Oriana to the Fjords 18-25 May 2012
After a clear drive down to Southampton on a Friday morning we boarded at Mayflower for the 1st time in about 6 cruises, so it made a change! We arrived at noon and already long queues of passengers were waiting to check in, I estimate around 300 or so in front of us, but with 18 check-in desks manned we were soon checked in and onboard by 12.45pm.
I had read sail-away bands had been discontinued but still cannot work out if this is on all cruises or just some. Anyway, we had a balcony cabin which although was starboard we were berthed the 'wrong way round' which meant we were facing the dockside and ...an empty bandstand, so I waited to see if they would arrive for our perfect view - they didn't !
We sailed away in the drizzle with no music and just watched the dock crew untie the ropes. We did have our 'free' glass of champagne, which is given to Peninsular tiers from Atlantic upwards. ('free glass' leaflet was in cabin along with lapel pin)
Throughout the cruise, even on formal night I never saw anyone actually wearing them. A waste of money in my opinion, and would rather see the sail away band re-instated!
The following day was a sea day, sailing north passed England and then Scotland, we were surrounded by a heavy mist so most people stayed inside the ship. Our Cabin was a deluxe balcony and although at the aft, it was ideally positioned a few feet away from the door going out to the terrace pool and scooped aft decks. This was very handy as the weather changed as soon as we arrived in Norway and sunbathing and relaxing on the aft decks were to be the norm. Our cabin had everything we could need including a bath as well as shower, fluffy (not towel) dressing gowns, slippers plenty of storage space and brand new balcony furniture and cushions - replaced at the refit no doubt.
The passengers on the new adult only Oriana, were aged mostly 50-70, with young 60's being the average age, there were also many couples in their 40's and some in the 80+ age group, but certainly not an 'old folks' home' I have read about ! Two of our table companions were in their late 80's and they were amazing ! Married 63 years, downing a bottle of wine a night between them and certainly living life to the 'max' although they didn't venture off the ship at ports. They did seem to be having a wonderful ho0liday though, and good luck to them ! I hope I am still cruising too in my mid-eighties!
Formal nights were very formal on the 1st one I didn't see any man in a suit all were in black dinner jackets, we had a lovely Captains Gala Party' just like the 'old days' with ample red and white wine, and g&t, offered and nibbles. Unlike the last 4 or so cruises I've done on Azura and Ventura when it was hard to even see a waiter with a drinks tray let alone get a nibble lol!
There was lots of ballroom dancing taking place so dancers out there will be happy, Harlequins every evening, was buzzing with the dance instructors and bands, a disco started after midnight in there.
I love the dedicated cinema Chaplins' onboard the films were a great choice, and we managed to see Warhorse, the latest Johnny English Film and The Iron Lady.
Oriana is looking wonderful after the re-fit, the Pacific Lounge had all new carpets and upholstered settees and chairs, the buffet Conservatory had new furniture, balcony furniture maybe replaced throughout, ours certainly was... Alfresco looked immaculate, the dining room too. The waiters now wear a button in their top shirt as bow ties have been discontinued for bar and waiting staff
Corkage for drinking wine in the main dining room is now £11 from £10
Drinks are a bit more expensive, cocktails £4.95. You can still buy 1 /2 carafes of wine like Chardonnay for £8.50 which seems fair.
The weather as I mentioned above improved by the time we docked at our first port -Stavanger, We did a 2 hour walking tour here, which was a good idea as it was a Sunday, and as I expected, all the shops and most restaurants were shut, we got back to the dock at noon, so went back onboard for lunch. Two beers in Norway can cost £26 I was told. A bottle of coke (small) is £3.50.
The sail away was in sunshine with people swimming in the pool. As the days progressed it got hotter and hotter, with 26.5 in Bergen. Tony was quite brown by the time we got off and me sun kissed ! LOL
Our next port was Flamm, this was the highlight for us as we had been to the other 3 ports before, and were told to go to Flamm and go on the railway if we ever came this way again... so we booked this cruise specifically for Flamm
Another lovely sunny clear day, which was ideal for our trip. We booked with P&O, and I'm glad we did, as there were lots of people in Flamm, with coaches from elsewhere, and it was so busy, I did hear people who thought they could just get a ticket at the station were disappointed. The train takes a hour to reach the summit, Oriana had 2 reserved carriages so we all had seats and were advised to swop sides on the way down to see all the lovely views..There was lots of snow still at the summit, even a swimming pool full of snow ! See photos...
