The Western Caribbean onboard 'MV Britannia' January 2017

The Ship

MV Britannia is the largest of the P & O fleet and on our cruise we were 2 of around 3600 passengers; amazingly though it never seemed busy, an indication of the size of the ship. It apparently boasts £1 million worth of art and there were nine entertainment venues (including the 900+ seater Headliners Theatre) which kept us occupied each evening. In addition there were four pools and (apparently) thirteen different places to eat although we didn't manage to get round them all.

For those (like us) who like to explore there are fifteen passenger decks and strolling around the shops we were told this was the largest shopping centre in the P&O fleet.

The spectacular three-tier atrium on the Britannia.
Our Balcony Cabin Number E737 located on deck E

The ship itself was huge although it never seemed crowded

There were four pools on board, this shows the Lido Deck Pool looking for'ard (to the front)....

.... and aft (to the back) of the ship. This was also where we had the New Years Eve party.

The Oriental Restaurant was where we had our evening meals...

Ably assisted by our two waiters

Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and the occasional late night snack were taken at the Horizon Restaurant

... where we could overlook the current port while eating.

There was even a well stocked onboard library

The heart of the ship was the three storey Atrium ...

... which had two bars, a coffee shop and many high end shops to give some retail therapy for those in need on a sea day.

The Headliners Theatre was our favourite venue each evening. These was a varied selection of entertainment including acts such as 1960's star Jimmy James (without his Vagabonds) ....

... Richard and Adam Johnson, performing as Richard & Adam, who were Welsh classical singers, best known for finishing in third place on the seventh series of Britain's Got Talent and Sam Bailey an English singer and songwriter, known for winning the tenth series of The X Factor in 2013, plus many more.

The Live Lounge had more of an nightclub feel and hosted performers such as an Oliy Murs, Gary Barlow and UB40 tribute acts. Some of which looked and sounded almost as good as the real thing.

Our Journey

The route round the Western Carribean Islands
Our itinerary allowed us to visit the following islands in the Eastern Caribbean Sea
  1. Bridgetown; Barbados (Friday 30th December 2016)
  2. Bridgetown; Barbados (Saturday 31th December 2016)
  3. A day at Sea (Sunday 1st January 2017)
  4. Willemstad; Curaçao (Monday 2nd January 2017)
  5. Oranjestad; Aruba (Tuesday 3rd January 2017)
  6. A day at Sea (Wednesday 4th January 2017)
  7. St. Georges; Grenada (Thursday 5th January 2017)
  8. Kingstown; St. Vincent (Friday 6th January 2017)
  9. Castries; St Lucia (Saturday 7th January 2017)
  10. A day at Sea (Sunday 8th January 2017)
  11. Roseau; Dominica (Monday 9th January 2017)
  12. St. Johns; Antigua (Tuesday 10th January 2017)
  13. Philipsburg; St. Maarten (Wednesday 11th January 2017)
  14. A day at Sea (Thursday 12th January 2017)
  15. Bridgetown; Barbados (Friday 13th January 2017)
Bridgetown; Barbados
Barbados; for lots of great houses and old churches to explore; a quiet, conservative atmosphere; and fine beaches

Barbados was originally founded on a plantation economy that made its aristocracy rich on the backs of slave labourers and was a staunch and loyal member of the British Commonwealth for generations. Barbados is the Caribbean's easternmost island, a great coral reef floating in the mid-Atlantic and ringed with glorious beige-sand beaches. Cosmopolitan Barbados has the densest population of any island in the Caribbean, with few racial tensions despite its history of slavery. A loyal group of return visitors appreciate its stylish, medium-size hotels (many of which carry a hefty price tag). Topography varies from rolling hills and savage waves on the eastern (Atlantic) coast to densely populated flatlands, rows of hotels and apartments, and sheltered beaches in the southwest.

The boardwalk

Barbados was the start and finish port for our cruise. We made our way through Bridgetown to Carlisle Bay a crescent shaped bay and natural harbour. As the main harbour adjoining the capital city Bridgetown, Carlisle Bay was once full of merchant vessels, particularly those of the British. Today you'll find catamarans and luxury yachts anchored here

Willemstad; Curaçao
Curacao; for little cove beaches, shopping, history, and its distinctive "Dutch in the Caribbean" culture

Because much of the island's surface is an arid desert that grows only cactus, its Dutch settlers ruled out farming and made Curaçao (Coo-ra-sow) into one of the Dutch empire's busiest trading posts. Until the post-World War II collapse of the oil refineries, Curaçao was a thriving mercantile society with a capital (Willemstad) that somewhat resembled Amsterdam and a population with a curious mixture of bloodlines, including African, Dutch, Venezuelan, and Pakistani. The main language is Papiamento, a mixture of African and European dialects, though Dutch, Spanish, and English are also spoken. Tourism began to develop during the 1980s, and many hotels have been built since then. The island has a few interesting historic sights, and Willemstad is one of the most charming towns in the Caribbean.

