in and out as we struggled to understand why we had been taken to this location. A few donned swimwear and stood in the small pool while the water fell on their heads & shoulders. It was a massive disappointment. However the “Garden” was equally unimpressive when we got to it. Owned by the restaurant owner we were about to visit it consisted of a path past some thoughtful religious quotations which weaved its way down and up a small incline and contained some wooden structures and a pond with fish in it. Less than a minute away was the restaurant and its owner who provided what has to be the smallest and meanest subsistence I have ever received on any tour. The small plastic plate was no more than the size of a saucer and its contents were 4 in number and paltry in content. One chicken wing each was part of it. The drink was a very watered down juice of some sort. He invited us to buy beers and drinks but I don’t believe he got any takers. There were only one photo stop where we could exit the coach just to take pictures and the other photo opportunities were only accessible if you sat on the right side of the coach. Taken in its entirety the £90 paid for a bone rattling 3 hour journey to/from a non-site and be fed morsels of food was a complete rip off of £90. No sales staff appeared at the sales desks that night that I could find and probably just as well. I completed my customer questionnaire and invited contact but have not had any to date. Coast to Coast Tour – Barbados £39 each proved to be a reasonably good tour in that it did what it said it would and took us across the island visiting the beaches (10 minute stop), a church (20 minutes) and a refreshment/ photo stop where at 10.30am we drank a rum cocktail. The driver was informative and good humored and we enjoyed the 4 hour outing. My Cruise DVD - £16.95 I purchased the DVD but would not advise others to do so as the DVD is largely a marketing tool for P&O including pre-recorded clips on the ship & the islands. The unavailability of the DVD until the second last night of the cruise is a mystery as so little of the actual cruise is included in the end product. Very little of our actual cruise features in the DVD. There are some video clips from the Sailaway parties but largely of the back of people’s heads. The captain’s speech is given prominence with again the back of people’s heads. The excellent stage shows are shown without actual audio but a homogenous general overriding music track. The Azura Choir’s performance of 40 minutes is brutally edited down to 8 minutes and leaves out all the four part harmony and several decent performances.It also excludes the thanks given on camera by the choir to Emma and Robert. This is despite me being told by the Photography Team on their desk that it would all be included but as an extra on the DVD. Not so. Flight home from Barbados We were coached from the Azura on Saturday at 12.30 to the airport and flew to Manchester on a Thomas Cook A330. The plane sat three rows of three passengers across the main body of the craft. The width of the seats was extremely narrow forcing passengers to crush together. The flight was 8 hours long. No headphones were provided as, apparently the Manchester to Barbados customers had taken the headsets with them. We’d paid for two allocated seats in a two seat section when we booked the cruise as my wife has severe back problems and would need to walk about but Thomas Cook changed the plane type so we were trapped by a third person who fell asleep snoring loudly and restricted us to our seats. In summary we had a fantastic holiday and were sad to be going home. There were opportunities for P&O to make it a perfect holiday but though they fell short I’d give them another chance.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
My husband and I have just returned from our first cruise. We were on P & O Azura for 15 nights from Southampton to Barbados. We had a great time definitely one of our best holidays. From the moment we arrived at the Southampton ... Read More
My husband and I have just returned from our first cruise. We were on P & O Azura for 15 nights from Southampton to Barbados. We had a great time definitely one of our best holidays. From the moment we arrived at the Southampton cruise terminal we were greeted by a genuinely cheery porter who took our suitcases and directed us into the terminal. We arrived earlier than our allotted time slot so expected to sit and wait but there was no queue and they were more than happy to allow us to board. Our outside cabin was lovely and clean our cabin steward, Sailesh, could not be more attentive if he had tried. We were close to the Art gallery which we thought was a great location it was quiet but close to the amenities. We were allocated second sitting for dinner, which was 20.30 hours most nights, this suited us. Our table was for 10 people however there was only ever 6 of us for dinner. We had a great table and really enjoyed the company so much so that only ever dined in the Peninsular despite initially thinking we would try the specialty restaurants. The crossing over the Atlantic was a little rough I found it added to the excitement but a few on board found it difficult. We were a little concerned we would find the sea days hard going, but no we had a great time. I attended the Art classes each morning ran by Alex Davidson. This was great having never painted, apart from at school, Alex had us all, as he promised, painting by the end of the sea days. Thank you Alex and the others on the course who made it such fun a really did have fun. We both went to the social whist in the afternoon, again we were new to this and I was a little apprehensive, but there was no need again the people were lovely very welcoming. Our first Port of call was the Azores we had booked a P & O trip to the Crater lakes. This was really disappointing the cloud obscured all the views so was pointless. Other passengers jumped on the local train/tourist bus or horse and cart around the town for only 5 Euros each much better value, never mind. Our second port of call was St Maartin. I had booked a 2 tank dive with Cruise excursions as we are both Padi divers. This was paid up front in English at a cost of just under £150 for both of us. I was a little worried as we didn’t get into Port until 0830 which is the time we were supposed to be a the Little Divi Bay Resort. We arrived at 0915 at the resort but this wasn’t a problem. We were on a dive boat with 4 other divers, a captain and guide diver. This was great, the sea was a little rough and the currents strong but we saw a reef shark, turtle, lobsters and of course plenty of fish all around ship wrecks it was great. Our third Port was St Kitts. We had booked to do a 4 x 4 off road with a rainforest hike with Greg Safaris. This was booked online but we didn’t have to pay anything until the end of the trip US$ 65 each. Unfortunately there was a little mix up and Greg said he couldn’t honor the trip until the afternoon as we were the only people that had booked it. This wasn’t too much of a problem we ended up taking a local bus to Brimstone Hill Fort which cost US$5 for both each way, although the walk up to the Fort from the bus stop is not for the faint hearted it’s a steep hill and takes about 20-30 minutes in the Caribbean heat!. We then went on our Tour into the Rainforest in the afternoon. This was fantastic we had our own guide who really knew about the forest it was hard work but we needed to burn some calories from all the food we had eaten. Fourth Port, Antigua. We hadn’t booked anything so we took a local bus from the bus depot costing US$5 each way per couple along with another couple from our dining table. We went to Darkwood beach which is a beautiful Caribbean beach on the Caribbean side of the island. We were greeted by a male calling himself “Too Tall”. It costs US$25 for 2 sunbeds, an umbrella and an ice cold bucket of 6 beers. The bus back was great fun very crowded but the locals were really cheery and kept asking if we were all okay they seemed to have a great sense of responsibility to all the tourists. Fifth port was St Lucia. We had booked another island tour following online recommendations with Cosol Tours again the cost of US$75 each was not payable until end of the tour. This really was a full day tour, great value for money. We had a great time seeing the Pitons, volcano, waterfall, banana plantation, beach via speed boat. Several pit stops including a wonderful local feast for late breakfast, hot bread with cheese for late lunch, also stops with a mobile bar offering rum punch, beer and soft drinks. This really was a fun day out. Last port was Barbados. We went to the beach again with our dinning companions this time we took a taxi to The Boatyard for US$5 each. This was a really lively beach with the softest of sand. The entrance cost was US$15 each which included sunbed, umbrellas, a free rum punch, and taxi ride back to ship. This really was a party beach most of the crew were there. They had a rope swing from the pier into the sea – great fun. This was our only night in a port so after our final dinner our whole table decided to go out into town for the night. We went to The Harbour Lights which was an outside nightclub costing US$20 each which included all drinks until 3AM!!!! Again lots of crew could be spotted. Taxi was US$5 per person each way I haven’t really mentioned the food onboard we thought it was fantastic the service was always good and the choice excellent. If you didn’t like the evening choices you could always have steak or chicken breast. Drinks were inexpensive UK pub prices and P & O were happy for passengers to take drink on board at all ports to be consumed in your cabin. Our only criticism of the cruise was that the gym was not open until 0800 hours which meant there was a queue. This should have been at least 0700 bearing in mind the clocks went back several times whilst crossing the Atlantic. There were several machines out of order and if you went to use the machines whilst they had a yoga class you were not allowed to use half of the machines. Maybe they should find another room for the yoga classes. The Entertainment was good I liked the tribute Acts Neil Diamond, Queen and Tom Jones there were also some comedians one was not very good but the other 2 were great. Thank you P&O for a wonderful holiday your staff are amazing you should be proud and a big thank you to all the wonderful people we met and who made our holiday.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
There's a lot that's right about Oriana. Our main impression was of a well designed ship with lovely public rooms which were fit for purpose. The Pacific Lounge isn't huge but a good size for a medium-sized ship and it ... Read More
