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I’ve learned that Oriana is definitely going to China – specifically, “a company operating in the domestic Chinese market”, which sounds like a Casino ship operator.

I learned this from an interesting P&O Q&A document I stumbled across. It’s 4 pages long. The first page is headed “Agent Version only” and has a section headed “Key Messages”, while pages 2 to 4 are headed “INTERNAL Q&A – NOT TO BE ISSUED EXTERNALLY”, and as you can imagine there are a number of interesting snippets:

  • Guests can transfer their booking to Cunard: “If the guest is adamant they wish to transfer to a Cunard voyage we will allow this”n
  • out-of-pocket expenses: P&O seem to be saying that they will reimburse some of these, including insurance bought specifically for a cancelled Oriana cruise (not an annual policy); credit card fees incurred, up to 1.5%; car parking costs;and other transport costs;
  • A list of the cancelled cruises – it’s quite long.

Here’s the URL for this document – I found it by doing a Google search for “P&O Oriana leaving the fleet”. The link might stop working, of course, but if so I’ll try to post a copy after the weekend (I did manage to save a copy – it’s a PDF). I’m away from home at the moment and posting from an iPad so can’t do anything complicated until next week.

Update later: looks like that document is no longer available. As I said, I’ve got a copy and I’ll to make it available when I get home after the weekend.

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Here’s a follow-up post to the earlier one about P&O’s Oriana leaving that company’s fleet in August 2019.

There’s still no hard information as to where she is going, although there are some rumours that it might be to Hong Kong – or elsewhere in China – for use as a casino ship. It’s suggested that Chinese buyers have been looking at her for a while, but we’re unable to strike a deal. Maybe now they have.

Here’s another thought: she may not be going anywhere. It’s the case that Oriana’s propulsion system is different from that of any other ship in the fleet (or indeed pretty much any other modern cruise ship) in that she has a mechanical transmission rather than electric propulsion motors. Is it possible that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep that system in good order? The mechanical parts would have been bespoke when she was built by Meyer Werft in the early/mid 90s, and it might be that replacement parts are just too difficult or too expensive to source. It’s also the case that a 50-night cruise had to be cancelled in the New Year in order for her to receive urgent maintenance, and I don’t think we ever heard the full story about that. Maybe P&O / Carnival have decided that she can’t be made reliable enough for continued service?

Hopefully we’ll learn more in due course.

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Oriana leaving P&O

Well, after years of rumours, P&O have announced this morning that Oriana will be leaving the fleet in August 2019. I don’t yet know where she’ll be going, but I shall try to find out more.

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P&O Iona

Well, I was wrong – the new ship will not be called Olympia. As everyone knows by now, her name will be Iona. That’s a nice name, and it trips off the tongue, but of course there’s no echo of P&O heritage there at all. But never mind.

P&O have issued a fly-around animation of her; however, it doesn’t seem to want to run on my iMac. Here, instead, is a link to the same video (I think) on YouTube.

One thing I did get right is a post I did a month or so ago about the deck plans and layout. As expected, she’ll be a very close cousin of AidaNova, which is due to come into service at the very end of this year. Here’s a link to page showing the deck plans for that ship. Obviously there will be differences – bars and restaurants will be differently named, the decor will be different, and so on, but broadly speaking this is what Iona will be like. The P&O video confirms that there will be a walk-round promenade deck, though that is one area where they do appear to be some differences between the animation and the deck plans. The animation seems to show the promenade deck staying on one level whereas the deck plan shows it dropping from deck 8 to deck 7 for the aft section. But this will all be cleared up in due course.

Indeed, things might well be clearer in just a few months. The P&O webpage says that cruises on Iona will be on sale this September, and I would hope that we would have much more information about her –  numbers, locations and types of restaurants, for example, and of course deck plans – by then.

And if anyone want an early look at what Iona might look like, then you’ll be able to see AIDAnova in Southampton on 4 December. That’s her first port of call after leaving Hamburg on 2 December for her maiden voyage.

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Malcolm Oliver drew my attention in a post in his blog to an announcement in the last couple of days concerning the development of a new cruise terminal in Dubai. It will be jointly developed by a local agency, Meraas, and Carnival Corporation. Here’s a link to Malcolm’s post, and here’s a link to an article in a trade journal about the announcement.

It so happens that I have an interest in the whereabouts of the cruise terminal in Dubai, as I have just booked myself another of my Asian holidays, for February 2019. I’ll be having a few days in Bangkok followed by a 10 night cruise on Oceana, and because I’m making my own arrangements I’ll have to get from Dubai airport to the (present) cruise terminal at Port Rashid under my own steam – I won’t be able to use the P&O transfers. I was pleased to see that Port Rashid is not too far from the airport, but my interest was piqued by the new announcement. Where will the new terminal be? – will it be a development of the current facility at Port Rashid, or a new one at a different location? Continue Reading »

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I’ve done a few posts over the last year or so about Celebrity’s forthcoming ship, Celebrity Edge. One thing that has maintained my interest in her is that Celebrity continues to be very coy about the details of the public areas on her. For example, if you go to the Celebrity UK website and navigate your way to the page showing the deck plans for Celebrity edge, you’ll see that they still have lots of blank areas with “Coming Soon” overprinted on them, and that’s the way it’s been for ages. This is true for most of the public decks; that is is, decks 15, 14, 5, 4, 3 (part) and 2. (All of the other decks are accommodation decks, and the cabin information has been all present and correct for quite a while.)

