This was a 17 night cruise around the Mediterranean taken in April/May ‘09.
We elected to use the ‘valet’ car parking facility at the dockside in Southampton which proved to be very efficient. Check in and embarkation was also very brisk but then it was not very busy when we arrived around lunchtime. The 1200 or so passengers (almost a full ship) were mainly British and well into their retirement (of course it is a child free ship).
The Artemis was launched around 1984 by Diana, Princess of Wales, and in those days sailed as the Royal Princess. Being 25 years old the ship, as you would expect, is no longer in ...
mint condition. However, we were pleasantly surprised at how well she looked after all those years of service. The cabin was a good size with adequate storage. All are ‘outside’ with a picture window and the en-suite has a small bath tub with a shower over. Although our cabin had an ‘obstructed view’ the lifeboat only cut off the upper half of our view and the horizon was easily visible.Read More
Some general points:  P&O have now banned smoking in all indoor areas including your cabin, this leaves balcony’s and areas on the open decks.  There are minimal announcements made through the public address system; a good thing since on some ships e.g. Royal Caribbean you are constantly harangued to go and play bingo or come and see the art collection that will be auctioned etc. This constant ear bashing turns a relaxed cruising experience into ‘Butlins afloat’ and is of course unnecessary as you are provided with a comprehensive daily programme the night before.  The Coral Dining Room, being on a lower deck, suffers from some engine noise which can make conversation at a larger table more difficult. This seems worse towards the aft end of the room.  There are some themed evenings in the dining room such as ‘tropical night’ so you may wish to pack a ‘bright’ shirt. If you forget they are available for sale on the day at £15. As usual we chose to ignore, but the waiters insist on placing a plastic (flowery) necklace over your head. Since this tends to impede dining we removed after a suitable pause.  Tendering ashore was very efficient so there were minimal delays. They had two gangways on the go down to the tenders and this proved very adequate. Other cruise lines take note; on a Celebrity ship last year the tendering service to St Peter Port was awful and caused some anger amongst the passengers due to the long waiting around (and I’m talking hours).  Internet access was £10 an hour so that room was largely empty each time I walked past. Connection to the internet is usually slow in any event.
Food and drink is an important aspect for many. Quality and variety seem to have suffered year on year and Royal Caribbean, in particular, have descended to ‘indifferent’. The Artemis was better than that but did not excite. Bread was either white or brown dinner rolls and they sometimes had to hunt for the brown. Vegetables are ‘set’ and added at the table (so called silver service) but I had a salmon fillet on the first night and was offered cabbage and carrots. Not a classic combination. Soups were sometimes rather thin, as was the orange juice at times. The Captain’s welcome on board dinner had impressive main courses: venison casserole, rack of lamb, gressingham duck and lobster thermidor but my thermidor sauce was more of a rubbery cheese coating. Bad choice! And of course the duck and rack of lamb were never seen again. Other menus? Well we were rarely spoilt for choice, put it that way.
P&O always do an ‘Indian night’ in the self service restaurant up on the Lido deck. This area is called The Conservatory on the Artemis. The Indian food was excellent and on this trip they had a second Indian evening towards the end of the cruise. We highly recommend this and you usually have to book in advance. Other evenings in The Conservatory are often themed and we visited it when they were offering Thai food. This was disappointing with some of the main dishes downright bland.
On most evenings half of The Conservatory is ‘transformed’ into The Grill. This is the ‘fine dining’ part of the ship and costs £7.75 per person. I say ‘transformed’ because all they do is remove some tables (to make it seem spacious), put some coloured balloons up and some candles on the tables. OK they are doing their best on a ship that has no specialised restaurant but the setting did not attract us. The Grill was under subscribed on this cruise (according to the feedback we heard) but the food was very good (we were told).
Service around the ship was superb. Our dining room waiters were faultless, helpful, and friendly. You never had to look around for a drinks waiter in any of the bars as they were alert and attentive. We also feel that there was enough staff to provide this excellent service, on some ships there simply aren’t enough waiters to cope and this can be something of a frustration when you want an after dinner drink. We have never had better service on any other ship.
Drinks were very reasonably priced e.g. wine from around £12-14 a bottle or £7 for a half litre of house wine or £3.45 for a large 250ml glass. Draught Boddingtons £2.20 a pint, draught Stella Artois £2.50 a pint, coffee 90p or cappuccino £1.40. Note also that there is no extra service charge on these drinks. Most other cruise companies add 15% to your bill. Talking of drinks there was a good selection of complementary drinks at the Captain’s welcome aboard cocktail party (before dinner on the first formal evening): red/white wine, gin and tonics and of course the sparkling white wine sometimes referred to as ‘champagne’. I dare say the waiters would have brought you your favourite tipple (within reason).
Entertainment on board was the usual cruise fare but tailored to the the (older) British consumer e.g. questions for the (popular) music quiz pre-dated 1980 and the comedian was squeaky clean but with material that also tended to pre-date 1980. In cabin TV featured comedy from Morecambe & Wise & The Two Ronnies. Movies shown on cabin TV were up to date e.g. Hancock and the latest Harry Potter offering. Live Premiership soccer was screened in the Horizon lounge on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Some final positive comments about Captain Rynd who proved to be ‘man of the match’ on this cruise. As we entered the Mediterranean heading for Barcelona-Cannes-Portofino the projected weather for those areas was so poor that he made the bold decision to reverse the whole cruise itinerary. Thus we headed down to Tunis then Malta before continuing towards Italy and around the Med. in an anti-clockwise direction. This achieved the desired effect of good weather for the cruise (at least while we were in the Med.)
The Captain was visible throughout the cruise, having meals in the Coral Dining Room and The Conservatory. He also walked around the ship having brief interactions with passengers. This is akin to a Head teacher walking the corridors during classes. It does makes a difference and hopefully helps to maintain high standards.
Tour Operator: P&O