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Cruise‘n’Ship Review

Part One - Introduction:

It is wonderful to know that cruising is the fastest growing travel and leisure market in the world and here in Australia and New Zealand it has grown faster than in any other part of the globe with advance bookings outstripping any nation n the world and our ships depart with better loadings that anywhere else!

Due to this, cruise companies continually compete with one another by building larger, or just better ships than their rivals. Alternatively, they give their current ships extensive refits, thus constantly improving their product and this is just what will be happening to the already delightful MV Aurora, the ship I have sailed on a number of times!

My first voyage on the Aurora was back in 2001 when she was on her maiden Round the World Cruise” and I simply loved the ship! I had already sailed on the MV Oriana and she was and, yes still is my favourite of the P&O ships, for she is the one that is the closest to a classic style ship, but the Aurora is similar and very beautifully designed! I joined her again in January 2006 for another half “Round the World Cruise” and like my first voyage on her, it was simply superb!

She has become one of my popular cruise ships and she is certainly a very successful one and greatly loved by so many Australian’s. The point is that today with all those huge ships around, that seem more like box-like floating resorts, myself as well as many others still prefer to sail on mid sized ships, ranging from 60,000 to 80,000 tons. The wonderful P&O MV Oriana, which was built in 1995 on which I also cruised on her maiden World Voyage and she is and remains my first love. Next is the majestic MV Aurora, launched in 2000. Both these ships offer the pinnacle of British style cruising!

Both are big ships, although by today’s standards they are medium sized ships at 69,153 and 76,000-tons respectively, yet for their size they are delightfully intimate and have that traditional elegant British atmosphere and feel about them, yet very modern and up to date! This MV Aurora Ship Review is a result of my cruises on the Aurora’s various “Round the World Voyages.”

I recall that my embarkation on the Aurora, just like it had been with Canberra and the Oriana was very friendly and efficient. Upon boarding a cabin steward took my hand luggage and he proceeded to show me to my outside stateroom on Deck 8. There is no doubt, P&O ensures that your cruise experience commences perfectly right from the moment you arrive at the terminal, for my experience from my limo to stateroom was most very pleasant indeed!

Please Note: The author always sails at his own expense as I will never write a review on a freebie, as I will just not be compromised! Cruise-Australia is a 100% non-profit website and I never ask for a free cruise nor do I accept them! If that makes me strange, well so be it, possibly it is because I will not compromise my morals!

Reuben Goossens.

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Lecturer.

Commenced in Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960.

 

Part Two - MV Aurora to receive a New Look and a Refurbishment:

Tragically, P&O Cruises is changing the livery on all of its ships, which American Carnival claims is to reflect the line’s British heritage. What a lot of rubbish! They decided to paint a huge stylized Union Jack on the bows of all the seven ships of the fleet, as well as the line's newest monster ship, the hideous giant floating resort Britannia, where you can go on a vacation with a huge crowd! In addition the ships will have their funnels painted a darkish blue with an illuminated rising sun motif locate low on the funnel, but in the middle, supposed to be a memory to the “Oriental” part of “Peninsular and Oriental” (P&O). The new look was first be seen on Aurora, after her refit, and was followed by the Britannia at her launch in February 2015, with the other ships to follow by the end of 2016.

As far as I am concerned the Aurora still looked simply wonderful in her white original livery and yellow/buff funnel!

But tragically, Carnivalisation, as the crew call it, has taken over, for the Yanks love-painting hulls in colours for it

has nothing to do with the ship being British, it is just removing a long proud British history from the much-loved P&O!

 

Here we see what they call the new look Aurora - Judge for yourself? But that funnel just does not look right at all!

Aurora’s £26 million pound refurbishment took place between November 29 to December 18, 2014 in Hamburg, which was before Aurora’s Christmas and New Year Cruise, followed by her Grand South America & Pacific Adventure World Voyage departing Southampton on January 8, 2015. Most comments received from British and Australian and New Zealand Passengers about her new exterior look was far from favourable. Her interiors was well received, but there was resentment regarding the Library as most said that the new one was just too small, and they were thankful that at least the Crows Nest was near!

