Aurora Cruise – Southampton to Dublin

What a rotten day weatherwise it was on the 6th July 2011 when we headed to Ocean Terminal to board Aurora. It was a mix of sun and showers, sometimes at the same time! Thankfully the rain held off after we left the house. It was my friend Juanita’s first time on P&O and only her second cruise. How would Aurora and P&O compare to Celebrity Equinox and Celebrity Cruises?

Whenever I’ve sailed from Ocean Terminal before the waiting has been horrendous, such as getting on Arcadia after two hours. This time it wasn’t. We arrived at the terminal around 12.10pm, dropped off the luggage, up, given Red G card waited. They were on E already. We were taking photos of the ship from the window when F was called and no sooner had we say down, than ours was up.

Aurora at Ocean Terminal

So far so good until getting to the check-in desk only to be told we had to go elsewhere because Juanita was a non-EU citizen. Once there, the woman did have a bit of an attitude when I told her we hadn’t been told about the passport having to be kept in the Pursers office until the end of the cruise. “Everyone knows that,” she said. So I reiterated the travel agent HADN’T mentioned it when we booked and P&O hadn’t said anything when I added my American friend Greg’s name to my Oriana booking next year. She didn’t care about that, just kept being snooty. Then it was security, which is always a nightmare at this terminal. For a change they did have more than two scanners on. Before you got there though it was boarding photo time! One of the photographers was asking people as they waited to be next if they had been on Aurora before. He didn’t need to when he saw my top, which was what I’d bought my mum a few years ago and unfortunately they no longer do. We were onboard by 1pm so that was quite impressive. Juanita also liked what she saw of the ship as we made our way to the Orangery for lunch. By now the wind was coming up but at least it was still dry! Cabins were ready at 2pm and ours, E100, was bigger than the D109 and F109 oceanviews I’d had previously but we had a window ledge! Not as wide as F109 but nice. Carmen’s was closed until then, probably due to the Gold booze up! It really is ridiculous P&O have more of a ‘Them and Us’ policy than Cunard! I had to pop to the Medina to see the Maitre d’ about my dietary requirement. I’d only phoned the travel agent the week before and had received a form (albeit the wrong one!) from Cunard for my Queen Mary 2 trip several months later but nothing from P&O so didn’t think it had got through. The queue for this was quite long and it took half an hour before we got done. It wasn’t on his sheet and he blamed the travel agent, saying she hadn’t phoned. He wrote it at the bottom. Then we headed up to the Cyb@Study so I could check out the internet. This was the first time I had taken my laptop and then it was only because, not only are phone calls expensive, but with this crappy Nokia I have to email photos which also adds to the account. A nice relaxing orange juice in the Crows Next before muster, which was in the theatre so for once just a one deck walk! It went on a bit so we didn’t get onto deck until about 4.25pm so I missed MSC Opera leaving. By now the weather was very windy and freezing but still dry! The Captain came on to tell us about our journey and the impending wonderfully bouncy weather off Land’s End! We had the tug Sarah on our bum to give us a pull and ropes were all chucked in 12 minutes late. We blasted to indicate reversing then we were off to party tunes as we stood by the flagpole – hooray! Both the Red Funnel and Hythe ferry came from their respective berths at almost the same time so tailgated us. Great Ex toodled off near the pier but the Red Funel continued its stalk.

Red Funnel ferry, Svitzer Sarah and Great Expectations

I spotted Opera nearing the Forts as it was starting to spit again so got some pics then we went down the the Prom deck where I got some more then in to detangle hair!

