Anna on Oceana
Cruise Lines and Ship Reviews

Ship review: P&O Cruises Oceana post 2017 refit

Anyone who knows me, knows that the P&O Cruises ship Oceana has a special place in my heart. Not only did I work on her during my second contract at sea, but I’ve also spent time sailing on her recently, as my husband was her deputy captain for a time.

When I last left her in August, there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes in preparation for her 2017 refit. The ship was starting to look tired and she was definitely in need of a facelift.

Oceana's atrium
Oceana’s atrium

Flash forward to December and on a wet and dismal Sunday, I got to see the results of the refit work for myself. Carnival UK have spent just over £31 million revamping the 77,499 tonne vessel. The ship relocated to Hamburg on 29th November, where the crew focused on cosmetic and technical improvements.

I am pleased to report that the ship is looking really good. To any Oceana enthusiast, there are positive changes, which are immediately obvious. I’ve outlined some of these below.

Atrium

In the atrium, the famous artificial palm trees have been replaced with real foliage. The atrium stairs and public walkways have new carpet, and there is new seating on deck 5. The Loyalty desk is no longer in the atrium.

Explorers

Explorers
Explorers

On deck 5 the Explorers bar has had a complete revamp, with new seating and carpet throughout. The oppressive dark red décor has been replaced with tasteful retro dark green, blue and brown furniture.

Magnums

Magnums
Magnums

This was my regular haunt on long cruises. Magnums champagne bar has been completely transformed since my last visit. The comfy sofas with tired upholstery have been replaced with fresh, light furniture, which really make the area feel like a classy bar. Nearby the art gallery has come to life with new lighting, which really brightens up the area.

The Yacht and Compass
The Yacht and Compass
The Yacht and Compass
The Yacht and Compass

Winners and the Yacht and Compass have also been refreshed and the areas feel much brighter.

The Plaza

The Plaza
The Plaza
The Plaza
The Plaza

The Plaza buffet has been retiled and the seating has been replaced with modern, more functional substitutes. There is a beige, cream and blue theme throughout, and the new tiles really improve the look of the restaurant.

The outside eating areas have colourful blue and green seats, instead of the heavy chairs that were there before. There is also a new canopy over the Grill area.

Horizon Grill
Horizon Grill

Oceana’s swimming pools

The swimming pools are now a dark blue and the pools and hot tubs have been repainted and retiled. There is new astro turf throughout the open decks.

Terrace Bar

Terrace Bar
Terrace Bar
Terrace pool
Terrace pool

This popular bar at the aft end of the ship remains much the same. The most notable change is the replacement of the teak tables and chairs with plastic furniture. This does look good and has enhanced the overall feel of the Terrace Bar. The pool is also the new deep blue colour and there is a fresh canvas canopy over the pool area.

Loyalty desk

Loyalty desk
Loyalty desk

This has moved next to the photography studio. It sits in the corner unit that used to be reserved for photography talks. This is a great use of space and has allowed for extra seating in the atrium.

The library, card room, Café Jardin, Starlights and Footlights Theatre all remain relatively unchanged. Café Jardin is still an Italian restaurant and is not a Glass House, despite rumours. I really enjoyed eating here and liked having it as an alternative venue for lunch and breakfast. It also has the best coffee on the ship!

Oceana sailed for her Christmas cruise on 17th December 2017.

If you found this article interesting, you may like to read my post about Arcadia’s 2017 refit.

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31 comments

  1. Great to see Oceana all spruced up. We think she’s one of the friendliest ships in the fleet but she definitely needed this face lift. Everything you’ve shown us, Anna, points towards us having many more cruises on her, she’s looking good.!
    We did think that Magnums would become a Glass House so surprised about that but relieved to find that Cafe Jardin remains the same.
    Why no Glass House?
    Look forward to reading more from you about cruising & the fleet.
    Sharon & Ray, West Midlands

    1. Thanks Sharon and Ray. I’m not sure why there wasn’t a Glass House, but I know that Cafe Jardin is extremely popular with Oceana passengers. It may just be that they didn’t feel there was a demand for the Glass House for her type of itinerary. There also isn’t a galley in Magnums, so they wouldn’t have been able to put one there. We hope to see you on a cruise again in the near future!

