Britannia P&O cruise disability report
Britannia first of all is a massive ship, 19 decks tall it is the largest ship in the UK with a capacity of carrying over 5000 people.
If you have a blue badge do not pay for car parking if you are leaving from Southampton.
When booking the cruise, I originally was going to park in the terminal bay for two weeks at a cost of £162. Like most people not being from Southampton, I felt I had little choice. However, Southampton has unlimited car parking for people with blue badges. There are a number of city council car parks with in a mile of the terminal for long stay parking. Simply visit Southampton council website, find the car park you want to stay at and get a taxi from the car to the terminal for £5. Southampton also operates Uber and Uber Assist making is very easy and accessible.
If you have an upgraded cabin car parking is free of charge at the terminal.
Getting in and on to the ship was just as easy as rolling into a shop. Making sure you have printed your e-tickets, passports and have labels attached to your luggage, staff quickly take you luggage from you and onto the ship.
With thousands of bags moving around the ship it can take a few hours for your bags to arrive to your cabin, but as long as you keep your essentials with you its no bother and this gives you time to explore the ship. As a disabled passenger, you are quickly moved in the accessible area and guided to the check in and almost rushed through security and on board, which is great.
Inside the ship
I am happy to report that using a mobility scooter, I am able to access the whole of the ship. There is not much in the way of disabled access that lets it down. I found one disabled toilet that would not lock but was quickly sorted out. There are lots of disabled toilets, I have not seen if there is a hoist on board but I’m am sure with the size of the accessible rooms they would be able to supply a mobile hoist.
The corridors are large enough to get a scooter down and a wheelchair, the staff are very friendly and approachable and like to keep you watered and refreshed. While you can’t do everything on board there are many things you can do and will find it difficult to get bored.
One thing which is missing in a ship this size is escalators, with 5000 people on board, 16 decks and no escalators everyone is reliant on the lifts. There are of course stairs, but no one wants to walk up 10 flights of stairs on holiday and while signs ask for people to give people with mobility issues priority, no one does and so waiting for a lift can be frustrating.
They do have a priority card system but this is only for emergency situations and so you will have to be patient for the lifts.
In the entertainment sections there is of course disabled seating and carers seating, so this was no issue for me or my wife.
The pool has a hoist access for people in wheelchairs, but it does make you feel on show, but that is an issue for the person using it and if you want to access the pool.
The top desk is something to behold with the views of the ocean are amazing, with nothing obstructing the view.
Being on the P&O top UK cruise liner, you would have thought it would be a luxurious experience, but sadly after just a few days we are already counting the cost and watching the expense on board the ship, which is something you don’t really want to do on an expensive holiday.
The first thing you notice is the shocking and extortionate price of the Wi-Fi, it can cost up to £25 a day. Over a 14-night stay for myself and my wife using our phones would cost £700. There are cheaper packages available from £7.95 a day but restrict your phone which is something I was not willing to put up with. As with a lot of other customers, we were very frustrated with the amount of cost involved, or in fact the rip off for the Wi-Fi, I went speak to speak to the Customer Service Manager, I advised I was writing a report that would improve the cruise for many people with disabilities. After this he explained that he would get something sorted for me because of the cost of the Wi-Fi. The following afternoon I got a call from IT services to advise they were instructed to give me a 25% discount on Wi-Fi, I was not best pleased and declined the offer as I would still need to pay over £18 a day for me to write this report, something I was not willing to do as they should not be charging such a high price for Wi-Fi in the first place.
Meals are available all day, either in the main restaurant, or via various outlets as snacks so you won’t go hungry. What we have found very quickly is that the meals are very limited, which is a shame from P&O. From what I have seen there are chefs cooking various meals from all over the world in different restaurants on board. If they worked together to provide a world food restaurant, it would make the food a lot more appetising than having a roast every day. Not having to pay extra for the other specialised restaurants and having them included would also be a real bonus. Even if your only allowed customers to visit them once on the cruise, it would go along way.
It does get busy in the main restaurant and there is no reserved seating for people with disabilities that would provide helpful for many people on board.
There is a lot of entertainment on board a lot is for the fully mobile but there are things as a disabled passenger you can do, like the casino, bingo, quizzes, hair talks, beauty talks etc.
First of all, the entertainment staff are amazing, they are full of energy and they clearly enjoy their jobs.
However, while on board P&O we are a captive audience the prices are expensive and the prizes are quite simply perthitic. For example, for a round of bingo it is £15, the prize is winning your money back. I don’t know how they can call that a prize, something like a beauty treatment or £25 to play at the casino would be a lot better than winning the cost of the game in the first place. After you have brought a drink you’re your still out of pocket if you win. This put a number of passengers off playing bingo again, which is on every day.
There is a morning quiz every day round the pool area, which is fun, but the prize is a sticker. I know it’s a bit of fun but being aboard a £300 million ship costing thousands of pounds for a holiday winning a sticker for a quiz is almost an insult and very tight. It feels like P&O care about making money than making you happy. Normally happy passengers spend more money, it makes them feel cheap.
This is the same for the pub quiz winning a £3 bottle of wine again is almost an insult. Granted it’s a bit of fun but if they make it so you win a box of chocolates from the pound shop it makes people laugh.
The casino is a fun place but it’s over priced for what it is. During a fun beginner’s session, where staff teach you how to play, Poker, Roulette and Blackjack, you get to play for a smaller amount than normal. For example, Blackjack is usually a minimum bet of £3, when the training sessions are on its just a pound a bet. This makes it more affordable and more enjoyable knowing that you are not going to lose as much, but also you get more people playing, which makes it a much more fun event, meaning people will play longer.
Hints and tip
Book excursions and meals well in advance.
Excursions get booked up quickly, I would recommend booking these when booking your cruise, months in advance, be warned there is a cost involved, but they are not massively expensive.
The ship offers a variety of meals and specialist restaurants, there is food available all day but of you want something more you can book with a number of restaurants on board. Again there is a cost involved and would recommend booking well in advance.
Drinks are expensive for what they are and while you have access to the bars and restaurants because of the heat you need to drink a lot of water and so using your plastic bottles in the cabin and refilling them is an easy way of saving money. We also brought on board some Robinsons SQUASH’D as you are limited to what liquids you can bring on board but not limited to SQUASH’D. saving you a fortune, if you have kids. If your drinking alcohol, it would be worth nipping to a shop on your excursions.
When you get on board, we are told by the captain and staff that our safety is the most important thing. However, when you press the emergency button in the disabled toilet, no one turns up to help. Granted this was not an emergency but staff were not aware of this, when I accidently pressed the button using the wall to transfer to my scooter.
There is information in the cabin on where in the world you are but none on the decks. So everyone was guessing where we were in the location of the Baltics.
Free Wi-Fi or max charge of £3 a day.
World meal restaurant
Ice cream in the restaurants for deserts – it’s hot
Free samples for customers to taste from the restaurants on board to get people to book.
Soft draft drinks included in price.
Reserved seating for people with disabilities in the restaurant.