MSC Opera

Juanita checked her excursion tickets, since she was on a waiting list for four and found she had one of those which had been number 27 when others were in the hundreds so very confused how she had been made to wait! I looked at mine and they were all numbered 1! What are the chances of that? Dinner for 6.30pm and things began getting lovely and bumpy! The head waiter came to give me the menu for next day’s lunch and dinner so I could pre-order. I like having a dietary requirement because you’re warned what good or awful stuff there is! The Icelandic cod looked okay so I thought I’d give that a go. Since I wasn’t having coffee I went to find Jacqueline Arnold in Raffles but dopey me forgot to check her photo so had no idea who I was looking for. Shopping beckoned. The cases outside E120 had been there forever with our steward Agostinho guarding them. I saw the waves becoming a little high and tried to get photos but there wasn’t enough light. Met Juanita outside the theatre for the Welcome Aboard show. Never have I seen so many irritating fixed grins as those on the current Headliners troupe! One of the men looked like he wasn’t even old enough to shave! The cruise director Natalie is the same one as on my trip last November. That was where I met Brenda, Manda and Marie at dinner, Brenda and Manda having done this cruise five months before so they told me all about it. I had no idea who have the entertainers and guest speakers are apart from Allan Stewart (getting off at Dublin) and Chris Ellison! The actual ship entertainment sounded a hell of a lot better than the rubbish there’d been on the New Year 2007/8 cruise, which was also on Aurora and had been my longest P&O until this one. While I went to get my internet connected, Juanita went to bed. When I returned to the cabin she told me her Dublin excursion had been cancelled. The sea was a lovely and bouncy force 8 as we headed towards Ireland.

The morning and the weather was still no better – great! On the deck below, they would have had much window washing. We occasionally got a big one but it just sprayed, not hit.

Force 8 in the Celtic Sea towards Cobh

Still the trip was young so hopefully some more later! After all, once we leave Dublin we have three sea days in a row so one of those must be rough surely. Juanita went to the Orangery for breakfast and to snaffle some more teabags and milk while I stayed snoozing. 9am is just too early to get up on a cruise unless you have to. She also went to see about her second choice Dublin excursion only to be told they had cancelled that one this morning! I got up after she got back and washed my hair, realising I’d forgotten this was a long cruise and left the old bottle of shampoo in the case. I always leave everything as it is because otherwise I’ll forget. I needed a few other things too – oops! By about 10.30am we slowed and were in a force 6-7 as we picked up the pilot. I told Juanita we were close so we put on our woollies and thick coats and headed onto a very windy deck. The forward observation area was closed off – grrr! As we neared Cobh, we gave five loud blasts but I missed the lot! The Captain came on a couple of times to tell us a few things, which is more than I had when I was here on Constellation, Navigator of the Seas, and Independence of the Seas. The houses, we learned, were different colours because of whatever cruise line you worked for during the old transatlantic days. It would rain, sun, rain, sun. ARGH!!!!! I got chatting to a bloke called Mike who was with a wedding party onboard and had thought the trip would just be a few days. Not bad for his first cruise! Because Juanita had her Cork & Kinsale excursion, meeting on the quayside at 1.15pm, she went to get lunch. I wasn’t that far behind her since the rain came down a bit heavier so went after our first rope was on. I saw two of our table companions then after staying a while, came back to the cabin to unpack, sort photos out, do a bit of shopping, leave a note for Jacqueline at the Pursers deck and write this blog! That was the entire four hours Juanita’s excursion lasted gone. At 6pm it was Irish dancing before dinner in the theatre then Allan Stewart who was very funny. I liked his ‘Michael Jackson sings George Formby’, when Jacko would end up working on cruise ships. Although I had to explain to Juanita who George Formby was. Sailaway was about 10.05pm after three cabin numbers had been called to contact reception, which then went down to one. A silent sailaway, with a few people turning out in the rain to watch us leave.

Cobh sailaway

Not as bumpy as the night before but still quite strong winds at Force 5-6 beating on the hull.

Woken up at 7.15am by the thrusters as we came into Dublin port and we had such a gorgeous view once we’d docked.

View from E100 of Dublin Port

It looked okay but as we were having breakfast it started to rain! Mike from yesterday joined us. We braved the rain and I left Juanita in Trinity College looking at the Book of Kells while I went for the shuttle. I was soaked, especially my shoes. I did buy a cutie bear though and some choccy which took (including the 9 euro entry) almost all of my 30 euros! Typically in the afternoon the sun came out – grrr! Oh well. I had plenty to keep me busy such as having a kip since adoring Aurora 24/7 is exhausting at the best of times!

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