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GiGi

Back from our first cruise

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So it's done and dusted, our first cruise and we're back safe and sound. Norway and the northern lights has been done.

I won't do war and peace but I'll cover things that new cruisers may find helpful.

Our experience of the Mayflower terminal was fine from arriving to being in our cabin took forty five minutes. We were surprised that the terminal check in desk was like a hotel check in, this is where you pre authorise you credit card for your on board spending and have your picture taken for your cruise card security pass.

Our balcony cabin was smaller than we expected, nothing wrong with it but it was just a first impression thing we had. One thing for sure is we would have not wanted to do the trip without a balcony.

We were midship and even though the North Sea was unusually calm you could feel a bit of a rock. One thing that was annoying was when we set off from our first stop the room devolved a squeak, like chipmunks in the ceiling. Our neighbors got the handyman out but there was nothing he could do it was just the ship moving.

One thing I should have mentioned was our sail away party from Southampton, there wasn't one as due to a software fault on an engine were were stuck there till eleven o'clock at night. This had an impact on our first port of call and some of the excursions were cancelled as we were later arriving.

On the subject of excursions; the fjord trip at Stavanger was very enjoyable but get wrapped up. The husky sledge trip in Tromso that was at a time when it had gone dark was brilliant. When that was the only time left to book I was unsure but it was very atmospheric and we loved every minute. We also got to cuddle puppies!

Seating for northern lights in Alta, well it's the luck on the day. I booked the first of the two nights we were there and at about half past eleven the lights came out big time for over an hour, it was amazing, it was what we came for so we were very happy. On the second night there was thick cloud and there was no chance of seeing a thing, disappointing when you had paid for the trip but there is nothing you can do, it's the weather.

I will take this moment to have a rant at silly people. It was minus 15 Degrees out there (and that was good) P&O sent out a letter warning you so we went prepared with proper Arctic gear. We stood over three hours in those temperatures and was perfectly fine. People were going out there in just jeans, normal shoes/boots and thinking a jumper, knitted hat and fashion padded jacket would be sufficient, it isn't. The organisers told people the coaches would take people back to the ship at any time and to say when we first got there there was loads of people, when the lights came out we looked around and the numbers had thinned out considerably. We spoke to people who said they ditched it after an hour because of the cold...what can I say.

Onto food. The buffet is capable of making decent food, being able to get seated to eat it is another thing, it's carnage. The freedom dining worked fine. If you want a table for two at dinner they give you a pager and you go off and get a drink any other meal time you have to wait in a little seated area. The quality of the food on the whole was fine. Some dishes were lovely but some fell short. They do well to say how many they cater for. We did not experience our food being cold as some have commented on previously. The Sindhu restaurant was very nice but not worth £15 a head supplement. Our meal at the Beach House was the best. We did choose the most expensive things but the fillet steak and the lobster were lovely, the bit of supliment for the dishes and the £5 cover charge was worth it.

The daytime entertainment was a bit disappointing. There was a bit of dancing and a couple of decent films and quizzes but unless you're into bridge, deck games, yoga etc it was limited. We spoke with some frequent cruisers who said it was poor. The evening shows from the Headliners troop to comics and singers were very entertaining, better than we expected.

Niggles and annoyances; the engines failing in Southampton, the lifts being constantly under repair, having no toilet or water facilities for four hours in Flam ( except for public toilets on three decks) and as we were having dinner sailing out of Flam all the lights went out the engines stopped and we were told the power had failed and we were adrift in the fjord but not to worry as it was a very deep fjord! Luckily half an hour later it was sorted but it was a little disconcerting.

Although they are very good at making people use the hand sanitizer it doesn't stop everything. With four days to go we started with an horrendous sore throat and cough and for me was topped off with conjunctivitis, the doctor said the ship was full of flu and I was third person that day with conjunctivitis . Everywhere people were coughing and hacking and now we're home were both on antibiotics and I've gone deaf and have no voice. We both feel really quite ill with it to be honest.

So, the bottom line, did we enjoy it and would we do it again? Well, we not desperate to go on a ship just for the sake of it. We enjoyed the excursions and achieved one of our bucket list items to see the lights. We enjoyed the first week of evenings on board and found the price of drinks acceptable at times cheaper than in restaurants at home. If we saw an itinerary that really took our fancy then yes we would cruise again but probably not on the Oriana!

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Good detailed review Gigi.

Ships have to flex with the varying weather conditions, and there will be some parts of the ship where it will be more noticeable.

Noise may be annoying, but the biggest worry about being in an area of maximum flexing is burst water pipes.

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We were very lucky. The skies were crystal clear and we did have about an hour and a half wait for them to show up but when they did it was amazing. It started off with the lights appearing here and there but after a while you didn't know where to look, it was the lights version of a firework display! All you could hear was people going Ooooooh, wow, ahhhhhhhhh!

The guide told us folk tales from various inhabitants of that part of the world and it's easy to believe how they thought they were spirits. To see huge shards of light swirling and flickering makes you stand in awesome wonder.

If the lights are on your list you've got to give it a try.

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Great review GiGi, glad you saw the lights as especially standing out in the cold you deserve to see them, I know what you mean about silly people, even though they give plenty of advice some people go for style over substance and then moan.

Good point OWT  I would echo that as they also give you more of a feel for traditional Norway life in the smaller lesser known ports

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Great review GiGi, glad to hear that you got to experience the Northern Lights! Like for many the Northern Lights are on my list and I would more than likely choose to cruise with Hurtigruten for this experience. I've not sailed with this cruise line before, but I do know that they offer their Northern Light Promise on voyages for 12-day voyages between October to February and like Cruise Chef and OWT have pointed out they have a more traditional feel and can sail into the lesser known ports.

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So pleased you enjoyed your first cruise, I love to read reviews by those who basically had no preconceived ideas and enjoy it for what it is, when we did our first cruise there were no forums such as this so we went with a totally open mind and 25 + years later we still enjoy our cruises as much as we did then.

 

It's a shame Oriana had a few problems it has always been one of my favourite P&O ships although it is a number of years since I was last on her.

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It was our first cruise end of Jan 2007 with Hurtigruten for Greigs 100 aniversary concert in Tromso  - food just OK there was supposed to be concerts on the ship only a soloist now and again - We had two days of sun the rest of the time we hardly saw land NO NORTHERN LIGHTS.  30cms OF SNOW OVERNIGHT  and after a 45 min wait and de-icing we took off for Oslo  Glad you were lucky but seeing Norway is a gamble at any time -Only one in three for us.

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Talking of Northern Lights, Old World traveller, we've booked with Hurtigruten for Nov this year. We'd done a cruise to Spirsbergen a few years ago and loved it and we'd always wanted to go back but in the winter months. So after receiving a flyer booked it straight away. It's on a new, well refurbished, ship that is for cruising. Not the usual ferry style cruise that Hurtigruten are known for. Really looking forward to it

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Talking of Northern Lights, Old World traveller, we've booked with Hurtigruten for Nov this year. We'd done a cruise to Spirsbergen a few years ago and loved it and we'd always wanted to go back but in the winter months. So after receiving a flyer booked it straight away. It's on a new, well refurbished, ship that is for cruising. Not the usual ferry style cruise that Hurtigruten are known for. Really looking forward to it

 

Here is a link to a Hurtigruten review that I found.  http://www.yourholidaytv.com/norway/4588193584

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