Azura Cruise Review by Dr. Glyn Williams: Never Again!
My wife and I went on a Caribbean cruise from 5/2/11/ to 20/2/11.
I would like to offer the following information for your perusal:
1) Flight out (TCX76K)
Unable to view the seating plan on the internet and unable to choose any seats. Telephoned Thomas Cook at Manchester airport and P&O at Southampton and both were unable to help. As we were booked on a charter flight it seemed we had no choice. We flew out in separate seats and rows. Had we known it was a charter flight we would not have booked the holiday.
2) Return flight (TCX76L)
Clearly, one has to pre-book, or pay extra, or both, in order to have any choice in seat allocation. Again we were separated.
I cannot believe that it is not possible to place passengers, who occur in twos, in seats which are adjacent to each other.
A trifle on the small side but adequate. The gentleman responsible for the daily cleaning and tidying was excellent.
The More biggest problem with our room's location was the sound. Several times during the cruise there were events which did not end until after midnight and one could hear the thumping. I did call for a cabin steward to explain the noise but he could offer no explanation. I do not think it is satisfactory to be in one's stateroom and bombarded with the sounds if one is trying to read or rest!
On joining/returning to the ship we were encouraged to use the facilities available to wash our hands. This facility did not last long. About half the 14 days? I made some comment. To no avail!
4) Peninsular Restaurant
Initially, far too warm. A gentleman on a table next to me collapsed with his head on the table. I was surprised to be told that medical attention could be declined unless requested. Eventually, medical aid came to the table. What would have happened if the diner had suffered a cardiac problem? The first 30 minutes are crucial! Excess heat I would suspect. The "maitre d'" arranged for a lower temperature for the remainder of the cruise; to everyone's delight. The food was excellent and the care and attention offered for our menu was exemplary. We are vegetarians.
The afternoon teas were well-presented and served well. There was a noticeable lack of sandwiches for those of us who do not eat meat or fish. It is quite embarrassing to have to ask for an alternative option almost every day. My wife thought that some of the cutlery was not as clean as it might have been and there were occasions when the uniforms were a little grubby, in places.
5) The SeaScreen area
This is truly awful. For those who wish to swim, read and use the loungers then this is dire. There is no solitude to be had. You may say that there are other areas but not if one wishes to indulge in swimming (the pools were not very good), reading and lounging/listening to one's own music. There is a feeling of being "cut-off" from this area because of the ambient noise levels.
6) Coral Pool and Bar
In my naivety I had expected the decks to have parasols under which one could shade. The Coral Pool area had none. The loungers were so tightly packed that it was impossible to move them in order to find some shade, when required. There was the general feeling of claustrophobia and that the general philosophy of the ship was to maximise the density of passengers in such areas.
7) Breakers Bar
Exactly as one would expect and nothing more. There is, clearly, a bad design fault in this area because after a heavy shower of rain the deck was flooded and showed no sign of clearing. The drainage system did not cope with the deluge. There were pools of water in several places and these presented a hazard to the passengers. I mentioned this to the deck manager and suggested his colleagues might sweep the water into those drains present; instead of making paper boats and floating them in the puddles! To no avail.
8) The Retreat
When my wife and I joined the ship on Saturday, 5th February we went to the Retreat and asked for some reservations. There were none. Another area of the ship "unavailable" to us.
So, if one wants a relatively quiet time swimming, reading, listening to music and lounging on a sun bed there is little space available. We did try the Terrace Pool bar area but the amphitheatre layout was not conducive to the above trio of activities; and there was little shade to be had.
9) Seventeen restaurant
We tried to arrange a meal in the above. To no avail.
We had dinner in the above and were very impressed. Excellent service, good food and a very relaxing atmosphere. To be commended.
11) The Playhouse
We found the theatre to be very comfortable with good acoustics and views. The entertainment was of an above average standard although there was one comedian for whom we felt a degree of embarrassment and pity.
12) Promenade Deck
My wife is a keen walker and this ship does nothing for her activity. The decks are too narrow and cluttered with loungers, etc making it difficult to move with any speed around them. The fundamental problem is, of course, the fact that the architect had the wisdom to design a ship which did not have a promenade deck which was continuous!! To build one ship with such a flaw was tolerable but to build another smacks of carelessness!
So, in conclusion, we found the cruise less than satisfactory for the reasons outlined above.
The ship is far too crowded, claustrophobic, poorly designed, noisy and lacking in the areas we would wish for. It would seem to cater for those passengers who do not mind such constraints and impositions. Many of my fellow passengers registered the same complaints.
I am not an experienced traveller as this is only my second cruise; the initial one being February/March 2010 on the QM2, for 42 days, from Hong Kong to Cape Town so I can make some sort of comparison between relative sizes and facilities, etc. For example, there were no "shuttle buses" to take passengers into the centres of the ports. I thought the trek into Bridgetown from the ship was a trifle far and we are very good walkers.
It was very pleasant to have had two weeks in the sunshine, to have visited different places, be entertained and catered for but it could have been a lot better. We would give 6/10 for an overall score. Less
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Cabin review: JBB343
Cabin was fine although the shower was a trifle small. The wardrobe space was more accessible than that provided on the QM2. The cabin was quite near the lifts but they caused no problem. The biggest nuisance was the incessant sound from the various performances elsewhere on the ship. P and O have written to tell me that this is a ship with "buzz". It certainly is. Will not use P&O again.