Southampton to Singapore - Hell or Heaven?

Arcadia Cruise Review to Caribbean
Experience: 7+ cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 6

Overall Rating:

3.5 out of 5
Arcadia

Southampton to Singapore

Sail Date: January 02, 2017

Ship: Arcadia

Cabin Type: Balcony

Cabin Number: D167

Traveled As: Couple

Reviewed: 2 years ago

Review Summary

Great itinerary, only some of which has been reviewed here. Not invited to comment on Busan, South Korea, Honk Kong, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Nha Trang in Vietnam both of which were stunning, Bangkok (Pattaya) and Singapore, the best of all. Would we chose to travel such a long journey (3 months) on Arcadia again? Perhaps not.

Embarkation

4 out of 5
We arrived by coach at 2.55pm, on board by 3.30pm (2nd from last to embark). Perhaps there is some advantage to arriving slightly later?

Ship Experiences

Food and Dining

3 out of 5
The Meridian Restaurant delivered a good (not great) selection of food served warm (rarely if ever hot). The levels of service were influenced by variables such as the waiting team, distance of your table from the galley, dramas in the kitchen etc. Comparable with banquet catering served at say, a family wedding rather than a fine dining experience. None the less and, despite the natural repetition over three months, the Meridian (main dining room) would score 4/5. The Belvedere buffet was another story. The choice, quality and presentation of food was mediocre to poor. Even by P&O's moderate standards this 'restaurant' left a lot to be desired. With the possible exception of Curry Night, this place should be avoided if possible. Score 2/5. Hence the overall dining score of 3/5. Sindhu, P&O's Asian fine dining restaurant seemed to attract mixed views; rather like Marmite! We don't like Marmite so 2/5. The Ocean Grill (by day the ship's officers mess, by night Marco Pierre White's fine dining experience) was incredibly popular, with generally good to excellent reviews. Whether this popularity was due to the need to utilise the copious on-board spending money to be found on a World Cruise or, truly reflected the quality of food and service on offer might be debated. In our opinion, it is not as good as say The Epicurean Restaurant on Azura/Ventura where the extra charge is double that for The Ocean Grill. None the less, in terms of food quality, service and value for money it rates 4/5. Room Service was generally good to excellent. Of course it was somewhat limited in choice when compared to the restaurant however it was cooked to order, often hot and for the most part, delivered on time. Please note, some items were chargeable. In our experience, this is probably the only way to get warmish toast on board. 4/5. Cafe Vivo, tucked away in the dark, no doubt as an afterthought of the ship's architect; was illuminated by excellent staff who brought sunshine to it's customers. Much too small and poorly positioned. 4/5.

Onboard Activities

2 out of 5
Positives: Arcadia is a quiet, comfortable ship...like an old armchair (though a little tatty in places). Overall, the dining experience was good (Belvedere excluded). Entertainment; this particular Headliners Company were exceptional. Some wonderful ports of call Alotau, San Francisco, Napier, Nha Trang, Singapore. No fighting for deck chairs on Arcadia...acres of space. Service was uniformly excellent throughout. Dance hosts Brenda & Jeffrey converted many non-dancers. Superb. Quiet ship, everyone in bed early…little to do after the theatre show. Negatives: No meaningful second entertainment / cabaret venue. Due to the above, the ship was quiet from 9.30pm (i.e. post theatre). Areas of the ship smelled foul throughout the 12 week cruise. (Mid-ships next to the shops). Excessive use of smoke effect (mist) in the theatre. Universally slated by the viewing public. The ship needs an overhaul not just an engine refit. Extremely dated. Too many quizzes, day and night. Cheap and cheerful? No, just cheap! If we want a quiz we go to our local. Not what we hoped for on a world tour.

