INTRODUCTION - I had built my Mother and Son's expectations up so high telling them what a wonderful time they would have cruising only for their first cruise to fall flat on it's face.
PRE-CRUISE CUSTOMER SERVICE - Booking our tickets was easy and straight forward. I saw on p&o's website there was a theme night, it might be Hawaiian or 60's/70's. I love dressing up and our details did not inform us which it would be. I phoned customer services gave cruise details and she said she would find out. I was told not to worry as it was only a 7 day cruise they did not have theme nights. I left my costume at home. Guess what? that's right we had a 60's/70's theme night on board.
EMBARKATION - I was pleased to find this was stress free and very quick. We were given a card with a letter on and different groups were called staggering the amount of people at the check in desk.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS - Upon entering the main foyer I was expecting to see something grand only to find it reminded me of an airport lounge with a dance floor in the middle. Not even a ballroom on board.
SERVICE DESK - Staff were friendly enough but didn't do their job. My son's safe in his cabin was not working as the prongs that shut it were locked out and could not be closed. On the evening of embarkation this was reported. We were told someone would be along to fix it. On the day of dis-embarkation we were still waiting!!
CABIN - was an inside one as I like to have it pitch black at night. Presentation was reasonable but nothing special. I had to laugh as there was a flower in a vase with no water!. General upkeep in the toilet shower was good over the week, however I did run my finger along the mirror at the back of the bed to find it thick with dust! We had 2 bottles of water upon our arrival and that was it. Tea and coffee making box was not refilled and all the biscuits were broken. My son had blood on his sheets and my mum had goodness knows what on her pillow, mustard colour patches!! (I dread to think)
CABIN STEWARD - Did not see her much, she was polite enough but not overly friendly. She never knocked on the cabin door just came straight in which annoyed me.
LIFEJACKET DRILL - what a farce that was. This is supposed to be taken seriously for your own good, but I don't think people listened to what was being said. Having said that the ushers showing the way to your muster station were pretty useless. Instead of making sure everyone was keeping to the left going down the stair everyone just meandered down ( and before they were actually supposed to) I thought you kept the right side clear for emergency services to be able get through?!! The actual drill, well the staff member told us quite clearly to watch the other staff members first and to then join in the second time. I could not believe it, about 90% just did their own thing - safety at sea, I hope it never has to be used on Azura.
SAIL AWAY - The very first sail away I found patronising and childish as it was the entertainment team dancing on a small platform on the pool deck. It was like ' 1 2 3 sing along with me' The great British sail away I did enjoy but it was crowded.
THEARTE ENTERTAINMENT - Saw the opening show which was ok. Mick Miller. a throw back from the comedians was good and was entertaining. Refreshing to see something funny. Reel to reel was good also, singing and dancing to movie songs through the decades. My disappointment here was that the music was pre-recorded and not a live band.
BAR ENTERTAINMENT - I saw about 5 mins of a George Michael tribute which was more than enough, same can be said for a singer called Portia. I wanted to see a Freddie Mercury tribute (who I am told was good) didn't find out for myself as the bar was so packed I couldn't get anywhere near.
BARS - were heaving at night and you counted yourself lucky if you got a seat! The service was very slow. My son to amuse himself started his stop watch just to see how long we waited. 20 mins was the longest it took (could have died of thirst) and then we had to wait extra for the waiter to bring our cabin charge card back. I was given the wrong drink but couldn't be bothered to wait another 20 mins for him to change it.
GENERAL STAFF - I have to say I found most of them to be quite rude and they expected you to get out of their way (there were 1 or 2 who were ok.) Most of them walked around with faces that looked like they had just been smacked, not a flicker of a smile or a "good morning". On the pool deck there was one man clearing plates and he so obviously loved his job!!!! as each time he opened the metal rubbish bin he just let it slam every time and it got on your nerves after a while. The interesting thing was, when a senior officer came past he opened and shut the bin very carefully - spoke volumes to me.
HYGIENE AND CLEANLINESS - There was a distinct lack of this through out the ship. I never once saw any general cleaning taking place. Vacuuming seemed to take place around 3 am. There were some disgusting toilets that looked like they had never seen toilet cleaner. One of the worst areas was the lido deck restaurants - the windows were smeared with handprints as was the glass partitioning. The base of the table was greasy and again thick with dust. Upon entering the lido deck there was no hand sanitiser only on the gate area that leads to the food, so you could walk in and make a drink with dirty hands. My son who had a late supper around 10.00 pm, later took his laptop up to the lido deck around 2 am (as he couldn't sleep) found his dirty plates and cup still on the table as he had left them.. There were dirty serviettes, bottles, cans and waste on the pool decks that was just left. There were spilled drinks, again just left. One of them had been a glass of milk which of course would have been slippery and given there were blind people aboard I could see a safety issue here. When reported I was told it would cleared up. I made a point of going back to look a couple of hours later only to find it was still there. The outside windows were drizzled with water by an automated machine (not even a proper cleaner) on the last evening. The carpets throughout the ship were very badly stained and for a ship that is only 4 years old I can only guess what the condition would be like on their older ships. By far the best has to what my mum thought was a dirty serviette and when we looked it was a pair of ladies dirty soiled knickers just left on the walkway.
