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Sail Date: July 2005
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 ... Read More
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 ARCADIA 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 canapes, 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! Decor -- 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 decor 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. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2005
Overall - Found the cruise to be suited to people in the more advanced years, this was reflected in the musical choice around the different areas, even the pub had a trio playing slow lounge almost background style music. The ship itself ... Read More
Overall - Found the cruise to be suited to people in the more advanced years, this was reflected in the musical choice around the different areas, even the pub had a trio playing slow lounge almost background style music. The ship itself was best described as low key and although fairly well decorated no area could be described as exciting or having a 'wow' factor. For a Christmas cruise the decorations were poor. We will look long and hard before we book with P&O again. Food - 1. Meridian restaurant - Good choice of meals offered but vegetables left something to be desired. Most evenings we were offered new potatoes and one evening I was offered carrots and sprouts with my fish! Wine choice good but both wine waiters and meal waiters were not up to scratch. Too many mistakes made with our wine and wrong choice of food being served. 2. Rhodes restaurant - Spent one evening there, food was good but again the waiters, although they tried very hard, not quite up to scratch. 3. Orchid - Promoted as 'Fusion' food. Spent an evening there not bad but I was expecting something better. The couple next to us asked if they could remove coconut from one of the desserts, they were told it was not possible, which left me thinking they were pre-prepared, not what we were expecting. 4. Belvedere - Self service - Good choice and kept clean and tidy. the layout means you have to travel a long way to see the choice and the drinks area needs improving as it is a bottleneck. Entertainment -As explained earlier, in general the music was suited to 65+. The Arcadian Theatre is the best I've seen and the production company were very good with varied shows. The 'special' acts brought in, two comedians and two singers, were again suited to the older section and not very good, many people left these shows before the end or even halfway through. Photography - Good selection and quite professional, however, like most cruises the cost of the photos and especially the re-prints were far too high. Bring the price down and everybody buys one! Trips - Too expensive for what you get. Most people I spoke to got the same if not better from locals and at less then half price! Flights - Watch out if you're booked on Thompson, everyone we spoke to from 3 different airports all had delays, and some didn't have any food. P&O really need to look at this, Thompson are fine for a low cost European flight but are totally not suited for long haul, spoilt the holiday and I would think they will still be reading the complaints for a while yet! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Arcadia Review, Cruise J601 Simply Caribbean. Having just finished our first P&O cruise on Arcadia, after previously cruising on Coral & Island Princess, I offer the following comments and comparisons as our own personal views. ... Read More
Arcadia Review, Cruise J601 Simply Caribbean. Having just finished our first P&O cruise on Arcadia, after previously cruising on Coral & Island Princess, I offer the following comments and comparisons as our own personal views. I can now understand all those negative comments I had read about Arcadia, she is definitely far less glitzy than the Princess ships, and Oceana according to fellow passengers; and her lack of a proper Atrium is a big disappointment. The walkways through the main public decks seem far narrower and the area through the photo gallery gets very congested, probably because they have the photos displayed down both sides. In addition she only has one theatre, the Palladium which tends to limit the variety of shows, and even then its size is only just comparable with the smaller of the two Princess show lounges, and on exiting the Palladium on deck 3 you have to walk through either the casino or the Rising Sun pub. In fact the layout of both public decks was less than ideal, the shopping area creates another bottleneck, and I thought it pointless to have Intermezzo and the Spinnaker bar next to each other, especially as neither was ever full. On the plus side the cabins are bigger and the majority have a bath with shower over, which the ladies will probably prefer, but even here the wardrobe space is much less with limited fixed hangers, but your steward will provide extra wire hangers, the safes are tiny and shelf space is barely adequate, but our balcony on E deck was much bigger than we have had on Princess. One other strange quirk is that the bedroom reading lights are just above the pillows and if you want to sit up in bed and read then they are covered, not the best design feature I have ever seen. Contrary to other comments there are plenty of electric sockets above the dressing table, 5 in all, one UK, one European and 3 US, so if you take a couple of travel plugs and a 2/3 way UK adaptor he can charge his razor and camera battery whilst she uses the hairdryer and curling tongs, and still have plenty left over. As you would expect the food is first class and the restaurant dining service is friendly and attentive, however I did yearn for the ever present waiter topping up my water and breakfast coffee that comes as standard on American ships, but I did enjoy the genteel way in which my HP sauce was served. After a shaky start we also felt that the Belvedere, self service restaurant, was better than Princess. The seating is more comfortable and it is more spacious, and the choice of food was excellent, however its layout did take time to sink in, but by the end of the cruise you should know where everything is! Of the two alternative restaurants we preferred Arcadian Rhodes; the food in the Orchid was rather too bland for our tastes. In the Restaurant we were on 2nd sitting at 8:30 pm which we found rather late, most people on 1st sitting, 6:30 pm seemed to think it too early, on Princess we enjoyed the flexibility of anytime dining, maybe P&O could think about switching sittings half way through a cruise to give a better variety. We thought the Arcadia theatre troupe were excellent, we went to all the shows and only Bollywood Nights flopped, the rest were very enjoyable. We also enjoyed the variety acts with Martin Daniels probably our favourite, but all of them seemed to go down well with the British passengers whereas the American acts on Princess are not usually appreciated by British passengers. Unfortunately we did feel that the deck attendants were not as vigilant, used glasses and food plates were often left all day and very little attempt was made to keep the sunbathing decks tidy, until they were cleared away after sunset. We also felt that tightly packing the sun beds did not help in keeping the areas tidy since the first thing everyone did was to pull out one or two beds to make themselves a private space. Princess use small tables between every two or three sun beds and this provides enough privacy and avoids spare sun beds littering the rest of the deck. The cyb@centre is OK but pricey, and you cannot use Wanadoo webmail, so for Wanadoo users ensure you have a list of e-mail addresses with you and prepare to use Mail2web or similar, which is just as convenient but each logon is only specific to ONE e-mail account. What would be our overall rating for Arcadia, probably 7 or a weak 8, compared with a high 9 for Princess. Would we book an Arcadia cruise again, of course we would if the itinerary or price were right, after all despite any criticisms this is 5 star cruising and a wonderful way to spend a one or two week holiday being pampered and cosseted without a care in the world. One final point regarding the flights, I now have to agree with all the complainers that the seating is just too cramped, P&O should look at this and charter airlines that offer more space, even if the extra cost has to go on the price. However the direct flights from your local airport with the luggage going straight to your cabin and you going directly off the plane onto a coach cannot be bettered, this is a really big benefit compared with having to fly via Heathrow. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2006
Never Again ! There are I think 2 types of people in the world. There are the "I'll try anything once" types and there are the "I'm happy with what I know and love types". For P&O cruisers the dilemma ... Read More
Never Again ! There are I think 2 types of people in the world. There are the "I'll try anything once" types and there are the "I'm happy with what I know and love types". For P&O cruisers the dilemma facing most of us is "shall I try out the newest ship in the fleet?". Sadly I fell for this psychological trap and booked a short mid-year 7 day break on Arcadia. It will never happen again! There are plenty of reviews that will inform you of the practical design differences to the other ships and they are pretty much accurate. Design is poor, period. Main restaurant is right at the aft so those with a tendency for seasickness will be at maximum discomfort during the most important eating time. Layout elsewhere is confusing and it's hard to get anywhere in a straight line on one deck. Bars, lounges and cafes all have main walkways through them so are not at all nice places to chill out, relax and say read a book. As I said, plenty of other reviews around on those differences. The main problem you need to be aware of when being tempted by that "shall I, shan't I" dilemma is that Arcadia, being an adult only ship, is in fact packed full of geriatrics. They fall out of every room, bar and lounge and spend their cruise lolling asleep in chairs with their mouths open. Arcadia is an old folks home at sea. Now, I'm not ageist in any shape or form, but given a choice, I would not knowingly choose to spend a holiday as important as a cruise with 1500 pensioners all waiting to spend their final days in the best way possible. It's truly awful. I'm just over 40 myself and although we had excellent table companions who were full of character, this didn't make up for the overall atmosphere on board. If you are intent on doing the "Arcadia" thing, then you need to be prepared for the practical realities that you will be faced with. In general these worldly wise veterans spend their days getting up well before everyone else at about 5-6am. Their purpose and motivation in life is to get to places first, before everyone else, to get that all important seat. First sign of this was the muster drill. I left for the drill 5 mins early just to avoid the busy corridor rush that normally happens. What greeted me at the muster station was a sea of elderly people who had clearly already bagseyed their chairs and settled in, probably an hour before! Everyone else was stood in the corridors for the 45min drill. I'm not discourteous mind, but I always felt the heart and soul of any cruise was consideration for fellow passengers, queuing patiently, tolerating and so on. Old people show very little of this, it's dog eat dog and boy, they're going to get up as early as it takes to get there before you. And once there, they ain't gonna move any time soon. They're going to sit quietly ordering coffee after coffee to justify their continued presence in those seats like the people who used to make a cup of tea last 3 hours in a Little Chef restaurant. It's an ethos they have for the duration of the cruise. As with any cruise, we had some days at sea and some of these were in bad weather so everyone was looking for things to do and places to go inside the ship. Could we find even one empty armchair in one bar or lounge or cafe to get a coffee? Not a chance! Every single seat was packed out with geriatrics who for all I know had been sitting there from 3 o'clock in the morning just to make sure they got that seat. And many of them were just lolling there asleep. It makes for a truly horrible atmosphere I'm afraid and is very frustrating. I walked the length of the ship 3 times on different decks looking for somewhere to have a coffee. Took me 40 mins to find a dark unrelaxing corner. To further perpetuate the old folks home experience P&O ensured that all the activities were in tune. So during the day expect workshop sessions telling you how to grow Clematis or how to cultivate cuttings ! Computer lessons for the completely technophobic and so on. No doubt I have now offended every mature cruiser that reads this review and I apologise for that, however, I want people to go into an Arcadia cruise with an informed decision. Had I known beforehand I would not have spent those precious holiday days and all that money on a "let's see what Arcadia is like" venture. I would have stuck with the ships that I know and love. Carnival/P&O need to understand pretty quickly that Arcadia looks to have quickly become an old folks home. No doubt there is a great market for that and I wish the best of luck to P&O and to all the older people sailing with Arcadia. However, be mindful of the fact that there are hundreds of other cruisers being slowly alienated, who might otherwise expect a "normal" cruising experience. One where there are seats available and where occupied seats are buzzing with life and banter and atmosphere. We all have choices. It looks like the Arcadia is the place for the elderly. That's just fine. I wrote this review just to ensure everyone else is suitably informed before they book their first time Arcadian experience in the hope of something new, different and exciting. For me it wasn't any of those things. Personally, I will never sail with her again. The design, the ethos and the atmosphere on-board are just not to my taste. I love the formality of the other ships and the courtesy and liveliness on-board. Everyone is different, you must make your own choice, but at least be informed and prepared. The scores I have recorded reflect the normal aspects of those services but all are tainted and spoiled by the wider problem. Happy sailing! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
I took a 17 night cruise on P&O's Arcadia, returning last month (Voyage To Venice). Despite having seen various negative reviews about the ship before I went, it was the best of the four cruises I've taken with P&O. ... Read More
I took a 17 night cruise on P&O's Arcadia, returning last month (Voyage To Venice). Despite having seen various negative reviews about the ship before I went, it was the best of the four cruises I've taken with P&O. I'm 36 and was definitely one of the youngest (but not the youngest... my partner is 34) on board. Initial disappointment about the mini-atrium soon gave way to delight about the rest of the ship, and esp. the NEW HORIZONS programme (£90 for as many classes as you like for 17 days). I took language lessons and Tai Chi (with the excellent Jon Wallwork) every day. Used the hydropool once (free with my New Horizons pass), which I thought was enough. There is a free steam room/sauna thing too near the larger pool and free gym facilities as well. Decor is very tasteful and I liked it a lot - but I'm not a SHOUTY type (Royal Caribbean? Yuck!) There's an excellent selection of art and some of the public rooms (the theatre, Orchid Bar and dining rooms for example) are quite lovely. My C deck balcony cabin was spotless, spacious and had the best balcony I've seen - nicer than those on Oceana and the old Adonia. LCD TV too and full size bath. Only lasting disappointment was with the limited golf facilities (no simulator and even the chipping competition was cancelled virtually every day on our cruise!) Some of the things that annoyed me about other P&O cruises have been sorted out (the art auctions are less intrusive, the photography better, the alt dining now worth the money). The food was excellent, both in the Meridian (we had table 142 on level 2 with the excellent Cajy as main waiter and Fabian as head waiter) and in the alt dinning. We had both lunch and dinner in each of the Arcadian Rhodes and Orchid and each experience was exquisite. The food in Arcadian Rhodes was best but the service was best in Orchid (it definitely pays to befriend the waitresses here - we got some extras!) In Arcadian Rhodes be sure to try the english sparkling wine they have on the menu (Chapel Down). It's a champagne method wine that really made me think again about the quality of English wines. I didn't use the buffet dining much but it seemed like the food was good if you don't want the ambience of the other dinning options. The shows were a mixed bag but the addition of some circus skilled performers has allowed all of the shows to be a little more than just song and dance, and enabled the high point - the Cirque D'Arcadia. There were excellent comedians on in the late evening on a couple of nights but the audiences were small, possibly because P&O kept warning the shows were "blue". They weren't, just modern comedy of the kind you get on BBC2 any night after 9pm. I'm on Oceana next, since it had an itinerary that fits a small gap I have in my schedule, but when I get round to planning a longer voyage I'll definitely look at Arcadia again. It's a BIG step in the right direction for P&O as far as I'm concerned. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: 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 ... Read More
