I'm not in the habit of writing holiday reviews, but before we boarded I had read some reviews that pulled the Azura apart and I was quite concerned that I had made a mistake in booking. Thankfully, I now realise some people just moan and whinge about everything....so read on if you want an honest opinion!
We sailed on P&O Azura from Southampton on Good Friday 2011 on a short 4 day cruise, heading for Rotterdam, Zeebrugge and Le Havre. First impressions were very good. From arriving at the Ocean Cruise Terminal to plonking down on a sun longer was no longer than 1 hour 15 mins, which was also well before our original 1pm slot. The embarkation process was faultless, allocated a 'letter' when we arrived, then called in alphabetical order (we were G so not long to wait!) to the desk to confirm details and off we went. We also took advantage of P&O allowing you to take your own wine etc on board to drink in our cabins.
Moving on, the ship is very nicely decorated, cabins are comfortable (we had got a free balcony upgrade) and well appointed. After all, who goes on a cruise to sit in the cabin! Making a comparison, I would say the Arcadia is a little more grand in decor. Plenty of public lounges and all finely done out along a theme. I was a little concerned that the presence of children may spoil the holiday, as my previous cruise was on the adult ship Arcadia, but fears were unfounded. The families with children tended to gather around the 2 main pools, so we just stayed away as we wanted more peace and quiet. Only small niggle would be that the adult pool area was situated very near to a kiddies pool, so some noise there, but the kids were having fun, so not a moan!
Staff all pleasant and helpful, our personal waiter 'Om' was happy to get us anything we asked for, that might not have been on the menu - such as chips!! Very friendly and keen to find out about us and tell us about himself if we asked. Cabin steward great, asked her once for ice and then found that she took it upon herself to make sure we always had a bucket full in the fridge. Touches like that are great!
Went on one excursion, as I felt they were a little on the pricey side. Great day out, very informative guide and enjoyed very much. Watched whilst 7 passengers arrived back very late and missed the ship's sailing! Oops, the captain waited 45 mins but they got left on the dockside....let that be a lesson for anybody who dawdles!
Drinks prices were brilliant.....no more than the local pub for anything, so a weight off your mind if you are on a spends budget. Also, we took a glass of wine with us from our cabin and it was never commented on by any staff in the bars we sat in.
Entertainment was very good, I'm sure it is better in the West End, but then those seats are not free night after night! They also put on a 7.30pm show so that 2nd sitting diners did not have to go to the 11pm show if they didn't want. Perfectly watchable 'Headliners' Theatre Group and some other specialty acts too, such as pianists, rock bands and singers. There was a film on each day, we watched 'The King's Speech' one afternoon. Films were also on in the evening on the sea screen.
All considered, a very nice time on the Azura....yes I could moan that my key card stopped working a couple of times or that the food in the buffet was similar each day, but I don;t care about things like that. The food was lovely and plenty of it to keep us going. There was enough choice to have different lunches/dinners each day and pizza/burgers whenever you wanted a snack. I ate whenever I felt peckish and it was always gorgeous!
Azura was great for us 'normal' people.....P&O all the way for us in the future!