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Sunday, 31 May 2015

P&O Britannia B508 Cruise Review

7 nights from Southampton calling at

St Peter Port
La Coruna
Bilbao
La Rochelle 

Please remember that this review is my thoughts on the cruise, they are neither right or wrong, just my views.
Also, any observations made, are not moans, but just observations


The Ship

Britiannia had been a long time in the making, and was much publicised and eagerly awaited by many.
Your first thoughts as you board this grand lady and enter the Atrium is WOW.
All the photos and videos you may have seen, cannot prepare you for the view.
We all know she is the biggest of P&O's fleet, but she is a "step change" from Azura and Ventura.

There is a real contempary feel throughout the ship, with a "square" theme being picked by carpets, light fittings etc. throughout the ship.

Some observations now, I do like the overall colour scheme, I'm just not sure how it will cope with the heavy footfall. 
Now Britianna has only been in service a few months, but the light grey carpet in the corridor to the Epicurean and Crows Nest is showing the sign of dirty footprints. 
Another example is the white armchairs in the bar area of Sindhu that are looking the worst for lots of backsides sitting on them.
At the other end of the colour spectrum the tables in the Glass House which are a dark wood finish ( but they are not made of wood ) have lots of scratches on the tops of the tables.  

As there has been so much written about them already, I will just mention the lifts.

Having spent many many years in IT, I would like to meet the person who wrote the algorithm, as the sequencing is very strange indeed, but not the end of the world.
The lack of lifts in the centre of the ship, never did seem to be a problem to us, and never really thought about them.

The glass house is situated in the atrium on deck 7, I'm not convinced on the location, it's  good for people watching during the day but not so for eating, although the space at the rear of the bar is better. 
As I said in my blog, we once ate in a side room, which I did not like at all. I can't talk about Ventura, as we have not been onboard since the glass house took over, but on Azura, it has a real "buzz" about it, and sadly I did not find the same here. 
Sindhu however is enormous, but works very well and the side booths give it a great feel.
One of the major improvements IMHO is the horizon restaurant, the buffet on deck 16. Another enormous space that works really well  and serves good food. Never was there the normal " bun fight" to get either food or a seat, even at breakfast on disembarkation day. 

We did not use the limelight club, so cannot make any comment.

Our cabin was an inside on deck 15 forward, which was a good size, and as I'm sure you are aware, the dreaded shower curtain has been replaced by a proper cubicle with a door. Well done P&O

I don't think we had any seas to "try"  Britiannia, but we had no movement. Above us was the crows nest and for an insomniac like me, at 0400 the dragging of chairs across the floor ( well that's what it sounded like) was not welcome.

On deck, there were always plenty of sun beds, and no need for the sun bed police. We had booked this cruise last year whilst on Oriana for the Northern Lights cruise. At the time, we did not know that it was half term week. So you can imagine we had teenagers down to little tots on board.

A warning here, if you do not like loud up today's music ( unusually up to date for P&O) and very noisy children, especially when playing table tennis, then the upper decks may not be for you. They were not being unruly, just doing what children do.

The Weather

Was OK'ish but was warmer last month when we were in that region

Entertainment

We did not see a lot as I currently have a few medical issues, which cause early nights. But Jeff Stevenson and Rob Lewis that we did see were excellent.
Sue was disappointed that we never made it to any quizzes, but there is always next time.

Food

We had freedom dining, but only made it to the restaurant  for the priority lunch on embarkation day. We ate twice in Sindhu, and twice in the glass house, plus we tried the Epicurean, all of which were excellent. We also used the buffet a couple of times for the theme nights. so no complaints in any department there.

The Crew

I know I have read some reports recently of surly crew, and if they were on Britannia, then we never found them.

Conclusion

Did we enjoy our cruise ? Yes.
Would we sail on her again ? Yes, but not in school holidays again, but for us that is no different to Azura.

I will post links to my photos later, but on our return, we have a bit of a family issue so have to go away again for a few days.

This will also be my last cruise blog ( bar the photos) for about a year. I said above about the medical issues I have. Well my consultant has said I need some treatment now, hence the lack of cruises.

