From England to The Far North - Exceeded all Expectations.: Aurora Cruise Review by BORDER REIVER
Overall Member Rating
From England to The Far North - Exceeded all Expectations.
Destination: Europe - British Isles & Western
Travel to and from Southampton
We travelled by Eavesway Coach, which turned out to be a great, hassle-free choice. We had 3 cases each, which we never saw again until they arrived in our cabin, plus hand baggage and although it's a long journey, it didn't seem like it. A word of warning.... The very front seats (which we reserved a year ago) are very cramped for taller passengers, although a great view compensates. The coach was excellent, as was the driver, who kept us informed of timings throughout.
Embarkation / Disembarkation
Much easier and quicker than I thought it would be - very well organised. Must remember to make my cases more easily recognisable for collection in the terminal building - all large black/brown cases look the same.
From thoroughly miserable experiences of travelling on smaller ships in the distant past, I was prepared, with More ginger chews, ginger biscuits and pills from the chemist. I had a few sweets, then biscuits before sailing. They were nice, so I finished them off during the next day or two. Then I forgot to take the pills and found I didn't need anything anyway. Even during force 9/10 winds between Greenland and Iceland, I was fine with the bumpiness.
Ship and Staff
Lovely ship, great facilities, nice cabins, but Aurora is showing signs of age....wood veneers coming off in some public areas, light showing through cabin curtains. Those things didn't in any way spoil our cruise. The staff are wonderful, always smiling, with friendly greetings. Internet very expensive and VERY slow.
How does the Captain manage a consistently good smile / pose for photographs? I've tried and practiced and failed. It usually looks like I've got wind and am about to fall over.
We sampled most dining areas and were most impressed with Cafe Bordeaux. Nothing the matter with the Alexandria or Medina, the choice and quality of food is excellent, but they are frantic places at times, with staff almost running at times, trying to serve so many people at once. In Cafe Bordeaux, there's a better ratio of staff to customers, so it's much more relaxed and calm. The food there is that much better and to us, it was worth the cover charges to have dinner there four times. The Orangery varied, with some really quiet times and some rugby scrum occasions, but there was always enough choice of food for anyone's taste. You could eat as much or as little, as healthily or unhealthily as you wanted - we did both and both.
Afternoon tea in the Medina was well worth doing occasionally, but a bit rushed.
The Port Talks were excellent, as were the series of talks on air travel.
The Headliners shows in the Curzon Theatre were always superb (how do they dance in heels when the boat is bouncing around?) as was the Music Festival at sea. If it's any help, the front seats of The Curzon are a good deal cooler than those higher up at the back.
I wish folk would respect the requests of the staff and turn OFF mobiles and cameras, it's very off-putting when you are looking down on dozens of little screens lit up between yourself and the show.
We went to Carmens one formal evening to have a look and saw some new variations in some of the dances as the sea was a bit choppy - they were enjoying it though and so did we.
Ports of Call.
An excellent choice, the main reason for us choosing this cruise and we were blessed with superb weather too. Some amazing scenery on the way into and out of ports.
An excellent choice of excursions for all tastes and abilities, we thoroughly enjoyed ours.
Why do people feel they need to behave like animals, pushing, shoving and running to get excursion stickers and to get to the buses? We all get a time and a place to collect stickers and we WILL all get a seat on a bus / boat. Also, why do passengers not put a little more effort into getting back to buses on time at the end of planned stops. I do agree that some "comfort breaks" didn't allow sufficient time and toilet queues were huge, but some folk were within sight of the bus, yet still taking their time.
Our Excursions / Shore Trips.
Cobh ..... Excellent tour of Cork and Jameson Distillery. Tour guide was knowledgeable and funny. We arrived back too late for dinner and so went into Cobh for Fish and Chips. A bad choice of chip shop saw us waiting ½ hour, with some other customers walking out even after ordering. Still, we thought sitting on the seafront eating them would be nice - it wasn't, they were undercooked and greasy - but hey, that's life.
Dublin..... Nice tour of Dublin, with Irish dance show. Shame that speakers at rear of coach weren't working - so didn't hear a lot that the guide said. Irish dance show was excellent and fun.
Qaqortoq.....Lovely little town for taking photos on a superb sunny day. Very colourful houses and lots of wild flowers. We went ashore early, had a walk around and returned after an hour to eat, drink and enjoy the scenery.