  2. As an ex Merchant Navy Engineer all my family love the Oceana since their first cruise. They have been on most that they could sail on. We had our last cruise on the old lady before she went to Hamburg for a well deserved refit. Even with all her problems she was the most welcoming of Ships. So looking forward to our next trip. Well done P&O.

  3. Thank you Anna for your detailed review of all the improvements on board Oceana.

    Despite having cruised many times before, I have never been on P&O before, however we have booked a 3 night Mini-Cruise on 23 March 2018 to celebrate my birthday, so I found it particularly interesting. How lucky am I to go on the newly refurbished ship, she looks great, very excited and counting down the days now until we set sail!

    1. Hello Billy,

      I am pleased to hear that you found the article interesting. I hope you have a lovely time on Oceana later this month. She really is a ship with lots of charm. Have a wonderful birthday.

      Anna.

  4. Thanks for this review. We’re looking to go on her in June from Malta, our first P&O cruise. Have they updated the cabins recently?

  5. Hi Anna, thanks for your review following Oceana’s 2017 refurb. I’m glad I came across your blog as it’s given me a ray of hope….. I have booked a cruise on Oceana for Summer 2018 to Eastern Med. Travelling with me is my husband (we are in our early-50’s) and my 81 year old mother in law. We are all first-time cruisers and I’ve booked 2 balcony cabins. As with other travellers a cruise is special; this is a special trip for us too – for me to celebrate getting through a terrible illness (well, I hope the worst of it), and perhaps my mother-in-law’s last holiday.

    I have a few questions, sorry about the length of this message but I hope you will be able to reply….

    First question I have is around how much is done while a cruise ship is in dry-dock and how extensive was the Oceana refurb?….I see you mention soft furnishings, new carpets etc. I ask as many reviews I’ve read mention there were issues with sanitation on Oceana (toilets not working or overflowing, the smell of sewage pre-refurb). Also lots of rust – cruisers have commented they paid a lot for balcony cabins only to find balconies were unfit for use even after the refurb!. I appreciate Oceana isn’t a ‘new’ ship, and the sea naturally takes it’s toll. I’m just wondering if a cruise liner would automatically address these type of issues, and any other issues with the mechanics/engineering of the ship whilst in dry dock.

    Second question is how often does a cruise ship have a deep clean and what measures are taken to prevent a horrible virus outbreak? I see there is a quick turn around between each cruise itinerary, and I appreciate with thousands of people on board, prevention of a break out of some kind is a big challenge. Catching a horrible virus would spoil anyone’s cruise, but due to a serious health issue it would most definitely put me in hospital and could have a detrimental impact on my ongoing health and treatment. So I’m now wondering, what on earth am I thinking going on a cruise, and on a relatively old ship??!

    With previous holidays, I would research things to death before booking. I did a fair amount of research on cruise liners (e.g. reputation), travel destinations etc. I opted for P&O and decided on the preferred destination of Eastern Med. However, as a first-timer I didn’t appreciate the need to explore the details of the ship (size, facilities, age etc) we’d be travelling on.

    Third question is around dining and entertainment. Again reviews in this area are not brilliant for Oceana. Can we expect consistently wonderful fresh, tasty, well-presented food, great service or drab, repetitive, watered down, tasteless fare (as some reviews have suggested). With regard to entertainment what is there to do on board during a cruise a part from sunbath or have spa treatments? I see there’s a theatre on Oceana, which to be honest looks a bit grim and uninviting from pictures I’ve seen. Some reviewers say entertainment is cheesy and disappointing with many walking out mid-performance. I appreciate Oceana is a mid-size ship so options for dining and entertainment are not going to be like the huge ships.

