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We’re just back from our Christmas cruise on Arcadia, and here’s the summary and review page.

First, the links to the day-by-day posts that I made:-


So, did we enjoy Christmas on Arcadia? Yes we did, with reservations.

First, though, the good points. We both enjoyed the meals more than on the last cruise. We ate in the MDR for all of the dinners and they were certainly all OK, and occasionally better than that. If that sounds like faint praise then I apologise but on some recent cruises we’ve not enjoyed the food in the MDR – so this was better than we’ve had recently. Next good point – we both enjoyed Arcadia. All of the good points from before are still there, and the refurbishment has added a few extras. Chief of these would be the Crows Nest which is now a lovely room with good bar facilities. Also the conversion of the Orchid Restaurant to East seems to be an improvement. We didn’t eat there ourselves but two parties from our table did and their reports were very positive. We also enjoyed the wrap-round Promenade (we went for several multi-lap walks), the theatre, and the run of bars along deck 2. It’s a pity that Arcadia doesn’t have a Glasshouse, but there you go.

The itinerary was also good. We enjoyed the trip to Ghent from Zeebrugge, and the excursion at Oslo was the highlight of the trip. The excursion at Copenhagen was a bit disappointing, but that was because of that specific excursion – I’m pretty sure that if we’d done something different then we would have enjoyed that port more than we did. So as a cruise it was good.

Now for some things we didn’t enjoy so much. First of these would be the fact that we actually feel that we’ve missed Christmas – we didn’t think it was very festive on board, or at least we didn’t pick up much of the Christmas spirit. You could say that this was our fault – we didn’t go to midnight mass or the Christmas morning service, nor did we see Santa, but there again we wouldn’t do those things at home. Maybe the truth is that we missed not being with our family – when we rang Val’s sister on Christmas morning (she had an army for Christmas dinner) we both felt that they were having the fun and we weren’t. Our Christmas dinner was very good, but when all is said and done, it was just another meal in the MDR on a cruise ship. So we’ve learned that we don’t like doing Christmas cruises, and we won’t be repeating the experiment. Of course, other people feel differently – several people at our table are serial Christmas cruisers, and are perfectly happy being so, and good luck to them.

The other reservation we had was that we really noticed on this cruise just how hard the waiters have to work. I gather that with the demise of silver service each pair of waiters has more tables to serve, and this was showing. It’s not that service was slow, it wasn’t, but they were clearly always in a rush. The days when you could have a chat with your waiter seem to be gone. They will chat if you try to do so, but you’re aware that they are anxious to get on with their work, so you don’t prolong the conversation – or even start it.

We also heard one or two bad reports from passengers on Freedom dining, about poor service. In one case this was from a couple on their first P&O cruise, after cruising with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity a number of times. They were saying that they thought the service in Indy was better than what they were getting in Freedom dining on Arcadia, and they were pretty clear that they wouldn’t be back. This is of relevance to use because we will be on Freedom dining when we go on Azura next year, and sometimes we wonder if we have made the right choice.

Finally, we are wondering more and more if we are ‘cruised out’ – it doesn’t seem that special any more. It might be that after next year we’ll do fewer cruises, or even another type of holiday altogether. But that’s in the future. Right now, we enjoyed our cruise on Arcadia, and if it hadn’t been at Christmas we’d have fewer reservations. But that’s probably our fault for expecting more than could realistically be delivered. As a cruise, and as a ship, this merited a solid 4 stars.

No Responses to “Christmas 2014 on Arcadia”

  1. Matt B says:

    Hi Tom, glad you hear (on the whole) you enjoyed it.

    We did Freedom dining on this cruise and it was our best experience yet of Freedom on P&O. It was also our best cruise with P&O in the last few years and better than the xmas cruise on Oceana two years back. (Azura freedom dining last year was pretty awful – food and service – but fortunately we were able to eat elsewhere most nights on that ship). Overall this particular cruise we really liked (and the ship).

    I agree it’d be great to have a glasshouse and more dining options on the ship and even spotted a few seldom used rooms it could go into perhaps! Happy new year.

    • Tom says:

      Matt – glad you enjoyed the cruise. Good to hear about Freedom Dining – we did hear some bad stories on the cruise so it’s good to hear the opposite for once.

  2. Neil R says:

    Hi Tom and others

    We were on the same cruise and like Matt were also on Freedom Dining (which we now always book) and it worked really well for us, though I appreciate it isn’t for everyone. For us it means we can work in when we want to eat based on what else is on, rather than vice versa with a fixed sitting. Unfortunately on Arcadia they have moved the Freedom times away from 18:00 to 21:30 (as on other P&O ships) to 17:45 to 21:00. Not much difference you might say but it does mean you can’t do the the first theatre show then go to the MDR (which we often do on other ships)

    I think the major issue is that taking the upper level of Meridian MDR out for Freedom means that obviously only half as many people can choose 1st or 2nd sitting, and those booking late(r) are more likely to get Freedom than 1st or 2nd (despite what they want) simply due to the arithmetic. The upshot of this is that lots of people who want to eat at the 1st sitting time were queuing up from 17:45 when Freedom opened, and many of these wanted tables for 2. I suspect the earlier Freedom times on Arcadia are to cater for all the people wanting to eat earlier rather than later, perhaps as a result of the more “mature” demographics of passengers (ave age on J422 was mid 70s I gather).

    I guess you get what you pay for – pay a cheap(er) price later and run the risk of not getting the dining you want, or pay a higher price earlier and sure you will get what you want. What did annoy me were the numbers of people moaning about being on Freedom when they obviously had booked late….

    Other than that we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, which was actually a lot better than J423 after it. Even though J423 had a younger demographic (prob late 50s early 60s) the itinerary didn’t work – Lanzarote was just open on NYE, Tenerife on New Years Day was entirely closed and La Coruna on a Sunday isn’t great either !!

    Mum’s case is due to be delivered by BHC on Monday so we will see how that goes (she only sent it one way from Southampton to home)


    • Tom says:

      We’ll know more about Freedom Dining ourselves after our next cruise on Azura. Of course, the setup on that ship is very different from that on Arcadia.

  3. Mrs A Langridge says:

    Sad to hear it wasn’t quite what you hoped for. If was our first Christmas cruise and I have to say it was the best Christmas my husband and I had had since we were children. It does have to be said that we have no children of our own so don’t miss that aspect of Christmas. We loved everything, from the choir on embarkation day, to the Gala dinner on Christmas Day. It was rather wonderful to lay on heated beds, and in a hydrotherapy pool, on Christmas Day afternoon.

    I’m sure you’ll enjoy next Christmas at home better.

    Mrs L

  4. […] did a Christmas cruise in 2014 on Arcadia – here’s a link to the main page about the cruise. As you can see if you read the mini-review on that page, I said “So, did we enjoy Christmas […]

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