I’ve been onboard Britannia now for a few days sailing the Caribbean and have had plenty of time to settle in so I thought it was about time I kicked myself into gear and updated you all with some initial thoughts, along with the happenings in my first couple of days!
Where to begin! We travelled up to Gatwick last Friday and stayed overnight ready for our flight to St Lucia the next morning. Accommodation was the newly refurbished Travel Lodge, Gatwick Airport Central, which suited our needs and was in close proximity to North Terminal. Fairly basic but comfortable, the lodge also offers a 24 hour (for fee) shuttle service that takes you to and from the airport. However, they also arrange taxi’s for £6.00 a car, which I thought was very reasonable and worth the extra to avoid the stress of lugging our bags about at 6am in the morning! Worth noting that Premier Inn is located quite literally across the road from North Terminal at Gatwick. However, I guess you pay for that privilege in the room rates? Perhaps something to investigate for next time!
Our flight over with TUI and the Dreamliner was faultless and very smooth. Being only my second long-haul flight, I’ve been spoilt with having the Dreamliner both times so can’t compare to other planes. However, from what I’ve been told the Dreamliner experience is a lot more comfortable. The only snag I had was beyond TUI’s control. When we first landed in St Lucia the airport authorities would only let 20 passengers leave the plane at once. You can imagine how much this was holding up the process! We were already delayed due to wind on route and all of us wanted to get to the ship as quickly as possible! Luckily they saw sense and let us off onto the coaches a little quicker.
The journey from airport to ship was around 1 hour and 30 minutes…so quite a trek! However, the minibus was air conditioned and we had a brilliant guide onboard who gave us some commentary on route. Tiredness was setting in but we did get to see more of the island than some organised excursions! I found it quite enjoyable and it helped build even more excitement (if that were possible!) for the 3 weeks ahead.
However, I won’t lie…when the ship came into view I gave a silent sigh of relief as I was well and truly ready to get onboard! Fair play to P&O Cruises -Embarkation was smooth, passing through immigration first (a white gazebo on the dock side) and then straight onboard where we were issued our cruise cards. From here we didn’t have much time to explore, or indeed sit down, as due to the delays it was straight to the cabin, collect the life jackets and onto the Muster! In terms of ship capacity, there were not many passengers which embarked in St Lucia and I believe it was a mixture of some joining for the remainder of the Caribbean stint and transatlantic back to Southampton, with a few joining for the week fly cruise to Barbados. They gathered all new passengers in The Live Lounge for the Muster and then once complete, took each Muster group to their Muster location onboard. Luckily mine was in the Live Lounge, so I didn’t have to walk far.
The remainder of the day was spent in the comfort of the cabin, unpacking and eating room service. It had certainly been a tiering day and it wasn’t long before I was hitting the z’s!
My next few days were a combination of enjoying the Caribbean sun and culture and meandering around the ships facilities. Caribbean itineraries are often quite port intensive, but luckily we had a sea day thrown in quite early on which gave us the time
needed to sync our body clocks! From this point, instead of giving a minute by minute account on my blog, I thought it might be more interesting to summarise my key impressions of the ship and ports of call as I go. Of course, if I don’t cover something or you have any questions at all, fire away! I will do my best to find out for you.
This is my second cruise on Britannia – 2 years ago I flew to Barbados and caught up with the ship for her 2 week Caribbean and transatlantic voyage back to Southampton. Then she was still a baby just celebrating her 1st birthday! I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experiences, which is why I’m back now!
She’s still looking as stunning as ever. The atrium has the wow factor and is definitely the star of the fleet, with her starburst feature in the centre. There is a real genuinely friendly atmosphere onboard and I for one have a good connection with the ship and think that P&O Cruises has definitely got many aspects right when planning her. Perhaps it’s because we share a birthday that I love her so much.
In seriousness, I know many do not like larger ships and there is no getting away from the fact that Britannia is huge! However, in many respects she reminds me so much of my current favourite ship in the fleet, Aurora. Although very modern, Britannia has elements of traditional décor thrown in which give her character and charm. Perhaps the best way to explain this is describing Britannia as the love child of Aurora and Azura. I feel like they took the best of both and Britannia was the result! For example, the atrium may be modern like Azura, but has traditional spindles surrounding the sides and staircases in the fashion of Aurora, rather than glass paneling. The Crows Nest (my favourite place on Aurora!) has made a welcome return and has all the charm and grace that you would expect. It’s fantastic to know that I will be able to relax in the comfort of the Crows Nest during the many sea days which are to come!
There are also many other bars and lounges onboard to choose from, each with their own character. Add in the numerous places to eat (The Market Café anyone?) and there is a lot to love about this ship. However, although I may appear to be loved up and have rose tinted glasses on, I assure you there are some points that I would love to see changed, improved upon or given more thought for future ships. For now I will just concentrate on my top 3 snags!
Promenade Deck: Unlike Aurora and most British ships, Britannia doesn’t have a full wrap around promenade deck, or a proper promenade deck at all! There is a high promenade deck up top (Deck 18) which you can walk around fully, but alas, it’s certainly not what you would expect. This is something I wrote about from my time onboard Royal Princess, which also has this problem, but the same applies to Britannia. The usual Promenade Deck, Deck 7, is simply titled ‘Main Deck’ … I know, very imaginative! This deck has pockets with deck space outside where you can sit and relax, but I have to admit it’s not the same. I would like to hope that P&O have listened to their passengers and will restore the Promenade Deck to its former glory on future ships!
Midship staircase: A simple one and again something I reported on from Royal Princess. There is no full midship staircase. I prefer to use the stairs, so it can be a bit of a pain for me! However, I tend to use the Aft staircase and lifts anyway so it’s not a huge issue. Apparently the midship staircases have been opened up on Royal Princess, so perhaps it is something P&O Cruises may rectify during Britannia’s dry dock which should be taking place next year.
Cabins: At first glance the cabins are impressive, look welcoming, modern and have the usual layout you would come to expect. We had champagne, flowers and treats in both cabins on arrival which always adds a great first impression. However, the balconies are very narrow, which I know many will be disappointed with. We are lucky to have two adjoining balconies, which makes it a little better space wise, but the narrowness makes them almost impossible to sunbath. I may be alone on this one…my biggest snag with the cabin? No individual bedside lights…this seems strange to me. If you want to read the Horizon paper in bed you need to have a whole set of lights on. Not a problem if you’re on your own, or sharing with a likeminded person, but can be an inconvenience if one person is trying to get to sleep whilst the other reads. There are a few other bits and pieces I could list, but I will save them for another blog.
I will conclude this part of my blog here…I think I may have already taken up enough of your time. I hope you’ve enjoyed my journey so far! I will definitely be keeping you updated as I go over on my Facebook page so make sure you ‘Like’ it so not to miss anything!
Britannia is definitely turning into my new favourite ship in P&O Cruises fleet and with the recent announcement that Aurora will be turning ‘Adult Only’ next year, I think she will be my 1st choice of ship when sailing with P&O Cruises in the future. If you would like me to find anything out for you about Britannia, or life onboard with P&O Cruises in general, let me know either in the comments below or over on Facebook! I will do my best to find out and answer them for you!
Stay tuned for my next blog from onboard Britannia! Coming soon will be a topic close to my heart, an insight into the Caribbean ports, plus lots more! I’ll be updating photos on Facebook and Instagram and of course will upload lots more when I’m back home.
Keep smiling and happy sailing! 🙂