My first cruise experience has been with P&O Cruises, where I was invited to experience a Mediterranean cruise, with food hero James Martin on board their gorgeous ship, Britannia. An opportunity I definitely could not say no to!
I didn’t know what to expect prior to the trip but the most common questions people asked me were “Will it just be full of old people?” and “Will you get bored?”
To answer both, it was surprisingly a very good split of different age groups and there was just so much to do you didn’t even have the opportunity to get bored! Cruises are so different to people’s perception of them and after my experience I was slightly annoyed at myself for not having considered it as a mode of travel before.
Britannia is one of P&O’s largest cruise ships, which can take up to 3647 passengers and has 1350 crew members on board. It never felt like there were that many people on board though as it is such a spacious ship, and we didn’t even have to wait long in restaurants or for the lifts.
There are over 10 places to dine, and so much to do, and it is a truly beautiful cruise ship, with modern amenities, luxurious style and fantastic destinations to choose from. It is a foodie’s dream come true.
The main cruise duration was 2 weeks, however I went for 7 nights to save on annual leave days and flew back from Naples. Although when it got to the last day of the cruise I really wished I had another week as I absolutely loved it and didn’t feel ready to say goodbye.
To start from the very beginning, Britannia starts its journey from Southampton Harbour, so we took the train down from London to Southampton on the day. This was relatively easy, and we were given an embarkation time of 1pm and we aimed to arrive in Southampton around that time.
Once we arrived, we took a 5 minute taxi to the port and it was really simple. We attached tags on our bags which detailed our cabin information, which we had been provided with prior to arrival, and the bags were delivered straight to our cabin, which was so convenient.
In terms of checking in, this took 5 minutes, was very stress free and we soon made our way on board the ship. The staff were very quick and organized which really helped, and embarkation times were split throughout the day so there weren’t massive queues.
As we walked onto the ship we were amazed with how luxurious it was and marvelled at the size of it! The entry point was the lower atrium area which has a bar, the Market Cafe, which serves Eric Lanlard’s patisserie and where you can see the iconic Star Burst sculpture. We spent a lot of time here during the cruise and it was such a relaxing space.
We had a spacious balcony cabin, with a super comfortable double bed, a flat screen tv on the wall, a desk, sofa and on the balcony, we had 2 chairs and a table.
The bathroom was a good and decent size, with a power shower, and with toiletries from the White Company, which were lush.
We had a cabin steward, who was lovely, and our room was always so clean and every day we were left little treats to enjoy. It was like being in a 5 star hotel. It was only when you looked outside did you realise you were out at sea or docked at a different port.
There was so much variety on board, with over 10 dining options, that you could literally eat somewhere new everyday or even eat in the comfort of your balcony by ordering in room service. I did this on one sea day for breakfast and it was an amazing experience and one I highly recommend.
The Freedom dining options, which were included in the cost of the cruise, were The Meridian, The Peninsular, Oriental, as well as Afternoon Tea everyday.
For casual dining throughout the day you can eat burgers, pizzas, chicken, fish and chips by the pool from the Grill restaurant. This is free and perfect to keep you going throughout the day.
There are also Grab and Go fridges by the pool, where you can pick up desserts, ice creams, yoghurts and so much more.
There are also special dining options with a very low supplement which include The Epicurean, Sindhu by Atul Kochhar, The Glasshouse, which has fabulous wines and wine pairing menus by Olly Smith, The Limelight club, where you can have fine dining while watching a live performance, and the Market Cafe, where you can have light dishes and patisserie by Eric Lanlard.
There is also an amazing Afternoon Tea available on sea days at the Epicurean by Eric Lanlard, which is a fantastic experience. You can read more about my experience here.
Celebrity Chef Hosted Dinner
On our cruise we were so lucky to have James Martin, and one experience which is truly unforgettable, is a hosted dinner by him. I recommend booking this early as it is in very small groups and extremely popular! I mean who doesn’t want dinner cooked by James Martin?
The food, as you can imagine, is just spectacular, and it is such a fantastic way to spend the evening, getting to know both James, and other people over fabulous food and wine. All I can say is monkey bread and snickers ice cream. OMG!
You can read more about my experience here.
