Oceana Cruise Review by WEBBSKIES: 10 great ports of call...but usually too little time ashore
10 great ports of call...but usually too little time ashore
Our East Mediterranean cruise visited an impressive list of ports, but we were mostly required to be back on board at the early time of 4.30pm. Moreover the itinerary with Monday & Tuesday stops in Israel was changed to Friday and the Sabbath, when the country is as closed as on Christmas Day in the UK. We thus felt obliged to book an all day coach tour : Jerusalem & Bethlehem with lunch (Â£125), and join 27 other coach loads of P&O passengers.
In Egypt Port Said was deleted in favour of a 2 night stopover in Alexandria. This suited us perfectly! We organised our own excursion to Al Alamein on the first day, and spent the 2nd day exploring Alexandria.
The sea was very turbulent on several days, pitching uncomfortably and causing sea sickness. A seemingly ample stock of aspirin in the ship's shop had sold out by the end of the cruise!The sea was very turbulent on several days, pitching uncomfortably and causing sea sickness. A seemingly ample stock of aspirin in the More ship's shop had sold out by the end of the cruise!
We selected an inside cabin for Â£48 each per day. The cabin was 15 square metres, brightly & attractively furnished, well laid out and cost just over half the price of an outside balcony cabin. This is amazing value when you remember that the price not only includes accommodation, but all meals, entertainment and of course transportation at sea. However we did not like waking up in a dark room, oblivious to the weather outside, so on a future cruise we would strive to afford an outside balcony cabin.
The Cruise Director Elaine Coles is a lot more intelligent and imaginative than her time-serving counterpart on the Ventura, Hughie Taylor. She organised interesting interviews with key senior managers. Her assistant wrote and produced a Radio Play, performed by her and the entertainment team. Entertainment included singer Jimmy James, classical piano recitals, The Beatles Experience, cartoonist Bill Tidy and revue shows from a newly-hired Highlights ensemble. The ship's band were talented, but not as impressive as the superlative mostly Hungarian band aboard the Ventura, and there were no pyrotechnics to give that extra pizzazz. The only entertainer I actively disliked was Gary Keates from Margate, who took on the comic persona of Manuel Martinez. Somehow I feel his contract will not be renewed!
The young lady who made the port presentations in the Footlights Theatre did a great job, even if she has taught my Russian-born wife the wrong pronunciation of 'Sepulchre'!
My wife has high praise for the Watercolour paintings classes that she attended daily, using Â£20 worth of good quality paper and paint that she was able to purchase from the teacher.
HEALTH & FITNESS
We enjoyed using the sauna and steam room at no extra cost, and enjoyed using the on-deck Jacuzzis and pools. One Jacuzzi is sited to afford wonderful panoramas out to sea. The gym is small and situated aft, so compares poorly with the wonderful large forward gym aboard the Ventura. However the staff were much more personable.DINING
Highly impressive! Breakfast is about as perfect as can be, served in forward Plaza, with its fabulous views. The quality of the coffee was far superior to that served aboard the Ventura, but bring a jar of your favourite marmalade if you don't like Golden Shred! We opted for Freedom dining, and always enjoyed the affable company of our fellow dinners and the large menu choice. Vegetables tended to be somewhat overcooked, unlike the Ventura. We had a delightful pay-extra steak dinner in the Horizon Grill, and commend the manager and his staff for their excellent service. We enjoyed the wine selection and found the prices reasonable. The only restaurant we did not enjoy was Marco Pierre White's (no-extra charge Jardin), where the service was inexplicably downright sloppy. This restaurant doesn't really work!
The Safety Officer was only doing his job to the letter of maritime rules, but I categorically did not appreciate having my Swiss Army knife confiscated, as if I was a naughty school boy. I was thus deprived of my invaluable cork screw, scissors, fruit-cutting knife etc. It was returned to me on disembarkation. NB. Eurostar security at St Pancreas no longer confiscate Swiss Army knives!
P&O deliver a great cruise at a fantastic price, and it was great to see so many passengers with mobility limitations able to enjoy a holiday at sea. P&O were the only cruise company to offer an Eastern Mediterranean cruise in February, and they are not running it one February 2014. However our overall impression was marred by all too brief port calls.
Haifa: 7.00-18.00 the next day
Alexandria: 7.00-20.00 the next day
Lisbon: 9.00-16.30 Less
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Cabin review: ODE302