Azura Cruise Review by clive margerrison: Cruise To Dublin and Beyond on Azura
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Cruise To Dublin and Beyond on Azura
Destination: Europe - British Isles & Western
Paid for the trip down from Yorkshire on EAVESWAY coaches which is a winner, cheaper than driving down and parking fees, then into the new ocean terminal to book in this seemed to take longer than the last time in Southampton on Arcadia but we were still in our cabin by 2 pm and at lunch in the Venezia restaurant shortly afterwards, a very nice buffet on deck 15 aft
Later we took a guided tour around the very expansive spa complex which include the new concept on AZURA the Retreat
We were impressed enough to book the retreat for the full 7 days
We had the usual sing-along as we departed but it was poor compared to when we were on Ventura, just drab rod Stewart music
That evening we had dinner in the meridian restaurant which is for those who have chosen freedom dinning its exactly the same as the 2 club dining restaurants peninsula and oriental, accept you can have dinner any time between 6pm and 9pm, rather than More the fixed 6.30pm or 8.30 pm
on the ship you can always get something to eat as there is always one of the other grills or dinners open, for example, the Venezia and Verona between them serve a full English breakfast from 0700 to 1200 and then remains open until 930 pm with a buffet and later Verona as an Italian restaurant and late snacks until breakfast
The Venezia has a breakfast from06.30 to10.30 lunch from 12 to 3 then afternoon tea at 6 to 930 there is always a speciality buffet ie Indian Chinese Italian etc
There are also as I mentioned the 3 main restaurants aft that must seat between 300 to 500 each and the 2 speciality pay extra 'cover charge' restaurants plus the glass house a wine specialty restaurant which does food but at a price
later we did not go to the main show just wandered around the many bar's and live entertainment available
Breakfast in our cabin as usual, this is a long tradition, and therefore stops the 'full English' syndrome
I went to a cookery demonstration would you believe, but this was somewhat different, it was Atul Kocchar famed Michelin star'ed Indian chef accompanied by wine expert Olly Smith very interesting and informative Atul was funny too
Chilled out in the Retreat then it was the 'Gala Reception' which we gave a miss too but did accept the wine, decide on dinner in the meridian restaurant as it was the first 'Formal 'night, we did not want to share tonight and so we had to wait for 15 minutes on a table for 2 but they give you one of those 'bleeper' things that scares the hell out of you when it goes off to inform you that your table is available.
We had an excellent 6 course meal with exceptional service from our waiter of the evening, I had the lobster
Again gave the main show a miss and wandered around the many bar's and live entertainment available a bit disappointed because I am not a big fan of ballroom dancing(in 2 locations), karaoke in the British bar, pianist in 2 or a rubbish magician, nor do I wish to throw money away in the casino
Dublin late arriving no gangway open until midday, large crowds milling about in the Atrium, maybe if we had made more than 10knots getting here we may have been on time
Sat on the balcony and watched as we 'rotated 'about in her own length within the confines of the harbour and berthed stern too, quite a feat considering Azura's length and size but having seen Venture and Constellation carry out similar it doesn't impress us any more
The weather looks dodgy so we had lunch first before catching the free shuttle bus into town, getting into town at 3pm was easy but queuing up to get back with several hundred others, on the cities crowded pavement, another thing entirely, it was total chaos.
Any way back to the ship and it rained
Note; - from my experience of holidays here the republic of Ireland has always expensive but the drop in the euro has made Dublin very expensive indeed
Evening checked the menus on the interactive television and decided to go to the Verona restaurant which turns into an Italian restaurant in the evening, this was a good choice as we had an excellent meal with the usual exceptional service from our waiter of the evening, note if you decide on this option go early it was very popular and they were giving out the dreaded bleepers after 7 pm
Next stop the Malabar for 8.30 to listen to Lynda Radford singing she was pretty good then along to the Manhattan to listen to a tribute to Phil Collins by rob Lewis again if you want a seat get in 30 minutes early, it was packed out by the start with standing room only in the entrance it was 6 deep but what a good show he put on very very good sounded just like the real thing
A good evening, on the down side tonight the dress code after 6.00 was semi formal and some men idea of 'smart shirt and trouser with a jacket' left a lot to be desired, jeans and a tee shirt hardly fitted the concept of smart, particularly when their partner had obviously made an effort, then may be its me
The town of Cobh for cork
Azure berthed at the cruise terminal adjacent to the little train station that operate a service to cork, Cobh is a nice little town with an imposing cathedral and many shops and bars, it trades on the fact that both the titanic and Lusitania left here to be sunk and that a little Irish girl left here to be the first immigrant through Elis island, all told its cheaper and nicer than Dublin
We did not do any trips as the trips are expensive and I had no wish to kiss the blarney stone any way
