oceana - p&o cruises - cruise ship review & photos

Oceana - P&O Cruises - cruise ship review and photos

Amid huge fireworks displays and to Calypso beats, Oceana made her debut in the P&O Cruises fleet on Friday 1 November, 2002 as she set sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Quite unusual for the British cruise line, Oceana debuted in the Americas rather than her traditional European home waters. But then, Oceana has a distinctively American background, having previously sailed for P&O subsidiary Princess Cruises as Ocean Princess. Today, her American legacy makes Oceana the most "buzzing" ship in the very British P&O Cruises fleet, catering to a largely British crowd looking for the ship that has it all. Oceana sure seems to fit the bill! She can be found sailing from Ft. Lauderdale this winter on attractive 14-day cruises before returning to Europe next spring to pick up her season of 6- to 17-day cruises from Southampton.

Oceana in the North Sea Canal Oceana in the North Sea Canal Oceana in the North Sea Canal Oceana in the North Sea Canal

After a successful maiden winter season in the sunny Caribbean, Oceana crossed the Atlantic in the spring and was enthusiastically welcomed to her new home waters. On May 21st, 2003, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal and her daughter Zara Phillips performed Britain's first-ever double cruise ship christening in the port of Southampton and both Oceana and twin sister Adonia officially received their names. "The White Sisters" were then put into service on cruises from Southampton to both the Mediterranean, Canary Islands and Northern Europe. It was on one of these cruises that Oceana made her maiden call at the port of Amsterdam and yours truly was one of the happy few that were given the opportunity to visit the ship. 

Oceana's maiden arrival at Amsterdam Oceana's maiden arrival at Amsterdam Oceana's maiden arrival at Amsterdam Passengers watchting the docking process
Whereas P&O's more traditional ships Aurora and Oriana generate a subdued "whoopi" feeling when first entering, Oceana is obviously "dressed to kill" and one cannot helped but being overwhelmed when first stepping on board and seeing the wide 4-deck high Atrium with its shiny marble surfaces, glass elevators, stained glass ceiling and tall palm trees. One of the obvious remnants of her previous life in US waters, Oceana's glitzy atrium is proof of the fact that P&O Cruises is aiming at a younger audience for their "The White Sisters". Interestingly, while both ships are virtually identical, Oceana is marketed as a "family ship", catering to parents and their children, whereas sister Adonia is an adult-only ship, having no childcare facilities. 
The Atrium The Atrium The Atrium The Atrium

The very beautiful Atrium houses a couple of passenger services on the lowest level, including a 24-hour Reception Desk and a large Shore Excursion Center. Also on deck 5 (Formosa Deck) is Explorer's, a pleasant coffee house and pastry shop overlooking the hustle and bustle of the "main square" with its beautiful inlaid carpets and oversized seating groups. The tickling of a small waterfall underneath the floating marble staircase adds a touch of elegance, while the use of intricate lighting and touches of wood paneling create a warm feeling to this otherwise huge area.

Reception The Atrium Bond Street shop Regent Street shop

One deck higher, two large shops surround the Atrium on both port and starboard side. Appropriately called "Regent Street" and "Bond Street" after their slightly busier London counterparts, both feature the standard cruise ship assortment, including many P&O logo items. Aft of the atrium on the two lower decks are Oceana's two main dining rooms. The Ligurian Restaurant on deck 5 is an exact carbon copy of the Adriatic restaurant on deck 6, with both restaurant sporting a classy wood-trimmed look with good lighting, some tables for two and an attractive layout featuring some nice artwork.  The ship operates on a traditional two sitting system for breakfast, lunch and dinner on most days, with additional casual meal options at The Plaza up on deck 12 and at Cafe Jardin. This, the ship's Pizzeria and 24-hour Bistro, is located on the highest level of the Atrium offering great views of the action down below.

Entrance to the Ligurian Restaurant Ligurian Restaurant Artwork in the Ligurian Restaurant Ligurian Restaurant

Our lunch in the Ligurian Restaurant is very tasteful and the service from the stewards that traditionally hail from Goa is friendly and attentive. I especially like the more liberate use of herbs and spices in some of the dishes, separating Oceana's cuisine from the bland food that is served on some other cruise lines. No need for "fresh pepper, Sir?" here!  If you sail on Oceana, don't forget to try the Indian curry specialties that frequently appear on the menu. They are delicious!

Tiffany's Tiffany's Tiffany's Tiffany's

No time for a long lunch though - Oceana's interiors are waiting for inspection. One flight up and we arrive at Tiffany's. This lively open-plan lounge and bar completely surrounds the atrium and is used for all sorts of activities. There is an inviting bar on one side, lots of intimate seating groups, ideal to "see and be seen" and even a small dance floor. The light filtering through the huge stained glass ceiling creates a warm atmosphere, making Tiffany's a very popular room both day and night. 


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Some things never seem to change. One of the very few negative comments I made five years ago after a cruise on Oceana's sister Dawn Princess was that the ship was littered with additional "artwork" that was part of the on-board Art Auction. The company that organizes these auctions apparently also has persuaded P&O Cruises to load up on the collection of fake Renoirs, framed baseball shirts and teary eyed gypsies. During my visit to Oceana it is sometimes hard to avoid the forest of easels. On Promenade Deck, the corridor leading forward to the Footlights Theatre is littered with Art Auction stuff, almost obscuring the attractive displays of showbiz memorabilia.

