We travelled down from Lancashire the day before sailing and stayed in the Holiday Inn at Eastleigh. This was a comfortable hotel and a relaxing start to the cruise.
Boarding was stress free as we had priority boarding and we were on ship before noon and enjoying the complimentary champagne and lunch in Carmens. We had our hands squirted with gel 5 times before we actually got into Carmens.
Cabins were ready for 2pm and we were pleasantly surprised by how clean it was and the amount of storage. It is a few years since we last had an inside cabin but as the balconies on this ship are at a premium we decided to book inside. The cabin was compact but it did fit everything in and we had taken a lot. Our cabin steward was friendly and professional as were all of the crew we came into contact with. The Captain Neil Turnbull was a character and probably the most informative Captain we have sailed with. His influence on the crew was apparent and it was a happy ship.
Lots of different venues on this ship with many choices of entertainment. Large Cinema, theatre, show lounge, nightclub, crows nest, and various bars. We sampled them all during the 22 nights we were on board. The show lounge Carmens has a super dance floor and most nights there was ballroom dancing in there to a live group or CDs. The theatre shows were very energetic but this is an older ship and the theatre productions were more limited than on the newer ships. The Cabaret artistes were varied but no big names for a Christmas cruise.
We had booked 1st sitting dining as we enjoy the evening entertainment and find there are more choices for early diners. We ate in the Alexandra restaurant on a table for 6. Great table companions and the food was probably the best MDR food we have encountered. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the alternative dining restaurants. These were very mixed in our opinion and not up to the same standard as the other ships in the fleet.
The weather was rough up to Madeira and the ship hit many pot holes. I am not a good sailor but managed okay with over the counter medication. After Madeira the weather was sunny and got warmer each day.
There were many sea days and lots of activities around the ship. We wanted a lazy relaxing cruise so didn't attend any of the day time activities. The pool areas were quite small for sun worshipers but the aft desks make up for this with lots of spaces for beds and chairs. The prom deck is wide which is also a bonus.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were very special with carol services, and the children watching out for Father Christmas. The Christmas Eve deck party was great fun with live music and dancing. Nothing better than spending Christmas Day on a sun lounger with a bottle of Champagne.
At the ports of call which in the Caribbean were Barbados, Antigua, Tortola and St Maarten, we did our own thing. The trips were expensive and as we had been to all the islands many times decided to DIY.
New Years Eve there was a deck party again. This was well attended and the Captain counted in the New year. Not sure what time the party went on till but early hours of the morning. On the return journey the weather was warm and sunny right up to the day before Southampton. We should have called at the Azores but this was changed to a 1/2 day call in Madeira due to a passenger becoming seriously ill after we left the Caribbean.
Overall we liked the Aurora but it is in need of some TLC. There were strange smells in the corridors and buckets made regular appearances to catch water dripping from the light sockets. We were on C deck so not sure if this is the only deck with this problem. I think that we prefer fly cruising as this means more port of calls but this was certainly a relaxing cruise.
Disembarkation was a breeze because we had priority and were off the ship by 08:30 collected the luggage without problems and car from CPS and were on the road before 9am.