Well the time had come to try out P&O Cruises brand new ship, Britannia on a two night short cruise to St Peter Port and back. Cruise Cotterill's other Cruise Ambassador, Jordan, joined me on this cruise.
After arriving into Southampton for the first time in April 2015, the 141,000 grt ship was going to be a frequent visitor to the city of Southampton over the coming months and certainly was a huge talking point for those with a passion for cruise holidays and ships.
After visiting Britannia in April 2015 for a preview and look around the ship, I knew what to expect as in terms of interiors and facilities but this was now our chance to experience the ship doing what it does best, cruising.
We arrived at Ocean Terminal just after 12:00 and there was a lot of people waiting to board the ship. The lounge in the terminal was very much packed and there was very little seating available. We stood for around 20 minutes or so before we actually got a seat for two. Thereafter we waited for a good hour and a half before we proceeded to check in. The check in process was fairly smooth however it was rather slow. We proceeded to security and then onto the ship where we eventually arrived at our cabin at 14.20. We were finally on board!
We had treated ourselves to a Superior Deluxe cabin (DB Category) on A Deck (Deck 15) cabin A417 and wow were we impressed! It was one of the most spacious cabins we have ever experienced, very nicely appointed and finished with a generous sitting area separate to the beds. There was a great amount of storage and hanging space with open wardrobes which gave more room to hang clothes and store cases. The bathroom was of a good size and the luxury of having a bath was a bonus too. We had booked this cruise as part of a promotion which resulted in us receiving an extra bottle of bubbly. We also had a box of chocolates to enjoy which were superb.
Day 1 - Southampton
After we explored what our cabin had to offer it was a case of exploring the ship. Britannia has a good amount of open deck space on her top outer decks, but however lacks a wraparound promenade deck. The promenade deck was deck 18 which circumnavigated the two funnels and sports court. For a cruise ship aficionado, it is nice to actually to have a proper wraparound promenade deck underneath the lifeboats. However, it still worked out well on Britannia and there were plenty of areas to walk around.
We then had lunch in the Horizon buffet style restaurant on Deck 16, aft of the main swimming pools. This was a very well laid out restaurant with plenty of space for passenger to flow through and grab food from the various sections. There was also a good amount of seating areas with plenty close to or nearby the windows which made for great views of the sea. Good mix of tables sizes too.
We then went to explore the Retreat Area on Deck 17 forward. This was an area where for a charge you can spend the day relaxing in a serine environment whilst watching the sea go by. Close by to the Retreat was the Serenity Pool. This was an adults exclusive pool whereby you can swim in a relaxed environment and also rent cabanas to relax and sunbathe on as well. This was a very nice area and sheltered too.
We then moved on and explored what else was on offer. We went and had a look at the Terrace Pool which to be fair is a small splash pool good for socialising. In the school holidays, this would be the pool where kids and teens could hang about in.
We then decided to have a look at what the facilities and lounges were like inside the ship, so decided to head down to see the Live Lounge on Deck 7. This lounge was situated aft on this deck and was used as a night club in the evenings. It would also host cabaret and special acts and this is where we went to see the Madness tribute act, Badness on the first night. It is a very well laid out lounge with a good atmosphere but you have to arrive early if you want to get a decent seat, especially when it does turn into the nightclub as it was extremely busy on both evenings.
Whilst walking out of the Live Lounge we proceeded to move forward and we had a look at Atul Kochar's speciality restaurant, Sindhu. This was a very laid out restaurant with plenty of space and very nicely appointed. Proceeding away from Sindhu we had a look at The Studio which was located next door. This was a nice sized almost theatre like room where films would be shown and also cookery and arts demonstrations. It had plenty of seating and is a good feature on a modern ship.
Situated outside The Studio is the Photo Gallery. This was a good open space to view pictures taken by the on board professional photographers. The good thing with it was the pictures could be viewed on the computer. With login details, you can log in and see your photos on the screen. This a good way of cutting down the costs of unwanted photos which would then be destroyed.
We then moved forward to the main atrium area and both explored Java, a coffee bar and the Glass House which is a modern take on a wine bar where delicious meals were served too for a small extra charge. Both encompassed generous seating areas with the Glass House commanding great views over the main atrium and Starburst.
After our initial explorations, it was time to go to muster. We were to be mustered in the Peninsular Restaurant which was situated on Deck 6 midships. This was a good sized restaurant, with very nice design and modern features.
After muster, it was a race back to the cabin in order to grab our cameras and of course get a glass of bubbly from our free bottle and head up on the open decks for our departure from Southampton. Where we were situated on the ship (midships, starboard) we had a bank of lifts situated close by however there was no midships stairwell. This was a bit disappointing as we would have to take the lift up one deck to Deck 16 if we wanted to go the buffet in the Horizon or go aft or forward, go up the stairwell and then walk along the deck just to get to the buffet. We felt a little embarrassed at having to use the lift to go up one deck.
