J919 – 8.12.2019 – 19.12.2019 UK/Lisbon/Cadiz/Malaga/Cartagena/Gibraltar/UK
Peter and Susan Davis | December 24, 2019 | P&O Cruises | Arcadia
Our first ever cruise was in 2005 on Artemis. This cruise is just our fourth cruise, all have been with P and O, this is our second time on Arcadia and we have been on Aurora once. So we are by no means experts in cruising and we have no competitor cruise lines for comparison.
Over all we enjoyed this cruise, the only spoiler really was the food. Going back some years the one thing people returning from cruises were sure to praise was the food. The never ending quantity of it was always a topic of discussion but the quality was usually considered to be very good as well.
On our first cruise on Artemis it was still silver service in the main dining room and the food was good. Silver service had disappeared by the time we cruised for the second time in 2007, on Arcadia for the first time, although the food was still good. On Aurora in 2017, (Baltic, Christmas markets), the food was OK but on Arcadia on this most recent cruise the food and Meridian dining experience was a disappointment. So much so that out of the eleven nights on board we only ate in the Meridian three times.
We requested a table for two and were deighted to find the note in our cabin to say we had been allocated one. Unfortunately it was right beside one on the many waiter staitions. The constant arrival of piled high trays of dinners, clattering of dirty crockery and cutlery being collected and later departure of piles of dirty dishes back to the kitchen is not an acceptable dining experience.
The menus offered a fairly varied and interesting sounding range of dishes, but the reality fell short of the descriptions. The food was plain and unexiting and by the time it got from the kitchen via the serving table to our place settings, usually luke warm. I can’t stand food served luke warm, unless of course it is supposed to be served that way. I had soup on two occasions. The first time was supposed to be cullen skink, one of my favourites. It is a Scottish speciality and should be a rich mixture of smoked haddock, onions and potato in a thick soup, what I got was a thin tasteless gruel with barely any evidence of the expected constituents. Soup on the second occasion was equally unremarkable, so much so that I can’t even remember what it was pretending to be.
Eating in one of the feature restaurants, Ocean Grill or Sindhu, is at additional cost. We had pre-booked once for Ocean Grill and twice for Sindhu before leaving home and after three days experience of Meridian dining we booked an additional night in Sindhu. (As an aside that was advertised at £18.00 per person in Horizon magazine but charged at £19.50 when we dined, (tasting menu), but that was the same day that Horizon was expressing the hope that we would enjoy our day at Cartegena in Columbia, so obviously a bit of a meltdown in Horizon admin there!
The Belvedere buffet was fine for breakfast, there is not too much you can do to spoil cereals, toast or fruit is there? but my one foray into an omlette and a grilled sausage was diappointing.
As I said at the start, overall we enjoyed our cruise. The cabin was fine, if slightly tired, but everything worked OK. The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom all worked fine with lashings of hot water in the shower. The public spaces and bars were in good condition, lots of nice art and sculpture about. The waiters, bar staff and cabin staff were all good.
The final thing that unsettled my wife and myself was music thrust upon us. It did not seem to matter what quiet corner we found to settle with our books, sooner or later some band or singer would shatter our peace and we would have to move. It would be nice if one of the main lounges, like the Croiws Nest, remained silent all day.
Be prepared to manage your expectations.
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