Tag Archives: P&O Britannia

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 – 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.