Having done fourteen previous cruises with NCL, Royal Caribbean, MSC and Star Line this was the first venture onto P&O. It was with reasonable expectation following all the positive reviews on here.
The experience was a bit of a curate egg, excellent in parts and poor in others.
Before the main review it is worth giving a review on the medical service on board. Before we had sailed I managed to trip up a stair (also before consumption of alcohol). The result of the trip was a stabbing pain in right calf muscle and struggling to walk. Assisted by a member of staff we were directed to medical centre on deck four. We greeted by a nurse and after completion of a couple forms and initial assessment we were shown to a doctor. Who diagnosed a torn calf muscle. I was prescribed strong pain killers and anti-inflammatories. Told to rest leg (fortunately first day a sea day) and given a crutch. His bedside manner was excellent, with a sense of humour. I had two follow up appointment during the week (with impression if required more if necessary) to check progress. The cost was a very reasonable £70 for the consultations and crutch, with a further £10 for the tablets. I have every confidence that there is an excellent service available in even of a medical problem.
Embarkation was the most simplest and easiest ever experienced, arriving at the terminal at approx. 12.30pm and on board by 12.45pm and having lunch in the plaza restaurant. The cabin was available at 2.00pm with luggage outside.
Had a balcony cabin, c403, which is smaller than we have had on previous cruises but more than adequate, only on comfortable armchair and no sofa. There was plenty of hanging and storage space. The bathroom and shower could only be used by one person at time but was spotless clean and kept that way by our steward. Balcony had two comfortable chairs, although the sliding door was heavy and stiff. The flat screen TV offered limited channels but was sufficient.
The general presentation of the ship was very good, all public areas looked very well maintained and always clean, although never saw anyone cleaning and we did stay up late at night. The night cleaners are to be commended. Oceana is a nice ship and easy to navigate. She lacks some of the wow factor built into new ships but has a charm
We had opted for freedom dining and the organisation of this worked well, with one of the main dining rooms dedicated to this option, when the table size required was not available at the time of arrival we were handed a pager and we had waits from less than five minutes to approx twenty minutes . We did both sharing and eating on own. Tables for two were at a premium. We did use the various options for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. The Plaza was to be expected of a ship self- services cafeteria, timing important if you don’t want to fight a scrum for a table. The Jardin provided a limited breakfast and lunch menu which gave lighter options and was never crowded and always able to get a table when suited. Never tried the speciality restaurants, The Horizon grill because of the weather it occupied a corner of the Plaza and therefore had no atmosphere and didn’t create a unique experience and Pierre White menu seemed very limited for the extra cost and didn’t excite, this was located in the Jardin in the evening.
No matter which restaurant the food was always well presented, but we felt it was catering for a middle of road palette and was bland. It reminded me of what people expected when they dinned out in the 1980’s. Why was the same side vegetables served regardless of main course…roast potatoes with rice? Why if the Plaza could do a themed ethnic selection was this not available in the main restaurant in the evenings? As for the curries at lunch, I am sure the Asian waiting staff where embarrassed.
Also the service in the restaurants was slack, the attention to detail was lacking….if you had a steak you had to ask for a steak knife, on more than one occasion people at our table received the wrong food, even dishes not ordered or ordered dishes nor received. A major failing and needs to be addressed
The entertainment we saw was reasonable, and different venues catered for all tastes. Some acts were better than others. The ball dancing instructors did struggle to gain attendance in the atrruim in the evenings.
The various bars and evening locations where never over whelmed and there was generally sufficient sitting. The alcohol prices were very reasonable and must be considered a positive when consider against some cruise lines.
In seven nights we had two formal nights, did they add to the ambiance, I reserve judgement as I see little point. Again a throwback to a previous time and as other lines have found not necessary to create the right atmosphere. I was thrown out of an empty venue at 6.00pm as I hadn’t changed. ( I hasten to add that I did change for later and didn’t needed to be reminded)
The passengers were definitely middle England and fall into an older generation if not physically but in mind set. ( hey I am 55 and at times I felt old ). There certainly wasn’t the interesting cosmopolitan mix you get on other lines. Almost made one felt ashamed that the British population was not adequately represented and I can see why they weren’t. Certainly the dietary needs weren’t meet.
There was no real shopping bargains on board…is there ever, which is common with any cruise line. Does anyone ever buy the cruise art? Lest ways there were no auctions on this cruise just a wasted space for the gallery. Ship photograph was a good as ever…..palm trees growing out of heads etc.
Stavanger, it was compact and we able to do our own thing walking the main sites , in fact the old town next to the berth and the oil museum can be seen from the ship. No excursion required.
Olden, trip up the fjord very scenic, town itself very small and of little interest but there are some walks that are accessible. We took an excursion, a coach trip to glacier and a boat trip which reasonable value with plenty of photo opportunities. This was a tendering port which was chaotic running over an hour late with no information provided.
Eidjford, stunning location but small would be paying it a compliment. Took a very poor value excursion to a car park with a dam. Had booked kayaking but had to cancel re accident. Tender better organised but still slow.
Kristianstand, this is your shopping stop, but be warned Norway extremely expensive.
Embarkation was an efficient process and well managed both on board and shore side.
Overall Impression. Reasonable cruise, nice ship, cabin staff and housekeeping staff excellent but dining experience sadly poor. P&O are trading on past glories and are nothing special. They aren’t a premium line regardless of the impression they are trying to create. Would I travel with them again? If price, destination, and timing was right yes but they aren’t an automatic choice feel there are better options out there.