This was our third time on the Arcadia (previously two on Aurora) and sadly we could see the impact of P&O cutbacks – some were trivial like no Twinings and cheap biscuits, but some were major such as the quality of food in the Meridian and the waiters there having more tables which meant longer waiting times. There was a change of chef for our voyage to the Canaries, and passengers who were doing back-to-back remarked on the decline in food standards from the previous chef, so maybe we were just unlucky. Sometimes the menu didn’t even reflect what was served. The Belvedere was as usual outstanding, both in food and the service from staff. The food on theme nights was better than in the main restaurant and this was proved by the high numbers of people eating there.
The Headliners were also new on board, but they were trying their best with very old material. The choreography is clearly dated, for example, Killer Queen’s opening number, where girls in very skimpy costumes are doing suggestive movements with walking sticks – it’s not appropriate. Oddly, some visiting entertainers didn’t get the usual two shows each, but had to share in a ‘variety evening’. This was a shame as the magician was excellent and he could easily have filled the Palladium twice.
We weren’t warned that visits to the Azores would be unlikely to happen (other passengers told us it was their third or fourth attempt!) and so we were hugely disappointed when a storm kept us away. It also meant we got back to Southampton a day early.
The Entertainment Manager must also have been new to the role as there was lots of cross-over scheduling of events which was frustrating, as was the last minute cancellation of a very popular music act to allow televised football to show in the Rising Sun. Music acts were scheduled at random throughout the ship, which seemed an odd thing to do, but we were told this was called ‘dynamic scheduling’ to make the ship more of a resort experience. It wasn’t popular with the passengers.
Sorry to report the negative things, we did enjoy the cruise; the cabin steward was brilliant, the wait staff and bar staff were also great, as were some of the entertainment staff. The excursions were good. They’ve changed the clothing concessions in the shops. There was lots to do on sea days – although the scheduling could have been better planned.
However, we are left wondering whether to try another cruise line. The Headliner shows are many years old, the Meridian is in decline and P&O seem to be unable to decide which market to target.
It is, sadly, losing all that made it unique. We don’t want very formal, but don’t want a holiday camp resort style either – any recommendations?