This was my 21st cruise, so I guess that I have now enough experience to offer a valid assessment of a cruise product.
This was my first cruise on P&O. It exceeded my expectations and I left the ship quite satisfied.
The itinerary, Singapore to Southampton, was not port-intensive but I love sea days. A cruise to relax indeed and enjoy the ship. Oriana is a beautiful vessel, which offers a variety of lounges and bars and its onboard activities were plentiful to keep one active if so desired. Most memorable were Anderson's, the Libary and Reading Room (Thackeray's) designed by HM's nephew and the panoramic Crow's Nest.
Shore excursions were well organized and not expensive compared to other cruise lines. Incidentally, we always prefer booking the ship's own shore excursions for the peace of mind that they offer (the ship will not depart without you in case of a delay), especially in ports out of Europe or USA.
This cruise was a great value for money for an excellent cruise product. Other companies charge much more for what P&O delivers.
I liked the fact that tips were not automatically charged to our on board account, but we could tip individually at the end of the cruise. The suggested amount ot tipping is what I see as another sign of P&O's honesty towards its customers, as it is much lower than that of other companies, which offer similar standards and experience. Unlike them, P&O does not try to pay its employees by its customers' tips, and this was something that I appreciated much.
Price of the drinks in the bars and restaurants were very reasonable and another welcomed feature of the cruise.
We found that Portunus, P&O's repeater cruisers' club, offers 5-10% discount on your onboard account, which we found a very nice guesture, especially when compared to other cruise lines.
Overall it was a beautiful cruise experience. I would recommend P&O without a doubt and I would travel on them again in a heartbeat.
We liked the variety and taste of food in the casual restaurant, the Conservatory. Actually I ended to have lunch exclusively there, while going to the main dining room for dinner only.
Food and service in the main Peninsular restaurant were flawless. The menu offered many selections to keep one satisfied. Oriana keeps the old traditions of Silver Service and Petit Fours, which was another nice touch.
Interestingly, I did not try the alternative restaurant. Food and service in the main dining room was so good that I didn't feel the need to try something else.
I like going to lectures and these were generally interesting. I especially liked General Sir Michael Rose's presentations.
Shows in the Theatre Royal offered a nice variety, following the standards of more expensive cruise lines. The singers and dancers of the Headliners Company were talented people and deserved much praise.
We had a wonderful oceanview stateroom on Deck 11. Although we have travelled on larger cabins or suites, it was wisely designed, nicely decorated and we missed nothing. The position of the sofa in the corner enabled one to face directly to the window and enjoy the view when sitting or having lunch. It is a pity that this configuration is not used more widely in other ships and cruise lines. Storage space was ample for a long cruise, with many drawers.
The bathroom (with bathtube) was so well designed that it put to shame baths on much more expensive ships and even rivalled some mini-suites in other companies.
Our steward provided excellent service and my requests were promptly fulfilled.
I found the service in restaurants, bars, reception and my cabin flawless. All my requests were kindly and effectively addressed and the crew deserved all their tips.
I would like to speak about ports rather briefly. Singapore was one of the highlights of the cruise. We stayed there pre-cruise at the Changi Village, a nice 4-star hotel with wide spaces and interesting design. We had a private tour of the city before embarking and were impressed by its cleanliness, its wide avenues and modern buildings. A 'Garden City' indeed, it is a western city in the heart of Far East. Don't miss Raffles Hotel in its characteristic British colonial style.
Kuala Lumpur was similarly impressive, with its many trees and modern buildings, including the famous Petronas. Like Singapore, it was a pleasant experience to find a clean, western-type city in the East.
Mumbai was a slight dissapointment. The city has wonderful buildings, many of them from the time of the British Empire, but they are not well maintained. I heart that New Delhi or Aggra are more interesting. Of special interest was Ghandi's house and the Museum of the Prince of Wales.
Sharm-el-Sheikh in the Red Sea is a nice, if somehow sterile and soulless resort. Of special interest is the surrounding desert and its nice beaches.
But the top highlight of the cruise in my opinion was the passing of the Suez Canal. As far as I know it is a rare opportunity to cross it by ship, and this is the best way to appreciate its uniqueness. Here the Crow's Nest, Oriana's beautiful front panoramic lounge proved valuable and provided exquisite views.
Europe has its own beautiful charm and always fascinates with its culture. Athens, in the 'craddle of the Western civilization', with its Acropolis and Museum is just a 'must' for every traveller and I am sure most fellow 'Cruise Critics' have been there.
Lisbon also is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This was my third visit there and I am always delighted with its characteristic atmosphere and its wonderful avenues and squares.
Overall very interesting ports of call. As they were cushioned within enough sea days it was relaxing and convenient to visit them.