There's a lot that's right about Oriana. Our main impression was of a well designed ship with lovely public rooms which were fit for purpose. The Pacific Lounge isn't huge but a good size for a medium-sized ship and it offers much better views of the artists than does the equivalent on Azura. If you like dancing then you will enjoy Harlequins, much better than being stuck down on a small floor in the Atrium as you are on some ships. The pub was a very good size, light and airy. The theatre offered good views with only a couple of pillars to get in the way. There were quiet, comfy rooms if you wanted to sit and read and a decent sized coffee shop area. The cinema was a very good size for this size of ship. We were in the Oriental restaurant which was pleasant and the Conservatory was, as on most ships, adequate but small for the number of passengers wanting to use it on a sea day when the weather's not so good! One thing we particularly liked about Oriana was that you could sit in the sun on the open deck without being bombarded by loud music. There was music sometimes around the Riviera pool but if you wanted peace and quiet then the other two pools offered that - Azura take note!! Our feelings before this cruise about the food on P&O were that standards had dropped a bit. On Oriana we would say that the food was good, better in fact than we had on Azura at Christmas. However, when it comes to choice then Celebrity offers a much wider choice in their buffets. We understand that P&O are moving to plated meals very shortly, which is a pity. The staff on Oriana were excellent - as they always are on P&O. The Headliners work very hard and their Queen tribute was excellent. The entertainment team were first class. Of the guest entertainers on this cruise, Paul Emmanuel was by far the best. This is the third cruise we have seen him on and if you like the Nat "King" Cole type of music, then he is not to be missed. Our cabin A119 - an ocean view - was comfortable and we coped very well without our usual balcony. There was plenty of hot water, the shower had good pressure and there was a bath. The safe is quite low down in the wardrobe and your clothes are hung front to back in the wardrobes which doesn't make them easily accessible. This cabin is below the gym and you can hear runners on the treadmills above you but this wasn't a major issue for us. Getting on an off the ship was a "doddle". We didn't do any of the P&O excursions as we'd been to all the ports of call except Horta before. Tendering in Horta was very slow and two of the four tenders broke down which made for a very slow, tedious and frustrating return to the ship. Seas going across the Atlantic were quite rough and Oriana creaked and groaned a bit as most ships do. On the way home from Barbados to Southampton is was smooth as silk. The ship does need a little bit of attention here and there - the toilet bowl in our cabin for instance which although perfectly clean had a black "ring of use" in it. There are a few spots in the swimming pools that could do with a lick of paint too. Overall this was an excellent cruise and we would not hesitate to sail on Oriana again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
I am surprised when I read reviews of cruises by certain P&O passengers, some of which seem to be excessively hypercritical, compared to those by people who have cruised with Celebrity, most of which are gushing with praise. I have to ... Read More
I am surprised when I read reviews of cruises by certain P&O passengers, some of which seem to be excessively hypercritical, compared to those by people who have cruised with Celebrity, most of which are gushing with praise. I have to say that in my opinion P&O are far superior in many respects to Celebrity and indeed most other large cruise lines and I will set out my reasons for saying so in this review. My partner Barbara and I have cruised with P&O on twelve occasions, most recently earlier this month in the Caribbean on Ventura. We have also travelled on Celebrity’s Equinox and Eclipse in recent years as well as on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity’s sister company, Princess and Cunard. Whilst I realise that a lot of people will have been on even more cruises than we have, nevertheless I think that my breadth of experience of cruising with several different companies enables me to provide an informed, and I hope reasonably objective, opinion on their relative merits. Most of the modern ships built for the large cruise companies I mentioned are broadly similar in structure and design and are very well fitted out and equipped to cater to the demands of today’s discerning cruise clientele. All of the above companies have launched several brand new ships in recent years and this trend seems set to continue .Where the differences arise is in the details of the overall product and service offered to passengers and this is the area in which I believe P&O have the edge. First, Celebrity’s new Solstice class ships are generally very impressive in their design and decor, but, unlike P&O’s ships, they do not have a proper promenade deck for passengers to walk around and sit on. Promenade decks have always been a traditional and stylish feature of ocean liners and cruise ships and add to the glamour of cruising in my opinion. Instead, Celebrity have a short jogging track on one of the upper decks on their new ships, but this is a poor substitute. Secondly, the entertainment on Celebrity’s ships is nowhere near as good or as extensive as that provided by P&O. On our cruises on the Equinox and Eclipse there were only three full production shows by the ship’s resident theatre company in two weeks as opposed to the seven regularly performed by P&O’s Headliners theatre company during the same length of cruise. Moreover there was only one show per night on Celebrity {obviously repeated for each of the two formal dinner sittings} varying between the production show and other cabaret artists, whereas on P&O there are three or four different shows every evening, again repeated for each of the dinner sittings. The shows performed by the Headliners on P&O are superb and are of real West End quality. In fact, most of the artists in the company have actual experience of appearing in the West End and/or on television. By comparison, Celebrity’s shows and those of the other cruise lines we have seen were of average quality. Even the production and technical aspects of the P&O shows are better. For example, on one occasion on Cunard, one of the few shows scheduled had to be cancelled because one of the lead singers had a sore throat. If this happens on P&O they have back-up recordings of all the singers so that they can mime to these and the show can go on as normal. Admittedly, Celebrity do have various musicians and bands performing live each evening around the ship as well ,but so do P&O. This last comment brings me to another criticism I have of Celebrity. Every evening in the atrium there was very loud blaring music played. The design of the new Solstice class ships is for the whole of the centre of the ship, from the bottom of the atrium up to the top decks even up to the library, to be open, which is visually very impressive ,but this means that it is difficult if not impossible to relax or carry on a conversation in any of the bars and lounges around the various decks in the centre of the ship. Even upon request they will not lower the volume. Apart from the evening entertainment in the theatres and lounges, P&O also have a lot of quizzes every day during the cruise which are very popular and which I personally enjoy very much. They also have guest speakers throughout the cruise, dancing classes , craft classes etc. I know that the other cruise companies have some of these features , but not as many and they are not as well organised. Another issue is the price of drinks on ships .On Celebrity, as is the case with most of the American cruise lines , {including unfortunately these days Cunard as well on whose ships Carnival ,their American owners, have chosen the US dollar as the on board currency}, prices are comparable to what you would pay in expensive hotels, but they also add on an automatic 15% service charge and they then rub salt in the wound by leaving a note and space at the foot of the bill for an additional gratuity. We are not big drinkers, but I know that all of this annoys many passengers. P&O by contrast charge what can be described as reasonable pub prices for drinks and they do not add any service charge.{ P&O’s general service charge for the cruise overall is also set at a much more reasonable level than Celebrity’s}. Furthermore P&O will let passengers bring on to the ship bottles of wine and spirits purchased ashore to drink in their cabins, whereas Celebrity and Royal Caribbean and I believe most of the other cruise lines will confiscate these and do not return them until the end of the cruise, presumably so that passengers will carry on paying their exorbitant prices for drinks on board. One simple area where P&O provide a thoughtful touch is in providing tea and coffee making facilities in your cabin so that you can have a hot drink whenever it suits you. Celebrity will of course like most cruise lines bring you such drinks via room service free of charge, but this can take some time and the drinks when they arrive are never as hot or fresh as if you had made them yourself. P&O also provide room service, but they know that passengers like to have the option to make their own hot drinks when they want them. Celebrity have now introduced kettles and tea and coffee on their cruises from the UK, but not elsewhere in the world. P&O also provide free launderettes with ironing facilities on each deck on board all their ships so that passengers can wash, iron and press clothes if they wish to, which is very helpful on fly cruises where there are flight luggage restrictions so that passengers who have kept their clothes to a minimum can do a wash half way through the cruise. Celebrity do not do this, and so passengers have to pay their laundry or pressing charges. Another area where P&O excel is in their service in getting passengers to the Caribbean in the winter months where their two large ships Azura and Ventura are stationed. They organize dedicated charter flights from several UK airports which fly straight to Barbados. The process of getting from the plane to the ship is seamless. You do not have to go through any formalities at the airport in Barbados. Instead, you are whisked from the plane straight on to a coach to the ship and you are usually on board and in your cabin within an hour. You do not have to collect your luggage from the airport since this is delivered direct to your cabin. Contrast this with all the other cruise lines where you have to fly, often indirectly, to Florida, go through all the hassle of American immigration, retrieve your own luggage, stay in a hotel overnight and then finally transfer to the ship the next day. There is no comparison. The quality and variety of the food provided by all of the major cruise lines are broadly similar, but most of them now have specialist a la carte restaurants in addition to the main dining rooms and buffet restaurants, which offer menus prepared by, or restaurants named after, famous chefs. These specialist restaurants have a separate cover charge, but again we have found that the American cruise lines generally charge more than P&O, who again offer better value. To be fair there are certain features on the other cruise lines which P&O do not have. For example, on Celebrity, the lawn club areas with real grass on the top deck, on Cunard the very traditional afternoon tea dances, on Royal Caribbean the ice dancing rink and ice shows and on Princess the mini golf putting course. However, the preponderance of areas where P&O excel and are superior to the others is telling. These various matters when considered together do in my opinion make a big difference and I think go quite some way in explaining why I think P&O, while far from being without fault, are still nevertheless the best cruise company to travel with. As with a lot of cruise companies, regular passengers have noticed certain areas where they have cut back on some details and services to save costs ,but this is probably as a result of the competitive pricing they have had to adopt to market and sell the cruises given today’s economic climate .However, I think that they still offer the best overall cruise experience. The combination of formal and informal themed evenings on their cruises is just right and their sailaway parties are the best. I know that they are owned by Carnival, like Princess, Cunard and some other brands, but to their credit Carnival seem intent on maintaining P&O’s unique and traditionally British style of cruising. I am looking forward to travelling on P&O’s new superliner Britannia next year which promises to raise the bar for standards still further. To summarise, I do hope that people who have cruised with P&O and who sometimes like to have a little moan, as we all do from time to time, will reflect on the issues I have raised and realise that P&O are not so bad after all. If you are reading this as a regular traveller with Celebrity or another cruise line, then why not give P&O a try.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Oceana to Caribbean, January 2014 Thursday 2 Jan 7°C SW Force 3 What a difference a day makes – after yesterday’s floods and rain the day dawned bright and clear and I woke in time to watch Oceana sail in from Amsterdam. Our ... Read More
