Some notes on what we did - I hope my ramblings and informative. All prices quoted in $US or £.
Summary - we enjoyed the Azura itinerary - the weather was good and generally the food was nice. We found the service on board excellent. ... Read More
Some notes on what we did - I hope my ramblings and informative. All prices quoted in $US or £.
Summary - we enjoyed the Azura itinerary - the weather was good and generally the food was nice. We found the service on board excellent. The flights and transfers were all fine, although Barbados airport has always been awful and it's not improved over time. We did find the ship busy at times. Azura is generally rated as 4* and that's about right.
We're both 60, live on the Wirral near Chester and have been retired over 5 years. We have a holiday approx every 6 weeks - a mix of long and short haul. We booked this trip 10 days before we flew out, purely for some winter sun. We've been to the Caribbean over 30 times before, but we've only cruised it 4 times. We've cruised with various lines and have no real loyalty to any particular one, but we do find P&O vey homely. Like many things in life, you tend to get what you pay for. Our favorite ship to date is the 6 star Oceania Riviera, but it was twice the price of P&O. Cruising is our third choice way to travel, with independent travel and organized tours above.
Day 1 Sat 23rd - outbound. A fast check-in at Thomas Cook Manchester. Flight TCX 624 took off on time at 10:30. The 23kg baggage allowance was plenty for me, even with a DJ, though Barbara's bag was 23.5 kg - check in didn't notice.
The Airbus A330 looked new inside. We had pre-booked seats 22H & K. There was no remium economy available. The seat configuration was 2-4-2. Reasonable leg room for a charter flight. Food was OK, but the entertainment was limited and you had to pay extra for much of it. The flight took 9 hours due to strong headwinds. At Barbados we boarded coaches direct from the plane to the ship. Though the queues for Azura registration were long, the numerous check-in desks progressed everyone very quickly. Our bags went direct to our cabin, arriving after a couple of hours. 5 P&O flights had arrived close together, 3 being delayed by fog at Gatwick. It was very well handled by P&O considering the numbers involved. Time difference -4 hours from UK.
A few days before we flew, we were allocated a port side forward cabin D206 on deck 9 - a Superior Deluxe balcony cabin - DE grade. It is larger than the standard balcony grade and the balcony sticks out further than those above. It does mean your balcony is overlooked from above, but you do get more sun.
When we booked, we were offered a standard balcony at £1599pp or the superior grade at £1799pp, we chose the latter.
Cabin - DE grade balcony. You get a full size bath and a larger bathroom. You also get a much larger living area. The cabin was fine, perhaps a bit dated but all very acceptable and kept very clean and tidy by our experienced steward Victor (16 years with P&O). Superior balcony guests also get a bottle of champagne & chocolates on arrival and periodic canapés and fresh fruit. Atlas & binoculars.
Lots of storage space and 34 hangers - surely sufficient for any couple. Barbara likes White Company toiletries. Easy to use 4 digit safe. Good aircon. 2 TVs, one for the bed area and one for the seating area. BBC World, Sky News & Sky Sports News, plus the usual navigation and tours channels. Hairdryer. Comfy double bed, but average quality pillows and sheets. Kettle for tea/coffee. Good size fridge. 2 x UK 3 pin sockets. Complimentary water to start. We bought a water pack of 6x1.5 liter bottles (£9.75), which lasted us all of the trip. There are water fountains around the ship, but they ask you to refrain from topping up your water bottles due to hygiene reasons.
After settling into our cabin, we had a light supper at a buffet by the pool and went to bed at 22:00 exhausted.
Day 2 Sun 24th - at sea. 30C max. Sunny with a light breeze. After a room service breakfast, we had some much needed sun on deck for a few hours before a buffet lunch. We had no problem finding sun loungers at all. We were allocated 18:30 fixed dining in the Oriental main dining room. P&O were very late to the "Freedom Dining" concept, but have now fully embraced it, with 2 out of the 3 main dining rooms on Azura now allocated to it. 1st Black Tie evening and the Captains Cocktail Party in the Atrium. After dinner, we saw the Headliners show - a sort of "Dancing from around the World" medley. It was high energy stuff - though Barb fell asleep!! She blamed the jet-lag!!
