Best Cruise to date
Richard Woolf | October 2, 2023 | P&O Cruises | Arcadia
Cabin C 107
The choice of Arcadia was deliberate as our experience on Arvia in March 2023 turned us completely off the larger ships. We wanted to return to the smaller, adult only more traditional ships of the fleet. Hence our choice of ship and a destination we had not visited before, the Norwegian Fiords. Likewise, this was our first experience of departing from Southampton as previously we had fly cruises.
We stayed overnight at the Doubletree in Southampton and stopped off at Westquay before making our way to the Docks. We had arranged for parking as part of the cruise package and it proved to be a very worthwhile experience. The entire process from arriving at the Dock to be onboard was about forty minutes. Our bags arrived at about thirty minute intervals which was great as it allowed us to empty them and get settled. Our cabin stewardess has been wonderful, helpful and so friendly. She set the standard for the holiday.
Our cabin, superior deluxe balcony, was situated midship on Deck C, Level 6. Its positioning was perfect, near to lifts, but without any noise. The cabin itself was well appointed and thanks to the cabin stewardess spotlessly clean. This level of cleanliness was maintained throughout the entire cruise. Storage space was more than adequate but more importantly my wife was able to hang her long dresses inside the wardrobe. There was far less storage on Arvia than Arcadia! Again, adhering us more to Arcadia than Arvia.
We left Southampton bathed in sunshine and the first day of travelling across the North Sea continued in a similar vein. In fact, so much so that sunbathing was the order of the day. Such lovely weather threw us as although we had packed for all eventualities a certain lady forgot her shorts. The second day was the first of three Celebration Nights to take place. It was held in lovely sunshine on the pool deck with free bubbly. This was a surprise as we had believed there would only be two. Therefore, being prepared for all eventualities, an extra occasion to dress up was taken in our stride.
Throughout the entire cruise the food was outstanding. Portion sizes were excellent and compared once again to Arvia, Arcadia comes out on top. However, there were issues over the restaurant seating arrangements. We choose Freedom Dining, as opposed to specific sittings. We were in Meridian Deck 2. We like to eat early and taking ‘freedom’ at its word we arrived at the restaurant for its opening at six o’clock to be met with a queue of over sixty people waiting for a table for two. We questioned this and were told so many people wanted to sit on their own and there were insufficient tables to accommodate customers walking in at six. Coupled with this was the attitude of certain staff who found delivery of customer service not to be a priority. Similar queuing could be seen at breakfast as well. I was upset by this and made a complaint which was dealt with swiftly and in a very professional manner. The queuing did not stop but the attitude of the staff certainly did and many thanks to the Food Manager for taking onboard our concerns and acting upon them. We eventually were able to sit in the same section for each meal and the staff here were a credit to themselves and the Company making the last ten days a real culinary experience. We were sorry to have to say goodbye to them. Likewise, the bar staff in the Piano Bar took their service to another level and for that we really appreciated their hard work.
Our first port of call was Haugesand and we adventured off the ship by ourselves. This is something we adopted at each stop and we were so glad we did. It allowed us to explore at our own pace. This included stops for coffee and cinnamon buns to die for. The local library proved a great hit as the Wi-Fi was free and of a high quality. Olden was our next stop and our first real sight of the fiords and what a spectacle. We arranged our own bus tour and were not disappointed to be shown magnificent waterfalls and scenery beyond spectacular. The village itself was only a short walk from the ship allowing for a visit to one of the oldest churches in Norway. The local café had brilliant Wi-Fi. The sailing away reception from the locals was lovely. Next up Alesund, a wonderful town with interesting places to visit. Perhaps the most being the 418-step climb to the top of a mountain. However, once there the views are breathtaking and despite the near coronary in getting there are so worth it. The 418 steps down are just as tricky. The Tourist information centre has wonderful secure and free internet access.
Next day was a sea day with the Loften Islands next to visit. However, this never materialised as a Force 10 lifting to Force 11 took hold and we were diverted to Narvik high in the Arctic Circle. The scenery was magnificent and evidence of winter snow, reappearing on the glaciers, was for all to see. The only planned trip we had was to the Loften Islands which we had to miss out on. A shame but our safety was paramount. Reimbursement for the trip was back in our account before we got back to Southampton.
Trondheim was up next and despite the rain, the only rainy day we had ashore, it was a fantastic place to visit with a splendid Cathedral and museums. This was the largest and most vibrant place we visited and over 40,000 students attend the University making it one of the biggest in Norway. The following day we woke up in Andalsnes a small town but with an amazing attraction, the Cable Car. It climbs over 1760m and for £42 round trip it is worth every penny. The scenery, the sight of glaciers and waterfalls takes your breath away. My wife is scared of heights but she said she would not have missed the experience. There is a one-way trip if you are prepared to walk the 2000 steps downhill.
The last two days were spent at sea and despite some heavy swells and at times gusting winds we arrived back on time to Southampton. We had previously only undertaken fly cruises so were unsure how best to disembark. We chose self-disembarkation and the whole experience was brilliant. Within forty-five minutes of joining the queue to leave we were in the car on the way home.
In summary, the best cruise we have ever been on and we are so pleased we chose to go back to the smaller more intimate ships. Now have to look where to go next. Perhaps try Aurora.
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