We took a Caribbean Cruise on P&O Azura Cruise number A930A. We had a fabulous time overall but in the interests of honesty there were a few minor things wrong with the ship/service that we will address during the course of the ... Read More
We took a Caribbean Cruise on P&O Azura Cruise number A930A. We had a fabulous time overall but in the interests of honesty there were a few minor things wrong with the ship/service that we will address during the course of the review.
Flights out- Manchester to Barbados, aircraft was comfortable, lots of legroom and decent screens in the seat backs...it was our first time on a dreamliner tbh we struggled to understand what the fuss was about, its just an aircraft like any other long haul aircraft. We had seats away from the toilets which helped( i guess it was a different experience if you were next to the loos). The food was poor on the aircraft especially for my wife who cannot eat cheese (our fault we didnt warn them) there were no cheese free options.
Embarkation- Transfer from aircraft to ship was super slick time from sat on aircraft to stood on ship was 45mins. No passing through customs at airport just bussed straight from bottom of aircraft steps to the cruise terminal. Excellent transfer. Our Cabin was immediately available.
Cabin- We were on deck 12, Cabin A433 it was clean and tidy, everything worked. Typical cruise ship cabin, nothing spectacular but perfectly acceptable. The handrail could have done with a scrape and repolish but other than that nothing wrong. A big plus with P&O is that there is a kettle but if you like a particular coffee or tea take it with you. We had some free water provided in the cabin on arrival due to having cruised previously with them. There was a mini bar but we never used it. Chocolates on the bed at night and biscuits (for the tea and coffee) were replenished a couple of times a day if required.
The Ship - Tired, its going for a sparkle and it needs it. Tatty carpets in heavy use locations, much of the seating is worn out... particuarily seating with a velvety finish looked worn...the 45000 rubs have been more than exceeded. In the lido buffet room on deck 15 there was an issue with the food service units that led to leakages onto the worn carpets which led to closure of the walkways so passengers were diverted through the eating areas...it led to a feeling of chaos in the areas concerned. Repairs were facilitated whilst we were onboard her and it wasnt an issue in the 2nd week. The hulls exterior paintwork is in need of repainting, she is showing her age especially when other ships pull along side her in port... Azura looked shabby from the outside in comparison. One more thing is the smell. It is there and is worst midships on Promenade deck Port side... but it wasnt so bad as to spoil any holiday as some would have you believe... also folk who say there wasnt a smell must not have had a cabin near it or walked that way or maybe have something wrong with thier noses perhaps.... it was worst on port days and it seemed to eminate from what we assume are heat exchangers at lifeboat level. Whilst the list of issues here seems long, none were major areas of concern and the ship was otherwise seemingly well maintained. Space on board was ok, maybe there was an older passenger list than usual but there always seemed to be a sunbed on sea days even for late risers... its a nice ship and very similar to the Ventura.
Dining- Big plus here. We tried all the restaurants at some point or other and they were all excellent. We had great food everywhere. We particuarily enjoyed Sindhu. but the main restaurant was also very good and unless you like a change there is not a great deal of point paying the extra for the speciality dining locations...we do them as part of our trying things out type of holiday experience that we do. You will be fine staying in main dining room if funds are tight. The only thing i would say is that puddings could be hit and miss.. some were excellent and some were just a bit odd.
Bars- OK ish... tbh.. we didnt like the bars that much.. when i go to a bar i want the barman to serve me.. but even if he does he involves the waiter and on more than a couple of occasions our drinks sat there a few metres away whilst we waited for a waiter to fetch them to us...i just didnt get it... it didnt happen all the time but we never quite understood what was going on. We took out the all inclusive option on 2nd day but we will address that issue at the end. It was our biggest beef about the cruise.
Entertainment- Some ok acts, the magic show 'Astonishing' was what it said on the tin. We were sat on 2nd row and I still dont know how some of the tricks worked...even when watching for it i couldnt see the actual move.. great show... watched a couple of the main ensemble shows and they were fine. Usual cruise ship fare. We have done many cruises now though and wish that it was a bit more modern and a bit less crooner/cover bandsish based. That said a very lot of people would be very happy with the shows. Its us that have seen it all before rather than the quality of the acts at fault here. The entertainment team were approachable and friendly... average stuff again though. Quizzes were decent enough. Some were quite tough, which was nice. My wife particuarily enjoyed the lecturer who was a crime writer and ex police... some great insights over the 4 lectures apparently.