Day 3 Mon 25th - Bonaire. 28C max, clear skies and sunny. We docked at 07:30 at Kralendijk port. Room service breakfast. There's a helpful Tourist Information on the pier. 2 hour shared minibus island tours on offer for $25pp. We took a cab to Sorobon Beach in Lac Bay on the east coast. $5pp in a shared minibus. It's a 10 min journey. There's a nice but narrow beach at Sorobon, with a few bars and loungers to hire ($5pp). Lots of windsurfers to watch. It was quite windy, but we enjoyed it for a few hours. Back onboard by 15:00 from Sorobon Beach by minicab ($5pp shared).
Dinner in Oriental, then a fine comedy and impressions show by Mark Walker in the Theatre. Later we went to the "Sail away under the stars" at 10:30 - it was very lively by the pool. Then a Tina Turner tribute act by the pool. The pool deck was jumping - it was great fun, but too late a night for us - we're lightweights!!!
Day 4 Tues 26th - Curaçao. 29C max. Sunny and breezy. We docked at 07:30. Room service breakfast. We docked in Willemstad. You can see the high bridge soaring above the landscape. There's a good Tourist Information on the pier. It's a 2 minute stroll to the Rif Fort (World Heritage Site) and the Old Town. Inside Rif Fort there's a selection of shops and bars. The fort is free to enter and you can walk around the walls. A few more minutes walk and you reach the Queen Emma pontoon bridge, which straddles the St Anna Bay harbour mouth. It swings open to let the ship's through. It wobbles a bit in the sea swell and is a fun experience to cross. Lovely brightly coloured Dutch style houses line the harbour on both sides. On the east side of the pontoon bridge is the pretty Fort Amsterdam, now Government buildings. Again free to enter and walk around. We did some shopping, had a beer and caught up with emails etc. There's plenty of free wifi about. It's a very pleasant town.
Lunch in Penninsular, then a few hours in the sun. We departed Curaçao at 18.30. After an excellent dinner at Atul Kochhar's Sindhu restaurant (£15pp cover charge), we watched Paul Eastwood's rapid fire comedy show in Manhattan. Later we caught the 10:30 Headliner show in the theatre - the foot tapping "Blame it on the Boogie" - everyone likes a bit of '70's funk!!
Day 5 Wed 27th - Aruba. We arrived at 08:00. 30C max with some cloud and breezy. Not a very pretty quay. 5 cruise ships were in. Room service breakfast. We took a shared minibus to Eagle Beach ($5pp) - about 10 mins away. We hired sun loungers on the beach opposite La Cabana Resort Hotel from the water sports hut ($7.5pp). The beach is large, has beautiful white sand and azure blue water with gentle waves, but a bit windy. There's a free iced water machine by the beach bar. You can use the rest rooms in La Cabana - across the road from the beach - through the resort gate and the rest rooms are on the left. We stayed for 2 hours, then paid the water sports guy $10 to drive us back to the ship.
After lunch in Penninsular, we spent an hour in the sun on a breezy deck. Dinner in Oriental. As it was a lovely mild evening, we watched the sail away from our balcony at 20:00 with a bottle of champagne. Once out at sea, the wind and waves picked up and we had quite a choppy night.
Day 6 Thurs 28th - at sea. Still quite choppy sea conditions but sunny and max 28C. Room service breakfast. Barbara joined the Azura choir. Lunch in Penninsular, then a few hours in the sun. Second black tie evening. Dinner in Oriental then the Headliner Company in the theatre performing "Curtain Up" - songs from various musicals.
Day 7 Fri 29th - Amber Cove, Dominican Republic. We arrived at 07:15 at the new quay - opened 6 months ago we heard. Shortly afterwards, the Costa "Delsomething" arrived and blocked our nice view. Sunny with light cloud and a gentle breeze. 29C max, but felt much hotter. Room service breakfast.
We've stayed in Dom Rep 4 times before. It's a nice island with some very luxurious hotels. In Puerto Plata there's a fort, the Brugal rum factory, lots of cigar makers and a cable car up to the botanical gardens. There's an impressive "Christ the Redeemer" statue in the gardens - not as grand as Rio, but still good. Amber Cove is a Carnival owned resort with a nice pool, free loungers and clean rest rooms. There's a restaurant and a pool bar. Barb had a go at the zip wire, which flies overhead across the resort. It costs $12 for as many goes as you want. Amber Cove is situated next to the Riu Bruchetta Hotel, where we've stayed before. The sun was strong and required regular pool dips. Lunch in Penninsular, then an hour in the sun on deck. A beautiful sunset sail away at 18:00.
