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Visit to MV Arcadia on 14th October 2005

Words and photos by Patricia Dempsey



Previous ship visits

Van Gogh


Ocean Majesty


Hebridean Princess

Black Watch

On the 14th October 2005, 10 Ocean Liner Society members went to Mayflower Terminal in Southampton for a tour of the 4th P&O ship to be called Arcadia.  The date was exactly 6 months since her maiden voyage and a shame the weather wasn't a repeat of that cloudy but sunny, warm day.  Instead it was wet, windy and cold. 

Originally ordered for Holland-America Line as a sister to Westerdam and Oosterdam, then Queen Victoria for Cunard before being switched over to P&O in 2004, this ship is a mixture of hybrid and clone which is common in ships today where the owners reuse the same designs and originality has gone out the window.  She is 82972grt and can carry between 1848 and 2388 passengers.  She is also the first P&O ship to be registered in Hamilton instead of London. 

It was my first time ever on a ship, though I have ben fascinated by cruise ships and liners since my father dragged me down to see the France leave Southampton for the final time in 1974, and been a real enthusiast for 18 years.  I have a terrible fear of heights which is one reason I've never cruised and am happy to say everyone who assured me I wouldn't notice being so high, including fellow Ocean Liner Society member Pam Massey who I met that day, were spot on.  There were around 60 people altogether on the tour and we were split into 3 groups by use of raffle tickets in the departure lounge.   

We boarded the ship about 10.45am and after going through security, our guide Brooke was pleasant, funny and very helpful.  She took us up to Sky Deck (11) to begin the tour.  We went into the Orchid Bar first, which has a very nice view but is a bit on the small side.  Next was the Orchid Restaurant which was quite spacious, had a mirror on one wall among the various shades of brown decor and plenty of seating, including booths.  Unfortunately, due to the rain, we didn't go outside, instead going down to the Lido Deck (9) to see the Neptune Pool & Bar and beauty areas.  The pool was covered but it was quite a spacious area with tables and chairs for the bar and plenty of sunloungers each side of the pool. The Oasis Salon was smaller than I'd expected considering all those hairstyles and manicures to do. 

Also on Lido Deck are the Hydro Pool and Thermal Suite which seemed quite nice but a bit on the warm side.  I can't imagine people on Caribbean cruises already sweltering in the heat getting much pleasure out of them but there must be a demand as Arcadia sails to some of her more northerly destinations.  There's a reasonably sized gymnasium too so you can see where you're going as you run on the treadmills.  Outside is the Relaxation Room which is quite sparse with a few reclining seats and net curtains covering the windows.  As you make your way back towards the stairs/lifts, you pass some treatment rooms for massages and things.  They are really quite small, a bit bigger than a cupboard, so I guess it must be the treatment which is relaxing rather than the surroundings.

Then it was back up to the Sun deck (10).  The Crow's Nest bar was the first stop.  Lots of space here as well as a grand piano and a bandstand.  There is also one of many models of old sailing ships around the ship by one entrance.  The decor was pretty basic but I liked it as I'm not keen on bright, clashing colours you get on some ships.  Outside and you could see the funnel close-up.  It has to be one of the worst P&O has ever had, the original artists impressions being much more attractive. The final version looks rather unfinished.  There are plenty of wooden loungers around though for sunworshippers.  Back down to the Lido Deck and the Belvedere Restaurant.  The seating and tables looked basic but again it was quite spacious.  The Aquarius Pool & Bar were very nice at the stern of the ship.  It was pretty much like the Neptune Pool & Bar but the passenger space seemed larger.           

