Christmas Markets Oriana
Last December I went on a Christmas Markets Oriana Cruise with my mum on the Oriana with P&O. It was a short cruise, just 4 nights from Southampton. The weather was really bad when we boarded the ship. We were supposed to have 2 days in Amsterdam but the wind was too strong for us to transit the canal so we had a whole day at sea then got in about 11 o’clock in the evening. Then we had the day in Amsterdam and then onto Bruges. Despite the fact that we were sailing in force 9 gales the ship was actually really calm, we wouldn’t have really noticed had we not been told by the announcements on board.
We sailed on the Oriana. It’s one of P&O’s older ships but loved by hardened cruisers. It was a lovely ship. I really liked it. It was different to the modern ships, even though it basically the same size as the Oceana and the Aurora. The way it’s laid out is more intimate and cosy. I did miss having a big atrium in the middle of the ship. There was a bar there where we would sit in the evenings, but as it is more enclosed you couldn’t see as much and it doesn’t feel as spacious as on other ships. I think maybe the Oriana is a ship that is more geared towards mature cruises, but this wouldn’t put me off sailing on it again. We met some lovely people on the cruise and as always with P&O it was a really nice mix of ages.
We had an outside cabin, on deck 10 right in the centre of the ship. This definitely helped when the weather was bad as we couldn’t really feel the ship moving when we were in the cabin. The cabin was lovely. Very spacious, with loads of storage. We had a sofa, and a dressing table, then there was a chest of draws with a mirror over it at the other end of the cabin, so we had plenty of room for both of us when we were getting ready in the evenings. Also with the cabin being in the centre of the ship we were directly opposite the lifts and the stairs, I was slightly worried it would be noisy, but apart from occasionally hearing people going back to their rooms at night it was fairly quiet and the location was brilliant for getting around the ship.
The Restaurants and Bars
On this cruise, we were given freedom dining. So we could go for dinner at any time we wanted and would be seated with different people each day. We sat on different tables each evening which meant we had different waiters. The food was lovely though and the service was very good.
The buffet restaurant was nice. Smaller than on other ships I’ve been on but the food served there was really good quality and it never seemed too crowded. We also really liked the Alfresco restaurant up near the pool. It was really nice to pop in there for lunch, there was a salad buffet, and hot food and fresh pizza. It was a bit more formal than the buffet but in a more intimate setting.
One of our favourite bars was Tiffany’s at the top of the atrium. This was a really nice place to sit in the evening and have a drink before dinner. During the day we went to the Crows Nest Bar. It had a lovely relaxed atmosphere and you could watch as the ship was sailing into port.
Our first port was Amsterdam. We booked a trip to Anne Frank’s House which included a tour on the coach of the main sites on the way back to the ship. There is always a really long queue at the house so it’s always best to book a trip or pre-book tickets if you can or you could end up queuing for a few hours. It was a brilliant experience but obviously, a very sad and sombre one when you realise the space that they were actually living in. But I would definitely recommend it.
We then went on the tour of Amsterdam which was really interesting and Amsterdam was lovely. It was a really good way to see the main sites in the short amount of time that we had and especially as the weather wasn’t great.
The next day we were in Bruges. We booked the Bruges on your own trip. So we had a coach to and from Bruges and then time to explore the city and the Christmas market on our own. We found a nice Belgian restaurant and had some lunch and then went to the Christmas Market and the shops. The trip worked really well for us, the centre of Bruges wasn’t too big so it was pretty easy to find our way around.
The Entertainment on the ship was really good. The theatre was lovely. Set out really well and had a really nice atmosphere. We were lucky enough to have The 4tunes performing on the ship. They are a male group of singers who have all previously been in Westend shows. We had seen them on a previous cruise so we were really excited about seeing them again. They had a slightly different lineup to the previous trip but were still the highlight of the entertainment for us. I would recommend going to see them if they happen to be on your cruise, it’s definitely a show not to miss.
So despite the weather and the fact that we were worried about how rocky it was going to be, it was so much better than we had anticipated. I wasn’t put off sailing in winter at all. We had a lovely time, the Oriana is a lovely ship and I can really see why so many people keep returning. It’s not all showy and modern like some of the newer ships, but it’s definitely British cruising done very well!
If you are thinking of going on your first cruise read my post here.
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Have you ever sailed on the Oriana? Have you been on the ship since it was refurbished? Let me know what you think in the comments below.