This was the first proper cruise that my partner and I have done. We did it as a trial as we have booked on the QE2 transatlantic crossing in Dec 04 and wanted to check a bit of a cruise while we waited.
This was a great experience. It was a 4 day/ 3 night "taster" on the Aurora that I assume is to try and get people like us to give cruising a try. Although, we only ever met people that were experienced cruisers who were using the short trip as a "top-up" to get their cruise fix before longer cruises!
The 3 nights involved going from Southampton - Zeebrugge - Guersney - Southampton. We had booked into a mini-suite.
The following are some observations and thoughts:
Check-in/ embarkation: amazing The check in was so smooth and easy to do. More used to airline travel we were amazed at how efficient and organized it was. We barely stood in line. Once into the waiting area (which is neat and tidy but not very exciting) we felt that they could offer more for passengers to do. We had an priority boarding aswe were in a mini-suite. We were taken to ANDERSONS bar and given a drink and sandwiches.
Cabin We were very very impressed. It is around 350 sq feet. With a massive king size bed (I belive made from 2 singles), bathroom with Jacuzzi bath and 2 basins, lounge area with clever set up where a dining room table is inserted into a desk area. The balcony comfortably held 2 chairs and a lounger. There were chocolates, flowers and champagne to greet us.
Dining We had second sitting in the ALEXANDRIA. It looked good. The service was so good it was almost invisible that you barely even realized it was all happening. Drinks were reasonably priced, and the food was varied and delicious. We had been put with a good set of people, 2 single travellers and a couple. All were regular cruisers and so we spent many happy hours chatting and getting their advice.
We had breakfast and lunch in the MEDINA each day as that had a served breakfast and lunch, preferring that to the ORANGERY which had a buffet. Service here was more patchy. Maybe as they knew that we would not be influencing their tips.
The formal tea was also in that restaurant. That was very good indeed with a lovely selection of pastries, cakes, sandwiches etc
Entertainment etc - We used the gym twice. It is well equipped and bright. It would be good if they had TVs or better music as the gym instructor played techno dance music all the time which was not ideal! - The spa was good, and we both had excellent and (compared to UK land prices) very reasonably priced back, neck and shoulder massage. - The shows put on by the theatre company (young dancer/ singers) were good. They have huge energy, and while clearly they had a good singing and dancing coach/ director they probably need some help on the staging and "book" as that was a bit amateur. But they were very enjoyable. - The casino was small and very smoke filled. - Tours on offer were varied and well organized.
Overall We thought the ship was great. It was very clean and well maintained -and you never saw anyone doing it so like the restaurant service it is done quietly and so as you don't notice it.
The shops were terrible - and we felt a real missed opportunity as even though we wanted to spend money all they had was fragrance, some clothes if you had forgotten something and a bit of watches, chains etc. It is a large and beautiful ship and looks great too!
This was our 6th cruise - details of others are:
September 1995: Royal Caribbean, Sovereign of the Seas, Eastern Caribbean
January 1997: Princess Cruises, Crown Princess, Southern Caribbean
June 1998: Royal Caribbean, Vision of the Seas, Mediterranean
September 1998: Royal Caribbean, Rhapsody of the Seas, Alaska
August 1999: Celebrity, Century, Baltic
Firstly I must say that this review is only based on my opinion, other people may have very differing opinions, and as the review is quite long I appreciate anyone who takes the time to stay with it to the end. We decided it was time to try a cruise on a British ship sailing from Southampton, England so as P&O's new ship "Aurora" was in her maiden season we went ahead and booked in March for the "Canaries Caper" Cruise departing 18 June 2000.
"Aurora" was built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany and arrived off the Isle of Wight on 16th April, where she was escorted by the "Tall Ships" into her home port of Southampton. This was a spectacle I was not able to witness as we live in Scotland which is more than 500 miles from the port, buthowever it was televised and was quite a sight to behold.
