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My wife and I live in Glasgow and take the train to Southampton Central, the Virgine train service is very smooth and fast, trains are clean with friendly staff. I know that sounds improbable on the old British Rail but we have moved on. We have sailed wih P&O from Southampton on board the Arcadia and the Oceana, both beutiful ships and both provided good service, I would have no problem recommending them both. I have heard that the Artimis is not so good. Hope this helps you and I forgot to mention that Virgine Trains can upgrade from your standard ticket on a weekend for the price of £20, thats from London, London to Southampton is no problem, oh and book 12 weeks in advance and you will get the best rate.
Royal Caribbean every time! Their ships sail from Southampton, and they are very high class, and also very reasonably priced. You want a large ship because they have much better stabalisers - and you will need those when crossing the water South of England, which can be very troublesome to say the least!
Good Luck, Coli.
It's very much a case of horses for courses and matching what one is looking for. I have travelled with all the major lines that sail from the UK and there are major differences. Royal Caribbean,Princess and P&O cater more for the mass markets - they are in all honsesty a bit holiday campy with lots of quizzes, bingo, party games,an emphasis on buffet food at lunch time and plain food in the evening.Their customers seem to all moan about how much they are required to tip and the price of alcohol. Fred Olsen and Saga tend to cater for an older set and are less glitzy and their customers like a slower pace without many trimmings. Cunard and Celebrity are more sophisticared (the way P&0 was until it was taken over)- especially if you choose a better level cabin, which gives you a much higher level of cuisine in such as the grill level and they are less mass orientated.The entertainment on the QM2 includes such as a troupe of RADA actors, lecturers, a learning centre and as well as variety shows there are areas set aside for classical musicians. So as I say horses for courses - ones choice is only better if it meets what one wants - but it is important to make the distinction in what is offered before one books.
Having read the answer from Williams of St Albans and I were in your position, I would not touch P&O with a barge pole. However, I am going to give another view of this line. The apparent difference between P&O and Cunard is of class, rubbish, having been on the Oceana in July on a 14 day Med cruise I can assure you that the food is anything but plain, the buffet lunch is to give you an option in dinning, and it is not all bingo. As for a holiday camp, it could not be further from the truth. The people on board come from all walks of life and I am sure dont look upon P&O as a "Good morning campers" type of ship. All the shipping lines operating from Southampton are good. Just choose the places you want to go to and when you want to go and you will be fine. Please dont get sucked into the them and us camp.