April 20, 2005


This review was from the super dooper CRUISECRITIC.COm site:
"First Impressions

The new 85,000-ton, 1,968-passenger Arcadia, P&O's latest super-liner, is a the leviathan that’s aimed exclusively at grown-ups -- and it shows. Its decor is sophisticated and understated (though the odd patch of swirly carpet in the casino is an exception to the rule).

Arcadia carries 2 million GBP ($4 million) worth of original art by Britain's leading contemporary artists. Intricate glass and ceramics pieces embellish the new ship's three-deck-high atrium, which is dominated by a shimmering curtain tumbling from top to bottom and streaked with color from changing light displays around a pretty stained glass circular centerpiece at the top.

Indeed, so spectacular is the artwork -- which includes a tapestry by Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, a seven-foot-tall steel sculpture by Jon Ashworth and cityscapes in every suite -- that the line plans to hold conducted art tours for passengers.

Providing, that is, that they can tear themselves away from the myriad other facilities and activities available to them. Spanning 11 decks, Arcadia has 14 bars, 6 restaurants, a triple-deck theatre, a golf driving range, a casino, a cinema, an extensive spa and two swimming pools -- one of them with a sliding glass roof for all-weather use (the first to be installed on a P&O ship).

And on top of all that there is New Horizons, the ship's specially designed daily program of special interest classes and activities, featuring everything from gardening to T'ai Chi, Yoga to cookery, and interior design to nutrition.

These will center around the Horizon Suite (a technology centre, the cyb@centre, and a series of meeting rooms in which classes and demonstrations will be held) and the Retreat, a soothing space for relaxation and classes in T'ai Chi, Yoga and other disciplines. This is a cool white space; its door and windows are screened with creamy diaphanous curtains, which is scattered with recliners and deep comfortable chairs for passengers who simply want to chill.


Of the ship's 984 staterooms, 86 percent have sea views and 685 are balconied (a higher proportion than on any other P&O ship).

There are 67 suites and mini-suites, 10 grades of outside staterooms and 7 of inside accommodations, ranging in size from 170-square-ft. standard cabins to 254-square-ft. balconied accommodations, 384-square-ft. mini-suites and 516-square-ft. suites (including verandah space).

All outside cabins come equipped with small baths and/or showers (insides are shower-only). Twin or double bed configurations, personal safes, direct-dial telephones, hairdryers, minibars and flat screen TV's are standard in all levels of accommodation.

Tea and coffee making kits are also provided in every cabin -- and P&O is using the new ship to experiment with a 1 GBP per head charge for passengers who prefer their morning tea delivered by a cabin steward (delivery of a simple Continental breakfast costs 2 GBP).

Suites and mini-suites also have Jacuzzi baths, separate shower cubicles and DVD players. Top suites offer butler service.

I stayed in cabin C102 -- a balconied stateroom -- and while there was no "wow" factor in its standard box design, bland cream and beige decor, and rather harsh chrome-ended striplights, it did have a roomy balcony (with two wood-effect plastic steamer-style chairs and a small drinks table) and a fairly spacious bathroom with tub as well as shower (only one toiletries cupboard though, so expect some tussles over his-and-hers space).

There were three beech-effect wardrobes offering reasonable (but not substantial) storage space and a rather ugly green sofa bed -- though in fairness, a few cushions (no doubt still to be added) would have softened it up. Perfectly adequate for two people, this cabin would feel very cramped with three.


The ship's main, no-fee Meridian Restaurant spans two decks and offers two sittings of fixed-table dining in elegant surroundings. Though low ceilinged, it is prettily decorated with etched glass dividers and wall decorations, and some stunning chandeliers above the spiral staircase which links the upper and lower levels. There is a good mix of tables for two, four, six and eight. The service is efficient and the food substantial (the plate of cheese I had for pudding was enough to feed a family of four!).

Typical menu: smoked Scottish salmon with new potato and caper berry salad to start, roast fillet of beef with bubble and squeak cake for main, and rich plum chocolate slice for pud.

The Belvedere -- the ship's casual restaurant set up on Deck 9 -- is equally smart, with a refreshingly different monochrome decor, Oriental-style blinds and lamps, and large seaview windows. There is also a deck grill for barbecues and burgers.