Oceana to Caribbean, January 2014 Thursday 2 Jan 7°C SW Force 3 What a difference a day makes – after yesterday’s floods and rain the day dawned bright and clear and I woke in time to watch Oceana sail in from Amsterdam. Our driver was picking us up at 11am and he was, as always, bang on time. We had a lot of luggage for 28 days so he did well to fit it all in. At Mayflower terminal I found a porter and we were directed to the priority check-in. By 12.15 we were on board and eating the Peninsular lunch in the Ligurian Restaurant at a table for two by the window and with a glass of wine and two glasses of champagne inside us. We then dumped our hand luggage in our cabin and set off to explore a little. I was familiar with Oceana, but my friend not so much. Our luggage had still not arrived when we returned later so we each went on a hunt. Gradually we found everything but not until around 4pm and from all corners and sides of the deck! It took ages to unpack and find out how to store everything but we made it eventually by which time it was Muster Drill. Our station for Cabin C620 was Starlights. Muster over, we headed up to Deck 14 as we had discovered that Oceana was getting a firework send off, like Queen Victoria, also in Southampton and about to leave on her world cruise. We set sail, firstly passing Boudicca in full throes of a deck muster drill and then Queen Victoria, with whom we exchanged whistles. As we neared Dock Head, there was a fabulous 8 minute firework display from a barge. By then we were frozen so after a mulled wine on deck we headed back to the cabin for a nap before changing and going into dinner. We watched the show then went to bed. The captain, Andrew Willard, had warned us of a bumpy ride for the first few days, but we expected that and prepared accordingly – taking precautionary seasick tablets and securing everything in the cabin. Friday 3 January – At Sea 11°C SW Force 10 It was a very rough night with lots of bangs, clatters and general lurching. We got up about 8.30 and had a light breakfast in Café Jardin as the Plaza Buffet, spa and shops were all closed until further notice due to the weather. My friend went off to a talk and I ran some errands – such as booking myself on the Behind-the-Scenes tour – if it goes ahead. My friend and I met up at the Travelling Alone meet, which was well attended – mostly women as usual though. We seem to have a large number of Entertainment Officers on this cruise but then it is for 28 nights. As it approached lunchtime there was an announcement that the Plaza Buffet would remain closed due to the increased bounciness of the seas. It was becoming very difficult to move around and during the meet we had to grab at our cups to stop them sliding onto the floor. We tried to go to Café Jardin for lunch but there was a wait list so headed to the Adriatic Restaurant after which I returned to the cabin for a snooze and to start my blog. My friend and I met up again about 4pm in the atrium and went to the Individual Quiz. I got 16/20 - the winner got 18! Then it was time to return to the cabin to change for dinner. We had time for a quick drink before dinner. No-one on our table was there at first and then one turned up. Her husband, and presumably the other couple, was ill. That was when we discovered that dinner had been moved to 8.15 (and 6.15) for the full cruise rather than the usual 8.30!! Of course we hadn’t bothered to look at meal times!! After dinner we went to the Syndicate Quiz which had been moved down to the card room as The Plaza was still closed. We came second! Saturday 4 Jan - At Sea 12°C NW Force 9 It was an even worse night with bangs, knocks and things falling over everywhere! I got very little sleep between the noises and sliding up and down the bed. The wardrobe doors kept flying open until I jammed them with a flannel – it then sounded just like a man trying to escape from the wardrobe! We got up about 8.30 and had breakfast in Café Jardin before going to the talk on Ocean Liners. We were directed to the Ligurian Restaurant for lunch where a buffet had been set up. We went for a walk and some fresh air on Deck 12 briefly before trying the film – couldn’t understand the plot and too noisy so returned to cabin until Individual Quiz – 10/20! At Midday we exited the Bay of Biscay and sailed out into the Atlantic. After dinner we won first prize at the Syndicate Quiz! A bottle of red wine. Sunday 5 Jan – At Sea 17°C SW Force 6 Rose about 9am and had breakfast in Café Jardin. After the solos coffee morning, My friend went to the church service, while I went to my first game of Shuffleboard – where I was useless! It was finally calm and warm enough to sit out on promenade deck so changed into skirt and t-shirt and did just that. I met up with my friend for lunch which we had in The Plaza which was now finally open. That night was our first formal night and the Captain’s Welcome Party, postponed due to the weather. We were browsing the shops when I spotted the captain and said hello.. He then invited us to drinks with him so we had a delightful hour chatting about ships etc before he had to leave for the late sitting party. We wandered into the party and got more drinks. Dinner of lobster then Syndicate Quiz but not very good tonight. I have to say the food is excellent so far – good choices and good quality – far better than on QM2 last month IMO. Mon 6 Jan – Madeira. 18°C SW Force 5 Woke up at 7pm as we saw on the TV that we were nearing Funchal so got dressed and up on deck to see us sail in. Aida Stella was already berthed and Thomson Celebration just berthing ahead of us. We slipped in behind her. After a quick breakfast we headed ashore. The shuttle dropped us in the street behind the usual one. As we walked along towards the church, we saw lots of Christmas decorations and a small Xmas Market. There was a spectacular nearly-life-size nativity scene and an International Village set up with a small petting zoo behind. After a chat and cuddle with a sheep!, we went into the church with another spectacular nativity. Then we headed back towards the Hoho bus stop and boarded the Red Tour bus which took us along through the town, up to the lower slopes of the mountain and along to the fishing village of Camara de Lobos where we got off for a wander. It was very pretty. Half an hour later we got back on and returned to Funchal. We then walked along to Blandy’s for a free tasting of Madeira wine courtesy of the Hoho bus. There was just time for an icecream before heading back to the ship. As we were a little late getting clearance in the morning (due to Aida Stella faffing about berthing) the captain had given us an extra hour ashore. As we returned some deck officers were hauling in a rope – apparently we broke three mooring ropes over the day due to the swell – and they wanted it clear of our thrusters. A quick sandwich in the Plaza and it was time to go out for sailaway. In the far distance Aida Bleu was arriving early. Semi-formal tonight so got ready and had a flutter in the Casino – lost! Then met My friend in Magnums for a pre-dinner cocktail, followed by dinner and the quiz. Clocks go back one hour tonight. Tuesday 7 Jan – At Sea 18° NW Force 6 Today we start the long Atlantic crossing along the Great Circle Route. I woke to the promise of a nice day although the night had been bouncy again. Got up at 8.30 and breakfasted in Café Jardin before my friend went off to play quoits and I went to Oceana Uncovered. Sat in the sun for a while before lunch in Café Jardin and then finding a chair on the prom deck and sunbathing all afternoon. The wind was chilly but the sun warm and I got a slightly scorched neck. Went to individual quiz and then to cabin to change for second formal night. After dinner I went to the show – Maurice Grumbleweed while my friend did the quiz. This is the problem with second sitting – you either choose the show or the quiz but cannot do both unless they put on a 7pm show. And no – we are not keen on Freedom dining. Wed 8 Jan – At Sea 18° N Force 7 Another lazy day. Got up at 8.30, had breakfast in The Plaza and went to solos meet briefly before shuffleboard. Got as far as semi-finals before losing again! We had lunch outdoors before finding a chair on the prom deck in the sun. We did the individual quiz then back to the cabin to prepare for another semi-formal night. We had a cocktail in Magnums – my new favourite is a Mai Tai, then dinner. One of the others had managed to get our table moved from the pokey corner to one in the middle of the restaurant where it was less draughty. After dinner we did the Syndicate Quiz where we came second again. The clocks go back another hour tonight. Thursday 9 Jan – At Sea 21° NE Force 4 Got up at 8.00 and had breakfast alone in Plaza as my friend wanted to wash her hair. We met up for the solos coffee where I stayed until 10.30. It was one of the four Baltic tier Lunches today – Salmon & crab starter, Potato Gnocchi, peanut butter dessert, champagne, wine and coffee. We were on a table for 8 with Emma Jane Hodges, Passenger Services Manager. Conversation was lively and interesting. After lunch we changed and went to the prom deck. The temperatures are increasing nicely but it was cloudy all day. We came in about 5pm before getting ready for another formal night. All this food and sea air makes me very tired! We skipped the quiz to watch the flautist, Jonathan Johnston, after dinner –he was excellent. Friday 10 Jan – At Sea 22° NE Force 3 Finally some real tropical weather – sun! I managed to sunbathe, either on prom deck or Deck 12, all day. Saturday 11 Jan – at sea Got up at 7.30 to get ready and have breakfast before my tour behind the scenes. We had to sign a waiver form and wear closed flat shoes and trousers. We started in the theatre, moving to the dressing rooms, forward mooring deck where we had a chat from the deputy captain, engine control room, stores manager with chill and frozen store rooms, print room, waste disposal, photo lab (passing crew office), and galleys where the exec chef and F&B manager spoke with us. Then it was orange juice and chocolates/cakes/pastries in a corner of the dining room before making our way up to the bridge where the captain explained the electronic charts, navigation equipment and steering controls. Then champagne and canapés in his lounge. Afterwards I went to change and sit in the sun for a bit. On my bed was a small badge, apron and letter offering free photo all from the tour. We had a late lunch outdoors, then more sunbathing. Since I work indoors all week, I love to be outdoors as much as possible on holiday. Clocks go back another hour tonight. Sunday 12 Jan – At Sea 25°C E Force 5 Our last day at sea before Barbados. I got up early to sit out on deck before it got too hot. Found a steamer chair on the prom and sat/dozed for two hours. I went to have a late breakfast and then went up to Deck 12 where it was sunnier and sat and read. At around noon I returned to the cabin where my friend joined me and we headed for a light lunch in the Plaza, then back to the prom deck for some sunbathing. It is our first casual night – thank heavens! We won the Syndicate Quiz then went bed as have to be up early tomorrow. Clocks go back our last hour tonight. Monday 13 Jan – Barbados 28° E Force 4 We were up early to watch the two other ships in port – Emerald Princess and Celebrity Summit. Then down for a quick breakfast and a walk up the dockside to the cruise terminal to hand over a copy of my latest book to the port agents. Kindly they had asked us to be their guests on the Coast to Coast tour. We started by leaving Bridgetown up Sandy Lane and had a full tour of the island. At the Highland Centre we were given a Rum Punch while we took in the stunning views. I saw lots of birds including a small black bird – Carib Grackle - that tweeted constantly. Tour