We decided to escape the cold chill of a British winter and head on a 23 night cruise from Southampton to Southampton via the Caribbean on Aurora. Our party of 3 consisted of Myself (29 yrs old) My Mum and Grandma and we had separate accommodation.
I had the fortune of having a cabin with a balcony,it's such a luxury to have your own personal space outside. Now with ships having balcony cabins on the "standard" grades as well as superior grades, having a balcony is now more affordable.
The other members of the party were lucky enough to have a mini suite for the 23 day cruise, which of course put my cabin to shame, but as the cruise was a Christmas present I couldn't really complain!!!
Our ports of call were Madeira, Tortolla, St.Lucia, Barbados, The Azores and back into Southampton on a chilly January morning. I find it amazing that people slate the ports of call on these reviews, maybe they should do some research before booking!
Embarkation was good, as our party had a mini suite, we were offered priority embarkation, however as it was the Christmas cruise, P&O had mince pies (traditional British Christmas fare) and a choir to sing carols. This made the time pass quickly, but as I said earlier we were ushered onto the ship about 15 mins after completing the check in formalities.
Cabin Steward- unfortunately the name of my steward escapes me, after all this review is being written some 18 months after the cruise, however the reason I don't remember his name was that he wasn't any good. Several times he knocked and entered without waiting for a response, catching me twice with nothing on. However he did provide towels, and serviced the room well, if not in a timely fashion (sometimes not until the afternoon)
Restaurant- There is a multitude of choice for dining arrangements onboard. The traditional cruise two seating policy, with two restaurants (one midship, the other aft) a 24 hour French style bistro and the normal pizza place. You could eat 24 hours 7 days if you wished. Remember to book at the Cafe Bordeaux if you want to dine there at least 24 hours in advance.
Overall the food was fine, traditional British Fare combined with some Indian dishes ( P&O has traditionally used waiters and staff from India for over 150 years) and the highlight was New Year's Eve, where a feast fit for a king was served (no pun intended!!) However on other nights food was good, but not in comparison with NYE.
Our waiters were keen to please, and did the utmost in their power to keep us happy, they were so good at their job that we tipped them more than the recommended amount. However some people at our table decided to eat at Cafe Bordeaux on the last night so they could avoid seeing our waiters to give them their tips.
The entertainment- Shocking is a word I would use to describe this, they flew in a minor celebrity into Barbados so he could cruise back with the ship ( more to the point so he could spend Christmas in the sun in Barbados) for folks from the UK he was Roy Walker from Catchphrase.
Cinema releases were out of date, and the boy band on the ship for all the children acted like children themselves, behaving badly in public places, combined with some shows that could only be described as naff and poor quality.
Children- Well it was a Christmas cruise, and as much as I don't mind children, they seemed to be EVERYWHERE, in the pools, in the Jacuzzi etc, and were generally badly behaved. Underage drinking was rife (not the ships fault, but parents seemed to give their cruise cards to the teenagers so they could buy drinks after they went to bed) of course some teenagers bought their own whilst ashore and kept it well hidden from mum and dad.
Fitness- two pools for adults, and one for children (not that they paid any attention to the fact that their pool was at the back of the ship!) they were well maintained with plenty of fresh towels. The gym had some nice equipment to burn off all the calories provided by the excess food over the Christmas period. Massages etc were expensive, but if you look in the ship's paper they have offers on port days, if you can spare the time, this is the best opportunity to use these services as you can get at least a 30% discount.
The public rooms on Aurora are very accommodating, especially Andersons (named after one of the founders of P&O) drink prices were exceptionally good, a pint of beer was about £1.60, a gin and tonic came in at under £2.00, not bad considering that at a pub at home they could be twice that price. The design of the ship is quite good, except for access to the aft dining room. If you are seated here, make sure that you get down early, otherwise you will be waiting on the stairs until the doors open for dinner.
Officers were good, and were found almost everywhere in the evening. Some people complained about officers having a drink in the public rooms, however please remember that they work a 16 hour day, don't have a day off in 6 months and after all it is their home. We had the Captain at our table for one night, a very good communicator and we had an excellent time enjoying his company.
So what can I say about the whole experience, compared to other lines (RCCL, NCL, Princess, and Swan Hellenic) they do a great job of looking after you whatever your age. The only real complaint was my cabin steward, and some really rude old people (it looks like they are an epidemic on cruise ships these days) and some drunken teenagers (but hey it was New Year's Eve so they are forgiven)
Any questions, please feel free to email me.