Having just returned from a two week Caribbean vacation on the P&0 Azura, all I can safely say is if this Ship was marketed to the Americans there would be an outcry with the sub standard food and the lack of good customer service, poor entertainment and some serious issues with very rude staff, but rest assured it is sold to the British market, and from our experience, many of the passengers are so dedicated to this Cruise line they think its amazing, if you have no taste buds, favour Benidorm entertainment and have no idea about customer service look no further P&0are here!!!
Having said all that, this is my basic first time observation of this cruise line, having cruised with Cunard, Royal Caribbean Thomson and my favourite Holland America I feel I have enough experience to pass comment and say it how I found it to be.
We flew out of Birmingham direct to Barbados with Thomson, we could not fault any of this, our cases left us in Birmingham and the next time we saw them they were in our cabin, the transfer and embarkation was easy and very pleasant.
We booked a Balcony cabin, we were on deck eleven forward ship near the bridge, we were more than happy with the cabin it was modern fresh and exceptionally clean and was maintained perfectly throughout our cruise.
Room service was also included with no extra charge and was also very good.
We booked second seating Dinning and were in the Pinnacle Restaurant, we were allocated a table for six and as the saying goes like you cant chose your family you cant chose your dinning companions and our table became a chore, but it did have its moments, especially as our table had the dedicated P&O cruisers on it who constantly commented how wonderful this third rate food was, and a memory that stays with me is the famous baked Alaska night which is always my favourite night on a ship, I watched as the baked Alaska on the Azura had morphed its self into a farm foods arctic roll and whist still semi frozen was relished by my fellow cruisers!!
Serious foodies with taste buds beware green beans potatoes and peas are a side to every meal, I had to be very alert one night to stop the waiter from adding this to my curry dish!!!
They really must think that the British eat any thing and guess what they do!
The waiters in this Restaurant were polite attentive and we received excellent service throughout, when we transferred to a table for two in the Oriental Restaurant which we thought was much more pleasant the staff there were excellent.
Lunch could be taken in the Pinnacle Restaurant and we found this to be a far better standard of food than that we were given at Dinner.
We found some of the staff in the Buffet Restaurants to be surely and rude, and I actually got reprimanded by one of the staff for putting my tray on a ledge, which I objected to and which would never of happened on any other cruise ship that I have travelled on.
We also found the bar staff inventing a price for a large cocktail, which did not exist on the menu, this issue was dealt with by an officer when he realised what was accruing, not serious but it should not happen.
The entertainment was very mediocre, and when the "lookalike's" Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers appeared, I think some people had forgotten that it really was not the real people as one woman ran to old "Kenny" ran on stage ran her hands all over him and gave him a big kiss, all before the show was over!
To sum my experience up would I return to this ship?
For the price we paid a definite yes, It was the bargain of all bargain price cruises, although the loyalty from P&0 towards its "loyal regular cruisers" was negligible, especially as most of them had paid more than double the amount that we had paid even with there loyalty discount and most of them were on an inside cabin!
The ship itself is fantastic its three years old and is huge with large open decks, an opulent Atrium and well furnished it is all you would expect from a ship of this side.
The famous "sail away" party night where everyone is given Union Jack flags and everyone gets patriotic singing "there will always be an England" and "Jerusalem" is epic I think you have to be there to appreciate it.
It a very British oriented ship which unfortunately skimps on quality, it could be so much better, if you manage to get a bargain book it the ship is lovely and there itinerary is superb