had a fantastic time on the Oriana although a few things need improving.
We arrived in Southampton and soon found the drive way we had paid to park on for the five days as it worked out A LOT cheaper than parking at the terminal would highly recommend http://www.parkatmyhouse.com/uk/ have used them several times before for cruises as the price difference can be enormous. Upon arriving at the QE2 terminal we were dismayed to see an enormous cue winding its way all round the terminal to where the waiting area is, however we only waited about 15 minutes and were checked in and through security and on-board. Much better than our previous experience of boarding the Balmoral at Mayflower where we waited over an hour after checking before boarding even commenced.
Cabin F161 was ready and easy to find as it was just on the starboard side of the atrium. our suitcases arrived at exactly the same time that we did so we had plenty of time to get unpacked and settled in before drill and sail away. Cabin was spacious and nicely decorated although a bit tatty in some places on the drawers and the dressing table. sides were also dusty and stayed this way throughout the cruise. Apart from the that our steward Mahamod was very friendly and saw to any small requests we had.
Emergency drill soon crept up on us and we had to make our way to ocean grill at the top of the atrium this i found quite odd as in the case of an emergency we had to pass the boat deck and carry on going up. Although it was a very nice room, could have almost been steaming our way across the Atlantic on on of the original queens. However it got very busy and really couldn't hold the amount of people required to muster there.
After this it was time for some tea and we went up to the conservatory and it was manic in there! Many people refusing to use the hand sanitizer upon entry.
Sail away was in windy and drizzly weather and had the assistance of tugs to get away from the berth and was only a few minutes late leaving as i believe the Independence of the seas was leaving before us.
Exploring the ship we found her to be showing a lot of wear and tear surprising because she only had a refit at the beginning of the year, for example the brass on the banisters of the stairwells showing a lot of tarnishing and the tables in the crows nest and pillars in theater both extremely scratched, this surprised us as the Balmoral at the end of May was in nothing but but mint condition apart from the dated decor could almost have have been brand new.
Dinner came with a fair bit of apprehension as we were on a table for four and not our customary table for two, we needn't have worried however as we ate with a couple from the isle of white who were possibly the nicest people we have ever met on holiday and dinners became a highpoint of the day as conversation flowed easily and was entertaining. The menu however wasn't to my taste now I am a fussy eater but have always found at least one soup/ starter I liked in the past however I could only have one on the last night, this wasn't a major problem as it left more time for conversation. The mains and desserts I never found anything short of delicious.
After dinner entertainment is where although i believed the cruise was lacking especially for the age demographic on board at the time, I understand that the Oriana normally attracts a more mature traditional clientele but as on this cruise there was a lot of passengers in the early 20's to 30's range there really wasn't much to do for them apart from the 60's and 70's party one night. However the the show Stage Door on the last night was wonderful.
As i said there where quite a few different passengers on-board and some i think were surprised by what they found. I even heard a lot of comments such as "It's not as good as PO ferries Pride of York!" this pretty much sums up a lot of the passengers on-board. Many were rude.
Ports of call-
Brugge: We did the excursion 'taste of Brugge' it was extremely good and very informative although it was a walking tour it was not fast paced and manageable. Guide was wonderful and could easily answer even the most vague questions.
Le Havre: Didn't get off and spent the day in the steam room and relaxing on deck and our table companions said we made the right choice.
Guernsey - First time there and found it lovely! going ashore by tender was easy and organized and we had hired a car and drove round the island thoroughly enjoyed it. went to the occupation museum and the little chapel both were wonderful. Never been to such a wonderful place. will definitely be returning!
Disembarkation was slow as they were running behind.
Now for the pros and cons
Nice sized ship and a proper ship not trying to be a floating resort.
Very clean at all times.
Lots of outdoor deck space.
Comfortable seats in both theater and cinema.
Cons (room for improvement nothing was terrible)
Staff not as friendly as on Balmoral did what they had to nothing more.
Showing some major wear and tear.
Cafe Al Fresco not large enough for the amount of people wanting to use it late at night.
Hand sanitizer not strictly enforced.
Overall we had a fabulous holiday and met some wonderful people. First time with P&O and as I have said staff not as friendly as Balmorals, But by far the superior ship, basically give me the Oriana with Balmorals staff and I'd be in heaven.