This was our second cruise with P&O, and both times have been on Oceana. We have cruised once with Celebrity and once with Fred Olsen. As this cruise was to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary, we treated ourselves to a suite for ... Read More
This was our second cruise with P&O, and both times have been on Oceana. We have cruised once with Celebrity and once with Fred Olsen. As this cruise was to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary, we treated ourselves to a suite for the first time, and stayed in the Orissa Suite, C749.
Our flight to Malta was scheduled with EasyJet. We had to check in online prior to the flights, and the EasyJet booking reference number appeared on the cruise personaliser about 2 weeks before we went. We paid £5pp per flight to sit together.
Arrival at Malta was fine, and we got through security quite quickly, and collected our bags. There were lots of P&O staff directing us towards the waiting coaches, and we were quickly on the coach, but the coach had to wait for at least 20 minutes before leaving. Apparently there isn’t much space for drop-off at the port, so they sent the coaches off at intervals.
I was disappointed that there was no priority embarkation or welcome reception for suite passengers. In the brochures you are led to believe that there will be, but somewhere in the small print it says that it doesn’t apply to fly cruises. There was a long queue for check in, but it did move fairly quickly.
The cabin was the best bit of the cruise, and really made the whole holiday special. More details below......
It was our first experience of a butler, and I don’t think we made the most of it. It would have been helpful to have some kind of pamphlet explaining exactly how things worked when you are in a suite. Our butler appeared at about 5.30pm on the first day, and I had expected some kind of explanation but nothing was forthcoming and we didn’t know what questions to ask. We did ask about room service, but he tried to put us off by saying that by the time he brought the food up from the dining room it would be cold, as the kitchens were at the other end of the ship. No-one told us that there was a special area of the main restaurant specially reserved for suite passengers at breakfast, and we only found out by accident on our third day. The role of the cabin steward vs the butler wasn't clear, even over simple things like who to ask if we wanted a bucket of ice – it turns out it was the butler.
It seems that the cabin steward just cleans the cabin and makes the bed. The butler takes away all the dirty cups, glasses, etc, and brings back clean ones. He brought canapes every evening at about 5.30pm, but could turn up at any time during the day. Although he knocked, we didn’t always hear! Luckily I had seen on social media that this might happen so we used the “Do not disturb” sign on the door a lot.
That said, once we got to know our butler he turned out to be a very nice person. On our wedding anniversary he brought us a card, and he arranged for us to have a nice table at dinner that night.
Food in the main dining room was mostly of a good quality. The special breakfast area for suite passengers was lovely, and another highlight of our holiday. Our waiter Shambhu was so cheerful and welcoming, and made us feel special. We could order from the Epicurean breakfast menu as well as the standard menu.
In the evenings we ate mostly in the Ligurian restaurant on Freedom Dining. If you want a table for two you need to be there at 6pm. Otherwise, you face a bit of a wait with a pager. We didn’t bother with the pager, and if we were a bit late we just shared tables. We met some very nice people.
I am milk intolerant, and the staff made a great effort to deal with this. I was invited to call in at the restaurant between 2 and 5pm on our first afternoon and met with the Head Waiter, a lovely chap called Francis. I was given the menus for lunch and dinner the following evening, and I ordered in advance. They were able to adapt most recipes, and I had some especially wonderful desserts – Baked Alaska, apple crumble with dairy free custard, and a chocolate tart were the best. Every night in the restaurant, Francis would come to the table and take my order for the following day. The butler also brought the menus to the cabin every day. He asked the chefs to give us special canapes too, which were usually smoked fish or ham.
One disappointment was the buffet, which wasn’t as good as we remembered from our previous cruise. The food was fresh, but lacked variety, especially with hot choices. We particularly remembered the lunchtime curries back in 2013, but they were rare this time. Instead they had an Asian buffet several lunchtimes at additional cost, which we didn’t try. On the plus side, the buffet always had some kind of dairy free dessert or cake.
With a couple of very minor exceptions, the service throughout the ship was excellent. Everyone was friendly and helpful. Our dealings with reception were good.
Entertainment was of a very high standard. We particularly liked the Headliners shows – they are very talented youngsters. The Headliners singers ran group singing sessions on sea days, which were great fun. Beautiful World (Take That tribute) and John Courtnay (pianist/comedian) were also very enjoyable. In the evenings we went to the ballroom dancing in the Atrium. They were well run, but had slightly too many sequence dances for our liking. We did karaoke and a couple of quizzes.
Our ports were Athens, Rhodes and Souda Bay (Crete). We were supposed to stop at Mykonos but it was too windy to dock. In Athens we went on the Hop on Hop off bus to tour the city (15 euros on the blue bus). In Rhodes we wandered the town and found a beach bar – shame we hadn’t taken our swimming costumes. In Souda Bay, we took a taxi to a lovely beach we had found on Google Maps called Agii Apostoli, which was sandy and had a couple of bars – it turned out to be a Greek public holiday and got very busy so we didn’t stay long enough to eat. We did have a very nice swim in the sea though. We phoned the taxi driver to come and take us back (18 euros each way).
Disembarkation was well run, and we were given a time to meet for our coach transfer to the airport. Bag drop was a bit slow at the airport, but security was efficient. There wasn’t enough seating at the boarding gates, but they handed out water bottles while we waited.
So in summary, it was a brilliant holiday. Life on board met or exceeded our expectations. Our suite was fantastic. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we have only been back a week and have just booked another cruise on Azura! Read Less