Oceana (II) - Weekender
With the lure of the maiden voyage for Ventura, P&O's new Grand class Princess on the 18th April 2008, Pam and I decided to book the weekender on Oceana departing the same day when they went on sale on the 2nd May 2007.  We decided on cabin balcony L351 so would have a perfect view of Ventura passing!  Pam didn't believe me Ventura would go first but maidens always do.  At least I'm hoping so for Independence of the Seas!  The QE2 was also due in that day, returning at the end of her world cruise, although at the time of booking we had no idea it would be her last one.  Originally due to have a refit in Bremerhaven as usual, the latter half was cancelled and a new cruise added in August.  We had no idea what would happen but speculated she could be staying put for a wet dock in Southampton.  I was very curious about Oceana even though Pam wasn't really keen on the Sun class Princess ships.  While waiting down the marina for Freedom of the Seas two years earlier I was shown some photos which sparked my interest.  The balance was paid on the 22nd February and, unlike American passengers, the fuel supplement wasn't added surruptiously to ours.  Phew!

The day arrived.  
Ventura was already in port, having been there since the 13th and was named on the 16th by Dame Helen Mirren using partially pre-recorded video of the Royal Marines smashing the bottles perfectly when one didn't.  The QE2 was due in for 7am, Oceana an hour later.  I got up to see them return.
Oceana had returned from refit on the 10th, her first cruise on the 11th.  The Portunus magazine noted the changes including Slumberland mattresses.  The weather was not exactly wonderful for setting sail. It was mainly misty but had rained before I'd left the house.  The 10.15am bus didn't even turn up and we're guessing the one which did at 10.50am was the one due fifteen minutes earlier.  It was so packed there was barely even standing room.  Despite the cold and wind I decided to stay outside on the ferry as I wanted to see Lizzie's waterline.  It had been in such a shocking state when she was in Los Angeles just nineteen days before and some people said it was looking fine when she was in New York on the 12th.  I doubted that as they'd hardly spend money when she had an imminent wet dock.  The water was quite choppy making it difficult to take photos so I did the best I could.  At least it wasn't raining!
My dad kept me company at the cafe on Town Quay as we waited for Pam.  I'd hurt my back so he was helping me with my case.  When Pam arrived, having been stuck in traffic, it was raining.  We put the case in the boot then went to get a couple of photos of the two P&O Princesses before heading off to the City Terminal.  We had been given free parking yet in April when no letter arrived with a code for Artemis, I was told they don't have it for short cruises.  What was that then????
Unusually both lots of passengers had to go towards City for parking but thankfully the porterage was better organised than September.  This time you had to go a little past the entrance rather than the entire length of the terminal.  They had alway provided labels - woo!  Wonders will never cease!  Why couldn't they have done that all along?  Makes life so much easier when you're like me and don't want to lug it around while waiting to get into my cabin.  You carry enough on and off as it is.
We did endure a bit of a farce.  The queue for security was extremely long and slow.  It didn't help having only two scanners in use.  At least the check-in was easier.  About half the desks were open but it was a fairly fast procedure.  The photographers, rather than being just past the departures door, were further along as we walked to the dock and up the old gangway to board our ship.
After lunch in The Plaza, we went to find our cabin.  It was about the size of the one Rowan and I had on Aurora and slightly bigger than the one Pam and I did on Oriana.  One UK and one US socket which was a bit disappointing.  The hairdryer didn't work, there wasn't much drawer space and the bathroom was a cupboard!  Still we had one of the best views a ship lover could wish for!  Our steward Mathais introduced himself when he brought the cases.  He reminded me of Macedonio on Aurora with his helpfulness.
We decided to go and explore.  It was handy the door to the Lido Deck was close to our cabin so no long corridors to walk along to get outside.  There was a builder's plaque below the funnel which was surprisingly easy to find.
While Pam was taking millions of photos of whatever after we'd watched the flags being taken down, I wandered up to the sports deck and found two crew members enjoying themselves with the equipment.
Pam had vanished, last seen heading towards the sports deck so I went looking for her and found her rather interested in the inside of the funnel.  She told me the door wasn't locked.  She discovered it when she rested her camera on the latch to take a picture and the door opened.
I loved all the space forward to watch as the ship sails and wished more were like that and without that damn glass.  Glass is crap for photos, ship designers.  Remove it!  From there you could see the new Carnival UK building in the process of being built which was due to open in 2009.
