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Gary Bembridge

Age: 46

Occupation:Vp Global marketing

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: P & O Cruises

Ship: Arcadia

Sailing Date: July 24th, 2005

Itinerary: Mediterranean


The short summary is that we LOVED this new ship to the P&O fold and we loved the cruise around the Mediterranean, finding nothing major to highlight as areas P&O could focus on to make it better! The areas we wrote on the feedback form I will cover later in the review.

We did find – however - that very regular P&O cruisers seemed almost eager to want to find things about the ship that they did not like. We found as we met people that they were constantly trying to compare it to other P&O ships, versus focusing on the merits or otherwise of the ARCADIA. That is probably a reflection of just how popular the other ships are! As when we pushed and asked exactly what do you not like, we almost always got the response "um, well, um, we can't quite put our finger on it, but it just isn't the same". Although surely if you want the same you go on the same ship?

The 4 specific things people we spoke to did not like were things that (in my view) a bit of simple research before the cruise would have told people about, and are well covered in the brochure, the detailed P&O website (http://www.pocruises.co.uk) and the various P&O groups / chat rooms.

These things were:

1) The ship wasn't "glitzy" enough. The P&O material sent out through the building of the ship and in the brochure/ website seems to talk and show how they were going for a more “British”/ under-stated / sophisticated look.

2) The atrium wasn't spectacular. It is (admittedly) only 3 decks high and very simple. People seem to feel that this was a missed opportunity and an important part of any ship that was missing.

3) The Crow’s Nest is not that great. I agree. The one in AURORA, for example, with its tiered seating and layout creates a much better atmosphere and is a much better place to visit and spend time in. the one on ARCADA is a bit sterile.

4) The ship was too big, and takes too long to walk from the back to the front....

We did, however, think the ship is fantastic. And would go back on it in a flash!

The fact that it is an adult only ship was a big plus too, as we could get easy access to the pools at all times...

The ship, in our view, itself is very tastefully done in muted colours and stylish contemporary fittings and furniture. It was not loud and brash anywhere, except the disco that was funky (although maybe a bit like a teen/ kids fun club). The ship overall is not brash and “Las Vegas” like.

The overall look is fairly consistent through the ship, and there is a not a lot of difference in the various rooms. They have gone for consistency, rather than making every public area very different from each other. This is probably the thing some people missed from other ships.

Here are some thoughts on some of the areas and rooms:

Cabin. B059 Hong Kong Suite
We were in this suite on B deck. It was fantastic. It is large (over 500 square feet including the expansive balcony). It has a great seating area with large sofa and chairs. There is a small dressing room, and bathroom with separate shower and “Jacuzzi” bath and 2 basins. The bed was very comfortable and huge – especially when together as they make a king size at least. It has a flat screen TV and DVD player, and piles of storage (we took loads of clothes and stuff and did not even use all the storage).

It had butler service (which I still do not really understand!! Perhaps it is just that we don’t use them enough as all he really did was bring canapés, our breakfast a few times and chatted to us!)

Saying all the above, I am not sure the cost of a suite on the ship is worth it. I think a mini-suite would be very good indeed, and from what we saw the staterooms were a great size and had decent sized balconies. I will go for one of these 2 options next time

Meridian Restaurant
On 2 levels, at the back of the ship, it has an open and bright feel with lots of windows and very striking and unusual light fittings. The food was excellent, and service outstanding.

The Palladium Theatre
Wow! Over 3 levels this is huge. It is hard to remember that you are on a ship. The stage has all sorts of fancy features like in the West End.

The shows ranged from a Cirque style show (which was VERY impressive), Andrew Lloyd Weber Best of, West End Favorites, Flashback Review of 60s – 90s. The cabaret was an old TV personality from the UK TV shows “Catchphrase” which was not our taste and a Violinist Showman who we did not go and see.

Saying that, I thought the shows were better than we had seen on the QE2 in December by a long way!

Décor Vivo
A small coffee shop I used a fair bit as the filter coffee in the other areas was terrible! You pay for the coffee and you get muffin or sandwich etc included. A pleasant enough area situated next to the Cyber lounge. It did not seem overall to be used that much.

Belvedere Self Service
We usually do not like the lido style places on ships, but we liked this one. It was much better décor than the usual, something most people commented on. The seating runs along large windows on either side of the ship offering great views. It was very large with spread out counters all themed on different types of food, and open 24 hours. The layout meant much less queuing than in many lido style places on ships we have been on so far. We used it much more than we have ever on other ships.

Gym
This is very large and overlooks the bow of the ship. Bright with wide range of machines and free weights. A good number of classes were on offer.

Spa
Very large but horribly over-priced with fairly inexperienced therapists. NOT worth the money. A lot of passengers agreed! This is a pity as they have given up a lot of space for the spa and it is just not good value for money at all.

Cyber Room
Good size and number of PCs. But as with many ships access was expensive. There was wireless access in most of the public rooms but not in the cabins (unfortunately).

Arcadia Rhodes and Orchid Restaurants
These are the 2 alternative dining options where you pay a surcharge. Both are lovely rooms. We went to the Gary Rhodes one. It was a nice evening – but to be honest the food in the main restaurant was so good and varied that we did not really think it worth the extra cost and so did not go back. It seemed to be fairly empty, although later in the cruise it did get busier we believe.

Pools
Very nice indeed! We used them a lot as the weather was very good.

The areas that we suggested P&O think about in our feedback were:
1. Spa – this needs to be sorted out as it is too expensive and staff are not experienced enough for the prices.
2. Crows Nest – needs some work to turn it into a more pleasant and inviting space.
3. Casino – A great range of equipment and games. But the staff is all so miserable. Everywhere else the staff are cheery and helpful. Something is not right in the casino!
4. Filter Coffee – this is terrible! Get another brand please!
5. Wireless access – get it into the cabins

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