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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2013
Firstly, although only our second cruise (the first being on Ventura in 2011), we found this to be an excellent Ship and tour. I booked Freedom Dining 18 months ago, and have found it to be ideal for us, as we decide when we wish to eat, ... Read More
Firstly, although only our second cruise (the first being on Ventura in 2011), we found this to be an excellent Ship and tour. I booked Freedom Dining 18 months ago, and have found it to be ideal for us, as we decide when we wish to eat, and if they cannot accomodate you straight away you get a pager whilst waiting for the table (our maximum wait was 10 minutes!). Sometimes if we did not fancy anything on the menu we ate in the Buffet (different Theme each night) or one of the 'Speciality' Restaurants - Glasshouse being our favourite. If you book the cruise well in advance you may not get the cheapest deal, but you DO get your choice of cabin, and choice of Dining option - so it's swings and roundabouts. There are certainly more than one or two other choices on the main dining room menu as well (the menu copy I have in front of me has a total of 7 dishes including Highland Salmon, Sirloin of Beef, Seafood Stew, Roast Leg of Pork, Fricasse of Chicken, Chestnut, Quorn & Spinach Gateau, & finally Smoked Haddock Fishcakes!!). I did hear complaints about sunbeds - there were several announcements whilst on board regarding the reservation of sunbeds, but the company are limited to what they can do, as I observed several sunbeds left vacant with towels on them, with people saying the occupants were in the pool, visiting the buffet or using the toilet. Also a fellow passenger complained of a jacuzzi full of children - it was a 'Family' ship in the middle of the school holidays (what did he expect!!) - albeit the children were outnumbered by middle aged and retired couples. There are several adult only ships if children are to be avoided!!! Anyway, my personal experience was totally different - very clean ship, excellent staff service from our Cabin Steward (Mathew), good entertainments staff led by Neil Oliver, a very approachable Captain (Paul Brown), as well as nothing but courteous friendly staff throughout. The only gripe I have is about the first Port of Call - La Coruna, although we did not go on a booked tour, we were not very impressed with the place at all, and maybe a stop in Lisbon would have been better to break up the number of sea days. Best place we visited was Corfu, visited the Achelon Palace and had a look around the Old Town. Sail in to Venice was also worthwhile (make sure you book a Starboard Cabin - or Port side for on the way out). As previously stated the Glasshouse is worth a visit for the Wine Flights (three glasses of wine chosen by Olly Smith), and the Steaks / Fish. Watched a few shows in the Main Playhouse, also enjoyed watching a couple of films on the outdoor Seascreen at night when it was a bit cooler (blankets provided). Missed a couple of shows in the Manhattan Showbar as this venue was always full when we got there. Going back to the subject of Tours - we did lose 25 minutes off one tour due to the late arrival of fellow passengers (not the Companies fault), but they (the passengers) didn't even apologise to those of us waiting on the coach!! In the main had an excellent holiday, would certainly go on Azura again - it is only your fellow passengers that may affect how much you enjoy it. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
When my parents told me we were going on a cruise, it wasn't what I wanted. A cruise? surely this for people that are 61 not 16. despite this I went with a open minded and this is what I thought of it. The kids club on azura are ... Read More
When my parents told me we were going on a cruise, it wasn't what I wanted. A cruise? surely this for people that are 61 not 16. despite this I went with a open minded and this is what I thought of it. The kids club on azura are excellent, they run many great activity's and is a great way to meet other kids to spend time with to pass the sea days,so if you have kids I highly recommended putting them into the kids club as they will love every second of it. the food was excellent with me and my brother regularly ordering room service or going to the buffet late into the night and enjoying it just as much as the sit down meals we had at various restaurants around the ship. this is to say that all food is good and your kids won't be struggling to find stuff they would want to eat. On the other hand, The entertainment is certainly not directed at the younger generation's. Whilst tom jones and frank Sinatra tribute acts may appeal to the the majority of passengers (the average of people on azura was 66) there is no entertainment that will appeal to a age demographic younger then 35.The only show I saw out of mine I got forced to go to by family that I enjoyed was that of Gareth Oliver, a ventriloquist which I was surprised by how good he was, but the is the exception to the rule with the rest being filled by poor comedians and a slew of tribute acts. Our room was perfect for me and my 19 year old brother, although the showers could be bigger as we are 6'1 and 6'4 respectively but our cabin steward (samsy),was sociable and did not complain about any mess we left in the room, let's just say he earned every penny of his tip. the waiter we had ( Kevin and jovin) were also similarly sociable and really made dinner a fun experience for our family. So overall there is nothing wrong what p&o do on azura,but there not doing it for MY demographic, the entertainment is lacklustre and you can't walk 10 feet without seeing someone looking down at you for being "just a kid" so if you are bringing teenagers on azura,go during a peak summertime where there will be more kids on bored otherwise they will be left with a feeling of boredom on sea days. This was azura through a 16 year old boy's eyes/ Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
My new husband and I took our mums away in order for them to get to know one another better. As this was advertised as a "Strictly Come Dancing" theme cruise we were hoping/expecting that there would be some evening dancing ... Read More
My new husband and I took our mums away in order for them to get to know one another better. As this was advertised as a "Strictly Come Dancing" theme cruise we were hoping/expecting that there would be some evening dancing exhibitions or behind the scenes discussions related this topic. It really didn't transpire. There was an amateur dance class but no different from any other cruise and there were some dresses on display from the show which were nice (and small!) but other than the company that makes these dresses trying to sell key chains and shoes and a few over priced trinkets (a £300 purse) the only event of any significance was on the final evening of the cruise when Ola and James Jordan did 5 dances of about 90 seconds each. In the 43 minute show, we "were privileged to see the winners of the amateur event" which took up at least 15 minutes of that time. I felt sorry for them as it was so bad but applauded their bravery. I did not pay a supplement in order to see bad amateurs. I could have seen that any night in the atrium. It was a very disappointing show. It was my first P&O cruise so was excited to compare it to my other 64 cruises on essentially American based companies. The average age was 65 but felt like 105. I was waiting for the announcement of "wheelchair races on deck 5." This could have been the effect of the themed cruise. I am looking forward to another cruise on P&O to compare as you cannot generalise based on one experience. However, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and others have MANY more activities, entertainment and things to do both during the day and in the evening. The food was OK. I don't think the Brits know what a salad is. I was screaming for a salad bar. There was lettuce and cucumber and two watery dressings as an after thought. But they do a mean fish and chips. The absolute worse part of the cruise was the bed. If you are used to a quality, memory foam mattress you may end up like the four of us who all thought we would need to be in traction by the end of the cruise. I literally was calling reception in tears begging to move us. The ship was full so that wasn't an option. They did cover the mattress with duvets with some relief but it was horrible. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
