We have just returned from our first P&O cruise on Oriana to Norweign Ffords (9th to 16th June 2012) and well I can say I was very impressed, even after reading reviews and comments from previous passengers.
We have done 40 cruises and we really enjoy the tranquility, relaxing pace, and great service, on the ones we had been on, so hopefully this review will help others decide on the Oriana.
First I will start with the negatives so we can get them out of the way, there are not many but here goes.
The vibration was evident at the lower rear part of the ship, but bearing in mind her age I think I was not that bad, we have been on much louder noisy engine cruises in the past, where you need to shout or have written text conversations!! but the Oriana was not that bad.
The use of Sanitisers were a bit of a let down, because they only enforced it in the Conservatory Dining area, (Buffet style dining), the Main Dining and Speciality restaurants did not have sanitisers present, but that may be because you dont touch the food, or tongs etc. which is fair enough.
But there were a large number of passengers on this ship that did not wash their hands after using the toilet, so would have liked to see more sanitisers where food was being served.!
It would also have been good to have sanitiser at the entrance of the gangway going back on the ship (some other cruise liners do this and it worked well), Especially as passengers were using the handrails and pressing the buttons on the lifts etc, where germs linger! we did put this down on our comments form, but not sure if this will be taken up or just ignored like some comments you give to the cruise liners..Especially when you hear that Norovirus is on some ships..
The entertainment was ok, but some shows were good and some were just ok, but throughout the ship would have been good to have varied entertainment, as I think there was too much (musicians and not enough modern), basically piano, jazz, classical, in each of the bars, and well you just wanted a bit of boogie music, but not wait until midnight for the disco, I understand that the majority of passenger age groups on this ship were over 65, but there was a lot of young people onboard in their 30,40,50, and it would be good to cater for this age group too.
Our biggest disappointment in the entertainment category was that we chose the wrong week to holiday as it was Euro2012, and each night bars had the football on, now this is good for the passengers that were into football but the majority of the passengers were struggling to find areas that were away from the shouting and cheering of the football. The night before we arrived back, we thought would have been a party type, enjoyable evening but you guessed it, 2 bars and one showlounge (pacific lounge) had the football on, which a lot of passengers were annoyed at, as the only place to go was the Royal Theatre to see the commedian who was already on that week, so much the same gags again... and the Viewing bar Crows Nest had Classical jazz music on, which was quite loud, but again as there was no-where else to go that was quite enough, away from the loud cheering etc of football. It was a bit of a let down, especially as it was our last day and a day at sea.. Perhaps this might be different to other dates of the year when they may have something else on, other than football times...
The Cabin was spacious, and had a large window, which was great for watching coming in and out of port and waking up the sun shining in through it, although the sky was very bright and Light outside until around midnight, when it got a little dark, but it was like 4 in the afternoon when it was 11pm, we did notice it when we got back to UK, as it was dark by 6-8pm, so we did miss the light nights.
The wardrobe space and drawer space was great, there were two sets of cabinets with 4 drawers which were quite deep, each side of the bed, and a large one at the dressing table with 4 drawers big ones.
The Safe was an issue, it was very narrow and low to the ground practically, so if you have kneeling or bending issues this may cause a problem, but it was free and it was a number code you put in yourself, (just remember what it is, and you have to keep it pressed shut when you put the number in and press close, as it didnt close then.).
The toilets throughout the ship, were clean and working well, the hand dryers were always not working, but there were hand towels to use, (disposable paper ones), but there was a notice on the back of the main toilet entrance door to say "Please use paper towel to open door handle" but there was no bin to put this paper towel in, other than back inside the toilet, so you could not open the door with the towel unless you can run quick back to the bin inside and run out in the duration that the time took to open and close the door! A bin should have been provided so you can put it in, and open the door using the towel.!
Not much else on the negatives, so onto the positives. The food was great, hot and well cooked, I have dietary requirements in that I am Dairy Free Lactose Intolerant, and the Head Waiter Colin came to me each day, took my order for the next nights meal, asked if there was anything I wanted for the buffet menu in the Conservatory dining area, and I asked for Dairy Free Ice Cream which was there for me each day. I also have to take food with my night time medication, so I asked Colin if I could get a Sandwich which did not have any butter or mayonaise etc, in it but just salad, with the most delicious Cooked Ham I have ever tasted, and he said he would get it arranged and put in my room by room service each night ready for me when I get back to the cabin this happened every night and it was great and fresh..
We also went to the Marco Pierre restaurant onboard, The Ocean Grill and again the night before we went there, Colin came with their menu and I chose what I wanted and they made dairy free vegetables (ie no butter or milk in them), and a dessert for me that was dairy free. He took my order and passed it to the Chef in the Grill restaurant and it was already done for us dining their the next day.
I must stress that you have to try this restaurant, it was fantastic, the atmosphere was relaxed, they gave a good time between each course, and it was excellent quality of food served, we both had steak and I like mine Well Done and my other half likes his medium and they were perfect. The whole experience in this dining room is perfect and you must try it, and hope you have the same experience we had.
