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In October 2012 we did a 13-night cruise in P&O’s Arcadia to the Canary Islands. The ports of call were Funchal, Madeira; Santa Cruz de La Palma; Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; Arecife, Lanzarote; Santa Cruz de Tenerife; Lisbon; and Vigo. In addition there were five days at sea: three in succession at the beginning of the cruise, then a day between Tenerife and Lisbon, and a further day between Vigo and Southampton. As usual I blogged during the cruise. This page serves both as a link to the individual blog posts and also as a summary and review of the cruise as a whole.

Links to blog posts:

Summary review:

Well, we enjoyed the cruise but we came away with some reservations. Having now been back we’ve decided that we’re  underwhelmed with the Canary Islands, to be truthful. We cruise mainly for the itinerary – or at least it’s a major part of the cruise – so doing a cruise to places we didn’t find very interesting inevitably affected our overall enjoyment of the cruise. I know many people do like the Canary Islands but it turns out that they don’t rock our boat.

We also found several of the excursions that we did rather formless. The ‘Magic of Manrique’ excursion (at Lanzarote) was the highlight of the whole cruise – some of the most stunning locations we’ve ever been to. We also enjoyed the camel riding on Gran Canaria, but having done that I don’t feel any need to do it again. The remaining two excursions – Orotrava Valley (Tenerife) and Border Country (Vigo) just seemed formless and not well structured. Maybe it’s us – perhaps we just prefer excursions with more meat to them. Certainly I think that in future we’ll do fewer excursions. We’ve been looking through the itinerary for our next cruise in the western Mediterranean in summer 2013, and as far as we can see we may be able to do our own thing in every port of call.

So what about the ship? Well, there were many aspects of Arcadia that we enjoyed. We’d rate the cabin as highly as the one on Ventura. I probably enjoyed the Arcadia cabin more than Val did – I thought the double settee was a big plus – while I think Val still prefers having the walk-in hanging area on Ventura. We also liked the Meridian dining room and found it roomier than Ventura’s (and Oriana’s) rather cramped single-floor dining rooms. Finally we liked the bars – the Piano Bar, Intermezzo and the Spinnaker were all excellent. We came away from the previous Arcadia cruise really liking the Rising Sun, but we didn’t enjoy it quite as much this time. Nonetheless, we had some good times in it (and we won a a bottle of wine in a quiz there).

There were some downsides, unfortunately. Try as we could, we didn’t warm to the Aquarius deck and bar – it always seemed crowded, and it was often hard to find a seat (not a lounger, but one of the wicker seats or even a seat at one of the teak tables), so we still prefer the Terrace Bar on Ventura. We were quite surprised to find there wasn’t an outdoors bar any higher than the Lido deck – we haven’t used Ventura’s Breakers Bar on the Sun deck often but we’ve enjoyed it when we have. Arcadia’s Orchid Bar is a plus point, but it was very quiet. Finally, I think our view that the Crow’s Nest is best as a day-time venue was confirmed – it just doesn’t work as an evening venue.

We found the ship very quiet late in the evening, to be honest – there didn’t seem to be a ‘hot spot’ that was drawing a crowd in the way that Metropolis on Ventura does. There may not be many people still up on Ventura (or Azura) after midnight, but because they’re all at the same place the ship seems to have some life, and we found this wasn’t the case on Arcadia. We’ve never thought of ourselves as party animals, but I would say that in the context of this cruise we were at that end of the spectrum. In the end our pattern after dinner was to go for a stroll round the promenade then go back to the cabin and read for a while before just going to bed. Also – we missed children. I don’t think I’d want to do a mid-summer cruise on a family-friendly ship – that would be too many children – but on reflection it’s good to see some kids around the ship. I think it alters the feel of the ship, and the cruise, out of all proportion to the actual number on board.

All of this sounds as if we had a dreadful cruise. Well, we didn’t – there was a lot we enjoyed about it. It was certainly relaxing, and given that it was our main holiday of the year we were ready for that. We’d go back on Arcadia if the itinerary was right, and perhaps at a different time of year – I wonder what she’s like in mid-summer? But it’s hightened our view that we like a ship with more happening and slightly younger passenger demographic. Who knows, perhaps Royal Caribbean, NCL or even Carnival would be the right line for us?

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