Getting away after the pandemic was a priority and for us and Aurora promised a nice no-fly month away to the Caribbean. With 'some reassuring changes' apparently. A pretty standard itinerary calling at Funchal on the way out and Praia Da Vittoria in the Azores on the way home. Testing before boarding was straightforward and we were pleased to see the Peninsular Club lunch was on offer to get the cruise off to a good start. The weather was a bit iffy to Funchal and we had our first, and only, ship-wide Covid test before we arrived.
As the ship sailed across the Pond it became apparent that infections were rising and various changes were made. The Peninsular lunches ended, Sindhu closed and mask wearing became compulsory unless one was physically eating or drinking. Daily announcements went out requesting passengers to contact Reception and it became apparent that these usually led to testing and isolation - positive or not. The procedure was pretty simple - if you were positive you were relocated to one of the 90-odd balcony cabins in the centre sections of A,B or C decks - if you were lucky. We were judged to have been in contact with a positive tester and were isolated in our own cabin - fortunately. In the event we were isolated for only 36 hours and were then 'let out' on a fairly long lead - no shows, no visiting restaurants and no shore tours. The Alexandra was used for breakfast and lunch by us 'non-sufferers' and we ate dinner in our cabin for 5 nights while we were tested daily. Dinners were delivered by room service off the main menu and free wine was often thrown in. Unfortunately delivery could be between 6 and 9.30pm so, having G&Ts at 5.30pm meant that we could be quite sozzled by the time dinner sometimes arrived! But we tested negative throughout and were soon released back into the full life off the ship. Others were not so lucky and it was apparent that some folk had to leave the ship to isolate on Queen Victoria (based in Barbados to house sufferers from Aurora as well as Britannia and Azura) and many sailed home on Britannia arriving home a week after we did!
Sharing Covid experiences became a regular activity and folk were obviously treated in very different ways. We felt that, with no formal testing regime, passengers with Covid could be all over the ship and this posed a dilemma to some who had tested themselves and had to decide whether to report a positive test - or not. We spoke to some Brits from Viking Sea in St Maarten and their experience was of daily testing and almost constant remote temperature monitoring - a system that apparently resulted in there being very little Covid aboard. Our crew suffered as well and there were gaps in service occasionally. At the end of the cruise even Reception was shut during the afternoon. But the crew were always cheerful and as always it was a delight to get to know so many of them. One surprise was being given Future Cruise Credits for the days we were isolated - for a couple of our friends their experience generated several thousand pound's worth.
The fact that Aurora had been in warm lay-up for nearly two years meant that there were inevitable problems. No machinery can work faultlessly if its not being used. Our loo packed up twice and there was the odd moth in the wardrobe but nothing that caused us issues.