An interesting Northern Lights cruise but….
Jane Gochin | October 28, 2022 | P&O Cruises | Arcadia
Our very first cruise in 2006 was on Arcadia and we were so impressed that our main holidays are now always cruises. We have since sailed on other P&O ships as well as with Cunard and Celebrity, but sadly I think the great days of cruising now we’re in the so-called post covid era have gone.
Our main reason for this cruise was to be with cruising friends who wanted to see the Northern Lights. We had booked adjoining cabins with one couple, the other couple were on the other side of the ship as they booked to join us later. Five days before sailing we were contacted by P&O to say we had to move cabins as our bathroom had a problem. It was a shame as we were looking forward to taking down the balcony partition so we could enjoy sailaway drinks together. However, when we got into our new cabin it was missing a kettle, waste bin and the safe didn’t work. A new battery was put in but then the door wouldn’t lock so that had to be replaced as well. Then several days out we were woken at 3 am with a strong smell like car exhaust fumes coming through the air-con unit, which was extremely worrying. We called Reception, they sent an officer up who confirmed there was definitely a problem and after about another twenty minutes the air-con was turned off and the smell stopped. We were subsequently told there was a problem with a faulty belt in a cupboard outside in the corridor.
We had originally booked freedom dining but the first night was absolute chaos. The app didn’t work on our phones and we were told we would have to wait an hour for a table of 6. We asked if we could change to second sitting fixed dining and were told it might be impossible, but fortunately our other friends were in a suite and their butler sorted it out for us with no problem. From the second night on we had a table with two very nice and competent waiters, if only the food had been as good. As other reviewers have said the food was adequate at best and really disappointing at worst. The wonderful food we had back in 2006 was a very distant memory!
The weather was mixed; Andalsnes had sunshine and Tromso was beautiful during the morning, but clouded over later. We had rain in Narvik and Stavanger, but anyone who has been to Norway knows, you have to be very lucky to get good weather. Unfortunately although people on tours in Tromso and Narvik came back with photos of the lights they couldn’t really be seen with the naked eye. We did see them briefly the night after Narvik as the sky was clear, but certainly not the beautiful displays that can be seen. We had an excellent lecturer in Ian Redpath from the Royal Astronomical Society who gave five lectures over the cruise but he made the point that the human eye doesn’t see the lights with the brilliant colours that the camera sees. I was very lucky to see a wonderful display back in 2016 when I stayed in Tromso for 4 nights but even though they arched across the whole sky, with the naked eye they looked rather grey with only a hint of green. When I saw what the camera had taken I was amazed at the colours!
We only booked two tours, the first should have been the train across the Swedish border in Narvik. Unfortunately after sitting on the train in the station for one and a half hours, the tour was cancelled due to a technical fault on the line. Our other tour was to see the three swords just outside of Stavanger. Despite the rain it was a very enjoyable tour with an excellent tour guide.
Overall all six of us thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, but as much for the social side as anything else. We all cruise frequently and it’s a lot of fun, but I have to say our first choice these days is Cunard, especially the Grills where the dining experience is hugely better, (but you are of course paying for it!)
My husband and I sailed on Iona in May and enjoyed good food in several of the specialist restaurants, so four of us did however book onboard to sail on Arvia in 2024 on the basis that there is a much greater choice of dining venues and although it’s all freedom dining we were told we could book all the restaurants before we get on the ship, so as long as that turns out to be correct would be a much better option. Arcadia was disappointing as others have said in that Sindu was shut and although we ate in the Ocean Grill once most of the tables were empty despite it being supposedly full and the food wasn’t really worth the additional £15 per head.
Finally, despite having our 5th vaccination three weeks before boarding, I started to have a very slight sore throat and felt extremely tired the last night of the cruise. Needless to say two days later I was testing positive and subsequently passed it on to my husband who is still suffering with a nasty cough.
So, sorry P&O, we used to love Arcadia, but I can’t see us sailing on her again unless it was for a very special itinerary.
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