guide Owen was great and very amusing. We next stopped at St John’s Church to see inside etc. I bought a carved wooden bird from a Rastafarian carver. Back in the terminal we browsed the duty free shops. Tuesday 14 Jan – St Lucia 26° E Force 3 We had booked on Spencer Ambrose’s Land & Sea Tour leaving at 8.30 so were up early to watch us dock. Right behind us were Celebrity Summit and Silver Spirit. We berthed on the other side of the dock from where Oriana did last year. We walked out through the duty free shops to see a girl holding a sign saying Spencer as promised. We were taken through a craft market area just being set up, to await a water taxi over to where Celebrity Summit was and our two tour companions. Here was my first inkling of a potential problem – getting on and off small boats! I was told to just step on and hold the drivers hand! It wasn’t too difficult or scary! Over on the other side, having had to step up on the seats to get off and onto the jetty, we were introduced to our guide David and taken out to the silver people carrier for our land part of the tour. We set off through Castries, seeing a 450 old yew of “Massav” tree in Derek Walcott Square. The opposite side was the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Then we set off up through the mountainous roads and rain forest. As we climbed the rain began which somewhat obscured the views but it was still an interesting drive up to the Morne Fortune Overlook. Carrying on along the coast past banana plantations, we drove through the quaint fishing villages of Anse La Raye and Canaries. The latter was the fishing village where the heavy rain on Christmas Eve had destroyed a bridge and flooded homes. We then drove through Soufriere to the drive-in volcano with steam and sulphur gases rising from the rock and water boiling in pools and then to the Toraille Waterfall dropping 50 feet down to a small pool where people were bathing. Lunch was at a tiny roadside restaurant where a buffet was laid out with jerk chicken and various salads, washing down with Piton beer. Then we drove back down to Soufriere to board a boat to take us to Jalousie beach where we had an hour or more to enjoy the white sand, sun and turquoise water. Getting in the boat this time was a major struggle, as was getting out again. I have one partial knee replacement and one severely arthritic knee – it doesn’t bend that much! So being told to sit on a low beam and swing my legs over and slide into the board was a non-starter! However the boat guys soon worked out a solution for me – scary in the extreme but it worked. I just had to trust they wouldn’t let go or drop me!! Getting off again at Jalousie Beach required two pulling me up and one pushing from behind! Not elegant or dignified but it worked. On the beach were some sunbeds for Spencer’s Tour people as well as free drinks - the rum punch was good –and strong. An hour and a half later a motor boat came to pick us up – another nightmare to board but so worth it for the ride back at speed! We cruised around the base of the Petit Piton, to the Bat Cave, home to thousands of "Fisherman Bats" , then to Marigot Bay, one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean! Marigot Bay is also a safe harbor during hurricanes and was the location of the 1966 movie Dr. Doolittle staring Rex Harrison. Overlooking Marigot Bay were homes from celebrities such as Mick Jagger and Sophia Loren. Just before arriving in Castries, we stopped at the Natural Bridge featured in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. This unique rock formation is also known as the "tunnel of love" or the "lady's slipper." Then back to Castries. We dropped off the people from Celebrity Summit and the boat took us back to the main port beside Oceana. We each got a hug from Spencer as we disembarked and then headed into the duty free terminal again ;) Back on the ship we just had time (it was then nearly 6pm – back on board time) to dump stuff and get on deck for sailaway. After a shower and changing – time for dinner after which I headed for bed – it was a great day. Wednesday 15 Jan – St Kitts 26°C E Force 5 We had booked the St Kitts Railway and cruise excursion so had to assemble on the dockside at 8.10. Each bus took one carriage load so was very well organised. Those of us doing the cruise as well as the train had wristbands so it was easy to separate us out. We drove through Basseterre to the station past industrial estates and new roads. The port area was pretty with small coloured buildings with the usual jewellery shops and rum shacks. We boarded the small two-storey carriages - No 4 for us. The downstairs had small wicker chairs and tables with bar and toilets, upstairs were banked seating down both sides. We set off through beautiful green countryside. It was an interesting trip and the weather perfect. We travelled through lush countryside, past old sugar mills, villages, over high bridges with views of the coast. It took around 2 hours. We were served with rum punch and sugar cake. At the end, we left the train and drove to a small jetty to board the catamaran. We had to remove all our shoes and put them into boxes and step over onto the boat. It was a lovely motor back (the wind was wrong to sail), sitting soaking up the sunshine and drinking Carib beer or rum punch. Back at the terminal, My friend and I wandered through the small shopping area. I was back on board at 2.30 and soon sunning myself on deck. Thursday 16 Jan – Guadeloupe 25°C E Force 3 We arrived around 8am and were off the ship by 8.10 ready for our tour to Parc des Mamelles. I was surprised how different this French Island appeared against the others on this cruise. Lots of run-down areas against modern newly-built parts. At the Parc we followed a one-way trail of wooden walkways, and a free-hanging bridge! Animals were in compounds but it wasn’t like a zoo and birds freely flew around the rainforest trees. There were parrots, racoons, tortoises, turtles, iguanas etc. At the entrance/exit I stood and photographed the hummingbirds feeding at a feeder there. We all had a fruit punch and then drove to a waterfall – the Cascade des Ecrivisses. As we arrived there was a downpour, but we donned our rain jackets and walked the short distance to the falls. The rain amongst the leaves was very soothing. Back in Pointe a Pitre, we walked around the market by the ship where I bought a carved wooden hummingbird for 8 Euros. Then we walked into town – very run down and people a bit grim – they all asked for money (we think – I couldn’t understand them at all) for photographing them. After the vegetable market etc we headed back to the ship. It was very hot and not a lot to see. An excursion is a must in this port IMO. There was an announcement from the captain just before departure that he would be leaving us tomorrow and Simon Terry taking! He also officially announced the re-branding of P&O Cruises. After sailaway we went down to wash hair and change. Had cocktail in Tiffanys before going into dinner. After dinner we went to the Syndicate Quiz and came joint second! Friday 17 January – St Maarten 25°C E Force 3 Arrived out on deck to see Celebrity Eclipse already docked. Azura was just arriving followed by Adventure of the Seas and finally Pacific Princess who berthed behind us. This was the only other port we had booked a private tour so we walked off the ship to the Tourist Information Centre by 8.45pm as requested. A despatcher met us and asked us to wait with a lovely American couple from Celebrity Eclipse. Our guide and driver, Jose, met us and walked us to a minibus which already had three other couples in – it was a very tight squeeze to get between the seats – I MUST lose weight! We drove through Phillipsburg up to a viewpoint where we had views over the town – and a spectacular rainbow! Then we drove through the countryside to the French part of the island and Marigot where we had an hour free time. Unfortunately as we got there the heavens opened and barely stopped the whole time. I contented myself with some delicious cashew nuts from a street vendor. Next was Orient Beach, dropping my friend and I off at a butterfly farm first. The compound was filled with beautiful butterflies and moths, plus Bruno, the ex-feral cat, who allowed me to cuddle him! As I sat with him, Bananaquits and humming birds were feeding. Half an hour later Jose came back to collect us and take us to the beach where we had 45 minutes to paddle etc. The beach was right next to a nudist one so be warned! Back on the bus we had a free Carib beer and returned to Phillipsburg. We pottered round the duty free area, then my friend stayed ashore and I returned to the ship and sat on deck watching Celebrity Eclipse. First dozens of motorcyclists turned up hooting etc and then drove onto the ship, then Customs arrived and took off someone in handcuffs, then they were delayed half an hour to evacuate a medical emergency. We were staying here until midnight to give crew time to meet up with Azura friends. They left at 10pm to much shouting and waving etc. Pacific Princess left at 5pm, revving one engine for ages with the mooring lines still attached. Saturday 18 January – Tortola 27°C SE Force 4 Woke to a beautiful morning. Azura soon joined us here as well. We had no tours booked today thank goodness so a leisurely breakfast. My friend did a $20 Island tour as it was her first time here while I just wandered ashore. Road Town is not that pretty a place and shops few and far between. I had a rum punch in Pussers Outpost. As I was alone I was rather curtly asked to move from my table for 6 where I had hoped some people might join me to a corner table out of the way! I was not happy about this at all! I slowly made my way back to the ship and sunbathed the rest of the day, with Frigate birds, Boobys and Pelicans flying periodically overhead. My friend joined me later and we moved as Azura was blocking the sun. Then someone spotted dolphins in the bay and we stood and watched spectacular acrobatics from them for over half an hour! I finally got some reasonable photos of them too. Then to cabin to wash hair and shower – bit sunburnt! Sunday 21 January – St Barts 26°C E Force 4 This was our only anchor port and as we were doing our own thing, there was no rush to disembark. We had breakfast and then picked up boat tickets – No 19. We headed down to deck 5 to drop off our mid-cruise questionnaire and then our boat was called so went down to the tender platform on Deck 4. It was quite a long ride- about 20 mins – to the shore where we set off round the pretty harbour. The harbour, or marina, was lined with very expensive yachts! The few shops, closed as it was Sunday, matched the yachts – Bulgari, Dior, Cartier etc. After a stroll round to the end, pausing to peep in the Anglican Church, we walked down a narrow road to Shell Beach. This was small but very pretty, with turquoise water and waves crashing on what were literally thousands of shells. Obviously a “young” beach where the shells had not yet been ground down into sand. Declining to pay 40 Euros for two sunbeds and one umbrella, we headed for some rocks at the end where we were able to sit and paddle as each wave came in. It was hot, sunny and perfect. After a while, we went to the beach café/bar and I had a Carib Beer (I love the local beers). Drying our feet and getting rid of as much sand as possible, we strolled back round the harbour, pausing to watch and photograph some Brown Pelicans diving for fish. Back at the jetty there was a queue so we wandered up a bit further to take photos of Oceana at anchor, then caught the tender back to the ship. We stayed on deck in the afternoon and evening sunshine until we sailed at around 7pm (last tender was 6pm). Back in the cabin we showered and changed for dinner and pre-dinner cocktails in Magnums. Bar steward Anthony remembered we didn’t much like the very spicy nibbles and dashed to Tiffanys to get us some nicer ones! Definitely worthy of a Cruise Award! Monday 22nd January – Antigua 26°C E Force 3 My friend and I had booked