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Thursday, 7 May 2015

P&O Azura A508N Cruise Review

Firstly an apology that I did not blog from the cruise, but my Ipad decided to disappear up its own USB port, and needed a restore once I got home. So this review might be a bit wordier than usual.

The Cruise

12 nights from Southampton to the Canaries April 2015

The Ship

Azura was launched in 2010, and we were lucky enough to sail on her maiden cruise, plus we have sailed on her in 2012. But being 5 years old she needed some TLC, so prior to the cruise, she had been in Hamburg for a £6m refit.

She had a new paint job, plus new livery




















She had also had new carpets in all the public areas, it seems the neutral colours that had been used when she was built had not fared as well as the darker carpets on Ventura, her sister ship.
Its a pity they did not also replace the carpets in the cabins, as ours had seen better days.

Two new additions were the self service "wine by the glass" dispenser in the buffet (you still have to pay by swiping your cruise card). Plus the "Grab and Go" next to the grill on deck 15. We did think this was very useful and used it a lot for a lunch time bite when sitting out on deck.

When we first sailed on Azura in 2010 there seemed to be an issue with passengers queuing for the first show in the theatre, and you needed to get there at least 1 hour before curtain up to get a seat, and it seems the problem has reemerged, as whilst eating in the Glass House the queues snaked along the corridor. Also one evening we went into the Manhattan bar to watch a tribute act 45 minutes before the start, and not a spare seat was to be seen.

It was also the same at a lot of the ports, the Captain made his announcement that we had arrived and asked passengers not to congregate etc. etc. but still long and lengthy queues formed.

Disembarkation was also chaos, no information to passengers, tempers getting frayed. Our priority disembarkation was non existent, and even once we reached the luggage hall, our case with their priory labels were in with the other cases in deck order. So what the point of the labels are I do not know. I have emailed P&O and await with interest on their reply

And just in passing, on the last night we ate in Sindhu, where there was an infrastructure malfunction (I will give no more details), no one was hurt, and the reason for the mention was that the staff acted so professional and calmly, they were a credit to P&O.

The Ports

La Coruna

We have been here quite a few times before, the last time was in January on Oceana, but this time it was a bit warmer :-), and it was where the above photo of Azura was taken. There was no tour for us, so it was a walk into town, and then along the prom to the old fort, and what a very pleasant walk it was, and highly recommended if you don't fancy a tour. They are still improving the road etc. just outside the port, but its much improved even since January.

Madeira

This is another port we have been to quite a few times, but instead of taking the shuttle bus we decided to go for a walk along the new prom.

















Before long, our short stroll had taken us into town, and it was a pleasure to be there with the new prom which must have cost a pretty penny. So if you do not have any problems walking, then don't take the shuttle bus, walk instead, there are lots of places to rest along the way if needed, and plenty of refreshment stops.

La Palma

It was staring to get pleasantly warm by this port. We had booked a P&O walking tour, but then realised it was the same one we had done in 2010, but was still a nice tour.


The port gate is only a 5-10 minute walk from the ship, then you are in the town. A shuttle bus is also provided if you don't fancy the walk.

Tenerife 

Another island we had been to before, but this time decided to book a Jeep Adventure, it said not suitable for those with vertigo or a bad back, and it did go up to mount Teide. The views were stunning, and it was one of the best trips we have done. so even if you don't like heights (like me) give it a try. The only downside of the tour, we had three Jeeps carrying 8 passengers, and of course 3 drivers, but only one them (our driver) spoke any English, so whilst we had a very entertaining tour the others had a somewhat less fulfilling tour.



Grand Canaria 

The arrival was a Sunday and we were informed that most of the shops etc would be closed. But in fact it turned out to be an excellent port. It was 27C so that helped. Across the road just before you reach the main town centre, there was a very large market come car boot sale, with more stalls than you could shake a stick at. Plus there was some sort of motor bike show, where it looked to me that you could hire a bike to test it round some roads that had been taped off. There was also an area where youngsters (9/10 years) could test their bike skills on an  obstacle course. so there was plenty to see and do, and of course the beach is only a short walk. In the evening, we ate in Sindhu for the first time on the cruise as it was Sue's birthday (yes 21 again ).  

Lisbon

We had company when we docked in the form of Ventura and Adonia 


I have to say, that when P&O announced their new livery, I was not overwhelmed by their choice. But seeing Azura docked in front of Ventura, it was like a before and after shot, and I must admit, the new livery did look better IMHO.

Again no tour booked, so a nice walk into to town was called for, but with 3 P&O ships and a Celebrity ship, you can imagine it was a tad busy.

The Cabin

We had an inside cabin on C deck on a Saver fare. I have always found them  large enough, but as I said above, the carpet had seen better days. But for the price we paid, it was very sufficient.

Food

Being on a saver fare, we had no choice of dining, and were given Freedom Dining, but we never made it to the restaurant.

We used the glass house a few times, and Sindhu twice, plus the new Epicurean, and the themed buffets which we enjoy any way.

The food and service in the Epicurean was very good, and carried a £28pp cover charge. Sindhu was £15pp cover charge, with excellent food and service, so the question is, "is the Epicurean worth more then Sindhu ? " 

Well I think the jury is still out, so you will just have to try it yourself and decide.

We did try to get into the "Beach Hut" but it was full by 7 pm ( no booking )


Entertainment

Unusually for us we did not go to see any Headliner Shows ( it could be because we have seen them all) .
We did however see both shows of Manuel Martinez, a Cuban comedy magician in Manhattan. If you get a chance to see him don't be put off by his title. We have never laughed so much, his shows are excellent.

We also managed to get to see the second show from Tom O'Conner, who we had seen in 2010 on the Artemis farewell cruise. Tom is no spring chicken nowadays, but still manages to hold his audience, even though some of his jokes were as old as I am, but still good entertainment .

A couple of bands to note, I thought Catch 22 were excellent, and Pulse2 were at the other end of the spectrum IMHO.

The Crew

I have always thought that P&O' s crew members to have been excellent on the cruises we have done. This cruise however, things have changed and they have seemed to upped their game even more, and were even more attentive. Well done !!

The Weather

Could not really fault the weather, from leaving Southampton until our last sea day when we had some rain, it was excellent, could not ask for better.

Conclusion

Other then the disembarkation debacle, an excellent cruise  ( sorry I seem to be using that word a lot ) and for the Saver price we paid, we could not ask for more.

I will post links to my photos in a later blog

So it's not long now ( end of May) before we are off again to try out Britannia for a week.  It's likely to be our last cruise this year, as my regular readers will know that I will need some medical treatment this year.

So hopefully my Ipad will behave itself, and I will blog from Britannia, so until then 

Bye bye