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The BBC's Robert Hall
"P & O face a multi-million pound compensation bill"
 real 28k

Gwyn Hughes, P&O MD
"The captain had a standing ovation at a cocktail party last night"
 real 28k

Aurora passenger
"We're all devastated but the crew were wonderful"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 05:29 GMT 06:29 UK
Super-liner limps back to port
The Aurora suffered mechanical problems off the French coast
A 200m P&O cruise liner is back at berth in Southampton after breaking down just 18 hours into her maiden voyage.

The Aurora left Southampton on Monday just days after being formally named by the Princess Royal in a glittering ceremony.

Gwyn Hughes, managing director of P&O Cruises, told a news conference at the Mayflower Cruise terminal in Southampton: "We're gutted. We're obviously disappointed, but not as disappointed as the passengers who were on board."

Captain Steve Burgoine, master of the Aurora, added: "Embarrassing is the wrong word, but it is very disappointing."

It appears that a propeller shaft bearing overheated, making it impossible for the 76,000-tonne ship to continue her two-week cruise of Mediterranean resorts.

Princess Royal and Commodore Timothy Laurence tour the Aurora at last week's naming ceremony
The Royal couple were given a grand tour of the Aurora
Mr Hughes said: "We are extremely sorry to bring this news and we are aware that this a great disappointment to our passengers.

"The situation is totally unforeseen as all the necessary rigorous checks and tests were completed satisfactorily before Aurora entered service.

"Passengers will be given a full refund and a compensation package."

Renee Tustin, 69, from north London, had spent 10,000 on the trip to celebrate her golden wedding anniversary with husband, Jim, 74.

She said: "The announcement was so sombre that we both thought that something was seriously wrong. It was like they were telling us of World War III or that the Queen Mother had died. We were quite relieved when we found out what it actually was.

"We just feel very sorry for the staff and the passengers but it is just one of those things."

The 1,800 passengers had paid prices ranging from 2,295 per head for a basic cabin and 7,825 per head for a penthouse suite.

P&O is set to pay out around 6m in refunds even before working out a compensation package.

The company said it expected the Aurora to be back in service for its second cruise - a 12-night trip to the Canary Islands starting on 15 May.

Lap of luxury

The 886ft vessel was built in the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany and was first seen off British shores last month during the Tall Ships race.

The 10-deck Aurora, named after the Greek Goddess of the dawn, was designed for the British cruise market.

She boasts 934 cabins - 400 of them with balconies - and penthouse suites with butler service, and sails under the Red Ensign.

There are five lounges, 12 bars, five restaurants, a West End-style theatre, a concert hall and cinema, shops and dedicated club rooms for children and teenagers.

The ship also has three swimming pools, a health and beauty centre, a gym and sauna.

The Aurora was formally named by the Princess Royal in a spectacular quayside ceremony last week.

Unfortunately, champagne released by the Princess to break on the ship did not shatter - traditionally considered a bad omen by seafarers.

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08 Nov 99 | The Company File
Cunard plans world's largest liner - the QM2
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