We travelled from Southampton to Stavanger, Flam, Gerainger and Bergen on 10th August - leaving in stunning sunny weather, and that stayed with us the whole week! In Bergen the Captain even mentioned it was many years since he's seen Bergen in the sunshine - it rains 300 days a year on average!
We had never cruised before, so really didn't know whether we'd like this experience, but we got on board, on my part, very excited! I hadn't been sure whether you had to dress up to embark ... but need not have worried, everyone was very casually dressed, and very smiley! The staff, almost all "mature", were so helpful and enthusiastic (as often "mature" people are ... well done P&O for realising this). The check in was so efficient, from taking our car (definitely worth booking with CPS) to getting on board. Our cabin was inside, and we didn't miss a windown or a balcony at any stage. Of course we've never had one, so don't know the difference! Also it was great that channel 9 on the TV was the mast view, so if you wanted to see what was outside, it was like having a window out! However, when we were awake, we were out and about and not in our cabin.
The Cabin Steward came to introduce himself to us, and looked after our cabin all week ... it was spotless at all times. The "elephant" made from towels on one evening was a nice surprise. The staff work SO hard, but always have a smile and a greeting for everyone they encounter whether in rooms or in corridors. Again, well done P&O (but we hope you are paying them well, as they deserve every penny and work so hard over long hours).
We then started our week exploring the ship - it was vast, but there was still plenty of places you could find peace and quiet. We are not the sort to want to join in daytime activities (although there were plenty on), we enjoyed the deck, reading, sun bathing, chatting to fellow passengers, and when in Port of course, we went ashore (coming back for lunch, then off again!).
Our favourite bar for a before or after dinner tipple, or a quiet read in the daytime was the Planet bar on Deck 19. A lovely place to enjoy the views - stunning sunsets from here. No disco or noise (until 11 p.m.) so it had a lovely atmosphere.
The food was ... well, amazing! We started on second sitting, and met some lovely diners on our table, but 8.30 dining really is too late for us, as we are early birds in the morning, so we were swapped to first sitting after 2 nights. We again met some lovely dining companions who we had a real laugh with and looked forward to seeing each evening. One one evening we went to the Italian restaurant (in the daytime it's a buffet, night time it's waiter service) and that was really lovely. A nice table for 2 by the window, looking at the views going by - a special evening, and all included - no extra for this.
The evening meals were 5 courses, if you wanted them, and fantastic quality - like a 5 star restaurant every evening! Sensible sized, but beautifully presented, food, served again by attentive waiters. We were very impressed that the drinks menu was no more than you'd pay in a pub at home .... they had not piled on the charges on drinks. So that means people are happy to visit the bars and buy a drink, or have drinks at the table, and if you don't finish a bottle, they keep it for the next evening.
We opted most mornings to have buffet breakfast, and had no trouble finding a seat or getting our breakfast. Some people do, however, seem determined to get as much of everything, as often as possible and seemed to do nothing but eat!! We did go to the more formal breakfast on one morning, and it is very nice to be served, but we preferred the flexibility of the buffet.
We also treated ourselves to a formal afternoon Tea in the Peninsular restaurant on one afternoon - couldn't fault it. It was just like you'd expect at a nice hotel. Perhaps a little hurried, as it's between 4 and 4.45 and then they are setting up for dinner, but it was fine.
The ports we visited were gorgeous, and we enjoyed good weather the whole week. We particularly liked Flam and Gerainger. Do the Flam railway! It's a must - BUT don't think you'll be able to queue up for tickets on the day - they are all sold out before the ship pulls in. So this is one for pre booking or find a group on Cruise Advisor who want to make up a 10, and you can book the tickets in advance.
In Gerainger we did the Hop on, Hop off bus, independently, for Â£16 each ... and there were only 4 other people on it! Very easy to buy tickets, either in advance or on the day, and a beautiful trip. Don't pay the P&O prices! Do it yourself and save about Â£30. We also enjoyed walks in all the ports - again don't pay for the P&O one in Stavanger if you just want to walk, as it's right by the ship and you can do it all for free.
In Bergen, if you want to go up the railway, buy a ticket in the tourist information centre, and that skips the very long queue that forms outside. it does move quite quickly, so don't be put off. Again definitely not worth doing with P&O as the people on that tour were in the same queue as me, and had no more time at the top than I did! Just had someone organising them into the queue! The view is spectacular. I also bought a ticket from tourist information for the hop on and off bus, for Â£16, and the commentary was in English, so that was brilliant too.
Entertainment, that we saw, was brilliant and as good as any west end show. Didn't particularly enjoy the comedians, but each to their own! Plenty of bars with different themes and atmospheres, so that there was something for everyone.
Overall, I could not fault anything about P&O ships Azura - it was brilliant and I can't wait to do another cruise. Every member of staff was smiling and efficient. You felt very special all week. We were slightly delayed back into Southampton, but were kept informed all the time, and we didn't mind an extra few hours on board to enjoy the facilities!