I'll begin by mentioning that it is four years since we embarked upon a cruise of 14 nights (we've taken Mini Cruises in the intervening period), so we may have noticed marked changes that have evolved gradually. We drove to Southampton and the Ocean terminal where the embarkation process went smoothly, and guests proceeded to the Conservatory Buffet Restaurant where the Food was always plentiful and of a good standard. Our Deluxe Balcony Cabin on B deck was welcoming and comfortable; and Cabin Steward Oliver was pleasant, diligent and always found any items requested. My one disappointment was there not being a Hand Held Hair Dryer in the Dressing Table Drawer: only a wall mounted effort in the bathroom, which became too hot to handle long before a lady with a full head of hair could dry it! The bathroom itself was a little dated, and the 'barking dog' toilet worked spasmodically. But we count ourselves fortunate compared with the occupants of D deck, who had their water turned off for 18 hours the night before our second port of call. (Essential maintenance, apparently) A deck had a flood a couple of days later, and they too were turned off for several hours!
So Oriana is showing her age, and needs a major refurbishment. But with TLC, she still has much going for her. When viewed from the Quayside, she has a timeless, elegant profile: and is deservedly a popular ship with traditional cruisers. Our one visit to the Spa demonstrated its' shortcomings. One of the pair of Jacuzzis refused to bubble; the ladies' Changing Room was exceedingly chilly, and does not possess hair dryers. I'm sure that walking along the corridors afterwards with damp hair, made me a prime candidate to catch the famous Oriana Cold of the Voyage. The Show Lounges, Bars and Theatre Royal were all in good decorative order. The present Headliners troupe were extremely talented: and all seats for their performances were taken 15-20 minutes before Show Time! (Their contracts expire in November: catch them if you can) Now to the Comedian who was mentioned by a previous Reviewer: the blurb advertising his act in the Ship's Newspaper stated that he prided himself upon never having told a blue joke..... well, I'm no prude, but found some of his material very near the knuckle.
And yes, Captain Reid was wonderfully entertaining: he had the Cruise Director crying with laughter, during the interview! Proof of the affection and respect in which the P & O regulars hold dear Hamish, was found by all seats being filled, and also every inch around the Theatre,where it was possible to stand, passengers congregated.Plus the interview was beamed live to the Pacific Show Lounge, so great was the demand. Sad to report that our much loved Captain retired on 7th August, and will be greatly missed.
We Dined at First Sitting in the Peninsula Restaurant, and the Waiters were smiling and efficient. Quality and choice of Food has slipped, in our opinion.
There seemed to be far too much emphasis upon weird and fancy combinations, and not enough Traditional British Fayre. What has happened to the gravy boats that used to accompany Main Meals? and I recall that every evening, Grilled Chicken, Steak, and Salmon would be available, in addition to the Set Main Courses; this time,only one of these would be on offer.... if you were lucky.
And to put French Onion, and Fennel Soups, on at the same meal was to quote a fellow passenger:"Lacking in Imagination" My husband and I like our meat very well done: and on three consecutive evenings, we had problems in this respect: the message just didn't seem to get through.
Although 99 per cent of staff on board are pleasant, the odd minority behave in a rude and surly manner to passengers. Pushing into lifts before the guest has got out, is a frequent occurrence. And we took a dim view when a Receptionist who was dealing with my husband, answered the ringing telephone at his elbow without having the manners to say 'Excuse me'. Then he proceeded to carry on a conversation with the person at the other end, leaving us standing. And to round off the insult,he attempted to pass a foreign coin off in my husband's change. Our feeling is that the Carnival version of the once great P& O is becoming complacent; from speaking with many Gold Tier members on board, who have attended invitation only gatherings back home,we surmise that the Company are not hearing what their Customers tell them they want. This is not a forward thinking strategy; and we have reluctantly decided to travel with Fred Olsen, next year.
Other Ports of Call
Olden. Grey,overcast and chilly in resort: pouring with rain in the heights of the National Park. We took the trip to the Briksdal Glacier by coach, and the Troll Car. The motorised cars travel in convey to the place where the Jostedalsbreen Park begins: saving 30 minutes walk. The Glacier can't be seen from here: it's a walk of 15 minutes over sometimes steep, slippery ground, before the blue tongue of the glacier can be seen. But it is worth getting wet through to see it with your own eyes: and we heard and saw a small avalanche, whilst we were there.
Geiranger. Our Captain told us that it was his favourite amongst the Fjords, and we agreed. Steep sides, very narrow width: with the spectacular falls of the Seven Sisters on one side, and the Suitor opposite. Go up on Deck with your Camera, as the Ship edges slowly on its' way: just fabulous!
Beyond the Arctic Circle,on Margeroya Island. Coach trip across the barren tundra to the North Cape plateau. Stopped at Sami people's 'camp' on the way.
Created for the benefit of we tourists! Once at the North Cape centre, took advice and watched the 15 minute film in the 3D Cinema. Life across the 4 seasons, very evocative. Joined the throng up on the cliff top having pics taken in front of the Globe Monument. Thankfully clear skies, none of the famous mist rolling in. It is mind blowing to realize that this is the most Northerly point on the European Mainland: only the North Pole lies beyond.