A126 Azura Caribbean 25th November 2011 by Lesley: Azura Cruise Review by bridetobelesley

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A126 Azura Caribbean 25th November 2011 by Lesley

Sail Date: November 2011
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Barbados
BEFORE YOU READ THE DETAIL : first thing to note : Buy spirits for onboard at your departure airport, or get them port side in Barbados. Also purchase soft drinks/mixers from Barbados to take on board. You can now buy duty free onboard P & O at reasonable prices, but not as cheap as in port or from your airport. Yes, you can take it onboard....they don't seem to mind in the slightest ! Okay read on for the review !

After a pleasant flight from Manchester Airport on 25th November to Barbados, we embarked Azura with skies full of cloud and rain !! Not the best welcome to the Caribbean ! Extremely efficient service once onboard. Luggage from our Manchester flight arrived within 3 hours (other people ...particularly coming in from Cardiff appeared to have a very long wait for luggage and reported that a lot of it was wet on arrival).
Our cabin was C708 balcony cabin. Tastefully decorated in greens and browns with nautical prints on the walls. I liked the layout of the More cabin with a large open wardrobe and lots of space. One of the first things I checked was the hairdryer as the one on the Oceana had been rubbish. Pleasantly surprised to find very powerful one in the cupboard. Our cabin steward was Milanda who looked after us very well the whole fortnight, with some wonderful towel sculptures on formal nights.

The Ship : Having travelled previously onboard Oceana, found the size of Azura a little daunting but beautiful, although I have to say that the Atrium area on Oceana is prettier.
We opted for Freedom Dining in the Meridian Restaurant but only used this facility about four times in total during the fortnight. An ABSOLUTE MUST for future cruisers on Azura is to carefully familiarise yourself with all the dining facilities. During the second week we spoke to a couple who had no idea the Italian restaurant existed, and someone else who thought the only lunchtime options were hot dogs or burgers/pizzas by the pool !

Dining : If you're on Freedom dining, you're in the Meridian Restaurant, but here are the options we tried :

Meridian Main Dining Restaurant :
Waiter service four/five course menu. Menu is posted outside restaurant each day so you can decide where to dine that evening. We opted to share a table each time we dined as we like to meet different people and met some really interesting ones this cruise ! I have to say I was a little disappointed on one of the evenings with the waiter service. We were seated for quite a while at a table of 8 before they came to take our orders. We asked twice for bread and three times for some butter for the rolls. Our main that evening was Beef Wellington and four of us having the same had one very thin slice of the Wellington which we didn't consider ample. We asked one of the waiters if we could have more and he did eventually bring it after we had more or less finished our meal. We found it very difficult to get eye contact with any of the waiting staff that evening and I'd have to say the standard of service in here is totally dependent on the area in which you are seated.

Verona/Venezia : Deck 15 : Buffet restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner but worth remembering that Verona in the evenings turns into a waiter service Italian Restaurant with absolutely fabulous food ! Best to get there early though otherwise they give you a buzzer to let you know when a table is available. It's part of the complimentary dining, so no extra charge unless you choose a couple of the "Pay extra" dishes such as flambeed prawns or fillet steak. We had baked garlic mushrooms to start served with garlic bread, followed by lasagne served with homefries and a side salad (delicious) and then panacotta for dessert. Highly recommended !!!
We also dined buffet style a few times. Can recommend the Great British night (amazing rib of beef and proper Yorkshire puds!) Indian food night also excellent. Worth noting that no matter what the theme in the buffet, they always have a roast meat choice (beef, lamb, pork etc.,), for those with a "meat and vegetables" type of appetite.

Sindhu and Seventeen : We booked for Sindhu and Seventeen as soon as we boarded as we heard they got booked up very quickly (however people were able to book tables well into the week so no panics). Couldn't quite understand why a lot of tables in both restaurants were empty when some people had been told they were booked up for that particular evening ? We could only put it down to a lack of waiters perhaps ?
Sindhu : we were given an amuse bouche of mint and pea soup in a little teacup to start, followed by our starter (hubby had a crabcake starter, I had beef skewers). We then had a sorbet. Main course for me was Lamb Rogan Josh and for hubby can't remember what it was called but was basically fillet steak chopped and reshaped with various spices. Lots of accompaniments to the main meal. We opted for panacotta for dessert. Would give Sindhu 10 out of 10 ....delicious, excellent service and worth the extra £15 each cover charge.
In Seventeen (which is obviously on deck 17!) We dined the first week (at both Sindhu and Seventeen the menu changes after the first week. We chose the first week as one of the main course choices was Chateau Briande and we were sooo glad we chose that menu .. Absolutely delicious. I had pate foie gras and hubby had lobster cocktail. Main was Chateau Briande. For dessert hubby had a trio of creme brulees and I had a melt in the middle chocolate cake. Followed by complimentary chocolates which they wrapped for us as we were stuffed ! Again..highly recommended at the extra cover charge for this restaurant of £20 per person. On arrival back at our cabin we had a thank you card from Seventeen with more chocolates (which we gave to our cabin steward ..we were chocolated out !).

