Welcome to Phil's Cruise Blog...

If you're puzzled because you expected to land on Phil's Arduino Blog website I apologise as I am now concentrating on cruising. The Arduino projects will continue to be published on this site in a separate section which you can select from the menu above. I have not abandoned the Arduino although I have moved to more projects using the ESP8266 both as a stand-alone MCU and a WiFi device. There are a lot of new projects that I have been working on since last year.

P&O Cruises: Is This The Life?

I have to ask the question above as I am no longer sure that P&O's "This is the Life" statement is accurate! The experiences of my wife and I on our recent back-to-back cruises, N807 and N808, on the Ventura have left us wondering if P&O are capable of delivering service and quality in the way they used to. The current advertising campaigns by P&O give a very glitzy, sophisticated impression of life on board but all too often the actual experience does not live up to the hype.

From poor service and low quality food to downright rude staff, P&O have left us seriously concerned. I used to rate P&O as a 4* cruise line but I now feel that 3* would be more appropriate.

Please be aware that the vast majority of the staff on P&O ships are hardworking, conscientious and will bend over backwards to provide an enjoyable holiday but, it only takes a few rude, uncaring or just plain useless members of staff to ruin everything. Over the years that we have been sailing with P&O we have seen a gradual reduction in quality and service on board. Every time we board a ship something has been changed, removed or reduced in quality. Prices rise every year as regular as clockwork and standards and quality fall.

No one is out to con or deceive you and bear in mind that P&O cruises offer very good value for money compared with some other cruise lines. Where P&O seem to fall down is in attention to detail. A little more attention and care on board would make all the difference.

With four 2018 P&O cruises behind us and five more P&O cruises booked we are beginning to consider not cruising with P&O again in the future! I was never this cynical before but I am really starting to notice the differences between P&O and some other cruise lines. A few improvements might make me change my mind!

We do prefer the P&O way of cruising and we call it "British Cruising" as opposed to the alternative "American Cruising". What's the difference? Well, it's all about the lack of "in your face presentation" which is all too common on many other cruise lines. There is a different atmosphere on board and a different feel to the service but, more on this later.

With P&O you know what you are going to pay for a drink for example. There are no added "taxes" or gratuities (the Spar does impose a 10% Service Charge) so it is easy to control one's spending if that is a concern.

So called "All Inclusive" cruises are something my wife and I fear and loathe as they can lead to over-drinking and increased wastage. Another fact is that "All Inclusive" too often means overpriced as well. If you study the offers of some other cruise lines you quickly realise that the cost of the offer has been added to the cost of the cruise anyway so you're no better off. In fact, many offers are more expensive that the original offer-free cruise.

A passenger on a cruise some years ago coined the phrase "Pikey & 'Orrible Cruises" which, although amusing, is not fair and certainly not true but, it is fair to say, P&O cruising is not what it used to be!.

P&O should take notice of recent reviews on forums such as Cruise Critic as there is an increasing number of dissatisfied customers out there. I am not alone in noticing the fall in standards on P&O ships!

It has taken a lot of soul searching and consideration to reach the point of being so critical of P&O but I feel that someone has to say what they really think. Too many people moan and criticise yet, do nothing about it. They sit around the tables in the bars or during dinner in the restaurants and discuss how this and that has changed or how better it is on another cruise line but they never seem to do anything about it! I believe in speaking out, if something is not right, do something about it.

I decided to start afresh in 2018 by moving my previous blog to this new location and change the way I report my experiences with cruise companies. We are cruising exclusively with P&O for the foreseeable future as we made a block booking in 2017 of eight cruises and we've added a few more since then so, I'll report on each ship we sail on as the year progresses. We are considering other cruise lines in future for the bulk of our cruises although, if P&O up their game, we might reconsider.

This is not a "knock P&O" site and the problems I discuss here can be found on many other cruise line's ships. Because we are sailing almost exclusively with P&O for the time being, I can only comment on their ships and our experiences. I am not reviewing the ships either, just making observations and providing information in a general sense. If its reviews you're after, there are a lot of websites that will satisfy your needs.

My wife and I are not actually "cruisers" in the traditional sense and people sometimes laugh when we tell them this. We do not go on cruise ships for the "cruise experience" and, frankly, we hate days at sea. We see the ship as a floating hotel which takes us from port to port and it is the destinations that are most important to us. This is why we value good company, accommodation, service, food and peace and quiet. Our biggest gripe is the noise inflicted on us from over-loud music which cruise lines seem to think everyone wants whereas the truth is that no one we have ever spoken to wants it at all!