MAIN DINING - we were on the first sitting in the oriental restaurant. Our waiter and head waiter were absolutely wonderful, I can only sing my praises to them which I think had to be about the only positive thing on board this ship. We being vegetarians found there was not a lot of options although they did have a vegetarian menu. One Evening I chose melon for my starter my husband had egg mayonnaise - fine you may say. The thing was that is what was on the menu the next night too!! The waiters kept saying "anything you want just ask" so I asked if it would be possible in 2 nights time if they could make a curry. The head waiter said he would ask and confirm the next evening. I was ill so didn't see him that day. The day I had requested the curry for I tried to contact him. I was sent to another restaurant to find him - no luck I was told to talk to the head waitress. She keyed my request into the computer and wrote it down. Surprise, surprise he never got the message. One evening 3 of us ordered a starter that was cold and congealed, none of us ate it. Well you would have thought we had committed a crime. They prodded, poked and analysed it, and insisted we have something else. I told them that was fine please don't worry. They kept on so much in the end I had to leave.
LIDO DINING - The food here was beyond awful and I am being polite when I use the word awful. EVERY day the food was just about the same as the day before. You always got fruit salad, profiterols, chocolate cake & cheesecake. The choices were few and far between and what there was I swear came from packets and tins. Mum and I ended up each day playing a game of guess today's filling in the profiterole. Again for vegetarians there was 1 option. I ended up living off chips, potatoes, bread and occaisionally veg!! I had said there would be wonderful cakes, pastries's, pizza's, waffles, pancakes - you name it you would get it on a cruise. I think my mum and son thought I had made it all up as we saw none of that. You could only have fruit juices at breakfast!!! or it was water for the rest of the day. VERY often there was no milk or cups. Finding a table I have to say was a real pain. One day, it was half way through our week from hell I had just about given up the will to live and there was not a seat to be had I just had enough and plonked myself down in the middle of the floor - nobody said a word. On the last night one of the serving staff picked an argument with my son as he had shorts on, they were long ones. He was told he couldn't come in, silly really as there was a woman wearing what could only be described as a pelmet showing far more leg. The food on the whole was penny pinching and horrible.
FELLOW PASSENGERS - What can I say here, very loud, rude and inconsiderate to other travellers. Shouting in the corridors at all times of the day, Having to get in the lift FIRST. Mostly aloof people but we did meet a few nice people.
LIFTS - I think anyone who was on this cruise would agree with me that this was a big bug bear. One lift was out of service for the entire voyage. There were a large number of elderly and disabled who obviously had to use the lift. Given the lifts are not very big, put one wheelchair in and the lift is full. My mum who is elderly and doesn't do stairs had to use the lift. On one occasion we waited 25 mins to get one. Again we played another game while waiting "shall we catch the 10.20 or the 10.40?"
SHIP - very badly designed layout. I love having a stroll around the promenard deck but you can't walk right the way around on this boat and on the starboard side smoking is permitted, although people were smoking portside also. Their are cabins on entertainment decks. If you want to walk around the top you have to walk up hill and down dale ,not very eldery/disabled friendly. The one thing was whatever time you went down on the pool deck there was loud music all the time. I love loud music but when you can't hear the person next to you!! There are hundreds of sun beds with little room to walk or climb between. Over all Azura is by no means a pretty ship or a practical one.
CHILDRENS ACTIVITIES - N/A
DAYTIME ACTIVITIES - few and far between, If you like line dancing, juggling or quizzes you will be fine.
SHORE EXCURTIONS - we only did one to the Normandy beaches. Our tour guide was very informative, thoughtful and considerate and had lots to tell us. A very moving experience indeed. I felt a little more time spent at the beach is needed rather than just 30 mins.
CAPTAIN AND SENIOR OFFICERS - We never once saw the captain or any of his senior officers once. I began to think the ship was running by remote control and all the messages pre- recorded. There was not an audience with or book signing with the captain.
SUMMARY - if you like brash and noisy, don't mind the filth, waiting for just about everything, then this is for you - BUTLINS AT SEA! I would rate this as a 0 but alas 1 is the lowest so 1 it has to be.
FUTURE CRUISES - certainly not with p&o, this was my first and last with them. My mum and son have been put off cruising full stop. for me I will only go with CUNARD in the future. I can not fault them in any way - perfection at it's best.
WORD OF ADVICE TO P&O - give up cruise ships and stick to freight and ferries.