Myself, 17 year old son and 14 year old daughter have just returned from a wonderful cruise in the Norwegian Fjords. This was our first time with P&O, having previously cruised with NCL.
Embarkation was very efficient and once on board we were directed to The Plaza buffet for lunch. No welcome aboard drink as per NCL though.
Cabin - ready by 2pm and we had opted for a balcony (A641). Enough room for our clothes, etc and the balcony was big enough to seat two but no more - still a nice luxury! The bathroom was very small and extremely dated with cream plastic unit & shower with curtain. NCL’s bathroom in an outside cabin had a separate door for the loo and shower cubicle finished in wood veneer. The TV in the room is a tiny CRT TV. Cleanliness of the cabin could have been better!
The ship - overall pleasant but it really needs updating in parts. The rest rooms are in a poor state (more cream plastic). Our favourite bar was the Yacht & Compass, which was like a separate pub area and very cosy. The other bars were rather nondescript, apart from Winners which was near the casino. The Atrium is pretty with the glass elevators. P&O describe Oceana as “lively & glamourous” but I really did not find it so. Outside there is lots of deck space and loungers, so probably lovely if it’s a Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise. Gym is quite good and well maintained. Spa was dated with no changing rooms. It was free to use the sauna, steam room (if working) and the Jacuzzis. Treatments are very expensive. Not a luxury spa by any means.
The food – we did freedom dining which worked well for us. Nice food choices at The Ligurian and silver service of vegetables. The design of the main restaurants is good, as they are huge, however are divided into smaller areas which makes it seem more intimate. Service was pleasant but not exceptional. The Horizon Grill did lovely steaks in the evening; Cafe Jardin was not worth the additional charge as it was only marginally better than the food in the main restaurant. The Plaza buffet was always very busy and hard to find a seat so we generally stayed away.
Drinks – Excellent variety and reasonably priced. No add on gratuity either. 16 & 17 year olds can have a glass of wine or beer with their meal if with an adult – this went down well with my son! I bought a soft drinks package but this really is only coke and lemonade from the soda fountains.
Entertainment – The Headliners theatre company work very hard, but some of their shows are rather uninspiring. Cabaret acts were very poor apart from the lounge pianist. It did seem rather like British holiday camp style entertainment. The club had a dreadful sound system and poor music – mosly empty. Lots of quizzes, but not a lot else going on.
Fellow cruisers – given that it was the summer holidays, there were a very large number of older people, probably because of the destination, however we had hoped for a younger and livelier crowd. Lots of wheelchair users who seemed to be well looked after on the ship.
Childrens facilities – looked good but were not used. I signed both of my kids up to the teen club, and they went along at 6.30 on the first day for the ice breaker / meet & greet but there were no staff there and only a couple of other teenagers. They went back at 11.30 for the “disco”, but again no staff and hardly anyone else. At this point they gave up. On the NCL cruise there were few teenagers, however staff arranged a party and issued personal invites which worked really well. P&O made no such effort and I was very disappointed as I had heard really good things about their teen club.
Itinerary – Stavanger, Alesund, Geiranger, Bergen. All can be done independently. We did an excursion to the Briksdal Glacier at Geiranger which was superb. At Bergen there are free shuttle buses from the port to the town centre, which made it all very easy to do. Tourist office was very helpful. Norway is very expensive so we really tried to keep our spending down! Our first sea day got progressively rougher and as a result, the first formal night was cancelled as most people were rather unwell! The captain kept up lots of reassuring broadcasts throughout.
I really like the way that P&O treat their customers; the onboard costs are reasonable, as is the gratuity system. You can bring aboard some alcohol, but as their prices are fair you don’t feel you need to. NCL could really take a leaf out of P&O’s book on this as with NCL you feel you have to watch your spending constantly.
I rate P&O very highly on customer service, but think that they could do with updating this ship and it's entertainment a bit.