Aurora Tour Index

Back in June 2006 I received a booklet from P&O Cruises offering the chance to visit some of their ships.  I had already done Arcadia and the dates clashed with Oceana, Artemis and Oriana so Aurora was my choice for the 31st October.  She intrigued me and I was considering a cruise on her with my friend Rowan so it made sense.  If the cruise didn't happen then at least I'd have seen her and known whether I liked her or not.  Three days after booking, Rowan committed to a three-night cruise in 2007.  After hearing so many good things about the ship from past passengers I decided not to cancel the visit.  Aurora is the last of her kind as the final original ship built for the UK market as a larger version of Oriana (II).  While she has some similarities there are also many differences, notably more balconies and a slightly altered funnel design.  Sadly nowadays Carnival use the same designs across all their brands which erodes what made each line unique with mix and match ships like Arcadia being a Vista class originally for Holland America while Queen Victoria will be a modified version of that. P&O's Ventura in 2008 has Crown Princess and Emerald Princess as sisters.

Check-in began at 10am.  The woman behind the desk I went to turned out to be Brooke, our guide last year on
 Arcadia.  We didn't have her this time.  Instead we had Leo Coney, a very enthusistic and biased young man who had worked two years on Aurora then six months on Arcadia before transferring to marketing.  He told us at lunch they still have the brass band at sailaway which he was proud of.  I wish Cunard did.  But I digress.  After passing through security we were handed a coloured card to designate which group we were in.  I got a pink one and there was eleven in ours.  Around 10.50am we were given clearance to board so made our way up the escalator and along the very long passage to the gangway only to get to the entrance on Formosa Deck (5) and discover security wouldn't let us board.

After some words and telephone calls we entered.  The purser's (or reception) desk is opposite the wonderful four-deck Atrium of the Goddess Aurora.  This won't be to everyone's taste but I was completely blown away by it despite the neck strain looking all the way up it.  Arcadia's is something of a disappointment in comparison.  Opposite the entrance is Palm Court.  It is an excellent place to board and gives you a small taste of things to come.  I was in love.  She is magnificent!  You can tell she is pre-fabricated like all modern ships, but because of her interior decor, still has that warmth, cosiness and feel of an old ocean going liner.  We went up the split stairs to Ellora Deck (6), stopping briefly near some shops before continuing up to Promenade Deck (7).  First thing we saw was the Curzon Theatre, which is pretty much like any other at sea.  We were told outside seats are reserved for wheelchair users and each seat has its own air conditioning.  Next to that is Andersons, based on a country club and named after P&O founder, Arthur Anderson.  There is a fireplace with a large vase of (I presume fake) flowers where the grate would be and bookcases.  Charlie's is the champagne bar complete with obligatory piano.  An unusual place for a bar, being near stairs and shops.  You could all too easily walk through without realising what it is rather than in its own little nook.  I wasn't particularly keen on that layout.  

Masquerade is the nightclub, again every ship must have one.  As usual with these tours you don't get the feel of them during the day but it looked very nice and spacious.  It appears larger than the one on Arcadia.  It's normal these days to have a casino on board and Aurora is no exception.  Monte Carlo is fairly small compared to some ships though does have the usual rows of slot machines.  The casino on board QE2 is much larger despite being a smaller ship.  Champions is the sports bar which became synonymous with P&O since the old Lord Tavern aboard Canberra. &nbsp'There are plenty of seats and again it's fairly spacious.  Leo told us they beam live sport to the bar and cabins when they have permission and dependant on satellite links.  He said the major crew are nowhere to be seen some of these times as when they lose the link there's always demands from the passengers to get the picture back.  During the time we were there an announcement came over the tannoy about priority embarkation from noon with the rest half an hour later.  

From there was the show lounge, Carmen's.  I really liked this.  Warm colours made it cosy.  I don't know if there is marble in some of the decor or if it's just an effect.  An average sized room with again plenty of seating with a bar, wooden dance floor and windows at either side. Back down to Ellora (6) in the lift. Not many stairs on this tour. The Alexandria Restaurant is one of two for formal dining.  Both are decorated the same and have the same menus so no class system.  It had been decorated for Halloween.  There is a piano by the small staircase (also an entrance from the deck below) and plenty of windows for a sea view whilst dining.  Apparently there is more chance of getting one of those if you select a large table when booking as smaller tables are in the centre.  They also put all single travellers together at meals so no one feels left out amongst a table full of couples.  Onwards and upwards two decks to Devanha (9), a tricky one to spell.  This is where the children's facilities are as Aurora is a family ship.  There is an amusement arcade and club/disco for the teens, Quarterdeck for pre-teens, Toybox for 2-4 years olds and a night nursery.  On the deck is the Terrace Pool & Bar which has a play area and paddling pool for the kids while mum and dad can relax in the jacuzzi or have a swim in the adult pool.  

Back inside there is Cafe Bordeaux, one of the Select Dining options with a staircase to the deck below in the centre.  Based on a French Bistro and open 24 hours, I did notice there was a sign telling you to wait to be seated.  Again though it's open rather than in its own nook.  The photo gallery is next to that forward and then the Playhouse cinema.  According to Leo, as P&O are now owned by Carnival they can get new films to show on their US release date. Raffles Court & Bar is another open air area situated at the top of the Atrium.  Opposite is card room Vanderbilt's and the library.  The library is smallish with large chairs to listen to talking books as well as writing desks near the windows for any letter or postcard writing.  They also sell books.  I noticed one each on current ships Aurora, Oriana, Arcadia as well as the 1997 tome on their former flagship, the much-loved and missed Canberra.  There is also a book on the P&O fleet which I bought in 1997 and is very informative but lacking on details about the ships.  Videos are also on sale.  