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 dEcor 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 dEcor 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 B., the Cruise Director Neil O., and the officers and crew were 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 litre carafe £7.15 ($13.58) and a litre carafe £14 ($26.60). A 330 ml 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 speciality 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. The Ports: Eidfjord in Hardangerfjord was our first stop and the only one where we did a ships tour to the Sysen Dam and Voringsfoss Waterfall. We could not have done this on our own at anything like the same price as there are few taxis in these small places and they are very expensive. Next was Flam in Sognefjord. It is very easy to go on the Flam railway on your own as we did. A return ticket to Myrdal is 275 Norwegian Krone, about £25 ($47.50). The scenery from the train is outstanding but there is very little at Myrdal apart from the station. We had a leisurely coffee in the station cafe and a stroll in the meadows before catching the next train back to Flam. Flam has quite a few shops to explore but things are generally very expensive. Olden is in Nordfjord. There we enjoyed a walk into the village to explore the old local church dating from 1759, the shops and have a coffee. Bergen is very easy to do your own thing. We walked along the harbour to the historic Bryggen area then took a one-hour Trolley Train tour of the city for only 100 Kroner (about £9 or $17) each. It was right by the Fish Market, which we explored on our return and the Funicular is just up the street to get a fabulous view of the city from the top for only 70 Krone (about £6.50 or $12). In summary we had beautifully sunny weather all week and the scenery is fabulous. We enjoyed Arcadia and would happily sail on her again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
Before the Cruise For the first time we flew down to Southampton. Normally we go by car but because we would be flying back from Barbados we decided to travel with Flybe. This part of the journey went very well with my wheelchair ... Read More
Before the Cruise For the first time we flew down to Southampton. Normally we go by car but because we would be flying back from Barbados we decided to travel with Flybe. This part of the journey went very well with my wheelchair assistance working well. The irritations came with the restrictions on what we could carry, but that is the same for everyone. We stayed for one night at the DeVere in Southampton, a good choice. We had an executive room with a large balcony looking directly towards The Mayflower Terminal with Oriana berthed, ready to sail at 17.00. The balcony also gave us excellent views of Oriana moving down the Hamble later in the afternoon. We dined at Ennios. Here we had excellent food and good service. However they were rather full that night and everything was not going well. Which, resulted in, not everyone having our good experience. The next morning after a late rise and a long breakfast we assembled in the hotel foyer waiting out taxi. There were about 10 fellow cruisers including June Sadler and her mam. We talked cruses and CC and everyone was full of anticipation. The taxi came and off we went. On arrival at the terminal the driver pulled up by one of the hatches and before he was paid the luggage had gone. We strolled into the terminal and joined the very small queue to the left for gold/premium passengers. Formalities completed quickly, including checking in my credit card, then we were through security and sitting waiting for the call. Embarkation was not as quick as it had been for some recent cruises although we had been told this slight delay by letter. We embarked just after 13.00 and were shown to Arcadian Rhodes where we were given afternoon tea with bucks fizz. Not a complaint but perhaps a change of menu for such an early embarkation would be in order. Then it was off to our cabin, sorry suite. Accommodation We had, as you may know, booked a mini-suite and then got the call with the offer of a suite for a small extra charge. So here we are with all the goodies champagne, chocolates, fruit, Moulton Brown toiletries, bathrobes, trouser press, iron and ironing board, large balcony and of course our butler. Satya was excellent and our enjoyment of the cruise was enhanced by his presence. He brought us canapEs at six when he also refreshed the ice bucket and brought fresh lemon slices for our G & T's, which he poured. We would then have a chat when he would ask us what else we would like. We could have had evening meals in the cabin, but we did not want this but we did have a number of breakfasts, English, which we found very decadent. We had our table in for a drinks party in the second week and Satya produced canapEs for all as well as nibbles. He also welcomed our guests and poured the drinks and made sure we were all settled. The drinks do turned out to be a celebration as Rachael and Andrew announced their engagement and so we had the bottle of champagne which was in our cabin. Jude our steward kept the cabin spotless and was very efficient whenever we required anything. The suite we had was B74, next to the lift, but we never felt any problem with being overlooked. In fact it was ideal for me, being next to the lifts, as I have problems in walking distance. If we ever go for a suite again we would have this one. Or one very close to it. Main restaurant We had a table for 8 on the second sitting in the lower part of the Meridian Restaurant. It was number 65. We had excellent companions, Pete and Cheryl from Guernsey, Barry and Linda from Birmingham, Rachael and Andrew from Whitley Bay. Rachael is a contributor to the CC site and Andrew lives not half a mile from us in Whitley Bay. How weird, what! As I said above Andrew did the romantic thing and popped the question on a Caribbean beach much to Rachael's surprise and delight. A ring was produced and the celebrations never stopped until the cruise ended. It was a pleasure to share this happy time with the pair of them. Mind you Rachael did spend most of the time flashing her third finger, left hand and saying Did you know we got engaged? The table was excellently served by Alberto and Kamlesh with the wine being delivered by Michelle. The food was excellent throughout with a good choice and a wide variety of Veg. They produced the P & O favourites in deserts of flaming cherries and Crepes Suzette also flaming. The formal dress code was very well observed with only one table of 4 where the men were following there own code. Happily they were in the corner out of the way. Tropical night was well observed with the whole dining room looking very colourful, our table in particular. On the 25th of October we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with champagne and cake and balloons and singing at the table. The Atlantic Crossing The cruise started in the usual way for us down on deck 3 for the sail away party. We were close to the glass lifts in our safety talk, in the piano bar on deck 3. So we did not take our life jackets back and went to get our place by the rail. When we got out we were first there and the champagne was not out yet, what a disaster!!!!! We had to wait 4 minutes for a drink. (I think I will write to P & O). The rest of the passengers seemed slow to appear but soon the place was buzzing and the champers flowing. A Jazz Band was giving it full blast down on the quay. We could have gone back to our cabin and watched from our huge balcony but we felt we would miss the atmosphere and excitement as we set sail, still one of the highlights of a cruise. As usual now, no streamers but we did get Union Flags to wave. The band played and we waved and cheered. As we slipped down the Hamble we had another round and took some pics of Southampton. The crowd started to disperse and we sat contentedly in our steamer chairs watching England disappear. The Captain spoke from above and welcomed us but did say we may have some lumpy weather on the way to the Azores. Eventually back to the cabin with the life jackets and as we had already unpacked we had another look around the ship. Then back to the cabin for canapEs and a G & T. For the first time we had some gin and cans of tonic in the cabin, usually we do not bother but when you have a butler to pour them for you welllll. On to dinner and get to know our dinner companions. Linda went off to the pictures to see The Devil Wears Prada with Meryl Streep, I go to the casino. This sets our usual precedent for our cruise. We often only see each other for meals especially on port days. The first day at sea, disaster the hard bed had given me a bad back. It took me until 10.30 to be able to move freely. Had breakfast in the cabin. We had the fruit from the fruit bowl. Then we went to the CC meeting at 11.00. The meeting was in the Viceroy room next to the crows nest. It was posted as an activity in Arcadia Today and a steward was in the room to take our drinks orders. I tried to get coffee for all but they said it would not be possible. We found out why. You cannot get coffee in the Crows Nest, they have no way of making it. Not good. Anyway I organized the meeting by contacting Arcadia during the previous cruise by Email and asking that the relevant person was contacted. It worked very well and 15 members attended the meeting. They were Bernard, Chris, JK and John, June, Paul, Ruth and Steve, Donald and Barry, Dai and Linda. Ok that only makes 12 but a couple and a lady turned up after reading it in Arcadia today and unfortunately we did not get there names before they slipped away I have got a photo which I will pass on to Mike Rack. The weather was, by this time quite windy and there was some movement of the ship. Certainly enough to separate the sailors from the others. For most of the day we were steaming into a force 9. I blame the driver, as I am sure he could have avoided all those potholes. That evening there were a number of empty places for dinner. So the pattern was set as we made our way down to the Azores. The captain's party was in the Neptune Bar around the pool with the roof on. I must say I am not keen as it seemed very crowded and there were not many seats. The bad weather continued until after the Azores, although not force 9, still uncomfortable for a few, especially first timers. Now I know that we all have free choice and that it would not be in a cruise lines best interest but the consensus on board was that this was not a good cruise for first time cruisers. Eight days across the Atlantic in October with only half a day of respite in the Azores may be ideal for some i.e. me. For a number of people it was less than perfect. As the seas did not relent after Ponta Delgarda there were a number on unhappy cruisers most, if not all, first timers. For the rest of us the cruise was great with a good atmosphere developing the shows were good and there were many good reports of the guest lectures. As noted above we had a great time on the 25th the day after the Azores for our 30th. It started with a full English breakfast served in our suite by Satya and finished with the full works at the dinner table. Champagne, cake, balloons and the choir singing. Great fun. Alternate Dining Satya our butler had made our alternate dining arrangements for us in the Arcadian Rhodes and the Orchid. What wonderful additions these two venues are to the P & O cruising experience. We could not fault the service or food at either one. I particularly enjoyed AR because as well as excellent taste and wonderful presentation you actually got plenty to eat. As we were sitting in Intermezzo, Ruth came along and gave me a tip about how to avoid my bad back. I had not left the cabin all day and had only just made it to AR . What a wonderful girl. I tried it that night and the next morning, no pain. That evening in the Meridian I gave her a big kiss as a thank you. On Friday we went to the Orchid with Ruth and Steve and had an excellent meal preceded by a drink in the small but very good Orchid bar. Entertainment Now I cannot say much about the entertainment as I did not go. This is because I wished to avoid the bruising on my side I have suffered previously. This comes from Linda's elbow as she repeatedly digs me in the ribs to wake me up as I doze after a good dinner and wine. I am told that all the show were excellent and well attended and I know that there was never a mass early leaving as I was in he Casino just outside the theatre door. Throughout the ship on most evenings there was a variety of live music, a steel band, a big band a group and some classical. In the pub, The Rising Sun there was of course Karaoke. Luckily there were some excellent singers on board so it was not too bad. I have left the disco Electra till last as this is were Linda spent a lot of time and even I spent a good deal of time. DJ Steve recently from Oriana did a sterling job and played the songs that those who were there wanted. I must say that this is one of the main plus points of the adult ship environment for us, having the disco for adults and listening to music we enjoyed. On Aurora in the past the disco has been taken over by a much younger element and the music played has reflected this. Activities Daytime As most of you know these are far to many to mention. I did observe however that the entertainment staff all were enthusiastic and that there were activities going on all the time, with many sail away parties etc. Linda attended many of the lectures given on the cruise, particularly by Diane Simpson, who by all accounts kept a large audience enthralled over a series of 5 or 6 talks. Certainly it provoked discussion in other areas of the ship for the rest of the day. Magie Philbin from Swapshop and Tomorrows World was also on board and Linda went to her talks and enjoyed them immensely I went to some talks on Computers and from the New Horizons program a 2 part workshop on digital imaging. It was very good I also had a four session package in the Hydro-therapy pool and steam rooms. I started them at the time of my bad back and it was wonderful on the warm tile beds in the steam rooms area. However a couple of points, the dressing gowns, one size, were designed for Ronnie Corbett. They were an absolute joke. Secondly the tiles in the pool area were not suitable for the area. They were very slippery when wet and of course they get wet. They looked nice but were not pool tiles. My other daytime activity was the Dai Bryson sit and drink coffee and do your Sudoku class This was well attended with 100% attendance most of the time. Sometimes the class participant was known to drop off. These classes took place in the piano bar and in Cafe Vivo, were the participants could also get goodies to eat. I must say that Cafe Vivo is not well designed for a cruise ship with those stools which were rarely used and the couches which were used but were in short supply. Second part to come. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2006
We travelled on the new (2005)child-free Arcadia from Southampton down to Lisbon calling at Vigo,La Rochelle and Brest. The embarkation,as with all P&O cruises was smooth and very rapid and with the minimum of fuss. THE SHIP; As has ... Read More
We travelled on the new (2005)child-free Arcadia from Southampton down to Lisbon calling at Vigo,La Rochelle and Brest. The embarkation,as with all P&O cruises was smooth and very rapid and with the minimum of fuss. THE SHIP; As has been mentioned before,Arcadia is less spectacularly appointed than other ships in the fleet and has a more modern and contemporary feel to the decor. However we liked the muted colors of sage,cream and taupe which runs throughout the ship and also into the cabins,creating a calm and soothing atmosphere. We had a balcony cabin at the stern of the ship on deck 8 (Australia}with a vast balcony well able to entertain a dozen or more people! The cabin was of an average size for a stateroom,although the doorway was very narrow and a certain amount of juggling had to be done with the bathroom door and wardrobe doors which were directly opposite each other. There were no drawers in the cabin just two large ones in the base of the sofa. The wardrobe was very dark -an interior light might have illuminated the Stygian gloom! However,these cabins are invariably designed by men who have no concept of how to struggle into a ballgown in a 3ft space whilst trying to find one's evening sandal at the back of a wardrobe by touch alone! FOOD; The main formal restaurant,The Meridian had reasonably good food,which tended to arrive tepid. There were also 2 additional restaurants on board-Gary Rhodes and the Orchid which served Asian food. There was a cover charge for both venues and they were excellent,but book early on the cruise as there is great demand for tables. ENTERTAINMENT; We are not huge fans of cruise type shows,but if you like old comics,a few hoofers and lots of dry ice,you will not be disappointed! We also had twin illusionists "THE TWINS" who were doubly awful. The usual teeth whitening seminars and TANZANITE-mysterious gem of Africa enlivened sea days,along with those impossibly dreadful art auctions selling daubs by bad artists to punters who have no idea what they are purchasing! The one entertainer we did enjoy was a very talented guitarist who played in solitary splendor in The Crows Nest Bar to a small select band of us who were prepared to go up to the eleventh deck! PORTS OF CALL: All were fine,but we couldn't dock at Brest due to a force 8 gale and so benefited from another sea day of line dancing teeth whitening seminars and Snowball bingo! Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2007
We had a wonderful time aboard Arcadia. The flight from Manchester was on time at 8 a.m. and we were on the ship at 2 p.m. This is definitely the best place and line to cruise with, straight through passport control onto busses and then to ... Read More
