There were some unflattering reviews of passenger experiences of this ship which made my wife and I feel apprehensive as to what kind of holiday we could expect onboard. Thankfully though, our time with Oceana was fantastic and we should not have worried about some of the (possibly unnecessarily negative) reviews. This is not to say that everything was ‘perfect’, however, this was our third cruise with P and O and in all honesty, it was as good as the previous two. Although a few niggles, we have nothing major of concern to report. We were not disappointed with the holiday.
In brief, embarkation was quick and straightforward. The ship felt spacious - although it was not at capacity because of the time of year. It was comfortable and overall, a pleasant environment to be in. The attractive atrium was the hub of the ship. This is where all the shops were located and where people tended to gather in the evening for the Captains reception or to watch a band or people dancing. The staff and crew were all perfectly delightful and we did not encounter anyone that was at all unfriendly or unhelpful. This applies to the passengers also as we met some lovely, pleasant and interesting people. Maybe we were lucky, but we can only speak as we find!
We had a pleasant outside cabin on deck 5 which was kept in good order. The ships facilities such as the gym were good and the public areas such as various bars and theatre were all fine. The quality of the food (we had late sitting for two in the Adriatic restaurant) was very good indeed as was the quality of the wines on offer (if a little pricy!). We breakfasted in the self service Plaza restaurant most days which we found perfectly fine – if sometimes a little congested. Afternoon tea was very nice as was the ‘chocoholics buffet’! When it comes to food, we can be slightly fussy; however, we genuinely had no complaints about any of the meals we enjoyed. It must be said though that regrettably, on many occasions in the Plaza, it was very unedifying to see so many people gorging themselves on enormous quantities of food (especially cakes and biscuits). At times, we felt embarrassed as (sorry, but almost exclusively obese) individuals returned to their tables with plates stacked so high with food that it was a wonder they could carry it all. Some people obviously had little self-respect and seemed determined to consume as many calories as physically possible to get their ‘monies worth’. A sad sight.
The entertainment was generally acceptable – although could be ‘mixed’. For example, the ‘Headliners’ shows were all excellent as was the ventriloquist act. However, the comedian, ‘Fogwell Flax’ was in our opinion, dire (I had seen him at Butlin’s 30 years ago – but in 2013, surely most people don’t want impressions of the likes of Tommy Cooper and Margaret Thatcher do they?). The guest lecturer was interesting (covering such topics as ocean liners and the world war two Spitfire) and the classical guitarist who appeared a number of times was talented. We were disappointed with the frequency and the range of movies on offer. Typically, one movie was shown daily on a screen in the theatre or Starlight’s lounge as there is no dedicated cinema. On the P and O website, an impressive list of movies was given and so we looked forward to seeing them on board ship. Regrettably, only a few of these were shown. Despite asking at the help desk, they refused our request to show the more modern ‘blockbusters’ and so we had to make do with a lacklustre choice. Still, can’t be happy all the time!
One of the elements of the cruise that began to aggravate us was the constant bombardment from the ship’s Spa team. We are aware that the Spa must be a money spinner but the level of publicity given to this area (for example in the daily ‘Horizon’ entertainment paper) was disproportionate. There were constant demonstrations and presentations in the atrium about how to alleviate ‘frozen shoulders’ and ‘bad feet’ (which was really a sales pitch to part passengers from their money by buying creams or shoe inserts). They constantly pushed various treatments such as acupuncture (which made questionable therapeutic claims as to their effectiveness – such as combating diabetes) and we sometimes felt guilty for not having any treatments but just wanting to have a workout in the gym. Although ships passengers are a ‘captive audience’, the prices for the Spa – including hair styling etc. were considered by many people we talked to, to be overly expensive. More realistic prices might have tempted more people.
The ports of call were very good and we enjoyed a couple of really great trips when in La Coruna and Malaga. Unless you have been on an excursion to see the excellent Mosque in Casablanca, this port is a dusty, industrial place that we feel would not be missed if it was dropped from the itinerary completely. In fact, we had the feeling that not many people ventured off the ship on this port day because unlike other destinations, it is not a pleasant walk from the ship (compared to say Lisbon or Cadiz).
Overall, the P and O Oceana was a very good ship with a great crew and we would have no hesitation in recommending her to other holidaymakers.