We flew from Manchester on 13 December to join Azura. We were in Premier seating and the cabin was only one third full. Excellent flight out and met at the plane by the coaches to whisk us off to the ship. No immigration, no cases to collect.
On the ship within 1 hour of landing and straight to our mid ships balcony cabin. When we booked this cruise 20 months ago we had opted for an outside obstructed view cabin but PO looked after us as loyal and regular passengers and upgraded us to this balcony cabin.
We ate in the Meridian restaurant on Freedom Dining which suites us. Same menu as both Peninsular and Oriental restaurants but we could eat when we wanted to rather than being dictated by times. The food was very good and the choices vast. This is not fine dining but better than pub grub. We also chose to eat in the select dining restaurants and also Verona the Italian Trattoria. I do not eat meat so registered as a fish eating vegetarian. The special diet waiter brought me the main menu and the vegetarian menu for the following evening round each night. He took my choices and these were specially prepared.
The entertainment was very mixed. Having seen most of the Headliners shows we gave all but one of them a miss. We did not enjoy the star entertainment of the cruise P. P. Arnold but many did so it just shows that you cannot cater for everyone. On Azura there is a great choice of entertainment available each night. The crew panto was excellent entertainment.
The ports were all very good even though we had visited them before on cruises. They were all old favourites and we would choose to cruise to them again.
The crew on board were all excellent and couldn't do enough for us. The passenger base was very mixed with both young, middle aged and elderly on board. There were approx 200 children of various ages and they made the cruise special at Christmas with their nativity play. The children we met were all well behaved and a credit to their parents.
My only criticism of this cruise was the pre cruise experience from the Southampton shore based staff. We booked our flight seats as soon as they were available as we wanted 2 seats together at the rear of the Thomas Cook aircraft.
3 days before we travelled we were informed by e mail that these seats did not exist and we were seated on a row of three. We refused these seats and eventually had to change planes and pay £500 extra for premium seating to ensure we were sat together on a row of 2 seats. Even then this info had not reached either the airport checking in system or the on board flight officer. Luckily we had it in writing that we had booked these seats and these were honoured but only after having to go out of our way to ensure this result.
If only the Southampton based staff were trained as well as the ship based crew then our cruise experience would have been excellent.