After a long hard year, during which Lesley has been fighting serious illness and dealing with the passing of both her parents, we booked an 11 night cruise on Oceana leaving Southampton on 11/20/13 for a much needed break. This was all arranged very last minute (8 days before cruise start) on a P & O Getaway fare of £549. Bargain. This was for a guarantee inside cabin to be allocated shortly before cruise start but at this price who's complaining.
It had been some time since we last cruised with P and O as our last two cruises had been on Celebrity Eclipse so we were keen to see if we would still enjoy the P & O brand and the joys of a slightly smaller ship.
This really was a last minute cruise and the decision which cruise was very date and price lead hence Oceana.
One of the elderly ladies of the fleet and at 77,000 tonnes what would we find and would it be able to match the 'wow' factor of Eclipse? Of course booking so late meant very little time to wait and find out.
Friday 11th October - Embarkation Day
We live about 3 hours drive from Southampton and luckily were able to leave the car with family friends who live close to Southampton. Now normally we like to arrive on board early as possible to take full advantage of the sip and facilities buy with 11 nights to play with there was no need to rush and so after enjoying a good chat with our friends and struggling through traffic we checked in about 1515hrs. No waiting, no queuing, no fellow passengers. What a pleasant way to board. It has to be said that any previous check in has always been very smooth but arriving later will certainly be a future consideration.
Our cabin on deck 8, D744, was ready and waiting and our bags took approx 1 hour to arrive. Now Lesley and I have never been ones to travel light. 3 large cases and a suit carrier would just not be possible on a plane hence we always like to board in the UK. Not for everyone but personally I can't be bothered with a plane. The cruise starts that bit quicker and generally costs are more reasonable not having to worry about flights and hotels pre cruise.
Oceana would be considered mid sized with approx. 2000 passengers. At well over ten years old she has been well looked after and received a small makeover in 2012. I have to say she has worn very well. Our cabin is fairly basic and the decor is a little early 2000 but it's really very comfortable and has everything we need for 11 nights. Cabins now have modern TV but lack the interactive element found on Ventura and Eclipse. How quaint to use a telephone to order something. Our Cabin Steward Avadhut, made himself known early on and is proving to be very helpful and polite. It does not bother us being inside as we spend so little time in the cabin. The TV is tuned into the mast camera and gives us a good clear view of the outside world. Unless it's a special occasion, we just can't see the point in spending hundreds extra on balcony. One moan would be the lack of space under the queen sized bed. I had to struggle to squeeze our massive luggage train underneath.
We are on freedom dining and with no children are eating in the main restaurant on deck 5 later in the evening. Lesley and I enjoy chatting with other guests and so never mind a large table to share. This avoids waiting around for a table and as the cruise progressed we have been sat down straight away every visit.
Our first meal was excellent and presented to a high standard. The waiters were very polite and as ever work extremely hard. Lesley and I then visited the theatre for a introductory show which looked promising. The onboard Headliners Theatre Dance group sing and perform with amazing energy.
We have quickly found our way around the Oceana. I'm liking this ship.
Day 2 & 3 Sea days
Our cabin is situated on Deck 8 and is therefore very handy to access Cafe Jardin. This is the Pierre Marco White bistro which has a small cover charge of £5.25 in the evening. Breakfast and lunch can also be obtained here. Due to the proximity of our cabin to the cafe with have enjoyed some lovely light breakfast and lunch. The cafe has a very small buffet selection but most other items are waiter service and ordered from the menu. The bistro is also the late night eatery and benefits again from waiter service providing tea and coffee well into the early hours. Breakfast items include pancakes and maple syrup and pizza for lunch. This is probably our favourite spot to eat situated at the top of the atrium.
The sea has been very calm and the dreaded bay has proven to be a relaxing part of the journey. I enjoyed a massage on day 2 which helped my frozen shoulder. Alex the therapist is also a trained Physio. She promised it would hurt and boy was she right. I have gained some movement so can't complain. The ship spa as usual is expensive but the service was fantastic.
We have also discovered our favourite meal of the day - afternoon tea. Sandwiches, hot crumpets, toasted tea cakes, scones, Wilkins jam, wonderful cakes. The whole food experience is great. After 2 days hunger may never be a issue again but by avoiding snacking in between meals we are managing with a bite to eat every 4 hours.
The ship has over 700 first time cruisers and it is always a great pleasure to inform them of the delights of breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea in the main dining room rather than the scrum of the main cafe.
The busy part of the cruise begins with stops in Lisbon, Gibraltor, Malaga, Cadiz and finally Casablanca. The cruise has has a slightly different intinary to that published due to a holy day in Casablanca.
