segunda-feira, 16 de agosto de 2021

The final departure from Southampton

16th August 2019: 7 days after her final P&O Cruise ORIANA found herself in the company of her former fleetmates AURORA and VENTURA for what would be her final hours in Southampton.

One final meeting Photo: Patricia Dempsey
In the week since her last cruise her P&O logo,livery ,name had all been removed and some items had been taken from the ship while temporary names were added to her.
On board her new crew (supplied by V.Crew) were joined by some P&O crew who were remaining onboard until her arrival in Asia alongside her new entertainment troupe, provided by Sea Cruise UK.
Over the week ORIANA had been in Southampton her departure day and time had constantly changed but finally at little after 8:30am ORIANA/PIANO LAND began to pulling her lines up and shortly before 9am slipped her berth under the charge of her V.Ships crew her horn sounding 3 blasts AURORA chimed in with a final salute to her former fleetmate with 2 short and 1 long blasts.

ORIANA pushes off for the last time Photo: Patricia Dempsey
Heading down Southampton Water passing VENTURA docked in the Ocean Terminal with the two saluting as she passed.

ORIANA continued on her way as she had done many times over the years with many happy cruisers on board, only this time her cabins were only occupied with crew members and  she wouldn't be returning.

Goodbye ORIANA Photo:Patricia Dempsey
As ORIANA moved on Southampton fell astern as did the Isle of Wight and she headed South towards the Bay of Biscay as she had so many times.
Outbound for the last time
ORIANA was heading to Piraeus,Greece where she would have her new logos and names added.
While en route work would also begin on removing unwanted fittings such as furniture in the former Cybercafe and the stripping out the
Terrace Bar.
Photos: Patricia Dempsey

segunda-feira, 9 de agosto de 2021

Two years without ORIANA

Two years ago today ORIANA made her way up Southampton water for the final time, her glittering 24 year career with P&O  brought to a premature end taking with her the majority of what remaind of the authentic British line that had been so loved by their loyal clientele.

Final arrival taken from on board, Photos: Bob Bowler

As far as P&O and Carnival UK were concerned unique and custom built ships such as ORIANA were no longer relevant to the company, in sad contrast to her intoduction 24 years earlier, all that mattered to the American owned brand was the introduction of the third massed produced Excellence Class ship IONA, a true step backward for the company.
As for ORIANA herself before the end of the day she had been handed over to her new owners and her name and bow livery crudely painted over, the letters which proudly stood under her funnel were cut from their supports all the while Paul Ludlow and the rest of his Carnival House team spouted empty platitudes about her service.

ORIANA no more, Photos: Andrew Sassoli-Walker

domingo, 18 de julho de 2021

Remembering Tom O'Connor

 Today we say goodbye to a legend of British entertainment and firm favourite on board ORIANA throughout her P&O career, Tom O'Connor who has passed away aged 81.
A presenter and comedian Tom will be known to many in the UK for hosting televison game shows throughout the 1970's and 80's such as Name That Tune and Crosswits among others.
Trained as a Mathmatics and Music teacher his comedy career started with evening shows in the working men's clubs of Northern England before moving on to tv with a spot on The Comedians which launched Tom's tv career, Quiz shows followed and eventually he was givein his own show, The Tom O'Connor Show a mix of stand up and comedy sketches.
Like many entertainers he found his way onto cruise ships and was often to be found on CANBERRA who he would later fondly make jokes about.
In 1995 he was among the first entertainers to perform on board P&O's new flagship ORIANA during her Maiden Voyage.

Tom headlines ORIANA Today 11th April 1995

Two years later Tom would be among those on board CANBERRA during her Farewell Cruise.
Over the years Tom would remain a firm favourite with the P&O fleet and other lines with British passengers enjoying his familiar sense of humour and often reused jokes.
Still an Headline act in 2006
Tom O'Connor 31st October 1939-18th July 2021

domingo, 11 de abril de 2021

A Triumphant Beginning

Departure day, the beginning of your cruise, for seasoned and novice cruisers there is nothing quite like it, often planned months in advance Passports/cruise tickets, check, Packing, double check, Dog, collected  yesterday.
Then the journey to the cruise terminal, for the majority of those cruising from the UK, the journey to Southampton, nearing the docks a first glimpse of your ships' funnel and upper looking  for the correct dock gate, and finally arriving at your terminal ready to show passports and tickets.                                      P&O Cruise 571 departing on the 9th April 1995 was in many respects no different, yet in everyway it was a very different journey the 1800 passengers were about to embark upon not only were they sailing on a Maiden Voyage they were sailing on board ORIANA, the new flagship of Britains oldest shipping company, its first dedicated UK based cruise ship designed with the British passenger in mind standing in contrast to her mass market  US cousins.
On a technical level ORIANA was a masterpiece of martime design being the fastest passenger ship built for 25 years and the fastest purpose built cruise liner in the world while at the same time her design remained somewhat traditional giving her passengers the best of both worlds.
In terms of the passengers boarding covered a broad range,mostly there were regular P&O cruisers members of P&O's POSH club but there was also passengers who were new to cruising beginning their "cruising life" with the ship designed to usher in the new era of UK based crusing, while the majoritiy of passengers were British and had come from all over the UK to join ORIANA for her maiden sailing there were some who had travelled from further to join the ship, including from the Netherlands to Australia.