    Of course there’s always going to be negative reviews, but due to the amount of money this cruise will cost us, I’ve actually called P&O to see if I can cancel or transfer our cruise, but due to potential charges and availability elsewhere it’s best to stick with what I’ve booked.

    From your blog it sounds like you have a real soft spot for Oceana – I’m really hoping after our cruise I will too, but right now…. I am very worried! Any comments or tips you have will be welcome. Basically I’m hoping I won’t literally have to ‘jump ship’ to avoid the wrath of my mother in law!!

    1. Hello Yves, thanks for your comment. Firstly I would just like to say that reviews are personal opinion and are they are there to simply advise or provide feedback. In my experience I have read negative reviews of something, when my experience turned out to be much more positive. People can often be quick to criticise but not to praise.

      I do have a soft spot for Oceana and, as you say, she is not a new ship. However she is a good ship for first time cruisers. I personally have never experienced sanitation problems, poor food or poor service on board. However I understand that others may have had a different experience. Also, I have noticed that people who cruise on newer, bigger ships are often disappointed with Oceana as she has a more limited offering compared to bigger vessels. But this is part of her charm. She has one of the highest returning passenger rates of all the P&O Cruises ships. You should have a good variety of entertainment, all of the P&O Cruises ships have set shows from the dedicated on board cast, guest speakers, live bands and tribute acts. I think her theatre is lovely (it also shows films).

      Oceana did have an extensive refit and much of the work was completed in dry dock, but ships require constant maintenance so you may find painting and varnishing taking place when you are on board (most cruise ships will have on board maintenance). Cruise ships tend to have deep cleans each time a cruise finishes/begins (so before you get on the ship) and cleanliness is maintained on a daily basis. P&O Cruises have hand sanitisers in all dining venues, as well as the gangways and they are very strict on cleanliness. I always take a bottle of hand sanitiser with me when I go ashore. An older ship does not carry any more or less risk of illness than a new one.

      I hope the negative reviews don’t put you off wanting to go on your cruise as it is a great way to travel. Oceana also has the best summer itinerary in the fleet, so hopefully you will have some interesting ports and plenty of sunshine. I hope these comments help alleviate some of your anxiety and I really hope you have a wonderful time.

      Anna.

  6. Hi Anna, thanks so much for taking the time to respond and answer my questions.

    It’s so true – people are often very quick to criticise and forget to praise, and perhaps I’ve let all those negative reviews get to me! I know from past holidays when I’ve returned I’ve thought ‘what on earth were those negative reviewers going on about’?…

    While researching I looked at other cruise lines, but kept coming back to Oceana because of her itinerary which will allow us to go to places we haven’t been to before.

    Your comments are really helpful. Also of course, I am grateful that we’re even able go on a cruise – so much in life is taken for granted. After a serious illness – every day is a bonus ☺.

    An adventure awaits…. rather than waste energy on being anxious, I look forward to spending time on the sun soaked deck of Oceana, drinking cocktails, being entertained, and brief visits to various towns and cities in the Med.

    Love your website by the way.

    Take care, and keep blogging! Yves

    1. Dear Anna (and anyone due to sail on Oceana…)

      I posted a message to you back in April 2018 outlining my concerns about sailing on Oceana for a cruise to the Med in Sept 2018 (went with my husband and mother-in-law).

      I just wanted to post an update – somewhat overdue – but I wanted to say I see why you have a soft spot for Oceana!

      Our hearts sank at first when we embarked Oceana and were handed a notice saying there was an outbreak of Norovirus onboard – eeeek. My husband wanted to disembark straight away and go home as he was so worried about my health condition and risks. After discussions with staff, we were reassured and glad to see staff were taking every precaution to contain the outbreak, and we managed to avoid getting ill.

      Naturally I do not have years of cruise experience as you do, but our Cruise in Sept 2018 was truly a memorable experience. The Oceana is beautiful – with a stunning atrium, it’s traditional style throughout the ship is tastefully done, and leaves you feeling well at home in no time. So we were glad to sail post-refurb!

