Regular readers will already know we are big fans of P&O Cruises. We have already sailed on Aurora, Arcadia, Ventura, Britannia back to back, Oriana and Azura. In this article, we will give you some tips for booking and getting the most out of your P&O Cruise.
You may be thinking of your first ever cruise, are an experienced cruiser new to P&O or already a P&O cruiser, either way we hope this article will help you when booking your cruise.
Take a look at our articles on Britannia and Azura, or visit our YouTube channel to watch our P&O cruises videos – and if your still not convinced, take a look at this article where we asked members of the P&O UK Fans Facebook group why they love P&O.
Who are P&O?
P&O are in their 180th year, the oldest cruise line in the world. Now owned by Carnival corporation, P&O UK is distinctly different to its sister brand P&O Australia.
P&O currently have 8 ships – Adonia is due to depart P&O in March 2018 and a yet unnamed ship is joining the fleet in 2020. The ship sizes range from small ships such as Adonia and Oriana to their bigger Ventura and Britannia.
If you are looking for a traditional, British cruise line, where you can take family holidays or an Adults only cruise, P&O will have a ship that suits you.
A guide to fares
P&O offer a range of fares, the full price Select fare as well as the additional Early Saver or Late saver that are offered at certain periods leading up to the cruise. The full fare must be paid 90 days before the cruise, some travel agents request it sooner than this, usually a week or so in advance.
The select Fare is the standard fare and comes with a range of benefits such as:
· Available on all cruises at all times
· Choice of cabin number
· First priority dining style, time and table size
· First priority on cabin upgrades
· Choice of either on board credit, Car parking or coach transfers to Southampton when booking a cruise of 7 nights or more
· 15% Deposit
· Flexibility to change the booking subject to P&O’s T&C’s
· Free shuttle buses if used in port
· Pre- Cruise booklet
Early Saver Fare
A promotional fare, these are more restrictive than Select Fares, Available on selected cruises at selected times but do come with the following features:
· Lower prices than Select Fare
· Cabin number assigned by P&O
· 2nd priority for upgrades
· 2nd priority on dining style, times and table size
· 15% Deposit
· Flexibility to change booking Subject to P&O’s T&C’s
Another promotional fare which is sometimes offered within the final 90 days before the cruise and come with the following features:
· Full payment required at time of booking
· Cabin assigned by P&O
· Dining assigned by P&O
Now comes the prices… like most holidays the prices can go up as well as down, it’s called fluid pricing. Deciding when to book can be a bit of a gamble – it all depends on how much you want a cruise.
Booking early sometimes will save you money, other times you may end up paying more but you will be safe in the knowledge you have your place, just imagine waiting and waiting for the price to go down on your dream cruise and then it sells out! There is sometimes discounts or special Onboard Credit offers if booking early.
We tend to watch prices for similar cruises, and when the price reaches an amount we are happy to pay, we book it – and try to never look back, that’s rule 1, now comes rule 2 – never discuss with other cruisers how much you paid, it could lead to disappointment!
Tip: Try a travel agent. Shop around, travel agents are sometimes able to offer a small discount or throw in some additional extras that you don’t always get going direct. Some have their own loyalty schemes and even if you book onboard, you can transfer that booking back to your Travel Agent once home.
P&O offer a number of dining options – the fare you selected will influence what option you are given. You may be able to select your dining option or it may be assigned to you. The main dining room offers a changing menu, where you can opt for as little or many courses as you want. Fancy two starters, go for it! There are ‘always available’ items on the menu such as grilled Chicken, Steak and fish.
If you have any special requirements, contact P&O in advance to let them know, and then once onboard pop to the dining room and make it known again – just to be sure. They sometimes provide you with a copy of the menu for the next day, so you can choose ahead
Set Dining (Club Dining)
If you enjoy the traditional set dining, this is available on P&O. There are two sittings, 18:30 and 20:30, you will have the same table and waiters each night. You can also opt for larger tables so you can make new friends to share your stories with.
Freedom Dining (Any time dining)
Freedom dining gives you the option to arrive for dinner any time between 18:00 and 21:30. This is great if you want a flexible dining time – just turn up, state your table size (you can share or join other tables) and you will be seated. At peak times you may be given a pager, this will start buzzing violently when the table is ready (or start shouting at you that it’s “out of range” even though these should work in most areas of the ship).
Each ship has some speciality dining options at an extra cost. These can book up quick, so always worth booking them as soon as you are onboard – also sometimes on the first night they will offer a discount or a free bottle of wine if dining early.
Personalising your Cruise
When you book your cruise, within 48 hours you will get access to your cruise personaliser at cp.pocruises.com. This is where you enter all your passport and emergency contact information pre-cruise. Depending on your fare and how you booked, this is where you get your luggage labels and e-Tickets from. As well as all the paperwork, you can also add extras to your cruise, from Speciality Dining, Shore Excisions, Spa packages to little extras such as a bottle of wine or treats delivered to your cabin. Depending on the type of fare you booked, you may not have your tickets allocated until 7-14 days prior to the cruise – don’t worry!
Drinks packages & bringing alcohol onboard
P&O do not offer drinks packages in the sense of All inclusive. However, they do offer a soft drinks package, wine packages where you can advance purchase bottles of wine or a Costa Coffee card.
One of the great things about P&O is that they allow you to bring your own on alcohol onboard. They say they will allow you take a “reasonable” amount on, which can only be consumed in your cabin. Should you choose to take a bottle of your favourite wine to the restaurant, you will end up paying a corkage fee. We take a roll-on case and put a few bottles in that, or you can take boxes of wine and put in your fridge – it’s always nice to have a glass while getting ready for your night out. Note: P&O have recently announced changes to their policies in 2018, more information here.
You will need to take in to account the following additional expenses when planning your cruise
· Parking (dependant on fare)
· Service Charge (£6 applied daily per person aged over 12)
· Alcoholic drinks (£4 to £5 a drink – see https://ask.pocruises.com/help/PO/life-on-board/drink_cost)
· Photos from ships photographers (£9-£20)
· VAT (if on a mini cruise or a cruise that does not leave the EU, vat may be added on top of purchases)
· Speciality Dining
· Mini bar
· Shopping onboard
· Shuttle buses (depending on fare)
· Spending money in port
We hope this article has helped you, if you would like more information on anything, please get in touch by contacting us or asking on our Facebook group. P&O also have an excellent FAQ section on their website at http://www.pocruises.com/advicecentre/