A couple of weeks have gone by since my husband and I disembarked the Azura in Southampton, after our Baltic cruise. So it’s time to put pen to paper – or rather jot down a few notes on the old laptop, before the memories become too hazy. This was our fifth cruise but our first with P & O. Last year we sailed with Royal Caribbean on the Serenade of the Seas and in 2013 with Thomson on the Island Escape. Our other cruises were on the Thomson Destiny in 2011 and on the Airtours’ Carousel in 1996. GETTING THERE. We live in the Canary Islands and had to fly out from Lanzarote the day before the cruise, to ensure that we would be there in plenty of time to get down to Southampton. We travelled down from Gatwick to Southampton on a National Express coach as there were no other suitable alternatives but we wouldn’t do that again! The coach was old and rickety and the promised WiFi did not exist, so 3 hours on an old coach with uncomfortable seats, being thrown around on the many roundabouts that were encountered on the tedious journey, was not a good start to our holiday. We had booked a night at the Premier Inn, West Quay and were so glad to finally arrive at Southampton and get off that coach. The hotel was only 5 minutes’ walk away from the bus station and was easy to find. We had a lovely room with a comfortable bed and just dropped off our bags and went straight down to eat something before the restaurant closed. The restaurant was busy and full of families joining their various cruise-ships the following day but we got our food quite quickly and enjoyed every bite. After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we were raring to get on board! We had been sent an embarkation time of 2 p.m. but as we had to be out of our hotel by midday, we just checked out, got a taxi and arrived at the port at around 12 o'clock. Our bags were whisked out of our hands and we were sent into the hall and handed cards with a "P" on them. We filled in our health declarations and waited about 10 minutes until the P's were called and suddenly we were on board! The system was organised and the queue constantly moving. There was no reference to the time that we had been allocated - they just kept on processing the people who were actually there. By 12.45 we were sitting in the Verona buffet, having lunch. The cabins were ready at exactly 2 p.m. as we had been informed previously. We were ready to start our cruise! MUSTER CALL This was a bit of a joke as we were told that we all had to meet at our muster point, which in our case was the Manhattan bar. People were milling around aimlessly and the staff (who all seemed to be teenagers) were holding their clip-boards looking important but nobody actually did a roll-call!! Surely, that should be the first thing to do and with an electronic card reader, this could have been done as we walked into the room. On Royal Caribbean, we all had to go to our life-boat station where a roll-call was done and everybody put into neat rows and were expected to pay attention to the information that was being given. P & O’s muster call was a bit like a friendly get-together. THE FOOD I would give the food and dining options on the Azura an 8 out of 10. My husband and I dine out a couple of times each week and enjoy good food, well presented. We’re not huge drinkers but enjoy a nice wine with our dinner. But we’re not used to having dress up in formal attire just to go out to dine. We live on a holiday island in the sun and our clothes reflect our lifestyle. My husband doesn’t own any shirts – let alone any ties to wear with them! So we faced the dilemma of what to wear and where to eat on our cruise. If my husband had had his way, we would have eaten every meal in the buffet but I like to have a well-cooked meal served to me at a table with a white tablecloth and to be able to savour the meal, the wine and the surroundings. I can understand that some people don’t have the opportunity to dine out very often and enjoy the dressing up and formality that many cruises offer on their formal nights but I don’t want to be forced to do that. I could understand in the old days when the newer cruise lines were trying to compete with the likes of Cunard etc. and cruise passengers were given the opportunity to dress up in their finery and all go down to dinner in the main dining room and do their synchronised eating of those 6 or 7 courses that took most of the evening. But since the advent of freedom dining, where people can choose to dine at any time during the evening, the point of people dressing up in dinner jackets and ball gowns seems rather pointless when the dining room might only have a few people dining at that time. What a waste of time and energy! We are happy to go down to dinner dressed as we would dress when we go out for dinner at home but T shirts are not permitted in the dining rooms at dinner time and that’s what my husband would be dressed in. We’re talking smart T shirts and jeans here – not a cut-away singlet with ripped jeans! I did manage to get him into a lounge suit with a black shirt and a grey tie a couple of times during the cruise but he was not comfortable dressed like that and he was keen to get the meal over as soon as possible so that he could go back to the cabin to get into comfortable clothes again. The choice of “dress as you like but eat in the buffet” against “dress as we tell you and you can dine in a dining room and be served by a waiter” seems rather dictatorial. I agree that inappropriate attire such as shorts and swimwear should not be allowed in the dining room in the evening but smart T shirts with jeans are regular evening attire for many people in this day and age, including celebrities! Some other cruise lines have brought in totally freestyle cruising, where you can eat anywhere at any time. P & O could bend a little and offer eating options that suit everyone. Why not have a formal dining room where those who love to dress up can dine in their dinner jackets and ball gowns every night if they want to? And then another less formal dining room for people who like to dine in comfortable surroundings with waiter service but prefer to dress normally? Why should we be forced to eat in the buffet where the tables were often left littered with other people’s dining debris and the most common meal was yet another curry? Now that there are 2 freedom dining rooms, the Meridian and the Peninsular, why not make one of these available for people who don’t want to dress up at all? On the few occasions that we did dine in the Peninsular, we found that the food was tasty and well presented but it wasn’t haute cuisine and certainly not worthy of an hour or two of dressing up! The difference between eating in the Peninsular and in the Venezia was enormous though. The buffet served basic food that was nothing special. The breakfasts were very disappointing though and could have offered more choices. I can’t help but comparing the breakfasts offered on the Azura to those offered on the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas last year. There, they had trays of crispy bacon, eggs cooked to order, pancakes, all types of bread, freshly made toast and they served the milk for the cereals in individual serving packs of either full or semi-skimmed. Azura breakfasts were very disappointing with only back bacon on offer. The fried eggs seemed to have been cooked in the oven and were either solid or half raw. How hard is it to fry an egg so that the white is set and the yolk is still runny? The tomatoes were cut into quarters and somehow warmed up a bit but were never cooked. The toast was soggy and not very hot. The milk was only available from a large dispenser that was topped up with refills poured in on the top of the old milk. Milk needs to be treated with respect and should be transferred from one place to another with scrupulous care. With the recent incidences of norovirus on the Azura, one would have thought that food hygiene would have been taken very seriously and milk is the ideal carrier for bacteria and probably viruses too. Anyway, if I am collecting the various components of my breakfast on a tray, I don’t want to be obliged to pour milk from a large container onto my cereals whilst I am still walking around with the rest of my breakfast on a tray, still in my hands. By the time a table has been found and I have sat down and put my food on the table, my cereals are soggy and also very likely have been spilt onto the tray. When you enter the buffet, you are handed a tray with a knife and fork. You go round and collect the food that you want and then go and sit down and realise that you don’t have a spoon for your cereals. So you return to the buffet to get one and have to disinfect your hands again just to go in. You return to your table and realise that you haven’t picked up any juice, so you leave your breakfast again to walk down to the end of the room to get some juice from the machine. The table may have been laid with some mugs and a few sachets of milk, sugar etc. A waiter comes and offers you tea and fills your mug but then you realise that there are no teaspoons anywhere and there aren’t enough milk capsules. When you go and get your own tea from the drinks station, you find that the first thing that you find are the mugs and then the waste container. But you don’t have any waste as you haven’t even got close to the tea-bags yet. They are the next thing that you come to. So you put your tea-bag into your mug and then move on to the hot water, fill your mug and then have to go back again to get some milk from the large container that is located between the tea-bags and the hot water dispenser. But