When the opportunity came up for a last minute trip to UK to meet the Grand Twins we wondered what else we could do while we were there
Of course! A Mediterranean Cruise sailing from Southampton, would break up the visit and get us out of the house for a while!
Anthony at Cruise Sale Finder helped me choose an Obstructed View cabin on Arcadia, which we have sailed on before. P&O have a gallery of pictures of each Obstructed View cabin so we were OK with the lifeboat being directly outside our double pane, full height windows.
This time, travelling from London through to Southampton, we booked a coach pick up and return via P&O with Cruiseconnect Intercruise services and very glad we did, as all we had to do was meet the coach at the South Mimms Services Park and the holiday had begun!
Arcadia was beautiful as always, and as Atlantic Members of P&O Peninsula Club we were welcomed with a complimentary glass of champagne to the Sail Away Party and braved the chilly conditions on the open deck as we slid smoothly away from Southampton on our 18 night voyage.
We enjoyed our Club Dining dinner experiences, and Freedom Dining at lunch, but while I prefer a breakfast tray in the cabin, Mike relishes the scrum in the Belvedere with it’s piping hot breakfasts and more toast if you want it!
We booked Shore Trips for each of the 7 ports: Cadiz in Spain, Messina in Sicily, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Venice, Split in Croatia, and Gibraltar. One port often overlooked is Southampton itself, next time, perhaps we shall go a day early and explore this ancient sea port with it’s mighty Southampton Waters safe harbours.
We have learned that Shore Trips help to get the most out of each brief shore day, but after a launch trip to the islands of Murano (glass) and Burano (lace) on the first day, we explored Venice on the second day on foot by ourselves. That was lots of fun and with the help of googlemaps on the iphone, found our way back to the ship from St Mark’s Square through small alleys and laneways and across more bridges than we could have thought possible!
The cruise was marvellous: The Service was efficient and unobtrusive … we would leave the cabin and return to an immaculate space with everything just so. We didn’t meet anyone we didn’t like, eat a meal we didn’t enjoy, sleep less than soundly, fail to marvel as we sailed past cities of great antiquity, explored caves and cities, vineyards and precipitous views, walked and coached and laughed and sang.
It was all just fabulous, and we returned to our visiting with stories to tell and souvenirs to share. It was all just so much fun and we can’t wait to do it again, soon!
The ship was great as were the crew. The food was a let down, breakfasts COLD, COLD, COLD. other meals warm and tasteless. Other Cruises were far better. Cabin was great as was the Cabin girl.
The ease of embarking and disembarking was very good, the biggest problem was the British customs and security at Southampton...I suffer with the after effects of spinal surgery and use walking aids. These were taken from me whilst embarking through Customs and at this time I was told to remove my shoes (lace-ups) whilst trying to stand on one foot...this is nigh on impossible. Finally in a very distressed state I boarded the ship After boarding and setting up in our cabin I had to visit the Medical Centre. What lovely people they were, the young Doctor and Nurse.
One thing that was very noticeable was the mixture of "cruisers" on board...we found many rude, crude, foul mouthed individuals on board. We picked our friends and enjoyed their company. There were many inebriated individuals who could not or would not refrain from filthy swearing. I feel P&O should enforce their rules of not serving alcohol to persons showing signs of inebriation. P&O UK has lost me from cruising with them again.
We thought of checking out the Arcadia, as she sails around the world at seemingly reasonable fares, in order to have a base to judge her appeal for some months. Good that we did, as we did not like the overall impression. It started with the check-in, which was slow and â€˜massiveâ€™.
When on board, we were recommended to go to the Lido deck, the â€˜Belvedereâ€™ to have lunch or a snack. Not only did we struggle to find some seats, as all the deck in- and outside was packed. Then we found a seat and after some 10 minutes a waiter came to ask: â€œany drinks?â€ â€¦ not welcome on board, may I help you, or some other niceties, yes you were calibrated to the tone and style of the Belvedere. The â€˜waitersâ€™ with the white uniforms and one to 3 stripes did nothing but to check out their staff and were talking with each other â€“ all the cruise long. No welcome words to the passengers with notable exceptions. â€¦ The waiter then took our order, after delivering the drinks menu and served, after some ten minutes again, the bottle of chardonnay, with plastic glasses. We refused to drink out of these and the waiter then took another 5 minutes to bring some real glasses. The wine was good but for some 18 pound St.+ you would expect a decent drop.
