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Ocean Village Holidays
MV Ocean Village
Reviewed by: Resident X
# previous cruises: 21 to 30
Date of Trip: June 24, 2003
As a member of the P&O P.O.S.H club I was sent through the post an Ocean Village brochure along with other tacky items, including a key ring, video and personal radio. I was interested in the idea so made enquires on prices and they seemed pretty reasonable even though the product you were buying did not exist yet, it was a ship still cruising for P&O. I booked through Going Places as they gave the same price for the holiday but also offered free insurance. I also was slightly put off by the long holding time I had experienced trying to get a quote from the reservation line.
The price difference was minimal between the bottom deck with an MM grade cabin to the B deck cabin, I always choose inside cabins as I don't wish to pay extra for a porthole, a tiny balcony for a large premium did not appeal to me either. The cabin on B deck was booked, B236 and the deposit paid in full. The confirmation letter was sent 3 weeks later with more information on when to pay the final balance.
Then everything stopped. All communication was halted it appeared as they now had our booking so didn't really care. I then paid the full amount of the holiday before the 10 week period, around the time when I was expecting the tours or excursion pack. No confirmation of the full amount paid was sent, I rang them to chase up both items but I was told there was no such confirmation as they do not receive the full amount from Going Places aka My Travel before I travel as they have some special type of credit account, but my tours pack was already sent out. I waited patiently. After 3 weeks I sent an email asking why I had been told the pack had been sent when it clearly had not and also could I possibly have a bottle of champagne placed in the cabin.
As I received no reply I rang them up and was told they only reply to emails once they are informed by telephone that they have been sent. What kind of policy is this ? Either stop the telesales staff making trash up or get it right, preferably the latter. In response to the champagne, you have to order one of the set packages or take your own. This is clearly an area where they fail to meet the service supplied by Island Cruises who will put any item on board in your cabin at your request. The tours pack was also chased up at the same time and after 25minutes of holding and being passed through no less than 6 departments, reception 3 times spoke to a man who could not find any record of my cruise but remembered putting the information in the post that morning. The pack arrived but incorrectly labelled. What a mess the reservation department are.
As I now had the excursion list I wanted to book some as soon as possible in order to ensure they were not booked up, so I rang up after work one night which was 5.45, a flustered woman answered who rushed me through the process in a stern manner, you would think someone spending #10 with you deserved respect, let alone someone paying #170 which would be charged to my ship board account. I also ordered the most expensive 'celebration package' at #50 which could not be charged to my ship board account so I handed over my credit card information. The whole thing took literally 10minutes of holding and 2minutes of conversation.
After the short yet horrible flight on the usual cramped old Britannia charter flight I was glad to get into the airport. After waiting to collect the luggage, something I have never had to do before on a fly cruise, I walked through the door to be presented by a woman waving a clip board instructing people where to go. I approached her and told her that I was going straight to the ship, she replied in pigeon English 'Are you listening to me, I said gate 5'. So we trundled to gate five slightly put off by her attitude. She didn't give the warmest welcome to my holiday at all. At gate five no one knew what was happening as there we coaches going everywhere. There were plenty of Reps but all too busy and lacking knowledge so I walked to a bus and asked the Spanish driver who told me exactly the coach I had to get on. I used this information to help certain other people who were getting in the usual complaining but doing nothing mood. Then with the luggage on the coach you make the 20-30mintue journey to the ship which takes you past the cathedral which gives you a nice taste of Palma.
You then come into the docks past the dreaded Island Escape and a couple of other cruise ships, believe me I am glad I wasn't going on the Island 'please help me' Escape. Then the Ocean Village comes into sight, far more spectacular than the Island Escape. In the sun the graphics on the side don't look that bad and I was pleasantly reminded of my time cruising on her before as the Arcadia.
