Archive for the ‘P&O’ Category

It’s (almost) Cruise time!

It’s almost time for us to head off to Southampton for this year’s cruise. We’ll be on A716, Azura to Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Northern Ireland.

Normally, as regular readers will know, I buy internet minutes and blog from the cruise. This time, however, I don’t think that’s going to be possible – or at least not to the same extent. The daily cost using P&O’s current internet deals would be prohibitive – I’d certainly need the £10 a day package (£12.50 for odd days), and possibly the £20/£24 a day package, and that’s just too much money. There is the 65p per minute option, but that would quickly add up. In any case, I have a feeling that at those northern latitudes – we’ll be within a whisker of the Arctic Circle when we’re at Akureyri in northern Iceland – the satellite communications get very dodgy.

What I think I’ll do is prepare draft posts off-line and post them when we’re in port, by tethering my iPad to my phone. Thanks to the relevant EU legislation there are no longer any roaming charges within the EU and I have a 12Gb monthly data allowance which I should be able to use without additional charges. So hopefully I’ll still be able to post text posts even if images may have to wait until we return home.

Read Full Post »

I must have missed this earlier, but thanks to spotting some comments on Facebook I’ve now picked it up.

I understand that the position is that whereas in the past most room service items were free, from May/June (the actual date varies ship by ship), all items on the room service menu will be chargeable. In some cases the items were on the old menu and were free but will now be chargeable – for example,  baguettes (from the Daytime Bites section of the new menu) will now cost £1.50 – the same items in the ‘Throughout the Day” section of the old menu were free. In other cases the old complimentary item seems to have disappeared and been replaced by different chargeable items – for example, previously the “Main Courses” section included dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognese, Citrus Poached Salmon and Traditional Caesar Salad which no longer seem to be available at all. They’ve been replaced by a new (and, to be fair, wider) range of “Large Plates” which includes Southern Fried Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lasagne, and Great British Beef and Ale Pie. These will all incur a charge of £4.75.

In some cases there were charges on the old menu – for example, there was a Chicken and Bacon sandwich, which consisted of a “grilled escalope of chicken served on a mini french baguette with salad and crisp bacon, topped with fresh salsa”. That cost £1.50. The nearest equivalent on the new menu is a P&O Cruises Club Sandwich, consisting of chicken, bacon, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise, so not quite the same thing. The charge isn’t the same either – the new Club Sandwich will cost £4.75. In other cases the old chargeable item has simple vanished – for example, I can’t see a direct replacement for the Seafood Pie (salmon, cod, prawns and peas in white wine sauce, and topped with cheese mash) which currently costs £4.50.

Looking at the whole picture there does appear to be a wider range of items available so that’s good. It’s disappointing, however, to see a charge for the “Children’s Sandwich Selection” – ham, egg mayo and cheese (presumably that would be three different sandwiches?) with orange juice, fruit yoghurt and a brownie. For the sake of going up to the buffet the child could get something equivalent for free and the parent wouldn’t be asked to fork out the £2.00.

The one exception to all this will be breakfasts – they will continue to be complimentary, and they appear to be the same continental breakfasts as before. But you can’t order breakfast throughout the day – “breakfast” stops at 11am.

Here’s when the new menus and charges will be introduced, by ship:

Ship Date Cruise number
Aurora 29 May 2017 R706
Ventura 31 May 2017 N713
Oriana 5 June 2017 X710
Oceana 8 June 2017 E709
Adonia 15 June 2017 D708P
Arcadia 18 June 2017 J707
Azura 30 June 2017 A717
Britannia 22 July 2017 B721

I had expected that similar charges would be appearing on Cunard, but it seems not to be the case – Room Service will continue to be complimentary on the Cunard ships. That said, the menu doesn’t look as comprehensive as even the old/current P&O menu, let alone the new one. I could be wrong of course – if anyone knows differently, please let me know.

Finally, here are the old and new menus as PDFs.

Old Room Service menu    New Room Service menu

Read Full Post »

I subscribe to a news feed that sends me Carnival Corporation’s news releases. These cover the whole of the Carnival empire, so I receive notifications about news releases to announce new ships, new developments, occasionally information about corporate share dealings – and very occasionally, something about P&O UK. And yesterday there were not one but two notifications. Boy, was I excited! (I live a quiet life.) And then I read them.

One was about new flavours of ice-cream. They’ll come from an award-winning supplier called “Jude’s Ice Cream“, and they’ll be available “across all the ships in dedicated deck areas”. There will be eight flavours in individual 120ml tubs (Very Vanilla, Truly Choc, Strawberry Tease, Salted Caramel, Ginger Spice, Gin & Tonic, Brown Butter Pecan and Flat White Coffee).  Family friendly ships will additionally serve the following nine flavours in cones: Very Vanilla, Truly Choc, Strawberry Tease, Salted Caramel, Mint Choc Chip, Honeycomb, Raspberry Ripple, Malted Banana and Dairy Free Coconut Sorbet. Here’s the link to the news release. So there’s another factor to consider when choosing your P&O ship: if you go on an adults-only ship you won’t be able to buy Mint Choc Chip, Honeycomb, Raspberry Ripple, Malted Banana (?) and Dairy Free Coconut Sorbet flavours of Jude’s Ice Cream. They don’t like to make it easy for you, do they?

