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P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October 2015

P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October 2015

Postby grannyM » 17 Oct 2015 16:10

This was to be our first P&O experience and we were really looking forward to sailing on this brand new ship. A few weeks before sail date we receive a very nice personalised 'your holiday information' brochure from P&O. This included details of shore excursions for every port, with a price list on a separate sheet and 4 proper pull through sturdy luggage labels. It's a long time since we had anything like this sent to us and we were impressed.
Travel
We left Glasgow at 4.30am on a free Intercruise coach included in the cruise price. Intercruise is now the 'preferred' and guaranteed coach transfer for many cruise lines. Normally we would travel with Eavesway but as this was a 'free' transfer we could not choose. Eavesway were 'dropped' a few years ago by P&O, Princess and other lines because they would not agree to increased 'pay-back' to secure the contract. If we have to pay for our coach travel we would definitely go with Eavesway again. The difference was quite obvious. There was no Wifi available on our coach and not a lot of communication from the driver either. At one stop we waited around 20mins for 2 missing passengers but it turned out that the driver had made a mistake with the head count. On the way back from Southampton we were half way home before that driver found the microphone button to make any announcements. :roll:
Embarkation
We arrived at Ocean Terminal in Southampton at 2o'clock. A member of P&O/Intercruise staff came onboard and told us that we were all being given 'Priority Boarding'. This we doubted but we were straight to check-in desks with grey tickets while other passengers, presumably with later boarding times, were seated in the waiting area with different coloured tickets. Quickly through security and on the ship by 2.30pm. What a difference to our Queen Elizabeth 2 terminal ordeal boarding Caribbean Princess earlier this year when we arrived at Southampton at the same time but didn't board the ship until nearly 4pm. :)

Our cabin was ready and, as I said before, we were very pleased with it. First impressions of Britannia were very positive. She is an lovely ship and the decor and furnishings throughout are beautiful. First things first and that was to find an outside bar to enjoy some fresh air and a nice cool drink to help us recover from the 11 hour journey since leaving home.

Muster drill, for which we had to take our lifejackets, was in the theatre. The usual safety recording from the Captain and then Crew demonstrating how to put on your lifejacket. By the time we passengers had a go it was a bit of a shambles because of the new type of lifejacket which has an additional strap that goes between the legs from the front and clips on at the back. Not a lot of people managed this without assistance, including myself.

By this time we really needed a rest and so decided to skip the usual Sailaway party and watched the sail out of Southampton from our balcony. Despite the nap we couldn't face getting organised for the MDR so had a couple of drinks, then a bite to eat in the Buffet and back downstairs for an early night as we were really shattered by this time.
Leaving Southampton (note the tanker docked at QE11 Cruise Terminal!!!)
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The ship
We had 2 sea days to have a good look around the ship and a stroll on the open decks. The ship is very well furnished and decorated in lovely co-ordinated colours. Furnishings are of the highest level and I don't think we've ever seen so many different seating areas both inside and on the decks. The amount of sun loungers on all open decsk is unbelievable.



There was a lot of criticism about the difficulty getting on a lift. There were plenty of lifts but as there is no midship stair well beyond Deck 7 it did mean that people who perhaps would have walked 1 or 2 decks up at midship really could not do so which meant that midship lifts were always very busy. As our cabin was Deck 15 f'ward we really didn't find it a problem as we could always walk through the Atrium decks to the forward or aft lifts depending on where we were going. What was very very irritating on some lifts was that a lot of people felt it necessary to use the 'close doors' button before others waiting on the same floor had a chance to get to the open lift. On more than one occasion we witnessed and indeed were involved in the doors starting to close before everyone was on.

A bigger disappointment for us was the lack of a proper Promenade Deck. Because of the position of the Lifeboats on Deck 7 where they overhang the deck the bow and stern ends of this deck are closed off prohibiting a walk where the deck becomes narrower. What is called the Promenade deck is up on Deck 18 and to actually promenade you walk one way and then back the same way.

