From jellybean homes in Newfoundland to soaring skyscrapers in New York and from the colours of a New England autumn to blueberry pie and cream in Kennebunkport Maine, this is a cruise that ticks all the boxes. THE SHIP Service across Aurora was first class. With no waiting around in airports and a speedy check-in at Southampton, it’s no wonder cruise holidays are so popular. Once I had stowed my cases under the bed, I could relax into the cruise and be waited on hand and foot. Pure luxury! Aurora is one of P&O’s mid-size ships with about 2,000 passengers and more than enough crew to make sure every need is cheerfully met. Crossing the Atlantic was a breeze. A guest speaker in the theatre followed art classes each morning and then it was a time for a Costa coffee in Raffles on Deck 8. Afterwards a stroll along the Promenade deck (where three circuits equates to a mile) before heading to lunch, either in Medina (Deck 6) for waiter service or in Horizon on the Lido deck. Food is a cruise highlight and within three days I was putting on weight. Action this day! I spent an hour in the gym most afternoons before playing cards and then ruined things with afternoon tea. Time flies by and, after a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s (Deck 7), it was time to head to the main restaurant for dinner. The Executive Chef inspired his team to create many memorable meals. The range of fish was impressive and the barramundi, lobster tails and sea trout had excellent flavour. But then so did the sirloin steaks, calves’ liver and lamb shanks. Before you ask, yes I enjoyed the desserts as well – there were always exquisite gateaux on offer but traditional puddings like bread and butter pudding went down equally well. Next stop, an early quiz perhaps or on to the Curzon theatre for a show. The Headliners presented a range of productions including new ones for me, like ‘Applause!’ but older ones such as ‘Destination Dance’ were performed with so much energy that I was happy to see them again. Comedians, singers, instrumentalists and jugglers took to the stage when the Headliners were resting and in the Playhouse cinema recent releases like The Green Book and Yesterday passed a pleasant couple of hours. My sea view cabin was on Deck 8, handy both for Raffles and for the cinema. It was compact but supremely comfortable and my steward, Filipina, worked hard to keep it spick and span. She even found time to chat about my days ashore before rushing to her next cabin. Others in Aurora’s team were just as impressive. Robin John in Utility Housekeeping is one of the many who work through the night to keep public areas sparkling. These young crew members work hard yet Robin cheerfully gave up his time to respond to my request for a length of string I needed in art class – within minutes he had found some for me. Five star service too in the Spa where Dilpreet gave me not only an excellent haircut (just £10 on some port days) but also useful tips for planning a visit to India. Meanwhile, in the restaurants, I will remember Judith – a member of the management team – for her broad smile and commitment to ensuring that service was as it should be. It was, and waiters like Hanif, Marcelino, Costa and Roswin were key players in delivering those high standards. With so many positives, no surprise that the Loyalty & Future Cruises desk on Deck 5 was busy. If senior loyalty manager Hope Lyttle wasn’t keeping waiting time to a minimum, she could be seen around the ship, hosting loyalty lunches and welcoming us to Peninsular drinks’ parties. THE PORTS St John’s, capital of Newfoundland, our first port after crossing the Atlantic, has a long history. It was here that Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message in 1901 and in his honour we marked his achievement by hiking up Signal Hill to log on and catch up on messages from home. The city is also famous for its colourful jellybean homes, their clapboard facings painted in pastel shades. Like Bar Harbor later and indeed every other coastal town, the locals provided warm welcomes and insights into different cultures. Hurricane Dorian was heading north as we were preparing to sail south from Canada and Captain Neil Turnbull decided in the interests of our comfort and safety that he would take Aurora back into the Atlantic, away from the storm, and return to the eastern seaboard when Dorian had passed by. Although it meant we missed a port, his decision was appreciated. We were rewarded for our patience when we reached Charlottetown. Immaculately trimmed verges, trees fringed with the reds of early autumn and some beautiful churches including the Basilica of St Dunstan made this a town to be savoured. Famed for its links with Anne of Green Gables, the ship’s excursions were soon fully booked. In Boston we faced US Immigration, often a grim affair. But not here. The face-to-face process took place on board with minimal queuing. And, wait for it, the US officials smiled and were charming. Once through, the American dream became reality. In Newport, Rhode Island, the Cliff Walk provided glimpses of mansions, some open to the public, that date back to pre-war times when Newport was a playground for the rich. Further south, Kennebunkport near Portland, Maine, was just as memorable. This is the summer home of the Bush family dynasty and a very classy place it is too, with boutique shops and quiet side streets lined with cafés and foodstores. There we found the ideal spot to test the Blueberry pie and I can confirm that it is delicious, although perhaps I could have done with a smaller slice. In America, I decided, everything is big. New York City was the half way point of the cruise and we had three days to explore. The berth couldn’t have been better, just a 25 minute walk from 42nd Street. Even closer was Hudson Yards where, if you pre-book free tickets online, you can climb to the top of the city’s latest landmark attraction, the Vessel. Once we became used to the grid system of streets, we were quite blasé about stepping out at night to explore Manhattan and enjoy a beer. We even used the subway to visit the Twin Towers Memorial and yet again, the friendliness of the station staff in helping us to navigate the system was impressive. Quite a few passengers took advantage of Broadway to see a show, benefitting from cheaper seats available at registered ticket agencies. The famous yellow cabs were everywhere and happy at night to return passengers to the terminal. But one piece of advice – agree the fare in advance and do not assume that your driver will know the route. They are not like London cabbies although they do share an ability to talk the hind leg off a donkey. WORTH BOOKING? I loved this cruise. Officers and crew were united in providing us with the very best service and even the weather was kind. No surprise, then, that I have re-booked. Next year it will be Canada and the year after, the United States. If this cruise isn’t already on your bucket list, it deserves to be. ....................... (Self-confessed cruise addict David George worked in BBC radio news before his retirement and now writes European city guides and cruise blogs.)

