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Sail Date: April 2019
Had good responses from people using P & O. Having had Cruises with Royal Caribbean & Cunard, we thought we would see how they compared. Firstly, the boarding chaos was never explained by any P & O official. (It took over ... Read More
Had good responses from people using P & O. Having had Cruises with Royal Caribbean & Cunard, we thought we would see how they compared. Firstly, the boarding chaos was never explained by any P & O official. (It took over one hour & 30 mins TO check in). You were left in your car outside the dock for 45 mins WITH NO EXPLANATION before being herded into a chaotic receiving hall where we were given Numbers & told to take a seat (There were none) until your number was called. Cabin & Steward was excellent, & kept spotless during the voyage. Dining was very good in the Saffron Restaurant & waiters were brilliant. We also used the Self-service dining areas which were pleasant & fairly spacious & well staffed; However, the buffet area was quite small & crowded. There are activities but they are fairly low key & mostly appealing to children. One activity in the main Atrium was a display of how to make a Bed in under 2. 30 secs?! This actual drew a sizeable crowd, I think primarily because of disbelief that this could be a judged an 'activity.' People on holiday actually took part! The trips/excursions were a shambles. Oporto was called off because of rough seas, with the Captain sounding less than sympathetic! Spending an extra day in Lisbon. Then two full days at sea?! Until Our visit to Guernsey!! Where to begin... 21/2 hours queue to get a ticket to get into the 'Actual' queue for the Tender. 3hrs.20 mins set foot on Guernsey! Then, a 3-hour queue to come back. You couldn't invent it! The Ventura left 2 Hours later than the original 'back to the boat' They have no concept of how to organize any large gathering & Officers are nowhere to be seen. Finally, 2 hours to disembark! I shall leave the tale of Two ships there. Good Cabins & Good food vs laughable organization skills. I leave you with final Bon-Mot. An Illusionist was booked for the Area theater but couldn't be found? Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
This was the first cruise for our daughter and son in law with two children age nine and six. We as grandparents have been on Ventura before. Our daughter was impressed with how smart the ship was and we, since our last trip. have been ... Read More
This was the first cruise for our daughter and son in law with two children age nine and six. We as grandparents have been on Ventura before. Our daughter was impressed with how smart the ship was and we, since our last trip. have been with Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity and agree the ship is not a let down. The family chose an extra large balcony cabin on Deck 9 (D728) and that was great for four people. We had a regular balcony on the same deck (D734) and we faced aft. We gained an extra large balcony, mostly shaded, but when ship was at sea the noise from the wake was loud. We had some moderately rough weather and did feel movement and vibration but nothing outrageous. Cabin service was good, our steward cleared the fridge for our bottles and made regular deliveries of ice and lemon. Breakfasts were delivered on time and accurately when we asked. We mostly ate in the main dining room and food was generally very good, only two or three dishes would have been sent back if we were paying by the dish!! The first formal night, with Captain's reception offering a choice of drinks (not just cheap fizz!!) and a special menu, was as as good as any gala night at sea in seven cruises. The disappointment came when the second black tie event did not have any extras and we chose uninspiring dishes from a rather ordinary menu. Our grandchildren appreciated the children's buffet but our daughter and son in law did not enjoy the atmosphere in the main buffet. Following our experience on the American lines the buffet choice is very limited with three counters of the same offering where as others have much greater variety, including free ice cream. Tables were cleared promptly and it felt clean. Entertainment around the ship was varied and generally of good quality. The entertainment manager took a low profile and we appreciated how this avoided a "holiday camp" atmosphere. Astonishing, the new magic and illusion show is brilliant and definitely as good as anything we have seen. The other acts in the main theatre, however, were aimed at the older age group which was a shame on what was intended to be a family cruise during the school holidays with more passengers under 50 that we have ever seen before. The company production of Burt Bacharach songs was well done, but the other four nights we had two shows from a Rock and Roll Band and two shows from a Tina Turner tribute act (All these dating back to the 1950/60s!!). We were not enthusiastic and our children did not even bother after the first night. There were disruptions from weather and other factors which were handled exceptionally poorly. We had an hour long queue in the car to drop off luggage- never known that before. Then, as ship was late in port and there were gangway problems, everyone was boarding at least an hour late. We were however well informed at