During the visit we had the opportunity to wander round the decks, and the images and text below cover what we saw.
There are two pools in the main Lido deck area together with the usual collection of deck facilities: there’s a couple of bars, a grill, and a pizzeria. There’s also a new outlet: ‘Grab & Go’. This will provide pre-packed snacks, sandwiches and salads. Among the items available will be healthy breakfast options e.g. yoghurt & muesli; not-so-healthy pastries e.g. double chocolate muffins; hot selections e.g. Cumberland sausage in a roll (isn’t that a hot dog?) (“Sausage inna bun” – CMOT Dibbler….); smoothies; sandwiches; cold salads; and individual desserts. That sounds like a good addition – there have been so many times when what I’ve fancied for lunch has been a sandwich to eat on deck, and I’ve had to make it myself in the buffet from the ingredients.
Also on the Lido deck is the Sunset bar, which is aft of the Horizon buffet and therefore overlooks the stern. It looks like it will take the place of Ventura’s and Azura’s Terrace area, and will probably be very popular. It has both covered and open sections, and the addition of the former will be an improvement on Ventura and Azura, in both cold and very hot weather. I’ve also found a reference to a self-service counter located at the “adjacent Terrace Bar” [I think they mean Sunset Bar] “ideal for those wanting to grab a quick bite without having to go into the main buffet area”. That sounds useful – there have been a number of times when I’ve carried food through the buffets on Ventura and Azura, e.g. the sandwiches mentioned above, in order to get out to the Terrace area.
Sun Deck and The Retreat
One deck up from the Lido deck is the Sun Deck on which can be found the Serenity Pool and The Retreat – both well forward. The Serenity pool is described as a quiet zone with covered cabanas – one of the pictures above shows one. There’s also a bar adjacent to this pool.
The Retreat is a concept that we’re familiar with from Ventura and Azura – for a fee, passengers can spend the day (or possibly just half a day) on a designated lounger in this private area. It’s described as an “exclusive adults-only spa terrace”. One possible problem is that on Britannia this area is nowhere near the actual spa – that’s about 11 decks lower. (On Ventura and Azura, the spa is immediately below The Retreat, and there is easy access from one to the other via the steps around the Oasis pool.) I have some reservations about this whole concept. First, I don’t think I like the idea of reserving an area of the deck just for passengers who can pay for the privilege. Secondly, I think there are practical problems with using it, at least for us. We would only want to do so during sea days (along with many other passengers, of course), but on a typical 14-night Mediterranean cruise, most of the sea days are at the beginning and end of the cruise, at times when you can’t guarantee the weather. On a 14-night Baltic cruise you can never guarantee good weather (although you might well get it) but it probably works well on a Caribbean cruise. However I do recognise that some passengers love The Retreat, so they’ll be happy.
Back to open deck spaces. We didn’t get to go up to the Sports deck, nor did we get to the children’s area at the aft end of the Sun deck, so I can’t comment on the Terrace Pool, which I gather is reserved for children.
Dancers will appear at spontaneous intervals during the evening…
Let’s finish with a positive. Apparently, there will be ‘On deck shows’ on the Lido and Sun decks. This is described as “a spectacular new deck show.. an explosion of light, colour and sound… the show will use the latest technology to create a dazzling spectacle under the night sky”. You’ll not be surprised when I say that we didn’t see any of that during our daytime visit under grey Southampton skies! But it sounds fun. Intriguingly, the description goes on to say “dancers will appear at spontaneous intervals during the evening with set-pieces that will surround the audience gathered on deck, to provide an altogether interactive entertainment experience”. I’ll look forward to seeing the interaction between a spontaneous dancer and a P&O veteran…but I’m being cynical; if this is done well it could make the deck areas much more of a focal point during the evenings and that would be a big plus.
This was one of the hardest parts of the ship to visualise how it will be in practice – as I said above, on the day we saw it it was cold, windy and grey, and the open decks all looked rather forlorn. But in the right circumstances they can come alive, and I think P&O are right to try to take things forward with new facilities. I very much like the sound of the Grab & Go outlet, although in practice its success will depend on the quality of the items available, and indeed the actual availability of items – it will need to be kept stocked. I also very much liked the Sunset Bar area; if we ever cruise on Britannia I think that might be a favourite spot. As regards the Retreat, I understand why P&O are doing it and I accept that some people like it, but I’m not sure I do, either in principle or in practice. In any case I think it works much better on fly-cruises when warm weather is guaranteed throughout the cruise. Finally, the On Deck shows sound like they might be real fun – I remember some warm evenings on Celebrity ships with themed deck parties when the open decks were focus of the whole ship. If that can be replicated on Britannia then everyone will have a great time.
Tomorrow will be my final post from the visit, and in it I’ll be reporting on some locations that I haven’t covered yet. These will extend from the Crows’s Nest down to the theatre, and will take in the Library and one or two lounges on the way.