It’s been a while since I disembarked my last cruise and with my next adventure looming, I thought it was about time I share with you my time onboard P&O Cruises Oceana. A short break that was full of rest & relaxation, stunning food and a surprise or two added for good measure!
With the turn of the New Year came the urge to cruise! It wasn’t long before a perfect opportunity arose to brighten up the winter blues – a 4 night break onboard P&O Oceana – and at a great price too, it would have been rude to ignore! Back in 2011, Oceana was the first ship my family and I ever embarked on with P&O Cruises. We enjoyed it so much that we booked Christmas onboard in 2012. However, since then I haven’t been back, tending to stick with my favourites in the fleet. So, I was well overdue a visit and overall, she didn’t disappoint!
The ports of call were Zeebrugge and Amsterdam – popular destinations for short cruises from Southampton. However, call me lazy, but the plan was not to go ashore until I was forced to disembark in Southampton. The aim of the game was to rest and relax, making good use of the facilities onboard and 2 port days provided the perfect opportunity to do this. Embarkation was swift and organised and we were onboard in less than 20 minutes. We arrived at Ocean Terminal just before 1pm and were onboard by 20 past – the cruise had begun!
Onboard, P&O Oceana is looking refreshed in all of her main public areas. Having recently had a spell in dry dock, a lot of thought had clearly been given to updating the spaces onboard, lightening the whole ambience of the ship whilst maintaining her inviting and friendly nature. Oceana is a popular ship within the fleet and it’s easy to understand why. Bars and lounges aplenty provide ample choice to sit and while away an afternoon or two. And choice is definitely at your finger tips. I enjoyed many afternoon teas at different spots throughout the ship, especially within her stunning atrium.
Here I can confirm that her signature palm trees have disappeared, leaving the space looking a touch bare! But there is some good news, in their place now is some real live greenery. In fact, Oceana has been filled with new live plants throughout the ship and it really adds an element of freshness throughout. I must say the live plants in the atrium where the striking palm trees once stood do look a little lost, but I’m sure they will grow in time!
On this occasion I had booked an inside cabin which was clean and well appointed. It was a surprise to find a cake in our cabin on arrival. Unfortunately, it was mostly eaten! When I gave it to our cabin steward he was quite shocked and terribly apologetic. Of course, we had a bit of a grin about it and told him not to worry. In contrast to the public areas, the cabin was looking a little worn and in need of an update. The bedside lights appeared ancient, with temperamental switches and looked like something out of a horror movie…they had begun to melt from the heat of the bulbs! The shower and sink was also in need of a repair as a lot of the paint had flaked revealing the under layers.
These are just observations and didn’t impact my enjoyment at all, but after a refit it would have been nice if these had been given a little more TLC. It is worth noting that our inside room was located over Starlights show lounge and the noise does travel, both in rehearsals and late at night. It didn’t bother me too much as we weren’t back to the cabin before 11pm on most nights. However, if you like an afternoon chill in your cabin, or to retire before the late night show takes place, then you may get a rude awakening!
Dining onboard did not disappoint. Having opted for freedom dining on this occasion, it meant we could really cruise at our own pace. We booked into the Beach House for the first night onboard, and Café Jardin for the second night.
It was lucky I booked straight away as within less than 24 hours both were fully booked for the whole cruise! There were a lot of disappointed passengers, but I suppose that is the nature of the game on a shorter cruise. The Beach House is one of my favourite specialities and it never fails to impress. A relaxed and informal atmosphere compliments the delicious food, which is the star of the show. This time I tried the succulent leg of lamb for two – now I’m not a fussy eater, but lamb is something I am often disappointed with. I can honestly say this was not the case on this occasion. The lamb was perfect and I would highly recommend trying it! It is one of the dishes on the menu which carry an additional charge, but at just over £7 for two, it’s definitely worth it! It certainly rounded off a perfect first day!
