Oriana (II) - Weekender
Oh how easy to be tempted which doesn't help when you have absolutely no willpower.  In November 2006, while reading about all the changes onboard during the forthcoming Oriana refit where her port of registry would also be Hamilton rather than the traditional London so they could hold weddings as current UK law doesn't allow it, those fluffy duvets were calling to me and the Weekender on the 20th-22nd October 2007 was reasonable, even at single rate.  Well I emailed Pam to tell her and was doing a very good job of resisting until I read her reply in the morning asking if I minded her coming with me. Fatal!  So the original three cruises during the year had grown to six where it would stay until the lure of Norwegian Gem two months later.  Oops!  As Oriana has few balcony cabins we decided not to go mad and booked cabin A169 with a window which suited our budget.  After all, it was the ship we were both more interested in than going to Zeebrugge.  Surprisingly the only P&O ship Pam has sailed on is Arcadia (III), now Ocean Village.  It's a shame really the majority of short trips go to Zeebrugge when there are other ports they could go to.  I'd already been there the previous month on Aurora and have a return visit on QE2 in December, not to mention more in 2008, mainly with Pam.  I would end up knowing the port as well as Southampton at this rate!  The tickets arrived on the 21st September stating elegant casual and formal.  Little alarm bells rang after the Aurora fiasco but at least I knew the drill this time.  there were also no luggage labels again but still the offer of porterage at the terminal if we chose it.

The 20th arrived.  I hadn't actually been excited until I watched
Oriana sail on her three-nighter on the 17th then I did, knowing upon her return it would be my turn.  She was the only one in which was a shame but the summer season was over leaving just QM2 and Oceana (which were due to reposition to the Caribbean that month), Arcadia, departing at the start of November and Navigator of the Seas which would leave us on the 5th, the same day Oriana returns from the cruise after ours.  The weather was quite glorious for October, really sunny and warm as I got the ferry over from Hythe to Town Quay.  There was our ship gleaming in the sun while we had to divert to avoid an MOD police patrol who appeared to be keeping a rather too close eye on us.
Well I arrived but had no idea where Pam and her friend John were until getting a text saying they were in the cafe having coffee which I'd walked right past.  Last I heard they were in Mayflower Park. They can't half move around.  I'd met John a couple of times at the marina.  After about an hour we all went in John's car to try and see the little yacht docked in 46 he had been convinced was Savarona.  I hadn't actually noticed anything there as I'd been on the other side of the ferry.  It was very difficult to see anything but that didn't deter John.  This was a man on more of a mission than me and my fluffy duvets!  I got on the phone to my dad to find out what it was just as John thought it may be Talitha G, owned, apparently, by Paul Getty, and it was.  He pulled into Dock Gate 4 and asked the security guard if there was any chance of getting to to take some pictures.  No.  He said we'd come 500 miles.  No.  This guard was good.  I piped up saying we were going on Oriana so he asked to see the tickets.  Once he had, he told us he'd have to come with us which was fine.  As my case was flat on the back seat, it was propped upright as we drove there.  Pam had left her camera in her car so it was just John and I getting the photos.  Pam stuck her tongue out at me when I returned to the car.  Cheeky cow!  John came back and we drove back the way we'd come, dropping the guard off and John making a donation in the charity box.  I hope if anyone from the port reads this the guard doesn't get into trouble.  We weren't terrorists but ship enthusiasts who, as we were sailing that day from Western Docks, were hardly going to blow anything up which would result in our cruise being cancelled.  We're not stupid.
After taking us back to Town Quay to put my case in Pam's car, we headed off towards Dock Gate 10 and the Mayflower Terminal.  Although we docked here on Aurora, and I've been there for ship visits it would be my first time as a departure point.  And there she was, her fluffy duvets awaiting my presence to test them out!
We had a bit of a panic when, as we were turning into the car park, a security guard flagged us down.  Pam opened the window only to be asked where we wanted him to stand to get a picture in front of the ship!  That made us laugh.