I will still be blogging, but this time it will be about my medical journey ( it will not be gory ).
So if you want to join me, please just "bookmark" my blog and drop in from time to time.

Thank you all for you comments, on the blogs, and as Arnie said 

I'll be back

Ray 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

P&O B508 Part V

And so we reach our final port, that is La Rochelle, before we start our last sea day en route to Southampton. And it turned into a bit of a media frenzy.

Our tour was not until the afternoon, so we sat around the Atrium as the weather was not very good, and I typed yesterday's blog.

I think it must have been Britiannias maiden call here, as suddenly there was a posse of local dignitaries along with a camera crew and radio interviews that came through the Atrium 

So after lunch, it was the main event of the day, our tour with Eric Lanlard


And what a genial host he was, and very witty with it. His English is as you would expect from someone who had lived the last 26 years in the UK.

He did raise a laugh when he told us all in the coach, before we left the terminal, that we would all be "squiffy" on our return.

Besides the walking tour, we went to an hotel by the harbour, for wine matching with patisseries.


When we boarded Britiannia, we were informed that a film crew would be onboard, filming for promotional material. They boarded in Bilbao, and were on deck that afternoon filming. And yes, they joined us for the tour.

We also had Martin Roberts with us, who is he I hear you ask ?


He is one of the presenters of the BBC programme " Homes under the hammer" and although is on a family holiday, got roped into the filming.


So after several glasses of wine and the tasting of the patisseries, and a Q&A session with Eric, it was time for this now lively band of passengers to return to the ship. The tour was running slightly over schedule and we did not get back to the cabin until just before 5:30, which normally would not have been an issue.

However, it was a formal night, plus we had a table booked in the Epicurean for 6 : 30, but we just made it, and found some room to eat after the afternoon's activities.

So all in all, an excellent day !! 

I will of course when we get home write a cruise review, with my thoughts on Britannia, plus links to all my photos.

So until then

Bye bye





Thursday, 28 May 2015

P&O B508 Part IV

And so to Bilbao, we have been here in the dim and distant past, and last year we were in Gexto and took a walk along the the prom.
 
There were local tourism staff in the Atruim giving out advice and maps, and we were soon on the shuttle bus to be dropped off in the centre of Bilbao, where once again more local tourism staff were on hand to give advice. All very well organised

We had no plans on what to do when we arrived, but as the Guggenheim museum was only a 10 minute walk, we went in that direction.
We had seen the building from a hill top many years ago on a tour, so it was great to see it close up.


And what a magnificent building it is, with no straight line in sight.

The queue to go in was not that long, and at only €8 a bit of a bargain.

Inside is even more stunning than the out side, and if you have any interest in photography, then it really is a dream building.


From a art perspective, I am the first to acknowledge that I know nothing about art.

However I know what I like, and what I don't.


Most of the art works I found stunning, but the aircraft hanger sized room with very large sheets of bent steel did leave me very cold, but then what do I know.

The weather had vastly improved by the afternoon, so we sat up on deck 17 in the glorious sunshine.

Then it was time to get ready for our meal in the Epicurean, as we made our way to the crows nest for a pre dinner drink, I thought I would just call in to check the time of our booking, only to find the booking was for today ( Thursday ) Oops.

So this afternoon we have our walking tour with Eric Lanlard, for patisseries and wine tasting.

As its a sea day tomorrow, my last blog will not be posted until Saturday when we return.

I will then write a cruise review following that.

So until then

Bye bye



Wednesday, 27 May 2015

P&O B508 Part III

And so we arrived in La Coruna, it's our third stop here this year, so it's becoming, home from home.

But back to the previous evening, as we dined in Sindhu. With Britannia being the size she is, everything is on the larger size, and the space for Sindhu is no different, but with small booths along the side of the restaurant, you still get that intimate feel, and the space works really well.
The food and service were excellent as always, and if you enjoy a glass or two of white wine, try the Indian Sauvignon Blanc, it really is good.

So back to La Coruna, we had no tour booked, so it was off for a walk


Although sunny, there was a chill wind about, and it was cooler than one month ago when we were here last, but still a pleasant enough walk

There were quite a few local fisherman in the harbour, not sure what they were trying to catch, I assumed some sort of shell fish, as they had very long poles with a metal basket at the end.