different trips here as it was my second time in Antigua. My tour to Nelson’s Dockyard didn’t leave until 10am so another leisurely breakfast. I was up on deck however at 7am to watch the other ships arrive – Mein Schiff 2, Celebrity Eclipse and MSC Musica, although the latter didn’t arrive until 2pm. Mein Schiff was already in the harbour as we arrived. It seemed stationary as we slowly advanced and then passed her, berthing at the best spot next to the main dock gate. She then sailed out of the harbour and away again! A mystery! It later turned out that her captain wasn’t happy with the depth of water at the berth he had been allocated! Celebrity Eclipse was next to arrive and berthed on our starboard side. I missed Musica’s arrival. As the time for the tour approached I headed down onto the dockside where we were made to stand two by two and then walked to our small coach. We drove out through St John’s to Nelson’s Dockyard where after a short guided tour we had two hours free time and a free rum punch - 150% proof! I bought a delicious coconut cake in the Bakery for a bargain $1.55 considering the size and style of the yachts in the harbour! It helped soak up some of the rum! Drove back at 1pm and arrived back at the port to see MSC Musica had arrived and berthed next to us. My friend met me at the bus and we roamed the port area, both Duty Free and outside a little. We went back to Oceana at 4.30 – it was a 5pm back on board time – in my head it was 6pm so just as well I was with her! After sailaway we stayed on deck for a while savouring our last Caribbean port – then to wash and change for first semi-formal night for days! Tuesday 21 January- At Sea 24°C SE Force 5 Bliss – a long lie-in and leisurely day although today marks the start of our long return passage. I really needed this to recharge my batteries. The weather was still hot and sunny so stayed on deck all day – eating at the deck barbeque – watching the flying fish. Some people saw a whale breach close to the ship – but I missed it. Syndicate Quiz after dinner – then bed as clocks went forward an hour – we are certainly now homeward bound! Wednesday 22 January – At Sea 24°C SE Force 5 After a showery start to the day the sun came out and once again it was sitting (and dozing) on deck weather. We had lunch in the Plaza. Deck again after lunch, where we spent ages photographing flying fish. Then the sun went and there were some heavy showers again so went to cabin to paint nails etc ready for our first formal night for ages and the Peninsular Party. I looked up at the bridgecam at one point to see fabulous rainbow. Thursday 23 January – at sea 21°C SE Force 4 Lie in again and then to the Macmillan coffee morning. We had better coffee and a delicious cup cake for a donation to the fund. The Captain and new EP were there as were a few other officers and all the Entertainment Staff. Afterwards I sat on deck in the sun but it kept disappearing and eventually there was a heavy rain shower so had lunch and went to the cabin. Sorted out washing and spent a miserable hour and a half in launderette. Wash was OK as I could leave it and just go back in 35 minutes, but couldn’t get dryer so tried on upper decks. Eventually got one and put laundry in but it was still damp after 40 minutes so I draped it all over the cabin. Eventually had another go at 5pm and ironed T-shirts. Still had suncream marks on though so whole exercise was pointless! Never again!! Got ready for the early show at 7pm – Fogwell Flax. Friday 24 January – at sea 19°C E Force 5 Another lazy day. It was still hot enough to sunbathe as long as you found a spot out of the wind. It is definitely getting colder though and preparing us for our return on 30th January. Pretty sure I saw two whale spouts in the distance. Saturday 25 January – at sea 17°C SE Force 4 Weather now colder by around 2 degrees a day – it was dry all day though apart from a few short showers. I still managed to sit out wearing a fleece and watching for whales. The sea was incredibly calm but no whales that I saw. Changed for formal night and special Burns Night dinner where the haggis was duly piped in and addressed. After dinner we watched the Burns Night Ball for a bit but no one asked us to dance so we went to the Quiz! Sunday 26 January – Ponta Delgada 16°C NW Force 4 My friend and I were up on deck at 6.30 as we approached the island of San Miguel and the bridge announced a school of dolphins. I opened the deck door just as a dolphin leaped out of the water in front of me. There were many others too. The weather was bright and promised a nice day. There was an eerie musical sound – presumably the wind whistling through the mooring deck via the anchor hause pipes! Our tour didn’t leave till 1pm so we went ashore to explore Ponta Delaga for an hour and a half. It is a typical Portuguese town of white and dark brown/grey buildings. There was a pretty square with a beautiful church at one corner. We found a craft/antique shop and bought a couple of souvenirs and tried for free Wi-Fi, before heading back towards the ship. On the ship I grabbed my mac (just in case) and went back ashore to board our coach. My friend joined me soon after. Our tour took us through the lush green pasture land and small villages to the Crater Lakes – two blue and green lakes in the crater of an extinct volcano. The views were stunning. Then we drove to a spot where you could see both north and south shores of the island of San Miguel, before a Pineapple Plantation and botanic garden. Very poor guide however, with heavy accent and not a lot of information. We were on deck for our final sailaway after which we changed for casual night. After dinner I went to see opera singer Ben Makisi who was excellent. Monday 27 January – at sea 13°C NW Force 5/6 A pretty lazy day –I read out on the prom deck, well wrapped up in heavy winter coat. After lunch in the Plaza we browsed the shops. The captain came on to say the weather was deteriorating though and by tomorrow would be heavy seas again. Semi-formal night so changed and had cocktails before dinner, Crew Show and bed at 1pm as clocks went forward for last time. Tuesday 28 January – At Sea It started to get bouncy again last night and we had to ensure everything was well secured. We didn’t brave the Plaza, preferring breakfast in Café Jardin before going back to the cabin to pack a few more things and rest. It was getting worse and worse. We had lunch in the Ligurian Restaurant as we didn’t want to go any higher in the ship. At one point there was a huge lurch/wave and crockery smashed all around us, My friend and I getting wet from a water glass. I went to the art sale and then back to the cabin until the talk between Nigel Travis CD and Captain Simon Terry. There was a show by a Freddie Mercury tribute at 7pm so we changed and got ready and came back to Starlights before our final Gala Dinner and Baked Alaska parade. Several times we had to clutch at our food and glasses as the ship ploughed on through the heavy seas. On the next table a man in a white dj got soaked with red wine! Am thoroughly bored with heavy seas now! Wednesday 29th – At Sea Our final day – I cannot believe the cruise is nearly over after looking forward to it for so long. After breakfast in the Plaza – now just about manageable – we got our cases out from under the bed and started to pack properly. We attended the final Travelling Alone meet and had a light lunch – again in the Plaza – of a cheese roll. At Teatime however we succumbed to afternoon tea in the restaurant – as it was our last day! I got all but one of my cases out before dinner. Final Syndicate Quiz – we were joint 2nd. Thursday 30 January – Southampton Despite the weather issues, we arrived on time. We had priority disembarkation so could leave whenever we liked. My friend and I had breakfast separately and then met in the cabin at 8am to check everything and go to the Adriatic Restaurant. After a while we decided to disembark and wait for our car in the terminal – we had returned to Ocean. The cab arrived at 9.30 and I was home by 1pm. Summary A great cruise in the main, despite the awful weather at times. I do love the Caribbean, so much more than I thought I would. The food was, without exception, excellent. Some old favourite have been brought back – crepe suzettes and Baked Alaska both flambéed at the table for example. All main courses came with some vegetables and more were served, but in effect I was eating plated meals as I rarely needed any more. Service was good throughout and I am looking forward to our next P&O cruise in 6 weeks time.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
If you've seen the TV series "Benidorm" you'll have some idea of what this ship is about! Not quite as down-market but getting there. Pre-cruise and our outward journey were excellently done. Boarding a coach at ... Read More
If you've seen the TV series "Benidorm" you'll have some idea of what this ship is about! Not quite as down-market but getting there. Pre-cruise and our outward journey were excellently done. Boarding a coach at M'cr Airport at 0630 wasn't too much fun but better than arriving 3 hours before a 0630 flight! Luggage was loaded by the driver and we didn't need to bother with it again until it arrived in our cabin. Journey was painless and registration/embarkation was quick and smooth. Went straight to the cabin (didn't know we were supposed to wait) and were quite content. Top marks to P&O so far. The ship is impressive but initially very confusing. Layout is nonsensical and hard to navigate. Found the MDR for lunch and excused poor service and mediocre food as down to embarkation day problems. Sadly, the quality of the food served up was consistently much lower than I expect on a cruise ship, the menus were unimaginative/repetitive and the service was patchy: some was good, occasionally very good but too often poor, with apparently demotivated and humour-free staff. Towards the end some seemed to loosen up somewhat and interact more with passengers. Ships Officers were stand-offish even during the Captains reception, standing in groups and refusing to mingle. On previous cruises the staff generally seemed to be much more communicative and happy to engage with the customers. The entertainment was a mixed bag. There is insufficient room in the main venues to accommodate the number of people wanting to see the shows so even the standing room was all taken quite some time before each show started. Quality of the entertainment was varied but I accept that my view is very subjective here. The main attraction (David Essex) met all my wife's expectations and even impressed me! For the first few sea days the weather was poor, resulting in severe overcrowding in the inside public areas - had we made a mistake booking a transatlantic cruise? Later sea days were spent largely on the open decks and whilst it was impossible to find a vacant sun lounger by the pools, there were some available on higher decks, if you got there early enough. The speciality restaurants (XVII, Sindhu and Glass House) each provided a very much higher standard of dining - great food, well prepared and cooked, very well served and much enjoyed. The excellence here highlighted the poor standards of the MDR. The ports visited were all different and as a first-timer in the Caribbean all exciting too. By Day 13 I was still confused by the ship's layout. Hard to figure out which way was forward or back, where to find venues or which way to turn when getting off the lifts, or even whether to go up or down. Somebody eventually explained - all the lifts face forwards, except those that don't. Disembarkation was equally as smooth as Day 1 - a great plus point for P&O and one for other cruise lines to aspire to. None of the hustle to get you off at dawn. Luggage was collected by midnight the previous day and we never saw it again until back at the airport arrivals hall. That's a great bonus. This was not one of the adults only ships but the children on board were few and all well-behaved and controlled. No obviously rowdy behaviour although we did hear a report of a fight in one laundrette! Drinks prices are UK pub equivalent with no added service charges so another win for P&O. The clientele on this trip was almost exclusively UK resident. Some were very happy at this. Personally I missed the chance to meet and discuss things with other nationalities and learn a little about the World beyond what is fed to us by Sky, BBC and British papers. Overall I think the cruise was good value for my money. My great disappointments were the food in the MDR, lack of space in the entertainment venues and utterly confusing layout of the ship (I was very obviously not the only baffled one). Would I do another transatlantic cruise? Yes, but only on an Autumn E to W one. Will I use P&O again? Possibly but would have to be an itinerary that I couldn't get on my preferred lines and at a price that is sufficiently low. Would I recommend it to others? Only if they are content to accept mediocrity. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
