Tag Archives: Britannia

Britannia Christmas Cruise – Grand Cayman & Ocho Rios

Britannia Grand Cayman

After a sea day aboard Britannia it was time for our next two ports, Grand Cayman then Ocho Rios in Jamaica.

We’d visited Grand Cayman previously in April 2014 when sailing on MSC Divina and achieved nothing more than a stroll around town and a couple of bars. I was planning to be a little more ambitious this time and after a little research decided on a visit to Seven Mile beach, a short taxi ride from the tender port of George Town.

When we arrived around 8am there were already 3 other ships, with another following closely behind so it was going to be a busy day in town! As we’re suite passengers we get priority tender tickets which is a nice perk although the whole operation seemed well handled for all passengers and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about lengthy waits. A short 5 minute tender later we were ashore but we declined the waiting taxis and mini buses offering trips to Seven Mile beach at $4 a head to see if we could walk it.

Grand Cayman

In hindsight it wasn’t the wisest decision as after walking for twenty minutes along dusty roads we found access to the beach but it wasn’t to the main stretch everyone else had headed to and we had to navigate our way around rocks and through time share blocks to reach the main beach. Ten minutes later we were finally enjoying a well deserved cold beer in a beach bar agreeing we’d get a taxi back. Seven Mile is mainly beach resorts where you pay a cover charge of around $5 – $10 to get in then $10 for sun beds and $15 for an umbrella or even $100 for a cabana! We found a small stretch of public beach and enjoyed a few hours swimming and sunbathing before sharing a mini bus back to the ship. Grand Cayman is a pleasant enough destination however I think it feels very touristy and lacks the charm and character of other Caribbean Islands.

Our next destination was Ocho Rios on Christmas Eve. We love Jamaica as we got married there 12 years ago and have visited on several cruises since. Previously we’ve sailed into Falmouth, a new purpose built cruise terminal which is quite a distance from the main attractions so excursion choices are more limited unless you’re prepared for a lengthy drive. Ocho Rios is far better located and there lots of nearby trip options including Dunns River Falls, rafting on the Martha Brae river and a booze cruise on the Cool Runnings Catamaran which looked like a lot of fun!

Nine Miles 2

We’re big music fans so wanted to visit Nine Miles, the birth and resting place of reggae legend Bob Marley. P&O do run a trip here but it was completely sold out months ahead of the cruise so we needed to do it independently. I did a little trip advisor research and discovered a highly recommended local excursion provider called Peat Taylor. I checked out his website, emailed him and by the next day we were all booked on a private tour at $75 adults and $70 for our 8 year old Finn. Peat emailed clear instructions of where to meet and responded swiftly to an email sent the day prior to check all was okay so having paid in advance I was reassured he’d be there when we disembarked. Ocho Rios port is extremely well organised with tourist board staff directing trip goers to their coaches and we were soon introduced to Peat and in a mini bus with some other passengers. Once out of the port gates we were introduced to his son ‘Repeat’ :) and got into an air conditioned MPV to head up into the mountains. It was a spectacular hour long drive with incredible views of lush green valleys, farms and roadside villages. Many of the Jamaicans we passed may have had little in comparison to our Western lifestyles but we saw so many big smiles it made me question our materialistic, workaholic ways. Repeat was a very good driver navigating the twisting, pot hole filled roads and avoiding numerous sheer drops as only a local could. I definitely wouldn’t recommend hiring a car and attempting the trip yourself!

Crazy Nine Miles

On arrival at the village of Nine Miles we grabbed a couple of red stripes and met our tour guide called Crazy who was hugely entertaining sharing anecdotes about Bob’s life and singing his songs as we made our way through the property. You get to visit Bob’s childhood bedroom, his mother’s tomb and a stone he sat on to meditate or ‘medicate’ before finally arriving at Bob’s mausoleum. It was a magical experience and a very entertaining few hours as well as an opportunity to see the spectacular Jamaican countryside. Repeat drove us back to the ship pointing out fruit trees and plants on the way. It was a nice way to do it and we beat the open sided tour buses there and back. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed a bus ride up those narrow mountain roads anyway!

Nine Miles 1

On a final note, Jamaican’s are football mad so the small Manchester United crest badges we dished out as tips were greeted like gold dust and were far more welcome than a few US dollars. Also don’t buy alcohol for your cabin in the shopping mall in the town, it’s far cheaper in the port duty free shop on the way back in.

Britannia Christmas Cruise – First Impressions

Britannia Tortola 2

Six years on from our first ever cruise on Ocean Village (the cruise for people who don’t do cruises) we returned to Barbados to board P&O’s flagship Britannia for Christmas and New Year. It will be our first Xmas at sea and as we’re travelling with a very excited 8 year old I won’t be blogging daily but will share our thoughts on the ship and cruise every few days or so. As usual, we’ll add photos on our return home.

