We returned from our mini cruise on the Azura a few days ago. It was our first cruise with P&O, having sailed with Royal Caribbean, NCL and Princess previously, we couldn't help but compare.
Embarkation -- We arrived at the Ocean Terminal just before noon, picked up our letter card and waited about an hour before we were called to check in. Actual check in took about 5 minutes and back in the queue we went for the scanners.
Food -- Knowing the cabins would not be ready so early we headed to the buffet restaurant. Having been on the Crown Princess before we knew the layout of the ship well and the buffet looks exactly the same with the same decor. However, what was different was that each section of the buffet serving area was split in half with the food repeat on either side. This made the already limited selection even smaller. The actual food was fine, very nice lamb curry. But the service in the buffet has to be the worst I have experienced so far. As soon as we sat down we were asked what we would like to drink. I asked for a glass of water and was told to get it myself because they only take paid orders! This has never happened before on other ships! And the speed at which they whisk the trays and plates away before you have even finished is just too efficient! Similarly the service in the Peninsular dining room was the worst we have encountered. The waiters never introduced themselves or the menus, not even on the first evening. Instead they hand you the menu and hover behind you until you place your order, you don't have time to read the menu properly as you feel pressured to order quickly. The quality of the food was also not great. Much of it was overcooked and not presented well. On the last evening we were presented with "all the menus", this did not include the menu for that evening. We were told we couldn't have it because they had to use them for 2nd sitting guests. Such environmentally friendliness should be applauded, I guess... On the pool deck we tried the pizza and that was fine. But the ice cream section remained closed every time we passed it.
Room -- We had an aft balcony on E deck and it is a fine cabin. Although it is directly above the Manhattan lounge, there was never any noise. We had a very big balcony, about twice normal size. We had expected an obstructed view as we had read about there being a pillar in the aft balconies, but there was none. Our cabin steward was ok, kept our room clean and tidy. On debarkation morning we went up to the buffet to have breakfast and on returning to our cabin found that the bed had already been made. Again, a bit too efficient! We had to be careful not to mess up the bed while we packed the remainder of our belongings!
Enetertainment -- This has to be the first cruise where I have no idea who the cruise director was. We saw him briefly at the beginning of a show one evening and that was it. The shows are not up to standard with other cruise lines. There are too many tribute acts and the comedian on the last night was absolutely awful. Making fun of the Indian staff onboard was particularly bad.
Ports of call -- We visited Zeebrugge and St Peter Port and we did both ports on our own. Return train fare to Brugge for Eur3.80 and Â£1 round island bus fare on Guernsey were both incredible value for money!
Debarkation -- Since our bed was already made, it sure helped to get us out of our cabin quickly! We were off the ship before 8. Having our key cards taken away at the end of a cruise was also a first.
Summary -- This was a 3 night mini cruise, so maybe it is not a good representation of a normal length cruise on a P&O ship. However, we have experienced better on all the 8 ships we have cruised on so far and therefore it is most unlikely we would book another cruise with P&O.