This was our first cruise boarding ship in the UK. Compared to the draining experience of airports a UK departure is a major plus, less than an hour to check in, baggage to cabin 15 minutes after, no messing about with luggage weight. If you are stressed and in need of a holiday this is a major benefit that you should consider.

The cabin and balcony were generally fine. We felt that as we were planning a lot of excursions a smaller balcony unit was more than adequate and this proved to be correct. The only criticism of the cabin is that wardrobe access is badly designed. I have to praise our cabin steward, Elvis(!), who seemed to have that happy knack from day one of being around when needed but not being intrusive.

We took first sitting in order to be able to hit the shows better and we were placed in the Medina. After a promising start the quality and quantity of the food served deteriorated rapidly and by the end of the cruise was getting irritating. We tried the Pennant Grill once, unfortunately the weather was a little blustery on the day in question and we had to eat indoors in a rather sad looking lounge. The portions were substantial but the menu quality could only be described as fair at best. In both restaurants the standard of service was excellent, just a shame about the food.

We gradually realised that the best food on the Aurora is to be found in the Orangery. Our conclusion at the end of the cruise is that the best option on P&O is to eat in the self service restaurants and use the signature restaurants for special nights.

Evening entertainment was high quality. Bar and related waiter service was of a good standard. In general the whole crew seemed better trained and better organised than on our previous trip on the Ventura.

We were impressed with the Carlsberg Brewery excursion in Denmark, excellect guide, very good lunch, canal tour to finish off, just right. We opted for a tour of the the lakes in Sweden. Although there was slightly less "spectacle" than we expected, a very pleasant guide and a nice stop for lunch made this a very relaxing day. In Tallin we opted for an organised city tour which in some ways was a mistake. Eastern European guides feel that their obligation is to speak non stop from the moment you embark on the tour bus to the moment you get off. With hindsight it is a relatively compact city centre and would be fairly easy to cover without a guide. In fairness the excursion package covered a lot, including a restaurant lunch and a music recital, but it did end up being a bit tiring.

St Petersberg is still not a place I would feel entirely safe in if unaccompanied and so we opted for a full tour programme. On the first day we did the morning tour of Tsarkoe Selo with lunch included. This is a must and the restoration work is magnificent. In the afternoon we moved on to the Peterhof and this is where things started to go wrong. The gardens are excellent but the guide allocated two thirds of the tour to walking round them, not particularly bright when it started raining. The palace itself therefore became a bit of a race and the Russian staff there are particularly unpleasant. As a result of the overruns we were very late back and bearing in mind that even an efficient Russian passport control takes time there was no time to freshen up on board prior to an evening trip to the Winter Palace and Hermitage, which included a concert. I felt sorry for those who had opted for the Ballet and were forced to go in jeans and trainers! The Hermitage tour guide was Dutch and was honest enough to explain that a sensible tour would not cover everything. Finishing up with a concert and a glass of champagne was excellent. My advice would be that three tours in one day is too much and P&O ought to warn about the risk of being a bit frazzled at the end.

On the second day we did the Yusupov palace and a canal cruise. The Yusupov palace was a complete scrummage, not the guide's fault it is is just a very popular attraction. The canal cruise was good, boat a bit basic but plenty to drink so who cares.

Be aware that the tourist attractions in Petersburg attract both Russian and overseas visitors in very large numbers and there is no way that scrums can be avoided.

Helsinki was much more attractive that expected and we opted for a lakes and rivers tour which was excellent.

The final destination was Bruges where we opted for a tour of the outskirts including a chocolate maker, having done the centre previously. Again a very pleasant guide made this a relaxing end to a busy schedule.

 

Baltics Cruise

Aurora Cruise Review by Niall Fleming

Trip Details

This was our first cruise boarding ship in the UK. Compared to the draining experience of airports a UK departure is a major plus, less than an hour to check in, baggage to cabin 15 minutes after, no messing about with luggage weight. If you are stressed and in need of a holiday this is a major benefit that you should consider.


The cabin and balcony were generally fine. We felt that as we were planning a lot of excursions a smaller balcony unit was more than adequate and this proved to be correct. The only criticism of the cabin is that wardrobe access is badly designed. I have to praise our cabin steward, Elvis(!), who seemed to have that happy knack from day one of being around when needed but not being intrusive.


We took first sitting in order to be able to hit the shows better and we were placed in the Medina. After a promising start the quality and quantity of the food served deteriorated rapidly and by the end of the cruise was getting irritating. We tried the Pennant Grill once, unfortunately the weather was a little blustery on the day in question and we had to eat indoors in a rather sad looking lounge. The portions were substantial but the menu quality could only be described as fair at best. In both restaurants the standard of service was excellent, just a shame about the food.


We gradually realised that the best food on the Aurora is to be found in the Orangery. Our conclusion at the end of the cruise is that the best option on P&O is to eat in the self service restaurants and use the signature restaurants for special nights.