What was good was the lack of hard sell by the staff. Unlike some cruise lines the staff didnt push things all the time.
Spa & Gym- We didnt use the Spa itself, but did use the gym..5 times actually..honest... it is pretty basic and a few machines were down.. but it did the job and it is much nicer using a gym cruising the caribbean than it is on a damp day at home.
On Board Shops- Usual gear, some decent prices for some items too... check first though on tinternet before committing. We bought a watch for £310 which when we arrived home found same locally for £540..so there really are bargains but i guess not everything is as good as that one was.
Crew/Staff- Generally very nice and chatty, no issues other than they were more laid back than usual... is that the new P&O no tips policy in action? ..we dunno.. but tbh it was nice to be not pushed to spend more.
Itinery/ports of call-
This is where our holiday really took off, we had a wonderful time ashore at every port.
St Vincent: We booked our own trip here at home prior to the holiday. We went to the waterfall at the far end of the island..its about 75 feet high and quite spectacular, we then visited the Pirates of the Caribbean set and then onto Fort Charlotte.. it cost $40 and was a nice day out. We had a good laugh at the waterfall in particular. Be careful, some trips go to waterfalls that are little more than a river running over rocks... very few went where we went.
St Kitts: Made an error here, used the ships trip and the minibus was less than good. The windows were tiny and they had been obscured by vinyl which put on badly distorted everything. We should have just got off the ship and caught a taxi for same money. Anyway, once we arrived at our destination it was superb, we visited Fort Brimstone which is in a stunning location, very carribean. We loved it.
St Maarten- We went to a mountain and did the Flying Dutchman zipline 1050 feet high (steepest zipline with greatest decent in world)... this was fabulous fun... there was a ski type hoist to the top and then 4 ziplines between two mountain peaks before the Flying Dutchman down the hill... there wasnt a rush and you could have a look around at the top first. After the dutchman it was back on the ski hoist upto the first level for some tubing runs... a great day was had and we were back at the port for 2pm in time for a beer and a look at the shops. My wifes fave day out.
Grand Turk: Ship parks at the beach so why go further. Paid a few dollars for sunbeds (although early birds can get free ones) and chilled by the sea..and in it... its a truly stunning location and no chance of missing ship. They blow the ships horn half an hour before to let you know to get on.
Tortola: We jumped in a minibus/taxi onshore..cost $20 dollars each for a trip to a beach coupled with a bit of sightseeing along the ridgeway out to far end of the island. A stunning island, we also called at an old rum distillary and sampled some wares. Pussers Beach where we stopped was beautiful, there were pelicans flying along its length from time to time... another great shore day.
Antigua: We booked a ships trip to Prickly Pear Island, wow this was stunning too... we were lucky this day, apparently on the mainland they had some rain..but we missed it all... apart from when we returned to the port where we popped into a bar until the rain eased... Prickly pear is very basic, some people were not that happy with it but for us it was perfect. Its only 100m x 30m and there was a cabin with all inclusive drinks and a lunch service... the loo was in a wood hut and was a pump type yacht loo... best not to dwell on it too long... the sea was amazing, superb snorkelling on the sandbar and reef..lots of fish to see... i ended up getting a very burnt back due to spending 5 of the 6 and a half hours half submerged in the water. We spent the day with a couple off the ship and had a great time with them. My fave place of the holiday, but its not for everyone i guess. There was probably about 30 people in total on the island...all off the ship i think.
St Lucia: Another ships trip, this time a catamarran to see the pitons, tbh we saw em on St Vincent at start of the holiday(its not that far from St Lucia) and as the ship pulled in to St lucia that morning too... but the fun is the journey here.. it stopped at a beach for snorkelling and then went onto the pitons... Rum flowed, there was dancing and generally everyone had a lovely time.. we did. Afterwards we ate in a bar near the ship and continued the fun there with a couple we met on the catamarran. It was a good day.