After lunch we sat out on deck for a while, out of the wind, but the ambient noise rose to such a level that we moved ( more about that in the cruise review )

We decided to give the Glass  House another try, and this time were seated at the rear, away from the passing throng, but not in the side room. 
We also sat next to Gill and Tony, a couple we had chatted to previously there, if you post on any cruise forums, you may know Gill as GillD46.

Our entertainment for the evening was the comedian Jeff Stevens, a consummate performer, who knows how to works his audience, and doesn't resort to smutty jokes.

Today we have reached our penultimate port of Bilbao, our arrival was greeted by lots of "cats and dogs" falling from the sky, so we are just waiting for that to clear up and we will be off for a walk.

Off to the Epicurean tonight 

So until next time

Bye bye


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

P&O B508 Part II

Our hotel was only a few miles from the dock gate, so it was only a short drive and we arrived at the Ocean Terminal by 11:15. Even at this early hour, they had started to "stack" the cars as the terminal was busy. 

But it was only a few minutes before we were alongside the terminal unloading the cases, through check in, and on board. We were directed to the Peninsular restaurant for lunch, and rather than the normal buffet, it was a full three course lunch with a menu, much, much better.

The walk from where you enter Britannia to the restaurant can only be 100 yards ( sorry, but I still work in old money ) but Sue had managed to lose her cruise card 😌, but a swift retrace of our route, and I managed to find it on the floor.

Lunch consumed, it was time to explore. I have to say, the first impressions are WOW.


Nw I'm sure you must have seen photos of the above "star burst" by the hundreds by now, but I had to include another one as it it so imposing.

We also met Eric Lanlard outside his market cafe, and stopped for a chat. We have also booked the shore exec in La Rochelle for a walking tour with him, so looking forward to that.

Our muster drill was delayed, due to a later arrival of a coach, and the subsequent sail away. By now the clouds had moved in to cover the warm sun of the morning, so it was a bit chilly on deck. 

We decided to eat in the Glass House that evening, which is situated on deck 7 by the atrium. We were shown to a side room for our meal. The food was very good, but felt the ambience that there is in the glass house on Azura, was lacking here.

The next day, we arrived at our first port of call of St Peter Port, Guernsey. 

One thing to note, if like us you have an inside cabin, and are used to using the mast web cam on the TV to let you know when it's light in the morning.  The TV's on Britannia go into "sleep mode" so all you get is the Samsung logo screen saver.

We had no tour booked, so it was just a wander ashore. Now I'm sure you know that Guernsey is a tender port, and the Captain had warned the night before, that it could take a while to get the 3600 passengers ashore, so we did expect a bit of a wait.

So at 09:15 we proceeded to the theatre to get our tender tickets, with no queue we were soon boarding the tender for a very smooth crossing to the harbour. There was a bit of a delay once we got into the harbour to dock, but not too long. 

We were landed at a different pier to what we were used to. Before it has been by the large mast in the middle of the road flying lots of flags. This time is was the other side of the marina by M&S



Being a Sunday, all the shops were closed, however, it was "Taste of Guernsey Seafront Sunday". The  road had been closed and had been filled with stalls, selling mainly food related items, but also cooking demonstrations, and it was very well attended.

The sea was a bit more lumpy on our return tender trip, and the coxswain had to use all his skills to get us back alongside, and the movement once alongside made for an interesting embarkation back to Britannia. 

We ate in the Horizon restaurant that evening as it was an Asian buffet. There is only one word I can use to describe the restaurant and that is "enormous" and it's the most "chilled out" buffets on any P&O ship we have been on.
There are also hand washing stations as you enter, which of course are ignored by some passengers 😡😡

Our entertainment for the evening was Rob Lewis in the live lounge ( it does fill up early ).
Rob is a tribute act to Phil Collins, and if like me you have a stack of his albums on your IPod ( Phil Collins that is ) then Rob is the man to see, his show was excellent.

