We flew from Manchester Airport on a Thomson flight which had been chartered by P&O. The aircraft as actually a First Choice aircraft and although comfortable with plenty of leg room, we had awful seats which were right next to the toilets. To eat a meal when constantly getting a view of the toilet about two feet away is not pleasant! However, everything else went well. The flight was on time and the food was OK (considering I hate airline food!).
We arrived in Barbados at 2.15 pm, and as this was a charter flight we didn't have to go through immigration or reclaim our luggage. We came off the aircraft straight onto a waiting bus and were driven direct to the port. Check-in formalities were quickly and efficiently dealt with and we were on board Azura by 3.00 pm. Our cabin was ready and we were able to go straight there to freshen up and leave our hand luggage. We were told that our hold baggage would be up to 4 hours arriving, but ours came after only about an hour.
The cabin as as I expected because I've cruised on Grand Princess and Golden Princess before which are the same type of ship as Azura. I was sailing with a friend and we had requested twin beds. The bed had actually been made up as a double, but the cabin steward was nearby and immediately remade it as twins. There was a dressing table with a cupboard to one side. The cupboard had two shelves and the hairdryer was inside. The hairdryer was adequate for me as I have short hair, but it wasn't very powerful. There was also a cupboard with a fridge inside. On the top of that cupboard was a tray with tea/coffee making facilities and the flat screen TV was on a shelf above that. Plenty of tea, coffee, milk and biscuits was always provided. There was also a dish containing sweets and a small vase with a fresh freesia in it. Each bed had a bedside cabinet with two drawers and a table lamp on top.
The wardrobe area was quite roomy with adequate hangers although they were the annoying type that can't be hooked off the rail! There was also a tall cupboard with shelves and also containing the safe.
The bathroom was quite small with a shower cubicle, toilet and washhand basin which was set into a top where the toiletries were standing. They were "White House" and we had shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. In the shower cubicle there was shower gel in a container fixed to the wall. We always had plenty of very hot water and the towels were replaced twice a day. Although I had taken toiletries of my own I used the ones there and found them to be very nice. There was plenty of storage space.
As we were on C deck we had an extra large balcony. It contained two reclining chairs, two foot stools and a small table.
Our cabin was fairly near to the front of the ship and we discovered that we had been allocated a table in the Oriental Restaurant which is right at the aft. This did mean a long walk each evening to dinner so we had to allow extra time for getting there. At breakfast and lunch we chose to eat in the Peninsular Restaurant which wasn't so far away. The food was always excellent and the service first class. We had requested traditional dining at 6.30 pm, but the first night everyone was just allocated a table as they arrived in the dining room. We were advised to dine early as we had to attend the muster drill at 8.30 pm. On the following evenings we were at the same table every time. We had very pleasant dining companions and really enjoyed every dinner with them.
The friend who travelled with me was somewhat disappointed in the atrium on this ship as it is only three floors high and doesn't reach right up to the top of the ship. Because of the design of Azura there are cabins on the decks above. I expected this, having been on similar ships before. The shops are ranged around the atrium. There is also a coffee bar, the library, the excursions desk, the future cruise desk and the reception area. I did feel that the shops were not as good as those on some of the other ships I've been on.
With regard to the entertainment, I found it to be mixed. I liked Jessica Lloyd (singer) and the Chapman Brothers (song and dance). The Headliners were good too. Some of the other entertainment was poor.
Although Azura is a large ship, I never felt that it was big and crowded. On sea days the pool areas were busy, but there were other places where you could get a sunbed. We tended to use our own balcony. We never needed to tender, so there was never any delay getting off or onto the ship.
There was no norovirus on board - or at least I never saw any sign of extra precautions on heard any rumours of people being ill. The Commodore did stress at the muster drill that people needed to be scrupulous about their personal hygiene and asked that they avoid the public bathrooms whenever possible and use their own cabin bathrooms if they could. People did seem to be aware of the need for hand washing, using the gel etc.
With regard to dress on board, everyone had made a tremendous effort to dress up. We had four formal nights and at each one the great majority of the men were in dinner jackets and the ladies in long dresses or cocktail dresses. There were some very small children on board and even they were formally dressed! Gentlemen also complied with the "jacket required" nights and in fact some people were turned away from bars if they were not wearing a jacket. Even on the "casual" nights people were very well dressed.
We didn't really get involved in any onboard activities. I was personally disappointed that there was no passenger choir. They had one on the cruise immediately before ours, but had decided not to have another one until April! I did attend one talk in the art gallery and enjoyed it very much. There was plenty to do however - no one need ever be bored!
I had pre-purchased an internet package and made use of the computers in the library. I was surprised that the connection was fairly speedy - at least compared to what I've experienced on other ships. Can't compare to your broadband at home though! The young lady in charge of the computers was most helpful and friendly. A hand gel was placed on each desk so that you could clean your hands before and after using the keyboard - a good move I think.
For those people who like dancing, this took place every evening in the atrium. It was very popular and it was a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the live music.
We purchased several shore excursions and I feel that they were reasonably priced. We did do one private taxi excursion and I certainly felt that the P&O excursions were far superior.
I thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and think that P&O do a good job. They match up very well to my experiences with Princess, and although there are some little extra touches on Holland America that are missing on P&O, it certainly didn't impact on my enjoyment. I preferred this cruise to the one that I took with Royal Caribbean.