Coffee and Cocktails
In addition to the restaurants, there are fantastic bars, lounges and coffee areas on Britannia. Favourites include The Crow’s nest and The Blue Bar. There is a Java coffee lounge, Brodies Bar, The Glasshouse, and poolside bars which are also lovely venues to relax and enjoy a drink.
Entertainment and Activities
From watching films at a cinema, cabaret shows, west end style performances, live music, comedy shows, cookery demonstrations, cookery classes to dance classes, there is no shortage of entertainment at the various venues on the ship such as The Limelight Club, Headliners Theatre, Crystal Room, The Cookery Club and The Studio.
The Captain’s Gala event and Black Tie evenings are fantastic as you get to dress up in cocktail dresses, dinner jackets and tuxedos.
There is also plenty for children to do with activity clubs and entertainment tailored for young children and teenagers.
My favourite times were the sail away parties on the Lido Deck, as we left each port. Music, dancing and lots of fun!
If you want to relax and unwind, you can read a book by the pool, in the library or the comfort of your own balcony!
You can indulge in some spa treatments and pampering too, with lots of amazing treatments available.
If you fancy swimming, there are 4 pools to choose from with plenty of sun loungers.
Sports your thing? You can play tennis, cricket, football, table tennis and practice golf on the ship too!
Want to keep fit? There is a state of the art gym with very motivating sea views.
There are also duty free shops on board so if you want some retail therapy while on the cruise you can treat yourself!
Shore Excursions and Sea Days
On our cruise, the days were as follows:
Sat 3 September – Southampton
Sun 4 September – Sea day
Mon 5 September- Sea day
Tue 6 September – Cadiz
Wed 7 September – Sea day
Thu 8 September – Barcelona
Fri 9 September – Monte Carlo
Sat 10 September – Rome
Sun 11 September – Naples
There are so many different excursions to choose from for each port, and if you wish you can also explore by yourself as long as you adhere to the ship’s embarkation times.
We choose a walking tour at Cadiz, where we saw flower markets, food markets and also learned about the history of Cadiz.
At the Catalonian capital Barcelona, we visited the Catalunya Square, the Spanish village, Sagrada Familia and then left the tour and visited the food market, known as La Boqueria, where we enjoyed a lovely meal.
In Monaco, we did a walking tour and then relaxed at Cafe De Paris, soaking in the sunshine and views of the amazing cars. People watching here is just amazing!
In Rome, we decided to go on a foodie excursion called Taste of Tuscania (not to be mistaken for Tuscany), where we drove to the colourful Etruscan countryside, rich in vineyards and olive groves. We had some time in the town of Tuscania, after which we went to an ‘agriturismo’ farmhouse. We sampled the olive oil, wine and ate some wonderful food, such as cheese, ham, breads, Spanish omelette and bruschettas.
On Sea Days, we tried various dining venues on the ship, relaxed, went for a Q&A session with James Martin, a book signing, played golf and just spent the time unwinding which was fabulous. There was never a moment in the entire week where I felt like I was bored!
I really enjoyed both the sea days as well as the port days, where we could spend the day exploring a different city every time we would dock. It was so exciting to open the curtains in the morning to see what view we would be able to enjoy, as well as watch as we sailed away!
It was lovely to have tasters of each destination, and with so many options of activities to choose from, there is definitely something for everyone! I got a chance to experience some cities where I thought – I would definitely go back there for longer!
So would I go on a cruise again? Yes most definitely! I would recommend it as it is like being on a luxury hotel and experience multiple destinations without having to pack and unpack, or suffer from any jet lag! You wouldn’t even realise you are on a ship until you glance out of the window as it is such a smooth journey!
The cruises tailor for all ages and so they are fantastic for a family trip as well as a romantic trip. There were lots of both segments on board our cruise and we weren’t even the youngest couple on the ship.
If you are going on a Food Hero cruise, do book the hosted dinner in advance or a cookery class as it is so worth it for the experience itself! Food Heroes include James Martin, Atul Kochhar, Eric Lanlard, Olly Smith and Marco Pierre White.
As well as the Mediterranean, P&O also have cruises to other destinations including the Caribbean. For more information, go to: http://www.pocruises.com/cruise-ships/
Disclaimer: My trip and flights back from Naples were complimentary. All views and photos are my own.