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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2016
although the cruise was good in many ways the one disappointment to my friend and I was the balcony!!! we paid over 1,600 each for an outside cabin with balcony HA! Canada deck 099 room ok, balcony what a let down no glass front like ... Read More
although the cruise was good in many ways the one disappointment to my friend and I was the balcony!!! we paid over 1,600 each for an outside cabin with balcony HA! Canada deck 099 room ok, balcony what a let down no glass front like all the others, overhead blocking out any sun the bridge, also to the left a huge stantion holding up the bridge and a large light fixture on the left hand corner, the front was filled in so no view whatsoever unless stood leaning over the front we did not get any info about this nor did we get a reduced price we also never got any on board spending so what an absolute let down considering the weather was so good we could have had lots of evening drinks on the balcony very very disappointed so if anyone is allocated c o99 BEWARE!!! but on the bright side staff and entertainment brill cabin steward Helison fantastic think next time however go with cunard Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
This was a" Strictly Come Dancing ", themed Cruise. We are not dancers and this was our first ever cruise! Having read the mixed reviews about the Azura and P and O in general I was worried that we had made the wrong choice. Just ... Read More
This was a" Strictly Come Dancing ", themed Cruise. We are not dancers and this was our first ever cruise! Having read the mixed reviews about the Azura and P and O in general I was worried that we had made the wrong choice. Just so that readers may know that our opinions were not biased by the cost of our cruise I will say that we paid select price and chose a cabin C328 because it had a larger balcony. We arrived at port easily Having stayed the night at the Holiday Inn Express just outside Southampton.The car was taken away to be parked and luggage immediately loaded onto a trolley.. We were directed into the embarkation hall given number and told to wait until number was called, this was about 20 mins. and as we had turned up early we were not expecting such a quick embarkation. We were soon on the ship and directed to the self service area for lunch. At 2pm an announcement was made that the cabins were now ready for occupation. We went to our cabin ,were pleased with what we found and then explored the ship, everywhere was spotless and plenty of sun loungers on all appropriate decks , all the staff were immaculately turned out and every single one on the whole cruise always greeted you ,wherever you were.The restaurants were good , a varied selection, we went to the Beach House a few times Zindhu twice and the Glass House once, which was our least favourite , due to the amount and presentation of the food for the extra cover charge. We opted for Freedom Dining and we enjoyed this very much and would probably opt for this every time in the future. we only used the MDR about five times. I found it to be very noisy and we liked to have a table for two and these were so close together that you felt obliged to start a conversation with your close neighbours!!!! Defeated the object of wanting an intimate dining experience! The rest of the time we enjoyed the self service options and had room service on 2 occasions which was very nice and at no extra cost. The quality and portion sizes of the food on the cruise was very good on the whole. Breakfast we always had at Venezia, and the choice was superb. ranging from cereals,to poached dried fruits and berries ,yoghurts ,cheese ,cold meats, omelettes cooked to order and of course the traditional "fry up". Couldn't fault it,and why people moan about the layout I don't understand, it was never unbearably crowded even when it was busy , one thing I found out on this cruise is that some people will moan about anything and mostly its the ones who like the sound of their own voices !! We enjoyed the 4 formal nights that we had and on three of those occasions we ate in the MDR. The food was good, could have been served a little warmer, and the choice of vegetables let it down. ? tinned carrots on the first night we ate there and very undercooked green beans that were frozen, on the other times we ate there. I am a good cook and enjoy my food so for me this was one of the only two complaints of the whole cruise that let it down for me, and such a simple thing that could easily be rectified. The meals we had in the other restaurants were great. Zindhu was fabulous and well worth the extra cover charge for a treat, and the same at the Beach House for a 5 pound cover charge , the dining was quiet and unhurried and we preferred it to the MDR. Entertainment; We so enjoyed the Strictly Come Dancing shows, what fabulous dancers, and the "one to ones" with the dancers as well. A good variety of shows and the Headliners were very good too and the costumes superb. Really enjoyed the Tribute acts and The Cuban magician and his workshop where he showed how some of the tricks were done!! All in all couldn't fault it , but now for my second "complaint". the daily entertainment on the sea days was lacking, unless you were in to Bingo or quizzes!! I was hoping for some good interesting speakers but sadly not to be. Everything seemed to be geared at getting you to buy things, craft, beauty , foot and back therapy etc etc, not for me but I was quite happy on those days to read a book or sit on the balcony. I was hoping to hear the likes of Simon Weston or speakers who could tell you about the history or things of interest of