The fabulous Aurora
Alison Tingle | August 19, 2013 | P&O Cruises | Aurora
We are a middle aged couple in our late 50’s who are seasoned cruises as this was our 19th cruise.
This holiday was a last minute booking because it fitted in with my work and the destination was perfect for a relaxed holiday, just what my husband and I needed. I was a little apprehensive about the age of the ship and what condition it would be in, but I had been told it as very good.
Southampton Hotel and Parking
We set off for Southampton on the 11th of October, as we had booked into the McDonalds Hotel for the night and we had 25 nights parking at the hotel included. When checking into the hotel we where asked what time our check-in was at the terminal so our taxi to the port could be booked. The receptionist then gave us two vouchers for the taxi journey . We took the package with the evening meal included and the quality of food and service was very good. Having had a good nights sleep and a lovely breakfast we collected our cases and the taxis was waiting for us and on our return the same smooth service was applied. This was an excellent start and finish to our holiday.
The check-in at the Mayflower Pier was slick with very little waiting. The taxi drop off area was next to the doors and a porter was on hand to collect our luggage, so this was no different from when we parked our car at the port, but probable a little quicker. In the terminal building all the check-in desks were in operation, so we only waited a couple of minute to check-in. Going through customs took about 10mins.
Our cabin was very difficult to find and I am of the opinion that a member of staff should have escorted us to the cabin as it was located on D deck and was assessed through a door in the middle of a bar area or a door in the library, which I later referred to as Narnia to fellow passengers. It took a full fifteen minutes for us to find out ‘secret’ cabin, we were lucky to see another passenger miraculously appear from out of the ‘wardrobe’. The mystery had been solved and our cabin awaited.
I was pleasantly surprised at the size the cabin, plus we had a bath and shower, with shower gel provided, although the shampoo was so small, it would be lucky to last two days. From previous experience I now take my own shampoo and conditioner.
The wardrobes had plenty of hanging space and the drawers had just enough room in them for a long cruise. The storage space in the bathroom was very good. Everything was clean tidy and in good condition.
Well what a surprise she is lovely and not at all tatty. I now know why people come back on her again and again.
The facilities are good and she is very stable in choppy seas. My husband Phil is a poor sailor when things get rough, yet in heavy seas he had no problem at all.
We went to the quizzes some in the day and some at night all very good. If you are a quizzer there are opportunities throughout the day; one could almost say quiz overload. The lectures were very interesting and we enjoyed the cinema on some sea days.
In fact there was some much to do we ended up missing some activities as we could not fit them all in.
Well what can I say about our entertainments team but fabulous, the cruise director Dominic was the best we have ever had and in fact made the cruise for us, his quiz ‘Name That Tune’ we will never forget for all the right reason, but I will say no more as you need to experience the fun for yourselves. Nevertheless some passengers thought that his style wasn’t ‘high brow’ enough. The majority thought it was hilarious but a select few comments ranged from “It’s getting more like Butlin’s” and “It never used to be like this.” These few tended to have long faces throughout the cruise and moaned about everything.
We went every night to the theatre, the acts included Rhydian, the Beatles Experience, Deborah Stephenson just to name a few. It is difficult to please everyone, but I would say overall the standard was good with Rhydian exceptional. The Headliners theatre company throughout the cruise produced high quality shows providing something for everyone, plus of course the obligatory Freddie Mercury tribute show.
This is the first time we have been on 1st sitting and I must say it was far better as we did not miss out on any of the entertainment as we have done before on 2nd sitting.
A usual the food was of a good standard and the service was to match in the main dining room. The buffet was ok, but I have had more variety and I found it very repetitive. Also you had to choose your time carefully to get a table. Having said that it was fresh and good quality.
We had lunch and breakfast sometimes in Caf?? Bordeaux this was better quality food, but was let down by the arrogant service provided by some of the male waiters and on several occasions were quite rude. Normally we like the specialist dining (Marco Pierre White) but due to the open plan and lack of intimacy we decided against dining there.
Ports of call
Ponta Delgada is nice to walk round and easy to assess from the port. Very clean and very pleasant and you could spend a good few hour meandering round this very ancient and picturesque town.
Antigua is amazing as you dock in the town centre and you can shop, shop, shop. I bought my daughters Christmas presents from the Pandora shops at a bargain price. The market is good, but watch the prices as you may do better in the shops on the dock side. Nelsons dockyard is a must.
St Lucia is beautiful and an island trip is a must. We got a taxi outside the port and did the same tour (if not more) as the ship excursion for a third of the price. Plus the advantage of stopping for as long as you want and not being timetabled like an excursion. Word of warning, do take some perfume with you when you visit the volcano, the smell is horrendous.
Barbados is a nice walk into town or a taxi ride. The taxi drops you off in the shopping centre. It is worth doing an island trip to look at the St Johns church and the homes of the rich and famous and the photos you can take from the Highland Centre are spectacular. The best photos we took are on the far side of the island on the beach, but the sea is very rough and dangerous swimming.
Dominica you do need to take a tour as there is little to see within walking distance of the ship and if you want to see the Trafalgar Falls you need to go on an organised tour as taxi are not admitted until after 1:00pm.
At St Maarten we love to go to the beach, hire a sunbed and a bucket of drinks (beer or cola) and relax and swim in the warm sea. Do take the water taxi over to the beach as the shops and bars are cheaper and its well worth the fare across. If you are feeling energetic you can walk, but it is quite a trek. The ship put on a trolley bus to the jetty for people like myself who find it difficult to walk a long distance.
Our last port of call was Madeira, with its cobbled streets and the beautiful architecture. Its market is well worth a visit, selling quality goods. It is so nice just to sit outside a caf?? watching the musicians in the square and see the world go by.
All the ports has something unique to offer and all are worth a visit and I would return to any of them as indeed we have done.
The majority of passenger were over 60’s, but full of fun and made for a welcoming atmosphere on-board. The Battle of the Sexes quiz brought a few of us together and you do get to know some nice people over a longer cruise. However, a chosen few thought they were elite and a comment in the lift summed this up when the discussion was about letting anyone into the captains cocktail party these days (but that is wrong as you now have to have completed quite a few cruises before you are invited) I don’t see what they get out of being like that.
This was a bit of a problem as we where one and a half hour late disembarking which meant some people missed their train. the organisation at the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal was not up to scratch but that could have been because new passenger were arriving at the same time as we were disembarking.
This was one of the best cruises we have been on as the ship was friendly clean and well maintained. All round good value for money. Would we do it again? Without a doubt!
Well done to all the staff on the Aurora for making our holiday so enjoyable.
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