We were a little concerned about this cruise because of the rather negative reviews we've seen about the ship. We decided to go for it anyway and found the ship to be everything we wanted. OK, the dEcor needs an update (due next year I think), but it's still very nice indeed, clean, with a less excitable atmosphere than we found on the Ventura and Azura - we did the Baltic on the Azura last year and enjoyed it so much, we decided to it again on whichever P&O ship was going there in July - glad it turned out to be the Aurora.
For two weeks we enjoyed the best food we've had with P&O to date (we also sailed on the Oriana two or three years ago and the Ventura last year to the Canaries). The staff were noticeably friendlier than the bigger ships, and it was not only our opinion either.
We thought the entertainments were better, and the layout of deck 7, with the theatres, bars, shops etc. seemed more interesting somehow.
The Oriana and the Aurora have terraces at the aft of the ship whereas the Ventura and Azura have filled the space with balcony cabins. These terraces are a brilliant place to spend time reading or sunbathing and that's why we'll favour either of the two ships. However, we felt that an adults-only ship might be a bit gloomy, it's nice to have families
around. Another thing we like about the Oriana and the Aurora - the Crows Nest top bar with 180 degree views is at the front. On the Azura and Ventura it's at the back and they've put the fitness gym at the front. So you only see where
you've been, not where you're going. This makes a big difference during the 4 hour sail away through the Stockholm archipelago
Why sail P&O? - no shuttle bus charges, only £7 per day per couple tips, announcements only in English, no 15% tip added to everything you buy, good old British traditions, daily UK news sheet, sails from Southampton and others I can't think of right now. Oh, and the drinks are normal pub prices. And everything's in pounds. And they are spotlessly clean everywhere. Most of the staff are Asians and they simply cannot do enough for you.
We saw one or two moaners on the ship - we've all seen them - nothing could ever be right and perhaps they just need to
get a life. One sad individual complained that the ship was full of older people and pensioners in mobility scooters, (not sure why that is a problem), the average age on this cruise was about 50 to 60 so that complaint is simply not true.
What to do in port
Stockholm - get the shuttle into town and try the boat from the pier. Better than sitting on a City Tours bus in never ending traffic lights, and paying £22 each for the pleasure. Most places take Euros.
Helsinki - they drop you in the centre, walk down to the pier and get one of the boats - lovely trip - great walk back to the centre through the shopping streets. Everywhere takes Euros.
St Petersburg - Suggest the full day tour - sightseeing in the morning, lunch with folk music and dancing, Hermitage in the afternoon, choir concert, then back to the ship. Excellent day. Watch out if you do the ballet - it's only an excerpt, still lovely though, we're told. Everywhere takes Euros.
Tallinn - walk to the town centre and spend the day there - our favourite stop! Everywhere takes Euros.
Warnemunde - second favourite stop - beautiful little town / fishing village, you might like to take the train to Rostock, ten minutes up the track or get on the boat that goes there and get the train back. Ship moors right beside the station and pier! Wonderful place to spend a day using the shops and cafe's beside the harbour. Everywhere takes Euros.
Copenhagen - Get off the ship, turn left and walk past the mermaid to the English Church, then on into the city centre.
Keep beside the water because it's a beautiful and fascinating walk. Takes 40 minutes each way. Suggest you go to the central dock at Ny Havn in the city centre near to the harbour and get a pleasure boat ride - hop on hop off - goes one way for about an hour, comes back to the NyHavn and then goes the other way for the same amount of time. In fact you can jump off at the mermaid and walk onto the ship near the end of the second leg of the trip. They don't take euros but you can use your debit card anywhere and draw local currency from cash machines should you so desire.
Kristiansand - We were a bit underwhelmed here, but at least it's better than Zeebrugge, where we ended up last cruise.
Whatever you do, unless you really can't walk, do not get on the wally trolley. they charge 15 euros each and it is really not worth it. You can walk the place in an hour. There are some pretty bits and the harbour is picturesque but frankly, not a lot there and it's frighteningly expensive. Pleasant enough stop but I thought they could have cleaned the high street up a bit. They say this is where Norwegians go for a beach holiday. Perhaps we missed something, actually, the beach! They don't take euros but you can use your debit card anywhere and draw local currency from cash machines should you so desire.
To sum up - take no notice of all the really negative reviews, the Aurora is a lovely ship and we couldn't fault it during the whole 14 days we were on it - it's also particularly stable in bumpy seas.