the places we were about to visit as I suspect St Petersburg was top of the list for most passengers. The port talks was mostly aimed at selling the tours but some of the information was useful. The port excursions that we booked with P and O were superb and other than the Bruges one good value for Ports of Call: Skagen . Went ashore and did our own thing, sleepy little place not much going on there but it stretched our legs and as we were only there for half a day was just right Stockholm: Up at 5am to see the approach into Stockholm . What a pretty 3 hours sailing past small islands with log cabins on and it was wonderful, so much to take in and such magnificent scenery. Watched the docking and we took the shuttle bus into town although a few walked it but as it was raining and a good 30 mins walk we gave that a miss .I loved Stockholm and would like to back for a second look! We were dropped right in the middle where it was easy to see the sights and the palace etc, Everywhere so clean . Visited the palace and found a very interesting armoury museum that had costumes , toys of the royal children ,sleighs , golden coaches etc etc and all free! Would never happen at home ! easy shuttle back to ship and no excursion taken! Tallinn: A beautiful old walled city, Picturesque buildings and lovely churches. Easily "do able" on your own and no need to take an expensive excursion. St Petersburg: The main reason for me persuading hubby to even go on a cruise ! It exceeded my /our ! expectations. We pre purchased a 2 day Splendours of St Petersburg tour from P and O on the cruise personaliser ( would recommend as these tours get sold out quickly on board) It seemed expensive at the time but on reflection for what we did and what we saw it was excellent value for a once in a lifetime event! Our tour guide Gallina was superb what she didn't know about the buildings and the history and the items in the palaces was nobodies business and her English language was faultless. It covered everything from the palaces to river cruise to going down and travelling in the Metro and lunch in a restaurant etc , fabulous. Couldn't fault it. Helsinki: Caught the shuttle and did our own thing. Nice clean city , it was Sunday and no shops open so quiet in that respect . Visited the cathedral but after St Petes everything was going to be a let down !!!! Had a nice coffee sitting in the sun and then walked to the harbour where we caught a ferry to the island of Suomenlinna, what a find that was . Lovely,pretty island, 800 inhabitants and a world heritage protected fortress there . We really enjoyed it and all the locals seemed to turning up there for their Sunday picnics. Copenhagen: Got the shuttle into town but you could just as easily walk it as we found on our way back which passed the Little Mermaid and was not far from where the ship was docked! Watched the Changing of the Guard and walked around , all very clean everywhere and ate the most expensive ice cream ever 5 pounds each for a cornet!!!!!!!! Oslo: Having read a bit about Oslo we decided to book a trip as the ship is moored a long way out of town and there is no shuttle bus, glad we did . A very interesting trip which took in the Olympic ski jump, viking ship museum and the Vigeland Sculpture Park, now this I thought hubby will not enjoy, but like with a lot of things on this trip he surprised me by saying that this was one of the highlights for him and an amazing sight it was too . We had an excellent guide too who also spoke perfect English. Bruges: We took an excursion because to get to Bruges you would have to get the shuttle bus and then a train, so we didn't trust that we wouldn't get lost so went on the" Do Bruges on your own" trip which meant that we were taken on a coach to the city , walked by a Guide to the centre and then left until the afternoon whereby he escorted us back to the ship,it worked well but would have been a lot cheaper if we had done it by train!!!Very enjoyable city , lovely cafes and chocolates and a super canal cruise. To sum up all excursions were good and well thought out. Disembarkation: This was a bit of a pigs ear !!! To sum up , ship was late docking , cases were not unloaded on time and people were held up. What can you do about it , nothing I am sure they were not late on purpose so why do so many people moan about things that you can't change !! In the end we all got off and once re united with the luggage ,which was a very easy process ,we were on our way . To sum up : Loved every minute of the Cruise. A Superb ship and wonderfully helpful and polite crew, spotlessly clean, on the whole good entertainment, good food , fabulous ports of call and brilliant Srtictly Come Dancing theme and most enjoyable to hear the Captains thought for the day , usually spoken with tongue in cheek in his report of the day. Husband who only came for me as he said , Why would I want to be on a ship with 3000 other people ,was totally converted ! A first cruise , yes, but a last cruise, definitely NO, and would we go with P and O again , Oh Yes. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
Firstly thank you to other reviewers who helped so much in making our decision to go on a cruise and therefore I have to help others out in a similar fashion. General Great Value for money - Lucky enough to get a decent cabin C612 ... Read More