then you need to dispose of the used tea-bag and have to go back to where you came in as that is where the waste container is. If there is a long queue of people getting their drinks, having to go back and forth can mess up the efficiency of the system. Why not have all the cutlery in one place and the drinks area laid out in order of use? The afternoon teas were very good. The toasted teacakes were wonderful and so were the scones. The small dishes of fresh whipped cream, set out for the scones was a nice touch. Whilst it’s good to have a theme for the evening buffets, there should also be a selection of dishes that are not part of the theme. I don’t like spicy food and found that the number of curries that were on offer was excessive for the number of days that we were on the cruise. Whether the fact that many of the staff in the Venezia were from India had any influence on this, is not certain but there were just too many curries! On most days there was a roast of some sort but inevitably, the meat was totally over-cooked. I’m not one of those people that think that lamb chops should be served semi-raw or roast beef should bleed all over the place but neither do I like roast meat totally overcooked and dry. There were the same potatoes on the buffet almost every day. These were potatoes that had been “roasted” (probably in the deep fat fryer) with their skins still on, so they were brownish but not at all crispy. We did get lovely mashed potatoes one evening though! The other option was frozen french fries. Generally the vegetables were very al dente and too undercooked for me. I don’t like soggy vegetables but I do like them so you can cut through them with a knife! The desserts were generally very good and a special recommendation must be made for the delicious Queen of Puddings that we had one day. I haven’t seen one of those for the last 20 years and have now downloaded the recipe so that I can make one too. Superb! The above are just nit-picking comments and in general, the food was very good. We didn’t try any of the speciality restaurants though as we assumed that the food that we had paid for would be of a good enough standard. We thought that the wine selection was very good and the prices reasonable. We liked the wine dispenser in the Venezia and thought that it might have been nice to have one of these in our cabin! THE SHIP The Azura is a much larger ship than the ship that we cruised on last year – the RCI Serenade of the Seas - but it’s not the largest ship in the P & O fleet, as that is the recently launched Britannia. The general layout of the Azura was fairly good but gaining access to some areas drove us and many other passengers mad. Firstly, the signage was pretty useless, especially when using the lifts. Why isn’t there a large sign denoting the floor number on each landing next to the lifts? There was some tiny writing by each lift and if you were really observant, you would see that the slightly brighter writing told you which floor you were on. Most of the staircases didn’t have anything to indicate which floor you were actually on either, nor indeed which staircase, so there were people wandering around aimlessly looking for some indication as to where they were. Apart from putting some large numbers on each landing, they should also have a 3D model of the ship to show you where you are and where you might want to be. And to make life really simple, why not colour code each section of the ship so you know whether you are in the aft, amidships or forward stairwell? And arrows pointing forward and aft would tell you which direction you are going too! Often on port days people were wandering around aimlessly trying to find where the disembarkation point was, as many of the staircases that were not directly related to the disembarkation point had absolutely nothing to tell you where to go. As disembarkation is a regular happening on any cruise ship, why aren’t there any electronic notices on all landings and public areas informing passengers of when and where to disembark? The signage on Royal Caribbean ships is much better, with large numbers on every landing and a detailed 3D model of the ship by every lift. The aft lifts only went down from deck 19 to deck 7 or to certain areas of deck 6, so on port days it was necessary to run half a mile down our corridor to the forward lifts in order to get down to the disembarkation area without having to go down to deck 7 and then walk through virtually the entire ship to get to the forward stairs to get down to deck 6 or 5 or wherever they were disembarking that day. The aft lifts do go down to deck 6 but only to the Oriental restaurant, so all those passengers whose cabins were at the forward end of the ship and had been allocated the Oriental restaurant, had to do the same long trek but in reverse. Anyone wanting to go up to the Sky deck on deck 19 could only do so from the aft lifts or take a long climb up the stairs. But apart from that, the public areas were great. There was something for everyone and plenty of space to do it in. We are not really what you would call social people and are not interested in being “entertained”, so we didn’t join the bingo or the quizzes or go to sit in a bar to drink the night away. We have never watched “Strictly Come Dancing” on TV but we did go to the Playhouse on a couple of the evenings to watch a dance display and also to the finals of the On-Board Dancing competition. Other than that, we did watch a few movies on the Sea-screen and in the Playhouse. We were disappointed that there wasn’t a dedicated cinema on board as the cold weather made watching movies out on the Sea-screen, late at night, a real challenge. The Sea-screen also needs replacing as there were red blobs in certain places on the screen that spoilt the enjoyment of the movie. There was also a total lack of signage for toilet facilities on the lido deck around the pool areas. You could wander around for hours searching for one! So there were good and not-so-good things about the Azura that possibly affected the overall enjoyment of our cruise. THE CRUISE Leaving Southampton, we passed the Royal Caribbean’s new “Anthem of the Seas”. Quite an ugly ship of the towering-block type – not a ship that I would be wanting to cruise on. The weather was cold and blustery with intermittent showers. We passed the Isle of Wight and then turned left to continue our journey up the North Sea. Dinner in the Venezia buffet. The following day was a sea day, which continued to be blustery, cold and quite foggy. Formal evening dinner in the Peninsular restaurant. We were sailing up to the northernmost tip of Denmark and would be stopping at Skagen the following day. This was the first time a ship belonging to the Carnival Line would be visiting Skagen, so it was somewhere new for almost all the passengers. Skagen is Denmark’s northernmost town and is situated on the east coast of the Skagen Odde peninsula in the far north of Jutland. It is Denmark's main fishing port and also has a thriving tourist industry, attracting some 2 million people annually. At the top of the town, there is a point where the 2 seas meet and you can stand with one foot in the North Sea and the other in the Baltic Sea. We didn’t bother doing that though, as it was very cold and windy outside the main town area. Skagen has a “pretty village” feel about it in the main tourist area and there were lots of small shops to browse around and a pleasant internet café to stop in for a coffee and a quick check of the emails. We left Skagen quite early in the afternoon and continued on our journey to our next port – Stockholm, which would be arrived at after another sea day. Dinner in the Venezia buffet. The weather was now a bit brighter with temperatures of around 14ºC but we had a pleasant sea day with a clear sky and calm seas. Formal evening dinner in the Peninsular restaurant. Stockholm was cloudy and drizzly and quite cold. We bought Hop-on Hop-off bus/boat tickets and drove the whole route around the capital and then stopped off to wander round Gamla Stan, have some lunch and then catch a boat to tour the harbour. We got off at the Vasa museum and spent an hour or so viewing this amazing ship and finding out how sailors lived back then. We were lucky enough to miss some heavy rain whilst we were in there and came out to puddles and dripping tree branches but no further rain. We caught the next boat which took us to the stop right next to where the Azura was moored. The next 4 hours were wonderful as the ship wove its way through the thousands of islands on its way back out into the Baltic Sea. Such a beautiful place and by the evening, the perfect sunset to go with it! Dinner in the Venezia buffet. The next morning we had arrived in Tallinn. We caught the shuttle bus into the town and made our way towards the old town. On the way, we passed a market selling locally produced garments (well, that’s what they said, anyway!) and I bought a jumper to help keep out the cold. Tallinn is full of character and still retains its walled, cobble stoned town centre, with its large square full of cafes and shops, as well as a 15th-century defensive tower. The Estonian History Museum is dedicated to the country's 20th-century history, and its towering Gothic Town Hall is among the Baltic region's oldest. After wandering around the town for a while, taking in the scenery, we stopped off at an open-air bar on the square and were seated on wooden benches covered with sheepskins. Nice touch! After a meal and catching up with our emails via the free WiFi, we returned to the ship on a cycle rickshaw driven by a very strong young man! Dinner in the Venezia