this stage and seating was available. In Lisbon we were told the weather was too bad to get into Porto so we were staying another day in Lisbon. That second day we left at 11:30 in the morning and this was very limiting as we knew from the first day nothing was fully open before 10am. We reached Guernsey which we knew was a tendered port but the waits to get off ship were horrendous. It was suggested we join the queue late but it took from 10:45 to 1pm to get ashore. We were watching the queue to get back on the ship from about 3 pm and it was never shorter than an estimated two hours. We joined the last tender and got back to the ship 1h15 after it was due to leave. We spent more time waiting than exploring St Peter Port. We did hear there was an extra tender boat for hire but if this could not be used then there should have been a booking system,even a ballot for the popular times. The port arrangements at Vigo and Lisbon were fine both within walking distance of town. Returning to Southampton there was a delay notified the day before but we still had to vacate cabins by 8am and breakfast finished at 9am. We could not get ashore until ten to eleven but Anthony from the ents staff kept us informed as we waited in a restaurant. Our grandchildren really loved the children's clubs and children's entertainer Josh was excellent, but we would have enjoyed more enrichment for the adults to enjoy the free time. We found the drinks very good value and a meal at Sindhu was excellent. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
This was probably the least enjoyable of our 17 cruises with P&O (6th on Aurora), but I should stress that the majority of this was not down to P&O. We did the Northern Lights Cruise during the same 2 weeks last year (also on ... Read More
This was probably the least enjoyable of our 17 cruises with P&O (6th on Aurora), but I should stress that the majority of this was not down to P&O. We did the Northern Lights Cruise during the same 2 weeks last year (also on Aurora) and had a spectacular display of the Northern Lights over two nights, with a weaker display on a third night. This year we had almost permanent cloud cover and on the two ocassions that we saw the Northern Lights they were incredibly weak. If last year was a 9 out of 10 display, this year was 1 out of 10. We also had fog (with the dreaded fog horn disiturbing sleep a few nights) and rough seas, with a lot of sudden lurching, for 24 hours on the return which became tiresome. Other than the 24 hours mentioned, Aurora rode the seas very well. As a point of interest, Viking Sky (the ship that ran into difficulties) arrived in Alta on our second day there and followed us back down the Norwegian coast a few days later. Last year we stopped in Tromso on the way to Alta, which was a lovely place and we really enjoyed our visit there. This year we made a maiden call (for P&O) to Narvik, which was a very poor replacement. Nothing much to see in the town. I also had a bad experience with a P&O tour. I had booked a snowmobile tour at £310 and it was stressed that the price was per snowmobile, not per person, so if you went as a couple you shared the snowmobile and the driving (and paid £310 between you), whereas if you went alone, you paid £310 but had sole use. At the snowmobile centre they tried to force me to share a snowmobile with another passenger when we had both paid £310 each. Naturally I refused, but it was a battle and spoiled the experience. Also the Snowmobiling was supposed to be ‘in mountains and places inaccessible by foot’ but was back and forth across a frozen lake. This was the same as I had done the previous year in Alta for around £100 less. The tour was also advertised as providing the history of the Narvik to Sweden railway line and its role in the Second World War. This didn’t happen either. Worst of all, my complaint about these issues back on board was handled very badly. They preferred to believe the word of the tour agent (who was naturally covering their back) than a customer of some 23 years standing. Very naive and short sighted of them, as we have now decided to do far fewer P&O tours on future cruises as a result. The scenery along the Fjords and ashore is fantastic. We had seen much of it last year, so didn’t quite get the ‘wow factor’ that passengers seeing it for the first time would have experienced, but it was lovely none the less. Temperatures were fine. Just like a cold U.K. winter. Most of the time it was within a few degrees of freezing, with the coldest we had around minus 7 degrees. Last year it was minus 15 to 20 degrees, so much colder. In spite of it not being that cold, the staff decided to keep the very heavy fire doors to the cabin corridors closed on all decks. Whilst this was needed below deck 7 (which is all they did last year, even when it was MUCH colder), this year they decided to do it on ALL decks. This just wasn’t necessary as the areas around the lift areas between decks 8 and 11 were incredibly hot and there would have been far better temperature dissipation with the doors open. We fed this back on the ‘First Impressions’ form and, thankfully, they kept the door outside our cabin open thereafter (my wife is a wheelchair user and, in addition to the door not needing to be closed, it made access to and from our accessible cabin very difficult). Service in the