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Christmas Day – At sea
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Wed 25 Dec ‘13 – day 11  As is tradition with P&O, Oriana like all the other ships in the fleet was at sea on Christmas Day.

During the night the ship left the Adriatic Sea and re-entered the Mediterranean Sea as we are now heading for Palma on the island of Mallorca, one of the Islas Baleares and our next port of call.

It was a bright sunny day, but with just a hint of a swell that made the ship roll slightly.  As I left my cabin I wished Sailesh my cabin steward a ‘Happy Christmas’ before I headed up to the Conservatory where I had my traditional start to Christmas Day, a ‘Bucks Fizz’ breakfast with bacon rolls.

I will miss lunch as the Christmas Day dinner on-board was always a magnificent affair and so I will need plenty of room in order to eat the fare on offer.

Even on Christmas Day there was a full programme of events happening all over ship, so there should be something for everyone to do, even if that was just sitting and reading while watching the world go by.

Having finished breakfast I had a turn around the deck in order to get some fresh air into my lungs, because although every cabin is air-conditioned, nothing clears the cobwebs like the real thing.  The ship was heading southwest to the heel of Italy and so the coastline was on the starboard beam; we would then turn on to a more westerly course as we made our way across the Golfo di Taranto before heading north to the Messina Straits once we have passed Cap Spartivento at the toe of the mainland.

I did some work on my computer before going to the Crow’s Nest Bar where the Oriana Orchestra gave a concert of ‘Music from the Movies’ which was narrated by Natalie.  The place was packed but I managed to find an empty seat at the bar from where I listened to an hour of wonderful music.

During the concert the ship entered the Messina Straits, but as we were in the northbound traffic separation lane and therefore fairly close to the mainland, Mount Etna was way off across the Straits on the port side of the vessel.  Even if the light mist had not been present the volcano would have still been too far away to get a good view of it.

Normally there are many ferries and other craft travelling between Sicily and the mainland and as the north and southbound vessels have priority, the local traffic is constantly switching course to avoid a collision.  However today there is hardly anything moving as everyone is taking a well-earned day off.  As the ship made its transit of the Straits, the Captain gave a commentary as we passed the various sights of interest.  Once we had exited the northern end of the Straits, the ship altered course to the west and we then paralleled the course of Sicily for the remainder of the afternoon.  The Isle de Volcano which we passed to starboard was shrouded in mist and so little of it could be seen; the best time to see it is at dusk when the plume of steam and regular eruptions are silhouetted against the darkening sky.

The individual quiz was a disaster as I knew very few of the answers and so didn’t even get into double figures, but I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

An aperitif in the Crow’s Nest Bar while listening to the cocktail pianist play a medley of tunes was a good way to start the evening and before you headed down to sample the delights produced by Executive Chef and his team.

Christmas Dinner is always a full blown affair with up to nine courses (if you could fit them all in), but the vast majority of people have far fewer than that otherwise they could be so full it could be difficult to get up from the table and make your way around.

The table was set with crackers, hats and a festive menu, so the first thing to do was put your hat on before pulling the crackers and then reading out the terrible jokes.

I always have a traditional dinner, so turkey with all the trimmings plus brussel sprouts which I like; then Christmas Pud covered with brandy which was then set on fire before having thick cream poured on top.  Mince pies and brandy butter were served with coffee or tea and if you were still hungry the waiters bring round Stollen, a heavy German fruit cake, then dates and nuts.  An excellent repast.

As I left the restaurant I noticed that the Captain was at one of the tables, so he had been entertaining his dinner companions.  Once upon a time all the ships officers, except for those on watch, would have been allocated a table at which have dinner on formal nights, but this tradition seems to have faded away.  Personally I consider this to be a disappointment as it allow passengers to be able to interact with the ships officers in a convivial atmosphere.

During dinner the ship had left the lee of Sicily and was now feeling the full effect the strong winds from the south; this had created a significant swell which meant that the ship was moving around quite noticeably.

For passengers, the Oriental Restaurant and Crow’s Nest Bar are as far apart as they can go on Oriana, aft deck 6 to forward deck 13, so a fair bit of walking was involved.

While I was having a late night drink the stewardesses brought round cheese and onion pasties plus sweet & sour rolls and offered them to the passengers; everyone declined as they have had enough to eat already this evening.

I call it a night at the witching hour and made my way back to my cabin and hoped for a good night’s sleep.