Author: Jan Harrison
We have just returned from a fortnight on Britannia (Barbados to Barbados) and had a wonderful time. (Great flights through Thomas Cook and Thomson). I'm not into comparing ship with ship, as they are all different, and deserve to be treated as individuals! She is a beautiful, stylish ship, with stunning public areas. (The most fantastic décor can be found in the Sindhu restaurant). I don't quite understand the criticism re a central staircase. There are stairs at the front and back and the lower half of middle, so you never have to walk far. We are lucky not to need the lifts, so didn't use them. I didn't see any great queues. Food - good, not exceptional. We ate in the Peninsula restaurant (Freedom dining) and never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a table for two. We paid extra to eat once in Sindhu (fabulous food, but don't wear anything tight!) and twice in the Limelight club where we were entertained by Mari Wilson one night, then Dean Andrews (brilliant singer, though most people would recognise him from Last Tango in Halifax) the other. Both were brilliant - funny and friendly and chatted to us afterwards and posed for photos. Horizon buffet had a good range of foods, and there were always plenty of places to sit. Great idea is the ‘Grab and Go’ near the pools, where you can help yourself to sandwiches, wraps and salads. Space- never crowded, always places to cater for all. The noisy pool area did fill up quickly, but there were plenty of sunbeds in and around the rest of the ship.. My favourite area that was peaceful without any music was right at the back on deck 17 – the rattan comfy sofas. My husband preferred to read in the Crow’s Nest at the front, which was empty in day time. Many smaller seating areas inside and out all around the ship Our cabin – beautifully equipped with super comfy bed, and sofa. Balcony small but functional. Lovely bathroom with over bath shower (glass screen not curtain) and pleasant White Company toiletries. Staff – as always, wonderful. Friendly and helpful. (There are thousands ‘below stairs’ we never meet, making sure our cruise was wonderful, and the tips added to our onboard accounts are aimed at them so please don’t be meanies and cancel them) They made sure we all washed our hands when entering eating areas. The ship was spotless, and any germs would have to be very hardy to affect our health. Entertainment: Stunning cast shows, singers, a brilliant opera singer Ben Makisi, comedians, acrobats. Highlight for me were the lectures from Dale Templar, who produces the Human Planet BBC series. She had some wonderful videos to show, and tales to tell. Excursions: Now, this is where we felt a bit let down. We’d booked and paid for 5 excursions through P&O back in October, and 2 were cancelled at the last minute. I spent a lot of time researching and reading about the islands, and chose the perfect trips. They cancelled our Aruba and Dominica excursions and most others that appealed were full so we saw very little of these 2 islands – just the port area. The reason they gave was there were too few people going. This happened to us on Princess and yet they still honoured them, and sent us out in taxis, so I think it’s a poor show for P&O. I would be reluctant to use P&O excursions again, although the three we did take were excellent. Given enough time, it’s cheaper to book a local tour online, but, a word of warning – we ended up on one local tour that travelled over an hour picking up hotel passengers, then transferred us to another minibus twice. Ports: Curacao: Took P&O tour of the island to the Aloe Vera plantation and Chi Chi art workshop. This was excellent. Curacao has a very pretty port area and well worth a walk around. Aruba: Not our favourite. Didn’t see the island, but the town is characterless, dominated by casinos and horrible expensive shopping malls. What was nice were the dozens of huge iguanas roaming around the beach area. We saw several that were around a metre long Grenada: Much more like the Caribbean I had in mind. Lush rainforests, monkeys and, if it appeals, nice beaches. Walk up to the fort for amazing views of the ship. St Lucia: My 64th birthday - Beautiful island – we took a P&O trip to StonyHill house – beautiful colonial house in gorgeous setting. Then on to the steelpan school. We were shown how they were made, then the 17 of us went to the schoolroom and were taught to play – 2 drums each. It was a racket at first, then after an hour and a half, we played Strangers in the Night very adequately. St Vincent: Walked to the beautiful Botanical Gardens and hired a really interesting guide. I loved the town as it didn’t seem spoilt or compromising to visitors. Dominica. No trip thanks to P&O but it looked an amazingly beautiful island. Antigua: Gorgeous. We used Cruising Excursions to go to Nelson’s Dockyard and associated part of the island. Great value St Marten. Not great – a bit tacky to be honest – casinos, malls, adult only shows. Maho beach was horrendously busy, and not worth visiting as the huge planes don’t come anymore, the effect is lost. Barbados: Huntes Gardens are a must – paradise. Also amazing, see the green monkeys in Welchman Hall Gully, swinging around in the trees. Next day we were due at the airport at 2.00pm, so we took P&O’s Farewell to Barbados tour of the island, finishing up at Sunbury Plantation House for a beautiful lunch. Then to the airport for flight home. I have to say it was bedlam at the airport. We had bought tickets for the executive lounge and it was worth every penny – nice food, drinks and tranquillity. Finally (sorry to have waffled on) – fellow passengers. Various ages, and some with children. Everyone was lovely and well behaved. The children were a credit to their families, and all dressed up on formal nights. In all; Fabulous. Don’t think it was my favourite area to visit on a cruise – a bit ‘bucket and spade’ – everyone spoke English, so it didn’t take me out of my comfort zone at all, which was a shame. Fine if you just want to relax (some people just went to the beach every day……). Preferred our Far Eastern itineraries which to me were far more interesting. Each to their own.