The electric kettle with mugs and a good stock of biscuits, tea, coffee and sugar are always a welcomed sight in all P&O cabins. There was also a small fridge, ideal for storing the tonic and cola mixers to accompany the Gin and Vodka we took on board. P&O are one of the few cruise lines that allow this and long may it continue.
Having unpacked next stop was the “The Conservatory” the buffet area situated towards the back of deck 12 and accommodating both sides of the deck. On arrival however it was obvious that many of the other passengers had the same idea. Tables were at a premium and queues had formed at the food counters. We therefore decided to give it a miss at this time and come back later.
Our sailing time was scheduled for 4.30pm but due to various reasons we finally sailed 3 hours late. The first night was casual dress code so it was time for a shower and quick change ready for dinner. We had been allocated a table in the Oriental Restaurant located on deck 6 at the stern of the ship. At 8.30pm we entered the dining room after using the hand gel that was available in dispensers as well as from two ships personnel stationed at the entrance doors. Our table, number 80, was laid for 8. On arrival one couple were already seated and with our friends it was 6, just 2 to come. However after waiting some time it was apparent that we were it. Our waiters Godfrey and Raj were delightful. Helpful, jovial and very obliging. The food during the cruise varied from good to mediocre. The fish dishes were excellent but the steaks were tough and never cooked as ordered. I gave them three tries and then gave up. Another night we all had Lamb Chops but only one person enjoyed them. The rest complained that the chops were tough. Yes you can send a dish back but this means you then get your meal when everyone else has finished theirs. Many of the vegetables looked good but lacked flavour. The worst thing however was the vibration. As the days went by this became a major irritation factor with cutlery rattling on plates and light fittings vibrating in the ceiling. One couple on the table said they had travelled on the ship several times and it was always the same but they had become used to it.
Another complaint about the MDR was the queuing for breakfast. I have never had to queue for breakfast before on any ship. One morning it took nearly 20 minutes to reach the head of the queue and be seated and no apology from the restaurant manager for the wait. All he said was ‘Everybody comes at the same time’. If this is indeed the reason then open the other restaurant but have both restaurants open for a shorter time.
It was my birthday whilst onboard which we celebrated in the Marco Pierre White restaurant Ocean Grill. Every course served was perfect with great service to match. My sweet plate even had ‘Happy Birthday’ on it. It’s those little touches that make the difference. The only slight criticism was that having paid the supplement to dine there you don’t expect a further supplement for certain dishes. Apart from that it was brilliant and I would thoroughly recommend it. Another night we tried Sorrento, the other alternative dining venue but this time featuring Italian cuisine. Once again you pay a supplement but as with Ocean Grill it was worth it. Great food, great service, great atmosphere.
The ship features many bars which cater for all tastes. My favourites were Andersons and Lords Tavern. Lord’s Tavern is based on the home of cricket, Lords Cricket Ground. What a bright, colourful, lively bar with its flags and memorabilia. Even the stops at the end of the bar rails are formed as cricket balls. Andersons is reminiscent of a private club with its pink bar stools, matching velour covered chairs and settees, contrasting carpets and curtains making it the place to go and enjoy either a pre dinner cocktail or an after dinner drink. In my opinion the best Andersons in the P&O fleet. It would be remise of me not to mention Tiffany Court and Tiffany’s. It looks what it is, a grandiose bar surrounded by superb wood panelled walls with marquetry, comfortable chairs, settees and beautiful tables with inlaid woodwork.
There is Chaplin’s Cinema which shows some of the latest films and due to the inclement weather on the cruise was well used. The Crows Nest is a large comfortable lounge on deck 13 with excellent views from the large windows that surround it on three sides. Seats here during chilly sea days are at a premium. During the evening it features live music which makes it a very popular venue.
The highlights of the various ports of call for us were Venice and Dubrovnik. There is nowhere in the world like sailing in and out of Venice. It is an experience that will always be remembered and never surpassed irrespective of where you sail. Dubrovnik with its walled city is another memorable destination. The weather at both ports was hot sun and blue sky which made them even better. The other ports fell into the category of interesting or would have been better if the weather had been better.
Back to the original question, am I still impressed? First of all the downside. These for me were the hanging space in the cabin, the safe, vibration in the dining room, varied food quality and queuing for breakfast which took the gloss off.
However on the plus side Oriana has much going for it and is the second ship to bear this name. The tiered stern reminiscent of the real ocean going liners of the past instead of the flat stern with balcony cabins of modern ships give Oriana a lovely profile. Three swimming pools surrounded by spacious areas for sunbathing so that getting a sun bed is not a problem. The two speciality restaurants where the food and service was first class. The different venues to enjoy a drink, read or relax including my favourite bars in the guise of Andersons and Lords Tavern. A theatre production group who put on some very good shows in a comfortable theatre with good sight lines. The tribute act, Peter White as Kenny Rogers was superb. Close your eyes and listen to him sing, he was indeed Kenny Rogers. Oriana has a very loyal following and it is easy to see why.
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It was August 2012 that I first visited Oriana. At the time I was impressed but am I still impressed after completing a 17 night cruise on the ship. Read on............
May 10th saw us arrive with our travelling companions at a wet and windy Mayflower Terminal ready to board Oriana. Check in was dealt with in their usual efficient manner and within what seemed minutes we were through security and on the ship.
First stop was our cabin A146, an inside cabin on deck 11. We had requested to have the bed made out as two singles knowing from experience on other ships that by having them configured in this manner you have more useable room. This indeed proved to be the case and in between the beds were two cabinets with good sized drawers. The bathroom was the usual vanity unit, wash basin, toilet and in this case a bath. Hanging space consisted of 3 wardrobes but strange, instead of the hanging rail going from left to right or right to left it went back into the hanging space making selection of clothes especially from the back difficult. Another oddity was the safe. Situated near the floor it was totally useless to those who are less agile and have difficulty in bending down or kneeling. Even if you managed to use it the space within was so small that it was no good for storing a small jewellery or cufflink box.
Alan Fairfax - is a
travel journalist for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent and