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P&O Cruises: Arcadia

Fodorite Reviews

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Jul 21, 2008

Norwegian Fjords and North Cape

This review gives my personal view only. I realize that all aspects are purely subjective and that others may have a very different opinion of things. I appreciate hard work and know that I am not perfect so I don't expect things to be perfect. I do, however, expect value for money and people to make an effort. Background: This cruise turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Our original choice cruise had been cancelled because of operational difficulties

so, with only 7 weeks to go, our TA found us a good deal on Arcadia to Norway. My DH and I have cruised 19 times before (Princess, NCL, RCI, Carnival, Star Cruises and Louis) but never on P&O. We were looking for somewhere different because, hopefully without seeming too boastful, we have done most of the Med, Baltic, Caribbean, Alaska etc, so decided to take the plunge. I am in my very late 50s (OK, so I'm 60 this October but sssssh...) and my DH is very early 60s. We consider ourselves to be active and inquisitive. We love to meet people, have new experiences and see different things so this cruise fulfilled all our criteria. We are from the Midlands in the UK so it was a pleasant change to sail from Southampton with no weight restrictions! This was a wonderful cruise and I would highly recommend both the ship and the itinerary. P&O will not be my first choice of cruise line for many reasons: we prefer an anytime dining option and less formality. We also prefer a more cosmopolitan mix of passengers and a younger profile. Having said all that though, we would not hesitate to go with P&O again if the price and itinerary were right. This is a very, very subjective area. We found the food to be abundant, of a reasonable quality and very British. I, personally, prefer to have a more eclectic choice but it was good to have a plentiful variety of vegetables which we always find lacking on the American ships. The buffet was usually busy and it was sometimes difficult to find seats (this is the case with every ship on which we have travelled) but people were happy to share tables. I enjoyed the British bacon and sausages. The salads were good and, generally, the quality of the hot food was fine. At lunch time I loved the hot puds with custard - it was a bit like school dinners at their best! We were on second sitting (8:30ish) and this was my one major gripe - I really don't like ˜traditional dining." Quite often the dining room did not open on time so the queues built up. We were on a table for 6 and our companions were delightful which helped to make the evening meal a pleasure but I much prefer open seating so I can choose the time I want to eat (I know I could have gone to the buffet but like to be waited on in the evening). The food was plentiful but we have had better quality on other lines. The service was always very attentive. We did not try the speciality restaurants but people we talked to had enjoyed the food at both venues - Arcadian Rhodes and the Orchid room. We had been offered a balcony guarantee when we booked so were absolutely thrilled to be allocated an aft cabin on deck E. We love aft cabins and this one did not disappoint although it was slightly smaller than the other aft cabins due to its position next to a suite whose doorway has been designed to open very close to ours. There was adequate storage, a small bath with shower, a large comfortable bed (the pillows were a bit too hard and lumpy for my liking), a sofa with coffee table, a small dressing table, fridge and flat screen TV. I did like the choice of films, BBC and Sky news plus the UK drama and comedy shows - not that we watched much. The balcony was spacious with 2 comfortably padded wooden sun chairs and a small table. Luckily, the weather for the majority of the 13 days was pleasantly warm so we were able to use the balcony quite a lot. Sitting out there with a drink as we sailed through the fjords or late at night with the sun still shining was magical! It was lovely to be greeted with a beautiful red rose in a bud vase and to have the tea/coffee making facility along with the packets of biscuits. The collection of toiletries (lip salve, body lotion, eye cream etc) together with decently large towels was also a bonus. Our cabin steward, Emily, was a delight and she kept everything spotless. The cabin compared favourably with those of the other cruise lines I loved the main pool area as it had a retractable roof which meant that the facility could be used all the time although I have to say that the lounging chairs were the most uncomfortable that I have ever come across on a cruise ship. There were many different bars and lounge areas which all seemed to be well used. We love to dance so spent most of our time, when not eating or at the show. in the Globe which had a reasonable size dance floor. The amount of ballroom and sequence dancing opportunities was a major bonus to us but we missed a lot because the main dancing times were scheduled while we were eating dinner and then watching the show. P&O really need to look at the timing of their shows. The majority of other lines have an early show so people can watch that before dinner. On Arcadia the first show was while we, on second sitting, were eating and the second show started at 10.45p.m.! This gave us about 20 minutes after the end of the show before all the other entertainment finished. There were plenty of organized activities for the 4 sea days but we only did the dance classes which we especially enjoyed. Freda and Michael taught some basic and more complex moves for the tango, jive, rumba, cha cha cha and a bit of salsa. There was line dancing too. I thought the shows were all very good except for the male guest singer who had no charisma and, as the poor attendance at his second show proved, a very unpopular choice of songs. The resident company did a splendid job with their singing and dancing being full of energy and enthusiasm. Embarkation: We travelled down from the Midlands on the Sunday and then stayed overnight in Reading. My DH expected the M3 to be busy so we set off at 9.00a.m. anticipating delays but we sailed(!) through so we arrived early (11:15 a.m.) at the Mayflower Terminal in Southampton. Our car and luggage were both whisked away with great efficiency and we joined the very short queue which grew extremely quickly after our arrival. Boarding started at 11.45 and we were on the ship within 15 minutes. We had been told that cabins would not be available until 1.30 but DH decided to go straight to the cabin to see if he could leave his suit bag there and, to our delight, the cabin was ready. Emily introduced herself and was happy for us to leave everything in there before we went off to explore and have lunch in the buffet. All our pieces of luggage arrived by 4:00 p.m. Ports: We decided not to do many organised trips because we were not sure what the weather would be like. In retrospect, I wish we had done at least one into the mountains around the fjords but we still saw a lot although I think we missed out on the information about the areas. Bergen: It was cool and overcast when we woke up but, as this was our first sight of Norway, we were immediately struck by the grandeur of the hills and the way the town with its strongly colourful wooden buildings nestled among the hills. There were 7 cruise ships in that day so everywhere was very crowded. Arcadia was docked about a 1/2 mile from the town centre and, following advice gained from the cruise forums, we headed, on foot, straight for the funicular which is situated very close to the market area. We had to join a long queue and stood in line for 30 minutes. The return ride was 70kroner, but worth it for the views of the city and fjord. I'm glad we went straight there as the queue was almost twice as long when we arrived back at base. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the harbour area where there was a lively and vibrant market with some unusual stalls - whale products and fur products were in evidence everywhere. It was there that we began to realize just how expensive everything in Norway is!!!! I love to go in local supermarkets and try to bring back home a typical delicacy - jam, packet cake mix, sauce, sweets or a cooking utensil, but I could not bring myself to buy anything. Everything was at least twice the price of a similar item in the UK. Even a single post card cost nearly £1. We quickly learned to eat and drink on the ship and to limit our spending to entrance fees and bare essentials. Bergen has a delightfully quaint area (a world heritage site) just behind the very deep coloured wooden shops by the harbour side. We wandered around there taking photos for a long time before returning to the ship. It was lovely having our first experience of sailing down a fjord and, to make it even better, the sun came out and stayed out for most of the rest of the cruise. Tips Do the funicular ride as early as possible to avoid the worst of the queues. Public toilets are expensive – between 5kr and 10kr (50p &£1) so have change available. There are free toilets in the building at the centre of the fish market area. Flam: We thought Bergen was attractive but Flam was a revelation. We were so lucky that the weather was warm with clear blue skies as it accentuated the magnificence of the lush green hills and the sparkling patches of snow high up on the mountainside. The water of the fjord glistened bright blue and everything was so quiet and still. We had set the alarm for 6.30a.m. knowing that we had a long sail up the Sognefjord to get to Flam and wishing to see some of the fjord. I'm so glad that we did as the scenery in the early morning sunshine was just too beautiful to describe. It was lovely eating breakfast and seeing the mountains and tiny villages slide by. We docked in the little village of Flam at 8:00 a.m. and decided to disembark as soon as possible. This was an excellent decision as it enabled us to catch the first train of the day on the famous train for the 50 minute ride up to Myrdal which left at 8:35 a.m. The station is about a 1/2 mile from the dock and there was only a short queue to purchase tickets (310Kr-£31- pp return). The train ride was spectacular with amazing views of the mountains, waterfalls, rivers and villages. The train makes a 5 minute stop at a huge waterfall and most people got off to take photos. There is not much at Myrdal except for the station and its cafe. My DH and I decided to walk down the path opposite the station