Medina Restaurant was absolutely superb. Well, to clarify, it was superb as far as the waiters and managers were concerned. The wine waiters were poor. Difficult to get hold of and one was actually quite rude. Food was perfectly acceptable, but not quite as good as on our previous cruises on Aurora. One disappointment (noted by many) was the absence of lobster from the Marco Pierre White menu. The current chefs seem to think that us Brits are scared of anything remotely spicy, so tone everything down to mild, bordering on bland. Great shame, as we loved trying all the tasty curries at lunchtime years ago. The Glasshouse and Beach House were great (as always) and whilst the Sindhu Restaurant on Aurora is our least favourite Sindhu in the fleet, we enjoyed Tiffin lunch in there. We met some lovely fellow passengers (including some we had met on previous cruises, which was fantastic) and enjoyed some pleasant chats. The average age of passengers on Aurora is usually mid 70’s (they didn’t quote a figure this time but last year the Captain mentioned the average age was 73) and although we are a few decades younger, this suits us. We aren’t fans of P&O’s ‘1960’s holiday camp’ style of entertainment so tend to avoid much of it, but the Headliners troupe on this cruise were very good (we find that they vary enormously from very good to poor), but sadly left after this cruise. Electra (two female violinists) were absolutely superb. Jane Davey (presenter) was very confident and engaging, but we found that her desire to find a wise crack in almost every line became irritating and diluted the substance matter so much that we lost interest. Stuart St Paul (former stuntman and film director) gave some fairly interesting talks, but was rather full of himself. The Port Presenter (Sam) was very good, other than the Butlins style “if you have been to Norway before, shout ‘whoop whoop’ additions. Dear God, when will P&O wake up to the fact that it’s now the 21st Century! When we disembarked, there were 1,000 workmen waiting to embark to assist with Aurora’s refit in Brest, France. A total of 1,800 workmen will toil over the next fortnight to bring her a little more up to date. We are back on board next month, so will play ‘spot the difference’. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
I have been on 12 previous cruises with most of the other cruise lines. This was my first P & O cruise. First the positives. Good flight. I loved the fact you check in and don't see your suitcases until they arrive at your ... Read More
I have been on 12 previous cruises with most of the other cruise lines. This was my first P & O cruise. First the positives. Good flight. I loved the fact you check in and don't see your suitcases until they arrive at your cabin. Likewise on the return trip. Cases taken the evening before and next time we saw them was at Gatwick. I also like the process of getting off the plane, onto a coach and not going through the hectic Barbados immigration process. The embarkation process was quick and efficient and on the ship in no time at all, despite there being queues on arrival. Furthermore the disembarkation process was painless. I also liked that we could stay on board until our afternoon pick up. So could enjoy the day at the pool. I have been on the RCL Ovation so the size of Britannia wasn't as awesome as it was to my family. (It was the biggest ship they have been on). The deco in the cabin was average although fully equipped and spotlessly clean. Our steward quickly introduced herself and said if we require anything not to hesitate to ask. The beds were comfy and we had a good night sleep. Although, my only grip was, there were only back lights and no individual bedside lamp. In order to read I had to have all the lights on at night. This I found awkward particularly as my other half doesn't read at night. I was surprised there was no USB ports especially as it's only 4 years old!! Our food was great and ate mainly in the Horizon buffet or the Peninsular. Our service in the Peninsular was outstanding and nothing was too much trouble for our waiter Nasir. Especially as the other half is a fussy eater. We had Freedom dining and there was 10 of us at every meal. We only had to wait 15 mins on one occasion. Our Waiter was fantastic. The gym was well equipped which members of our party who are regular gym goers said it was great. We liked the pools, however, this is where things become a bit fraught. My first negative, in our party we had four thirty year olds and 4 children, ages 4,5,8 and 14. The elderly regular cruisers didn't like the younger children. My grandchildren played all day in the pools and if they dared splashed they were told off by the elderly women. Now, I could understand if they were laying on the sunbeds but they were sat at the edge of the pool. The first few times we ignored them but on one occasion I had to remind them that the pool is for everyone and if they didn't want to be around children they should go to the adults pool. This didn't go down well. Another elderly gentleman told my son off for splashing his little daughter in the pool. Apparently his wife didn't want to get her hair wet!!! What do you expect sat at the edge of the pool with your feet dangling in there!! There seems to be a quota of elderly elitist that wanted a very traditional cruise and obviously