Once next to the ship an English Rep stepped aboard and explained that the luggage would be loaded off later and that we were to proceed into the terminal to collect our cruise cards. She also gave us the information that the cabins would not be ready until 3pm. We then went into the 'terminal' which was basically a tin shed with a couple of desks. You look for the desk with your lead name letter on it, in my case G. Our cruise tickets were then taken off us and a card issued. This is done in the very orderly way of a woman searching trough a pile of 500 which to my knowledge were in no particular order. Once you get your card a picture is taken of you, they always take one but I never buy them as I'm always looking tired and sweaty.
Then you make your way onto the ship. One tip is to go and see if your cabin has already been cleaned, if it has then your key card will be in the door, however as common courtesy its always nice to go and ask the steward if you can go in there and introduce yourself. Then take a walk to the plantation restaurant and get yourself some food. If your cabin has not been serviced they say you can store your hand luggage in the Marquee which is unattended, I suppose if you trust the 1000 odd strangers on the ship with you then you will do this.
I had pre-ordered the celebration package as you read in the background section of the review. There was no sign, on asking the steward I was told to give it until 6pm as it would have to come to the restaurant. I waited until 7pm and there was no sign. This was hardly being placed in my cabin for sailing was it. I went to reception where he wrong it on a bit of scrap paper after several dirty looks and about 2 words. Nothing was heard until the second time I went to reception when I was told to wait for 15mins by the desk for the manager to come. The manager came and introduced himself, he told me there was no record of the booking. I was being called a lair, I had apparently not ordered the package and therefore I was not given the package. The only option to me was to buy the same package at #10 less because they could no longer offer the flowers. I was being called a liar and they would not believe I had ordered it. I was totally disheartened and it ruined the first day of my holiday. As a holiday is what you make it I went on hoping that things would get better ...
The ship has a wide range of bars all beautifully furnished, those who have travelled on the Arcadia before will notice that the Connexions bar has been constructed in place of the card room, and a couple of other store rooms. The connections bar might not look anything special in the photographs but really does look impressive when your on the ship. The quality of the furnishings is very good, the bar is particularly impressive. One fault which goes throughout the ship is the lack of staff, the ones which are there do try their best but without being blessed with six arms there is going to be a wait at peak times.
Children seem to be welcome at all times in the bars, even when the comedian was on in Connexions using some choice language. The Oval is right next door to Connexions and is themed as a traditional British pub and has not changed since the Arcadia, the carpet had holes and was taped up in certain areas. In the Oval they had entertainment such as karaoke using the ancient Laser Disc system, so don't expect any recent hits to be droned on in there. The Oval is the only public area on the ship where waiter service is not available and with 2 or less bar staff shared from Connexions getting a drink here can be a lengthy process. Check out the Image Bank for a full menu list and more photos of these areas.
The bar menu seemed generic apart from Charlie's Bar which was I guess was supposed to be a coffee shop where you could get decent quality coffee from an Italian coffee machine, again little changed from the Arcadia. Other snacks are available from here including cookies and muffins. The Blue Bar is up one level and opposite Charlie's Bar in the Village Square. The Blue Bar is the most refined bar and a good for a late night drink. The Splash Bar is the bar I used most in the day and during the deck shows, its on the top deck facing the Crystal Pool area, its split into 3 sections the swim up bar being in the middle and one dry section each side. Most drinks here are served in plastic non disposable glasses, which people obviously felt the need to throw in the bin due to the amount of signs telling us not to. Just across from the Splash Bar is the Sunweaver Bar which serves melting ice cream and a limited section of drinks. To me it didn't really have a purpose, should have been a place where you could get towels etc. The Bayside Nightclub is in the top part of the ship, and other than the gym in the day basically is used until 11pm when it gets busy, especially with English staff who enjoy the shots. All added to the fun, mostly cheesy disco but again the room does look naff in the photos but when your on holiday all the colours make sense. A wide range of ages were dancing and the music reflected this! DJ Paul Rudd was obviously having to lower himself from the claims on the poster outside of being an amazing superstar DJ, his mixing was rather good though.
