Thursday, 5 January 2017

P&O Cruise X624 Oriana 18th December 2016 - 3rd January 2017

I last embarked P&O cruises good ship Oriana, in 1999 and on the 18th December this year, she had been in dry dock in Germany for three weeks, for a major refurbishment, so she was looking spick and span.   This was Oriana docked in Lisbon, what a fantastic photo.

I notified the diet reservations team, of my vegan diet and requested some almond milk and I took a few goodies with me, in fact this was only half what I took with me, my bedside cabinet was stuffed full.

The Head Waiter looking after me, Prosunjit Kanjilal or Jit for short, took my order each evening, for the following nights dinner.   Jit is the best Head Waiter I have met in over thirty cruises, he listened to my ideas for dishes and took great care to ensure I received the correct dishes.   In fact Jit got to know my tastes so well, he was making suggestions for me, that is getting to know your passengers.   I tried to stick to veganised dishes off the normal menus, or something off the vegetarian menus, now with vegan options as shown below.   There are two vegetarian menus, which are rotated during the cruise and I hope to see these develop and evolve, to reduce the reliance on egg and dairy.

P&O highlight vegetarian wines on the wine list and a few vegan wines on their website, but the information was sketchy so I did some research before I went away, emailing wine producers or suppliers.   I did not email anywhere near all of them, but found over twenty five vegan wines on the list, nothing like the handful that P&O say they offer.   If I can find out the information, then P&O need to up their game, as it is not difficult to find out (November 2017 there is a far more extensive list on P&O's website now, perhaps they read this review).

Diet Chef Monsi was working a very busy diet section, catering for over ninety people, with varying dietary requirements, it is a high pressure role and I still marvel how the system works.  Monsi made some awesome dishes, which not only looked good on the plate, but were packed with flavour and totally delicious.   I have included a selection of dishes starting with soups, with several appearing on the menus every day, the soups were excellent, my favourite being the pea and mint.

 Butternut Squash Soup

 Roast Tomato Soup

 Parsnip Soup

 Pea & Mint Soup

 Mushroom Soup

 Potato & Cabbage Soup

There was always plenty of choice for starters and sometimes it was difficult to choose what to have.

Roast Courgette & Cannellini Bean Houmous

 Vegetable Pakora With Mint & Coriander Chutney 

Roast Mushroom & Asparagus Salad 

 Vegetable Spring Rolls

 Avocado Salad

Moutabal & Romesco Dips With Crudite 

 Tomato Salad

 Garlic Mushroom Salad

Guacamole With Crudite & Corn Chips

Main courses encompassed all areas of the globe and Monsi's paella and risottos, which I have had on so many cruises, I have lost count, were the best renditions ever.   Monsi is an excellent chef and his dishes were packed with flavour and visually enticing.

Spicy Fried Mushroom Rice 

Griddled Aubergine & Cannellini Bean Houmous 

 Mushroom Pudding, Celeriac Puree & Stuffed Cabbage Roll

 Risotto Cakes With Tomato Sauce

 Falafels, Sweetcorn Puree & Braised Leeks


 Beetroot Risotto, Charred Onions & Apple & Fennel Salad

 Vegetable Stirfry

 Panko Breadcrumb Vegetables, Chips & Mushy Peas

 Mushroom & Spinach Curry

By the end of the main course, I was too full for pudding, although Jit kept persevering in asking if I wanted one, so I usually had just fruit salad, but sorbets, Swedish Glace and soya cream are available and it would be easy to create a vegan dessert if I wanted one.   Maybe one day other dairy free alternatives will be available, such as oat cream and coconut yogurts, for those intolerant to soya.

There were a couple of dining hiccups during the cruise, handled quickly and professionally by Jit and I could tell that those involved were besides themselves, with their errors, so I decided to forget about it and move on, mistakes happen.

Overall the food and service was fantastic, with vegan options improving each cruise and I hope to see them evolve as gluten free and diabetic options have.

I asked Jit if I could meet Monsi on our last morning, so we met up for coffee and a chat in the Peninsular restaurant,   My first impression was how level headed and calm Monsi is, perfect attributes for the diet section, I really enjoyed having a chat with both him and Jit about their duties.   I was interested to hear there were three other vegans on board, unheard of when I started cruising.   I was lucky, after all dining is a big part of cruising and these two guys certainly made it memorable.

Roll on my next cruise!

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