Wonderful cruise overall but marred by short port stops
A value cruise which my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend, however there were a few points which are worth of mention and to get the bad bits out the way!
1. The cruise was spoiled to some extent by the short port days- on all occasions we had to be back on board by 5pm and often this was 3 to 4 pm- this heavily curtailed our self organised days. Whilst accepting that a high percentage of passengers on organised PO tours had no concerns, the independent travelers plans had to be organised accordingly. This was a heavy topic of conversation between passengers and even the P and O faithfuls stated that they had not come across such limitations. No doubt there is a commercial reason for the reduced stays but this fact alone would make me look to other operators in the future. 2. The Oriana is a fine ship and a true cruiser, but it is now becoming tired and in need of a refurbishment. Am told that this is not planned before 2016- again it will be a commercial decision against passenger comfort- wonder which wins? For example the mastic around the shower/bath in our cabin (mini suite) was mouldy in parts, the patio doors had fallen and would not fully close and rust spots were evident around the frames and indeed throughout the ship. It is just old and needs attention. Remedial work was taking place throughout the ship, eg, the changing of outdoor emergency exits which entailed the use of heavy welding gear, the lack of passenger free days does not allow for such work in the cabins and the problem can only escalate. The windows in many of the public lounges have rusty surrounds and damp marks. Water leaked through the ceiling on our corridor on 3 occasions and in 3 different places during the cruise. 3. The public loos (gents) were very smelly and the crew continually placed ice cubes in the urinals to try and control the problem, this had little effect.
However, another great cruise overall despite the iffy weather at the start and end of the cruise- but P and O can do nothing about that- the mini suite we had was well equipped, always spotlessly clean – no complaints about the positioning or the fittings but it is becoming quite tried now and is in need of a refurbishment. The food was always of the highest quality, some of the best we have had on a cruise and was always served professionally- great service on this front. The speciality restaurant of Marco Pierre White, the Ocean grill was well worth the supplement and the dishes were served with a touch of class and the surroundings most formal and so good we used this twice during the cruise.
The ports of call were good and interesting except for Palermo which is a dirty city and I did not meet any passenger who enjoyed any self organised days ashore in this port- the others were worthy of visit- sorry to repeat but the shortage of time ashore marred the quality of the visits. To disembark at the wonderful city of Valencia took nearly 90 minutes and with a 20 minute shuttle to the city…… back on board at 3.30pm gave little exploration time. However despite what appears to be a negative critique we are off again on the aurora next April on virtually the same cruise