Having visited Lisbon previously we found it to be very untidy and everything is covered in graffiti. We only spent a few hours ashore and were able to spend a hot afternoon in the sun. Our stay in Gibraltor was extended and Oceana did not leave port until 2300hrs. This provided a perfect opportunity to try the Horizon Grill. For a moderate £8.50 service charge, this was excellent value and a great venue for a steak, al fresco.
The highlight of the cruise proved to be the Spanish ports of Malaga, Cadiz and as we later found La Coruna. All the cities were easily reached by walking a short distance from the cruise berth. Beautiful weather, clean streets and friendly people proved a winning formula. We are not ones to book a tour and were happy to wander enjoying coffee in one of the many local cafés. Arriving back on board about 1230hrs we were then able to enjoy a light lunch and sun soaked afternoon in one of the three on board pools. I would certainly revisit any of these destinations as they were thoroughly charming.
The least said about Casablanca the better. Dirty and grim. A shuttle bus was required to the town square. This was dirty and smelly and everyone was pestered by locals as soon as you stepped off the bus. It was Friday so most shops were shut. This is one destination where an organised tour is probably advised. We did miss a trip to the giant Hussain II Mosque as we thought it would be closed due to Friday prayers. The organised excursion did manage to get in for a visit and everyone said it was beautiful and very interesting.
After the beauty of the Spanish cities, I would much rather have stayed another night in Cadiz or Malaga. Apart from the Mosque nobody on board seemed to have a good word to say about Casablanca. Hopefully P & O will act upon the feedback and avoid in future. My advice would be stay onboard ship unless you can get into the mosque.
Another sea day on route to La Coruna. I find the sea days so relaxing and just enjoy sitting on the promenade deck watching the world go by. Temperatures have remained a steady 24 degrees and we have also been able to swim and sunbathe. The entertainment has continued to have been fantastic and I am full of admiration for how hard all the crew work. I have now converted a large group of fellow passengers to the delights of afternoon tea and this continues to be a highlight of the onboard catering.
La Coruna has proven to be the unexpected delight of the cruise. Very well kept, fantastic weather and local families clearly enjoying Sunday together. We caught a local bus to the Roman Lighthouse for 1.74 Euro each directly outside the cruise terminal. Number 5 bus is the one to catch. A 10 minute ride drops you off on the Atlantic coast of the city near the lighthouse. I hired a Segway for 20 minutes for 10 Euro. What a fantastic device. Shame they are illegal on public roads in the UK. Lesley and I then had a short walk to the Aquarium. 10 Euro entry each and bare in mind no card payments. After spending the better part of our cruise on the Atlantic it was fascinating to see up close the creatures of the sea. Plan on spending about 2 hours at the aquarium which includes open air pools containing seals. The coastline is spectacular and it stayed nice and sunny. Be aware that La Coruna is famous for its wind and rain so it's wise to be prepared for a shower or two. We had a little problem finding the right bus stop back and decided to walk. This takes approx 25 mins and was again most pleasant. I really ended up loving La Coruna and would like to visit again. Much more pleasant than the usual stops of Lisbon or Vigo.
So our home leg begins with a sea day as we cross the bay. A strong force 7 is pushing us from behind with some considerable ship movement but it's not to unpleasant. I've certainly had it worse. All passengers seem in good spirits and are enjoying our last full day onboard. Freedom dining has been great and we have continued to sit at a large table enjoying a good 'cruise nerd' with fellow passengers. The crew continue to be marvellous and we have enjoyed exceptional service. Tonight was the final show by Headliners and we enjoyed a Blues Brothers type high energy performance. They received a standing ovation which was well deserved.
Day 12 - Disembarkation
We were due to leave Oceana about 0830hrs and after a calm night
had moored alongside about 0600hrs. All cases had been packed and let outside the cabin the previous evening. A final breakfast and it was time to say goodbye to Oceana. Cases found easily within the terminal building.
This had proven to be an exceptional cruise with a good mix of ages on board. Minimal moaning from fellow passengers infact the only person heard moaning was the same woman throughout the cruise. Awful creature. The cruise had been excellent value, enjoyed excellent weather and great ports except Casablanca. We would not hesitate to cruise on Oceana again. She was probably the most friendly ship we had ever been on. In my opinion the difference in all the major cruise lines is minimal and so our ultimate choice is made on price and date.
This had been a great choice and we returned refreshed and relaxed. The only real issue was the traffic at Southampton either end of the holiday and has made us more convinced than ever to try a cruise from my home town of Harwich.
Thank you Oceana for a relaxing cruise.