Olden, was as beautiful as it was last time I visited. The little land train is still there and well worth 150 Nor Kr, ( £15pp)for the hour ride up into town and then onwards to Olden Lake, all around the lake and back again via town. (We did this last time and it was well worth it)
As we had a tour for the afternoon,we just walked to the town had a coffee - not too bad 33 Nkr about £3.50 each... and then came back for our tour to Kjenndalen Glacier and Lovatnet Lake (we did Briksdal Glacier last cruise - which by the way was better with blue ice and a pleasant hours walk to and from it)
It was so hot in the coach as we waited to leave, people were wilting, someone asked the driver if the air-con was working and he said it was on full power, but they never really use it here ! (haha.)The coach took us to a small boat for the lake trip, most of the seating was inside, as I suppose its usually misty, raining or cold, but it was still hot and again people in the inners of the boat were wilting. I managed to get a view point mid way and took this photo of the fantastic scenery
We then had waffles, sour cream and coffee at a lovely chalet before driving onto the glacier.
(photos in album link below)
We have now had three ports in a row all sunny the wine waiter told me that night he had never known in his 17 years of cruising to the Fjords three days in a row of sun...Bergen is known for 300 days of rain out of 365... Well, when we arrived there it was the hottest day so far!
Bergen had 4 cruise ships in, and was hosting a Major Music Festival, the town was heaving, again people who had not booked the Funicular railway were left disappointed as by 10am the queues at the station were massive and snaked all down the street to the market. I always book a tour if there is somewhere I really want to go as you are fast -tracked passed the queues. We had done this trip before luckily and weren't bothered, so this time we thought we would see more of Bergen and find those coloured old warehouses you see whenever Bergen is photographed, we chose the land train again 150 Kr (approx £15pp), and had a pleasant trip.
When we got back we decided to head back to the ship as we were to be back onboard early here at 3.30pm with last shuttle at 3pm, so we left in plenty of time... We passed the outside music festival and saw the Queen and King of Norway !! They were on the stage while the national anthem was playing.!!
As we sailed away, in scorching weather again to a 'Great British Sail away' the Captain announced that 2 passengers were left behind, obviously this early sail away had not been noted by them... and we were to cheer as the launch approached and an elderly couple caught up with the ship and had to climb up the side!! Amazing.!!
This review is getting too long, but I must lastly touch on the new Marco Pierre White 'Ocean Grill', which is in the old Curzon Room/Oriana Rhodes restaurant...
We love going to the supplement Fine Dining Restaurants and have been to a lot of them. So this was on my to-do list. We decided to go twice in the 7 day cruise trying both menus. All I can say is...have a light lunch and NO afternoon nibbles or tea!! As his portions are generous and of excellent standard.
The first evening I had;
An amuse boucle of chefs homemade chicken soup (which was divine)
Starters of Smoked Chicken and Avocado salad,
Mains, Mixed Seafood Grill (cod, salmon, large prawn, squid a 4 scallop kebab!!, ) with triple cooked hand -cut chips in a stack, sides of green beans with shallots and roasted veg.
Dessert Marcos Sherry Trifle Wally Lad with harveys Bristol cream
The service was outstanding, at the next table a couple shared Chateaubriand of Beef which was a extra £6pp, this was carved at the table and the couple later told me it was to die for....
On Menu 1 which we had on the last evening, it was even better...
Again a amuse bouche of chicken soup with assorted mini rolls on the table
Prawn Cocktail - the best ever in a high glass with 8 -10 large jumbo prawns in a homemade Marie rose dressing.
Salt Marsh Lamb Rack with Dauphinoise Potato stack, crushed minted peas, and a jus with side veg....DEVINE !!! The best lamb I have every tasted...and side veg
Apple Tart Tatin with a jug of warm caramel and homemade vanilla pod ice cream
We had coffee after with handmade chocolates on a brandy snap leaf...
(Photos in link below.)
The Supplement was £17.95 a head. We think its worth the extra as a meal like this on land would be around £100-150 and of course everything is freshly cooked to order, with superb service and a table for 2 if you want it. It does not compare to mass-catering of the main dining room.
Marco came onboard at Bergen, I went to a audience with' interview in the theatre, he is a formidable character, and even I !!!! Didn't have the nerve to ask for his photo. Although I did pop along to his book signing and took a photo.
Another highlight was the light evenings midnight sun, it was strange going into the crows nest at 11.45pm and seeing a light sky.
Hope you found this of interest, any questions on the newly refurbed Oriana now childfree with 3 lovely pools all for us!!!, or the Fjord ports, just ask. !!