WHO AM I I hope that this review, conveys some of the joys and frustrations of cruising. To hardened veterans there will be little new, except my personal take on things, but for those planning to cruise for the first time I hope it ... Read More
WHO AM I I hope that this review, conveys some of the joys and frustrations of cruising. To hardened veterans there will be little new, except my personal take on things, but for those planning to cruise for the first time I hope it represents an honest and open assessment that helps you decide if cruising "is for you". I apologise to those who think it goes on a bit, however I have included some sub headings so you can jump straight to any bits that might interest you. I always like to understand who is writing these reviews as it helps to put the comments into perspective. My wife and I are both professionals in the construction industry and commute into London every day. I am in my early 50's and my wife in her late 40's. Our son is 10. We are reasonably well travelled, mostly from before our son was born, since when we seem to have spent an inordinate amount of holiday time in Florida -- you know the places!! We have been on one cruise before on P&O's Ventura in the summer of 2010 to the Western Mediterranean. AN INAUSPICIOUS START We were unfortunately on the other end of the three hour delay, caused by engine trouble on the previous Scandinavian cruise which is reported in other reviews. The chaos did not end with disembarkation unfortunately, with virtual gridlock ensuing around the dock area as for some inexplicable reason, P&O did not choose to use the departure lounge at the Mayflower terminal (there seemed to be one tantalisingly visible through the building windows). The net result was that cars could only be unloaded at the speed at which passengers in the embarkation queue could be registered. 3500 people through a single queue led to the mother of all traffic jams that extended way outside the docks and into the surrounding roads. The staff on the desks were brilliant but they never were going to be able to work fast enough. P&O please note (more haste less speed and upset passengers to boot -- better to have operated normally and accepted the delay -- we did not leave any earlier than the initial 3 hour delay so nothing was gained by not following the normal procedures). After the embarkation debacle, things settled down to what, at least for us, was the anticipated normality. The late departure meant that our cabin was available immediately which was nice and the luggage arrived very quickly .The semi chaos of the emergency drill matched our previous experience, it may teach you how to don a lifejacket but it hardly breeds confidence! By the time dinner came around we, at least, were back on track with everything stowed away and a feeling that the holiday had started. THE SHIP THE CABIN We had a deluxe balcony cabin which was configured with a double bed (two singles linked together but pretty comfortable none the less), a fold out sofa and a reasonable amount of room for the three of us. For anyone more used to hotels it would seem small. It was reasonably well appointed with enough space to stow away my wife's copious wardrobe and, with the foresight to have cases which nest inside one another, to hide away all the bags. Two TV's allowed continual tracking of our progress whilst being able to catch up with news or watch a programme from the limited on board selection. Not that we spent much time doing that but it's there if you want it. I would advise turning the sound down on the tracking and mast camera channels as the music selection is bizarre and defies all my efforts to understand who it is aimed at. An MP3 dock would be a good addition to the cabin inventory in line with most good hotels these days. The balcony was small and overlooked as to get the extra space in the deluxe cabins they project beyond the ones above. This might also be an issue if you have elephants in the cabin above as their balcony is directly over the 'living' area of the cabin. So far in two trips we have been lucky in this respect and as for the overlooking, well what are you planning to do? And if you are confident enough to do it, do you really care? The steward was brilliant and really made an effort, in a quiet and unobtrusive way, to get to know us and to make us feel like we were one of just a few cabins he was looking after (the reality is unfortunately somewhat different I suspect). The cleanliness, tidiness and general appointment of the cabin were always good although there are a few signs of wear and tear appearing after just a couple of years in service which will need attention before too long. DINING We chose freedom dining which worked well for us on the only other time we have cruised. Why is it though, that it is a nightmare on the first night? (And in this case the second) with long waits even if you are prepared to share a table. Maybe some people have not yet found the buffet or perhaps the novelty of formal dining has not worn off. Anyway it was over 30 minutes in each case this time which seems excessive given that on every other night we just breezed straight in. (I suppose I should note that there were three of us and we were always happy to share a table and meet new people each evening. If you wanted a table for two or were in a large group I am sure that wait times would have been a more regular occurrence). The food was good and occasionally very good and the loss of the regular standard items off the menu (which others have complained about) seemed to be compensated by additional main course choices compared to our last trip. Suffice it to say that even our ten year old son always found a couple of mains that he was happy with without having to resort to the kids menu. The wine packages were good quality and good value. I particularly liked the package where you could choose from a selection of around 15 selected wines each night rather than being stuck with a specific selection from the outset. Last time we selected a package of 6 whites and 6 reds and towards the end of the cruise found that this began to dictate our menu choices which was rather limiting. With this method we could have had 12 bottles of the same wine had we been minded to, but still received a healthy discount on what were already reasonable prices compared to most restaurants . As it was, we tried a good number of them and were never disappointed. We booked two nights in Seventeen and one in Sindhu. All were really enjoyable evenings , though both restaurants are very quiet to the point of slightly lacking in atmosphere. The fact that no attempt is made to turn tables in the evening does however ensure a very relaxed meal and the service and the food was excellent in both restaurants. Never got round to trying the Glass House (though it gets good reviews elsewhere), we were not enamoured by the decor which has something of a first class airport lounge about it. Quality, but better if you are just passing through! There seemed to be some quite interesting wine flights on the menu but after a couple of sundowners, half a bottle of wine and a digestif it was difficult to contemplate this as an after dinner option. As for the mad house buffet on deck 15, we popped in a couple of times at lunch when peckish but the chaos was reminiscent of a large department store cafe restaurant