Tag Archives: Christmas Cruise

Britannia Christmas Cruise – Aruba

Britannia Sunset

Our third day on Britannia was a sea day which is always a perfect opportunity to relax, explore the ship and get our bearings.

We started the day with a breakfast of steak and strawberry smoothies in the Epicurean before heading to the Ivory Suite for a Facebook group get together where everyone brought a small gift which will be delivered to kids in Jamaica and Dominica later in the cruise. It’s a lovely idea and an important reminder of how lucky we all are.

The weather at sea was glorious so we went up to top deck where after reading much about sun bed hoggers my faith in human nature was quickly restored by a fellow passenger who’d spotted us searching for beds and kindly offered us two right beside the pool! A few beers and swims later it was time to escape the midday sun so we changed and went to The Peninsular Restaurant for the al a carte lunch and enjoyed yet another amazing curry.

Britannia Top Deck

Although we are on freedom dining where we can pretty much eat when it suits us, on Christmas Day & New Years Eve everyone is allocated set dining times, an early sitting at 6.15 or a later one at 8.45. P&O had emailed ahead to ask our preference and travelling with a small child early dining always works best for us but unfortunately we’d been allocated the late sitting. I spoke to the restaurant manager who wasn’t able to make any promises however after a quick chat with Andrew our wonderful butler the matter was swiftly resolved in our favour. Given that our son is so excited about the big day and will have us up at stupid o’clock I’m just hoping we’ll all stay awake long enough to enjoy our turkey!

After lunch Finn decided it was time to try Britannia’s kids club which is called The Reef and is situated on deck 17 mid ship. He’s in Surfers which is for 5-8 year olds and there’s also Splashers for 2-5’s, Scubas for 9-12 year olds and H2O for the teens who get their own pool at the aft of the ship during school holiday cruises and seem to be having a lot of fun on board! The Surfers room is huge with about ten PS4 games consoles, a soft play area, a movie zone, books and toys. The staff genuinely seem to love their jobs and Finn happily skipped in without so much as a backwards glance. I collected him a couple of hours later from the Live Lounge where they were having a welcome aboard party. Finn and 30 other Surfers were dancing away to a DJ and he was delighted he’d already won two turtle teddies in the games they’d been playing. At this rate we may need another case!

Kids Club Snowman

It was the first of four black tie gala dinners tonight but we decided to skip the main dining room and eat instead in the Glass House, Olly Smiths wine and tapas bar which is priced al a carte at £5 for 3 small plates and £7.50 for a steak with those legendary triple cooked chips and a sauce of your choice. While we waited for a table we had a glass of wine at the bar and got chatting to some of our fellow passengers. Britannia really is the friendliest ship I’ve ever been on, possibly because it’s all British passengers but without fail everyone we’ve spoken to has been absolutely lovely.

We were seated at a table in the annexe of the bar, possibly not the best in the house but as Finn was absolutely exhausted he was grateful for the sofa area and promptly fell asleep before our starters even arrived. Andy and I enjoyed three small plates of prawns, chicken tenders and a chorizo and bean cassoulet followed by steak, chips and pepper sauce washed down with a highly recommended Marques De Riscal Rioja. It’s one of the options on the Commodore’s wine package we bought earlier in the cruise that gives us a dozen beautiful bottles for £230 saving around 10 to 15% on the standard wine list prices. Regular readers will know I like a glass of red so we think this is good value for any wine lovers and we are on holiday after all!

We’d hoped to watch a Beatles tribute act in the Live Lounge but as Finn was fast asleep we carried him back to bed after the meal and all had an early night.

Day 4 was Aruba, a port we’d not visited before and I’d pre-booked a P&O excursion to De Palm Island, an all inclusive beach resort a 5 minute ferry ride from the main land. We were hoping to give Finn his first taste of snorkelling however during breakfast Aruba disappeared into thick dark clouds and the heavens opened with a tropical rainstorm! As often happens in the Caribbean, it quickly blew over and it was blue skies again by the time we boarded the coaches for the 15 minute journey to the ferry port but the sea remained choppy for the short boat ride and was probably not best suited to a first time snorkel.

Aruba wasn’t as pretty as I’d expected as we passed through rows and rows of shops selling gem stones and along roads bordered with acres of scrubland but thankfully De Palm Island’s beaches were facing in the other direction! As a point of interest, the offshore oil rig looking things you may see from the ship and the island are actually desalination plants that pump fresh water back to Aruba.

Turtle Aruba

De Palm has a water park, a zip line, air jumper trampolines, banana boat, snorkelling, beaches and all you can eat and drink included in the ticket price. You can also upgrade to do snuba diving or a sea trek. We paid £51 each for us adults and £34 for Finn which I thought was pretty good value. The food wasn’t the finest quality we’ve eaten and the drinks were a little weak but we had a great time paddling in the turquoise water, petting turtles and drinking wine that was almost as rough as the sea!

Back on the ship we were a little later than usual for dinner so there was a small queue but we said we were happy to share a table and were soon seated with another couple and had an enjoyable dinner sharing hints and tips on ports of call. Finn chose to dine off the adults menu joining Daddy on a starter of duck and a main of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes whereas I had a delicious piri piri chicken. After dinner I took Finn to kids club for movie time and Andy & I had a quick nightcap in the Live Lounge.

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…