We were glad to be rid of our cases.  There's a lot to be said for it rather than lug them around.  We went to check-in and noticed a few hastily set up computers between the main desks.  There was a bit of a queue but it moved fast.  Then we went through security.  The winding queue to board went towards the departure lounge just to have a boarding photo taken outside then up the escalator.  Pam didn't have hers taken but I always do.  If I only ever buy one photo by the ship's photographer it would be that as it has the name of the ship, ports and dates so is a lovely memento.
Now I have to confess here I've never been that keen on Oriana.  It's not that she replaced by favourite, Canberra, as I was in my lazy years when she arrived so took no notice.  I've just never liked her much unlike Aurora for some reason.  Having done my favourite existing ship which was based on Oriana (who herself was based on Canberra), it would be interesting to compare the two.  We boarded on Formosa Deck (5) and I was already disappointed with her atrium.  Although it has running water spanning several decks like Aurora, it isn't as impressive and, with the stairs in the way, not easy at all to get it in its entirety like her younger sister.  In fact, all my attempts at any from decks came out so bad I had to delete so have none at all.  The one below, taken from Formosa, is the only one I have.
As it was gone 2pm we made our way to Arcadia Deck (11) and straight to the cabin to dump out stuff.  It was boiling hot in the cabin due to the sun streaming through the window.  Times like that you appreciate a balcony!  The cabin itself was really nice.  Larger than A deck on Aurora as there's no balcony.  Only one socket though, with the two-pin in the bathroom cabinet.  Wardrobe space was good apart from the design being rubbish.  Complimentary tea and coffee as well as a bottle of water each in the mini fridge.  We had a bath and shower but the bathroom was slightly more cramped than Aurora.  The cabin TV was better but still no music channels.  Our steward was called Collin who never introduced himself but was very proficient in his work.
We went to lunch at The Conservatory and both had the chicken curry which we discovered had bones in.  Pam had a rather large one which looked like a nice chicken chunk.  We also had our first booze of the day.  Pam had a quarter bottle of white wine while I had a Bacardi Breezer.  No lemon but the apple & raspberry was nice.  Can't get Bacardi Breezers or Smirnoff Ice on Cunard for love nor money.  Too common for them I expect.  After lunch we slowly made our way to the webcam so Amy and my dad could see us.
It was quite sad to see the Bacardi/Martini bottling plant no longer saying Bon Voyage on the back.  They had been removing the letters two weeks earlier after they moved out of Southampton after umpteen years.  Well we stood waving by the webcam and waved, and waved and waved only for it to be playing silly buggers!  We gave up and slowly made our way to the cabin to collect our life jackets for muster.  En route the small container ship Margareta B sailed out towards the Solent with some of the crew shouting, "Hi!" and waving at us.
The above pictures in the Cyb@Study are of Orsova and Canberra.  It actually said Canberra was still sailing on the plaque underneath.  If only!  At five to four we came across the crew taking the flags down so stayed and watched for a while.  It's a pity we had that sports court netting in the way.
The crew went by dragging the bag containing the flags (or dead body as Pam called it) while the one making up the rear tried to avoid being on camera.  I also didn't snog the ship at this point.  Next time I will!
Lifeboat drill was at 4.15pm and our muster station was Anderson's/Monte Carlo Club on the Promenade Deck.  Once that was over for another cruise (no wonder regulars skip it) we dumped the life jackets and went on deck for sailaway.  It had got windier and colder by now.  We both bought a glass of champagne and the Wiltshire Police Band were playing down on the quayside.  As we waited for our 5pm departure the pleasure craft Princess Caroline hovered by our starboard side and the crew came around handing out Union Jacks to wave.
At 5pm Captain Wells came on to tell us we'd be leaving.  Also went on about the flipping England versus South Africa rubgy world cup final being shown in the Pacific Lounge and Lords Tavern.  We found it unbelievable this was the second cruise in a matter of weeks where rugby had taken over.  At three minutes past five we gave three long blasts.  Ooh it was loud!  Pam went to get her thicker coat as it was absolutely freezing.  Once we were in the lane, we gave two more as we headed down towards Mayflower Park.