Firstly thank you to other reviewers who helped so much in making our decision to go on a cruise and therefore I have to help others out in a similar fashion. General Great Value for money - Lucky enough to get a decent cabin C612 although we did pay little more on a Getaway price than some others - C level does get the slightly larger balcony. A fjord cruise with very good weather so this also helped. Average age probably midto late 60's although probably 25% under 50. A large proportion of cruisers from the Midlands upwards with numerous from as far as away as Wales and Scotland and only a very small proportion of International guests. Scenery was stunning only went on one trip to the Briskdal Glacier which was excellent but as per other comments, cost was too much, although you do have to take into consideration a cup of coffee in Norway is £5! - P&O need to make money on this side though I suppose as the prices for the cruise are so cheap! Dining Freedom dining - younger people generally had this option. Just about everyone happy with their choice. The option of when to go to dinner is very useful - we were a little concerned of the issue re joining people at a mixed table rather than having a table of two but it was definitely worth meeting other passengers to chat and find hints and tips as well as what they had been up to during the day. Tables for 2 apparently were very rushed and usual wait 30-40 minutes. If you can try and get a table after 7.30 staff seem to rush you less. Before this time 5 courses in 1.5 hours can be rushed (especially when you have probably eaten far too much earlier in the day!). Freedom dining was full on our trip and very late bookers had to go on a fixed time. Sorry forgot - food was excellent value for money and do not forget if on freedom dining you can have breakfast/lunch in Peninsular or Oriental restaurant - upstairs Verona and Venezia is very Cafe style and a bit of a 'bun fight'! Entertainment A difficult one this and i will appear a very snobby Southener! To be fair though this is backed up by most of the under 55 group. It is dated! - far too 'Hi-Di'Hi'! If you enjoy going down the pub and doing quizzes, watching comedians, bands and playing darts then you will love it. Cheering the entertainment staff depending on where they come from and constantly being asked to shout louder because they can't hear you, is not my cup of tea, but to the vast majority of people it was enjoyed - the Theatre group were very 'ok' but again we are lucky enough to go to a local theatre showing London shows on a regular basis and they are not up to this standard - hash yes but it is my only comparison. P&O may need to watch out as this entertainment is not what the youngsters want and at 49 we include ourselves in this as far as cruising is concerned but their audience will change over the next ten years and they will need to as well. Cabin Lovely Balcony - as mentioned the C level does get you a bigger balcony approx 9 foot by 9 foot - overlooked yes, but not the first 4 foot if this is such an issue to you so you can still hide under the above balcony. Looked after superbly by Menino - do these guys ever go to sleep! - Always cleaning and tidying cabins, each twice a day (during breakfast and dinner) and saying hello whenever he saw us. The room itself was plenty big enough for two - plenty of hanging space for all our clothes, very surprising!- bathroom tight with a shower, toilet and single smallish sink but it is perfectly adequate - if you want a bigger bathroom pay for a larger cabin I suppose! Service Excellent -People who criticise these staff should try and find out how much these staff earn and consider what sort of service they would provide for that money! - They work very hard and sometimes we experienced some small issues but nothing major and overall if dinner appeared rushed this is P&O telling them to move customers through quickly not the individuals themselves. They were nearly always happy and if you needing anything they always tried their hardest to make it happen. In bars you did not have to purchase drinks and were left alone if you wanted to, but as soon as you thought you wanted a drink a waiter would be stood next to you! - three cheers for all the service staff who made the holiday almost perfect. Ports Southampton - so easy - luckily we live on outskirts of Southampton so taxi at 12.30 and were having lunch at 1.30 in Verona restaurant! - don't worry newbies, it is busy, it is a little overwhelming as the restaurants are packed until at about 2.00 when the cabins become available, but it does get much better when the rest of the ship opens. Bergen - plenty to do around town no real need to do trips - bus from ship drops you off near the large park in Bergen - 500 meters to the front and 700 metres to the Venicular railway - do it yourself if you can walk that far. Aldesnes - get up early and watch the the Fjords go by! Olden - same as above and better - we did trip to the Briskden Glacier which was excellent Stravanger - Not a bad little place but an industrial town with a nice old town to walk around and some shops near the port - 3 hours walk about is probably pushing it. Hope this helps and happy to answer in questions   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
We travelled from Southampton to Stavanger, Flam, Gerainger and Bergen on 10th August - leaving in stunning sunny weather, and that stayed with us the whole week! In Bergen the Captain even mentioned it was many years since he's seen ... Read More