We no longer fly anywhere as the whole airport experience nowadays is totally unacceptable to us whereas, cruise terminals, in general, are much less stressful. This does limit us to sailing from Southampton and other cruise ports around the UK and the destinations are limited to Europe and Scandinavia but this is perfectly acceptable to us. The thought of a world cruise or more than 21 days on a ship horrifies us both.

Cruising is no longer luxurious or just for the well-off. The majority of cruise passengers nowadays on cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Cunard and P&O are a normal cross section of society. Cheaper cruising is not necessarily a good thing though! Discounted cabins may bring people aboard but they do not necessarily result in increased on board spending as there are a lot of budget cruise passengers who book cheap inside cabins and never buy drinks from the bars, use the select dining restaurants or purchase excursions ashore. P&O's loss!

The fact is that cruise companies have to fill every cabin to cover the cost of the cruise!

 "Manners maketh Man" and cost nothing!

It is true to say that a lot of the passengers on cruise ships seem to lack basic manners, morals and command of the English language but this is the way society seems to be going and the "Millennials" are taking over. The language often makes one blush but, as with any other congregation, all tiers of society are represented. A direct result of social mobility is that people previously unable to afford cruising are now able to but, the social graces do not come with them.

Many of the other passengers on cruise ships are delightful people albeit a little rough around the edges and many are clearly sophisticated and well brought up, but there are an increasing number of passengers that spoil the atmosphere and enjoyment of cruising. I refer, of course, to the rowdy element which is becoming more and more prevalent on cruise ships nowadays.

Dress code is so important, the cruise lines tell us, to maintain standards aboard their ships but they don't enforce the codes unless it's a formal night and then, only in the restaurants and bars. It is common to see passengers walking about the ship or dining in the buffet restaurant in vests, shorts and flip-flops. No one challenges these inappropriately dressed passengers as, apparently, the passengers become aggressive. Therefore, none of the crew are willing to do anything about the problem. Here is a list of things that need to be improved:

I recently asked to see the manager of one of the dining rooms and asked him if he could ask the passengers seated at a large table nearby to lower the noise level. They were shouting and laughing at the tops of their voices and making it impossible for anyone seated in our section to have a conversation. The manager smiled and apologised but did nothing to resolve the situation and just walked away and spoke to a couple of servers.

My wife and I can no longer sit at large tables in the dining rooms on cruise ships as we fear the risk of being sat with people with poor table manners, racist views or those that talk about nothing but cruising, football or politics. Don't get me started on Brexit! Some of the passengers we have shared dining tables with in the past do not seem to appreciate that others do not want to see the contents of their mouths whilst they eat and talk? Are younger passengers no longer taught to sit upright at a table and not slouch, with one elbow planted on the table cloth, and shovel food into their mouths? And, increasingly, why must people insist on using their mobile phones continuously whilst eating a meal? So much good is destroyed by anti-social media and the harm it does so, don't be surprised if you get the impression that I rue the day that Facebook and its ilk arrived on the scene.

Passengers should be aware that anyone can overhear their conversations on balconies and even on deck around the pools, with the increasing volume level of some passengers' public activities, nothing is left to the imagination. We have overheard blatant racism, sexism and aggressive comments about other passengers and the crew while sitting peacefully on our balcony over the years. Why are the younger generations becoming so aggressive?

There was a time when I would bring problems to the attention of the management on board but I soon realised that no one ever took any notice and it was rare for any action to be taken. I am probably flagged somewhere on P&O's systems as a trouble maker! I don't mind as too many people would rather say nothing at the time but, at a later date, make sure that everyone they met knew all about the problems. I'd rather get the problem sorted there and then!

Reviews...

It is interesting to note that there is a huge difference between the reviews published on P&O's website and those published on the independent review websites such as Cruise Critic. I leave the reader to answer why P&O's own reviews are so complimentary whereas the other review sites often tell a different story!

Still To Come...

Cruises are already booked on the Aurora, Arcadia, Azura and Ventura (3) so lots more observations and reports to come.

Thanks for stopping by and please call again...

Phil

"Do only that which is right and may your God go with you"