Entertainment

2 out of 5
P&O offers a largely British cruising experience. None the less, on this a World cruise, the passenger profile was truly mixed and included Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, amongst many others. Given the above passenger profile, the entertainment was not surprisingly geared towards British Commonwealth tastes. It is not so long since P&O Cruise Directors proudly introduced their entertainment team of sixteen staff. On this cruise (a world cruise) the now Entertainment Manager introduced his team of six. A sign of the times? Headliners Theatre personnel were excellent on this cruise. From memory, they presented nine different shows all of which we had seen on previous cruises; these were repeating for the third time during our 82 days on board Arcadia. Some might call this repetitive. Guest entertainers (the usual suspects) were largely flown out from the UK to join the ship and varied in standard. For example, an “alternative comedian" who normally performs in a late night show lounge / night club venues on Arcadia’s sister ships found himself starring at Arcadia's theatre. A poor fit, but little choice really since there is no alternative showroom / cabaret venue (see Cinema notes below). Local entertainers / cultural performers were also engaged as the ship moved from continent to continent The Globe, a 200 seater utility room is used for dancing (users complain that the floor is much too small with tensions often mounting between sequence and ballroom dancers as they vie for space), classical recitals, occasional musical 'jams' featuring the ships orchestra and other in-house musicians. Bars/Lounges. There is music of some description in each of the bars and lounges as the in-house musicians play their own brand of musical chairs and rotate venues each evening. No criticism of the musicians; however extensive their repertoire, some performances became tedious and repetitive over our twelve weeks on board. The Retreat, another small, utilitarian facility is primarily used for ballroom, sequence or line dancing, either for lessons during the day, or, as an alternative to The Globe during the evening. The Retreat is much smaller than The Globe, therefore far from ideal. Guest speakers were shipped out (from the UK) on a regular basis and once again varied in attractiveness dependent on your taste. Most notably, Eric (Knocker) Knowles, Wayne Sleep and Lord Michael Howard offered lectures on their chosen subjects and life in general. Listed like this it sounds varied and interesting however in reality, the overall quality of the speakers lacked sparkle. As an aside, does Mr Knowles reside permanently on cruise ships? We have seen him perform on four previous cruises in the past couple of years. The Ocean Room is a multi-purpose facility busy delivering art, crafts and card lessons by day but, idle at night. Could be better utilised as a revenue earning second venue after dark. The Cinema What a waste of space with only thirty seats available. Previewing at the cinema tonight - shown in the cabin tomorrow night. Old movies for old folk. The Cinema, Cafe Vivo, Ocean room should be converted as one to a much bigger day time craft/arts/card room but convertible to a second venue/showroom at night. Cafe Vivo could be easily moved further aft where coffee is already served.

Children's Programs

Arcadia is a child-free ship; although to judge by the antics of some of the passengers, this might be questioned.

Service and Staff

5 out of 5
The service throughout the ship was uniformly excellent, particularly the reception. Often receiving the brunt of complaints from frustrated passengers we witnessed the reception staff defuse potentially difficult circumstances. Dragana and Sandra were outstanding. 5/5.

Ship Quality

2 out of 5
The ship looked tired from the outside and on internal inspection, this did not improve. True, the Crow's Nest bar had received a make-over a couple of years ago and this was contemporary in both colour and design. The Globe, dancing venue, had also received a little TLC although most complained that it remained too small for comfort. Otherwise, the ship resembled an old folks home, somewhat old-fashioned and slightly frayed...complete with plumbing leaks and foul odours. To be clear, the staff worked hard cleaning the ship and the tiredness of the fixtures and fittings in no way reflected on their efforts. As was said elsewhere in this review, the ship was like a favoured old armchair; comfortable but slightly tatty to look at.

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5
The deluxe balcony cabin on D deck was both comfortable and serviceable, if a little tired in places. Previous cruiser's mishaps on the room carpets and soft furnishings were permanent and there for all to see. The decor and layout is now dated with the ludicrously positioned bed lamps the butt of many visiting comedians. Constant warnings about the frailties of the toilet system seemed to be heeded by the guests. Our cabin's w.c. backed up only once during the nearly three month cruise. The balcony and balcony furniture (2 x deck chairs, 1 x leg stool, 1 x service table) were also a little tired. The cabin stewards worked extremely hard to keep the room in good order and they are to be commended. The air-conditioning, whilst in theory adjustable, was fierce. Anecdotally, several passengers we met claimed to seek medical advice for sore throat/chest infections citing the air-con.

Ship Tip

Wait until it has had a refit, plain and simple.

Ports Of Call

Southampton (London), England

3 out of 5
Embarkation day. No time to visit. Ship Excursions: Normally we steer clear of these due to overpricing and generally being poor value for money. Somewhat different on the World Cruise it seems, with P&O upping their game considerably...on most occasions. Interesting itineraries, informative tour guides, great lunches when included, bottled water available on many tours etc. Even allowing for the exotic nature of the ports of call; in our opinion and to our surprise, most tours genuinely rated 4/5.