Lifeboat drill had been 4.30pm instead in 4.15pm due to not everyone being onboard.  Our muster station was the Yacht & Compass and the corridor outside Footlights.  They didn't half drone on.  It's boring enough as it is and everyone who's a repeat passenger shouldn't have to do it.  This time it was more boring than normal and we couldn't wait to get out of there.  I dashed up the stairs as soon as it finished, wanting to get on deck as soon as, little realising I'd left Pam in my wake.  I hung around in the cabin for a bit and as I opened the door she was on the other side with Mathais who was about to let her in. We already knew Ventura had spoiled the party and now wasn't going until 8.10pm so we would leave first after all.  There was a crowd at Mayflower Park for Ventura so they clearly had no idea about the delay.  We bought our sailaway bubbly and went up on deck.  I do like the band playing on the quayside, even if the music isn't to my taste.  It's still a wonderful way to sail away and wish more did it.  We gave three long blasts and two short as we pulled away from the dock.
As we neared Lizzie I heard some people say she was sailing after us.  They also wondered why Ventura hadn't moved so I explained.  Lizzie gave three long and two short blasts to us an we gave three long back.  Lizzie then did three short while we replied with two.  I'd given Amy a quick call as I thought she'd like to hear it but all she caught were Oceana's last couple.  It was ironic this was the second consecutive cruise I would pass Lizzie only unlike Vision of the Seas where it was planned, this was an unexpected bonus.  As soon as Ventura left they would move her to 105 so we wouldn't pass her coming back.
We dropped our pilot a long time before we'd reached the Nab tower.  Visibility was so poor we didn't even try and look to see anything out there.
Having begun to settle in we also started to notice how some aspects of the ship were still shabby despite undergoing refit.  The door handle below was on our cupboard - I mean bathroom and was just as bad the other side.  You would think they'd have all been replaced.
When we'd booked, Pam wanted Freedom Dining, P&O's version of NCL's Freestyle which she was a big fan of.  We were assigned the Ligurian Restaurant on Deck Five.  Freedom Dining was not very well organised.  They just used the main restaurants and have people turn up.  We were put on a table with six others who were travelling together and really had no time for us.  They'd left after coffee so we had their after dinner chocolates.  There was a hen party in a corner with a blow-up doll they were waving about.  The waiters were nice though for all that we may as well have just booked Club Dining. We didn't have to wait too long to be seated but it was badly organised.  We went shopping afterwards.  Very disappointed to find just one postcard of the ship which was different to that in the cabin.  They did have a Vigo one featuring half the ship, a HAL (now Thomson) and Golden Princess.  The shop girl was called Patricia and from Cape Town.  We had a long chat with her as it was quiet and she was looking forward to the Canaries trip afterwards, especially visiting Tenerife and had a book about the island.  We went to the other souvenir shop (I do wish things would be in one place) and chatted to that girl too.  We're right gasbags!  Next was the photo shop.  They had an offer to buy a 6"x8" Oceana album for £2 with the boarding photo.  Pam wanted that for £2 but didn't have a boarding photo.  As we wandered around I found one with Artemis on so picked that up to save me buying one later.  Pam asked what she had to buy to get the album for £2.  The bloke offered to take her picture and she refused. I couldn't find the albums holding 200 pictures so asked if they had any.  As he went to look, Pam said she didn't like him because he wouldn't let her have the album.  I thought he was very nice and funny and one of the best photo shop people I've come across.  He found one when I wanted three so he told me to go back the next day.  Then he asked if I was buying the other for her.  He let me have it for £2 so she liked him after that.  We took our shopping to Tiffany's and had a drink.  There was a pianist being mainly ignored so I politely clapped whenever necessary so he didn't feel his efforts were wasted.  He received the most applause when he'd finished and left.  We saw the crew wrapped up out on the Promenade Deck.  We thought one was throwing salt but as the other was washing the decks it must have been soap flakes.
Time for bed and the weather still was no better.  We looked at Saturday's Horizon and couldn't believe they were just photocopies.  How cheap are they?  We were up by 7am and approaching Zeebrugge.  It was fairly misty and cold.
Perhaps the below is how they tangled the QE2 and Aurora's ropes back in December.  Two men handling the ropes but are far too lazy to actually carry them so tied the line to the vehicle.  I had a chuckle as it was like watching an enormous snake creep over the dock then slither along.
We went for breakfast at the Plaza and sat forward.  After the excellent bow view on Vision of the Seas, I was disappointed to see the observation area.
After breakfast it was time to explore the ship.  We began on Deck Five but ended up following the stairs down to four where the medical centre was open.  They also have some port plaques along the stairway.  Then we worked our way up to the top.


© Patricia Dempsey 18th-20th April 2008
Not to be reproduced without permission