Dear Sirs,

Oceana Cruise E925 departed Southampton 3rd October 2009

After some consideration, I find myself compelled to write to you regarding the level of service experienced on the above mentioned cruise.

My partner and I are fairly regular customers of P & O Cruises and had suggested to friends that they use the cruise in question to assess cruising as an alternative to their usual holiday choice. We agreed to accompany them on what would be (and is advertised as) a taster cruise. We felt confident that after a brief weekend cruise they would be keen to join us on the Azura’s maiden voyage next April.

This was our first experience of the new terminal at Southampton. Previously, we had seen a marked improvement in the checking in process with queues being speedily processed so that boarding delays were kept to a minimum. At the new terminal, the issue of ‘boarding cards’ was not only a step backwards in terms of procedure but also lengthened waiting times. Intriguingly when I spoke to a fellow passenger about this they felt the check in was fine. I discovered that they arrived at 11am and appear to have been boarded soon after that. Our tickets stated that boarding would commence at 2pm. Are we missing something here? Are there different rules for different groups of passengers? They were on the same Portunus tier as were are so I don’t think it was that.

When we eventually boarded and gained access to our cabin (A430) we discovered that our request for a double bed had been ignored. Nevertheless we deemed to correct this ourselves by moving a little furniture around. Underneath the beds we found one bag of linen (it wasn’t folded so I assume it had been used), one life jacket (a useful place to keep that) and some debris that had not been cleaned up after the previous occupant. Other than this we were quite happy with the cabin albeit we didn’t see the cabin steward and this is very unusual for a P&O Cruise.

So we were off to a bad start but there was surely better to come. Dinner that evening was fine, not spectacular as we had told our friend to expect, just fine. Never mind, wait until you hear the ship’s entertainment company, the Headliners. Oh dear, that was well below standard too. By now we were being subjected to some ridicule from our friends. They were asking us if we would like to join them on a holiday to the Isle of Harris where we had little chance of hearing the Headliners. It was a tempting offer particularly after visiting one of the toilets on deck 6 to find that it was totally blocked and there was no water to wash one’s hands. I find this amazing considering the possible effects of norovirus on a ship and in particular considering the relatively low number of hand gel dispensers around the vessel.

We had booked excursion trips to Brugges on Sunday 4th October. We collected our sticky labels and headed for the coaches. When we arrived there we were astonished that the group had been broken up. Our friends were sent on one coach while we were ushered to another. This, of course, meant that the scenario had been set for the whole day. Instead of spending a day in Brugges with our friends, we spent a day in Brugges apart from our friends, courtesy of some pretty poor organisation on the part of P & O.

We were not looking forward to dinner on Sunday evening given that we already had more than enough egg on our face. Could things get any worse? Well yes, they could. At dinner I was personally served with food that included a human hair embedded in it. I don’t think that the waiting staff could have been any more indifferent. Perhaps my complaint was the reason we did not receive complimentary copies of the menus. This would have been a nice touch that our friends would have appreciated.

The disembarkation procedure made us feel that P & O had had enough of us now and didn’t care if we never come back. We chose not to block the corridors and lifts with out luggage as we were encouraged to do (surely a health and safety hazard) but selected the age old method of collecting our baggage in the baggage hall. Prior to breakfast (around 7.15am), we decided to take some air before collecting our hand luggage and leaving the cabin behind. After all, we did have the cabin until 8am so we had a little time. When we arrived back at the cabin our hand luggage was piled on the writing table and the beds were stripped. Well, at least it was proof that we did have a cabin steward. We are all well aware that the ship has a limited time to turn around but it does seem that the concept of ‘managing the client out’ has not yet reached P & O.

As I mentioned earlier, my partner and I are booked on the Azura’s maiden voyage. We are looking forward to this and hope that we will not suffer the daily disappointments we did on Oceana. I sincerely hope that this is not an indication that Carnival intend to Americanise the P &O product since the attraction of P & O is it’s strong links to British tradition and culture. Our friends, sadly, were not impressed and will probably continue to holiday in their usual haunts. This is a pity, because this was a lost opportunity.