This was a two-day short break cruise from Southampton calling at Zeebrugge, Belgium.
Oriana is a legendary ship. When she entered service in the 1990s, she caused a sensation both for her size and her cutting edge technology. Built at Germany's Meyer Werft shipyard, known for its attention to detail and craftsmanship, Oriana was a quality product. Since then ships have gotten much bigger and technology has progressed onward. However, while many of Oriana's contemporaries have gone out of service or are serving the secondary market, Oriana continues to be a first tier ship.
Oriana seeks to provide a traditional cruise ship experience for British adults. That is exactly what she delivers.
The public areas can be described as tasteful contemporary. There is no glitz or flash. At the same time, the interior does not attempt to be a recreation of some other era. She is a ship of her time and so the style is that of the late 20th, early 21st centuries.
Some Oriana regulars say that the interior spaces are beginning to look a little worn. However, to me, the ship appeared to be brighter and cleaner than when I last inspected her in 2010. In any event, this is a moot debate inasmuch as the interior is scheduled to be refreshed during a lengthy refit at the end of 2016.
I was impressed by the food on Oriana. The two main dining rooms score well on every measure. The rooms are elegant and full of natural light. Although geared towards British tastes, the menu offers variety. The food is nicely prepared and is flavorful.
And the service is efficient. Unlike American-style cruise ships, the staff does not attempt to become friends with the guests. Neither are they subservient. Instead, they are business-like and perhaps as a result, there is much less waiting for the various dishes to arrive.
Unlike most cruise ships, you can get a curry that has some real punch in Oriana's buffet. Also available are a variety of British staples such as roast beef as well as a sizable salad bar.
Oriana also has three alternative dining venues - - Sindu (Indian); Al Fresco (Mediterranean) and the Beach House (an informal grill with North American casual food and kebabs). Due to the shortness of this cruise, I was not able to sample these but I like the fact that a ship of this size and age offers these additional choices.
Oriana's main entertainment venue is the Theatre Royal, a large modern theater with good sight lines. It is the home of the ship's production cast, the Headliners Theater Company. The first evening they performed Destination Dance, a revue showcasing various dance styles. This was performed nicely and included some interesting lighting but follows in the footsteps of traditional cruise ship productions shows. Of course, that is exactly what guests on Oriana want to see.
The second evening featured Dean Richardson performing as Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of the rock group Queen. This show filled the theater and this high-energy tribute was well-received by the audience.
In addition to the main theater, Oriana has a large cinema. Unfortunately, cinemas where guests can see a recent film on a large screen are becoming all too rare on cruise ships. The thinking of the cruise lines seems to be that guests can see films either in their cabins or on the large screen overlooking the main pool area on most ships. However, it is a much different entertainment experience to see a film on a large screen in a room that is free from distractions. Thus, in my view, the cinema on Oriana is a big plus.
The ship also has the standard cruise ship entertainment staples (e.g. live music, karaoke, quizes and card games) as well as a small casino.
The passengers on this cruise were not the mature passengers who are normally on Oriana. For this short cruise, there were a large number of yourng couples as well as quite a few young people participating in stag nights and hen parties (what would be called bachelor and bachlorette parties in the United States). The bars and lounges stayed open until the early hours of the mornings. However, there was no bad behavior. It would have been out of place on Oriana.
Along this line, I was struck by the fact that almost everyone abided by the dress code on the formal night. It has become increasingly difficult for cruise lines to enforce their dress codes. Since most people no longer dress for work, many bridle against dressing up on holiday. As a result, most cruise lines are happy now if the male guests will wear a jacket on dress-up nights. On Oriana, most men wore either a dinner suit (tuxedo) or a dark suit and the ladies wore long gowns. It made for an elegant atmosphere.
A large number of the guests went ashore in Zeebrugge. There is a lot to see in this area. (See our profile). However, in view of the terrorism that has occurred recently in Belgium, P&O Cruises issued an advisory alerting guests to possible issues while ashore.
Nautically, Oriana handled herself quite well. Because she is an older ship, Oriana does not have the technology to maneuver as well as the ships being built today. Accordingly, she had a tug boat to assist her in Southampton. But Oriana's more tradition hull design allowed her to handle the high winds and rough seas she encountered in the English Channel better than many more recent ships would have done.
Cruise ship review - - P&O Cruises - - Oriana - - Short Break