Back from our fortnight bobbing about in the Mediterranean Sea, I had hoped to be feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. Already the sunshine in Cadiz and wine in Civitavecchia seems a lifetime away having been back at work for 5 days, and sadly it wasn’t as relaxing as we’d hoped.
Easter Weekend RoadsDespite setting off on the Saturday of Easter Weekend, we found the roads surprising quiet and managed to reach our half way point by lunchtime, staying over with family. It meant we didn’t subject Little G-Man to too much car seat restraint and gave him the chance to catch up with his big cousins.
We completed the rest of the journey on the Sunday, again without any major traffic issues, and headed to our pre-arranged Meet & Greet Parking. We simply unloaded the boot at the terminal and everything was whisked away while we handed over our keys and proceed to check in.
We would definitely recommended using Looking4Parking for anyone wanting a smooth hassle free way of parking at Southampton!
After a few initial technical problems resulting in a delay of about 2 hours, we stepped aboard and headed to our cabin. Having been on Britannia previously, we knew we’d have a few challenges along the way as it’s not the most baby friendly ship we’ve been on, however the first issue became apparent immediately. Our pram wouldn’t fit through the cabin door!
The Britax Smile isn’t the biggest or bulkiest pram in the world, but sadly the wheel base was too wide for the cabin doorway. Whenever we left our cabin, whether Little G-Man was awake or asleep, we had to dismantle the pram each time.
In our cabin P&O provided us with a cot bed, sterilser and baby bath. Towards the end of the cruise we noticed the cot bed was actually broken and had a crack on one of the corners. The bath and sterilser were fine and dandy.
Baby FoodThe food on-board was the usual standard from P&O, mostly good with some days being better than others, however when it came to baby food we were massively disappointed.
According to the P&O Cruise website they provide “an assortment of HiPP Organic savoury and dessert jars” which begs the question why were we offered Spaghetti Bolognese every day, even for breakfast at one point!
The deserts had BBE dates of 03/16 meaning after a few days, they couldn’t offer us anything until they took on new stock.
The Staff were excellent and apologised and did as much as they could to correct things, even making us porridge with milk (normally its with water) and had it ready for Little G-Man every morning.
For lunch and tea, we tried pureeing vegetables however as turned out to be a 20 minute process and left us with a hungry grumpy baby, we ended up buying our own HiPP Organic Jars when we managed to get ashore so he had a varied diet.
If you’re capable of walking stairs then Britannia is a mighty fine ship, however anyone with wheels, whether it be wheelchair or pram, then think again. Trying to get from the bow to the stern of the ship with a pram, as we found out, was almost impossible and wasn’t helped due to lots of areas being closed off to accommodate ITV’s Ant & Decs Saturday Night Takeaway.
Listening to fellow passengers and reading online reviews of previous Britannia passengers on cruising websites, the general accessibility and elevator issue is something that has annoyed a lot of passengers over the past 12 months. This issue was made worse as some of the lifts had were taken out of action and reserved for ITV.
This problem was also accentuated when at port. After a day out, all passengers would board the ship on Deck 4. “Walkers” would climb a flight of stairs and get a lift heading down at Deck 5 in order to get a space. When it reached Deck 4 to pick up the rest of us, it was already full.
Unlike other ships, Britannia’s promenade is somewhat of a disappointment. As it is on Deck 18, the promenade doesn’t circumnavigate the whole of the ship, just a very small portion of it. To access the promenade you either had to climb stairs or use a lift, which sadly was out of action most days of our cruise.
We therefore had to carry Little G-Man in his pram up and down stairs just to stroll around on sea days. Difficult with a pram, surely impossible for anyone in a wheelchair?
Britannia has a night nursery service, whereby we could drop Little G-Man off in his pram and either leave him in it, or bed him down in a cot while we enjoyed a meal, drink and the entertainment. When we dropped him off, we were given a pager should any issues arise, although the staff are more than happy to change nappies and try to calm any waking babies.
Sea Days & PortsSailing through Storm Katie on our first night was an experience as the whole ship creaked and our balcony furniture got rearranged in the 120mph winds. Despite this Little G-Man slept like a log.
The rest of the sea days went by without anything to report. The entertainment was very limited and unless you enjoyed Nintendo Wii bowling, juggling classes, or talks on how to loose 8 inches, then you were pretty much stuck to crosswords or TV (obviously if we could get out on Deck with a pram, we would have).
A lovely day, great exploring a city we’ve not been to before and one we would come back to again.
It rained on the first of our two day stop over. The second day saw the sun cracking the flags and temperatures getting up to 22. A nice city, but we were glad to leave as it signalled the end of ITV being on-board. Now our holiday really begins!
The secret about this place is to explore. Most people jump off the ship and on to a coach to head off to Rome for the day. Civitavecchia gives you a proper taste of Italy with little streets hiding treasure trove shops. Stunning architecture and quite possibly the best Italian food we’ve ever tasted.
Another day in the 20’s and another day our Snooze Shade got used to its full potential. Ajaccio is stunningly beautiful and the coast line, if never experienced before, is well worth exploring on foot or by coach. With Golden beaches and Napoléon birth home, it also has some great little shopping boutiques where we discovered some great toy brands such as Baghera, Le Toy Van and Vilac.
We found a different side to Gib this time around. Away from the £9.99 Gold Watches and the fry up breakfasts served with a pint of Stella. The new Commonwealth Park on the island includes a publicly accessible grassed area of 4000 square metres – a landscape first for Gibraltar.
We also found Morrisons to stock up on Nappies and HiPP Organic Jars.
Saturday Night Takeaway
Our bugbear… When we originally booked the cruise, we had no idea that Ant & Dec would be gatecrashing our holiday to present their Saturday Night Takeaway show live from Barcelona. P&O told us in the weeks leading up to the cruise and gave us the choice to continue as we were, rebook another cruise or be issued with a refund.
Initially we weren’t too bothered as we were told there would be “minimal disruption” to the pools which weren’t at the top of our list anyway. However, what we didn’t realise was the disruption across the whole ship wasn’t limited to just the pools but the walkways too meaning it was a logistical nightmare at times getting around.
Would We Cruise Again?
Yes but not on Britannia, and possibly not with P&O again sadly.
The ship is clearly not child friendly, the food situation was a farce and if ever we booked and something like Ant & Dec cropped up, we would cancel without a moments hesitation. There was simply too much disruption and preference given to ITV (obviously P&O made a lot of money from the show) and it spoiled the first of our two week holiday.