• Aurora was on a world cruise and we took up an offer made by P & O for this sector.
• It was our first experience cruising with P & O Cruises (UK)
• In the last five years we have cruised with Cunard (Queen Victoria – twice - and Queen Elizabeth, once); NCL (Pride of America); Oceania Cruises (Regatta); and Princess Cruises (Ocean Princess)
Our commentary represents our honest assessment of the cruise based on our past experiences and expectations.
Once we reached the check-in desk the process was prompt and efficient. However, progress through the queue was slow, taking over half an hour.
This is potentially the most serious issue – we were not advised by any means (ie printed notice, pa announcement etc) of any safety briefing prior to the ship leaving Auckland. We do not know whether or not one was held, and if it was there was no follow-up as to why we did not attend.
• We had requested twin-bed configuration and this was confirmed by P & O in our travel personaliser on the website. However the cabin was configured as a Queen. It was (eventually) remade by the attendant. The room was somewhat smaller than we had expected.
• There were no wine glasses provided (despite P & O making it very clear that passengers were welcome to take a modest quantity of their own wine on board) We did get glasses on request.
• There were no cards for ordering room service breakfast (provided later after we asked for them)
• No bath robes provided – we were advised by the attendant that they never are. This was the first time we have ever experienced this across several cruise lines.
• We were disappointed with the small size of the balcony and the fact it was partially enclosed. Of more serious concern was the poor state of the paintwork around parts of the balcony which showed extensive rust staining. It seems hard to believe the ship recently had a £22 million “makeover”.
• A tray of sweets provided was clearly quite old – some of the wrappers had come undone and a number of the sweets were stuck together. The tray itself appeared not to have been cleaned for a considerable time.
On a positive note we did appreciate the facility of an electric jug and supplies for making tea and coffee.
Housekeeping was generally of an adequate standard, though on one occasion the evening room servicing was missed. Bathroom toiletries were not replaced as we used them. The balcony did not appear to have been cleaned at all during the cruise – small pieces of rubbish that were there when we embarked were still there nine days later when we left.
We opted for freedom dining. Regrettably we were disappointed with the standard of food and service in the Medina restaurant.
The waiters generally seemed to be going through the motions, with little or no interaction with the customers. Talking among themselves in their own language appeared to have higher priority.
We found the menu offerings in this restaurant to be less than memorable. Of particular disappointment was the “New Zealand lamb” which was tough, poorly cooked and poorly carved – in a word inedible – and a poor advertisement for New Zealand produce.
In general we found on a number of occasions that menu descriptions of some dishes did not always match the food that was presented – usually in terms of the accompaniments.
Horizons Restaurant. The desserts apart, we could find little to recommend this restaurant for either lunch or dinner. We think the lack of a made-to-order sandwich bar and similarly made-to-order pizza & pasta to be a real shortcoming, as was the lack of ice cream machines.
On the final night of the cruise, 6 March, we looked in at this restaurant at 8.15pm to find there were very few hot dishes on offer and most of the staff clearing away. Advertised dining for this restaurant was 6.30pm to 9pm.
Lido Grill. Very small menu options which did not change at any stage during the cruise. Less than adequate.
Sindhu Restaurant. An excellent experience with attentive and knowledgeable staff and quite wonderful Indian food.
The Glass House. This became our favourite after Medina had produced such poor showings … once again excellent and friendly staff and although the menu was relatively small we could not fault the quality, taste or enjoyment of the offerings.
So the question has to be asked – if the kitchens can do so well for Sindhu and the Glass House – why is the Medina such a disappointment?
We only saw two performances in the Curzon Theatre – Russell Harrison and the Headliners Theatre Company (“Blame it on the Boogie”). Both were excellent.
It was a disappointment to us that a “Captain’s Cocktail Reception”, which we have enjoyed on other ships – including several within the Carnival Group – was not held on this cruise.
Internet and library
The two ladies operating this service were knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. Well done.
Due to lack of immediate berthage in Sydney, the ship anchored for the first day and passengers were transferred by tender to a landing near the Opera House. In general we had no problems with that … EXCEPT … that when returning to the ship conditions boarding the tender were such that they could be considered dangerous due to the violent movement of the tender alongside the jetty. (As an aside - I do have very significant small-boat handling experience, so feel well qualified to make this observation)
Do we regret having taken this cruise? Well, no. It all adds to our cruising experience.
Would we cruise again with P & O Cruises, UK? Probably not.
Excellent facilities for cruise passengers with dock right in the central business district and alongside harbour ferries, other public transport and extensive shopping
Very poor port facilities with cruise ships berthing among timber and log export loading facilities. Shuttle buses from ship side out of the port area provided - but this is time consuming.
Cruise terminal is quite a way out of the downtown area, terminal facilities OK but there were waits for the shuttle buses in both directions. Not really user-friendly.
Yet again, the cruise ships berth among cargo ships, in this case wood-chip loading facilities. Because of security, shuttle buses take passengers to a nearby tourist facility - then you have to wait again for another bus into the town. The local people were very welcoming with information and directions - even including the Mayor who was on hand to hep out, Well done her!
This was our disembarkation port. Facilities very good at the Circular Quay terminal, which is also being upgraded. No problems with baggage collection or getting a taxi. (We understand the alternate White Bay terminal further up the harbour to be a different matter when it comes to convenience etc.)