Funchal, Madeira

5 out of 5
Despite numerous visits to Funchal, the island capital never ceases to enchant. A ten to fifteen minute walk over mainly flat surfaces will bring you into the centre. Visit the fruit and flower market, take the cable car up to Monte and come back down on the famous wicker baskets. Taste the world renowned Madeira wine, enjoy the year round floral displays...the list goes on.

Bridgetown, Barbados

5 out of 5
So you want a beach, take your pick...too many to choose from. You want history, visit the forts, English style churches, Bridgetown cricket ground (ten minutes walk from the ship), visit Trafalgar Square. Rum factories, fruit plantations, beautiful scenery. Barbados has the lot. The cruise terminal is situated approximately twenty to twenty-five minutes walk from the centre of Bridgetown, mostly on flat though slightly uneven surfaces. Normally it is hot so a taxi might be a good bet.

Willemstad, Curacao

4 out of 5
There are two main docking areas. If you are lucky you can enjoy a dramatic sail in/sail away as the ship encounters the narrowest and prettiest of harbour entrances; allowing you to converse with onlookers shoreside with the greatest of ease. Otherwise, you park-up at a more utilitarian pier just outside Willemstad's walled centre. The city is small but perfectly formed with the entry over the floating bridge an obvious highlight. Beaches within fifteen minutes of the pier side. Willemstad, Curacao is colourful, vibrant and very Dutch.

Huatalco

3 out of 5
A beach day. If you enjoy walking around the limited shops and stalls then great, Otherwise, for me, the town has little to offer.

San Diego, California

4 out of 5
They say it never rains in Southern California, well it can and did...big time. This did not detract from an excellent promenade and a welcoming (flat) city centre only five minutes from the ship. Maritime museums, Red October submarines, US aircraft carriers, steamboats...you name it only five minutes from the ship.

Long Beach (Los Angeles), California

3 out of 5
We went to Hollywood, nearly 1.5 hours by coach to get there, over 2 hours back...in fact you will need to take either a tour or taxi to visit anywhere of note perhaps with the exception of Long Beach. The traffic around downtown L.A. is horrendous, the ship left six late passengers who were caught up in traffic. Be warned! Oh yes, Hollywood? Think Blackpool or Southend but without the sticky rock. Tacky in the extreme!

San Francisco, California

5 out of 5
If they had offered ten stars then thats what I would have given. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge into the bay with Sausalito to the left, Alcatraz dead ahead, San Francisco with its cable cars to the right. Yes, heavenly. The ship ties-up next to a tram stop from which you can turn left and travel inexpensively into the city (six minutes) or, turn right and visit the various Pier 39 attractions and find the terminus for the cable car (five minutes). Take a tour, cross the bridge, visit Sausalito, go to Alcatraz, ride the cable car...fill your boots!

Honolulu, Oahu

4 out of 5
Honolulu... Pearl Harbor and beaches, right? Yes, of course, and much more besides. We took a tour to Pearl, interesting and historic, good to see...would we do it again...mmmh? Over commercialised but not tacky. Beaches, well we were there early February 19c, not quite bikini weather for me but pleasant enough to see the attraction. Honolulu is a great city, easy to find your way around and just about walkable from the ship berth, 25 mins.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

2 out of 5
What do you do when it rains (pours) in paradise? We knocked on the front door of a home in Bora Bora asking the resident for shelter. We were welcomed into the large covered porch area and offered a drink. Fifteen minutes later, we were babysitting as our host took off on her bike to the shop to buy provisions for her thirty or so other guests who had seen us enjoying local hospitality and decided to gatecrash! The lady was well rewarded from all concerned. Swimming, snorkelling, water sports, beaches are all great once the thunderstorms have passed. Beautiful, scenic and ideal...weather permitting. Warning, there is no pier in Bora Bora. Warning, the ships lifeboats tender you ashore.

Papeete, Tahiti

3 out of 5
Despite benefiting from millions of Euros from the EU, Papeete and the Tahitian Islands still seemed a little underwhelming. The ship docks in the centre of the city and it is easily accessible. Pleasant enough to visit for a beer or coffee but unremarkable otherwise. The people were warm and welcoming and that will be the abiding memory. PS avoid the tour to the ocean bore-hole, expensive and slated by all on the coach.

