Last week I had the most fabulous time on a mini cruise around the Mediterranean with P&O on their luxury 5 star ship, Britannia. If the name rings a bell, and you’re an avid TV fan, you might realise this is the same ship that hosted the live episode of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway – and I was there in the audience.
Britannia is the largest ship built exclusively for Britain. With a length of 1,082 feet, she carries 3,647 passengers and at 141,000 tons is 25,000 tons larger than any other ship in the P&O Cruises fleet. Britannia cost £473 million to build, has 15 passenger decks, 13 bars, 13 places to eat, nine places to enjoy entertainment – including a 936-seat state of the art theatre with LED wall, four pools and a £1m+ art collection. With 1,837 cabins, all outside cabins have a balcony. Phew!
My mini cruise consisted of flying into Barcelona and joining the ship whilst it was docked there for 2 days. We then left port and sailed across to the Italian coast, where excursions to Rome were the order of the day. There were lots of preparations to make for the TV show as you can imagine and the ship was hosting ITV crews and the production team as well as its passengers. You would never have known though, apart from a few cables here and there, and a few areas being out-of-bounds, the ship is that big, it easily accommodated this extra activity.
But this was the first time I’d been on a cruise. My husband and I have never done a trip like this, even though they are incredibly family friendly, and we found that we weren’t so hot on some of the cruise traditions, so I think there are lots of others out there who would benefit from a little of what we learned.
5 Things you Need to Know About Cruise Holidays:
- Plan Your Trip: Definitely spend some time doing your research. Find out everything the ship has to offer from the family friendly clubs and restaurants, to how the drinks work, what spa treatments are available and which shows, workshops and entertainment you would like to see. Discover which trips you’d like to book and reserve a spot before you embark; trips fill fast and you may miss out if you wait. At some ports it’s easier and safer to do an organised trip than jump on public transport.
- Book Your Trips: Trips for many of the excursions become booked quite quickly, particularly for the more popular locations. Rome for example is a must see for many people and as we were late joining the ship (most people had been on-board for a week already) trips were already full. Again we weren’t very quick off the mark, and I could have secured this in advance from the cruise planner available on the P&O website. So don’t do as we did, book your trips in advance, secure a place and don’t miss out. Rome is 1.5 hours from the port so a bit tricky to do on public transport, particularly if you want to ensure you make it back to the ship before she leaves! Of course, if you’re tired and need a rest from sightseeing, days like this are great if you’re staying on board. The ship is understandably quiet and you have the pick of the sunbeds. Time for a relax by the pool with your favourite cocktail.
- Sea Days: Whilst the ship sails from one port to another everyone is busy making the most of the activities and entertainments. Again, make sure you book something from the Spa in advance as appointments soon fill up, and get to workshops and activities on time to get a good seat. These are perfect opportunities to experience everything the ship has to offer.
- Cashless Payments and WiFi: you probably won’t buy anything with cash whilst on the ship and instead, charge everything to your account. Remember that a cruise includes your travel, entertainment and activities and your food. There will be restaurants where you need to pay a little extra so a cover charge is added (these tend to be quieter if you want a more intimate experience) and drinks aren’t included. You can buy drinks packages though to save 10-20% on the individual cost which is a great idea. WiFi is available, again on a package and probably worth doing if you like to be connected.
- Dress Code: I absolutely adore that cruise holidays still adopt some of the old traditions of cruising, including a dress code for evenings. Each day the steward left the newsletter in our room informing us of ship activities as well as the dress code for that evening. They would range from Black Tie (tuxedos and long dresses if you like), to Smart (shirts and ties for the men, dresses for the ladies) and to Evening Casual (open neck shirts and smart jeans for the men, and a smart trouser/skirt/dress combo for the ladies). Everyone makes a real effort, which creates a lovely atmosphere and from 6pm the ship starts to transform into something more magical.
If you want to experience a similar cruise holiday to us, across the Med with similar destinations, P&O have this trip available later in the year:
Med, 14 nights, £1,299pp
P&O Cruises is offering a 14 night cruise on Britannia (B627) from £1,299 per person for an inside cabin. Departing September 3, 2016, the price includes round the clock kids’ clubs, full board meals and entertainment on board. Departing from and returning to Southampton, ports of call include Cadiz, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Rome, Naples, Cartagena and Gibraltar.
To book, visit www.pocruises.com, call 0843 373 0111 or visit your local travel agent.
Of course what set our trip apart from others was taking part in the live broadcast of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. It was the best fun being in the audience and experiencing the atmosphere, and seeing a little of what goes on behind the scenes. I caught up on the show once we were back home and just had to share these images taken of the ship during the broadcast. Aren’t they stunning?