The Marquee is the main show lounge and does have a bar in it which you can sit at or there any many waiters available. The shows are only half an hour so on a couple of occasions my drinks arrived 5minutues after the show had finished. The Marquee has undergone massive refurbishment since being Arcadia and does look very impressive but is already showing where costs might have been cut as some of the carpet was coming away from the steps etc. There is a much more major flaw in the design of the Marquee and the Casino, that is on each side of the Marquee balcony there are slot machines, and when the shows are on at night all you can here is the slots paying out into the specially designed loud metal holders. This not only puts you off the show but makes you want to leave the show in order to get a share of the winnings. Perhaps this is an intentional flaw by P&O to get you into the Casino to loose your hard earned cash. The Casino isn't that large but you can pay for chips/tokens using your cruise card if you have pre registered your credit card or using pounds sterling. The claim the ship is cash free but in reality you always need some cash for stamps or the self service Laundrette which there are two of, I used the one on deck 10. A word of warning buy your soap powder from the Kiosk as the machines are a little temperamental and also the machines only take the right change, #1.50 for a wash - #1 & 50p coin, or 50p for a dry accepted only a 50p coin. The machines are high quality commercial stock and new for Ocean Village. The use of the irons is totally free. There are no washing baskets which is different to the Arcadia.
The Moviedrome is the cinema and hasn't changed at all since the Arcadia, the films are ones which you can buy on DVD now so don't go expecting to see the latest films, the projection is a bit dodgy too. The tables that fold out from the arms are also at a slant so you cant rest your drink on them. The cinema on the whole was a nice experience though, one of the better at sea. Much cleaner than your local UGC too!
The Village Square is the first thing you will see on the Ocean Village, and those who have not cruised before will be impressed. The sculpture with propellers suspended in above the stairs does look better painted but the carpet on the stairs was very dubious. Gone is the Pursers Desk and along comes reception, further demonstrating this is not a cruise ship but floating hotel. Always expect a queue at the Reception Desk and then if you get a male member of staff expect unfriendly, rude service. If you happen to get a female member of staff expect polite service but still no clue about what they are doing. The shops are also in the Village Square, but there are on certain nights tables selling 'special offer' items that seem to make the female members buy buy buy. The Kiosk is open for most of the day selling chocolate and other holiday essentials. The photo shop takes up most of the top level of the Village Square with boards full of photos which you can buy, nearly 100% are naff and over priced but if that's your thing then good luck. The other shops are only open when you are at sea for tax reasons. All the people serving in the shops are British and are very friendly if a little incapable at certain times, for example when the shop would be reopening an incorrect time was nearly always given. The other 3 shops sell overpriced Ocean Village merchandise, cigarettes, spirits and jewellery. Nothing that spectacular, neither are the prices.
Both Gyms are well equipped, especially the new Ocean View Gym which contains some of the latest technology in Fitness Equipment. They never seemed that busy as there is so much to do on shore and on the ship keeping fit does come last in most peoples lists. The pool area is 1st for daytime use, on the day at sea it really is hop the sun bed, they are everywhere! I spent most of this day in the pool and in one of the four Jacuzzis, you can guarantee there will always be one with a group of kids messing about in one of them! This is probably because they are right next to the Rivera Pool which the under 16s are allowed in, opposed to the Crystal Pool which they are not. Both pools were warm, contained fresh water and around 6ft deep. Most of the entertainment in the day took place to the rear of the Crystal Pool in-between La Luna and the Sunweaver Bar.
All the public toilets I used were dirty and not up to scratch, this is probably due to the lack of staff. This needs to be sorted as you don't expect to use dirty toilets on a ship, maybe in a 2* Greek resort yes but not on a P&O ship. The only other area would be the sports nets which have not changed much since the Arcadia, there are shuffleboard, basketball and golf driving areas.
The Plantation - The Plantation restaurant is located on the leisure deck, deck 12. Its open 24 hours a day, the setting is wonderful with large picture windows and nice decor. The food was always hot, plates clean and well stocked. If anything the only thing dirty in this restaurant was the people eating in it. Would it be too much to use the tongs provided instead of digging in with your fingers? The breakfast was generic in both restaurants, Full English breakfast before 10am when it just goes too the continental option. 4 stations which are stocked with many types of tea, coffee and fruit juice. Not many people tend to eat here as the waterfront is nearer to most peoples cabins. This means no queuing for basically the same meal.