and, again, were happy with this decision as it took us alongside a mountain stream to a beautiful waterfall. I felt a bit sorry for the couple who were camping there as their peace was suddenly shattered by us and a few others who had chosen to walk the path. We caught the 10.50a.m. train back to Flam and were amazed (horrified) by the huge queues waiting for the train. There were several coach loads of people arriving all the time. The village of Flam is a couple of miles from the dock area so we decided just to wander around the dock/station area with its restaurants, souvenir shops and supermarket. There is a pretty park area and a shingle beach where families were picnicking and sunbathing. My DH saw a crew member swimming and asked if the water was cold. The man replied “somewhere between freezing and ice cold!! so we decided to give paddling a miss that time! Arcadia sailed at 5.30p.m. and we were able to enjoy the return trip down the fjord while having a drink on our balcony .....bliss! Tips Get the 8:35 a.m. train to avoid the queues. Sit on the right side of the carriage facing forward for the best views. Olden: This holiday was beginning to settle into a pattern by now as we realised that we would miss so much if we stayed in bed late so, once again, the alarm was set early so that we could have a morning coffee and watch the magnificent scenery pass by as we cruised up the Nordfjord to Olden. Nordfjord was just as impressive as Sognefjord but in a slightly more gently rolling way. The weather again was superb and the early morning sun accentuated the brilliant greens and blues of grass and water. Olden is also situated a long way down the fjord and, like Flam, has a dock area and then a small town about 1mile away. My DH had booked a fjord fishing excursion for the morning so he had breakfast and went off to do his thing. I took the opportunity to wander the ship and take photos and then to have a quiet read on the balcony surrounded by the crystal clear air and wonderful scenery. DH had a good time but only caught 3 fish so he was a little disappointed. In the afternoon we strolled from the ship into the little town. The walk took us past some lovely houses with colourful and well kept gardens before we reached the village centre. There were a few shops selling clothing, souvenirs and food but prices were so high that it was easy to resist buying. There is a lovely white painted wooden church that is open to visitors and after a look round there we walked slowly back along the waterside to the ship. There was an abundance of wild flowers in bloom and a lot of different sorts of birds. We sat on a bench and soaked up the sights and sounds, revelling in the peace and quiet. Tips There is a trolley train that runs from the ships side and does a 1 hour round trip of the area. There are free public toilets in the building next to the supermarket in the village centre. Trondheim: The weather continued to be kind to us and we, again, were up early to see the approach to Trondheim. This was a less spectacular sail but still pretty in its own way. The ship docked in the industrial area of the city and there was a regular shuttle bus service into the town centre which we caught. The bus dropped us off very close to the cathedral so we walked to that. It is a very impressive building and reminiscent of Many English cathedrals. From there it was a few minutes walk to the old bridge which we crossed into the old town area. The buildings here are pastel coloured wooden houses with pretty flower displays. We wandered this district for a little while before heading into the modern town centre. This was a pleasant enough place but very much like any other town so, after an extortionately priced cup of coffee, we returned to the ship. Tips Shuttle bus was 50kr (£5)pp return. You could walk into the city but it was a long way and the route was not particularly attractive. There is a 100kr (£10) entrance fee pp to the cathedral. Toilets are free in the shopping mall. Sea day: This was when we crossed the Arctic Circle although we would never have guessed from the fabulously hot weather we were having. The great thing here was that we could see the Norwegian coastline as we travelled north and it was an amazing succession of high jagged cliffs. Unfortunately the calm and still conditions were perfect to create the fog blanket that descended in mid-afternoon and followed us for the next couple of days. This meant that we did not see the midnight sun, but we did get the 24 hours of daylight. It was a surreal feeling to be sitting on the balcony at 1:00 a.m. in full, although misty, daylight! Honningsvaag and North Cape: It was heaven not to have to set the alarm so early as we were not due to reach Honningsvaag until 12:30 p.m. After a late breakfast and a bit of line dancing my DH and I went our separate ways to join our different tours. We were tendered into the little town of Honningsvaag as Arcadia is too big to tie up to the dock side. There is a permanent population of around 400 in the immediate area and I'm not surprised. It is very wild and beautiful in a stark sort of way but, in winter, they have 74 days of almost total darkness. DH was going bird watching and he was full of praise for the whole trip when he returned. The guide had been excellent and the group had seen many different birds – sea eagles, puffins, cormorants etc plus a minky whale, seals and sea lions. I did the North Cape trip. This cost £46 which included the £20 entrance fee to the North Cape national park. The coach trip took about 50 minutes along very windy roads with some spectacular views across bleak moorland. There were herds of reindeer grazing on the patches of lush grass and wild flowers. The North Cape tourist centre is large and has some interesting exhibits including the 180 degree wide screen film show. It was such a shame that the mist was still hanging around and was thick enough to make it difficult to appreciate the height of the 900ft cliffs. We were free to return when we wanted so I spent about an hour there and 15 minutes looking round the town of Honningsvaag before getting the tender back to the ship. Unfortunately the mist persisted so we were unable to see the North Cape cliffs as we cruised past them at midnight. Tips It would be difficult to do anything independently in this area. There is a free toilet on the ground floor at the museum in Honningsvaag. Have warm clothes. Tromso: The mist cleared as we travelled south to Tromso and the warm weather returned, much to our delight. We also resumed our early morning alarm call and were not disappointed as we sailed up another pretty fjord. Arcadia docked at the industrial port which is a good way out of the town centre. We were able to see the large bridge and the modern Arctic Cathedral from the upper deck of the ship. We caught the port run shuttle bus which dropped us off in the shopping district. This was about 3 miles from the ship. We walked down to the water front and realiZed that it was too far to walk across the bridge to the cathedral so we concentrated on the commercial centre. This comprises of a few shopping streets, some pretty wooden houses and there was also a small market where we found some affordable small gifts. After a couple of hours of slow meandering we felt that we had seen all that was walkable in Tromso so we caught the shuttle bus back to the ship and finished the day with a game of scrabble and a bit of sunbathing. Tips Shuttle bus was 55kr (£5.50)pp return. The market had the cheapest gifts of all the places we visited. Free toilets in the small shopping mall. Alesund: After yet another early morning sitting drinking coffee on the balcony and watching the approach down the fjord to the next destination we were pleased to find that we were docked right in the centre of Alesund. The weather had changed and was cool and damp. This was a shame because Alesund was perhaps the most attractive of all the cities we visited. Once again we wandered the streets and found some beautiful waterfront buildings. My DH then decided to climb the 400+ steps to the top of the mountain where there is a viewing platform. I gave this one a miss and spent a bit of time window shopping before returning to the ship. The weather improved in the afternoon and the sun came out as we set sail. Apparently this had been the first visit of a P&O ship to this port so we were escorted out into the fjord by a fire department boat with the hoses spraying fountains of water. Tips There is a trolley train which takes you up the mountain to the view point for 150Kr (£15)pp Stavanger We had lovely weather again as we neared Stavanger. I have to say that I was not particularly looking forward to this port but it turned out to be my favourite of the larger ports. Arcadia docked right in the centre of the town and the market was only a 200 yards from the gangplank. We walked to the market square and then, just to the left is the church with some beautiful and interesting artefacts. A short stroll down the narrow shopping streets lined with attractive floral displays took us to the ferry terminal and a most unusual children's playground constructed from all kinds of industrial materials. We carried on walking and eventually came to small hill in the centre of the town with an old lookout tower on it. There were very good views of the ship from there. Our stroll took us back to the church square and then into the pretty little park area with the lake and fountain. From there we continued to walk back towards the ship but followed the quayside on the opposite side of the harbour until we came to the Old Town area. This was truly beautiful in the warm sunshine. The old town comprises of several narrow, cobbled streets lined with quaint, white painted, wooden houses which were set off by colourful displays of flowers in window boxes, hanging baskets and the small gardens. My DH and I spent some time sitting at various vantage points so that we could soak up the atmosphere of this, our last port in Norway, before heading back to the ship. There was a Great British Sail Away party on the aft pool deck as we slid out of Stavanger and down the last fjord. This seemed a fitting end to our Norwegian adventure. Tips This is the perfect place to get off the ship in the morning, return for lunch and then get off again in the afternoon. Spend all your remaining Norwegian Kroner coins as banks at home will not change them. Sea Day Our last day was spent packing and enjoying the facilities aboard for the last time. We were able to put out our first bags for collection by 4.00p.m. and any others needed to be out by midnight.

