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Dave and Mandy Spencer

Age: 54

Occupation:Film Maker

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: P & O Cruises

Ship: Arcadia

Sailing Date: January 1st, 2006

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

Hi.
We have just had a cruise on P&O Arcadia. Our first cruise I must admit so not a lot to measure against although we are very well travelled. Launched in the spring of 2005 the ship was originally designed for Cunard and finished for P&O by then under Carnival ownership. The cabins we believe are to Cunard design, we were well pleased with the layout and space in the stateroom with balcony albeit a bit prosaic as a description as obviously ship cabins won't measure up to a good sized hotel room.

We had a really awful flight out to Acapulco , P&O had chartered Thomas Cook airline, an Airbus, ok for short haul but not too Mexico.Delayed setting off then delayed at refuelling stop in Cuba. Shattered by the time we arrived, then luggage took about 6 hours to reach the ship after we had boarded. Weather throughout was splendid, sunny and hot most of the time, Pacific like a mill pond, lots of turtles, dolphins and even whales to spot. Acapulco seemed better then expected, but our expectations weren't that high, police with machine guns everywhere bit off putting but everyone very friendly. The ship is a bit soulless, people said die to the lack of an atrium. We had a day in Acapulco then sailed to Nicaragua, small port but made it to Granada on pre booked trip. Independent travellers beware inflexibility and inevitable craft shops always included, not much info on private exploration. By the way after the luggage wait and bad flight the balcony was full of cigarettes and litter but got letter of apology and bouquet to make up for that. Crew avoided admitting any mess up on the luggage, found reception staff stand offish. Everyone seemed to spend half the year cruising and be stinking rich, we felt very poor!

Costa Rica, again battled to get time in San Jose that we wanted, another small port, delightful place all round, wanted more time. The facilities such as bars seem to be set in passageways along the length, could never get to grips with the layout, signage seemed very poor. Two pools, often with bang bang music which seemed odd for child free ship with more aged punters. Likewise the pub, great to have Guinness and Boddingtons but what about the boom boom videos , didn't suit the atmosphere at all.

Panama city by night, I suppose this allowed day timer transit of canal. Interesting although after nearly 8 hours transit people were a little 'canal' jaded, great to have done it. Ship photographers busy, we had some very good portraits and of course you don't buy what you don't want, they even used a helicopter to get aerial shots plus canalside views on the canal transit. There was a daily battle for favourite sun beds in the quieter spots, the pools themselves were fine and never too crowded, just that awful music in the background.

Staff Philippines, Goa and Mumbai seemed to sweep most up, restaurants, well another shock to the system. Great meals in Rhodes restaurant, plain cooking , well presented, simply served. Not all the staff spoke English, started with good waiter but had language problems with others, good maitre d's. We chose Rhodes often as the main restaurant was so busy although once accustomed we got to accept it, they'd double booked our table but sorted it out so we opted to go on a table for two gaining some really nice waiters in the change. Food very potatoes based, too many sauces already with meat / veg but intrinsically good (except the quality of potatoes which were awful).

After the Canal we called at Curacao, delightful spot in Netherlands Antilles, very quiet as it was Sunday but everyone opened up, more souvenirs than you could ever handle. The self service restaurant was like a school canteen with more choices than you could wish for, pity they didn't go for quality rather than quantity, some better fruit for instance, still people seemed satisfied. Whilst an abundance of food prevailed the afternoon tea saw strict rationing with a limit of one milk jug per table of 8 and only 4 potions of whipped cream amongst that number. Another gripe on the tea front , they didn't serve tea on deck only cold drinks. Generally an atmosphere of 'added' extras prevailed, even extended to ice cream and coffee shop where you had to pay.

After Curacao we headed for Mayreau in the Grenadines, delightful small island, the weather caught up and delayed tender transfers, the first sign of slightly choppier conditions to come. Next was Tobago, what a dump then St Lucia, another dump but very pretty.

The entertainment was good to start with a chap called Tom O'Connor, a comedian who once did afternoon gameshows, I thought it was going to be Des O'Connor but Tom was probably better. After that it was more boom bang a bang music most night although Maria King provided delightful piano interludes several afternoons and evenings. The main theatre is very big, Tom filled it but enthusiasm had waned by the end of the cruse when a female singer/comedienne failed to fill hardly any seats in the main auditorium.

Barbados was our destination, we luckily had nearly a full day before our fight back to Manchester with good old Thomas Cook, what a thought to look forward too although it was on time. So all in all, well we had a great holiday, the weather was fine, the on board beer and wine reasonably priced, the cabin fine, the food not bad and Rhodes good, believe Orchid Restaurant was also good but never tried it. The poor flight, lack of tea on deck and shortage of sun beds at quiet locations were problems that could be resolved. We'll never be regular cruisers but wouldn't say never again by any means and we have a hell of a tan!

Dave and Mandy Spencer

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