on a busy Saturday lunch time (even if there were better views from the windows) It was actually preferable to queue for a pizza or a burger at the outlets around the pool. Breakfast can be taken in the buffet but we preferred the more sedate service in the Oriental restaurant to start the day and found that more times than not they found us a table to ourselves which was handy when we had slightly overdone it the night before. Whilst I admire those who are able to be bright and perky first thing in the morning it is not always easy to match and the ability to plan the day ahead (for this read arrange our time table around the kids club activities!) whilst absorbing that first coffee and without feeling that you are snubbing others at the table was appreciated. DRINKING The bars and the lounges are reasonably varied on Azura and it was generally not difficult to find a spot to perch unless there was a popular act on. Steve Larkin was standing room only, but if you have been lucky enough to catch his Mercury Rising show then you will understand why. The Planet Bar was our favourite especially when sailing east as it is a fabulous location for a sundowner before dinner. The video walls are also an intriguing backdrop and add a variety that makes each evening a little different. (It's also an excuse to try the different themed cocktails which match the particular evenings display -- well you have to, don't you?). One slight issue was that it becomes adult only after 11pm which put an irritating curfew on our use of the bar if we happened to have our son with us after dinner. It's a personal point of view but if Azura is to be marketed as a family ship then aside from the Casino and the Retreat (and if your kids are well behaved it is annoying to be denied a peaceful sunbathe and swim away from the ones that aren't, in any case) I cannot see why it is necessary to place age limits on areas of the ship. Those that do not wish to travel with children have two thirds of the year and countless 'adults only' ships to satisfy their needs. Brodies was a good place to watch the football of which pretty much all the Premier League games seemed to be screened. Each little enclave of seating had its own TV so there was no trouble finding a place to watch without having to balance your pint. ENTERTAINMENT The shows in the theatre, Malabar and Manhattan were good 'after dinner' fare and there seemed to be plenty of daytime activities for those that wanted entertaining below decks. I found myself hooked when catching the end of a lecture, before watching a film in Malabar with my son, by a Chief Engineer from Concorde. I ended up going back for three further talks in his series which was way out of my normal comfort zone. On the subject of films, one of the selling points of Azura is the Sea Screen. In practice however this isn't as good as it might be, particularly in the daytime, when the sound has to compete with the sound of poolside activity and parties in the other pool areas. At night, the ship is usually cracking on to get to the next port and therefore it gets pretty breezy which is distracting when you need to hang onto your blanket at the crucial moment of the plot. (For some reason Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy pops into mind but that was towels not blankets!?) We found ourselves trying to catch the films we really wanted to see the next day in Malabar although that was not without its problems as we sought out a location to sit that was not blocked by drapes or columns. P&O why do you not use the theatre for the indoor shows? I'm sure they could be arranged around the stage rehearsals?? PORTS OF CALL I guess that these are usually the highlights of any-ones Cruise and in most cases probably a major reason why they booked it. We enjoyed all our stops on A220, though the machine gun nature of most of them, day after day for five days, in the middle of the cruise , did leave me wondering why cruise planners couldn't try to place the stops on an "every other day" routine which would be much more restful. MALAGA A half day stop barely gave time to draw breath, but was a welcome interlude in what would have been a long sail to Korcula. Because we had never been there before, we chose to take an organised tour, fearful that by the time we had got our bearings there would be little time to see the sights. Our choice proved to be a good one including a trip to a vantage point overlooking the city which was good for orientation and a break from the heat which even in the early morning was up in the 30's. The main event was a collection of superb vintage cars clearly chosen for their aesthetics as well as their historical significance. I would recommend it to anyone stopping in Malaga, not just the petrol heads, the cars are stunningly beautiful. Finally we were dropped for 45mins in the centre of Malaga which was just long enough to take a peek in the cathedral and grab a drink. KORCULA We visited Korcula back when it was still part of Yugoslavia and little has changed other than that the quiet beautiful town we remembered was completely overrun by the huge influx of people from the ship. Note to P&O cruise planners: Korcula is a bonkers choice for the first full port day after four and a half days at sea with a brief stop in Malaga. Firstly it is a tender port and secondly it is very small. The charge of stir crazy passengers overwhelmed all the tender planning/organisation and meant that many people only had a half day ashore having waited hours to get off. Having finally got ashore, the narrow streets, so cleverly designed to shade the residents and catch the prevailing winds to keep the city cool were so full of people it was unpleasant to move around let alone shop or visit the few small historic attractions. In the end we bailed out, having had a brief struggle through the crowds to show our son a bit of the town we had admired so much when we visited last, and walked along the waterfront where we found a terrific little restaurant with a view back to the town across the crystal clear water. Day rescued! VENICE What can you say, Venice has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and certainly one of the most individual. Rising early, we were on deck for the whole sail in (our cabin was on the port side which misses all the major action on the way in). What a surreal experience! Slowly moving through the lagoon and then past St Mark's square looking down from what felt like a 19 storey mobile contemporary office building; which could not have been more out of context with its glorious historic surroundings both in appearance and scale if it had tried. Setting aside the incongruity and a slight feeling that we were somehow intruding and spoiling the view for all those on the ground, the photo opportunities were amazing. The sense of anticipation once we were finally moored was palpable. P&O arranged motor boat transfers to St Mark's Square for those prepared to pay an additional fee. We thought that it would be a rip off with a captive audience, but the price was exactly the same as on the quayside, so well done P&O! We decided to take the motor boat and walk back to the ship though the day. Wanted to show our son all the major sights and therefore did not really expect to have the time to go inside anywhere, however when we arrived at St Mark's Square, whilst there was a long queue for St Marks and the Campanile, there was virtually none for the Doge's Palace so we jumped at the opportunity. The rest of the day was spent lazily exploring the back streets and picking up the major points of interest along the way; a leisurely meal overlooking the Giudecca Canal, hoping that one of the other cruise ships would leave so that we could get the other view of the surreal experience we had coming in. No such luck! Caught the people mover/light railway back to the terminal from Piazza del Roma and marvelled that the Italians could be more uncoordinated with their public projects