To begin with, it’s only fair to say that all things considered, our time with the P&O Azura on this 15 night Caribbean cruise was good. The crew, accommodation, facilities and entertainment were excellent. The restaurant food was most agreeable, however, it took us four days to get the freedom dining that we wanted. Initially, we had been assigned a late sitting, fixed table with fellow diners that were at least 30 years older than us. No disrespect to these people, but we had nothing in common largely due to the age gap and conversation was very stilted. When assigning tables I think the restaurant team should try and aim to have similar aged people wherever possible.
As the cruise developed, there were numerous problems and events which made it unforgettable for all the wrong reasons (prompting one passenger we overheard in the atrium to call this the ‘jinxed cruise’). For us, it all started with the transfer coach from Manchester to Southampton which was struck by a pheasant. Speeding along the motorway, the coach collided with the hapless bird which smashed the windscreen forcing the coach driver to halt the journey at a service station until a replacement coach could be organised. This meant that we arrived as the ship was almost about to sail. However, in the embarkation terminal, we found that owing to some sort of IT issue, we could not be processed and so had to wait for what seemed like an eternity until we eventually boarded Azura. Because we then had to attend the lifeboat safety drill, it meant that the first day was pretty much over.
A few days later at Ponta Delgada (Azores), the ship developed a technical issue which meant that we couldn’t depart and so had to spend another day in this unexciting port. Mechanical issues happen with something as complex as a cruise ship and the captain did his best to expedite things and get us on our way. However, because we were so delayed it meant that we had to cruise as fast as possible in a constant attempt to catch up. Despite this, we were delayed in getting to our next port of call and so had less time there than expected. Later in the cruise, we were shocked when an announcement was made that there had been an accident ashore in Dominica and one of the passengers had been killed. There was a road traffic incident in which their sightseeing mini-van was involved in a collision. There were apparently several injured passengers along with the passenger fatality. The driver was also killed. This was really sad news and to be honest, it was worrying since it was reported that some of the busses used for trips had seatbelts that were less than ideal and witnesses said that seatbelts had mechanisms that was so badly rusted they couldn’t close. Again, something P&O need to investigate thoroughly.
Later, there were other incidents such as a small ferry that began to sink with cruise passengers on board and needed to be rescued. On another occasion, our departure from one of the islands was delayed again as one of the boats on an organised trip had mechanical difficulties (something to do with the propeller being snagged by fishing line). Of course, the incidents described could not be attributable to P&O, however they did have knock on effects and it is hard not to feel that some episode or other was likely to befall us.
Some of the passengers on board did seem to be out of place and they did bring the tone down somewhat. For example, a man was exceptionally drunk and caused trouble in one of the bars. Eventually, he was restrained and put into isolation (I guess in the ships brig). When he had sobered up a little, he was interviewed and promised to behave, accepting that he would not be allowed access to any more alcohol - if he could be allowed to enjoy the rest of his holiday. Later, he was spotted drunk again as apparently, a friend had procured for him a bottle of spirits.
To round the holiday off, after returning to the ship from a very exciting submarine trip, we were dismayed to find our cabin had been flooded. We were not upset by the flooding (water was coming in from the cabin next to us), but the way in which we were treated. For example, our door was open (a definite security risk) and the whole room was in disarray with carpets being pulled up and our belongings strewn haphazardly all over the place. Additionally, there were two large hot air blowers running noisily. Further, the cabin heating had been set to full (in an attempt to dry the carpets) however, this made the atmosphere like a sauna and it made our hanging clothes damp. Cutting a long story short, it took several frustrating hours to eventually be offered an alternative cabin. We understand that issues can happen with plumbing, however, after writing to P&O, they accept that things did not go smoothly and lessons would be learned.
We have cruised with P&O nine times now. Despite the many things that happened on this particular trip on Azura, the unfortunate events have to be balanced against the positives. One of the highlights for us were the genuine, lovely people we met (shout-outs to Jim, Phil, John and Christine!). For that reason, coupled with the hardworking ships company, we would cruise with P&O again in the future.