We travelled from Southampton to Stavanger, Flam, Gerainger and Bergen on 10th August - leaving in stunning sunny weather, and that stayed with us the whole week! In Bergen the Captain even mentioned it was many years since he's seen Bergen in the sunshine - it rains 300 days a year on average! We had never cruised before, so really didn't know whether we'd like this experience, but we got on board, on my part, very excited! I hadn't been sure whether you had to dress up to embark ... but need not have worried, everyone was very casually dressed, and very smiley! The staff, almost all "mature", were so helpful and enthusiastic (as often "mature" people are ... well done P&O for realising this). The check in was so efficient, from taking our car (definitely worth booking with CPS) to getting on board. Our cabin was inside, and we didn't miss a windown or a balcony at any stage. Of course we've never had one, so don't know the difference! Also it was great that channel 9 on the TV was the mast view, so if you wanted to see what was outside, it was like having a window out! However, when we were awake, we were out and about and not in our cabin. The Cabin Steward came to introduce himself to us, and looked after our cabin all week ... it was spotless at all times. The "elephant" made from towels on one evening was a nice surprise. The staff work SO hard, but always have a smile and a greeting for everyone they encounter whether in rooms or in corridors. Again, well done P&O (but we hope you are paying them well, as they deserve every penny and work so hard over long hours). We then started our week exploring the ship - it was vast, but there was still plenty of places you could find peace and quiet. We are not the sort to want to join in daytime activities (although there were plenty on), we enjoyed the deck, reading, sun bathing, chatting to fellow passengers, and when in Port of course, we went ashore (coming back for lunch, then off again!). Our favourite bar for a before or after dinner tipple, or a quiet read in the daytime was the Planet bar on Deck 19. A lovely place to enjoy the views - stunning sunsets from here. No disco or noise (until 11 p.m.) so it had a lovely atmosphere. The food was ... well, amazing! We started on second sitting, and met some lovely diners on our table, but 8.30 dining really is too late for us, as we are early birds in the morning, so we were swapped to first sitting after 2 nights. We again met some lovely dining companions who we had a real laugh with and looked forward to seeing each evening. One one evening we went to the Italian restaurant (in the daytime it's a buffet, night time it's waiter service) and that was really lovely. A nice table for 2 by the window, looking at the views going by - a special evening, and all included - no extra for this. The evening meals were 5 courses, if you wanted them, and fantastic quality - like a 5 star restaurant every evening! Sensible sized, but beautifully presented, food, served again by attentive waiters. We were very impressed that the drinks menu was no more than you'd pay in a pub at home .... they had not piled on the charges on drinks. So that means people are happy to visit the bars and buy a drink, or have drinks at the table, and if you don't finish a bottle, they keep it for the next evening. We opted most mornings to have buffet breakfast, and had no trouble finding a seat or getting our breakfast. Some people do, however, seem determined to get as much of everything, as often as possible and seemed to do nothing but eat!! We did go to the more formal breakfast on one morning, and it is very nice to be served, but we preferred the flexibility of the buffet. We also treated ourselves to a formal afternoon Tea in the Peninsular restaurant on one afternoon - couldn't fault it. It was just like you'd expect at a nice hotel. Perhaps a little hurried, as it's between 4 and 4.45 and then they are setting up for dinner, but it was fine. The ports we visited were gorgeous, and we enjoyed good weather the whole week. We particularly liked Flam and Gerainger. Do the Flam railway! It's a must - BUT don't think you'll be able to queue up for tickets on the day - they are all sold out before the ship pulls in. So this is one for pre booking or find a group on Cruise Advisor who want to make up a 10, and you can book the tickets in advance. In Gerainger we did the Hop on, Hop off bus, independently, for £16 each ... and there were only 4 other people on it! Very easy to buy tickets, either in advance or on the day, and a beautiful trip. Don't pay the P&O prices! Do it yourself and save about £30. We also enjoyed walks in all the ports - again don't pay for the P&O one in Stavanger if you just want to walk, as it's right by the ship and you can do it all for free. In Bergen, if you want to go up the railway, buy a ticket in the tourist information centre, and that skips the very long queue that forms outside. it does move quite quickly, so don't be put off. Again definitely not worth doing with P&O as the people on that tour were in the same queue as me, and had no more time at the top than I did! Just had someone organising them into the queue! The view is spectacular. I also bought a ticket from tourist information for the hop on and off bus, for £16, and the commentary was in English, so that was brilliant too. Entertainment, that we saw, was brilliant and as good as any west end show. Didn't particularly enjoy the comedians, but each to their own! Plenty of bars with different themes and atmospheres, so that there was something for everyone. Overall, I could not fault anything about P&O ships Azura - it was brilliant and I can't wait to do another cruise. Every member of staff was smiling and efficient. You felt very special all week. We were slightly delayed back into Southampton, but were kept informed all the time, and we didn't mind an extra few hours on board to enjoy the facilities! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
Having just come back from a wonderful week on Azura, I felt compelled to counter some of the complaints and niggles that are so prevelant on this site. I am 31, and travelled on Azura with my 60-year old parents and my brother's ... Read More
