Got up about 8.30 this morning and looked out of our balcony doors at a grey choppy sea and a grey cloudy sky. Didn’t think we would spend much time out on deck today!
We had been looking forward to our visit to Belgium as we had planned to get the train from Zeebrugge to Bruges, a pretty little town with canals, wonderful architecture and horses and carriages everywhere. We had last visited in 2017 and had looked forward to our return, but here we were in the North Sea instead.
Looking at the daily programme (which they had had to change at short notice) there wasn’t anything that I fancied doing, so after breakfast we reluctantly made a start with our packing. Don’t you just hate that time when you have to drag the suitcases out from under the bed and start packing up ready for disembarkation day? 🙁
We just spent the morning pottering around the ship. Because we were at sea the shops were open, and we still had some onboard credit to spend, so we went in and bought some tins of fudge with “ARCADIA” and a photo of the ship on the tin; they’d make ideal souvenirs to give to people back home. 🙂
We then went along to the Spinnaker bar, where I brought my laptop to do some of this blog, and we made the most of the all-inclusive drinks package. The £39.90 per person per day drinks package allows you to have alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and Costa coffee up to the value of £6.95 per drink; if you want a more expensive drink you get it at 20% off. This means that, once you are on your sixth drink, you start to be in pocket. Even without the all-inclusive package, the drinks are far, far cheaper than those on Cunard ships; their drinks prices are outrageous – we drank very modestly on the Queen Victoria last month!
As we sat there, we looked out of the window as the Arcadia ploughed her way through the restless waves. While we did experience some ship’s motion, it was not nearly as bad as you’d expect in a Force 11 as there was no swell on the North Sea. It was, however, quite mesmerising just to sit and watch the waves with their crests; plenty of ‘white horses’ out there today.
The time passed in its usual pleasant way, and we went up to the Belvedere for our lunch. I just enjoyed a selection of cold meats and salads washed down with a house rosé wine and followed with a bowl of fresh fruit salad. Like everything else on the ship the food in the buffet, while being all right, was nowhere near as good as it used to be, and far inferior to the massive selection of foods you get in the buffet on Celebrity ships.
Back in our cabin we did some more packing and just read, relaxed, watched television and pottered around. I tried to go out onto the balcony and I thought I had unlocked the door, but it wouldn’t budge. Checking that the door actually was unlocked, I tried again, pushing with all my strength. The door then briefly opened a tiny chink before slamming shut again. It was simply the sheer strength of the wind outside.
Afterwards, we decided to go and sit in the Crow’s Nest at the big windows overlooking the bow. We enjoyed a couple more drinks in there; they do a fantastic Espresso Martini in there. While we were there, we looked around and discussed the various aspects of the cruise. While it might sound as if we complained a lot about the various issues we had we did, on the whole, enjoy ourselves; the positives did outweigh the negatives. However, having cruised on Arcadia four previous times (pre-pandemic) where I would describe those cruises as “fantastic”, this one was just in the “enjoyable” bracket.
There were just so many cutbacks; so many of the things that make cruising special didn’t exist any more. The vessel is seriously short-staffed and the staff did not seem happy in their work. The waiter didn’t bother to learn our names. While there were two formal evenings (one on Christmas Day), they did not have any Captain’s Cocktail Party or even the Peninsular Club parties; the whole point of dressing up, I would have thought. While they were still using “Covid” as an excuse not to have the parties, it didn’t make any sense at all when there was no social distancing in the lifts or the dance floor or elsewhere on the ship. Seems it was only a valid excuse when they could save money. Much of the time we just felt as if we were staying in a Premier Inn rather than a premium cruise ship.
It’s such a pity really; we have done nine P&O cruises (including this one) but it is unlikely we would cruise with P&O again, unless the itinerary was exceptional. In any case, most of the P&O ships are far too big for our preference; there was only Arcadia or Aurora that we’d cruise on anyway.
While we were in there, the captain’s voice boomed out over the PA to say that, as we had missed out a port of call, we would actually be arriving in Southampton tonight, rather than tomorrow morning. As the ship is responsible for all the passengers until disembarkation time, no-one would be allowed off the ship tonight; we all had to remain on board.
The rest of the afternoon passed and soon it was time to go for our last dinner in the Meridian Restaurant. This time, both Vic and Marlene were missing; she must have succumbed to the dreaded lurgy. We had the usual rushed dinner, then said goodbye to our tablemates Les and Rose, Alan and Margaret.
After dinner, we returned to our cabin and changed into the clothes we would be travelling home in tomorrow, as all our cases had to be packed up and outside the cabin by 10.00pm. We had arrived in Southampton by now and the lights of this famous south-coast port spilled into our cabin through the balcony doors. We’d have to sleep with our curtains closed tonight.
We then went to the Rising Sun and got a drink each to take into the theatre. The show tonight was called “Applause” and was another Headliners original, this time celebrating music from the shows, such as Gershwin and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was very good – one positive thing we will say about this cruise is that the evening entertainment has been excellent.
Then we met up with John and Linda for the final Syndicate Quiz. The questions were really hard and we were rubbish; we didn’t even hand some of our answers in as we couldn’t even make an educated guess.
We finished the evening off with John and Linda in the Rising Sun, which closed at midnight. We decided to go up to the Crow’s Nest for a nightcap, but this too was closed. Maybe they were all closing early as they had to get ready for the next lot of embarking passengers tomorrow.
Back in E26, we did actually leave the curtains open a little, as the harbour lights were quite pleasant. It was nice and quiet in our cabin as we settled down for our final night on board Arcadia. We had to be up early so we set the alarm for 6.45am, and we slept very well.
The end of another cruise. While not what we had been expecting, it had been interesting, it had been different, and we’d visited some amazing ports of call and seen some wonderful things.