This deck was where we also saw some cabins.  We were told the Inside and Oceanview are the same size.  Compared to some Insides, this one did appear more roomier.  Personally I would rather have a window but if push came to shove after seeing this, I could go for an Inside for post-2008 cruises.  One think I do like about P&O ships are the what look like letter holders on the walls outside the cabins.  I remember seeing them on Arcadia with passengers names in and was very impressed.  The cabin we saw for wheelchair users was an inside but again there was plenty of room.  The cleaner left the room so I could take photos and I thank him very much.  Onwards and upwards to Britannia Deck (10), skipping Canberra Deck (9).  Here we were spoilt as we looked at the cabins.  After the stateroom with balcony (which isn't much different to cabin with balcony apart from being larger) it was The Piano Penthouse.  There are two such cabins on board, the other being The Library Penthouse, both spanning two decks.  What can I say?  Wow!  Nice if you can afford it.  Though it still baffles me what you'd need a phone on the bathroom to call your butler for.  The light in the bathroom didn't work so I hope they fixed it before the passengers took residence for the Mediterranean cruise.  The bedroom area, bathroom and rather small balcony are situated up a semi-spiral staircase but there is another balcony on the B Deck level.  We saw a couple of lower grade suites, also with butler service but all on the same level which had larger balconies.  

Lunch called so we returned to Ellora Deck (6).  We were meant to have it in Medina Restaurant but as they were decorating it for that evening's Halloween dinner, we made our way to Alexandria.  As mentioned before, the restaurants are the same only Medina has a split staircase in the centre.  I was on table 12 with a couple and Leo and we all had a very enjoyable chat over a marvellous lunch with magnificent service. &nbsp'I asked our waiter how he remembers who ordered what.  He replied, "With practice."  The woman on our table was on a gluten free diet and catered for well by the friendly and helpful crew.  Back in the lift afterwards to complete the tour.  We arrived at Lido Deck (12), skipping Arcadia Deck (11).  By now passengers were on board and having lunch.  The Pennant Bar out on deck overlooks the Terrace Bar & Pool.  In one corner is a band.  Returning inside we walked through The Orangery, Aurora's buffet and onto the Crystal Pool & Bar.  This has a dome covering it so you can swim even when it's raining outside.  All pools, we were told, use fresh water and are heated.  The Sidewalk Cafe is the typical American-style eaterie serving burgers, pizza, sandwiches etc.  Then it was our final pool, Riviera Pool & Bar near the funnel.  

The pool is actually on Arcadia Deck (11) but has some really beautiful mosaics around it.  Indoors again to look at Oasis Spa.  My photos didn't come out too well here so I didn't use them but you have the usual hair salon, saunas, treatment rooms you find on all cruise ships.  We went down a spiral staircase and into Weights & Measures, the gym.  Leaving there was on Arcadia Deck (11) back out to the Riviera Pool and up past the bar.  Our final deck was Sun Deck (13).  The Uganda Room is adjacent to The Crow's Nest and used for the renewal of wedding vows.  There is a TV and a model of the old SS Uganda. As Oriana is being reregistered in Hamilton from her refit this month so she can conduct weddings from the next world cruise, how long before Aurora goes the same way?  Again more sadness as this will mean P&O ships are no longer registered in the UK.  It's high time the law was changed to allow weddings on UK registered ships.  

The Crow's Nest is a typical P&O room.  There is a model behind the bar of a three-stacker but I have no idea what it is.  One of the Straths I imagine.  Large sea view for the most part but I wasn't too keen on the blue view of the top of the bridge when you look over the bow.  It would be nice to see the bow rather than just the house flag.  There were cordened off stairs to the bridge below.  The cyb@study is the Internet cafe.  Fairly small but the manager is friendly and funny so anyone taking lessons in computer use should have fun.  By now there had been an announcement at 2pm telling passengers they can go to their cabins. &nbsp'And so it was sadly time to leave.  All the way back down to Formosa Deck (5) and off into the cold and wind but thankfully the rain had been very little and while we were inside.  There was a woman in our group who had done the New Year cruise to Madeira (which I am doing alone next year) and loved it.  She was telling what I should do and see in Funchal, saying it's the best place to be at New Year.  Time to start counting the days!

So my thoughts?  Magnificent.  There are actually very few things I dislike about her.  For a modern cruise ship who only entered service in May 2000 she has a good and friendly atmosphere.  I don't for a minute believe she's cursed, as the press call her.  Bad things happen to ships all the time regardless of a successful naming ceremony or not.  She's no different.  
Aurora replaced Canberra a few years ago as my favourite current ship and I wasn't disappointed by the visit.  If anything it has made me look forward to next year's cruises even more.

Many thanks to Carnival/P&O for putting me on their mailing list and to Leo and all the crew for such a wonderfully fun and educational day.  Viva

For photos of this marvellous ship click on the links below

Sun Deck (13)
Lido Deck (12)
Arcadia Deck (11)
Britannia Deck (10)
Devanha Deck (8)
Promenade Deck (7)
Ellora Deck (6)
Formosa Deck (5)

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© Patricia Dempsey 4th November 2006
Not to be reproduced without permission