The Floating Market
Oranjestad; Aruba
Aruba; for beaches and gambling

Until its beaches were "discovered" in the late 1970s, Aruba, with its desertlike terrain and lunar like interior landscapes, was an almost-forgotten outpost of Holland, valued mostly for its oil refineries and salt factories. Today vacationers come for the dependable sunshine (it rains less here than anywhere else in the Caribbean), the spectacular beaches, and an almost total lack of racial tensions despite a culturally diverse population. The high-rise hotels of Aruba are within walking distance of each other along a strip of fabulous beach. In Aruba you don't stay in old, converted, family-run sugar mills and you don't go for the history.

Whilst on Aruba we witnessed and were caught out in a Tropical Storm. From glorious sunshine to flooded roads in thirty minutes. Fortunately we were able to take refuge in a beach bar and watch it pass before having to either take a taxi or swim back to the ship.

St. Georges; Grenada
Grenada; St. George's, is one of the most charming towns in the Caribbean.

The southernmost nation of the Windward Islands, Grenada (Gre-nay-dah) is one of the lushest islands in the Caribbean. With its gentle climate and extravagantly fertile volcanic soil, it's one of the largest producers of spices in the Western Hemisphere. There's a lot of very appealing local color on Grenada, particularly since the political troubles of the 1980s have ended. There are beautiful white-sand beaches, and the population (a mixture of English expatriates and islanders of African descent) is friendly. Once a British Crown Colony but now independent, the island nation also incorporates two smaller islands: Carriacou and Petit Martinique, neither of which has many tourist facilities.

Kingstown; St. Vincent
St. Vincent; for divers and the yachting set

The natural beauty of this mini archipelago has long been known to divers and the yachting set, who consider its north-to-south string of cays and coral islets one of the loveliest sailing regions in the world. St. Vincent (29km/18 miles long and 18km/11 miles wide) is by far the largest and most fertile island in the country. Its capital is the sleepy, somewhat dilapidated town of Kingstown (not to be confused with Kingston, Jamaica). The Grenadines, some 32 neighbouring islands, stretch like a pearl necklace to the south of St. Vincent. These include the charming boat-building communities of Bequia and Mustique, where the late Princess Margaret had a home. Less densely populated islands in the chain include the tiny outposts of Mayreau, Canouan, Palm Island, and Petit St. Vincent, which was mostly covered with scrub until hotel owners planted much-needed groves of palm and hardwood trees and opened resorts.

Probably the least developed with regards to tourism of all the islands we visited. Most of the residents seemed to have a small market stall selling mainly commodities to their neighbours rather than the usual tourist things. One thing we noticed was that both KFC and MacD's had a presence.

Castries; St Lucia
St Lucia; for the posh resorts and the gorgeous beaches, the rainforests, and the lush tropical foliage.

St. Lucia (Loo-sha), 39km (24 miles) south of Martinique, is the second largest of the Windward Islands. Although in 1803 Britain eventually won control of the island, French influence is still evident in the Creole dialect is spoken here. A volcanic island with lots of rainfall and great natural beauty, it has white and black-sand beaches, bubbling sulphur springs, and beautiful mountain scenery. Most tourism is concentrated on the island's northwestern tip, near the capital (Castries), but the arrival of up to 200,000 visitors a year has altered the old agrarian lifestyle throughout the island.

St Lucia was our first organised excursion. Setting off from Castries we had a scenic drive to the northern tip of the island.

Our journey began with a visit to Bagshaw's Art Studio, known for its exquisite tropical designs on hand silk-screened fabrics. We saw a demonstration of the local silk screen-printing process before having a few moments relaxing on the veranda with a lovely vista of the Caribbean Sea. From there we went to the popular resort of Rodney Bay and the Rodney Bay Marina.

Afterwards, our journey continued to the Pigeon Point National Landmark, where we had a photo stop. Here, we had views across the Atlantic and the mountainous interior, including the location of Eric Claptons mansion; local this area is known as the Beverley Hills of St Lucia.