Having just come back from a wonderful week on Azura, I felt compelled to counter some of the complaints and niggles that are so prevelant on this site. I am 31, and travelled on Azura with my 60-year old parents and my brother's family who have a one year old baby as part of a celebration of my parent's 40th wedding anniversary. Trying to find a holiday suitable for 7 people aged between 1 and 65 is difficult! And so cruising seemed to fit the bill, and in my opinion, Azura was an excellent choice and I would have no hesitation in going back on board.I didn't find the ship to be over-crowded - I actaully thought the management of 3000 people onboard during a busy half term was very good. We rarely queued for anything, and managed to get seats for the shows and events we wanted to see. Embarkation and disembarkation were both seamless. I also found the staff to be consistently cheerful, helpful and friendly. We found the bars to be excellent value - you certainly didn't feel that P&O were taking advantage of thier captive audience with a great range of beers, wines and spirits all very reasonbly priced. The sail-away parties were fun but not excessive, so very inclusive for all the family. Dinners in the Peninsular were very good, and the Indian waiting staff there deserve an extra special mention for being fun, friendly, courteous and extremely efficient. I was in an inside cabin which had ample wardrobe space and a large comfy bed. The rest of the party had balcony cabins and the balconies were well used. We all thought our cabin stewards were excellent and left generous tips.The creche enabled my brother and his wife to leave their one-year old sleeping there in the evenings, with a pager system for if he awoke. This allowed them the privilege of 7 late-sitting dinners with the family without having to worry about him. The play room was very well-equipped and was very well used during the day - and the kids of older age groups seemed to be having a whale of a time. We had been nervous that a cruise during half term would have been overrun with screaming children, but this wasn't the case -the kids on board were kept well entertained, and were very well-behaved around the ship. The gym is absolutely fantastic and very well-equipped with state of the art equipment... a great place for my boyfriend to escape the family and stay fit at the same time!The ship is not perfect - there were a couple of times when the drinks service was quite slow, and as healthy-eaters, there were elements of the buffets that were quite deep-fryed that we avoided. But there was always a good choice of salads as well, so this didn't deter from the overall enjoyment. To those who complain that it is difficult to get a seat at breakfast, I would just suggest getting up 1/2 and hour earlier - it was usually packed at 9am but pleasant at 8:30 am... plus there is always the option of taking your food outside as well. The entertainment was good but not absolutely "wow" - but there was so much choice, from classical concerts to comedians and magicians, that there was plenty to entertain for a week. I am not a veteran cruiser, so I don't have hundreds of comparisons. But I have been with Cunard, and I certainly felt that Azura was a good choice for our group as the crowd was considerably younger and the vibe more fun for those of us in our 30's without being too party-ish for the older generation. We all liked the Costa coffee shop for post-excursion coffee, the selection of wines and decor of The Glass House, and our dinners at Peninsular. We would have used the sea screen a lot more if it hadn't rained most of the week (that's what you get in Norway!). But most of all it gave us a holiday where we could both do our own thing and spend quality time together, which was the main purpose of the trip. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Azura. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
I sailed on this voyaage with my mum, being that im 23 and at the time had no partner who could travel we decided we'd both go for a well earned weeks break.Upon arriving at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton we were greated by the ... Read More
I sailed on this voyaage with my mum, being that im 23 and at the time had no partner who could travel we decided we'd both go for a well earned weeks break.Upon arriving at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton we were greated by the Great White Beauty Azura, sitting there basking in sunlight, she was HUGE!!Check-in was really smooth and quick and before we knew it we were up in Verona having a cocktail and some lunch. Staff from the word go were attentive and smiling and happy to help. Staterooms were available from 2pm and we made our way up there about 3 after first looking around the ship and getting ourselves aquainted with the lay out.Sailaway from Southampton was brilliant and as we passed Calshot we knew we were on holiday! Sailaways seemed to be 45 minutes of pure madness but we liked this, gave us a giggle and some great people watching opportunities.We did the 7 nights Spain, France and Ireland trip all places that we hadnt really visited before, Dublin was an insight, Cobh was brilliant with Blarney Castle and the Titanic heritage, Bilbao was intruiging and Brest was interesting. More to follow below.Dinner was always hot and very tasty, only time my tuxedo has ever gotten too tight to comfortably wear lmao we had 2nd sitting with a table for 8, allocated The Oriental Restaurant at the Aft of Deck 6 (in the corner by the window) service was again attentive and nothing was too much trouble for the waiters. we used Verona/Venezia for Breakfast and lunch with food always readily available with choice for various palets and the full english breakie being my favourite.All other areas onboard where imaculatly presented and we tried to utilise all areas where possible. Our fabvourite area however was the Manhattan night club/bar.. we always ended up here at the end of the night. Glass House was a second as we felt all upmarket in the surroundings hahaOverall Azura and P&O went well beyond our expected limits with this cruise, when it came to the end we didnt want to get off but sadly we did. Azura is a real Jewell to P&O's crown as far as we are concerned, the atmosphere the service and the show was brilliant, we will sail again and most definatly back on Azura soon....... Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