Refurbishment Details:

The once wonderful spacious library that was located on the starboard side on Deck 8 has been removed and has been replaced by a much smaller library portside aft of Crows Nest on Deck 13. Obviously Greedy Carnival as usual, required the space for another optional dinning venue, for like on every Carnival based ship, things are becoming more and more optional, whilst in some cases the menus n the main dining rooms are becoming less and less, thus passengers are in a way forced to pay more for a decent meal. Not that food in the main restaurants is bad, but there have been changes! The new dining venue is the “Sindhu Restaurant” that will be open for evening and offers Indian fusion menus, which was designed by Michelin-star celebrity chef Atul Kochhar.

Entrance to the Sindhu Restaurant

 

The interior of the Sindhu Restaurant

In addition, there will be another new name for what has been a popular dinning venue, for “The Glass House Restaurant” and wine bar will replace the original Café Bordeaux located amidships on Deck 8. As previously it is open for brunch, lunch and dinner and it will also show wine displays with wines selected by expert and TV presenter Olly Smith. The great news for wine lovers is that “Enomatic wine systems” on Aurora will allow passengers to buy premium wines by the glass for the first time ever! There is also a new private venue for wine tastings and dinners for special occasions.

The newly installed The Glasshouse Restaurant

In addition there will be a complete refurbishment of “The Orangery” Buffet on Lido Deck (Deck 12) and it will have a delightful new modern décor and being renamed “Horizons Restaurant.” It will be open for early breakfast, breakfast, lunch and dinner when there will be tablecloths, thus it will be more intimate!

The all-new Horizons Restaurant seen during the day

 

Horizons Restaurant seen during at night

In the evening, The “Beach House” menu will replace the previous Pennant Grill menu to include additional family favourites, such as Fillet of Beef on Lava Rock and so much more!

There will be a complete refurbishment of “The Reef” children’s clubs with the various venue names changed to reflect Reef Club names across the rest of the fleet.

There will also be the introduction of Freedom Dining to Medina Restaurant where many more tables for two have been added and Marco Pierre White dishes will be on offer on gala evenings.

Another change will be a refurbishment of the much loved “Sidewalk Café” and what will be popular is the introduction of Costa Coffee and the brand new “Grab and Go” counter, with great options for breakfast and lunch on the go.

The library will be relocated with the current cyb@study space adjacent to the Crow’s Nest on Deck 13, thus that does mean, it will be smaller that what it was. I feel that is the only flaw of this refurb!

The Cyb@study located on the starboard side; can you imagine the library in here?

 

The wonderful Crows Nest, a place of rest during the day and entertainment at night!

 

Also just aft of the Crows Nest, opposite the Cyb@study is the Uganda Room, which is also used as a Wedding Venue

The Casino and Champions will be completely refurbished on Deck 7 and given a new open-plan design, with new furniture, an improved stage area for entertainment, live music and quizzes.

The delightful refurbished Champions Sports Bar

Other Improvements to be made:

Photography gallery upgrade to include more touch screen technology.

An extensive shop refurbishment.

Refurbishment of Oasis Spa and Fitness Centre.

Upgrade of all sound and light equipment in the Curzon Theatre and Carmen’s Show Lounge.

All accommodations to be fully upgraded with new soft furnishings and a flat-screen TV!

Brief Memories of my first experience boarding the Aurora:

I recall arriving at the wharf and the Aurora looked rather large side on from ground level, especially as it was high tide at the time. However, I was thankful that unlike so many of the modern cruise ships today that the Aurora still had reasonably pleasant nautical lines; although her rather strange “goal post” Radar Mast took a little to get used to, for it was and odd design  for a ship to say the least. But at least her traditional gracious buff coloured funnel impresses wherever she arrives.

Although, having said that, now having had her refit and given her new livery tragically, 84 years of P&O tradition will have sadly disappeared, for P&O is obviously being influenced by its owners “Carnival PLC” who are bent on changing age-old traditions not just with P&O but with their other old and traditional companies. And therefore P&O has been forced to change that wonderful old buff funnel that countless thousands of P&O passengers just love and know so well since the days of RMS Strathaird in 1931, sadly that will be gone and replaced by that hideous blue funnel!

How can this ugly looking funnel possibly represent a wonderful and a very traditional P&O?