were regulars with P & O and consequently felt they owned it. This also showed on sea days. The poolside entertainment was at best poor. Old fashioned back ground music, not that that's a problem but they should be catering for all ages. There was very little entertainment except the quizzes, which was dull and mundane. I also felt the quizzes were something to pacify us. The sail away parties were good fun. They would start at 5pm and finish on the dot at 6pm. Despite the party being in full flow it stopped dead an hour later. I understand the entertainment team has other jobs but it all felt it was going through the motions. One of the sea days I even went to see a film as I was that bored on deck. On other ships the evening entertainment have had spectacular various shows every night. Apart from Astonish show the rest of the time was the same group singing songs from different decades. If you wanted a good show you really had to book the Limelight club and pay £25-£35 per person for the privilege. So for me it would be £70 extra just to see Gareth Gates! So for our party we felt that the entertainment team was VERY poor for the size of the ship. The next grip is the midship lack of stairs. How was this thought out? Lucky for us we were on deck 14 so it was only 2 decks to the lido. If we had stairs we would have walked to this deck but unfortunately the forward and aft stairs were too far away. I understand this is being rectified in the October refit. I feel P & O are missing a younger audience. Their adverts are targeting an older customer. Unlike RCL, Carnival etc who are targeting families. My family have said their next cruise will be on a fun ship and not a geriatric ship. So that's 6 adults and 4 children they have lost. We had a lovely cruise, fantastic ports, good food but in comparison to other cruise lines poor entertainment. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
Wanted to give P&O another try after a really bad experience on Britannia. Oceana used to be Ocean Princess so, as our first ever cruise was on her sister, Sea Princess, we were familiar with the ship, layout and facilities. ... Read More
Wanted to give P&O another try after a really bad experience on Britannia. Oceana used to be Ocean Princess so, as our first ever cruise was on her sister, Sea Princess, we were familiar with the ship, layout and facilities. Embarkation in Dubai was simple and stress free with the usual pre authoristation on my credit card (more of that later). Yet again we found the food to be very average and actually quite boring; perks of being aimed at the older British market I suppose but I don't go to hot parts of the world to have things like shepherds pie for lunch! The staff were okay but again, being predominantly from the Indian sub continent, they tend to be very straight laced to the point of appearing uninterested. We only used the main restaurant twice as the meals did not excite us, thankfully the themed buffets were generally very good. The entertainment was, on the whole pretty good with guest entertainers of a Gary Barlow tribute and a Soul / Mowtown act that was that good we saw on all of their shows. The house entertainment was okay, the Killer Queen theatre show was entertaining without being spectacular. House bands / musicians kept people entertained around the ship The UAE is a strange place to visit, blatant oppulance tempered by a very low paid workforce, a wide chasm of have and have nots which makes for a fascinating visit. Sir Bin Yassi Island was the only place we were disappointed with as there is nothing there so why bother. You take your chances with all ships excursions and these were no different really, not exactly exciting but something different to do. Post cruise is where it all went wrong and highlighted the poor service from the company. On every other cruise I have done, I have received my post cruise email with questionnaire before I have got to the airport or home, here I am three weeks later still waiting for it! Also, the pre authorisation of my credit card is still showing on my account and all I get from them is a standard reply, it's as if they don't even read the original message properly. Can't say I'll be rushing back to P&O Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
We arrived in Dubai after an overnight flight. transfers were smooth and arrived at cruise port by 10.30am Cabins were ready by 11.15am- Great start to the holiday. Day 1 First port of call was Bahrain - a very enjoyable excursion to ... Read More
We arrived in Dubai after an overnight flight. transfers were smooth and arrived at cruise port by 10.30am Cabins were ready by 11.15am- Great start to the holiday. Day 1 First port of call was Bahrain - a very enjoyable excursion to the F1 Track. Second Stop was 2 days in Abu Dhabi - first day Shuttle bus took us to a newly finished Mall on the outskirts of town, quite disappointing as there was no way of walking to the main part of town, bit of a wasted day really. Second day we went on a cruise excursion to Grand Mosque- a visit to a traditional handmadecrafts village, great opportunity to buy local crafts - trade in Diram, Euro's and Dollars. Very friendly and look out for the man that does weaving really worth a visit.A drive around the sites of Abu Dhabi and then a final visit was to a Fort .. this was a superb tour and I would really recommend it as we saw lots and it was good value at £40 each. A day at sea followed . Our next visit was to Muscat , here the shuttle bus took us to a market and we explored the town and the harbour. It was a little confusing at the port we had to get off the bus and go through a security check before re-boarding the bus to get to the town. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous there is a beautiful beach a short taxi ride from the port. We then visited Kushab, a lovely little town where goats roamed the streets and there was a wealth of electronic shops selling allsorts... My daughters bought a pair of airpods that work great for £20, from a shop in the square where the shuttle bus dropped us off. We also found a beautiful beach just next to the port and the sea was really warm, there is no pavement to get there so you need to bear right out of the port and follow the track ..walk behind the crash barrier to the beach , it's less than 1/2 a mile walk. We then enjoyed a fun day on the beach at Sir Ban Yas Island- The ship provided a great packed lunch and drinks on the beach. Our final stop was a return to Dubai, where we arranged our own excursion through Arabian Nights Tours, we had a great great time our guide was called Ramzan and he took us camel riding ( just a quick walk around a pen but good photo opportunities), Sand boarding and Dune Bashing these were both brilliant. He also told us loads about Dubai and its culture. We then took a taxi to the Miracle Gardens, this is a must see for anyone visiting Dubai. The shuttle bus took us to the Dubai Mall where we walked to the burj khalifa and the dancing fountains - we also saw the amazing huge fish tank in the Mall with sharks, stingrays and dozens of amazing fish. Our final day a thick cloud descended on the whole area so it scuppered our plans to visit the palm as we would not have been able to see anything- but we feel this is a good excuse to visit again. Great holiday, excellent value with P&O , having sailed with Princess, Celebrity, Cunard and Royal Caribbean in the past, I would have no hesitation in sailing with P&O again , the Oceana was very friendly and offered really good food. We traveled as a family of 6 with 2 teenage girls, we felt extremely safe throughout our holiday and everyone was very friendly. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
We chose this cruise because P and O offered flights from our local airport. This was a huge bonus and meant we did not have to set out the day before, book a pre cruise hotel or arrange car parking. We also liked the itinerary with ... Read More
We chose this cruise because P and O offered flights from our local airport. This was a huge bonus and meant we did not have to set out the day before, book a pre cruise hotel or arrange car parking. We also liked the itinerary with lots of ports and places to see. This was our first time on Britannia and we were a bit dubious after reading some poor reviews. I can say if you have booked a cruise on this ship don’t worry, it is in great condition and.the food and service are good. You will have a great time. We loved the decor and thought it was sophisticated and tasteful. For this cruise we booked a larger inside cabin. This is the first time we had stayed in an inside cabin and were surprised at the level of comfort it offered.the cabin was very quiet and so dark at night a good sleep was assured. To be fair it’s not as nice as a balcony cabin but if you don’t have many sea days and want to be out and about it’s a great choice and offers big savings. We did not use the speciality restaurants as we found the food in the main restaurant very good. We were on first sitting fixed dining in the Oriental restaurant and this suited us perfectly. We were not so keen on the Horizon buffet, where the food seemed the same every day..not a patch on other cruise lines. Food mediocre and the flow of traffic in the serving area is chaotic. On the plus side you can always get a seat. As others have said the entertainment on Britannia is pretty good and we visited the theatre most nights. The biggest negative about Britannia is the lack of deck space on sea days. You really have to get up early to grab a good spot..and even then you are squashed in like sardines in a can. Staff do not move towels etc from ‘saved’ beds and many are left vacant for hours on end. Very unfair. I was also disappointed with the Lido pools, which seem to be a homage to the Benidorm / Butlin’s brigade. This area could be so much nicer. Come on P and O think of your core customers and what they want...more quiet peaceful spaces. By the way trying to get into the retreat on a sea day was impossible. We enjoyed all the ports and booked trips through Viatour, which were a lot cheaper than P and O and were as good, if not better. We do find St Marten is over populated with cruise ships, which makes everywhere over crowded and busy. On the day we were there we calculated there must have been around 20,000 cruise ship passengers in port. Hence we were quickly back on board. Overall, I prefer Holland America and Cunard ships. However, we had a great holiday made better by the local flights and seamless transfer when you arrive in Barbados. It’s off the plane, onto a bus and then straight to the ship. As we were on a late flight home we booked a day cabin for an extra £45. This was worth every penny and meant we arrived at the airport fresh and ready for our flight home. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
