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9 Southampton to Europe - Black Sea Cruise Reviews

Having read varied reviews we went on MSC with low expectations but hopeful, as my husband understands Italian we may find experience better than others who have reviewed it. In fact the announcements on this trip started in English ... Read More
Having read varied reviews we went on MSC with low expectations but hopeful, as my husband understands Italian we may find experience better than others who have reviewed it. In fact the announcements on this trip started in English followed by German, Italian & more! I guess it depends on which nationalities make up the passenger list. Boarding-Very swift. We waited for 15 mins seated and then queued for 3 mins and then straight on and cabin ready for us. Cabin-14235 large with enough storage. Kept clean by attendant. Good balcony size - great to have breakfast on! Some engine vibration from engine when docking or turning and one night felt movement across English channel but ok. Tip: Take fridge magnets to hold back material shower curtain and put up notices/tickets in your room! Food- all good. I actually preferred the buffet where you could pick what you wanted and in the desired quantity. There was pizza slices there daily and a good fresh fruit & salad choice. Also quite a bit of vegetarian choices. We did go to dining room on a couple of occasions and it was fine but a little chaotic with a mix up of food and drinks orders but acceptable and understandable. We had breakfast in room each morning at no extra charge. This made it pleasant to ease into the day before the time off the ship. It always seemed to arrive early and staff were very good. Ice cream just wonderful at plaza and included in package. Staff- were great. Friendly and eager to serve drinks in all bars regardless whether we had package- which we did. Customer service desk always helpful too. Entertainment- not the best but acceptable. (Similar rating as Thomson but not RC or NCL Epic!) Flamenco was on twice in a week and while I enjoy it didn't want to see it twice! The Saturday show with contortionists and acrobatics was great. Someone told me the guys from 'cirque du soleil' have been training them- it showed! It was brilliant. Music in bars was varied. The best was the classical music but there were never seats so get there early if you like this kind of entertainment. Other singers were just not that great. I couldn't get English Chanel on TV other than news and really missed having music to listen to in the room. It is a shame they don't put on movies in the theatre. Excursions- we did our own thing and having researched well we found some amazing places and all at a fraction of the cost of the ships trips by using public transport. We enjoyed all the ports we visited thanks to my research beforehand. Disembarkation- at Southampton-U.K. Customs insisted on a face to face with all on the ship when we left (even those staying on ship!) This meant we queued for an hour to get off but this was not MSC's doing just UK being cautious I guess. Would I travel on a MSC again? Absolutely! The ship was impressive and food excellent so great value for money and good selection of ports. Next time I will make sure I bring my own music to listen to and perhaps a film or two on my iPad to watch. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
MSC Magnifica 8th October 2024  Very quick check-in, on board and in cabin by 12.45. S3 family cabin - sitting area next to full length balcony windows, separated from dressing area and bedroom by curtains. King size bed, comfortable, ... Read More
MSC Magnifica 8th October 2024  Very quick check-in, on board and in cabin by 12.45. S3 family cabin - sitting area next to full length balcony windows, separated from dressing area and bedroom by curtains. King size bed, comfortable, lumpy pillows, nice bedding - not duvet but sheet, blanket and cover. Bedside tables each with three drawers. Bedside light and access to main lights. Divider cupboard between bed and dressing tables, three large cupboards, one of which contained the fridge. TV, quite small, on this divider. Interactive menu on the TV, including access to shipboard account and info. At least the account t info was available during the first few days, but it disappeared later in the week and the reception staff said that it was only visible on the last day ?? 4-seated settee, small oval coffee table and small armchair without arms. Bathroom fairly compact. Shower with curtain, which did not attack during a shower. Good pressure and soap and shampoo available in dispensers attached to the shower wall. Early sitting for dinner - 6.00 pm - which I find too early. However late sitting at 8.30 is too late for me as well - need to consider freedom dining in future. Meals at dinner consisted of Appetisers, salads, soups, pasta dish, main meal and sweet. We usually selected 3/4 courses maximum. Alternatives to menu offered daily eg salmon, chicken. There was also one vegetarian main as well. Buffet for lunch, always available are burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, pasta, chips and salad. Always adequate, sometimes really good. Special recommendation here for the freshly-made pizzas - usually about 4 different flavours - each one we tried was delicious. Used for lunch time each day. Breakfast we opted for in-cabin, to avoid the inevitable crush and push when so many cultures are on board. This trip included Russians, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Japanese, Chinese and possibly Portuguese. Most