Having covered the atrium area and the restaurants, now it’s the turn of cabins. We visited a number of these, of various types. Unfortunately we may have missed one or two types but the ones we saw are representative, I think. They were a single cabin; a balcony cabin; an accessible cabin; and a couple of suites. The single cabin was on the Lido deck but all the others that we looked into were on B deck – this turned out to be significant as I’ll describe later.
This looks impossibly crowded in the picture, but that’s because there are several times more people in it than there are supposed to be! It is certainly small, but in a situation where there is just one person in there, and you don’t have to manoeuvre around another person, it’s large enough. My recollection is that there was hanging space on the wall opposite the bed, and the access to the balcony was beyond the foot of the bed. The Single Inside cabin across the corridor was similar, except that there was mirror on the end wall instead of a balcony door. I’ve shown the bathroom from this cabin here, but I think that this was in fact a standard (non-bath) bathroom and other cabin types have the same bathroom.
We visited a Larger Inside cabin on B deck. On the deck plans these don’t appear to be any larger than a normal inside cabin, but unfortunately we didn’t get into a standard Inside cabin to compare it to and I haven’t been able to find anything online about the difference between the two cabin types. However the sign in it definitely described it as ‘Larger Inside’ and indeed that’s how the deck plans defined the cabins in that location. I was struck by how roomy it felt and I thought you could have a quite comfortable cruise in this cabin, as long as you didn’t mind being inside.
Balcony cabins are the most common cabin type on the ship, making up about 1300 of the approximately 1800 cabins in total.There are actually three different types and sizes of balcony cabin on Britannia: Balcony with shower and without sofa (category H); Balcony with shower and sofa (category G); and Superior Deluxe Balcony with bath/shower (category D). The sizes are: 174 sq. ft. for the Balcony without sofa; 185 sq. ft. for Balcony with sofa; and 243 sq. ft. for the Superior Deluxe Balcony. The smallest of these (category H) is by far the most common – there are about 900 of them – and they’re available on all seven accommodation decks. Next commonest is the middle sized cabin (category G) with just over 300, and again available on all accommodation decks. Finally there are just 92 of the Superior Deluxe Balcony cabins, and they’re on A, B, and C decks only.
Above are pictures of the first and third types – I didn’t see one of the middle types (Balcony with sofa). The Superior Deluxe balcony cabin was clearly a lot roomier than the category H cabin. However, even that seems to be the same size as a balcony cabin on Ventura and Azura, and the middle one would be a bit bigger. All of these balcony cabins feature the same walk-in clothes hanging area that Ventura and Azura have, and we’ve always found that a good solution. There’s plenty of floor-length hanging space, plus drawer or shelf space as well. So as cabins, any of these balcony cabins would be good, and if you choose a roomier balcony cabin type then you’ll be more comfortable.
I’ve also had a look at the prices for these different balcony cabins. Category H cabins are obviously the cheapest of the balcony cabins, while category G cabins seem to cost about £50 more per person for seven nights. Category D cabins cost about £250 more (than category H) per person for the same seven nights. But that’s looking at what’s available now for the rest of 2015; a better comparison of the price differentials will be apparent when the 2016 schedules are available.
We had a quick look round an accessible cabin, i.e. a cabin that has been fitted out for passengers with significantly restricted mobility. In this case the cabin seems to be the same size as a suite, albeit without the divider between the sleeping and seating areas, and with a significantly altered bathroom layout. There was also a built-in slope between the cabin and the balcony itself.
We visited a couple of suites, one along the starboard side of B deck, and then the suite in the starboard aft corner of the same deck. Lovely, both of them! – this is the way to cruise, I thought. The bathrooms in both gave a definite touch of luxury and I could enjoy all that living space. Recommended, if you can afford it…. But when all’s said and done, even an inside cabin gives you access to the same facilities on the ship and goes to the same ports on a cruise as a suite. So on P&O having a suite only gives you more space. (On some other lines suite passengers get other advantages – priority booking for speciality restaurants, priority tendering, etc. Not so on P&O; or at least, not yet.)
Now it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room – the size of the balconies. Just to remind you, here’s a picture of a Britannia balcony:
That’s not big – specifically, note how the chair can’t be angled to look directly outwards; and that’s before anyone actually sits in it. I think that the only way you’ll be able to sit on the balcony is ‘sideways on’, and I also think that when there are two people on the balcony it will feel crowded. For me this is near to being a show-stopper, at least for longer cruises to the Mediterranean; we tend to use the balcony for our dose of sun rather than go to the Lido or Sun decks. However, for shorter cruises or cruises to regions where sun isn’t necessarily expected – for example, the fjords – then it’s less of an issue. But we have become used to bigger balconies than this; indeed, given that most of our our balcony cabin experience has been with C deck balconies on Ventura and Azura, this would be very different.
However, I ought also to report that Royal Princess and Regal Princess, Britannia’s near-sister ships, have been in service with Princess for a while (almost two years in the case of Royal Princess) and they haven’t been rejected by the Princess Cruises customer base. Yes, there have been some grumblings, but by and large Princess passengers have been concentrating on the many good things that those ships offer and have been accepting the balcony size as a reasonable trade-off. I expect that Britannia customers will reach the same conclusion.
There is one other balcony issue I ought to mention. Let me remind you of the balcony we found at the aft end of the corner suite on B deck. We were all very impressed with it:
Well, on examining the deck plans I spotted that the aft balconies for the suites on other decks were nowhere as generously-sized. That on A deck isn’t bad and the one shown (on B deck) is wonderful. But those on C, D, E and G decks appear to be the same size as the side balconies, while the one on F deck might be better than the side balconies but not as good as the one pictured. So if you’re booking an aft suite, make sure you know about the aft balcony size for the suite you’re booking.
So that’s the picture as regards cabins. Britannia takes another step forward in the march towards ‘all-balcony’ provision – there are no Ocean-view cabins on her at all, just suites, balcony cabins of various sizes and grades, and finally inside cabins. Perhaps 30% of cabins are insides, all the rest have balconies. Within that figure P&O have been able to ring the changes, with a range of four different balcony cabin types (including suites) at a range of prices. There’s probably something for everyone. The big issue is simply that the balconies themselves are small. If I was pushed I would think that either a Category G (Balcony with shower and sofa) or Category D (Superior Deluxe Balcony) would be my choice. Perhaps the former, in fact; and then we’d put the money we’d saved towards some time in The Retreat. More of that in the next post.
Update June 2016: we have now cruised on Britannia. Here’s a link to a page showing some pictures of the cabin we had, a ‘Balcony cabin with shower and sofa’. Also on that page is a comparison of the Britannia balcony with a C deck balcony on Ventura.