CRUISE REPORT R206 'AURORA'
2-19 JUNE 2012
This was to be our 5th time on 'Aurora', this time in Cabin C311 on the stern as always. Entering our cabin to find each of us had a pair of P & O slippers waiting for us and a bag to take them home in. Wow the excitement so early in the cruise. (LOL) It's an outside cabin with no balcony but it did have a three seated settee that made up into a double bed for kids? But it was over the Kids Disco where at 22.30 one evening during the cruise some idiot turned the base up full that vibrated our cabin so badly. I don't think we were the only one's to complain as the music stopped during our complaint phone call.
On our first evening we met our four dinning companions who were to make our Dinning moments a joy during the whole cruise.
During our first of two sea days before we reached Valencia I made a few observations. One is still unable to get a seat in Raffles for a morning coffee due to sleepers and those reading books. P & O should make the seating more uncomfortable making genuine customers more welcome.
Since this was our first really hot weather cruise I was immediately made aware of what I felt was a selfish practise. This was the placing of towels over sun beds or chairs then go to Breakfast for 50 minuets then return. This practise is repeated at Lunch Time for an hour and 20 minuets until 18.00 hours when the decks become deserted.
I remonstrated with an elderly lady who with her two Northern Companions returning from a Medina Restaurant Lunch that lasted an hour and 40 Minuets. Her retort was, Pointing to the lower decks, "If they can do it so can we". Even after the ships paper said this practise was forbidden. They still did it.
I'm glad we never visit the Caribbean for I understand the same practise happens there?.
Valencia our first port of call was a modern City with some interesting Architecture. Our shuttle bus took us into Valencia having to take part of the route already laid out for the forthcoming Formula 1 racing. Eventually we caught the HOHO bus to The Oceanographic Park. At the Park we spent most of the morning watching Walruses and Penguins behind glass. But there was plenty of other sea life around in the grounds. Back on the HOHO and walk around before returning to the ship by 17.30.
The ship pulled out two miles from shore and stopped to evacuate our first passenger casualty with our medical team. Their return saw us on our way once more.
A sea day where we passed south of Sardinia on our way to the Straights of Messina arriving in Messina about 07.00. The towel berks were already at work. I don't think these passengers ever go ashore?
We were booked on a tour to Taormina. But our guides diction wasn't really understandable and the sound system sounded as though he was talking through cellophane. He was obviously a very knowledgeable man. But adding an 'A' to the end of almost every word made it difficult to understand him. The journey was amazing and I was most impressed by Sicilian Road ways. So many tunnels and the Flora beside some sections was quite breath taking. Arriving at Taormina our guides diction seems to get worse. One picked up an odd phrase now and then. Gradually one noticed our original 24 was reducing with each step. But we reached the old Roman Coliseum where I noted many of our party were really scattered. There was no sign of the Guide we passed him on our way out. Some great photo opportunities before we returned to our Coach where the sound system seemed even worse. Some of us complained when we retuned to the ship where three days later we were flannelled off with a no fault found letter. I wish more on our coach had complained back on the ship.
Next day was Corfu where we did our own thing. It was 25% Centigrade when we arrived and it was quite a walk down the concrete causeway to a Shuttle Bus that took us into the old Town. Walkabouts are always interesting. You get an opportunity to poke you way down little alleys and busy streets. Plenty of places to sit and take in a beer which we did at lunch time. But time to leave arrived too quickly.
Steaming north with the Albanian Coast on our Starboard side on our way up to Dubrovnik. Arriving at
Dubrovnik at 08.00 morning in a temperature of 26% Centigrade.
We wanted to take a ride up in the cable car. But we were not aware what a strenuous journey it was going to be up hundreds of steps to the main road only to discover the cable car was going to be closed for up to two ours due to strong winds at the top. We took our tickets back and got a refund.
Making a decision to climb even more stairs up to the City Wall seemed fine at the time. Completely shattered on reaching the top only to discover even more steps as the wall was built at differing levels. Still we were glad we made it even if my wife worried about me. A stop at a tiny cafe for a coke and some more photographs we eventually moved on. I'm glad we were mad enough to do this. Two young ladies from the Cruiser 'Grand Celebration' asked if I would take their photograph. They in tern did the same for us. Both girls came from Barcelona.
