We decided to spend the Easter Bank holiday on a cruise, we chose the P&O Azura. This cruise sailed from Southampton UK to Rotterdam NL then to Zeebrugge BE then to Le Havre FR before returning to Southampton. We have been looking forward to this cruise since we got off the Queen Vic. last year as in 2007 our Christmas cruise aboard the P&O Aroura was absolutely splendid. Well as it turns out this was not to be the case. Although there have been many high points to our cruise there have also been many low points. Later in the review I will detail each but the overall impression is that P&O have lost the plot and are performing much closer to the 3 star level which is way below expectation.
The ship: On the day we set sail the Azura was only 1 year 12 days old and it showed, crisp clean and in spotless condition (we do love a new ship). The layout did take a bit of getting used to but all-n-all a good design. The only time we had an issue with congestion was during the Captains (or to be more precise "The officers party") which was held in on the 3 decks of the main atrium.
On to the Food Service: Well very disappointing on the food front, with the exception of a dish of two the buffets were almost unpalatable. In fact on a couple of occasions we could not eat any of the selection. I want to be clear the food was not spoiled just very low quality and bland. One example were the salad dressing, they were so watered down they would not even stick to the salad. Desserts were the same everyday with different flavoured fillings. The custard filling were from packages and not even fresh.
Room service: The room service is advertised as free but many of the items come with additional charge (i.e. Hamburger £3.75)
Ships Staff: were quite in different and would only speak if spoken too, not very P&O'ish at all. The ships offices were typical P&O bright, welcoming and friendly but the rest of the staff could not be bothered. We are the type that pleasantly great almost everyone we meet and we would expect a greeting in return from ships crew. Replies ranged from nothing to mumbles to the occasional hello. This stunned us, we have never had a reception anywhere close to this on any of the cruise lines including P&O.
Sindhu: This was the highlight of the cruise by far, Indian style created by Atul Kochhar of Benares Restaurant & Bar London. This was the best dining experience we have ever had on a cruise ship. Chef Kochhar was on board and in the kitchen, this was a great treat. He stopped by our table for a brief chat and the food was stunning!!! In fact even on this short 4 night cruise we dine twice in Sindhu. The staff were friendly and very attentive. Now we have seen celebrity chefs on cruises before (i.e. on the Celebrity Galaxy Chef Michel Roux Sr. was on board) but never seen them in the kitchen whereas Chef Kochhar was in whites and working the kitchen.
Public Areas: The pool decks were mobbed, this had to be expected as the weather was great. There were no attendants to be seen at any time. Kids were running rampage with no supervision at all, even the Reef Rangers who's job it is to tend to children were missing in action. There are 6 whirlpools on board and at any one time only 2 were in usable. either freezing cold on no jets.
Bar Service: Bar wait staff were missing in action as well. Now We like a tipple (or 2 or 3 or 4) and not once was I able to get a bar waiter to take our drink order, I always had to go up to the bar and stand in line. The selection of top shelf alcohol was very poor and the well drinks were very weak and not prepared properly. To the point where I was instructing the bar tenders.
Summary: This will be the last cruise we take with P&O and it is a pity. The lines standards have slipped well below what the were only a few years ago.