buffet. The following morning we had arrived in St. Petersburg – the highlight of the cruise! Despite all the warnings about how complicated leaving the ship to go on excursions with anyone other than the ship’s tours would be, we had arranged a 2-day tour with T.J. Travel. Disembarkation was fairly simple and after waiting our turn to leave the ship, we passed through immigration, had our visas stuck into our passports and our passports stamped and we were in Russia! Our guide from T.J. Travel, Nina was waiting outside the terminal and took us to our minibus. The wonderful places that were included in the St. Petersburg tour were: City tour including photo stops in the most beautiful, historical places of St Petersburg. Travel to Peterhof by hydrofoil and then guided tour of the Upper Gardens and Lower Fountain Park. Driving to Pushkin city. Traditional Russian lunch (included). Inside guided tour of Catherine Palace with the Amber Room. Driving to the city. A visit to the subway station. Inside guided tour of Peter and Paul Cathedral. Guided tour of the State Hermitage museum (early admission, before the official opening hours). Traditional Russian lunch (pie shop - included). Guided tour of the Faberge museum. Inside guided tour of the Church of the Spilt Blood. Those 2 days sped by so quickly and with so much content, that in no time at all, we were back on the Azura and moving on to our next destination, which was Helsinki. Dinner in the Venezia buffet on both evenings. The visit to Helsinki was on the Sunday and the weather was warm and sunny and the water front was buzzing with people out enjoying the weather. There was a craft market going on and some lovely fruit was being sold on some of the stalls and there were also several food stalls serving freshly grilled salmon and other fish dishes. It seemed that the whole town was out there eating healthy food and spending time with their families. The shops open on a Sunday in Helsinki but not until midday and after that, the place was crowded with shoppers and was very lively. We found out that the town hall had free WiFi and also had some free internet terminals for those people without laptops. We found the place and went in and were given 30 minutes free on a modern terminal, long enough to change our bus tickets back to Gatwick and also print them off. There was no charge for this service and the people working there that day were pleasant and very helpful and also spoke perfect English. Dinner in the Venezia buffet. The next day was a well-deserved sea-day and was quite a sunny day. We just relaxed on our balcony for most of the day. Formal evening dinner in the Peninsular restaurant. The following day was Day 11 and we were in Copenhagen. Another free day to do as we pleased. So we disembarked the ship and walked along the harbour until we found the Mermaid. She was as small as everyone said that she was, so nothing much to report there. We then bought tickets for the Hop-on/Hop-off bus on the Red-Blue line. People need to be warned about this company as they were conning most of their clients. They advertised free Wi-Fi but when the bus arrived, there was no Wi-Fi available. Another couple were waiting with us and told us that so far, 2 different buses had come and gone and neither of them had Wi-Fi aboard. After making a complaint about us having to waste half our day waiting for a bus to come that did have Wi-Fi and asking for our money back to find a bus that did actually have the offered services, a bus came along and told us that it did have Wi-Fi aboard. It did but it was impossible to log-on because the signal was too weak. The commentary was out of sync and stopped abruptly every now and then and changed to another topic half-way though talking about something else. Only one channel of my ear-phones worked. The people operating this service seemed to be running a big con and they couldn’t care less. They all seemed to be middle-eastern and were speaking Arabic amongst themselves. It left a nasty taste to think that our general experience of Copenhagen was being conned by people who did not appear to even be Danish. By the time we had competed the tour of the town, it was too late to take one of the boat tours that were running around the port area. Disappointing day! Dinner in the Venezia buffet. Moving on to the next day and the next port, we find ourselves in beautiful Oslo. The sun was shining and the air was warm. There was a Hop-on/Hop-off bus waiting just outside the exit from the ship, so we jumped on it to do the tour of the city. We left the bus outside the Kontiki museum and spent a pleasant hour revisiting Thor Heyerdahl’s amazing expeditions. We then moved on to the Viking Ship museum and saw the old ships that had been dug up, along with many other ancient relics from the Viking period. We returned to the city centre and walked around for a while and stopped off in a waterfront bar for a drink before returning to the ship. The journey out of Olso was breathtaking, passing lots of beautiful islands in a perfect sea on a perfect day. Dinner in the Venezia buffet. The following day was our last sea day and our last opportunity to relax around the ship. We were back in the North Sea and the weather had come down again. Damp and misty and nothing much to see other than a few oil-rigs. Formal evening dinner in the Peninsular restaurant. We arrived at Zeebrugge early in the morning but had decided tp have a bit of a lie-in and had booked a tour of Bruges with P & O, which was due to start at 11.30 a.m. There was to be another crew emergency drill that morning and this included a supposed electricity cut, which would mean that the lifts would be out of action during the drill. Did they start the drill once all the tour buses had left? No, they blocked all the lifts on the ship just as all the passengers booked on the bus tours needed to make their way down to the disembarkation point on deck 5. We were having breakfast on the Lido deck 15, so we had to walk down 10 flights of stairs. We did not think that this was good planning on the part of the ship’s management, who could have surely waited until the tours had all left the ship before they began their crew emergency drill. After all our previous days in port on our own, we weren’t terribly impressed with the organisation of this tour. It was called Bruges at Your Own Pace but ended up with the entire bus load all having to walk a couple of miles behind the guide at the speed of the slowest person in the group. We were led to a place where we were all to meet again at 15.15h and left to our own devices. We caught a canal boat cruiser and spent a very pleasant hour viewing the town from the water. We then went for a walk around town and stopped off for some lunch. Visiting one of the many chocolate shops was our last stop, where we bought some delicious Leonidas to bring back with us. We were back on the ship for our last night and the final part of our journey back to Southampton. Dinner in the Venezia buffet. Next morning we were back in Southampton and waiting to disembark the ship. We had put our suitcases outside our cabin door at 20.30h the previous evening, so had only our hand luggage with us. We had to be out of our cabin by 08.00h and had been given a disembarkation time of 10.00 – 10.10h and had been allocated the Manhattan bar as out meeting point. We vacated our cabin at the appointed hour and went up to Venezia for a leisurely breakfast. It was understandably busy up there and somewhat chaotic. There was a definite feeling that they just wanted us off the ship so that they could get the next intake on board, so the buffet was a rather hit and miss affair that morning. Shame that our last meal was so disappointing! The disembarkation procedure was a bit of a farce. We were all waiting in our allocated places but the speed that people were leaving the ship was one by one. We were the last group to go and by this time, we were almost an hour later than scheduled and we had people waiting to pick us up outside the terminal. Once we finally disembarked the ship, we realised that the delay was in the terminal building. There were thousands of people trying to leave the baggage shed with their luggage through ONE DOOR! There were several queues of people shuffling along and joining one central queue of passengers trying to get out. What a shambles! Just as well there were no emergencies! This was another negative comparison with Royal Caribbean in Barcelona where we were given a disembarkation time of 06.15h, walked off the ship and had our luggage come down a chute into our hands and were outside the terminal in 5 minutes and checked into our hotel and were back into bed by 07.30h. Maybe the Spanish just do it better or maybe Royal Caribbean are just more efficient! We spent the day with our friends and then had to begin the return journey back to Lanzarote. Firstly the rickety bus journey back to Gatwick on a National Express coach, followed by a night in the Bloc hotel right inside the Gatwick’s South Terminal. A very early check-in and then the flight with Monarch airways back to Lanzarote. By 13.00h, we were home again and it was the end of our Baltic cruise with P & O. All in all it was a great cruise on a fantastic ship, with the opportunity of visiting a lot of wonderful places that otherwise we might never see. Would I do that cruise again? Probably not but I would like to cruise the Norwegian fiords. Would I book with P & O again? Yes I possibly would - in fact I am already browsing their website for Caribbean cruises for 2016/2017 but there’s a lot more competition out there now, so they’d better pull their socks up!

