This was our 5th Cruise with P and O, and first time both passing through the new Ocean Terminal,and embarking Azura. Check in was overstretched and only just keeping on top of the situation: a problem we have not encountered previously. The new Queen Elizabeth had been named by Her Majesty a mere three days earlier: perhaps this was why we were subjected to more stringent Security screening than any Airport we have passed through. The belts upon gentleman's trousers had to be removed, shoes with buckles taken off and screened, etc. I wear Orthopaedic footwear, complete with steel shanks: and I did not appreciate the staff who were conducting the screening, drawing unfavourable attention to my mobility problems. Having been sat upon a chair whilst my shoes were scanned, insult was added to injury by telling me that I would have to walk through the machine bare footed. This I cannot do:which is why shoes are hand made to support me. Had this been my first experience of Cruising, it would have been my last.However, once we were allowed on board the Ship, the enjoyment of the voyage began.
The Atrium is stunning; and we squeezed into one of the scenic lifts to ride up to Lido Deck, where Lunch was available in both of the Self Service Restaurants:Venezia and Verona. (Verona becomes an Italian Trattoria with Waiter Service, in the evenings.)
Cabins would not be ready for occupation until 2-30pm, so after we had finished our meal, we made our way down to the Manhattan Night Club on Deck 7, at the Stern. This is a vast, beautifully decorated , and most comfortable room.
And so to our Deluxe Balcony Stateroom on 'D' deck: immaculate! Clean, welcoming, and with a fantastic Steward, named Jude. Champagne, chocolates, and flowers as a special touch. We settled in like Ducks in a favorite pond: and the 3 nights on board went far too quickly. Another week would have just what the Doctor ordered! A word of warning regarding the Balconies on D Deck:
they are completely open to the elements. No shade at all: and are overlooked by C Deck above, and both A & B Decks above that. This we discovered when we went outside with our Champagne to listen to the Jazz Band Sail Away, which was great fun.
We ate First Sitting Dinner in the Oriental Restaurant, at the rear of the Ship; only accessible from the back set of lifts. (Azura has several 'dead ends' to overcome.) The food was mouth watering, with our Waiters Prayson and Nishi very pleasant and eager to be of service. Some tables for two are sited very close to one another, as was ours: but we had friendly neighbours in the shape of Jill and Rita, whose conversation enhanced our Dinner Times.
Our fellow passengers whom we shared tables with at Breakfasts and Lunches were all friendly, and the common gripe amongst us was too few lifts for the number of people on board. Azura is huge, and it wasn't possible to explore her fully across 3 nights. We paid a visit to the Spa on our second afternoon, and paid for access to the Thermal Suite. The Aromatic Steam Rooms and spray showers are great: but there are only 5 heated Ceramic Loungers to go around when one wants to relax, afterwards. And once reclining upon one of these, it would be oh so easy, to doze off for ages. Other participants warned us that the supposedly specially heated Oasis pool, was malfunctioning: and the water was stone cold!! Another point to make about the Spa:there are not enough lockers, in the Ladies Changing Room.
Spoiled for choice for Bars and Entertainment, but we are not Night Owls, and didn't get the most out of all that was on offer. Met some ladies whose Cabin was above Manhattan: they stayed up until 2-30 a.m, because the noise from both the Nightclub, and the Ship engines far below, meant that they hadn't been able to sleep, the night before!
All in all, Azura gets the thumbs up from us; and pleased to conclude by saying that disembarkation went like a dream. Our colour coded card was timed for 10-00am, but we were called at 9-10. Very sorry to leave the Ship.