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.

Contrasts

Azura Cruise Review by Ros Tarran

Trip Details
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.
Ros Tarran’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin A103
Our cabin was very depressing, horrible cheap red curtains and the cabin could have been cleaner. The beige carpet along our corridor and in front of the lifts nearest to our cabin were stained. 
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