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Ignore the moaning reviews - we loved every minute of Britannia in the Caribbean


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Apologies in advance for the length of the review but I really wanted to give anyone a real sense of what our (first) experience of cruising was like, and counter the weight of negative reviews of this ship that caused me so much angst beforehand. Plus it was edited over on that "other cruise review site" so I was really keen to get it published in full.

Flight / arrival at the island / check in

We'd booked what turned out to be the first trip where Britannia home ported at St Lucia. I say home ported; obviously, Britannia still made the two day stop in Barbados a week later but ours was the first P&O charter flight out to the island to start a 2-week cruise. Thomas Cook was the carrier and it was just fine. We splashed out on Premium (which was very good but not quite as enjoyable as Thomson’s premium on the 787) which also helped when it came to disembarking at the airport through the one and only exit, namely the front stairs! It was a bit chaotic to be honest, it being left to the aircraft captain to apologise on P&O’s behalf for the fact that our early arrival meant there were no buses to collect us! After about 45 mins we all traipsed past the solitary immigration officer (at the top of the aircraft steps bizarrely) and got on what can be best described as a glorified minibus for the 1 hour trip on St Lucia’s steep and windy roads over to Castries. It was a bit hairy, to be honest and there were moments that I thought we’d have to get out and push, but eventually we got to the city and soon Britannia came in to view in her berth and what a welcome sight it was.. can never get over how massive the ship is up close.

We parked up right next to the ship at Pointe Seraphine and the check in process was as smooth as you like; partly on the quayside but most of the processing was done on board, in the Atrium.  After a bit of comedy “back a bit”, “forward a bit” with the security photo we were on the way to our cabin!

Cabin

This being our first cruise there was a genuine sense of excitement as we headed up the stairs and into F112. We booked a Saver fare and were delighted with the cabin we were allocated. Overall after the 2 weeks we thought the cabin levels of comfort and facilities were great with no complaints at all. LOADS of wardrobe space and hangers, and plenty of room on the shelving too. The cabin safe was easy to use with a one-time code entered each occasion you close it. Bathroom /shower were plenty big enough and I second the comments others have made about the shower door being a nice touch versus a clingy curtain. Especially handy in our device-heavy lives was the extra socket under the TV, with a little shelf to put your phone / iPad / camera whilst they were charging. Loved the kettle and tea / coffee facilities, it’s just great to be able to make a cuppa and sit outside as we berthed at each island. The fact that P&O are more relaxed about you bringing booze on board is a bonus too, we bought some beers in the duty-free shop at Barbados and weren’t questioned when we brought them on board, and the fridge was plenty big enough to store 6 – 8 bottles plus a bottle of wine. We watched a bit of telly but there seemed to be loads of choices if you wanted to watch more. The real-time map was handy for those like me that wanted to know exactly where you are at any point.

I’d read lots of comments about how narrow the balconies are on Britannia, and it’s true you need have the chair at an angle but was it such a big issue? No, not at all. We happily spent time out there.

Our Cabin Steward, Mahendra really looked after us, always had smile in the morning and can’t fault the cleanliness of the cabin. This being a cruise to celebrate my wife’s 50th, we booked the champagne continental breakfast on her actual birthday which was lovely although there was loads of food to eat (probably too much, for two people if I’m honest).

Main Dining

We had expressed a preference at the time of booking for Freedom Dining on the Saver and were pleased to get it.  Over the 9 or so occasions that we ate in the MDR we only once had to take a pager and wait in a bar, and that was on the Gala Evening; otherwise, given that we were happy to share a table, we got to sit down straight away.  Despite some of the complaints I’ve read elsewhere about the MDR menu, we can safely say we didn’t have a bad experience at all. Whilst there are numerous courses, the portion sizes were reasonable so you didn’t feel that you were gorging yourself just to get through the dinner… We enjoyed the variety and thought the quality was just fine.

On a couple of occasions when we had shore excursions leaving early-ish in the morning, we decided to have breakfast in the Buffet, which was a bit manic for us, so subsequently we just got up a bit earlier and headed down to the Peninsular Restaurant allowing a bit more time for a full-service meal.