AZURA BALTIC CRUISE REVIEW - CRUISE NUMBER A515 – JUNE 2015

Azura Cruise Review by Lanzalady

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Trip Details
A couple of weeks have gone by since my husband and I disembarked the Azura in Southampton, after our Baltic cruise. So it’s time to put pen to paper – or rather jot down a few notes on the old laptop, before the memories become too hazy.

This was our fifth cruise but our first with P & O. Last year we sailed with Royal Caribbean on the Serenade of the Seas and in 2013 with Thomson on the Island Escape. Our other cruises were on the Thomson Destiny in 2011 and on the Airtours’ Carousel in 1996.

GETTING THERE.

We live in the Canary Islands and had to fly out from Lanzarote the day before the cruise, to ensure that we would be there in plenty of time to get down to Southampton.

We travelled down from Gatwick to Southampton on a National Express coach as there were no other suitable alternatives but we wouldn’t do that again! The coach was old and rickety and the promised WiFi did not exist, so 3 hours on an old coach with uncomfortable seats, being thrown around on the many roundabouts that were encountered on the tedious journey, was not a good start to our holiday.

We had booked a night at the Premier Inn, West Quay and were so glad to finally arrive at Southampton and get off that coach. The hotel was only 5 minutes’ walk away from the bus station and was easy to find. We had a lovely room with a comfortable bed and just dropped off our bags and went straight down to eat something before the restaurant closed. The restaurant was busy and full of families joining their various cruise-ships the following day but we got our food quite quickly and enjoyed every bite. After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we were raring to get on board!

We had been sent an embarkation time of 2 p.m. but as we had to be out of our hotel by midday, we just checked out, got a taxi and arrived at the port at around 12 o'clock. Our bags were whisked out of our hands and we were sent into the hall and handed cards with a "P" on them. We filled in our health declarations and waited about 10 minutes until the P's were called and suddenly we were on board! The system was organised and the queue constantly moving. There was no reference to the time that we had been allocated - they just kept on processing the people who were actually there. By 12.45 we were sitting in the Verona buffet, having lunch. The cabins were ready at exactly 2 p.m. as we had been informed previously. We were ready to start our cruise!

MUSTER CALL

This was a bit of a joke as we were told that we all had to meet at our muster point, which in our case was the Manhattan bar. People were milling around aimlessly and the staff (who all seemed to be teenagers) were holding their clip-boards looking important but nobody actually did a roll-call!! Surely, that should be the first thing to do and with an electronic card reader, this could have been done as we walked into the room. On Royal Caribbean, we all had to go to our life-boat station where a roll-call was done and everybody put into neat rows and were expected to pay attention to the information that was being given. P & O’s muster call was a bit like a friendly get-together.

