One of the tips I have for people considering taking a cruise is to take one of the 2 or 3 night taster trips that the cruise line you are considering offer. Most lines run a few of these every year. They are always reasonably priced and very popular. However, if you have taken a few cruises I recommend that you try and avoid them. (For the posting on tips for first time cruisers: click here).
We have done a few of them now, and while they are great for giving a taste of the experience, they get more frustrating and less enjoyable once you have done a full cruise and have experienced the less rushed and more interesting destinations than these short ones tend to be able to offer.
We decided, though, to take one on the P&O Arcadia ship as we wanted to take our mums on a short trip for combined Birthday/ Christmas gift. The cruise was very popular as they had booked the popular opera singer Russell Watson as the main performer. It was so popular that it sold out in about 20 minutes of going on sale. This is a review of that trip which was in early December and was due to be 3 nights taking in a day at Zeebrugge and Le Havre. I have been on the ship 3 times before on a Med Cruise, a Caribbean and Atlantic and giving a talk on a Marketing Conference on the ship. To read a review of the ship from those: click here
When we checked in at Southampton, we were told that due to the winds and sea conditions the trip to Zeebrugge would not take place and the ship would just go to Le Havre (France) and stay there overnight. Many were frustrated and complained a lot, as they would miss outings to things like the Christmas Markets in Bruge. I was surprised at how annoyed people got, as surely safety and not being sea sick is better?
Saying that, P&O did not really make much effort to find things for people to do either in on board entertainment activities or additional things in Le Havre. This was a pity, as it was also raining most of the time. I guess this is one of the disadvantages of these short trips, versus longer cruises where the lines tend to make more effort.
The ship itself is still in good shape, it is about 4 or 5 years old only, and although there have been some changes and updates since we were first on the ship it is largely the same.
Overall on this cruise, we found the service and general attitude across the ship to be lacking a bit. It was not bad, but overall the staff seemed a bit off hand and not very enthusiastic. I am not sure if this was due to them being jaded after a long service period, or they find these short trips frustrating or if I am more used to the Cunard service ethic (as most of our cruises have been with Cunard).
We boarded the ship quickly on arriving, around noon, but had to sit about in the Orchid where we had some light lunch. They sent suite and mini-suite passengers there, and the other cabins used the normal Belevedre self service.
The passengers seemed much older on this short trip than on the longer cruises. This is against the overall trend on ships which is getting younger, though the Arcadia is an adults only ship, and also maybe this is more the fan base for Russell Watson – so maybe this is why.
The food in the restaurant was good, and a lot of choice. We had room service breakfast the one morning, and this was good and right on time.
I think most people were there to see Russell Watson, which people raved about, and so think they were less fussed about what I saw as some flaws in the experience on the ship. The additional entertainment consisted of one of the singing/ dance reviews which was quite average, and a magician that once won young magician of the year (many years ago) and was also very average.
Overall, the trip was fine. I felt that P&O Arcadia crew were likely to be somewhat unenthusiastic about these short trips and it showed. This is likely to be less obvious to new cruisers who will be more interested in finding out out the ship, exploring and finding out more about cruising. Hence why I will shy away from doing these very short trips again.