We set off from Glasgow on our Eavesway coach at 3:45 a.m., which was a very early start so as a result we slept most of our first sea day asleep!! We stopped en-route for pick-ups in Carlisle, Lancaster and Stafford, and had two meal breaks so it was 1:50 when we arrived at the Ocean Terminal. Check-in went very smoothly and although there was a bit of a queue at security we were onboard and in our cabin by 2:30. Our luggage arrived really quickly so although we'd intended to leave unpacking till the first sea day, we just got on with it before the Muster drill then we were ready to set sail.
WHAT WE DID IN THE PORTS
Our cruise was 35 days to the Caribbean so we spent the first three days at sea before reaching Madeira. It was a Sunday so we didn't quite know what we should do, but actually there was a lot of entertainment around the town and a good bustling atmosphere so we enjoyed just walking around. After crossing the Atlantic, our first port was Antigua, a beautiful island. We took a local bus to Nelson's Dockyard and had a super day. We used Cosol Tours in St Lucia which we'd thoroughly recommend. My husband's a cricket fan we visited the cricket museum and the Kensington Oval in Barbados and in Grenada we took our only ship excursion with the Rhum Runner. We had organised a tour with Aruba Trikes on our next stop and it took us round a lot of the island but to be honest apart from some lovely beaches, there was little to admire. We enjoyed a part-transit of the Panama Canal before heading for Roatan in Honduras. This was a new port for us and for many on our cruise and it was our only rainy day in the Caribbean. It is not too developed yet, and there is a lot of poverty and we were upset by how many hungry street dogs we saw. Our last ports of call were Montego Bay (avoid at all costs!), Tortola where we had a fantastic tour on a jimney (open-sided bus) which was only $20 for 3 hours and finally a shopping morning and a final afternoon on the beach in St Maarten. I must just say that in the P&O info it said there was a "small town beach, but there is probably about a mile of beach, easily accessible using the water taxi from the port ($7 for unlimited journeys). We had quite a lot of wind on the way to Ponte Delgada but luckily we were able to dock and we took the little train which was somehow boring but hilarious at the same time time. We also managed to find the local market which is something I always love to do wherever we dock and otherwise just enjoyed wandering round taking in the atmosphere, although lots of the shops closed at 1:00 p.m. as it was a Saturday. The last leg across the BoB was pretty rough (Force 11 at times according to the crew member we asked) but Oceana coped well with the weather.
We opted for second-sitting club dining and although we requested a table for 8, we were allocated one for 6, but fortunately we all got on really well and had great fun every evening talking about everything under the sun. Our waiters, Ram and Alister, as well as our wine waiter Jesus were really nice and attentive but they do seem rushed off their feet and don't seem to have much time just to stand and chat, which isn't their fault. The food on the whole was pretty good. Some nights were better than others, of course, and some nights exceptionally good. In general the steaks were of a better quality than we had experienced recently and were always a good stand-by. I enjoyed Caesar Salad from the alternative menu as a starter and it's worth asking what else is on that menu as you can order from it every night, although it's not well publicised. The Plaza was as hectic as ever although we usually had breakfast there as we never got up much before 9:30 --well holidays are for relaxing. If we were onboard ship, we usually just had lunch there too but always waited till around 2:30 when it was much quieter and as we only had salads, they hadn't run out of what we wanted. We ate in the Horizon Grill one night and it as HUGELY disappointing. First of all, we found the smell of the deep-fat fryer over-powering and my husband who is not at all a fussy eater found his steak tough and inedible. Mine was well done even though I ordered rare but our complaints fell on deaf ears. We had breakfast and lunch in Cafe Jardin but I'm afraid its open location over the atrium doesn't do it for me.
The entertainment was very mixed, but I think the scheduling was very poor and the blame for that must lie at the feet of the cruise director. He is the first cruise director I have ever seen who took no part whatsoever in any of the sailaways and the only time we ever saw him was when he was doing his interviews with the captain, exec purser, etc. Interviewing was clearly not his forte but luckily all the interviewees more than made up for him and I especially enjoyed the Captain (Angelo Vago) and Mike Doyle They were both hilarious and both deserved their full houses. We tended to use Starlights after dinner whatever was on, although didn't always go the Headliners Shows. They're a very new troupe and still finding their feet and I'm afraid the singers were too much of the X-factor variety -- a bit too loud and off-tune, sorry! Nevertheless, it was a pity that they were nearly always scheduled in Starlights as it's just not big enough for the dance routines. We particularly enjoyed Mike Doyle's show, Steve Larkin, the Johnson Brothers and Jamie Michael Stewart. I must just mention the captain here too. We so looked forward to his morning broadcast making sure we turned to Channel 21 in the cabin so as not to miss it and it was great to see him walking round the ship every day without fail, stopping to chat to crew and passengers alike. We also ended most days in Winners Bar where Protocol played most nights. They're a husband / wife duo (he used to be in Sweet, but don't let that put you off!) and they played a great range of 60s, 70s and 80s music so Winners was the most popular bar onboard.
We had a balcony cabin on C deck towards the aft so knew what to expect in terms of the cabin size .......although it didn't stop us taking far too much to fit into the limited space available. We had hoped the refit would have meant we'd see a real improvement in the soft furnishings but as far as we could see, only the curtains had been changed in our cabin and I wish they hadn't as the new ones didn't block out the light and we really like a dark place to sleep. The cabin was in a quiet location- other than the night we had Force 11 in the BoB and there was a lot of crashing from the Butler's Pantry opposite! Our steward was about to start shore leave and so was a bit demob happy so he kept forgetting things but he was very friendly and helpful and kept us well supplied with biscuits and decaff coffee.
We've tried various cruise lines and overall P&O suits us best, firstly because we only want to cruise from Southampton as I don't fly. We're also quite happy getting dressed for dinner and we have always preferred the P&O style entertainment. This time, the itinerary was fantastic, we missed the worst of the Winter weather, met lots of lovely people and although Oceana is not our favourite ship we had an amazing time and think we're very lucky to have done it.