The ShipWatcher Blog

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Review: Aurora from an Aussie's perspective

I was only aboard Aurora from Monday morning to Thursday morning. I wish it could have been longer, but time didn't permit.

She's a wonderful ship. Spacious, classy, and very tastefully laid out.

Embarkation:
We stayed at the Hilton. If you're ever travelling to Auckland, stay here. I woke up on the morning of the cruise, and our ship was no more than 10 meters from my hotel room balcony. In fact, I walked out on the balcony and had a bit of a chat with some of the passengers on their balconies aboard the ship.

Here's a picture of the view from my hotel room:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2264145944/in/set-72157603903495862/

Getting aboard was painless. Wheel your luggage out of the hotel, then 20 meters down the footpath and onto the ship. It took us about 15 minutes from when we entered the boarding gate to when we got aboard.

Our Cabin:

We had a balcony cabin on A Deck. We got upgraded by P&O. (Thanks P&O!!!). The first thing you notice about the rooms is that this ship is designed for voyaging. Oodles of drawers, hanging space, cupboards, nooks and crannies. You could easily live on board for 3 months like some of my fellow travellers.

I'm a bit messy, but here's a pic of our cabin after I'd messed it up a bit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2264044286/in/set-72157603903495862/

I counted a total of about ten drawers, almost 3 meteres of hanging space, two large cupboards in the bathroom for personal effects, and some cute mirrored cupboards above the dresser, for nicknacks.

We had single beds which were both spacious and luxurious, with feather a duvet / doonah, and feather pillows. There was plenty of room under the beds to store suitcases, so as not to waste closet space.

The room had an electronic variable temperature air conditioner - so you could set the temperature exactly as you wanted it.

The TV had heaps of movie channels, which I didn't watch. But if you're crazy enough to want to do that sort of thing on a cruise, you can.

We had a bar fridge in our room, but the mini bar wasn't stocked. But it did have a bottle of complementary mineral water, which I appreciated. It also had tea and coffee making facilties.

The balcony door was solid, and didn't rattle at all. It had a large handle and childproof lock. Easy for adults to open, but hard for kids to get at.

The two seater couch in our room was most appreciated too.

I should say that my business partners were on C-Deck. They also had a balcony, and it was sized and fitted out almost identically to our cabin, except we had a bath

Speaking about the bath/shower, I appreciated the complementary quality toiletries, large clothes line in the shower, and the good quality taps and fittings. It was clean, and always smelt fresh.

The Crew

Service was excellent. In the restaurants we were waited on attentively.

Our rooms were always clean with fresh towels every day. The waiters remembered us, and our preferences.

There is no auto-tip on Aurora. Basically, you just put a tip in an envelope for the people you want to tip at the end of your cruise.

Passengers

Well folks, what group of people can afford to take three months off and sail around the world? You got it, older rich people.

So the vast majority of the passengers appeared to be over 60, and English.

I didn't meet one rude person on board. Everyone was friendly, polite, courteous and considerate. Not a bogan in sight. It's a totally different feel to the one week cruises that we've been on out of Brisbane. One old lady came up to us during the trip and said in a sweet english accent "So you're leaving us so soon in Sydney?".

"Yes. But how did you know that?" I replied.

"You don't think four handsome young men would get on our ship and we wouldn't notice?".

Very kind of her!

The consequences of this were that the entertainment was more upmarket, aimed at an older audience. It also meant that even though there were lots childcare staff aboard, the ration between cares and kids was about 1:1. One child wanted to swim in the pool, so one staff member swam with him.

There were also quite a few wheelchairs on board. But she's a spacious ship, and this didn't cause any congestion or problems.

Food

Too much excellent food. And all of it free. All the restaurants had a great view of the water. If you didn't want to have dinner in a restaurant, there was also a buffet open most of the day, including dinner time. As well, there were a couple of smaller premium restaurants aboard where you paid a small surcharge for a smaller, more intimate setting.

The wine was priced between £12 and £15 per bottle. That's about the same as on Aussie ships. Everything is priced in Brittish Pounds, so you need to do a bit of arithmetic to work out the price (double it and add half).

The buffet was busy at lunch and breakfast time. I had to occasionally queue for a couple of mnutes, but never had trouble finding a place to sit.

