First time sailing on a P&O ship that was not a ferry and absolutely loved leaving from Southampton. Embarkation and Disembarkation was incredibly easy and quick (at least it was with a mini suite). Got to the dock from the hotel over the road at 11:15 and was on board sipping champagne and eating nibbles by 11:45 and this included wasting 10 mins because the hotel car dropped us off at the wrong place. rooms supposed to be ready by 2pm, but we were in, unpacked and put away by 2pm.
The mini suites are a little smaller than on more modern ships, but more than adequate for a 10 day cruise with just two of us in the room. The mini suite itself was a little dusty and looking a little tired from a fixtures and fittings perspective, but nothing to spoil the trip. Balcony was an odd shape at about 17ft by 4ft but perfectly usable and the cut out style does offer a lot of protection from the elements enabling us to sleep with the balcony door open just listening to the ocean without being cold or windy. Bathroom was a fair size and the jacuzzi bath proved to be very useful and welcoming after lots of walking during the day. We provided the room steward with a ï¿½£50 tip upfront at the start to show our intentions (even though P&O now have the auto tips system in place) and I am convinced this ensured our room was tidy and straight by the time we got back from breakfast every day and whenever we left the room, it got straignted up, coffee and biscuits replaced, cushions,beds and towels refreshed and bins emptied.
Outside the room, the ship looks absolutely fine. I was a little worried with some reviews stating it looked very tired, but on the whole it was absolutely fine and very clean. There is an adequate amount of places to eat and drink around the ship and the food is usually of a high quality given the mass catering environment and the drinks prices and options where reasonable (spending most of my time in London usually means anywhere else is reasonable). An excellent gym meant I got away with only putting on 3.4lbs during the trip which absolutely amazed me as I took full advantage (and I do mean at least 4 big meals a day) of being able to eat and drink 24x7. Breakfast runs from about 6:30 to 10:30 and then brunch starts at 10:30 to 12:00 although the only difference between these to appears to be the special offer on freshly squeezed juice disappears at 10:30 and the cocktail specials start at 10:30. lunch is from 12 until 3 and then afternoon tea starts at 4pm until 5pm before dinner starting at 6:30. In between these, the BBQ on deck is open and then after dinner finishes at 9:30, late night dining or overnight room service begins.
General Entertainment is OK if you like that sort of thing. Nothing special, but not bad either if you allow yourself to get involved and have a good time with plenty of options to be as busy as you want to be.
Shops are OK but not many on Oceana but reasonable options and pricing for everyday stuff that you might need.
In terms of Highlights, the Horizon grill in the evening serve limited, but wonderful food with waiting staff taking care of every little requirement very quickly. Due to inclement weather, the evening meals where held inside rather than on deck were they are normally held, but the views were still great. It costs a little extra (typically about ï¿½£15 per head) but well worth it.
There were a few things that were not as I would have liked them to be but to be fair, this is more about my expectations rather than a failing of P&O and the Oceana. Late night dining in the Marco Pieere White restaurant (when you want food after 9:30pm) was a bit of a joke. We requested a table for 4 and there was one quite clearly free (but already set for breakfast) and they would only provide 2 tables for 2 at separates sides which is not what we wanted having spent the day together, we wanted to eat together. The food available was left over sandwiches from afternoon tea and the cheese board had a block of cheddar on it. Decided to leave and order room services which was quick and very good.
The SPA is a heavy sell zone and don't be surprised if having visited it you leave with a timeshare in Portugal and a set of encyclopaedias. Anything complimentary related to the SPA enviably ends up requiring you to purchases a mountain of things at exorbitant prices that you never knew you needed and can't understand how you have survived this long without. I had 3 different massages at 3 different prices (it was easier to just say yes rather then risk buying new double glazing for our mini suite) and they all felt the same. Don't get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the services, just nothing special either.
Also, hardly an hour goes by without some sort of salesgoing on for stuff you never knew you needed. Lots of people seemed to enjoy these, but it made it feel a bit more like a closing down sale and I was little worried when parts of the ships started to come up for sale when you still have 1500 miles of cruising to complete (that might be a slight exaggeration).
We got stung by the forex policies on the ships and ended up having lots of 200 krona notes left (worth about ï¿½£20 each) and they only except 50 and 100 krona notes. My fault as it does clearly state this in reception but unfortunatley I could not see that from the travellex burea the week before I boarded.
Tours were OK and unfortunatley I had forgotten that I had promised myself not to bother again on a previous cruise. We had a wonderful time on independent trips in Amsterdam, Bergen and Geiranger and in fact liked the organised trip up Mount Dalsnibba. However, we paid a lot of money to see the glacier in Olden and only actually got to spend 10 mins at the glacier before having to head back and spend 60 minutes in the cafe and gift shop. The Stavanger trip to pulpit rock was even worse for us. 10 minutes in a coach, 30 minutes waiting for everybody else to arrive waiting on a old slow boat, 2 hours by boat to spend 5 minutes looking at a rock 600 meters above which although quite square, was still just a rock (ok a nice rock) to then spend 2 hours getting back and onto the ship and off and paid ï¿½£148 for the privilege. We did, however, get a free waffle. After touring the Ffords for the previous 3 days, this trip was pretty pointless. particular as there was other fast boats that did the trip in 30 minutes for a 3rd of the cost. My advise would be to check exactly what the trip entails before you book so as not to be disappointed. I am sure others loved the trip, but If I had done my homework, I would not have done two of the trips and saved myself ï¿½£225 which is a lot of junk gifts for the family or even a couple of beers in Norway.
My last point, and this goes for most cruise ships I think, is the absolutely horrendous charges for photographs on board. P&O excel at this. ï¿½£17.95 for a 10x8 and a further ï¿½£5.95 for a copy of the image on disk. The charge applies (I.e ï¿½£23.90) for just the image on disk. I am sure there must be a smarter way for P&O to do this as I did not mind spending the money, but with just 3 photos to show for nearly ï¿½£60 quid, I begrudged spending any more on photos. In the end, out group ended up hijacking (probably should not use that word in a ship context) the photo locations around the ships and taking our own which may not be quite as good as the on board photographer's, but we had a lot of fun making them, hiding out in bars until the photographer went on a break and then just using their facilities.
All in all an excellent trip and I looking forward to booking the next one with realistic expectations.