Aurora - Cruise Break
While on Oriana's Grand Event cruise, my friend Fay Jordan and I booked another while in Amsterdam after seeing the Future Cruise lady.  We booked cabin F109, which I'd last had on the 2007 New Year cruise.  Fay enjoyed Oriana so much she wanted to try her sister.  As Aurora is my favourite in service (I have others I love but she's number one), she wouldn't get any argument from me.  An email arrived on the 21st November saying we'd been upgraded to A288, which was the new grade of GA.  My very first P&O upgrade!!!!!!!  I paid it off on the 22nd December.

The day dawned.  She was earlier than scheduled so I didn't bother going to see her come in since my knee, which I had done on the 4th March, had still not fully recovered.  Mein Schiff 1 was also in and would be sailing after us.  I caught the ferry after 11am to meet Fay at 11.30am then we walked to Mayflower Park for photos.  Kev Webber from Facebook was also there.  We had a natter then he offered us a lift to the terminal.  The queue was outside the building and took half an hour to reach a desk.  Check-in was smooth but the security lines were long!  The departure lounge was shut so you went straight on, the boarding photo backdrop near the gangway.  Although cabins weren't ready until about 2pm, we decided to have a look since sometimes they are and ours was.  Then to the Orangery for lunch and rather annoyingly P&O have joined the ranks of bell pepper obsessives in the buffet!  The evil things were used as garnish, mixed in with things like pasta or just hidden in things which shouldn't contain them.  My allergy is rare but many just hate them.  With allergies and intolerances more common, when are ALL cruise lines going to list what's in their meals instead of letting people with allergies play Russian Roulette to see whether they get sick or die from eating something they shouldn't?  Bar service was incredibly slow.  I sat at the table while Fay got her food and no one came over.  The nearest anyone did was to four people nearer the bar who arrived after us.  The same thing happened when Fay waited.  Thankfully a young girl was on the way in and asked if we'd like anything.  They are a bit mean.  Two small cans costs £1.80 while not even half a pint from the pump is £2!  We went to see if we could change our table, since we'd been given one for eight despite changing it only to be told there were no twos and fours apart from at first sitting.  Then we went for a wander before meeting Darren Lawn from Facebook in the Crows Nest at 3pm.

Muster was 4.15pm so you knew we wouldn't be going until 5pm.  Our muster station was Carmens which was absolutely chocka so pointless telling latecomers to find a seat.  If they're so keen on EVERYONE attending, do a bloody roll call!  Some people left after the life jacket demo and only a couple were rounded back up again.  Why was there no crew member by the door?  First time I've ever known that to happen.  We managed to grab a lift, dumped the jackets then went to the sailaway party until nearing Mein Schiff.  One of the linesmen had a friend or family member onboard so was chatting to them.  As we did, they started hitting the horn, much to our surprise, so we returned the gesture.  It was flipping cold but we stayed outside until Fay's aunt had seen us pass Cowes.  Anthony Marshall and a couple of his uni friends came along the Prom deck and he was the only one wearing a jumper.  They all seemed to be enjoying themselves though despite the cold.  We watched the pilot boat from the balcony, which was just before we hit fog, and ordered room service after a walk around the deck.  Dinner was in the Alexandria, not my favourite, but we had a good table.  Couple from Maidstone and another from the Isle of Wight.  Bar service was again bad, with one waiter working umpteen tables so not his fault he's doing the job of others.  We'd arranged to meet Darren again with his other half in the Crows Nest at 10.30pm but got delayed and couldn't find him when we got there so don't know if he went or not.  The fog was still thick so we went for some night shots before ending the day playing table tennis before going back to the cabin for some much-needed sleep.
Where would short cruises be without Zeebrugge???  This would be my 18th visit so I couldn't be bothered getting up, especially since we were the only one in.  The question was, would Blondie be around yelling at and intimidating anyone who dared take a photo of their own ship?  The weather was glorious and 18c.  After lunch I went to take photos of the ship, battling Blondie if necessary - but he wasn't there!  Instead it was a nice security guard, which was quite disconcerting after all this time!  A shuttle bus driver took my photo, lamenting the ten degree drop in temperature the following day, then I tentatively moved towards the bow expecting the yell any second but nothing.  Afterwards I went back on and a couple of hours later we went to the Sidewalk Cafe for a burger.  Paper napkins ran out and bar service was crap with two behind the bar (one of whom kept disappearing out the back) and one waiter.  I joined the queue and, with one being served and one waiting ahead of me, had a brief chat with Anthony when he passed.  The waiter asked, "Are you being served, madam?"  I looked round, since there was still one woman in front of me and continued chatting.  He repeated the question and still she didn't acknowledge him or move so I went.  Bloody cow had a go at me afterwards, saying I should have let her go first and "common courtesy."  She stayed put so can't complain.

Sailaway was 6pm but we were late.  There was quite a bit of traffic from the lock but we ended up going first anyway.  Rules of the road should be let the biggest one go first or get splatted!  It would certainly sort out annoying yachties, jet-skiers and other nautical idiots who cut in front of large vessels.  Typically, as we neared open sea resulting in more wind, the decks cleared!  I was wrapped up warm because I'm not an idiot.  A quick drink in the Crows Nest then Fay went to snap various moving objects.  Back to the cabin afterwards and it was eerie seeing some of the anchored vessels partially shrouded in mist and others not.  Dinner and formal night.  The other two turned up, two female friends from Southampton who were on a booze cruise.  The brunette completely trashed MSC based on hearsay and thinks Opera still sails out of Dover.  When the lady from the Isle of Wight asked if I'd done it, I replied I did Opera last year and had a great time.  The brunette said nothing, just carried on talking about herself and things she's done.  They're going on Independence of the Seas on the 2nd and she was all squealy about only being home a few days before being off again, like it was something naughty.  Only the Maidstone couple would be at dinner the following night.  We told them we were going to Rotterdam to see Norwegian Breakaway, with me mentioning I was going on her on the 30th, which got no response from the brunette who then changed the subject to having a pedicure that afternoon upstairs.  Skipped the show so went to the Crows Nest before returning to the cabin.


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© Patricia Dempsey 24th-28th April 2013
Not to be reproduced without permission