We went on this cruise with some apprehension after reading a few reviews, but we need not have worried at all. Azura is a HUGE ship and, like many more before us, we initially got lost a few times although it wasn't long before we learned where everything was located and found our way round quite easily. Embarkation of the 3,000 passengers is done easily and smoothly over two days in Barbados. Our cabin was ready for us (always kept spotlessly clean by Dhiren our very nice, helpful steward) and our luggage arrived fairly soon after we did.
There is so much going on all day every day that its sometimes hard to fit in everything that interests us. Sea days were never boring and if we felt like chilling out on a sunbed, there was never a problem finding one even in a reasonably quiet area.
The food was delicious and service good. We were on Freedom Dining which was great and we never had to wait for a table for either two or four. In fact, I caught a cough and cold More
during the cruise (probably from the flight out) and it was never a problem when we requested a table away from others so that there was no chance of them catching my germs. We tried Venezia buffet but didn't like it at all, bit of a scrum and not much choice really, and one evening we tried Verona too but were not impressed ... and it was absolutely freezing cold with the aircon blasting out uncontrollable by the restaurant management apparently. One thing we did notice with some dismay was that no hand cleanser was used either at the foot of the gangways before boarding the ship or on entrance to the main dining rooms - there was some available up in the buffet restaurants but very few people bothered using it. We also saw people using the toilets and leaving before washing their hands. This is the only big let-down on this ship for us. Everything else on Azura gained top marks from us, staff are all so very helpful and obliging, absolutely nothing seems to be too much trouble, in fact Reception staff even helped me arrange for a friend's cabin to be decorated with banners, streamers and balloons to help her celebrate a special birthday and she also then received cards from both Reception staff as well as the Captain.
Would we sail on Azura again? Definitely yes! Loved it all and really enjoyed our holiday even though I suffered a bad cough and cold - one tip, take your favourite tried and tested remedy for the common cold or it might cost an arm and a leg to buy a limited supply of remedies in the shop on board!!
The entertainment was sometimes excellent, sometimes mediocre and only once did we and a few others leave the theatre as the Headliners put on a less than magical musical show. All the tribute acts, the lectures, magician and line dancing lessons were all just great, very good and entertaining. Less
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Cabin review: Azura
Our cabin was more like a hotel room than a ship's cabin and all the cabins on C deck enjoy a double width balcony that was absolutely great on sea days as you could have both sun and a little shade too if you wished. There was absolutely no noise, very well soundproofed, our cabin steward could not have looked after us any better (we loved the chocs on our pillow each night and the towel creations he made for us, an elephant, a dog (complete with a Beware of the Dog sign!) and a hanging orang-utan, so very clever and most enjoyable.
Port and Shore Excursions
We walked out of the cruise terminal, across the road to the bus station. Got on a no.10 bus heading for the local beaches. Amsterdam Manor Resort on Eagle Beach was our choice for a lovely relaxing day on beautiful Eagle Beach. Toilets big enough to change in, bar and restaurant available, sunbeds and lovely big sunshades for hire, even a double bed on the beach if you want it! Aruba is a really lovely, very colourful island, one of our favourites now.
This was our fourth visit to Bridgetown, Barbados. Its a beautiful island but having toured all over previously, we decided to get a taxi for $5 to Carlisle Bay and enjoyed our time on this beautiful beach at The Boatyard (also used by the ship's crew, a recommendation in itself). Sunbeds and shades for hire. Its adjacent to Lobster Alive which is also a very popular place.
We walked back to town, not far at all, and enjoyed wandering through past the shops, stopped for coffee and the best cake ever, chatting to some locals and visitors, finally strolling back to the cruise terminal; a really nice day.
On the morning of the day we disembarked, we walked five minutes from the cruise terminal to the Cricket Legends of Barbados Museum as well as the Kensington Oval cricket ground just around the corner for a tour (US$10pp) which was very interesting for both my husband and even me too.
Just outside the cruise terminal we saw the Irie Tours brightly painted Samba buses and had a great tour with them for just US$20pp for the next 3 hours which included a narrated tour of the local area, a visit to the Curacao distillery (free tastings!), about an hour at the privately owned Mambo Beach. This was such a good tour, free drinks (water, soft drinks and beers) in plentiful supply, very highly recommended. I had emailed in advance to ask about this tour and Dennis, our driver, even make a point of asking if I was on board before he started the tour. We enjoyed reggae and other popular music when there was no narration on the return journey and in spite of a tropical shower, the full busload had a great time laughing and singing all the way.