She was named on 27th April, 2000 by the Princess Royal and commenced her maiden voyage on May 1st, 2000. Unfortunately she developed a bearing fault and had to abandon the maiden cruise and return to Southampton. However, P&O handled the situation admirably, by giving a full refund and a future cruise to the disappointed passengers, they also threw open the bars with free drink during the return to Southampton. Whilst devastating for the passengers, I was in contact with some on the maiden voyage who said that the crew were marvellous and that the atmosphere on board had taken on a true "Dunkirk" spirit.
Day 1: Embark Southampton, England
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Vigo, Spain
Day 4: At Sea
Day 5: Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Day 6: Tenerife, Canary Islands
Day 7: Madeira
Day 8: At Sea
Day 9: At Sea
Day 10: Disembark Southampton, England
Pre-Cruise: We drove down to Southampton three days before the cruise and stayed in the 5* De Vere Grand Harbour Hotel, this turned out to be an excellent choice of hotel, as it was extremely comfortable, in an ideal situation for both the port and exploring the sights of Southampton and it had a view right over Southampton Water.
Having driven down overnight to Southampton we arrived at the Grand Harbour at 8 am where they immediately made our room available when normal check in time was 2 pm, they also accommodated a later than normal departure as well, so top marks to De Vere. Every member of staff we encountered during our stay went out of their way to please.
The sea has played a key role in Southampton's history, one of the most famous ships to sail from there was Titanic and its poignant story is told in detail at the Maritime museum. This museum certainly does Southampton proud, we found it so interesting that we visited it several times over the few days that we were there. One of my favourite exhibits was the 30 foot builder's model of the Queen Mary, a little smaller but still considerable were scale models of Capetown Castle, Oranje, QE2, Andes, Normandie, Britannic. We also followed the Titanic trail throughout the city and for anyone who is interested in ships, these two attractions should not be missed.
Southampton is steeped in history and you can see examples of this fascinating heritage throughout the city, with its Medieval Town Walls which are some of the best preserved in the UK. Anyone cruising from here should consider arriving a few days before the cruise to spend some time exploring the city.
Embarkation: This has been the most organised embarkation that I have experienced to date. We arrived at the Mayflower Terminal at around 12.55 pm. Our car was checked in with Andrew's Shipside services, so we drove right into a covered terminal by the ship, the car was taken away by Andrews staff, the luggage was immediately picked up by a porter, and we were directed to the check in desks, where we were issued a number which would be called when the embarkation process would begin, this took all of 5 minutes.. The lounge area we were directed to was very comfortable, there was food and beverages as well as a Newsagents available, upstairs there was a viewing terrace where you could stand in awe looking at your home for the next few days.. They started embarkation promptly at 2.30 pm and we were on board by 2.40 pm.
Cabin Attendants were lined up waiting to direct passengers to their cabins if required, but as we seemed to know where we were going we were directed to the nearest elevators.
The ship slipped its moorings at 1800 hours and it was a pretty spectacular send off, and to leave from United Kingdom was extra special. With the The Central Band of the Royal British Legion playing Land of Hope and Glory, the streamers were being thrown from all decks of the ship, the ships horn sounding, and friends on the terminal building terrace waving us off, yes I can say it was very special, it certainly brought a lump to the throat. The fire tug also accompanied us out of the port, and all the way down Southampton Water there were small craft accompanying us, some with balloons and Bon Voyage banners strung along the sides. With a perfect 78 degree sunny afternoon, I can say a very nice send off indeed. We dropped our pilot off at 20.08 hours and took a General SW heading down the English Channel towards Vigo 675 nautical miles away at an average cruising speed of 20.3 knots.
Cabin: We were in Cabin A279 a category IB on A Deck 11. It was a standard outside cabin with balcony. It was tastefully decorated in blonde woods and pastel shades. It has two single beds made up into a king size, and small 2 seater sofa, a nice reasonable size wooden coffee table, (not one of those silly glass tables that are so small that they are more a nuisance than anything else). There was ample drawer and wardrobe space, with approximately 11 drawers of various sizes, and a double wardrobe with two shelves above, one which housed the life jackets, spare blankets and another for misc. items. By the dressing table there were more shelves and mirrors with approx. 5 small shelves behind each mirror, and a hairdryer housed in the top drawer. There were tea and coffee making facilities and small packets of biscuits were replenished daily, and a Mini Fridge that was empty so you could put your own items in if you so wished. The artwork toned in nicely with the colour scheme in the cabin. Something I had never noticed on previous ships was at the location of the life jacket in the wardrobe, when the lights were out there was a small lifejacket sign that gently glowed in the dark, (a great safety feature) and as each day went by I began to notice just how much detail there was around this ship.
