We have recently returned from a two week fly cruise on P and O’s Oceana, beginning and ending our holiday in Genoa. The first thing to highlight in this review is that it is impossible to fault P and O’s organisation of the cruise; ... Read More
We have recently returned from a two week fly cruise on P and O’s Oceana, beginning and ending our holiday in Genoa. The first thing to highlight in this review is that it is impossible to fault P and O’s organisation of the cruise; from start to finish it was excellent. Given the logistics and numbers, it is very impressive that we were never kept waiting, whether embarking, disembarking, going on trips etc. This was despite the fact that the ship appeared full both weeks (the main changeover happening in Venice half way through). The daily onboard news sheet, Horizon, was very useful to inform of everything going on the next day. In addition there was a daily round up of world news in the form of a news sheet and Sudoku/crossword available in the well stocked library.
We booked a Select Price deal some time ago and we were very happy to be upgraded to a balcony cabin a week or so before departure. The cabin was located on deck 12 close to the bridge on the port side and was in a very good position. It was great being on the port side when we docked in different places, in terms of having plenty to look at. The cabin was compact and comfortable, and our cabin attendant did a grand job of keeping it very clean and supplying towels etc. The complimentary toiletries by the White company are good too.
The only disadvantage was that the cabin was located beneath the Plaza buffet. During the night, there was noise disturbance from overhead when staff were presumably moving furniture etc to clean. Obviously the only time they could do this was overnight when the restaurant was closed, and the level of disturbance was not major but it was sufficient to disrupt our sleep some nights.
Don’t miss the important muster when you first board, it is well organised, does not take too long and is essential for you to know what to do in case of emergency.
We were impressed with standards of hygiene and cleanliness throughout the ship and hand gels were much in evidence – always near food and also when getting on or off the ship in port. The ship is comfortable rather than luxurious in terms of fittings and décor.
We opted for Freedom dining, and had most of our meals in the Ligurian restaurant. This was very busy at peak times as you would expect, but it was no problem to be given a buzzer that would let us know when a table was free and we could go and have a drink while we waited. We chose to either have a table for two or to share, and this meant we met and chatted to other people, which was very pleasant. The service in the bar nearest the restaurant – the Piano bar, was patchy at best and excruciatingly slow at worst. A way round it, we learned, was to get a drink elsewhere before heading for the restaurant; or wait until we were seated. We grew fond of Tiffany’s bar and the bar steward, a delightful lady called Monirose Armamento, ensured we never waited long for our aperitif.
We found the selection of food on the ship to be very good. Everyone has their own view on what is good food – or not – and you will be disappointed if you expect fine gourmet dining at every mealtime. But we certainly never went hungry, the food was always plentiful, hot and fresh. There are minor niggles, such as it would have been nice to have more local cheeses than the mainly English options on offer, but overall the choices were very good.
The Plaza is the main area for buffet service and the options continue through the day:
Breakfast: All the elements for a full English or continental breakfast are available. Toast tended to be dry and leathery. Croissants variable too from doughy to crispy! Omelettes were available on request but if you asked for one, you had to stand and wait until it was brought out from the kitchen, could be a bit slow.
Lunch: A good selection of both hot and cold dishes. I particularly liked the salads, the salmon/cold fish was good as was the ham.
Afternoon tea: if you got your timing slightly wrong and were a bit late for lunch, you might find yourself choosing sandwiches/scones/teacakes for an early tea. Alternatively, burgers and hot dogs were available from the Horizon Grill seemingly from early lunchtime through the afternoon. A barbecue buffet was also set up some days by the main pool and this offered very nice choices too.
Dinner: The Plaza had a theme for dinner each evening and the Curry night was particularly good.
The Ligurian (and I imagine the Adriatic is the same) had a more formal menu and could be a bit hit and miss. Note to P and O: Undercooked green beans and carrots with every main course are not a good idea!
Desserts were lovely. The themed dinners on formal nights were good overall although the starters and desserts tended to be better than the main courses. Service was always good. The drinks prices were reasonable also.
Select Dining: Marco Pierre White’s Café Jardin was very good for dinner, we ate there one night and it was well worth the small cover charge. We also lunched there a few times (no extra charge) and it made a change from the more hectic atmosphere of the Plaza. There is a good range of salads on the buffet and you can also order paninis, sandwiches etc. Also a lovely selection of desserts. We did not get a chance to try the Horizon Grill in the evening which has just been revamped and renamed the Beach House.
During our cruise we met and chatted with Steve the Food and Beverages Manager and Jamie, the Bar Manager one evening, up in the Pennant bar. They were very keen for our feedback, whether positive or negative, and we definitely felt that P and O are trying their best to cater for all tastes. The officers were approachable and friendly when we saw them and we felt that had we any issues to raise, it would not be difficult to find someone to talk to about them.
Our first sea day was a bit of an eye opener. Unfortunately the reserving of sunbeds around the main pool started around breakfast time and had the potential to cause bad feeling. It has to be remembered that a cruise ship is NOT the same as a hotel resort with unlimited space. The selfish minority can easily spoil things for everyone else. We learned on sea days that it was better (for us at least) to head for quieter areas on the ship. The ‘relaxation’ of being by the main pool tended to be a bit elusive. The music, either recorded or live, that blasted out from early lunchtime was overly intrusive and the atmosphere became all a bit too hectic. I would point out here that we are not geriatrics! – but like a bit of peace and quiet now and then.
