Azura Cruise Review by Tough Guy: First cruise with P&O
First cruise with P&O
This was our first experience of P&O having previously cruised with Disney (4 cruises), Cunard (2 cruises) and Royal Caribbean (1 cruise) so I am likely to use these as a comparison.
The cruise was a 2 night taster cruise to Zeebrugge and we had a booked a suite.
Embarkation - Parking with CPS was fine and our baggage was taken from us outside the terminal. As we had priority boarding we were guided to the check in line which was surprisingly long considering it was only 11:30. This took almost 30 minutes so not very impressive for priority (we had friends travelling and regular check-in took less time than that, which they found amusing!). Most of the check-in desks were already manned but they were idle which seemed odd when they could have cleared the line quickly. We went straight from check in the queue to board to were on the ship around 12:10pm. After being directed to the buffet on deck 15 we had a discussion with the P&O crew member and were directed More to Sindhu as the priority lounge. At around 1pm I asked what time our cabin might be ready and as they answered 2pm I decided to go and make my wife's spa reservations and speciality dining bookings. Even at 1pm she was unable to get the spa appointments that she wanted but we did get the restaurants booked. If I waited for our butler I doubt we would have managed to get any bookings later in the day.
We met up with our friends at around 1.30pm as we still hadn't seen the butler or been told that they cabin was ready. We had some wine flights in the Glass House and went to find our suite around 2.30pm.
Suite/Cabin - We have previously stayed in a Queens Grill suite on the QM2 and although very similar we preferred this one on Azura. The only disappointments were lots of little things that I would have expected from staying in a suite. Sorry if they seem a bit petty but as we have 3 children we can only get away on short trips alone now and again, so pay the extra to have the extra benefits. With other lines the champagne would have been waiting on ice in the cabin, ours was in the fridge and we never got any ice until I asked later in the evening. All other lines we have been on have had the ice kept topped up right through (maybe this is a P&O thing). When we eventually met our butler he was reluctant to bring extra canapes that evening as we were having friends over for drinks. Then later again (when he delivered a fruit bowl) he tried to talk us out of having tea/coffee/danish the next morning as he said that we had breakfast in Seventeen so wouldn't need it. Maybe we are odd wanting tea and coffee in our cabin before going up before breakfast. We only saw the butler the next morning when he brought tea and that was it. He never asked if we needed anything booked etc. Although the suite was nice we were maybe left with a feeling that we didn't really get any benefit from the extras that supposedly accompanied it. I am sure on a longer voyage that the service may have been better but as this was a taster you could argue that they should be trying harder to impress to try to solicit future business.
Food - On the first evening we ate at Sindhu and the food/service was excellent. My only comment was that I asked for 2 desserts from the menu as I couldn't decide. This for me has always been a highlight of cruising with other lines that you could sample other dishes and it has never been a problem. It was an awkward moment when the waiter went into shock and wasn't sure he could do that. He did then agree but I did feel that I might have committed a terrible faux pas. Again this might be a P&O thing. The 2 desserts were excellent BTW!
The next morning we ate at Seventeen and knowing that we would be eating dinner there later in the day were a little worried about the service and attitude we encountered. The service was slow and we didn't get offered tea/coffee until around 15/20 mins into breakfast by which time we were on fruit and toast (before cooked items arrived). After that we had a top about every 60 seconds!
For lunch we decided to try the Glass House and thought the small plates were very good. At the time that we went it was very quiet and was a very enjoyable place to sit and relax.
As I mentioned earlier we had booked Seventeen for dinner and need not have worried that the breakfast service would carry over to dinner. We had pre-dinner drinks at the Planet bar and wandered down around 8.30pm. Although the food and service was very good I would say I preferred the food at Sindhu a little better. We had another awkward moment upon leaving the restaurant when my wife took her half full glass of red wine with her as we had decided to go back to the Planet bar. We got to just outside the restaurant and the waitress ran after us and said she couldn't take the wine with her! This was a little embarrassing, then we were half way up the stairs and she ran back and gave it back to her. Very odd as on other lines it is fine to wander from bar to bar with drinks or back to your cabin. Again this may be a P&O thing.
Entertainment - we did visit most of the venues for a drink and see what it had to offer but didn't really sample any of the set entertainment. As it was a 2 night cruise is was a bit of a party feel and I guess the entertainment was there to match.
Overall we had a great time due to the good food and the company of friends but you may think from some of my comments that we didn't. It may that some of the issues are not P&O policy as such but maybe down to staff inexperience. On balance I think we would travel with P&O again but maybe not in a suite on a shorter cruise as the benefits were almost non existent. Less
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