The balcony was approx. (9 ft x 4 ft.) in this cabin and was big enough for two lounge chairs with padded covers and a small table. It was completely private with only a ½" space around the adjoining doors, so your neighbour could see very little, but if they were smokers the smoke did tend to drift through.
The toilet was compact but very functional, it did have a bath, but you would have to be a pretty small person to stretch out in this bath, but it was suitable for a Sitz bath if required, and certainly there was more than enough space in the shower, no soaping the walls and doing a twirl in this shower. The shower was over the bath, had plenty of hot water and pressure and I found it easy enough to step into and out of the bath with no problems, however if you are 85 years of age you may think differently. Sports Wash was provided in a dispenser, and there was a small P&O cloth toilet bag filled with amenities, like cotton balls & buds, sewing kit, emery boards, shower cap. There were two mirrored cabinets with 4 shelves in each.
When we arrived at the cabin our luggage was already there and our cabin steward Manuel introduced himself immediately and ran through what was available and how everything worked. He fulfilled everything we could have wished for in a cabin steward. He was completely unobtrusive. Also on the dressing table there were two wallets with our cruise cards, cabin door keys, our table seating & table number, there was a form to fill in with your credit card details which could be left at the pursers desk whenever you wished, so there was no need to stand in a long line to have your cruise card validated. In a leather wallet were postcards, port guides, envelopes, paper, and every kind of information about the ship that any person would ever need.
General Well I have to say that this ship has already developed a character and atmosphere that I have found on no other ship that I have been on to date. They say the best ship is always the one you are on at present, well with Aurora all I can say is I cannot wait to get back on her again. Some observations I would like to point out are that there was very little problems with smoking in the public areas on this ship, everyone kept to the rules and only smoked in the areas designated as smoking areas. Each bar or deck area was divided up and there were no smoking signs placed on the tables in certain areas, and these signs were observed. There were a few areas that the segregation did not occur and this was in Champions Bar, (Sports Bar) well there were 4 non-smoking tables but these were not actually in the bar they were in the walk way from/to the bar. This was one bar that we did not frequent a lot, although the decor was pleasant enough and once again there was detailed wood areas here, even down to the wooden tables with sports themes like baseballs carved on them There was also a good mix of passengers, you can see the breakdown of the passenger list below, and many families were on board, but there were no problems whatsover with the children of all ages, every child I saw behaved impeccably. The facilities on board for children are extensive, the pool areas were divided up with the Riviera Pool (Open Air) for adults only, the Crystal Pool (Covered Pool) for both, and on the beautiful tiered stern a large family pool and smaller children's pool, this segregation meant that everyone was happy, but you were perfectly free to go wherever you wished. On Deck 8 all the children's facilities for each age group were kept in one area, so in the evening I very rarely saw children of any age. Also any child age 10 - 16 were to be accompanied by an adult after the hours of midnight, and I am sure that these rules would be enforced by the staff. There were 130 children on board and in the first 3 days of the cruise the weather was a bit dull and grey and I sometimes wondered where the children disappeared to, because they never seemed to be around, so I guess that P&O run a very good children's programme on this ship.
Passenger Nationality Breakdown Age Breakdown
USA - 10
Australian - 6
British - 1843
Brazil - 5
German - 4
Greek - 1
Guadeloupe - 2
Indian - 1
Irish - 7
Italian - 1
Japanese - 7
New Zealand - 4
Portuguese - 1
Total - 1,892
Under 2: 11
2 - 5: 34
6 - 9: 43
10 - 13: 29
14 - 17: 13
18 - 20: 6
21 - 35: 158
Over 55: 1,003
Of the above total approx 1,300 were repeat passengers.