For Lunch the Plantation does tend to get used as its right by the pool this means people tended to manage to pull on a t-shirt stuff their faces and then get back before the 30minute limit on the sun bed passes. There is a wide range of food to choose from at lunch time with burgers and hot dogs being the main options. There is also salads and cold meats on offer. As for dessert there is always a choice most being delicious.
Dinner at the Plantations is a static but at the same time very tasty. Its a selection of Asian and Oriental food, a choice of 6 or 7 dishes. The salad, cold meat and fruit are always on offer. All the dishes were hot and very tasty, if you like buffet food and eating when you want then the Plantation is very good.
The Waterfront - The waterfront is the original main dining room from the Arcadia and retains most of the features from before, apart from it has been split into two and is now buffet service. It is a well designed restaurant and the most popular for breakfast and evening meal. Its located on deck 7 and is open from 7-10am for breakfast. The breakfast is Full English and Continental, the same as the Plantation. The stations with coffee, tea and juice are also present in this restaurant.
For lunch at 12-2pm, it has pasta and other dishes which in my experience were not warm enough to be eaten and enjoyed. I would much rather the Plantation restaurant even though it was not the most popular. The restaurant was clean and well tended to, the staff were friendly and attentive, getting drinks was not a problem.
The dinner, 6-10pm, menu here changes every night, and follows a particular theme, such as French, American, International, Spanish etc. It generally gets busy at around 8pm. As you walk in you see the ice carving of the day and around the tables there are chocolate and fruit sculptures, and there is a huge range of food to choose from. I think this restaurant was good for people who did not enjoy the different tastes of oriental food, and for those who were too lazy to walk across the deck to the restaurant.
La Luna - La Luna is a small restaurant situated by the Crystal Pool. There are tables outside, so you can eat Al Fresco or seats inside, there is a small charge at night but as you get waiter service it is well worth the small charge. La Luna is not open for breakfast but at lunch time there is a menu with pizza, pasta, skins and jacket potatoes. There is also a salad bar which is self service. The portions here are not huge but enough for lunch.
The restaurant needs to be booked in advance in the evening and is very popular, there is only a small amount of tables inside so if you require one of these book early. The portions are bigger and its a really nice setting in the night.
The Bistro - The Bistro is the flagship restaurant on the ship, and after eating there on 4 occasions its obvious why. You need to book for this restaurant but take my advice and go before 7pm, as then you get an early bird discount and its a bargain at #5 per person. The restaurant is in the second section of the main restaurant as it used to be on the Arcadia. With waiter service and a mouth-watering menu its well worth a visit. Beautiful china and cutlery, a special mention goes to Conrad who entertained us very well throughout our visits. The whole experience reminded me of what service should be like on a cruise ship. May I recommend the Lemon Tart to anyone who is visiting soon!
Deck BBQ - On certain nights behind the Splash Bar there is a Deck BBQ which steak, corn on the cob and burgers. There is also the various accompaniments. Well worth a visit even if it is just for a snack! Nothing much else to say about that.
The cabins and corridors have not changed very much at all since the Arcadia days. The cabins are larger than most ships, those who have not cruised before will not appreciate this. My cabin was on B deck towards the rear and inside. The cabin was clean, spacious and well fitted out, as I would expect from a P&O ship. The shower room was a decent size, and the shower was very powerful and the water temperature was constant. The cabin is only serviced once a day on an alternate rota, so your cabin will get cleaned early the one day and late the next day as they start at different ends. The cleaning of the cabin was never that thorough and sometimes only surface cleaned. The stewardess did her best in the time given to her and her dedication was amazing considering the hours she worked.
