I last cruised Oriana in 2003, when it was family friendly and when P&O was not owned by Carnival. I shall start with the not so good, and finish with the terrible.
It was once a ship brimming with babies laughter and yet having a class that was quintessentially British, with food that was superb throughout the ship and with dedicated, loyal staff under the genial 'Captain Birds Eye' (the passengers nickname).
Now, after the refit that has removed the toddler's paddling pool, their play area and the creche, all to enable the construction of a small block of cabins; the ship, with an average passenger age of over 80, has the joyless air of 'God's waiting room on sea'; the food in the main restaurants is average at best, the choice of wines very limited; the food and drink in the alternative food outlets eg The Conservatory, is totally repetitive and its serving completely marred by the edicts demanded by the disease ridden state of the ship (more of that later); the staff are still going about their tasks with fortitude and good humor, but when gently pressed by the passengers refer to the Captain with many unflattering terms, the mildest of which was Captain B***-S***. I have seen other reviews for this cruise that say that the Captain was the most informative ever; if giving us a long description of the expected and prevailing weather conditions, and how it was only by his own masterly navigation skills that the passengers were saved from an experience of tsunamic proportions, then yes I agree; others I met called him a patronizing BS.
That covers the faults (to my mind), deliberately brought about by Carnival for monetary gain.
I now come to the Norovirus issue:
As widely reported, eg.
Oriana had already had at least two very widespread cases of this virulent disease. On this cruise, at least 4 cases were personally reported to me, with Bills from the medical staff on board running to several thousand pounds. Though the staff refused to discuss it, getting very obstructive, it was rumored that every bed in the medical section was occupied. It was also a fact that one passenger died during the cruise and rumors had a further 4 corpses stored below.
What is known, is that the eating experience in the alternative food outlets was ruined by the staff being forced to wear the same latex gloves during an entire dining session and being forbidden to make any bodily contact with the passengers; this, despite all passengers having to bathe their hands in disinfectant gel.
As we were awaiting disembarkation, on the Prom Deck, we observed trains of white coated and masked staff wielding spray guns pushing through the crowds of passengers, and then huge rolls of carpet being brought up from below. Inquiry yielded the information that the virus had been detected in the carpet below the theater stage and that emergency re-carpeting had been ordered. It then was revealed that members from the Southampton Maritime Health Authority, were on board and that Chief Exec. from Carnival was expected. As there has been no news in the media, I assume that the usual cover-up has prevailed.
I understand that Oriana is to make only one more transatlantic voyage and that her last cruise is to be in Spring 2014. In my opinion, she is no longer fit for purpose and should be withdrawn from service immediately; it seems obvious that, in view of the advanced age of her passengers, it is only a matter of time before, what is now just a gross inconvenience, becomes a tragedy of epidemic proportion.