than us. How difficult was it to put the station next to the cruise terminal rather than have people have to walk ½ a mile to it thought the car parks?!! Still nothing could spoil the warm glow of a day well spent. DUBROVNIK Dubrovnik is a fabulous town although the surroundings have grown in the 20 years since we were last there. Thankfully there is no obvious sign of the impact of the war and any repairs that had to be carried out were not visible to us. We chose to walk the walls which in the searing heat was quite a challenge however there was at least a breeze up there, unlike down in the town which was packed and oven like. The town is a 'gem' whether you choose to visit the key sights or just wander the streets in search of photo opportunities which are numerous and delightful. Like Korcula the prices for food and drink in Croatia are astoundingly low compared to home or Italy. (Mental note to check the price of air fares). The local currency 'Kuna' was useful to have as there was no concern as to whether credit cards would be accepted. Many places seemed happy to accept Euros, however I suspect that there was a poor exchange rate with a lot of rounding up. (The same applied in Korcula). CEPHALONIA This island was new to us and with little obvious site-seeing in the port we chose the best of Cephalonia tour. It's a nice Greek island with all one would expect but it struggles to entertain as a cruise destination when set against Venice and Dubrovnik. The longish bus tour did give a good precis of what was on offer if you were to return for a longer period. A hilly terrain with some stunning beaches (Myrtos was a photo stop) some pretty little port harbours (Fiscardo in particular) and great weather. The caves at Melissani were billed as the main attraction on the tour including a boat ride into the caves. In the event 6 coaches arrived at the same time, the queue in blistering heat had some people on the verge of collapse and the boat trip when it came was ten minutes long at best. It beat watching the hills go by from the bus window, but not by much! As a day out this trip was rather underwhelming, unless perhaps you were a devotee of 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', which seems to be the islands only major claim to fame and from the film of which, every scene location was enthusiastically pointed out and discussed. ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz....... To be fair, the guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and made the lengthy bus transfers between stops less tedious than they might otherwise have been; it's just that, other than the view of Myrtos beach, there was the continual feeling that we had seen better versions of the same thing elsewhere. If we stop here again on a future cruise I think it will be a day at the beach for us. MESSINA I had not been to Messina for over 40 years (I was only nine) but remembered (or so I thought) vividly the beauty of the amphitheatre at Taormina and was keen to share it with my wife and son. We also liked the idea of going to see Mount Etna and whilst it promised to be a marathon of a day we booked a trip that combined the two. In actual fact the travelling seemed less than in Cephalonia and the coastal motorway made short work of the transfer to Taormina which was a half day journey on twisty roads when I last went there. The town and the amphitheatre are set against the backdrop of stunning views and my memories had not let me down. The guide was possibly the most knowledgeable I have come across; in Greek and Roman architecture, local history and, when we reached Etna, geology. Her easy manner, born of being a school teacher for most of the year, endeared her to my son who was hanging on every word and for once on one of these trips, I really felt that I'd learned something along the way as well. The trip included lunch at a restaurant 2/3 of the way up the volcano and despite my cynical fears about such stops, the food was passable and plentiful and the service efficient. We then walked around one of the smaller lateral vent craters; examining, under our guide's tutelage, the various types and colours of the pumice and learning about their chemical composition. Yes I know it sounds like school, but for an hour or so and with the right commentary, it was quite enthralling. Note that P&O's trips do not take you by the cable car to the active craters on top of the mountain, however I suspect that unless Etna was the only stop, it would be difficult to allow enough time. The views from the mountain were superb and emphasised just how many lateral eruptions there have been over the centuries, with cinder cones peppering the side of the mountain right down to the coastal plain. After the intense day most people dozed off on the way back, aided by the copious quantities of red wine consumed at lunch and the only awkward point of the day was on returning to the cabin, when my son revealed his new found interest in geology and emptied several pounds of pumice from his pockets. 'Well the lady said it was ok!' Aaaagh! PALMA We had stopped in Palma on a previous cruise and taken a trip to the caves on the east coast (better than those in Cephalonia) and looked around the Cathedral, so this time we decided to take a trip to the beach at Formentor. The tour was however much more than the simple beach transfer that we presumed it to be and made stops to view the craggy coastline, including some fabulous vistas and after an hour and a half or so at the beach, included a short boat trip along the coast to Puerta Pollensa and some time to grab a bit of lunch before returning. The beach at Formentor is in two relatively small and narrow sections, is very picturesque and the clear water was a joy to swim in. There are good facilities alongside the beach which I believe are part of a hotel which stands just back from the beach. It is the very antithesis of what you might expect a Mallorcan beach to be and I have to say that our impression of northern Mallorca in general was very positive and may well cause us to return for a longer stay. THE LONG WAY HOME The three days at sea to finish the cruise, brought into focus the quality and the variety of the ships facilities and activities and whilst my wife was happy to sunbathe for all the hours that the sun stayed out, my son and I are a lot less in love with the sun lounger lifestyle. In my sons case, he was very well catered for, as the kids facilities on board are excellent and the Reef Rangers, creative and friendly. Apparently there were over 700 children on board this cruise, but for most of the time you would never have known it. I think perhaps one of the kids clubs contains a 'Tardis'. In my case, I re-engaged my passion for reading, which always wanes between holidays as the pressures of everyday life, seem to turn time spent with a good book into an unaffordable luxury. I used this new found reading fervour to savour the various spaces around the ship, by deliberately changing locations between sessions of reading and incorporating, periodically, that stalwart of cruise leisure activities, observing your fellow passengers. Obviously the two activities are not really complementary and the best places for the former (probably the Blue Bar) are the worst for the latter (Midship on deck 15 can deliver the same level of incredulity and entertainment as a visit to the Zoo). We all really enjoyed the opportunity to kick back and shake off the timetabling that had been essential to surviving the rash of port days and despite the lapse with the Concorde lectures, there was no need to learn ballroom dancing, bridge or painting, or to resort to joining the many competitions on the deck or in the pub. I did slightly regret not joining the ships choir; simply because they sounded so brilliant when performing towards the end of the cruise. This would of course have been self-defeating, as my contribution would have probably have ruined the whole thing. THE