annoying - lifeboat drill after pickup in Hamburg, which included those passengers who had joined in Amsterdam the day before. Every instruction was repeated throughout all the cabins in six languages. This happened just after I awoke from an afternoon sleep, so at least it didn't wake me up. We believe this was a mistake because the following drill was not transmitted into the cabin, only the initial call for those passengers affected. Evening entertainment - we spent each evening in the Tiger Bar which is not as garish as it appears in the pictures with all the tigerskin carpets and seats. The musicians in here were very good but the Animation team were restricted in their games by the various nationalities attending. It usually consisted of audience guessing names of films or tunes or artists and running to a chair on stage, where the correct answer was rewarded with an MSC bag, or t-shirt etc. The theatre shows were all well attended every evening, because there was the locust swarm of passengers traversing the Tiger Bar on their way to and from wherever. We never did find out where everyone disappeared to, but there were plenty of alternative bars or lounges. We found the daytime in the Tiger Bar was dominated during the sea day by the Entertainment Team creating games and shouting loudly and often for applause, applause - more than a little trying, especially if we were writing or reading (or trying to). We moved into a different bar, but it was still close enough to hear the call for applause. The ship is immaculately clean and like a micro community. The service was either fantastic or very poor, with disaffected staff showing either disinterest or disdain at times. However, we on,y encountered a couple of members of staff who were miserable and the rest were delightful. In fact, our waiter at dinner and a number of bar staff were very pleasant and happy, which is what we expect at all times from customer-facing staff. Our ports of call were Zeebrugge for Brugge, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Le Havre. When we docked at Zeebrugge, due to some pervious research, we were aware that there was a free port shuttle, but this fact was never made known on board. Instead the ship shuttle at €14 was suggested. As I was unwell at the beginning of the trip, we decided to go on the ship shuttle, which took us close to Blankenburg rail station where we boarded the first train for Bruges, at a cost of €12, which is €3 each person, each way. These run from Blankenburg at ten minutes after the hour, each hour and the return from Bruges is at 36 minutes after the hour, and they ran on the dot while we were there. The trains are clean, comfortable and fast, a great way to travel. While in Bruge we had coffee, caught up with mails, FB etc. In Amsterdam we walked along the harbour, passing the river boats along the way, to the Grand Central Station. At this point the HOHO buses can be found, although we didn't use these this time as it was quite recently that we had done both canal and coach trips. We walked through the city, checked out the Sex Museum which ad been recommended to us. Although this may sound seedy, the Museum is very interesting and good value for money at €4 each. We then had our coffee at one of the Hotel coffee shops, where we were disappointed that their WiFi was not working. As we left the coffee shop there was an almighty crash as a motor cyclist was hit by a tram and everything around seemed to just stop. The ambulance was at the scene very quickly and the cyclist was quickly whisked away, hopefully not too badly hurt as he was at was on his feet just after the accident. We then continued our wanderings and were soon in the red light district, where some of the girls were showing their attributes. My Hubby commented that window shopping could sometimes be appealing - this from the man who HATES shopping with a passion back home. By this time we were both tired so we caught the No. 26 tram back to the ship - at a cost of €1.30 each. Although the ship was docked here overnight, we decided to spend the evening on board and enjoyed an excellent meal in the main restaurant. Our third stop was in Hamburg and again we paid the ship's shuttle cost of €13.90 each as we had not been into Hamburg previously. I had researched the alternatives and found that there are water buses available, and there were also plenty of taxis available. I did overhear that these were charging €20 each way, but I can't verify this. We were dropped off at the square where the Town Hall was, a most magnificent building it has to be said. After a quick coffee in Starbucks and a quick email catchup, we decided to get the HOHO tour. I was a little nervous about this because I had read that these HOHOs were more geared to the Europe languages, with English not very much in evidence, but we went on two of these buses and in each case English was available as well as Dutch and German. This was in fact one of the best value HOHOs we have been on and the whole tour lasted just over 2 hours. We both really enjoyed the sights we saw and the information that was also given. Our last call was Le Havre and we were booked on a ship's excursion to Breuille Castle Calvados distillery, with a stop at Breuille en Ange. The guide at the Castle was excellent and able to converse fluently in English and French. The Ship's guide also provided commentary in Italian for a small contingency of our group. Very interesting, very welcoming visit. The trip to the village was super, so reflecting what we expected of a typical French village in the