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I mentioned in a recent post that I’d been informed of a change to our itinerary. We’ll be going to Zadar, in Coatia, instead of Ravenna in Italy, and I was disappointed because I had been looking forward to seeing the mosaics in Ravenna.

Just to rub salt into the wound, I received our “Your Holiday Information” booklet from P&O over the weekend, and that of course includes a page for “Your Holiday Itinerary”. And there it still is, in black and white – ‘Ravenna’. Gnash, gnash….

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P&O Drinks Package

P&O are apparently going to trial a range of drinks packages on Azura. It will commence 21 July. There will be a range of packages – hot drinks, non-alcoholic, and children’s – but the headline package is the Ultimate Drinks Package.

The principal features of this are:

  • It will cost £39.95 per person per day;
  • All adults in a cabin must each buy it, and it must be for all days in the cruise. Well, that’s not quite true – you can buy it on board up until midnight of the second night of the cruise. Also, it will only apply to cruises of five nights or more;
  • It only applies to drinks up to a value of £6.95 – drinks over that value must be paid for, but package holders will get a 20% discount on them;
  • There’s a maximum of 15 drinks per day on the package;
  • And there has to be a 15-minute break between orders.

(There are some other restrictions, but those are the main ones.)

So this is a typical drinks package, as enjoyed by passengers on a number of cruise lines. I know some people enjoy them, but I’ve always had my doubts. £80-worth of alcohol a day, every day, is way too much for us – in fact, it could be more than £80, of course, if you actually had 15 drinks each in a day. (How you’d have anything the day after, beats me… actually, whether you’d be alive the day after is the real question!) We simply don’t drink that much – on occasion we’ve splashed out on an expensive bottle of wine, but that’s just one bottle. And we also like to have some sober days during a cruise, especially a 14 nighters or longer. So not for us, I think.

And I’ve started to have stray thoughts about how it would work in practice. Unfortunately it doesn’t include bottles of wine, just glasses, which means that wines that are only available by the bottle aren’t included – that’s a real blow to us. Although there’s always the Glass House….. Then there’s the weird interaction of the price ceiling and the 20% reduction for drinks costing more than that – if you buy a glass of wine at, say, £8.00 it’s not included in the package; but the actual price you’d pay would be £8.00 minus 20%, which would bring the price down to £6.40 – which is within the package price limit! Then there’s differently-sized wine servings – 175ml might be under the limit but 250ml might be over – so you just keep buying 175ml glasses. And finally, how will they handle a G&T? will that be one drink, or two? At the moment you do see two entries on your receipt slip.

Val says I’m over-thinking this, and she may be right.

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I did a post over a year ago about the issues that arose when we tried to book our next cruise (that’s this year’s). Eventually everything came together, and all seemed OK. But today I’ve received a bit of blow.

About a month ago we went through the excursions and booked three – one each for our calls at Ravenna, Split and Dubrovnik. (We’ll do our own thing at Venice.) For Ravenna I booked the “Ravenna Mosaics” tour – I’m especially interested in the period of history known as Late Antiquity, and Ravenna, by a series of historical accidents, has a number of buildings and interiors that date from that period. In fact, the inclusion of Ravenna in the itinerary was a big influence in the choice of that specific cruise.

Today I received an email from P&O informing me that the excursion had been cancelled and that I would get the relevant refund. I spoke to P&O to enquire as to the reason for the cancellation and quickly discovered that it wasn’t just the excursion that had been cancelled, it was the call at Ravenna that had been cancelled – due to “Tidal Conditions” in the port that day. We’ll be calling at Zadar instead.

Well, I’m sure that Zadar is attractive and pretty, and also that when the day arises I’ll enjoy the visit, but I’m still going to miss the mosaics.

Ah well, never mind. But it brings back the old advice: if you really, really want to visit somewhere, don’t rely on a cruise to do so – make it a special trip instead.

