Even before Britannia took to the water, P&O Cruises have long trumpeted the food and drink options that are available on the ship.
I went in with high hopes and in part, the ship surpassed them.
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The main dining room restaurant experience was poor. The waiter was unfamiliar with the seating numbers so led me on a goose chase around the dining room in search of my allocated table.
When he found the table, there were no high chairs available so my two-year-old had to sit on a curved sofa that lined half of the table - far from ideal.
Service was slow and sloppy. It took a while for my order to be taken and took as long for the food to arrive. When it did, it was lukewarm and overcooked. Dessert was not any better and was reminiscent of school meals.
The service issues may well have been chalked down to first night jitters. Turnaround day on some cruise ships causes the dining system to derail for a night while waiters learn about new preferences, new tastes, and demands. Even so, on a two-night mini cruise, this first meal is one of just two dinners to be enjoyed onboard.
The second night I had been booked into The Epicurean, the gastronomic restaurant onboard. As it comes with a cover charge (£30 per person on a mini cruise), I had certain expectations.
Contrary to the main dining room, the quality of food and service in this venue surpassed all of my expectations. This meal was exactly the foodie experience I sought.
The venue was quieter than the main dining room. The menu was diverse, the food was hot and flavourful, and the service was warm and attentive. Elements of whimsy, such as unusual egg- and lollipop-shaped nibbles fashioned out of frozen purees, elevated the experience further. Tableside preparation of certain dishes, such as the deboning of fish, or the plating up of a crème brûlée, added to the meal.
The experience was a lot of fun and very good value for money. On a mini cruise, it is impossible to enjoy dinner at every restaurant onboard, but these two wildly different experiences taught me one thing – budget for premium restaurants on a mini cruise. Experience the best of the best.
Britannia has a range of premium restaurants to try. The Epicurean is the most expensive, followed by Atul Kochhar’s Sindhu Restaurant (£25 per person on a mini-cruise). The budget option is The Beach House at £10 per person on a mini cruise.
If you are travelling without kids, or have fed them at the kids-only session at the Buffet and checked them into the kids club, the Limelight Club combines dinner and a show for £22 per person.
I used the buffet a few times and found it busy at peak times. It is never fun searching for an empty table, especially with a hungry two-year-old calling the shots.
The best experience was an early morning breakfast where tables were plentiful and queues at the counters were minimal. I found the food to be of a good standard and importantly it was hot.
The designated children’s mealtime at the buffet is a great idea, and I made use of that before I checked my son into the kids club.
With 13 bars onboard there are plenty to work through. Each has a different ambience although they all largely stock the same sort of drinks. Olly Smith's The Glass House is a popular choice.
The ship boasts the largest collection of bottled British beer varieties at sea, sourced from across the country. With a choice of artisan products, it is possible you may discover a new favourite onboard.
Non-alcoholic options include mocktails, soft drinks, non-alcoholic beer, and non-alcoholic wine. For coffee, head to the Java Café or The Market Café. The ship sells Costa Coffee drinks with a menu not dissimilar to that found at a service station branch of the coffee chain.
The buffet is open throughout the day offering a changing assortment of food items.
For a fancy and indulgent treat then head to Eric Lanlard’s The Market Café. The London-based French Master pâtissier has devised a range of cakes and treats on sale in the Atrium.
Lanlard has also created an afternoon tea experience in The Epicurean, priced at between £15 and £20 per person. The menu is his take on a British tradition, with some subtle luxurious twists.
The Glass House, wine guru Olly Smith’s venue, also has a small menu of tasting dishes that pair with the wines on sale. If you want a light snack with a drink, this is the place to go.
I found the food quality and service in the Main Dining Room to be disappointing, but the premium options were substantially better. On a mini cruise, I would recommend budgeting to have dinner at the speciality restaurants instead. The Epicurean is a sublime experience.
Read more in this series
- Getting to Southampton Port
- P&O Cruises Britannia Review
- P&O Cruises Britannia Cabins
- Food & Drink on P&O Cruises Britannia (you are here)
- Entertainment on P&O Cruises Britannia
- Visiting Guernsey on a Sunday
- Guernsey Mini Cruise Review on P&O Cruises’ Britannia