Our first cruise was on the P&O Aurora on 28 Dec for 5 days round Bruges and Hamburg. Both are nice cities well worth a visit and pleasurable day was had at both.
Embarkation parking with CPL was great, very efficient. Once inside, we had to wait in the lounge until a set time and then queue at a desk to check in, then queue at security, then get on, but it wasn’t too bad.
The Aurora was well maintained and about the same standard as a 4 star mainstream hotel. The cabins were clean, and the maid was excellent, servicing the cabin very attentively. There was more room in the cabin than we expected. On board there was entertainment, bars, a casino, lots of shops, restaurants and a very good gym and spa. The gym was too hot to use as the ship is 26 degrees Celsius everywhere, but you could run on the promenade deck if you wanted and get some air.
The average age of clients was very old and I would not recommend it for anyone under 65. The set evenings were formal dress which was fine, but what makes people think it is OK to turn up to breakfast not showering still in pyjamas? It was more like an old person’s home than a hotel. That’s not P&Os fault of course but perhaps they should refuse breakfast guests in underwear just as you would refuse someone in trainers and jeans at a black tie diner.
Overall the staff were helpful apart from a few – one very rude waiter and one extremely rude car park attendant at the terminal, who was not interested in telling anyone where they could unload or load, just where they couldn’t, which is everywhere.
The main problem that would put us off cruising with P&O ever again was the food. Not the quantity or quality (which was OK, like a decent motorway services really, which as they were feeding 2000 people isn’t bad).
The problem is the utterly stupid dining rules. You either have to pre-book and eat in the same place at the same time every single night. Or choose freedom dining and go anywhere to be told they are full and no you cannot book anywhere, at anytime. So the restaurant tables are half empty with people who booked but fancied a change and did not show for their booked table. You can’t sit there because it is booked even though it’s empty. The people who did book are somewhere else being told they can’t eat there because it is full and they did not book.
Even the staff do not understand the daft rules and contradicted each other at the same food station! P&O read chaos theory – you are causing the problem. Let people just turn up and eat when and where they want and there will be no problem. Old people and kids eat at 18:30, everyone else 20:00 and it balances out.
We were set to eat between 18:30 and 20:30 but the waiters wanted us out at 19:45 to reset the table. 5 courses in just over an hour after ordering is too fast. We asked for a 5 min break before dessert but they asked again after 35 seconds and would not take no for an answer. We complained we were forced to leave at 19:45 and asked why? The staff just repeated the message we need the table for 20:30. This happened every night even though we turned up bang on time to start every night. The waiters refused to slow down, it was worse than eating at a fast food restaurant, with a waiter often putting your soup down in front of you while you were still eating the starter. We went to reception to try to sort it out but the staff while polite just repeat the message, ‘it is the rules you have to be out by 20:30’. When we asked to see the rules explaining things they just repeated the message. It seems P&O expect passengers to just know the rules even if the staff don’t. Why were not allowed to finish the meal by 20:00 say, we will never know. So for P&O if you eat between 18:30 and 20:30, it means you start at 18:30 and finish at 19:45 and leave. We even asked what time zone the kitchen was on but it wasn’t that.
The other big problem was the shambolic safety drill. We were called to the muster station for the understandably mandatory drill. The two staff at muster station E did not know where muster station E was even though they were at it. The recorded message stuck and was restarted 3 times. The Captain tried to deliver a personal message (probably to apologise) but the speakers cut out twice. They gave up. They do this every week and messed it up. What would happen in a real emergency they have not seen before? No thanks I am not trusting my family’s safety to these guys again. Your life is in the hands of a soup waiter and a croupier who do not know where your muster station is, even when they are already stood at it – no thanks.
If you like very regimented holidays, and are over 75 this would be ideal, if not I would not recommend it.