But I like to think I’m a resourceful chap so I’ve looked in one or two other places, and I’ve been able to find out quite a bit. There are still some gaps but no many. Here’s what I’ve found out:-

  • decks 16 & 15 – nothing different from what’s on the Celebrity site, unfortunately;
  • deck 14. This is the main Lido deck, and also where you’d expect to find the buffet. On the Celebrity site the area aft of the lifts is blanked out, but I’ve found details of two areas here, the OceanView Cafe and ‘Secondo Bacio’ – possibly a second version of Cafe Al Bacio on deck 4. The OceanView cafe sounds like the buffet. There is also lots of seating indicated around this area;
  • decks 12 – 7: accommodation decks, about which we already have good information;
  • deck 6: most of this deck is accommodation but right at the stern there is a blanked-out area on the Celebrity plans. I think this is an area called ‘Eden’, which will be a speciality restaurant. Here’s Celebrity’s description of it: “Try divine, experiential cuisine at Eden Restaurant to the crescendo of theatrics that close the night while delighting your eyes and ears. We invite you to indulge every sense in a space that transforms from chillful mornings to playful afternoons to sinful evenings“. There’s also a ‘Ramp to Deck 5’ wrapping round the aft-most part of this space;
  • deck 5: this is essentially the Promenade deck, or as much of one as will exist. The area at the forward end is still officially obscured, but that’s got to be the theatre, so I’m not too concerned about that area. Running aft from the theatre the Celebrity site is still obscured, but on my other source I can see the following areas:
    • ‘The Club’;
    • amidships, there’s the ‘Fine Cut Steakhouse’ (port side) and ‘Raw’ (starboard);
    • Aft of them is an open area, then Blu, the standard restaurant for Aqua customers;
    • Aft of that, and occupying the final quarter or so of the deck, is another Eden area. This one is labelled ‘Eden Cafe’ and also ‘Eden Bar’, and of course right at the stern there’s the ‘Ramp up to deck 6’. Rather worryingly there’s also something labelled ‘Entrance’, so that suggests that Eden will have controlled access of some form or other. In fact looking again at the plans for deck 6 I can’t see any connection between the Eden restaurant there and the accommodation area immediately forward of it, so the only way of getting to that restaurant will be via the ramp from deck 5;
  • deck 4: Again, right at the bow is what I assume will be the theatre. Heading aft from there, and starting at the forward staircase, are the following:
    • ‘The Meeting Place’ (port side), then ‘The Club’ (also to port). Opposite that is an area which is still obscured, even on my other source;
    • to port is ‘Le Grand Bistro’ (a speciality restaurant, I presume) and opposite that is the ‘Cafe Al Bacio’;
    • There’s an obscured area right in the centre of this area, between the two venues above;
    • Aft of that to port is the Casino Bar and the Casino;
    • Opposite the casino to starboard is another obscured area – sorry!
    • then we have what look two of the complimentary restaurants, Cosmopolitan and Cyprus (see this earlier post about restaurants on Celebrity Edge);
    • and finally on this deck, and right at the stern, we have yet another are labelled ‘Eden Restaurant’. So it looks as if the full Eden experience will cover three decks….;
  • deck 3: this is quite odd. Once again at the bow there’s what I still assume is the theatre, but still obscured. Then there are oceanview cabins to port and starboard, stretching perhaps two-thirds of the way back. But the area between the cabins is open:
    • approximately amidships there’s something labelled ‘Grand Plaza Cafe’, which suggests that the whole open area is The Grand Plaza; presumably, the lowest level of the atrium. There are some still-obscured areas around here;
    • Aft of the cabins and the Grand Plaza are the other two complimentary restaurants, the Normandie and the Tuscan;
    • and aft of them is a large unlabelled and unobscured area that has to be the kitchen for all of the complimentary restaurants;
  • deck 2: The facilities on this deck are still almost completely obscured, although there is an area amidships that’s labelled ‘Destination Gateway’.

So that’s what I’ve learned. My source for this information is https://cruisedeckplans.com . I have a subscription to this site, but I believe the subscription just removes the adverts and gives access to added content such as photos of specific cabins and areas that have been uploaded by subscribers. I think that the actual deckmlans are available to non-subscribers.

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It’s no secret that P&O are getting a new ship in 2020. She’ll be enormous – bigger than Britannia – but that’s the way things are going.

I did a couple of posts some while ago with the first news about the new ship. First, there was this post with the details that had been announced by P&O. After that I found some deck plans for a very similar ship that’s due to go into service for Aida Cruises, another Carnival brand. This Aida ship – AidaNova – will be the first of this larger class of ships to be finished which is why we already have a lot of information about it.

