We selected a 7 night cruise on P & O Azura to fit round my working commitments, my wife being retired.
We chose to drive to Southampton from home in Lancashire and set off nice and early at 5am even though it was a Saturday sailing. Traffic and conditions were favourable so we had a great trip and were in Southampton for 9am so stopped at Tesco and COSTA Coffee and arrived in the CPS car park at 11am. That was very efficient, close and soon we were seated in the terminal.
We awaited the embarkation process which commenced, as last year for Ventura, just before 12 noon and was as efficient as last year. Once on board we made our way to the buffet for a spot of lunch.
Whilst in the buffet they announced that cabins were ready early so we made our way to Australia Deck, deck 12 and A223, our home for the 7 nights. A wonderfully clean and bright balcony cabin on the front starboard side of the ship with a very comfortable bed, arm chair, small but adequate TV and an ample bathroom. We met BB, our cabin steward who was excellent in the way he took care of everything brilliantly without being noticed at all.
The cases arrived quickly so we unpacked we decided to check out the ship and found it most pleasurable and almost a copy of both Crown Princess and Ventura. We were also pleased to see we have been allocated Freedom Dining unlike last year and this we enjoyed. We were allocated the Peninsular Restaurant and the service was excellent in all areas that we got seated during the week. We really prefer to be on a table for two so had this option every meal time which was great.
We had nice meals in every evening, so much so my thought of booking Sindhu and Bay Tree evaporated. The food was a notch up here to that on Ventura last year. Breakfasts were always taken in the restaurant and were of an excellent standard.
We did the emergency drill on time and sailed almost on time. We had a nice sea day on the Sunday and of as it was a hot day it was busy on the outer decks with everyone taking advantage. We availed ourselves of most bars over the cruise but as we are not huge drinkers so it was more for a change of scenery than anything else. We enjoyed two of the three production shows (missed the last as we were late in the restaurant) that the Headliners cast put on and both were enjoyable, WE3 were a fantastic act, Tucker enjoyable. In other lounges the singers and bands were good, the second comedian, Tom Binns, in our eyes poor but of course entertainment is very subjective.
We enjoyed the port stops and also the warm weather. We don’t book ship trips but made our own way without spending silly money. We enjoyed Hamburg & the layover in Amsterdam and did city tours at each and after dinner walked around Amsterdam taking in the sights on the second night when we had better weather than the rain of the previous evening. Second sea day was spoiled by a sea mist all day but that's no the fault of the ship or company. Le Havre was quiet, we walked round, visited a couple of churches plus some shops and if I went again I would take some form or tour or hire a car to get out and see the surrounding parts.
The night sail back to Southampton was very pleasant without helicopter medical emergency as last year on Ventura. The captain was excellent and efficient in telling you about the cruise, the interactive map on the cabin TV could be better. My wife was disappointed with the Pilates class but that was a minor negative in a week of positive.
Disembarkation was first class, we chose to take our own luggage off and literally had breakfast and walked off the ship, no customs issues or waiting in lounges for times to leave and we were in the car hitting the road back North by 8am.
Despite some average to poor reviews I have seen recently on various sites I thought Azura was probably on balance the best of the three P & O trips we have had and I would not hesitate in booking again.
I would mark this as a 4.5 / 5 (you have to choose 4 or 5 on here so I have put 4 but it was above that but not a 5) to be honest and chatting with many others on the cruise I think most had a good time and would hope they would also offer a positive review.
Quite adequate for a 7 night cruise for two guests, sufficient hanging space and shelves, safe, fridge etc. TV fine for us but some may say on the small side. Shower has a curtain but it never attached itself to me as often they can. Balcony good and seats comfortable.