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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

P&O Line
June 14, 2001 ~ Southampton to Norway

An American on Oriana

by Hall Coons

Just back from an extended trip to Europe that included a one week cruise on P&O's ORIANA. It was a seven day trip from Southampton up to Norway. We visited four ports, including three fjords and the city of Bergen. First of all I just want to say that I was thrilled with the whole experience, both ship and Norway. Although, I have sailed Princess several times this was my first trip on the parent company of Princess, which is P&O. The P&O line caters almost exclusively to the British cruise market. I was the only American on board the June 14th sailing as far as I could tell. 1800 total passengers, with 1 American (me), 20 Germans, 10 Japanese, and everyone else from the U.K. So I definitely had a very British Experience.

The Oriana is a handsome all white ship with the traditional P&O buff funnel. The name Oriana (a memorable name !) is a nickname for the first Queen Elizabeth (the monarch, not the ship). The ship was built in 1995 and is extremely well maintained. She looks almost brand new with no signs of wear and tear anywhere to be seen. Although she does look slightly "boxy" as many of the new ships do, her interior design is where she really shines. I recently sailed on the new Seven Seas Mariner, which also has nicely decorated interiors, but they have no "character". The ORIANA interiors have lots of character and do not follow the recent hotel style of chrome, mirrors, and soft tans. There is a wide variety of public rooms on board. None are extremely large excluding the main showroom. Each of the small to mid size lounges seems to have been designed by a different designer, as they are very different and unique. In many lounges you felt you were in an English House with lots of P&O ship history memorabilia. This design theme reminded me somewhat of the Holland America interiors but was better IMHO. I loved the full 360 degree outdoor promenade deck...which was also unusually wide and well used by the passengers. 3 large outdoor heated pools, which the Brits jump into whenever the sun comes out and the temps rise above 60 degrees F ! My cabin on Canberra Deck (9) was an outside with a really big window, about 160 square feet of space. Only bad thing about cabin was that the bathroom was very small, even for a cruise ship. The ship has two seatings for dinner, and uses two dining rooms, one midships and one aft. Both dining rooms decorated in same style with handsome crystal lighting fixtures, comfortable chairs and large windows. An excellent Crows Nest bar overlooking the bow of the ship was well attended for both pre dinner and after dinner drinks.

Food & Dining:
This is the only area where I could find something to complain about. The food was good to very good at dinners, but lunches and breakfasts only fair in my opinion. Surprisingly, the well attended afternoon teas featured the poorest food of all ! I was use to the rather elaborate and formal afternoon teas presented in the lounges by Cunard. However, on P&O the teas only in the Conservatory (i.e. the informal cafeteria style restaurant) and the "tea food" was very plain and nothing to brag about. Several dinners were memorable including excellent beef Wellington and very good soufflés for desert. However, you definitely got the feeling at dinner that the meals were "mass produced" and not of true gourmet quality. Poultry dishes were particularly poor. I must say the soups were excellent and pasta surprisingly good for a British ship.

But service in the dining room (and throughout the ship) was some of the best I have experienced in recent years. Certainly MUCH better service than my recent experience on Radisson's Seven Seas Mariner, a much more expensive ship. We were well attended in dining room by two waiters from India. All wait staff appeared to be from India. Women were always served first and I particularly liked the promptness of the service. Vegetables (excellent by the way) were served by the waiters separately and individually to each dinner. Every line use to serve vegetables this way with evening meal, but I have noticed lately that many just lump them on the dish with the main entree and do not serve them separately. Excellent cheese dishes also as an alternative or addition to deserts. Being in the second seating we never felt rushed and often lingered over the table , with tea and coffee, to discuss the days events.

Unlike many cruise passengers I usually do not even attend the major evening production shows. However, on Oriana I have to admit that these were very well done, but again with a British emphasis. One night the shows theme was more or less British Patriotism with such songs as "Britannia Rules the Seas". I actually found this very interesting and entertaining as it was a new experience for me. The staff gave all passengers little Union Jack flags to wave during the performance. The Theater Royal is an excellent show lounge and each seat has a little air conditioning duct, which is certainly unique and works quite well. The expected production shows on "Broadway" and "Hollywood" were all done, but again these were of a very high quality both in the dancing and singing. Costumes seemed very elaborate for a cruise ship. I actually have to admit that I enjoyed these shows on Oriana, but often tore myself away from them to go out on deck to see the passing scenery.

Spa & Pool Facilities:
The Oriana has three large outdoor heated swimming pools which were well used by the British passengers. If the sun is out and the temp is over 60 degrees F, the British will go for a swim. Also excellent children's swimming facility with one pool designated mainly for kids, and one pool off limits to kids. Lots of open deck space and deck chairs on the ship. The rear tiered decks on Oriana are a particularly nice place to sit out of the wind and read a book in your deck chair or just watch the ship's wake. The ship has elaborate Spa facilities which I did not use, but they looked very modern and were well attended. Also an excellent gym facility.

Notable Lounges & Facilities:
The ship has lots of small lounges each with their own decor. The Tiffany's lounge at the top of the atrium is nicely decorated with a Tiffany glass ceiling. Breakfast and Lunch were also served in this small lounge. Anderson's was decorated like a British Living Room and was well attended for pre dinner drinks. Steward Service in all lounges and bars was excellent. Perhaps the most beautiful lounge is the Curizon Room which is done in creams, light colored woods, and has unique tapestry wall coverings. Classical music concerts given nightly in the Curizon Room. Oriana also has excellent no-charge laundry facilities on two of the passenger decks, which came in handy for me as it gave me a place to do laundry in the middle of my extended European trip.

I have always dreamed of sailing in the Norwegian Fjords and I was not disappointed. The scenery was simply stunning. We visited three ports mainly for the Fjords 1)Eidfjord, 2)Olden, and 3)Geirangerfjord. In Eidfjord we had a brilliant sunny warm weather day. Sailing down the Fjord in the late afternoon was something to look forward to at the end of each day. I was glad I did not have the 6:30 pm early sitting, because if so you missed some of the most stunning scenery of the trip. The waterfalls in Geirangerfjord were stunning. I signed up for three hiking tours given by the ship and these were all excellent. However, they were more difficult than advertised and several older passengers had to give up the hike before completion. One hike was right up to the edge of a Glacier, so close you could touch it. Another hike involved visiting a waterfall and then being able to walk BEHIND the waterfall, lots of fun. The only thing I was slightly disappointed with was Bergen, which seemed a little too "touristy" in the central area for my tastes. However, the hiking tour in the mountains above Bergen was excellent. One thing that impressed me in Norway was the very long days. One clear night I had to wear my sunglasses as late as 11 pm because the sun was so bright.

The Oriana was an excellent way to visit Norway in comfort on a cruise that was only 7 days long. Most Norwegian cruises are much longer than 7 days, but on our 7 day trip we got to visit three different fjords and the city of Bergen. Many 14 day Norway trips visit no more than 3 fjords. If you enjoy a more formal British atmosphere the Oriana is an excellent choice for the American traveler. However, be ready to fit in with the British passenger. Would be glad to answer any questions any reader may have.

 , Maryland, USA

Copyright © 2001 Hall Coons

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