Bars on the ship :
Malabar : open style bar in an Arabian style theme used for showing movies and also with a stage area for groups/entertainment in the evening.

Manhattan : large open style area with dance floor and stage area used for late night disco and performing artists etc.

Brodies : I wasn't impressed with Brodies at all ... it's not what I'd call welcoming and it doesn't help that the casino is within this pub instead of being in a separate area. It's described as "contemporary", but a little too modern for my liking. Some of the seats actually had a bar down the middle so that if you were sitting next to someone, you had to "peer around" the divider to see them ! Again preferred the pub in Oceana which has a real English pub feel and is very welcoming. Didn't spend much time in Brodies at all...quizzes held here most nights etc.

Main shows are held either in the Playhouse Theatre, Manhattans or Malabar. If you're going to a show in the Playhouse, be aware you can purchase a drink at one of the bars (or take one from your cabin!) and drink it during the show. There's no bar facility in the Playhouse Theatre.

Sailaways : These are a must and we enjoyed several sailaways (one from each port). The entertainment crew are absolutely fabulous and the more you join in, the more you'll enjoy !

Sunbathing : There are many areas to find sunbeds and I was impressed that the staff were actually collecting up towels and belongings and removing them when people had tried to "reserve" beds before and during breakfast. Warnings were up on the seascreen each day and they carried out their threats ! Well done P & O !! There are plenty of beds for everyone, so it's so annoying when people spread towels over five or six beds then disappear to breakafast for an hour or so !!!

Sunbathing areas : Must tell you this ....we spent most of the first week sunbathing in the Seascreen area as the beds there have cushions and are very comfortable. They show images from around the world on the seascreen daily but they're on rotation and you see the same ones each day. Many of us commented that it'd be nice to have some music playing ..... then at the beginning of the second week we discovered that from noon onwards, the sunbathing area around the second pool, where the Coral Pool and Breakers Bar are situated there's a quiz, a music request show and lots of music playing the whole afternoon ....lots of various types too .. something to suit everyone ! There's also a very nice sunbathing smaller area at the very rear of the ship (Terrace Bar area), but beware it fills up very quickly ! There's a nice little pool there as well.

9th and final Port of Call : St Vincent (wasn't space for this on port review)
You disembark to look over the side to see angel fish and tropical fish swimming around near the ship, but that's where the charm ends ! St Vincent is dirty and smelly and there's nothing worth getting off the ship for. I have NO idea why cruise ships call here, except to let you do an excursion (which I would highly recommend unless you want to spend the day onboard, sunbathing, which is what we did). There's absolutely nothing to see in the town, it's full of local food market stalls and the roads are uneven and in places, dangerous to cross. Unless you're booking an excursion here...stay onboard.

Do a full walk of the ship and establish dining and sunbathing areas early in the cruise.
On every island you can do a tour by local taxi/tour driver very cheaply, but NEGOTIATE !!! and always agree to pay the taxi driver at the end of the tour, or when he picks you up from the beach. Never pay before you begin.
Buy soft drinks and mixers to go with your cabin duty free vodkas and gins whilst ashore. You can usually pick up a can/bottle of coke for around 2 dollars .. it's more expensive onboard. We took 2 bottles of vodka from Manchester Duty Free for our cabin and bought Rum and local spirits from the ports with mixers from the local shops. You can now buy duty free drinks onboard but be aware that they only deliver them to your cabin the day after you order and you can get them more cheaply in the ports. We had a few sea days the first week, so we considered ourselves lucky to have remembered to buy vodka from the airport ! If you like orange juice with your gin or vodka etc., take a small water bottle to breakfast and fill it up to put in your cabin fridge. It's only offered at breakfast time, so I filled a couple of small bottles and used it to have with my cocktail hour vodka on the balcony each evening !
WATER : Don't pay for P & O bottled water at the bar or in the restaurants. In the buffet restaurant they put a bottle on your table and if you open it, they charge you £1.80. In every buffet area there is water on tap ... just help yourself. Also beach bars during the day have ice, plastic glasses and jugs of cold water on the side ...help yourself it's free.
Going home : whatever your flight time, make yourself up some sandwiches from the breakfast or lunch buffet to take to the airport with you. We had 1 hour delay before flying home and it took ages to be served food once we boarded the plane, so we were glad of the sarnies ... Barbados airport cafes are not cheap ! It's a silly detail, but if you take a couple of food bags with you in your case just to pack your sandwiches in, you'll be happy I suggested it, I promise !

