My inlaws cruised with P&O last year (Norwegian Fjords) on Oceana and loved it. After discussion we decided to take the plunge and take our first cruise, this time to the Baltic states. After pricing up for two cabins, one inside one outside, (we needed a cabin for our teenage daughter so it was worth shopping around to see who had the best deal on the single supplement), we booked.
We arrived at Southampton early (which I would advise to avoid any traffic issues and too many people arriving at once), car was taken away promptly and efficiently, waited to be checked in which was painless and quick (cards are created there and then with your photos/name/cabin number which are needed for purchases and leaving/arriving back on ship at the ports), then waited in lounge (about 20 mins), then we were called.
Boarding the ship took our breath away. Having never cruised before I was amazed at how big the ship was. After a short walk around we headed to the aft of deck 12 to get a drink and wait - one for the cabin to be ready and the second for the ship to leave. At 6pm the band played and Oriana set sail.
I have to say that given that it was August the weather was appalling. On the two days we did have any sort of sun, there was a force 5/6 wind blowing and it was near on impossible to sit by the pool and relax. I've never had so much rain on holiday, let alone in August.
Upon arrival in your cabin, the cabin man comes to visit and explains a couple of things - firstly, the two small bottles of water are complimentary but the large bottle is not (£1.85). If we wanted anything (duty free, more water etc) we would have to fill out a request slip, which is then charged to the cabin.
There is a cabin card in your door as you arrive, along with one/two more inside. There is also a card with your dinner details on - which restaurant/table/sitting.
We had our cabin done in queen bed configuration but after one night asked our cabin man to split the beds into twin. The reason for this is because at either side of the bed there is dead space and made for a lack of room. After splitting the beds there was so much more room in the middle. As there was only one person in my daughter's cabin, she left hers in queen bed configuration and had no problems.
The bathrooms are tiny and it was novel (to say the least) trying to sit on the toilet with the edge of the bath at my knees. Shower was more than adequate with plenty of pressure and hot water. Never used the bath. A retractable washing line is provided over the bath.
Cannot argue with the amount of wardrobe space as I only had one suit and one pair of trousers to hang. We did use all the hangers mind. Taken your own as there is space to hang just not the hangers. Plenty of drawer space.
You will either be sitting in Peninsular or Oriental (decided on your cabin location on ship - at the front of ship Peninsular, at the rear Oriental). Both are very nicely decorated with plenty of tables. You are allocated a table and here you will stay (for dinner) for the whole cruise. If you are a small party you will be on a shared table. We were a family of 5 and had a table to ourselves. You get one waiter and one assistant waiter who deals with everything food wise. The service is impeccable. However, the drinks service can be a little slow at times. We had finished our starters one night before even being asked if we wanted a drink. I cannot argue with the quality of the food. It was absolutely fabulous.
Buffet restaurant. Used this on the 3 black tie nights. Has a themed night most nights. Gets very busy when at sea. We found that breakfast, lunch and dinner was too much so we changed and had breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner. Plenty of different sandwiches but also hot food if required.
Costa Coffee and bar. Went here for a coffee a couple of times and for the 5.30pm general knowledge quiz.
The local pub. Great place to go for general jukebox music (free to pick) and less stuffy than other places (Crows Nest/Andersons). Went here most nights for pre dinner cocktails (cocktail of the day £3). They also do various quizzes too.
Up on deck 13. Great view. However, being below 40 felt a little out of place at times.
Attached to the casino. Only drank in here twice after visiting the slots. Too quiet and formal for my liking.
Great place for gaming - scrabble, monopoly. Borrow from library next door. We took a scrabble to Tiffanys one afternoon when the weather was poor.
Daughter enjoyed this a couple of times.
Great if you have small kids and like to boogey. Used it a couple of times to watch the Headliners shows.
Never used - not into cabaret.
Never used as weather was not kind. Did use the whirlpools at the side but there were no bubbles.
Steam room / sauna / whirlpools
These are at the back of the spa (left) and gym (right). One hot whirlpool and one cold whirlpool. Steam room lovely. Sauna not hot enough. Hot whirlpool whirled lovely.
On par with the UK pub prices, if not cheaper. No complaints here.
Overall I enjoyed my first cruise. I would love to do another cruise, maybe the Eastern Med. Not decided on which cruise liner or ship yet but P&O will be hard to beat on service. Could do better on the entertainment/things to do in bad weather front mind and think of those people in the inbetweeners bracket (30-50 ish) a little more.