My first cruise after serious illness began with an overnight stay at the Elizabeth Hotel in Southampton - recommended, and able to leave the car for a small charge, and only £7-50 away from the terminal.
Check-in took 1/2-hour and we were in our cabin, sorry State Room, within an hour of queuing.
Our cabin, B158, was spacious and spotless with twin beds and a small but adequate balcony. Toilet was of the aircraft type, noisy and effective. Our cabin steward, Geraldo, was hard working, attentive and pleasant as were all the staff I met. Don't worry about storing your suitcases - Geraldo will find somewhere out of the way and will bring them back in time for packing.
Meals were available throughout most (but not all) of the day and were of a very high standard. So much so that I felt no need to pay a supplement to eat in the "designer" restaurants of which there were two. Prices of drinks were very reasonable. I took my own gin with me but no need - it More
was cheaper on board!
Public areas were well-patronised but never crowded and considering the ship has been in constant service for eleven years, paintwork, furniture and carpets were in very good order.
I was a little surprised at occasional engine vibrations, with cutlery races across tables in the Orangery - directly above the engines - a popular game. Likewise, I was surprised at how unstable the ship could become in less than calm conditions. Perhaps all ships are the same, and it was never much of an issue.
I didn't excurt to Zakinthos, Corfu or Korcula, all of which required the use of tenders. But I did enjoy Malaga (for the Alhambra), Venice and Dubrovnik. These latter two we didn't bother with a guide. For the Alhambra (only) we did buy the excursion and it was excellently organised, including a very good hotel meal. But as a spectacle I was disappointed - the Alcazar in Seville is superior. Apart from a ferry to get from the P&O berth into Venice (at £15) we used the free shuttle bus services for Dubrovnik and Gib - no need for guides here.
Entertainment was very good. The ship's own song & dance troup, Headliners, were magnificent and played to full theatres every time, as did a guest magician John Lenahan and comedian Don Reid. The ex-Tremeloes member Chip Hawkes was rather poor however and wore his guitar only for decoration.
The small and very cold cinema, The Playhouse, was reasonably patronised but movies were not the best and often were absent when most needed - the 8pm slot.
Nobody seemed to mind much, but as the average passenger age must've been in the mid-70's (Madge must be 100 and seems to live on board) no-one voiced a complaint though there was a sprinkling of Grumpies who wouldn't be pleased with anything, except for the opportunity to complain.
The ship's TV was absolutely awful both for picture quality and programmes - take a DVD player.
So - would I cruise again, on the Aurora? The answer would be a definite Yes, with the proviso that as my recuperation from illness has been so aided by the holiday, I feel no immediate need to be waited on so very well. Well done P&O. Less