Dining
3 Main Dining Rooms, Meridian for Freedom Dining Dinner, Peninsular for Breakfast, Lunch & Freedom Dining Dinner & Oriental for Breakfast, Afternoon Tea & 2 Fixed seating Dinner.
Horizon Buffet
Beach House (aft portside part of the Buffet - Evenings only with small cover charge)
Select Dining - The Limelight Club, The Epicurean, Sindhu (all with cover charges)

As usual we had chosen Freedom Dining and were allocated to the Peninsular Dining Room for this. Unlike Princess and RCI ships we have sailed on, Britannia does not have a day-by-day system for booking a specific time for Dinner. The first time we went to dinner in the Peninsular we arrived at 8pm and had to take a pager. We didn't have to wait long for the requested table for two - about 20 minutes with the pager. Every time after that we went at 8.30 and had no bother going straight in. In the 14 nights we only used the MDR about 5 times. We found the waiting staff, with few exceptions, to be less than friendly and on one occasion downright rude. We mostly used the Buffet but to be honest the attitude of staff there was not much better at any time of day. As far as clearing tables, re-setting, and generally doing their job we had no complaints. The problem, and we were not alone in thinking this, was that there was no eye-to-eye contact or any warmth. No 'good morning' unless you said it first and btw, this was from officer class right down and not just in the food service areas either. More on this later.

What we did absolutely love about the Buffet was the Serving areas. There was two huge separate areas, midship and aft, with several counters in each area serving the same food with plenty of space between stations. Of course on sea days, especially at breakfast time, they could be very busy but never a problem with queues or people pushing in. There was a crew member at the four corners of each section supervising collection of trays with napkin and cutlery and warm plates beside the trays. We found it really well organised in comparison the the Horizon buffets we have experienced on all the Princess Grand Class ships we've sailed on. The variety and standard of food was excellent at any time of the day. There was a great many tables either side of the serving areas and obviously, again on sea days, it could be really busy at certain times, especially breakfast, during the day but we always managed to get a table. Tea and coffee were served by waiters at your table but the tea stations where you could serve yourself were easy to use and constantly being restocked and cleaned. You could eat at tables provided out on the pool decks but on sea days it was too cold for us to do this. In the evening the tables were set for dinner and you did not need to collect napkins and cutlery. One thing that was very popular although we never felt the need to try it was the 'Grab and Go' counters on the pool decks. Here you could choose a pre-packed or wrapped breakfast bap, sandwich, carton of fresh fruit or juice. These items were changed at lunchtime to include baguettes and panini filled snacks. Also out on the decks there were the usual Pizza, burger and hotdog fast food areas. One thing that we thought was a great addition to the hand sanitisers (which were not supervised btw) was the installation of sinks at all entrances to the Buffet requesting that passengers wash their hands before eating. I have photographed a small one but mostly they were long sinks with 3 soap dispensers and water taps. It was good to see most people using these, however it did unfortunately mean that there could be queues so sometimes we did by-pass a queue because we knew that we could use the sanitisers beside the serving areas. In fact I would say that we were probably among the very few people who always re-used the sanitisers every time we re-entered the serving area but people are not to know that when you are dodging a long queue waiting to use the sinks so I'm not sure how we feel about the sinks. Some really unusual bronze figures decorated the far walls on either side of the seating area in the buffet.


We Used 3 Select Dining options.
Sindhu - Asian - The food was excellent but we had about half and hour from placing our order from the menu until even our 'pre-starter' arrived. Service thereafter was good but if anything rather pretentious. For instance, we had chatted to one of the young waitresses in the Buffet earlier that day. Unlike some she was very chatty and when she asked us where we were dining that night and we told her Sindhu she said she would look out for us as she was working there. Well, whether it was the policy of the head waiter or not, this was a very different girl we encountered in Sindhu. Nice, polite but no chit-chat here.
Limelight Club - Dinner with Cabaret. We booked this 'supper-club' type restaurant to see Kiki Dee and her musical partner Carmelo. The cabaret was worth the cover charge. The food was mediocre and probably best not mentioned at all.
The Beach Club - An extra part of the buffet in the evening with choice of 2 different menus depending what night you went. The cover charge was £5 and a few of the choices, like steak or lobster, did incur an addition supplement of a few £s. We went twice and the choice was good on both sets of menus. The food was excellent, especially the Fillet steak on Lava Rock I don't take photos of food but if I'd had my camera I would have taken one of this as a reminder of the best steak we've ever had on any cruise ship.

