Hi everyone, this is my first cruise review so hope it's ok and makes sense?
We arrived back yesterday from Barbados after our 14 night cruise on Azura. First time with P&O (sailed predominantly with RCI & Celebrity).
We had a great holiday and loved Azura!
The flights with Thomas Cook were very good and, after reading so many negative reports about them, a pleasant surprise. The crew on both flights were lovely, very friendly and attentive. The aircraft was an Airbus A330-200 and had plenty of room on-board. Numerous drinks were offered (all free) and the food was tasty and nicely presented. The entertainment worked and although not on demand you had 12 channels of TV/movies plus various audio channels. You cal also watch take-off and landing via 2 cameras, one underneath and one facing forward.
The flight organisation at Barbados by P&O is amazing. On arrival you board a bus as soon as you step off the plane and within 30-40mins (depending on traffic) you're at the cruise terminal and able to check-in. Your luggage is delivered straight to your cabin, approximately 3-4 hours after touch down. We were checked in within 5mins and in our cabin soon after. It's very well organised and pretty much hassle free.
The ship herself is lovely, BIG but lovely. We had a balcony cabin on deck 12 (Australia) and it was great - very comfortable, plenty of storage space, tea/coffee facilities, flat screen interactive tv and nice toiletries from The White Company. Our Cabin attendant (Estella) was lovely and really looked after us.
The food/service on-board was very good - we were in the Oriental restaurant on 2nd sitting dinner and the meals were great. Well presented, plenty of choice, portion size just right and as on most cruises the waiter(s) will bend over backwards to accommodate anything that you may want/like etc. Nothing was too much trouble courtesy of Rajiv and Sutrith - bless'em. You can also chose to have breakfast and a light lunch in the main restaurant if you don't fancy the buffet.
We dined at the 3 speciality restaurants also - Sindhu, XVII and The Glass House...Best tip of all - book as soon as you get on-board as the first two are strictly by reservation only and are very popular. When you board Azura you arrive in the Atrium and there is a desk displaying the various menus and you can book there and then. They will tell you which nights are formal etc so that you can book accordingly. Sindhu was lovely and if you like Indian food it's a must. It's Â£15pp and well worth it. Great food, service and highly recommended. XVII was 'out of this world' - it's Â£25pp but amazing. Great menus and the quality/presentation was brilliant. It's unrushed and well paced. It's a total of 7 courses, if you include the little mid-course surprises. It's an English menu themed restaurant - Mum and I loved it. The Glass House is the Olly Smith wine bar/tapas/restaurant. If you like wine you will be in heaven. Every type of wine is available by the glass and you choose between three tapas dishes to accompany your choice or have a main course with/out dessert. It's reasonably priced and the food was lovely - especially the chorizo sausage tapas casserole, YUM!! A large glass of wine on-board was roughly Â£5 but that depends on your choice, some are cheaper and more than that.
The buffet is split in two (Verona & Venezia) and is a standard cruise ship buffet with a good choice of food, but as always can get busy and hard to find a table. The evening meal in there was very good and the tables are laid up nicely, plus they offer a special themed buffet each night towards the rear of the buffet overlooking the terrace pool.
The coffee bar (Java) is on deck 5 within the Atrium and offers Costa coffees etc plus pastries, cakes, sweet treats. You have to pay for the drinks and then the cakes etc are free.
The on-board entertainment was very good. Most evenings there were shows from the ships company ' The Headliners' and comprised of various musical/singing/dancing themed shows. There were a number of guest entertainers on-board, some good and some not so but you're on holiday so anything is acceptable. Our favourite was the sail-away parties on deck as you left some of the ports. It's kitsch and very British seaside i.e. sing-along(s) and dancing but we loved it and it's very popular. The Cruise Director (Neil Oliver) and his team were amazing. They put so much effort into each sail-away and got everyone in the mood, but they're not pushy. Apparently it's a P&O tradition and we loved it. It was packed up on decks 15/16 for each one. I loved it and am now a 'pro' at the Saturday night & Americanos dance moves...
Disembarkation was very swift and just as well organised. ou get your luggage labels and boarding cards delivered directly to your cabin and you put your cases out by 0100 at the latest on the day of departure & the next time you see them are on arrival in the UK. You have to vacate your cabin by 0900 and can wait within the lounges or anywhere within the ship. You can also leave your cabin bags within the theatre if you want to go off and explore Barbados. Your flight is called within time order and you are whisked straight to the airport where you go through a dedicated P&O channel for security. You clear immigration on-board the ship - again, very well organised and full details are in your cabin well before the day arrives. It was very good and very well organised, seamless.
We visited Bonaire, Aruba (my favourite), Grand Turk, Ocho Rios (not my favourite), St Maarten (my 2nd favourite), Antigua, Dominica and St Lucia, plus Barbados of course. We didn't do any of the excursions as we went off independently so I can't comment about the excursions organised by P&O but I didn't hear anything negative.
The ship has wifi without and you can purchase various packages on-board offering a different number of minutes, but a top tip...every cruise terminal within the Caribbean provides free wifi so if you don't mind hanging around the terminal you can access the internet for free. I followed the staff and they took me to the best place(s) to get the best signal.
Hope the above helps and makes sense? We had a great cruise and flights and loved P&O and Azura. We will definitely cruise with them again, although I am a firm 'Celebrity' fan and they are still my preference.