Ok lovely reader, we are at the end of this whole very sad and sorry story. We woke up early, again, and met in the buffeteria. Today one of the good things happened. A P&O server offered to help carry my tray for me, this was a lovely and moving movement even though the tray only contained a plate with some cool (temperature not attitude) baked beans and a sausage. I joined my sister and our lovely girls and we all had a glint of hope in our eyes. We remembered how yesterday we had eaten the best meal of the trip so far and today we were in Bruges. It was foreign and exotic, the food was bound to be amazing. It didn’t matter that the breakfast was Dullard International, we had taste to come. Hurrah for our second trip to land and gourmet restaurants.
We set off for Bruges, a simple trip requiring a coach trip to Blankenberge, a town that seemed not unlike Newbury to be honest, in fact the main difference is that the houses had shutters not curtains. From there we waited nearly an hour for a train to Bruges station then a bus to Bruges centre. A long trip but worth every minute we were sure although I was a little worried when Rachel and Ruby bundled me into a luggage locker and tried to lock it because they thought it was funny. It wasn’t.
Ruby looking sad, the lockers they locked me in behind her
This was how we appeared most of the time, hysterical.
Bruges, the weather was just as I always imagined when I thought about Bruges, grey and drizzly. Everywhere we looked we saw familiar faces from the boat, even a hen or two with rather sagging bunny ears in the distance. We wanted to see what the local food venues offered and as is our wont we (I say we so that I don’t sound so crazy as it was actually me) checked out all the menus for desperate fear that we would miss out on something better. Now I thought this was called MOFO but apparently that is something else and rather rude, in fact it is called FOMO Fear Of Missing Out. We decided to ask a local for their opinion but everyone else appeared to be a tourist. Eventually I twigged that the person with the giant dog would be a local so Beth and I did a pincer movement to get his attention. I don’t mean that we made pincer shapes with our hands I mean that we approached him from both sides so that he was cornered. Sadly both he AND his dog were also tourists. We were on our own.
Every single mussel dish seemed to start at €22 wherever we went so in the end we just went for it. We found a lovely authentic looking place which had some diners in it that spoke ‘foreign’ and was pretty full. We decided on the same principle as when we were in Guernsey, go for one excellent course. I had the mussels in Belgium beer and bacon and everyone else had the seafood brochette with prawns, scallop, salmon and eel. Wow, when the seafood came out I had severe plate envy although my mussels were plentiful. Unfortunately..
Now doesnt that look beautiful, a wonderful tower of fishy beauty with some asparagus and broccoli in there as well. The vegetables tasted amazingly similar, a sort of long thin mush and a sprouty mush. The seafood that gave us such hope ws overcooked and so rubbery we could have used it as entertainment on the boat for some sort of bouncy throwing game.
Whoop maybe I had chosen best after all, smugly I put the spoon down to the bottom of the pot and scraped. I could feel the grit that covered most of the bottom of the dish, this was not only tasting of the sea it resembled the beach as well. Blast! Damn and Blast. I think, dear reader, that you know how incredibly cross I get when food that I purchase isnt good enough. Well my travelling companions felt similarly. We were a bitter and resentful group when we left the restaurant. The only saving was the purchase of a waffle for €7 (by now this felt like a bargain) on the way back to the ship.
Still, we had our final meal to look forward to. We had paid an extra £70 to dine at Ocean Grill, Marco Pierre Whites restaurant on the Oriana. He wouldn’t put his name to anything that wasn’t excellent would he, he would only endorse quality of the highest order.
There werent many people in the restaurant which should have been a sign. The good thing is that the waitress asked if I wanted my food cut up for me as she had noticed my broken arm. That was a very good thing.
Butternut soup that no one could eat, it was like coloured water, the amazing flavour sucker struck again
Creamed cauliflower soup with smoked paprika straws and no crispy shallots
This was Ruby’s starter, it was like condensed soup and she couldn’t eat it so swapped with Beth who had the Thai Fish Cake
Thai Fishcake with Hollandaise sauce and Finnan haddock and corn chowder ……. and surprise bacon
This was a very brave and adventurous dish. The Thai Fishcake together with the haddock was umm interesting. The bacon was unfortunate as it wasn’t mentioned on the menu and Beth is a pescatarian, it didn’t matter as she gave it to Ruby who also didn’t like it.
Prawn cocktail with brown bread and butter which are those tiny circles just behind the dish
This was a bog standard prawn cocktail with the maddest ratio of prawn to bread I have ever seen. They served two tiny rounds the size of a 50p piece.
Soft shell crab
This tasted ok!
The lobster had that fluffy cotton wool texture that tastes as if it has been frozen. Not good
Steak with garlic king prawns, yawn
Steak was ok, prawns tasted woolly and frozen again. And ooh look, Jenga chips, soggy.
Lamb with Dauphinoise Potato, Crushed Minted Peas and a Romarin Jus
They cut up the lamb for me which was great. It wasn’t rare as requested and was quite chewy. Didn’t eat more than a third
This was ok, fluffy in a good way with thin crispy shortbread, nothing special but edible.
Beth barely ate any of this, it looked burnt although I dont think it was, it just wasn’t attractive or tasty.
Ok Marco what is going on here. You created this restaurant yes? You created the menu yes? You ensured the kitchen would put out the food you wanted it to yes? So why was it so rubbish. I judged a food competition in Newbury Market Square on Saturday with three restaurants, Brebis, Bladebone and Luckys all sending along a chef and EVERY dish they produced was so much better than any dish we had on the Oriana. Surely your food should be amazing. I am SOO disappointed. This was meant to be the best meal of the cruise. We paid extra for it and even paid extra on the extra once we sat down and chose our food. What on earth is that about. I am seriously unhappy that you have had my money and extra money and you disappointed me!! How could you?
So there you go, that is my personal experience of a cruise. The P& O ship Oriana. The good things are that they were very generous offering us back 50 % of the price paid because of bad weather which wasn’t their fault which lost us a day at sea. In fact losing a day was a good thing too. Although we haven’t had the money refunded yet. There was a nice server who carried my tray for me at breakfast and a nice waiter who cut up my food in Marco’s restaurant. I had a lovely time with Beth, my sister and Ruby and Rachel, our daughters. We laughed a lot. I would love to go on holiday with them again. The meal at Pier 17 in Guernsey was amazing. I would go back to that restaurant like a shot. The education has been great, I have learned that cruising isn’t for me, nor is Bruges. The other good thing is that we now really appreciate being at home or at work or indeed anywhere but on a ship. However we feel we have been cheated out of a holiday so if you would like to donate one to us we would be very grateful. As long as it isn’t afloat.
A dog on a bike in Bruges