Auckland, New Zealand

5 out of 5
Terrific city, even in the rain. Ship docks right in the centre, Easy to walk around although there are some slight hills to deal with. Go up the tower, terrific views day or night. Tremendous ambiance emanating from wonderful people. You must take the inexpensive twenty minute ferry across to Devonport; a hidden gem with its village feel, beautiful little shops and cafes. Lovely beaches.

Napier, New Zealand

5 out of 5
We took a tour down to Kidnappers point, saw some sheep shearing and enjoyed wonderful scenery. Following afternoon tea we called back at Napier for an hour before re-boarding the Lollipop. Napier had a huge earthquake some years ago. The locals had the bright idea to rebuild the city in ArtDeco style...Wow! What a beautiful little city, terrific promenade, fantastic sights to be seen everywhere you go. Everything, and I mean everything was in ArtDeco style. Truly a wonder to behold.

Wellington, New Zealand

5 out of 5
We took a morning tour along "the wild coast". Lovely views, followed by some sheep dog trials and a stupendous morning coffee with cakes, sandwiches, pastries et al. Back to the capital city which is extremely attractive and small enough to be quite manageable by foot. Deciding not to take the cable car journey up into the hills above the city, we went to the harbour area instead. We were well rewarded. About five minutes from the "Beehive" New Zealand's stunning parliament building, the harbour area has been developed sympathetically and is easy on the eye. All manner of water sports were visible in the bay as we took a beer in one of the many cafes and bars on offer. Idealic.

Sydney, Australia

5 out of 5
Whats not to like? As with San Francisco, Auckland, HongKong etc we were there for two days. Yes, we visited the bridge, the opera house, blue mountains, Featherdale Park (kangaroos and much more) , Manly beach etc. Too much to do, so little time

Brisbane, Australia

4 out of 5
The ship berths 35 minutes by coach from the centre of Brisbane. We met friends on the south bank of the river which traverses Brisbane. This area is an attraction itself with a sizeable city beach, restaurants, theatres, attractions of all descriptions. Brisbane is an attractive city, beautifully manicured and cared for by the residents.

Yorkey's Knob (Cairns), Australia

4 out of 5
Once again, no harbour at Yorkey;s Knob so ships lifeboats tender you ashore. Situated approx thirty minutes outside Cairns, you will need to take the coach into town. Nothing much to see at the Knob just a small restaurant and bar. We took a tour on a period train to Kuranda, terrific views on the two hour journey. Recommended as an alternative to the Great Barrier reef. In the afternoon we visited Cairns. A pleasant, if sticky, one horse town with lovely outside pools and promenades. Kind of how I imagined it would be.

Alotau, Papua New Guinea

4 out of 5
Like almost everyone else on the ship, we went on the Alotau Cultural Festival tour. The locals dress up and put on a colourful, musical and cultural extravaganza with a sail on a war canoe being the highlight of the trip. Beyond this tour the options are extremely limited. The very small town has little to offer and the folks are extremely poor by western standards.

Okinawa Did not visit port

This port was cancelled due to remedial work being carried out at the pier.

Osaka, Japan

4 out of 5
The second largest city in Japan is just that...huge. There is a good metro and this offers the opportunity to travel throughout the city unescorted. On balance better to take a tour to Kyoto perhaps on the "bullet train". The ship berths next to a huge indoor shopping centre complete with an enormous ferris wheel, all of which is an attraction in itself.

Nagasaki, Japan

5 out of 5
Ship berths in the centre of town, perhaps a fifteen minute walk over flat ground. We took the obligatory tour to the Epicentre Bomb Museum and Peace Park and found it to be harrowing and up-lifting in equal measure. Next time we would do this ourselves. Very easy by public transport...trams.

South Plaza, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Did not visit port

The ship was not scheduled to visit this port.

Shanghai, China

3 out of 5
We were glad that we took the three stop tour (the old town district with its fabulous architecture, the Bund promenade area with its views of the city and the Shanghai tower), partly because of the heavy rain which prevailed throughout our visit. If the weather had been better the tour would have been much more rewarding. None the less, it was enjoyable.

Disembarkation

5 out of 5
No problems, bags outside the cabin by midnight the day before, breakfast at eight, disembark by nine am. No worries about immigration in Singapore. A breeze.
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