On formal nights the dress code followed was 99% formal, about 45% white dinner jackets, 50% tuxedo's or black dinner suits, 4% dark suits, and all were wearing bow ties. The ladies were suitably attired, and the dress code was adhered to throughout the evening. This created a very nice ambience throughout the evening, because lets face it how many times other than on a cruise do we get the chance to dress up like this. There was a great camaraderie too with the theme evenings, eg: the Black and White Ball where approx. 85% dressed in formal black and white, women included, and they held classes where the ladies made the black and white paper roses from crepe paper, I went along to try my hand at making the roses and it was a lot of fun with all the women trying their best, there were even a couple of men sat in on the class and everyone generally had a good laugh. I must say I took to it like a duck to water (pardon the pun) and several people stopped me during the evening to admire my handywork. I always find it difficult to describe a ship in great detail moving from deck to deck so the best I can do is try and describe some of the rooms and areas that were favourites of mine.
There are LOTS of open deck space on Aurora and she has numerous areas covered with teak decking, there is a full teak promenade deck, which I think there is nothing quite like striding along on a blustery, breezy morning when no one else is around, or taking a very late evening stroll with the stars shining in the sky above.
The tiered aft areas are quite spectacular also decked out with teak, and are much larger than they are ever portrayed in photographs. It is quite something to stand on the end of one of these tiers looking aft at the wake as Aurora plies through the sea at approx. 25 knots.
Every little detail has been taken into account, it takes several days to notice all this detail, like marble edgings around the carpets, the great amount of WOOD detail in every area, and the general finish to each and every room in this ship is exquisite. There are 3 banks of elevators and the carpet is the same design and colour in each deck and elevator, so if you are aft the carpet is all the same pattern and colour, and its different for midships etc, but when you look closely you begin to notice that not only does the carpet have the same design, the marble that adorns the elevators and the landings where the art is hung is toned in, if its a black pattern on the carpet the marble is black, if it is a peach pattern the marble is peach, the wooden handrails also tone in, if they are blonde wood in the landings then they are blonde wood inside the elevators, mid ship elevators and landings are all in teak wood. The carpets throughout the ship are in rich colours and patterns, and everywhere they tone in nicely with the decor of each room. Once again great detail abounds even down to the corridors where the cabins are located, the way the carpet is designed it looks like there are square loose rugs in front of each set of two cabin doors. In my opinion the designers of this ship have produced a gem and it is probably one of the most beautiful new ships around. The art work itself is worthy of a tour from the beginning to end of the ship, a lot of it is modern and very bright but I liked it . I particularly liked the bronzes and the art, there are also some really fine paintings of previous P&O Ships like Orontes, Stratheden, Morea, and the first Arcadia.
Andersons Bar This has a very country club atmosphere to it, but also very sophisticated with its central fireplace, and elegant couches and chairs. This is one of the bars that is a child free zone, and a tie must be worn after 6 pm.. It led out to Champagne Charlies which was another very nicely furnished area with a grand piano and a very detailed marble floor. The String Quartet played in this area each evening.
Crows Nest Bar This is a very large lounge on Deck 13 that has windows on all three sides looking out over the bow, unfortunately there is a bit of obstruction by the design of the bridge and you do not get a view of the bow, but you can see directly forward. Also here are paintings of Canberra, and Oriana (1959) and a striking model of Strathnaver behind the bar.
There are small forward viewing areas on A and B decks but you would need some really calm seas to fully appreciate them, we did go out and it took two of us to open the door back up again the wind was so strong.
Library There is a very wide selection of books available, the decor is very relaxing in pastel shades of beige and browns and is adorned by tasteful furniture designed and made by Viscount Linley (The Queens Nephew). There are large leather listening chairs for playing CD's, the Cyber Study is housed in the library as well. They also had a nice selection of books on ships and the history of ships available for sale in the library, and a sample of each book was available for taking out.
It was open most days from 8 am to 10 pm, this makes a pleasant change because I found the libraries on the previous ships were only open for 2 hours or so each day.