So today is a sea day as we make our way across the bay, to La Coruna. I'm sitting in the glass house overlooking the Atrium typing this blog as its a little too chilly to sit outside at present, but maybe later.

First formal night tonight, and we are booked to go to Sindhu, so reports later.

So until then 

Bye bye





Saturday, 23 May 2015

P&O B508 Part I

So, at last our chance to see for ourselves what Britannia is like, we have read all the reports, plus all the negative views, but did they made any difference ? No

As it is a bank holiday weekend, we decided to make our way down on Friday. The last few times, we have stayed at the Grand Harbour, but their prices were quite high this time, so we looked further afield.

We finally booked Ellington Lodge Hotel in Eastleigh, and after having lunch we made our way down. The M25 was very busy ( as expected ) plus the top of the M3 in the longest road works in the world, was slow. But considering it was a bank holiday weekend, it only took us an extra 30 minutes, so I thought that was not too bad.


On arriving at the hotel, we found that they are hosting a Phonyfest weekend full of tribute bands. There was even a stage that had been erected just outside our bedroom window.

Luckily, that is not being used until Saturday night.

So it was a couple of pints for me, and evening meal and an early night.

After breakfast, we had a couple of hours to fill, so decided to go for a walk. At the rear of the hotel, is the Lakeside Country Park, with a couple of lakes, one which was being used by fishermen, and one by swimmers. It really is a real gem, and a very pleasant walk.

So now back in our room, and getting ready for the off for the short drive to the Ocean Terminal. 

Next stop Britannia ⚓️⚓️⚓️

Thursday, 7 May 2015

P&O Azura A508N Cruise Review

Firstly an apology that I did not blog from the cruise, but my Ipad decided to disappear up its own USB port, and needed a restore once I got home. So this review might be a bit wordier than usual.

The Cruise

12 nights from Southampton to the Canaries April 2015

The Ship

Azura was launched in 2010, and we were lucky enough to sail on her maiden cruise, plus we have sailed on her in 2012. But being 5 years old she needed some TLC, so prior to the cruise, she had been in Hamburg for a £6m refit.

She had a new paint job, plus new livery




















She had also had new carpets in all the public areas, it seems the neutral colours that had been used when she was built had not fared as well as the darker carpets on Ventura, her sister ship.
Its a pity they did not also replace the carpets in the cabins, as ours had seen better days.

Two new additions were the self service "wine by the glass" dispenser in the buffet (you still have to pay by swiping your cruise card). Plus the "Grab and Go" next to the grill on deck 15. We did think this was very useful and used it a lot for a lunch time bite when sitting out on deck.

When we first sailed on Azura in 2010 there seemed to be an issue with passengers queuing for the first show in the theatre, and you needed to get there at least 1 hour before curtain up to get a seat, and it seems the problem has reemerged, as whilst eating in the Glass House the queues snaked along the corridor. Also one evening we went into the Manhattan bar to watch a tribute act 45 minutes before the start, and not a spare seat was to be seen.

It was also the same at a lot of the ports, the Captain made his announcement that we had arrived and asked passengers not to congregate etc. etc. but still long and lengthy queues formed.

Disembarkation was also chaos, no information to passengers, tempers getting frayed. Our priority disembarkation was non existent, and even once we reached the luggage hall, our case with their priory labels were in with the other cases in deck order. So what the point of the labels are I do not know. I have emailed P&O and await with interest on their reply

And just in passing, on the last night we ate in Sindhu, where there was an infrastructure malfunction (I will give no more details), no one was hurt, and the reason for the mention was that the staff acted so professional and calmly, they were a credit to P&O.

The Ports

La Coruna

We have been here quite a few times before, the last time was in January on Oceana, but this time it was a bit warmer :-), and it was where the above photo of Azura was taken. There was no tour for us, so it was a walk into town, and then along the prom to the old fort, and what a very pleasant walk it was, and highly recommended if you don't fancy a tour. They are still improving the road etc. just outside the port, but its much improved even since January.

Madeira

This is another port we have been to quite a few times, but instead of taking the shuttle bus we decided to go for a walk along the new prom.

















