We booked a first cruise from Southampton to the Western Mediterranean on P&O's Oceana. Ports of call were Cartagena, Barcelona, St Raphael, Livorno, Alghero, Gibraltar, and La Coruna.
We went for a cruise because we had heard that teenagers do their own thing on board and have a great time. We have two teenagers. They did make friends and meet up with others their own age after dinner and stayed up late - but they were disappointed there was only one place open in the early hours that under 18s could frequent: the Cafe Jardin. I think the waiters working there deserve a bonus! My son said that they were always kind to the young people even when they were joking around. We were impressed with all of the staff who were skilled in their particular job, polite and friendly.
There were a lot of young children on board. Many were very cute and funny. One lady got very grumpy with a small boy who was having a tantrum in the plaza - I don't know why she booked a cruise in the school holidays when prices are higher and there are bound to be more children on board.
The main pool area where there was music got very crowded. People were a bit selfish about reserving sun beds for later use. Mid-holiday, P& O started removing towels on sun beds around the main pool that had been there for some time. They should have done this from the beginning really. The rear pool area was always quiet for those who wanted a bit of space with plenty of sun beds on the sides of the ship.
The food in the Adriatic restaurant was excellent - not far off a Michelin star in my opinion (I have eaten at a few Michelin graded restaurants). We chose flexible dining but would probably choose a set time on our next trip because there was often a wait if you didn't want to share a table. We were disappointed when we switched to the Horizon Grill and Cafe Jardin - it didn't seem worth the extra money. The curry night in the Plaza is not to be missed.
We really enjoyed dressing up and we are shorts-wearing Australians. No shorts were allowed at any time in the Adriatic restaurant. We didn't mind because it added to the sense of occasion and we quite enjoyed admiring all of the splendid outfits that others wore. We were prepared for 2 black tie evenings not 4 but it didn't matter. The only problem was the queue for the washers & dryers in the laundry rooms which were too small. If we had known about the optional tropical and 60s/70s nights beforehand we would have taken more outfits.
We booked four trips. If I did it again I would only book a trip in La Coruna (to San Sebastian) and Livorno (to Pisa/Florence) as most of the other towns were pleasant enough and accessible enough from the ship to explore on foot.
All in all a very very enjoyable cruise - we hope to do another next year.