Everything had come together well. The cruise had almost chosen itself. All criteria had been met and the holiday booked. Departure from Southampton to facilitate a quick and relaxed departure,check. Reasonable price to accommodate our ... Read More
Everything had come together well. The cruise had almost chosen itself. All criteria had been met and the holiday booked. Departure from Southampton to facilitate a quick and relaxed departure,check. Reasonable price to accommodate our bank balance, check. Destination, The Baltic States, for culture, history and adventure including the date of our 20th wedding anniversary, check. And lastly, P and O's sparkly new ship, Azura, for a stylish, contemporary and yet still quite traditional floating hotel from which to venture into each port and return to each day for fine dining and entertainment, check. After traveling the short distance from Petersfield to Southampton by limousine, (organised as a surprise by my husband!) we negotiated embarkation swiftly and arrived on board ready to find our cabin and explore the ship. From this moment on I started to experience the rather odd sensation of hearing the many "voices" speaking words of wisdom that I had discovered on the cruise critic forums. "Will we find our luggage awaiting us in the cabin? Should do. Should we unpack first? No, we might miss the "sailaway". Don't forget, the champagne will not be free. Try the buffet for a light lunch. Here's the Verona, it changes from buffet to Italian Trattoria in the evenings. Make sure you book those tables in XVII and Sindhu and check out when Olly Smith will be speaking and doing the wine tasting...yum! Now it is time to unpack and hang that shoe holder over the bathroom door, (snipping two little holes for the robe hooks) and stow away all those troublesome toiletries that might clutter up your bathroom." Well, so far so good! Thanks to the "voices" I often felt prepared for the many new things to experience while cruising and yet still had the delight of learning other things for ourselves by trial and error. I did however leave behind the duct tape and bungee cord suggested by many "voices" after much teasing from friends and family and no, we didn't need them! It was fun and we soon relaxed into the rhythm of port days/sea days, morning, noon and night. Our inside stateroom (B747) was compact but beautifully formed. The open wardrobe space, cupboards, drawers and under-bed storage were more than we needed and I had SERIOUSLY over packed, despite the "voices" telling me to take less clothing and more money! I loved the shower and the bathroom was fine. We liked the decor, the bed was comfy, the pillows quite thick so I only needed one and the interactive TV was very useful to check our on-board spending and to watch all kinds of TV programmes and films (103 choices!)when ever we wanted. We were surprised to find a couple of passengers moaning about the TV on day 12 of the cruise saying they thought the choice of viewing was poor. It turned out they had not used the TV choices and had only tuned in to the 7 live channels which included CBeebies, documentary, lifestyle, history and news channels. We also met someone who didn't know they had a fridge!! Of course we suffered a little stateroom envy when we saw some new friends' balcony stateroom but we constantly reminded ourselves of how much more money we had to spend on other things. The "voices" had warned me that we may well come across people who had cruised so much before that they had become very picky, opinionated and not reticent in sharing their feelings.Indeed, some of the "voices" themselves were like this and their opinions are valid while on land and they can be taken into account when making choices but best ignored if they find their way onto your dining table! I know that as first-time cruisers we have nothing to compare our experiences with but I hope, if we have the good fortune to cruise again, we will stay positive and upbeat once on-board. Yes, the knives are oddly balanced, yes, Azura is a very big ship (duh, read the brochure?) and yes the promenade deck does not go right around the ship but at least you won't get dizzy walking in one direction the whole time!! We very quickly found our favourite places...The Planet bar with it's HD TV screens showing worldwide panoramic views in real-time for pre-dinner drinks;up on deck to read, sunbathe, doze and relax in the afternoons; Brodies for a game of pool or scrabble and the Karmala room (sadly windowless) for the 11pm quiz. All this makes us sound like we shun exercise but to be honest this holiday was, for us, about physical as well as mental rest. I regret not getting to try shuffleboard and quoits but will save that for the next cruise! So, onto one of the highlights of the cruise, the dining experience. We had booked second sitting (20.30hrs) and a table for eight. I knew, of course, that if we wanted to enjoy the fantastic views during the "sailaways" and not be in a rush after getting back from shore excursions this would be the best time for us. We found ourselves