Cruise on the Oriana by P&O
Oriana Farewell cruise in July 2019, the photos can be found in the album.
I went on one of the last cruises that the Oriana did before being sold to Chinese owners!
Another early morning in Belgium, I left home around the same time that I usually would for a morning shift at work, only this time I drove all the way to Calais with 2 cats and 1 dog from Egypt, luckily the animals did behave and the drive was without trouble, I checked in the animals and myself at Calais and because I was very early they let me board an earlier ferry so instead of Spirit of France I actually boarded the Pride of Kent of P&O ferries. Onboard I experienced the usual service I ‘m used to from P&O and the animals were secured in my car for the entire crossing, seas were calm but rainy and the outside decks were closed for public which was a bit annoying I must admit. Once in Dover I left the ship and immediately continued to Winchester via the M25, a notorious highway in England and although I did experience some traffic jams, it wasn’t that bad for a weekday during rush hour. By 11.30 I had delivered the animals to their new owners and checked into my hotel, the Winchester Mercure hotel and once I was in my room I really needed a nap!
After freshening up I went out to explore Winchester, a small town with a big name and history, the town is best known for being the origin of the Winchester rifle, but the main landmark is Winchester Cathedral! I was lucky enough that the grey weather moved away and made some room for sunny skies and by late afternoon the warm evening sun was shining in the right direction, so I launched my drone for some aerial shots of the Cathedral. The town offers a lot of choice for lunch and dinner and I decided to have a pizza in a local small restaurant before going back to my hotel for the night.
This morning I tried to get up early but lost a bit of time due to my long drive yesterday, I managed to get ready in time for breakfast at the hotel though. Short review of the hotel? OK, so I arrived around 11.30 at the Mercure hotel Winchester and you know what they say about hotels, it’s all about location, location, location! On location this hotel scores a full 10 out of 10 as it’s right next to Winchester Cathedral and the town itself, a problem in this kind of location is parking your car! I knew I had to pay extra for parking but 12 GBP is a bit on the high side I think, the staff were friendly and at first glance the hotel is less than impressive on the outside, probably a 1970’s square building with no exterior decoration at all, pretty boring. Inside the lobby you can see it is clean, tasteful decoration and traditional interiors are basically the norm in this hotel, it seems to be clean and well maintained, but the attention is in the details … and this is where this hotel fails a bit, there’s no aircon in the rooms, instead you get a classic fan, some carpets are taped down instead of fixed, small damages are not properly repaired. Breakfast is good and the staff is friendly but here as well, some things are missing, I actually asked for milk and the serving lady told me it was in the large steel cans in the middle of the coffee table, there was no label or indication though. These are the details that I wouldn’t expect in a Mercure hotel and the one thing I missed was a bit of extra service for privilege members like me.
I left Winchester to drive to Portsmouth so I could pick up Louy and we went straight to Cobwebs for possible interesting historic ship items but ended up buying nothing this time. After a quick stop to get some cash we went to the Mayflower cruise terminal and found out that I could deliver the car in front of the terminal and the valet service drivers would park it at a secure location until the end of the cruise, nice service I must say!
Once onboard we arranged our baggage and went out to explore the ship and grab some lunch on the way, we learned that the ship was going to stay overnight in Southampton due to technical issues and later in the afternoon the announcement came that we would leave port at 09.30 the next morning, this had an added advantage as there were 3 more P&O ships coming in the next morning so we relaxed and continued to explore the ship until it was time for dinner. After dinner we settled in for the rest of the cruise and of course that means … cocktails in the bar until bedtime!
I woke up early at 05.00 and by 05.30 I was outside on deck to take some photos of the Azura sailing past us to her berth. I went back to bed until breakfast time. Once we were leaving port I had a great view on all ships in and around the port of Southampton. Before us now was an open sea as we sailed our way over towards the French coast.
Because the weather was better than expected and I had plenty of time, I decided the best way to relax was … jacuzzi time!