BTW I would say that overall the formal nights were pretty well observed as far as dressing up was concerned, 80+ of the gents were in black tie / DJ’s. It made for a pretty special feel although towards the end, the fourth formal night I couldn’t wait to get out of the trousers given that I had, er, filled out a bit.

Select Dining
This is where Britannia’s food and drink really comes into its own; we tried pretty much all the Select restaurants (I think): Epicurean, Glass House (tapas), Sindhu, the Beach House (very popular with the crew, which is always a good sign) and the Limelight (see Entertainment below). Our favourite was the Beach House, a chilled feel and the food was awesome. Second was the tapas – type meal we had at the Glass House (which you don’t have to book for). Overall, we thought the select dining was good value for money (assuming that you can get over the fact that you’re paying on top for the privilege, but we were happy with that).

Bars and Entertainment
Our favourite bar was the Crow’s Nest; as a fan of gin I tried my best to get through the selection 😊. I would say that anyone on a Mediterranean cruise on Britannia in summer would see a big benefit of being able to experience the Crow’s Nest on a late evening and see the sunset; the time of year and latitude of the Caribbean meant it was already dark by the time we had our pre-dinner drinks up there!  We also enjoyed Brodie’s pub, especially the quizzes (one of which we managed to win). Once small gripe I have is that being geared towards us Brits, all the beer selection on P&O is the same as what you get at home, when normally I like to try local beers when on holiday. Having said that the prices were very reasonable.

Entertainment-wise, we never visited the theatre so can’t comment on that. We did enjoy the Live Lounge though, getting down there for the 80s night and the Bruno Mars tribute who was fun. Get there early though if you want a good seat. The in-house band, Pulse are excellent. They did have a comedian on one night but he was a bit lame to be honest. Also, the DJ was lacking somewhat in the personality stakes; there’s probably a hundred or so DJs in pubs around the country who could have done a better job!
On our last night we had pre-booked the Limelight Club, hosted by Jakki Graham who was excellent. The food was very good, too, a perfect way to round off our holiday.

The Retreat
We had decided before starting the cruise that we wanted to go to the Retreat, and were aware of the cost (£400 for a couple for the whole cruise) but I have to say it was money well spent. Lots of comfortable loungers and attentive at-seat service. It was handy as well that a light Continental breakfast is served there, so you can just get there at 9am when it opens, find your spot and have a relaxed breakfast. It’s great to chill out in the hot tub with a drink.  Remember it’s right next door to the Serenity pool, so if you fancy a proper swim, you can just nip out there anytime.

Life on Deck
We didn’t spend a huge amount of time on deck other than in the Retreat, but enjoyed the music quizzes on the Lido deck on sea days, even though the entertainment guy didn’t have a clue what was 70s 80s or 90s!  I did get up onto the Lido deck to see a couple of the sailways which aren’t everyone’s cup of tea I know, but a bit of harmless fun all the same.

Being mid-November there very few school age kids on board and it is a long way to go if you’ve got a young family in tow, so it did have a more adult-oriented feel to the cruise.

Island Choice / excursions
This being our first cruise, we decided to book a few excursions in advance, mostly through P&O but one was through a third party (via Bolsover).  I’ve covered these within the relevant port review:

Dominica – no excursion but a fab ramshackle bar just in from the jetty with the biggest rum punches, be warned you might need your sea legs to get back to the ship…

Antigua – we did the catamaran beach trip (aka P&O excursion: Caribbean Sailaway) which was wonderful, great way to celebrate my wife’s birthday. Our favourite island.

St Maarten – took a third-party excursion, to a beach club on the French side (weird to be spending Euro 3,000 miles from home), then to Maho Beach for the planes – fun but way, way too busy given that there were 6 other ships in port, including Anthem of the Seas.

Barbados – we had two days here as it is the normal changeover port, Bridgetown is very tatty but we did find (another) great bar which helped us avoid a rare rain shower. We took the only P&O excursion that we found to be poor value for money, the Beach Break – turned out we could have got a cab there for a fraction of the price.