RETURN TO SOUTHAMPTON About 5 days out you will be invited to come to reception to choose a disembarkation time, assuming you do not choose to carry off your luggage yourself. (Not an option for us as my wife, along with it has to be said the majority of P&O customers does like to indulge herself in fully supporting the dress codes with an appropriately sized wardrobe of clothes). Get along as soon as possible if you want one of the early slots, but for us, the best is the one which allows us to have one last leisurely breakfast before leaving. The process was entirely painless and surprisingly rapid; probably taking no more than 15 minutes from handing in the key card, to picking up the car keys. What a contrast to getting aboard. This was our second cruise and whilst the first was virtually perfect, this one had a few glitches. Not enough however to change our mind about cruising, which is an excellent way to spend a vacation. With the benefit of a couple of weeks back home and the loss of the additional pounds gained due to the temptation of the food offer, the small negative issues are subsumed under a wealth of positive memories and stories to tell and the determination to do it again, if not next year, then certainly before too long. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Though its the first time we've sailed on Azura it wont be the last as we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. Very impressed with the gym - lots of resistant machines, treadmills, cycles, weights & space for floor exercises. Also ... Read More
Though its the first time we've sailed on Azura it wont be the last as we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. Very impressed with the gym - lots of resistant machines, treadmills, cycles, weights & space for floor exercises. Also good to see a choice of complimentary sessions ie stretch classes morning and late afternoon, fab abs etc as well as charged sessions, pilates and spinning. Entertainment overall good, never had a bad night of entertainers/shows/acts etc. Thoroughly enjoyed Martin Jarvis as Tom Jones, Steve Larkins as Freddie Mercury, comedian Paul Boardman but in our opinion Mike Testoni stole the show. Talks on real life experiences as a crew member working on a lifeboat & his life as an office in the MET. Very interesting and entertaining. A very close second was the Captain Paul Brown at Gibraltar's sail away, where had he been practicing those moves? If you were there you know what I mean. Brilliant entertainment. Headliners good with some very good singers especially Craig Thomas whose show with Rebecca Lisewski was exceptionally good. Sail aways exceptionally good - well done to Neil Oliver and his team who by the way no matter what time of day or where you saw them they would always have a smile on their faces & say hello. Watched a few films/concerts on the sea screen, amazing how when engrossed in a film you forget you are at sea. Staff offered fleece wraps though it still was a bit too cold on some occasions. Playhouse Theatre well designed, only struggled once to get a seat. Malabar (same layout as Ventura) personally don't think the design of the bar is conducive for entertainment, layout all wrong & especially when sitting on the back seats as when other passengers are walking through to get to other parts of the ships I think they forget you are watching a show/entertainers etc. Manhattan - slightly different layout to the Havana bar on Ventura as the 'sectioning' of the seating area is at waist level so you have a clearer view of the stage and don't have to constantly look at the t.v.s screens jotted around the bar. Had a few enjoyable nights in the disco which was after the shows. Bars all seemed to have their own atmosphere - the ones we visited: Olly Smith's Glass House: stylish & contemporary, Brodies: relaxed & welcoming, Planet Bar: quiet, sleek, stylish Dining outlets: Sindhu: we had a very enjoyable meal probably the best Indian meal we have ever had, Atul Kochhar was in the kitchen the evening we ate. Peninsular 2nd sitting: enjoyed every meal and service was exemplary. Verona: had 1st breakfast here, wouldn't visit again, queues too long and struggled to find a table ended up eating in either Meridan for lunch or the Venezia for breakfast. Food always good, the pastries, exceptional. Very good selection of 'themed nights' in the Venezia. We didn't visit but table companions who did said it was very good. Ports of call: Independent at every port of call: Cadiz - never been here before - caught hop on hop off bus - did a full circle (approx 1 hr) got off and then walked around the town. Lovely quaint place - sat in the square and enjoyed a coffee whilst basking in the sun. The town centre is pedestrianised which makes it a joy to walk around. Cephalonia: due to having a late night the night before, didn't see much of this resort & to be honest we are not sure if there was an awful lot to see!! Table companions went on 'the best of cephalonia' and reported back how much they had enjoyed it apart from the everywhere being closed as the tourist season hadn't started. Dubrovnik: Not even the rain could spoil this beautiful city - absolutely amazing but due to the rain missed the entrance to be able to walk around the top of the walled city. Lots of photo opportunities. Table companions booked cable car ride and though it went ahead due to the very low cloud they couldn't see further than their noses. Venice: Believe it or not due to how amazing I had found Dubrovnik when sailing into Venice I was slightly disappointed BUT then we walked into St. Mark's Sq and Venice took on its own identity. So many wonderful places, Doges Palace, Bridge of Sighs, Rialto Bridge, little alleyways, canals, gondola's - I could go on and on. I'm still in awe of the architecture its spell bounding. Korcula: A hidden gem. We thoroughly enjoyed this 'closed' but lovely part of Coatia. We met people going back onto the cruise ship saying don't bother getting off, its not worth it. We disagree - lovely walks around the harbour, places of interest, beautiful scenery and lots of flowers and fauna to admire. Cofu: Had an enjoyable walk around Cofu Town, very busy with traffic - lots of local & tourist shops. Didn't get to see too much as the weather wasn't good. Gibraltar: Very busy - two ships were docked side by side - Ventura and Azura. Ventura had to forgo Cadiz for Gibraltar as she needed to pick up a spare part for a repair. Walked around the town, pleasant enough shops slightly repetitive though and not sure if there are any 'duty free' bargains apart from the alcohol and cigarettes that everyone seemed to be buying. A slight niggle, the creaking of our cabin B245. Now I know there has to be some leverage but the noise some nights was unbearable. You could see where someone else had also had the same issue as lots of wedges were strategically placed around the cabin but to no avail. I cant remember any of the 'old' ships creaking like this, we had exactly the same problem on Arcadia on its maiden voyage over to the Caribbean. Have we been lucky in the past and had cabins that don't creak or is this today's 'workmanship'. Must remember my ear plugs for future cruises. All in all had a wonderful cruise, found every single member of staff to be friendly, polite & helpful, would definitely cruise on Azura again with the same itinerary apart from Gibraltar but what really made the cruise was the lovely table companions who we laughed with every night and then again whenever we met up with them elsewhere. Such fond memories. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2011
First impressions of the Azura was that it was massive and the check-in was straight-forward and not much waiting around. The room was satisfactory in size and amenities but our 12-month old was soon to find another child's leftover ... Read More