Before long, our short stroll had taken us into town, and it was a pleasure to be there with the new prom which must have cost a pretty penny. So if you do not have any problems walking, then don't take the shuttle bus, walk instead, there are lots of places to rest along the way if needed, and plenty of refreshment stops.

La Palma

It was staring to get pleasantly warm by this port. We had booked a P&O walking tour, but then realised it was the same one we had done in 2010, but was still a nice tour.


The port gate is only a 5-10 minute walk from the ship, then you are in the town. A shuttle bus is also provided if you don't fancy the walk.

Tenerife 

Another island we had been to before, but this time decided to book a Jeep Adventure, it said not suitable for those with vertigo or a bad back, and it did go up to mount Teide. The views were stunning, and it was one of the best trips we have done. so even if you don't like heights (like me) give it a try. The only downside of the tour, we had three Jeeps carrying 8 passengers, and of course 3 drivers, but only one them (our driver) spoke any English, so whilst we had a very entertaining tour the others had a somewhat less fulfilling tour.



Grand Canaria 

The arrival was a Sunday and we were informed that most of the shops etc would be closed. But in fact it turned out to be an excellent port. It was 27C so that helped. Across the road just before you reach the main town centre, there was a very large market come car boot sale, with more stalls than you could shake a stick at. Plus there was some sort of motor bike show, where it looked to me that you could hire a bike to test it round some roads that had been taped off. There was also an area where youngsters (9/10 years) could test their bike skills on an  obstacle course. so there was plenty to see and do, and of course the beach is only a short walk. In the evening, we ate in Sindhu for the first time on the cruise as it was Sue's birthday (yes 21 again ).  

Lisbon

We had company when we docked in the form of Ventura and Adonia 


I have to say, that when P&O announced their new livery, I was not overwhelmed by their choice. But seeing Azura docked in front of Ventura, it was like a before and after shot, and I must admit, the new livery did look better IMHO.

Again no tour booked, so a nice walk into to town was called for, but with 3 P&O ships and a Celebrity ship, you can imagine it was a tad busy.

The Cabin

We had an inside cabin on C deck on a Saver fare. I have always found them  large enough, but as I said above, the carpet had seen better days. But for the price we paid, it was very sufficient.

Food

Being on a saver fare, we had no choice of dining, and were given Freedom Dining, but we never made it to the restaurant.

We used the glass house a few times, and Sindhu twice, plus the new Epicurean, and the themed buffets which we enjoy any way.

The food and service in the Epicurean was very good, and carried a £28pp cover charge. Sindhu was £15pp cover charge, with excellent food and service, so the question is, "is the Epicurean worth more then Sindhu ? " 

Well I think the jury is still out, so you will just have to try it yourself and decide.

We did try to get into the "Beach Hut" but it was full by 7 pm ( no booking )


Entertainment

Unusually for us we did not go to see any Headliner Shows ( it could be because we have seen them all) .
We did however see both shows of Manuel Martinez, a Cuban comedy magician in Manhattan. If you get a chance to see him don't be put off by his title. We have never laughed so much, his shows are excellent.

We also managed to get to see the second show from Tom O'Conner, who we had seen in 2010 on the Artemis farewell cruise. Tom is no spring chicken nowadays, but still manages to hold his audience, even though some of his jokes were as old as I am, but still good entertainment .

A couple of bands to note, I thought Catch 22 were excellent, and Pulse2 were at the other end of the spectrum IMHO.

The Crew

I have always thought that P&O' s crew members to have been excellent on the cruises we have done. This cruise however, things have changed and they have seemed to upped their game even more, and were even more attentive. Well done !!

The Weather

Could not really fault the weather, from leaving Southampton until our last sea day when we had some rain, it was excellent, could not ask for better.

Conclusion

Other then the disembarkation debacle, an excellent cruise  ( sorry I seem to be using that word a lot ) and for the Saver price we paid, we could not ask for more.

I will post links to my photos in a later blog

So it's not long now ( end of May) before we are off again to try out Britannia for a week.  It's likely to be our last cruise this year, as my regular readers will know that I will need some medical treatment this year.

So hopefully my Ipad will behave itself, and I will blog from Britannia, so until then 

Bye bye