By the way, for formal nights on Aurora, most men wore a dinner jacket, white shirt, and black bow tie. My business partners wore dark suits, and didn't feel out of place. In case you don't have a dinner jacket - just go to Lifeline. I bought mine for $30, and I think it worked out ok

http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2263251159/in/set-72157603903495862/

Our other nights were smart casual. No jeans, and a collared shirt.

The Ship:

Wow. At 270 metres in length, she's huge! But every inch is good quality. An hour after I embarked, I got depressed wondering how on earth I could explor such a large ship in such a short time. Here's some of the places I loved:

The Atrium. Four stories high, with a water sculpture that takes up all of one wall. Have a look at it here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2264160096/in/set-72157603903495862

The Promenade Deck. This deck completely encircles the ship. Get out, start walking, and you can go as long as you want. It's wide, with quality wooden decking. As you get to the stern there's an awe inspiring view of the wake, with the raw of water rushing away. You can see a view here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2263378165/in/set-72157603903495862/

The Terrace.
This is at the rear of the ship. 5 levels of sweeping terraces encircle the stern, which contains a swimming pool, spa, and two bars (The Terrace Bar, and Pennants). There's room here for plenty of people, and lots of deck chairs, and tables. The various kids clubs have easy access to the lower terrace deck. And there's also an enclosed wading pool for littlies. They can play to their hearts content, but can't escape to get into trouble in the bigger pool.

Here's some pictures:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2263389087/in/set-72157603903495862/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2264249274/in/set-72157603903495862/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2263419141/in/set-72157603903495862/

The Pools:
There are three pools, numerous spas, plus an extra pool in the bow just for the crew. All the pools have FRESH water and are gently heated to about 29C, so it's very pleasant to swim.

The Crows Nest Bar:
This place is amazing. It sits above the bridge, at the bow, with a 270 degree view of the horizon. There's plenty of room here, with comfortable chairs. Musicians entertained us on our formal night. If you're sailing westward, and it's late afternoon, make sure you bring your sunglasses!

You feel like you can see the whole world from here.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2263483611/in/set-72157603903495862/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2263486497/in/set-72157603903495862/

The Curzon Theatre
Because Aurora is so wide, the Curzon Theater at the front has oodles of room. The seats are plush red velvet, and everyone has a good view of the stage. I attended a classical piano concert one afternoon while aboard. Allan Schiller played some Chopin pieces. At night we saw a Theatrical Production, "Carnaby Street", which was a musical based on London in the 60's. Plenty of Beatles, and 60's pop music. Another night we had a stand up comic, a cabaret singer and a young Kiwi pop pianist. All of them excellent.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/magictyger/2264046884/in/set-72157603903495862/

Summary
Excellent quality. Good value for money. It's slightly more than going on an Aussie cruise for a week, but well worth it. Especially if you appreciate quality.

There are many other bars, cafes, nightclubs etc on Aurora, but I didn't get a chance to sample them in such a short time.

I'd definitely do it again. With or without kids.

February is Australia's world-cruise month, so if you're interested in sampling a ritzier ship from time to time, keep your February's free!In fairness to our Australian cruise ships (especially Pacific Sun / Star) I would also cruise on them again too. It's just a different atmosphere. Aurora is stately and classy. Like staying in a five star hotel. Pacific Star was like a seven day new years eve party for me. Lots of fun, a bit loud at times, but well worth it too.

A 3 day cruise is also worth it. It is short, but it's much more fun than going to the beach for the weekend!

1 comment:

Peter said...

"You don't think four handsome young men would get on our ship and we wouldn't notice?"

Heheheheh. What a charmer! I can see I'm going to have fun aboard. One of my delights as a taxidriver is flirting with old ladies. It might be just a six dollar fare down to the shops, wait and back, but it's well worth my time for the entertainment I get and the sparkle in the old love's eyes.

I fly out next Saturday, four nights in Hong Kong with the kids, they fly home to mind the house and wife and I continue on to Southampton. I'll see if I can get some pix of Aurora entering Hong Kong. Should be spectacular, if the haze lets up.

Your review pretty much confirms my research elsewhere. Oh boy, am I looking forward to this trip!