Steph - Cruise with Amber

P&O Cruises Ultimate Escapes: Itinerary Updates

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Cruising will officially return to UK shores this summer as, P&O cruises have announced details of its Ultimate Escapes for British cruisers during the summer of 2021.

 

It’s the news many UK cruisers have been waiting for as P&O has finally announced itineraries, prices and offers as part of its UK ultimate escapes holidays. Including details of Iona’s “very special” new maiden cruise to her namesake island.

What ships will be taking part in P&O Cruises Ultimate Escape?

Two of largest ships in the P&O fleet (Britannia and Iona) will be sailing around UK coastal waters between June and September 2021. P&O cruises has chosen their two newest ships to provide the space to implement the new health protocols to ensure a smooth return to service.

At a glance:

Britannia will sail mainly 3- and 4-night breaks departing on Thursdays and Sundays from June 27th on an itinerary which covers the Cornish coast. The summer season of itineraries will finish up with one standalone 6-night cruise departing on 19th September and calling in Liverpool for escorted excursions only.

Iona will sail 7-night breaks only, departing on Saturdays from 7th August (her Maiden Voyage), and will alternate between the Scottish Isles and Channel Islands & French coast during August, before sailing exclusively around the Channel Islands & French coast during September.

How Much will the Ultimate Escape Cruises cost?

Prices start from £449 per person for a three-night break on Britannia. Iona’s seven-night maiden voyage starts from £1,199 per person and other 7-night itineraries on Iona start at £799 per person.

Setting sail from Southampton, guests will be able to enjoy the ultimate British break on Britannia and Iona – gourmet dining and poolside bites; cocktails and coffees; shopping, spas, shows and endless sea views. All fares include full board meals and entertainment on board.

When can I book?

The cruises go on sale on Monday March 22, 2021 at 8.30am and will be available to book online on www.pocruises.com, by telephone on 03453 555 111 or through your favourite travel advisor.

The crows nest iona
Guests will be able to sail on Iona from 7th August Image Courtesy of P&O Cruises

Can I pre-register or book a specific cabin?

With regards to pre-registration, cruisers can usually indicate their preferred cabin preferences to P&O or a favourite Travel Advisor in advance of new cruises going on sale. This is a useful way to bag a specific cabin you’re after rather than leaving it up to chance. This is known as a ‘select fare’ with P&O and is usually a slightly more expensive option.

A saver fare (usually cheaper) is when you choose a grade of cabin, and while your grade of cabin is guaranteed, P&O may sometimes automatically upgrade you (for various reasons). With the Ultimate Escape cruses, all cabins are offered on a guarantee basis only. This means that cruisers will only be able to choose a cabin grade and no more. So if you are thinking of booking an Ultimate Escape cruise, look carefully at the deck plan: some cabin grades are located across several decks and your chosen cabin grade could be located anywhere on the ship.

Why are P&O cruises only offering a Saver (Guaranteed fare)?

With social distancing one of the main priorities on aboard and as all itineraries expect to sail less than full capacity, P&O need to retain control over where they accommodate passengers on board.

While inconvenient for some who may have their heart set on a particular cabin (or a specific suite at the aft – such as yours truly) this seems like a sensible and pragmatic option.

Demand is expected to be high for these itineraries as cruisers chomp at the bit to get back on board.

Arvia's Ocean Studios
Guests will be able to sample Iona's 4-screen Cinema (c) P&O Cruises

Will higher loyalty tiers get preferential booking?

Sadly not. Those on higher loyalty tiers will not receive the usual preferential booking perks.

Avid P&O cruisers in the top loyalty tiers (Ligurian, Baltic and Caribbean) who have spent at least 201 nights on board with P&O are given the opportunity to be at the front the queue when new cruises are released by P&O Cruises.

Not so with the Ultimate Escape cruises. All cruises will go on sale 8:30 am on March 22nd to everyone at the same time.

So whilst this seems an egalitarian way of booking a cruise, especially for those on lower tiers, more loyal P&O customers may feel they are missing out.

Will it be safe to cruise?

All guests and crew will be required to follow enhanced health and wellbeing measures to protect everyone on board on these cruises. These have been developed with guidance from global medical and public health experts and scientists and in close coordination with UK government agencies.

According to P&O Cruises: “These protocols include enhanced sanitation measures, appropriate social distancing and the wearing of masks in certain areas of the ship. Crew will also undergo a strict testing and quarantine regime as well as regular testing during their time on board.

Obviously, it goes without saying that protocols are subject to change. In a statement, P&O cruises said: “as we will continue to work with our experts and with government bodies to ensure all of our practices evolve in line with latest advice, our primary focus is always to protect the health and wellbeing of our crew and guests and the communities we visit.”

Suite Perks on P&O cruises
Guests will get a chance to sail on Britannia this summer. and dine in the Epicurean (pictured) (c) Cruise With Amber

What if I need to cancel if I don’t have my vaccines in time?

