P&O Cruises | AuroraBy on 18 August 2017
This was our first time cruising and we are glad that we chose P & O’s Aurora to celebrate our special anniversary year.
From check-in to disembarkation, the whole P&O experience was extremely smooth and efficient. We chose CPS parking to leave our car with, and felt like VIPs when we arrived as they unloaded our cases and took our car away. Having been quite independent travellers having to encounter airports over the past few years, we found the whole having your bags efficiently delivered to your cabin for you quite a wonder. Disembarkation was equally as efficient thanks to both P&O and CPS’s services, with our bags delivered outside and our car ready and only a short walk away.
Aurora is a traditional mid-size ship with plenty going on, but not so large that you get lost or feel intimidated by too many fellow passengers. The public areas are all very smart and clean and we particularly liked the ‘Crow’s Nest’ bar overlooking the front of the ship. We mainly picked this cruise because of the itinerary (including Venice and Dubrovnik), but we also enjoyed the relaxed sea days between days in port. We had fantastic weather, so spent many an hour sunbathing by one of the three pools or dolphin watching. There were plenty of sun-beds and chairs on deck, so didn’t ever encounter any arguments over people marking their favourite spot with towels. The only negative about the Aurora was the onboard gym which was quite small with limited equipment. Even though we are gym bunnies in our home life, the lack of equipment and efficient air-con gave us a good excuse to take a break from the gym and walk the lovely prom deck instead which was much more fun.
The food and service on Aurora was excellent. We were on Freedom Dining and never encountered getting a table at the time we wanted to dine (which was generally quite early) whether we wanted to share or have a table for two. We generally ate in the Medina restaurant for breakfast and dinner, as we felt we would be less likely to overeat when the food is served to us. Both the food and service were excellent here – we especially enjoyed the Beef Wellington which was served on one of the Marco Pierre White Gala dinner nights. Also enjoyed occasionally visiting the Medina for afternoon tea as the scones were beautifully warm and fresh. The MaitreD’ and all the staff were friendly, polite and efficient, as were all the staff onboard who would always give you a friendly ‘hello’ when you passed them. The Horizons buffet was also pretty good – the hot meals were generally quite traditionally British such as a daily roast dinner (possibly to please the older crowd), so we generally opted for the salads and cold meats and fish which were all good, as were the yummy desserts. We also tried the speciality restaurants ‘Sindhu’ and ‘The Beach House’, the former being excellent but the latter not so (just bigger portions of American style food).
There was plenty to do on the ship, especially on sea days, and everything going on was outlined in the daily ‘Horizons’ pamphlet. We particularly liked the quizzes and destination talks by Sam, but there was also activities such as deck quoits, shuffle board, water colour painting etc etc for those interested. There were clubs for the children, so despite it being the school holidays it never felt that there were too many kids running around. In fact, the children were generally better behaved than some of the old people on board (some of whom, who had perhaps been on too many cruises in their time, were a bit moany!!!). There was generally quite a mixed demographic on board, but more elderly cruisers than I expected with it being school holidays. We noted that the service and facilities offered to disabled guests appeared to be excellent, even though we didn’t require this ourselves.
On port days, we did an equal mix of organised excursions and our own thing. The tours we picked were all excellent and efficiently organised, the only drawback being the whistle-stop nature of our visits due to the time constraints. We did the ‘Classic Mount Etna’ on Sicily, ‘Venetian Islands and Gondola Ride’ in Venice and the wine tasting trip in Sardinia and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. We also noted that P&Os organisation of tenders and shuttle buses was good, the only niggle being our return from Dubrovnik when we had to queue for a while as it was busy and the coaches were having trouble getting in. We loved the way that P&O thoughtfully provided cold water to guests returning to the ship, as it had reached over 35 degrees on some of our port days.
Some of the evening entertainment including the resident ‘Headliners’ was a bit cheesy, but good fun. We particularly liked the ‘Destination Dance’ and ‘New Romantics’ evenings which took us back a bit. The highlight was an excellent soul/Motown group called ‘The Flyrights’ who had the audience up on their feet. Everything was very much geared towards a British audience, from tea and biscuits in the cabin to the ‘We’ll meet again’ show on the last night. I would imagine that non Brits might be a bit bemused by it all!
Being first time cruisers, we may be a little starry eyed about everything P&O and Aurora had to offer, but we thoroughly enjoyed our first cruise. So much so that we have already booked for next year!