We were on the first of three Manchester flights to the ship on Friday so we stayed at the Radisson SAS hotel at the airport the night before. It’s a short walk to the terminal and one of the nicest things about travelling with P&O is that once you’ve checked in your luggage you don’t see it again until it’s in your cabin. The flight was on a Thomas Cook Airbus 330 and although we’d not been able to get the upgrade to premium economy, the standard seats had ample legroom for people our size. We had a delicious James Martin Thai chicken curry for lunch and watched the film version of Jersey Boys which was even better than the stage show we’d seen earlier in the year. The movie / TV choices were fine for us but you could buy a premium package for £4 giving a much wider choice which we did for Finn so he could watch Minions and other kids stuff to help while away the flight.

8 hours later we landed in Barbados where coaches awaited us for a 30 minute transfer to the port. As everyone was going to the ship we didn’t have to go into the airport at all which makes life so much easier after a long flight. We were on one of the first coaches to arrive at the cruise terminal and after collecting our cruise cards and passing through security we were on board within 10 minutes.

Britannia Atrium

Britannia is every bit as spectacular as I’d hoped it would be and its understated elegance reminds me of Malmaison – a boutique hotel at sea. I was a little concerned as I’d read a few less than favourable reviews but P&O are clearly repositioning their brand and appealing to a different market. It may not be to the taste of seasoned passengers but personally I love it!

Suite 533 Britannia

Our cabins were ready on arrival so we went to deck 14 to find our suite and it is stunning. We’ve never had a suite before but as it was Christmas we decided to treat ourselves and I’m so glad we did. It’s the size of two regular balcony cabins and has a living room area with a sofa bed for Finn, a bedroom and a palatial bathroom with a whirlpool bath and gorgeous White Company products. There’s also a double size balcony which was wider than I’d expected having read a few disparaging reviews, two flat screen TVs, a posh coffee machine as well as a complimentary bottle of Verve Clicquot and chocolates which was a nice touch. Our butler Andrew and cabin steward Renalyn popped by to introduce themselves and check we had all we needed, reassuringly great service by both.

It was time for a quick explore and the obligatory trip to the buffet! We enjoyed a fabulous chicken curry, a stroll across top deck then a bottle of red in Ollly Smith’s Glasshouse, a gorgeous bar in the atrium overlooking the spectacular shard style chandelier. The menu looks fabulous here and we’ll definitely be back to sample the steaks and triple cooked chips very soon.

Suite 533 Britannia 2

We returned to our cabin and our cases had arrived. I really love the amount of storage we’ve got, 4 wardrobes and more coat hangers than we could ever need! We had a quick dip in the whirlpool bath (heaven) and got changed for dinner. We’re on freedom dining which allows us to eat whenever we want and we went to the Peninsular restaurant where we had starters of pate and tomato soup followed by fillet steak and bernaise sauce. There was great service by a particularly attentive waiter who spotted that Finn had wolfed his croutons from his soup and so brought him some more. A lovely touch!

Britannia Epicurean

Day two began with breakfast in The Epicurean, one of the speciality restaurants on board where we enjoyed possibly the best breakfast ever at sea, a full English with back bacon and minute steak.

Britannia is so big it boards over two days which means you get an overnight in Barbados if you are day 1 passengers or an overnight on Day 13 if you arrive on day 2. On reflection I’m glad I booked the Friday departure as it’s nice not having to muster on arrival and we get to enjoy Barbados early in our trip. We’ve been here before so know it’s just a 15 minute stroll into town although there were plenty of taxis for those who don’t want to walk or who might fancy a tour of the island. We stopped at a bar overlooking the marina for a reasonably priced Banks beer at just two US dollars.

Xmas Trees Barbados 2

We walked over the bridge by the stone arch and admired what seemed like hundreds of real Christmas trees that had been decorated by local schools. We passed a derelict cinema that looked like something out of a Baz Lurhman film as we headed to The Boatyard, a beach bar and our destination for the day. For $15 cover charge you get one free drink, sun loungers, umbrellas, free wifi and a lift back to the ship. It’s a gorgeous beach playing great holiday tunes and we found a daybed and spent a lovely few hours drinking ice cold beer and swimming in the Caribbean sea.

We took the free ride back to the ship and stopped at the duty free shops in the terminal to pick up a bottle of rum to take back on board and enjoy in our cabin, another P&O bonus unlike many of the American cruise lines who’d confiscate it at the gangway and give it you back at the end of the cruise!

We lunched at the buffet, yet another tasty curry, then Finn and I had a swim on top deck and a reasonably priced ice lolly before chilling on the balcony in the sunshine.

This Is The Life

At 6pm we did the muster followed by a glass of red in the Glasshouse, my new favourite bar, and dinner in Peninsular. Then it was up to Top Deck to watch Pulse an absolutely brilliant party band featuring 4 vocalists and a backing band doing hit after hit in the warm night air as we sailed away with a rum and coke in hand. It was an incredible start to what I’m sure will be an amazing holiday. First impressions? Wow, Britannia, and to quote Rob Brydon, This is the Life…