We had a wonderful time aboard Arcadia. The flight from Manchester was on time at 8 a.m. and we were on the ship at 2 p.m. This is definitely the best place and line to cruise with, straight through passport control onto busses and then to the ship. SO unlike going through US. Our luggage arrived at about 6.30 in time for dinner. First night dinner was free seating as later flights were still arriving. Meal not too great but OK. The only problem we had with dinner was getting our table changed as we had been put on a table for 4 and wanted a larger table. Took 2 nights and a certain amount of irritation to get changed, but then fine. We had lovely waiters, Amit and Alex, and the wine waiter Ernesto was really efficient and very pleasant. Often on ships the wine waiters are overworked, or just slow, although as Americans on the whole don't seem to drink as much wine with dinner as Europeans perhaps it is just a culture thing! The food was the best I've had on a ship, always arrived hot and the vegetables were wonderful, great variety and delicious sauces. Had steak a couple of times, which again were cooked perfectly. Great variety at breakfast and the lunch display was good. The cabins were spacious as far as ship's cabins can be! No drawers, which was rather irritating. Decor was fine, quite light, and the balcony had really comfortable wooden recliners. On the whole I don't like ship's entertainment, so this was no better or worse than RCCL, Celebrity, HAL or Princess. As they have captive audiences as opposed to paying customers I always feel they are second rate. Went to 4 shows (under sufferance), Roy Walker comic (Catchphrase) was amusing and professional, so went to see him twice, one other comedian/singer who I didn't like at all, and one acrobatic show which was OK. Didn't go on any ship excursions as we do our own thing. Getting on the tenders in Meyreaux was well organized and despite a big swell everything went well. Was much better organized than RCCL last year when it took over 2 hours to get off the ship in Grand Cayman! On getting on and off the ship there were hand gels to use, plus outside the Belvedere restaurant there was not only gel dispensers but also stewards with dispensers always there to make sure you were 'gelled'. The islands were all fine. We particularly liked St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Tortola and St. Vincent. Meyreaux was lovely, just one long beach with quite large waves which took some people unawares. The only sad thing was that we expected there to be a barbeque, or food, on the beach but this never appeared, although the waiters were there to provide drinks. The last day in Barbados was very pleasant. Unlike other lines where they expect you to get off as quickly as possible, on Arcadia although we had to leave the cabin by 9 a.m. we were then allowed virtually free run of the ship. We had breakfast, sunbathed, showered (in lovely showers in the Spa) had lunch and left the ship at 4 p.m. for our 7 p.m. flight to Manchester, which luckily left on time. This is DEFINITELY the best cruise I've been on (other than the last time we went on the old Arcadia) with regard to transfers. The bars on the ship leave a little to be desired if you like any atmosphere, but then many other new ships are the same. The Crows Nest seemed to be empty until after dinner, didn't like the 'pub' bar and the usual ghastly Karaoke. The dance instructors had no enthusiasm at all, looked bored most of the time and had absolutely no talent for getting anything going. We made some friends who loved dancing and found it really frustrating that there was so little atmosphere and fun. The nightclub was better and had a good DJ. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2007
Flight from Manchester 40min late departing but managed to arrive on time. We had premium seating which was much better than the last time we travelled charter flights, but not as spacious as the schedule flight to New York on BA we took ... Read More
Flight from Manchester 40min late departing but managed to arrive on time. We had premium seating which was much better than the last time we travelled charter flights, but not as spacious as the schedule flight to New York on BA we took last year. Premium seating meant we were first off the plane and onto the waiting coaches. We were the first coach to arrive at the ship so no Caribbean music to greet us. As we were first on ship we chatted with passengers waiting for their flights so had an idea we were in for a good time, and were not disappointed. We were so early on the ship our cabin wasn't quite ready so, although tired, we wandered around the ship for a couple of hours. On our way back to the cabin we noticed our baggage outside the lifts and asked if it was ok if we took it to the cabins ourselves. We were unpacked by 4.30pm and eagerly awaiting evening meal, well ready for it after arriving at Manchester airport at 5am and only having inflight meals. Cabin was excellent, the best we have had, spacious balcony with good quality chairs. Lots of cupboard space and well planned wardrobes, mirrors everywhere. Bathroom good size with shower above bath. Bed a little strange though. We opted for a double bed, the twin beds were linked which was fine but we still had single duvets, very strange. Arcadia was very clean but a little tired considering it is less than 2 years old. Decor pleasant but not extravagant, Meridian Restaurant very pleasant. Food excellent as usual with P&O, good choice, did not eat in Gary Rhodes or Orchid Restaurant, no need. Belvedere buffet was excellent, good choice, comfortable, waiter to squirt the necessary disinfectant on entry. P&O seem to be penny pinching and drink prices vary according to whereabouts on the ship you are. Shows were very disappointing, thank goodness for Roy Walker, a true professional. Three out of the four singers in the Arcadia troupe were out of tune. Missed a stop at Mayreau due to high swell, tropical rain storm in Cozumel meant we had to cancel our trip into the jungle, very disappointing, it looked really good. Went on about 3 organized trips, Costa Maya beach trip was really enjoyable but confusing regarding the time we had to leave the beach. First time we were given was 3pm, we arrived at 10am, then we were told the coach would be leaving at 1.00pm, then another announcement stated another coach had been negotiated for 1.30pm and this would be the last coach, then miraculously another coach appeared at 2pm, but by then we had changed out of our swimwear and were on the 1.30 coach ready to go back to the ship. At Grand Cayman did the semi-sub trip, it was excellent, being a non swimmer that is the nearest I am likely to get to swimming with the fish. Curacao is the best stop on the cruise, we like it better each time we go there. Nightmare in New Orleans, had to register with immigration day prior to disembarkation. Some passengers queued for over 1 hour to get their passport and documents checked. This made the excursions late leaving which meant they hurried them up to get us back to the ship at the stated time. I do not know why though, we were staying overnight in New Orleans. Great place, lots to see, start of the Mardi Gras carnivals when we arrived. Unfortunately supposedly due to the snow in UK our flight was delayed by 5 hours, which meant we had to stay on the ship another 5 hours, we left the ship at 8pm and flew at 1am, which threw all our homecoming plans out of the window as we were due to drive home to the Highlands of Scotland on the Saturday, we had to stay overnight at our daughter's in Doncaster and eventually arrived home Sunday at 6pm. That was the bad bit of the holiday. Would definitely do P&O again but only if they upgraded the size of the seats for the flights. 8 hours is too long to be sat with yours knees up to your chin. I have emailed them regarding this but have had no response! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2007
First cruise with P & O although our 12th cruise. Impressed with transfer arrangements which were extremely efficient. Cases checked in at the airport and not seen again until they were delivered to our cabin. Similarly, on ... Read More
First cruise with P & O although our 12th cruise. Impressed with transfer arrangements which were extremely efficient. Cases checked in at the airport and not seen again until they were delivered to our cabin. Similarly, on disembarkation, left outside our cabin and reclaimed at UK airport.Flights on Thomas Cook charter were very uncomfortable as there was virtually no legroom for a 8-9 hour flight. Very bad for tall people and worse if, as in my case, you get a large person next to you! A couple of people on our return flight became unwell through being so cramped. P & O should not use charter flights like this which are not designed for long-haul. Balcony cabin was roomy. Bathroom with shower over a small bath. Beds were a bit hard but we got used to them. In queen configuration we got two single duvets, would have preferred one large duvet. Decor rather plain but okay. Showergel supplied but no shampoo or conditioner supplied. Even 3 star hotels do this P & O !!! Only 2 pieces of soap in two weeks. No robes supplied. Ship decor overall was pleasant and we did not find it difficult to get around. Lovely wrap around teak promenade deck with space to walk and relax. Dining - Meridian. Waiter service was the best we have had. Food was okay but my husband had a few tough steaks and I had tough lamb cutlets. Belvedere Food Court. P & O could learn from Princess on efficient layout. Too far to walk for things like omelettes and pancakes. Food cold when you sit down. Bottlenecks all the time at the drinks.Tables not cleared quickly and staff in there seemed unenthusiastic and unsmiling. Excellent English Breakfast. Afternoon teas served between 4 & 5 other ships serve these too early generally. Entertainment - Palladium. A couple of good shows but some were not so good. Not much atmosphere in the casino but perhaps this is a British thing.Good piano recitals in the Crows Nest.Good atmosphere in the pub. Overall - On a child free ship I missed having all age groups on board as the younger people add a buzz to a ship.We also prefer a mix of nationalities as this adds to the interest. It was a lovely holiday but not the best ship we have been on. More 4* than 4*+. Many people said they would not fly out to a P & O ship again because of the cramped conditions on the plane. They will lose custom if they continue with this as it stays in your mind when you Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2007
INTRODUCTION This was the ninth cruise for my partner and myself, but the first on both P&O and Arcadia, so we looked forward to the experience with some trepidation. I can say, though, from the outset, we need not have worried. We ... Read More
INTRODUCTION This was the ninth cruise for my partner and myself, but the first on both P&O and Arcadia, so we looked forward to the experience with some trepidation. I can say, though, from the outset, we need not have worried. We chose this ship and line for the itinerary: Southampton - Stavanger - Flåm - Olden - Trondheim - Honningsvåg (North Cape) - Tromsø - Andalsnes - Bergen - Southampton, and for the time of year - my partner is a teacher. So were most of the other passengers, it seemed. Of every couple we met, at least one was a teacher or retired teacher. EMBARKATION During the days before our departure date, the weather in England was very wet with severe flooding in many places. We decided to leave early (at 8.30am for a 2pm check-in) but had a completely uninterrupted journey to Southampton, arriving at 11am. What threw us a little bit was that the ship was scheduled to leave from the Mayflower Terminal, but was in fact berthed at the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal. Our luggage was taken away immediately and I was able to leave the car with Cruise & Passenger Services, but the check-in did not open until midday. The hour's wait was not wasted though, and we enjoyed watching fellow passengers arrive. When check-in eventually opened, we were among the first to get our boarding cards and were ushered up the escalator to the departure lounge. Much to our surprise, we were directed straight on to the ship and were thus on board at 12.15. Shortly afterwards, there was a public announcement that cabins would not be ready until 2pm and we should go to the Belvedere Restaurant (self-service) for lunch. Being among the first on board, there were no queues and after a very satisfactory seafood salad, we had time to explore the ship before finding our cabin. CABIN Our cabin was D126, a balcony cabin on Deck 5 (or D Deck or Dominica Deck) and it connected with the next door cabin. This was initially a concern, but the next cabin was either unoccupied, the occupants were very quiet, or the insulation between the two was very good, because we heard not a peep. The cabin was very comfortable, twin beds made up as one, sofa with table and dressing table with coffee/tea making facilities, television and fridge containing two complimentary bottles of water. The bathroom was satisfactory, with both bath and shower. The shower was excellent with a good water flow, and more importantly, consistent temperature. I have found n other ships that the shower temperature often fluctuates between stone cold and scalding hot, depending on time of day and use of showers elsewhere. A minor criticism was that the amount of storage was not generous and the wardrobes were a bit shallow, so there was always a sleeve or hem sticking out from the doors, and I had to re-fold all my shirts because they were too long to fit on the shelves. Having said all that, though, there was just enough storage for two people for two changes of clothes per day. The balcony, I noticed, was slightly shallower than the balconies on the deck above, but still accommodated two teak deck chairs and a small, teak table. The top of one of the lifeboats was just below the floor level of the balcony and this precluded any views of the dockside immediately below. As all the balconies are recessed behind the line of the lifeboats, I don't know if any higher cabin would have the view either. One disappointment was the lack of bathrobes (I believe they are available in higher grade cabins). They would have been very useful for going on to the balcony in the early mornings to view the scenery. Additionally, no shampoo or conditioner was provided in the bathroom, but the bottle of Moulton & Brown shower gel seemed to work fine. DINING AND FOOD We requested a table for second sitting dinner and were allocated Table 52 for six on the lower level of the Meridian Restaurant; not a window table, but close enough to get good views during dinner. We played musical chairs throughout the cruise, so that everyone could enjoy the views. Food in the Meridian was generally very British and very good, although I had a rack of lamb that was very tough and game grill that was very dry. There was a tendency, though, to add a lot of different flavors to any given dish, for example: breast of chicken Maryland served with bacon, banana, corn pancake with a mustard jus. Service was good and unobtrusive, and although the dishes were already plated, vegetable came silver service, so one could have as much or as little as one wanted. For someone who is a small eater, this is a blessing, not being faced with leaving a plate half eaten. Our sommelier, perhaps, was a little overenthusiastic. Having selected the same wine for the first couple of nights, he had the same wine ready and open every following night! To get something different, we had to tell him the night before. Not a great criticism though - on one cruise, the wine didn't appear until the desserts were served!! Service and food and breakfast and lunch were also good, although we don't like the open seating arrangements and being shepherded on to large tables of strangers. Having said that, though, we generally had good conversations and met a couple from Scarborough who had watched Queen Mary 2 sail through Scarborough Bay in 2004 (at the request of Jimmy Saville) whilst we were on QM2 watching Scarborough pass by, and Jimmy Saville himself, who was on a boat alongside. We also ate in the Belvedere Court, mostly breakfasts and the occasional lunch, and found what was on offer satisfactory. What I hate about all of these self-service restaurants, though, are the people who think it is acceptable to push into a queue at a counter because they want something half way down, or start at the other end and force their way against the flow. There are two speciality restaurants on board Arcadia; Arcadian Rhodes and the Orchid Restaurant. We tried Arcadian Rhodes first and unfortunately, we were rather disappointed. We didn't think the room was particularly special, not sufficiently different from other areas of the ship and we were given an isolated table at the back adjacent to the waiters' station and the entrance to the galley when there were several window tables vacant. We didn't really enjoy the food and the service was quite slow, even though the restaurant was quite empty. However, the other two couples at our table also ate there and thought it excellent, so perhaps it's just our taste in food. We thought of canceling our reservation for the Orchid Restaurant as a result of our experience, but we are so glad we didn't. It spans the ship on Deck 11 and as we were sailing through the inshore islands, we had panoramic views from the windows. It is also a beautiful room. The food had an Indian theme for that night and food and service were superb. This time, we had a window table. We would hesitate going back to Arcadian Rhodes but would go back to the Orchid without hesitation. SHIP'S FACILITIES I was told by a friend who had been on Arcadia recently that I wouldn't like the ship because it wasn't grand enough. Completely the opposite. I loved the ship because of its many small, intimate areas and places where you could sit and read or just stare out to sea. From the Crow's Nest or the Orchid Bar you can get panoramic views and from other bars and lounges, big windows where you get a view of the sea. Many reviews have complained about the small atrium above Deck 1, but I would rather the space is used for passengers rather than just creating an impression. I have compared the deck plans of the new Cunard Queen Victoria (it is basically the same Vista-class ship) with those of Arcadia, and all the small spaces have disappeared to accommodate the grand spaces Cunard wants (there are virtually no intimate spaces on Queen Mary 2 either). We didn't use the casino or the Rising Sun pub, and thought the library was perhaps a bit small. We only used it to reference the Berlitz cruise ship guide to get information on other ships we saw in port. The gymnasium and spa facilities looked extensive, but we didn't use them, only passing through to get to that best kept