Dinner in Oriental, then a second Mark Walker's comedy show in the Theatre - great entertainment. Later to Manhattan for the Headliners singing a medley of Tamla Motown classics - everyone of our age grew up with these songs - a fun sing along show. Later we sat on the Promenade deck finishing our wine and savoring the mild Caribbean air.
Day 8 Sat 30th - at sea. Sunny with clear skies and calm sea conditions. 29C max. Room service breakfast, then a couple of hours in the sun. Later, Barbara went to the Azura choir practice and I went for a run (40 min run in the gym, then a 20 min run on the Prom deck). Lunch in Penninsular followed by a couple more hours in the sun. 3rd Black Tie evening. Dinner in Oriental, then the Headliners show in the Theatre - "My Generation" - songs from the 60's - Beatles, Stones, Who etc. An ok show - but not my favorite.
Day 9 Sun 31st - Tortola, BVI. We arrived at 07:30 at the small pier in Road Town. Celebrity Summit joined us. Sunny with some cloud and a light breeze. 27C max. A nice sail-in past numerous islands. Room service breakfast.
There's a Tourist Information at the pier - $8 to $12pp for shared buses to various beaches. We chose a 3 hour Island Tour for $25pp at the pier (it ended up as 4 hours). It started at 09:30 and stopped at various view points around the island. It's hilly with some very steep roads. I tried a "Bushwacker" cocktail at a bar - liquid dynamite!! We also stopped at the Callwood Rum distillery. You can try 4 rums for $1 - be impolite not to. After driving through the hills, we landed at Cane Garden Beach for a 1 hour stop. Nice sand and shallow water for a paddle, but it was very busy. We chilled in the Paradise Club beach bar. The tour buses were mostly open sided "toast rack" types - which were fine, with a cool breeze blowing through. Back at the pier by 13:30. Lunch in Penninsular, then an hour in the sun on our balcony.
A lovely sunset sail away at 18:15. We enjoyed it so much (with a GnT of course), that we missed our 18:30 dining slot in Oriental. We went to the Beach House instead, but there was an hour wait. So we went to Freedom Dining. You are officially not allowed to change your dining type or time, but we thought we'd chance it and the Maitre d' was quite relaxed about it and took pity on us.
Day 10 Mon Feb 1st - St Maarten. We arrived at 07:30 at the quay in Philipsburg. Room service breakfast. Weather cloudy and max 28C and a burst of rain at 08:30, which quickly passed. There's s Tourist Information on the quay with maps, prices etc. Lots of shops at the end of the quay.
We caught a shared minibus to Maho Beach ($8pp). It's a pleasant beach with azure blue water, though the shore break can be strong. There are bars at each end and public toilets. Maho is world famous for the low flying planes. They pass very low over the beach as they land and is deemed one of the "World Top 10 Most Dangerous Landings". Our bar had a list of the plane landing time and the sun lounger guy shouts out when a big plane was due. We hired sun loungers and a shade for $10pp. We really needed the sunshade, as the sun was fierce. Planes land regularly, but the fun is when the big ones land. You can also get sandblasted as the big planes take off - we resisted the temptation!! I loved Maho Beach - fun for both the young & young at heart. It's a unique place. $8pp shared minibus back - we were back on board by 17:00.
We do enjoy the food in the MDR, but we also like variety, so we ate in Epicurian ($28pp extra) - Azura's fine dining restaurant. Having eaten a few times in Marco Pierre White's restaurants on P&O, I felt underwhelmed with Epicurian. The location is nice, and we had a nice table, but I found the food average and I wouldn't rush back. Later we went to a pool party and then watched some ball room dancing.
Day 11 Tues Feb 2nd - Antigua. We docked at 08:00 in St Johns. Room service breakfast. Weather sunny with some cloud and a light breeze - max 26C. We've holidayed in Antigua 5 times before, but it's our first time cruising here.
About 09:00 we got a cab to Dickinson Bay ($6pp). I love Dickinson Bay - we've stayed here at Halcyon Cove Hotel once and Sandals 4 times before, so we wanted to rekindle some memories. We walked along the lovely Dickinson beach and chose sun loungers by Sneaky Pete's Bar - $10 for good quality loungers and a shade. I did a barefoot run along the beach for about 40 mins, then went for a swim. We had a hot Jerk Chicken lunch at a beach bar and enjoyed the sun. It's still a lovely bay and I'm sure we'll be back. The downside of cruising that you can't stay longer somewhere that you really enjoy. $6pp cab back to the ship by 14:00. By now the clouds were building and it had started to rain. After a buffet lunch, we caught up on some sleep. There were 3 other ships in dock and the town did seem quite busy. A fun, full on P&O style flag waving, "Land of Hope & Glory" style sail away, to the utter bemusement of the other ships in dock.