By late afternoon we were approaching Guernsey and once the Ventura had left her anchorage we were able to anchor close to St. Peter port, by now the Columbus had already left her anchorage as well and we settled in for the night at anchor. Today was also Black Tie night so everyone dressed up for the occasion and it promised to be a long evening!
Rise and shine! Today we were still at anchor in Guernsey and after a good night sleep I woke up a bit later and went to breakfast by 09.00 in the Conservatory. The brand new cruise ship Spirit of Discovery was anchored next to us, creating an ironic scene as this was the first time the Spirit of Discovery would visit Guernsey and the last time the Oriana would be here … pretty sad feeling that this ship is going! By 11.00 I was stepping on a tender to shore at St. Peter Port in Guernsey.
St. Peter Port in Guernsey is a small town but still the biggest community in Guernsey, the Castle Cornet is the main attraction in port and from the pier with the lighthouse you have a great view on anything anchored or moving in or out of the port, since the weather was so good and there was hardly any wind, I was able to launch the drone for some fantastic shots from the air. After a walk around a nice little flea market near the marina and a stroll through town, I decided to go back to the ship for tea and some light late lunch, the trip to the ship also provided me with the best views on both ships anchored off Guernsey.
By now the sun was still shining high in the sky and I had plenty of time left before dinner so I got ready and went in the jacuzzi for while. On the last night on Oriana I had dinner in the Peninsular Restaurant and at the end of dinner everyone got a copy of all the menu’s from this cruise as a souvenir. Of course the evening wasn’t over yet and we ended up in the Crow’s Nest for cocktails and chat until late.
Early morning in Southampton, the ship had already docked by the time I woke up and the weather was grey but dry, the Spirit of Discovery was also docked in Southampton but the view was blocked by some car carriers. We left the ship and went to collect my car keys so we could get back to Southsea where I dropped Louy. My next destination was … Brighton!
By the time I arrived in my hotel in Brighton the weather had cleared and I parked the car at the hotel for the rest of my stay. I went out to explore Brighton, especially the area around the Royal Pavilion where you can walk around this odd palace that was built for Queen Victoria, I found a nice place to have pancakes for lunch nearby.
I went back to the hotel to check in and freshen up a bit, I organised my baggage for the night and downloaded my photos. By the evening I was getting hungry so I went out again to get some good shots at the beach and the Palace Pier, I had dinner near Palace Pier and then went to have some fun on the pier, got a small gadget too … lol!
The evening turned out to be a photographer’s dream and I spent a lot of time taking long exposure shots. When the sky was too dark I went back to my hotel for the night.
Last day of the trip! Breakfast in the hotel was a good start of the day and because I had promised some people to take a few things from the UK, I went to the nearest Tesco supermarket for some shopping!
Another short hotel review? The staff overall was friendly but I didn't like the fact that I couldn't check in before 14.00, in most hotels they let you check in but tell you what time the room will be ready. Secondly, when I could finally check in, they asked me to pay my rate with a card that I had with me even though it was already paid for with another credit card, strange to say the least! Parking was 18 GBP and there is plenty of space available in front or behind the hotel. Breakfast again was very good and service overall was good. I had a privilege room again and noticed that the room was very well decorated, spacious bathroom, automatic aircon and TV. The exterior and interior of this hotel are both elegant classic, the main lobby is very impressive. Small downside was that the lift didn't work as it should have and this was indicated clearly as well, but since my room was only 2 floors up, I just used the stairs. Overall this hotel is recommended!
Once that was done I turned West to stop at Shoreham port where a small lighthouse and beach are perfect to lose a bit of time before I would start my drive back to Dover. By late afternoon I arrived in Dover and decided to go to Cullins Yard for a good meal before boarding the ferry. I arrived early at Dover ferry terminal and the lady at check-in was kind enough to let me on an earlier ferry that I had booked, so I found myself on the Spirit of France 18.45 sailing from Dover to Calais. When I arrived in Calais I drove straight home.