First impressions of the Azura was that it was massive and the check-in was straight-forward and not much waiting around. The room was satisfactory in size and amenities but our 12-month old was soon to find another child's leftover chocolate buttons near the patio doors and chomped on them! We didn't say anything because we did not want to start off moaning about the cruise that had only just left dock. We were greeted with a little bowl of freesias and a bottle of champagne which we opened immediately and stood on the balcony looking forward to the rest of our holiday. We also had a complimentary box of chocolates to go with the champagne which went down really nicely. Buffet breakfasts were a free-for-all with too many people wandering around looking for tables with trays of food and really sad faces that they couldn't find anywhere to sit. There were too many trying to help themselves at the buffet too with lots of 'oops sorry' or nothing at all when someone just decided to push in. Very very clean and everybody used the sanitizer to cleanse their hands before touching plates and food utensils. This was repeated at lunch time and evening buffet although these times seemed to flow easier with not that much over-crowding. On this note, we chose to go into the main restaurant where you are shown to your table and served breakfast of your choice. This was much easier for us as we have a baby who needed a high chair and a young son also, so getting up and down to the buffet to serve all of us was too much of a struggle in the rush hours. My son loved the kids' club and I would also highly recommend this to all parents. Our baby could go with us into a play area but was too young to be looked after by any of the clubs apart from the nursery where he once went when he was asleep in his pushchair and we were given a pager for the staff to contact us if he woke up. That just gave us a bit of a chance to walk around the ship to get a feel of things. The announcement about sunbeds not being reserved was made by one of the officers on a regular basis. They don't want you to reserve sunbeds and say that anything left on a sunbed whilst being away from it for over 10 minutes or so, will be removed. This did not stop the usual crowd 'owning' their spots. The sunbeds were far too close to each other and getting through them with a pushchair was sometimes impossible. Entertainment was very good if you wanted it. We listened to a guest speaker, a comedian, a soul group and another singer and found them all to be fabulous. Drink prices are the same or a bit cheaper than our local at home, so no extortionate prices to worry about really. Bar tenders and all waiters were absolutely wonderful and friendly. Somebody else on here wrote that the waiters did not smile, but honestly, you can't help smiling at them yourself because they are so so friendly, believe me. We had been on the Oriana 5 years ago and the experience was one to remember. We thought the Azura would be the same with the added bonus of being a bigger, brand new ship. We were wrong about this. We definitely prefer a smaller ship as the staff to passenger ratio is higher. I did not rate the dining experience in club dining to be anywhere near the standard on the Oriana. When we went to enquire about booking on the Oriana for the future, we were told that it has now become child-free so no more P & O Cruises for us I am afraid. A lot of people we spoke to told us that Royal Caribbean is a far better cruise on the whole. Oh, and beware! The Spa staff are like flies around you when you have been out on a trip - they think you need a foot soak in a mud bath or a massage. Perhaps we do, but they definitely know where to strike. I was stung a few times too many. If you don't mind spending £9000.00 for a family of 2 adults, 1 child aged 8 years and a baby of 12 months for a 4-star overcrowded hotel, then this may well be for you. Good luck. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2011
We have now enjoyed two family holidays on the P&O liner Azura, one last year (August 2010), on the itinerary that sailed to the Canaries, via Madeira, and then returned via Lisbon and Vigo to Southampton, after a 12 night cruise ... Read More
We have now enjoyed two family holidays on the P&O liner Azura, one last year (August 2010), on the itinerary that sailed to the Canaries, via Madeira, and then returned via Lisbon and Vigo to Southampton, after a 12 night cruise (which I'll call the Canaries Route), and this year (August 2011) on the 16-nighter that goes from Southampton, Malaga, Cephalonia, Dubrovnik, Venice, Korcula, Corfu and Vigo (the Eastern Med route). I partially wrote a review last year and never got round to finishing it or posting it. So at the risk of confusing people, I've included stuff where relevant here from the first review, particularly my first impressions (as those might help those, like us, that were new to cruising). As you might expect, second time around, we were better prepared for what to expect. Canaries: I have 3 children, which on the first trip were aged 12 (boy) and two girls aged 13 and 15. We were in 2 balcony cabins, on C-deck, right in the middle of the ship. I booked this trip in May 2010, only 3 months before departure. I had excellent advice from the P&O staff about which cabins to book (eg they advised me against the Lido deck because of noise drift, and suggested I could save money by booking one outside and one inside cabin). However, I ended up booking online - it's a little challenging, as you need 3 (website) windows open to view availability, cabin locations and the bizarre cabin coding/grading system. Once mastered though, it worked well. Our timing was also fortunate - as I was lucky to get a significant price reduction during a sale period, which saved more than 15% overall, and this covered our entire cruise bill on board. We live in NW London, around 70 miles from Southampton, and so it's a quick drive down the M25 and M3. Only to encounter very long queues to reach the dock and it took around 45 minutes just to get into the car park, followed by another 30 minutes to be able to hand over the car and get the bags out. This was after advance booking the (very expensive @ £120 for 12 days) CPS service. The stevedores literally put all the bags on a big trolley, and put them straight into the handling system. No tips seemed to be expected and it worked well. The CPS took the car keys and we were free to go through into the terminal with just our hand baggage. The terminal is modern although there were queues to enter, which took another 15 minutes to get through. We were handed boarding priority colour cards. There is a big waiting area, with seats. Extremely limited, if quick service, catering from just one outlet. It took more than an hour to get called up for the issue of our cruise cards. The check-in staff were friendly and efficient. Yet another queue for around 15 minutes to get on board. Much is made of the superior experience when cruising vs going to an airport. My first experience was that it was mildly better - but only just -the long traffic wait just to get into the port, the wait for the car queue for baggage drop off and car handover was more convenient but just as long as waiting to check in, and then the extended period in the terminal was just as an airport, with far more limited catering and (no) shopping options. I think we got on board around 15.15, having arrived at Southampton at around 12.30. It does make me feel that the roads, ports and terminals are not yet ready for ships the size of Azura. Eastern Med trip I booked this one in March, taking the benefit of a "you choose the type (inside/outside/balcony), we choose the cabin" offer. I again booked via the really helpful P&O telephone line, after verifying the price (which meant close to 25% discount this time if one paid in full) was the same as online and asking for the 4 of us to be in adjacent cabins ("which we can't guarantee but will try"). I was a little concerned that we might end up in 2 very different parts of the ship, although