secret, the forward observation deck! The main swimming pool under its retractable roof was well used, but again, we only passed through - the humidity, smell of chlorine and noise were too much (old fuddy-duddies you might say, but at 46 and 59 we were among the youngest on the ship!) SERVICE Service in all areas was excellent and the staff made a point of learning our names and what we liked to drink, and this was in the several bars that we frequented during the day and evenings. Getting a drink on the Promenade Deck after 6pm was more difficult - service was suspended at that time and you had to collect your own drink. During the cruise, we had a classical pianist who played in the Crow's Nest in the early evening. His first concert came at the end of a sea day and the Crow's Nest was fairly full. He started playing, and as the time passed, quite a lot of people started looking around for stewards to refresh their drinks, but they had disappeared! The expressions of horror at being stuck drinkless were quite funny. We later discovered that a sign had been put outside to say that service would be suspended 15 minutes before the start of the concert, but of course, we were already there and didn't see it! ENTERTAINMENT We only attended one show in the Palladium Theatre and that was the Cirque Arcadia, a dance, song and acrobatic show. This was excellent. Before and after dinner in the Crow's Nest there was live music and not too loud and obtrusive. In the Piano Bar, there was - guess what - piano music from time to time, but there were always places where you could meet for pre-dinner drinks without music. We went to one port lecture and to a presentation about the new Ventura, a ship that seems to be geared up especially for children. In the evenings, we always headed for the Crow's Nest, where, at 11pm, there was a team quiz. It was great fun and our dinner table, whether two, four or six of us taking part, generally did abysmally! Also in the Crow's Nest, we got caught one afternoon by the first of the two daily games of bingo. We'd never before experienced audience participation - after each number was called, the players responded - 88, two fat sailors and everybody responded "wobble, wobble". Within minutes, we were in stitches and in serious danger of being thrown out!! PORTS OF CALL STAVANGER. After a day at sea from Southampton, the first port of call was Stavanger. We took a short, morning coach excursion from the pier (only a few hundred yards from the cathedral and the center of town) to an iron age farm at Ullandhaug Hill where our guide gave way to a representative (and archaeologist) from the university. He was an excellent speaker and gave a very interesting and amusing talk about the farm, the people and myths surrounding the area (the horned helmets of the Vikings are as mythical as the trolls of Norway). From there, we were taken to a hill top featuring a 1960s television aerial, but with panoramic views from its base, and then back into the town to the cathedral to which we paid a short visit. Following that, our guide walked us through the old town (probably mid 1800s because the Norwegians are always burning their towns down) and back to the ship. Our intention after lunch was to go back into town and walk around on our own, but it was warm and sunny and we spent it on deck instead! In any case, we are back in Stavanger next year on board QE2 (No criticism of P&O. It's just that we want to be on board a ship that we love for one last time) FLAAM. Our next call was at Flåm on Sognefjord. Whatever you do on an itinerary like this, get up early. Sailing into the fjords with still waters and early morning mists is magnificent. It's still spectacular sailing out in the afternoon, but the mists and stillness add to the scenery. Here, our intention was to take the Flåmbana railway to Vatnahalsen (not quite the end of the line) and back, with waffles and cream at the Vatnahalsen Hotel (excellent, but rather poorly washed crockery). The journey is spectacular (I shall probably use this word again a lot more times) with a halt going up and coming down at the Kjosfossen waterfall where you get off the train to take photographs (and get soaked by the spray). Eerie music starts up and suddenly there is a blond Viking woman prancing about on the rocks and enticing you into the falls (probably a man in a wetsuit, wig and long dress). Weird, but fun. OLDEN. At the head of Nordfjord/Utfjord, Olden is set in a beautiful location with the waters of the fjord a bright blue from glacial runoff. Our excursion of the day was to the Briksdal Glacier. The coach trip there was about 30 minutes up the spectacular and beautiful Olden Valley to the visitor center for the Josterdalsbreen National Park. From there, it was a very steep (for most of the way) 45 minute walk to the foot of the glacier. Unfortunately, it has retreated 25 meters in the last few years and it was not actually possible to get right up to it as the ice is now deemed to be unsafe. TRONDHEIM. Following the tiny villages of Flåm and Olden, Trondheim is a metropolis in comparison. Our excursion was by coach and veteran tram. The coach took us the short distance from the dock to the cathedral where we walked around part of the old town before boarding the tram. This took us around the town center before taking us miles into the hills and forests above the town. At the end of the line, our coach met us again and took us back to the ship, calling at the Kristiansten Fort for panoramic views over the city. NORTH CAPE.It was a day at sea to reach Honningsvaag on the island of Mageroya where we disembarked for the North Cape. En route, we crossed the Arctic Circle and then sailed up Hollandsfjord to view an offshoot of the Svartisan Glacier, which has also shrunk in recent years. Leaving there, we travelled for several hours through the inshore islands before heading out to sea and northwards. Our guide to North Cape told us we might see reindeer belonging to the Sami people (no longer called Laplanders). We thought we might see one or two, but in fact there were hundreds, some of them bringing the bus to a halt as they ambled across the road. The road from Honningsvåg is spectacular and over real Arctic tundra, but North Cape itself is not much: a visitor center with souvenir shop, café, post office, chapel and enormous bar, with a globe on a plinth above the cliffs themselves. Like a lot of places in Norway, once you have reached your destination, there is not a lot to see or do (unless you like walking), so after 20 minutes, we were ready to leave. However, it's nice to have been there, and the journey there and back was worth it in itself. The best part was the ship then sailing past North Cape at midnight with it beautifully lit by the midnight sun. The party atmosphere on board was fantastic with everybody on deck at midnight with their cameras to be photographed with the sun - somebody took my photograph and my head beautifully eclipses the sun! TROMSO. Another sail along a magnificent fjord (actually a sound) to reach Tromso. We had a coach tour of the city before stopping at the Arctic Cathedral and then taking the cable car to the top of Storsteinen (1380 feet). From there, the views over Tromso, the island of Tromsoya on which it is located and the surrounding sounds are magnificent, well worth the visit. We were then taken to the Tromso University Museum (our Spanish guide was a student there!) - not too interesting as the signs on the exhibits were only in Norwegian. ANDALSNES. On Isfjord, the town used to be just two farms, Andals and Nes and as a community grew around them, they combined the two names. In the morning, we visited Trollveggen, the tallest vertical rock face in the world outside the Grand Canyon and then Trollstigen at the top of and on the opposite side of the same mountain, up a precipitous and narrow road with numerous U-bends. Not a lot there except the inevitable souvenir shop, café and toilets, and of course, the spectacular views. In the afternoon, we were to travel on a train pulled by a vintage steam engine, but it was out of commission for the summer and we were pulled by diesel instead. A coach took us to Bjorli Station to pick up the train and en route stopped at Trollveggen again! The train runs back down the same valley through yet more spectacular scenery, starting very high up the valley side and then by way of a 360° tunnel inside the mountain dropped to lower and lower levels. Guess what? We passed through Trollveggen for the third time, but at least didn't stop! BERGEN. The weather in Andalsnes was rather grey and damp in the morning, but brightened during the day. The whole trip was general bright and warm and we had breakfast on deck the two mornings inside the Arctic Circle. However, Bergen was very wet indeed with very heavy showers all through the day. Our guide told us that the city had 280 to 300 days of rain a year! We took the funicular railway to the top of Fløyen, a thousand feet above the city. The view should have been fantastic, but we arrived during an absolute downpour and other than seconds braving the elements at the vantage point, we huddled in the souvenir shop along with passengers from three other cruise ships in port! Our coach then took us around the city and crisscrossed it from north to south, east to west. It's very attractive indeed. However, the weather prevented us walking back in during the afternoon for a further look. GRATUITIES Gratuities were not included in the on board account, but the cruise information recommended £3.50 per person per day to be split between the cabin steward and dining room staff. We paid a little more than because we felt that the level of service deserved it and we included a couple of the bar staff as well. DISEMBARKATION On previous cruises, disembarkation has usually been on a deck by deck basis with the suites and loyalty club members getting off first. Our deck has usually given us a disembarkation time of about 11am. I don't know on what basis this disembarkation was organized, but we were allocated an 8am slot for departure with only the self-help passengers getting off earlier at 7.30. On the dot, we were called to go ashore and 15 minutes later, we had collected the luggage, loaded the car and were driving away. It couldn't have been easier and we were home by 10.45. GENERAL I had some doubts about booking this cruise, having visited a couple of fjords before and not been that impressed. I realize that neither of them were good representations for what we actually saw, both sailing along the fjords we did and among the inshore islands. I have never seen such spectacular scenery. It was obviously helped by the good weather we had other than in Bergen. And the ship? It exceeded expectations. It was comfortable, quiet and not crowded, although the Crow's Nest could get full in the evenings and it was sometimes difficult to find a seat. The stewards, however, raided the adjoining Viceroy Room for armchairs to accommodate us. The ship is child free, but I have never found children on board to be a problem (I never use the pools which I agree they tend to take over). Except for very few people in their 20s and 30s, the passengers were of retirement age and older - I believe the Electra disco played to very small audiences, although we never even discovered it until the last day. Would we select this ship again? Absolutely! And the itinerary? I would recommend it to anyone, although it is weather dependant to get the best out of it. Paul Hawkins-Kennedy Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
Arcadia cruising We sailed from Southampton on Sunday 22 July 2007 with the P&O Arcadia on their 13 day cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. It was our second cruise and our first with P&O and Arcadia. In 2006, we cruised with ... Read More
Arcadia cruising We sailed from Southampton on Sunday 22 July 2007 with the P&O Arcadia on their 13 day cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. It was our second cruise and our first with P&O and Arcadia. In 2006, we cruised with Celebrity Cruises Millennium Class vessel 'Constellation' on their Baltic Capitals tour. We hope that this resume will help others to decide for themselves whether to try the Arcadia and to give some help to others who perhaps have never cruised before and are wondering if it is for them. Finally, we hope that it will give a balanced and helpful insight into the Norwegian Fjord cruise and particularly the P&O version. The booking procedure was very straightforward and everything arrived on time and exactly as described. Extra discounts were available by shopping around. The P&O website gave basic information on a good website and we waited with anticipation for the Excursion booking portal to become available. This opened several days before the printed book came through the post so if you are particularly keen on any excursion and want to ensure that you obtain a place, I would recommend using the P&O Excursion website. However there seems to be plenty of room on most excursions on this trip and bookings were still available for many excursions right up to the evening before docking at any port. In this part of the world, the weather is a particularly important feature and although we were very fortunate in the weather throughout the cruise, we would have been pretty frustrated if we had paid pre-booked £50 a head in England to see nothing but clouds on a scenic trip of mountains and fjords. We booked with the Eavesway coach service from Preston at £66 a head return and this proved to be a very efficient and comfortable service. There were two comfort breaks with a stop for lunch at the junction of the M42 and M40. There were two drivers who took the driving in turn and were very helpful with loading luggage. There are no reserved seat numbers but we had no problem in finding four seats together and after about 5 ½ hours, we arrived in Southampton Docks at 2.30pm with plenty of time and feeling relaxed. At the Docks, we took our hand luggage ourselves and the heavy luggage was left to the drivers and port staff and we never saw or handled any of the suitcases from Preston Bus Station until they arrived in our cabins within minutes of us arriving in the cabins ourselves. An excellent service and to be recommended. Southampton Dock Terminal is efficient if rather unglamorous. We were processed very quickly and it really helped having pre-registered our details on the P&O website. All that was left to do was to swipe our passports and our credit card and we were given our security card that was to allow us access to and from the ship at every port and to act as our on board credit card for purchases to be billed against and paid for in sterling at the end of the cruise. From the time that we arrived on the coach to the time that we were in our cabins was no more than 30 minutes and the longest queue was 6 people in front for the x-ray security machine. A wonderful improvement on airport queues! We boarded Arcadia with excitement and must admit to being a little disappointed at the initial lack of impact. There was no 'Wow' factor at all and most of the welcome party was security staff. On Constellation, we had arrived in the main Atrium with its massive staircase and were greeted by an officer, passed to a steward who helped us find our cabin and introduced us by name to our cabin steward. On Arcadia, we arrived amongst the lifeboats, entered by a small doorway, were not greeted and had to find our own way to the cabin. This is not as easy as it sounds because the Arcadia has a bizarre but very British way of labelling its decks. Deck numbers start at the bottom and work upwards but with a confusing bottom deck called A Deck. However they also like to letter their decks and couple these letters with names of countries and continents from past P&O glory days. Guess which way the letters start!! That's right - the alphabet starts from the top accommodation deck and works downwards. So A (Australia) deck is near the top and is numbered 8 and the lowest accommodation deck is G (Grenada)Deck which is number 1 Deck. You get used to it in time but the arrival on board should be improved upon as first impressions really do count - and especially so if one is mentally comparing with previous ships and cruise-lines. However the welcome from the cabin steward was both genuine and warm. He was charming, helpful and quietly efficient. He had obviously been well selected and trained and was for ever attentive. Practically all the front line staff on Arcadia are from India. Their English is good and they are the most charming people. Smart, attentive, harmonious, well trained and supervised, they are a real credit to themselves and also the years of association with P&O. We certainly felt more at home on Arcadia than Constellation where we found that the language skills were much poorer and the staff came from all over the world - although the staff were just as well trained. The cabin itself is of a good proportion and well equipped. Although P&O say that the cabin is equipped with 240 volt British style socket, this is being slightly economical with the truth. There is such a socket but only the one. Other voltages and socket shapes are also supplied so if you are like us with a variety of battery chargers etc, it would help to bring an adaptor and/or a continental adaptor so that you can use the other sockets as well. There is a kettle and endless supply of free tea and coffee sachets and milk. All other drinks are charged for but continental breakfasts can now be ordered to the room free of charge. There is a fridge in the room. The bathroom in our cabin had a ¾ sized bath with a very good shower above and all other facilities were fine. A dressing gown was provided on request. Towels were provided for pool side use and all linen and toweling was changed every day. Spotless service and to be commended. The balcony was a very good size with 2 comfortable chairs and a coffee table and was well sheltered. Air conditioning was superb and practically silent and draught free. A television gave facts and service about our ship, our itinerary, our current position, a range of details about excursions and a wide range of films, TV programmes and BBC