Travel: Set sail on a seacation cruise

Britannia's stunning atrium

Britannia's stunning atrium - Credit: P&O Cruises

According to my car park notification I first had to make my way to the drive-through testing facility at Gate 20, Southampton Dock.

Apparently I was going nowhere without a negative test.

Oddly, the test centre was not signposted and I was beginning to wonder how I was going to find it.

Then suddenly it appeared, large white canopies and a few cars lined up.

Passport, e-ticket, boarding pass and proof of vaccination all had to be shown before I was allowed to join the queue for a test, and it was some 30 minutes later that I eventually emerged to drive to the cruise terminal at the other end of the docks.


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Many people have chosen a UK holiday this year rather than navigate the tricky waters of apps, PCR tests, vaccination certificates, traffic light systems and quarantine.

But there is a third option – the seacation, a UK cruise with no ports of call, or just ports in the UK.

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Technically, passengers do not leave the UK and I was keen to give it a try.

By the time I had unloaded the car outside the cruise terminal and left it in the tender care of the car park driver, I had received a text message to say that my test had proved negative.

After more showing of documents and a repeat of the health questionnaire which had already been completed online, I was cleared to board P&O Cruises Britannia, the first time I had been back since she was christened by the Queen in 2015.

Life on board was largely as usual, but there were a few changes brought about by the pandemic.

Inside, I had to wear a mask, except in the cabin and when eating and drinking.

That wasn’t so difficult except that if you temporarily left your table for any reason you quickly had to put on a mask to avoid being reprimanded by the crew.

I found the only time the mask was a little intrusive was in the theatre, which put on three shows a night to cater for its reduced seating capacity.

It can be a little airless and the mask only added to the slightly stuffy, but not off-putting, atmosphere.

I enjoyed dinner in the Indian restaurant, Sindhu.

Sindhu restaurant on board Britannia

Sindhu restaurant on board Britannia - Credit: Mike Pickup

Although he is no longer connected with it, the restaurant was founded by Atul Kochhar, the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star.

If you think you know Indian food, then Sindhu will make you think again.

The gastronomic highlight was afternoon tea prepared by master patissier Eric Lanlard.

Master Patissiere Eric Lanlard's afternoon tea

Master Patissiere Eric Lanlard's afternoon tea - Credit: Mike Pickup

Having trained in France, Eric moved to London aged 22 to work for Albert and Michel Roux, becoming Head Pastry Chef within two years.

You don’t get better qualifications than that.

If you go to afternoon tea, skip lunch and plan for a light dinner!

Food elsewhere was a little disappointing by normal cruise standards and the choice limited, perhaps due to fewer passengers being onboard.

The main cruise foodie stand-by, the buffet, was still operating but there were staff on hand to serve you from behind the counters.

The buffet on board Britannia

The buffet on board Britannia - Credit: Mike Pickup

You only had to glance at a dish to prompt an offer to load some of its contents on to your plate.

The three night cruise had no ports of call so we sailed gently along the south coast to Devon and back.

The weather was kind and during the day many passengers enjoyed relaxing on deck, reading a book, perhaps from the ship’s library, socialising, and swimming.

For those not wanting to leave the poolside for lunch, a pizza bar and a burger bar were nearby to keep customers well-fed, and crew were on hand to get drinks.

The pool on board Britannia

The pool on board Britannia - Credit: Mike Pickup

As is usual on sea days there was also a selection of daytime activities, including art lectures, dance classes, card tournaments and exercise classes.

It’s an interesting compromise between an overseas trip and a UK hotel or camping holiday, and for those unsure as to whether cruise life is for them, a good way to dip your toe in the water, in more ways than one!

The well-stocked on-board library

The well-stocked on-board library - Credit: Mike Pickup

Plan your trip

Until mid-September, P&O Cruises is offering a range of UK cruises from three to seven nights departing Southampton.

Prices from £249 based on two sharing an inside cabin and include full board and entertainment.

For more details of these and all other P&O cruises, go to www.pocruises.com

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