Today’s blog post comes courtesy of Scott, our newest guest blogger. This is his first piece for the CruiseMiss blog and I am sure you will all agree it could not have been a better one!
I love that feeling of going on-board a ship for the first time. There’s anticipation and expectation that builds up for days leading up to the event. As much as I think I know the ship from studying the wiki page, images and reviews, I’m still always in awe of these amazing vessels when I get up close to them. Their size, their elegance, their purpose. Just awesome!
Whenever I travel from my home port of Southampton, there’s a brief moment on my journey that I love. It’s as I drive into Southampton across the Itchen Bridge and catch a glimpse of the ship for the first time set against the sprawling city skyline. It’s nothing more than a brief sight that quickly disappears as you come down the other side of the bridge. It’s just a little taster, an enticing glimpse to wet the appetite of what’s to come. Very similar, in fact, to a ship visit itself.
A ship visit is a great day out. Whether you are a seasoned cruiser or first timer, you will get a proper taste of the service you can expect; from check-in and boarding, to the facilities available and the food on offer. I’ve been on three now and each time I’ve been very impressed with everything about them and how well they are organised. The service every step of the way is on par with that of an actual cruise. Of course, you won’t actually be leaving the dockside (unless you’re planning on stowing away!), but everything else is a genuine cruise experience and all for the price of a modest 3 course restaurant meal – which of course is thrown in on-board too!
Arriving at the port at around 10 am we found that the disembarkation rush had passed and there were plenty of spaces in the short term car park. After taking a few obligatory photos we headed in to the Ocean Terminal. Check-in was a quick and painless process and then it was time for a complimentary cup of tea. After about half an hour groups started to be called forward to board. Our guide took us through security and onto the ship.
Stepping aboard it was immediately apparent that Arcadia is a very stylish and contemporary ship. Being quite a lot smaller than I’m personally used to, there wasn’t quite the same wow factor of the big open atrium of Azura. Instead, Arcadia exudes something of an understated elegance and class. Throughout, her décor is very tasteful and modern without being over the top or garish. Being an adult only ship, she has quite a relaxed ambiance.
At nearly 87,000 tonnes, she isn’t exactly small and has all the usual facilities you would expect of any ship. However, one thing that she does seem to have more than her fair share of is bars. The nicest of which is definitely the Crow’s Nest. High on the midships overlooking the upper deck it has wonderful sweeping panoramic views. If you are lucky enough to have priority boarding, this will be your reception area and you will be greeted with a free glass of bucks fizz on arrival.
Another pleasant drinking hole would be the Rising Sun pub. Not your average spit and sawdust English pub, it is more akin to a modern, classy gastro-pub. There’s a stage for live music and flat screens dotted around with music videos playing. The area is well laid out with partitions and different areas within the pub where you could probably find a quieter corner. Other bars are dotted all around the ship and you wont be short of choice on where to enjoy a cool beer or luscious cocktail.
The restaurants all carried on the theme of contemporary class and again, there are many to choose from. Marco Pierre-White’s Ocean Grill for a taste of something more upmarket, the Orchid Restaurant for something oriental, the Belvedere for self service or the main restaurant sprawling over 2 decks. A couple of cafés serving Costa Coffee and cake caught the attention and I nearly lost my group whilst I was studying the many gorgeous looking cakes on offer. If only I had been allowed to try one…or ten!
The theatre and casino maintained the overall theme of the ship but with slightly brighter more glamorous colour-schemes and textures. The theatre had sofa style seating which was very comfortable and it looked like there would be good views from most seats.
One attraction that I was particularly impressed with was the cinema. It wasn’t overly large and wasn’t 3D or iMax, but did have the most amazing cinema seats I’ve ever seen! They were an opulent soft red leather with holders for popcorn or drinks and reclined pretty much flat. I’m fairly certain if I was in one of them, reclined fully, with the motion of the ship gently rocking me, I would be nodding off before you know it, even if it was a Bruce Willis action film with explosions and gunfire blaring out!
Although not my scene, even I was impressed with the spa facilities which were clean, bright and seemed like they would be relaxing places to be pampered in.
Our tour continued, visiting the obligatory shops, art gallery, shore excursions desk, cabins and a stroll in the fresh air out on the main sun deck. The layout of which was spacious, simple and uncluttered with plenty of room for spreading out sun-loungers. At the aft end was the Aquarius Pool and Bar. It is a lovely traditional cruise-liner style pool area with sheltered seating flanking the bar, a jacuzzi and pool with a simple but stylish fountain. It’s another understated area, but one that is still very classy and relaxing, where I could happily while away the hours at sea soaking up some sun and sipping more lovely cocktails.
After our comprehensive tour of the ship, we were taken to the main restaurant to sample a typical 3 course meal. We only had the choice of 3 starters, main courses and puddings, but there was something for everyone. Salmon, asparagus spears with duck egg, or carrot and apple soup for starters. I opted for the soup as it sounded like an odd combination that I thought needed to be tried! It was indeed odd but nice nonetheless. For mains there was a choice of beef wellington, duck or lamb curry, plus a vegetarian option. The beef wellington was delicious and very tender. Cooked exactly as ordered. Pudding was a tough choice; chocolate brownie, coconut and vanilla crème brulee or cheese and biscuits. The brownie won. Tea and coffee was also included and we were plied with wine, orange juice and water throughout the meal. The service was exemplary, as to be expected and we were treated exactly as normal passengers being given the full restaurant experience.
Getting off afterwards I couldn’t help looking on with envy at all the lucky people embarking. I consoled myself knowing that I’d had a fantastic day exploring a beautiful ship and had been treated to first class service and a wonderful lunch. Well, that and the fact that it’s only a matter of weeks before I get my feet wet again and set sail on another wonderful cruise.