Nuuk........ Beautiful location, partly ugly concrete housing blocks, partly colourful old part of town.
Don't believe that there's not much to do, the tourist office at the quayside sell tickets for all kinds of trips / excursions. We went on a wonderful "Scenic Fjord Tour" that we had pre-booked before we left. The little boat took us at remarkable speed on a 40 / 50 mile trip round local fjords, that were so calm and glassy once the sun came out. We saw no whales, but had a few very close-up circuits of a small blue iceberg and saw huge mountains rising straight out of the sea as well as glaciers. There's lots to do in Nuuk, but get in touch with the Tourist Office first, for a brochure and price list.
Reykjavik......Fantastic trip on giant 4x4 to glacier, waterfalls and hot springs. Extremely bumpy at times and not a trip for anyone with back problems - but great fun and spectacular scenery. Another warm and sunny day.
Akureyri.......Trip to see town and botanic gardens, followed by tour to Godafoss waterfalls.
Town was pretty and in stunning location. The visit to the gardens was a bit brief, nothing special as gardens go, but truly amazing for this far North. Godafoss was beautiful and I got lots of good photos, but toilets in hotel had big queue later, causing delays to bus departures. Our guide was nice and she was happy learning some of the intricacies of the English language - like duck and ducks, does not work out to goose and gooses.
Alesund......Lovely place in lovely location. Had a walk around in evening, to see harbour area. We did "Land of The Trolls" trip. Partly spoiled by someone who had "done it" before and had to tell his companions in a loud voice, what would happen next - it was funny when he was so often wrong. A stop at a gorge and waterfall had some "interesting" unisex toilets, with ceiling to floor metal doors and dodgy locks. It was funny to see people come out of them looking shocked after failing to realise that the hand basin taps were automatic and to see those who had worked out the taps yet failed to find the paper towels well hidden underneath. Further on the sheer drops just a couple of feet from the bus wheels had some window side passengers trying to move inwards, but the locations were spectacular. Our guide offered to show us a walk to a viewpoint and when we saw that it actually jutted out 20ft clear of the mountain, with a sheer drop of several hundred feet very obvious through the glass walls of the platform, it made us stop and take a few deep breaths before going there. The views down to the tiny vehicles on hairpin bends below were breathtaking. A meal stop was a buffet style and people started the feeding frenzy, putting coats on chairs and pushing into queues. Very glad to get outside again. The visit to "Troll Wall" capped a great day - why would anyone want to jump off a rock 3,000ft up? Apparently the Base Jumpers do, despite it being illegal.
Geiranger......Probably the one of the most beautiful locations a cruise ship can get to. A great trip out to the "Roof of Norway" and Mount Dalsnibba, after a bit of a problem with a family of 4 trying to occupy all 9 rear seats, leaving the P & O escort with no choice but to ask them to move so she could have a seat. Another lovely day, lots of snow to be seen, more hairpin bends and outstanding scenery. Amazing views from Dalsnibba, but the tourist visitor centre had to close the toilets - maybe too many visitors at once. We had a really nice waiter-served meal at a hotel at another waterfall, but what a shame so much of the food was sent back.
Bergen.......Another lovely day and a trip to Lysoen Island. More nice scenery and a nice little boat trip to see a well preserved summer-house. We got waffles, sour cream and jam - lovely, though didn't realise the thin slices of "fudge" I put on also, were actually cheese - still tasty though. Had a walk around Bergen later, seeing various dancing / keep fit in the streets. Also had enormous ice creams at £3 each.
Stavanger......Beautiful, but noisy from beach volleyball competition. Did very scenic tour along Lysefjord to Pulpit Rock. Another warm and sunny day, with yet more amazing scenery and one more stop for waffles. Had time for a walk around Stavanger later.
Mostly really nice people, sharing experiences of cruising. A few rude people, some of whom do not even know they are being rude, and some who do, but don't care. Also, some of us need to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror before we leave the cabin, would we really dress like that at home? There's only a certain few folk who actually look good in shorts and only young people look cool in young fashion clothing. I'm not criticising, just observing - I've seen some of my own photos and cringed.
There you go, it's not a proper review, just some memories shared. Less