Passage leading to the Footlights Theatre Yacht & Compass Yacht & Compass Yacht & Compass
In true P&O style, the 550 seat Footlights Theatre is being used as a fully fledged cinema during the day, so we tip-toe through the gently sloping room that offers all guests an uninterrupted view of the large stage. The cruise line is well known for offering good-quality production shows specifically aimed at their large UK following. Next door is the delightful Yacht & Compass, a watering hole in the true sense of the word. Done in an attractive old-fashioned maritime style with colorful carpeting and deep leather chairs, an inviting bar and lots of wood paneling, this room is arguably one of the most popular places on board. Across the atrium is the Le Club, the ship's disco. Like most other public rooms it has changed very little from the days when this ship was called Ocean Princess. It must be said though that Oceana is maintained wonderfully and I can spot not a single sign of wear and tear during my visit.
Le Club Mini-atrium leading to the casino on deck 8 Looking down from the casino Magnums Champagne Bar

One area that has changed considerably since the transfer to to P&O fleet is the Casino. Reached by a beautiful little secondary atrium with roulette wheel ceiling, the windowless Monte Carlo Club now is home to Winners, a nice bar area done in bright colors. And when you're all done gambling, you can proceed downstairs by means of the marble grand staircase and celebrate your winnings - how convenient - in Magnums, Oceana's champagne bar. Attractive wood paneling, a sea view through large windows and comfortable plush seating make this a popular area. 

Le Club Casino art Winners - Oceana's new casino bar Magnums Champagne Bar

Further aft on Promenade Deck, running parallel to the delightful teak wooden wrap-around outdoor deck with its classic steamer chairs is the Photo Gallery, looking rather dull during the day as all panels are closed. Tucked away on port side is the beautiful little Library/Writing Room and an all-new Cyb@Study, the stylish state-of-the-art Computer Center offering guests access to the Internet. Last but not least, all the way aft on Promenade Deck is Oceana's secondary show lounge called Starlights. Done in an attractive color scheme of grays, burnt oranges and golds, the room is set up as an amphitheater with a gentle slope towards the stage. A large bar and attractive artwork make this a impressively beautiful room, but do come early at show time to secure a seat with a view!

Library Cyb@Study Starlights Starlights
Let's move up to deck 12, Lido Deck. Using the aft stairwell, we first stumble across the hairdressing salon and Spa. Oceana offers spa facilities for all tastes and wallets, including massages and complete beauty treatments. Panoramic floor to ceiling windows offer a fantastic view of the sea while walking the treadmill in the huge gym, whilst the Terrace Pool can be seen "floating" between two decks. A huge canopy offers shelter of the circular outdoor pool and Jacuzzi and the nearby Terrace Bar offers a choice of liquid refreshments to all guests enjoying the sunshine on the expansive aft sun decks. Most people however will flock to the Riviera Pool that is located amidships on Lido Deck. This is Oceana's "sun bowl", featuring two nicely sized swimming pools plus three Jacuzzis.
Health Centre reception Beauty Salon Gymnasium Pool Deck
Sundaes Ice Cream Bar Pool Deck The Riviera Bar Riviera Pool

An attractive stainless steel sculpture adds a touch of class to the wonderful Pool Deck that would look even better if it had teak flooring. Forward of the Riviera Pool is the -you guessed it- Riviera Bar, while one deck higher, sweeping views and decent grilled dishes can be ordered at the Horizon Grill. Not featured in our quick tour of the ship, but worth mentioning is the uppermost deck with its Pennant Bar (great views!) and Kid's Splash Pool all the way forward with beautiful views of the bow. And one thing that is unique to Oceana and her sisters is the sports area. If you have ever dreamed of a game of basketball or volleyball IN a ship's funnel, don't look any further!  

Terrace Pool Riviera Pool The Plaza The Plaza

Last but not least on this ShipTour is The Plaza, located all the way forward on Lido Deck. This very attractive multi-purpose room houses the ship's buffet restaurant and is completely surrounded by tall windows that offer fabulous views. If the looks of the room look familiar: it is similar to most of the Horizon Court restaurants on the Princess ships. Oceana's The Plaza is open most of the day and night, including buffet breakfasts, luncheons and bistro dinners. 

The Plaza The Plaza The Plaza The Plaza bar

The time has come to say goodbye to Oceana, a wonderful new addition to the P&O fleet. She is a superbly maintained ship that brings palm trees, marble, glitz and glamour to this very traditional cruise line. But to me, Oceana is still Ocean Princess as most areas remain unchanged since the ship was transferred to the P&O fleet. However, this ship and her running mate Adonia are meant to attract Brits that have never cruised on more traditional ships and I am sure Oceana will be very successful in quickly becoming the British "Love Boat"! 

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All photos and text: 2003 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

First published on October 19, 2003 - this revised version published on February 14, 2009

Amenities, decor, charges and services may have changed since this article was written

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