In the buffet restaurant they had staff that were layed on specifically to help the disabled or elderly, and they got their foods to their table for them, and helped with their trays to their table, which I have not seen designated staff do this in the other cruises we have been on, so perhaps it may be because of the age group on the Oriana being more 65 plus, but it was a great service.
The prices of the drinks onboard were reasonable, but they had a good selection of beers and spirits on their menus, but it was cheaper to have a can (150ml) than a draft tap soft drink.
Overall experience on the Oriana was great, and will definately recommend her and go on her again.
The destinations we visited were really good having never done a Ffords cruise, been to Stavanger and Bergen in the past, (I used to be a cabin stewardess that worked on an airline that flew to these destinations weekly, but not ventured out of the airport!). So it was nice to see other parts of the places. The Gierangerfford was great, so picturesque and tranquil, we went on an RIB fast boat down the fford, and it was breathtaking, the various waterfalls, the high mountains, you have to be there to touch and feel the water and feel the spray from the waterfalls to believe how wonderful it was.
The Briksdal Glacier with the Troll train (although it is not a train but individual carts with around 7 seats which are so cute and like they are travelling on electric tracks rather than engine diesel driven. ), They take you up to the glacier which again is spectacular, very blue in colour, but there is a steep hill to walk up, so may not be suitable for some people with mobility issues, or gets breathless easy, as I am, but when I saw some 70/80 year old ladies whizz past me I thought I have to do this, I am only 46, ! but it was hard for me, but worth it when you get there to the glacier and it is all down hill on the way back to the Troll car again. then back down the track which has great photo opportunities and scenery is fab.
You get back down and you have TeaCoffee and a good selection of cakes home made from this cafe at the bottom of the glacier, (it is included in the tour price so you dont have to pay for the teas etc), the cakes were absolutely gorgeous, and the tea had lemon in it, so if you dont like lemon tea then take the coffee, or ask if they have a different plain tea bag. But it is well worth the wait when you get back from the cold glacier, with the chilly winds.
I do recommend taking warm gloves, earmuffs, scarf, and warm clothing Layers would be best, but great walking shoes, as there is uneven tracks to get to the glacier.
You get about 20 minutes or more at the glacier and to get back down to the Troll Car. But they do wait for you.
Stavanger doesnt have much in way of Souveniers shops, they do have one at the terminal where the cruise is docked, but the town centre is mostly clothes shops or art shops, and are very expensive.
The dock where the Oriana was sited was a long walk from the town centre, there were two other cruise ships closer to the dock but perhaps it is first come first served not sure. But it is not well sign posted, and they are building something next to the dock so you cannot cut through, there is a sign at the top of a hill that says Cruise entrance, but again it is confusing to where you go, so not very well organised, perhaps P&O need to put up some Laminated signs saying where to go, and fix them to the barriers around the building works, to get back to the ship, as at some point you feel as though you are going further and further away from the ship, but it is actually a long way around this building works. then back down to the other side, then further walk along the side of the houses then to the entrance of the dock where the Gangway is..
At least it was dry day so you did not mind walking the distance. but again for mobilty or breathless passengers this may be too long to walk and give yourself plenty of time for stops along the way, to get to the ship before the sailing time.
Southampton embarking was a first for us, as we usually fly to desitanation abroad to join the cruise, and we were a bit nervous at how long we would have to wait, will it be busy at check in and will it be stressful to get onboard. But we were pleasantly surprised by the organised way it was done, we gave our luggage to a porter at a conveyor belt that put your luggage onto the ship, and screened it then we went to the check in area, where there were a vast amount of check in desks, and it was straight forward, onto the waiting lounge, where they then called you by deck levels, again so free flowing. it was onboard shown to your cabin, then you were up to Conservatory for some food, whilst your cabin and luggage are being onboard, You then hear a tanoy call that says All Cabins are ready for you. this is around 2pm, then you go to your cabin and your luggage is already inside, It is a pity they dont unpack for you!!
Some cruise liners we have been on have taken a good few hours to get your luggage to your cabin, not sure why this is, when P&O Oriana can get it there within short time..??
On the way back to Southampton, you get offered to Self Disembark, at 7.30am or wait your time slot for around 9am onwards, we took the 7.30am self disembark, which you have to take your luggage off yourself, (otherwise if we waited for 9am they would have taken it off for us, and we woulld then find it on the quayside on your deck level sections). We went through immigration, and it was straightforward, then off to get a taxi which was waiting at the quayside terminal, or you could have your car brought to the terminal waiting for you, it is a great system and one I will definately be using again. A lot better than the Airport check in and security, immigration etc..delays.
Overall again the great time we had on Oriana was so relaxing, well worth it, and will be going on her again soon.
We have just booked Azura for the Caribbean in February 2013, now that we have been on P&O and very much enjoyed it, so really looking forward to this one. Will let you know how we get on. We have booked the Suite this time with a butler, (we had this on the Celebrity cruises and it was great, so hopefully we will have same service with the butler on this Azura).
Hope you enjoyed reading this and found it helpful when booking or going on Oriana.