Further – and hopefully FINAL – Update, 22 Aug: I think I’ve now got my head around this. Basically, I’d completely forgotten that we already know all about 2017; this, despite doing a post some months ago analysing Oceana’s planned cruises for that year…. As far as I can see, there was a press conference in Valletta the other day at which the Maltese Minister for Tourism (Edward Zammit Lewis) launched Oceana’s 2017 programme. (Why he would do this in August 2016 I don’t know.) At the end of the reports about his speech, there was a suggestion that Oceana would be home-ported in Valletta in 2018: “We are proud to be the homeport of choice for P&O Oceana throughout seasons 2017 and 2018”. So there we are – 2018 is likely to be a repeat of 2017 for Oceana.

 

Update : Err – this needs some major work, doesn’t it? We already know about Oceana’s 2017 itineraries, don’t we?? I blame the holiday I’ve just had – the shock of some sunshine in England. I’ll go away now and think about it……

Malcolm Oliver has alerted me to this one, and I’ve since seen it confirmed on other sites – e.g. this one. It seems that Oceana is to home port in Malta in 2017 and 2018, offering 7 night itineraries from Valetta.

I can’t yet find any details of those itineraries, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Venice didn’t feature on some of them, and possibly also  destinations in the eastern Mediterranean. I’ll carry on looking and I’ll update this post when/if I learn anything.

Oriana 2016 Refit

By now pretty much everyone will have received their brochure from P&O or read about this online, so I’m a bit late to the party. My excuse is that I’ve been away on holiday all week, at Salcombe which seems to be a place where they haven’t quite got hold of this ‘internet’ thing yet. No wifi in the apartment!?!

But back to Oriana. From what I’ve received and read, it looks as if this is purely a refurbishment and not a reconstruction. The two main restaurants will be completely redecorated, as will other public areas. Cabins and suites will get new furniture and be redecorated, and cabin bathrooms “will undergo repairs and upgrades to bring them up to the standard that our guests deserve”.

There’s no mention of anything else – no more new cabins anywhere, for example, and I know some people were fearful for the future for Oriana’s library. But it seems that there won’t be any new construction or re-purposing activities at all.

We were last on Oriana for the Grand Event (2012?) and I have to say she did look a bit tired in places. I seem to recall that there were some stains in the washbowl in our bathroom, for example, and possibly also in the bath. Not a sign of bad maintenance, I think, just the result of many years of usage of those items.

One other thing – the brochure refers to “leading cruise-industry architects Richmond”. As far as I know the only other cruise ship they’ve done any work on is Britannia. Indeed, the projects section of their website refers to no less than 13 hotels and just the one ship. But we liked Britannia and some of the same for Oriana will be good. Here’s a link to the relevant page on the P&O site.

Oriana 2016 Refit

Oriana is due for a refit this December. This will be between the conclusion of cruise X620 on 25th November (34 nights to the Caribbean and the southern United States) and X623N (a 2-nighter to Zeebrugge) on 16 December. Note that the subsequent cruise is listed with an ‘N’ number, suggesting that it’s a New cruise listing which in turn suggests that the work will take a couple of days or so less than originally expected. I’m not sure I would risk booking X623N, however – in the past cruises have been cancelled when a refit overran, for example this one in 2013.

Those dates leave a gap of around 20 days, which of course has to include getting to and from whichever dockyard has been selected. I assume that it’s either Blohm+Voss in Hamburg or Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven, but I don’t know which one will be doing the work.

More interesting is what the refit will consist of. I asked P&O the other day and I’ve just received this reply:-

Thanks for your request for information regarding our planned refit of Oriana later this year. Whilst there is an immense amount of planning and excitement going on behind the scenes, at this stage we’re not in a position to share information relating to the extent of the refit.  We will be releasing further details in the coming weeks.

So not especially helpful but as they’re saying, ‘watch this space’. As soon as I have any more information I’ll post it.

Back in January 2015 Fred Olsen’s Boudicca experienced a fire in her engine room. Thankfully no-one, either passengers or crew, was injured or hurt, and the fire was quickly brought under control. However Boudicca suffered some fire and water damage to an engine room, the cruise she was on was cancelled and passengers flown home. I did some posts at the time (you’ll need to scroll down past this new post to read the older ones). I also promised to post a link to the investigation report when it became available. The report was in fact published today.

I’ve had the chance to read through the report at least briefly. There’s a narrative of events in Section 3 that’s detailed and very interesting. Broadly, a fire occurred in an an engine space when a fuel line (actually, a ‘fuel oil pressure gauge supply line’) from a generator to a pressure gauge fractured. The pressure in the line would have been approximately 5 bar, so when it fractured inflammable vapour/liquid quickly filled the space around the generator – the report says “the pressurised fuel occupied the atmosphere surrounding the engine”. This vapour/liquid came in contact with a nearby piece of hot machinery (a turbo charger) which was hot enough to ignite it, and the fire resulted.

The report says that the alarm sounded quickly, and the engineering crew responded quickly and professionally. Appropriate actions were taken from the very first knowledge of the fire. Firefighting crews were assembled, and the fire was extinguished in just over an hour. The report makes it clear that at all times it was confined to the engine room space in which it had started; it never spread to any other spaces or areas.

The report investigates reasons why the supply line  fractured, but is unable to state any obvious or conclusive cause. It concludes that the steel fuel oil pressure gauge supply line (the line that fractured) “may have suffered from fatigue failure through engine-generated vibrations causing the steel pipe to work-harden resulting in the supply line becoming brittle and therefore more susceptible to fracture…”. My (non-technical) interpretation is that they’re saying “probably, after a lot of use it just broke”.