allocated to The Oriental and a table for... two. Initially I wanted to change this as I had wanted to meet and get to know people but we gave it a few days and in the end found we preferred the option of dining alone at times as at breakfast, afternoon tea and sometimes even in the buffet we shared tables. We did get to know some lovely people whom we met for drinks or dinner at other venues around the ship. We enjoyed all the select dining on offer both for lunch and dinner and the cover charges (the "voices" had said £20 for XVIII and £15 for Sindhu) we thought were very good value for the superb quality. The activities on-board were quite varied, we tried a few quizzes, took part in Cupid's Couples (and won!) learned how to play Blackjack and that we were not very good at it! We tried karaoke and joined the choir called Azura vocalists. We rehearsed on sea days and performed a concert in the atrium on the last evening, great fun! We watched several films on the Seascreen (outdoor cinema) but had to wrap up warmly for the evening shows as the Baltic weather was nice and warm in the daytime but a bit chilly later (blankets were provided). The cruisers to warmer climes will enjoy this feature more. Much was made of the lack of a covered pool but again, the warmer weather will sort that omission out. We are not great dancers but we saw dancing in several venues around the ship.I thought the choice of shops was varied and attractive to browse in but I bought all our gifts ashore. The much vaunted Spa was too expensive for us. We had planned to give the Retreat a try for a half day but never got around to it. It looked lovely from afar but mostly underused. Again, maybe in the Med or Caribbean it will get more patronage. The entertainment was a little patchy. We enjoyed the Headliners Theatre Company as we like musical theatre but we are not fond of tribute acts and none of the speakers were appropriate to our taste or indeed age group. We were among the youngest on board (43 and 50!!!) but we enjoyed Rebecca Storm, Olly Smith and a couple of the comedians. Greg Bentinck was a superb piano player and singer with a dry wit and much cheery banter, he was also the choir's pianist. The daily Horizon newspaper was very informative and clear and with my highlighter pen at the ready each evening (thanks "voices"!) I was able to pick out possible events of interest to us for the next day. There were only 45 children on board for our cruise but we occasionally saw them around the ship and they all seemed to be having a great time with the very enthusiastic youth team. I had a quick peek at the children's tea menu and it would have suited our daughters down to the ground. Apparently the stateroom phones could be used as a baby alarm for parents who wanted to leave older children sleeping or you could use the night nursery. Now, how about the Ports of call? Wonderful and so refreshing to be visiting a part of Europe we had never been to before. I had spent much time on Cruise Critic's Baltic forum and researched my socks off! What did I learn once ashore? That my husband does not like to be too organised and has less stamina for sight seeing than I bargained for. I had so much planned, (maps, walks, glass galleries etc.) but had forgotten that my husband was physically drained and although a sprightly 43 years old (and a Judo black belt) really needed to rest as well as explore. We took two ship's tours in Stockholm and Oslo, a two day private tour of St. Petersberg (SPB) with Alla tours as a result of advice from the "voices" and the rest we managed ourselves. I was able to cancel one trip while on board (with 48hrs notice) as we had done so much in SPB that we gave Helsinki, our fifth port day in a row, a miss. We learned that we would rather do one thing really well, i.e. The Vasa Museum in Stockholm than try to see many things quickly. We will know next time how we like to do things and plan accordingly.The highlight for us was SPB and the eight other folk on our trip quickly became friends during a meet and greet over afternoon tea and then later during our private tour which was a fantastic success. Each day ashore we would return "home" to Azura and rest, eat well and relax. The service in the bars and restaurants was always exemplary and our cabin steward, Joseph was excellent.I found the ship's crew to be friendly and approachable although we never saw the captain as I believe his wife was unwell. Disembarkation was a breeze and we were off the ship forty minutes ahead of schedule and on our way home. I will know in future how much and what to pack and we will not have to take four suitcases ever again! With a laundry on-board it was very easy to do a quick couple of loads of casual clothing and wear some of the formal clothing twice, no one would notice or care.Much easier! In summary, we had a wonderful time and were able to rest and recharge our energies which was exactly what we had wanted from the experience. We enjoyed being on our own for the first time for years and were pleased to discover that we still like to spend time together! Celebrating our anniversary in this way was perfect. If we cruise again we would probably be taking our teenage daughters with us and we will then look for a ship offering different facilities and activities to suit all of us. That is where research and a good trawl through the internet will hopefully be of benefit. Thanks to Cruise Critic, we got it right this time around! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2010
Parking at southampton: So swift and organised at CPS outside the Terminal, before we had stopped they had the bags out of the car and on their way to our cabin! CPS kept the car keys and parked the car for us Cabin: excellent cabin ... Read More