To greet the boarding passengers the first edition of ORIANA Today the ship's own onboard newspaper they and a letter frm ORIANA's Master Commodore Ian Gibb, welcoming them on board and sharing some of the effection which the crew and company had already come to see ORIANA with.

A warm welcome from Commodore Gibb

 It wasn't only for those on boarding who were anticapting ORIANA's sailing ship spotters and enthusiasts were eager to see her sail and to that end P&O published the times at which they estimated ORIANA pass certain points on her journey down the Solent and to the sea as shown below

With passengers boarding at 4pm the first entertainment held onboard ORIANA for her fare paying passengers began with Piano music on offer in The Crow's Nest some or for different tastes there was music being played in both Harlequins and The Pacific Lounge followed by the obligatory safety drill held at 5pm and shortly after 6pm to the sound  of The Horn Pipe played by The Band of the Royal Corps of Signals.
To begin ORIANA's sea going career her first port of call would reflect P&O's history and heritage, leaving Southampton behind ORIANA 2 days at sea would follow before reaching Funchal, Madeira one of P&O's most popular ports call, here she would spend overnight allowing the passengers to take in the beauty of the city and islands while a local Folkloric group would be boarding to entertain the passengers with local dance and traditions before departing for the Canary Islands.
In her 24 year service she would become a
familiar sight in those destinations with Madeira in particular having an affinity with the ship over her career.

ORIANA arrives makes her Maiden Call at Funchal, Madeira :Luís Filipe Jardim
ORIANA's Maiden Voyage proved to be resounding success and helped to birth a new short lived era for the company before it demerged the cruise operations 5 years later leading to eventual meger with Carnival to form faceless by the numbers Carnival PLC/UK.
In the years since a number of  P&O Cruises ships have entered service all promising to be the next generational leap for the company, with the exception of AURORA in 2000 none of the others lived up to the promise ORIANA brought to P&O and the UK cruise market.

sexta-feira, 11 de dezembro de 2020

Post COVID return to service?

 Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the  cruise industry earlier this year a common question  has  been when will crusing resume?                                                                                                                           ORIANA as PIANO LAND the propaganda flagship of the Domestic Chinese market had her sailings suspended on the 29th of January and has spent most of the last 8 months idle in a lay up vastly different from her former fleet mates back in the UK.

In service with Astro Ocean Cruises

During the course of the year with stories from China itself and the World Health World Health Organization relating to the the state of the virus in the in the country it has been interesting to see when the ship would return to service.
With China being the progenitor of the virus and it's "effective" and "swift" measures being a complete uncomfirmed success it had been widely reported by experts that it would lead the cruise industry into recovery and be the first to return to service, this of course did not come to pass.
During this hiatus ORIANA herself has been for the most part laid up making very short trips out to sea and returning to dock within an hour, a contrast to her former P&O fleet mates who have been constantly sailing between ports on England's south coast.
During April she headed to
Zhoushan where Cruise Industry News reported that she would be entering drydock for work alongside new HVAC equipment being installed and a new grade of suites being added with a view to resuming service sooner rather than later
While she didn't enter drydock some work was carried out.

Still in need of a new lick of paint ORIANA departs the Zhoushan shipyard.

 Aside from rumours there has been lack of information coming out China related to it's cruise activities  with only the most broad predictions of the ships returning to service however finally a date has finally been announced and according to Astro Ocean's offical website they will resume their own operations tomorrow, the 12th December although like many things relating to the company and China as a whole there are pleanty of questions left unaswered.

Despite the above banner appearing on Astro Ocean's website the only cruises on sale are 3 cruises scheduled to take place between the 23rd July 2021 and 2nd August 2021.
The first a 2 night party cruise to and from Xiamen, and the second   5 night cruise departing from Xiaman and touring around Japan ending in Qingdao in the
Shandong province of China.
For the last of the 3 cruises she once again will head round Japan before returning to Qingdao.

segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2020

Returning to service?

