EMBARKATION Half an hour delay due to "security issues" but plenty of seats and no real problems.
CABIN Booked very late so we had an inside of their choice. This turned out to be a family room with tip up bunks on the walls each side! We felt the room was slightly smaller than we had on previous ships and the bunks did not help but overall the decor and standards where very good. However, how a family of 4 would cope in this cabin I have no idea. For the price I paid I was just happy to be on the cruise. We did have a toilet blockage late on one evening and no one came to fix it until the morning. My wife had to use the public facilities during the night and on her way back was stuck in the lift for 5 minutes when the doors refused to open!!
DINING Used the any-time option. For the first two nights we where put on tables for 8 (they seem to have more these than any other) and did not enjoy the company much. I can only describe some of the people as P&O cruise snobs. Because of this we used the the Meridian restaurant very few times. My wife and I like to mix and chat with people from all over the world and different age groups but we soon found this was never going to happen on a P&O ship out of Southampton. We tried Sindhu and had the best Indian meal I have ever had!!. We also used the Trattoria in Verona quite a few times. We liked it a lot and the views leaving port are much better from Verona than in the Meridian. Would have liked it to change from Italian to say Chinese/French/Indian on the second week for a bit of variety but hay-ho. Breakfast buffet the usual scrum every day. P&O have tried to squeeze to many people onto this ship and it shows in every venue. We felt that perhaps the menus in the Meridian had no great wow factor until the last two days when they became more like what we had been used to on Princess. Perhaps it is because they have so many more PAY venues on board and would not want to feed you TO well at their expence?? cynical?? Never.
SHOWS Headliners are very very good. Best we have seen anywhere. The other acts are all pretty good and similar to other ships. Entertainment staff all very friendly but cruise director Laura Bennison seemed a bit robotic. Every word every ad lib totally rehearsed. P&O ask you to enter the Playhouse theatre via deck 6 and not to arrive more than half an hour before the show starts. If you follow their rules you will never see any of the early shows! However it does calm down a bit as the days go by.
VENUES Brodies. We liked this venue a lot. Comfy seats and nice atmosphere.
Planet Bar. Nice but the big TV screens are a bit wasted. You would not sit and watch them all night! We thought that there was quite a bit of vibration in there which stopped it being as relaxing as it should have been and forget it if they are playing quoits on deck above. Its like trying to relax in a bowling ally! Views are great tho. Malabar. Very nice venue if you can ever get a seat!!
Manhattan. We did not like this venue at all. It was a triumph of design over practicality. The sight lines to the stage. Terrible. The dividing screens. To high. If I wanted to watch a show on TV I could have remained at home!! Replace it with a Princess Vista lounge!!
Atrium OK but no WOW factor. A bit to small for the numbers on board.
SHOPPING. Mostly expensive luxury designer goods. Shops always seemed virtually deserted to us. But when they had sales you could not move in the atrium area. Does this not tell you some thing P&O??
POOLS / SEA SCREEN Great for the Med. Not for the Baltics. Even tho we had very good weather. No covered pool, big mistake. Promenade deck does not go right around the ship! Many people disappointed with that.
Any venues not mentioned is because we did not use them. The Glass House looked good but we did not get around to using it.
Overall we enjoyed this cruise a lot. Much of that to do with the great ports of call. Probably 200-300 people to many for the space available. Anything to do with Carnival?? I can't get my head round P&O's marketing objectives, are they aiming for the P&O old crowd or are they going for the new mass market of new cruisers like myself? The average age of cruisers this time was over 64. We just prefer a more mixed crowd. There really isn't anything about Azura that would draw us back for another cruise on her, except a very good deal! We would not rush back to P&O we have a few more companies to try yet.