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I contacted Carnival U.K. this afternoon to ask if there was a response to yesterday’s events in Marseilles. I received the following statement from a Carnival U.K. spokesperson:

“The Carnival group carries nearly 11.5 million guests on its vessels each year and takes its legal and moral obligations towards the protection of the environment very seriously indeed. We were disappointed to be prosecuted for this offence, as we believe we and our Captain were acting in accordance with applicable French law based on guidance the cruise industry received from the French Environment Ministry. As such, we are confident that the court will fully exonerate us.”

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I did a post a couple of days ago about a trial to be held in Marseilles today (9 July 2018) of the Captain of Azura for a breach of the environmental regulations regarding sulphur pollution on March 29 in Marseilles.

I’ve been scouring the internet for updates, and I’ve learned that the case has been deferred until 9 October. I’m reading documents that have been through Google Translation so I can’t be 100% sure of what I’m reading, but this is what I think I’ve discovered:-

  • this is definitely a criminal case (previously I wasn’t certain that it wasn’t a civil case);
  • the maximum penalties are 1 year in prison and a €200,000 fine. I wasn’t sure if these were alternatives (“or”), but they can both be applied;
  • there’s a suggestion that the Captain didn’t appear today – instead, Carnival’s lawyers (Mes. Bertrand Coste and Patrick Simon) appeared before the court and made arguments and presentations;
  • and I gather that Carnival Corporation – presumably in the guise of its French subsidiary – are also joined to the action. This is new – previously only the Captain was indicted.

Indeed, I get a hint that it was the prosecution that asked for the deferral until October, as presumably they want to make further investigations for a possible case against Carnival Corp and not just the Captain. So it looks as if this is becoming a more serious affair.

One interesting thing – the Captain has not been named, in any document that I’ve read. As it happens I’ve worked out who I believe was the Azura’s Captain on 29 March; but seeing as there may be some French law over revealing the identity, I’m going to keep quiet as well.

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P&O have released some more teaser information about Iona. She’ll be their next mega-ship, due to join the fleet sometime in 2020. I’ve done some posts about her probable overall layout because she will be a close relation to other ships for which we already have details, but of course there will be differences in decor and fittings. Now P&O have given us some artists’ impressions and animations, here, of the Grand Atrium.

The Grand Atrium does look impressive. Having cruised on Britannia I enjoyed the atrium there, and much more so than on Ventura and Azura. The animation of the forthcoming Iona atrium looks as if it will be a large, open, multi-functional space, with what looks like a full, 3-deck height window. (For some reason that animation doesn’t run on my iMac but does on my PC – strange.)

Then there are some illustrations of spaces and facilities in or just off the atrium. There’ll be a Glass House – yes! – on deck 7, the middle level of the atrium. THere’s also a mention of something called Cellar Door at the Glass House. which will offer wine talks, tastings and wine-pairing dinners. I know we’ve enjoyed the wine-pairing dinners in the Glass House on Azura and Britannia, and it looks as if they are expanding that aspect of the concept.

 

A P&O Cruises first, the Keel & Cow is an unpretentious gastropub where food and drink have been crafted into something truly special

Next is something definitely new – an ‘unpretentious gastropub’ to be called “The Keel and Cow”. This will be on deck 8, and will offer food all day – breakfast, lunch and ‘hearty dishes’ in the evening.  There are specific mentions of beef & stout burger, beer-battered fish and triple-cooked chips, and black-pudding scotch eggs as examples of (presumably) hearty dishes. (My assumption is that this will be all be extra-cost.)

Next up is the Emerald Bar, “for evening glamour”, which I assume will be Iona’s equivalent of the Red Bar on Ventura and the Blue Bar on Azura and Britannia. This will be on deck 6, i.e at the lowest level of the atrium. Finally, and also on  deck 6, there will be Vista’s Cafe Bar, which will serve tea, coffee and snacks all day long “as well as a selection of tempting treats from … Eric Laniard”. That sounds like Java on the other ships, but interestingly there’s no explicit mention of either that name, nor of Costa Coffee.

And that’s not all! – there will additional fun in Vista’s. From mid-morning there will be pop-up entertainment, while from early “you’ll be delighted by impromptu aerial performances”. And there’s also a mention of bookshop.