My Auntie Joan and Uncle Gordon always swore that there was not other cruise line to be considered except P&O so when my husband booked a holiday on the Ventura for our first wedding anniversary I was really excited. Although I had ... Read More
My Auntie Joan and Uncle Gordon always swore that there was not other cruise line to be considered except P&O so when my husband booked a holiday on the Ventura for our first wedding anniversary I was really excited. Although I had cruised before I had not been on P&O one. We were delighted at the free coach to take us down to Southampton which saved time,money and driving and the check in was relatively trouble free. Finding out cabin was easy and our luggage was already there for us and the cabin was great but would have been improved by adding a comfy chair. Service throughout the ship was generally good and the good was excellant and we found no need to visit the specialist restaurants which always seemed empty anyway so obviously others agreed with us! P&O has kept their reputation of formal evenings. I well remember my aunt;s first cruise and the excitement of buying the dinner suit and dresses and this was well enforced this time, even to the extent that we were asked to leave, non too politely, from one bar as my husband had removed his jacket (I had spilt red wine down it) even though I was still obviously in evening dress and the bar manager was rude and beligerant. However this standard of etiquette was not carried through with passenger behaviour with children running riot around the ship, racing to get drinks and screaming around the corridors. One one occasion were were enjoying one of the vocalists when a group of people began screaming to each other across the bar with no respect for the performers or other passengers yet no one asked these people to behave. There were precious little room to sit outside where others were not smoking or not on a sunbed and the smell of cigarette smoke was so bad it permeated the ship in many areas. Areas and activities were not well advertised. We did not know about the free saunas; the glass house was advertised as an exclusive area with a cover charge of £30 but in fact only a portion of it was reserved for diners with a cover charge of just over £6.00 and the bar area was extremely nice - pity we only found it on day 12!!! One fellow passenger had been on the ship on three occasions and did not know about it! I would have loved to look around the "inside" of the ship but at a charge of £75 per person to pay for a person's time who is already there was extortion personified. As for fellow passengers I did rather feel that we had been transported to Butlins on the Sea rather than Butlins by the sea and on occasions the family interactions could be liken to Jeremy Kyle's Green Room. Organisation for getting on and off the ship and disembarkation were excellent and they seemed to have learned a great deal about people movement from Disney so no complaints here. However, I am afraid to say Aunty Joan, the past aura the P&O is sadly in the past and I don't think we will travel with them again. On the last note - compliments to the Chef as the food was exceptionally good and Sharon who looked after us was a delight. As for interior design - get a new one - the buffet rooms were lovely, other were a very dark sea of red and brown and depressing! Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
P & O bill themselves as britains number one cruise company if they want to keep this title they need to start thinking about there passengers. Although the cabins are kept clean by the hard working cabin stewards it is not matched ... Read More
P & O bill themselves as britains number one cruise company if they want to keep this title they need to start thinking about there passengers. Although the cabins are kept clean by the hard working cabin stewards it is not matched by the in cabin entertainment. Yes they offer and interactive TV system that has bbc & sky news and sky sports news the interactive tv programmes that you can watch is not well thought out yest they offer free films and what they calss as favourite tv shows that offers a variety of programmes however they could change these on a regular basis. For a cruise that had 8 days sailing the on deck entertainment could have been better the entertainment team did not do a lot during sea days in fact if it was not for the sail away parties or the daily table tennis competition you would not have known that there was an entertainment team onboard. The evening entertainment was not much better as they only tribute acts that they had was Phil Collins who was very good and a Cliff Richard tribute that is not everyones cup of tea. When it comes to disembarkation the reception staff seem to be unwilling to change the time of your disembarkation on unwilling to think about there passengers I contacted them snd explained that i had a train to catch from manchester to edinburgh that afternoon and asked if there was anyway that we could change the disembarkation time due to our time for the train I was told that this was not possible however we discovered that other passengers that were transferring from southampton to manchester airport were leaving the boat an hour earlier that us, this unwillingness to change our time resulted in us missing our train from manchester which resulted in us having to purchase new train tickets. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
THE START... We have just spent a fortnight crossing the Atlantic on Azura, visiting Punta Delgada in the Azores, St Martin, St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados. What should have been an incredibly relaxing and fun holiday turned ... Read More
THE START... We have just spent a fortnight crossing the Atlantic on Azura, visiting Punta Delgada in the Azores, St Martin, St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados. What should have been an incredibly relaxing and fun holiday turned out to be a rather strained and underwhelming affair. We began at Manchester Airport for our courtesy coach transfer to Southampton for boarding. Never in more than 40 years of travelling worldwide have I encountered a more disorganised and unwelcoming start to a holiday. Over 700 people were crammed into a portion of the coach station with no signage, no one on hand to offer guidance and just one person at the front of the queue ticking off names and assigning passengers - many of whom had already had a long journey - to 20 coaches. We had arrived at 7.10am expecting to be in plenty of time for our 8.30 departure. In the event, the single queue was so long that we only reached the front at 9.20am, boarding our coach at 9.40am for a departure at 9.50am. It was a total, absolute shambles. If P&O are attempting to exude an air of class and comfort, this could not have done more to destroy that image. My impression was compounded when I tried several times to phone the company's customer services and, despite promises to the contrary, they failed to ring me back. On reaching Southampton, there was a further hour to wait in the cramped and crowded cruise terminal before being called to the check-in desk. This entailed a further long queue. After check-in for the ship, there was another half-hour queue to clear passport control and board the ship. In all, the most stressful beginning to a holiday we've ever had - and we''ve been in some difficult airports in far-flung corners of the world. P & O like to market the fact that you "avoid airport queues" when you check in on their ships. That's a shame, because airport queues are so much shorter and easier. Never again. THE SHIP... The Azura itself is lovely. Huge, new (or, rather, just a couple of years old) and sparkly. Clean and well-appointed, it's a testament to the efficiency of the wonderful crew. Nothing was too much trouble for these folk, from the waiters and cabin stewards to all those you don't see. Most of the staff (at least, the ones you DO see) are Indian, and they do a really fantastic job. However, here the split between crew and management begins, because the ship is FAR too overcrowded. We sailed at full capacity and, while in theory there should be plenty of room for everyone, the truth is everyone wants to be in the same place at once. We chose the second fixed dinner sitting (8.30) as we like getting to know new people and didn't want to have to rush back from shore trips. By the time we'd finished dinner it was all but impossible to get seats in the Playhouse for shows or in the Malabar or Manhattan bars where cabarets were taking place. During the day, and once we reached sunny climes, there was just not enough deck space to accommodate everyone. Sunbeds were cheek-to-jowl and the 'towel' brigades were out in force, despite pleas from the crew. It was cheap 'n' cheesy in the extreme, and not something we wanted to be part of. Although we travelled out of the school holidays and there were only some 30 children on the trip, the four tiny pools were still packed and there was no way they could be used for real swimming - we didn't even attempt to try. THE FOOD... Food on the boat was generally very good. Fine dining it wasn't, but with the choice of sit-down restaurants, buffets, deck pizza/burger outlets and room service, it would be a very difficult person indeed who couldn't find something they liked at most hours of the day or night, and a type of service to suit. We didn't try any of the restaurants which incurred extra cost - Sindhu, Glasshouse, 17 - but as we were enjoying the company so much on our shared daily table we didn't feel any need to. Most of the food comprises British standards, from steak to roast beef, lamb chops and cod.... The buffets included curries and national dishes from other countries. All very focussed at British clients, though, all safe and involving little imagination. I guess this is what the punters want. I take my hat off to the guy who organises it all.... What a well-run operation. THE ENTERTAINMENT... The entertainment was pretty damn awful, to be honest. Cheesy bands and tribute acts, a theatre group with zero panache and embarrassing 'sailaways' with giveaway Union Jacks so everyone could flag-wave and sing 'Rule Britannia' as we left countries we stopped ruling a generation or more ago. Pretty desperate. It was loathsome. THE HARD SELL... Just vile. The whole ship is geared towards QVC-style hard-selling - bags, watches, jewellery, endless photographs, on-board sales talks, shore excursion sales, you name it. Boy, do they try and raise those profit margins. Apart from BBC world news and Sky news, there's nothing to watch on the TV in your cabin apart from people trying to sell you something. It's just awful. THE ITINERARY... Crossing the Atlantic by ship was something we wanted to do but, once done, it's not something we'll be repeating. Of course we chose the itinerary and P & O have no control over the weather, but for anyone thinking of doing the trip in January, I can tell you that it's very rough. Especially if you have a cabin near