close to booking, we got allocated two cabins side by side, albeit on B-deck, at the very back of the ship. This time the four of us (1 adult, 3 teens, aged 17, 14 and 13) went a little later, getting into Southampton for around 14.15. No traffic queues this time (although this time there were motorway delays). Car parking was even more outrageous - around £160 for 16 nights, which is more than Heathrow would charge for valet parking. It is efficient, I grant you, but I think there is monopoly pricing working here and competitors are needed for CPS. It was also quicker to board - maybe around 45 minutes waiting for the colour coded cards to get on board. Both trips Once on board, we went to our cabins. All our bags were already in the corridor close to (if not outside) our cabins. Our two adjoining double cabins were really excellent - plenty of hanging space (and hangers), roomy cupboards for clothes and other items, and empty bags could be stored under the extremely comfortable beds. If you're reading this, you can check on the graphics at the P&O website for a detailed description of the cabins. The bathrooms had decent light, excellent ventilation and good water pressure in the showers. You get unlimited White Company shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel, and we found any empties left out were refilled the same day. Plenty of fluffy towels and 2 extra towels for pool and beach. On the first trip, we did note that the vacuum loos (similar to aircraft) sometimes failed to work for up to 20 minutes. This was a minor inconvenience as once the button was pressed, it did eventually work whether you were there or not. But it happened several times towards the end of the trip. It didn't happen at all on the second trip. As mentioned, the cabins were roomy. Beds were really, really comfortable and I am very picky. There is plenty of controllable light in the cabins, although I noted that the bedside lamps were old-fashioned tungsten rather than modern energy-saving bulbs. The interactive TV lets you see around 10 channels, including a ship locator, BBC and Sky news and other channels. In addition, you can check your bill and watch pre-stored TV series and films on it. There's quite a lot of free stuff like old comedies such as Fawlty Towers, drama such as Doctor Who and episodes of Scrubs and House, although first and recent movies can cost £4-6. There is a kettle, fridge, lots of coffee, tea and biscuits and a hairdryer. Two plug sockets, including one that is always on. The air conditioning in the cabin is powerful, but quiet. The C-deck balconies seem larger than those above and below. They (and most balcony cabins) have locked panels that can be opened for adjoining cabins on request and this is great for families. They have two very comfortable deckchairs, with a modest recline, a footstool and small side table. The B-deck balconies at the rear of the ship were a bit smaller than the C-deck ones, and one had a metal supporting strut that blocked some of the space. Never a real problem, and again the opening panel is great for connecting with the next cabin. The rear rooms are considerably noisier than the mid-deck ones - hardly surprising as you are above the propellers - although one got used to this very quickly, and it didn't disturb the sleep. Canaries As it's more than a year ago, I've limited my comments to things that might help others. Itinerary: Madeira was excellent (and you don't need an excursion to take the cable car to the top, walk around the really beautiful gardens and then queue up to take the basket ride chairs part-way down). The other stand out location was Tenerife, where we went to the Siam Park waterpark. I've been to the Florida Disney waterparks, and this is as good as, if not better, especially as the excursion takes you there for arrival at 10am, before too many others get in so the queues for the best rides are a matter of minutes if that. The rest of the Canaries were pleasant, if hardly memorable. Lisbon was gorgeous and a city to soak up whilst wandering around. It rained in Vigo, but it's still an atmospheric city, with excellent restaurants, good "fashion-brand" shopping (like Zara and Mango) and a shopping centre literally 2 minutes from the berth. Overall, the 12 days rushed past. The younger 2 kids made friends quickly in the excellent Kids' Club facilities, and my son was well catered for in the medical facilities when he managed to fracture his finger playing football. My older teenager just loved the freedom to make friends and stayed in touch with many, including some that were on the cruise next year. We had one rough night at sea - which did bring on sea-sickness in many. All of us really loved the experience, and it made us convinced that another cruise would be a good idea. Eastern Med trip (August 2011) So this year, we did book - largely because of timing - again on Azura for a longer 16-night trip to the Eastern Med. I did look at other lines but concluded that P&O had the best mix for us. This trip really worked well for us. Apart from a brief break at Malaga (perfect for a quick shop and a visit to the Picasso museum, within 15 minutes' walk of the drop-off point), you spend several days at sea getting to the Eastern Med, to be followed by 5 ports, (3 of which are exceptional), in successive days. And it's the same going back, with a longer sea cruise, apart from the day stop at Vigo. This helps you get used to the ship and the family rhythm of getting the teenagers up for a port day too. Stand out ports on the itinerary were Dubrovnik, Venice and Korcula. As there is much available online about Dubrovnik and Venice, I'd only say you should absolutely do the walk around the walls in Dubrovnik, no matter how long the queue to get tickets, and in Venice, it's worth taking advantage of the organised tours for the Basilica where the licenced guides work the line and offer tours in English. You miss out on the 40 minute wait, get a very informative tour and it costs about €6 per person more than the entrance. Well worth it (and the Basilica is just astonishing). Bear in mind in Venice to be up for 7am to see the approach to the City - and the staff let you walk into the Spa "Retreat" area to get a great view of the entrance and take your photos. There was a running commentary too which was very informative. Korcula was the real surprise, as I knew nothing about it. It's a mini-Dubrovnik - a walled medieval town on a promontory, sitting in crystal-clear waters. You moor offshore and need to land on a ship tender. Very straightforward to board and land and 5 minutes in the boat. The town has attractive stone architecture and multiple bars, restaurants and shops around the walk that circles it. There was a small market and we bought snorkels and masks and went snorkelling literally off the stone rocks at the edge of the walk (whilst the rest of the party ate pizza). Warm water, beautifully clear and you can walk along from the town to various points on (slightly stony) beaches to go swimming. As for the other ports, Cephalonia was a typical Greek island location - pretty enough, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to take your money and in Corfu, we went to the waterpark, which was good enough, if not up to the Tenerife, Syam Park standard. By the way, on our trip, the water park excursion was completely sold out despite multiple coaches. It's not far away from the port (20 mins) and admission was around €25 per person. The other "swim from beaches" trips also sold out early in the cruise. The ship was as busy as last time, with over 700 children on board, but you'd never have known. It soaks up people and it is never difficult to find a sun bed when you want it. They seemed a bit stricter on pointing out the dangers of "reserving" sunbeds this year - and some of the table guests we spoke to said that books and towels were removed after the statutory 30 minutes if people got up too early and tried to reserve. Food