Aurora was built at Jos L. Meyer's wharf at Papenburg, northern Germany under yardnumber S604. With a tonnage measurement of 76.152 she became the largest P&O Cruises ship introduced untill then. Her lenght is 270 meters, she is 32,20 meters wide and she has a 7,90 meter draft. The ship can accomodate 1850 passengers on ten decks and those are served by 815 crewmembers.
Aurora entering the outer port of IJmuiden under escort of the IJM-31 for the first time after recieving the new colours of the old English line. The picture is dated the 5th of january 2015.
The name Aurora for the new British superliner meant a new start for the old P&O Line when the ship floated out of her building dock at the 8th of january of the year 2000. Her name did have a few meanings. Of course, she was named after the goddess of the dawn, because for P&O Cruises, she was about to start a new dawn. The company was about to wave their older liners goodbye, Canberra of 1960 and Victoria of 1966. Canberra had left in 1997 and Victoria in 2002, and now P&O was about to sail with only modern liners. The old company had ordered and built their first cruiseliner in the beginning of the 1990's and she entered service in april 1995 as the second Oriana. Because of the instant success of this ship and high bookings, a slightly larger ship was ordered from the same yards. Sadly, this would also be the last true P&O-designed ship, because P&O spinned off the cruisedivision in the same year Aurora was built, baing absorbed in the large Carnival Corporation in 2003. The newest ships of P&O Cruises would thus be sisterships of others operating in other Carnival brands like Holland America Line, Cunard Line and Princess Cruises. So the goddess of the new dawn for P&O also spelled the end for the once mighty, independent company.
Aurora was named by Princess Anne in Southampton at the 26th of april 2000, but the bottle of fine champagne she released failed to break at the bow of the ship and instead took a nosedive into the Solent. Maybe a fish had a great birthday somewhere, but this of course for a ship is a bad omen... A few days later, at the 1st of may, Aurora took off for her first cruise to the Mediterranean. But it was just one day later that she already had to turn the rudder and go back to where she came from. During the first day her propeller had been overheating and this caused her first cruise to be cancelled. After a quick but embarassing repair, she again started her second first sailing at the 15th of may and this time all went well.
In the few years that followed, the ship settled in especially for her intended British clientele and her faulty first cruise was largely forgotten. For P&O, she was a steady flagship and attracted many passengers searching for a classic but modern, relaxed cruise-product in true British style. Also because of this new ship, P&O itself strenghtened their position as one of Britains main cruisecompanies again. But some of the ships bad luck returned in march of 2001, when one person that she had rescued from a sunken freighter close to Taiwan had died aboard after the rescue operation. Two others survived.
At the 9th of september 2001, it was the first time that Aurora sailed into New York for a series of short US cruises, but while sailing the first one two days later, the horrific terrorist attacks in the USA where-by passengerplanes were used as missiles, had her routed into Boston to await her passengers, next up, she sailed for Halifax to pick up stranded passengers that were at Canadian excursions.
Below, Aurora can be seen sailing in the former P&O livery during a trip down the Northsea Canal from Amsterdam in the summer of 2005.
Two years later, she became a real headline when she was struck by an outbreak of a Noro-virus when cruising the Mediterranean. A number of ports refused to dock the stricken ship and she almost became a nomadship because of this. Luckily, the British port of Gibraltar took her in, but because the ship had 450 ill persons aboard, the Spanish prime minister Aznar decided to close the border between Gibraltar and Spain. This is a large exception to normal business since 1982, it was only in 1988 when the border had also been close because of a bombthreat. Next to Aznars over-reaction, the Spanish minister of health was sent down to the border to 'calm the local population' as if the virus was a national threat to Spain. In reaction, the British minister of Foreign Affairs Jack Straw reacted furious about the Spanish actions and this almost escalated into a conflict between the two countries. Of course, the basis of these problems lie in the historic dispute over the rock of Gibraltar.
Showing of her newly applied Union Jack up very close, it doesn't seem to be as bad as many feared for...
Above, you can see how close you can actually get to the ships at the locks of IJmuiden. This time, I really thought taking a step back would maybe be a good option, as Aurora passed within three meters of myself. It is a little exciting, though. All ports are systematicly closed off so taking pictures can be a challenge, but here, you can still meet up close. Next to that, you can also spot the need to built a larger lock here in this picture. This new lock is planned to open in 2019.
Just two months after the Spanish-English cold war, a suspicious diver was seen close to the ship when she was at Southampton preparing for her next cruise. As a pre-caution, the ship was moved out of the shipping lanes and luckily, close inspection indicated no problems. For a ship with just a few years of service, you can see Aurora hit the news more then once. In january of 2005, the list even became longer when her whole worldcruise had te be cancelled because of big propulsionproblems. The flagship was out of service for a few monthsand this cancellation became the most costly cancellation ever in cruising history and had immidiate effect on P&O's earnings over the year 2005. P&O estimated that it had cost the company around 22 million English pounds. In spite of all these problems, Aurora is still a much loved and very important member of the cruisefleet of Great Britain. Because all of these problems had been handled well by P&O staff and the company itself, mostly the problems just caused people to admire the company more over.
In december of 2014, Aurora was repainted in the new colours of P&O Cruises, leaving the former livery (that had been introduced with the Strath-class of liners in the 1930's) to the past. The ship was the first of all P&O liners, recieving an artist impression of the Union Jack at her bow and a new, dark-blue funnel with the golden sun logo. Purist say that it is sad to see the old livery go and maybe they are right. But change of livery is more common then you'd think and I guess, after seeing Aurora up close, it will blend in over time.