This was our third P&O cruise; as we are not keen on flying, boarding at Southampton is the main attraction for us. However, as we live near Manchester, embarking at Liverpool or Hull would be even better! (P&O – please take note.)
Check in was very efficient as usual; we used part of our onboard credit to pay for parking at Southampton. We usually drive down the previous day and stay at the Premier Inn Newbury; this is around the 200 mile mark and leaves us just 50 miles left to reach the docks in good time to check in.
I travelled with my husband and my mother (who had to pay a hefty premium for a single fare).
We were hoping that mid-June would provide decent weather in Norway, but unfortunately it was damp and cool at each port (around 13 degrees).
The scenery was impressive, but the ports less so. Prices in Norway are approximately double those in the UK for most items (beer is over £8 a pint). We looked at the gift shops, but they were expensive and rather tacky.
It was my birthday during the cruise, and I received a card from the Captain and also from the sales team. I treated myself to the one hour Chocolate Workshop, where we made liqueurs and brownies. Very enjoyable, but it cost £45 to take part. The classes are worth doing for anyone who is keen on cookery; however the masterclasses with Marco Pierre White were £100 and £150!
Having cruised now for over 15 nights, we are now on the ‘Pacific’ loyalty tier. This means that we receive 5% discount on onboard purchases. As my mother reached her 15 nights during the cruise, we inquired whether she would also start to receive a discount, but we were told that it wouldn’t be awarded until her next cruise! (So she actually lost out on five days worth of discounts.) We just put all her purchases on our account.
I would agree with a previous reviewer that daytime entertainment was rather hard to find. On previous cruises on Ventura and Aurora, it was difficult to fit everything in, but this time it was disappointing.
The best class, apart from the cookery, was a floristry session with the ship’s florist where we learnt to make button-holes and corsages using roses and carnations. The florist’s knowledge and skills were excellent.
I think new cruise ships are becoming too big and impersonal; it’s obvious as you walk around the ship that everything is targeted at encouraging passengers to spend, spend, spend. On this cruise we were very careful – we didn’t go on any of the excursions (we used local tour buses). We bought very little on board (some of the items in the one day sales were of very poor quality). In this way we managed not to run up a very large bill!
Next time I would like to try a smaller, more intimate ship, preferably with a different cruise line and hopefully embarking from a Northern port.