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Valletta from Oceana’s mooring, departure morning

I did an earlier post on my initial thoughts about Oceana during the cruise, but as promised this is a summing-up of my opinions.

Essentially, it’s a continuation of what I said in the earlier post – we liked the ship, or at least we found the bits of the ship that we liked, which I think is true of any cruise on any ship. So here’s a quick list of my conclusions:

  • we liked the overall colour and style of the main public parts of the ship – much more colourful than on Britannia (especially), Azura and Ventura;
  • we thought the cabin was OK for a short cruise (7 nights in this case), though it might be a bit small for a longer cruise. There was only one chair in the cabin (a ‘sit-up’ chair, not an armchair) so there was nowhere for both of us to relax – if we were both in the cabin then one of us had to sit on the bed. Storage space seemed OK, however. Not as good as on Ventura and Azura, but (it seemed to us) better than what we remember from Oriana;
  • the balcony was quite small – we were sitting facing each other rather than side-by-side. That was OK, however, every now and then when the sun got too hot we swapped places! Certainly we had no complaints. We spent most of an afternoon on the balcony, on the impromptu sea-day between Zadar and Messina. Oceana’s course during most of that day was between SE and SSE, so our cabin on the starboard side was definitely in the sun, and we took full advantage, with liberal applications of factor 30 and occasional swap-overs;
  • the food in the main dining room was good enough, and service was actually very good, especially as we were on different tables every night because we were on Freedom dining. One thing, though – the one night we were on a table for two, we were definitely being pushed along. We weren’t actually rushed, you understand, but that night dinner took just over an hour as compared with about 90 minutes or just over on a larger table. Perhaps it just takes that much longer when there are 6 or 8 diners at a table, or perhaps they wanted to release the table for another couple eating later. So our experience suggests that if you want a) to eat together and b) enjoy a leisurely and completely relaxed meal, a two-top table in the MDR might not be an answer. You might want to try Cafe Jardin – see below!
  • the food in Cafe Jardin was a definite step up from the MDR. We ate together there one night, we were able to take our time, and we had a great meal. The service was good and we were able to relax and enjoy it. Great location, too, looking down into the Atrium. As ever, however, there was just too much food….
  • however, the best food we had was the ‘Asian Lunch’, which was originally scheduled for the last day of the cruise (originally a sea day) but was hurriedly re-scheduled for the day before when the itinerary was changed. We really enjoyed this meal. Old favourites, perhaps, but very well cooked, well presented, and not too much! Note that this, like Cafe Jardin, was an extra cost meal. I think it was about £10 for the lunch and a bit less than that – £8? – in Cafe Jardin;
  • we found a bar we liked – loved, actually – and that was Magnum’s. Its main advantages were that it was quiet – we just don’t like noise when we’re having a drink together, we prefer to get sozzled enjoy our drinks in peace and quiet – and it served excellent cocktails. Actually, in addition to the peace and quiet and general ambience, the two bar staff, Brandul and Anna, made a huge contribution the bar: Brandul was always cheery and welcoming and turned out to be a cocktail mixer par excellence, and Anna was always friendly and efficient as she served drinks out to the table. I remember one evening when Brandul was on his break and another bar steward was in charge for that half-hour, and I don’t remember a single smile or many greetings. We were pleased when Brandul returned;
  • the only other bars we used were the Yacht and Compass, and Tiffany’s in the atrium. The former was comfortable enough, but noisy – there was always live music. If that’s your thing then you’d probably enjoy the Y&C or another bar, Winners, on deck 8 and associated with the casino. Tiffany’s was in the Atrium on deck 7, and we had a couple of drinks there, coffees, and mineral waters – not a bad place to watch passengers going by. We also may have used Explorers bar on deck 5 for coffees;
  • I’m afraid that I can’t say anything about the entertainment. We didn’t go into either Starlight’s (the aft lounge) or the Footlights Theatre – the attraction of Magnums was that great. Perhaps on a longer cruise we might have tried the theatre at some point, in the interests of pacing ourselves, but on this cruise we didn’t bother. We’re just not ‘entertainment’ people. Though I did hear excellent reports of a Ukulele orchestra….
  • we walked around the Promenade a number of times, and enjoyed it. It was good to be able to do a full circuit – on Ventura you have to go up steps at the bow, on Azura you have to turn round near the bow if you’re going to stay out on the open promenade, and on Britannia there’s no promenade at all. The deck was wide and accommodating and we enjoyed our walks. (Having dissed Ventura and Azura in this area, I have to admit that there’s nowhere on Oceana to compare with the walk around the clamshell on these other ships, at the very tip of the bow. On Oceana the forward part of the promenade cuts across the ship through a tunnel, which does give you a view of much maritime machinery – the anchor chains and winches, for example. It’s also a working area and is therefore often busy and noisy. Not complaining, just pointing it out;
  • Finally, we hardly ever used the open decks – we’re not sun people either. We did one day sit on sunbeds on the Terrace on the Sun deck for half an hour or so, but it was cold even in the sun – there was a stiff northerly breeze from aft of the ship – so we age up.

