I think I must have been on a different ship to the one some people describe in their reviews, as I loved everything about Oriana and this cruise. OK, yes, there was the odd problem with the plumbing but it really didn't affect my enjoyment of the holiday in any way, and I have experienced far worse in Greek and Turkish hotels!
This was our first time on Oriana and we thought she was a beautiful ship - traditional, stylish, with beautiful decor. We particularly loved the aft tiers, which became a favourite place to sit after dinner and watch the sunset, mesmerised by the wake.
Other favourite "haunts" became Tiffany's, coffee lounge/bar where we would sit and listen to the pianist some evenings over a nice cocktail - or rather "mocktail" (non alcoholic) as we're not big drinkers - and Harlequins where, unlike a previous reviewer, we were delighted to find that there was ballroom and sequence dancing every night from 9.30 to midnight. We don't consider ourselves old (52 and 56) but we really enjoy this type of dancing, as did plenty of other regulars in there. According to the Horizon magazine there seemed to be opportunities for people to just "boogie", such as the noisy deck parties (not our cup of tea) and DJ Ant in the Pacific Lounge.
We tried out our brains in a couple of the quizzes in Lords Tavern (old sitcoms, 70s music), did quite well and had some fun, but we found it hot, noisy and crowded in there, however our table companions went there every night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's all about personal choice, which is what I believe P&O are so good at.
I was a bit worried about not having a balcony for the first time, but didn't miss it at all. Our outside cabin had a large window and huge mirror giving an illusion of more space than there actually was, and we found it very light, airy and comfortable. The wardrobe space was a bit of an issue - I struggled to fit in all my dresses! - but we managed. Our steward Vimal was friendly and efficient, and full of apologies on the day he got distracted and forgot to replace our bath towels (no problem, we just used the pool towels!).
The food was excellent, we loved eating in the Oriental restaurant with our four table companions and lovely waiters Sandeep and Elvis (his real name - his dad was a fan). We chose first sitting as it suits our evenings better, but on some occasions liked to stay out later to watch a sailaway or sunbathe when the fierce heat has gone, so ate at Rhodes, The Terrace grill, or in the Conservatory buffet. We enjoyed them all, particularly the Terrace as it was lovely to eat outside watching the sunset.
This cruise was a "Music Festival at Sea" and we attended three of the concerts. We enjoyed some of the opera arias which we knew, but found some of it a bit "heavy" for our taste. We went to most of the Headliners shows, which were full of energy and enthusiasm. They were great dancers and wore lovely costumes but not the best singers in the world, however their tribute to Queen was exceptionally good, especially Bohemian Rhapsody.Their voices were more suited to that sort of music.There was also a Freddie Mercury tribute act who performed twice (thank goodness I'm a Queen fan) and he was absolutely brilliant. We didn't see the comedian or magician but others said they were good.
I feel the standard of the Entertainment officers has dropped. Obviously I won't name names, and some of them were very good, but a couple of others seemed to lack any personality and I really wondered how they got the job! Also on my last 2 cruises they have been almost all female, which means ladies on their own who want to ballroom dance end up dancing with the female Ents officers - not ideal. On my first couple of cruises there was a good mix of boys and girls.
The ports were all enjoyable, the highlights for us being Dubrovnik and the overnighter in Venice. We only did one P&O excursion - in Malaga - which was disappointing as it was changed at the last minute. It was supposed to be a flamenco show at a beautiful hotel with panoramic views, but the night before we received a note saying it had been changed to a church in the city. The show itself was amazing, but we didn't get to see any lovely views, and the "snacks on the terrace" became crisps and peanuts on a trestle table in a little courtyard. There was also a lot of bad feeling when 30 people managed to be back on time following 20 minutes free time and 4 people rolled up over ten minutes late, without even the decency to apologise.
All in all it was a great cruise, and we are already looking to book Oriana again for next year. We have no desire to go on these "blocks of flats" they build nowadays, a traditional ship is the choice for us.