I have decided to write this review to help first time cruisers like myself decide if cruising is for them. There were a lot of reviews, especially about Aurora that were negative and we had no idea what to expect.
So from the beginning; we chose this cruise for our honeymoon for one reason only. To see the northern lights. It seemed like a great way to experience them. Booking was easy and we got inboard spending. The website post booking took a little navigating especially to book shore excursions. In 2020 for such a big company I would expect better. (At one point I got so frustrated I threw my iPad...) we got some info prior to the boarding but had no idea what to expect on the day and to be honest found it quite overwhelming. Lots of people had clearly done it before and knew exactly what to do but we were quite lost. They took our baggage, we then headed in to a long, took a health quiz due to recent events and then were just kind of herded into the boat. It was quick, but we still had no idea what was going on. We were also directed in the wrong direction twice to our cabin... luckily those are probably the only negatives I have!!!
Cabin: f220 was apparently an upgrade, I think because it used to be a four berth room so was potentially bigger? Anyways it was compact but we expected that, surprising amount of storage especially for all the jumpers and spotlessly clean. The bed was two singles pushed together and super comfy. It was turned down each night by our cabin steward. We also had bathrobes, champagne and flowers that I had arranged as it was our honeymoon. Bathroom is tiny, and could do with not being peach plastic but big enough for what you needed. TV had a good selection of films, but ours spent most of its time on the information channel or on the ship radio channel which had a live feed of a camera from the front of the ship. Played decent getting ready music! We were on a lower floor and close to the engine but this had no effect on our sleep. We were also toasty warm even with a window.
The boat; Aurora is the oldest and smallest of the fleet, a lot of people who had cruised before compared her negatively to other boats, however we thought she was lovely. She reminded me of an old London hotel or an aging movie star, a little bit cracked around the edges but elegant and classy. We didn't use the pools but a few people did and they looked warm. Plenty of space on the different decks and a walking deck which we took advantage of most days when it was open. There were a couple of shops, the last day sale is probably the best day for deals but we didn't see much for us. The salon was super expensive, not worth it unless you got one of the daily deals. The gym was pretty good, we only went twice (trying to counter the food) had a lot of machines to use.
Public areas; we spent most of our time in the glass house and Champions pub. The crows nest was right at the front, had good views but after a very up and down force 12 day we avoided it! Anderson's is a gin bar , loads of gins and good cocktails. masquarades had a disco but we didn't partake in this. the glass house with wines from Olly Smith was where we tended to sit and read on sea days whilst working my way through the wine list. We did get the drink package but prices weren't too bad, a fiver for a small glass on average. The wine was great, the little nibbles (you had to pay extra for) were delicious. Service was... chilled! An extra waiter would of made all the difference especially as there was a coffee bar here so lots of their time was spent making cappuccinos. Oh and limited view of the sea.
Champions was a kind of pub, there was always a quiz going on there, a bit of karaoke and we did manage to catch the rugby and football. There was a good selection of different beers and the service was excellent.
Entertainment; I'm not going to lie, we didn't catch any of the shows, they weren't really for us. It would of been nice to see the comedian but it was on the same night as our excursion. The playhouse showed some decent films, Judy, Jumanji, Midway. A list of these can be found online. There was Orca watch onboard and they did talks about the wildlife, standing room only but you could watch from your cabin. Other talks included one about pain relief and arthritis... I kid you not. We read mostly happy just to chill out. There were also talks about the places we were stopping and things to do there. There was a daily magazine that told you what was going on and the dress code for the night, plus a news round up and daily suduko. There was also dancing lessons and enough quizzes to keep you entertained if you like a quiz, which we do.
Stops; Alta was specifically for the lights, there is nothing much else there. A couple of shops and a church. It was bloody freezing!!! We did a trip at night to see them and were lucky enough to see them, absolutely unbelievable. So beautiful, worth braving -14 and snow.
Tromso was gorgeous, still cold and proper snowing! We did the husky ride which was amazing. Again very cold (-9) but worth it to go through the snow covered countryside. We also went into the town, walked over the bridge to the cathedral.
Alesund was cute, we walked up a very tall hill, not as cold as it had been. Buy souvenirs here, much cheaper!
Stavenger was also gorgeous, shopping here was for fashion if you wanted it. (There's a h and m) All in all good places to see, and you're unlikely to see them any other way.
Food; I saved the best for last. We like food, our holidays and trips revolve around good food. The food onboard was unbelievable. The buffet horizon we went to for breakfast and lunch most days. Good choices, fruit, hot choices, omelette made to order. Lunch we tended to try and have lighter options, salad, soup (which was excellent) cheese. Oh the cheese! The grill next door made great burgers to order. We ate dinner in Medina most nights. The black tie nights we had the Marco menu which was excellent and most other nights we had the three courses. All cooked perfectly, great steaks, full of flavour. Puddings were to die for. Afternoon tea was also great, although maybe the cakes could be a bit tastier. We also dined at Sindhu twice. It is totally worth it. The food was delicious. I understand why people put on weight on cruises. Seriously good food!
All in all we had a great time. We would recommend it if you just want to chill out. With the average age about 55 be prepared, this is not a party boat! But if you want to chill, eat good food, be waited on hand and foot and experience the majesty of the fjords in comfort then this is for you.