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Dec 29, 2006

Barbados/Panama Canal

Have just returned from a two week cruise on Arcadia, "Tropical Delights" from Acapulco to Barbados via the Panama Canal. I found the other reviewer's comments really helpful, so hopefully someone will also benefit from mine. This was my third cruise with P&O, previously we had been on Aurora and Adonia. Our impression of Arcadia was very disappointing. The ship looked shabby, lots of areas had flaking paint, marks

on the walls and floor. Our balcony had stains all over the floor, we mentioned this three times and eventually someone came and cleaned it. There were some tiles next to a buffet counter beside the main pool which had lifted, leaving dangerous sharp tiles where people would be walking. After two hours of looking at this, I reported it and one of the staff put a little bollard over the damaged area. Admittedly, they did repair the tiles a couple of days later, but they replaced with a different color which added to the shabby look. If you're used to P&O ships being pristine, I think you'll find Arcadia a real disappointment. I was talking to another passenger who used to be a senior manager in P&O, and he said that the reason that the ship was so shabby is that it had been in the Caribbean for so long. Normally, when ships return to Southampton they get things fixed. Clearly P&O needs to make better arrangements, surely it must be possible to get a painter in the Caribbean? Another member of the executive team on the ship was chatting to us, and he said that since Carnival had taken over, there were cost cuts on top of cost cuts. He said that he thought most of the ships were getting shabbier as a result. One thing which you can't help noticing on Arcadia is the AWFUL mix of carpets and soft furnishings. The carpets are very heavily patterned and in bright colors, generally mixed with furniture which just simply doesn't go. You can't help thinking that they must have gotten the carpets on the cheap, as nobody could have paid good money for such old tat. We did notice a few changes in P&O's product, brought in by the accountants to drive up profits, but detracting from the cruise experience. The free ice creams which P&O used to give out in the afternoons are, replaced by ice creams you can buy. The ship's staff constantly pushed the Orchid and Rhodes restaurants - the cookery demonstration was an advert for the Orchid, and even the cabaret artiste did a big plug for the paid-for restaurants. We didn't bother to use either, £15 a head additional charge seems quite steep given that food is supposed to be included, and the fact that the ship's company were pushing them so hard suggested that they weren't very popular. The menus in Rhodes are very similar to the restaurant, lots of steaks and big meat dishes, and the executive chef for the main restaurant also oversees Rhodes, so what is the difference? We were told by a member of the executive team that P&O was increasingly getting rid of anything on board which didn't generate onboard spend. "If marketing had their way, we'd get rid of all the dancing on the ship because people can't dance and drink at the same time" was the comment. Card games have similarly been banished because they don't generate revenue, and there is no Traveling Alone Club on the ship, evidently because single people don't generate as much on board spend as couples. This is a real shame because cruising is such a popular option with singles. P&O explains these "innovations" as part of being contemporary. Another "innovation" is to have exactly the same entertainment EVERY cruise, so if you do a back to back cruise, you get the same shows, the same talks, everything repeated for the second cruise. Having read the reviews of the flight to Acapulco, I decided against and booked flights on Air France out and BA back. I was really pleased we did, as most people talked about nothing else but the awful flights for the whole cruise. In most cases, people were stuck on a charter plane with almost zero legroom for 16 hours. On one flight, 6 people needed oxygen and the plane had to borrow additional oxygen from another when it refueled. On another flight, an admin error in P&O led to no food on the flight. When the flights arrived at Acapulco, there were 2 immigration officers for over 2000 arriving passengers, so most people evidently queued for up to 3 hours (having spent 16 on the plane). Then another 2 hours on a bus fighting its way through Acapulco traffic. Almost everyone said "never ever again". Simple advice, do not use the P&O flights under any circumstances. So, onto the itinerary. We stopped in Zihautanejo (pretty little resort), Huatulco (beach, 2 bars, very little else), San Juan del Sur (we did the trip to Granada and loved it), Panama (loved walking around the old town), Panama Canal, Limon (we did the rainforest tram, good but very overpriced), Aruba (very americanised, did nothing for me), Port of Spain (I enjoyed this, but a lot of people thought it was a bit rough) and Barbados (has anyone not been here?). Personally, I think this cruise would have been much much better if they had started at Los Angeles, therefore enabling people to get scheduled flights easily. After that, they could go to Acapulco, so you'd get a proper day there, then spend more time on the pacific side of the canal, cutting out one or two of the Caribbean stops. Weather was beautiful, if anything a little too hot. Much better and more predictable on the pacific side than the Caribbean. If you're going on this one, don't bother to pack anything warm you absolutely won't need it. Food in the main restaurant was pretty standard P&O fare. Very very calorific, and no hint of a healthy option on any of the menus. The buffet had a good selection, if a little uninspired, but the Formica top tables and gross carpet made you feel you were eating in a transport cafe. They laid on three parties on deck, which were all well attended and good fun. The Arcadia theatre company had variable performances. There were three gymnasts in the company, mainly for the Cirque de Arcadia show which was excellent. The four singers ranged from one chap who was excellent to one American girl who just couldn't hit the high notes any more and was awful. The cabarets were disappointing. Hilary O'Neil almost died on stage the first night, she tried hard to make us laugh but pretty much failed and was embarrassing. The other male comedian was similarly unfunny and also nearly died during one of his performances. You're probably thinking that I completely hated the cruise - this is wrong. To be honest, we had a good time. I was really interested in seeing Central America, and enjoyed the trips we did. I liked the child-free ship, and generally like the P&O cruises offer. So, I wouldn't recommend that you avoid this cruise. All I would say, in summary, is don't have too high expectations of Arcadia. As a new ship, her shabbiness is disappointing. If you're a P&O regular, you will notice how they're making every attempt to get more and more onboard spend out of you. And, finally, whatever you do, DON'T GO ON THE CHARTER FLIGHTS to Acapulco. Hope this has been helpful to someone.  

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Oct 1, 2006

Baltic

Well, just where do I begin? When I joined the ship in Southampton and found my cabin, it had 2 twin beds and not the double I requested. The card showing my meal seating plan showed a table for 4 when a table for two had been reserved. After queuing for 50 minutes to speak to the restaurant manager a table for two was sorted out I think under duress! The next problem I was to encounter was that when I awoke on the

first morning at sea.... my balcony flooded! I was told by the cabin steward that it had rained overnight, but I knew this to be untrue, more on this later. On eating in the Meridian restaurant at your main meal time one glass of water and no ice per person.  Why can't we have a nice cold jug of water be provided so that I can have a refill when I want and not have to wait for the waiter to be told I would like another drink? Now on to the subject of breakfast. If you fancy a lie in on your hard earned holiday then don't expect to use the Meridian restaurant as on sea days it closes at 0930 and can you believe 0900 on port days!! but then again you can always use the self service restaurant, The Belvedere open until 1030 on all days for breakfast, but, be prepared for one hell of a bun fight. Trying to get a table is a nightmare and when you do find one, be prepared for some complete stranger to join your table just as you start breakfast. Also my own record for trying to get a table was I started looking at 0910 and managed to get one at 1020. Now onto what can only be described as joke entertainment in the very plush palladium. We have two shows a night one, at 8:45pm and one at 10:45pm both are the same shows - this allows everybody to see it if they want to, mind you having gone to the shows, you need to be in your seat 30 minutes before it starts or you will only find a seat behind one of the posts that restrict your view! Oh and don't get too comfortable in your seat as the show is over in 45 minutes. There is other entertainment around the ship at night but unless you like ballroom dancing or quizzes then the only other place is the casino. On the Lido Deck they do have things going on at night like the ho-down nightline dancing. Yes it is popular but there are only 7 tables outside, so if you like leaning against the handrails or sitting on stacked up sun beds then this is the place to be seen drinking beer, which has been served to you from a can. Yes a can! I tell no lie.  Arcadia only has one main bar where the beer is draught and that's at the other end of the ship on deck 3, every where else it from cans.  By the way, I went around the Caribbean 3 years ago on the Oceana and that was a wonderful holiday. Why P and O have let things slip to these standards is beyond me? P.S. I paid in excess of three thousand pounds for 12 days bad days. Never again will I go with P and O cruises again!!    

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Aug 19, 2006

Baltic

This was our second P&O cruise and we chose the ship as it was new and had received considerable UK press. Previously we had used Oceana and in common with others on the cruise, the lack of a dramatic atrium made our start a little flat, however the ship did grow on us.  We will use again particularly given its child free status. We were in cabin e34 which along with a very large room gave us an enlarged balcony

over the cabins above us. We found the staff excellent which made the trip however the facilities were marred by the Belvedere 'Tesco' style eating. In fairness it was the clientele who were perhaps more at home in this queuing up UK style that made matters worse but it does need some better structure otherwise guests end up with a tray but no seat. We as a result used the formal Meridian instead and would have liked a third option as provided on Oceana. We did not use the Rhodes or Orchid as did not feel paying extra was warranted over the Meridian which was top class with staff to match. We felt the one let down was the costly New Horizons package; it was never fully clear from the daily newspaper what was free and what not, really we did not expect to have to pay for such facilities and would not in future. The ship whilst having a superb theatre in the Palladium lacks the second option, again as on Oceana, as such the cinema is in a lecture room. Overall an excellent ship. The staff were the real credit to P&O and they should look after them, hopefully they are not all reliant on tips, something I would like to know more about. Logistically though, P&O cannot be faulted and we were pleased to be on a 'British' ship with manners and conduct to match.  

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Jul 30, 2006

Baltic

Review of P&O Arcadia 7-night Fjord’s Adventure Cruise 30 July 2006 This was a cruise from Southampton to Eidfjord, Flam, Olden and Bergen with a day at sea on the first and last days. It was our second cruise with P&O, our previous one two years ago was on Oceana to the Canary Islands. Arcadia seems to have had some very mixed reviews from P&O regulars but we went with an open mind as we have so far enjoyed