      Many say the staff on a holiday can make or break the experience; the staff on Oceana were wonderful – so friendly, welcoming, and nothing was too much. Actually we were completely humbled by their hard work and dedication at ensuring passengers had a great holiday. They work such long hours with months at sea. We chose to tip individuals directly, but still felt it wasn’t enough to say thank you for their hard work. We didn’t want to leave at the end of the cruise.

      Of course a cruise is also about the excursions – we embarked at Valletta/Malta, saliled to Havar, Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia (all ports were absolutely stunning and we want to go back). Also stopped at Venice (amazing! – has to be on everyone’s bucket list). So all in all, it was an absolutely fantastic first-time cruise experience.

      The food, and service in the restaurants was first class.

      My mother in law was skeptical when we paid for the cruise, but at the end of it she said it was worth every penny.

      By comparison, we went on our 2nd cruise in Sept 2019 on Ventura to Amsterdam, Bruges and St Peters Port/Guernsey…. it was a nice cruise. Our experience with the transfer to Bruges was very disappointing (I had to make a complaint), and the ship couldn’t stop at Guernsey due to choppy sea (of course no one can be blamed for that!).

      However, there was definitely something lacking with the experience on board Ventura; the ship is lovely, the atrium left us feeling underwhelmed compared to Oceana’s. Our cabin was lovely (best part of the cruise as we went for a large Balcony), and our Steward was brilliant. However, we found the staff on Ventura were not as warm and welcoming as on Oceana. As another passenger who has sailed on several P&O ships put it ‘the staff on Ventura are efficient enough to get by, but it’s all quite mechanical’ (words to that effect).

      I’m not sure if removal of gratuity has anything to do with this lack of staff friendliness, and of course I have to temper my comments with the fact these staff work so hard. I don’t know if it was the staff or something else, but compared to Oceana, there’s someting amiss on Ventura….

      If we are able to go on another cruise in 2020 I’d like to try another ship, but I have such fond memories of our holiday on Oceana. I’d really like to sail on her again one day, and now call her The Mother Ship ☺.

      1. Hi Yves,

        Thank you very much for your comments and I am so pleased that you had a great time on Oceana, she really is a wonderful ship. I often find that many people stick to their favourite ship, once they have found it and it sounds like you have! I agree Oceana has the most impressive atrium, certainly my favourite in the fleet! It’s a shame your experience on Ventura wasn’t as positive, but I often find the shorter cruises don’t always do the ships justice (so to speak). Each vessel has their own unique atmosphere and it sounds like Ventura’s was not as positive as it has been in the past.

        Anna.

  7. Myself and my husband are looking forwards to joining Oceana in Malta on 28th June. The only disappointment we have is that we booked this cruise because in the itinerary it said that on her day in Kusadasi we would be able to visit Ephesus. We were greatly looking forwards to this. A few weeks after booking we were contacted and told the ship would not be docking at Kusadasi because of security reasons. We have since learned that P&O did not visit this port last year either, but it was still advertised as visiting Ephesus. We were very disappointed. Bit naughty really. It’s stopping at Heraklion instead. We have been to Crete in the past and been to all the places advertised in the excursions. Nevertheless we are looking forward to our cruise.

  8. I have just booked a cruise next July. It’s my first time travelling solo and I have read mixed reviews from solo travellers. I am a sociable person and don’t mind my own company. However, it would be nice to meet up with other solo travellers for excursions and meal times etc…
    Some of the reviews state that they felt uncomfortable at meal times, like they were not welcome at the table?

    1. Hello Nicola,

      I know that P&O Cruises are very good at putting together social events for solo travellers, such as coffee mornings. You can also request to dine with other solo travellers at meal times. It’s a shame that you have read people feel unwelcome at the table, but this is not something I have come across with solo travellers. I am sure each cruise and ship varies. Hopefully you will have a wonderful cruise. I wouldn’t listen too much to positive/negative reviews, as your experience could be very different to someone else’s.