or Sky News. The ship is equipped with its own mobile phone aerial and processing unit so mobile phone calls were possible even out at sea. Prices seemed to be the same or similar as for land mobile phones - in other words expensive compared to landlines. There is a computer room for access to the Internet at charges that vary upon usage. We didn't use them but the prices were not too bad at £16 for 100 minutes or £10.50 for use throughout the cruise. You can use your own laptop on their wireless service for a nominal fee per day. There is a very good supply of general public areas including a swimming pool that has a retractable roof with a large area for relaxation. Very welcome on this trip to the top of Norway. There is an abundance of bars, a disco, a library, a very well equipped gym and health spa and everything else mentioned in the brochure. There seemed to be plenty of space and availability of services for everyone with the one exception of the self service dining room but more about that later. The theatre was excellent with a very good variety of mixed entertainment of a high quality. Although very full at times, we always managed to find seats and they were comfortable with a good view in air conditioned comfort. If we have any criticism at all of Arcadia, it would be for its rather 1980ish dEcor everywhere. Full of browns and creams. Not to our taste but presumably P&O know their market and supplied their flagship only 2 years ago with a known preference with their regular clients. Not the sort of detail to determine whether one travelled by the ship or its cruse destinations but a bit of a let down in our view. Even the funnel is a bland dark cream above a white hull compared to the exciting colors and shapes of Constellation. Another 'Wow' factor difference between the two ships of comparable age and size. Dining is either at table in the two floors of the Meridian dining rooms or the Belvedere Self Service. There is also speciality dining at the Gary Rhodes Restaurant or the Orchid room but we did not sample either of these facilities. The Belvedere self service area is full of frustrating features - some of which could perhaps be easily improved upon and others that are design problems with no easy remedy. The biggest problem of all is that it is too small. Compared to Constellation, there appears to be some 250/300 less seats as the seating area is much narrower. Constellation has the dining area extended right to the vessel's side and indeed parts of it overhang the ship's side with dramatic glass floor panels with views of the sea below! Arcadia doesn't and at times there were a lot of grumbles about the lack of seating. In warmer climates, it would be possible to eat outside around the rear swimming pool, but this was never really an option on this cruise. The layout of the food on offer does not flow and there are constant flows and counter flows of people searching for the item that they missed. Salads are arranged lengthways along the ship but the cold meats and fish are in the cross bays out of sight of the first queue and you have a second queue to face to complete your meal. At breakfast you also have to queue for your coffee and fruit juice whereas on Constellation, the coffee was served at table by stewards. Many of the salads and dishes are placed almost out of reach behind the protective screens. However on the plus side there are masses of staff and the tables are kept spotless and the staff are charming and efficient. The Meridian dining experience is probably where the Britishness of the whole experience is most noticeable on Arcadia. Both ships supply superb food served by marvellous waiters. There really is no other way of travelling for 14 days and being supplied with such high quality food and served by such well trained and hard working staff. How the staff manage so consistently well to serve so many people for two separate sittings is a daily miracle. My hat goes off to them all. We chose to eat at the first sitting on each vessel as we find that the finishing time of around 10.00pm too late for comfort if choosing the second sitting. All a personal choice. My wife is vegetarian and for her the highlight of a cruising holiday is the daily availability of top class vegetarian cuisine with a choice of starters and main courses. European land holidays have been ruined on past holidays by the complete lack of vegetarian option let alone a choice, but cruise ships supply an immense range of menus that are frequently changed. The big difference of the two ships is that Constellation has a daily vegetarian menu offered at the start of each dinner featuring several starters and main courses, whereas Arcadia offers the same range but the choice has to be made the evening before. So you end up choosing the next meal before eating the current one! There is also a daily vegetarian option on the main menu. She tells me that the food was excellent and varied on both ships. The general menu is very British on Arcadia and is excellent. Good sized portions and well balanced. Our only criticism in both the Meridian and Belvedere restaurants was the synthetic nature of the dessert ingredients. All the cream was fresh on Constellation but only UHT on Arcadia and the desserts were very heavy and gluteus on Arcadia. At least we did not eat too many and we kept our weight down, but again a small point became an issue after a while. Wine prices are considerably cheaper on Arcadia than Constellation but the range of selection is more than adequate on both ships. Dress code is more formal and more respected on Arcadia than Constellation. Maybe its because Constellation clientele are nearer 80% American whereas Arcadia's is 99% British that makes the difference. Suitcase weights whilst flying to Europe must be a consideration and so too is the British love of formality, but I would guess that more than 80% of men wear Dinner Jackets on Arcadia compared to perhaps 50% on Constellation. The other 20% wear suits on Formal nights on Arcadia. Informal nights are also very smart on Arcadia with the majority in suits or formal jackets and trousers. Casual nights were mostly jacketless but still smart casual. There are more photographers on Arcadia than Constellation and they cover many of the excursions as well as the formal nights on board. Prices on Constellation were also three times more expensive than those on Arcadia. Arcadia also has a far more amenable staff who are very willing to help out on camera problems and other aspects of photography other than just trying to sell you their own photos. However Arcadia's interior design is less photogenic as a background. Shopping on Arcadia is extensive and there is a fine selection of evening and day wear, perfume, jewelry, watches, souvenirs and also an excellent selection of toiletries, sweets, flowers and duty frees. There are the usual Art Auctions but a very peculiar range of paintings and it still beats me why anyone should want to buy a picture whilst cruising- but there you go. One man's meat etc etc! There is a very good range of excursions covering all tastes and pockets. Norway is not the cheapest place to visit but all the trips that we went on were excellent value for money and we never had any disappointment. Personally I think that the Flam railway is over-hyped but that is by the railway company rather than P&O. The Flam railway website is full of superlatives but the train spends much of its time in tunnels and having been on it a couple of times now, I do believe that there are other just as attractive railway lines in the UK-such as to Kyle of Localsh, Mallaig or indeed the Settle and Carlisle railway. We later found out that the railway excursion from Andalsnes to Bojli was to us even better for scenery. We were incredibly lucky to have superb weather at North Cape. After a day of thick fog, we dropped anchor at Honningsvag in glorious sunshine and had a beautiful ride by local school bus through stunning countryside before arriving at a very commercialized North Cape Centre. Very similar to Lands End and full of camper vans and bikers. 'North Cape or bust' comes to mind. The video is well worth watching in the underground theatre, but the main attraction is the globe monument on the cliff-top with its longitude and latitude marks. You really are near the top of the world. Have a look at a globe to see just how far north you will be travelling - and yet it is really very warm. The Gulf Steam passes by and they never have any sea icing. We had the most glorious Midnight Sun as the Arcadia later cruised slowly past North Cape from 23.00hrs until 01.00hrs. A lady next to me had been on 6 previous cruises to North Cape and this was the first time that she had been lucky enough to see the Midnight Sun, so you are not guaranteed to see this wonderful phenomena. If you are booking a trip from the ship, try and book the first possible time as the transport arrangements are a bit in a short supply and you also have to use the tenders to reach shore. Several people on board had marvellous experiences on the Bird Safari trip and said that it was well worth the cost. Again you will have to be lucky with the weather and have to balance off the risk of booking early in the UK and taking the weather as it comes, or waiting to see what the weather might be and risk not having the choice of destination and time of excursion. My own view is to take the risk but it is your call. We also went on the long day excursions of 'Norway in a Nutshell' from Flam, 'Geirangerfjord' from Olden and 'The Alps of the North' from Tromso and can recommend all three trips as good value and fascinating trips. The towns of Stavenger, Trondheim and Bergen can easily be visited on your own with ships berthing very close by to the main town centres. The 82,000 ton ship is steered into the most amazing small spaces and the Master took the greatest care to see that we had the best views of fjord countryside including glaciers. The ship seems to spin round on a sixpence but provides a stable platform for wonderful photographic opportunities of countryside and also sea patterns caused by the ship changing course. We were somewhat surprised to find that there is very little birdlife and we never saw any sea creatures either. We had gone equipped with telescopes and binoculars but used neither to any great extent and would not bother if we went again. Then sadly it eventually came time to turn for home and the incredibly smooth Arcadia set off at 22 knots across the North Sea towards Southampton. She had been on time -almost to the minute- at every port and so it was at Southampton where we arrived at 7 am. Our luggage had been taken from our cabins at 5pm the previous evening and we found it all laid out by Deck letters in the Terminal. We had colored cards giving us a disembarkation time of 8.15am as we were joining the Eavesway coach and this all happened punctually and easily. Coaches were lined up immediately outside the Terminal and we left at 9 am precisely - just 45 minutes from leaving the ship. Even though it was an August Saturday, we were safely deposited in Preston at 3.30pm feeling relaxed and very happy. It was a wonderful holiday, well worth every penny and we would recommend the Arcadia trip to Norwegian Fjords to anyone interested in an interesting itinerary for scenery. There are no big towns with cathedrals and castles such as on the Baltic cruises, but the company and its crew do their utmost to make you comfortable, feed you superbly and to show you the best that Norway has to offer with its fantastic scenery. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
My husband and I had done only 1 cruise before embarking on Arcadia in February 2008 to cruise the Caribbean, The Panama Canal and up to Acapulco. Our first cruise was on QE2 and so we thought it would be interesting to compare P&O ... Read More
My husband and I had done only 1 cruise before embarking on Arcadia in February 2008 to cruise the Caribbean, The Panama Canal and up to Acapulco. Our first cruise was on QE2 and so we thought it would be interesting to compare P&O with the Cunard experience. Our flight from Manchester to Barbados was good and we had upgraded on the First Choice Flight. We had been fortunate as people who had travelled with Thomas Cook also from Manchester were disgusted with their flight seats and the space, or lack of it, in economy. Transfer from the aircraft to the cruise terminal in Bridgetown was excellent and we were soon in our cabin. We thought the cabin was about the same size as the one we had on QE2. However, this time we had a balcony which was a definite advantage over the 2 portholes on QE2. The cabin was well appointed although there was no shampoo provided. I thought this was penny pinching to the extreme. You get shampoo in a basic motorway lodge in the UK. Also there were no dressing gowns which we had had on QE2. Our room steward was from Goa and he knew a hotel we had stayed at there some years ago. He was very polite and efficient. We had booked for second sitting at dinner but when on board discovered that this did not start until 20.45. As we did not want to eat that late we changed to first sitting at 18.30. The only alternative to this for dinner (unless you wanted to pay extra) was to go to the Belvedere Buffet Food Court which was about as exciting as a works canteen in decor and facilities. We soon found that dining at 18.30 was a little early as we missed a lot of the sailaway parties so we decided that if we cruised again with P&O we would choose Freedom Dining. The food was OK but a definite notch down from what we had on QE2. The waiter service in the dining room was good except for delivery of the vegetables on to you plate. They were plonked anywhere on the plate (often over the food that was already on there) rather than being nicely placed in a suitable space on the plate (as we had on QE2). Likewise, on QE2, the petits fours came on a large tray and you were invited to choose. On Arcadia, a few biscuits were literally dumped on a small plate - some not even the right way up and the plate just left on the table. I know the waiters are hard pressed to get diners out of the restaurant to get the tables relaid for the second sitting but it is these small things which leave the wrong impression in peoples' minds. The Belvedere Food Court was self - service. We had breakfast there most days but only dined there on 2 nights. It is the most confusing place to find your way around as they have different types of food on each side of the serving area. Getting a coffee or tea was often a scramble as people converged on the 2 machines dispensing the water and coffee. This was not a good place to be if you visited it at a busy time. About a week into the cruise, our wine waitress announced that they would shortly run out of bottles of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and this proved to be true. Then about 3/4 days before the end of the cruise you could not get a proper tonic anywhere on the ship. They had slimline which does not taste right with gin or vodka but no proper tonic!! We think that there should be some tightening up on the re-ordering of items to be taken on board at each port. The weather for the entire cruise was fantastic - virtually wall to wall sunshine every day. The itinerary was varied and interesting and involved new places for us to visit. The Panama Canal transit was the highlight. We did quite a few organized trips when in port. In Aruba we did a snorkeling trip which took us to a shipwrecked vessel. This was very dangerous and most people were out of the water and back on board the snorkel vessel within a few minutes. P&O should review whether to keep this trip on their books. We did an evening trip to Panama City which was billed as a walking tour. However we soon found out that the tour guides were to take us to 2 museums instead. This did not go down at all well with us and our fellow passengers. Spending time in a museum at 22.00 after a full day transiting the Panama Canal was not most people's idea of fun. The best trip was in Huatulco where we went on an Eco Bird Watch walk. We were not that interested in taking part in the daytime activities on board ship when at sea, preferring instead to find a sun bed and relax. However, the evening entertainment was pretty abysmal. As mentioned we were in first sitting for dinner and this meant that by 20.15 we were just about finished in the dining room and looking for some entertainment. We soon found that if you did not want to go to the show (or perhaps did want to go but could not get a seat) there was nothing else going on throughout the ship for at least an hour - say between 20.30 and 21.30. We visited various bars including the pub and when we got there the act was playing but as soon as the dining room announced that it was time for second sitting dinner, all the acts closed down and the place was like a ghost ship. This is not good enough. With about 2 days to go to the end of the cruise, it was announced that there had been an outbreak of the Norovirus disease and various cleanliness measures were brought in. Fortunately we were not affected but we thought that in general and prior to the outbreak of the disease, there was a more lax approach to disinfecting hands on entry to restaurants than there was on QE2. Unfortunately the night before disembarkation it was announced that our flight was delayed by 8 hours and as we had to be out of our cabin by 07.00 on the day of disembarkation, this made for a long hot and tiring day before we even got to the airport. It also meant that we were soon mingling with new passengers who had arrived at Acapulco early and who could not all gain access to their cabins!! We were very much on our own at the airport as there were no P&O staff in attendance. I thought this was surprising. It was as if once you had left the ship P&O were not bothered about you. In summary we enjoyed the cruise overall but there were some shortfalls and it was not to the standard we had on QE2. However, undaunted, we have booked to go on Ventura so will see if she is any different. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