Evening entertainment was high quality. Bar and related waiter service was of a good standard. In general the whole crew seemed better trained and better organised than on our previous trip on the Ventura.


We were impressed with the Carlsberg Brewery excursion in Denmark, excellect guide, very good lunch, canal tour to finish off, just right. We opted for a tour of the the lakes in Sweden. Although there was slightly less "spectacle" than we expected, a very pleasant guide and a nice stop for lunch made this a very relaxing day. In Tallin we opted for an organised city tour which in some ways was a mistake. Eastern European guides feel that their obligation is to speak non stop from the moment you embark on the tour bus to the moment you get off. With hindsight it is a relatively compact city centre and would be fairly easy to cover without a guide. In fairness the excursion package covered a lot, including a restaurant lunch and a music recital, but it did end up being a bit tiring.


St Petersberg is still not a place I would feel entirely safe in if unaccompanied and so we opted for a full tour programme. On the first day we did the morning tour of Tsarkoe Selo with lunch included. This is a must and the restoration work is magnificent. In the afternoon we moved on to the Peterhof and this is where things started to go wrong. The gardens are excellent but the guide allocated two thirds of the tour to walking round them, not particularly bright when it started raining. The palace itself therefore became a bit of a race and the Russian staff there are particularly unpleasant. As a result of the overruns we were very late back and bearing in mind that even an efficient Russian passport control takes time there was no time to freshen up on board prior to an evening trip to the Winter Palace and Hermitage, which included a concert. I felt sorry for those who had opted for the Ballet and were forced to go in jeans and trainers! The Hermitage tour guide was Dutch and was honest enough to explain that a sensible tour would not cover everything. Finishing up with a concert and a glass of champagne was excellent. My advice would be that three tours in one day is too much and P&O ought to warn about the risk of being a bit frazzled at the end.


On the second day we did the Yusupov palace and a canal cruise. The Yusupov palace was a complete scrummage, not the guide's fault it is is just a very popular attraction. The canal cruise was good, boat a bit basic but plenty to drink so who cares.


Be aware that the tourist attractions in Petersburg attract both Russian and overseas visitors in very large numbers and there is no way that scrums can be avoided.


Helsinki was much more attractive that expected and we opted for a lakes and rivers tour which was excellent.


The final destination was Bruges where we opted for a tour of the outskirts including a chocolate maker, having done the centre previously. Again a very pleasant guide made this a relaxing end to a busy schedule.


 

Niall Fleming’s Full Rating Summary
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Service

Cabin Review

Cabin

Adequate to Good

  Aurora Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Copenhagen


    We were impressed with the Carlsberg Brewery excursion in Denmark, excellect guide, very good lunch, canal tour to finish off, just right.

    View All 853 Copenhagen Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Copenhagen Cruise Port Review
  • Helsinki

    Beautiful, nice city, underrated.

    View All 691 Helsinki Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Helsinki Cruise Port Review
  • Catherine Palace

    On the first day we did the morning tour of Tsarkoe Selo with lunch included. This is a must and the restoration work is magnificent.

    View All 179 Catherine Palace Reviews
  • Hermitage Museum

    An evening trip to the Winter Palace and Hermitage, which included a concert. I felt sorry for those who had opted for the Ballet and were forced to go in jeans and trainers! The Hermitage tour guide was Dutch and was honest enough to explain that a sensible tour would not cover everything. Finishing up with a concert and a glass of champagne was excellent. My advice would be that three tours in one day is too much and P&O ought to warn about the risk of being a bit frazzled at the end.

    View All 273 Hermitage Museum Reviews
  • Neva River Cruise

    The canal cruise was good, boat a bit basic but plenty to drink so who cares.

    View All 117 Neva River Cruise Reviews
  • Peterhof Palace

    In the afternoon we moved on to the Peterhof and this is where things started to go wrong. The gardens are excellent but the guide allocated two thirds of the tour to walking round them, not particularly bright when it started raining. The palace itself therefore became a bit of a race and the Russian staff there are particularly unpleasant. As a result of the overruns we were very late back.

    View All 176 Peterhof Palace Reviews
  • Yusupov Palace

    The Yusupov palace was a complete scrummage, not the guide's fault it is is just a very popular attraction.

    View All 54 Yusupov Palace Reviews
  • Archipelago Tour

    We opted for a tour of the the lakes in Sweden. Although there was slightly less "spectacle" than we expected, a very pleasant guide and a nice stop for lunch made this a very relaxing day.

    View All 8 Archipelago Tour Reviews
  • City Tour

    We opted for an organised city tour which in some ways was a mistake. Eastern European guides feel that their obligation is to speak non stop from the moment you embark on the tour bus to the moment you get off. With hindsight it is a relatively compact city centre and would be fairly easy to cover without a guide. In fairness the excursion package covered a lot, including a restaurant lunch and a music recital, but it did end up being a bit tiring.

    View All 66 City Tour Reviews