I was still adjusting my world-view to accommodate this when the second news release arrived. This one was about new names to headline the Limelight Club on Britannia. I won’t go through the full list of names, but it includes Anne Reid, the star of Last Tango in Halifax – apparently she has enjoyed a career as a cabaret performer in addition to acting. Another name is  “The One and Only” Chesney Hawkes. (Here’s a question for you: without looking it up, name any other Chesney Hawkes hit.) Plus there are other people who’ve done well on TV talent programmes – actually, “done reasonably OK” might be more accurate. Here’s a link to this news release.

I’m sorry, I know I ought to be more enthusiastic, but it’s a struggle. The Anne Reid thing sounds good – she’ll have a raft of memories to regale us with between songs, and that will probably produce a great show, but I can’t get excited about the others. But horses for courses. I ought to say that I’m not against the Limelight Club in and of itself. We spent an evening there with Jaki Graham in 2016. But she was a seasoned performer and entertainer and did a good show, even if her music wouldn’t normally be my first choice, and we enjoyed our evening very much. Am I perhaps being too judgemental?

Read Full Post »

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, from the walkway to the Dubai Mall

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been away on holiday recently, and therefore missed the announcement of the winter 2018/2019 cruises. I’ve been catching up since I returned.

The obvious eye-catchers are Oceana’s Arabian Gulf cruises. Leaving aside the voyages out and back, the cruises all seem to be for 10 nights, start and finish in Dubai, and include 5 other ports. Abu Dhabi seems to feature on pretty much all of the cruises, while Muscat is a call on all but one of them.

This caught my eye because pretty much when these itineraries were announced I was in – Dubai. This was one of the stops on my recent holiday which was mainly to Singapore. As my flights were via Dubai I took the opportunity to have a couple of nights there on the way home.

I’ll be honest, I came away from Dubai with mixed feelings. I think it’s a very strange place. I visited the Dubai Museum, walked around the Batakia preserved district, and visited the Dubai Mall. It was the museum that left the strongest impression one me. Filled with very effective and evocative displays and descriptions of old Dubai and the Bedouin way of life, I felt that the subconscious message was “This is how we were then – look at what we’ve lost!”. (In contrast, Singapore’s National Museum seemed to be saying “This is how we were then – look at what we’ve achieved!”)

At least in January to March the weather should be kind. ‘Average High’ temperatures should be in the mid- to high-20s (ºC), although the ‘record high’ in March is just over 40ºC – hopefully, no new records will be set during Oceana’s calls. In any case, it should be cooler than in mid summer, when the ‘average high’ goes into the 40s ºC, and the record high is high 40’s. At least it’s a dry heat – although I enjoyed Singapore more in terms of attractions and general life, I have to admit I found the heat in Dubai much easier to take, even though temperatures were about the same (30ºC or just over).

Is there enough to do at these ports on a 10-night cruise in the Gulf? I think there will be attractions in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat, but I’m not sure about the other places. There again, P&O wouldn’t take people to places where there was nothing to do … or would they? Perhaps I need to do some more research.

However, I do think that P&O can take credit for coming up with these innovative itineraries. It will be interesting to find out just how popular they are.

Read Full Post »

There’s a press release on the relevant Carnival Corp. webpage that announces that for Adonia’s 2017/18 Caribbean season – that is, next winter – P&O have contracted with Virgin Atlantic to provide the flights from Manchester and Heathrow to Barbados, and some seats in existing (public) flights from Gatwick. Here’s a link to the relevant page.

I gather that using a carrier other than Thomas Cook or Thomson for these Caribbean cruise flights is quite unusual. It’s not clear what the reason is for the decision – it could be that Virgin Atlantic came in with a great bid, or perhaps the regular airlines had no capacity available. Following her announced release from Fathom, Adonia’s Caribbean programme has been arranged at short notice and later than that for other ships.

While Virgin Atlantic gets a general thumbs-up, one person who commented on this pointed out that on a flight (non-cruise, I believe) to Barbados with Virgin Atlantic a few years ago, the aircraft used was older and not comparable with Virgin Atlantic services to Miami and New York. We’ll know more by this time next year!

Read Full Post »

This may well be old news, but here’s a link to a page on the P&O website showing some results of Oriana’s recent refit. I must say, the results do look attractive. I could feel tempted…

Of course, she’s been back in service for about month now, and has completed a couple of cruises in that time. If any of my readers has been on her since the refit I’d love to hear your reactions. Pictures, too, please.

Read Full Post »

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-14-40-25

Oriana in the Elbe on a murky afternoon

Well, I was a few minutes too late to grab good webcam shots of Oriana leaving Hamburg – the one above is the best I could manage. But the important thing is that she is on her way back to Southampton where she’s expected just after midnight on the 15th so her two-night cruise starting on the 16th will be OK.

Black Watch left Hamburg yesterday for Tilbury. Currently she’s off the Texel so she, too, should be back in port in plenty of time for her next cruise, which departs on the 15th.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »