Hubby and I wanted to try something different, hopefully some sun after Britain's rubbish weather or the past year. Travel agent suggested a cruise from Southampton if we did not want to fly this year so off we went to Southampton for 14 nights on Oceana. I was a little worried as I am not keen on great expanses of water - but in honesty - so much to do and providing you don't over think it - it is fine.
We chose freedom dining and it was brilliant - spoke with different people most nights ( also ate four times at the select dining for a very reasonable cover charge) The marco pierre white menu could have a little more selection but the service is excellent. I loved the wine packages and the efficient method of keeping an opened bottle, even if you ate in a different restaurant the following night.
What a dream, no arriving in airports four hours early, no rush to the plane, no cramped 9 hour flight and tired transfer to the resort - instructions to port really good, dropped bags at the berth and drove over the road to the short stay car park for pre arranged long stay car parking, bye bye car for two weeks and the nice man took it away . Toddle back across the road to check in, are given a coloured card with a letter R and take a seat for about 20 mins. Check in, photos, cards etc and then we are on the ship, find the cabin, bags arrive, unpack and then on deck for the sail away - Southampton was breezy but fine.
Have a wander round the ship to get bearings, then change for dinner - after dinner wandered in to magnums champagne bar for a cocktail and met the barman (Melvin) - he made our trip - not a huge martini fan but by then end of the cruise had tried every one on the menu as well as other cocktails - great fun and a really nice chap - fun, engaging and a real asset to the ship. He told us about a Martini tasting they were going to do later in the cruise and we signed up straight away.
First stop el ferrol, it poured with rain for half an hour and walking in to the town we got drenched - but a lovely sunday market sprung up as we walked back to the ship in glorious sunshine. first time oceana has been there so we were piped away by a traditional band and then had a gun salute as we sailed out.
Gib was nice - home from home
Algherro was fab, we took a shore excursion and found a wonderful vineyard - thoroughly recommend this 1/2 day trip. This was the first experience of the tender, a bit rocky as the seas were a little rough but 15 mins and we were in and it was a little smoother going back
Next day Livorno and we went to Pisa, good fun
Following port saint Tropez, We had force 11 gales over night and the captain was not sure if we would get in, but we tendered across and had a lovely walk around the town, a Saturday market was super colourful - but the winds were not abating and on the harbour it was very bracing. We headed back to the tender and had a thrilling journey back to the ship. Safely back on board we had lunch and heard an announcement that tenders were suspended. The ship actually dragged anchor and we had to change position before they could bring the others back on board. That night we watched the oceana shuffle as people took two steps forward and then one to the side as the ship lurched.
Not brilliant weather but it was fun eating in the horizon in glorious sunshine while the water in the pool splashed about as the ship rolled with the waves.
Barcelona and Cartagena were last two ports and we were up early on deck sunbathing as we sailed through the straits of gibralta on the way home, quite a site to see. 3 days at sea to get home - shame the weather wasn't brilliant but there were things to do on ship to keep you busy.
A good mix of comic, music, shows, lectures, movies, demonstrations and talks the entertainment team running quizzes, Zumba etc - always something to do - ventriloquist Gareth was excellent. Not much sun bathing but we did get a few days, jacuzzi, pool, fitness and prom deck walks.
Chose our time, packed the bags the night before and left bags outside the door, in the morning went to the assigned spot, and were off within 1/2 hour, collected the car and were home by lunchtime. So good we have booked for next year - Baltic this time! Definite converts - and next time we are going with my brother in law and his wife - they will be first timers and we will be seasoned cruisers! So glad we took to the seas, hope for calmer weather in the future but a great experience and we would recommend to all.