Overview of cruise Feb 22nd - March 7th on Arcadia. CRUISE ITINERARY : Flew to Barbados, and visited Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba, Limon (Costa Rica), Panama Canal, Fuerta Amador, Puerto Quetzal (Guatemala), Huatulco (Mexico) and Acapulco. ... Read More
Overview of cruise Feb 22nd - March 7th on Arcadia. CRUISE ITINERARY : Flew to Barbados, and visited Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba, Limon (Costa Rica), Panama Canal, Fuerta Amador, Puerto Quetzal (Guatemala), Huatulco (Mexico) and Acapulco. There were also 5 sea days and technically the Panama was also a sea day. This was a superb itinerary and I can highly recommend it to anyone. The ports all varied greatly and there was something for everyone. The transit of the Panama Canal was fantastic. It took all day, but it was well worth getting up at 6am for !! WEATHER : Superb. Glorious weather every day. The lowest temperature was 79f and many days it was in the high 80's. TOURS : I did tours in Grenada (Rum Runner) ; Limon (Banana Train) , Puerto Quetzal (La Antigua Guatemala on your own). All were good. I and my friends did our own things in the other places and often did things that tours were doing, but did them much more cheaply. It helped that I have a friend living on Bonaire who sorted that day out for us. ARCADIA SERVICE : On the whole very good indeed from everyone. The Meridian Restaurant waiters worked very hard indeed due to the large size of the restaurant, they have to bring the food a long way. Breakfast room service does need to be looked at as it is very rarely delivered correctly. Every day they missed something off the list of requests. It wasn't just us. Everyone in our group who used this service reported a similar problem. They seem to think each cabin contains just one person and very rarely provide for 2 or more. The reception and tours staff appear not to be able to deal with complainants very well. I had no cause to complain but sometimes stood behind people who were and the staff tend to be very defensive and offer unsatisfactory explanations that tend to be fob offs. Customer service in this respect needs to be looked at. This ship appears to be somewhat worse than the other ships I have been on in that respect. The crew and staff are very friendly and pleasant, and bar service is good. ENTERTAINMENTS STAFF / ENTERTAINMENT : worked very hard indeed. The men were very personable, although the girls tended to be a bit stand offish and really rather snooty. The Entertainments Officer was Gary Gladding and he did a good job. He did a commentary during the Panama passage which was superb. The singers and dancers were clearly chosen for one show (Cirque Arcadia) using their aerial and acrobatic abilities. The rest of the shows suffered as a result being rather bland and having no impact. The boys were very good dancers and looked good, the girls were less capable and were statuesque as opposed to dynamic. The 2 principal singers did little dancing and sang adequately, but none of the company were notable for vocal prowess. One of our party is a professional musical director in her own right and she thought the vocals of the team were abysmal at every show. The cabaret acts were Alan Stewart (very very good) ; Bobby Crush (who was himself as usual !!) ; a female singer more suited to a pub or cabaret club, and a classical pianist duo who I am told were very very good. Jon and Dan Snow were on board for lectures. I am told they were good. The Arcadia Orchestra were superb, and the other 4 bands on board were all good. ARCADIA SHIP : The exterior looks magnificent and the ship is very handsome indeed. It is a large ship. The lack of a large atrium means there is no real focal point, and this makes the ships layout difficult to get to grips with. Using the scenic elevators as a focal point really helps. There are some impressive spaces such as Palladium Theatre and the Crows Nest and the Orchid Restaurant and Bar, but too many of the public rooms are rather bland and lacking in any real atmosphere, including Arcadian Rhodes. The Meridian restaurant is especially bland and lit too lightly and lacks ambience and atmosphere. There is an impressive amount of deck space and there was never a long search for a deck lounger (as there is on the other P&O ships). The sun deck above Orchid is often overlooked by many and there is always plenty of space up there. There is no dedicated cinema. Films were sometimes shown in Palladium Theatre, but usually were shown in the Ocean Room (a sort of lecture room with uncomfortable stacking seats) and as a result were poorly attended. Cafe Vivo is a fun little place which we visited almost every day. There are too many plain corridors and the photo shop seems to get bigger with every new ship. The lower floor of the 2 tear dining room has a bad vibration at the centre rear due to being right over the propulsion of the ship. The Belvedere Buffet is a real problem. The food is OK there, but the layout is confusing at first with its different sections causing different queues. There was no effective signage instructing folk in which direction to queue and this led to problems and conflict. There were many complaints about this place. ARCADIA FOOD : Sadly, not as good as on the other P&O ships I have been on. The food in Arcadian Rhodes is superb, as it is in Orchid Restaurant, but in the main restaurant there is a real problem with the food being luke warm when it comes to the table. We were sat right in a far corner of the restaurant. We spoke to people sat near the kitchen doors who said their food was always piping hot. Our party of 29 were sat across 4 tables and at various times during the cruise, group members had to return meals that were almost cold. Not good I am afraid. The restaurant is just too big to be effective and as a result the waiters are having to work overtime to keep up with things. Some meals there were superb (especially the formal nights), many were as to be expected, but some were no better than one could get in any local bistro back home and that's not what we have come to expect of P&O ships. There is one place on the ship which must rank as the very worst food I have ever had afloat. The Neptune's Buffet Bistro by the pool. I ate here once and it was completely vile. ARCADIA ATMOSPHERE : This was the first time I and my party had cruised on an over 18's ship , and it will probably be the last, unless we chose such a ship for the itinerary. OK, we didn't have the kids and teenagers (but they are usually well looked after and controlled on the family ships such as Oceania, Oriana and Aurora), but what we didn't have as a result was their parents, who are typically aged in their 30's, 40's and 50's. (We are in our 40's). There were very few of this age group on board and as a result the atmosphere on board was quite dull at times. By half past midnight the ship was dead apart from a few pockets of life and certainly by 1am there was nothing happening at all. There were a few younger couples who stood out because they were so few in number. The majority of the passengers were aged 60+ and while they seemed to be enjoying themselves, it can never be as lively as when you have all age groups on board. THE BUG : sadly the last 3 days of the cruise had the dreaded bug on board. It appeared to be a mild form and was apparently brought back on board a Puerto Quetzal. 4 of my party got it, but it was being sick once and having a bit out the other end, and feeling unwell for a day. Didn't sound like norovirus. There were quite a few cases and the ship handled this well with the usual restrictions in place. Everything handed to you in buffet and restaurant, toilet doors remaining open etc etc. One anomaly in the restaurant. They handed the pre-packed sugar and salt to you with tongs, and then brought the toast in an open rack for all the table to handle !!! We enjoyed this cruise very much, but found a lot more to criticize than usual. It didn't spoil anything however, and the experience was still far better than any land based holiday could be. I haven't been put off P&O yet, but there are many people wondering if standard are being cut too much in an effort to keep prices down. P&O might loose support to Princess Cruises if they are not careful. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
I am just coming to the end of my first ever cruise and wanted to write a review to give others who may just be considering trying it for the first time, a taste of what they will have to come if they take the plunge! My husband and I ... Read More
I am just coming to the end of my first ever cruise and wanted to write a review to give others who may just be considering trying it for the first time, a taste of what they will have to come if they take the plunge! My husband and I wanted to try cruising as the glamour really appealed to us and I don't like to fly so this seemed like a good choice. We usually can only take one holiday a year as don't have too much annual leave, so with some trepidation we booked with P&O on Arcadia - as the thought of no kids running around really appealed to us. It was no effort at all getting to Southampton and as soon as we arrived our bags were whisked away and were waiting for us in our room when we got on board 30 minutes or so later. As a newby this was astounding to us, as we're used to having to lug the bags around with us and take hours, if not most of a day, to get to your destination. The first evening we were nervous about going to our table, we had opted for a table for 8 on the later sitting at 8.30. I'm not going to say that we will be lifelong friends with everyone at our table but two I can honestly say we will stay in touch with. It was so refreshing to be with sociable, likeminded people of our own age (early 40's). When you go to a hotel you just don't have the opportunity to meet people and we have always kept to ourselves, but I will definitely miss this element of the holiday next time I'm in a hotel on land. We will definitely opt for a big table on our next cruise and fingers crossed we are so fortunate the next time around. Some of the entertainment on board the Arcadia wasn't always to our taste but we just enjoyed having a lovely dinner each night then having a few drinks, sometimes we did the quiz and sometimes we just sat on our balcony enjoying some time together. There are few places that I've been to around the world that are as romantic as a private balcony with the water below washing by. It was also great as this was a Baltic cruise so it didn't get dark until 11pm in the evenings. We tried all the restaurants on board and absolutely loved the Arcadian Rhodes one, especially as Gary Rhodes was on board for the last few days and this made it even more special. He cam by our table at the end of dinner and that was fantastic - an opportunity that we will probably never have again. The Orchid was also nice and the buffet was really convenient for breakfast and lunch, with a good selection of food. Seating could sometimes be a bit of a problem but certainly nothing to get worked up about. We always found a table within a couple of minutes. Our cabin was spacious and had some lovely finishing touches like the spa products in the bathroom. Our steward was amazingly helpful and it really seemed like nothing was too much trouble. There were a lot of ports and we did a couple of organized excursions and the rest of the time just mooched around the town. The weather was fantastic so it was always nice to get back on board again in the afternoon to soak up some rays with a cocktail by the pool. We were by no means the youngest on board but because there are no children the average age of passengers did seem to be towards the mid to late 50's. This was fine and everyone we met and chatted to was very similar minded to us and were just enjoying themselves. I am so glad that we decided to try cruising and I will definitely be going again. Next time I think I would try a ship with children on board as think this would mean a few more people our own age. I would be tempted to try another line as we don't tend to stick with the first thing we try, but I don't fancy the American lines as think they'll be too glitzy for us. I cannot fault P&O from my experience, the service was fantastic and the communication I received before and during this cruise has been second to none. Easily as good as any hotel I've ever stayed in. It just took a bit of getting used to being waited on hand and foot - it's like being in a 5* hotel but we got a great discount so easily the best value for money I've experienced. I hope this review helps any potential cruisers make their decision. Do it - you will love it!! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
We were a bit concerned that we had done the right thing for our 30th wedding anniversary by booking a P & O cruise to the western Med for 14 nights June 2008. We found the queue to embark at Southampton long and it was a tiring 3/4 of ... Read More
We were a bit concerned that we had done the right thing for our 30th wedding anniversary by booking a P & O cruise to the western Med for 14 nights June 2008. We found the queue to embark at Southampton long and it was a tiring 3/4 of an hour wait, but it was very well organized and after registering our credit card and going through the security checks, were on board soon enough, and shown to the Belvedere dining lounge for lunch. Our cabin was then ready and we went down to E deck and found our luggage had been delivered very efficiently. I must say it was more enjoyable than flying and far less tiring at the end of the day. We did not have far to travel to the docks so that most certainly helped in our case. We found the Arcadia a lovely ship, very large, and it most certainly took us several days to get accustomed to it all and where to find places on the ship. Our ports of call were Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Santa Margherita, Rome, Alicante and Gibraltar. We booked 6 shore excursions and found most of them very good value and good fun. We went to Elche when at Alicante and although it is not mentioned in the itinerary of the trip, we were finally taken to a shoe factory for a film show.. all very fast, so not much time to browse at the shoes!! Rome was very warm, and we just did a one stop tour of it. Dining on the Arcadia is very good, we found the standard of catering en masse surprisingly hot. Breakfasts can be either waiter served in the Meridian, or buffet style in the Belvedere.This is the same arrangement for lunches or dinner. Even though you are allocated a dinner table in the Meridian you can choose to dine in the Belvedere buffet, or pre book the Arcadian Rhodes or Orchid Restaurant at extra cost which we did on our anniversary, and the wine and extra charges came to £55 extra. We found all service on the Arcadia very good, the staff are of course trained to a high level in the restaurants and we found the Arcadian Rhodes restaurant even more efficient and polite! It certainly is above what we expected..and having read a lot of reviews before we went I was really quite concerned that we were "doing the right thing" but after a day or so we both agreed we had never expected it to be so lovely as we were experiencing. Entertainment in the Palladium was truly excellent and I suppose I was expecting a cirque act as according to many reviews that it all that was mentioned, but in our case we had a wonderful group of extremely talented young singer/dancers for the whole two weeks along with Carlos Santana of Paper Lace fame who entertained us one evening and a comedienne magician on another night. Anyone that dances should have a wonderful time to the big band sounds in the Crow's Nest or disco. We found our cabin very comfortable, two single beds, but these can be put together if you so wish and a small balcony. We found our cabin adequate in size for the time you spend there, as there is alot going on all over the boat throughout the day and for anyone that enjoys art auctions,or jewelry shows, beauty shows, ice sculpting, internet lessons, and much more beside the deck games, golf etc. We took our own laptop but was unable to connect to the internet, we waited for an assistant for half an hour then gave up. If you use their computers, they are expensive, and at the start of the cruise it was £8.50 for only 15 mins. I had an Indian/Balinese head massage in the therapy room, followed by a wash and blow dry £55. I must say I did not like the oils used for the "massage" if you can call it that, as it was for me very sore indeed, and I was very pleased when it was over, which was not long thank goodness. The hair "do" was very quickly done, as it was a "formal night" and I guess they were very busy in there... however I was back combed and sprayed, which I haven't had in years !!! Maybe they are only used to much older clients !!!!!!! I am 55. Anyway it gave my hubby a laugh when he saw my Cilla Black hair do as he called it. I went again a few days later just for a wash a blow dry and had a young man who was more switched on and it looked really nice when he had finished. My advice on that one is to be very strict about what you would like done and refuse to be bullied into anything else. Regarding the massage thing, make sure you know what they intend as if you have any tender bits it can really hurt for a few days afterwards as it did in my case. We found the disembarkation a bit long winded, but when you consider how many people have to get off, it has to be done by Decks and as we were on E deck our time for going was 9.25 am. Others of course were before starting at 7 am. You have to vacate your cabin by 8 am. (Big suit cases are collected the night before so you have to have your clothes to dine the last night in which is a smart casual night and to go home in) We just about made it 7 am taking our hand luggage down to breakfast, had breakfast, then waited to be called to disembark, which was done very quickly and we had a taxi waiting so we were relieved not to be stopped in the customs hall on the way out. We will be cruising again soon!! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
If you're under 60 - then our strong advice is DON'T GO ON ARCADIA!! The mean average age on our cruise was 68 (with a median probably over 70??!!). Virtually all the entertainment was geared toward OAP's. First time ... Read More
