Tag Archives: Christmas Caribbean Cruise

Britannia Christmas Cruise – Xmas at Sea

Jingle Bells Rock

Probably the biggest question most people will have when thinking about a Christmas cruise is how does it compare with the festivities at home. I thought it would be helpful to write a post with a little more information on how P&O delivered Christmas on Britannia.

The ship is beautifully and tastefully decorated throughout with numerous Christmas trees in bars, restaurants, stairwells and even one on high overlooking the pools! We asked Andrew our butler to find out how many trees there were on board and after checking he said 23 but we also heard it was close to 70 which seemed more like it. There are also carefully colour coordinated wreaths and gingerbread villages dotted throughout the ship and each cabin has a small and tasteful door decoration courtesy P&O which magically appeared after the first night on board adding to the mounting excitement. Many passengers including ourselves also brought their own additional door decorations which makes the walk along the corridors even more festive.

As a parent it’s a bit of a logistical challenge managing Christmas away. We had a small celebration with the in-laws the Sunday before we left when Finn received a few of his presents that would be useful for our holiday such as his own camera! Santa would then hopefully find us on board but would only be delivering small items because we’d have to bring them home and we only have a 23kg each weight allowance. Finally Santa will be leaving some of the larger items on Finn’s list at home for when we return.

The bars, DJ and bands were playing Christmas tunes from the minute we boarded and swimming in the pools in the Caribbean sunshine to Wham’s Last Christmas was a little surreal but highly enjoyable.

P&O Monopoly

On Christmas Eve our cabin steward delivered a Christmas present from Britannia which to our delight was a fabulous limited edition P&O cruises themed Monopoly set. This is such a brilliant gift and we’ve seen lots of families playing it around the ship. We have had a game, Finn beat me but I did manage to buy my all time favourite port of call Tortola! We also received a card and a Xmas cake from our cabin attendant Renalyn and butler Andrew and we reciprocated with some small gifts we’d brought along for both of them.

Santa Britannia

There was a note in the Horizon daily newspaper asking everyone to be up on top deck from 7pm and at around 6.30pm there was an announcement over the main PA system from the Captain saying something unusual had been spotted on the radar and that he would monitor the situation and provide us with updates to the squeals of excitement from children and adults alike! Everyone made there way up to the Lido deck where the entertainment team were in full party mode and dancing away to Christmas hits while the captain confirmed that a man in a red suit had indeed been spotted heading towards the ship. Search lights scanned the warm night air before finally focussing on one of the two blue funnels just above where we were standing and there he was, Father Christmas waving to all the crowds below. He made his way down to top deck to party with the passengers and asked all the children to visit him in his grotto on the big day. Beautifully done P&O.

Jingle Bells Rock 3

After all that excitement it was time for the performance of Jingle Bells Rock in the Headliners Theatre, a show featuring song and dance routines to all the big Christmas Hits from Santa Baby to The Pogues wonderful ‘Fairytale of New York’. Hats off to the cast who had put so much effort into a routine they can only do on one night of the year.

Balcony Britannia Suite

Thankfully the man with the white beard found our cabin and Finn was delighted with lots of small things to open on Christmas Day. We toasted It with a glass or two of champagne on a sun filled balcony before a steak breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant – not a bad start to the day!

After breakfast it was time for the nativity which many of the children onboard had been busy rehearsing in kids club for a performance on the main stage in the Headliners Theatre. Finn refused to take part as at 8 I think he’s getting a little too self conscious and didn’t want to be a donkey! He was however happy to watch and it was very cute with several heartwarming and amusing moments and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. At 12 noon the captain did his daily announcement and wished every one a very merry Christmas replacing the noontime bells with sleigh bells – a lovely festive touch.

The main Christmas meal is an evening dinner rather than the lunch we would usually have at home so we treated ourselves to a Glass House lunch and a flight of red wine while listening to a choir of passengers sing festive carols and songs in the atrium.

Atrium Xmas Carols

After lunch we visited top deck which the kids club staff aka the Reef Rangers had transformed with a grotto and a Christmas fair featuring lots of traditional stalls like Hoopla and Hook a Duck. We joined a short queue to meet the big man himself and Finn received a great quality remote control toy car. There was an age appropriate gift for every child and no expense had been spared. We also won an armful of prizes at the stalls and the reef rangers seemed to be genuinely having a great time and were very generous and forgiving of rules when it came to winning!

On Christmas Day the buffet and Beach House are closed and all passengers have set dining, even if you are on freedom dining. We were allocated a late sitting but managed to change this on board to an early sitting at 6.15pm. Christmas Day is a formal dress code so we donned our tuxedos and a cocktail dress and went to the Peninsular restaurant where we joined a table of ten. The table was dressed with festive chocolates and quality crackers and there were Christmas hats for all the passengers and all dining room staff wore Santa hats. There was a special festive five course menu from which we opted for the traditional turkey main course with all the trimmings although there were several other options available too. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening chatting to our fellow guests and will be joining the same table again on New Years Eve.

In summary, I think P&O delivered a wonderful Christmas on board and we’ve absolutely loved the festivities at sea. It’s been a magical and memorable one for us and Caribbean sunshine certainly beats the torrential rain and flooding many have experienced back home.

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.