 

The RMS Strathaird is seen in Sydney, she was the first P&O liner with the buff funnel as all previous ships had black funnels

From the author’s private collection

 

 

Above & below: Just forward of Raffles is Andersons, which is an elegant old English style Gentleman’s style Club & Bar

It features fine historic style paintings and timber wall cabinets filled with all sorts of books and other items

 

 

Photo Gallery

First Impressions Onboard:

As I took my first stroll around the ship I was pleasantly surprised, for Aurora’s public rooms proved to be sumptuous. The most imposing feature of the Aurora is Four-Deck high Atrium, which has several delightful venues located on the two upper levels - Charlie’s Champagne and Caviar Bar and Raffles Coffee and Chocolate Bar certainly stood out as special features, as did the elegant Andersons Lounge and Bar!

However, the Neo-classical Atrium is very clean and contemporary. It is dominated by its grand staircase, and on the forward wall there is a large flat sculpture with a charming water feature, which ends in a pond with oversized shells on Deck 5 that surrounds the grand staircase, just aft in this lobby area is the Reception Desk. The Atrium is very different than that of Oriana’s as it is neo-classical, with plush beige to deep tan patterned carpets and marble pillars. Aurora has the elegance of yesteryear, yet has all the modern appointments of a luxury hotel. 

Of course, Aurora’s interiors remain as beautiful and elegant as ever, even with the modification made, for she is a very stylish ship and is perfect for a long voyage to or from Southampton. I have personally sailed non the Aurora and the Oriana on a good number of times from Brisbane to Southampton, via Asia, India and the Suez to the UK, or via Asia and the Indian Ocean Islands South Africa and Morocco to the UK, as well as a voyage from San Francisco to Brisbane, and others, and believe me I have enjoyed every single voyage! Of course in the past I also sailed on the Arcadia (the current P&O Pacific Pearl) and the Canberra, etc, and each voyage has been memorable!

Far forward of the ship is the gently sloping Curzon Theatre for fine productions and during world cruises, even plays!

Taken by the author in January/February 2006

 

The Atrium and Palm Court is on Deck 5, that also has the Reception Desk

 

The Atrium - Looking up to Deck 6 that offers various shopping centres, then on Deck 7 is “Charlies” located portside in Mayfair Court

 

Promenade Deck (7)

 

Promenade Deck with fine timber tables and chairs which is perfect when having a drink outside of Charlies, thus making good use of this deck

Taken by the author in January/February 2006

 

Just aft of Raffles is the spacious Masquerade's Ballroom, being the ships main dance venue!

 

The Atrium – We have now reached Deck 8 and the main feature here is the wonderful Raffles Bar and Lounge

On the starboard side used to be the Library, but now it is the Sindhu Restaurant

 

 

Above & below: one of my favourite spots on board for a perfect coffee, Raffles a place with the perfect ambience!

 

 

 

Vanderbilt’s Card Room is located up on Deck 8 

 

 The Playhouse Cinema is just aft of the Card Room.

 

 Deck 12, the Riviera Bar looking aft over the sunken Riviera Pool

 

Looking forward from Sun Deck (14) and the decks around the sunken Riviera Pool

 

 

Above and below: This is the Crystal Pool and Bar that has the sliding glass roof, making this venue suitable in all weather conditions

 

 

Far aft is the Terrace Pool

 

 

Above & below: Love sports, you can play it all on the Aurora, cricket, ball games and traditional shipboard games!

 

Are you ready for the ships computerised Golf Simulator?

 

The MV Aurora sails under the San Francisco’s Golden Gate as I did myself one more on January 26, 2006

 

Accommodations:

Staterooms on Aurora are similar to those on Oriana. All accommodations on Aurora have a flat screen TV, radio, sofa, coffee table, tea and coffee making facilities, a refrigerator, vanity & writing desk, personal safe, ample wardrobe and drawer space, hairdryer, bathroom with WC with either a bath or shower. Staterooms, Mini Suites, Suites, as well as the two Grand two floor Penthouses that have lounge and dinning room on the lower lever and the bed room upstairs with a curved stairwell. It would stand to reason that the higher-grade accommodations offer many additional comforts, including a butler for those in a Suite and a Penthouse. 

Here we see an inside twin stateroom, that can also be made up as a double-bedded room. It is more spacious than this

photograph tends to reveal as there is a corner sofa behind the photographer and a table as well as a hallway, etc!