We had to be back on board by 15.30.
The following morning we arrived in Venice in what one would describe as overcast weather which eventually did improved. I was surprised to see so many passengers at the rails so early in the morning as we slowly followed the wide 'S' shaped route up the estuary to our dock. Still it was interesting and I snapping away like a demented Oriental as was everyone else, mostly with mobile phones.
Arriving at our dock to find two Liners already berthed. 'Grandeur of the Seas' and 'Costa Fascinosa'. We were booked on the all day Essence of Venice Tour. We had an excellent Guide who being small we kept loosing her in the crowds particularly when crossing the bridges. But we all made it. A tour through the Doge's Palace was a real eye opener and the attached prison. The walk over the Bridge of Sighs on the way to internment was quite an experience. We had a lunch brake to do our own thing wandering the narrow alleys window shopping until meeting up again for a boat trip out to a Glass Blowing Factory on the Island of Murano that was really interesting but their products were very expensive. The long boat trip back to our ship we set sail for a full day at sea then the Island of Cefalonia off the Greek Coast.
Cefalonia turned out to be the most beautiful Island of the whole trip. Our female guide was of South African/Greek Origins with her feet firmly in Greek soil. A visit to an underground cave where on a boat we were rowed under stalactites
before disembarking for a long steep clime back to the surface. Really it was just a Tourist trap that involved a very steep climb to the road. Our Coach motored to the top of the Island where we were rewarded with some magnificent views. A stop for lunch at a pleasant Cafe before rejoining our coach for our return to the ship taking in more of the beauty of the coastline.
Malta was our next port of call where we caught a taxi in with another couple at 10 Euros it would have cost us the same as a pair, so that was a 5 Euro saving. We had a good walk around having been here before noting the arch at the Bus station has been pulled down and a large steel framework of a building under constructing in its place. The once familiar Yellow buses have all been replaced by modern Arriva buses. We only have a half day here and times flies when your having fun. You really have to wander from the main roadways and make fresh discoveries. The new transport we found were Electric Taxies. We eventually took one back to the berth asking the driver (A woman) to take us the scenic route. Driving through busy narrow street with the driver continually sounding the taxies buzzer seemed to have little affect. Maybe pedestrians thought it was an insect behind them? It was all over too soon. But facing two sea days too our next and last port gave us time to regain our energies.
If your wondering what we did on our sea days, the cinema was a great escape and we managed to watch three great movies. 'War Horse', 'The Artist' and the latest 'Mission Impossible'. But my cold got worse and the level of our bottle of Bourbon began to go down rapidly.
Oporto in Portugal we docked at the tiny dock of Leixoes. Our shuttle bus took as well into the outskirts so it was a long walk down to the river that I thought was an amazing if untidy looking place. At the river we joined a cruiser for the 6 Bridges trip. It was very impressive if your into bridges. But the shore line offered many photo opportunities. It being a Sunday there wasn't much opportunity to make purchases but there were a few gift shops open on our steep walk back to the shuttle bus so we managed to visit a few.
The walk up hill to our shuttle bus really was sheer agony to my right leg. But we made it. With just one sea day to go before we returned back at Southampton. Our last evening meal we said Our fond goodbyes to our table companions.
One of our Waiters with whom I had been teasing about his lapel badge (P & O 175 Anniversary) gave me his. I didn't have the heart to tell him I had purchased one in one of the ships shops for Â£1.99. But I was humbled and since we had joined P & O's new general tipping scheme one left feeling a little guilty. I did add an extra tip to our cabin Stewart who every evening had supplied us with ice for our pre dinner tipple.
Having mentioned all my grumbles I would like to give special praise to the kitchen staff for the excellent meals at dinner and to our waiters at Table 39 for the polite and excellent service they gave and the Ma'tre D who's amusing and friendly conversations kept us all entertained at Dinner.
Other than the Cinema, that was the only entertainment we were interested in with the Exception of the Aurora Orchestra up in the Crows Nest who were magnificent. But why do groups of people have to shout their conversations over the music when we came to listen to this excellent Orchestra, They obviously didn't. Like the Birmingham group that sat behind us that became so bad we had to move.
The sad part of this cruise was loosing 6 passengers through serious illnesses during our journey at various ports.