Food in general on Britannia was very good and we certainly have never had better on any other ship.

This cruise was billed as a 'Food Heroes Cruise' where some Celebrity Chefs like, James Martin, Marco Pierre White and Eric Lanlard are onboard to give Masterclasses on cooking. The Celebrity chef onboard Britannia for part of cruise Eric Lanlard, whose speciality is apparently Patisserie. You can sample his cakes, at a price, in The Market Cafe on Deck 5 of the Atrium.

You could also attend Eric's Master Class for a mere £100pp or accompany him on an excursion to tempt your taste buds with delicious Madeiran bakes while in Funchal. The price of this tasty treat, which btw was sold out by the time we received the brochure, was £45. I have no idea how much it cost but you could book to join Eric at the Chef's Table for a 3 course meal. Also, while he was onboard you could join him for Afternoon Tea in the Epicurean Restaurant, again you had to enquire to learn how much that was going to cost you. He also did a Book signing & Photo Opportunity with. Presumably this meant actually buying the book! Needless to say we did not feel the need to attend any of these.

If you felt inclined to learn how to cook like the celebrities you could attend one of several sessions in The Cookery Club on Deck 17. This would cost you £45 per 2 hour session. We only peeped through the window on the door when it was not in use and it certainly looked like a state of the art kitchen which could accommodate about half a dozen people, although perhaps there was more places than we could see. Needless to say we did not feel inclined to do this either.

Entertainment
There was so much of the choice of entertainment on Britannia that we really enjoyed but much more that I cannot comment on because we did not see them.

The Britannia Show Cast in Headliners theatre were absolutely superb. 3 girls and 2 boy singers of the highest standard who could also have passed for dancers as they were hard to pick out from the professional dancers when they were performing. We saw them in all 4 of the shows they did, namely, 'I've Got the Music in Me', 'The Sound of the Underground', 'Once Upon a Time' and 'Gravity'. All were good shows but perhaps 'Once Upon a Time' - a kind of snippets on a pantomime theme was least enjoyable only because of the script not the performers.

Apart from Headliners the other place we mostly frequented was the Live Lounge. Here you could have performances of musicians, comedians, solo vocalists and our favourites, the resident ship rock band, Pulse. The band comprised 4 talented musicians and 2 girl and 2 boy singers. For some sets they had only the girl singers and others only the boys. They were all good but the girls were both outstanding.


In the Live Lounge we also saw Beautiful World, a very good Take That tribute act. We saw Jayne Middleton, an Annie Lennox tribute act, in Headliners, who had a good voice and was ok, except for the posturing and false Scottish accent which was totally unnecessary. Unfortunately we missed Badness, the Madness tribute act in Headliners on the 2nd night of the cruise which apparently had the place rocking.

As I said before, we saw Kiki Dee & Carmelo in the Limelight Club. Also earlier on the same day we saw her do a lunchtime 'Audience with Kiki Dee' with the Entertainments Manager, Neil Oliver, in the Headliners. She was very down to earth and informal. Half way through she was joined onstage by her musical partner and fabulous guitarist Carmelo. It was a real privilege to hear both of them talk about their early careers and how they joined up a few years ago to do 'their own thing' and not to be dictated to by record companies. After the interview she very graciously came off the stage to answer any questions and allowed photographs. We didn't see any other artists who performed in the Limelight Club during the cruise but they were, Jacki Graham, Eric & Ern (tribute) and Madeline Bell. We would have liked to have seen Madeline Bell but to be honest we really just didn't like the whole 'supper club' atmosphere.


