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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 12:47 GMT
Aurora passengers won over by P&O
Malcolm Prior
BBC News, Southampton

John Brunskill
John Brunskill: "Pity it does not have a decent engine"
It has been derided as a huge public relations disaster, which has left cruise firm bosses facing a multi-million pound bill to put right.

Commentators have seen the drawn-out cancellation of the 200m Aurora's world cruise as crippling for P&O Cruises' expensive brand reputation.

But the firm seemed to be raking in the goodwill from passengers finally disembarking in Southampton on Friday.

Many had nothing but praise for the way the problems had been dealt with.

Passengers return after 11 days stuck on board the troubled P&O liner, Aurora

Leaving the Mayflower Terminal at the city's Dock Gate 10, they walked straight into the arms of a media throng, expecting tales of anger and frustration.

Instead, the press met a stream of committed - if disappointed - P&O enthusiasts, who had been won over by 11 days of free food, drink and entertainment.

Many vowed they would happily return to the Aurora when it sails again.

Joan Hunter, from Maidstone in Kent, has travelled with P&O since 1978 and fully expects to be on the Aurora again in October.

She said: "It's like a home from home there. And we are like home for the staff and crew.

"They come running up to you and kiss you when they see you.

"They are on there for nine months and they look forward to seeing us."

Joan Hunter
Joan Hunter is happy with the compensation offered
She added that passengers pulled together when faced with the limited time at sea they had.

She said: "When we went out for the tests, at least we were at sea and we all started singing 'We are sailing'.

"Obviously people are disappointed because we were on it to get away from the bad weather.

"This is the first time this has happened. Whatever happens on these P&O ships they compensate you very well."

It was a first-class hotel. It was just the view that was the problem
Alan Cooper
As ordeals at sea go, the 1,367 passengers that decided to stay on board throughout the tests on the failed propulsion system certainly had it easy.

All food and drink was provided free and entertainers like Jimmy Tarbuck, Paul Daniels and Elaine Paige were brought on board while it waited in Southampton and the Solent.

But that was not enough for a small number.

George Pollock said: "Sure they fed people and gave them free drink but free drink does not buy me.

"I have got a group of people together and we will be talking to a lawyer about a class action suit."

The passengers - some of whom had paid up to 41,985 for the 103-night trip to 23 countries - have been offered their money back and a discount on future trips.

'No decent engine'

Put together with their life of luxury on board, the package has met with the approval of most.

Alan Cooper, 65, from Mount Sorrel in Leicestershire, who was on board to celebrate his 43rd wedding anniversary, with wife Joy, said: "It was a first-class hotel. It was just the view that was the problem."

John Brunskill, 54, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, who was taking a holiday to mark his retirement, said: "It's a lovely ship - pity it does not have a decent engine."

Lynda Tracy, 54, from Melbourne, Australia, added: "P&O did everything they could. We had fun and met some lovely people."

P&O Cruises managing director David Dingle said that passengers on board had been "incredibly loyal".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear about the problems with Aurora



SEE ALSO:
Liner returns after cruise axed
21 Jan 05 |  Hampshire
Passenger speaks of Aurora fiasco
20 Jan 05 |  Hampshire
Charity gets liner's wasted food
20 Jan 05 |  Hampshire
Was Aurora doomed from the start?
20 Jan 05 |  Hampshire
Troubled Aurora begins its cruise
20 Jan 05 |  Hampshire
Troubled liner waiting to leave
19 Jan 05 |  Hampshire


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