THE FOOD

I would give the food and dining options on the Azura an 8 out of 10. My husband and I dine out a couple of times each week and enjoy good food, well presented. We’re not huge drinkers but enjoy a nice wine with our dinner. But we’re not used to having dress up in formal attire just to go out to dine. We live on a holiday island in the sun and our clothes reflect our lifestyle. My husband doesn’t own any shirts – let alone any ties to wear with them! So we faced the dilemma of what to wear and where to eat on our cruise. If my husband had had his way, we would have eaten every meal in the buffet but I like to have a well-cooked meal served to me at a table with a white tablecloth and to be able to savour the meal, the wine and the surroundings. I can understand that some people don’t have the opportunity to dine out very often and enjoy the dressing up and formality that many cruises offer on their formal nights but I don’t want to be forced to do that. I could understand in the old days when the newer cruise lines were trying to compete with the likes of Cunard etc. and cruise passengers were given the opportunity to dress up in their finery and all go down to dinner in the main dining room and do their synchronised eating of those 6 or 7 courses that took most of the evening. But since the advent of freedom dining, where people can choose to dine at any time during the evening, the point of people dressing up in dinner jackets and ball gowns seems rather pointless when the dining room might only have a few people dining at that time. What a waste of time and energy! We are happy to go down to dinner dressed as we would dress when we go out for dinner at home but T shirts are not permitted in the dining rooms at dinner time and that’s what my husband would be dressed in. We’re talking smart T shirts and jeans here – not a cut-away singlet with ripped jeans! I did manage to get him into a lounge suit with a black shirt and a grey tie a couple of times during the cruise but he was not comfortable dressed like that and he was keen to get the meal over as soon as possible so that he could go back to the cabin to get into comfortable clothes again. The choice of “dress as you like but eat in the buffet” against “dress as we tell you and you can dine in a dining room and be served by a waiter” seems rather dictatorial. I agree that inappropriate attire such as shorts and swimwear should not be allowed in the dining room in the evening but smart T shirts with jeans are regular evening attire for many people in this day and age, including celebrities!

Some other cruise lines have brought in totally freestyle cruising, where you can eat anywhere at any time. P & O could bend a little and offer eating options that suit everyone. Why not have a formal dining room where those who love to dress up can dine in their dinner jackets and ball gowns every night if they want to? And then another less formal dining room for people who like to dine in comfortable surroundings with waiter service but prefer to dress normally? Why should we be forced to eat in the buffet where the tables were often left littered with other people’s dining debris and the most common meal was yet another curry? Now that there are 2 freedom dining rooms, the Meridian and the Peninsular, why not make one of these available for people who don’t want to dress up at all?

On the few occasions that we did dine in the Peninsular, we found that the food was tasty and well presented but it wasn’t haute cuisine and certainly not worthy of an hour or two of dressing up! The difference between eating in the Peninsular and in the Venezia was enormous though. The buffet served basic food that was nothing special.

The breakfasts were very disappointing though and could have offered more choices. I can’t help but comparing the breakfasts offered on the Azura to those offered on the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas last year. There, they had trays of crispy bacon, eggs cooked to order, pancakes, all types of bread, freshly made toast and they served the milk for the cereals in individual serving packs of either full or semi-skimmed. Azura breakfasts were very disappointing with only back bacon on offer. The fried eggs seemed to have been cooked in the oven and were either solid or half raw. How hard is it to fry an egg so that the white is set and the yolk is still runny? The tomatoes were cut into quarters and somehow warmed up a bit but were never cooked. The toast was soggy and not very hot. The milk was only available from a large dispenser that was topped up with refills poured in on the top of the old milk. Milk needs to be treated with respect and should be transferred from one place to another with scrupulous care. With the recent incidences of norovirus on the Azura, one would have thought that food hygiene would have been taken very seriously and milk is the ideal carrier for bacteria and probably viruses too.

Anyway, if I am collecting the various components of my breakfast on a tray, I don’t want to be obliged to pour milk from a large container onto my cereals whilst I am still walking around with the rest of my breakfast on a tray, still in my hands. By the time a table has been found and I have sat down and put my food on the table, my cereals are soggy and also very likely have been spilt onto the tray.

When you enter the buffet, you are handed a tray with a knife and fork. You go round and collect the food that you want and then go and sit down and realise that you don’t have a spoon for your cereals. So you return to the buffet to get one and have to disinfect your hands again just to go in. You return to your table and realise that you haven’t picked up any juice, so you leave your breakfast again to walk down to the end of the room to get some juice from the machine. The table may have been laid with some mugs and a few sachets of milk, sugar etc. A waiter comes and offers you tea and fills your mug but then you realise that there are no teaspoons anywhere and there aren’t enough milk capsules.

When you go and get your own tea from the drinks station, you find that the first thing that you find are the mugs and then the waste container. But you don’t have any waste as you haven’t even got close to the tea-bags yet. They are the next thing that you come to. So you put your tea-bag into your mug and then move on to the hot water, fill your mug and then have to go back again to get some milk from the large container that is located between the tea-bags and the hot water dispenser. But then you need to dispose of the used tea-bag and have to go back to where you came in as that is where the waste container is. If there is a long queue of people getting their drinks, having to go back and forth can mess up the efficiency of the system. Why not have all the cutlery in one place and the drinks area laid out in order of use?

The afternoon teas were very good. The toasted teacakes were wonderful and so were the scones. The small dishes of fresh whipped cream, set out for the scones was a nice touch.

Whilst it’s good to have a theme for the evening buffets, there should also be a selection of dishes that are not part of the theme. I don’t like spicy food and found that the number of curries that were on offer was excessive for the number of days that we were on the cruise. Whether the fact that many of the staff in the Venezia were from India had any influence on this, is not certain but there were just too many curries!

On most days there was a roast of some sort but inevitably, the meat was totally over-cooked. I’m not one of those people that think that lamb chops should be served semi-raw or roast beef should bleed all over the place but neither do I like roast meat totally overcooked and dry. There were the same potatoes on the buffet almost every day. These were potatoes that had been “roasted” (probably in the deep fat fryer) with their skins still on, so they were brownish but not at all crispy. We did get lovely mashed potatoes one evening though! The other option was frozen french fries. Generally the vegetables were very al dente and too undercooked for me. I don’t like soggy vegetables but I do like them so you can cut through them with a knife!