countryside. We treated ourselves to some traditional patisseries and had a good trip back, taking in Honfleur while still in the coach, showing the contrasts of a busy port and the idyllic countryside. A good excursion, although it was certainly a little overpriced. An ambience change certainly appeared to happen for me over the last couple of days on the cruise, following the picking up of large number of Russian passengers and their children. This may just reflect the cultural differences, but the staff around and about certainly seemed to be intimated by the attitude of these passengers and I felt quite upset at times when I observed how the staff were treated as servants, rather than as the hard-working, pleasant individuals that we had encountered. It appears that the Russian culture is just louder and more aggressive than we usually encounter on multi-cultural ships or resorts, so perhaps it is a case of being more tolerant (or avoiding cruises where passengers are picked up like ferry passengers, at each port of call throughout the cruise.) Overall this was a great cruise, we enjoyed the food, the service, the upgrade of cabin, the company we kept and being in a beautiful and immaculate ship, almost all of which was attributable to MSC - the bonus was really good weather in all the ports we visited - and the excellent value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Stayed in the Meon Valley Marriott the night before good quality hotel and a good deal including parking for the duration of the cruise and efficient inclusive transfers to terminal. I called this review very English because the vast ... Read More
Stayed in the Meon Valley Marriott the night before good quality hotel and a good deal including parking for the duration of the cruise and efficient inclusive transfers to terminal. I called this review very English because the vast majority of the passengers were English predominantly in the age range 60 plus. The atmosphere and the ethos of the ship was very English although all prices were in dollars on board. Ship The overall ship was clean and well maintained although there was the odd bucket collecting leaks from I assume the air conditioning system. Furnishings and decor although reserved in a English way was high quality and comfortable. It was great that films were shown in the ballroom or the theatre so there were no shortage of seats. Food Food was excellent and the waiting staff friendly and accomodating. My wife has an onion allergy relating to migraines and food was especially prepared for her with her making menu choices the day before. The Lido being the self service was a bit of a scrum to find tables at busy times but you always had the restaurant as an alternative. The Verandah as one of the alternative eating options was excellent and well worth the supplement although was often quite empty. Unsure if is Carnivals influence but they were charging a $10 dollar supplement to eat outside at the back of the boat for bistro food and $14 to eat in the Lido waiter service on themed nights. Neither gave additionality against the restraurant and was counter to the spirit of the ship. Its in the same spirit as charging a $55 supplement to sit in one of the boxes when the singers and dances were performing you get champagne and nibbles and a photo just seemed counter to the culture of the ship. Room service was good and breakfast came in the time span requested. Entertainment If you like ballroom dancing the Victoria is the ship for you. The ballroom was a good size and the band and vocalist a very high standard. The band Synergy for more pop type music should be re booked they were great. The concert pianists were superb. The quartet and harpist gave lovely background presentations around the ship. The theatre massive and the singers and dancers put their all into it but sometimes they were not polished in final performance and some the shows could have better written. In some of the shows there was to much "Land of Hope and Glory" and its a pity they have not moved on from this. The speakers were good but they all seemed to be on the cruise ship merry go round with little really fresh speakers coming through. The ships choir were very good every congratulation to the entertainment team. I was unclear why they had instrumentalists in the theatre programme the ships musicians could have matched anyone. Also there was great jazz. Ports trips. We went on about five organised trips and they were all value for money and the guides were good. The organised trips were good if it was your first time in the port. What annoyed me immensely was the lack of complimentary shuttle buses into the nearest town. There were three ports that needed such a service. In Lisbon due to passenger pressure one was laid on for which a charge was imposed. In Istanbul we were there for two days it was a forty minute walk into the centre and I had to pick up one passenger when they fell and saw another fall. It was a rough surface. There is a large group who do not want to pay for a trip and do not trust or fear local transport. This is a stupid cost cutting exercise and Cunard/Carnival should be ashamed. I wrote two written complaints and received no explanation. This was not in accord with the quality service received in other aspects of the trip. The Commodore made some good decisions about coming into port early re weather etc and gave overall a relaxed atmosphere on the ship wandering around talking to passengers. Disembarkation A complete shambles the manager controller let of to many groups at the same time. The approach was jammed with passengers coming from different directions therefore you were feeling that passegers were pushing in. As I said a shambles pity because its the last imprint you have of the ship. Summary A wonderful high quality holiday Cunard you will lose this overall imprint if Carnival or others make budget reductions on service or try and introduce additional fees for what should be standard service.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