was excellent on both trips. Even with a full ship, Freedom Dining waits were never more than about 20 minutes, and we were often seated straight away. We ate in Sindhu again (peppered steak to die for), 17 (twice and really delicious) and the Glasshouse (decent and filling snack food). You pay extra for these but the surcharge is not unreasonable for the quality. Much credit to P&O for their fair-value drinks pricing too. There are plenty of decent wines under £15 per bottle and you can ask them to keep the remains of a bottle until the next time you dine. Beer is around £3 per bottle and there are various 5 for 4 deals available. Having compared P&O with the US lines, where you routinely have 15% service added and the prices seem higher, this seems very good value indeed. Gym facilities were good - and it was rarely difficult to get access to a treadmill. The classes (particularly Pilates and Spinning) fill up on the first day so book then if you want to go. There's a not unreasonable charge of a few ££ per session. Entertainment was pretty good too. Standouts were Steve Larkins as Freddie Mercury, Tony Lewis as Robbie Williams and particularly the Four Tops tribute band, and the acts that "did" Elton John and Cher were pretty good too. Didn't like the comics very much, and some were dire. The Headliners theatre company were excellent as always. I missed Sandra Marvin and wished I'd seen her as she did one song for the Tops and it was brilliant. We tried the spa - with a hot stones massage, and the girls had their hair straightened and their nails done. Not exactly cheap, but they seemed professional and a mistake over a prior booking was fixed with an apology and a discount. There's plenty of guidance on tips. On Freedom dining, it's added to your room charge, and you are encouraged to tip your cabin steward around £1.50 per day per person. You can tip more (and others) as you see fit. So grumbles - not a lot really. Cabin cleaning was a little perfunctory on a couple of days, there seemed to be photographers at every turn (but I did end up spending money on their prints so they were pretty good) and as noted before, the parking was really expensive. I would have been happier with fewer than 4 black tie nights but others seemed to enjoy them. On the last day, when you get off the boat in Southampton, you have to pack most of your stuff up the night before, and so you need a small bag to take your overnight change of clothes. You then get a colour coded card, have to quit your cabin by 8am and if you are travelling independently, you generally get off last, around 10.30. So you sit around for the last 90 minutes, which is a little tedious. Net, I highly recommend these P&O cruises. It's a safe environment for teenagers (and younger children), with excellent food and drink and you can absolutely choose whether to relax or get involved in life on board. Food and drink are fairly priced (or included in your cabin price) so you can budget pretty easily. And the convenience of being able to take what you want in your own car makes a big impact on the trip. Also, with the exception of the pricey shuttle in Venice (think it was about €35 for a family ticket), all the bus shuttles from ship to dock are free with P&O and I heard from others that some lines charge a few $$ just to transfer you to the keyside. This year round, I met one of my cousins and his extended family as well as a former business colleague on board, with his family. The rest of the Freedom Dining table visitors were a hugely interesting bunch, from teachers (male and female) to firemen to lawyers to families. Not a boring evening with any of them. The question I've been asked most by friends and family after both trips is "Aren't cruises just filled up with people of a certain age?" (as in are they full of older people?). And both years I've said no, there are plenty of people of all ages. With more than 700 kids on board (and their parents), it hardly feels like an over 60s ghetto. There are plenty of twenty and thirty-somethings too, some with multi-generational families. And the older people we did meet on board were charming, interesting and much like our parents. The ship is more than big enough to avoid sharing crowded space with anyone, if you're so inclined. It is overwhelmingly British - if that matters to you. There were only a handful of other nationalities that I spoke to. Having looked again at other lines, for those that go from Southampton, I see they tend to do shorter trips and the prices for service and booze do seem much higher. Sadly, from a timing perspective, given exam results, unless we want to repeat the Canaries cruise, there's probably nothing on P&O for us next summer so we will either have to take a "normal" holiday or be tempted to try another line... suggestions most welcome. I'm happy to answer any questions if you want to post them. By the way, will someone tell CruiseCritic that Southampton is not London, and Southampton needs its own entry in the port section. I nearly gave up looking for it and didn't post a review accordingly. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
The Azura seemed to be a large ship and at check in first impressions were it was going to be crowded. This wasn't the case, check in was prompt and efficient and ... Read More
The Azura seemed to be a large ship and at check in first impressions were it was going to be crowded. This wasn't the case, check in was prompt and efficient and staff were very helpful with my wife who was pregnant and 2 children. Cabins were found with ease and cases were waiting. Getting around the ship was easy and nothing too daunting for the kids, plenty of entertainment for all age groups and a nice relaxed atmosphere on board, with most people adhering to the dress codes. Accommodation: We had 2 outside cabins with balcony's which were spacious enough and had everything you needed. Nothing special imagine Travel lodge and you get the idea. They were fit for purpose nothing more to be said. Entertainment: A great selection which seemed very well put together and something for everyone. the night time shows were theater standard and the staff very talented. Good selection of speakers who hled an audience and entertained on a variety of subjects. No complaints at all. Food & Service: Food and service were reasonable and couldnt be faulted for the standard we were expecting, Restaurant 17 & Sandhu were exceptional and couldnt have been better. We were on the 8:30 2nd sitting for dinner which seemed quite relaxed and service was good as was drinks service. Daytime food was of a decent quality for salads, seafood, cold meats etc. Hot food seemed to match the setting which was a little bit motorway services. Some people seemed to have food as their only mission, it was like watching cows graze in a field. Pools & Loungers Decent quality and plenty of availability most of the time, some people tried to monopolise them but this soon calmed down apart from one group of Scouser's who looked like they'd been clipping couples and only aim was to eat and drink as much as they could while sat in the same spot from morning to night for 2 weeks.Port: Toulon Avoid this place at all costs I've given it a 1 star rating as the only plus point was the ship was able to sail away without been hindered. This was the Grimsby of the Cote D Azur Overall: Ive read lots of reviews saying service was bad, I am the perpetual moaner for bad service and have to say the service was excellent from beginning to end, food was good and some days was excellent (cant please all people all of the time), entertainment 1st class and overall rating would be 8 out of 10. Would have been 10 out of 10 if Toulon hadn't had been a stop off, avoid this cess pit of a place at all costs. Read Less
Azura Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.4
Enrichment 3.0 3.2
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 4.0 3.8

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