We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana way back in 1984! The official sector of the around the world cruise was from Sydney to San Francisco but we were allowed to embark in Brisbane. This added another 3 nights to the cruise making it a total of 28 nights.
British pounds which are used onboard are now only $1.50 as our exchange rate has improved.
As we live near Brisbane we drove and left our car at a nearby car storage. As our return trip would be by air from USA, they would collect us at the nearby international airport. Their shuttle service was efficient.
Arriving after 11 am, we were forced to stand in line at the cruise terminal until midday when they opened the counter. The line moved slowly as only about 3 cruise staff processed the 300 odd passengers boarding here. Gradually more staff appeared (maybe they had been on lunch?). We couldn't understand why the process wasn't started earlier or more staff used as with other cruise ships at this port. With such a relatively small number of passengers embarking here, the process should have been quicker. Once on board, we were directed to our cabin where we left our hand luggage and went for lunch.
Throughout the cruise we had 5 Cruise Critic meetings with our small group followed by lunch in the MRD.
Built in 1995, the Oriana was showing its age but the recent refurbishment helped it feel modern. Public areas were nicer than we expected. Carpets looked new and the crew were constantly painting and undertaking other maintenance. It had recently been converted to an 'adults only' ship. The recently added 'duck's tail' to the lower rear of the ship seemed to help it handle some rough weather near USA.
With 1800 passengers it is a comfortable size and has a good layout. The promenade deck was very wide and great for walking.
While the majority of the passengers were British, there were a large number of Australians. We did get the impression that some of the reserved Poms were taken back by the comparatively loud Aussies.
As mentioned in previous reviews, passengers in the rear restaurant complained of noisy vibration. At a 'question & answer' session, the captain apologised for the excessive vibration and said it was due to the 2 propellers being slightly out of timing. He said that it was worse at certain speeds which they were trying to avoid. Fortunately we weren't in that restaurant but did find the noise from the vibration excessive when in the Pacific Lounge which is on the deck directly above the rear dining room. It appeared that certain performers were moved from here to the front theatre for this reason. After the captain's comments, the noise did appear to reduce.
In the interest of hygiene we would have preferred if the public toilets had the main door left open as on many other ships avoiding the need to use paper towels to open them. Also some public toilets regularly were out of order.
The overall size of our inside cabin is not large, but sufficient for two people and our luggage. Unfortunately as we booked late (at a good price), we had a 4 berth cabin. The top bunks against the walls caused problems as we had the queen bed arrangement. Also there is no space between the end of the bed and the wardrobe on one side and the desk on the other. The shower was fairly small but the curtain didn't get sucked inwards. The flat-screen TV was a reasonable size. The a/c made the cabin freezing even on the highest setting (this was fixed after complaining).
There was a small fridge which was handy for keeping our supply of Coke & snacks cold. Ice had to be requested (we had a standing order at noon each day). Also if you want a top sheet, ask for it.
Food & drinks:
We found the service in the main dining room to be fine but the standard & variety of food was inferior -- certainly not to the quality of food on American ships like Princess. There was a noticeable lack of seafood other than fish -- not even the usual prawn cocktails (as my DW is not a seafood lover she was reasonably happy with the quality). We laughed at their idea of tiger prawns - extremely little in size & in number. Even on the formal 'black tie' nights the food was nothing special! Our wine waiter was prompt & reliable.
As this is a British ship there were strict rules on dress code in the MRD (we were aware this of pre cruise). There were 6 Black Tie & 7 Smart (jacket required!!!) nights on this cruise. This was different to the relaxed Aussie & American cruises.
After experiencing the long lines at the buffet the first morning, we used the MRD for breakfast most other mornings. Also the food seemed improved and the atmosphere more relaxing for breakfast. We enjoyed the popular fruit smoothes but missed the large American style pancakes and freshly made waffles. Also fresh fruit at times was in very limited supply.