experiencing nine different cruise lines and eighteen ships. Arcadia was our second adults-only ship, the first being Saga Ruby earlier this year. Ruby’s passengers probably averaged over 70 years of age and we decided after that we prefer a more mixed age group. Arcadia had a really good spread of ages from a group on the next table at dinner celebrating a 21st birthday, and many others in their 20’s and upwards. We were in an OE grade inside cabin number B10 on Bermuda Deck number 7 and paid £770 each ($1,463 at 1.90). Plus Points: The décor of our cabin was beige walls with green furnishings and looked rather luxurious with its LCD flat screen TV. It was also one of the quietest cabins we have ever had. The public room décor primarily in beige, brown and other earth tones with 3,000 pieces of artwork and sculptures commissioned from British artists made for a very stylish ship in a contemporary way, somewhat similar to some of Celebrity’s Millennium Class ships. With only 1,950 passengers on this 83,000-ton Vista Class ship it is very spacious and lots of windows make the public areas very light. Captain Steve Burgoine, the Cruise Director Neil Oliver, and the officers and crew was happy, smiling, efficient and willing to oblige at all times. Our cabin stewardess was Bernadeth from the Philippines and our waiter Alberto and his assistant Joaquim were from India. The Belvedere buffet selection for breakfast and lunch was better than we had experienced on Oceana but still not up to the standard of US lines such as Celebrity and Holland America. We had some delightful companions on our first sitting dinner table. The choice of food at dinner was better on the first few nights than on the last few, just as we had found on Oceana. On three occasions my wife and I had the alternative option of steak and it was exceptionally tender. Salmon or chicken was also available every night. Overall quality was good rather than outstanding. The Lido pool has a retractable glass roof that is very useful if the weather isn’t kind however the non-adjustable sun loungers around the pool were very uncomfortable. Those by the other pool and on the higher deck were adjustable. Some drink prices were lower than on US cruise lines. For example Beringer White Zinfandel that was £18 ($34.20) on Legend of the Seas earlier this year was £15.75 ($29.92) on Arcadia. A glass of house wine is £2.55 ($4.85), half a liter carafe £7.15 ($13.58) and a liter carafe £14 ($26.60). A 330ml can of coke was £1.10 (2.09), Whisky and Gin started at £ 2 ($3.80) the cocktail of the day was £2.50 ($4.75), draught beer £2.25 ($4.27), lager £1.85 ($3.51) and specialty coffees such as a Latte £1.45 ($2.75). These prices include gratuities, unlike US lines that add 15%. Moreover if you have sailed with P&O before and are a member of the Portunus Club you get 5% or more off all on board spend, reducing drinks prices even further. While we didn’t use it, internet pricing is quite low starting at 30 pence ($0.57) per minute for ad-hoc use reducing to 16 pence ($0.30) if you buy 100 minutes. Most public lounges are wireless access zones. The shows were of a good standard. The three production shows were Best of the West End, The Knights of Rock and Roll and Le Cirque Arcadia. Bobby Knutt was a very popular comedian who did two shows, and the other two shows were singer Carlo Paul Santana and illusionists The Twins. The port presentations were excellent and not exclusively shopping talks as on many US cruise lines. Embarkation and disembarkation were very efficient. We embarked within 15 minutes of arriving at the check in desk line and were disembarked and in our car in the car park only 25 minutes after we were called at 8.35am. Minus Points: - So few they seem very minor: The three-level Atrium seems poorly decorated making it seem even smaller than it is. In particular a curtain blocks the view from one side of the piano bar to the other which is annoying when people enjoying the music quiz from the non-smoking starboard side of the ship can’t see the pianist. We felt that the other musicians on board were not very well balanced, and never found one to our tastes but that is a personal thing.  

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Jan 13, 2006

Caribbean

Departed Manchester on the 13th January 2006 with Thomas Cook. I agree with previous review - good plane but too small for the long distance to Barbados. Good point :- we arrived in Barbados on time and deplaned into buses which took us straight to the ship. A very smooth operation. Luggage arrived ok. I was not impressed with the ship from entering it - no atrium - the whole ship seemed to be very bland and lifeless.

the only exceptions to this were the Palladium theatre which was beautiful and the 2 specialty restaurants - Rhodes and Orchid. The shows were excellent and we tried both restaurants which were also excellent. To review the cruise as a whole I would say that it was not an enjoyable experience - the food in the restaurant was average. You could only have certain dishes on certain days for breakfast e.g Eggs Benedict was Tuesdays only?? You can usually have steak if you do not like the choices but on one occasion they had run out?? The waiters did not always listen to what you wanted. There was no ice in the water and you had to ask frequently for your glass to be refilled - the wine service was very slow also. I found the Belvedere cafeteria choice and quality of food very poor. Service most of the time in all areas was poor -including guest relations. The cabins were a good size and we had a bath and a balcony - although the balcony never got so much as a sweep over the 2 weeks ! The ports of call were a mixture - some nice beaches - some not so nice places. I have been to nicer islands. Entertainment staff and program very good. Plenty to join in on. Overall not my favorite cruise experience and first - and last - time with P & O ! P.S. In case you think I am a moaner - I have never complained about ANYTHING on ALL the other cruise I have been on.

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Jan 1, 2006

Southern Caribbean

Hi. We have just had a cruise on P&O Arcadia. Our first cruise I must admit so not a lot to measure against although we are very well travelled. Launched in the spring of 2005 the ship was originally designed for Cunard and finished for P&O by then under Carnival ownership. The cabins we believe are to Cunard design, we were well pleased with the layout and space in the stateroom with balcony albeit a bit prosaic as

a description as obviously ship cabins won't measure up to a good sized hotel room. We had a really awful flight out to Acapulco , P&O had chartered Thomas Cook airline, an Airbus, ok for short haul but not too Mexico.Delayed setting off then delayed at refuelling stop in Cuba. Shattered by the time we arrived, then luggage took about 6 hours to reach the ship after we had boarded. Weather throughout was splendid, sunny and hot most of the time, Pacific like a mill pond, lots of turtles, dolphins and even whales to spot. Acapulco seemed better then expected, but our expectations weren't that high, police with machine guns everywhere bit off putting but everyone very friendly. The ship is a bit soulless, people said die to the lack of an atrium. We had a day in Acapulco then sailed to Nicaragua, small port but made it to Granada on pre booked trip. Independent travellers beware inflexibility and inevitable craft shops always included, not much info on private exploration. By the way after the luggage wait and bad flight the balcony was full of cigarettes and litter but got letter of apology and bouquet to make up for that. Crew avoided admitting any mess up on the luggage, found reception staff stand offish. Everyone seemed to spend half the year cruising and be stinking rich, we felt very poor! Costa Rica, again battled to get time in San Jose that we wanted, another small port, delightful place all round, wanted more time. The facilities such as bars seem to be set in passageways along the length, could never get to grips with the layout, signage seemed very poor. Two pools, often with bang bang music which seemed odd for child free ship with more aged punters. Likewise the pub, great to have Guinness and Boddingtons but what about the boom boom videos , didn't suit the atmosphere at all. Panama city by night, I suppose this allowed day timer transit of canal. Interesting although after nearly 8 hours transit people were a little 'canal' jaded, great to have done it. Ship photographers busy, we had some very good portraits and of course you don't buy what you don't want, they even used a helicopter to get aerial shots plus canalside views on the canal transit. There was a daily battle for favourite sun beds in the quieter spots, the pools themselves were fine and never too crowded, just that awful music in the background. Staff Philippines, Goa and Mumbai seemed to sweep most up, restaurants, well another shock to the system. Great meals in Rhodes restaurant, plain cooking , well presented, simply served. Not all the staff spoke English, started with good waiter but had language problems with others, good maitre d's. We chose Rhodes often as the main restaurant was so busy although once accustomed we got to accept it, they'd double booked our table but sorted it out so we opted to go on a table for two gaining some really nice waiters in the change. Food very potatoes based, too many sauces already with meat / veg but intrinsically good (except the quality of potatoes which were awful). After the Canal we called at Curacao, delightful spot in Netherlands Antilles, very quiet as it was Sunday but everyone opened up, more souvenirs than you could ever handle. The self service restaurant was like a school canteen with more choices than you could wish for, pity they didn't go for quality rather than quantity, some better fruit for instance, still people seemed satisfied. Whilst an abundance of food prevailed the afternoon tea saw strict rationing with a limit of one milk jug per table of 8 and only 4 potions of whipped cream amongst that number. Another gripe on the tea front , they didn't serve tea on deck only cold drinks. Generally an atmosphere of 'added' extras prevailed, even extended to ice cream and coffee shop where you had to pay. After Curacao we headed for Mayreau in the Grenadines, delightful small island, the weather caught up and delayed tender transfers, the first sign of slightly choppier conditions to come. Next was Tobago, what a dump then St Lucia, another dump but very pretty. The entertainment was good to start with a chap called Tom O'Connor, a comedian who once did afternoon gameshows, I thought it was going to be Des O'Connor but Tom was probably better. After that it was more boom bang a bang music most night although Maria King provided delightful piano interludes several afternoons and evenings. The main theatre is very big, Tom filled it but enthusiasm had waned by the end of the cruse when a female singer/comedienne failed to fill hardly any seats in the main auditorium. Barbados was our destination, we luckily had nearly a full day before our fight back to Manchester with good old Thomas Cook, what a thought to look forward too although it was on time. So all in all, well we had a great holiday, the weather was fine, the on board beer and wine reasonably priced, the cabin fine, the food not bad and Rhodes good, believe Orchid Restaurant was also good but never tried it. The poor flight, lack of tea on deck and shortage of sun beds at quiet locations were problems that could be resolved. We'll never be regular cruisers but wouldn't say never again by any means and we have a hell of a tan! Dave and Mandy Spencer

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Nov 4, 2005

Caribbean Castaway

The Arcadia ship was everything we expected it be. Big and very clean and the staff could not have been more helpful. The only downfall was the Gary Rhodes Restaurant the service was not good the food not as good as the main restaurant on the Arcadia which was a shame as we had looked forward to eating at his restaurant. Would recommend the Arcadia to all our friends.

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Jul 24, 2005

Mediterranean

The short summary is that we LOVED this new ship to the P&O fold and we loved the cruise around the Mediterranean, finding nothing major to highlight as areas P&O could focus on to make it better! The areas we wrote on the feedback form I will cover later in the review. We did find – however - that very regular P&O cruisers seemed almost eager to want to find things about the ship that they did not like. We

found as we met people that they were constantly trying to compare it to other P&O ships, versus focusing on the merits or otherwise of the ARCADIA. That is probably a reflection of just how popular the other ships are! As when we pushed and asked exactly what do you not like, we almost always got the response "um, well, um, we can't quite put our finger on it, but it just isn't the same". Although surely if you want the same you go on the same ship? The 4 specific things people we spoke to did not like were things that (in my view) a bit of simple research before the cruise would have told people about, and are well covered in the brochure, the detailed P&O website (http://www.pocruises.co.uk) and the various P&O groups / chat rooms.These things were:1) The ship wasn't "glitzy" enough. The P&O material sent out through the building of the ship and in the brochure/ website seems to talk and show how they were going for a more “British”/ under-stated / sophisticated look.2) The atrium wasn't spectacular. It is (admittedly) only 3 decks high and very simple. People seem to feel that this was a missed opportunity and an important part of any ship that was missing. 3) The Crow’s Nest is not that great. I agree. The one in AURORA, for example, with its tiered seating and layout creates a much better atmosphere and is a much better place to visit and spend time in. the one on ARCADA is a bit sterile. 4) The ship was too big, and takes too long to walk from the back to the front.... We did, however, think the ship is fantastic. And would go back on it in a flash! The fact that it is an adult only ship was a big plus too, as we could get easy access to the pools at all times... The ship, in our view, itself is very tastefully done in muted colours and stylish contemporary fittings and furniture. It was not loud and brash anywhere, except the disco that was funky (although maybe a bit like a teen/ kids fun club). The ship overall is not brash and “Las Vegas” like. The overall look is fairly consistent through the ship, and there is a not a lot of difference in the various rooms. They have gone for consistency, rather than making every public area very different from each other. This is probably the thing some people missed from other ships. Here are some thoughts on some of the areas and rooms: Cabin. B059 Hong Kong Suite We were in this suite on B deck. It was fantastic. It is large (over 500 square feet including the expansive balcony). It has a great seating area with large sofa and chairs. There is a small dressing room, and bathroom with separate shower and “Jacuzzi” bath and 2 basins. The bed was very comfortable and huge – especially when together as they make a king size at least. It has a flat screen TV and DVD player, and piles of storage (we took loads of clothes and stuff and did not even use all the storage). It had butler service (which I still do not really understand!! Perhaps it is just that we don’t use them enough as all he really did was bring canapés, our breakfast a few times and chatted to us!) Saying all the above, I am not sure the cost of a suite on the ship is worth it. I think a mini-suite would be very good indeed, and from what we saw the staterooms were a great size and had decent sized balconies. I will go for one of these 2 options next time Meridian Restaurant On 2 levels, at the back of the ship, it has an open and bright feel with lots of windows and very striking and unusual light fittings. The food was excellent, and service outstanding. The Palladium Theatre Wow! Over 3 levels this is huge. It is hard to remember that you are on a ship. The stage has all sorts of fancy features like in the West End. The shows ranged from a Cirque style show (which was VERY impressive), Andrew Lloyd Weber Best of, West End Favorites, Flashback Review of 60s – 90s. The cabaret was an old TV personality from the UK TV shows “Catchphrase” which was not our taste and a Violinist Showman who we did not go and see. Saying that, I thought the shows were better than we had seen on the QE2 in December by a long way! Décor Vivo A small coffee shop I used a fair bit as the filter coffee in the other areas was terrible! You pay for the coffee and you get muffin or sandwich etc included. A pleasant enough area situated next to the Cyber lounge. It did not seem overall to be used that much. Belvedere Self Service We usually do not like the lido style places on ships, but we liked this one. It was much better décor than the usual, something most people commented on. The seating runs along large windows on either side of the ship offering great views. It was very large with spread out counters all themed on different types of food, and open 24 hours. The layout meant much less queuing than in many lido style places on ships we have been on so far. We used it much more than we have ever on other ships. Gym This is very large and overlooks the bow of the ship. Bright with wide range of machines and free weights. A good number of classes were on offer. Spa Very large but horribly over-priced with fairly inexperienced therapists. NOT worth the money. A lot of passengers agreed! This is a pity as they have given up a lot of space for the spa and it is just not good value for money at all. Cyber Room Good size and number of PCs. But as with many ships access was expensive. There was wireless access in most of the public rooms but not in the cabins (unfortunately). Arcadia Rhodes and Orchid Restaurants These are the 2 alternative dining options where you pay a surcharge. Both are lovely rooms. We went to the Gary Rhodes one. It was a nice evening – but to be honest the food in the main restaurant was so good and varied that we did not really think it worth the extra cost and so did not go back. It seemed to be fairly empty, although later in the cruise it did get busier we believe. Pools Very nice indeed! We used them a lot as the weather was very good. The areas that we suggested P&O think about in our feedback were: 1. Spa – this needs to be sorted out as it is too expensive and staff are not experienced enough for the prices. 2. Crows Nest – needs some work to turn it into a more pleasant and inviting space. 3. Casino – A great range of equipment and games. But the staff is all so miserable. Everywhere else the staff are cheery and helpful. Something is not right in the casino! 4. Filter Coffee – this is terrible! Get another brand please! 5. Wireless access – get it into the cabins

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Jul 8, 2005

Western Europe

My husband and I decided to take a cruise on the Arcadia as it was a new ship and we were interested to see what it was like in comparison to the other ships. We booked a mini-suite, which was very nice. However we had a lot of trouble with the jacuzzi bath, which refused to switch from the shower so wouldn't fill. I asked someone to have a look at it, and was treated like a complete idiot until they could not

get it to work either. The staff seemed to lack training and were very miserable, which surprised us as we had been with P&O a number of times and the staff had always been very nice. The boat itself is on the large side, which is not reflected in some of the public rooms such as the small disco/club which was completely inadequate for the amount of people wanting to use it. You had to be very lucky to get a seat. We tried out Gary Rhodes restaurant which was incredibly good, and is a complete must if you are travelling on this boat. Well worth the service charge. The food in the main restuarant was however very bog standard. There is no doubt the boat is very nice, but my husband and I have decided we would not travel on it again for a while until the service standards are sorted out.

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Nov 30, -0001

South America

Overview—This is a very long review as it covers two 14 night cruises back to back from Acapulco to Buenos Aires. The ship is P&O’s Arcadia (formerly star princess) now an Adults only ship. I will not spend much time on the ship as it soon transfers to another division & becomes Ocean Village, except to mention things that indicate P&O philosophy. The itinerary was superb & we had a fantastic cruise in spite of