We also wandered around colourful Willemstad which was very interesting, so much to see and do, everyone so friendly and helpful. Loved this port of call.
There is a huge cruise terminal here in Grand Turk with just about everything you could think of to entertain cruise passengers. We walked along the beach past the cruise centre (that can entertain 7,000 passengers apparently and there were two mega-ships in port that day yet still not too crowded), along the beach to Jack's Shack. Lounge chairs were US$5 each and a beach umbrella $10, this also included two rum punches. We enjoyed great jerk chicken and chips for lunch (lots on the menu), wonderful beach, azure sea, uncrowded, magic! The icing on the cake here was watching Jack's dog Topher swimming in the sea with everyone else until lunchtime when he literally swam and fished just like a heron for his lunch followed by some digging in the wet sand for crabs, what an entertaining dog, we'd never seen anything like Topher before. Its worth a visit there just to see him!
Having visited this island previously and having learned that the St Kitts sugar cane railway (which is very expensive anyway) was not running due to a recent derailment, we took a taxi to South Frigate Bay and enjoyed the facilities at the Timothy Beach Resort. Its adjacent to the beach, but we had lovely sunbeds with thick mattresses, use of the rest rooms, restaurant, etc, etc, all for free by just checking in at reception on arrival. If we had wanted to enjoy the beach, it was just down a few steps, but its a black sand beach and was quite crowded with cruise ship passengers. Plenty of chairs and umbrellas for rent on the beach, lunch and drinks at Mr X's Shiggidy Shack and plenty of taxis readily available for the return journey to the cruise terminal which had grown so much since our last visit we were amazed - plenty to see and do there too, lots of shops for anything you could wish for really.
We had previously done a boat excursion in St Lucia, so this time we booked in advance for a tour with Cosol Tours, US$65pp. Cosol was on the dock to meet us as arranged at 8.20am and we left in a nice air-conditioned mini-bus at 8.30am for the day trip of a lifetime. We had about 7 hours of total enjoyment with free cold drinks available all day, water, soft drinks and beers whenever we wanted. First we went for free spiced rum tasting, then on to a banana plantation to learn about their growth and a tasting session, on to Anse La-Raye and Canaries fishing villages, also Marigot Bay (where the movie Dr Doolittle was filmed). Then we stopped for breakfast where we loved sampling the local fish cakes, johnny cakes, coconut cakes (the best any of us had ever tasted we all agreed), different local fruits, fried fish with dip, fried chicken with dip, etc, before being able to tour Cosol's house which was wonderful, typical Caribbean style and decor, very spacious, cool with high ceilings, great views over the ocean. Then we went down to Soufriere where we had a good view of the Pitons, then on to the only drive-in volcano in the world where we had a guide to show us around. From there we went down to get a water taxi that took us along to Jalousie Beach between the pitons for simmming and snorkelling for an hour. After the beach trip we were given a lunch of the best local hot bread and cheese. Our last stop was just 5 minutes drive from the port at Castries where we could shop for local souvenirs. This was one of the very best tours we have ever experienced in the Caribbean and would highly recommend it.
Having been to this island previously, we decided to take a taxi (US$6pp each way) to Orient Beach for the day. It is a very long beach with heaps of beach bars all offering eats, drinks, sunloungers (most with mattresses on too), sun umbrellas, etc - we stayed at Orange Fever (taxis nearby all day by Pedros for the return journey) where we had chairs, brolly and two free drinks all for only US$7. There is a nudist section at the very end of this beach but anyone wanting to walk along the rest of Orient must wear something even if its only a thong. I know lots of folk were concerned about taking children there for this reason, but it really is not a problem as most of the nudist sunbathers preferred to stay up their end, which is divided off by a rock wall. More of a shame was all the seaweed that was washing in and up onto the beach even though some of the bar owners had raked it back out of the way.
Having done an island tour of Tortola on a previous visit, we took a taxi (US$6pp each way) to Cane Garden Bay. Plenty of beach chairs and sun umbrellas to go round, plenty of waiting staff to supply drinks and eats, great beach and lovely sea in a reasonably sheltered bay, very picturesque. Alays plenty of taxis ready to take passengers to the cruise terminal whenever they wanted to go back.