Today Oriana sailed from Southampton under her new name “Piano Land”. Stripped of her new P&O corporate branding she headed off to an uncertain future in China. It is possible she will be very successful in her new role and only time will tell. Fair weather and safe seas for your future Oriana. You will not be forgotten.
The images below are all courtesy of Steve Carrett and are used with permission.
Steve Carrett shot this video of her departure.
* end update*
Ships are strange things, they are sometimes regarded with fondness by those who sail in them, and there are plenty of examples of that affection. I am sure that nobody really gives a hoot about a mass produced airliner, but a classic ship is a whole different ball game. Sadly this month sees the withdrawal of one of the few remaining classic cruise ships left. It was announced that the Oriana was to be withdrawn and had been sold for service in China in August.
What makes her special is that she was built as a replacement for the legendary Canberra and incorporates aspects of her design in her structure. While she does not have the wonderful curves of the Great White Whale, she was a worthy successor, becoming more popular each year and building up a legendary following.
The logic behind her disposal is a puzzling one, and there are a few possible scenarios: she could be mechanically troublesome, she does not fit in with the Carnival Cruises group “image”, she is getting on in years (she was launched on 30 June 1994), there are not enough balcony cabins in her, etc. We are not privy to these decisions, but we sure as heck can condemn them.
My own association with the ship dates from 1997 when I undertook a short hop from Durban to Cape Town on her and I was also able to work on her as a baggage handler back in 2013. It was never fun to work on board her when doing baggage because you literally worked yourself to a standstill.
A VOYAGE ON THE ORIANA. 22-03-97 to 24-03-97. Durban-Cape Town
The announcement that Canberra would be replaced by a new ship was greeted with much dismay by everybody. The concept vessel shown to the media was criticised as being too much like a wedding cake and too little like Canberra. She was built by Joseph Meyer of Papenburg, Germany and entered service in 1995. Soon it was announced that this ship, known as Oriana, would be calling in Durban during her 1997 world cruise. The time had come for us to sail again. I was one of the first South Africans to book the short Durban to Cape Town trip, I phoned as the voyage was made available. Needless to say I took what I could get! The berth that I chose was a shared 4 berth inside cabin. This berth was guaranteed but I would only know my cabin number once the ship arrived, something that would play in my favour once she was in Durban.
Then it was time to wait and watch the exchange rate. The ship was due in Durban on 22 March, arriving in Cape Town on 24 March, a short 1 day and two night hop. By now Rudi had booked as well and we started counting the days.
As the sailing grew closer I decided that I would return to Durban on Symphony just for fun and went ahead and booked that as well. Now I had two ships to look forward to and an empty bank account.
Early in the morning, on Friday the 21st we departed on the long drive to Durban. Howard was at the helm and for once we made the trip down in daylight! The problem was that the grotty weather was coming too and we hit the usual rain at Van Reenen and all the way to Durban. Duly arriving we headed off for lunch on board the 40000 ton container ship, MSC Samia. before dropping Rudi and his girl friend off at their sleeping place. The rest of us made for the tug Jannie Oelofsen where we would be spending the night. There were not too many movements on the go and yet they were all very interesting.
Our last movement was to a ship which seemed really decrepit, its lines could not reach the quayside and she was having engine problems. On arrival back at the tug jetty we found Ken Malcolm, who joined Neville and Clive Bush on the pilot boat while Howard and I hopped on to the tug. The pilot boat headed out to sea to drop off a pilot at Symphony and one at Oriana. Our tug was allocated to Oriana, and with the weather finally clearing, we awaited our first glimpse of this great ship. Symphony waddled in first, looking as great as ever but she was soon to be overwhelmed by what was astern of her.
Our first sight of Oriana was of a huge white ship which really was not attractive when foreshortened. However, once she was in view and had turned completely then only could we appreciate her. She was huge, dazzling white and perfectly trimmed onto her waterline. Equipped with three bow thrusters, twin screws, twin rudders and a stern thruster, she berthed herself while the tugs stood off in awe. As far as I remember she was the second biggest cruise ship to enter Durban (QE2 was the biggest)
Dropped off by the tug we quickly collected the guys and we headed for the ship. There was no doubt that she was big, she towered over everything in sight and made Symphony look like a toy. We headed down to the gangway where I attempted to get the guys on board as Rudi had not organised a ship visit. There was no luck in that department, however I was taken on board to get my cabin number and booked in as well. I now had a boarding pass and could come and go as I pleased. I got off again and we all went around to Symphony to look at her, alas there was no visit organised either. Time was passing, and the smell of food was rather urgent so I said my farewells to everybody and headed for my newest ship….