The entertainment on the ship is excellent and we really enjoyed the shows. The two venues, Footlights (theatre) and Starlights (lounge) are always popular and it was a good idea to get there early. The ship’s own theatre group, Headliners, were fantastic – professional choreography, great singing and dancing – these were a joy to watch. We liked being able to say hello to the performers afterwards too, a nice touch. We also saw the Brit Tones, the Opera Boys and Elektra during our time on board and they were all very good indeed.
The formal nights were enjoyable. Although the ship’s photographers were evident, we did not see any ‘hard sell’ going on and did not feel obliged to buy any photos. The Captain’s speech was interesting and informative.
The itinerary for this cruise is excellent and I will summarise briefly all our stops:
Livorno – for Florence, Pisa etc. We had a half day tour arranged – it was our first day after arriving on board. Florence was hot, busy and certainly to be sure of accessing the main attractions, prior booking would be needed. But we were happy to wander round and see the sights from the outside. That evening was our only poor dining experience. We opted to go to the Plaza and felt as though we had chosen the invisible table as far as ordering a drink goes – in the end we ate a starter, gave up and went to the Ligurian for the remainder of our meal!
We docked next at Naples and chose to go to Herculaneum on an organised tour. Our guide was a charming Italian called Luca, who was informative as well as decorative! Herculaneum was interesting but I would choose Pompeii next time, I think. There are many excursions to choose from and in the end it comes down to personal choice.
After another sea day, we had a stunning morning arrival at Dubrovnik. We used the free (for select price passengers) shuttle bus into the city which took a short time – perhaps twenty minutes. Dubrovnik was an absolute delight – beautiful churches, museums, atmosphere and streets. Many restaurants and bars were tucked away up the little alleys and we were made very welcome when we stopped for a cold drink. It is possible to walk the old city walls but this looked pretty challenging in the heat of the day, so we opted to take the cable car (30 euros return) which took us high above the city and afforded brilliant views for photos. An added bonus was a large area of lavender planting which was smothered in butterflies, quite beautiful to see.
On our way back,we bought some water and a bottle of white wine at the port and there was no trouble taking it on board. There was a sing-song sailaway from Dubrovnik.
The next day we sailed into Venice around mid-day and it was an amazing but very hot sail in. We had booked a half day tour – a walking tour of ‘hidden Venice’. This was very interesting but quite challenging and if your mobility is less than perfect you might struggle, as I did, to keep up with the guide. We were provided with a neat audio system which ensured we didn’t miss any commentary, a great idea. We learned a lot about the buildings and avoided the most crowded and famous sites, which we would choose to revisit out of season (if there is such a time in Venice!). The following morning we went in under our own steam, taking the shuttle boat from the ship (chargeable) and enjoyed getting lost in the maze of alleys and bridges. What a fascinating place. If you are adept at more independent travel, you can access Venice by the monorail/vaporetto, but we went for the soft option.
Following another sea day, we docked at the visually stunning Kotor, in Montenegro early in the morning. Kotor sits in its own fjord and is beautiful. We walked up the ancient fortress trail, and managed about a third of the way up to the church, which was very challenging but the views made it worthwhile. We enjoyed lunch for 4 euros each – quite honestly we should have ordered one plate between two because the portions were extremely generous and we had only anticipated a snack!
During the cruise we had noticed two very bright stars at night and I asked the Hotel manager if he knew what they were – he said he would ask the Captain and I was rather delighted to find a handwritten note telling us that we were looking at Saturn and Jupiter, not stars at all. This is another way in which I think P and O go the extra mile to satisfy passenger whims!
The following day we arrived in Greece, and visited Corfu town. There was a free shuttle bus from the ship to the terminal building and another bus into town,, both well organised. We enjoyed a wander round town and when it became really hot, we retreated to the Palace which had (oddly) an exhibition of Asian art. So we didn’t learn much about Greek history but are now well versed in Asian art!
Drinks by the cricket pitch at St Spiridion square were predictably expensive but it was nice to sit there and watch the world go by.
When we were ready to go back another couple asked us if we would like to share a taxi, which only cost 10 euros and was a smoother option than the two shuttle buses.
Our last sea day we relaxed aft near the plunge pool adjacent to the gym. It is worth noting that there is a sauna and steam room tucked away here, accessible from the far side of the spa. This doesn’t seem to be particularly well advertised perhaps because it is intended to be accessed as part of a spa visit.
We arrived in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome etc, the following day. Due to the heat we opted to change our all day walking tour of the city to a mainly coach bound trip. This gave us a taste of the sights, and we were glad not to be tramping round as the temp touched nearly 40 degrees …. Would love to go back to Rome out of the main summer season.
Monte Carlo was our last port of call, and it was interesting to see all the vastly valuable yachts. We didn’t push ourselves hard here, just wandered around and people-watched. I am quite convinced that George Clooney drove past me in a Porsche … well, it sounds likely, doesn’t it!
On our final evening we left our packed cases outside our cabin and the next time we saw them was the following afternoon at Gatwick. Fantastic! Read Less