Equally, Café Jardin was exquisite. Now inspired by popular chef Gino D’Acampo, it was my first time dining here and I loved it. Again it was certainly worth the small cover charge and I recommend giving it a try next time you are on Oceana – at the moment Oceana is the only ship in the fleet where you can find this restaurant!
It just so happened that our first full day onboard came with a very welcomed surprise – the man himself was onboard!! Gino would be giving a Q&A talk that evening in the Footlights Theatre. Nobody actually believed it was truly going to be him until he walked on stage. Sat in the audience the room was electric and I could hear conversations all around debating if we had all be duped or not – the days Horizon paper was very ambiguous!
It was indeed him and I have to say it was one of the most entertaining hours I have ever spent on a cruise ship! The stage was set up in an interview style, 2 chairs and a coffee table, where previously there had been a screen showing photos of Gino.
It looked like the Entertainment’s Manager had planned to do a chat show type event. However, Gino had other plans! He didn’t sit down once, choosing two members of the audience to be his assistants in the theatre, taking questions from the audience themselves. If he wasn’t a chef, he definitely could be a stand-up comedian! He stayed on stage for an hour, engaging with the audience and making us laugh.
It was a surprise to us all and made the cruise extra special. Apparently it was all very last minute, hence no publicity! During the show he confirmed he would be heading a speciality restaurant onboard, which I would assume will be Café Jardin. It was sad to see him go, but we left the theatre with aching faces from all of the laughing! I would have loved to have seen the second show as well, but thought I’d better be a good passenger and not hog the theatre.
Overall, the entertainment was some of the best I’ve had with P&O Cruises and there was certainly plenty to choose from in the evenings. Here I would like to give a shout out to the Oceana Trio. A pianist, base guitarist and a percussionist who play together throughout bars and lounges onboard. Their prime spot was in the atrium and I really enjoyed the change from P&O’s love for solo pianists. Don’t get me wrong, I love the piano, but I find the quality of the players onboard varies so much and is often not as relaxing as I would like. Dare I say it, I also do get a little bored of pre-dinner drinks with the piano playing! I’m all for the addition of a string quartet to mix it up a little bit, which is something I’ve told P&O on every opportunity I’m given. However, this is a good step in the right direction. The trio were joined by a saxophonist half way through their set, making it perfect to ease your way through the evening, with a couple of drinks of course.
Altogether, I really enjoyed my time onboard with P&O Cruises. It gave me the perfect opportunity to relax and had some nice surprises and great food thrown in as well. Returning to Oceana was surprisingly nostalgic for me and I certainly would choose to cruise on her again. She has a few quirks, like the buffet being right at the front (!), which can be a little disorientating, but nothing a few days wondering about onboard can’t sort out. One thing she does lack is an observation lounge up high. Where as other ships have the Crow’s Nest or similar, Oceana doesn’t have a dedicated lounge on a top deck. This is usually one of my daily haunts, especially on sea days or colder cruises, so I would really miss this if I was doing a longer cruise. However, this is very much a personal preference, but I know there will be many who would agree.
I can certainly understand why Oceana is a favourite in the fleet and if you’re thinking of taking your first holiday with P&O Cruises I would happily recommend this ship. She is popular with families as well and now is soon to be the only smaller mid-sized ship in the fleet which children can cruise on. Onboard there is a great atmosphere and good range of ages, making it extremely friendly and inviting. So next time you’re thinking about a cruise, don’t discount Oceana too quickly – she still has a lot of love left to give!
I hope you found this blog interesting and helpful – if you have any questions then let me know in the comments! Or feel free to message me. Have you been onboard Oceana? Share your experiences – I’d love to hear about them.
With my next cruise on the horizon, I will be keeping you updated on my latest adventures at sea. Make sure you like my Facebook Page – The Cruising Baker – to stay up to date and not miss a thing! Or you can follow me below by email below.
Thank you for reading.
Keep smiling and happy sailing! 🙂