Having seen and been on board the Azura for a day visit while in Southampton last June, there was something about this ship that attracted me to it. I vowed to have a cruise on her at some time in the future. In March 2011, I joined her on her transatlantic voyage from Barbados to Southampton.
Our charter flight, arranged by P&O Cruises took off more or less on time at 8.25am (4.25am Barbados time) it was comfortable with an attentive crew. About 90 minutes into the flight, the main meal was served (6.00am Barbados time) I feel that the meal served was not appropriate for the time of day and a hot breakfast would have been more suited.
On arrival at Barbados, coaches met us on the tarmac and conveyed us directly to the ship. The baggage was transferred directly from the aeroplane to the ship. This is one area of their service where P&O really excel. Check-in at the pier was fast, courteous and professional.
The ship itself is beautiful, the furnishings the dEcor - a mixture of modern and traditional - easy to get around and spotlessly clean. I immediately felt at home.
My cabin too was spacious, well furnished, and comfortable and kept in tip top condition by a most friendly and conscientious cabin steward.
The food in the main restaurants and buffet was excellent, with plenty of choice, well presented and professionally served. So good was the food in the main-stream restaurants that I didn't even bother to explore any of the other alternative dining facilities.
Special diets are taken care of with care and attention and nothing was too much trouble with staff providing special requests in this regard.
The entertainment on board, along with the guest lecturers were mostly of an extremely high standard. The Highlight of the evening entertainment was the outstanding performances given by the Headliners - The on-board singers and dancers. Never before have I seen such talented performers.
The very approachable Cruise Director and her friendly enthusiastic team were highly visible around the ship day and night - always well dressed and eager to provide information and to assist with queries.
On a trans-Atlantic journey such as this, there are quite a few days at sea and when the weather is good, deck space and sun loungers are at a premium especially around the pool areas. Whilst there is a policy concerning the reservation of sun-loungers, this is not enforced.
Bar prices, shore excursions, and items for sale in the shops were reasonably priced. Internet access and photographs on board were expensive.
As a smoker, I appreciated the smoke-free environment inside the ship. However, staff in the Pursers Office and those working on the decks are at odds with each other as to where the designated smoking areas on board actually are. There is also a lack of ash trays on the promenade deck.
Having sailed on Ventura, and indeed I enjoyed my cruise on that ship, I can quite honestly and without reservation say that my experience on-board Azura was superior in all aspects. Azura is a ship that will suit everyone and surely must be the pride in the fleet for P&O Cruises.
One of my best cruises - ever.
I most certainly will be back on-board the Azura and soon.