Our travelling pharmacist Dave Harcombe, a cruise virgin, has chosen P&O Cruises for his first expedition on the high seas accompanied by his wife Babs. Dave’s first-timer blog is not to be missed.
DAY ONE: Hello Sailor
It was an early start.5.30am. Cool and crisp outside. And as the most reliable taxi driver ever (John Angel) dropped us at our coach pick up point near Sheffield our holiday had truly begun.
Two Eavesway coaches were ready, waiting and willing to transport a group of P&O cruisers down to Southampton where our ship was berthed.
The phrase “Good God it’s enormous” has never been uttered in our house(!), but Meg from Sheffield, sitting two rows behind us blurted out these words on seeing OCEANA for the first time.77,000 tons. And ready for us.
The coach journey was relaxing, rain heavy on route, wind and traffic light. Phil the driver pulled up outside the P&O embarkation centre. Looking like a modern day large Anderson shelter it glistened in the sun. Baggage was dropped off and was not seen again until we got to our cabin.
On entering we were all asked to wash our hands with antibacterial gel. This was to become an almost automatic ritual on board. P&O are clearly very aware of the dangers, costs and publicity if Norovirus hits the ship and were taking no chances. And a good thing too!
Embarkation was smooth and quick. Armed with our ship cards and passports we went through customs and security. The obligatory gangway photo duly taken Babs and I stepped onto our first cruise ship to a very warm welcome.
Unfortunately the cabins were not yet ready and we were advised to go for some food either at the barbecue on top deck or in the self service restaurant. We chose the self service option. Probably the wrong choice! It was jam packed , hot, sticky and every table full. A disappointing start to the holiday. We have over the years always dismissed a cruise because of the thought of all the crowds on board. Yet here we were- our worst nightmare.
I needn’t have worried. About 10 minutes later it was announced that the cabins were now ready and within minutes the restaurant was almost deserted. And quiet. After finishing a delightful salad and a couple of puddings it was time to find our home for the next week.
Canberra deck level 9 cabin c219. We opened the door in anticipation .And what a surprise. It was lovely. Now I don’t know what we had expected but it far exceeded everything we had imagined .
Light and airy. Large enough to swing lots of cats. The window was bigger than expected. Spotlessly clean. OK. the cream and brown furniture was dented and chipped in places but I’ve been in worse hotels. Plenty of wardrobe space. And a safe. A large comfy bed. The en suite toilet and bathroom (shower) was compact yet functional. Toiletries supplied by The White Company. Not piddling little bottles. Good sizes. Lots of shelf space. A nice size TV.
Oodles of space. Two chairs in the room .Tea and coffee facilities.
3pm found us at our muster station for the lifeboat drill. Trussed up in eye catching Sainsbury orange life jackets did seem to break the ice. And we met a charming couple from Norfolk.
Today this mighty ship welcomed aboard 1997 passengers .Once everyone had been confirmed on board then the stringy bits holding the ship in its berth were untied.
The passage out of The Solent took two hours and then Oceana set a course along The English Channel and towards The Dover Straits.
3.30pm.The traditional sailway began. To the sounds of Rod Stewart’s “Sailing” we strolled around Lido deck waving flags and sipping champagne. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 gave a toot as we passed. I was pleasantly relieved that the theme from Titanic wasn’t played. A sign above Belfast town hall once said “Well it was alright when it left us!” And so too is Oceana. Fingers crossed.
This mid-sized ship is popular with cruise virgins- and it’s easy to see why. First impressions of the ship- excellent. There is such a friendly atmosphere on board .Informal and sociable.
Oceana’s atrium has the wow factor .Glass -fronted lifts, palm trees, grand piano, sumptious decor. Beautiful. A place to meet , greet , relax , chat and observe. Unwind here before being wined and dined.
Shop till you drop. Jewellery and watches, dresses, bags , perfume. You name it they’ve got it. Forgot your toiletries? Don’t worry, you will find it here.
The ship boasts 5 restaurants and 11 bars. We had decided on Freedom Dining in the Ligurian Restaurant. Freedom means you can eat anytime between 6.30 and 9.30 pm and have a table for 2, 4, 6 or 8.
Apparently 10,000 meals are produced EACH DAY by the talented army of chefs and served by waiters mainly from India and Goa. And so efficient and charming they are too.
Tonight’s menu included at least 20 choices amongst six courses. A separate vegetarian list is available .I don’t intend to give a running commentary on everything we eat on this cruise but the meals are as good as any five star restaurant with service to match. Amazingly good!
After a gorgeous meal we had a stroll around the deck. had another mocktail (Pussy foot) and chatted with other holiday makers.
It was time for an early night.