Arcadia (IV), Oriana (II), Saga Ruby & Aurora
Back in June 2009, P&O cancelled the cruises on the 5th-7th and 7th-19th December on Aurora so she could have a refit.  I was meant to be on those trips for my 40th birthday.  Aurora hadn't had a refit since her 2005 engine troubles, resulting in that world cruise being cancelled.  She'd been scheduled for April that year anyway so they did that during repairs.  Meanwhile Oceana and Artemis had one that year while Arcadia was brand new and all had been serviced since, with Artemis being the only vessel not to receive the new P&O Cruises branding.  All that was done to Aurora since then was a four day wet dock in December 2007 when her port of registry was changed from London to Hamilton.  She was due to be dry-docked in April 2010 so really it was no surprise she ended up breaking down during her last world cruise as well as in New York the following September.  Five years without a service for ships doing a lot in regular tough sea conditions around the world is ridiculous, especially when the Costa Carnivals and even Emerald Princess (2007) which do easy routes had a refit within less time (Emerald is undergoing one at the time of writing).  So Aurora was due to return for 11.45am on the 18th, her cruise schedule resuming on the 19th.  The weather couldn't be worse.  It was a repeat of January only not quite as bone chilling.  I could at least feel my feet!  We'd had some snow overnight but it was more like a sprinkling of flour or icing sugar and was mostly gone.  Would the gorgeousness that is Aurora be branded, securing her future as a P&O ship?  Or would she come back with P&O lettering like the subsequently sold Artemis?  This was the ONLY reason we went out to freeze.  It was snowing as we waited for the bus but stopped by the time we reached Hythe.  As we strolled down to the front in a nice breeze, we spotted her approaching Fawley at 10.49am.
Arcadia had been the first arrival, for an earlier than usual 5.30am.  Oriana was second for 6.30pm with Saga Ruby the same time.  The P&O's were due to sail at 4.30pm with Rubes at 5pm.  Upon nearing the front, the wind chill really hit making it really cold.  But at least there was no snow!  I love snow and it would have been wonderful if Aurora had arrived during a blizzard but not with a strong wind.
Then typically at the wrong moment my camera batteries died.  My fingers were so red and raw I couldn't get the box open with the rechargables so it's a good job I always carry spare lithiums.
I felt a little sympathy with the passengers of Great Expectations.  The sea was rough as it was and that's not very smooth during a crossing even when passed by a Red Jet or any other vessel.  However this time they had to contend with the wash from both the Red Funnel ferry and Aurora.  Boing, boing!
She was branded - yay!!!!  Her future is secure.  I'd been looking along the lower side of the hull like Oceana, completely forgetting Oriana had hers in place of the P&O lettering when she was the first to change three years earlier in December 2006.  It made my day!  But why is Aurora the last for everything?  Change of registry (wish they'd revert back to London), branding and refits.  She may take it personally and her breakdowns are a protest.
As I stepped back towards the lock end, the wind became less bitter.  It made it easier to take photos, being able to feel the camera and controls.
When I moved towards the water again it didn't take the cold long to numb my fingers.  I also discovered the posts aren't fixed in place and worried more than once they'd give way and I'd fall onto the rocks.
She docked almost on time but we called it a day before she was secure and left.  I had originally intended to go for the departures of the other three but the cold changed my mind.  Good job too since none left on time.  Arcadia went twenty-five minutes late.  Oriana had slight engine trouble so cast off just after 5pm while Rubes was almost eighty minutes late.  My last stalking of the year with temperatures as bad as January for Saga Rose and Saga Ruby and a little frostbite, thankfully not as bad as then but thankfully no hypothermia this time.
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© Patricia Dempsey 18th December 2009
Not to be reproduced without permission