Piano Land [ex-Oriana (II)], Ventura & Aurora
The 16th August 2019 was a very sad day as we said goodbye to Oriana after 24 years as a P&O ship.  She had returned on the 9th from her apparently underwhelming farewell cruise and moved from 106 to 104 to be destored.  She officially became Piano Land on the 13th, temporary name added two days later.  Her pre-Carnival P&O sister Aurora was docked two berths behind and the Golden Cockerel was handed over, marking that Aurora now being the fastest in the fleet.  But how long would she hold it?  Certainly not the almost 22 years Oriana had since taking it from Canberra when she retired, whether Oriana's new Chinese owners buy her or not.

Her departure date kept changing from 9th at 2359 to 16th at 2359, 15th at noon, 16th at noon, 15th at 4pm, 16th at 9am and finally 16th at 8.30am.  Phew!  It was hard to keep up!  Due to the ever-earlier times, it meant many were now unable to come and see her off as they had work commitments or lived too far away.  This day originally had the last two pre-Carnival built P&O ships scheduled to be in together.  It was always wonderful to see them.  If they had kept the 2359, it would have meant Aurora would give her sister a decent send off.  Instead it was lacklustre.  Ventura had arrived first before 3am with Aurora at the usual time.

My friend David Trevor-Jones had kept this day clear and drove down to say goodbye, picking me up en route.  We began at Cracknore, her ropes beginning to go at 8.35am with just 377 crew aboard and within 10 minutes, she was moving away from her home for the past 24 years.  Now it was real.  Aurora said her goodbye.  Ventura did too, but we were back at the car by then preparing to chase her to Calshot.  A few were out despite the wind.  Typically, idiot yacht owners kept getting in her shipping lane so she blew her horn a lot at them.

And so she got further and further away, dropping her Southampton pilot for the last time at 10.43am and headed to Piraeus, where she was due to arrive on the 23rd.  The beginning of an end of an era with just Aurora left as a true ship designed and built for the British market.  Goodbye beautiful Oriana.  You were a worthy successor to Canberra and will be missed by all who sailed on you or just adored you from afar.  The review of my final cruise on her can be found here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 16th August 2019
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