Dinner in Oriental, then we watched Gareth Oliver (Britain's Got Talent ventriloquist) in the theatre - a very funny and talented man. Then a quick dash to Manhattan to see comedian Manuel Martinez's good comedy and magic show.
Day 12 Wed Feb 3rd - at sea. Room service breakfast. Sunny with clear skies and a light breeze. It felt hot in the sun, though the official temperature was only 27C. The sea was calm as we poodled along at 7 knots - a lovely Caribbean day. We spent a few hours in the sun in the morning, then Barbara went for her final Azura choir practice. After lunch in Peninsular, we spent another hour in the sun. 4th and final formal night (black & white). At 18:00, the Azura choir gave their performance in the Atrium. They were brilliant and cheered on by a large audience - very proud of her.
Dinner in Oriental - we chose the Marco Pierre White gala set 5 course meal. The chef's did their "parade" to the cheers and serviette waving of the happy punters. Then swiftly off to the Theatre for the Headliner's "Reel to Reel' show - good foot tapping songs from UK films.
Day 13 Thurs Feb 4th - Grenada. We docked in St George at 07:45. Sunny with light cloud and a liht breeze. 28C max. There's a Tourist Information at the pier end with a good island map. Many people were getting a water taxi from the pier to Grand Anse beach nearby. We took a shared minibus island tour for $20pp for 3 hours. Only 4 in our minibus, so we had a row of seats each. We drove into the mountains and visited Annandale Falls. Then we saw some more of the island and visited a rum distillery ($2pp for a factory tour and 4 rum samples). Later we went to Grand Anse beach - it's 2 miles long with nice sand and lovely water, but due to it's proximity to the ship, it was packed and we did not stay long. Then a driving tour of the town, Caranage Marina, the Sendal tunnel and back to the ship. A good tour.
Lunch in Peninsular, then an hour in the sun. A lovely sail away into the sunset. Dinner in Beach House (the waiter service evening part of the buffet). There's a £5pp cover charge. The food was nice, but service was slow and we had to jog the staff along.
Then another really funny show by Gareth Oliver (ventriloquist) in the Theatre, followed by a fine comedy/magic act by Manuel Martinez in Manhatten.
Day 14 Fri Feb 5th - Barbados. We docked in Bridgetown at 06:30. Half of the ship were leaving today. Everyone, whatever day you're leaving, have to fill in a Barbados immigration form and present it to Barbados Customs in Manhatten. Each flight has an allocated Customs slot time. It was very efficient. Weather overcast today with some showers - humid and 26C.
We've stayed in Barbados 4 times before. Twice at the Sandridge Hotel, once at Almond Beach (both Speightstown) and once at Crystal Cove (Holetown), so we have fond memories of holidays here. Our first time cruising here.
We walked off the ship at 09:30 and caught the public bus from Bridgetown to Speightstown ($1pp each way) and had a walk around and a beer at a beach bar. The main bus station in Bridgetown is a few minutes walk from the quay. They take US$ or BD$. Local bus back ($1pp) and on board by 14:30. Lunch in the buffet, then sadly we did some packing. Weather still cloudy and humid.
A goodbye dinner with our regular table guests in Oriental, then a stroll around the ship & shops. No main show tonight. Bags outside of the room by 24:00 latest.
Day 15 Sat Feb 6th - Barbados. Departure day. Room service breakfast. You need to be out of your cabin by 08:00. We sat and read in the quiet Planet bar for a couple of hours - deck 18 aft, then had lunch in Penninsular. Disembarking passengers are well informed about coach pick up times etc on the PA. Unfortunately our coach to the airport had no aircon and we boiled. It's been 9 years since we've been to Barbados airport and it hasn't improved one jot. The departure hall was crowded with long queues and no aircon. Fortunatley as we'd been through Barbados Customs the previous day on board, we bypassed most of the queues. The airside area was hot and heaving, with no spare seating. The business lounge wasn't much better - packed, dirty and scruffy. At least we got a seat and some free wine. The business lounge wifi was as good as useless. No wonder people have voted with their feet and stop staying in Barbados (many hotels have gone bust). Note to P&O - Please move your Caribbean base to another island".
A sad end to a pleasant holiday. Overall we enjoyed it. Read Less