The Playhouse Theatre seats almost 900 people and typically offers two shows per night to give both early and late diners the chance to watch the ship's main entertainment. The productions can be anything from "Dusty"(a musical about Dusty Springfield) to "My Generation"(about the music of the sixties). The venue is also used by the changing roster of comedians, ventriloquists and musicians that are brought onboard by the line for a few nights at a time.
With thousands of guests to entertain during the day, Azura offers activities across the ship. There are art lectures (there was one on Lowry while we were onboard) for the culture vultures and pool parties, led by the entertainment team, for those wanting a bit of fun. The ship's daily planner Horizonis delivered to every cabin and outlines all of the events going on around the ship. There are films shown on the huge outdoor screen (SeaScreen) and plenty of games and competitions going on including quoits, shuffleboard or killer pool. The spa and gym team also host yoga classes, for a fee, as well as some introductory classes for free.
Evenings on board Azura typically revolve around the entertainment in one of the ship's bars. There is a small casino (offering blackjack, three card poker, roulette and slots) that shares a space with Brodie's sports bar (where you can find pub quizzes and bingo at night, as well as a legendary karaoke night) while musicians and entertainers grace the stages in Malabar and Manhattan. Ballroom dancers get the chance to waltz through the night in the main atrium, hosted by two professionals, while a late-night film is often shown on the outdoor screen.
There is an impressive amount of booze on offer across the bars on board Azura. From an amazing selection of wines in The Glass House to an almighty amount of regional ales in Brodie's. Gin lovers can rest easy too as a number of the drinking holes on board stock P&O's famous gin menu, which includes 18 specialist gins (plus five that are available around the ship).
Brodie's (Deck 6): Brodie's is one of the most popular bars on the entire ship. Serving tried-and-tested beers such as Marston's Pedigree and Stella Artois, as well as regional brews like the Tyne Bank Brewery's Silver Dollar, it is also packed full of TV screens playing sport around the clock. That heady concoction -- with Brodie's pub-like atmosphere -- means that Azura's karaoke nights are a night to behold.
Blue Bar (Deck 7): Located at the top of the atrium, with some tables giving a nice view of the entire area, the Blue Bar is one of the Azura's more sophisticated drinking spots. There's a grand piano in the corner and plenty of cocktails from an extensive menu packed with classics like Cosmopolitans and Singapore Slings. A nice touch is the tasty bowl of vegetable crisps you get served with your drinks.
Manhattan (Deck 7): The show lounge is Azura's second biggest venue and offers a more intimate setting to watch the evening's entertainment. With lots of neon lights, and a rather bizarre layout involving barriers between tables, it's a fun place to go to catch one of the cruise's after-dinner show, which was pretty varied while we were onboard -- anything from a ventriloquist to an Eric Clapton cover band. Always pretty popular.
Malabar (Deck 7): This north African inspired lounge, complete with palm trees, has live music on every night -- be it the house band or one of the singers brought on for the occasion.
Glass House (Deck 7): With wine selected by TV wine expert Olly Smith and some lovely small plates to choose from on the food menu, the Glass House is one of the nicest places to stop for a pre-dinner drink, especially on formal nights.
Coral Bar (Deck 15): One of Azura's four pool bars -- and one of two that are on Deck 15 midship -- the small Coral Bar sits next to the poolside grill and Coral pool, which is flanked by two whirlpools.
Aqua Bar (Deck 15): Located just under the SeaScreen, and next to the Aqua Pool and two more whirlpools, the Aqua Bar is the larger of the two Deck 15 midship bars.
Terrace Bar (Deck 15): This bar is the most secluded outdoor drinking hole on board -- tucked away beyond the Verona buffet at the aft of Deck 15. The small area surrounds three quarters of the Terrace Pool, providing great views of the ship's wake.
Breakers Bar (Deck 16): If there was a party bar onboard then Breakers would be it. Perched near the top of the ship, and offering plenty of tables for those wanting to sit outside on a sea day, the area overlooks the pools below. If you get a bit peckish it's just upstairs from the grill and poolside pizza too.
The Planet Bar (Deck 18): With large screens showing images of destinations, and the bar serving cocktails to match, the Planet Bar is a one of the quieter bars, probably because it's in a remote spot. However, given the bar's extensive gin menu (23 different types including the delicious Two Birds gin from Market Harborough and P&O's very own Anderson's Gin, named after the company's co-founder); it's worth the journey.