So back to the ship and up to the Retreat for a few hours it was a pity that it was quite chilly or I could spend all day up there
During the morning they had a 'man overboard' exercise me being a cynic, thinks it's a doddle in harbour with the ship stationary and a flat calm sea, 'when I was a lad' we did the exercise doing 25 knots in a rough sea and after the "figure of eight turns" to get back to the dummy that had been thrown over we had to launch the sea boat and collect the 'survivor 'then recover the sea boat, sorry I digress, back to Azura
Checked out the daily ships paper 'horizon' looks like tonight is a repeat of the second evening ie ballroom dancing(in 2 locations), karaoke , motown memories and its back to the good old days of the 60 and 70, I was there in the 60s it wasn't that great
I also notice that the sailaway starts at 5.15pm yet the gangway does not shut until 5.30pm, it wasn't a bad sailaway accept that it finished before we sailed away, they could take lessons from Ventura's entertainments team on how it's done
We had a very good Indian buffet in the Venezia restaurant a large selection well presented and nice table layout, I must say that the foods throughout all the restaurants on Azura are of a very high standard
As I suspected the evening was a total wash out the entertainment is very poor catering for a minority this is not up to P&O's usual standard
In order to getter a full picture on dinning on Azura I decide to forego breakfast in our cabin (a martyr to the course) and checked out breakfast in the Venezia and Verona restaurants, again spoilt for choices and with the 6 buffets split up into about 24 separate segments so there little or no queuing, open for full English or continental until noon
There is also the choice of going to the 2 club dining restaurants peninsular and oriental for breakfast but they close at 09.30
We gave the Retreat a miss today as we are doing 16 knots and its very windy and the Retreat is very exposed, it's alright out in the Caribbean but not the bay of Biscay
Again checked out the daily ships paper 'horizon' looks like tonight is a repeat of yesterdays evening i.e. ballroom dancing, a ballroom dancing demonstration, 2 karaoke , a classical concert, 2 pub quiz's and a Simply Red tribute,
Still I went to the British bar called Brodie's and listened to attempts to get passengers up to sing, no takers, so finally the entertainment guys got up to sing and I left
checked out breakfast in the Venezia and Verona restaurants, again only there was an exercise on for the ships crew and they had closed the larger Venezia which created queues in Verona still it wasn't to bad you had to shunt around abit to get what you wanted because they kept on running out of items, not quite as bad as my daughter's experienced last week on Arcadia but close and it should not happen with P&O and on a ship of this size.
They also closed the kids club which upset some of the passengers
The same thing happened at lunch time but they closed Verona this time, Maybe they thought everyone would be ashore, wrong
We stayed on board because we knew from previous experience, that in Spain, on a Sunday, everything would be closed and the reports coming back supported this, why we could not be at sea on a Sunday is beyond me.
Had dinner in Venezia which was an oriental theme and it was excellent then down to the British bar called Brodie's and listened to quite a good group singing ballads
Arrived along Starboard side too for a change [our side] adjacent to a dry dock and warehouses the cruise terminal here is very poorly positioned, stuck out in the middle of nowhere, it's a feature of this cruise that all the ports of call except Cobh were 20 to 40 minutes from civilisation
We took no organised trips because they were all too expensive so it was back to the shuttle but appears that a lot of others had the same idea, so we had to wait until the horrendous long queues for the shuttle got manageable and then we took one into the town centre ,we were not impressed with what we saw in the town and so stayed on the bus and returning to the ship
Again queues to get off the ship and queues to get back on board seem to be a feature of this ship not enough gangways being provided, there were only 2 for the 3000 odd passengers, to get on and off the ship, this is not good enough, you do not expect this kind of sloppy unprofessionalism when you have paid a lot of money to a supposedly top end cruise company plus there were no proper dedicated gang way for the disabled
Had lunch on deck with a burger from one of the 2 fast food outlets on the pool deck had a glass of pimms and watched the sailaway which by this time the entertainment team were getting pretty good , they must have been practicing,
We are giving the meridian restaurant a miss tonight because the buffet in the Venezia appears to have a better menu [you can check out all the menus on board on the flat screen TV in your cabin]
In comparing Like For Like her sister ship Ventura is better organised, slicker at passenger comfort and welfare, is far friendlier in her crew to passenger relationship, better entertainment, better shops, better library, freedom dinning is slicker whereas Azura probably wins on quality in the food stakes but has a lot to learn, elsewhere
The entertainment on azura is very much a cross between, East Enders and Strictly Come Dancing with quiz's,and bingo thrown in
And so back to Southampton and a pretty slick debarkation and to our EAVESWAY coach and a good trip home Less
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