Silver Travel Advisor Alan Fairfax writes his daily Blog from the deck of the P&O Cruises Aurora on his 17 day Mediterranean cruise. He gives a day by day account of life on board this classic ocean-going vessel.
As we approached the docks at Southampton with our friends who were joining us on this cruise the sun began to shine which I hoped was a good omen for our forthcoming cruise on P&O Aurora.
Arriving at the Mayflower Terminal our luggage was swiftly unloaded and taken by porter to the holding area to wait on loading to the ship. Making our way into the departures hall to one of the check in desks we were dealt with very quickly. With credit card scanned, photo taken and the health declaration signed it was forward to security for scanning prior to entering the departure lounge. The speed of all this was impressive. 20 minutes from arrival at the terminal to the departure lounge. 35 minutes later we were called forward to board the ship. The journey had begun.
Boarding on deck 5 we were directed to Carmen’s on deck 7 for welcome drinks and snacks whilst waiting for the cabins to be made ready. It was at 1.30pm that we finally went to our cabin B179, an inside on deck 10. Our luggage had arrived and when unpacking we realised there was more hanging space that you first visualised.
3.45pm and time to go to our Muster Station with our life jackets for the 4pm obligatory safety drill. It’s amazing how different ships deliver this. On Aurora the captain comes onto the public address system and gives a very thorough explanation. This is followed by a crew member demonstrating how to put on a life jacket followed by you putting your own on. Once this is done the drill is finished. What I did notice was that no one checked names or cabin numbers to make sure passengers attended.
4.30pm was ‘Sail Away’ and in true P&O tradition Union flags and flags celebrating the 175th anniversary were handed out for waving as we sailed away. With 3 long blasts of the ships whistle we moved away from our mooring and out into Southampton Water on the first part of the trip which would take us past the Isle of Wight into the English Channel. It is then South West past the western tip of France and down into the Bay of Biscay. The Bay of Biscay has the unenviable reputation of producing bad weather and rough seas. On my numerous crossings of the Bay I had never experienced a bad crossing. However this time was to be different. The Captain came on and said that there was a depression coming into the bay that would cause some ‘Movement’ of the ship but Aurora was a very stable ship so all would be well. My interpretation of this was “You’re in for a rough night”.
We were booked for late sitting at dinner which is scheduled at 8.30p.m. in the Alexandria Restaurant on deck 6. We were shown to our table for 8 persons and situated by a large picture window overlooking the stern. Our fellow table guests were a couple from Scotland and a couple who it turned out lived about 8 miles from us. I will leave food descriptions for later in the blog. By the end of the meal the ship was starting to ‘Move’ and it was obvious my previous thoughts were correct.
Heading for our cabin it was time for bed.
A word of warning to all those with ‘Smart Phones’. Turn off Data Roaming. I was woken at 1am with a text message from my mobile operator telling me I had already spent £20 on Data and they would text me again when it reached £40. Needless to say it was turned off instantly and I won’t forget again.
We awoke at about 7.30am aware that the ship was riding a very rough sea. Standing in the shower cubicle was great fun trying to wash and stand upright. Good job the soap dispenser is fixed to the wall. It is worth mentioning that the toiletries supplied are of good quality by The White Company. The bottles of Shampoo, Conditioner and Hand & Body Lotion are of a good size, 100ml. A shower cap is also supplied. Eventually washed and dressed it was time for breakfast.
The dining room we used for breakfast was the Medina Restaurant and needless to say it was minus many passengers. There were these ominous looking white bags placed at strategic points about the ship. During breakfast the captain came onto the public address system and informed us we had gone through a force 10 storm during the night and the seas were not expected to calm down until later in the day.
P&O have always done an excellent breakfast. Mine was Pineapple Juice, followed by Fruit before the traditional Fried Eggs, Bacon, Tomato, Beans, Hash Browns and Mushrooms. All this washed down by coffee that is more than acceptable.
Due to the inclement weather the outer decks were closed for safety reasons so we made or way to the highest point on the ship, the Crows Nest. This is situated on deck 13 at the front of the ship and gives great views out to sea through the large picture windows that are on 3 sides. Seating is by way of chairs and long wall settee style seats in blue that are complimented by a blue carpet with gold pattern in it. The rear of this lounge is raised and has its own bar. There is a small area where at night a trio supply background music to make this a great area for pre or post dinner drinks.
It was whilst looking out that you realise what a busy stretch of water this is with Tankers, Container Ships, General Cargo and other cruise ships. I must have dozed off for a couple of hours as I was woken by our friends who informed me it was time for lunch. It’s hard work all this cruising.
Back to the Medina Restaurant and presented with another menu. The selection was very good and I had difficulty in deciding. Finally it was the 5 Bean and Lentil Soup followed by Mixed Meat Salad and a Cheese Board to finish. My wife had the Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramel Topping which looked and I am informed was, delicious.
With the seas still running high and the outside decks closed it was time to find somewhere to read my book. Andersons is a small but beautifully appointed lounge. Small tables and chairs it is very much like a private club. Just the place to sit and read in peace and comfort. The afternoon passed very quickly and it was time to get ready for, yes you’ve guessed it, eat again.
The dress code for the evening was shown as informal and I was interested to see if people would adhere to it as on so many ships now a days informal/smart casual seems to equate to clean tee shirt and jeans. I was not disappointed. Almost 100% of male passengers were attired in shirts with ties and jackets. A pleasure to see. Again the food was excellent but 2 of our table were unwell and didn’t make dinner. Eventually with the ship still rolling it was time for bed. Will tomorrow be any better? We will have to wait and see.