Arcadia Canada 2019
Anthony Robinson | October 14, 2019 | P&O Cruises | Arcadia
My wife and I have just returned from a 24 night cruise on Arcadia to Canada and back. I have some positive comments but also many comments which some loyal P& O followers will not agree with. To put this into context we have been on around 30 cruises in the past 25 years and patronised Cunard, Celebrity, Oceania, Princess and P & O. Arcadia is rated 3 stars + by Berlitz but I would venture to suggest this should be just be 3 stars
First the positives. Our cabin, a mini suite on deck 7, was spacious and kept clean and refreshed by our cabin steward. There were a few niggles. The balcony and external windows were not cleaned until a few days before the end of the cruise which involved hosing down for about 90 seconds. The balcony hand rail may have been introduced to a tin of varnish during the past couple of years but not recently. At the beginning you are given 2 bottles of water. After that, having paid only £5000 each, you had to pay £1.75 a bottle.
The Ocean Grill was superb. The ambience, quality of the food and the staff were all exemplary and worth the extra £15 each which was later reduced to £11 each for suite passengers. Compared to the main dining room they were poles apart.
My wife was very impressed by the jewellery and card making classes which were held on days at sea. This made the cruise for her and the person who ran them should be congratulated for the effort she put into running the classes. My wife gives this 5 stars.
Now for the negatives. Not all cabins came up to scratch. A couple who had booked a full suite were outraged when they saw their cabin with carpets not fitting right and light switches hanging off the wall. They were moved to another suite. Funny that as we all thought the ship was fully booked. Another couple complained about the state of their bathroom. One tip take an international adaptor with you as each cabin only has one British socket, the rest are USA standard.
As per usual the reception staff were less than helpful. Between us we had £420 + £50 which was sent by our daughter. We also had a loyalty discount of 7.5% on every purchase. I had forgotten that the loyalty discount cannot be used until the obc had been fully used up. Hands up those who know that the loyalty discount cannot be used against a cash gift either. When I queried this with the reception they could not show me any conditions which set this out. On further questioning the assistant head receptionist told me to “Go away”. I complained to the head receptionist a lady from Portugal who took the time to hear my complaint in private and offered an apology. Such behaviour to paying guests may be acceptable in other countries but I take exception to be treated in this way when I was asking a reasonable question. One tip if you have obc book any tour excursions before you go. This will attract any loyalty bonus you have.
We had freedom dining in the main dining room. We always asked for a table for 2. The wait time was on average about an hour. Tables for 2 can be of two types. A table for two in the generally accepted notion of a table for two or a half table which is in effect a table for 4 but with an inch gap between the two tables. Invariably we ended up with a half table. Other diners asked for a proper table for 2 but their waiting time increased to 1.5 hours. The meals were just about satisfactory. Very reminiscent of school dinners but with tablecloths. The presentation was often appalling. On several occasions I was given the wrong meal. On one occasion I had a composite meal of garlic chicken which I did not order as I loathe garlic and other items from another meal on the menu. I rarely finished the main course. Many we saw did not finish their meals either. Some ingredients were tepid and on two occasions were cold. Table cloths were stained from earlier diners and were not changed and my wife sat down once to a tablecloth full of breadcrumbs. Waiters often leaned across other diners to put down plates.
5 star dining this is not. Compare this to the Ocean Grill mentioned earlier.
Before reaching our first port of St Johns on 21 September the captain announced we would not be calling at Corner Brook on 3 October. No rational or logical reason was given why this would be so. Instead of 2 nights in Quebec we would be spending 3 nights there. Between St Johns and Halifax the captain announced the ship had some technical difficulties which were never explained. On leaving Gaspe on 1 October we spent 36 hours circumnavigating the area to the north of Prince Edward Island at 10 knots. Again without explanation. On return to Southampton on 10 October we arrived at 1.30 am to be met by a very very large crane which almost immediately went to work over the ship. The captain had announced the early arrival was due to operational reasons.
Now call me a sceptic but all this points to a problem with the engines. But as the captain (who had changed at Quebec) never gave any explanations one must assume this was the problem.
We have never used the excursion tours organised by P & O. They are usually expensive. At Halifax the hop on hop off bus which went about 4 miles and which had decided to collaborate with P & O cost £42 each!! We did take a trip to Montreal City from Quebec. This was to be on the day of the climate change protests. The night before we received a letter telling us of the protests but saying the tour would still go ahead. No options to cancel were given. On leaving the port and turning left the first thing the guide announced was that we would not see Montreal City. After spending 3 hours 20 minutes on a bus we were taken to a depressing concrete monolith where the 1976 Olympic games were held. The funicular to the top of the stadium broke down on way back down. We were then taken to a farmers market!! where we were held for 90 minutes. Finally we spent 45 minutes at an Oratory which was different but not to everyone’s taste. I personally enjoyed this but 45 minutes was far too short. We then spent a further 3 hours 50 minutes travelling back to the ship. We never saw Montreal City except from a distance. Nearly everyone complained and were given a 40% refund.
A stop was made at Sept Iles. Even the tour people cannot understand this one and are puzzled why this stop figures in future cruises.
If you want to watch paint dry you may be better not getting off the ship. There is absolutely nothing to do unless you book an excursion. As a tour destination its probably similar to a day trip to Rotherham (I can say this as I come from Sheffield)
The ship itself was cold or cool throughout the cruise. The crew agreed. At night 20 minutes in the crows nest was about all you could take before hypothermia set in.
There are 4 launderettes for 2000 passengers. Not all machines are in working order. There are 4 ironing boards and 4 irons. How you can hope to wash and dry clothes let alone iron them during a World cruise is not explained.
My final comments concern the poor external state of the ship. Rarely have I seen a ship even a tanker or container ship with so much evident rust. Some of this was superficial, some was deeper. The boot lining (that part of the hull which is just above the waterline and usually red, green or blue) was particularly bad. It was hard to identify which colour the boot lining should have been since there was a mixture of heavy rust and faded other colours. The hand rails all around the ship seemed not to have been varnished for some years. It was embarrassing to see Arcadia berthed near to a Viking ship at Gaspe where one lady in a tender announced the Arcadia was due for scrapping soon. Lack of control over keeping the ship looking reasonably decent may hide other more important issues which P & O do not wish to spend money on. This ship came into service 14 years ago (2005) if the obvious lack of maintenance continues it may well go and join Oriana in China since it is an eyesore and embarrassing one. How this ship can undertake a round the world trip in this state defies comprehension. Oriana a ship now sold to Chinese interests and built in 1995 was as at February this year in a much better state than Arcadia, some 10 years younger.
Many on this cruise are loyal P & O customers and had similar misgivings. It did not stop them from announcing that they had booked future cruises with P & O. When asked why, they admitted they had not cruised with any other line and had nothing to compare it with. What P & O need to realise is that this generation will soon pass. That’s when they will run into real trouble.
Would we cruise with P & O again? Probably not. P & O have made cost cutting into a new art form. All cruise lines have done this but P & O must be awarded a first class honours degree for doing so well. If they can find a way of making just a few pence more they will find it. This will ultimately back fire and the American owners will probably off load the company and leave a once proud British company to wither and die.
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