I must first say that we enjoyed the Cruise. The Queen Victoria is a fine, comfortable ship, and our cabin was excellent. However there were so many irritations, some of them avoidable, that we will think twice before going with Cunard ... Read More
I must first say that we enjoyed the Cruise. The Queen Victoria is a fine, comfortable ship, and our cabin was excellent. However there were so many irritations, some of them avoidable, that we will think twice before going with Cunard again. The primary complaint was the price of everything on board. The cheapest wine at dinner was $30 + 15% service charge (all drinks attract a service charge of 15%) . Photographs taken by the ever hopeful ship photographers were $24.95 each. A tour of the ship was on offer at $120. To join a wine tasting was about $50. I don't know why Cunard charge these silly prices, it just puts people off, and there were a lot of unclaimed photographs at the end of the cruise. We probably spent less than we would have if the prices had been reasonable. Entertainment was we thought of a high quality, but often spoiled by being over-amplified. The theatre is excellent. However the timing of some of the daily events was strange - there were often 3 talks in the morning and none in the afternoon. Cinema shows started about 1230 when people were having lunch. One of the problems of the ship is that it has only one theatre. Other functions have to take place in the Queen's Room, which is not an enclosed space. It was not therefore a good place for the Piano Recitals given there, as there were stewards and passengers moving along the passageways, and the noise of the air conditioning almost drowned out the performers. Also the seats are badly arranged for that type of event, and for the cinema which was held there. The penny pinching extended even to the Passenger Choir for which no music was provided - even the pianist had to play by ear. The food we found was mostly pretty good, not though as good as we had with Fred Olsen on Braemar a few years ago. Service was sometimes a bit slow. We enjoyed our trips though they are expensive. We were disappointed at the lack of shuttles - particularly in Istanbul where there was quite a walk to the centre. The ambience of the ship is supposed to be traditionally British. If that is so then it seems odd to have everything priced in dollars. Nor were the entertainments staff particularly British in attitude - everything was hyped to the maximum degree, and a bit of British restraint would have been refreshing. Incidentally the Captain (Commodore) was a perfect gentleman! Despite the above we did enjoy the holiday, but much preferred the Aurora on which we travelled round the world a few years ago. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
MSC has some pretty bad reviews, and I'm pleased to report that we had a very pleasant time on board Opera. However, it was not all plain sailing, if you'll excuse the pun. So let's start with the bad points and if you feel ... Read More
MSC has some pretty bad reviews, and I'm pleased to report that we had a very pleasant time on board Opera. However, it was not all plain sailing, if you'll excuse the pun. So let's start with the bad points and if you feel you can stomach those, I shall move on to the good points. The biggest minus for us was the very poor vegetarian food. Meat and fish eaters are very well catered for, but poor old veggies get a very raw deal - literally! Raw carrots, raw lettuce, raw onion, but often no hot veggie dish at the buffet aside from the side veg. I don't consider a bowl of boiled broccoli to constitute a meal. Often meat was added unnecessarily, reducing the choices even further Eg breakfast omelettes with added ham, breakfast potatoes with added sausage pieces, pasta with added meat or fish. Even at the sit-down restaurant at lunch and dinner time there was not always a veggie option for each course. This was particularly disappointing for the gala dinners. what there was was very samey eg cheese appetizer followed by a cheese salad followed by a cheese main course. Aubergines were presented in various ways day after day. I love aubergines, but was starting to go off them, and my poor old daughter hates them so was left with no alternative. There were no labels to indicate what was veggie and it was not always easy to tell and the staff did not always know. We did say we were veggie at time of booking and were contacted part-way through the cruise to check that all was well, but nothing resulted from our complaint. Deserts in the restaurant and buffet were generally good, the ice-cream was very nice and the pizza parlour was good. The afternoon tea was always very nice and the scones were very tasty. Tea at the tea stations was usually rather too weak and no tea or coffee was served after the meals. The other big bugbear was the tender service, which was necessary twice on this cruise. We have been on many cruises and realise that this can be a bit slow, but we've NEVER encountered anything quite so shambolic and painfully slow. MSC really need to sort this out, as it was causing considerable