our reservations about P&O food. We are both retired and have some limitations on activities that we can do, likewise we are not party animals but do enjoy a good time and regularly attend theatre shows etc at home, we do like scenery & seeing new places but are not into shopping. This was our 1st P&O cruise but we have been on 17 other cruises with various lines. P&O & Charter Flights—Travel to & from ship was by charter flight, formalities at a minimum. Hand over cruise voucher at UK airport, check in, fly out, board coach at airport & given little green card, hand that in at gangway & you are on ship! Credit card can be given to guest relations any time! The USA lines could learn from this simple procedure!! Return boarding cards are given out on ship. Our outward flight refuelled & changed crew at Montreal, lucky it was not a blizzard there (the unfortunates on a Monarch flight were diverted in Cuba by fog & were 11 hours late). Glad to see the sun rise over Gulf of Mexico after being in darkness for 21.5 hours since leaving home, landed at Acapulco after 15 hour flight to find it full of planes diverted from Mexico City by fog & no steps available. We eventually boarded our coach, best we have ever been on, our cruise then nearly ended before it began when a heavy piece of luggage (definitely over airline limit for carry on luggage) put on rack by fellow passenger came off & hit my wife on the head. Luckily the seat had a high back & took a lot of the weight, otherwise she would have been in hospital or the morgue!! Our big moan is in the allocation of seats on the charters, we requested extra legroom on account of height. Only one was available, so accepted two seats together at a window, these were not good or really bad but we were annoyed to find several rows of 4 seats were empty & had been “bagged” by one of the nearest couple on take off so one had 4 seats (full length sleep) & the other two seats…very comfortable for them but we were still stuck in our 2 seats! Return flight from Buenos Aires was far worse! We were allocated two of the 14 worst seats on the plane in spite of our request for extra legroom, they had only 6.75” between the front edge of our seats & back of one in front!! This applies to seats G&H in rows 6-12 on Britannia 767 flights & is approx 1.75” less than all other seats on the plane. The flight attendant (Kevin) tried to say all seats were the same when naked eye said they were not & when I challenged him to get a tape measure he was “Too busy”. Do not accept seats GH rows 6-12 on Britannia if you are over 5ft 3” tall. Also be aware the front cabin is filled up for aircraft balance purposes & any spare seats will be in the rear cabins. Also note the planes for the Christmas cruise from Valparaiso were condensed from 4 to 3 at Barbados resulting in a 3 hour delay for onward flight to Santiago, just good business I suppose! P&O & The Ship—Arcadia is Adults only & this worked well, however the children’s facilities had just been locked up & not converted to adult space, presumably because P&O knew this incarnation was only short term. We liked the Atrium, Horizon lounge, Festival theatre, pool & deck area & thought the public areas were well maintained. The library was ok but only internet terminal was here & all emails had to be typed by librarian @ 3pounds ($4.50) per 100 words with anything over 100words @ 5pounds per 100 or part thereof. There was also a charge of 2.50pounds to receive an email!! We did not like Oval pub (dull 50’s décor & smoky) or Century bar also smoky. The bar prices are reasonable compared to some other Lines & include gratuities. The Palladium show lounge has the worst sight lines we have ever experienced on a ship, particularly the balcony. Good job it is one of the changes when converting to Ocean Village, also changed will be casino/oval pub into cabaret bar & Horizon lounge into gym at front & disco at rear. The two self service laundry rooms are very useful & well equipped for a long trip. The gratuity guidelines are also lower than other lines, presumably because P&O charge a higher per day rate. The Decoration of the ship for Christmas & New Year was very good, a team of 6 people had been flown out to Santiago from UK just to spend 2 days putting up the decorations before flying home again. The Cabin—E184 was chosen as a good position for easy access to most areas of the ship, on the port side for scenery & in a good position for any rough weather we might encounter. Cabins are large but poorly designed & furnished in our opinion. Plenty of storage space, large shower with good performance but rest of bathroom tiny, you had to open bathroom door to have adequate space to dry yourself. Only place you can see TV from is the bed & dressing table is just a single piece of wood (should be other side under TV & a decent seat in its place). Two beds pushed together for a double had a threequarter inch drop from one to the other, most uncomfortable & only single blankets crossways, consequently my feet were always cold. But the worst feature of the cabin was the overpowering stench of smoke!!! It must have been occupied by heavy smokers for dozens of previous cruises. We were given our own spray & sprayed at least twice a day but even after several days it was still there, I even had to spray inside the bathroom cabinets it was so saturated with smoke!! Food & Service—We thought the deck crew worked very hard. In the housekeeping/dining room/buffet areas there seemed to be a lethargic or end of contract atmosphere. We were lucky with our dining room waiters Jude & Raphael were excellent for the whole 28 nights. When we used the Dining room on open seating for breakfast or lunch we were not that impressed with standard of service. Our wine waiter Edwin was excellent & always cheerful. Californian house wine is available at 5.55pounds per half litre carafe & 9.75 pounds per litre. Wines from the “New World” start at 10-12 pounds ($15-18) per bottle. Food…. Given that P&O charge the same or more per day than RCI, Celebrity or HAL we expected better food. Yes it is British cooking but old fashioned British style dating back to the 1950’s, they need a new modern British Chef with a lighter touch as consultant, such as Gary Rhodes or Brian Turner. Some of the meat was so tough as to be uneatable (I do not blame the Chefs on board, the supplies come from head office), the fish was very poor, how can you make Salmon tough? The menu design could be a lot better, fish on a bed of mushy peas?? The veg had a preponderance of root vegetables (never seen so many Turnips & Swede…Rutabaga for our USA friends) Potatoes had too many varieties that had started life in a powder form. In the end we took to asking for a baked potato & some of the peas were as hard as bullets! Meat & sauces are served on the plate with “silver service” for the vegetables. For Christmas & New Year dinners P&O pulled out all the stops & they were very good. Starter at Christmas dinner of venison & pork pate with a fruit coulis was the only dish that was up to Celebrity standards in my opinion for the whole trip. Traditional turkey Christmas dinner & pudding flamed at the table by the Chef followed by cake, choc truffles & whole stilton cheese. Party hats & Crackers were provided and again for New Years Eve dinner. Good meals included rib beef, rack of lamb, lamb shanks, chicken breast wrapped in bacon, beef Wellington & tournedos of beef. Good deserts, Christmas pudding & cherries jubilee both flamed at the table, the trifle and all individual sponge puddings were very good. Poor included all fish, goose, sirloin beef & one lunch that was supposed to be vegetarian selection …grilled vegetables…consisted of a few mushrooms left over from b/f. half a tomato, a bit of yesterdays potato & a “vegetable sausage” that could have been mistaken for something else!! My wife had chicken curry one day that consisted of a single tiny chicken drumstick & some sauce on rice & one half grapefruit served to me for breakfast was obviously left over from day before! The Conservatory buffet was limited at breakfast, no omelette station, no smoked salmon etc, we took to having a bowl of tinned fruit & a packet of Kellogg’s fruit & Fibre for breakfast & only rarely did we find anything on the lunch buffet to suit us, we did try the curry a few days but not very exciting, we mostly had a baked potato with cheese & a salad. However the special seafood buffet one day was very good & so was the Mexican buffet. The “British Pub food” buffet provided me with the only bit of fish (in batter) that was moist & succulent as fish should be, that I had all cruise. Midnight snacks are available but there is no Gala midnight buffet, one afternoon there is a “walk through the Kitchens” followed by an afternoon chocoholics buffet. You will not starve with P&O but we thought the menus could be better (I had pork one night for the 1st time ever on a cruise ship because nothing else looked appetising, after all it is the cheapest cut of meat in UK) as could the quality of the ingredients & whatever you may think of our P&O food report the food was still at least 5 times better than our disastrous experience on Festival/First European cruises last Christmas. Entertainment—one word, superb. The Stadium Theatre Company comprised 11 singers & dancers who put on 9 different production shows in 26 nights all to a very high quality. We did have Bruce Morrison, a Director of Stadium Co on board for the whole cruise. He was working on the Christmas show & a production based on the work of Freddy Mercury & Queen but also did two cabaret spots on his own, one a history of P&O in song in the Festival theatre & a full show of Scottish numbers on New Years Eve. The ships choir of crew & passengers who had some very good singers did a superb carol concert in the Atrium on Christmas Eve. The classical pianist for the 1st two weeks tended to bang the keys a bit but programme was OK. Alan Schiller for the 2nd two weeks was very good with a good sense of humour. The Male & Female concert singers both cruises were good as was Duggie Brown the comedian for 1st two weeks. Sorry to say neither the 2nd comedian nor the “comedy” magician were to our liking. Music was provided by a 7 piece orchestra, a duo, a trio & a 4 piece group. Orchestra & Trio stayed on all 4 weeks, we liked the first duo better than 2nd & 2nd group better than first. New years eve was very good, trio in oval pub with jazz, duo in atrium with traditional ballroom, group in horizon lounge with party music & by 10.30 we were back far enough north for it to be warm enough for a disco on deck round the pool, a really good New Year & we tumbled into bed around 1.30am.We enjoyed guest lecturer John Carter on the 1st leg but not the port lecturer who only read from the port & tour guides. The port lecturer on 2nd leg, Mrs Taylor was very good. The port guides provided in the cabin were very good. Who goes—As an adults only ship, most passengers were of a mature age but very active with a smaller number in middle age & only a very few in the 20/30 group. We knew the 1st 2 weeks had been sold off at bargain rates a few weeks before departure, but all these places had been taken up by experienced travellers & cruisers who always seemed willing to talk & all really wanted to go to South America. There were tee shirts on display from every corner of the globe! 