My wife and I were excited about our trip aboard the Oriana. However, our trip was very nearly spoiled before it had even commenced because we made the mistake of excitedly reading reviews of this ship which proved very often to be damning. I do not doubt that some unfortunate passengers will have genuine grievances against P & O or believe that elements of the ship were not up to standard. However, after reading many reviews, I can happily report that we failed to identify with the majority of negative comments. For clarification, we have nothing to do with the cruise industry or P & O at all, so there is no bias.
In brief, here is a review of our week on the Oriana.
Embarkation was flawless. Our valet car parking was swift and the baggage handling was efficient. We waited a few minutes to be ‘processed’ at check-in and then were having something to eat on board ship after about 20 minutes.
The ship itself was magnificent – certainly not ‘tired’ as some people had indicated. The ship was very well presented, was orderly and clean and was constantly painted and polished. The carpets were in good order and furniture was perfectly acceptable (a couple of chairs in ‘Tiffany’s’ and other places were a little scuffed, but hardly a disaster!). The crew were often seen walking around with buckets of sanitising liquid washing all the handrails for instance. The lifts were always clean and glassware was well looked after. We saw / heard no examples of the dreaded Norovirus on board. We witnessed hand washing with alcohol gel being strictly enforced – especially before entering the eating areas. The on-board facilities were as good as other ships without doubt. Some of our favourites were Andersons and the Crow’s Nest for a drink, the Theatre Royal for the various shows and Chaplin’s to watch a movie. As for entertainment – there was a good variety. Granted, some was aimed at the ‘older guests’ (not complaining but we are early forties), but we still found much to amuse. For example, there was a very good comedian, John Martin (who surprisingly also acted as a guest lecturer giving a talk about an event in the Second World War), a very good classical guitarist, Declan Zapala, and some really good singing / dancing productions by the Headliners theatre group. The gym was smallish but on the whole OK and there were several classes on offer (for example Pilates) which we did not avail ourselves of. The cruise director, Natalie hosted a good Zumba class which proved popular. Overall, we have no complaints about the entertainment.
The cabin we had was on D deck, inside. No problems or concerns to highlight. One thing to note was that the cabin was above the Theatre and the noise of rehearsals could be heard and felt. We weren’t bothered by this as we were in the cabin relatively little. However, it would probably have upset those wanting an afternoon lie down.
We failed to meet a single crew member who was not friendly or did not deliver the high service that we expected. The entire bar and restaurant staff were a credit to P & O in our opinion. Drinks were delivered on time. There was only one night (in Pacific Lounge) when we felt inundated by the waiters asking us if we wanted drinks. To be honest, after being asked about a dozen times by different people, this became annoying and irritating. They were keen if nothing else!
We dined in the Peninsular restaurant on a table with two other couples who were unknown to us at the start of the holiday. However, almost immediately, we became very friendly as a group and we must thank Dave, Sarah, Simon and Tracy for being such smashing company. They certainly added to the pleasure of the trip for us. To be honest, when booking, we had asked for a table for two. We are glad that none were available as otherwise; we may not have met such great people. The quality of the food was very good, served promptly and of a nice variety. It was good without being ostentatious. In the restaurant, we feel that special mention must go to ‘Bal, Mel and Pam’ for being such thoughtful waiters and wine waitress respectively. Previous reviewers have made mention of the ‘Conservatory’ self-service restaurant and have complained of it being like a cattle market with too little suitable seating and insufficient capacity for the number of diners trying to use it. We agree whole heartedly with this and must say that P & O would do very well to have a serious think about this facility as it is woefully inadequate for its intended use. No-one likes the thought of having to endure a mad scramble for food and a seat when you just want a relaxed meal without any concerns.
We stopped in Stavanger, Olden, Andalsnes and Bergen. There were various trips offered from the ship in Norway, however, there is no point in detailing our activities as of course everyone’s preferences differ. We largely did our own thing in the ports – as we are fit enough to cover large distances on foot and so explored the areas using the free port maps. Of note, in Stavanger, using the map we received at the dock gates, we made our way to the commonwealth war graves in a large graveyard perhaps only a mile or so from the ship. We went there because some of the men who fought the German forces to stop them developing an atomic bomb by making ‘heavy water’ are buried. Sobering stuff. In Olden, we took the ‘road train’ which waits just outside the ship up to a beautiful lake. Very picturesque. In Andalsnes, we availed ourselves of an organised trip, the ‘Trollstigheimen Scenic Drive’. Well worth it for the breath-taking scenery. Lastly, in Bergen, we caught the funicular railway to the top of mount Fløyen to see the superb views of the exceptional Bergen.
In conclusion, this trip to the fjords was well worth it both in terms of the beautiful places visited, and of being on-board a really lovely, friendly ship.