For one time only and for not long enough there was a magnificent poolside event called Britannia Beat. It was a stunning LED, lighting and surround sound spectacular performance from the members of Pulse and the some of the show cast singers and dancers. It was standing room only by the time we got there but it was well worth it.


There were many other resident and guest performers in different venues throughout the ship but I cannot comment on the performances as we didn't see many of them. However walking through the ship in the evening the most popular places seemed to be Traditional Ballroom Dancing every evening in the Crystal Room. There was also Dance classes in here during the day. There was late night music after the cabaret in the Limelight club but anytime we looked in it was practically empty and only a few people dancing. Late night disco after 11.15 in the Live lounge and it was certainly more 'lively' but by that time we were heading for bed. Brodie's pub was a very popular place both daytime and evenings for the solo and group quizzes. Things like 'Great British Pub Night' - celebrating all things British. With general knowledge and trivia challenges. The beautiful Crow's Nest lounge was extremely popular during the day as a quiet place and in the evening when there was piano music with the resident Cocktail Pianist, Joe Hume. Films were shown at several different times during the day in the specially designed Studio which was quite small but a very nice comfortable place.


As well as all the usual talks on health and beauty in the Oasis Spa we had two guest speakers on the cruise. The first was Roger Mason who gave 4 extremely interesting talks on Sir Winston Churchill, The Profumo Affair, Votes for Women and The Duke of Wellington. We attended and enjoyed all but the Churchill talk which we intended to do but caught up with something else. The second guest speaker was Caroline Hawley who gave a couple of talks on Antiques. She is apparently well known on television for appearances on Bargain Hunt & Flog It. We did not attend any of these. We did attend all of the Shore Excursions talks delivered by the lovely Emma, from Shore Excursions desk, in Headliners. She gave a very brief history of the ports but the majority of the talk, as you would imagine, was explaining different excursions. However she was also very good at pointing out what you could reasonably do on your own too.

Crew
Unlike any other ship we have sailed on we found, as I said earlier, a real lack of warmth or interaction with the crew on this ship. Obviously there were exceptions, for instance, all of the Filipino crew members were as we have always found them on other cruises - smiling and happy to chat. There were not many of them nor did we come across any of the nationalities who are usually working on cruise ships, like people from Eastern European countries, people from Peru, Mexico etc. What was very obvious was the majority of crew in the dining rooms and bars were from the Indian sub-continent and there was absolutely no rapport with the passengers. This was even evident at the Costa coffee outlet. Again, there were exceptions but the whole ethos of the ship was cold and unfriendly. Even the Senior staff officers would pass you in a corridor without acknowledging you were there - this includes btw the Entertainment Director, Neil Oliver who would manage to either divert his eyes or look directly through you without as much as a nod.

I have read a lot on this forum and others about how crew and staff are friendlier on small ships but never ever on any of the huge big 'block of flats' ships that we have sailed on have we ever experienced such rudeness. If you were walking towards any member of crew on any American ship and stopped to let them pass they would insist you pass first. Not so on Britannia - they would have walked through you if you hadn't stopped to let them pass first. Absolutely unbelievable at times. P&O would do well to send some of these people to be trained with Norwegian Cruise Line who, in our opinion, are one of, if not the best, lines for consistently helpful and friendly people working for them.

Summary
So, I conclude this marathon review. I hope it wasn't too arduous to read but as I am perhaps the first forum member to experience a full cruise on this ship I felt I had to do it justice. Pros & cons are obvious to us when comparing our past experiences. It is a lovely ship, very good food and excellent entertainment but crew and atmosphere sadly lacking.