upset. We were informed that tender tickets would be available at 9am. At 8.30am we passed by and there was already a queue forming so we joined it. At 9am there was virtually no movement and finally at about 9.20am, as the queue was slowly moving, a man came down the line handing out tickets. We were given 'H' tickets, despite being fairly near the front. The first tickets (A and B) were called to disembark at 9.45 and C and D and 10am, then everything stopped. By 11.30 no further tickets had been called but people were leaving the ship. We joined the massive queue and were let off. No one checked what letter we were, but by then it was well after noon and other poor souls were waiting patiently for announcements. The same thing happened the next time. This time we just joined the queue that was forming, even though no tickets had been called. We were let off the ship with no one checking our letter (B this time)! It took an age, and there was much pushing and shoving. It made a mockery of the so-called system. People with J and N were in front of us. This cast an unnecessary shadow and could easily be made slicker and fairer. A surprising problem was the lack of chairs in the buffet. There were not enough to go round. I think this is because the assumption is that the outside seating will be used, but this was a Northern European cruise during a cold spell and it was either too cold, wet or windy to sit out so everyone sat in - if they could a) find a table (always a problem) and b) find a chair to place at the table. There were times when we got a table but could not find sufficient chairs to go round it. Many people brought in chairs from the deck. One final gripe was about smoking, which was allowed in too many places. the smoking lounge and smoking casino are not closed and the smoke permeates other areas and is unpleasant. On the positive side, the ship is very nice and looks well maintained. The theatre is especially good and the shows were also very good. Unfortunately fellow guests often arrived late and everyone had to stand up to let them past, and many talked through shows. The cabin is reasonably roomy as cabins go (we had a standard ocean view) but our steward was not great. Often we returned and the cabin had not been made up, despite being vacated for several hours. He always looked a tad unhappy and I wonder if perhaps he was simply over-worked. No chocs on pillows or towels shaped like elephants and swans unfortunately. There was a nice walking/jogging track, but unfortunately it was over blocked by sun loungers. Drinks are rather pricey - both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ones. However, the bar service is generally quite good and reasonably fast and friendly. The restaurant staff were also very friendly and efficient. Despite some gripes this was a good cruise with some nice ports of call on a pleasant ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Background: Traveled on a non-stop British Airways flight from San Diego. Used "Smiths for Airports" car service for transportation to/from Heathrow airport to Southampton. They were excellent and a great value. Spent one night ... Read More
Background: Traveled on a non-stop British Airways flight from San Diego. Used "Smiths for Airports" car service for transportation to/from Heathrow airport to Southampton. They were excellent and a great value. Spent one night at the West Quay Premier Inn. Nice room next to fun mall. Took taxi to port. Cabin #8132: Wonderful! Peaceful decor, comfy beds, very clean and plenty of storage space. Nice balcony too. Dining: I liked being able to get tea, orange and cranberry juice at all times in the lido. The bread/rolls were also good. Room service breakfasts were excellent and timely. The Golden Lion pub lunch menu was tasty. The dining room service was slow and the menu items just okay. I much preferred the dinner menus, selection and taste on the Holland America line. Soups, sauces and salad dressings were very bland. Shore Excursions: Took many ship sponsored tours and they were all fantastic. Well organized with knowledgeable guides. Entertainment: Music around the ship was beautiful. Night time shows were just so-so. Comedian was funny, but wish humor was cleaner. Quiz staff was polite, but lacked a bit of warmth. Enjoyed the Christmas carol singing and gingerbread houses. Disembarkation: Handled smoothly. Summary: Queen Elizabeth is a lovely and elegant ship. Very pleased overall with my Cunard experience.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Really enjoyed the cruise to the Black Sea on Arcadia though nigglying irritations could so easily have limited that pleasure. The vessel, wisely, is about to go in for a refit. It's a little tired and there are some improvements ... Read More