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I’ve just come across a series of articles relating to an alleged breach of environmental legislation by Azura when she was in Marseilles on 29 March. Apparently she was found to be burning fuel of a higher concentration of sulphur than was allowed in the port – 1.68% instead of 1.5%. What’s most interesting is that the authorities in Marseilles are going to pursue the action. The captain – and I don’t at the moment know who was captain on Azura on 29 March, can someone help me with that? – was interviewed with an interpreter a few days later, and apparently admitted/agreed the details of the alleged offence. There was also a suggestion that he would be arrested on his next call at Marseilles, which was due in early June – I don’t know if that actually happened. However, proceedings against him – but not against P&O, who are not named in the action – will commence in court on 9 July, and that seems to be definite.

I’m not altogether clear as to the nature of the charge, or even whether it’s a criminal or civil case – most of the reports I’ve read have been in French media and the technical details of the legal action are beyond my schoolboy French. Given that the possible penalties could be a year in prison or a €200,000 fine (it might actually be a year in prison and a fine), it sounds like a criminal case.

This is apparently the first time that criminal proceedings (if that’s what they are) have been launched in Europe against a cruise ship captain for an offence of this nature. What’s also interesting is that it’s very personal as it’s the captain who’s been charged and not the cruise line or the ship’s port of registry. They’re obviously saying that the captain is personally responsible for the condition of his or her vessel and must therefore personally carry the can for any regulatory breaches.

I’ll follow this up on the 9th (Monday) as best I can. And if anyone can tell me the identity of the captain on Azura on 29 March I’d be grateful – the French media sites I’ve visited are don’t mention a name at all.

A Google search for ‘Azura Marseilles pollution’ will bring up the sites I’ve been looking at, including a story in the Guardian (which is where I first spotted it).

 

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Today has brought an interesting coda to the “Departure of Oriana” saga. Holland America Line (HAL), another Carnival Corp cruise line, has announced the sale of the Prinsendam, one of their ships. Indeed, they’ve already sold her, to Phoenix Reisen, a German deluxe cruise operator, but are chartering her back until July 2019.

Prinsendam has been HAL’s smallest ship for some years. She started life in the late 1980s as Royal Viking Sun, built for the Royal Viking Line. That company collapsed in the late 80s and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing (including a few years under the Cunard flag) she was transferred to HAL in 2002 as a small, deluxe ship making generally lengthy voyages. Continue Reading »

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Thoughts on Oriana

Oriana off Cowes, September 2012

Now that Oriana is leaving the fleet, it’s time for me to give my thoughts both on the ship herself, and on her departure.

We did two cruises on Oriana, in 2008 and 2012. Both were just short affairs – just four nights each, I believe. The second was also one of the ‘Grand Event’ cruises to celebrate P&O’s 175th birthday.

The first cruise on her was one of our very first cruises, and also our first with P&O. I blogged about it, and you can find the review here (there are links from that review page to the day-by-day blog posts). As you can read, we enjoyed the cruise. I don’t think that we would have quite so much enthusiasm for the cabin today – we’ve got very used to the space and facilities of the cabins on Azura, Ventura and Arcadia. But there were many things about her that we liked.

Our second cruise on Oriana was the Grand Event in 2012. To be honest, we only picked Oriana for this cruise because it was the cheapest way of getting to the party – Oriana was doing the shortest cruise, and therefore the least costly, of the seven that were starting that day. Continue Reading »

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I mentioned in an earlier post that I had stumbled across an internal P&O Question and Answer document, presumably to help their customer-facing staff in conversations with customers about Oriana’s departure.

Here’s a copy of that document. I’ve retitled it so that it’s WordPress-compliant, but I haven’t edited any of the content. It’s four pages long, and by default just the first page displays, but there’s a little widget at the bottom of the document to display the other pages. Just click on the down arrow just to the left of where it reads “Page 1 / 4” (or whatever page you’re on).

OrianaCancellationQAFINAL1AGENTS

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