My first time with P&O and was intrigued to experience the Britishness of the line.
The main reason for choosing P&O was for the excellent child care facilities offered, as we had a three year old in our party. More of this later.
We were a party of 9, with ages ranging from 3 to 76. We had 3 inside,1 balcony and the oriental suite.
The journey started at Manchester airport with a pre night stay at Bewleys hotel, leaving 3 cars there. The hotel was fine. Public rooms nice, rooms a bit dark and starting to look dated but comfortable enough. Bus to the terminals is free, frequent and very fast.
Flight was a P&O charter with thompsons (using a first choice 767). Flight left on time, good seat back entertainment and good leg room - better than a lot of scheduled. The way the attendants worked was a bit eratic, serving the left aisle from the front and the right aisle from the back and chatting to each other more than passengers but all in all was a good start to the holiday. Alcohol was free, food was the usual stuff.
Arrival in Barbados, straight onto a coach - caribbean style, hard seats and old, but I liked this and a 45 min drive to ocho rios. Long queue thru registration, then finally on the ship with luggage arriving shortly afterwards.
First impression of the ship. Compared to the other lines I've been on, the decor is very bland, and beige, sort of dowdy, and the corridors smelt of food cooking - a 'frying' type of smell. The ship is designed for brits, which for P&O means beige, fake wood trims etc I found it disappointing compared to the Epic which I travelled on, last October, whose decor was elegant, rich and quality. Having said that, I got used to the decor and feel of the ship and it didnt detract from the holiday.
Azura has fantastic child care facilities and staff for all ages, the best ive ever seen at sea. This meant parents could also enjoy their holiday whilst children had fun too, and its free and available till 2am!
Cabins are comfortable, and the oriental suite was very spacious and well equipped. My experience with my cabin steward was hit and miss. There were items left from the previous guests in my cabin on arrival. Pamper pack and water wasnt there. Sometimes he left ice, sometimes he didnt. These little touches were annoying and didnt happen on ncl. This was par for the course on the azura. Nothing was bad,but nothing was particularly great either and the service and attitude of staff was just ok.
Dining was sometimes a good service but verh slow and cumbersome at other times. We were in freedom dining and we had to frequently ask for larger portions or for more vegetables. Being served one boiled or roast potato was the norm, which quickly became a joke and we laughed about it. We just asked for more! The staff are friendly but quite aloof and not proactive as on royal caribbean and ncl. Ncl are the best ive come across, always quickly refilling glasses and asking how things are. Not so with p&o.
Food was ok. Never had a bac meal, but nothing brilliant either. Where they could improve is on menu choice. On ncl, as well as the al a carte menu, they offer the 'always available' menu with chicken, salmon, sirloin steak, if u dont like the al a carte choice. I did struggle at times to choose something I likec, snd im not a fussy eater! Steak was offered only twice in freedom dining during the two week cruise. I tried it once and it was thin like a minute steak and not good. Again, the american lines are far better in this respect.
Buffet restaurant food was disappointing too. Very 'english' offerings with pastys, curries, stews and hotpots.
It sounds like I didnt enjoy the azura, but this isnt true, I had a great time. The decor, food and service was just very bland and there was nothing special about the service.
Nearly everyone I came across were p&o die hards, always choosing p&o. One lady told me she would never try another line because she knew what she was getting with p&o and she liked it and was afraid to try another line in case she didnt like it. Lol
Would I sail with p&o again? Well it wouldnt be my first choice. I prefer the food and service of ncl and royal caribbean, even if you do pay for it thru tips etc
Drink prices were excellent, shows were ok. I had a private photography lesson
excellent.Getting on and off the ship was the best ive encountered with never any queueing or hassle.
I found there were too many formal nights on this cruise which they could hsve relaxed a bit.
Of the pay restaurants we had a terrible experience, at glass house with an incompetent, disinterested and slow waiter. So bad, we didnt stay for dessert. However we had a fab time at sindu restaurant with great food and service.
All the islands visited were wonderful in their own way, weather was superb and excursions good.
Finally, I like the mix of nationalities on other lines rather than an almost exclusive british experience, so doubt i'll do p&o again.