Really enjoyed the cruise to the Black Sea on Arcadia though nigglying irritations could so easily have limited that pleasure. The vessel, wisely, is about to go in for a refit. It's a little tired and there are some improvements needed. Our cabin was most acceptable, B150. Being right at the back of the boat we enjoyed a larger than usual balcony which became a protected sun trap for much of the voyage. Within the cabin there were fewer shelves than on other P&O vessels causing a clutter of personal items on what was available. I was a little stunned to note the length of the bath! On an "all adult" boat it was ironic that the bath was obviously designed for a child. Why advertise baths when they are unfit for adults? The food, as always on P&O was fine, but the Meridian Restuarant was quite the noisiest ship restaurant I have dined in. Hard rather than soft surfaces abounded throughout the dining area and sounds reverberated making conversation difficult. There was also a sense that the number of waiters had declined and those serving we're always under constant pressure. Having arrived on time for dinner we twice waited 35 minutes for our first course - some passengers moving already onto deserts at that time! I do get a little peeved at the cost of alcohol on cruises. I purchased a "wine offer" and when it concluded bought further individual bottles. On checking my account on home arrival it appeared that they had double charged me. Charging for the "offer" and then proceeding to charge for the same bottles again. Do check your accounts carefully. We did enjoy several of the visiting artistes, though disliked the rather egocentric bass baritone. As a couple who rarely go to performances we were particularly impressed by the Headliner Company who always performed with vitality and professionalism. Unfortunately, unless one rushed to end one's dinner finding a seat in the theatre could be difficult Surprisingly, we always seemed to be leaving port earlier than in the past. Guess the Company were saving money for the vessel rarely sailed above 17 knots an hour. Visits at such ports always then seemed rushed. At Istanbul we docked late, not the Captain's fault, and significant excursions were done at a "gallop" . Passengers were certainly "short changed" at this port. And why must every excursion end with a shopping visit? Even in Istanbul they found the required time to visit the Grand Bazaar when I sensed that at least 80% of passengers thought it a waste of time. If passengers want to shop why do the Company not provide shopping focused tours and leave others to view relevant sites. The staff were, as always, warm, friendly and most helpful. Was a little annoyed with the Captain who, 6 days into the voyage suggested someone had brought the norvovirus on board when, both staff and passengers doing back to back cruises stated it was already on board. At least it appeared to have been cleared as we progressed through the cruise. On the return from the Black Sea we left Athens and experienced 4 sea days............ too many in the Mediterranean. There should have been an additional port of call. I've written on the more prominent irritations, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and are grateful to P&O. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
On the 7 September a group of four embarked on Azura for a 24 night cruise titled Eastern Med and Black Sea. Our first port of call was Lisbon. We walked from the ship and got a taxis outside the station which we hired for the day for 120 ... Read More
On the 7 September a group of four embarked on Azura for a 24 night cruise titled Eastern Med and Black Sea. Our first port of call was Lisbon. We walked from the ship and got a taxis outside the station which we hired for the day for 120 euros. Considering there were four of us and we started our tour at 10.00 am and we were dropped back at 4.00 pm we thought it was an excellent tour and we had no hanging around waiting for fellow passengers to return to the bus on time, also there was no filling in of time going to coffee shops etc. The area covered was Estoril, Sintra and surrounding places of interest to tourists. Wonderful port tasting in Sintra. After four pleasant days at sea we arrive at the beautiful port of Valletta. We walked to the lift from the ship which takes you into Valletta, cost one euro each. If you have been to Valletta before take a local bus to explore further a field, the bus station is a short walk from the lift. I think the fare for two people was under five euros and the tickets lasted all day, also the buses ran frequently. Good shopping in Valletta. We all had been to Ephesus before so we just wondered round Kusadasi and took in the atmosphere. Next stop Yalta, we went on an organised tour which was expensive, not very well supervised, too many coaches all going to the same place, but we wanted to see where the peace treaty was signed after the Second World War with Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Unfortunately, in the afternoon it rained cats and dogs so we were a little restricted what we did, but we did have a walk along the promenade which was very pleasant. Odessa is very beautiful. Just walk off the ship and in approximately one hundred metres there is a flight of steps that takes you into Odessa, or alternatively take the free coach into Odessa and walk around that area where the bus drops you off and then walk back to the ship down the Main Street with lovely restaurants, fantastic buildings and fab shops. Travel agents do not seem to promote this beautiful city, I can only assume it is not an easy destination to get to if you are not cruising. Two days for our feet to recover before we arrive at Istanbul. This was our second visit, but it is still magical. We walked from the ship through the port area crossed the road and used the tram. Frequent, very cheap and stops at every interesting place tourists would wish to visit. One slight problem to purchase your ticket only Turkish currency accepted, but there was a cash machine across the road from the tram stop, which saved our day. Unfortunately we were unable to get to Mytilene as we had to tender and there was a swell so the captain decided it wasn't safe and the ship just went very slowly to Athens. A lot of passengers had hoped that he might have been able to visit another port on our way back to