As everyone will know by now, Carnival Corporation, parent company of the P&O Cruises brand, have decided to sell their former flagship. To date, the name of the buyer nor what her purpose will be, haven’t been revealed just “Chinese cruising”, which could mean a casino ship for all we know, but I hope it’s not! Her predecessor had a static role there before a storm caused too much damage to repair and she was broken up. There will be no special farewell cruise for her successor, just the previously scheduled Norway & North Cape from 22nd July-9th August 2019, with everything to the end of March 2020 cancelled.
Oriana entered service on the 9th April 1995, based on the ships of the past, notably Canberra, and is the penultimate pre-Carnival P&O ship designed with British passengers in mind, with Aurora following five years later. She is the current holder of the Golden Cockerel as fastest ship, an honour she took from Canberra during a handover ceremony in Cannes during Canberra’s farewell cruise in 1997. With Carnival ordering eight 180,000gt ships for their AIDA, Costa, Carnival and P&O brands, her days were numbered, as are Aurora’s.
But I’m not going to voice my opinion on a business decision or reproduce the press release. Instead, I will focus on the ship itself and the happy memories I have of her, as a ship nut and passenger, with a photo blog featuring some of my favourite pictures taken over the years. So close the tab if you get bored easily as this is long to show her off in all her glory over the past 21 years I’ve been photographing and filming her.
When she arrived to a plethora of complaints of being “too big”, I was in the middle of no interest in ships due to more important things. It was Canberra’s imminent retirement which reignited my interest so the first time I saw her was 16th August 1997 when they both sailed from Southampton.
It wasn’t until 2005, I got my arse in gear and became more serious about ships since so many had gone I’d missed. One highlight was always when Oriana and Aurora were in together, which wasn’t often. There was no guarantee one would pass the other.
A bonus in 2006 as Oriana’s refit was an extra two days, meaning she met her sister again that year.
Despite them being together in the interim, they hadn’t passed each other again until 2010.
On the 17th December 2014, Aurora returned from refit sporting the new Union Jack bow and blue funnel. She was the first in service to get this, as Britannia had hers added in the shipyard. The following day, she met her sister, which really showed a contrast.
The final time they will be together in their home port was the 21st March 2018. They had been scheduled to meet twice during 2019 – 16th August and 9th December but I doubt they’ll pay a week of port fees so the last P&O ships can say goodbye to each other.
She was always magnificent from the water, the best way to photograph ships and I had my first in early 2008 as I returned on Aurora after the New Year cruise. We were early into Southampton due to weather, Oriana was late due to the same thing delaying her return that morning so we passed each other off Ryde as she sailed out.
One of the best was when I sailed on Artemis. We shared Mayflower Terminal, us checking in one side, Oriana’s passengers the other but we boarded via the dock as we were in berth 105. Being smaller, it made for great photos as we sailed first to turn then she slipped out resulting in us following.
There was also the Hythe ferry, Hotspur IV. Unlike Great Expectations, she had a bow you could go on.
She was ahead of us as Arcadia sailed into Southampton. Docking in QEII Terminal gave great photo opportunities as we headed to Ocean Terminal.
Lit up at sea showed her in all her glory in the English Channel outbound from Southampton, especially with the buff funnel.
She was gorgeous in my favourite European port of Lisbon, especially as the sun went down, sailing out to the Atlantic.
Up close and personal in La Coruna as she docked next to us.
We were heading to Portsmouth the following day, Oriana to Southampton, but she was visible in the Bay of Biscay.
Three times during one cruise was excellent, I have to say. Barcelona, Gibraltar and home in Southampton at the end.
Oriana wasn’t my first cruise (6th). She wasn’t even my first P&O. That honour went to Aurora but just over six weeks after a short on Aurora to try her, it was her elder sister’s turn. Just two nights to Zeebrugge, but absolutely loved it.
I always intended to do a longer cruise but never got around to it. Instead, I only managed to do the Grand Event on her, but it was an unforgettable experience.
If you have reached here, I applaud you. I’d like to end with the above mentioned Grand Event, when all seven of P&O’s current fleet made history in Southampton to celebrate the 175th anniversary. I had arrived on Ventura, did a harbour tour then boarded Oriana. You really had to be there to know how fantastic it was, despite the awful weather. Oriana had become an adults only ship by then and, even though it was just four nights to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge, it wasn’t your usual booze cruise. Most booked to be part of this unique event. The following photos are mine onboard Ventura, Ocean Scene and Oriana with the rest by my dad on Jurassic Scene as we all sailed.
Oriana will be greatly missed and we can only hope her future role in China is a success.