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  • Writer's pictureLizzy and Laura

Unforgettable Memories? A Review of the P&O Cruises Aurora New Year Cruise

In December 2023, we joined P&O Cruises Aurora for the 5 night New Year celebration cruise, travelling to Zeebrugge and Hamburg. We have cruised on Aurora twice before, and prior to this cruise, we would have probably both classed Aurora as one of our favourite ships. Would we still think so highly of her after this short cruise?


We've got a lot more information over on our YouTube channel about exactly what we got up to on board, so please do check it out. In this post we're going to give you a quick summary of what we loved and what wasn't so good.



The Food


It feels like its been a little while since we’ve been on a P&O Cruise, so we were looking forward to enjoying some of our favourite P&O dishes and this cruise did not disappoint. We ate in the main dining room for all 5 of the nights that we were on this cruise, and we found that the food was all very enjoyable. Meals were hot, and tasted freshly prepared, and we had some dishes on our menus that we hadn’t previously had before. We also tried the Sindhu Tiffin Lunch which we both enjoyed, and ate lunch in The Glass House on one of our sea days. Again this meal was enjoyable, even though the service was a little slow.



The Atmosphere


As this cruise was sailing over New Year, lots of people who were sailing onboard were clearly up for a good time. The bars and nightclub were lively until the early hours of the morning on most nights and we found that in general everybody on the ship was friendly and enjoying themselves. We also enjoyed the special New Year celebrations where we were able to watch the fireworks in Hamburg from out on deck. For the first few days of the cruise, the ship was still decorated for Christmas, which added to the festive atmosphere onboard.



Drinks


As this was a shorter cruise, we decided to treat ourselves to the Deluxe Drinks Package for the first time. This is actually the first time we’ve cruised with P&O since this package became available and we enjoyed the extra options that it gave us. We were able to enjoy lots more cocktails than would be available on the Classic Drinks Package, and we both enjoyed sampling some of the more expensive wines. This certainly won’t be for everyone,  as it is priced at £54.95 per person, per day, or £49.95 if purchased in advance via cruise personaliser. Due to the nature of this cruise, we thought that it was worth the extra expense and allowed us to relax and enjoy ourselves without needing to worry about the cost. We also enjoyed that there were some speciality Christmas cocktails available on this cruise. 



Embarkation 


Aurora experienced some issues on embarkation day, that we later found out were due to bad weather on the previous cruise. This meant that our embarkation was delayed by 2 hours. Unfortunately for us, P&O didn’t notify us about this delay, so we were left queuing outside the terminal building for a long period of time. Once embarkation did get up and running, it was quite poorly organised, with late arrivals gaining priority over people who had been queuing for a long time. We also witnessed an accident in the queue, where someone was pushed over and ended up hitting her head. It was very chaotic and didn’t give us the best start to our holiday.



Accommodation


We’ve spoken about this a lot, so if you’ve watched any of our other videos, you’ll be aware that we didn’t have any air conditioning in our cabin. We were in an inside cabin for this trip, and although it was December, it got extremely hot and uncomfortable in there. We were particularly disappointed with how this issue was dealt with onboard, and although we completely understand that cruise ships do sometimes need maintenance whilst guests are onboard, we felt that this could have been communicated much more clearly to us. We were finally allocated an additional cabin for the last two nights of our cruise, which was much more comfortable, but was in a poor location and we were not offered any help to move to this new cabin. We’ll talk about the specifics of the cabins in more detail in our cabin review video.



The Ship's Condition


Unfortunately Aurora had suffered some damage on her previous sailing, due to extremely high winds and low temperatures. There was visible damage onboard, and some guest areas weren’t available for parts of our cruise. Carmen’s was shut for the first two days and nights, and the cinema was also closed at one point. Blowers were a frequent site in corridors in an attempt to get carpets dry and there were also lots of plumbing issues onboard.Public toilets were frequently out of use and we’re also aware that some guests were without water for periods of time in their cabins.



Entertainment 


During the cruise we found the entertainment to be somewhat lacking. Even though we enjoyed the entertainment that was offered, we felt that there could have been more provided. A highlight of the entertainment for us was the Headliner’s show Applause. This show featured many costume changes and songs from the musicals. If you have never seen this show before we highly recommend you watch this as you’re in for a treat! This may have been because Carmen’s was out of action for the first two nights due to the damage that had been caused on the previous sailing, which meant there was one less venue available to use. Luckily, this didn’t affect our enjoyment of the evenings on board due to the party atmosphere that had been created by our fellow passengers. 



Ports 


We had two ports scheduled for this cruise, Hamburg and Zeebrugge. Hamburg was advertised as an overnight, however we departed in the early hours of the morning, so didn’t get the chance to experience Hamburg on that second day. We had never been to Hamburg before, and we were lucky that Tom and Dom were also on this cruise and are Hamburg experts so they showed us some of the sites. We both liked Hamburg and thought that it was a great city to visit but as it was a Sunday, none of the shops were open which did put a bit of a dampener on things.

Unfortunately due to weather conditions we weren’t able to dock in Zeebrugge, which did leave us feeling quite disappointed. This meant that we only had one day in port on this five night cruise, so we spent an awful lot of time on the ship. We had also been looking forward to visiting the Christmas markets in Bruges as we’ve never been there at this time of the year before.



Onboard service 


As always, the staff on this cruise worked extremely hard, and we experienced some excellent service, in particular in some of the bars and restaurants onboard. We also got to know some of the reception team quite well due to the issues we had on this cruise, and they were always friendly. We were however, disappointed with the lack of communication from senior team members. It was clear that there were some big issues on this cruise, but they were not addressed, or even mentioned at any point. Even after the two hour embarkation delay, there was no apology, or even an acknowledgment that this had happened. 


Disembarkation 


As is usual on a P&O , two options for disembarkation were given. You could choose to self disembark and take your luggage with you or you could place your luggage outside the room the night before. We chose the latter and we were surprised to see that no disembarkation slots were given. After we left the cabin at 8am, we headed to the main dining room for breakfast, where we stood in a queue for around 20 minutes. Breakfast itself was relaxed  a nice way to end our cruise. Once breakfast was eaten, we headed straight to the gangway to disembark the ship. It was at this point that Laura, to our surprise, was told she could not leave the ship as there was some lost property for her to collect. This turned out to be her handbag which she had left in one of our two cabins! Once we were off the ship, our suitcases were easy to spot as the majority had already been collected and we were soon on our way in a taxi back to the carpark. 


Overall 


Despite the many problems that we faced, we still enjoyed ourselves. This was mainly due to the other people on board who were clearly all up for a good time! We were frustrated with how the issues onboard were handled and felt that communication was poor throughout the cruise. We’ve already booked to sail with P&O again, so we’ll see if they can redeem themselves.




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