With P&O Cruises flexible free transfers guests can sail with confidence. Bookings may be changed as many times as they like, free of charge up to 30 days before the holiday departs.

Options include:

  • Transfer the booking to any P&O Cruises holiday currently on sale
  • Transfer the booking to a cruise of higher or lower value
  • Transfer the booking an unlimited number of times
  • Transfer the booking free of charge.

What else should I consider before booking an Ultimate Escape Cruise.

 

You will need to be fully vaccinated AND have proof of vaccination to set sail.

In a press statement P&O cruises said: “Given the advanced progress of the UK vaccination programme, and strong expressed preference on the part of our guests for this limited series of UK coastal cruises, these sailings on Britannia and Iona will be for UK resident Covid-19 vaccinated guests only”.

For these cruises the definition of “vaccinated” is a minimum of seven days following the second dose of the currently approved Covid-19 vaccines being administered.

Proof of vaccination and the dates given will also be required and this will be required to be shown at the terminal prior to boarding. Although P&O have stated that approved forms of evidence will be confirmed closer to time of departure. Failure to provide this evidence will result in denial of boarding.

All other P&O Cruises holidays currently on sale do not require guests to be vaccinated.

You will need to be a UK resident

UK getaway cruises are only open to UK residents.

You can’t book a back-to-back cruise

For those of you (myself included) who were hoping to perhaps elongate their stay on board with a back-to-back option, unfortunately this won’t be available on Ultimate escape cruises.

You will need travel insurance which meets P&O criteria

P&O cruises have stated that “As part of our health and wellbeing protocols it is mandatory for all UK guests to have suitable travel insurance cover in order to cruise with us”

Personally, I have never cruised without travel insurance. Travel insurance ensures that you can relax and enjoy your holiday with peace of mind that you are covered for most eventualities. This includes unforeseen incidents before your holiday, while travelling or while you are away. Typically, travel insurance covers cancellation of your holiday, stolen belongings and medical treatment.

When sailing with P&O passengers I have never had to show proof of travel insurance before boarding. However for Ultimate Escape cruises, P&O state: “insurance documents will be checked at the terminal and boarding will be denied, at guests’ own expense, for anyone without appropriate cover”.

P&O cruises also expect insurance to include medical and repatriation cover of £2 million minimum that includes cover for emergency evacuations and medical expenses related to Covid-19.

To provide this minimum level of cover, P&O Cruises have partnered with Holiday Extras to offer cruise-specific cover for Ultimate Escape crises holidays. More information can be found by visiting www.holidayextras.com/pocruises or phoning 0800 093 3070 (Quote: PAOHX).

Suggested reading…

 

You probably won’t be able to take the kids

P&O cruises has stated that “There is no age restriction on this series of UK coastal cruises, but all guests of all ages must meet the requirements of the Covid-19 vaccination policy.

What this means , much to the disappointment (and in some cases disdain) of some guest that children will not be able to travel on these cruises. The UK Government is currently not vaccinating those who are 18 years old. Therefore ‘no vaccine, no cruise’, means children will sadly not be able to join in on the Ultimate Escape itineraries.

You can’t book an interior cabin

All cabins will be balcony grade and above, so if you like a great deal on an interior cabin, then these are not available for booking on the Ultimate Escape Itineraries.

Will there be stops at any Ports of call?

All cruises will depart from Southampton and return to Southampton with coastal cruising only, sailing around the UK coast, “where the sun shines brightest.” Therefore no ports of call will be made.

There is one exception to this – on Britannia, the cruise scheduled on 19 September 2021 for 6 nights (B121N), guests can get off the ship on organised shore experiences only.

Shore experiences will go on sale March 22, 2021. Experiences will include “In the footsteps of the Beatles”, “Liverpool at a Glance” and “Inside Anfield – Home of Liverpool FC”.

Even if you are not getting off ships, both Iona and Britannia are big ships and there is plenty to do on board. Personally, if you are sailing on Iona, I think this presents a great opportunity to explore P&O cruises newest ship (you will need at least a week to work your way around all the restaurants and bars).

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What Itineraries are sailing?

 

Britannia: Southampton – South Cornwall Coastal – Southampton (3 or 4 night cruises)

Britannia: Southampton – Liverpool (evening) – Southampton (6 nights)

  • 19 September 2021 6 nights (B121N)
P&O Cruises IONA
(c) P&O Cruises: Iona

Iona: Southampton – Channel Island Coastal -French Coast Cruising – Southampton (7-night cruises)

  • 14 August 2021 7 nights (G127N)
  • 28 August 2021 7 nights (G129N)
  • 4 September 2021 7 nights (G130N)
  • 11 September 2021 7 nights (G131N)
  • 18 September 2021 7 nights (G132N)

Iona: Southampton – Scottish Isles Coastal -Southampton

  • 7 August 2021 7 nights (G126N – Maiden Cruise)
  • 21 August 2021 7 nights (G128N)

 

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