We have just returned from a 24 night round trip cruise from Southampton to the USA and Canada which, although it was our 16th P&O cruise and our 5th on Aurora, was the longest cruise we have ever done. Overall, it was a very enjoyable cruise, but rather than review each of the 24 days, I have summarised the good points and not so good points, from our perspective.
Good and varied itinerary, with New York, Quebec and our tour to Kennebunkport being the highlights.
Aurora is a lovely traditional cruise ship, which attracts a passenger profile that suits us. Average passenger age on this cruise was 73.
Approaching New York from the sea is a ‘must do’ experience that you will never forget. Berthing in the Manhattan Cruise terminal, with all the main sights within easy walking distance, was superb and ‘one up’ on Cunard, whose QM2 was berthed over in Brooklyn.
The main dining room food was almost always a very good standard.
Service and food in the Glasshouse was excellent and it was always quiet in there, which suits us.
Although the Sindhu on Aurora is the only one in the P&O fleet that we don’t like - and our one evening meal there was underwhelming - we did enjoy the Tiffin Lunch there. The staff never smile though and don’t seem to enjoy their work - the complete opposite to the Glasshouse team.
Port presenter Sam was first class. Exemplary knowledge and detail, all delivered from memory.
Jeffrey Holland’s one man play about Laurel and Hardy was the best performance we have seen on any P&O cruise and a real step up from the holiday camp style entertainment that usually prevails. Quite ironic, given that he is best know for being in Hi-di-Hi.
Having ORCA whale and dolphin watches and talks was a very welcome addition to the cruise. We also managed to see Sei Whales, Beluga Whales, Atlantic White Sided Dolphins and porpoises at sea, as well as a Bald Eagle and Chipmunk ashore.
‘String & Tonic’, Gervase Phinn, Jeffery Holland, James Pearce and Andrew Killian were all excellent guest lecturers or artists.
NOT SO GOOD POINTS
Twelve sea days in mostly force 8 to 10 weather is tiresome, and we wouldn’t do another transatlantic by sea unless there were stops both ways.
We have discovered that 24 nights is too long a cruise for us, especially with lots of sea days which become repetitive. Our optimum cruise length is now minimum one and maximum three weeks. At least we now know that we would never want to do a World Cruise!
A number of passengers came on the ship with coughs and colds and this spread quite extensively. By the end of the cruise, it was almost impossible not to end up sitting near someone who was either coughing, blowing their nose or both.
We would have loved the interactive HD TV’s of Britannia, with on demand movies, to help while away the sea days. The old fashioned TV’s on Aurora are rubbish in comparison.
Service standards in the Medina Restaurant had slipped from previous cruises on Aurora. Service was too quick at times, with one course immediately following the next with no break in-between. Although you are allowed to enter the Freedom Dining restaurant as late as 9.30pm, they start dimming the lights briefly just at around 10pm to try to hurry guests up, which was unacceptable.
Missing a port is always a great shame and we missed Newport Rhode Island.
Sound insulation between cabins is very poor. We were disturbed by the people above us pacing up and down in a very heavy footed manner at all hours, which sounded like thunder from below thanks to the metal ceiling.
Captain Pembridge insists on doing all 5 of the return transatlantic clock changes at night, which went down badly with passengers, many of whom were used to them being done at lunchtime. The crew that we asked prefer the time changes at lunchtime as well. There should be a P&O policy on this and it shouldn’t be at the whim of individual Captains.
Some guest lecturers were scheduled to give talks over lunchtime, which was poor planning.
Terry Brown, former police officer, was very engaging but his talks on the outward journey lacked substance, were rambling, repetitive and never really got to the point.
Accessible balcony cabin. Good size. Bathroom good for wheelchair user, but shower is weak. Electric cabin door useful but stays open too long before closing. TV very poor (too small, poor picture quality, no interactivity). Sofa big but very uncomfortable. Poor sound insulation. We had a ‘pacer’ above us who stomped up and down their cabin for hours on end, day and night (I am not exaggerating) and this drove us nuts, especially as the ceiling is metal and rattles. Good sized balcony, but doors let in draughts and noise.
No better way to leave the U.K.
We booked the P&O tour purely because it was the first tour to leave after arrival in New York, which meant that we were fast tracked through US immigration. This proved to be a great plan, as some other passengers said it took them several hours to get off. This left us all evening to tour independently.View All 26 9/11 Memorial Reviews
Walked there from the ship. Were surprised at how hilly it is. Quite a struggle pushing a wheelchair around here.View All 6 Central Park Reviews
We booked online the Circle Line Harbour Lights Boat trip which gave lovely panoramic views of Manhattan at night from the water. 5 minute walk from the cruise terminal.View All 42 City Tour Reviews
Booked online. Visited at 1030pm. Booked online and paid for Express Access but there were no queues at all. Night time views were spectacular but we also marvelled at the fabulous Art Deco interior.View All 11 Empire State Building Reviews
Just turned up independently at 10am the second day. Short queues. Stunning daytime views, which were a nice contrast from the nighttime views from the Empire State Building the previous night.View All 8 Rockefeller Center Reviews
You have to go there just to see it and all the excentrics that it attracts. Easy 20 minute walk from Cruise terminal, but it is absolutely packed at night.View All 7 Times Square Reviews
This was a tender port and, due to poor weather, our port call here was cancelled. No alternative was provided.
Countryside of Quebec tour day 1. Lovely scenery although the falls are somewhat spoiled by cables going across them. Day 2 we explored the city independently and absolutely loved it. Very compact and beautiful.View All 45 Montmorency Falls Reviews
Bar Harbour itself was lovely, but there was lots of low cloud, so the tour around Arcadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain was a bit of a waste of time. We saw better scenery at the other ports.View All 236 Acadia National Park Reviews
Tiny place and not much to do here other than shops (most of which were closed) and a short boardwalk.
Union Oyster House lobster dinner. Good fun.View All 3 Culinary Tour Reviews
Shuttle bus drops off here, so no need to book a tour.View All 5 Faneuil Hall & Quincy Marketplace Reviews
The walk is well marked and free map guides are given out in Faneuil Hall, so very easy to walk the Freedom Trail Independently.View All 22 Freedom Trail Walking Tour Reviews
This was a tender port, but the port call was cancelled due to poor weather and no alternative was offered.
Easy to explore independently. Nice boardwalk. Titanic exhibition in the Atlantic Museum was small and underwhelming, but their free WiFi was very fast and useful!