Three adults travelling . We wanted to visit the Caribbean and this cruise was visiting St Lucia when England were playing the West Indies which we had a particular interest in. Never been on the Brittania before and there was noting to ... Read More
Three adults travelling . We wanted to visit the Caribbean and this cruise was visiting St Lucia when England were playing the West Indies which we had a particular interest in. Never been on the Brittania before and there was noting to complain about it was brilliant . We had wonderful food, smart comfy clean cabin and the staff were very friendly nothing too much trouble. Nelson and Paul looked after us in the Oriental reastaurant . The buffet was also good in the Horizon apart from the minority of rude people pushing in , it was as if they hadn’t eaten before! I don’t think there is much P&O can do about them though. We have sailed before with P&O and would definitely recommend them they make everything so easy for you from the day you book to when you get back home . It is a really relaxing holiday . We had wonderful a day at the cricket in St Lucia . We didn’t book through P&O however local taxi there and back was reliable, thank you Bernard from Real St Lucia Tours we definitely recommend you and buying tickets for cricket was easy . We had a lovely holiday and will be saving to go on a cruise with P&O again . Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
You know how it is. Days before departure you check that everything you could possibly need is packed and then with hours to go before closing the front door, you realise something is missing. In my case, I like to think there was good ... Read More
You know how it is. Days before departure you check that everything you could possibly need is packed and then with hours to go before closing the front door, you realise something is missing. In my case, I like to think there was good reason for forgetting the crampons. After all, they’re not the first things that spring to mind when you’re packing trousers and shirts. But joining Oriana for her cruise to the Arctic Circle in search of the Northern Lights, perhaps I should have done. I had found space for base and mid layers, pullovers and fleeces – even hand-warmers and a bobble hat – but not spikes for my sturdy shoes. Fortunately a local sports shop had a set for just £5 and I left the house ready for anything that Norway could throw at me. THE SHIP Oriana might be facing her last few months with P&O before she heads to China to join another cruise line, Twinkle, but it was clear from the moment I stepped on board that she intends to leave in style. Officers and crew provided levels of service that were second to none – no wonder that I heard so many fellow passengers say how much they will miss Oriana. In my book, mid-size ships are manageable and 1900 passengers seems just about right. Big beasts might be fine for late night revellers but Oriana has more than enough space to meet my needs and so it is a relief to know that we still have Aurora, a ship of similar size to Oriana and also for adults only. The public areas match Aurora’s as well and include shops, restaurants, cafés, bars, a well-stocked library, a comfortable cinema and a large theatre. There are also card rooms, lounges, an alternative venue for shows and – if you like dancing – Harlequins offers live groups to get you in the mood. My favourite spot was Tiffanys for a Costa coffee and if you time it right, an array of cakes and pastries are served late morning – at no extra cost. During the cruise I used the Peninsular restaurant and enjoyed some excellent dinners. I should eat more fish and so made the most of the wide variety on offer – salmon, lobster, cod, sea bass, scallops, bream, the lot. But occasionally I opted for the beef, pork or calves’ liver and all were delicious. Superb service adds to the pleasure, of course, and Sabir’s friendly welcome into his restaurant each evening was appreciated. Junior staff were equally impressive – in the Conservatory, new recruits Mark and Jitendra cheerfully offered help with everything from making the toast at breakfast to topping up the tea bags. Special events add variety to daily routines. One was a wine tasting seminar, hosted by Donna, Oriana’s chief wine steward. Ably helped by Christina, Jane and Jude, we sampled a range of wines as we listened to advice on wine tasting and learnt a lot about the winemaking process. The supplementary charge of £10 was good value and the convivial company passed a pleasant hour. THE PORTS Sailing closer to the Arctic Circle the prospect of aurora borealis lighting up the night skies became the main topic of conversation and at our first port, Andalsnes in Norway’s Rauma region, mountains draped in snow and lower slopes flecked with frost added to the anticipation. Time to test out my choice of winter wear! It felt good to scrunch through virgin snow on leaving the town behind. Andalsnes is small and you quickly discover trails through beautiful scenery. Around me, I saw young crew members experience snow for the first time, making snow angels and throwing snowballs, and their happiness was