Travel To Port of Embarkation & parking:
Always traffic on M3 into Southampton but set off a bit earlier. Arrived at port about 12:00. CPS Parking are pricey but very professional and would use again. The ease of embarkation was superb and better than both Royal Caribbean (RC) and Celebrity. Everything was smooth and well organised by P&O.
The first impressions of the ship are good. It still feels new with a large focus on relaxation rather than lots of activities. There are lots of private areas to curl up with a drink and/or a book.
The Fjords are simply stunning. Bergen was ok but Andalnes and Olden will take your breath away. Recommend you go there before the larger ships are stopped from travelling there. P&O put on courtesy buses at some of the ports which was a bonus. However, we tended to stay on the ship apart from odd trips out at the ports.
Azura has the usual facilities and activities including a nicely kitted gym and various quizzes and talks during the day. These are much more low-key than RC and Celebrity but this suited us and made for a relaxing holiday. Worth noting that the only heated pool is within a paid for area of the spa (The Retreat - cost of approx Â£12 per day on port days). Seascreen is a fantastic treat so dress up warm and head out in the evening to experience it - you have to experience watching a film under the setting sun cuddled up under a blanket with the sound of the sea in the background. Brilliant!
Service on the whole was excellent. The cabin steward (Simon) was excellent and although we hardly saw him, our room was immaculately maintained and every request tended to. The dining room staff (particularly the head waiter Kalpesh) are also friendly and very professional. These guys work so flaming hard to keep us happy! If you have a birthday then be sure to order a cake and enjoy the waiter's sing-song! One of the group did have a bad experience from a stylist in the spa but upon complaint to the spa manager a full refund was provided.
Balcony stateroom was lovely and an essential for the Fjords. We were at the end of a corridor (at front) which meant less foot traffic past the door which was nice. Deck 11 was perfect as the balcony was covered and others below were more exposed to the elements. Shower is small but what do people expect?
The food is excellent in the dining rooms but a bit more conservative than RC and Celebrity. I suspect this is to suit the British palette and suited our group's less adventurous tastebuds (including one vegetarian). Sindhu deserves a special mention as the meal and experience were well worth the extra cost per head. The buffet restaurants (Verona & Venezia) are huge but a little disappointing. The food was average with limited choice - as each area simply duplicated others. The poolside grill is lovely with pizza, burgers, chips all available and tasty (for no charge). The ship has a Costa Coffee which was lovely but coffees being chargeable.
Entertainment (including shows) was ok but we didn't rate the main performers that highly (Headliners). Celebrity and RC both exceed P&O here by quite a way.
Disembarkation. The Freddie Mercury tribute was good though.
P&O Azura is absolutely up there with some other ships we've sailed on. The ship seems tailored for British passengers and a very relaxing experience. Staff and unobtrusive but helpful when needed.
P&O are a cheaper alternative to RC and Celebrity and would absolutely recommend this trip! Be sure to book a balcony and be as high up as you can.