the front of the ship, as we did. We spent several days and nights being tossed from side to side, thinking we'd crashed into something in the middle of the night and clutching the sheets thinking we were about to be thrown out of bed. Very few hours' sleep. What fun - not! It was cold, extremely windy (force 9 gales) and miserable, too. On the seventh day of our trip - two days after reaching the Azores - people were actually able to start taking their outer clothes off and venturing onto the decks in temperatures approaching 20C. In other words, half of your hard-earned holiday gone before you see any sunshine. So think carefully if this itinerary's for you! We hoped it would be an adventure, and in some senses it was, but in truth there's very little to see. Not a bird, not a boat, not a plane in five days crossing the mid-Atlantic. Five dolphins at a great distance. I absolutely love the sea, and just a talk or two or more contact with the technical crew might have helped to bring the trip to life, but that wasn't on offer. All in all, it was a very artificial experience. I spoke to many pasengers on the trip, and didn't meet one who said they would repeat this itinerary. So judge for yourself. EXCURSIONS... Are very dear. Do your research before you go and book an independent tour or a taxi online. It'll save you a fortune and you'll get a far better, more personal service at half the price. Or, walk off the ship and book a tour at the port terminals. It'll still be cheaper and better. OVERALL... A clean, anonymous ship with a great crew, huge yet desperately overcrowded. If you want a home-from-home among fellow Brits with a bit of sun thrown in, and you have no real interest in experiencing other places or cultures, then this may be for you. If you're seeking peace and quiet, want discerning personal service and enjoy mixing with people of all cultures and discovering new places, then avoid at all costs. TIPS... If you've read this far, congratulations!! - You can't buy duty-free to drink on board, so take a 'bar' with you or buy a bottle or two at your first destination. - Soft drinks aren't free, either, apart from juice at breakfast time. Take a plastic bottle or two that you can fill at breakfast from the machines to drink through the day and use as mixers with your evening tipple. - The same goes for water. You have to pay for bottled water in your room at the ghastly price of £2 a pop, so take your own bottle and fill at any time from the machines. - Try and eat when others aren't. If you want a sit-down lunch in the 'formal' Oriental or Peninsular restaurants, go very early to avoid the queues. In the buffets, eat early or late, or you'll struggle to get a seat. - Sort out any important email communication before you leave home. Internet is VERY, VERY expensive and extremely unreliable with lots of drop-out as it's by satellite. A 'package' starts at £35 for just 100 minutes; pay-as-you-go is 50 pence a minute. Don't plan on doing any important business online here!!! - AVOID a cabin at the front of the ship. The metallic thud of huge waves crashing against the bow will drive you crazy and keep you awake all night. ...HOPE all this may be useful to someone making a decision about a holiday aboard Azura or with P & O. Whatever you do, happy travels!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We travelled down from Lancashire the day before sailing and stayed in the Holiday Inn at Eastleigh. This was a comfortable hotel and a relaxing start to the cruise. Boarding was stress free as we had priority boarding and we were on ship ... Read More
We travelled down from Lancashire the day before sailing and stayed in the Holiday Inn at Eastleigh. This was a comfortable hotel and a relaxing start to the cruise. Boarding was stress free as we had priority boarding and we were on ship before noon and enjoying the complimentary champagne and lunch in Carmens. We had our hands squirted with gel 5 times before we actually got into Carmens. Cabins were ready for 2pm and we were pleasantly surprised by how clean it was and the amount of storage. It is a few years since we last had an inside cabin but as the balconies on this ship are at a premium we decided to book inside. The cabin was compact but it did fit everything in and we had taken a lot. Our cabin steward was friendly and professional as were all of the crew we came into contact with. The Captain Neil Turnbull was a character and probably the most informative Captain we have sailed with. His influence on the crew was apparent and it was a happy ship. Lots of different venues on this ship with many choices of entertainment. Large Cinema, theatre, show lounge, nightclub, crows nest, and various bars. We sampled them all during the 22 nights we were on board. The show lounge Carmens has a super dance floor and most nights there was ballroom dancing in there to a live group or CDs. The theatre shows were very energetic but this is an older ship and the theatre productions were more limited than on the newer ships. The Cabaret artistes were varied but no big names for a Christmas cruise. We had booked 1st sitting dining as we enjoy the evening entertainment and find there are more choices for early diners. We ate in the Alexandra restaurant on a table for 6. Great table companions and the food was probably the best MDR food we have encountered. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the alternative dining restaurants. These were very mixed in our opinion and not up to the same standard as the other ships in the fleet. The weather was rough up to Madeira and the ship hit many pot holes. I am not a good sailor but managed okay with over the counter medication. After Madeira the weather was sunny and got warmer each day. There were many sea days and lots of activities around the ship. We wanted a lazy relaxing cruise so didn't attend any of the day time activities. The pool areas were quite small for sun worshipers but the aft desks make up for this with lots of spaces for beds and chairs. The prom deck is wide which is also a bonus. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were very special with carol services, and the children watching out for Father Christmas. The Christmas Eve deck party was great fun with live music and dancing. Nothing better than spending Christmas Day on a sun lounger with a bottle of Champagne. At the ports of call which in the Caribbean were Barbados, Antigua, Tortola and St Maarten, we did our own thing. The trips were expensive and as we had been to all the islands many times decided to DIY. New Years Eve there was a deck party again. This was well attended and the Captain counted in the New year. Not sure what time the party went on till but early hours of the morning. On the return journey the weather was warm and sunny right up to the day before Southampton. We should have called at the Azores but this was changed to a 1/2 day call in Madeira due to a passenger becoming seriously ill after we left the Caribbean. Overall we liked the Aurora but it is in need of some TLC. There were strange smells in the corridors and buckets made regular appearances to catch water dripping from the light sockets. We were on C deck so not sure if this is the only deck with this problem. I think that we prefer fly cruising as this means more port of calls but this was certainly a relaxing cruise. Disembarkation was a breeze because we had priority and were off the ship by 08:30 collected the luggage without problems and car from CPS and were on the road before 9am. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We left from Southampton had 3 days at sea then arrived in Madeira.This was followed by another 5 days at sea to then arrive in the BVI Tortola .Each day then in another island, Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada and finally ending in Barbados.We ... Read More
We left from Southampton had 3 days at sea then arrived in Madeira.This was followed by another 5 days at sea to then arrive in the BVI Tortola .Each day then in another island, Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada and finally ending in Barbados.We had at cabin B 755 overlooking the stern which was fabulous watching the wake of the ship and star gazing at night. The ship was very busy , 3000+ clients, so sometimes there were not enough seats to watch the show in the Arena theatre so some people had to finish 2nd sitting dinner early in order to get a seat. The sunbeds were incerdibly close together in som eplaces but there were probably enough, not all in the shade though. The Captains cocktail party was a farce as it was held in the Atrium so ther were 1500 peole attending .I did not speak to anyone as it was so squished , you could hardly hold your drink, so I didn't think that was very well planned. The trips we went on in Tortola and Antigua and Grenada were all very goo and value for money and in St Lucia, we found a tour on this website who were excellent. Weather was hot ,showers at times but soon disappeared.Fodd was very good and waiters were excellent and we had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We booked this cruise 10 months in advance because of cost and destinations. The size of the ship was at first daunting but we quickly aclimatised. All staff were very efficient from the time of checking in to disembarkation and flight ... Read More
We booked this cruise 10 months in advance because of cost and destinations. The size of the ship was at first daunting but we quickly aclimatised. All staff were very efficient from the time of checking in to disembarkation and flight home from Barbados. it was the first time we had a cabin with a balcony and we just loved it. We spent many an hour, particularly when we wanted to escape the crowds on deck, on our balcony. Having the balcony gave us more choices of what to do with our day whether on deck, on shore or lazing with a glass of wine in the privacy of our balcony. The only negative comment is that the bathroom smelt of damp cloth all the time. We reported it but nothing was ever done about it. Live shows were fantastic and of the highest quality. The meals served in all the restuarants, we attended, were supurb. The crowds, particularly at lunchtime, that gathered in the buffet restuarants were not too bad provided you had the patience to wait for a table. We never had to wait long for food or a table. The only negative comment in this regard would be towards those selfish passengers who after completing their meal would continue to sit and chat or read their books. We chose 2nd sitting for supper at a table for 6 and what a pleasure this was. Meeting and comparing notes every evening with well travelled and fun people. Overall I am ready for my next cruise. Well done P&O! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We had a marvelous time the Ventura transtlantic- would have liked a few more warm days but thats just the luck of the draw. enjoyed the hassle free flight and journey to join the ship. CABIN- It was smaller than on RCI and beds seemed ... Read More