Parking at southampton: So swift and organised at CPS outside the Terminal, before we had stopped they had the bags out of the car and on their way to our cabin! CPS kept the car keys and parked the car for us Cabin: excellent cabin really modern refilled tea and coffee everyday, fresh towels and the cabin steward was excellent had ample space in the walk in wardrobe also. i would advise to have the beds in queen config as the cabin loses a lot of space if it is in twin formation Dining: The dining was excellent, great variety and always readily available. I can defiantely recommend Sindhu worth every penny!@ £15 per head it was fantastic! amazing food and service, We found Seventeen very nice and the terrace on the back is lovely if it is nice weather! We did find the menu to be a little plain compared to the Indian but i guess this is expected! Shore excursions: we found the port presentations particulaly informative as we did most of our exploring independantly, they were great to watch in the cabin whilst getting ready or to attend directly in the playhouse Entertainment: As the average age on our this cruise was late 60's we did find the entertainment to be geared more towards the older age group. There was a good selection of varied activities for this age group however. The Headliners Theatre company was spectacular very enjoyable and an excellent variety of performances from acrobatics to full stage productions! The Nightclub never really got into full swing as it was an older age group! we did find however that the English Pub Brodies again catered for all age groups , it had a fab atmosphere with plenty going on from quizzes to board games and a pool table! We did have a flutty in the Casino, the staff were excellent really friendly and gave you gaming lessons free of charge Some of the bands and musicians were a tad below par of what you would expect on a ship of this nature but they were enjoyable non the less! We found the Sea Screen fantastic! a brilliant new addition to the fleet, it attracted every age group and had a good selection of old and new films, they had films playing throughout the day and into the night at set times they even used it for a game of bowling on the wii! In the evening its fantastic to get wrapped up in the provided blankets and watch the film under the stars! I would however say that the films did tend to be a little repetative and by the 2nd week we had seen all the films on show, apart from that i believe it to be a brilliant addition to the ship Kids Facilities: On the aft of the ship overlooking the terrace pool there are the kids areas. Frontiers and The Beach Hut. these are partially outdoor play areas where the staff play games. Inside the teens have a great area to relax in and chill out with friends, there is plenty for them from an Air hockey game to play stations and more! for the little ones there is a large soft play area for them The staff were great with the kids really organised and we hardly saw any kids they were kept so busy! Tips: The staff were great really friendly and helpful always, we gave the tips directly to the staff on the final day of the cruise. the average tip is around £3.20 pp per day which can be split between waiters and cabin steward Impressions: My intial impressions were 'how's this going to float!' but no in all seriousness it was a wonderful ship. Right from the word go everything is so organised. The check in was swift and organised, the product of P&O is fantastic and even down to the keeping of the ship they were constantly cleaning and painting the ship inside and out! even though she is only a few weeks old! We found our cabin rather swiftly as the decks and cabins are well sign posted.Having a balcony was amazing, our own private space outside to enjoy a coffee in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening, it was great to have this as the journey into stockholm was amazing how they traversed through all the tiny little islands it was fantastic to watch All the different areas of the ship are in immaculate condition and very luxurious. i think the main thing that was impressive was the service and the food! oh the food! we belive you could eat round the clock 24 hours a day! and all for free! the main restaurant food was impressive with plenty of choice for all tastes, the waiters in the restaurant were fantastic they remembered all our names on the table and if they saw you walking about in other areas of they ship they would ask how we were and greet us by name! Target market: This ship can quite happily cater for all age groups and types. As mentioned the Itinerary seems to dictate what kind of market the cruise attracts. The Azura would suit Families As they do have excellent kids facilities but i would be careful what itinerary, the med or caribbean would probably suit families more as entertainment was geared for the older generation Singles it is fantastic. the single cabins were brilliant as we did have a look in one! The nice thing is there is plenty of space in the ship to have the single afternoon tea in another area Young couples - great again! the Sea Screen does appeal more to the younger market and we found it great to get away from all the bars and have a quiet night under the stars watching a film. Our Itinerary really applealed to the older generation and the ship seemed to please the majority of the older seniors. there were a few complaints from the seniors saying it was too large and they had far to walk from bar to show etc. . . 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 3.1
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 4.0 3.8

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