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Saturday, 15 September 2012

P&O Aurora - A review

OK, as you all know by now I've just come back from the P&O Aurora where I'd done a mini cruise to Bruges. I've been promising you a review of the ship for a week or so now so here it is..............

First off I've been on the Aurora before. To see my first review, (more of a pictorial tour), click here. So todays review is going to be more of an update, what I thought of the ship as a whole now.
Secondly, it's worth remembering the cruise I was on was only a mini cruise and they're always a bit different to a normal cruise, with more of a party atmosphere onboard so if I'm negative about certain aspects remember , it may just be because I was only on for two days.

The ship - I love the Aurora as a ship. Classically elegant and just the right size. She's not a great big cruising monster, (although I do love a few huge ships), but she's not so small that you're bouncing around on a sea day with nothing to do. The wooden decks also work really well, (rather than the fake lino decks you get on some new ships), giving the feeling you're on a real ocean going vessel.
I also love the rear of the ship, built in a traditional horseshoe shape with each higher deck overlooking the one below and a pool on deck eight, (I believe), looking out to sea. The restaurants are well situated on the her and the walk to the bars from the Theatre is never far. The Theatre is large and comfortable and of the two main bars, (Champions and the Crows Nest), Champions is a lively, upbeat bar, perfect for a few after dinner drinks before the night club opens and the Crows Nest is brilliant for a lazy afternoon reading a book or for a few pre-dinner drinks watching a sunset at sea.

Shore Excursions - I can't really talk about shore excursions as we didn't get off the ship, (this cruise was all about relaxing by the pool), and I'd seen Bruges before however looking at the excursions available to people £36 per person for a walking tour of Bruges did seem a bit on the high side to me; much easier to do yourself!

Entertainment - I've been cruising about three/four years now and I'm yet to sit through more than about the first five minutes of a cabaret/dance/singing show in the main theatre so maybe I'm not the best person to comment on shows as I dislike them so much. The comedian they had onboard was excellent and we went to see him both nights, (he had two different sets so it wasn't the same show each night), and the entertainment officers were brilliant, (I'm thinking here of the karaoke show on the second night), but I didn't see any of the Headliners routines so can't comment on them.

Food - Again, no complaints here at all. I didn't have a bad meal the entire cruise. It was all tasty, well cooked and well seasoned. If I had to make a complaint it was that I didn't have a choice on how my beef was served but I suppose with  so many people to cater for it's just easier to do this way and it was only a minor niggle.
The Orangery, (the self service option), was always well stocked with a great choice of food both hot and cold and was great for lunchtimes.
My only real criticism of the food onboard would be in Cafe Bordeaux. This is one of P&Os speciality restaurants onboard with the menus designed by Marco Pierre White. Whilst the food was lovely, there was no real difference in quality between here and the main restaurant and as Cafe Bordeaux had a cover charge with it I couldn't really see the point, although it did have a much more intimate atmosphere

Staff - Hmmm, where do I start? Now bear in mind, as I said at the start of this post, I was on a mini cruise and standards are a bit different, but I don't have a good thing to say about any of my serving staff. Our waiter didn't introduce himself, I didn't see our wine waiter, not a one of them was smiling and on three different occasions I saw the staff arguing loudly with the head waiter in the middle of dining!
On one occasion in the Crows Nest a waiter walked up behind my wife, (she hadn't seen him), and said after about a three second wait and a huge sigh,
"What do you want? You know what never mind, I'll come back".
The only positive was our cabin steward who couldn't do enough for us. If we popped back to the cabin during the day to pick something up and sat on the bed creasing it slightly you could guarantee it would have been smoothed out by the time we got back. The guy must have stalked up and down that corridor! 10/10 to the cabin stewards 0/10 to the waiting staff.

Overall - Overall would I recommend the ship? Yes I would. It's a great first time ship for people; not so big you can't find your way around it but not so small you're left bouncing off the walls on sea days either. She's classically beautiful with lots of real wood and brass all over the ship so the atmosphere onboard feels very nautical. There's a good mix of lively and quite bars, good food, good entertainment, my only gripe is the staff and that may well be down to the fact I was on a mini cruise.
Definitely worth trying for anyone who's been considering the Aurora!

Happy cruising