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Thoughts on Oriana

Oriana off Cowes, September 2012

Now that Oriana is leaving the fleet, it’s time for me to give my thoughts both on the ship herself, and on her departure.

We did two cruises on Oriana, in 2008 and 2012. Both were just short affairs – just four nights each, I believe. The second was also one of the ‘Grand Event’ cruises to celebrate P&O’s 175th birthday.

The first cruise on her was one of our very first cruises, and also our first with P&O. I blogged about it, and you can find the review here (there are links from that review page to the day-by-day blog posts). As you can read, we enjoyed the cruise. I don’t think that we would have quite so much enthusiasm for the cabin today – we’ve got very used to the space and facilities of the cabins on Azura, Ventura and Arcadia. But there were many things about her that we liked.

Our second cruise on Oriana was the Grand Event in 2012. To be honest, we only picked Oriana for this cruise because it was the cheapest way of getting to the party – Oriana was doing the shortest cruise, and therefore the least costly, of the seven that were starting that day. Unfortunately, as those who were at the Grand Event will remember, the weather was atrocious – it rained and rained during the sailaway. Nonetheless I took a lot of pictures, and you can find some of them on this page, which includes my account of the Grand Event. Here’s another link, this time to an overall review of this cruise. By the time of this cruise we’d also done two cruises on Ventura, one on Arcadia, and one on Celebrity Solstice, and we’d had a balcony cabin each time, so we came back to Oriana’s smaller ocean-view cabin with fresh eyes. I think we were glad that we were only on her for a few days – we definitely found the cabin space and facilities restrictive this time.

Now Oriana is leaving P&O, to go to China where I think she will become a casino ship. Many P&O customers are disappointed, but reading the comments in on-line forums, I was a little surprised to see quite a lot of people saying “she was great, but not appropriate for today’s cruising market”, and I think overall that’s my view also. It’s clear that balconies are a necessity in the current market, and also that cabins have got more spacious. Also, a smaller ship such as Oriana just can’t include the number of facilities that customers have come to expect – the range of dining experiences, the cabin size and comfort, and the overall ambience. I think you can get away with smaller cabins if you then offer a truly deluxe experience to your customers in the rest of the ship – I’m thinking about Europa (I and II) here. Many other lines with smaller ships offer much better cabins as well as lots of facilities on board – I’m thinking of Viking here, who are in the process of introducing five (or is it six) ships at around 50,000 tons. Of course, Viking (and Silversea, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, and so on) charge prices to match – there’s no such thing as a cheap cruise on these lines – and I have a feeling the Oriana faithful wouldn’t want prices at Viking levels.

There’s also the question of her reliability. Many people will know that she had to undergo a 3 week technical maintenance in January 2018. This was announced at very short notice, and a 50-night cruise had to be cancelled, to the considerable disappointment of many passengers – the cruise had been sold out for quite a while, I gather. The reason for the technical maintenance was never made entirely clear, but she had suffered propulsion failures on a previous cruise, and a number of passengers had complained, on several cruises, about the vibration experienced in the aft restaurant and elsewhere in that area. Oriana has a unique propulsion system in the current P&O fleet – whereas all the other ships feature diesel-electric propulsion in which the propellors are turned by electric motors using electricity generated by on-board diesel engine/generator units, Oriana features a mechanical drive; four diesel engines drive two propellor shafts via a gear-box and mechanical connectors between everything. This must be subject to wear and tear; and Oriana has seen 23 years’ intensive use.

Let’s not forget that Oriana’s departure won’t be until August 2019, so she has another year of service yet. I imagine that her fans will enjoy their final cruises on her, and I also gather that there will be a new Farewell cruise – no details of that yet. Let’s also hope that her reliability hold up for the next 12 months. So I’ll finish off this elegy with a few pictures that I took onboard during the 2012 cruise.

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