Our rail journey from Durham to Southampton Central was without incident and our connection at Oxford was on time. Arriving at the terminal at about two o'clock, we attended an enquiry desk to find the location of our cabin. (Our booking had been made very late). We were told that we had been allocated cabin D115, which was two grades higher than we had booked. We were surprised at the long queue to check in. We found it very tiring to stand in this very long queue, after our long journey from the north. Eventually all formalities were completed and we boarded and joined another queue in a crush for lifts. Cabin D115 was small, but very comfortable. We were introduced to our stewardess, Imelda form The Philippines, whom we found to be efficient and pleasant throughout the holiday. As always, boat drill was carried out in an efficient manner. We had a problem before we ever boarded our cruise ship. Our tour operator Iglu assured us on booking that we would have First Sitting for dinner. On receiving confirmation of the booking from P&O we were told that we were "waitlisted" for this sitting. We made our way to the Medina Restaurant as soon as we boarded the ship and were told by the Maitre D' that nothing could be done for the first night, but he said that he would try to arrange the earlier meal for us the next day. He was far from optimistic. However, next afternoon we had a card to say that we had been placed at a table for four (First Sitting). We were relieved.
Dining. As we could not dine in the Medina Restaurant on the first evening, we located the Orangery on Deck 12, where we knew that we would be able to have a self-service early meal. The fare was of good quality, roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and veg, but we did not enjoy the fetching and carrying throughout the meal. It was more like eating at a Sainsbury or ASDA cafe! Next morning, we were abroad early in order to have breakfast at 8.0am in the Medina Restaurant. There we were served by two Indian waiters, Racman and Abhijit. They were so pleasant, efficient and obliging that we sought their tables for lunch and breakfast throughout the 12-day cruise. After lunch on the first day, we had a communication from the Maitre D' to say that we had been allocated Table 69 for First Sitting in the Medina Restaurant. We were satisfied and we shared this table with a couple from Leeds for dinner during the rest of the cruise. Our waiters were Francis and Sunil, who did their utmost to accommodate our every wish. Nothing was too much trouble for them. They were patient and pleasant. There was no hand gel available in the Medina, but it was available in abundance in the Orangery. There was plenty of choice in the restaurants, from the exotic to the mundane. We had no cause to complain. On other cruises we had always enjoyed the tradition of afternoon tea, so on the first and the second afternoons we joined others in the dining room for tea, sandwiches and cakes. We were annoyed to be served with very luke-warm tea and with a poor selection of food. We grumbled and along with many others made our way to the Orangery on most afternoons, to enjoy a cup of hot tea and a good selection of sandwiches and cakes.
Entertainment. We used the theatre on only one occasion, when we knew that some items from the musical, "42nd Street" were to be featured. I am sorry to say that the music and singing was "Ear splitting" and we left the performance early. We did enjoy the classical pianist Andrew Peebles and attended all his concerts. His playing was of a very high standard.
Fellow Guests. Throughout the cruise we found much friendliness among those with whom we came into contact. Politeness and good conversation made for a pleasant atmosphere. We thought that the disabled passengers were heroic and, despite their difficulties, very good humoured.
Ports Of Call. Madeira. Our first call was at Funchal, after four full days at sea. We were very familiar with the capital, as we had had a number of holidays in Madeira. A shuttle bus took us to the City centre, and we were able to join in with the locals at morning Mass in the Cathedral. We followed this with a visit to Blandy's Wine Lodge. This evoked memories of earlier visits. As the shuttle bus was so convenient, we decided to return to Aurora for lunch and then go ashore to stroll around the extensive gardens. Our return was something of a disappointment, as the severe winter had had a bad effect on many of the plants. There was little evidence of the serious flooding, which had occurred in the City during the Winter.
Tenerife. Our visit to Santa Cruz was short, as we had had many holidays on the island and had made a number of visits to the Capital. Like in all big cities, the heavy traffic annoyed us and soon wearied two ancient travellers. We were pleased to return to the ship.
Gran Canaria. Our visit to Las Palmas was to be very special, as we had arranged to meet two German friends from Berlin, on holiday in Maspalomas, whom we had met four years previously in Madeira. Over the four years, we had communicated by email. On this Sunday, we had ascertained that we could attend an early Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Anne and then meet our friends nearby. We were delighted to be greeted by Walter and Rita holding a big photograph of us, with the words WANTED printed below. From then on our day raced away, fuelled by coffee and tea, a meal in a good hotel and much gossip. It was disappointing when we had to say goodbye and make our way back to the ship for a 5.30pm departure to Cadiz.
Cadiz. This was our first visit to the port and we were not disappointed. The ship docked close to the centre and on a warm, sunny day we had easy access to the city. Most of our time was spent exploring the Cathedral and the adjoining museum. We hope to return in the future.
Lisbon and Vigo. These ports were old friends and we delighted in renewing our memories of the Avenida Da Liberdade, the squares and the interesting buildings of Lisbon. Our rambling beyond the port area of Vigo brought the realisation that many of the very old properties were being dismantled. The town is very different from the one that we visited in the 1970's.
General Comments. We attended only one film during the cruise, "Tolstoy". Our opinion was that the sound quality was unpleasant to the ear and the vision was not up to the standard of earlier ship's cinemas in both P&O and Cunard. We left well before the end of the film. With all the adverse publicity, it was surprising that there were so many smokers on the ship. Walks around the Promenade Deck were spoiled by the smell of tobacco smoke. We found it offensive. We thought that the dEcor and comfort of the Aurora was superior to those ships of the line in which we had cruised over the past years. Public rooms were most comfortable and the restaurants were light, attractive and well organised. The Reception staff was efficient and pleasant. The members acted quickly when we pointed out that we needed to leave the ship earlier in Southampton in order to reach the Station in time for our train. We would not hesitate to cruise on the Aurora in the future.