Would we sail on Britannia again? We are saying 'never say never' but highly unlikely. The main reason for this (look away if you don't want to know about smoking areas) is that although we both now use electronic cigarettes, which, surprisingly like Princess, you are allowed to use in cabins and on balconies, but, unlike Princess, there is absolutely not one single place inside that we could smoke them to have a pre-dinner or a post-dinner drink. No cigar bar, no half of a nightclub or casino. This is fine by us when the weather is warm but on several days and nights on this cruise it was not. Where Britannia (don't know about any other P&O ships) did win over Princess ships was the extraordinary amount of seated smoking areas on open decks. This has been rapidly decreasing on Princess ships and is quite absymal.

I leave you with our favourite half of Sunset Bar on Deck 16 Aft, staffed by some really nice people from the Phillipines, where we spent many happy hours enjoying the Wake and the view on a couple of our late night sailaways. Thanks for reading this very long winded review. If there is anything you think I've left out that you'd like to know please ask.


Ships plan of Britannia - click thumbnails to enlarge.
Last edited by grannyM on 22 Sep 2016 08:19, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby sevenseascoaster » 17 Oct 2015 17:45

Great review Marie and lovely pictures. It all looks very modern, which you would expect from a new ship, love the colour ways, (don't like garish colours as some ships have!) and everywhere seems very well laid out. The ship, the sound of the food, restaurants, all sounds excellent, shame the staff are were a little withdrawn. Friendly staff can make a holiday especially when you can interact with them :)

I think I would like to try it, thanks for sharing :)
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P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby judgegeoff » 17 Oct 2015 18:16

Fantastic review Marie and super pictures, thank you for sharing them with us. :clap: :clap: :clap: The Britannia looks to be a very elegant and classy ship.
Geoff

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P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby bobbyoscar » 17 Oct 2015 18:27

Thank you for such a comprehensive review, love the pictures as well.

As Wen mentioned, such a shame about the surly staff and I hope they didn't detract too much from you enjoying your holiday.
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P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby Wansbrough » 17 Oct 2015 19:07

Very interesting to hear what you thought of your first P&O experience. The ship sounds as if it ticks all the boxes but the crew and some of your fellow passengers seem to be lacking somewhat. The food sounds as if there are areas needing a little more attention but show me a ship that doesn't.....
Looking forward to hearing more :D
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P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby Mungo » 17 Oct 2015 21:04

Thank you! Britannia is on my list to try. :mrgreen: The staff sound exactly the same as when I went on Azura when she was new. Definitely not as good as the lovely staff on other P&O ships I've been on.
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P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby JollyJill » 17 Oct 2015 21:57

I have read your review with interest Marie as having tried 3 P & O ships, we are not sure if want to try Britannia.

You seem to have experienced a fair mix of positives and negatives as far as the dining experience is concerned. It isn't often we hear of negatives regarding some of the crew, although we have experienced surliness and sometimes rudeness ourselves, albeit not on A P & O cruise. Sadly, It does taint one's memory and overall experience of a ship.

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to post the review and photos.

I look forward to reading more. :)
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P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby Jimmy the One » 18 Oct 2015 12:30

Thanks Marie for the honest review.The ship does sound good except for a few niggles.Interesting about your travel to Southampton the last time we did this it was with Eavesway and found them excellent but free transport always worth it :D
Smashing photos Marie gave a good account of the ship thanks
Im just a soul whose intentions are good Oh lord please dont let me be misunderstood

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Re: P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby Hannah » 18 Oct 2015 13:49

Must of taken you ages to do this review so far. Thanks for taking the time. Wonder If the staff are treated well higher up - often a sign of being unhappy.A shame as much better to have staff that feel appreciated. Going to revisit your photos on my Hudl so I csn view them better than on my phone.
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Re: P&O Britannia - Azores, Canary Islands, Portugal & Spain - 25th September-9th October

Postby Snowee56 » 18 Oct 2015 14:09

Hannah wrote:Must of taken you ages to do this review so far. Thanks for taking the time. Wonder If the staff are treated well higher up - often a sign of being unhappy.A shame as much better to have staff that feel appreciated. Going to revisit your photos on my Hudl so I can view them better than on my phone.




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