For passengers prepared to pay a per-person supplement of 12.50 GBP to dine in style, Arcadian Rhodes (the first restaurant afloat run by British celebrity chef Gary Rhodes) will deliver in spades.

Cozy and elegant, with a tucked-away curved entrance and wood paneled walls embellished with spectacular heraldic shields, the decor is as well-presented as the food, and Rhodes -- who has tied up with P&O for a minimum of five years -- is promising some spectacular signature dishes.

Typical menu: Start with lobster omelet thermidor, followed by roast bitter duck (well, wouldn't you be if someone cut you down in your prime and dished you up on a platter). To finish, how about a warm chocolate fondant with white chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce (followed by a year's dieting)?

But for my money, the ship's second alternative restaurant -- The Orchid up on Deck 11 -- is even more attractive, with deep peach banquette seats, spectacular windows, gold diaphanous curtains and a fusion menu combining the best of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Indian cuisine. And at only 8 GBP a head per visit, it's cheaper, too.

A typical meal starts with Rama Nasi Campur (duck spring rolls and fried chicken satay on steam rice with pickled cucumber), then features Yum Pla (tempura battered monkfish with fried noodles and a lime and chili dressing) and ends with Mamuang, a creamy mango brulee.

The Orchid also has its own substantial, sea-view bar for pre-prandial drinks. Other attractive venues for an aperitif include a pretty Piano Bar (set at the top of the Atrium so you can enjoy that stained glass ceiling), the nautical-themed Spinnaker Bar (which has some gorgeous wood-carved ship models in glass cases), the Crow's Nest (very contemporary, with curved class walls, cream leather seating and vast windows) and a facsimile of a traditional British pub, rather oddly named The Rising Sun.

Nifty & New

The big appeal of this ship will be its coverage of "lifestyle" elements like gardening, interior design and well-being, so popular with Sunday newspaper supplements. A system of pay-per-attendance classes is planned -- similar to the activity program pioneered on sister company Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess -- whereby passengers can get the gist of a subject in free lectures, then pursue it in more depth at smaller-capacity workshops (likely to cost around 3 to 5 GBP a shot).

Setting aside a specific area for relaxation, lectures and classes will create a real focal point on sea days. And the Oasis Spa -- which has a fabulous large-windowed thermal suite offering wet, dry and aromatic treatments; a large thalassotherapy pool; and a dry flotation suite -- should prove very popular with wannabe bodies beautiful. Prices are steepish, with facials and massage costing upwards of 70 GBP, but travelers on a budget can cut costs by sticking to the state-of-the-art, sea-view gym.

The most innovative area on the ship is Diversions on Deck 10, an indoor workout room dedicated to Kinesistm, a new exercise system using gliding cables to improve flexibility, balance and strength.

Grand Old Favorites

If you love traditional ship's dining rooms, and enjoy making friends on a large, fixed-seating table, the Meridian Restaurant -- with its snowy tablecloths and pretty china and glassware -- will be just your glass of Chablis.

The ship also has a roomy library, with leather-topped writing desks facing the windows and (thankfully) an absence of computers (go to the Cyb@space centre near the Horizon Suite if you want to surf). One notable innovation, though, is an implant of the booksellers Waterstones, where passengers can buy bestselling paperbacks.

The open-sided pub is not very convincing to those familiar with the real thing, but with Boddington's bitter on tap, Britons will be happy.


American travelers may be slightly fazed by the "celebrities" hired to give classes on the New Horizon's program. Gardeners Diarmuid Gavin (famed for his dense Irish brogue) and Charlie Dimmock (even more widely known for her propensity for going bra-less) may be unknown to Stateside passengers but believe me, they're quite famous on this side of the pond.

Bottom Line

Arcadia is a ship for 21st-century cruise passengers: sophisticated and up-to-date when it comes to catering for modern preoccupations with lifestyle. Having been passed around the Carnival group of companies (the ship was originally destined for Holland America Line, then was set to become Cunard Line's Queen Victoria before moving to the P&O stable) she has a rather more Americanized/international style than that of a traditional P&O liner (particularly noticeable in her open-plan bar designs and the presence of rather gaudy art-auction pieces), and therefore comes across as something of a hybrid.

But enough classic P&O elements -- including a friendly British and Asian crew, decent food and excellent onboard organization -- have been added to keep the line's loyal cruisers happy."

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