Roseau; Dominica
Dominica; one of the poorest islands in the Caribbean, and it has the misfortune of lying directly in the hurricane belt

An English-speaking island set midway between Guadeloupe and Martinique, Dominica (Doh-mi-nee-kah), the largest and most mountainous island of the Windward Islands, is not to be confused with the Dominican Republic. A mysterious, little-visited land of waterfalls, rushing streams, and rainforests, it has only a few beaches, most of which are lined with black volcanic sand. For those who like the offbeat and unusual, this lush island the most fascinating in the Caribbean. Some 85,000 people live here, including 2,000 descendants of the Carib Indians. Roseau, one of the smallest capitals in the Caribbean, is more like an overgrown Creole village than a city.

For the best views of the town of Roseau we knew (from our previous Caribbean trip) that we had to visit Morne Bruce.

We did it the hard way by following the path known as "Jack's Walk" from the Botanical Gardens. It's was quite a climb (264 steps I understand from Dr Google) in the heat of the day but the reward was worth it. Sue observed that it was possible to take a taxi to the top but the view was all the better for having earned it. The were great views over the whole city with a photo / selfy opportunity to get pictures of the city with the cruise ship in the distance.

St. Johns; Antigua
Antigua; for having a different beach for every day of the year

Antigua is famous for having a different beach for every day of the year, but it lacks the lushness of islands such as Dominica and Jamaica. Some British traditions (including a passion for cricket) linger, even though the nation became independent in 1981. The island's population of 80,000 is mostly descended from the African slaves of plantation owners. Antigua's resorts are isolated and conservative but very glamorous, its highways are horribly maintained, but its historic naval sites are interesting. Antigua is politically linked to the sparsely inhabited and largely undeveloped island of Barbuda, about 50km (31 miles) north. In spite of its small size, Barbuda has two posh, pricey resorts.

Antigua was the location of our second shore excursion. This trip was to the famous Nelsons Dockyard. Following a scenic drive through Antigua’s lush scenery we arrived at the English Harbour, located at the southern tip of the island. This natural harbour is home to Nelson’s Dockyard, made famous by the great Admiral Lord Nelson who was stationed here during the 18th century. The dockyard has now been refurbished as a colonial village, offering a mixture of period English and Caribbean style architecture. It is also the only remaining Georgian naval shipyard still in operation.

After getting a brief talk about the history of the dockyard we spent time visiting the museum and exploring the dockyard.

Philipsburg; St. Maarten
St Maarten; has been divided between the Dutch (Sint Maarten) and the French (Saint Martin)

Lying 232km (144 miles) east of Puerto Rico, this scrub-covered island has been divided between the Dutch (Sint Maarten) and the French (Saint Martin) since 1648. Regardless of how you spell its name, it's the same island on both sides of the unguarded border -- though the two halves are quite different. The Dutch side contains the island's major airport, more shops, and more tourist facilities; the French side has some of the poshest hotels and superior food. Both are modern, urbanized, and cosmopolitan, and both suffer from traffic jams, a lack of parking space in the capitals, tourist-industry burnout (especially on the Dutch side), and a disturbing increase in crime. In spite of the drawbacks, there's a lot to attract here -- great beaches, the shopping (some of the Caribbean's best), the gambling, the self-contained resorts, the nonstop flights from the U.S., the nightlife, and some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean.

This was our final port so it was a beach day although again we got caught in tropical storms. These passed quite quickly though and dried up equally as quickly.

Final Thoughts!

It was our first New Year away from home and we weren't disappointed. Britannia is a lovely ship, very elegant, modern but bright and spacious with it. It was busy but still didn't feel overcrowded. Our cabin (E737) was an perfect and even had the biggest shower we've had on a cruise, the balcony was more than adequate for Brian's morning and Sue's evening relaxation .

We were on first sitting in the Oriental Restaraunt which may have been a little early to eat some nights (i.e. following late lunches and then afternoon teas). The food was outstanding, the choices were varied and there was always something to enjoy... even the deserts.

The early sitting worked well for us as we could take in all the evening entertainment. This was varied and enjoyable, the NYE deck party was excellent and the resident band (Pulse) were really good and didn't fall into the usual party band rubbish songs category (much to Brian's disappointment). They generally played a host of current stuff, dance tracks although on one or two occasions they resorted to YMCA and ABBA tracks (both of us joining in!).

The best thing we found about the ship was the staff. Everyone was so polite, friendly, hard working and professional, always happy to help and talk. How they manage to stay so cheerful with the moaners about is beyond us. Some people seem to cruise so often that they just seem to spend their time nit picking! All in all we thought Britannia was a fabulous ship and wouldn't hesitate to cruise on her again.

Created By
Brian Evans

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