P&O parking is managed by a third party who insist on them parking your car for you where they take ownership of your keys and car for the duration of the cruise. Generally this has been a very slow process as you are forced to wait in organised queues while you are finally directed to offload your luggage just outside the terminal. I am not a fan of this procedure as this does tend to add waiting time of approximately up to 1 hour before embarkation plus in the past on returning to my car there was damage to the rear panel. Heads up - parking with P&O means that you sign and agree that any damage cannot be claimed on behalf of the parking company! That's in the T&C!. Contrast this with Royal and Celebrity where you self park your car where you just walk to the ship in a fraction of the time. Embarkation was slow and while there was organisation to boarding we were at the back of the queue for quite some time. Previous cruises with Royal and Celebrity we were directed to the front of the queue. On this occasion we were placed in a waiting area. We arrived on time according to the boarding time of 2pm where we waited over 45 minutes. We eventually got on board but there was quite a rush before we had to attend the muster station drill.
Nice interior and smart although I was expecting the bathroom to be a alot bigger. I was amazed that on the latest ship that P&O still make use of a plastic moulded bathroom interior including a plastic moulded sink! The bathroom was the smallest I have been in including the most smallest walk in shower I have experienced! It felt more like some kind of cryogenic chamber that han solo fell victim to in Star Wars! In fairness there was good water pressure and plenty of hot water. In contrast Royal and Celebrity had much more lavish large bathrooms especially on the new Celebrity Eclipse with a proper walk in glass shower and wooden vanity units - not exactly plastic! As for the rest of the cabin it was spacious but lacking a sofa. TV was small although was a flat panel but the choice of TV channels were very restricted! The cabin suffered from severe vibration and so did the entire ship during our cruising. One night as I was going to sleep my body was literally vibrating from head to toe!
Nice ship (from the outside!). Interior decor felt dated with over use of wood and brass! and the interior was alot more plastic than other ships such as Celebrity. Layout was interesting and not the best ship Ive been on. Lots of the decks felt cramped and compacted especially the buffet restaurant where the deck height to the ceiling was the same as in my home cottage lounge!! Serving stations in the buffet were alot more compact than other P&O ships where people seemed to be on top of each other. Hot and cold food stations were literally staggered next to each other. The centre of the ship focused around the Atrium and the shops area. I was expecting this to be alot more open and spacious but compared to other ships such as Aurora the amount of open space felt limited in comparison. Contrast this to Celebrity where several decks are open as one massive spaces. The ship also experienced severe vibration at several intervals during the cruise and was consistent making it very uncomfortable.
The retreat is a nice touch to this ship but why do passengers have to pay £12 each per day! On Celebrity they offer the same sort of thing and this is FREE!
Food was excellent in the restaurant although the amount of food served to you appeared to be alot less than on previous P&O cruises. Clearly P&O has engaged on a cost reduction exercise. Food in the buffet was good but the choice was limited at times.
A polite service was offered by waiters but in comparison to previous P&O cruises and other cruise lines such as Celebrity we found the service to be average. Sometimes it was difficult to get served a drink during lunch in the buffet restaurant. We did experience on one night in the main dining room a very rushed meal where the waiter was literally grabbing the unfinished plates from the table. In fairness the overall food was good and the option of freedom dining was a nice touch!! As for the cabin our stateroom was clean and maintained well by our cabin steward although it would have been nice to have had a formal introduction by him! 1st time with P&O where the cabin steward failed to knock on our door to make himself known on the day of sailing.
We enjoyed the excursions offered and was good value for money compared to other cruise lines which seemed to be of a similar price.
What entertainment?? We were shocked and very disappointed by the entertainment which was offered on board Azura during our cruise. This is the flagship vessel and during Easter bank holiday weekend and the highlight of the entertainment was a guy from Tizzwazz! Not exactly the entertainment we came to expect from P&O. No guest speakers nor anything special for the Easter weekend. We had better entertainment in Butlins!
I really don't like the formality of P&O on formal nights. While I do respect and appreciate the need to dress up and pretend to be something I'm not. P&O does tend to take this way too seriously. While on these nights I do tend to take my suit, but on this cruise being soo short I decided to leave my suit at home and to take some smart clothes instead. The only formal night on our cruise we decided to stay up in the top open buffet restaurant which was fine but later that night I popped up to the Planet bar for a casual drink. I walked in wearing a smart black shirt, tie and black trousers and shoes and I was acknowledged by two waiters. I sat at the bar and ordered a drink and the person who served me did not mention that I was lacking a jacket! So I took the drink and sat in a different part of the bar. The same waiter approached me and asked me to sign for my drink. 15 minutes later the same waiter came back and said "oh I'm sorry Sir. You don't have a jacket so please leave!" I was shocked! I said to him that he saw me walking in and he served me! and now he wants me to leave? I was disgusted by his attitude and the formality nonsense of P&O. I can understand if I walked into the bar in t-shirt and jeans! In annoyance I refused to leave and continued to sip my cocktail. I am amazed that P&O take this attitude when this is not the case on a 5 star cruise such as Celebrity on their formal nights!
This has always made me chuckle with P&O. Basically your cruise is over and you cant but help feel or made feel by P&O that they have had your money and now its time to go! Got up early on disembarkation day and they wanted you out of your cabin by 8am! We were running a bit late and the cabin steward was jumping in the cabin as we were wrapping up packing. P&O also insist on you leaving the ship by group colour unless you take the self disembarkation option at something stupid at 7am in the morning! Other cruise lines such as Celebrity offer a much more relaxed and casual disembarkation service.
Value for money:
Well I used to think that P&O offered good value for money but after sailing with Celebrity and Royal I can no longer stake the same claim. This time last year we took our first trip on Celebrity Eclipse and the cost was the same as P&O on this trip! Bearing in mind that celebrity is 5 star! but in fairness to Celebrity you don't get the 5 star pom pus nonsense! There are ordinary folk on board as found on P&O without the bull associated with it.
We have been devoted P&O cruise passengers for a good number of years where we have travelled on a number of their ships. We have had some good holidays with P&O but as of last year we decided to try a different cruise company - Celebrity Cruises. It is a little unfair to start comparing these two cruise companies as Celebrity is 5 star and well... P&O isn't! We are not snobs but come from a hard working class family however as someone said to us on a former P&O cruise 2 years ago. They said to us "You go with Celebrity and you wont want to go back with P&O!" Sadly this was true! In every detail Celebrity cruises out strips P&O in every detail from service, food, entertainment to the ship and the features within it. We weren't expecting celebrity status on P&O but since Azura is the flagship we felt very disappointed by the overall experience. Sorry P&O but that was the last cruise with your company as we will be sticking with Celebrity. They have far nicer ships, more luxurious cabins and decor and the quality of service is simply faultless! They certainly wouldn't have spoken to me in the same manner as that waiter did during that night in the Planet bar. P&O needs to get their act together. If you haven't tried Celebrity yet then give this fantastic cruise company a go! You wont be dis-apointed and you will be glad you did! Well why not? because you are paying the same money!