On Monday, February 25, 2002, the 76,000 ton P&O Aurora sailed into Bali bringing with her some 1,800 passengers and a crew of over 900. Because of the island's limited facilities for visiting cruise ships, a visit by a vessel of this size offers a whole range of logistical challenge even at the best of times - as passengers arrive in a single morning, tour the island and sail away the same afternoon.
This most recent visit was even more concerning as it was scheduled for Bali's Padang Bai Port on the same day as a visit by the only slightly smaller Queen Elizabeth II. Padang Bai's minimum infrastructure for visiting cruise ships and free-for-all atmosphere ashore make, the visit of one ship a challenge and of two large ships at the same time an almost sure-fire recipe for pandemonium.
Working together with P&O's shipping executives in Southampton, Bali Discovery Tours, the ship's land arrangement and shore agent in Bali, quickly developed a number of pioneering approaches to the coming visit, resulting in a memorable day in Bali for the ship's passengers and crew.
Too large to enter Bali's small but centrally located port of Benoa, the P & O Aurora anchored just outside the port's entrance, in close view of Bali's Nusa Dua group of leading Hotels. The services of the luxury 350-passenger day vessel Bounty were secured for the day, providing comfortable continuous shuttles of 20 minutes duration to a terminal inside the harbor.
From there Benoa's convenient location allowed passengers a wide range of tour options, otherwise impossible from the traditional anchorage at Padang Bai, further up the island's eastern coast. Lawn Bowl tournaments, visits to local hotels and shopping centers, golfing expeditions, cooking schools, helicopter tours of the island, and tours to both the eastern and western seaboards of Bali - all fit nicely into a single day's visit of Bali from a Benoa Base.
How do you end a perfect day's visit to Bali? The P & O Aurora invited a nearly 50-strong gamelan orchestra and leading Balinese dance group from the nearby village of Batuan to perform an entire recital to a full house of appreciative cruisers in the ship's state of the art theatre afloat.
Two jewels in an azure sea: P & O's Aurora and the island of Bali.
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