We did use the buffet for lunch but wished the quality of the food was to a higher standard -- much of it looked like leftovers. Trays are still supplied. On some port days many passengers were late for the early sitting in the MRD. As a result there were long lines in the buffet as only one side was being used (the other side was kept closed in the evening as it led to one of the extra-charge restaurants on the rear deck). We did use this Italian extra-charge restaurant on the evening leaving Sydney. The view of the harbour as we sailed out was fantastic but the service was extremely slow and the food disappointing. To receive better quality food an additional payment was required!
We were pleased to see hand-sanitizers at MRD and the buffet -- their use was strongly encouraged.
Alcohol was reasonably priced. We used a soft drink card for post-mix drinks which only gave a small saving but was convenient and time saving.
Surprisingly low-priced duty-free spirits could be bought and consumed in your cabin. Also P&O UK has relaxed views on the amount of wine brought onboard.
Staff and service on board:
Organization on the ship was generally excellent with the one exception at Honolulu where maybe USA customs clearance could have been handled better to avoid long lines. Tendering, which occurred at only one port, was well organised with no delays.
The crew who were mainly from Goa, India were polite but didn't seem cheerful. Generally they were not up to Princess' standard. The reception staff were friendly and polite.
Captain Camby, who was the youngest in the fleet, was very popular especially with the females as he was a John Travolta lookalike. We found him to be very approachable, humorous and conveyed information in great detail. Cruise Director, Michael Mullane was also popular and did a great job. Both performed well together one evening in the miming game, 'Give Us A Clue'.
A 4 page daily newspaper printed for Australia as well as Britain was popular and much appreciated. Prices in the photo gallery were half that of Princess.
Having several laundrettes on board was a bonus. Also surprisingly they were free but this can cause problems as some passengers used them to wash a few clothes only at a time causing delays.
The program of entertainment was much organised with a full colour 'Your Cruise Overview' printed at the start of this sector. This listed the dress code and all the evening activities for each day.
On cruises we enjoy the shows in the evening. The performers in the Headliner Company did a superb job. Also we were pleasantly surprised to find they did 8 different shows during the cruise -- certainly more than Royal Caribbean offer! These were the highlight of our evening. On 2 occasions we even saw their repeated show the next night. Unfortunately the main theatre (the Theatre Royal) had a design fault with the seating. Many of the flip-seat bases were sloping downwards causing us to slide forward. Also to increase the capacity of the theatre, legroom was minimal. The alternative entertainment area (the Pacific Lounge) was laid out like a lounge - as a result its capacity was limited. Also unless you arrived early, one's view could be blocked by supporting posts.
Most of the guest entertainers were British (our favourites were a singer, Emily Reed and comedian, Richard Guantlett) and of an acceptable standard.
This cruise consisted of many sea days. The program of activities was good and my DW loved participating in the passenger choir but missed not having Zumba. The many guest lecturers were popular (almost filled the theatre) and very informative -- every sea day had presentations by at least 2 lecturers. There was a cinema on this ship with good movies but we didn't have time to see any - for us days at sea go by quickly. We should mention that we were travelling with friends with whom we spent at least 2 hours each sea day playing cards. The only suitable location for this activity was in the buffet.
Shore Excursions & Destinations:
We normally try to avoid shore excursions organised by ships as we feel that they were too expensive although on this ship they were more reasonably priced than American ships. Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise (supplemented with detailed free local maps picked up on land), we easily explore ourselves. Also as we had been to New Zealand before this worked extremely well. The other Pacific ports of Bora Bora & Papeete were easy to explore ourselves; whereas, in Honolulu we with our friends found a great guide who copied the ship's sightseeing tour for much less cost.
As we had been cleared by customs at Honolulu everything went smoothly and on time leaving the ship. There was the usual line waiting for taxis but this was well organised.
P&O UK proves that you get what you pay for. In our opinion the service and entertainment are excellent whereas the food was generally disappointing. There is certainly no heavy selling while on this ship. Generally we would recommend them as long as you remember these are British ships.
While onboard we didn't take advantage of P&O UK's Future Cruise Credits scheme as it was too restrictive but would consider cruising with them again.