 

An outside twin or double bedded stateroom, but with a different layout to the room shown above

 

A Verandah twin or double-bedded stateroom

 

A spacious Mini Suite separated into two areas

 

 The Penthouse – Here we see the upstairs Bedroom, whilst all the living spaces are downstairs

Both levels have a bathroom and the lower level also has a washroom for guests

Dinning Venues:

Main dinning venues on Aurora are the Medina and Alexander Restaurants, Orangery Buffet, Sidewalk Café and Café Bordeaux.

The Egyptian designed Alexandria (aft) and Moorish designed Medina (amidships) are the principal restaurants. The Medina Restaurant features a staircase leading down from Promenade deck, which is backed by a colourful glass feature, providing the perfect opportunity for a “Grand Entrance. The Alexandria Restaurant on the other hand has large windows on three sides, offering a splendid view from all angles! Both Restaurants have a grand piano and offer mood music at evening meals. Cuisine and service on Aurora is faultless!

The wonderful Alexandria Restaurant with large windows on three sides of the venue

Aft of the Crystal pool, is the Horizon Restaurant being Aurora’s fabulous 24 hour Buffet. This room is popular, as many enjoy a casual breakfast and lunch inside, or out on deck aft on the terrace, which offers spectacular views over the stern, or forward alongside the Crystal pool. In the evening the Horizon Restaurant becomes a little more formal, with crisp white tablecloths for most casual meals than in the main dinning rooms, for here the dress code is not required!

Snacks are available at the wonderful Sidewalk Café, which is located starboard side amidships. On offer are burgers, samosa’s, great fish and chips, and chicken fingers, all available with a variety of sauces on offer. If that is not enough, there is the new The Glasshouse on Deck 8 and it changes its menus for the different times of the day!

MV Aurora at the Passenger Terminal Auckland, our final port before arriving home in Sydney, then a flight home to Brisbane

Taken by the author in February 2006

Dress Code:

There is no doubt that international passengers will have a wonderful time aboard on Aurora. However, one should remember that all P&O ships are typically British and somewhat formal. Some of the English folk tend to dress rather casually and all I can say is sadly sometimes a bit too casually I am afraid during daytime, yet they love to dress up to the hilt at night. During the day they tend to look as common as muck and at night it is dressed up as if you are meeting Royalty.

The following is based on a two-week cruise, or fourteen days on the “Round the World Voyage.”

There will be five formal nights (dinner jacket/suit, for men, a cocktail or a smart dress for the ladies), and five semi-formal nights (jacket with collar and tie for men, a dress or slack suit for ladies), leaving just four casual nights, when a comfortable open necked shirt without a jacket is permitted.

PLEASE NOTE: The dress code is strictly enforced at the following venues: the Restaurants, Anderson’s and Crow’s Nest. If you do not comply with the code of the day, you will not be served and in fact, asked to leave the room. However, I have found that the ladies tend to get away with anything. It is tough being a man sometimes!

Being an Australian, I find that there are too many formals and semi formals on P&0 ships yet I come back to P&O over and over again. However, if you demand a casual atmosphere, you will need to look elsewhere.

In Conclusion: 

I certainly love the Aurora, even though I do not like what Carnival is doing with any ship in their stable, be it with P&O UK, Holland America Line or any of their other companies, for slowly they are destroying that which was really top quality and the Carnivalisation is cheapening it all, for slowly cruise ships are becoming hotels, for you will have to pay for more and more on board! The idea of going on a cruise used to be that everything, except for personal expenses, such as drinks and shore excursions and hairdressing, etc, was included in your far, all meals and entertainment! Sadly those days are gone, and mostly thanks to Carnival!

However, the MV Aurora and her sister Oriana certainly offer a superior cruise vacation, providing their passengers with one of the best ocean vacation’s available today in spite of the dress code and Carnival’s interference! Australian’s and New Zealanders have the opportunity to join a sector during Aurora’s annual Grand World Cruises, or if visiting the UK or Europe join one of her shorter cruises out of Southampton. Check out the many sailings available from Southampton, cruising the Mediterranean and Scandinavia.

The Aurora is seen arriving in Sydney in 2006 with myself and my travelling companion on board, with our wonderful cruise almost over!

 

Enter Aurora’s Deck Plan

Sadly it still does not as yet show the new venues

 

 Also Read an Introduction to the P&O UK Cruise Ships

 

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