The desserts were generally very good and a special recommendation must be made for the delicious Queen of Puddings that we had one day. I haven’t seen one of those for the last 20 years and have now downloaded the recipe so that I can make one too. Superb!

The above are just nit-picking comments and in general, the food was very good.

We didn’t try any of the speciality restaurants though as we assumed that the food that we had paid for would be of a good enough standard.

We thought that the wine selection was very good and the prices reasonable. We liked the wine dispenser in the Venezia and thought that it might have been nice to have one of these in our cabin!

THE SHIP

The Azura is a much larger ship than the ship that we cruised on last year – the RCI Serenade of the Seas - but it’s not the largest ship in the P & O fleet, as that is the recently launched Britannia.

The general layout of the Azura was fairly good but gaining access to some areas drove us and many other passengers mad. Firstly, the signage was pretty useless, especially when using the lifts. Why isn’t there a large sign denoting the floor number on each landing next to the lifts? There was some tiny writing by each lift and if you were really observant, you would see that the slightly brighter writing told you which floor you were on. Most of the staircases didn’t have anything to indicate which floor you were actually on either, nor indeed which staircase, so there were people wandering around aimlessly looking for some indication as to where they were. Apart from putting some large numbers on each landing, they should also have a 3D model of the ship to show you where you are and where you might want to be. And to make life really simple, why not colour code each section of the ship so you know whether you are in the aft, amidships or forward stairwell? And arrows pointing forward and aft would tell you which direction you are going too! Often on port days people were wandering around aimlessly trying to find where the disembarkation point was, as many of the staircases that were not directly related to the disembarkation point had absolutely nothing to tell you where to go. As disembarkation is a regular happening on any cruise ship, why aren’t there any electronic notices on all landings and public areas informing passengers of when and where to disembark?

The signage on Royal Caribbean ships is much better, with large numbers on every landing and a detailed 3D model of the ship by every lift.

The aft lifts only went down from deck 19 to deck 7 or to certain areas of deck 6, so on port days it was necessary to run half a mile down our corridor to the forward lifts in order to get down to the disembarkation area without having to go down to deck 7 and then walk through virtually the entire ship to get to the forward stairs to get down to deck 6 or 5 or wherever they were disembarking that day. The aft lifts do go down to deck 6 but only to the Oriental restaurant, so all those passengers whose cabins were at the forward end of the ship and had been allocated the Oriental restaurant, had to do the same long trek but in reverse. Anyone wanting to go up to the Sky deck on deck 19 could only do so from the aft lifts or take a long climb up the stairs.

But apart from that, the public areas were great. There was something for everyone and plenty of space to do it in. We are not really what you would call social people and are not interested in being “entertained”, so we didn’t join the bingo or the quizzes or go to sit in a bar to drink the night away. We have never watched “Strictly Come Dancing” on TV but we did go to the Playhouse on a couple of the evenings to watch a dance display and also to the finals of the On-Board Dancing competition. Other than that, we did watch a few movies on the Sea-screen and in the Playhouse. We were disappointed that there wasn’t a dedicated cinema on board as the cold weather made watching movies out on the Sea-screen, late at night, a real challenge. The Sea-screen also needs replacing as there were red blobs in certain places on the screen that spoilt the enjoyment of the movie.

There was also a total lack of signage for toilet facilities on the lido deck around the pool areas. You could wander around for hours searching for one!

So there were good and not-so-good things about the Azura that possibly affected the overall enjoyment of our cruise.

THE CRUISE

Leaving Southampton, we passed the Royal Caribbean’s new “Anthem of the Seas”. Quite an ugly ship of the towering-block type – not a ship that I would be wanting to cruise on. The weather was cold and blustery with intermittent showers. We passed the Isle of Wight and then turned left to continue our journey up the North Sea.

Dinner in the Venezia buffet.

The following day was a sea day, which continued to be blustery, cold and quite foggy.

Formal evening dinner in the Peninsular restaurant.

We were sailing up to the northernmost tip of Denmark and would be stopping at Skagen the following day. This was the first time a ship belonging to the Carnival Line would be visiting Skagen, so it was somewhere new for almost all the passengers.

Skagen is Denmark’s northernmost town and is situated on the east coast of the Skagen Odde peninsula in the far north of Jutland. It is Denmark's main fishing port and also has a thriving tourist industry, attracting some 2 million people annually. At the top of the town, there is a point where the 2 seas meet and you can stand with one foot in the North Sea and the other in the Baltic Sea. We didn’t bother doing that though, as it was very cold and windy outside the main town area. Skagen has a “pretty village” feel about it in the main tourist area and there were lots of small shops to browse around and a pleasant internet café to stop in for a coffee and a quick check of the emails. We left Skagen quite early in the afternoon and continued on our journey to our next port – Stockholm, which would be arrived at after another sea day.

Dinner in the Venezia buffet.

The weather was now a bit brighter with temperatures of around 14ºC but we had a pleasant sea day with a clear sky and calm seas.

Formal evening dinner in the Peninsular restaurant.

Stockholm was cloudy and drizzly and quite cold. We bought Hop-on Hop-off bus/boat tickets and drove the whole route around the capital and then stopped off to wander round Gamla Stan, have some lunch and then catch a boat to tour the harbour. We got off at the Vasa museum and spent an hour or so viewing this amazing ship and finding out how sailors lived back then. We were lucky enough to miss some heavy rain whilst we were in there and came out to puddles and dripping tree branches but no further rain. We caught the next boat which took us to the stop right next to where the Azura was moored. The next 4 hours were wonderful as the ship wove its way through the thousands of islands on its way back out into the Baltic Sea. Such a beautiful place and by the evening, the perfect sunset to go with it!

Dinner in the Venezia buffet.

The next morning we had arrived in Tallinn. We caught the shuttle bus into the town and made our way towards the old town. On the way, we passed a market selling locally produced garments (well, that’s what they said, anyway!) and I bought a jumper to help keep out the cold. Tallinn is full of character and still retains its walled, cobble stoned town centre, with its large square full of cafes and shops, as well as a 15th-century defensive tower. The Estonian History Museum is dedicated to the country's 20th-century history, and its towering Gothic Town Hall is among the Baltic region's oldest.