The American Dream

Aurora Cruise Review by David George, Chester

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Trip Details
From jellybean homes in Newfoundland to soaring skyscrapers in New York and from the colours of a New England autumn to blueberry pie and cream in Kennebunkport Maine, this is a cruise that ticks all the boxes.

THE SHIP

Service across Aurora was first class. With no waiting around in airports and a speedy check-in at Southampton, it’s no wonder cruise holidays are so popular. Once I had stowed my cases under the bed, I could relax into the cruise and be waited on hand and foot. Pure luxury!

Aurora is one of P&O’s mid-size ships with about 2,000 passengers and more than enough crew to make sure every need is cheerfully met. Crossing the Atlantic was a breeze. A guest speaker in the theatre followed art classes each morning and then it was a time for a Costa coffee in Raffles on Deck 8. Afterwards a stroll along the Promenade deck (where three circuits equates to a mile) before heading to lunch, either in Medina (Deck 6) for waiter service or in Horizon on the Lido deck.

Food is a cruise highlight and within three days I was putting on weight. Action this day! I spent an hour in the gym most afternoons before playing cards and then ruined things with afternoon tea. Time flies by and, after a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s (Deck 7), it was time to head to the main restaurant for dinner.

The Executive Chef inspired his team to create many memorable meals. The range of fish was impressive and the barramundi, lobster tails and sea trout had excellent flavour. But then so did the sirloin steaks, calves’ liver and lamb shanks. Before you ask, yes I enjoyed the desserts as well – there were always exquisite gateaux on offer but traditional puddings like bread and butter pudding went down equally well.

Next stop, an early quiz perhaps or on to the Curzon theatre for a show. The Headliners presented a range of productions including new ones for me, like ‘Applause!’ but older ones such as ‘Destination Dance’ were performed with so much energy that I was happy to see them again.

Comedians, singers, instrumentalists and jugglers took to the stage when the Headliners were resting and in the Playhouse cinema recent releases like The Green Book and Yesterday passed a pleasant couple of hours.