Hope you enjoyed reading my review !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Less

Published 12/20/11

Cabin review: JGC708 Balcony Stateroom

C708. Spacious cabin with "half covered, half undercover" balcony area. Ideal for sitting in sun or shade, whatever your preference. Good cabin layout..through the door bathroom to the right with a very large open wardrobe at the side. Much better than wardrobes with doors .. you can see all your hanging items at a glance ! We had bed in Queen configuration which was extremely comfortable with very soft sheets (can only surmise they were very high Egyptian cotton count). Decor stylish with greens and browns with subdued lighting at the balcony window. Nautical prints on the walls added to the ambience. Ample fridge space and cupboard space with very good powerful hairdryer. Fast boil kettle with box of supplies for tea/coffee making.

Read All Balcony Stateroom (JG) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

6th Port of Call : Antigua. Well, there are 365 beaches on Antigua. One for every day of the year. However, when we arrived it absolutely poured down (again!), so we opted for an island tour with a few other people. Worth bearing in mind that every port has a gauntlet to be run of taxi drivers/tour drivers trying to persuade you onto their trip. They are all good, but reminder : NEGOTIATE !!!! If they say it's 40 dollars, tell them you'll pay them 10 and go from there ....they love to barter with you so don't be timid ! We got into a minibus called Charkie's Taxi Service for 25 USD each. We got an excellent tour of the island showing us lots of the beaches we couldn't go on !! We were also taken to Nelson' Dockyard. It costs an extra 8 USD to get into Nelson's Dockyard and in our opinion, and that of everyone else we spoke to, is that it is NOT WORTH IT ! There's little more than some gift shops, a small and not very well stocked museum, and the rest of it is a marina where a lot of private yachts are moored. If you take a tour and Nelson's Dockyard is one of the stops...take the tour, but then find yourself a comfy seat outside the Dockyard area and wait for the tour to continue... The drivers on each taxi / tour were only allowing half an hour here anyway. The rest of the island tour was very interesting, with us going up into the hills for spectacular views of houses of the stars (Eric Clapton, Oprah Winfrey, Whitney Houston). In short, I would definitely recommend an island tour here if the weather is inclement. If it's sunny ...get a taxi to one of the local beaches and enjoy the water !!!
Read 1192 Antigua Reviews

Barbados : We arrived on the Friday in Barbados and waited around 3 hours for luggage which was delivered very efficiently to the cabin. This was our first night onboard and we were tired from the flight, so we didn't venture off the ship. However on the Saturday, we had booked a Jeep Safari around Barbados with P & O. The weather was very bad that day with heavy rain, but nevertheless we made the best of it and the driver, Dion, was an absolute charm. He was funny and knowledgeable and made the experience well worthwhile. We went off road through the rainforest for a while which was really interesting, and the rain stopped whilst we were in there. We called at a place called Bathsheba with breaking waves and breathtaking views, and stopped there for a while to be served complimentary rum punches (the first of many on this holiday). Highly recommend this Jeep Safari !!! Things to beward of ... in Bathsheba there are men with monkeys asking if you want your photograph taking. The monkeys are really cute but if you take a photo, they expect you to pay them ! Also rule of thumb in every single port on this cruise.... negotiate, negotiate, negotiate !! Never pay the first price quoted... that goes for jewellery, gifts, taxis, island tours etc !!! Important : if you didn't buy drinks from duty free at your airport, get them from the port in Barbados to take onboard ....cheaper ! also buy some soft drinks/mixers to go with.

8th Port of Call : Dominica How humid is this island !!!! everyone walking around drenched in sweat lol ! We had tried to book the River Tubing excursion, but it was fully booked up, but we heard everyone who did it had a fabulous time. There are various excursions from this port, and in the future, I'd book one. A short walk from the port is the town, with lots of market stalls. THIS IS THE PLACE TO PURCHASE YOUR GIFTS !!!! Cheapest port on the cruise and they dont hassle you !! Every other port the locals are "in your face" trying to persuade you to buy their wares and it gets tedious. In Dominica (pronounced domineeka), they leave you alone except to ask how you are. We bought lots of gifts from here ..jewellery, wooden goods, hawaiian shirts etc. Also some good duty free shops. We spent about 2 hours in the town and returned to the ship to spend the afternoon around the pool, but I'd definitely like to take a tour here in the future. Yet again, tour guides/taxi drivers will happily take you wherever you want to go.
Read 669 Dominica Reviews