Continue Reading »

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When the summer 2020 schedules were released in early September I did a post about them. While we were on the Oceana cruise we got a bit more information about these itineraries during a presentation by a member of the on-board loyalty/future cruises team. There’s no real change to the information I presented earlier, just some clarification about Ventura’s schedules, and the appearance of a new term – “Track Itineraries”.

This is the term P&O are using to describe the repeating itineraries that most of the ships will be following in summer 2020, i.e. where the ship will be following the same track (or very nearly) thought the season. So Iona will be repeating the same 7-night fjords cruise throughout that summer; Britannia will be doing a succession of 14-night itineraries to the western Mediterranean, all of them very similar; Azura will be alternating 14-night itineraries to the Baltic and the western Mediterranean; and Oceana will be doing another season of fly cruises out of Malta, alternating between the central Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and the Aegean.

I’ve made sense of Ventura’s schedules. She’ll be on a 21-day cycle, consisting of i) a 2-night party cruise; ii) a 12-night Canary Islands itinerary; and iii) a 7-night Iberia itinerary; add them up and you get to 21 nights; i.e. every three weeks the sequence will start over again. She’ll 9 such iterations during the summer. The detailed pattern is complicated somewhat by the fact that after doing two ‘2-12-7’ iterations (18 April to 29 May), she’ll then switch to a ‘2-7-12’ pattern for one iteration, and then switch to six ‘7-2-12’ iterations, with a final 7-nighter at the very end of the season. (Although you could also interpret the sequence by describing it as nine ‘2-12-7’ repeats, with an extra 7-night itinerary slipped in between the third and fourth iterations…)

The only two ships not following these Track Itineraries will be Arcadia and Aurora. Continue Reading »

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The Cathedral and the Fontana d’Orione

And at last we’ve reached the pictures from the final port of call, Messina. This was a last-minute port after the call at Dubrovnik had to be cancelled due to bad weather. Here’s a link to the post covering what we did there, but basically we just went ashore and wandered around. Actually, we had a better day than we had expected.

 

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Here are some images from around Oceana.

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It rained when we were in Zadar – a lot; and this was about the only picture I took, and was definitely the best. Enjoy.

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Now for the good stuff (I hope) – pictures from the day in Venice. These were all taken with the iPhone. I already knew that photography wasn’t allowed in the basilica on Torcello so I decided to go light and just take the phone. You can be the judge of how well that worked.

First, a single image from Torcello plus some from Burano where we went for lunch and a walk-round afterwards.

Next, some images walking through Venice ‘proper’.

 

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Approaching Split, early morning

Here’s the next batch of images, this time from Split.

This wasn’t a very satisfying day. We did an excursion in the morning, to Trogir and then to Split, and for all sorts of reasons we didn’t enjoy it much. We didn’t have enough free-time in Trogir for one thing. Then when we got to Split it was midday and Diocletian’s Palace was heaving with people, so it was pretty impossible to take any good images – wrong time of day, and too many people. Never mind – perhaps one day I’ll go back and be able to get up early in the morning.

First, some images from Trogir:

Next was Split – even busier and more crowded:

Finally, a view down the Croatian coast from the port:

 

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Valletta main street (Republic Street?)

I promised that once we returned home I would post some images. Here is the first batch, from Valletta – some taken with the DSLR and the rest with the iPhone. They were mostly taken during our day in Valletta before we embarked Oceana. It was a good day, and we liked Valletta a lot.

Below are some general scenes from around Valletta.

Next are some of various harbour scenes:

Finally a couple I took at an old historic, Casa Rocca Piccola, that’s open to the public.

 

 

 

 

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Delayed flight…

Oh joy…. just been told that our plane has technical problems and the flight is delayed. We should have boarded at 10:40 for take-off at 11:40, but now we’re being told that there’ll be more information at 12:30!

Update: and then at 11:45 we were called to board! So now it’s about 12 o’clock and we’ve boarded. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, but I need to turn the phone off very shortly.

Further update: in fact, from then on things went very well. We were about an hour late taking off but made up some time and landed in Manchester maybe 40 minutes late. Then immigration and baggage reclaim all went well, and we were out of the terminal and getting into our car at 3:30. So a fairly easy end to a great cruise.

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A day in Messina

Today (Wednesday) we’ve been in Messina. As I mentioned a few posts ago, this was put into the itinerary at very short notice to replace the call in Dubrovnik which had to be cancelled.

Messina is a considerably-sized city of about 250,000 (in the urban area itself) and is a busy commercial and administrative centre. Although the site itself is historic – there has been a town here for well over 2000 years – there are very few old buildings remaining and certainly no ‘old town’. The reasons are because of frequent earthquakes, most recently and devastatingly in 1908, and also because of allied bombing in WWII. As a result of these events Messina was almost completely rebuilt in the post-war period. Even a lot of the apparently older buildings were reconstructed during this period.

Messina has a significant port and for that reason alone would be attractive to the cruise lines. Add to that the fact that there are several prime destinations within reasonable distance and its attractions are clear. The destinations are first, Mount Etna, Europe’s biggest and most active volcano, and secondly Taormina, which manages to combine truly spectacular classical-era remains (a Greco-Roman amphitheatre) with seriously high-class shopping (along Corso Umberto) and a spectacular location – high above the Gulf of Messina. However, we didn’t visit either of them….

We have good reasons for this. Continue Reading »

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