We had a marvelous time the Ventura transtlantic- would have liked a few more warm days but thats just the luck of the draw. enjoyed the hassle free flight and journey to join the ship. CABIN- It was smaller than on RCI and beds seemed smaller too but as you don't spend too much time in there it didn't matter. i enjoy sea days and sitting on the balcony listening to the waves and reading is most important to me, so as long as i can put my feet up and relax, then I'm happy! wardrobe area good size and toilet fine but wish p and o would get rid of the shower curtain. FOOD- You would have to be very picky not to find something you like to eat on this ship. we were on freedom dining and most days we would pop down and look at the menu for that evening and if nothing whetted our appetite we either had a buffet or went to the section of The Beach House that was converted in the evenings to waiter service. our meals also varied depending on what shows/entertainment we wanted to see.Also being on freedom dining as we had already paid our tips on our on board account we didn't feel the waiters/maitre de would worry if we didn't eat there as they knew their tips were safe. when we did eat in cinnamon they were always attentive and nice. ENTERTAINMENT- We enjoyed all the entertainment. we only saw the Headliners Theatre Co a few times but liked what we saw. The comedians and singers were all really good Rob Linacre we thought shone but CLEM CURTIS was simply brilliant. A mention too for The Ventura Orchestra, these were very good and certainly complimented the singers. TOURS- cant comment on here as did our own, will post review on port of call board. A lot of the crew were quiet, but that's not a complaint, rather that than 'over the top'!they were friendly and always said hello. LAUNDERETTE- this was really useful as I'm one of those who hates lots of dirty clothes around. its just a shame about some of the people who use them, a bit like the sun bed savers! A few occasions witnessed people being totally self centred. like the lady who put her washing in one machine and saw the next machine empty, so took one item out and put it in the empty machine to 'save' it while she went back to her cabin to get another load but in the meantime there were other people who came in to use the facility and couldn't. now my only gripe is the medical services- don't get me wrong i expect they do a good service for those in real need, but there should be a way to buy 'over the counter' medicines on board. i had a troublesome rash/prickly heat which started on 3rd day of holiday. i managed to get some calamine lotion in the shop which didn't do much good but as i thought it was the heat i thought i would have to grin and bear it. i only realised after we left the azures and it got cooler that my rash didn't change and as we were then constantly at sea i had to go and ask at medical centre about it and nurse told me to get anti histamine cream from on board shop but they said they don't sell it, went back to medical s]centre and was told is wanted any cream would have to pay £50 to see doc. needless to say i didn't bother. i was also annoyed as i feel it is either the air con or strong detergent being used on laundry as rash disappeared once home even though its been very warm here. ignoring my gripe with the medical centre i still had a great holiday if i could find out what caused the rash i would be back on board in no time. the ship and crew are great so get on board! Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
The holiday got off to a dissapointing start when our flight was delayed because of an outage with the baggage belt supply at Gatwick. After just over 2 hours we finally took off. The service was very slow on Thomas Cook flight. As ... Read More
The holiday got off to a dissapointing start when our flight was delayed because of an outage with the baggage belt supply at Gatwick. After just over 2 hours we finally took off. The service was very slow on Thomas Cook flight. As usual they do not regard themselves as in the service industry but are "inflight safety officers". The temperature on the aircraft was very cold to suit the cabin crew working, and not the passengers. Upon arrival at the Venturer, we were impressed with the efficency of the check in, also the transfer from the aircraft. The Venturer is a very big well kept ship. The big let down is the staff on the whole of the ship. There is one nationality which is prevalent throughout the ship and they just do not pay attention, are very slow, and walk about in pairs talking to each other. The one exeption was the cabin steward, Martin. He excelled in his work and was always happy if sometimes a little tired. The mixed fruit at breakfast always ran out quickly and was never replenished quick enough. When I asked one of the supervisors in a white uniform to do something about it his attitude was not what it should have been. The edges of the dining room in the breakfast buffet were never clean. Maybe the staff are used to living like it but the officers should inspect it better and educate them The entertainment during the day was dire. The guest speaker could send you to sleep every afternoon with his monotonous droning from a book. The quiz prizes were a joke. nothing usefull like a bottle of wine. Just silly stars like a child at primary school would receive for merit. As in other reviews, trying to get a drink in the Exchange bar was very difficult. The staff also played some dreadfull rock music which they must have liked, but could not have suited the average age group of the people using the bar. We booked freedom dining, but when we got there, we were told we HAD to got to Saffron restaurant at 18.30 as too many people wanted freedom dining. When we booked by telephone with P&O we were not told there was a possibility we would be changed. When we complained, the reception staff pointed out a very small "wl" next Freedom dining on the booking form which denoted wait listed.Because of this, were restricted to that restaurant or the buffet which was always very full. There were other venues to dine which P&O unbelievably wanted you to pay for.The food must have been the same, so you had to pay for better service. One of the venues, East, was Asian food. Now, the curries in the buffet did not seem authentic,(surprising as they were cooked by Indians) so I didnt think it would be a good idea to pay and be disappointed. On the transatlantic crossing, the ship took a detour to the Azores instead of calling at Tenerife. The captain told us this was to avoid bad weather. I rather suspect this was to save a massive amount of fuel,and of course, money. On other cruises, the majority of staff seemed to be Phillipino, who were a delightful race of people, always so happy, and more importantly, good at the job. This ship needs a complete crew change. P&O staff were not good at the job,and sometimes surly. I suggest the people running P&O try a little "undercover boss" trips on their own ships and then on other cruise lines to see where they are going wrong. I think I'll give P&O a miss in future. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We had previously cruised with NCL, Princess and Celebrity and were really looking forward to sampling P & O but unfortunately we were rather disappointed with some aspects of this cruise. Our flight was a Thomas Cook charter to ... Read More
We had previously cruised with NCL, Princess and Celebrity and were really looking forward to sampling P & O but unfortunately we were rather disappointed with some aspects of this cruise. Our flight was a Thomas Cook charter to Barbados, and it was as good, if not better than many schedule flights, with plenty of legroom and attentive cabin crew. Ventura is a large ship, chosen by us as I do not have the best sea legs and we thought it would be good to choose a large ship as we were crossing the Atlantic. Our cabin was very nice, well equipped with a very helpful cabin steward. However, the public rooms were not as grand as we had previously encountered, no impressive atrium or quiet reading rooms. The dining room (Bay Tree) was well appointed and we were pleased to have a table for two, our two waiters were very attentive and pleasant but the food was not up to the usual cruise ship standard and the menu was not very varied. The drinks however were very reasonably prices, both the wine and the bar drinks, in some instances half the price of other cruises which was naturally a real plus. We went on three shore excursions which we thoroughly enjoyed, our first was a tour of St Kitts where our guide was very knowledgeable and made the trip a joy. We then did a snorkeling trip on Tortola with two snorkeling sites, again our guides were very professional with the snorkeling being best off 'Treasure' Norman Island. Finally, we did a tour on the Azores, which again was very good with a lovely local guide. The Azores was an unscheduled stop but a real gem and far preferable to Tenerife. Unfortunately there were two aspects of this cruise which really spoilt our holiday; the first was the attitude of the Shore Excursions and shop staff on board ship, we found they lacked any social skills and had total apathy when you expressed any interest in any port of call or any shop items. The second was the number of places on the ship where smoking was permitted. As people who like to take a stroll along the Promenade Deck you had to walk through the 'fog' every time on the Starboard side. Additionally, smoking was also permitted in one of the outside bars, near one of the pools and on the balconies, one of our neighbours was a smoker which spoilt our use of our balcony. Indeed, the smoking issue was a real down side for us, we will seriously have to consider whether we would cruise with P & O again if they continue to give preference to smokers over non smokers. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We flew on a Thomas Cook plane from Manchester to Barbados and the flight was pretty good - chair back tv screens, free drinks and a reasonable meal. On arrival in Barbados we were bussed to the ship - a distance of around ten miles ... Read More
We flew on a Thomas Cook plane from Manchester to Barbados and the flight was pretty good - chair back tv screens, free drinks and a reasonable meal. On arrival in Barbados we were bussed to the ship - a distance of around ten miles through territory I wouldn't necessarily wish to return to on foot, but on arrival at the dockside, we joined a queue to get our photo taken for the on-board card you need to pay for items and get through security. The ship seemed enormous, and our superior balcony cabin was lovely, with the only downside being that the balcony is completely overlooked by all the decks above it. Two tv screens, full sized bath, coffee/tea facilities and fridge. The tv is nothing to get excited about however, as you get Sky News/Sky Sports/ BBC World News, one terrible channel full of wannabbee Madonnas in LA, and then a few channels flogging the P & O DVD, Tanzanite jewellery, and repeats of the lectures given in previous days. Most of the staff are Indian - our waiters (2), wine waiter, and steward were all from India. They gave us fabulous service. We went on the fixed dining (first sitting) and were allocated the "Peninsular" restaurant.The food was excellent and service superb. If you wanted to eat in the top deck buffets, at peak times it was pretty full and you might not find a free table. It was disappointing to find that cabins don't have internet access, and to use the computers in the library costs 50p a minute, which is horrendously expensive. The bar waiters are on commission, so they are constantly looking to get orders for drinks - prices are similar to British pubs, and you don't feel ripped off. The majority of the cruisers were in the 50+ age group, with very few children on board. On the 9 day sail back to Southampton, I did get somewhat bored with the same daily entertainment schedule, and the lack of variety - apart from one night when Eddie Large gave a talk, there were a series of lectures on a daily basis about Concorde, a few films were shown (some several times over the 13 nights), and quite a few dance lessons. They organise daily Bingo, which again, isn't cheap - £10 for 3 tickets covering five games. The idea is to build up a "snowball" for the last day, so that they sell hundreds of tickets, and presumably, make a mint. Some of the shows are very popular, but I preferred to watch a guitar duo called "The View" who appeared in "Brodies" pub type bar. Duty free shops sell limited ranges of goods, and prices of spirits can be extremely good value - £12 for two litre bottles of Teachers whisky seems good to me.On arrival at Southampton, we were efficiently directed onto a smart "Eavesway" coach taking us back to Manchester airport, and setting off at 9-10am, with a 45 minute stop at the Motorway Services, we arrived at T2 Manchester at 1-50pm - brilliant. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
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