On the day of arrival I was standing in the corridor at around 7pm wondering where my luggage was, nothing had turned up. The cabin adjoined to us had the door open and the people sitting on the bed. I asked why they were on the bed and they said they were not happy with the smell in their cabin, they invited me in and there was a terrible stench. They said that the hotel manager had claimed it was the underlay smelling and not the toilet like I suggested. It turns out that showing her age the ship has a problem with the pressure driven toilet system. In that what is supposed to go down comes up and floods the cabin. If this happens the staff first of all clear the worst of it up, then place large fans to dry the carpet. As a result the carpet outside many cabins is stained. If you have large noisy fans outside your room, don't put up with it get moved. I had a word with the manager on behalf of the two ladies and arranged for them to be moved to another cabin as the smell was unacceptable. I also sorted the baggage problem by marching him along and dragging my cases out personally. He was very busy yet still apologetic.
The rest of the cabin was perfect. The bed was comfortable and the pillows were new Slumberland ones so ensured a good nights sleep. There was no vibration at all, I didn't feel the ship move once on the pond of a Mediterranean Sea. Those who had not cruised before were certain they could feel the ship moving. It has to be a force 9 before you can declare a ship moving.
One night sitting in the bar I found myself talking to contractors who are paid to stay in passenger cabins and put right the problems that were not put right before the ship left the yard. They gave me some interesting insights into the problems, none that serious.
Overall the cabins are of a high standard, again only the problem with a lack of staff means that they are not cleaned efficiently.
The entertainment, yuck, I really wished it would stop sometimes. In the daytime, evening and night they brought these two women and a keyboard out. These two really did manage to murder every song they came across, I think they were called Anything Goes. Its more like Everyone Goes, she sang every song in the same tone and the other girl pressed demo on the keyboard. Did I mention they also sing the same songs over and over ? I don't think I was alone in wanting to throw them overboard.
One part of the entertainment that wasn't so bad was the quizzes, ice and food carving at various times in the day. There are many other activities that happen, don't go by the newspaper otherwise you will end up disappointed. The unattended activities like shuffleboard and basketball are well worth a try. You wont get much time due to the heavy schedule on visiting places.
The night entertainment is basically a choice between visiting the bars, going to the cinema or seeing one of the shows in the Marquee which are repeated twice a night, apart from on Saturday night when the show goes onto the deck. The shows are basically like going to a scaled down circus, you are waiting for a elephant to come on at any time. They are skilled acrobats but the 30minute shows are hardly worth it, simply not up to scratch compared to the other shows I've seen at sea, and on land. The whole week is a build up to the main show on the deck on Saturday. It seems all the budget has been blown on this one show.
On Saturday night get to the Rivera Pool early if you want a good seat for the show, then expect a long wait. The show was an expansion of the circus that we had seen in the Marquee but it was outside with a few more lights. Nothing I had not seen before. If you liked the entertainment in the Millennium Dome then you would love this, its by the same people. I find a woman wrapping herself in a sheet pretty boring. The performers do look like they are putting lots of effort into it, it must be hard to make a show to fit into half an hour.
The entertainment for me was a low point. Although I can amuse myself so it didn't bother me that much.
Ocean Village is exactly what it says on the tin, the price you pay is reflected on what you get. There are no heavy discounts on the cruises, at the current time Ocean Village is in its infancy. Ocean Village needs more than one ship in order to get the necessary economies of scale in order to provide the kind of value they need to. The formula is there and the ship is much better than any of its competitors. It is head of heels better than the Island Escape both from the outside and throughout the cruise. The ship is showing its age compared to those operated by RCI, but then you pay the premium to cruise with them. The cruise is not for everyone and they have a few teething problems, many have been solved already since launch but after these have been ironed out it will be an incredible holiday. Those who have not cruised before will defiantly fall in love with cruising by the time they leave. This is what Ocean Village should be praised for, opening cruising out to a different market who would not of thought about going on a cruise before. I did meet some lovely people on board and overall had a very good holiday. It will be interesting to visit Ocean Village in a year or two and see how the ship has fared.
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