Southampton as a lot of passengers had done this cruise before and visited more ports in the original itinerary. Who can dislike Athens! Unfortunately the day we were there the protesters were out in force, but it didn't spoil our visit. Last stop Vigo, rained again, but went on a organised tour to Santiago de Compostela - a beautiful town. We prefer Ventura to Azura. I do not like the decor of Azura, as I find the colour schemes in the cabins depressing and the carpets on our deck twelve were very badly stained, especially by the lifts at the front of the ship. We tried freedom dining for the first time and found it worked very well as we have always gone on late sitting, but early sitting is not for us. I am a diabetic and the meals they provided for me were excellent, I wish hotels provided the same service. My big complaint and I have written to P & O direct also on my questionnaire about the ill mannered passengers who persist in filling their own water bottles from the water dispensing machines in the cafeteria areas. I am not quite sure whether they are blind and cannot read the notices, too mean to purchase bottled water from the ship or ignorant about infection that they are passing on to vulnerable people with medical problems. One day I saw ten people fill their own bottles and not one waiter, supervisor or any P &O staff stop them. Can any passenger think of a way to prevent this disgusting habit? The theatre group was excellent, but some of the other entertainers were very poor. Day time activities were very repetitive, I guess done on the cheap. The art class was superb, but not everyone wants to participate in this activity. I started cruising twenty one years ago and the day time entertainment has got worse over the last four years, no imagination appears to be implemented for day time entertainment. I do not like the outdoor cinema on Azura, as the screen is not very clear. We all enjoyed the cruise, but certain aspects of it could be improved. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We had heard good reports about Azura and were really excited about taking a 24 night Cruise to the Black Sea. Embarkation was smooth and quick and we were on board within 30 minutes. Cabins were not available and were directed to ... Read More
We had heard good reports about Azura and were really excited about taking a 24 night Cruise to the Black Sea. Embarkation was smooth and quick and we were on board within 30 minutes. Cabins were not available and were directed to restaurant to get food and drink whilst waiting for an announcement about availability. This came relatively quickly and we entered a clean reasonably spacious balcony cabin on Barbados Deck Starboard side, The first thing that hit us about Azura was that you could not walk all around the Promenade deck because the bow end was blocked off by superstructure. Secondly that no matter where you went on the ship it seemed very busy - with great difficulty finding seats in other than the Planet Bar or the Glass House. The Theatre was always completely full for first show at least 30 minuted before curtain up and started to emply 5 mintes before the end of an act so that Wacky Races could be performed by a combination of Walker aids, zimmer frames, wheelchairs, and disabled scooters as people zoomed off to claim seats for another show lounge. We felt that Manhatten lounge was dangerous when full because isles were frequently blocked and the lounge vista was not helped by huge pillars keeping the roof up. We dined on first sitting in the Oriental restaurant. The food was OK as was service but it was nothing to get excited about, especially the puddings. The show lounges were in my opinion quite poorly laid out and Brodie's Bar which we frequented for Quizzes was quite the most unwelcoming and uncomfortable bar I have ever encountered on any ship. It was in the same room as the casino and with regular clientelle on the noisy fruit machines it made for interesting quizzes with questions often having to be repeated The cruise itinerary was we has hoped going to be exciting especially cruising the Dardonelles and the Bosphorous, however both transients of the Dardonnelles were late at night and one of the Bosphorous was very early in the morning. This left us feeling distinctly short changed. We were unable to call in at Myteleene owing to rough seas, however I have been tendered by other cruise lines in much worse conditions. whoever planned the itinerary at Carnival want to be given a talking to. To dock on a Sunday morning in Vigo - when they must have know the port was virtually closed was disgraceful. Especially as we had been as sea for 5 days. Why could we not have called at Gibraltar or Cadiz on a Saturday? Passengers were not happy to discover a virtual lock down of Vigo. Tours we booked were for the most part OK although the Odessa guide was a joke. Taking us on a half hour stop to a Ukrainian bank to get local currency to use in local toilets and then telling the us the bank required to see our Ukrainian passports. What an idiot.. However the most disappointing aspect of the whole cruise was the attitude of more mature passengers. They were often very rude and intolerant. One example being to start booing and slow hand clapping in the theatre because the show was 7 minuted late in starting. DSS investigators need to get on one of these ships - the benefits bill would drop alarmingly. People was supposedly could hardly walk could suddenly sprint when a lift became free Read Less
Sail Date September 2013

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