Back in the dry it was time to see an example of some cabins.  On Australia Deck (8) we first were shown The Tokyo Suite (A148).  This is a corner suite with a table, chairs and lounger on the balcony.  The suite had twin beds, table, chairs and a sofa.  On the desk was a flat screen TV and there was also tea and coffee making facilities.  I had read when they decided to hand the ship over to P&O from Cunard they ordered the flat screen TV's so they could fit in the tea and coffee facilities which wouldn't have been on the Queen Victoria.  It was a very nice suite and if I had the money would like to sail in one of them.  Next we were taken to cabin A72 mid-ships.  This was much smaller.  The balcony was smaller than the cabin with just 2 chairs and quite difficult to get in and out of without bumping into one of them.  Twin beds, flat-screen TV and tea/coffee making facilities again but not much room to get around the cabin itself.  Cabin B80 on Bermuda Deck (7) was better.  More spacious, double bed, sofa, writing desk.  This is another cabin I wouldn't mind paying for if I managed to cruise on her.  I think there was a jacuzzi in the bathroom too, though I didn't inspect any of them properly or the balcony.  The New York Suite (B70) wasn't quite what I expected for the top of the range accommodation.  It didn't really look that much different to B80 or The Tokyo Suite.  Just a little bigger with a dressing area by the bathroom (which also wasn't much bigger than the other cabins) which also had the tea/coffee making facilities.  On the whole it was very disappointing it wasn't more luxurious for the price.  The final cabin we saw was B26, and and inside one.  This was another of my favourites and I could also happily stay in one of these.  Although small, with double bed and desk opposite the bed with the TV and tea/coffee facilities, it still had a bit more room for manoevre than A72.  It looked very cosy and I do hope the passenger due to sail that day enjoyed staying in it.

We were getting close to 12.15pm by now and lunch.  We were whisked down to Florida Deck (2), through the Casino where they offer lessons in how to gamble, past the Rising Sun pub, through the art gallery (which had a bell, apparently from the original Arcadia, though there was no plaque to say what it was), past Arcadian Rhodes and The Globe to the lower deck of the Meridian Restaurant.  The service was faultless and the food excellent.  We got a 3-course meal chosen from the menu.  After lunch at 1.45pm (the time we should have been disembarking), we were all given a copy of the menu and a Pearl of Arcadia paperweight as souvenirs.  We resumed the tour which included a better look at Arcadian Rhodes (which by now had passengers in) and The Globe.  That had a bar with which, I was reliably informed, was identical to the Westerdam right down the the chairs (as was a lot of the ship).  The Globe itself was for dances and a cinema, we were told.  The decor again though was pretty sparse and it did look a bit uninviting.  Following that was the Electra disco.  Considering the number of passengers the ship holds, this was one of the smallest discos I've ever come across.  Even without adding the adjoining bar, this was smaller than the gymnasium.  The Palladium theatre was next.  I don't know how many people it holds but again it was quite small.  The Cyb@Centre on the Promenade Deck (3) seemed bigger than Electra for some reason.  Not many computer terminals though again considering the amount of passengers.  Café Vivo was quite nice. 

The Piccadilly shopping area was next on our tour.  First we were shown the library which was really nice and spacious.  Then a few shops, passing through the Piano Bar, ending with Celebrations, from which you can buy Arcadia souvenirs like baseball caps or even champagne, perfumes and photo frames.  And so the tour was over and we all made out way down to Grenada Deck (2), passing a photo of Arcadia's Godmother, Dame Kelly Holmes and the Atrium which has been criticised, wasn't as good as some but not horrible by any means.  I really like it.  After going through security again about 30 minutes later than the itinerary, the tour was over as was the rain. 

So my thoughts on this new ship?  All in all not too bad.  Much better than I'd expected considering she's not an original design inside or out.  Sitting in the restaurant at lunch I was wishing I was staying on for the cruise.  Given half a chance I would definitely sail on her, but with any ship I would avoid many places such as the beauty therapy, hairdressers, gym.  Clearly the artwork is an acquired taste. Some people will like it while others will not.  One was more like 2 vertical posts of concrete than art.  The paintings (or prints) on the stairways were nice though, as was the giant 'Cosmic Egg' on Grenada Deck (the plaque said it was made of polystyrene, glass and resin which ruined the illusion) and there was some lovely oriental and Indian-type pieces in the Belvedere Restaurant.  Although reportedly the Aurora and Oriana are the more preferred ships of the fleet, this is an adults only ship, you will be able to marry on her soon, and she is already getting quite a following.  It's not hard to see why, despite the funnel.  I sincerely thank Malcolm Oliver of the Ocean Liner Society for arranging this with the kind cooperation of Carnival/P&O and Carnival/P&O for their friendly staff onboard and in departures.  No wonder so many people in the UK choose them to go cruising.