After wandering around the town for a while, taking in the scenery, we stopped off at an open-air bar on the square and were seated on wooden benches covered with sheepskins. Nice touch! After a meal and catching up with our emails via the free WiFi, we returned to the ship on a cycle rickshaw driven by a very strong young man!

Dinner in the Venezia buffet.

The following morning we had arrived in St. Petersburg – the highlight of the cruise! Despite all the warnings about how complicated leaving the ship to go on excursions with anyone other than the ship’s tours would be, we had arranged a 2-day tour with T.J. Travel. Disembarkation was fairly simple and after waiting our turn to leave the ship, we passed through immigration, had our visas stuck into our passports and our passports stamped and we were in Russia! Our guide from T.J. Travel, Nina was waiting outside the terminal and took us to our minibus. The wonderful places that were included in the St. Petersburg tour were: City tour including photo stops in the most beautiful, historical places of St Petersburg. Travel to Peterhof by hydrofoil and then guided tour of the Upper Gardens and Lower Fountain Park. Driving to Pushkin city. Traditional Russian lunch (included). Inside guided tour of Catherine Palace with the Amber Room. Driving to the city. A visit to the subway station. Inside guided tour of Peter and Paul Cathedral. Guided tour of the State Hermitage museum (early admission, before the official opening hours). Traditional Russian lunch (pie shop - included). Guided tour of the Faberge museum. Inside guided tour of the Church of the Spilt Blood.

Those 2 days sped by so quickly and with so much content, that in no time at all, we were back on the Azura and moving on to our next destination, which was Helsinki.

Dinner in the Venezia buffet on both evenings.

The visit to Helsinki was on the Sunday and the weather was warm and sunny and the water front was buzzing with people out enjoying the weather. There was a craft market going on and some lovely fruit was being sold on some of the stalls and there were also several food stalls serving freshly grilled salmon and other fish dishes. It seemed that the whole town was out there eating healthy food and spending time with their families. The shops open on a Sunday in Helsinki but not until midday and after that, the place was crowded with shoppers and was very lively. We found out that the town hall had free WiFi and also had some free internet terminals for those people without laptops. We found the place and went in and were given 30 minutes free on a modern terminal, long enough to change our bus tickets back to Gatwick and also print them off. There was no charge for this service and the people working there that day were pleasant and very helpful and also spoke perfect English.

Dinner in the Venezia buffet.

The next day was a well-deserved sea-day and was quite a sunny day. We just relaxed on our balcony for most of the day.

Formal evening dinner in the Peninsular restaurant.

The following day was Day 11 and we were in Copenhagen. Another free day to do as we pleased. So we disembarked the ship and walked along the harbour until we found the Mermaid. She was as small as everyone said that she was, so nothing much to report there. We then bought tickets for the Hop-on/Hop-off bus on the Red-Blue line. People need to be warned about this company as they were conning most of their clients. They advertised free Wi-Fi but when the bus arrived, there was no Wi-Fi available. Another couple were waiting with us and told us that so far, 2 different buses had come and gone and neither of them had Wi-Fi aboard. After making a complaint about us having to waste half our day waiting for a bus to come that did have Wi-Fi and asking for our money back to find a bus that did actually have the offered services, a bus came along and told us that it did have Wi-Fi aboard. It did but it was impossible to log-on because the signal was too weak. The commentary was out of sync and stopped abruptly every now and then and changed to another topic half-way though talking about something else. Only one channel of my ear-phones worked. The people operating this service seemed to be running a big con and they couldn’t care less. They all seemed to be middle-eastern and were speaking Arabic amongst themselves. It left a nasty taste to think that our general experience of Copenhagen was being conned by people who did not appear to even be Danish. By the time we had competed the tour of the town, it was too late to take one of the boat tours that were running around the port area. Disappointing day!

Dinner in the Venezia buffet.

Moving on to the next day and the next port, we find ourselves in beautiful Oslo. The sun was shining and the air was warm. There was a Hop-on/Hop-off bus waiting just outside the exit from the ship, so we jumped on it to do the tour of the city. We left the bus outside the Kontiki museum and spent a pleasant hour revisiting Thor Heyerdahl’s amazing expeditions. We then moved on to the Viking Ship museum and saw the old ships that had been dug up, along with many other ancient relics from the Viking period. We returned to the city centre and walked around for a while and stopped off in a waterfront bar for a drink before returning to the ship. The journey out of Olso was breathtaking, passing lots of beautiful islands in a perfect sea on a perfect day.

Dinner in the Venezia buffet.

The following day was our last sea day and our last opportunity to relax around the ship. We were back in the North Sea and the weather had come down again. Damp and misty and nothing much to see other than a few oil-rigs.

Formal evening dinner in the Peninsular restaurant.

We arrived at Zeebrugge early in the morning but had decided tp have a bit of a lie-in and had booked a tour of Bruges with P & O, which was due to start at 11.30 a.m. There was to be another crew emergency drill that morning and this included a supposed electricity cut, which would mean that the lifts would be out of action during the drill. Did they start the drill once all the tour buses had left? No, they blocked all the lifts on the ship just as all the passengers booked on the bus tours needed to make their way down to the disembarkation point on deck 5. We were having breakfast on the Lido deck 15, so we had to walk down 10 flights of stairs. We did not think that this was good planning on the part of the ship’s management, who could have surely waited until the tours had all left the ship before they began their crew emergency drill.

After all our previous days in port on our own, we weren’t terribly impressed with the organisation of this tour. It was called Bruges at Your Own Pace but ended up with the entire bus load all having to walk a couple of miles behind the guide at the speed of the slowest person in the group. We were led to a place where we were all to meet again at 15.15h and left to our own devices. We caught a canal boat cruiser and spent a very pleasant hour viewing the town from the water. We then went for a walk around town and stopped off for some lunch. Visiting one of the many chocolate shops was our last stop, where we bought some delicious Leonidas to bring back with us.

We were back on the ship for our last night and the final part of our journey back to Southampton.

Dinner in the Venezia buffet.

Next morning we were back in Southampton and waiting to disembark the ship. We had put our suitcases outside our cabin door at 20.30h the previous evening, so had only our hand luggage with us. We had to be out of our cabin by 08.00h and had been given a disembarkation time of 10.00 – 10.10h and had been allocated the Manhattan bar as out meeting point. We vacated our cabin at the appointed hour and went up to Venezia for a leisurely breakfast. It was understandably busy up there and somewhat chaotic. There was a definite feeling that they just wanted us off the ship so that they could get the next intake on board, so the buffet was a rather hit and miss affair that morning.

