FLIGHT -- Flew out with Thomas Cook. Not a fan of long haul but full marks to the airline and staff. On time, clean plane, great staff, good choice of entertainment and food. Drinks were complimentary and in no short supply.
BOARDING -- From the plane touching down to entering the cabin - 65 minutes! Amazing service. No queues to speak of and actual check in took less than 2 minutes.
FIRST IMPRESSION -- Forget comments about the Atrium not having "WOW" factor. It's gorgeous. True, it only runs to three decks high but it still looks good and during the evenings creates a wonderful atmosphere with entertainment, shops, bars and seating.
LUGGAGE -- Two of our three cases arrived within ten minutes. The third was brought by our cabin steward about an hour later.
CABIN (sorry, Stateroom) -- We had an inside twin. You've heard it before "We only use it for sleeping etc, etc!!" so I won't expand. Immaculate upon arrival and right throughout the cruise. Tea/coffee, (very) interactive TV with a good library of TV shows/films on demand (most free), fridge, hair dryer, very good air conditioning. Extensive mirrors create an illusion of space very well indeed. Bathroom is as you would expect and doesn't disappoint. Yes, there is a shower curtain as opposed to a screen but it didn't once cause either of us a problem. It amazed me that the hot water in the shower was instantaneous - absolutely no waiting - not even for a second or two (I am easily amused!!). Soap, shower gel, shampoo and body cream. Oh, yes - we found the ice bucket on the last day! (Look in the back of the cupboards!!)
CABIN STEWARD -- Everybody seems to love their steward and our experience was no exception (Many thanks, Frank). He asked us to use the display cards saying if we were in the room or not. This worked a treat and we were never disturbed by him despite his three visits per day.
DINING -- Evenings -- We were on Freedom. Only ate in the Meridian three times but were as impressed as we'd hoped. We asked for a table for two each time and were given a pager as no tables for two were available immediately. The longest we waited was thirty minutes, the shortest, five. It's a good system. We used the buffet a few times and thought it excellent. In the evenings it is themed so you can decide if it is to your liking beforehand. Great and extensive range of hot and cold dishes. Tables cleared quickly (Please say thank you to the buffet staff when they attend you. Many people don't even acknowledge them and a kind word and a smile go a long way!!). Didn't try Sindhu or The Glasshouse but heard good reports about both. Ate at 17 (or XVII for the smart ones!) twice. WOW!! OK it's £20 each but the fact that it was fully booked by day 2 speaks for itself. Amazing food and even more amazing service. Our top tip, though, is Verona. During the day it is part of the self service buffet but after six it becomes a waiter service trattoria serving Italian style dishes. The choice isn't that great but they concentrate on quality (and they succeed!). The staff are excellent and seem to be hand picked. There is no additional charge for this venue which only adds to its appeal.
Daytime -- For breakfast and lunch we used the buffet and weren't disappointed. You can also make use of a grill serving burgers, chips, wraps etc and a pizzeria which was well visited. Both are situated near one of the pools.
Only used room service once but it was very prompt.
BARS -- Usual array of bars for a ship this size from the traditional type pub through open air bars to the cocktail lounge type. We only found Planet Bar (high up on deck 19!) after a week and loved it. The cocktail of the day became a habit for us. Order one at the Terrace bar (very back of the ship on deck 15 or 16) and watch the sun go down. You won't be on your own!
DRINK PRICES -- Subject of much discussion on web sites. Our experience was as follows. Pints of bitter/lager - £2.65/£2.95. Cocktail of the day was excellent value at £2.75. Bottle of wine from £11.75. Half litre carafe of wine £7.50. Glass of wine from £3.00. Some bars had a daily special of wine where large glasses were two pounds odd working out at just over nine pounds for a bottle. All in all we never felt that we were being ripped off - a sentiment expressed by many we spoke to. (Sorry but we didn't buy any soft drinks which says more about us than P & O!!)
CHILDREN'S FACILITIES -- Sorry but being in our fifties they wouldn't let us in and, therefore, can't comment.
ENTERTAINMENT -- All round excellent. Theatre shows were professional. Visiting acts superb especially the comedians (full marks to the Cruise Director who picked perfect acts for the type of audience). The resident bands never failed to provide enjoyment wherever they performed. Some shows were performed 3 times per night allowing all to see them. Well done P & O!
OVERALL -- As good a holiday as we've ever had and everything we'd hoped for. You always seem to get moaners (you know - "not as good as our last cruise", "what's happened to standards?", the food's not as good as XYZ Cruises") but not this time. We've never spoken to so many who, when asked if they're enjoying their cruise, simply looked up and said "Yes". Says it all really.
If you're cruising on Azura in the future - enjoy it! We definitely will!