Our journey to Southampton down the M3 was peppered with periods of slow moving traffic and torrential rain showers.
The good news was that as we left the M27 the sky had cleared and we had blue skies and sunshine.
Our Baltic cruise on P&O Aurora would take us to Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Denmark and Norway.
On Saturday the 13th May, we left Southampton on P&O Aurora to sail through the North Sea, then the Baltic Sea until our first port of call at Gdynia in Poland.
We boarded Aurora at the Mayflower terminal (Dock 10). This meant we could enter the docks at the Dock 20 entrance. This private road serves all the commercial docks. This route avoids the traffic jams in Southampton. We passed through the container port and for once had to stop at a crossing to allow mobile cranes to cross the road carrying containers.
At the terminal there were very few cars being unloaded by the stevedores and we joined the end of the parked cars to wait for the CPS lady to take our car keys. This is one of the main advantages of leaving from Southampton – having your car valet parked and your suitcases carried away at the same time.
Once inside we picked up our medical declaration forms (the self-certification to confirm that passengers are not ill!). Then we went straight to check-in. Security checks were quick and friendly this time and we were soon on board Aurora in the dining room having a buffet lunch. Then it was back to our cabin to unpack.
Aurora’s beds were too low for our lightweight suitcases to slide under. Our cabin steward agreed to take them away later to store elsewhere on the ship. We also asked for the cabin’s ‘fridge to be emptied of all the P&O provided drinks and snacks.
From the balcony we watched a cargo ship being taken up into the basin to be turned around. Then there was a steady stream of yachts and motor cruisers all passing by enjoying the glorious weather.
The safety drill was scheduled for 4 pm and unusually for P&O our cruise cards were scanned as we entered the theatre. The drill did start late as our fellow passengers were late to arrive. The big change from other drills was that at last e-cigarettes would be now no longer be allowed inside the ship or in cabins. Now e-cigarettes now could only be used in the designated smoking areas on the ship.
At the sail away we watched as Aurora passed a ship carrying boats and the Caribbean Princess still taking passengers on board.
Ahead of us in the Solent we could see the Golden Princess already starting her cruise. Another busy day at the Southampton cruise terminals.
After Aurora had passed the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth we went back to our cabin to finish unpacking. This allowed time to have a first look at the port information provided by P&O. Then it was time for a glass of wine.
The Crows Nest was above our cabin and it was a quick lift ride up there to meet with our friends for a pre-dinner drink at 8 pm. As Jaipur IPA was available, I switched from wine to beer!
Dinner was chaotic as is usual for the first meal in the main dining room. Our wine waiter in particular clearly was stressed. He was very busy organising the first night’s bottles of wine for all of his tables.
The new menu on Aurora had added dishes and changed around old favourites including taking mushrooms off the steak course. Our waiter was kind enough to add them to my order. I chose tomato soup, the steak and my favourite of ginger and honey ice cream. All were excellent.
The weather had turned and from the Crows Nest we could see rain falling and visibility was bad enough the Aurora was sounding her fog horn.