Raffles This is the chocolate and specialty coffee bar. Once again the decor in this area is quite stunning with Queen Anne type furniture finished in gold and brown stripes, marble pattern floors, and delicate lamps. Divine Belgian Chocolates could be purchased individually, or in ½ or l lb boxes. For anyone who likes chocolate these can be recommended.
Ports When we booked this cruise we booked it because we had been to all but one of the ports of call and had seen everything there was to see on those islands, which meant that we could have a more relaxing time, we would not have to rush off in the morning on tours, and we had more time to spend on the ship itself. All our previous cruises had been very port intensive and whilst very interesting, we felt that we did not have any time to fully appreciate our time on board, so I am afraid I cannot go into any great detail of tours etc, but anyone who is interested to know more about each island can feel free to contact me and I can give information that we have gleaned from land based holidays on those islands.
So I am afraid that I can only tell you what we did when we arrived at each port, which I am sure is not what most people would do. Also as I am firstly a ship lover and the cruising part comes second, the things that I find interesting may seem strange to a normal cruiser, so please bare with me.
Vigo - Spain - 20.06.00 - Dull. We were due to arrive in Vigo Bay at approx. 06.30 hrs, so I was up there for the arrival unfortunately it was to be our second day of dull, overcast and drizzly weather, so it marred the arrival somewhat. However, I was able to get a real good view of the "Practicos" (Pilot) at 0706 hrs hopping on to Aurora like he was just stepping over a kerb. At this time there were only myself and two other lonely souls on promenade deck, just what I like.
The city is within easy walking distance from where the ship docks, however before you get to the main shopping areas there is some quite steep climbing to do, so good walking shoes are advisable. It is like many other cities, but if you take the time to look there are some old balconied buildings to be seen.
Vigo is a great seaport built on and around the slopes of Monte de Castro, it overlooks Vigo Bay, one of the worlds great natural harbours. At 32 km long by 5 km wide, with very deep water, it has been said that it is large enough to hold the combined fleets of all the world! At the mouth of the estuary the rocky and picturesque Cies Islands shelter the bay from Atlantic gales.
Today the Bridge was open to visitors from 2 pm until 3.30 pm, it was also to be open when we were in Tenerife, and Madeira.
It was very interesting to see the modern technology, and it gave us a chance to view along the ship from the bridge wings, also on the floor of these wings were a glass panel to give the officers a view directly below as well, its quite a feeling standing on that glass looking 12 stories below.
We slipped our moorings and sailed out of Vigo at 1700 hours dropping our pilot off at 1714, and took a heading SSW towards Lanzarote in the Canary Islands 860 nautical miles away at an average cruising speed of 22.3 kts.
Lanzarote - 22.06.00 - Sunny - 85 deg. Once again I was up bright and early to watch Aurora cruise the full length of the island of Lanzarote, but as it was only 6.15 am it was still dark however you could see the twinkling lights of the Capital Arrecife in the distance, and by the time we reached Playa Blanca in the South of the Island, it was almost dawn and the shape of the mountains in the distance began to take form. Playa Blanca was a small fishing port at one time, now it no longer is with hotels and apartments dotting the coastline. At approx. 7 am we were held in position by the use of the ships thrusters, it hardly moved an inch and as this was a tender port it was a little time before the tenders were organised. We went ashore at approximately 9.15 am and as we were taking no tours we strolled around the shopping area. Even although there was a bit of a swell, the tenders were pretty smooth this maybe had something to do with the fact that they were twin hulled. We took a WSW heading north of Fuertaventura at 1814 hrs to Santa Cruz, Tenerife 126 nautical miles away at an average cruising speed of 10.1 kts.
Tenerife - 23.06.00 - Sunny - 82 deg. We picked up our pilot at 07.13 hrs and once again at that time the promenade deck was empty except for crew members who by the way always greet you with a Hello or Good Morning, The ship tied up at 0748 hrs and was cleared by 08.30 hrs. Tenerife is the largest and most important of the Canary Islands off the West Coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. The dominant feature of the island is El Teide at a height of 12,198 ft above sea level. There was quite a variety of tours to pick from but once again we chose to take the free shuttle bus to town and from there it was a short stroll to the shopping area. Today whilst lying at the pool a newly delivered piece of equipment was being tested, it was a winch type cradle which would allow wheelchair passengers access to the pool, a rather sturdy girl crew member was to be the test, when the manoeuvre was complete the crowd gave a round of applause. I think this is a very thoughtful consideration by P&O.