As we were passing the QEII Terminal, we were taken by surprise when Oriana gave two long, two short and one long blast.  My dad was delighted though as he'd heard nothing of the previous ones from the marina.  We went starboard so John could get photos if us from the pier.  By this time we were both fighting the wind and those Union Jacks were getting pretty battered.
Once we reached the refinery I went in.  Pam had long since disappeared and I found her already defrosting in the cabin so I detangled my hair for the first time that day.
Dinner was at 6.30pm in the Oriental Restaurant on Deck 6.  After the dreadful Aurora experience I went with trepidation but needn't have worried.  Our waiters Leo and Glen were absolutely wonderful. They would come around at the start asking how many rolls you wanted, the water glass was regularly refilled and the next course was served once everyone on the table had finished rather than entire restaurant as it had been on Aurora.  The decor too was fabulous with a warmer, cosier feel than her younger sister.  Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of the Oriental.  There were many balloons attached to tables and the waiters appeared to be singing, Happy Birthday more than serving both nights!  We shared the table with a middle-aged couple from Somerset but didn't get their names.  After dinner we decided to hit the shops!  Boarding photos are a must for me.  If I only ever buy one by the ship photographer it will be that every time as it has the name of the ship, dates and ports.  I got the very last album with the ship name to hold them in but was given no bag to carry them in so I asked for one when I was paying for my goodies in Knightsbridge.  They had a few things not available on Aurora like a
P&O umbrella. The Emporium next door is similar to
Aurora but better laid out so you don't see the sweets as soon as you walk through the door!  There was only one type of postcard of the ship on sale though, which was the same as in the cabin minus white border, whereas Aurora had four.  We chose the right time to shop because with the rugby the public areas were virtually empty.
We decided to go outside for some night shots.  It was even more freezing than before so I was glad I'd taken a jumper and my winter coat.  Unfortunately the funnel wasn't lit and I carefully made my way around the upper decks.
I went back to the cabin to detangle again then headed for the Crow's Nest to meet Pam.  Again it was virtually empty which was nice as you got faster service.  They have a lovely model of the Ranpura behind the bar and must get a lot of enquiries as, after looking at you disdainfully in silence, they hand you a leaflet about the ship.  I decided to try one of their cocktails and cruises are the only time I ever have any and they aren't bad.  There was a singer who mumbled when he spoke and Pam nodded off a few times.  I told her he was boring but she wouldn't have it!
Pam went to bed so I popped out again.  I heard England lost the rugby so I expect there were a lot of passengers drowning their sorrows.  It was still incredibly windy so I didn't venture too far onto the Promenade Deck.
After detangling my hair yet again I decided to sit on that comfy corner sofa and write the postcards.  Pam may have been fast asleep but I had my second wind, probably caused by freezing on deck!  When I did eventually crawl under the fluffy duvet I discovered it wasn't fluffy at all but rustled a lot.  Have they been reported under the Trades Description Act?  The new pillows were a little on the hard side but, despite all that, I had a good night's sleep in-between umpteen Vodafone texts waking me up to tell me to sign up to Passport.  The things these mobile companies do to rake in the profits after the tariffs were capped.

Morning arrived and we were coming into Zeebrugge.  We went to breakfast in The Conservatory.  I had a cooked breakfast and the scrambled egg was a little on the runny side.  Fried bread though - yummy!  Haven't had that for years.  VERY unhealthy but VERY delicious.  Pam, who has fruit, even got tempted so got herself a slice.  We were due to dock at 8am but actually did about ten minutes early. Pam had arranged for us to meet up with her friend Johan and his wife Agnes who live in Antwerp at 10.30am so before that we explored our transport on this expensive ferry trip, as Pam's husband calls these short trips.

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© Patricia Dempsey 20th-22nd October 2007
Not to be reproduced without permission