220 stayed on for the Christmas cruise but some of those joining at Valparaiso did seem a little more reserved & less inclined to strike up a conversation. It did amaze us that people had not done any research on the weather we could expect & consequently had not brought any cold weather clothing. One lady had only brought a cardigan & a couple from Europe complained to us that their TA had not told them how cold it would be!! Most people were from Britain with just one lady from USA who we became friendly with, around 6 from Holland & a few from Northern Europe. Dress standard all 4 weeks was very high, only saw 2/3 gentlemen not in formal dress on formal nights. Itinerary—Superb, magnificent scenery, lots of wildlife & a chance to see cultures most people can only read about. In order to give a view on what we did that may provide an insight for future cruisers to South America, I will provide a journal below in date order, with some emphasis on temperature & wind conditions we found, in the hope that this may help those who think South America ends at Rio! Dec 6th Acapulco— Having been there before we had a sleep to recover from the flight. Ship was 3 hours late sailing due to late arrival of one flight. Dec 7th Huatulco—One hour late arriving, anchor out & with a medium Pacific swell tendering was slow. Independent travellers with a ticket number over 480 did not get ashore. We had booked the ships Snorkel experience tour. Huatulco looks a pretty place just being developed & with 9 sandy bays, will be a big resort in 20 years time. Unfortunately the snorkel boat was not up to standard, the ladder out of the water was almost non existent & you had to be young & fit to get out of the water at all without assistance but P&O did the right thing & refunded everyone their money. Two snorkel stops at Cacaluta bay (only fair) & La Entrega beach. No pillar or fan coral like Caribbean, fair number of fish. If I went back again I would just get a taxi to La Entrega beach & snorkel from there. Noon temp 28.5c & sunny. Sailed @ 1500 hrs. Dec 8th sea day sunny, noon temp 27.5c Dec 9th sea day, mostly cloud with a few rain showers noon temp 25.5c wind force 3 so felt cooler than that on deck. Crossing line ceremony at 3pm, not very good seen a lot better, just a “pillow fight” on a pole across the pool. Dec 10th Manta, Ecuador arrived 11am, total cloud cover & 24c temp but wind made it feel a little cooler. USA destroyer on opposite side of pier & greeted by a small but enthusiastic band. Only a short stay until 4pm, mainly for refuelling. Taxis available for $10 per hour, 3hours plenty of time to see any sights & buy a hat at Montichristi. Manta is very poor, & harbour is full of “the vacuum cleaners” of the sea, the purse sein boats. We only walked along the pier & along the road (watch your step full of holes) as far as a beach that looked very dirty, we did hear one unconfirmed report that a passenger had been mugged in town. Summed up by the Comedians joke that night “ are you going back to Manta, reply…. I would sooner walk round Leeds with a nail through my shoe”. Dec 11th sea day & a big surprise, although only 7 degrees of latitude below the equator at noon, the cloud cover & wind off the cold Humboldt current made it very cool. Noon temp only 20c but wind factor meant a lot of us had put on long trousers & a sweater by lunchtime! Dec 12th Callao for Lima. Still heavy low cloud as we approached Callao, had to anchor as our berth was occupied by a Korean naval ship. The 218 passengers on the 3 day tour to Machu Pichu had to be sent ashore by tender to catch their flights. Those of us on the morning tour of Lima assembled in show lounge at 8.45am, we were kept well informed of the situation by the bridge. However the executive purser, Brian Purnell OBE kept our interest for over 2 hours by talking about his life in Royal Navy for 24 years before joining P&O 8 years ago. I do not think many cruise lines could have produced some one to save the day like this! Finally got alongside by 11.30am & the ship arranged an early lunch in DR & Buffet with assembly for the tours at 12,30pm, again superb organisation. Noon temperature 21c. Tour was very good, San Francisco Convent, Cathedral (wooden but you would never know it), Casa Aliaga (oldest house in one family in western hemisphere), Plazas & parks, San Isidro, Miraflores & parque del Amor. Lots of trees & shrubs all over but as not much rain mostly covered in dust, even the gardeners were wearing smog masks! Jacaranda trees in full bloom & a golf course in middle of city. Beaches looked dirty with a lot of wave action & water temp only 17c but some locals were swimming. On way back to ship we passed several street corners with a collection of official “black market” money changers, it seems Peruvians change local currency to $ at first opportunity. Dec 13th Still at Callao. We hired a taxi for $10 per hour to tour ourselves. Having passed the cemetery’s yesterday on the coach we were intrigued enough to go back for photos. The “Britanico” was a typical flower filled garden style & right next door the Peruvian one was stacked up like a mini block of flats. Next the museum of Anthropology & archaeology, entrance $3 & well worth it, very well laid out with mummies & artefacts up to 6000 years old, spent 1.5 hours in there. On to Parque D’Olivia with 300 year old olive trees planted by the Spanish, out for 4.25 hrs altogether. PM we had a stroll to the local market on the pier that we found not to expensive (embroidered t shirts $6 & a small baby Alpaca bedside rug $17. Sailed at 11pm. Dec 14th San Martin Arrived at 8am with sun breaking through. Good sized band playing with 30 school children waving flags. San Martin is nothing but a bulk import coal/bulk export Sulphur facility in a desert, not even a cactus in sight & in the Parancas National Park. It did however provide us with one of the most exciting wildlife tours it is possible to make! Courtesy buses were provided to the town of Pisco 15 kilometre away, heard various reports on this, some thought it interesting others never got of the bus! Flights over the Nasca lines could be made at a price of $375. We hired a taxi for 4, to the pier at Parancas ($10 approx 10k away), there is a small museum near the entrance to the park but those who went in said not much there. At the pier a local with a badge ushered us to the front of the queue at a booth & we signed our names & handed over $15 each for a 2 hour speed boat trip to the “Ilas Balestas” billed as Peru’s mini Galapagos. 24 seat speed boats, open, we had been surrounded by young boys at the pier selling all sorts of things but the hats with a brim were good quality, embroidered with a logo + a neck cord to stop blowing off & good value at $4 each. Everyone has to wear life jackets & the operation seems well controlled so that not too many boats are at the islands at one time. Across the bay past the ship we viewed a candelabra cactus geoglyph in the desert & a pod of dolphins came right around the boat. The Islands themselves were magical, 1000’s of sea lions, millions of birds, red crabs, rock arches & tunnels. An experience not to be missed if you are ever in San Martin. With our taxi back to ship & a tip it was $21 each against $135 for same tour with the ship, OK so they got a cup of coffee & an English speaking guide, but heck we know the difference between a sea lion & a penguin! PM we sat on deck in hazy sunshine & had a swim in pool (fresh water…. very good) Noon temp 22.2c with little wind, sailed at 6pm. Dec 15th at sea following Peruvian coastline. Cloudy & very cool, 9am update from bridge said we were on same latitude as Cairns Australia, this is much cooler than there, noon temp 22c. Large pod dolphins on port bow at lunchtime & a grey whale mid afternoon. Talked to a couple celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary (60 years) that day, the lady had an aortic heart valve replacement 6 years ago & they had just done the tour to Cusco & Machu Pichu to 14000ft with no problems when younger ones had gone down with altitude sickness…. There’s hope for us all yet! Dec 16th Arica, arr 7am, mini bus service provided to dock gates. Outside gates across the road is a small park & there was a craft market set up here. Behind the park is the Cathedral & right of the park is El Morrow, to the top of which is a pathway negotiable by the fit & healthy in 10/15 mins. Chile is more prosperous than most South American country’s & taxis are $20 per hour. We took one to top of El Morrow to see the monuments & admire the view etc, then to the geoglyphs in the desert. The valley is green & productive from the Andes melt water but it hardly ever rains here. Dropped back in town to find an internet café, there are 2 just above McDonalds to left of Cathedral but you need to understand Spanish & have an hotmail a/c to use them. We found the people of Arica to be polite & friendly, even stopping cars & trucks to let you cross the road when not on a crossing. At lunchtime there was a large band & troupe of dancers on the dockside. Our table companion did the ships tour to Lauca national park, up to 14000ft & 4 people collapsed with altitude sickness & revived with oxygen. She said views & wildlife were spectacular. Dec 17th sea day again, sun rising earlier as we head south, some cloud about. Noon temp 25c but wind force 4 making it cooler on deck. Whales seen again & a large pod of Dolphins at 5pm. Dec 18th Coquimbo arr 7am, very low cloud & temp only about 15c forecast to rise to 19c so decided to postpone our planned trip up the Elqui valley until the afternoon, silly us, found out later once you get away from the coast it is always sunny up the valley. Early lunch then negotiated a taxi trip up the Elqui valley to Vicuna for 3 hours @ $20 per hour. Valley is broad & lush with fields of Papaya, tomatoes, potatoes, oranges & grapes but narrows further up the valley to a dam with a large lake. All water is melt water from the Andes & the valley sides are pure desert with candelabra cacti. Vicuna is a pretty little town with a nice plaza that has old knarled trees around it. On way back stopped for a walk round the plaza at La Serena, full of flowering trees & shrubs, Jacaranda Datura Poinsettia etc would have liked more time here. Arriving back at ship we found a boat tied up behind unloading swordfish with quite a crowd watching & sea lions swimming around looking for scraps. Sun started to get out at Coquimbo by 4 pm & was full out by 5pm when temp was up to 27c, sailed at 6pm. Dec 19th Valparaiso arr 06.40am, 3615 nautical miles from Acapulco. Clear sky & sun shining. Had booked a full day ships tour to Santiago for 75 pounds ($113) mainly to use up some onboard credit we had. Interesting coach ride through scrubby hills & fertile valleys full of grapes & vegetables with some views of snow capped mountains. Passed through several tunnels on the motorway (tolls) before arriving at the horse racing course (mainly for a restroom stop). Then toured the traffic jams down O’Higgins avenue while several buildings were pointed out (sit on left side of coach for best views). Presidential palace closed, walk across park & wait for bus to negotiate traffic jam, round to another plaza & then I was embarrassed to be taken into the Cathedral in the middle of a large service, & more so by some of our party using camera flash while there, I walked out. We then went to top of Conception hill for views of Santiago & the 19000ft high Andes through the smog! Lunch was taken on the hill & took over 2 hours & was not very special, some nice gardens there though with roses & gladioli at 2500ft above sea level. Having taken so long in Santiago our tour of Vina del Mar & Valparaiso on way back were cut short & we saw next to nothing of them! Only just got back in time for a quick change for dinner. A disappointing tour, would have been much better off taking a taxi. Dec 20th still at Valparaiso, change over day. 1st coaches started leaving for airport at 5.30am. We sunbathed on deck & had a swim in the morning, then in afternoon had a walk round the square with all the naval buildings just outside the dock gates. The streets off this were not a very smart area with down & outs sleeping in the gutter, a small square at the end had some flower sellers & we bought some carnations (100 pesos each) for the cabin, A motor cycle policeman came up & warned us to watch out in this area! We did look in an old Victorian style grocery shop, just like the ones we have in museums in UK! Sailed 6pm Dec 21st at sea, sunny start but cool. Noon temp 15.6c with part cloud & passing rain showers. Wind force 2 but a large swell, pools closed! Dec 22nd Puerto Montt. After transiting Chacao channel in the night we anchored at 7am, cloudy & dull, temp around 11c with a cool breeze, morning scenic flight seeing cancelled. Tendered ashore for 9.30am very steep climb from tender to dock side, joined with another couple for a 7 hour taxi tour of the district ($170). Saw