My sea view cabin was on Deck 8, handy both for Raffles and for the cinema. It was compact but supremely comfortable and my steward, Filipina, worked hard to keep it spick and span. She even found time to chat about my days ashore before rushing to her next cabin.

Others in Aurora’s team were just as impressive. Robin John in Utility Housekeeping is one of the many who work through the night to keep public areas sparkling. These young crew members work hard yet Robin cheerfully gave up his time to respond to my request for a length of string I needed in art class – within minutes he had found some for me. Five star service too in the Spa where Dilpreet gave me not only an excellent haircut (just £10 on some port days) but also useful tips for planning a visit to India.

Meanwhile, in the restaurants, I will remember Judith – a member of the management team – for her broad smile and commitment to ensuring that service was as it should be. It was, and waiters like Hanif, Marcelino, Costa and Roswin were key players in delivering those high standards. With so many positives, no surprise that the Loyalty & Future Cruises desk on Deck 5 was busy. If senior loyalty manager Hope Lyttle wasn’t keeping waiting time to a minimum, she could be seen around the ship, hosting loyalty lunches and welcoming us to Peninsular drinks’ parties.

THE PORTS

St John’s, capital of Newfoundland, our first port after crossing the Atlantic, has a long history. It was here that Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message in 1901 and in his honour we marked his achievement by hiking up Signal Hill to log on and catch up on messages from home. The city is also famous for its colourful jellybean homes, their clapboard facings painted in pastel shades. Like Bar Harbor later and indeed every other coastal town, the locals provided warm welcomes and insights into different cultures.

Hurricane Dorian was heading north as we were preparing to sail south from Canada and Captain Neil Turnbull decided in the interests of our comfort and safety that he would take Aurora back into the Atlantic, away from the storm, and return to the eastern seaboard when Dorian had passed by. Although it meant we missed a port, his decision was appreciated.

We were rewarded for our patience when we reached Charlottetown. Immaculately trimmed verges, trees fringed with the reds of early autumn and some beautiful churches including the Basilica of St Dunstan made this a town to be savoured. Famed for its links with Anne of Green Gables, the ship’s excursions were soon fully booked.

In Boston we faced US Immigration, often a grim affair. But not here. The face-to-face process took place on board with minimal queuing. And, wait for it, the US officials smiled and were charming. Once through, the American dream became reality.

In Newport, Rhode Island, the Cliff Walk provided glimpses of mansions, some open to the public, that date back to pre-war times when Newport was a playground for the rich. Further south, Kennebunkport near Portland, Maine, was just as memorable. This is the summer home of the Bush family dynasty and a very classy place it is too, with boutique shops and quiet side streets lined with cafés and foodstores. There we found the ideal spot to test the Blueberry pie and I can confirm that it is delicious, although perhaps I could have done with a smaller slice. In America, I decided, everything is big.

New York City was the half way point of the cruise and we had three days to explore. The berth couldn’t have been better, just a 25 minute walk from 42nd Street. Even closer was Hudson Yards where, if you pre-book free tickets online, you can climb to the top of the city’s latest landmark attraction, the Vessel.

Once we became used to the grid system of streets, we were quite blasé about stepping out at night to explore Manhattan and enjoy a beer. We even used the subway to visit the Twin Towers Memorial and yet again, the friendliness of the station staff in helping us to navigate the system was impressive. Quite a few passengers took advantage of Broadway to see a show, benefitting from cheaper seats available at registered ticket agencies.

The famous yellow cabs were everywhere and happy at night to return passengers to the terminal. But one piece of advice – agree the fare in advance and do not assume that your driver will know the route. They are not like London cabbies although they do share an ability to talk the hind leg off a donkey.

WORTH BOOKING?

I loved this cruise. Officers and crew were united in providing us with the very best service and even the weather was kind. No surprise, then, that I have re-booked. Next year it will be Canada and the year after, the United States. If this cruise isn’t already on your bucket list, it deserves to be.

.......................

(Self-confessed cruise addict David George worked in BBC radio news before his retirement and now writes European city guides and cruise blogs.)
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