Call me a snob but for years I have avoided P&O prefering to travel with Princess Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and the premium Disney Cruise Line. However a need for a last-minute Christmas holiday combined with a P&O sale forced my hand and I lashed out on a last minute cruise for a party of 1.
Maybe its a spoiler for the ending of this post, but I had a great time. I would cruise with P&O again in a heartbeat. The one complaint I had, was about the food which I will cover in more detail in a minute.
In terms of a comparison for Princess vs P&O, I’m going to compare these two recent cruises I have completed –
- Princess Cruise Lines cruising from Fremantle to Indonesia for 15 nights on Sea Princess in October
- P&O cruising from Melbourne along the east coast of Australia for 11 nights on Pacific Jewel from 16th-27th December
P&O, likely due to the cost of the cruise tends to skews towards a younger crowd. Likely due to timing being a Christmas cruise on P&O, there were a lot of extended family groups. Having said that, the kids seemed to be scarce so that means they were being entertained in the kids clubs.
It seemed like on P&O you had to pay for a lot of extras which are included on other cruise lines such as room service and outdoor activities such as the zip lining. Again to keep the cost down of your cruise fare, then these are extras for those that wish to partake – I’m good with that. Why should I pay for something that I’m not taking advantage of?
Princess wins the food award hands down. It was like comparing a gourmet restaurant to your local foodcourt. In terms of the food on Sea Princess, there is only one word which is wow! This was by far the best cruise dining experience I have had. See my previous posts about the desserts – they tasted as good as they looked.
On P&O, I only dined in the included restaurant once for Christmas day lunch. It was fine, nothing to get excited about. Otherwise I ate at the Pantry which is their replacement for a buffet. While I like the concept of having separate counters, the reality doesn’t work. If you want food from one counter, you have to queue, then you have to queue again at each counter you want something from – meanwhile your food is going cold on your plate.
On Princess, the buffet is open from early in the morning until late at night – it has two sides so for short periods they close one side at a time to switch from breakfast to lunch for example.
On P&O, the Pantry has limited hours. Mid morning and mid afternoon you would have to pay to get food else where as the Pantry is closed. On one occasion, when it had posted hours of 11.30am-3pm, I thought I’d go and get something sweet for afternoon tea around 2.30pm – too late, its closed.
Princess had extensive included drinks offerings. You want milk with your drink – skim, full cream or regular cream? Need soy – just ask one of the staff.
P&O seem to think milk is a luxury item. Most of the time, milk was not freely available for drinks. When they did have jugs full, it was unlabeled. Often the only milk choice available was those awful plastic things airlines have – so much for an environmental footprint.
Also for cold drinks, P&O don’t offer, as an included item, any cold drinks except water. At breakfast they did have Apple and Orange juice – however beware they put ice in the dispenser – so if you are late to breakfast, its water with a hint of flavour.
Whole fruit also was a commodity item on P&O – I only saw whole fruit once and the fruit salad was melon every single day. Once they had pineapple slices… Princess not only had an array of fruits, they serve it in different shapes and sizes depending on how you prefer it.
Breakfast, my least favourite meal of the day. On Sea Princess I was spoilt for choice for various vegetables, fried rice, fruits etc. P&O had practically the same offerings every day, which is fine for a short cruise, but boring for a longer one.
P&O also was disappointing in terms of desserts, very limited compared to most other cruise lines and no cookies! Again see my photos from the Sea Princess cruise for their desserts – enough said.
There are two included places to dine on P&O – the Pantry and the Waterfront. Although I only went to the Waterfront once, I heard others complaining it was hard to get into. The two specialty restaurants were fairly expensive, but I heard they were good.
Unlike most other cruise lines, there is no art gallery on P&O in a traditional sense. Their one consisted of contemporary photos of celebrities and the like. While I could have been tempted to purchase a photo of Hulk Hogan photo, I didn’t. Art work onboard is photo prints on canvas rather than paintings and sculptures.
Most cruise lines have two cabin services a day, morning clean and tidy and evening for turn down. Top marks for P&O for not taking the towels I had hung up again to reuse – many hotels and cruises ignore their own environmental policies on this.
On Princess for turn down you get a chocolate on your pillow every night. P&O are rationing chocolates – I got two and a candy cane over the course of 11 nights.
In terms of the entertainment, as far as I am concerned, P&O win hands down! The stage production shows on P&O by far were so much better than any I have seen on Princess and Royal Caribbean’s ships in recent years As the client demographic skews younger this is reflected in the shows, entertainment and music. Even the standard offerings were PG rated.
When the guest entertainment has an R18 rating, you have been warned, they are not mucking about. Definitely don’t go if you don’t like the word fuck and minge used liberally.
So final verdict – I’d go again with P&O in a heartbeat but now I know, I will set my expectations about the food ahead of time. It would have to come down at the end of the day to cost and ports of call.