We slipped our moorings and sailed out of Santa Cruz at 1805 hrs dropping our pilot at 1822 hrs and took a NNW heading towards Madeira 257 nautical miles away at an average cruising speed of 22.5 kts.
Madeira - 24.06.00 - 75 deg. We picked up our pilot at approx. 07.09 hrs and it was a short run into the harbour.
Madeira is a Portuguese island lying west of Morocco in the Atlantic. We docked at 0748 hrs in Funchal the capital and the ship laid on a free water launch to take you into the centre of town. Madeira is world famous for its profusion of plants and flowers, and these can be seen best in the Botanical Gardens approx. 2 miles away.
The suburb of Monte is 3 miles from the centre of Funchal, and apart from the 18th Century church the village is the starting place of the famous toboggan ride which are controlled by two carreiros and although not cheap, this is certainly a different way to travel. You can expect to pay approx. £10 per person for the thrill. The ships tour that covered this ride cost £26.00 per person.
Another worthwhile visit is Cabo Girao which is 7 miles westward, this is the world's second highest sea cliffs and plunge 1932 feet into the Atlantic. We had covered all there was to see on this beautiful island on a previous 2 week land trip so we took a walk around town, visited the Cathedral built between 1485 and 1515 and 1/4 mile further east along Rua Aljube is the Market, this fascinating municipal market is in a two storey, open roofed building which is bustling with traders selling meat, cheese, fruit, flowers, vegetables and fish. A word of warning if you do not like strong smells then I would advise against a visit here. We slipped our moorings and sailed out of Funchal at 1600 hrs, dropping our pilot off at 1615 hrs, however there was some excitement as one man was left on the quayside staring at the stern of Aurora as she left port, the ship stopped and the pilot boat sped out to let him join the ship, he was geared up with a lifejacket and helped on board, He should think himself extremely lucky as the next port of call was Southampton 3 days away.
We took a NE heading towards the Bay of Biscay and back to Southampton 1319 nautical miles away at an average cruising speed of 22.6 kts.
Food The food was excellent throughout the cruise, and I had no complaints at all, of course it was more geared towards the British palate. Some particular dishes that spring to mind were the Beef Wellington, Chocolate Souffle, Baked Alaska, Parsnip & Apple Soup, Orange Souffle with Brandy. There were differences in the way the meals were presented compared with other lines we had been on.
During dinner your entree' eg: nicely presented steak, fish etc was placed in front of you and then the waiters proceeded to serve the vegetables/accompaniments (like silver service), this was very nicely done, and different from getting the whole dish placed in front of you already plated up.
There were a wide variety of restaurants that you could eat in. The two main dining rooms the Alexandria and Medina were both very nice, however I think the Alexandria had the edge as it has windows on all three sides. On our sailing the Alexandria restaurant was open for Breakfast and Lunch as well as dinner, except on 2 days out of the 9 when only the Medina restaurant was open.
The Cafe Bordeaux was the 24 hour restaurant, it had a nice menu selection, and was very nicely decorated, and whilst quite suitable for 24 hour dining, it did have a walkway along one side of it with a constant stream of people walking past, which was not conducive to fine dining as an alternative restaurant in the evening, of which by the way there was a very small cover charge of £2.25, however it would be very suitable for some people who would probably think nothing of this small imperfection. The Orangery was the casual dining on Lido Deck 12. It is decorated with bright colours, but still there are great amounts of wood in this room as well, like wood lined walk ways still edged with the little marble detail. The choice and quality of food in this lido deck is also the best we have had, it was always hot, and the way it was set out with many staggered stations meant very few times were there any queues. Nearly every lunch time always on the menu was one of those favourite P&O curries, I do not eat curry but my husband said they could be recommended. Three days there were barbecues on deck but this did not mean that all other eating venues were not operational, you could still eat in every other place if the barbecue was not to your liking.