contagious. This is why I was here. To feel young again! The air was pure, the temperature freezing and I had no regrets about overfilling my case with warm layers. The crampons were a different story. One of them kept falling off my shoe – I knew they were too cheap - and I had to shuffle back to town to visit a sports shop for advice. It was succinct. Bin them and buy proper spikes. For a mere £45 (Norway is not cheap) I walked out wearing the finest set in Norway and they were worth every penny. At each port we visited I had them with me and I traversed ice and snow with ease. After the smallness of Andalsnes, Tromso felt very different. Walking out of the city across the bridge high above Tromso Sound with snow flurries and chill winds blowing in from the sea was ... bracing? Having crossed, the Ice (or Arctic) cathedral stands before you and is worth visiting for its triangular beauty; it lies about a mile from the shuttle bus drop-off point. Back in the city centre a hot chocolate (£4) in one of the many cafés thawed me out nicely. Alta was our final port before turning south to Stavanger and it was also the town where there would be most chance of seeing the Northern Lights, a natural phenomenon of bands of different colours swirling across the sky. We stayed for two nights and there’s no use beating about the bush – the Lights remained switched off for the duration. To have any hope of seeing them, clear skies and low temperatures are essential but during our stay there was simply too much cloud cover. However there was a bonus in that we had daytime sunshine with evening snowfalls that transformed the landscape and made Alta’s fjord and mountains look even more magical. ACTIVITIES Alta is home to the Northern Lights cathedral, a futuristic building constructed of steel and concrete and virgin snow made it an even more dramatic sight. The entrance charge is around £10. There were plenty of tours available. Mine to the Igloo Hotel to see bedrooms carved from blocks of ice was fascinating. An overnight stay, the ice bed piled with reindeer skins, is particularly popular with honeymoon couples, the guide told us. Unlike hotels elsewhere, this one melts away each Spring to be re-built in late Autumn. Reindeer sleigh rides were popular activities but the most fun seemed to be had by those who went husky sledding. There is no need to worry about the dogs being forced to work – they can’t wait to get started and once they return they expect lots of fuss and thanks. Taryn, the ship’s senior loyalty manager, enjoyed every minute of the experience. “There was so much screaming and giggling,” she told me, “especially when I had to be dragged out of hip-deep snow!” WORTH BOOKING? The failure of the Northern Lights to make an appearance did little to dim my enthusiasm for this cruise. Every port was markedly different from anything I had seen before and returning to the welcome warmth of the ship each afternoon to be spoilt by officers and crew made the holiday even more special. The cruise also felt different in another way: more than 700 of the 1800 passengers on board were new to cruise holidays. Ian and Angela from Staffordshire had never cruised before and enjoyed every minute. “It was brilliant! We’ve never seen so much snow and we’ve never had service like this. No wonder people keep coming back,” Ian said. “We’ll certainly be booking another cruise.” And so will I. My search for the Northern Lights resumes when I board Aurora next February. If you decide to do the same, be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes! And don’t stint on the crampons. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
I had looked at a few reviews prior to our middle east cruise which looked a bit negative. However I shouldn't have worried as we enjoyed a really good 10 day cruise. Boarding was straightforward and quick and we were on the ship ... Read More
I had looked at a few reviews prior to our middle east cruise which looked a bit negative. However I shouldn't have worried as we enjoyed a really good 10 day cruise. Boarding was straightforward and quick and we were on the ship by 11am having had an overnight flight from Glasgow and the cabins were released at 12pm. Our cabin was L343 on deck 12. The cabin was a wee bit dated but clean and tidy and always tidied up very quickly in the morning. Because we had a corner cabin the shower was quite big, i was initially a bit concerned when i noticed that we had a service corridor backing on to our cabin but you only heard a bit of noise just after 8am apart from that it was great. We ate in the main dining room the food was excellent and always piping hot, I found the buffet for breakfast and lunch very good and had no problem getting a table at any time. Ports were good and trips from the ship were of a reasonable price and standard, the free shuttle buses at the ports were a real plus. Found that if you were going to the starlights theatre you had to get there really early to get a seat as people were reluctant to move along the rows which was quite annoying. The comedians were good as were the musicians and dancers although i felt that some of the singers voices werent strong enough for some of the songs that they sung. All in all a first cruise with P+O and found it really good. Read Less
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