Azura has five swimming pools, including one within the kids' club (and only accessible through the kids' club) and one just outside the spa, the Oasis pool. The two main pools , Coral and Aqua, are on Deck 15 midship, with the latter being the much bigger of the two, and there is plenty of deck space around them. The Oasis, Coral and Aqua pools are all flanked by hot tubs. The Oasis and Terrace pools have less seating around them, with staggered benches being used to make the most of the space.
Recreation on Azura is more traditional than on some other ships -- there are no climbing walls or bumper cars here -- but there is still plenty to keep passengers occupied. There is a sports court, which can be used for basketball or small games of football, and golf nets up on Deck 19 as well as an area for shuffleboard on Deck 16. Not to mention a gigantic gym that includes all manner of machines and free weights.
Azura's three sun decks are located on Decks 15, 16 and 17. There are plenty of sun loungers, although on sea days they fill up quickly. Those who want a more peaceful experience might consider heading to The Retreat, a paid for area with better quality loungers than the standard type on deck. The Retreat also includes a healthy breakfast and lunch too, although many people nip down to the buffet and bring their own plates up. It'll cost you £350 for a couple's pass for two weeks.
There is an enormous amount of space dedicated to retail therapy onboard Azura. There is a jewellery store next to The Glass House; souvenir, clothes and perfume shops around the atrium on Deck7. Any passengers who needs to stock up on holiday essentials, from sunblock to a bestseller, are catered for too on Deck 6. They even sell washing machine capsules for £1 a piece.
The ship has a decent sized card room, Karmala, and a library located next to the shore excursion desk. The latter's staff are a good source of knowledge for every destination and are happy to answer questions even if they don't relate to shore excursions. The library has some computers but you'll need an internet package to use them. Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship. Prices start at £7.75 for 24 hours or 65p per minute for pay as you go.
The Oasis Spa on Deck 16 offers a range of treatments in a light, airy environment, with a number of single and couples rooms available. There are medi-spa treatments available (dermal filler and anti-ageing treatments) and a good selection of male grooming treatments using luxury Elemis products. A gent's Elemis deep cleanse grooming treatment with shave costs £51 for 45 minutes. The ship's spa staff includes a licenced acupuncturist, who charges £93 for a 50-minute session. It's worth noting that a 10 percent gratuity will be added to your bill and passengers have to be 18 to use the spa. Anyone wanting to get their nails or hair done for a formal night is also well catered for here.
The gym, also on Deck 16, is huge, with enough treadmills, bikes and rowing machines to keep everyone happy. The cardio and weight machines surround an area where exercise classes take place such as yoga (45 minutes for £7), Pilates (60 minutes for £7) and spinning (three 45-minute classes for £21). There are also personal training (60 minutes for £47) and nutritional consultations (60 minutes for £47) available to help stave off any excess cruise weight.
The Azura is better able to cater to adults wanting to relax than families needing to be entertained. The programme inside the children's club is able to handle kids of all ages, but outside of that there are few places for children to keep themselves busy. There is a small programme of family activities, but these are a bit limited. Much of the main entertainment (comedians etc.) is too rude for families while the musicals are a bit like a Carry On film -- harmless but a bit blue. There is, however, family accommodation available, with a connected balcony cabin and inside cabin able to sleep six guests.
The Reef, otherwise known as the kids' club, splits children into the nursery (under two years), Splashers (2 to 4 years), Surfers (5 to 8 years), Scubas (9 to 12 years) and H20 (13 to 17 years). On less busy cruises some of these age groups will be joined together. The splash pool is a nice family-friendly feature.
On sea days, the Reef opens at about 10 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. However, when the ship is in port the club doesn't open until 2 p.m. It should also be noted that parents or guardians will need to take their children for lunch and dinner. A special children's buffet (with pizza, chips, fish fingers etc.) is provided from 5 p.m. in Venezia.
Children in the nursery must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times. There are different activities planned every day including finger painting, building with blocks and musical radio. If parents are happy for staff to change their children''s nappies then they must provide a change bag and spare nappies, as well as wipes and spare clothing.
In Splashers and Surfers there are egg and spoon races, spooky mummy wraps and outside play. There's a soft play area, ball pool as well as entertainment consoles -- more than enough to keep your child entertained.
Older children also have a whole programme designed specifically for them with activities including discos, sport challenges and mind reading. The area has the latest computer games and systems to play music, as well as a pool table and air hockey.
P&O Cruises also operates a free night nursery for children aged between six months and four years, from 6 p.m. to midnight, and then a Night Nursery Extra service from midnight to 2 a.m. Those wanting to use the Extra service must let staff know before 9 p.m. the previous night to make sure there are enough hands on deck.
* May require additional fees