We felt we needed a quick cruise so we selected Oriana's 7 night trip round Ireland on which some friends were booked. We got a good cabin at a good price with a very generous on board spend allowance. Packing was a problem as Ireland is not known for the driest weather but we only experienced a few drops during the entire week. The ports -1 Cobh. Known for being a major emigrant port, the last call of the Titanic and the sinking of Lusitania in 1915 was a delightful little town with good rail links to Cork from right alongside the ship. The museum 'The Queenstown Story' is right in the old station and is really worth a visit for only a few Euro. As it was Sunday when we called, the whole town turned out to see us and it was a really festive call. 2 Dublin. Easy shuttle into the city where we caught a Hop On Hop Off bus ('DoDublin'). The driver/guide was so funny we kept the video running just to record his fabulous humour - informative too! 3 Killibegs (port for Donegal). Quite small but the biggest fishing port in Ireland where we visited a craft exhibition laid on especially for the ship, talked to the local fishermen and tug crews. So friendly and good WiFi and food. 4 Galway. A long tender into port but the town laid on a big trip boat which eased the tender delays. Again, full of live entertainment and very pretty. The captain and crew (and fellow passengers) were all on top form and good sea days at both the beginning and end of the cruise meant that it was well balanced and seemed a lot longer. Thoroughly recommended.
Oriana had a refit at the end of last year (2016) which we think had been very well done. All the cabin upholstery had been renewed (although cushions on the bigger cabin settees had not been replaced sadly) and all the seating and decor in all the bars and restaurants looked very well updated. The new carpets caused a few respiratory issues on the Amazon cruise we did in January but they had settled down by the time of this cruise. We felt that P&O had done a focussed refit on the passenger areas and Oriana looked all set for a few more years service. Our Deluxe outside cabin was so similar to our Deluxe balcony cabin from January a deck above that we found ourselves bumping into the window in the morning expecting to find a balcony door behind the curtains! There seemed to be fewer items in the cabin tea tray but our Steward Elton (great guy) was always refreshing it as well as supplying glasses, lemons and ice when we wanted it without any fuss. He was also very happy to empty the fridge on our arrival and to stow its contents under the bed so that we had the fridge available for entertaining.We noted that nearly all room service items (except breakfast) are now chargeable. Didn't worry us but upset some people. We had booked Freedom dining (which we were told was going to be the only form of regular dining on the new ship) and, as we dined with our same friends every night, we were able to arrange the same table at approximately the same time so as to enjoy our rapport with the same waiting team. As usual , it was almost exactly like Club dining but with the flexibility of Freedom dining with the added bonus of getting seated half an hour before the late sitting time in Club that we often opt for. Sadly lobster never made an appearance on either formal night. The quizzes we popular and well managed and the one guest speaker, Carole Phillips talking about her service in the Police was very entertaining and engaging. Headliners were particularly good on this cruise and had the sense to perform their Destination Dance show early on with its spectacular Riverdance final - very apt for Ireland. The classical pianist was very good but was AWOL for his last appearance sadly. We didn't go on any excursions as we were a foursome and could arrange our own schedule at reasonable cost - and there was no shortage of friendly locals to make sense of everywhere we went and to make excellent recommendations. It was almost in our native language! There were 300+ first time cruisers aboard and all the ones we met seemed to be enjoying themselves although the hardening of tender boarding restrictions, while sensible in our opinion, disappointed some of the more physically challenged guests.
The only odd issue that we had not come across before was the charging of tax on all shipboard items in the shops. Apparently this is because the cruise was wholly within the EU and therefore everything had to be tax paid. This explains the popularity of ports such as St Peter Port, Guernsey, and Gibraltar whose tax-free status means that a visit there on any cruise apparently allows the cruise to 'leave' the EU for tax purposes. Check it out in the P&O online Advice Centre. Unfortunately Irish prices are rather higher than in the UK - but at least you get extra Club points in Tesco's!
Same as the Deluxe balcony cabins without the balcony. Much bigger than the standard outside and little more expensive. Roomy and well equipped but with a strange sound of rushing water occasionally which we never discovered the reason for. But no reason not to book it.