Although one of the older ships in the P and O fleet, the Aurora is beautifully maintained. The Art Deco touches around the ship give it a real sense of style, and all the public areas are smart and attractive. Because it is a smaller ... Read More
Although one of the older ships in the P and O fleet, the Aurora is beautifully maintained. The Art Deco touches around the ship give it a real sense of style, and all the public areas are smart and attractive. Because it is a smaller ship, it is easy to find your way around, and feels intimate, but not crowded, and at around 1800 passengers, there seems to be space for everyone. This was a winter cruise, so it was no gauge of normal demand for sun beds, but we never had a problem getting a seat in the Theatre or a drink in the bars, and although peak demand at breakfast and lunch in the buffet meant it was very busy, it was still possible to find a table. This was my second cruise on Aurora, and it has become my favourite P and O ship. Personal preferences are very subjective, but for me it has a much better atmosphere than the much larger, more modern and bland, Britannia.
There are several bars, with styles including Gentleman’s Club, pub and nightclub, and they are all beautifully decorated and well maintained. Waiter service was, on the whole, quick, friendly and efficient, with just an occasional (but understandable) slight delay at peak times, such as just before dinner. Some bars were not open during the day, but provided ideal spaces for those who like to sit and read, and for daily activities and quizzes. However, drinks were often available in these areas through waiter service from another bar. Prices seemed to be around the same as most pubs at home. Two main dining rooms offer Club dining and Freedom (anytime) dining, with Speciality dining (at an extra fee) offered in Sindhu, The Beach House and The Glass House. All are well decorated and attractive. On this cruise, we ate only in the Medina (Freedom Dining) restaurant, and the very friendly waiter service was exceptional. Despite it being Freedom Dining, we ended up in the same section (mostly on the same table) for several nights, and got to know our waiters as much as we would have in Club Dining. The waiters also got to know us and our preferences, and treated us as friends. This was an unexpected bonus, and very different from our Freedom dining experience on other P and O ships.
The food was of very good quality and we enjoyed every meal in the MDR. However, the menu choices seem to have changed a little with P and O over the last few years. Presumably because of their emphasis on Food Heroes, etc., menus include a lot more “fancy” dishes. Again it is just a question of personal preference, but for me this restricted the menu choices a little, as I enjoy fairly plain food, and don’t eat a lot of fish. However, for those who like fish, there seem to be a lot more fish options on the menu. Unfortunately for us, the Beach House, which has always been a feature of our previous cruises, has changed the menu, so that the wonderful kebabs are now fish based, rather than meat. As is usual for P and O, the MDR menu includes “always available” items, such as steak and salmon, but these disappeared on Gala nights, which made menu choices very limited. Food in the Buffet was consistently good at breakfast and lunch, with varied choices, and service was efficient and friendly.
I was travelling with a friend, so we had booked a twin larger inside cabin on B deck. It was spacious, with a full size sofa and plenty of wardrobe space, even though we had bulky clothing for the winter weather. Our steward kept the cabin and the bathroom beautifully clean.
The entertainment was very good. The Headliners Theatre Company’s own shows were some of the best I have seen, and there were four during the 10 night cruise. Normally, cruising with P and O means seeing shows that you have already seen on other ships and cruises, but the shows on this cruise were new to me, and very well performed, and included a superb Christmas show on the last night. Guest performers included the Four Tunes (who are a P and O favourite, and are consistently good), an excellent ventriloquist/comedian, Gareth Oliver, Helen Ward-Jackson (vocalist and Adele tribute act). The port presenter, Sam from the shore excursions team, was one of the best I have seen, and made the presentations much more interesting than the usual “just selling excursions” type of talk. There was the usual selection of daytime activities, with the addition of two game shows, based on The Chase and Pointless. The Entertainment Team presenters were enthusiastic, but clearly too young to understand some of the questions and answers!
The itinerary was what attracted us to the cruise. Ports of call were Hamburg, Copenhagen (overnight), Oslo, Amsterdam and Bruges. Hamburg and Bruges crop up on so many cruises, but I hadn’t been to Hamburg before. Unfortunately it was not only very cold, but wet, and we had to take refuge in a shopping centre to get dry and have lunch. Two Christmas markets, but we didn’t really get a chance to gauge what it would be like in better weather as somewhere to visit (despite driving round the city three times when our shuttle bus driver got lost!)
We had visited Copenhagen previously, and loved it, but the overnight stop meant the opportunity to visit the Tivoli Gardens in the dark to see the Christmas decorations and lights, and this was magical. A beautiful city, and three more Christmas markets. We used the shuttle bus to go back to the ship in the evening, but the city centre is a reasonable (and very pleasant) stroll from the ship.
Oslo was wonderful. It was a clear, sunny (but cold) day, and the ship was moored five minutes walk from the City Centre, alongside a military fortress which now has the grounds open to pedestrians, and this gave us some lovely views of the city, the port, and our ship. There was a very big Christmas market in the City centre, and a lot of great shops. We walked (about 30 minutes) to the Vigeland Sculpture Park; this was a pleasant stroll with plenty to look at, and the sculptures were amazing. Well worth a visit, but if you are able to walk it is not worth paying for a ship excursion to go there.
Disappointingly, we had to miss Amsterdam because of high winds, and so arrived at Zeebrugge at 5pm on the Thursday instead of 8am on the Friday. Shuttle buses were laid on into nearby Blankenberg, and a couple of last minute evening excursions were arranged for those who wanted to go further afield. We did go into Blankenberg, but there is little to see or enjoy in the dark at this time of year! We had already booked a day trip to Bruges for the next day, and on balance we thought this was worth the extra cost. Despite being called “Bruges on your own”, there was a guide who gave a running commentary all the way there and back, and led the way from the coach park to the city centre, as well as answering any questions. A chocolate box pretty city, but unfortunately it was again a wet day, so we decided to take a mini-bus city tour and this enabled us to do some sight seeing in the dry.
Embarcation was very quick and very friendly - we were on board within 15 minutes of leaving the taxi. Disembarcation was much slower, and it was crowded and hot being herded into the Theatre to wait until we could leave the ship. The North Sea was a bit rough, but no more than we expected at this time of year. (The very entertaining Captain, Neil Turnbull, apologised for the potholes in the road on several days!) This was a very enjoyable cruise, and at £75 pppn, very good value. There were many people on board who were doing the trip for the second or third time. As usual, we met some lovely fellow passengers, who became wonderful cruise friends. The Christmas decorations on board were wonderful, and on one day the Entertainment team sang carols in the Atrium, complete with surprise snow falling from the upper gallery. However, in their advance emails, P and O had emphasised the festive nature of the cruise, with the ship smelling of mince pies and mulled wine. No doubt mince pies were around somewhere, but I could find mulled wine only in the deck bar by the pool. Having said that, plenty of fellow passengers wore their Christmas jumpers to create their own festive atmosphere! All in all, a wonderful cruise! Read Less