The entrance is on F deck where the reception desk and bottom of the 5 deck atrium is situated. The carpets are a light green colour and a fountain gurgles behind the staircase. One deck up are the shops with the Peninsular restaurant midships and Oriental restaurant aft. The next deck has a spectacular wrap around promenade as well as the Pacific lounge, Lords Tavern, Harlequins lounge, the casino, Andersons with its club like atmosphere, and the really spectacular Theatre Royal. D deck houses the children’s playrooms, Chaplains Cinema, library, The Crichton complex and passenger cabins.
The next three decks are devoted solely to cabins with the Lido deck right on top of all of these. Here is found the conservatory where the buffet is served. The two pools are on this deck as well as the gym. The deck surrounding this area has a jogging track around the ship while the entrance to the Crows Nest is found forward. There are three sets of lifts in the ship and they all work!. The terrace pool is situated on the promenade deck aft and the view from the sun deck down to the stern where this pool is, is really spectacular. The massive buff funnel crowns the whole package and is easily recognisable for miles.
The images below were taken in 2013 with my cellphone and I make no excuses for quality.
Surprisingly enough, the ship, in-spite of its size is relatively simple to find your way around. My cabin was on E deck and the number two staircase was just around the corner. Inside, the cabin was small but neat. There were three other guys in the cabin, one of whom was on his sixth world cruise and who had been on since Southampton. There was a fridge, TV, mini-safe and every other amenity imaginable in that cabin. The missing porthole was not really a problem. Once on deck, I watched Symphony sail and as she passed I could almost look down her funnel. By the time we sailed it was late and the light was failing and it looked like rain was brewing again. The wind howled us off the decks and we all headed below. There was very little vibration or motion on board and it was very difficult to think that you were on board a ship.
Being such a big ship, there is never any feeling of crowds of people, in fact I wonder how full she really was? There was quite a bit to do on board, bars to visit, shops to ogle, movies to attend and of course food to scoff. I had eaten lunch at the conservatory and if it was any indication of the standard of service on board then we were really in for a treat. I was not disappointed as we sat down for supper in the Peninsular restaurant.
The service was brilliant with two very articulate and polite stewards catering for our every need. There was food galore, in fact too much food for one sitting as far as I am concerned. However it was dispatched with great gusto and we all retired that night feeling somewhat bloated. More food awaited us at breakfast, again in the conservatory. The place was so big that It never really was crowded and the queues were quite small.
Our next visit was to reception where we enquired whether it was possible to present our World Ship Society plaque to the master. After some phone calls we were told that we would be informed, so off we scuttled, meeting at the jacuzzi. We spent the morning eating ice cream in the jacuzzi with a howling wind around us. On arrival back at the cabin I discovered that our visit to the master was scheduled for 11H30 and it was 11H20 already. Needless to say I could not find Rudi and I had some quick explaining to do to the captain’s secretary. The visit was rescheduled for later that day and off we went for more food! Lunch over, we were introduced to the master and presented our plaque. I was also able to grab a pic from her bridge wing, and as you can see the weather was improving.
Once we finished off there it was as if we had accomplished all that had to be done and the rest of the time I spent on a deck chair on that glorious promenade watching the sea go by. After all, isn’t that what sea travel is all about?
The next morning it was up early to watch the approach to Cape Town. We passed Cape Point around 06H30 but there were clouds around everything and we could not see very much. We entered Cape Town harbour about 08H30, the tugs were spraying water and on the quayside a band played stirring nautical type tunes.
This time Oriana had lines on the tugs and she did not berth herself. A mediocre crowd awaited us as we slowly started our disembarkation. Once off the ship I met up with my lift and we went to drop my luggage before heading out to town. The ship dominated everything and we could see that huge funnel for miles.
That night in cold weather the Oriana took her leave, sailing slowly past us as we stood at the quayside, her lights were all burning and the funnel glowed in the spotlights. As she dropped the pilot I could see the tiered decks that overlooked the terrace pool. I had stood there not too long ago, now it was over and Oriana was on her way home. I had another ship to catch the next day, but would anything ever compare? somehow I doubted it. The Symphony may be a great ship, but she is not in the same league as Oriana was.
I saw Oriana many times in Southampton, and the biggest difference that I saw was a “ducktail” that had been added to her stern. It did not enhance her looks at all and you could see it was an afterthought. I worked baggage on her one day and snuck away at lunch time and took the pics you see above. It was like visiting an old friend, she was familiar, but not as familiar. I never thought that I would see her leaving P&O at such a young age and I really hoped that one day I would be able to do another short voyage on her. My shipwatch entry for Oriana may be found here.
Farewell Oriana, long may you still be with us and may you care for those who sail in you the way you always did. Safe harbours and fair weather in your voyages. You will be missed.