Before dinner, it was a case of further exploration. Going to the main atrium area and admiring the Starburst was a must. This is a truly beautiful sculpture which is suspended from the ceiling and adds a little creativity and panache to the atrium. We proceeded to Deck 7 where we had a brief look at the Crystal Room. This is a lovely spacious entertainment area with a rather large ballroom dance floor. A nice area to enjoy relaxing music and to enjoy a dance or two on the dance floor.
Going down the main spiral staircase in the atrium, we proceeded to Deck 6 where we went and had a little look at the Limelight Club. This was a new concept for P&O where you can enjoy a meal and watch an entertainment act or singer for a small surcharge. The decoration is fairly pleasant although a little too dark in my opinion as there is not much natural light in the room. However, I guess that adds to the atmosphere of when the show is on and gives an extra edge to the experience.
Dinner was then upon us and we were to dine in the Oriental Restaurant on Deck 6 aft. This was a lovely restaurant with fine features and decoration and plenty of little enclaves that you could dine in away from the main area. We were in one of the little enclaves and it felt as if we had our own little restaurant with only a select amount of tables in that area. I was very impressed with the restaurant which provided great service and enjoyable food. The best restaurant on the ship, in terms of décor and situation. However, if you wanted to pay that little bit extra, you could enjoy afternoon tea or dinner in the Epicurian Restaurant on Deck 16, just near the Crows Nest.
After dinner, it was time to go and see the Madness tribute act in the Live Lounge. My goodness, when we arrived, the place was packed and we had to stand for the whole duration of their set. They were excellent and I had already seen them on Azura a year ago and they were superb then too. Jordan wasn't too familiar with the songs that they were singing and so perhaps wasn't his cup of tea, but still I think he enjoyed it. After the act had finished, we decided to stay and enjoy the night-life and night club atmosphere. After playing musical chairs, we finally found a table for two in which we could enjoy the music and drinks from a more comfortable perspective.
Day 2 - St Peter Port
Next morning, we were anchored off St Peter Port, Guernsey with glorious sunshine and fairly calm seas. A good day to try our Britannia's tenders. After breakfast, we then proceeded to collect our tender tickets from the Headliners Theatre and wait until our numbers were called. The tickets we got were not very professional, it was raffle tickets you'd get in a tombola and they never checked them down at the tender embarkation pontoon either. However, after a wait, we managed to tender ashore in one of the new swanky double decker tenders (open top second level, but was not in use) Once we were ashore, we went and had a brief look around, eventually arriving at the lighthouse at the end of one of the piers to get some photos of Britannia anchored.
At around 1pm, we met with our friend Robert who lives in Guernsey and was nice to catch up with him. We took a walk to a great vantage point, Clarence Battery, an old fort and gun fortification which was used to guard St Peter Port before the invasion of the Nazi's in 1940. From this point, we got some great shots of Britannia at anchor and could see how much the ship had swung whilst at anchor. It was such a lovely day in Guernsey however after saying goodbye to Robert, we headed for the tender and it began to start raining. Once back on board, the heavens had opened and the visibility had been greatly reduced. We then had a bite to eat once we got back on board before going to watch a few episodes of Big School on the television in our cabin.
It was amazing how quickly this mini cruise had gone. I had fallen in love with Britannia and have to say I didn't want to disembark. However, we had one more night to enjoy and we were going to make the most of it. After a sumptuous dinner in the Oriental Restaurant, we decided to go and see the show in the Headliners Theatre. It was called, the Sounds of the Underground and was a production show based on music and sounds of all things British. The giant LED screen on stage helped give a great visual effect of the different places covered whilst the singing and dancing of the production team were superb and as it transpired it was their last ever performance as a group as they were all going their separate ways the next day in Southampton. It was a truly wonderful show and set us up nicely for the rest of the evening to be spent in the Live Lounge and enjoy the music of the nightclub and watch people make a fool on the dance floor. It was around 01:00 by the time we got to bed and we had an early start the next day.
We were awake by 07:30 and by 08:00 we were getting knocks on the door from the steward to tell us we had to leave. So we left the cabin for some breakfast in the Horizon and to enjoy the last hour on board. By the time disembarkation came, we had to wait in a queue that stretched around the atrium on Deck 5, with people queuing in different positions and pushing in, it was pretty much an organised chaos and something that needs to be rectified, however it did not dampen what was a great cruise. We didn't have far to walk home afterwards.
I really loved the ship, beautifully laid out, décor was stunning and the cabin was absolutely out of this world. The lack of a midship staircase was pretty much the only downside to this ship that I could see.The staff and crew on board went out of their way in order to make the experience a superb one. Could not fault the cabin one bit. A beautifully designed and laid out cabin with lots of space. Well worth the stay. Good levels of entertainment on board however, it would have been nice to have had more comedy and other elements to enjoy even though it was only a two night cruise. For what is included and what the ship has to offer, it is very good value for money and I would not hesitate to go back on Britannia again.