Our first ever cruise on Ventura last summer was unforgettable for all the right reasons, and after a 4 nighter on Celebrity Ecplise to Cork in May, we went for a last night 7 nighter on the most elegant looking of all cruise ships, Oriana.
We thought Celebrity Eclipse was a stunning ship, but lacked a certain something of the P&O ships...she felt like a floating hotel more than a cruise liner.
Along with QM2, Oriana is probably the most famous cruise ship in Britain. When you mention her, everyone knows her. After mentioning our cruise on her, people think I earn mega money! So does she fit the reputation?
Why do we find so many negatives with these holidays which are always a relaxing and exciting experience....even if you think the food is not as good as it once was or that you were being ripped off? It makes me feel that some of the comments about ships on here are so picky, people would find fault with perfection.
Loved the traditional layout of Oriana. You felt the tradition and style of cruising on her lost with the modern floating hotels, but she has all the modern features you want from a ship.
We made straight for the Crows Nest for our departure from Southampton and the trip through the Solent. We felt the Crows Nest knocked the Sky Lounge on Celebrity for six. Especially as you cannot smoke there!
The captain informed us of a strong south-westerly wind Force 6-7. Oriana didn't move an inch in the choppy English Channel and we retired at 1am after a wonderful evening.
Sadly at 4am, I was awake as we hit big waves as we entered the Bay of Biscay. Apparently we hit the tail of a hurricane and encountered swells of over 5 metres off the bow quarter. A few of us were up and wondering around the ship trying to find our sealegs! Baring in mind we were doing 22 knots through those conditions, Oriana handled them superbly, as the water in the stern pool emptied all over the deck! The next day we stayed in our cabin as she continued to move in the swell and after being ill, I gave up and took some tablets!
By the evening Captains Cocktail party, the sea eased and from the on Oriana came into her own in lovely conditions.
We stayed onboard for Vigo as the idea of the cruise was for some late summer sun. A wonderful day sunbathing at 23C was had on a quiet ship.
Lisbon was even hotter at 33C and we took the shuttle to the city centre. We walked about for a bit, but wasn't too impressed with it. Maybe we should have gone on a tour to the big tower further up the river, but the sunbeds were calling us again.
Bilbao was a real surprise. 38C! Again we stayed onboard. What we loved the most was the slow cruise from Lisbon to Bilbao at a steady 15 knots....proper cruising.
A beautiful sunset and dinner in the exceptional Oriana Rhodes restaurant ended a perfect day as we settled down to another fabulous evening.
The captain made an announcement at 8am on the Saturday to say that Gale Force 8 winds meant that our call at Brest had been cancelled, but we weren't bothered as we planned to stay on the ship anyway.
That was a bonus too, as the Entertainment Team put into action a new schedule of entertainment, including another fascinating session with Antiques expert John Cameron from BBC1's Cash in the Attic.
We slowly 'pottered' our way back to Southampton at 16 knots and although we hit a weather front with Force 7 winds and a 3 metre swell, Oriana hardly moved, with just a gentle pitching.
We had 1,000 first time cruisers onboard and three weddings! After the rough passage on the way out, many people spoke to the captain who was excellent in explaining everything. He also made the trip back over the Bay as smooth as possible considering the conditions, so 10 out of 10!
So in summary. Yes in places Oriana is in need of that refit. Only one of her jacuzzis were working, but apart from this, she was excellent.
Food. Oriana Rhodes was fantastic, a real shame it's ending. We ate in the Oriental Restaurant, the 8:30pm sitting. Superb, friendly service. Our wine waiter was excellent too. Every meal was excellent and in many cases, we only had two courses as it was so filling. We did notice a certain amount of vibration from the ships props, but seeing as you are sat right above them, it wasn't that bad....try doing on the Isle of Wight ferry for vibration!
We found the Conservatory really good. The breakfast knocks socks off Celebrity. On her, we felt like we were eating in the restaurant at John Lewis! Too big! Oriana's was just right.
Our favourite bar turned out to be Andersons...what a wonderful atmosphere in there....our kind of place. Crows Nest was a lovely place to be during the evening, very sophisticated with quality entertainment, from jazz to talented pianists on each night.
Being in our 30s with no kids, we just wanted to relax and enjoy the ship, we were not too bothered about tours and the entertainment was just a bonus for us. We felt the Headliners were really good but maybe not as good as the team on Ventura last year. I really enjoyed the talk on the Channel Tunnel (my other half sunbathed!!) and we both enjoyed John Cameron and the Queen tribute. The whole team were thoroughly professional and put 100% into each performance.
We felt the prices for alcohol were spot on. We felt Celebrity was too expensive and it's never nice spending in dollars.
Maybe she could do with a heated, covered pool in the future for cloudy, wet weather, but apart from that, Oriana is a special ship. Walking around the wooden decks and the tired stern you get a sense of breeding and tradition in which the ship was designed. A portrait of the Queen by Andersons gave a real sense of occasion too.
With this in mind, we've booked another cruise. We will enjoying the pomp and ceremony of the 175th anniversary on Ventura's 17 night Eastern Med cruise next year, this will also be our honeymoon!!!