ORIANA

Yesterday, we had the distinct pleasure of seeing, up close and personal, P&O's majestic Oriana. I was surprised to find out that she is already five years old, as she looks brand new, both inside and out. She's a sparkling white and very British lady with the classic P&O buff stack outside and the cool, sophisticated colors and textures inside. Instead of a general look-around, we were given a complete tour by a very gracious member of the ship's staff, who explained how the ship was arranged and told us about many of the services and amenities. Our tour ended with a cocktail party in the forward lounge and then, on to lunch and a brief look around by ourselves. We all hated to get off at the end of the afternoon and envied the folks boarding for their trip across the pond on this elegant vessel.

As it seems with most all new ships, the Oriana has a center piece atrium complete with the perfunctory multi-deck waterfall, but it's done so well and designed so beautifully, one doesn't draw an immediate parallel to the same thing on other ships who try too hard. The multi-deck lobby area surrounding it is quiet and serene, as are all areas onboard. I can't imagine this lovely ship ever being overwhelmed with people or feeling at all crowded. And with the biggest roomiest elevators I have EVER seen, I'd bet no one gets left behind because they can't squeeze in after dinner on this ship.

The Tiffany-style ceiling tops off a series of leveled areas close to the atrium's circular position. The cool greens and light leather upholstery looks magnificent, not gaudy. Very, very nice. None of the decor screams at the passengers and nothing is in contest for attention on this ship. No neon. No mirrors. No loud colors. No nonsense.

Right off the main atrium area, classical musical concerts are given in the Curzon Room, a lovely place with a central focus area. With such things as table and floor lamps rather than the ubiquitous track lighting or spotlights, this room has an understated elegance. As with all other public areas on this ship, it looked very comfortable; in fact, our guide mentioned that many passengers get so comfortable in their public rooms, they fall asleep in the big cushy chairs. I believe it, too. Close-by is the Crichton Room and the Library, as well as the Thackery writing room. These areas are clustered together as the quiet spots on the ship, without much "passing through" type ship traffic.

There's plenty of spots for entertainment. For movies, there is a medium-sized "Chaplin's" cinema, very comfy and cozy, as well as the Pacific show lounge, where a jazz band was playing that afternoon. Also, a late-night entertainment spot, "Harlequins", would seem to be a must for the ballroom dancers, with a beautiful oval wood inlaid floor.

The Theatre Royal was a spot I was very impressed with. Each seat in this beautiful bright navy and red theatre is individually air-conditioned. I didn't believe it until I sat down and realized that the "climate control" is behind every seat and very effective. The stage is as large as any I've seen on Broadway, and I can only imagine what artistry goes on here for passengers.

If quiet is your thing, "Anderson's" is the place to be. Very formal and lovely, classic materials cover large comfy sofas and club chairs arranged in clusters with accompanying accent tables and lighting. And no canned music playing in the background. One can hear themselves think and pleasant conversations can actually be carried on here, which seems to be a lost art on many favorite American ships nowadays.

We peeked in a few of the passenger cabins onboard and found them to be large and very nicely appointed. Again, as throughout the rest of the ship, an attention to detail was apparent. Cabin amenities included robes, slippers, fresh flowers and fruit, as well as all of the small things one likes to see stocked in their cabin bathrooms when they first board. The verandahs were private and quite large. I keep using the word comfy and it holds true here, as well. I think I'd be very happy with a cabin on the Oriana.

A quick visit to the spa area revealed a spacious exercise and fitness center, as well as plenty of room to just relax and be pampered. Small decorative touches such as a lovely Erte-style fountain right outside the men's and women's changing rooms also provided benches to relax and just take it easy for a minute. Even sweating on this ship is refined. And should you get too much exercise, there's even a chiropodist onboard. I especially liked the two aroma therapy "pods", too. I grew very fond of those on the Norway several years ago.

Lunch provided some interesting British dishes to enjoy such as curried beef and chutney and haddock. The salad bar was fresh and the soups nicely done. Of course, I sampled the desserts, including an eclair and a flan slice. Before our lunch, we had the opportunity to see the Peninsular Restaurant, yet again another room elegantly and comfortably done. One can actually eat in this dining room without being upset by loud, boisterous colors as I was told about on the Carnival Victory a few ships down on Liner Row that afternoon.

The aft pool and sun areas are done in tiers, gently winding their way around the back of the ship, reaching down to hug the pool area. The design here reminded me of the same aft area on the Grand Princess.

The cool colors and light leather upholstery which is predominant here looks magnificent, not gaudy. With tasteful window treatments and such attention to detail, one feels like they're in a British Empire hotel rather than on a ship. Or perhaps on a P&O ship of a few decades ago. This must have been what it was like to sail POSH back then.

The traveler feels immediately at ease and relaxed, with the cool shades and neutrals predominant throughout in the public rooms. I was impressed by the finishing touches all over this ship. Nothing is left undone or looking unfinished. Small touches of small details are taken care of and are noticed, even though they ARE small things. It's this attention to detail that I appreciate. If they do this well, I trust they're doing everything else onboard with the same diligence.

I look forward to sailing on this ship next winter out on the west coast. I think she'll fast become one of my favorites.

September 23, 2000