The food, all self service of course, note: the waiters were only there to clear the tables and ask for drinks, possibly. The waiters clearing tables, had to wear blue most unappealing rubber gloves. Large buffet style servings reminding us more of mass university style food halls, all ok but not presented with any finesse nor â€˜loveâ€™. Roasts, English style, potatoes, chips, some rice dishes and stews and a few other servings, every day, lunch and evening the same loveless concoctions. The desert glass cabinet had some small fruit tartlets, vanilla- and chocolate puddings and boring cream tarts, far away from any great Austrian cakes or deserts. We only checked it out once more and passed by a few other times to confirm the lack of variety. All very, very ordinary.
The coffee out of theses huge machines, one type of mug only, tasted as expected, watery, flavourless and sad. Real milk was unavailable, only the skim type. Juices and tap-water again out of plastic coming from big dispensing machines.
Not correct to say that all food was substandard, the dining room offerings were very good whilst no high quality gourmet style, but enjoyable. The waiters, mostly all Indian, did quite a good job and after our complaint of being seated where we did not like, we ignored the seating saga and were looked after by Pio Cardozo the head waiter, experienced and gentle. Once we got to know the waiters, we enjoyed the service.
When arriving at our cabin, we noticed that the deck was not cleaned, the next day it was better, however, it was not that nice to sit there at discoloured and unclean planks. Otherwise the room was in good order and at A1xx â€˜deluxe balconyâ€™, we would have liked some bathrobes and slippers, no luck in this grade it seamed. Bathroom amenities were also ordinary being in sink with the overall impression of the P&O motto of British mass appeal.
Leaking ceilings for a few days in the hall close to the piano bar, permanent dryers in the charming Crows Nest were not that confidence building but things can happen. Service at the Crows Nest was also poor and long waits were normal. We did not like the drinks being measured too small and after bringing this to the notice of the waiter we received half a nimble more. The bar tender, we saw from the side, was unhappy and re-measured again, but the second time it was better and more adequate, considering the high prices on board, not commensurate with the service.
The gym was reasonably big, but 3 out of the four exercise bikes were not functioning. The ladies in the spa, as there was nobody in the gym, did not know and promised to pass the message on to the gym boys, it was not fixed. Gym-cleanliness borderline.
Service in general in the bars after the show was always slow, what reason is there complaining on holidays, we just mention it as this was unexpected.
The shows in the Palladium Theatre were good, taste-wise not necessarily for the majority of the cruise participants. The stand up comedian was for the UK clientele only, other English speaking persons would likely not understand. The other music offerings, with the exception of the superb pianist who was also the mini orchestra chief, were nice, but just about that.
All in all, P&O UKâ€™s Arcadia was for us a big ship with a very ordinary appeal, we would give it 3 stars in most categories, the Belvedere would not deserve more than one. Perhaps our mistake was to cruise with Oceania and Crystal beforehand.
Our cruise was much more than we expected. Aurora is a very comfortable ship, with 760 passengers doing the whole world cruise. It was like a 5 star ship, fantastic service, crew, food, we will be watching cruise sale finder for more of your specials.
You made it so easy to book thank you.
Great relaxing holiday had a wonderful steward and butler although the majority of the passengers were elderly still was great Looking forward to booking another cruise soon
After cruising for a month from Sydney towards Southhampton onboard the fantastic Arcadia we approached the Gulf of Aden. Much to the delight of my security conscious husband we were escorted by two Navy Frigates one English the other Italian for a day and a night our guardians protected our sea
lane .During the night the obliging crew offered night vision binoculars to scan the glassy moonlight horizon for any sign of pirates!
None ! That didn't detract from the excitment of sailing The Gulf Of Aden .