Grenada: Weatherwise this was worst day of the holiday. It rained before we arrived, it rained a little bit in the morning and rained very hard toward the end of the day. However we lucked out massively, we prebooked on tinternet a ATV experience...and the inclement weather only made it more exciting. There was only 4 people doing the trip too so it really was a one to one experience with the guides. We also visited what would probably have been the most beautiful beach of the holiday had the sun been out. Grenada is stunning, we just need to see it in the sunshine and not with grey skies. One thing, if you are considering buying jewellery whilst out in the caribbean wait until Grenada.. they undercut all the other places for the exact same item of jewellery by quite some margin. It was my wifes 50th and she ended up with a diamond and Sapphire necklace and a watch for the same price as the necklace elsewhere (am looking at you, St Maarten and Antigua)...
Barbados: we boarded on a saturday, so the friday at barbados for us was a full day and night there before our flying home day on the saturday. We have been before to barbados so looked online at what to do diiferent from last time when we did a island tour by taxi... we read about the boatyard.. so went... wow, what a great day... the taxi driver tried to talk us into going further down the beach to a bar there that didnt charge entry.. what he didnt say was that the sunbeds there cost $20 each..at Boatyard entry is $25 dollars but you get the sunbeds and a free drink, every two hours theres a 241 happy hour and inbetween that there are free shots and a free snorkelling trip in a boat to swim at two sites in the bay... one has a wreck the other as turtles.. it was fabulous and rounded our holiday off perfectly. The ships entertainment crew and in fact many of the other crew go there to party on days off too so it must be good. Glad we went there.. not to be missed, if you havent done it..do it.
Drinks Package- Now before we sum up...the thing that annoyed the most. The drinks package. Firstly it is expensive but we just about managed to reach the total everyday, we like a drink but are not massive drinkers..so people who drink a lot will cane it... we won because the speciality coffees and soft drinks /water are in so we took water ashore with us every shore day and had a few coffees a day too...we were £30 into the money before we touched alcohol so it was fairly easy to reach the outlay cost. That however isnt the issue... the issue was not being able to have doubles and then drinks being overun with the mixers so they tasted like dishwater... and generally being made to feel somehow 2nd class by the bar staff... Is that a large wine?.. they asked, is that a double? ... no we are on the package...and we showed our card.. oh they said.. and then they turned up with a small wine and a single short over run with mixer unless we could stop them in time... i know its not thier fault, but there is a serious flaw in P&O policy here. We spent a very lot of money with them and somehow managed to feel less special than people who didnt. I know its silly but it was annoying... am not saying that spending that money should have made us more special but it shouldnt have put us at a disadvantage. If P&O are doing All Inclusive then they need to do All Inclusive not this half arsed carry on they have concocted... I understand that some people may take the piss but we are not those people and we just couldnt get the drinks of the quality we expect ....it was as if they had our money and we could just do one. Thats the biggest gripe of what was an otherwise terrific holiday.
Disembarkation- Went very smoothly, was a long day, but we went last minute shopping in the morning, had a bit of deck/pool time, had lunch and then changed and showered in the spa facilities before catching bus to the airport. Flight was delayed about an hour and a half but time soon passed and they pretty much managed to land on time back in Manchester.
This was our 20th cruise with a variety of different lines so by now we know a thing or two about cruising so our views are honest, constructive and considered with plenty of experience to measure the ship and overall cruise against.
This was a 5 star holiday experience with a 3 star ship board experience so overall we give it 4 stars. We have attempted to be uber honest. Some will disagree ..but this is our experience of this cruise so please accept it as truthful from our perspective.
There is nothing that should put you off from cruising with P&O or on the Azura..we would do it again, and on this very ship without any worries. Many of the minor issues will no doubt be sorted in the sparkle before next season begins so the only real beef is with the P&O All Inclusive drinks policy... we dont understand it (it seems designed to piss us off) and it detracted from what was an other wise wonderful experience. We wouldnt take the P&O drinks package on this experience again (it may depend on what it is you prefer to drink of course). Hope you found this helpful. Happy Cruising. Read Less