January 3, 2005


I was asked by someone in the Cruise Critic Boards what I though of Cunard versus P&O. This is what I wrote:


“I am comparing QE2 versus Aurora as the examples of the two as these are the only 2 that I have experienced.

In reality, it is hard to compare as they were both very different and very enjoyable experiences. On one side many things were "similar" as I guess:

1) All major cruise firms are picking up and using the features and things that they know passengers like or have come to expect
2) P&O and Cunard are owned by the same company and so they may be starting to share learning etc?

So the real difference came down to what one wants to get from your trip, and both offer a lot:

The main differences I think are:

1) Going on the QE2 (and also it would be true of QM2) you feel you are part of something "bigger" and more "significant" when you step on board.

There is a history and expectation you have due to the history, kudos and history of Cunard and the QE2 itself. Nothing can beat that. When you step onto
Aurora you do not have that same sense of "event" - you are (of course) excited but it is more the anticipation of the trip and going to sea than the ship itself.

2) P&O Aurora is probably better value is that is important in the decision making process.

We had a mini-suite on the
Aurora that would cost less than the Queen's Grill Q2 we had and yet the mini-suite on the Aurora was larger (not a lot), brighter and probably decorated to the same or better standard. By nature of the age of the ships or last renovation it was in better condition. The bathroom was almost identical to the one on the QE2 (both of which are amazing). The beds and pillows on the QE2 were VERY comfortable indeed and that is definitely better.

3) Food. The food and service on both the Aurora and the QE2 was excellent, but they have differences.

The QG dining and choice on the QE2 was much much wider as you have the set menu, plus the a la carte plus the option to make further requests. The waiting staff look after fewer tables in the QG than they did on the Aurora, and one thing that was noticeably different was that in QG therefore the waiting staff spend a lot of time talking and getting to know you and your likes, whereas on Aurora the approach is to make the service almost invisible and you barely notice the comings and goings after you have placed your orders.

Also on the QE2 in QG you have the full menu for that meal that you can order room service in, while on
Aurora they have a fixed room service menu.

Therefore, the QE2 Queens Grill overall food/ service experience is probably more special and pampering due to the time the staff can take getting to know you and also the huge choice. However, we also really enjoyed the
Aurora food a lot.

Aurora has more choices for alternative dining beyond buffet and pub fare.

3) Entertainment was very similar with the
Aurora "winning" this time!

For evening entertainment, the
Aurora was better. This was largely due to the fact that their on-board "west end/ hits" troupe were so much better than the QE2 "Broadway Bound". Interestingly, yesterday we were at lunch with the husband of someone who runs a troupe that does some of the Qe2, Crystal and other cruise lines shows but they go on as guest artists versus the resident "Broadway Bound" - and he commented about how universally bad that troupe is regarded.

I think the issue here is that there is clearly a "ship evening entertainment" circuit and until one of the cruise companies makes a real effort the fare across ships is going to be basically the same. (Interestingly P&O for their new ship - Arcadia - that launches in April 2005 and we are going on in July has formed partnerships with producers like Cameron McIntosh to develop a revue of his shows, a tie up with Circ du Soil for a similar show to theirs etc).

The QE2 lecture and enrichment program is better. They seem to attract better and more interesting speakers - which I guess they can do because celebrity speakers will be much more drawn to a QE2 assignment than an
Aurora one!

The daytime fare of bingo, daily quiz, bridge lessons etc is the same and at the same level.

The library on both ships was very good. The QE2 is larger in terms of number and variety of books. The Aurora library is larger in physical size and has more areas to relax, including big reclining chairs by huge windows were you can plug in a CD from the library and watch the world (I mean sea) glide by..

I think both are comprehensive and would meet eager reader's needs. Though the QE2 has more books and so more choice of subjects.

4) Maintenance and condition of the ship

The QE2 is unique. The look and design is "iconic" and so the QE2 wins hands down on that front. The
Aurora is another ship - very nice indeed. But like many others.

Aurora is newer and in great shape inside and outside. It was always immaculate and yet we only once saw anyone doing cleaning in the public areas. The QE2 was also always very clean and spic and span at all times, and the only issue is that the ship is old and so has more general maintenance problems and hassles. This (assuming you are a Cunard or QE2 junkie) you take in your stride and take as part of the overall experience of the ship. But if not and you are more used to newer ships then you will take very negatively (e.g. the people on either side of us in the QE2 QG restaurant though it was terrible they saw things like leaking windows etc).

5) Shops

Both ships have rubbish shops! I really feel there is a missed opportunity, but guess they know what they are doing. I still am not sure why they don't use the duty free shopping experience from a place like Heathrow to replicate - with more electrical, etc

6) Suitability for cruising

For a cruise holiday, I think that a ship like Aurora which has been designed for cruising in hot climates would probably be more suitable for a warm weather cruise than the QE2 for lolling around the pools (as there are 3 pools on the Aurora).

I loved the QE2 on the crossing with the walks on the beautiful decks and the stunning "layered" decks at the rear of the ship. However, the
Aurora is designed for cruising and so while dramatically less stylish than the QE2 in these areas there would be more chance to be by the pool.

It is interesting, as we chose to go on the new P&O Arcadia (which was originally going to be the Cunard Queen Victoria) for a summer cruise in the Med over choosing other options from Cunard as we felt that (in addition to trying a new ship months after going into service) that the ship itself may be better suited to enjoying the weather as it had more pools and outside facilities.... time will tell as one thing that we were amazed by was the huge amount of outdoor space on the QE2!

7) Passengers
As there were so many
UK people on the QE2 it was not that different in mix of people. The Aurora seemed to have a slightly younger mix of people as it attracts a lot of extended families - and by that I mean grandparents, parents and their kids from teen to young and then usually some friends as well. So there were a lot of "groups" traveling together.


I liked both a lot. I guess I can say I loved the QE2 and really really enjoyed the
Aurora... so therein lay the key difference!

I loved the QE2 for the uniqueness, the "quirkiness" and the whole sense of experiencing the ship and the experience. The crew is outstanding, and made you feel individual and special.

I really enjoyed the
Aurora. It is a well run ship, with great food, great cabins and the same level of formality (as you have lots of formal nights).

I would go on both again!”



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