I have read many reviews of the Oceana prior to my (first) cruise. I booked as a party of 14 (2 x grand-parents, 4 x 30/40 somethings (parents, of which I was one) and 6 x grandchildren (ranging from 9-24, some with partners)).
A variety of ages therefore were required to be catered for... the Oceana seemed to fit the bill - many of the family have cruised before, some more than a few times, and historically with the P&O ship 'Canberra' but I never had.
We had a variety of room types between us, one suite (Orcades B755), two mini suites (B321 & B309) and a few inner rooms on B deck.
The first thing that struck me was the grandeur of the ship - the large atrium is certainly a sight to behold!
The design of the ship is a canny one! Generally, the best way to traverse from any of the main bars and restaurants to the rooms is via the main 'run' of the Promenade Deck (past all the shops, casino, photo shop etc) - on one hand this was a good way to advertise much of what was on offer commercially, it did mean that we did much walking on the 14 day cruise! (useful, given the calorific intake!)
Our two children (daughter 10, son 8 at the time of leaving Southampton, 9 at the point of returning) were not really 'up for; the kids clubs but we convinced them to try the 'Reef' - from day 1 onwards we hardly saw them (to tell the truth we always got together for breakfast, lunch and dinner and from 10.30 onwards), but aside from this they were both eagerly engaged by the staff on board! [my daughter is still crying from leaving her friends (1 day post-cruise]).
OK... to summarise!
Due to having a suite and 2 x mini suites, half of our party had priority embarkation, half did not. The let us all book as priority and our time from arrival at the terminal (the staff even helped to offload the minibus!) to boarding the ship was less than 40 minutes! 10 minutes after boarding we were eating food in the Plaza (generally the best [in my opinion] buffet-style eatery on board.
An hour after boarding (and close to the end of our food extravaganza) the announcement was made... our cabins were ready. Our luggage was already in our rooms and shortly after beginning to load up the clothes to the wardrobes our room steward, Osram introduced himself, as did our butler, Anoop (butler!??!?! we had the suite, B755), both amazingly happy members of staff.
We did not really see the need for a butler, truth-be-told - our cabin steward replenished the necessary towels, toiletries and cleaned the shower cubicle and balcony glass once/twice per day. However, after 4 days our butler approached us and encouraged us to make use of his services - we needed to book excursions whilst on-board and he happily did so, our son (9) took it upon himself to order daily hot-chocalate, and our butler soon befriended him - to the point of him filling our suite with balloons for our sons birthday! [he was overjoyed!]. Our butler was amazing!
We chose to have the early dinner sitting (6.30pm) and our waiter (Ram) did not cease to deliver throughout the 2 weeks! He dealt with every generation, every age and foible with ease... he was the best ambassador for the P&O vision that I encountered. Never making notes, he remembered food choices and variances for all 14 and never got it wrong. Our party ranged from picky, to needy [2 with diabetes] and I have to say that I would have been happy with any of my served meals (starters, mains and desserts) at an a-la-carte on-shore restaurant. There was not one issue with any meals and they were all astounding.
The captain was witty and introduced himself at the first formal night. We were lucky with the weather - our first stop (in April) was Gibraltar and was 24dg C!, not one day did it dip below 18... for that time of year, we were more than pleased.
We fixated on one of the bar areas (The Yacht & Compass, Aft) which seemed to be more our thing. With nightly bands and quizzes... some of the quizzes were a bit astray from our point of view but the live music was always good (and suited the age-span of the party). We befriended one of the waiters and from day 2 they remembered the drinks choices of a 14 strong party!
The on-board live shows were thoroughly enjoyable (akin to any West End performance) and the Crew performance at the end of the cruise saw many staff 'give-it-a-go' - amazing.
Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable cruise - I started the cruise sceptical (a floating package holiday?) and left feeling pampered, relaxed and with enough freedom to relax and meet similar faces on occasion, but without at any time a feeling of a cattle market!
Will I cruise again? Definitely (not next year, but soon!) - And if I were to cruise again with P&O, on board the Oceana, with any of the same staff... I would feel privileged!