The Arcadia – December 2014
As regular passengers with Celebrity, we embarked upon P&O’s Arcadia, sailing from Southampton in early December with some trepidation, particularly as our only other cruise with P&O on the Azura was not all we had hoped for, although that was partly because we prefer smaller ships. However, this particular cruise was excellent value for money.
The embarkation process at Southampton was fast and efficient, and a little tip for you, rather than pay the extortionate hotel and parking prices near to the Port. It’s worth the taxi fare to stay twenty minutes away at the Southampton North Premier Inn where the staff are nice and friendly, and the hotel and parking is considerably cheaper.
Like Celebrity, P&O allow you to board the ship early whilst you wait for your cabin to be ready. Because this cruise was such excellent value for money, we decided to treat ourselves to a balcony cabin on this occasion. Our cabin had plenty of room, and was very clean and bright with a large flat screen TV, although the wardrobes were opposite the bathroom door which was a tad annoying at times. Also, the balcony was quite small, and we had a problem with the dividing partition which kept swinging open.
As for the rest of the ship, well, we really liked it, despite the fact that it creaked a lot, and in our opinion didn’t seem quite as stable as the other thirty or so ships we have been on. I think it’s something to do with its unique engine design, but don’t let that put you off, although if you are not a good sailor, it’s probably better to travel on this ship in the months where the weather is likely to be better with calmer seas.
It’s a lovely, spacious, modern, clean ship, and its bars and restaurants are well appointed, particularly the Crow’s Nest with its panoramic views on deck 10. It never seemed crowded to us, and it has a great theatre, and a very well equipped gym with the latest equipment. It also has an awesome hydrotherapy pool and thermal beds which are worth paying the additional premium for, and although we never used it, the main pool was situated in an area with a retractable roof, which is is obviously great for when the weather isn’t so good. Also really liked the Promenade Deck (Deck 3) with its wrap around walking deck, and P&O’s policy of allowing you to bring a reasonable amount of alcohol on board for your own consumption in your cabin. Another major plus is the fact that P&O show Premier League football, both in the Rising Sun pub and on the tv in your cabin on the Arcadia.
Both the Spa and the shops were expensive, but I guess while people are prepared to pay those prices, that will not change.
The itinerary for the cruise took in Vigo, a really nice city in northern Spain with great wine. Try the Albariño white wine, it’s our favourite and it’s produced in this region of Spain. Next stop was to Porto, beautiful city with great character. A good idea is to visit one of the many Port distilleries , and take a trip along the Douro river. Then onto Cadiz, where the weather was terrible, so we didn’t see it at its best.
The following stop was Malaga. Apparently it’s Spain’s sixth largest city according to the guide we had, and looked like a lovely place to spend a couple of days. We chose to take the ship’s excursion to Mijas which has some stunning views, and according to my wife is a pretty village, although on the day we were there it must have been the coldest, windiest place on earth, not something you would expect in Southern Spain.
Our next port of call was to Gibralter. For some strange reason we only had four hours here, so not a lot of time to see very much, but a great place to buy any alcohol you may want as its is very cheap here! There are also some well known English shops here such as C&A, Marks and Spencer, WHSmiths etc, but expect to pay a little extra. The last port of call was Lisbon, another beautiful city with plenty of character. If like us, you are addicted to football, there are English newspapers for sale, just after your get off of the ship. We chose to see Lisbon independently, choosing the open top sightseeing bus all cities seem to have these days. Allow at least four hours for the different routes.
Generally speaking, we really enjoyed the cruise. The food was excellent, the staff were friendly, (apart from those in Café Vivo – no idea why they are working in customer service when they can’t even smile), the ship’s reception staff were easily the friendliest we have encountered, and strangely, all but one of them were men.
So having started the cruise with some reservations, this positive experience with P&O means we will definitely cruise with them again, even though I don’t believe their loyalty programme is as good at Celebrity’s. Talking of which, we will rejoin the beautiful Celebrity Century in January before she leaves their fleet. A great shame, it’s our favourite ship!
Never mind, P&O is growing on us!