Deb and I went to the main dining room as planned, and we were the only ones at our table. We knew that one couple had abandoned the dining room in favour of the buffet, and it seems so have the others. The problem is that our little protest will have no affect on P&O who will continue with the almost identical menu that they have been serving up for three years.
I am quite sure that new, or occasional cruisers, with P&O will find the menu absolutely amazing, but this cruise has many passengers, like ourselves, who have been on numerous cruises and can almost recite the menu without looking at it. Deb and I usually go straight to the ‘specials’ in hopes of finding a surprise.
Anyway, we had already looked at the menu before committing to going to the dining room and we both had meals that were enjoyed. Our waiter spent the hour grovelling up to us, but he needn’t have worried, as we will be returning to the dining room again on Wednesday as it is formal night.
However, the last night on board, we will be in the Beach House.
After dinner we walked towards the theatre, but as we passed Lord’s we heard the last call for a quiz. So, we sat in there and put up a good fight with the other early evening quizzers. We were soundly beaten.
On to the theatre then. It was the Headliners with their show called, ‘Night of a thousand stars’ that looks back on the stars who have sang at the Palladium theatre over the decades.
It was OK, but not one that thrills us.
For the rest of the evening we sat in Anderson’s, reading our books as we sipped a glass of wine.
When we went to bed, Oriana was once again gently sailing along. She was now heading south towards Guernsey at a very slow rate of knots. Before we get there, we have a day at sea to unwind from the busy schedule of ports over the last few days.
Wednesday 26th June – Sea Day
It is a grey morning outside, and although warmer than it has been, it is not very inviting to wander around outside. The early mist thickened and soon Oriana’s fog horn was warning other boats in the area.
After breakfast it was time to update the diaries before Deb goes off to her final Fit Step session on the cruise. At midday it will also be the completion of the Battle of the Sexes where the scores are very close.
I will not be going for a walk this morning. The last few days of walking have been too much for my knee, and I want to rest it today. The morning quiz is about stars and personalities, that will be a disaster for me with my inability to remember names.
So, perhaps it is time for a few thoughts about Oriana. This will be the last time we sail on her, and like hundreds of other loyal P&O passengers, there is some disappointment that she is leaving the fleet. There is no hope of a replacement to fill the gap in the fleet, and those who enjoy this lady of the seas will have to move to Aurora, Arcadia, or Oceana. They are acceptable but Oriana has a special place in many passengers’ hearts.
Oriana is looking as good as I can remember her. Outside, the hull is virtually rust free, and only when you look out of the windows and see the corrosion around them, do you realise that she has been battered by the salt for nearly 25 years.
Inside it is similarly in good condition but maybe the carpets look a little worn, and some of the furniture a little saggy. The passenger facing crew are superb and do not seem to be concerned by the recent decision by P&O to remove tips.
The entertainment on this cruise has been average. Vocalists are again the majority, but the comedian and magicians have given us a bit of variety. The Headliners continue with shows that regular cruisers are far too familiar with, but we continue to watch to see any minor changes. This is not the fault of Oriana, or any other entertainment teams, it is a problem that exists across the fleet, and other cruise lines. Creating and producing a new show costs a lot of money and time, so new shows are a rarity. This also applies to the vocalists, comedians, and magicians who perform on cruise ships. The acts are rarely altered, and we have seen many acts that are virtually identical to perhaps three or four years ago.
So, that just leaves the food. You have already seen my thoughts about the main dining room menu, and hence no further comment needed. Elsewhere on this ship, the buffet has been a disappointment as well. The choice appears to be less, and perhaps not so well presented. Having said that, the Conservatory Buffet is busy from breakfast to dinnertime and certainly shows how so many passengers prefer it to the formal dining experience. Deb and I have however gone the other way. Because of the difficulty of finding a table in the buffet, we have opted to use the dining room for breakfast, and even considered it for lunch.
Sindhu is considered as being very popular across the fleet, but this does not necessarily apply to the older generation of cruisers (e.g. Oriana passengers). The restaurant on Oriana is large and has not been busy throughout the cruise, even after the cover charge had been dropped. The Beach House is also quieter than I expected, but still popular with more than Sindhu. The other dining option is ‘Alfresco’s’ for snacks through the day. We have ignored it after less than good experiences in the past, but it has been very busy.
The cruise itself has been really enjoyable, with some interesting ports. So few British spend enough time to explore their own country, and I am one such person, so this has been good.
I will be sad to get of Oriana on Friday morning, but know that the cruise industry will always move on to where it can make the most profit. Loyalty means little when new people continue to book a cruise holiday. P&O under the Carnival organisation has decided that P&O will go down the option of using big ships with a ‘Stack them high and sell them low’ business model. This works well until the cruise bubble bursts, and P&O will be left with a fleet of large ships with empty cabins. Then they might want the loyal customers back.
In the meantime, many of us are looking elsewhere. Other cruise lines are available, and some have some rather good business models of small ships and higher levels of service. Of course that costs more, but the time comes when people who have sampled the luxury of P&O in the past are prepared to spend a little more to find that luxury elsewhere.
OK, Deb has just gone to her Fit Steps, and I think I will go and have a walk as the fog has lifted.