If you're under 60 - then our strong advice is DON'T GO ON ARCADIA!! The mean average age on our cruise was 68 (with a median probably over 70??!!). Virtually all the entertainment was geared toward OAP's. First time cruisers, my wife (43) & I (51) - & both retired - didn't fit in as we did not waltz or quick step, we're not into quizzes, don't like deck quoits or "art auctions", don't want to see a show where everything being performed was written before we were born etc etc. Even Tom O'Connor geared his act up to the 70-somethings. We paid top whack for a quality cabin (A62) & foolishly expected a "stateroom with balcony" but actually got a cabin that was below Travel Inn standard. Even the dismal wardrobes were inadequate & not fit for purpose as you could not hang your suits without them being crushed in. The balcony was consistently wet & unusable. This misnomer is simply taking the proverbial! We ate at Arcadian Rhodes: dismal experience as the food came out cold (& was sent back) plus it was so salty that it rendered it virtually inedible - yet the staff were not bothered by our complaints. We sat down at 8.30 & it was a relief to leave at gone midnight. The Meridian restaurant was generally of an expected standard although even that wavered a few times such that we ate at The Belvedere self-service a couple of nights. Swimming pools? Well, the Neptune Pool area with its uncomfy fixed-back loungers was usually an unpleasant area & the Aquarius Pool area was simply small & crowded. We usually went up to the higher levels where there was always plenty of sun beds (probably due to the fact that the average cruiser was too old to negotiate the stairs!). Night Club: yes but very small and not enough people young enough to use it - it didn't get going at all until around 1.00am & most people had gone to bed ages ago! Good points? Not many! The staff (generally) were simply exceptional. The social aspect of cruising was surprisingly pleasant. The Crows Nest bar area was generally excellent (until then the quiz took over at 11.00pm when we and friends we'd met there usually went elsewhere or to bed). The Spa & gym were of a high standard (although very hard sell on their products- be warned!!). Finally, be aware of the fact that Arcadia has a propulsion problem such that the whole ship vibrates - particularly on higher decks: if it was a car then you'd take it back! It certainly shakes you to sleep!! All the above points were reported to P & O whilst we were still aboard, but I've not received any written response from them. The Cruise Director (aboard) was deeply concerned that we'd researched this break yet still got aboard a ship that was highly unsuitable for our age group & that our expectations were totally different to reality. I've since re-read the brochure & there is nothing that I've seen that suggests that this is an O A P cruise ship: you have been warned!! To P & O - come clean about the condition of the port propulsion unit & also make it clear to anyone booking that everything is geared toward pensioners! In summary, our opinion is that this was the worst value-for-money break we've ever had. Would we travel with P & O again - doubtful right now! Would we cruise again - definitely but we will book a standard room (at less than half what we paid) and check thoroughly the likely age of passengers! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2008
Please enter your review. P&O North Cape & Norwegian Fjords J814 - Arcadia - 21 July 2008 (13 nights) This review gives my personal view only. I realize that all aspects are purely subjective and that others may have a very ... Read More
Please enter your review. P&O North Cape & Norwegian Fjords J814 - Arcadia - 21 July 2008 (13 nights) 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 - no weight restrictions! The ship: General Arcadia is a modern, 80,000 ton ship with all the usual amenities. It is also an 'all adult' ship so the age range was generally older than we are used to. I would estimate the average age of the passengers to have been around 65 which made the atmosphere relatively sedate and quiet. It was also 'very British' as there were only a handful of passengers from other countries. The decor is muted with lots of wood and plenty of interesting art work. There were 4 formal nights (held on the sea days), 6 semi-formal nights and 3 smart casual nights. The majority of the passengers adhered to the dress code. Cabin (E187): 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 favorably with those of the other cruise lines Food: 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. Amenities: 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. The cruise 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 (11.15a.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 4.00p.m. Ports: We decided not to do many organized 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 colorful wooden buildings nestled among the hills. There were 7 cruise ships in that day so everywhere was very crowded. Arcadia was docked about ½mile from the town center 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 (£7)pp 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 harbor 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 colored wooden shops by the harbor 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 center 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 8.00a.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 8.35a.m. The station is about ¼mile 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 8.35a.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 realized 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 colorful and well kept gardens before we reached the village center. 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, reveling 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 center. 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 center 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 colored wooden houses with pretty flower displays. We wandered this district for a little while before heading into the modern town center. 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 1.00a.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 12.30p.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 center 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 center. 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 center. 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 center 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 favorite of the larger ports. Arcadia docked right in the center 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 artifacts. 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 center 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 harbor 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 colorful 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. Disembarkation: We were issued with brown cards which gave us a disembarkation time of 10.10a.m. This was the last time so, as we had to vacate our cabin by 8.ooa.m., we had a leisurely breakfast and then found a quiet spot in the Orchid Bar to read while we waited for our call. The call came at 10 o'clock and we were off the ship and in the terminal by 10.05a.m. We found our luggage quickly but then the wait began. There were very long queues to go through customs and then a chaotic scene as people tried to get to the taxi rank or get their car keys. We finally pulled out of the car park at 11.00a.m. which I suppose, if you consider U.S. immigration and airport waits, was acceptable. Tips • Take fewer pieces of luggage and do the self disembarkation. We have done this on other cruise lines and been away in 20 minutes. Conclusion: 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. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
THE START Although we only live a couple of hours from Southampton, we decided to travel down the day before to make sure we didn't have any worries about being stuck in traffic en-route. The journey was horrible as it rained ... Read More
THE START Although we only live a couple of hours from Southampton, we decided to travel down the day before to make sure we didn't have any worries about being stuck in traffic en-route. The journey was horrible as it rained constantly all the way to Southampton. We stayed in our usual haunt, the Holiday Inn, just beside the docks and on getting to our room were greeted with the surreal sight of the Independence of the Seas almost immediately outside the window. Even though we were on the 7th floor, we seemed to be staring straight across at the IOTS Bridge! We watched both IOTS and Oceana sailing away at 5.30 in the wind & rain. There certainly were only a few hardy souls out on deck. That night we ate out at Banana Wharf in Southampton's Ocean Village marina. Despite getting soaked walking 100 yards from the taxi to the restaurant, we had a great meal there. It is buzzy, informal and serves good, reliable food. If it had been summer on 9th August(!) we would have enjoyed eating out on the terrace, overlooking the marina. After a swim in the hotel pool and a leisurely good quality breakfast the next morning, we checked out of the hotel about 1130 and drove the half mile or so to the Mayflower Terminal, dropped off the car with CPS and joined the queue to check-in to Arcadia. The desks opened just after 1200 and we snaked around the hall for about 25 minutes, which wasn't too bad. We had a suit carrier each and a small carry-on bag so immediately after boarding, we sneaked down to our cabin, saw our stewardess and just dropped the bags off before going straight back up to the Belvedere for lunch. After a leisurely spell there, watching others arriving at the terminal, we went down to Arcadian Rhodes to book a table, had a walk around the ship to reacquaint ourselves and then went back to the cabin to start unpacking. There was a stiff wind at sailaway but at least it was dry and bright so we were all out on the deck. We passed Oriana at the QE2 berth and headed out to sea. We then continued with the unpacking and nipped along to the sole ironing board on C deck to press the evening's shirts! THE SHIP For anyone reading this who is not familiar with Arcadia, she is a medium to large (by today's standards) ship built in 2005. She sails child-free and therefore all her facilities are for 'grown-ups'. She is very contemporary in style and her dEcor mixes many neutral tones with splashes of strong color. Some feel this makes her bland but I feel this is far from the case. She has one main two story restaurant plus alternative dining in a casual food-court and two speciality restaurants for a supplement. She has two good-sized swimming pools - one with a 'skydome' roof for inclement climes, five hot-tubs and a large spa with hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite. A huge art collection is seen throughout the public areas of the ship, which are quite open-plan, making them great for people-watching. Arcadia was due to have her first significant re-fit earlier this year and although she is generally in a good state, there were some areas that showed signs of needing the refit - for instance, the internal surfaces of the pools, some areas of carpeting (seemed to be stained rather than worn) and some of the fabrics of the soft furnishings. This ship has around 2000 passengers on her almost every day of the year so it is hardly surprising that after 3 years she deserves a spruce-up. The refit is now due at the end of 2008. We had a standard inside cabin, which was a good size with plenty of storage. I would however not choose one of these again for two reasons; the space in front of the wardrobes was very limited and lighting in a couple of places was very poor. When next on Arcadia, I would choose either a large inside or an outside. Beds were firm but comfortable with plenty of room underneath for storing suitcases - even our deep hard-sided ones. FOOD I had seen other reviews prior to our cruise that were quite critical about the food quality. As far as I was concerned, I had wasted my time worrying because for my taste, the food was some of the best in recent years whilst sailing with P&O. I particularly liked the way the menus included both traditional and contemporary/adventurous dishes on most nights. This meant that there was usually something for all tastes. A good example of this was Roast Gressingham Goose with Fondant Potato and also Seared Tuna with Pink Grapefruit Hollandaise & Coriander Cous Cous and on the dessert front, Chocolate & Caramel Mousse cake and also Roasted Fresh Peppered Pineapple. I thought the quality of meat & fish throughout the cruise was high. We were also pleasantly surprised at the quality of the buffet food in the Belvedere, which 2 years ago we thought was quite poor. We also ate once in Arcadian Rhodes and found the quality there still to be exceptionally high although, unusually, the service was a little hit & miss for us with others who arrived later than us 'catching up' with us by the end of the meal. ENTERTAINMENT The in-house theatre troupe, 'Headliners Theatre Company' was very good. They were all excellent dancers and several displayed competent but not exceptional solo voices. As a group and chorus, they worked very well. They put on around 7 production shows, many of which were new and very enjoyable. One or two did not really seem to quite come off though. House Bands were Dezso (good pianist but never spoke & had no personality), Kelly & Stuart (vocalist & instrumentalist), The Karoly Gaspar Jnr Trio (good Jazz/Cocktail music) and Powerhouse (versatile band with female vocalist). We enjoyed all of these and also the Arcadia Orchestra who provided the show music. Also on board were the Tritones and a classical duo, neither of which we got to see/hear. Cabaret was provided by Lisa Martin (Vocalist) & Dick Van Winkle (multi-instrumentalist), who did not seem to be particularly well thought of; the Opera Stars (who got good reviews) and Paul Hughes, a young swing singer who was fine when singing swing but when he tried to diversify died quickly, with a number of people leaving the Theatre. The 'star guests' were Peter Goodwright and Maurice Grumbleweed. Neither of these appealed to me remotely but those that did see them seemed to enjoy their shows. Guest Speakers were former footballer, Ian St John and Personal Financial Planner, Richard Allen, whose talks got more & more popular during the cruise. Cruise Director Sally Sagoe was very visible throughout the Cruise and packed every day (especially sea days) with an enormous selection of activities. The Entertainment Officers were also a very good Team, enthusiastically trying to make sure all had a great time. PORTS Malaga: Lovely, very Spanish small city. Lots to see with excursions out of the city available if desired. Weather was great. We had some personal business to attend to here but most passengers seemed to enjoy whatever they did. Zakinthos: We enjoyed the 'Island Highlights' tour we did here, which provided a very substantial Mezze - enough for lunch! We also had a walk around the Capital City which was pleasant enough but not very authentic. Very hot & humid here. Dubrovnik: We anchored off the old city and tendered straight in to the main tourist area. Also did a 'highlights' tour here. A quick drive out to a lovely viewpoint was followed by an informative walk around this lovely old city. Following that, we had a further wander around on our own before taking lunch in one of the side-streets off to the left of the main street (as you walk away from the harbor). It was called 'Longo' and is recommended! Venice: As stunning as ever but incredibly busy! We met a friend for drinks on the terrace of the Bauer Hotel, overlooking the lagoon, had a wander around and then had lunch at a small restaurant he recommended. Another little wander and then we got back on the transfer boat to the ship. The Lovely sail-in and sail-out encased a great day here. Korcula: A really lovely surprise. Arcadia was anchored off between Korcula Island and the Croatian Mainland so the views on all sides of the ship were really great. We tendered in to the foot of the tiny walled town and then had a good walk around the sights using the in-cabin guide. We were the only cruise ship in so it was not too crowded. After souvenir buying, we had a leisurely - and lovely - ice-cold beer in a cafe overlooking the water and then we grabbed a delicious local ice cream on the way back to the tender point. After a spot of late lunch on-board we sat and watched the huge variety of water-sports happening from a beach on the mainland, including an expert kite-surfer who kept 'buzzing' the side of the ship. Bari: Another day and another surprise. I had read that Bari was not worth getting off the ship for - thank goodness we did. We walked from the ship into the old town (around 10 minutes) and it was a real delight. A lovely cathedral, an impressive basilica and lots of really authentic, narrow little lanes filled with high buildings complete with elderly women dressed all in black and the washing hanging off the balconies. It is not big but definitely worth a visit in my books. It was just a shame that our day here had been cut to 4 hours because of the propulsion problem. Palma: Our last Port and a very enjoyable one too. Did the magnificent Cathedral, the San Francisco Basilica, wandered around the old town streets and then had a small beer and Tapa each at the foot of the main Avenida leading to the port area. Got the shuttle bus back to the berth in time to see Ventura slip her moorings. Just the sight of her reinforced my feelings that she is a 'ship too far' for my taste. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS Having seen a few critical posts about Arcadia of late, I was a little uneasy about returning after a great cruise on her in 2006. I was worrying needlessly. Yes, there is still the evidence of change/small cut-backs (no flags to wave at sail-away, no garlands for Tropical night etc) but overall, the standard of the cruise was very high. Food was really good, service great in the restaurant but only okay in the bars/lounges (ie very few waiters seemed to use your name when serving drinks or remembered what you drank) although no-one was surly or showed any poor attitude. The photographers were quite zealous in trying to make folks have pics taken but accepted gracefully if you firmly rebuffed their offers! The 'reception' staff were their usual bland selves. Never rude but never really appearing to want to be entirely helpful (but this always seems to be the same on most ships). We had a very enjoyable CC Meet on the first morning at sea when we were joined by the Cruise Director. The Commodore sent his (written) apologies as he had only just returned to the ship after leave. The problem with the Azipod propulsion unit meant we had shorter stays in some ports - particularly Malaga and Bari, which was a great shame. Our main cause for concern was in the Spa. We paid £50 each for 'unlimited access' for the entire cruise. For the first week, only 1 of the 3 thermal rooms was operational and although they were supposed to be 'aromatic' they certainly were not. Also, towels never seemed to make it into the gents lockers and all towels were in a very poor state with threadbare patches or holes and lots of loose threads around the edges (in the sort of state you might keep to dry a dog with!). The gents locker-room was also very untidy every evening we visited. We mentioned this to the staff on duty all the time but things only changed when we had the opportunity of raising it with James Cusick, Exec Purser. He got on to the case right away and new towels appeared - in the lockers and everywhere else around the Spa - and the one working steam room also acquired its aromatic status. The atmosphere on-board was very friendly and relaxed, with passengers spanning a wide age-range from 20s to 70+. I would say the biggest majority were in their 50s - far from a floating nursing home that some accuse Arcadia of being! We had great table companions in the Meridian Lower tier and met lots of really lovely people to pass the time of day with. We had about 4 or 5 days of not ideal weather (cloud and/or strong winds) but this was at least considerably better than at home. Would I book Arcadia again???? Now - where is that P&O brochure? You bet I would. THE ENDING We had breakfast in the Meridian having arrived back in Southampton and didn't feel in the least rushed. Afterwards, we retreated to the Piano Bar area to await our disembarkation being called, sauntered off the ship, found the cases etc very easily and collected the car from the car park. We left Southampton about 1015 and arrived home in Brighton about 1.30, having stopped off at the supermarket to stock up! We then looked at all the unpacking, washing, ironing etc and the Post Cruise Blues descended post-haste. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
After a wonderful cruise last year from Vancouver and Alaska on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas we had hoped to repeat the experience closer to home by taking this seven day Fjord Adventures cruise on Arcadia. Although previous ... Read More
After a wonderful cruise last year from Vancouver and Alaska on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas we had hoped to repeat the experience closer to home by taking this seven day Fjord Adventures cruise on Arcadia. Although previous reviews had forewarned us that this shape lacks a wow factor, we were disappointed to find that although elegantly decorated and furnished it didn't seem to have a focal point like the magnificent atrium on Radiance. This meant we were constantly getting lost for the first few days on board as we tried to navigate the maze of corridors and passages. CABIN: Our cabin though, a middle priced balcony on Dominica deck, was excellent. It was a good size with plenty of storage space, and we were pleased to find an excellent range of toiletries in the well equipped bathroom. The silver bon bon dish and vase containing a single red rose were also nice, welcoming touches. Our cabin steward Andre, was also a delight, he kept everything spotlessly clean, and always had a cheery smile. FOOD:We had opted for second sitting dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, and it was here that we met our biggest disappointment of the cruise. It quickly became apparent that the serving staff were over stretched, particularly the wine waiter who had far too many tables to serve - consequently our wine often didn't arrive until after we'd eaten the first course. The food was nowhere near as good as on Radiance. Although we are British and proud of it, we would like to have seen a more cosmopolitan choice of dishes. For instance roast turkey, and calves' liver are not dishes I would order if I was dining out in a good restaurant. On the first night I ordered grilled salmon with pancetta. The salmon was over cooked and dry and the pancetta had been incinerated. I didn't send it back because I felt sorry for the over worked waiting staff - but I should have done. The standard did rise slightly during the week, but for the most part we found the food stodgy and uninspiring. But the Belevedere self service restaurant was even worse. We only tried to eat there once when we overslept and were too late for the main dining room. After struggling to find a table, we then found the food on the hot plate looking greasy and unappetizing. The scrambled eggs were surely of the reconstituted variety and the toast was like leather. Trying to get a cup of coffee or tea was a nightmare as the first drinks station I went to the coffee and tea machines were out of order and consequently there was a huge queue at the next one. In the end we opted for glasses of what appeared to be watered down orange juice. Our culinary highlights of the week were when we paid supplements of £15 and £10 per head respectively to dine at the speciality restaurants Arcadian Rhodes and Orchid. The service at both was exemplary and we enjoyed meals which for a change titillated our taste buds. ENTERTAINMENT:I would rate the entertainment on Arcadia as generally very good. We particularly enjoyed the comedian Tucker who literally had us in tucks of laughter, and the singers and dancers of the ship's company also put on a good show. On the last morning of the cruise we also enjoyed a talk by retired Premiership soccer boss Tommy Doherty whose slightly salacious tales of life behind the scenes at Chelsea and Manchester United made us chuckle. Arcadia is a child free ship, which was something that had appealed to us when we booked, but on reflection, we found the lack of a mix of ages meant that the experience was not as much fun as we'd hoped. SHORE EXCURSIONS: I'd been advised by a colleague that excursions in Bergen, Alesund, and Stavanger, were unnecessary as these three ports are easy to get around on foot, and armed with a good guide books, that's just what we did. At Geiranger however we decided to take a tour which took in the summit of Mount Dalsnibba and then a trip to a traditional Norwegian Stave Church some 40 miles inland. We were fortunate that despite it being a cloudy morning the shroud lifted as we arrived at the top of the mountain and we had superb views to the fjord below where Arcadia looked like a toy boat. After that though, the trip went downhill fast in more ways than one. After a brief toilet stop we headed inland only to find the road ahead barred as it was closed for routine highway maintenance. Our Italian guide - an Italian showing us around Norway? explained that we would be stuck there for an hour until the road re-opened. Most of our fellow passengers decided to stay on the coach, but we walked down the hillside to a nearby lake. When the road re-opened we set off again, only to be told when we arrived at the church that there was no time to take the planned guided tour of it as we had to retrace our route before the road closed again for more work. We managed to grab a bottle of water from a gift shop, but that was all we had until 3.30 in the afternoon when we stopped for a cup of coffee or tea and a Danish pastry which were included in the £75 per head cost of the tour!! To say we were underwhelmed by the experience is an understatement -particularly as the road closures were pre-planned and the coach operator should have known about them SUMMING UP: For the most part we enjoyed our cruise on Arcadia - but would we repeat it? Probably not, as sadly the style and service of the food and the generally staid ambiance didn't really tick the right boxes for us. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
chris (56) and I (52) have just returned from a fabulous 7 night trip on arcadia. contrary to some reviews that we've read, we found it to be nothing like an OAP outing. yes, there were a lot of elderly people on board, but ... Read More
chris (56) and I (52) have just returned from a fabulous 7 night trip on arcadia. contrary to some reviews that we've read, we found it to be nothing like an OAP outing. yes, there were a lot of elderly people on board, but what's wrong with that? virtually all the guests were polite and well behaved, we did not witness any drunkenness or rowdiness that is sometimes associated with a younger crowd. and the joy of not having children running riot around the ship was wonderful! arcadia is a beautiful ship, every area we visited was very clean and comfortable (apart from the uncomfortable loungers around the neptune pool ), with very pleasing decor. our obstructed view cabin was larger than we expected,about the same size as our concierge class balcony cabin on celebrity constellation.there seemed to be plenty of space in all areas despite this trip being fully booked. as with most ships the buffet (belvedere) could get crowded at peak times, but we always got a seat. the main dining experience (meridian) was really good. we were fortunate in that we were seated with 2 very nice couples on our table for 6. our waiters, cajie, mankeesh and bosco were great, as was the food. we didn't feel the need to use the 'supplementary charge restaurants'. room service menu was a bit limited, and much of it incurred an extra charge. entertainment was ok, it would have been nice to have a pre dinner show a couple of nights (we were on 8.30 dinner sitting, so our show didn't start till about 11pm most nights). PORTS. Bergen-docked about 10 minutes walk from centre. easy to explore on our own (thanks to a bit of earlier research). old part very interesting. funicular (£7 return, £3.50 single) up mountain, fabulous views and lots of walking trails to follow, we walked back down to the centre (less than an hours walk).weather mainly dry and warm. expensive! Geiranger-took a tender ashore after lunch (rain am, but sunny pm). did ships excursion to mount dalsnibna, good value at £38 each. cruised back out of the fiord for several hours during the evening, we ate our (delicious) meal in the belvedere that evening at a window table to enjoy the sights. expensive! Alesund-docked here at 23.00 until 18.00 next day.poured with rain all morning but afternoon fine. walked into town (5 minutes) then to park to climb 418 steps to view point-worth it! expensive! Stavanger-pleasantly surprised by this place. sunny all day. docked right in the centre-fascinating and pretty old wooden houses, nice park with brilliant photo exhibition (spirit of the wild by steve bloom, on until 28 sept). expensive! we will definitely consider travelling on arcadia in the future Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
J818 PEARLS OF THE ARTHRITIC sorry Joan couldn't resist it. COMMOD'E BURGOINE AND HIS WONKY SHIP ARCADIA Let me begin, my first impression of the "ARCADIA" was a floating nursing home but not wanting to ... Read More
J818 PEARLS OF THE ARTHRITIC sorry Joan couldn't resist it. COMMOD'E BURGOINE AND HIS WONKY SHIP ARCADIA Let me begin, my first impression of the "ARCADIA" was a floating nursing home but not wanting to offend many of the good people I met onboard I will be generous and say that the average age must have been in the late 70's with their associated problems which meant that moving about the ship was a slow process! P&O would like us all to believe that this ship is floating Gleneagles but it isn't! The food is of a reasonable standard but nothing special and you don't get bingo and silly games at Gleneagles. The overworked and underpaid waiting and cabin staff (recruited in Mumbai and Goa), do a pretty good job which is more than can be said of the rest of the ships officers. The plastic cabins creaked and cracked all night long in the slightest swell ruining any chance of a good sleep. The daily newspaper tells us to wash our hands and make use of the hand gels available. These gels were only available in the self service restaurant and nowhere else! I know that gels are ineffective against some infections but they should be available everywhere as people handle rails throughout the ship. When I complained about this a "superior fatboy in a white suit" told me they were not necessary anywhere else other than the self service restaurant. Now it's the entertainment staffs turn. The musicians on board were I am sure individually quite good but it seemed impossible to get them to play the same tune at the same tempo together. A nightmare! The assistant entertainment officer would dance with the ladies but he looked like demented penguin with his flat feet I think he thought that rise and fall was something that the ship did. Surviving the band, a lot of people enjoyed dancing in the Globe but that didn't last the entertainment staff thought they were at PONTINS and would punctuate the dancing at 2030pm with asinine quizzes and games to stop the oldies from going to bed. In fact the best music on board was the CD they played between band breaks. Anyone who uses the ship's laundry service risks having shirts returned like corrugated cardboard washed and starched like tablecloths and pressed in an industrial roller. Wow it isn't like Gleneagles! Because the ship had a wonky engine the ship would always arrive late in port so trips were cancelled or curtailed ruining visits!!!!!!!!! I have a SATNAV which gives an accurate ETA something that evidently wasn't available to the commod'e!!!!!!!! Wake up P&O you are like the tattered remnants of the British Empire all show and no content. We should all receive an apology for J818. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
Although this might not have the razzmatazz of some of the American ships I still had a fantastic time, yes I missed the shops of the Royal Promenade & the shows could be at times hit and miss but the food was just equisite every ... Read More
Although this might not have the razzmatazz of some of the American ships I still had a fantastic time, yes I missed the shops of the Royal Promenade & the shows could be at times hit and miss but the food was just equisite every night. Our waiter even remembered that I didn't like parmesan on my caesar salad and so always arranged this without asking. The gary rhodes restaurant is WELL worth a visit as is the Fusion restaurant, for me the fusion restaurant was by far my favourite although my favourite tipple was in the Gary Rhodes - a cocktail made up of a shot of sloe gin topped up with champagne. Gorgeous. We spent every night in the nightclub as we were there as part of a large group. The pool area was lovely to relax around and I had a very relaxing massage in the spa that was worth every penny - I practicularly floated out. BIG TIP - If you want to have your hair done for Captains Cocktail then book as soon as you board. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
We are in our late 50s - not uncritical (we were very critical of our Ventura cruise earlier in the year) - but we're not "professional moaners" either - sorry, but we all know they are out there, waiting to ruin a good ... Read More
We are in our late 50s - not uncritical (we were very critical of our Ventura cruise earlier in the year) - but we're not "professional moaners" either - sorry, but we all know they are out there, waiting to ruin a good lunch. We've been on about 12 cruises - four different lines, and on P & O we'd tried Aurora,Arcadia and Ventura. For others like us out there, here's a positive review for the Arcadia for a Med. cruise October 2008 This was a "good standard" cruise on a "good standard" ship and excellent value for money. Food was possibly the best of any cruise, both in the main restaurant and the buffet. Only possible regret was that gala nights did not have anything particularly outstanding. Rhodes specialist restaurant had been more than excellent two years ago and was more than excellent again - it was the highlight of the cruise for us and we ate there 7 out of 14 nights - well worth the extra £15. Note that there are special offers (£10) on the first two nights and also two gourmet nights. (Yum yum as my wife would say) Staff everywhere were excellent. Attentive and friendly, without being servile (thank heavens!) We've sailed with this Captain (Ian Walters) before and like him and the feeling on his ships - friendly - you see the officers and staff around the ship. We weren't really aboard for the excursions, but had pleasant ones to Etna and Gibraltar. Note that if you don't fancy Rome, Civitavecchia is OK for a wander round - decent main street and market. Even at Palau we found a worthwhile ceramics shop about 15 mins up the main street on the left. All ports had free coaches where needed. We're not show people, but found the shows perfectly acceptable and some other reasonable entertainers. Speakers could maybe have been a bit more entertaining - but I'm OK with a book from the library. My wife liked the spa - as usual a bit expensive - but a cruise pass to the big hydropool, steam rooms etc. at £60 for 14 days was reasonable for a bit of luxury. She only swims in warm water and the covered pool was fine most days. We love our cruises but are sensible about what we can expect for the price. Excellent product P & O Read Less
Arcadia Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.6
Family 1.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.4
Enrichment 3.0 3.2
Service 4.0 4.1
Value For Money 4.0 3.4
Rates 4.0 3.7

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