Curacao – great shopping in Willemstad, particularly if you after designer outlet-type shops. Not the prettiest island however with a giant oil refinery just behind the town from which you could smell acrid fumes from our balcony. Mind you the fuel must be cheap because Britannia filled up there (think of the Clubcard points!).

Aruba – we did the Jeep Safari (P&O excursion) which was an absolute hoot, a great way to see the island, and the hosts / drivers were great value.

Grenada – we did the infamous Rhum Runner…. P&O even sent us a letter to our cabin warning us how strong the rum is. Well it didn’t disappoint, what with “Sean” keeping us all topped up. The non stop steel band conga all the way back to port was hilarious, needless to say we missed the sailway that day!

St Vincent – not much to see here, we stayed aboard seeing as it was our last day.

In summary
We had an absolutely fabulous holiday, and will be sailing with P&O again (in 2019). We would not hesitate to sail on Britannia again, although next time we’re trying Azura because of the different island calls, and we always like mixing things up a bit.

Finally, as someone who did get a bit concerned about negative reviews of Britannia before we sailed, I’ll try and help anyone in a similar position and debunk a few myths about her:

Are the lack of stairs mid ship such a big issue? Not for us, just walk forward or aft and use the stairs there.

Are the Atrium and other areas of the ship drab and underwhelming? Is there a lack of “wow” factor? No not at all, unless you’re expecting the Sistine Chapel.

Is it a massive problem that there isn’t a promenade deck? No of course it isn’t. Once you find your way round the ship you don’t even think about it.

Is Britannia like “Benidorm on a ship”? Well I’ve never been there but all I will say is we never saw any lairy behaviour and people with tattoos are allowed to spend £2k+ a head on their holidays as well, you know.

You’ll read lots of complaints from people reviewing Britannia that hark back to a bygone age of cruising and a) object to paying extra for anything and B) expect everything to be like Downton Abbey, but my advice is ignore them.

With all the online resources at hand nowadays you can’t fail to book a cruise with your eyes fully open and should know that cruising must compete for the tourist’s pound more than ever. We went aboard with an open mind and absolutely loved every minute of it.
 

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Well, I wouldn't completely ignore the moaners as they are allowed their opinion too. However, I certainly would take anything stated with a pinch of salt as I don't believe that everything can be that bad as sometimes stated. For goodness sake you're in The Caribbean, how bad can it be?

It was very pleasant to read your thorough and positive review. There are sometimes too many first post moaners on here, then we never hear from them again.

Problems can occur, as you state, but these are either not very important or can usually be sorted at source.

I love The Caribbean with its diverse islands, people and, of course, rum. It is a couple of years since I was over there, but your review reminded of what a great area it is.

Happy cruising for many years to come.

Cheers!

RayO

 

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Thank you for your well written and comprehensive review.

I agree some people will moan about the smallest things, however the lack of a mid ship staircase has came up to often to ignore, I think if the lifts were more efficient and reliable people wouldn't have moaned so much.

Friends of mine sailed Britannia and mid ship stairs was the main complaint they had, both have walking disabilities and they sometimes waited up to 10 minutes or more to get in one, this mainly down to able bodied people who couldn't be bothered to walk forward or aft.

For some not a problem but for others it clearly is, perhaps in the future P&O may consider opening up the crew stairwell, but that remains to be seen.

HLM.

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A very well written review cozzyleicester and pleased you enjoyed Britannia. Now you have completed your first cruise, time to start trying the other 61 cruise lines. I remember my first cruise, I think we all do,  I thought it was the bees knees. 18 different cruise lines later I have learned they all offer something that is a little bit different.  What I do know is, I wouldn't want to go back to my first ship knowing what the rest of the market has to offer. 

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3 hours ago, cruise addict said:

Good to read a positive review. We have not been on the Britannia mainly because we feel it would be too big for us. After your review I think we might give it a try.

