We have just returned from a two week cruise on the Oriana X310 to the Western Mediterranean. This was our first cruise and was a huge learning curve.
We had booked valet car parking at Southampton, which went like a dream. We walked away from the car, the porter took our luggage and we went through a very smooth check in. All staff very welcoming and efficient. Our luggage turned up very promptly a little bit later. A wonderful start!
We found our cabin - a outside cabin on F deck – just forward of reception. The cabin was a good size with plenty of storage space with a window, personally we would not have booked had only inside cabins been available. The cabin was very clean and kept in excellent order by our Cabin Steward, Eleanor, who was very personable and attentive.
We had made an early booking and were able to choose our dining time and table size. We were on a rectangular table of 6 by the window in the first sitting (6.30pm) in the More
Oriental Restaurant. The waiters tended to be quiet and efficient going about their business. We would like to think that some planning went into selecting table companions as ours were within a few years the same age as ourselves, they were also seasoned cruise passengers.
We had been really looking forward to dressing up on the Black Tie nights and the Smart nights and those nights did not disappoint as the majority of passengers were dressed to the “nines”. We did find that nothing special had been arranged in the dining room or for the entertainment, it was no different to all the other nights, this was a disappointment as we thought the dining room would be decorated for the black tie nights.
There was always something to eat on the Oriana. The quality of the food in the Oriental for the last two nights was what we had expected, however the other nights were disappointing with the quality being on par with pub food, indeed I have had better at J.D. Weatherspoons! We tended to breakfast in the Conservatory, which is basically a canteen, however the service and quality of food was fine, but due to the noro virous sickness bug which was evident for the whole of the cruise all food and utensils were served to all passengers by the crew. We did dine in the Marco Pierre White Ocean Grill one night for a supplement – the food and service here was what we had expected for the Oriental! and was really good. We also dined one night in the Serrento – the Italian restaurant I would not recommend this to anyone very poor overall.
If we had lunch we did not have afternoon tea and vice versa – we always had these in the Conservatory and we found this fine – the pastries are to kill for! All waiters were always fast and efficient and excellent at clearing and cleaning tables in all the restaurants.
The price of drinks in the bars was reasonable and the range was OK. The waiters were very attentive, however after the first few days we did start asking the waiters to give us time to make our choice as we were finding that as soon as we had sat down there was a waiter there to take your order.
We thought there was a very good range of entertainment to suit all tastes, including films like Les Miserable, Quartet, Argo, Lincoln and Skyfall which were spread out over the week at different times of the day, so if one session was inconvenient to you, another time would suit.
The entertainment team worked extremely hard as did all the restaurant staff.
However the same could not be said of the Reception staff when they could be bothered to speak you. We were on the 6.30pm dinner siting, on one day we returned tour cabin a little later than planned and when we went to use the shower we found that we could not adjust the temperature which would have resulted in having a scolding hot shower, as our cabin was positioned very close to reception I went and reported this fault, they assured me that they would report this and get a plumber/engineer along to rectify the problem this was 6.10pm I did explain that we were on the 6.30 dinning siting and we needed a shower, it was suggested that we use the public showers on deck 12 – these are the showers adjacent the pools on the sun decks. After 10mins I did phone reception to enquire when the plumber would arrive to be told soon. I went back to reception at 6.30 to be told the plumber was on their way. I went back again at 6.35 spoke a different receptionist and waited while she phoned maintenance to report he fault – a plumber eventually arrived at our cabin at 6.45 – it took him just 2 minutes to fix the problem as far as he was concerned he came as soon as the fault was reported. Essentially the reception staff just did not care.
The Vanguard Band and the Oriana trio were both disappointing as neither appeared to have a pre-arranged playlist and held a discussion between each number as to what they would play next! As we had both been looking forward to dancing the night away with ballroom dances we found this disappointing, on the bands breaks there was only the choice of sequence dancing. Although there was a more than capable DJ on board (Adam) who was excellent and would and did play all requests. However he was used very sparingly by the entertainments manager. There are two “dancing” venues – the Harlequins and the Pacific Lounge –it would have been nice if Adam had been on at the Pacific Lounge every other night from say 9.30pm.
We had pre-booked 4 shore excursions, however due to border issues with the Spanish at Gibraltar the Gibraltar trip was cancelled, the three trips we did the trip at Alicante for the Moors was the worst – the guide was Polish and although seemed to know the history etc. his main concern was explaining the sangria and tapas lifestyle he enjoyed. The Barcelona Gothic quarter walking tour was very good indeed with a knowledgable guide who was prepared to take time to answer questions. The third trip was a walking tour of Lisbon – I could not make this trip but my wife did and she reported that the standard was similar to Barcelona. We plan to revisit both Barcelona and Lisbon for extended weekend visits.
We passed the captain several times during the cruise, usually in the evening and although we generally spoke saying “good evening” he did not respond even with a nod of his head, thus giving a very aloof attitude. However he did speak on the last black tie night when he thought we were going to have our picture taken with him – we did not!!
As stated before noro virus was an issue for the whole cruise. I suffer an allergic reaction to Shellfish and the symptoms are similar to noro virus. On the one night a seafood platter was on the menu, naturally I did not chose this, however I believe that my meal was cross contaminated as at 2.00am the following morning I was being sick etc. As requested by the medical team I reported this and was promptly confined to my cabin, I did try to explain to them my issue with shellfish – they were not interested and reminded me that I could be forcibly disembarked at the next pot of call if I did not stay in my cabin – this resulted in me missing a visit to Gibraltar and Lisbon! In discussions with the medical team it was apparent that as far as they were concerned the presence of noro virus was entirely the fault of the passengers!!
The issue was noro virus was evident for the duration of the cruise with constant announcements from the captain and others reminding us to wash our hands, use the alcoholic hand gel and to try and use our cabin toilets. There were also additional cleaning teams around the ship wearing face masks and forever washing hand rail sand other hard surfaces. However it is apparent that this virus is present on the ship and despite the efforts from the passengers and crew the issue has not been resolved. maybe it is time the ship was taken out of service and have all soft furnishings replaced then have the whole ship steam cleaned – that would cost money!
Disembarkation was just as easy as embarkation we were off the Oriana by 8.45am and home by 10.15am we live just 45 miles away from Southampton
So all in all, a reasonable experience of a first cruise! However overall the cruise did not live up to expectation.
Will we cruise again – yes but only after much more research on the ship and cruise line and preferably from Southampton.
Will it be with P and O – unlikely
Will it be with Princess Cruises – possibly
Will it be on the Oriana – I will stay at home if this is the only choice!! Less