  9. Hi, your blog is very informative, but you are gaining financially for these blogs and of course the ship companies will possibly be rewarding you in some way. This is why you skirt around answering people asking about negative reviews on the ship by saying that each person’s experience is relative to their expectations. That is a ‘get out’. You aren’t going to agree or be honest are you! I booked an Orissa Suite on the Oceana (the most expensive suite) for a Valletta to Valletta cruise but I am going to cancel after I read that Suite passengers (who pay a lot of money for their cabins) do not get a priority queue for checking in at Valletta but have to stand in line for ages with people who have paid less than a third of what the Suites cost. I have travelled on a lot of ships in priority cabins and have never not been given a priority check in queue. This is outrageous after the price we paid for the cabin. I understand that flights are arriving at different times, but this does not stop P&O from having a separate line for suite guests and ushering them to the front of the queue. I have spent hours reading reviews on the Oceana from only last year (post refit) and there are too many poor reviews regarding the standard of food and entertainment to ignore. I prepare and serve good quality food at home and expect the `fine dining’ on P&O ships that their adverts portray. The poor reviews on poor quality food, poor quality entertainment and rude surly staff are too many to ignore. Apparently they are recouping the money spent on the refit by cutting spending on staff, food and entertainment. This was to be my first cruise with P&O but I am not prepared to spend a large amount of money on a treat for my husband’s 60th birthday, for it to be wasted. I’m sure my entry won’t be posted!

    1. Hello Constance,

      Firstly I can assure you I DO NOT gain financially from any cruise line and I do not work with them or receive any benefits from them. I write and post my reviews on a purely independent basis. If I ever were to work with a cruise line, or gain anything financially from them, by law I would state this in my posts. I write honest reviews based on my own opinions that are aimed to inform and engage my readers. Some of my reviews will feature negative points, as well as positive. My experience of Oceana has never been negative, in fact I would go so far as to say that she is one of my favourite cruise ships (having first cruised on her in 2008) and I’ve never received any bad service on board. I appreciate there are negative reviews about the ship (as there are about most ships within the cruise industry) but as my experience has been positive, I can only respond to negative comments in a neutral way. It’s a shame you have decided to cancel as I know she is a well-loved ship for many P&O passengers. As I don’t work for P&O Cruises I am unable to elaborate on priority boarding in Valletta. Hopefully you will find another ship/line you will enjoy for your husband’s birthday.

  10. Hi Anna
    We loved the space in the aft suites on a pre-refit cruise on Oceana but the sofa bed I used whilst Mum had the fixed double was horrific. They had to bring wooden blocks to prop it up and even with this I spent many uncomfortable nights.
    The following year, on the basis that it was an isolated problem, we booked a corner aft mini suite. Couldn’t believe that the sofa bed was equally damaged. This time they brought a single bed in each night so I slept better.
    P&O couldn’t tell me if the sofa beds had been refurbed so we’ve never booked Oceana since but we are flirting with the idea of a suite on one of the recently released winter itineraries.
    Do you by any chance have any information about the sofa beds from your post refit visit?

    1. Hi Janet,

      I’m afraid I don’t have any information about the sofa beds. There is a very good Facebook group called Oceana – This is the Life. It might be worth putting your question to the group, as someone may have experienced the beds first hand.

      Anna.

  11. Hi Anna
    We will be on the Oceana over Xmas & New Year 2019. Your 🤗 for the ship has given me comfort as I too was very put off by the negative comments about the food and sanitation problems. Is the Italian restaurant any good? What coffee is served on board?

    1. Hi Val,

      I’m a big fan of the Italian restaurant on Oceana – Cafe Jardin. They do fabulous pizza (especially the balsamic one) and I love their ragu with rigatoni pasta (of course the menu may have changed since I was there last). You can also dine there for breakfast and lunch every day for free. I find it more reasonably priced that some of the P&O speciality dining restaurants and I tended to have my breakfast there most mornings. I believe they normally serve Douwe Egberts coffee on board, although there are also Costa speciality outlets. I hope you have a lovely cruise.

      Anna.

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