Shame that our last meal was so disappointing!

The disembarkation procedure was a bit of a farce. We were all waiting in our allocated places but the speed that people were leaving the ship was one by one. We were the last group to go and by this time, we were almost an hour later than scheduled and we had people waiting to pick us up outside the terminal. Once we finally disembarked the ship, we realised that the delay was in the terminal building. There were thousands of people trying to leave the baggage shed with their luggage through ONE DOOR! There were several queues of people shuffling along and joining one central queue of passengers trying to get out. What a shambles! Just as well there were no emergencies!

This was another negative comparison with Royal Caribbean in Barcelona where we were given a disembarkation time of 06.15h, walked off the ship and had our luggage come down a chute into our hands and were outside the terminal in 5 minutes and checked into our hotel and were back into bed by 07.30h. Maybe the Spanish just do it better or maybe Royal Caribbean are just more efficient!

We spent the day with our friends and then had to begin the return journey back to Lanzarote. Firstly the rickety bus journey back to Gatwick on a National Express coach, followed by a night in the Bloc hotel right inside the Gatwick’s South Terminal. A very early check-in and then the flight with Monarch airways back to Lanzarote.

By 13.00h, we were home again and it was the end of our Baltic cruise with P & O.

All in all it was a great cruise on a fantastic ship, with the opportunity of visiting a lot of wonderful places that otherwise we might never see. Would I do that cruise again? Probably not but I would like to cruise the Norwegian fiords.

Would I book with P & O again? Yes I possibly would - in fact I am already browsing their website for Caribbean cruises for 2016/2017 but there’s a lot more competition out there now, so they’d better pull their socks up!
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Cabin Review

Cabin B749
We had chosen an aft cabin on deck 11 (Barbados deck - B 749) and we were really happy with this. Our location at the rear of the ship ensured us peace and tranquillity but it was as far away from everywhere as was possible, so a lot of extra walking was necessary. The cabin was quite spacious and we were delighted with our extra large and extremely private balcony, which must have measured at least 3m x 3m. On the balcony we had 2 reclining chairs and a small table, as well as a foot rest. Our location at the rear corner of the ship ensured that we only had a neighbour on one side of us but were totally separated from them by a high smoked-glass wall.

Inside the cabin we had twin beds with individual bedside tables, a desk unit with a cupboard and a chair, another chair and a small unit that held the mini-fridge. Above this unit was the fairly small flat-screen TV and on top of the unit was the tea-making area with the kettle, the mugs and the box that held the tea-bags etc. We drank a lot of tea in our cabin and our steward looked after us well and kept the box refilled with tea-bags and milk pots for us every day. The milk pots were ridiculously small and a minimum of 2 of these were necessary for each mug of tea. We had brought some of our own teabags but these were not needed as the tea that was supplied was Twinings Everyday Tea.

The clothes storage area was excellent as it was away from the main bedroom, behind a wall and added the luxury of a dressing area as well as offering plenty of storage. We had the usual set of fixed hangers but also had about 20 other hangers that people must have left behind and a very long hanging rail that was long enough for the clothes of 4 people. There was also a tall cupboard unit with 5 shelves and a safe.

The shower room was located right opposite the hanging area and was totally private. As the shower room was extremely small, it could have been laid out better for improved usage. The shower tray was tiny and had a curtain rather than a shower screen. The shower head itself was fixed and located quite low down on the wall. This was fine for someone who is only 5 foot 3 inches tall but how someone who is 6 foot tall would manage, I have no idea. With such a limited space, the shower head should have been detachable, so that difficult-to-reach body parts could be properly showered off. A fixed shower head in such a small area ensured that only your head actually got a good showering!! There was nowhere to put your own toiletries inside the shower cubicle other than a tiny ledge that was only large enough for miniature bottle of shampoo or something. There was a soap dispenser fixed to the wall but most women prefer to use their own products, so a suitable ledge would have been an advantage – plus a couple of hooks to hang things on.

This lack of forethought also applied to other areas of the bathroom. The toilet roll holder was located right to the left of the toilet and as the toilet was wedged into a triangular corner of the room, this made access to the toilet paper difficult, being wedged under your left thigh! Why was it not located in front of the toilet, on the opposite side of the vanity unit to the tissue dispenser? Or even replacing the plastic bag dispenser that was for the disposal of personal hygiene items? After all, 85% of P & O passengers must be over 60 and no longer have any use for such things! The shelving unit located to one side of the mirror only had a small rail running about 1.5 inches above each shelf. This ensured that all the little tubes of creams etc. that are designed specially for holiday use, can fall easily through the space below the rail. Why could this have not been a closed cupboard unit? Some people like to keep their toiletries out of sight!

The bath towels were great but the small towels were not much use at all. Most women like to wrap a towel round themselves after a shower and another towel round their head when they have washed their hair. Hard to do with a towel that is only slightly larger than a face flannel! There were 2 straight pegs on the back of the bathroom door but they were no good for hanging a towel up after use as the towels just fell on the floor. The hooks were only suitable for hanging up an item of clothing that had a hanging tag on it. Why weren’t they made suitable for hanging up towels on, so that these could air off and not have to go back onto the tiny rail that they are hung on when fresh? One person uses their towel and then replaces it after use, ensuring that the other towel is now made damp from the first one. We are supposed to be considerate regarding the amount of laundry that we produce, so I am happy to use my towels more than once but the lack of hanging space in the bathroom made this difficult.

There was a pretty good selection of movies on the TV in the cabin but apart from objecting having to pay £2.99 to watch something that should have been included in the hefty price of the cruise, the TV’s are far too small to actually watch movies on if you’re sitting on the beds. If we were talking blockbuster movies on a larger TV that was located opposite the beds and not tucked away high in the corner over the tea-making facilities, then they might be considered better value.

The general information available on the TV was obviously aimed at cruises in the Caribbean as the weather forecasts were for places like Miami and never once showed any of the Baltic destinations that we were actually visiting. The excursion information was also not geared to the places that we were visiting. Surely it can’t be difficult to make a recording of the actual places that each cruise was visiting and show that during the cruise. I got quite fed up with learning about what I could go and see in Rome and how hot it was in Cancun! Lack of attention to detail perhaps?
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