Of particular interest at the time was that the Captain did not summon passengers to emergency stations. There were early public announcements of a “Code Bravo” nature, and subsequently the Captain addressed the passengers and crew members directly once he had assessed the situation. The report quotes him as saying (to the investigation, I presume) “the affected area was completely isolated and I evaluated the situation again, I found it to be in a secured and safe state and I decided thatthere was no need for escalating the emergency“. Then the report continues ‘he announced to the guests and crew members “we have a situation in the engine room and all is under control, so you can all relax and I will keep you updated as we progress this incident” ‘. As far as I can see the report makes no comment on these remarks, nor on the Captain’s decision to not bring the ship’s passengers and company to muster stations.

Finally the report says (paragraph 5.4) “The initial reaction by the crew in establishing a timely emergency response should be commended. The instinct and professionalism exhibited by the crew was instrumental to the successful outcome and proved effective in containing the spread and extinguishing the fire without casualties.”

The report is an interesting read. You can find it, and download it, here.

Our new summer 2018 collection is coming soon

I’m surprised to see (on the P&O website) that what they describe as their ‘New Summer 2018 Collection’ will be on sale as early as this September. The P&O website is promising ‘a glimpse of summer 2018’ ‘coming soon’. Would-be passengers will be able to register their interest in cruises from 5 September, and the cruises will be bookable from September – from the 15th to 18th for top tier Peninsular Club members, and from the 19th for general bookings. I think therefore that this must mean that the details will be available sometime in August.

Usually, of course, the itineraries for a year aren’t released until the spring of the year before; so this spring, 2016, was when we found out about the itineraries for 2017. I wasn’t expecting summer 2018 itineraries and details until next spring, March or April 2017. But here they are (or will be, soon).

This is a major break with tradition, although I have feeling that some other lines (Celebrity?) have pushed out their booking horizons in the last year or so. I’m puzzled as to why this is happening. Could sales for this year and next be weak, and this is an attempt to bring in some more bookings to make the figures look good for Carnival Corp HQ in Miami? Or does it perhaps reflect a move away from the hard-copy brochure era? I can imagine that producing rafts of physical brochures must have been a major task and must also have had a big role in determining the announcement dates, whereas a website can be updated (and entries edited) very easily. It’s already been the case for several years that the brochures haven’t carried prices, it’s been necessary to refer to a website for them. (Which has also made the task of tracking price changes much harder.) It might also be that, rather like the airlines, details for cruises might be released in smaller batches than before, perhaps just four to six months’ worth at a time. The traditional brochures generally covered a full year, of course.

It will be interesting to see if there is a real brochure to support this ‘glimpse of summer 2018’.

Celebrity Cruises have withdrawn Celebrity Equinox from Europe for 2017. The ship was due to do a season of cruises in the Mediterranean during next summer, but plans have changed and she will instead be based in Miami and will do Caribbean cruises. Indeed, Celebrity Equinox will be based in Miami all year round, and as a result Celebrity Cruises will be offering their first year-round programme of Caribbean cruises. In previous years they have offered Caribbean cruises in the winter, but have generally dispersed their ships to other areas (northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Alaska) for the summer. Here’s a link to a news page about the change to Celebrity Equinox’s programme on the Celebrity Cruises web site.

Celebrity are explaining this as a positive response to many requests from their customers for year-round cruises in the Caribean. However, many commentators are suggesting that the ongoing turmoil in Europe, with terrorist attacks occurring in many countries, is a major contributory factor. The recent attacks and ongoing uncertainty in Turkey may be especially relevant, and it is believed that bookings from US passengers both for this summer and next are lower than expected. The redeployment of Celebrity Equinox to the Caribbean for next year will reduce Celebrity Cruise’s risk of over-capacity in the region.

I haven’t seen anything as to what is being done for passengers who had already booked a cruise on Celebrity Equinox’s previously announced Mediterranean itineraries. (We had looked at them, in fact, before choosing Norway and Iceland with P&O). But I expect any such passengers – and there won’t be many – will have been made a generous offer.

(In fact, does anyone have any information about that?)

we have not yet made the full announcement, and we do not have a time scale for doing so at the current time

Just over a month ago I posted about an email I’d received from Fred. Olsen’s marketing department. It read:-

Hi All,

We just wanted to share with you the exciting news that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is making a significant investment across its fleet and moving in a different direction…

More details to follow on Monday 13th June 2016, so save a space!

Then on 13 June (which was supposed to be the big day) I received another email:

Thanks for all your interest in our ‘new investment’ e-mail last Friday.

Unfortunately, we are just finalising some last-minute details and will have to keep you in suspense a little while longer…

Apologies for the delay and any inconvenience caused, but rest assured that you will be the first to hear when we are in a position to make the full announcement.

Today I decided to follow this up and asked them if an announcement had ever been made, and pretty much immediately I received this reply:

No, we have not yet made the full announcement, and we do not have a time scale for doing so at the current time.

So it looks to me as if something major has gone wrong somewhere. Here’s a link to my original post on this topic. What’s also interesting is that I can’t find any rumours as to what the announcement might have been about. The Fred Olsen forum on Cruise Critic is completely silent about it, for example, and I can’t see anything on Facebook. That said, someone (Malcolm Oliver?) pointed out that their latest long-term brochure contains details of future itineraries for Black Watch, Braemar and Balmoral but not for Boudicca. Could the announcement have been about a replacement?

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