4th Port of Call : Grand Turk What an absolutely beautiful beach. No need for any excursions here. YOu walk off the ship and into the clearest, most blue water you'll ever see. A large section of the beach belongs to the cruise lines so sunbeds are free. If you walk further along you have to pay. Our ship was first in port so we got all the beds. After lunch an American Cruise liner arrived and a lot of them ended up walking further along and having to pay. This beach is a fantastic photo opportunity as well with the ship's photographers dressing up in tuxedos with bottles of champagne in hand and getting photos of everyone in the water. Just beyond the beach are a range of shops, but quite expensive so wouldn't recommend gift purchasing here. We only realised too late in the day that many of the people from our ship had gone into a large pool just behind the beach that had a Flow Rider facility (surfing in the pool!). It belonged to the hotel there but it certainly appeared that a lot of the Azura passengers were using the pool and sunbeds for free...so worth checking this out.
Read 1703 Grand Turk Reviews

5th Port of Call : St Kitts We had the Sugar Train Excursion booked here. You can only book this excursion through P & O ..tickets are all reserved for cruise ship passengers. There are three excursion times during the day and we chose the morning one. It was approximately a forty five minute drive to get to the train. You are told by the coach driver which part of the train you will be boarding. Downstairs is undercover and air conditioned, upstairs is covered but open to the sides and offers the best views. People were worrying that they had to get on first to get a seat upstairs, but basically, everyone got a seat upstairs and no-one sat downstairs !! They board some Caribbean singers during the journey and we were serenaded for an hour or so along with being give complimentary rum punch, pina colada or soft drinks and some local sugar cake (which is bloody horrible !)wash it down with some drinks though and you'll be fine. The views from this train were fantastic and we thoroughly enjoyed it. HOWEVER ! The sugar train is famous for derailing ! (not in a dangerous way, it just sometimes slips it's tracks and has to be lifted back on). There's no danger to passengers. The third excursion party were nearly 2 hours late back from their trip after it derailed, and they were also soaked as it started pouring down !!! I'd say yes to this excursion though....one not to miss in my opinion.

7th Port of Call : St Lucia. I loved St Lucia !! In comparison to the other islands, it just somehow seems more "civilised" if that's the right word. You'll see what I mean when you arrive ! Lovely port area with gift shops and bars. I would happily book a fortnight's holiday on St Lucia. We negotiated hard with four friends and got a taxi driver to take us to Choco Beach (10 minute drive). We ended up paying 40 USD for six of us, return. You don't pay the taxi driver until he picks you up at a prearranged time and returns you to the ship. He wanted to take us to another more popular beach (Reynolds ? can't remember). But one of our friends had been there and said it would be packed and so we insisted on Choco Beach. It was lovely !! Beautiful azure seas. Negotiate your sunbed price !! Man wanted 5 dollars each and we insisted we wouldn't pay more than four and got it in the end. A local man approached my pink sunburned husband, seeminly concerned about his burning and proceeded to produce a large Aloe Vera leaf, which he cut open and proceeded to massage my husbands back, arms and shoulders with. My friends and I watched with interest, wondering how much hubby would negotiate on this... As he's a purchasing Manager, we were all making bets on how hard he would negotiate. At the end of the massage (around ten minutes), the guy asked for 12 USD and my husband paid it !!!!!!! No negotiating !! I was very disappointed in him lol !!!! Hubby said it was worth it, but if you have this massage, I'd recommend you just pay the guy around five dollars and he'd be happy with that !
Read 1136 St. Lucia Reviews

2nd Port of Call : St Maarten/St Martin. We hadn't booked any excursions here, but we were very keen to go to Juliana Airport at Maho Beach, as seen on Worlds Extreme Airports. We walked the gauntlet of tour guides/taxi drivers and negotiated a price of 10 USD each to get there (2 of us in taxi). Coming back we got in with a group of people and negotiated 8 USD each. Before choosing our taxi driver, we had called in at tourist information near the ship and were told the journey would take approx an hour and a half. What a load of rubbish !!! There were some roadworks, but despite this, we arrived around 35 minutes after setting off. This is DEFINITELY worth a visit. Maho beach is beautiful with the Sunset Bar at the end. Clear and warm waters, but beware the beach slopes downward quite a lot, so getting into the sea is easy...getting out can be an experience which you'd make money from on You've been framed ! You can watch the locals hanging onto the fence when the jets are taking off, and the pilots even wave to you as they're turning the aeroplane ready to take off. Not to be missed ....get a taxi and go !!!! Good food also at Sunset Bar if a little expensive (we paid about 14 USD for burger and chips but it was a good burger and chips !

3rd Port of Call : Tortola No excursion booked. We opted for a walk around the town, which isn't very large. There are few local craft stalls. Pay a visit to Pussers Landing (a local bar serving excellent Rum Punch). We spent most of the day on the ship after our walk around the town here. We could have booked a tour around the island or taxi to the beach, but again the weather was threatening, so we opted to stay close to the ship. During the afternoon the sun came out so we decided we'd made the right choice !
Read 1240 Tortola Reviews
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