Julian Tremayne | October 27, 2023 | P&O Cruises | Aurora
This 19 day Mediterranean cruise was our ninth on Aurora, our favourite P & O ship. For 14 days we had very calm seas and lots of sunshine, which were followed by five days of up to Force 10 winds and 11 – 17 metre seas, forcing the cancellation of the final call at Gibraltar. This news was delivered by the Captain just after the noon bridge announcement on the last Wednesday and from then until we docked on Sunday morning we heard no more from the Captain, rather disappointingly.
As per usual on our recent P & O cruises the staff were excellent and we were given a very friendly welcome from the cabin steward to the reception desk team and, especially by the waiters and door staff in the Medina restaurant, many of whom looked after us on several evenings. We also enjoyed the service in Raffles bar.
One of the highlights of a cruise is to enjoy the cuisine but we have to say that the standard of food P & O now offers is slipping with each cruise. Also the menus lacked variety and the final ‘Gala Evening’ menu was very strange. Are the bean counters cutting back on the budget given to the galleys? One change we noticed – and not for the better – was that Freedom Dining is now only on a ‘walk-in’ basis – the virtual queue using the My Holiday App was not available. I asked why this was the case and was told, quite officially, that it was because many of the guests on board Aurora are not ‘sufficiently tech-savvy’ to work the app. The result was a long queue when the doors opened and then no tables for two for over an hour. Come on P & O you can improve the technology!
The Baltic Tier lunch was very good (still not hosted by officers owing to health concerns) but from the numbers over half the ship qualified for these Peninsular Club lunches, which probably gives you an idea of the average on board.
One surprising disappointment is that since returning home on Sunday (I am writing this on Wednesday) we have not received the usual questionnaire from P & O asking for feedback on the cruise. Are they really stopping this vital aspect of their cruises?
At several ‘official’ functions the Captain assured us that he had heard in the ‘corridors of power’ that Aurora’s future is assured for at least five years and, if we keep supporting her, for a further two. All we can observe is that Oriana, Adonia and Oceana left the fleet fairly quickly when it suited those corridors so we shall have to wait and see.
The new brochure for 2025-26 indicates that Aurora is due for a month long refit in September, 2025 – it must be said that she could do with it now, as the creaking and faulty lifts will testify.
The ship was clean but does look tired in places.
Overall, we felt sad that standards have slipped (except in the service) and this 29th cruise with P & O will almost certainly be our last. We have no interest in going on board Iona or Arvia, which are clearly aimed at a younger generation. The cruises offered in the future are very repetitive and don’t break much new ground so we shall set our sights on those cruise lines with smaller ships and a higher quality product.
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