Britannia Cruise Review by askmeanother
- Sail Date: December 2016
- Destination: Caribbean
Our first impression of the ship was that it was lovely with understated décor. It can be difficult to navigate and we did find ourselves at a dead end on a couple of occasions. The atrium is a big topic of conversation but for me whilst it is beautiful it lacks something intangible. There never seems to be any atmosphere so it is like a lovely waiting room. The lack of the usual lifts and only one staircase from deck 5 to 6 and 7 is strange and just not what we are used to. Not sure what the designers of the ship were trying to achieve here unless it was just to be different. The lifts are always busy and occasionally frustrating when they seemed to go to every floor except the one you wanted but hey we had a few laughs! There is a very good library which I made good use of as there were a few sea days on this cruise. As it was the Christmas cruise it was lovely to see all the trees and the decorations and the best thing that happened in the atrium for me was on Christmas Eve when the children sang carols – their little faces when it snowed at the end was wonderful to see. After their singing we all went on deck to see Father Christmas arrive on the funnel which is a great touch for the young ones. There is a very good gym on board which my husband made good use of but he was concerned that in the steam room there is no sign to alert users to the steam vent location and he worried that someone could get scalded. He did report this to reception but do take care if you use it.
We were on freedom dining and were allocated to the Meridian. I think the dining rooms are a big success for Britannia as the design and use of pillars gives the impression of lots of smaller rooms which is more intimate than the huge rooms that can feel a bit like a canteen. I also like that the waiters stations are hidden so avoiding all the clatter and rush right beside you. However the service in the dining room was a disappointment. There were of course exceptions but on the whole I found the service to be perfunctory at best and almost rude at times. This is the area where we can see the greatest effects of cut backs since our early days of cruising as the waiters just seem too busy to give you any attention. As a Coeliac I need a gluten free diet and I was looked after pretty well in this respect except that when the after dinner treats were served with coffee it was always with a 'not for you madam' with no attempt to offer something I could have and that really would not be difficult. This was especially disappointing on Christmas Day when mini mince pies, stollen cake and chocolates were brought out but nothing for me. It felt mean to be honest which I have already told P & O. The food on the whole was OK without having much in the way of a wow factor – the fillet steak on Christmas Day was beautiful however. I do wonder if this is a tactic to persuade more people to use the specialist restaurants on board. We never do this but there are quite a few to choose from. We used Horizon for breakfast and lunch and as it is a very large space we never struggled to find a table although we never mind sharing. There did seem to be lots of choice at breakfast although I always stick to gluten free toast. I was served by the same waiter nearly every morning for my toast and never once did he even smile at me despite my best efforts with him – he clearly was not happy in his work. This was such a contrast to our last cruise which was on Princess where the young lady who did my toast every morning quickly got to know me and my requirements and always told me to go and sit down and she would bring it to me. Just little things that make a difference. I did struggle sometimes to find anything suitable for me at lunch times and even on the days when there was a roast carvery there was no gluten free gravy offered. However on Lido Deck there is a little area called Grab and Go and to my delight I found that I could get gluten free Hoisin Duck wraps which I loved. In Horizon there is a small area dedicated to special diets for desserts. This included gluten free, dairy free, diabetic etc and there was usually one or two options for each – however there was a big problem with this. The little signs which indicated which diet it was for were on small plastic blocks which just kept getting moved about so on 2 occasions I almost ate the wrong thing which could have made me ill. This was reported twice by me and I know by a number of others also but nothing was ever done to rectify the situation so again please take great care if you need a special diet.
On the outside decks there seem to be loads of sunbeds and even on sea days I did not see any issues with people not being able to get a bed. Having said this we never used the area around the main pools which I know did get very busy. I love the fact that there are different seating options available so there were nice settees and chairs as well as the usual sunbeds. The area on deck 16 at the front of the ship is called Serenity and is designated an adult only quiet area. It was lovely here with a decent size pool and a bar and my favourite place to read my book.
We do not usually do ship excursions but had wanted to book the Sea Trek in Aruba however when I tried to book on line at home it was already sold out so do be aware that you need to book early if there is something you want to do. We decided to do the Aerial Tram in St Lucia instead and thought the £74 each seemed expensive but I have since checked on line and find that doing this with the ship does seem to be the cheapest option. It was lovely gliding above the forest and have no fear if you are afraid of heights as you never really seem far from the ground. One thing I did like about the excursions was that you just get off the ship and meet at the appropriate time and place ashore. This is so much better than having to wait in the theatre or bar to get a sticker and then line up to leave the ship. In St Maarten we went to Maho the airport beach. You can get a taxi from the terminal for $8 each and it is about a half hour drive so nice to see some of the island. The beach is very busy but great fun – do not go too early as the big planes do not start until about 1pm. The Sunset Bar on the beach is huge so it is easy to get drinks etc. If you are desperate to find wifi when you go ashore (I have to hold my hand up to this) it can be difficult as there are so many people trying to use it. In St Lucia don’t waste time trying the cafes just go straight to the desk just inside the terminal where you can get great wifi for $4. In Antigua walk from the ship straight up the road until you find Fragolosa on the right hand side. This is an ice cream parlour and the ice cream is delicious and you get to use the wifi which is very fast. We have been to Barbados many times but had never been to The Boatyard before and what a great day out this was. A taxi from the terminal is $5 each and it is only about 10 minutes away. Once there you pay $20 each for access to the bar and beach but this gives you sunbeds and umbrella, a cocktail and swimming with turtles. They take you by boat a short distance from shore and provide life jackets and snorkels and you get about 20 minutes in the water with the turtles. I can't snorkel but still really enjoyed the experience especially when one of the turtles came right to the surface to breathe – amazing. You are free to use the beach for the day and every so often the bar does free shots and has some fun. Once you are ready to return to the ship they provide free transport. I just can't believe we never found this place before.
We thought the entertainment on board was brilliant. I know this is very subjective but there was a lot of variety. The Headliner shows were very good and the technology used in the theatre adds to a great experience and the guest acts were great. The theatre is on the small side but they do 3 shows a night to give options to fit around dining. The Live Lounge was well used and the resident band Pulse were just amazing – when Verity sang Skyfall I got goosebumps.
This was our first ever Christmas cruise and whilst we did enjoy it I doubt we will do it again as it just didn’t feel like Christmas to us. The ship was beautifully decorated and there was some carol singing and I must say the children’s club did a magnificent job putting together the carol singing and the nativity play. There were a lot of multi generational families on board and I should think they had a wonderful time but I guess we just missed family and friends. On Christmas Eve when we returned to the cabin for the night we found a Christmas stocking on our bed and a Christmas card from the Captain and crew. In the stocking were lovely chocolates (unfortunately for me not gluten free!) so that was a nice touch. All the children on board were given a Pie Face game.
So would we go on Britannia again – yes we would if she was going where we wanted to go.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
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