Cruise News

How, after 30 years, I traded family-friendly for adult-only with P&O Cruises

By David Simpson, SeaView editor

It was hard to believe that it had been 30 years or so since I had first cruised with P&O, boarding the iconic Canberra with four children in tow for my first experience of life on the ocean wave. The excitement was at fever pitch as we caught a first glimpse of the ship on our approach into Southampton.

My wife was already a regular cruiser, but for me it was a revelation, and opened the door to a lifetime of wonderful experiences of ships and oceans that continues to this day.

And the buzz was still there as I approached Southampton to cruise again with P&O in 2017, but this time things were a bit different.

cruise ship Canberra
Cruising on Canberra opened the door to a lifetime of wonderful experiences of ships and oceans © P&O Heritage Collection www.poheritage.com

As a not-quite-ancient mariner, I had traded family-friendly for adult-only, and our home for one week to the Norwegian fjords and back was the medium-sized Arcadia, weighing in at 85,000 tons with enough beds for almost 2,000 guests.

Some questions needed answering. Would I miss the pitter-patter of tiny feet? The excited squeals of children commandeering the pool? The glittering tiny tots fancy dress parade? All the magical moments of Canberra?


Arcadia will emerge from a two-week refit in November with a fresher and more contemporary feel


I had booked at short notice after my knee operation had been cancelled, and as I was not 100 per cent mobile, flying was not an option and an ex-UK cruise was the sensible thing to do. Especially one without over-enthusiastic children.

And that is the joy of cruising with P&O from the UK. You drive to the terminal and that’s it. You leave your car and luggage for the terminal stewards to attend to and head for the check-in. How easy is that!

The next time you see the bags is in your stateroom, where your steward awaits you with a smile and general information about getting the best from your cruise and cabin.

We had been lucky to grab one of the last two balcony cabins available and it was worth every penny of the little extra you have to pay. We enjoyed sunshine all the way to our first port of call, Stavanger, and were able make use of our balcony all the way.

There are so many choices to be made on board, from food to entertainment, that it takes a couple of days to get into your stride, but having done that, life on Arcadia settled into a very easy-going pattern.

cruise ship Arcadia in Norway
Arcadia cut as fine figure in the Norwegian sunshine Picture: seaviewcruises

We had been allocated an 8.30 evening slot in the Meridian restaurant which we found too late, and didn’t much like the 6.30 Club Dining option either, but I was fortunate to be able to switch to Freedom Dining that allows you the flexibility to turn up at selected restaurants anytime you choose between 6pm and 9.30pm. You may have to wait for a table, especially if want one for just the two of you, but the most we ever had to wait was a couple of minutes.

There’s also the opportunity to visit the Select Dining venues of Sindhu, the speciality restaurant of celebrity chef Atul Kochhar, and The Ocean Grill featuring dishes created by Marco Pierre White. We dined at both - The Ocean Grill twice - and they were worth the premium that had to be paid -  less than £20 a head in either instance.

Having said that, the dining in The Meridian, although not Michelin star, was excellent, and no-one left feeling hungry. And if you fancied casual dining, then The Belvedere food court extended from breakfast right through the day. 

It was nice to find that The Crow’s Nest bar, where we spent many a happy hour looking out over the bow of Canberra, was the perfect spot on Arcadia, too, for a cocktail ahead of our evening meal.

And for the extra pounds that you are likely to pile on, a trip to the luxurious salon and spa, including a large hydrotherapy pool and a thermal suite, made you look and feel better.

Arcadia balcony cabin
A balcony cabin is worth every penny of the little extra you have to pay

We had visited the fjords before so it was nice to reacquaint ourselves with the beautiful sights they have to offer, even when the rain is bucketing down, and by the time we returned to Southampton we had become quite attached to Arcadia and its adult-only environment.

And disembarking the ship and picking up our car was an absolute breeze.

Naturally there were one or two niggles but none worth mentioning. And for the £850 price tag, the cruise was a bargain.

So, to answer all those questions ... Did I miss the pitter-patter of tiny feet? Maybe a little bit. The excited squeals of children commandeering the pool? Possibly. The glittering tiny tots fancy dress parade? Definitely. Would I turn the clock back 30 years if I could? Of course I would. And how about taking the four grandchildren on a family-friendly cruise? Well that’s a very strong maybe.

Posted on 7th November 2017 at 10:42 am in Cruise News | Cruise Ships | Cruise Lines | P&O Cruises |

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