 

We thought it would be too big for us but having tried it we loved it. We were on Deck 11 which was more or less midway between the bars, restaurants, shops & theatre etc on decks 5,6 & 7 and the buffet restaurant, pools, open decks & bars on the top decks.  We usually go on Oriana  & we did miss the promenade deck. The lifts were a lot smaller than the ones on Oriana & there was a lot of queueing especially for the mid ship ones & also when returning from excursions which was on deck 4 so quite a trek up the stairs to deck 11! Overall she is a beautiful ship & we will definitely try to sail on her again. Our next cruise is on Adonia & I'm now worrying about whether we'll like a smaller ship now we've been converted to a large one!

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On Saturday, April 08, 2017 at 1:31 PM, 2torts said:

 

We thought it would be too big for us but having tried it we loved it. We were on Deck 11 which was more or less midway between the bars, restaurants, shops & theatre etc on decks 5,6 & 7 and the buffet restaurant, pools, open decks & bars on the top decks.  We usually go on Oriana  & we did miss the promenade deck. The lifts were a lot smaller than the ones on Oriana & there was a lot of queueing especially for the mid ship ones & also when returning from excursions which was on deck 4 so quite a trek up the stairs to deck 11! Overall she is a beautiful ship & we will definitely try to sail on her again. Our next cruise is on Adonia & I'm now worrying about whether we'll like a smaller ship now we've been converted to a large one!

Great ship we was on  deck 14. 

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I completely agree, Little Mermaid, If you do nothing else but moan, then do something else instead of cruising.  I get so fed up when on a ship when other people just say what it used to be like and how better is was. WHY DO THEY KEEP GOING ON CRUISES IF IT IS THAT BAD. 

It is the people you meet and the staff on board that make my holiday. I have been cruising now for over 20 years and still plan to do a lot more. 

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Great to see a positive review on both a brand & ship that has its fair share of critics in the past few months. I would echo those responses of Country Girl & Little Mermaid for all those who constantly complain and there were some on my recent voyage why dont they stay at home and leave the world of happy cruising to the rest of us

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Phew. Knowing how long a comprehensive review can take to type time wise, we all appreciate your efforts on this one.

We all understand 'one person's paradise, is another one's hell' and it is useful to hear positives from what at the moment is P&O's flagship. This being a British forum it is only natural P&O comes in for a bit of stick, it's like a flyer forum for which I am also a contributor, here British Airways also gets it's fair share of regular knocking.

The problem with most review sites is you tend to hear the best and the worst, while the bulk of travellers in the middle are never moved to the keyboard and that is why it can be difficult trying to balance up the conflicting reviews from what would be a very, very small sample from say 3,000+ cruisers who were on the ship.

Sometimes you have to travel with an open mind and just let little 'first world' problems pass by, it is after all a holiday and a quick 'snifter' up on deck is far preferable to an embarrassing rant at reception.

Happy sailing.

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We really enjoyed Britannia too. Admittedly, it did take a day or two to find our way around, but other than that we enjoyed it. We found the menu in the main dining room a little boring, so we dined several nights in The Glass House and would definitely recommend it! It felt like a bit of a hidden gem and the food was fantastic. Steaks to die for and the largest prawns I've seen in my life. The Beach House was also great and food at Sindhu looked fantastic on passing; my other half won't entertain Asian food so I unfortunately didn't have an opportunity to sample its wares. The decor on Britannia was very boutiquey. The only thing we found is that people tended to go to bed quite early on our sailing, so the bars were quiet after about 10.30pm. Great ship though!

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Yes, it's nice to read a positive review and I'm delighted to hear how much you enjoyed your holiday.   However, despite your complimentary comments, I could not be persuaded to give it a try as I prefer the smaller ships but, of course, it's 'horses for courses' & that's how it should be.   We're all different and obviously enjoy/prefer different things.   It's good to have such a wide choice.   One thing I should like to see is a full and accurate description of each ship, complete with dress codes, styles of entertainment etc. so that passengers can be sure that they have made the right choice I.e.  that  all/most of their preferences/requirements are met.   This might help prevent complaints re dress codes from both sides of 'the Great Divide' and keep us all happy.

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