This past month, two large cruise ships from Carnival’s British brands crossed paths in Australia’s largest city. Both QUEEN ELIZABETH and AURORA are on world cruises, with the two vessels sharing the harbour-city on 20 and 21 February.
Due to their size, the two vessels are unable to pass under the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, making berths at White Bay and Pyrmont out of reach for the ships. As a result, on 20 February AURORA berthed at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, with QUEEN ELIZABETH anchored at Athol Buoy near Kirribilli House.
On the morning of 21 February, at 6:00am, the two ships repositioned, swapping locations. The event saw QUEEN ELIZABETH and AURORA pass close by each other on either side of Fort Dennison.
Once anchored, AURORA commenced a tender service for the day, with her 1,800 passengers enjoying the sights of Sydney and surrounds, with some venturing as far as the Blue Mountains. There had been a large turnover of passengers the previous day, with hundreds of Aussies joining the ship for the second leg of her world cruise.
That evening at 9:00pm, a fireworks display marked the ship’s tandem departure. With only three decks of balcony cabins, AURORA’s decks were full of passengers wishing to witness the departure; creating an excited and energetic atmosphere aboard.
While QUEEN ELIZABETH made way to Newcastle for an historic inaugural visit, AURORA continued north to Australia’s third largest city; Brisbane.
AURORA’s design is a blend of classic and modern traits. She has a well-proportioned bow and a classic terraced stern making her appear elegant and smart, while the ship now sports P&O UK’s new livery of blue funnel and union flag hull art.
Her wide, wrap around teak wood deck offers hints of P&O’s ocean liner past, while inside, there is an array of smaller intimate lounges, bars and eateries to enjoy.
However, the ship, which entered service in 2000, is well and truly a cruise ship, with all the amenities expected by the modern day cruise passenger. These include multiple swimming pools, outdoor eateries, a tennis and basketball court, a day spa and costa-coffee bar.
Unlike her ‘sister ship’ ORIANA, which is currently sailing as an adults-only ship, AURORA offers a wide range of activities for travelling families.
These include large play areas for kids and teens, a kids swimming pool (complete with little slide), an outdoor activity centre and even a little movie theatre which was showing kids and teen movies.
Accommodation is very pleasant, with spacious cabins offered across various categories. The standard outside cabin offered plenty of living space, including a day lounge, writing desk, good sized bathroom and a kettle for making tea and coffee.
Dining choices are abundant aboard AURORA. The Alexandria Restaurant at the aft end of the ship features classic passenger-ship dining with an early and late seating; while further forward, the Medina Restaurant offers a more casual open seating.
High atop the ship, the Horizons Restaurant is a fresh, casual buffet style restaurant. Multiple food stations, clustered together, allow for a great deal of choice. Each area (hot meals, cold meals, drinks, wine etc.) are very clearly signposted.
If you’re still hungry, or looking for something different to eat, there is also a Lido fast-food bar, an ice creamery, cakes and muffins at the Raffles Bar and Room Service; while all bars and lounges offer drinks and snacks.
AURORA’s Curzon Theatre is a 660 seat entertainment venue. It is here that daytime lectures take place, while in the evenings the room is used for west-end style shows and headline musicians. This space is complemented by Carmen’s, a cabaret lounge which also acts as the ship’s nightclub; allowing AURORA to offer multiple main-event shows and experiences in the evening.
High atop AURORA is the Crow’s Nest Bar. This is a very pleasant space, with sweeping views over the bow as well as port and starboard sides of the ship. The lounge has drinks service throughout the day, while in the evenings, canapes are offered along with live music.
AURORA arrived in Brisbane on 23 February and sailed the short distance up the Brisbane River to the cruise terminal. During the passage, she passed under the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges. A pair of road bridges, their 194.2 ft height allows Aurora to make the passage up the river to the Portside terminal – a much more pleasant experience for travellers than utilising the cargo terminals.
After a call at Darwin on 29 February, AURORA will make her way north to Asia, with most Aussies set to leave the ship in Hong Kong. However her popularity in local waters means she will return to Australia in 2017.
About the author:
Chris Frame is a maritime historian who spoke aboard AURORA about the history of P&O. Chris collaborated with Rachelle Cross, Robert Henderson and Doug Cremer on “A PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY OF P&O CRUISES” which details the line’s 179 year history.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.