Olympia is the preliminary name given to the cruise ship

Today I’ve received an email from Bolsover Cruise Club about the P&O ship. It mainly repeats the information that we already had, but it adds something new (to me at least) – a possible name for the new ship. The email links back to a page on the Bolsover site that contains this snippet: “Olympia is the preliminary name given to the cruise ship by P&O Cruises”. That said, I can’t find anything on the P&O site to confirm this, so it could all be rumour.

But they’ll be selling cruises on her before too long, so details should emerge during this year.

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Marella Explorer


Galaxy in the Santorini caldera, 2007

Malcolm Oliver has posted on his blog that Mein Schiff 1 has left TUI Cruises (Germany) and is on its way to the UK. Once arrived (and having had some sort of refurbishment) it will sail as Marella Explorer, for Marella Cruises.

(Who?, I hear you ask… Well, I gather that ‘Marella Cruises’ is the new brand name for TUI Cruises UK, which in turn was the new brand name quite recently for Thomson Cruises. The Thomson travel empire was taken over by TUI (of Germany) some years ago, of course, and its operations (package holidays, travel agents, flights and the cruise line) were rebranded as TUI in recent years, including the cruise line, and I thought that this rebranding had gone well. In November 2017 however the cruise line was further re-branded ‘Marella’, and all the existing ships were renamed yet again. I have no idea why this was felt to be necessary…..)

But back to Marella Explorer. Continue Reading »

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Oeana in the early-morning light

I’ve been exploring options for cruises in the Arabian Gulf on Oceana, principally for February/March next year. One thing I was tempted by was the thought of mixing the cruise (10 nights) with another holiday destination – perhaps in south-east Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore) or southern Asia (India, Sri Lanka). Doing this would require making amendments to the cruise flights, ideally just booking the cruise on a ‘cruise only’ basis and making my own flight bookings.

So I worked my way through the on-line P&O booking procedure to find out how much this would save, and to my astonishment discovered that the answer was: nothing. You can certainly book the cruise ‘cruise only’, but if you choose that option a warning message appears on screen saying that this will not change the price…. Which seemed a bit harsh.

But then another though occurred to me. I’d been looking solely at Early Saver fares. I’d be taking this holiday on my own so I’d been looking to price it as low as possible. Suppose I looked at the Select fare? Well, it turns out that if you choose the Select fare and then ‘Cruise Only’, you do get a refund – £300 per person. Together with a tiny amount of OBC that the Select fare entitles you to means that booking a Select fare on a cruise only basis is a bit cheaper than booking an Early Saver fare on the same basis – because with the Early Saver you don’t get any reduction for the flights you’re not taking. And of course with the Select fare you get some other benefits: choice of cabin, choice of dining arrangements, and that tiny amount of OBC.

Just to complicate things, there is another factor to throw into the mix. I spoke to Trailfinders about this very option a few weeks ago, and I was told that booking the Early Saver fare, cruise only, would attract a reduction of £150 if booked through them. That would bring the Early Saver fare back under the Cruise Only Select fare, but of course you’d be losing those Select fare benefits I mentioned above. Trailfinders was the only TA I spoke to about this – I’d probably use them for the non-cruise elements of the holiday – but it’s perfectly possible that any TA could provide the same Early Saver cruise-only pricing as they did.

Of course, all of this is only relevant if you want to include the cruise as part of a longer holiday in places other than the Gulf. If all you want is to do the cruise, perhaps with a night or two in the uAE before or after, then the standard P&O pricing including flights would be the best way to go.

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I’ve received an email from Fred. Olsen about the recently-completed programme of refits to the whole of their fleet.

All four of their ships – Black Watch, Boudicca, Braemar and Balmoral – have undergone quite lengthy dry docks in Germany during which they received significant refurbishment. It sounds as if most, if not all, cabins on all four ships have been refurbished with new carpets and soft furnishings and on some of the ship at least – and possibly all four – new larger, flat-screen TVs which include interactive functionality. Then a lot of work seems to have been done in public areas around each of the ships, with the locations of some facilities being changed, new restaurants being created, and general updates being done. There’s an interesting page on the Fred. Olsen website that gives a lot of details, and includes some videos.

The perennial question about Fred. Olsen’s fleet is: are they ever going to order a new-build ship? Rumours about this possibility have been raised periodically for as long as I can remember – which would be about 10 years – but nothing has ever actually transpired. Malcolm Oliver did a post about some current rumours of a new build in his blog recently – here’s a link.

It’s worth remembering just how old the Fred. Olsen ships are: Boudicca and Black Watch are now 46 and 45 years old respectively; Balmoral is 30 years old; and even Braemar, the baby of the fleet, is 25 this year. In fact Fred. Olsen deserve great praise in keeping these older ships in the excellent condition that they are. But sooner or later they will need to be replaced. The last ship they had to relinquish, Black Prince, was let go because she wouldn’t have met the requirement of the updated SOLAS 2010 regulations, and it wasn’t feasible to make the required changes. I’m not aware of any forthcoming ‘Gotcha!’ of this type for the current ships, but it’s always possible, and Fred. Olsen might be faced with replacing one or more ships in the fleet.

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