Frutilla, Puerto Varas, the snow capped volcano & mountains, several rain showers, Petrohue falls (1200 pesos entrance), the Emerald lake & Llamas + a caged Puma at a restaurant, our driver spoke some English & we thought we had good value for money. Others paid $30 each in a 10 seat mini bus for a much shorter tour with a driver who spoke no English. Flowers were everywhere with flowers we consider to be either spring or summer in bloom at same time & Embothrium (Chilean fire tree) growing wild in the woods. Sailed at 6pm along the fjords with snow capped peaks still visible in the twilight at 11pm. Dec 23rd During the night Arcadia sailed the confined waters of the Morelado channel & entered the Darwin channel at 07.48am, exiting at 09.50am straight into a force 9 gale. This remained with us all that day gusting to force 10 that night. Noon temp 11c but felt a lot colder with a 60 knot wind & rough seas with a heavy swell. Upper deck was closed to passengers to avoid accidents! Evening show cancelled that night. Some had problems in the night but we slept through it. Dec 24th Christmas Eve. Entered Trinidad channel at 3am, followed by Conception channel & Wide channel, during which the wind dropped & sea conditions improved. Entered Seno Eyre fjord at 10.48am & encountered first ice growlers soon after, still 15 miles from glacier, all around were sharp mountains with fresh snow, superb scenery but low cloud & mist obscured some of it. Air temp 6c but felt colder, rain showers on & off all the time. Approached the Pious XI glacier very very slowly, lots brash ice & growlers & turned away at 12.30pm when still 5 miles away with porpoises playing in the wake. Due to its size (2.5miles wide 300ft high) it was still an impressive sight. Watched the return journey down the fjord from the rear deck & sometimes the cloud lifted for spectacular views, at one point there is a brief glimpse of the edge of the Patagonian ice cap (84000 hectares). Left the deck at 5 pm when rain/cloud/mist obscured everything. Ship continued in sheltered waters through channels Innocentes & Sarmiento entering the Pacific Ocean again via channel Smyth at 11pm by which time Santa Claus had already been to our cabin. Dec 25th Christmas Day. Wind force 9 again in the night until we entered the Magellan straights at 5.30am. We were already awake & phoned Daughter in UK on the ships phone (4.24pounds or $6.40 per min) at 5.35am. Superb scenery again with higher cloud than yesterday, saw tooth jagged mountains with snow on them & some small hanging glaciers all day as we slowly meandered along the straights, spent a lot of time on deck. 9am temp report 6c & noon 8c wind force 2/3 meaning less windchill than yesterday, we even sat on a deck lounger at stern for some time. By dinner time the Eastern end of the straights had turned to flatter shale type hills with no snow on them, western end is much more scenic. Evening dinner & entertainment was very good & we fell into bed at midnight well satisfied with our Christmas day. Dec 26th Boxing Day. Woke 6.15am & alongside at Punta Arenas by 7am. Took the free transfer bus to Plaza de Armas, lots of old trees with a Laburnum avenue in flower & tulips just finishing. Tourist info office here & has 2 internet terminals with 20 mins free if you can use it in Spanish & with unfamiliar controls. Just off the Plaza is the Galleria shopping mall not that special but it does have rest rooms/toilets with 150 pesos entrance! We walked to the Regional Museum kept by the Salesian friars as I had seen this before in the 1950’s, it is much expanded now. After lunch we took a taxi ($20 per hour) to see the old port, the viewing point and the Cemetery, an amazing sight, they really do look after their ancestors in South America. Long avenues of clipped trees among the mausoleums with elaborate sculptures, did a photo stop on the way back at the monument to the Patagonian Shepherd. We have never seen a town before with so many Statues & Monuments. Sun had broken through during the morning & temp was 9c by noon with a wind force 4. During the afternoon it was even warmer & we sat by the pool but with all our clothes on! The wind then increased in minutes to force 10 & Arcadia had to use side thrusters & two tugs to hold against the pier until leaving in a force 8 wind at 6pm. Dec 27th Beagle Channel & Ushuaia. During the night there was a brief move out of sheltered waters before entering the Beagle channel at 5.30am, unfortunately I had dropped off at 5am after being awake most of the night & so missed the best of the glaciers seen immediately after entering the channel. Woke at 6.40am to see another glacier from the window & dashed on deck to see the last two glaciers! Sun shining, clear sky & magnificent scenery. If we thought we had seen the best of the scenery before this then we were sadly mistaken! Lots of large jagged mountains with snow kept us on deck for rest of morning. Tried to get alongside at Ushuaia at 10am, lost two lines in force 6/7 wind off the pier, took nearly 2 hours to get alongside with help of 2 tugs, but the setting of Ushuaia is beautiful with mount Olivia rising to almost 5000ft behind. Off the ship at 12.25 to share a taxi with our friends, did the tour to the lakes & the national park for $65, 6 hours in taxi. Superb scenery on way to the coastguard station on lake Faganano most of which was on graded roads, quite an experience. The lake is 90K long with a third on the Chile side, back to hidden lake for a coffee, several stops at viewing points. Then through back of the town & out to the park on graded roads again. Saw the little railway (those who did the tour said it was not worth the money) & most southerly golf course, post office & sign for end of Pacific highway (17848Km to Alaska) lots of wildlife, wonderful trees & very picturesque lakes & pools. Again a superb tour, as we had no Argentine pesos the driver paid the park entrance fee & charged us $16 for all of us. Noon temp 9c wind force 6, sailed at 8pm & exited Beagle channel at 11.30pm. Stayed up to watch a new show in the theatre until 1.0am!! Dec 28th Up at 6am for Cape Horn, cloudy & misty, out on deck by 6.30am with Cape Horn obscured as we approached. Weather cleared & we had a good view as we passed to starboard at 7am but as we turned & passed again to port it was back to dull. 9am bridge said temp was 8c with a following wind force 7, only a little rocking & rolling as we headed for Falkland Islands. Noon temp 8c but seemed warmer than that out of the wind, very easy to get sun/wind burnt down here. Dec 29th Falkland Islands. Looking out of the window from 4.30am for first glimpse, on deck by 7am for final approach in a force 8 wind, anchor dropped at 8am. We managed to get on the 2nd tender to go ashore with spray going right over the boat. I should explain that as my ship was based here 45 years ago I was particularly keen to get ashore here & knew that conditions could blow up to prevent tenders getting passengers ashore. We met a born & bred Falklander (Lachie Ross) with a Range Rover at the Tourist centre who took us to gypsy cove to see the penguins, then all the other sights & down past the end of the harbour for a good view of the two sisters mountains that I hiked up all those years ago. Back in Stanley we had fish & chips + coffee for two in the Globe tavern for 9pounds ($13.5) then explored the shops & the Britannia museum before making some phone calls home. Back on board we left our anchorage in Port William at 6.15pm with a service of remembrance on the aft decks (over 300 people present) for those lost in the 1982 war with a poppy wreath cast into the sea. Noon temp was 7.5c wind force 6 but in the afternoon the wind had dropped & sun came out making it quite warm around 15/16c. At dinner that night I watched the Islands recede after what had been an emotional day for me, never having thought I would ever get back there again. Then all the early mornings & late nights caught up with me, the adrenaline high of the past 10 days subsided, by 8.30 I was asleep & slept on & off for 14 hours in next 22 hours, it is exhausting being a tourist! Dec 30th at sea. Still cool 8c at 9am with following wind force 5/6 Dec 31st New Years Eve. At sea, cool am but sunny & temp up to 19c by noon with following wind force 4, drank our bottle of “champers” on a sheltered aft deck following lunch, to start our new year celebrations off on the right note! Dinner & evening celebrations very good & well organised. Jan 1st Montevideo & New Years day so everything closed, must have been a good party here last night, streamers & empty cracker cases all over & more tourist police than people on the streets. Main squares etc can be walked to from the ship, the Graff Spree anchor is right by the ship. We took a taxi with our friends to all the main squares & parks then out along the beaches & through the upmarket housing area. Many fine trees & flowers to be seen all over Montevideo. Taxi was $50 for 4.25 hours, again a very good tour. Spent the afternoon packing as we had a full day arranged for tomorrow, up on deck at 4pm for sail away at 5pm. Noon temp was best yet 27c with sunny clear sky. Jan 2nd Buenos Aires. Alongside at 6.45am, after 3826 nautical miles from Valparaiso. We did a ships city tour in the morning & found it to be very good, a very smart city with lots to see & many skyscrapers. Yes we heard all the warnings about watching out for ourselves but it is a beautiful city with wide streets having tree filled central reservations & 25% of its area dedicated to parks & public open space. Saw the plaza mayo with the pink palace & “Evitas” balcony, the Cathedral, & the circle that the mothers of the disappeared walked round when the dictatorship was in power. On to Recoleta church highly decorated with the cemetery next door containing Evitas final resting place. I never thought I would see so many cemetery’s as I have on this trip but they do have a certain fascination in the styles used in the different Country’s. Palermo park has 800 species of tree from around the world & a large rose garden & BA has 1000’s of jacaranda trees that must be a sight in their spring. Afternoon we did a ships tour to the Tigre river delta for a very nice cruise around some of the Islands, again fascinating to see how people lived on them & a good tour, shame about the very sweet black coffee they gave us on the boat! All tours leave from the ship but you are dropped back at the dock entrance were there is a shopping area! Taxis are available here & very cheap, a shuttle bus is provided from the ship to the gates. Itinerary summary—For us it was superb, tropics, desert, temperate, cold etc back to temperate then tropics again. Magnificent scenery, lots of wildlife. The Fjords/Magellan straights/Beagle channel area is devoid of any human habitation, no signs of it at all. This must be one of the last great wilderness cruising areas, see it while you can! However the sunbathing shopaholics among you would probably not enjoy cruising this area. All the South American ports are commercial ones, no cruise terminals at all. At the pier or dock gate there is usually an English speaking taxi “organiser” & if you are early & ask for an English speaking driver you may just be lucky! You will almost always be considerably cheaper than a ships tour. Having seen all 3 of the major fjord areas I now rate this as number 1, with Norway inside passage to North Cape a close 2nd & Alaska a distant 3rd (sorry my American friends but that’s the way we see it). Conclusion—Adult only cruising is a winner & is here to stay, we would never contemplate a holiday time cruise again on a regular ship. We enjoyed this cruise immensely & think that P&O has many good points but the food sadly lets them down. That comment may upset some of the P&O regulars but we did have one comment from a regular that “this food was a lot better than Oriana 6 months ago” if that is true then P&O must get up to date with the menus & quality of their food. We would travel with P&O again at the right price but not at their regular early booking terms as these are usually more expensive than RCI, Celebrity & HAL

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