Another first for us was whilst we were lying by the Pool a waiter was going around offering passengers small tubs of ice cream, (free) now to me that is what I call service, you did not even need to get up from where you were lying on a nice big padded sun lounger. Later on in the week we did visit the ice cream bar and there was a charge here of 85 p. per cone, so I would stick with the tubs delivered right to your lounger if I was you.
Entertainment There was a great variety of entertainment, in the Curzon Theatre which was styled on the Theatres of the West End of London, there were the review shows performed by The Stadium Theatre Company, they were highly polished performers. Also included were Classical Concerts if you like that kind of thing, these were performed in the Cinema Playhouse Theatre, eg: Piano Recital entitled "Nocturne" - Chopin's finest piano melodies including Nocturne in B, Berceuse Polonaise in A. Also each evening The Armadillo String Quartert played classical music in Charlies Bar. Other head liners were Carlo Paul Santanna who was lead singer of a 70's pop group he sang the group hits but also did a fine selection of Mario Lanza arias which were terrific, so it was a nice all round selection.
The comedian was John Martin from Liverpool and we found him to be very funny, Mercury and Ken in the Crows Nest Bar were excellent, but the best show for me was the Tribute to Freddie Mercury and Queen performed in Carmens show lounge at midnight on the second last night, it was also the night of the Black and White Ball, and this lounge was packed standing room only. The Stadium Theatre Company were absolutely outstanding with both costumes, dancing and the tributes sung, towards the end when they sung "Barcelona" the crowds were so enthusiastic, whistling and cheering and bursting the black and white balloons that had been adoring the room, but what I found funny was (try and imagine the scene) the room was darkened down for the show, and all the people who were standing quite closely together in the entrance of the lounge decked out in their black and white regalia, were swaying in unison as we were going through the Bay of Biscay at 1 am in a Force 9, so they looked like penguins ready to jump into the sea. This scene appealed to my sense of humour, some may not find it funny.
There was the usual variety of Activities to do during the day, including 2 Trivia Quizzes daily, one we sat in on the prize was a bottle of champagne. Also a good selection of films were shown in the Playhouse
Cinema The Cruise Director Phil Raymond presented "Good Morning Aurora" on in cabin television which featured competitions, quizzes, special guests. Another chance to win prizes were on Radio Aurora which featured special requests and phone in quizzes.
General Some things I would like to mention are:
Self Service Laundry facilities are available in various locations, there was one on the deck that we were on that had 9 washing machines, 9 driers and 6 irons, all of these facilities were FREE and all you had to do was provide your own washing powder, which if you had not carried your own could be purchased from the shop on board for 75 pence a box.
After dinner they always came round offering a selection of fruit to eat or take away with you if you so wished, as well as speciality chocolates, other nights petit fours, fruit delights, chocolate mints, nougat, coconut ice etc, and cappuccino's after dinner were also free.
The highlight of the cruise for me was visiting the Bridge, because I had requested some information for this review there was a letter placed in my cabin inviting me to join the Navigator on the Bridge whilst we were at sea, and on this day it was a Force 8 and approx. 20 foot seas, however what a thrill it was to be standing up on the bridge in conditions like this, and to have some of the operational features explained. I think highly of P&O for allowing this to happen.
Disembarkation We sailed past The Grand Harbour Hotel, Southampton at approx. 06.12 hours and it was then that I experienced that sinking feeling in my stomach and knew it was over and I would finally have to leave this wonderful ship. The disembarkation process was painless, after breakfast we were allowed to stay in our cabin until the ship cleared, around 0900 hrs, we were in the first batch of passengers called, the luggage was set out by Deck Order, we picked it up and our car was parked right inside the terminal building, we picked up the keys and were on the Motor Way out of Southampton by 09.30 hrs.
This cruise fulfilled all my expectations, it may not be for everyone, bearing in mind the passenger breakdown above, and that the food is definitely to suit the British, but I for one cannot wait until I cruise again with P&O on Aurora or maybe Oriana.
If there are any questions that you wish to ask please feel free to contact me on [email protected] Best Regards Mary G. Kerr