As some lockdown restrictions around many parts of the world begin to be lift it has been suggested that ORIANA's owner Astro Ocean Cruises would be returning her to service in the coming months.
 Once again being reported by Cruise Industry News the site noted it had observed the company recruiting via V.Ships website leading to speculation that the company is planning a relaunch soon.
In addition for the first time since arriving back from 'refit' the ship has sailed to anchor and back, leading some to suggest that the ship's crew were readying her for service.
In service prior to lockdown Photo: KeitoandKagari
There have been other indications that the company is planning a relaunch in the near future such as the company at long last launching a website albeit one which is only partialy functioning at present.
Although there are menus for destinations and departure dates among others there are no availble dates and the links lead to empty pages.
For the past month the site has proudly proclaimed '50 days to go' referring either to a return to service or potentially  some kind of upcoming announcement relating to the resumption of service a seemingly endless 50 days with no change being made to reflect the passage of time.
50 Days and counting?
Other banners around the site introduce the company's new mascot a typically Chinese lucky cat donning a sailors outfit, based on the Maneki-neko cats of Japanese culture.
Originally the company was also advertising it's enchanced health and hygine procedures however for reasons best known to themselves the company has since removed that information and banner.
Some might find a Chinese company promoting increased health and hygine practices due to Covid-19 a little hypocritical
 For those who may be interested Astro Ocean Cruises website can be found here:
In recent weeks there has been localised outbreaks of Covid-19 in Beijing most recently leading to 400,000 people being put into lockdown how will such outbreaks effect the decision to return ORIANA to service? we can not say.
With the secracy and half truths that constantly surround the country it is hard to say whether the company has so far been in a postion to return to cruising either now with the current outbreak or before hand, only time will tell.

Photo Copyright: KeitoandKagari

domingo, 26 de abril de 2020

Layup and changes to ORIANA

It is fair to say that since ORIANA has been under Chinese ownership not many changes have been made to make her "The first ship exclusively built for the Chinese market"
On the whole the majority of the ship's decor has remained unchanged with little to no effort being made to make her uniquly British designs Chinese.
Naturally some changes were made name room changes etc a new albeit oddly placed childrens area built out of the former Crichtons card and game rooms, a new steak house grill from the former Lord's Tavern bar and the removal of the Terrace Bar, and various other minor but on the on the whole not a great deal of work.

In service as 'PIANO LAND'
Due to the ongoing Coronavirus/COVID-19 the ship left service on the 29th of January and was put into lay up in Shanghai.
Laid up in Shanghai
She remained in Shanghai for 2 months finally departing for the port of Zhoushan formerly known as Chusan, a name familiar to anyone who is aware of P&O's history and heritage, where she arrived on the 3rd of April at the Cosco Zhoushan Shipyard.
Shortly after arrival at Zhoushan
Alongside as seen from a drydocked ship. Photo:Arvin Gonzaga
10 days after she arrived at the shipyard it was announced by owners Astro Ocean Cruises via Cruise 
Industry News that "it will spend a month to refurbish the PIANO LAND, taking the opportunity with the ship out of service to make some key upgrades"
It continued "The PIANO LAND, which is the former P&O ORIANA, is heading to a drydock in Zhoushan operated by COSCO for the work. The facility has previously handed emergency repairs for both Royal Caribbean International and SkySea Cruises."
It is worth noteing that during her time at the ship yard in contradiction to the company's/Cruise Industry New's claim, the ship never entered drydock even the crew boasting they were the wet dock team.
The Wet Dock crew pose on the covered former Riviera Pool. Photo Rowel Pacatang‎
The article further details work being carried out during the refit,the ship would  receive a completely new HVAC system which could allow upto 100% fresh air to be circulated through out if necessary.
It also announced that several further changes were being made to ORIANA/PIANO LAND's interiors, several of the ship's cabins would be set up for 'Medical situations'.
It was also mentioned that possibilty of the ship returning to service without any inside cabins signifcantly reducing passengers on board.
This to be honest is not surprising the images and low number of reviews point to the ship sailing with far fewer passengers on board than in her P&O days not unexpected seeing as a domestic Chinese cruise market hardly exists in any form.
In addition to reducing cabin numbers on board Astro Ocean also announced the addition of a new class of suite which will feature it's own dedicated dining area making up a new ship within a ship concept akin with MSC's Yacht Club concept.
Render of the new class of suite. Astro Ocean Cruises/Cruise Industry News
And judging from the image in the article the design is underwhelming, generic and as unispired as it is possible to get, quite the contrast to the aforementioned MSC Yacht Club.
Elsewhere, on Deck 7 the shopping area has been further expanded beyond the atrium itself into what was under P&O Anderson's resulting in an increase in space allowing for the introduction of 100 new international brands to shop from.
The former Anderson's as a new onboard shop but the P&O carpet remains.  Astro Ocean Cruises/Cruise Industry News
Having been docked in Zhoushan for 21 days ORIANA finally departed on the 24th April and arrived in Xaimen earlier today at 12:07 local time.
In need of a lick of paint ORIANA/PIANO LAND departs the Zhoushan shipyard.
Since a date for her return to service has not yet been announced, at the moment all that has been stated is planned resumption of service later this spring, it is assumed that she will remain in Xaimen for further layup and will either resume service form there or return to Shanghai to resume from there only time will tell.