It’s been a long time coming but it is finally here. My review of Azura Grand Event Cruise 3rd July 2012. I have to be honest and say that I felt somewhat disappointed with the ‘Grand Event’ element of this cruise. For me it didn’t feel like the amazing celebration of 175th Anniversary that I was expecting. But having said that, we had a great cruise, just as we always do!
Tuesday 3rd July 2012 – Southampton
As said in my previous reports, it is always good to look out of your Southampton hotel window and see the funnels of a ship waiting for you. But today the said funnels were barely visible through the mist. Today was the big event in the P&O calendar. It was The Grand Event with all seven P&O ships sailing together from Southampton to celebrate 175years of P&O’s history. Yesterday the weather was dreadful and it just rained, heavy rain all day. So, today was going to be better, right? Today it would clear up and would at least be fine for the Grand Event Sailaway. When we booked it (I have a fab travel agent) on 2nd April 2011 we imagined a blazing hot sailaway, wafting about up by Breakers Bar with a cocktail, partying on deck, attending the barbeque and watching the spectacular event in all its glory.
I confess I was feeling non to bright this morning. Far too much wine was consumed in too short a space of time last night. I went to breakfast but it was all too much, the smell of food oh and the ‘top trump’ conversations all around me of ‘how many cruises have you been on’ ‘which ship are you on’ etc were doing my head in, so I left breakfast pretty quickly. I left the loading up of the car to Mr C and I just lay on the bed, drank a vast quantity of water and tried to look human again.
As we left Premier inn, West Quay, we turned infront of Carnival House and two large bouncer looking gentlemen were stood on the kerb, obviously waiting for a VIP. At that very moment a blacked out people mover pulled round from the traffic lights, the doors opened and a very large umbrella was produced to shield no other than Azuras Godmother, Darcey Bussell, from the rain. She was greeted by Carol Marlow and ushered into Carnival House very quickly.
We arrived at the Ocean Terminal at 10.20am and were invited to wait at the top end of the car park while they cleared the rest of the disembarking passengers and CPS staff came on duty. Within 10 minutes we were invited to go across to the terminal and get the car checked in and baggage unloaded. There seemed to be an absolute army of CPS staff on duty and we were approached immediately. By the time the cases were on the porters trolley, we were being handed the receipt for the car and we were heading into the terminal. They weren’t ready for us in the terminal, nobody giving out health declaration forms and nobody handing out boarding passes. We sat to the side and when the lady with boarding passes eventually arrived I was able to collect boarding card A. Nobody directed us to the priority boarding area and it wasn’t indicated with any signage. Good job I knew which was the priority area then. I found it highly amusing that I overheard one of the ground crew say to another that she couldnt believe so many people had arrived so early. What did they think was going to happen? First check in was 11.00am, so did they not think that there was any possibility that people might start coming up the escalators at 20 to 11? We were soon invited to check in. Staff from Carnival House had been drafted in as stand in check in staff. We had a lovely young girl, but it was decided that her passport swiper wasn’t working, so we had to wait and be processed by the girl next to her. By the time we got down to the holding pen at the other end of the terminal building we were invited to go through security and embark Azura.
By 20 to 12 we were onboard and sat in Meridian Restaurant enjoying complimentary champagne. Things have moved on from the curled up sandwiches and soggy crisps of Portunus Goldie drinks, we now have a very grand hot and cold buffet to enjoy, I do miss those Goldie sandwiches, they were legendary. For me the setting was a bit too formal and regimented. We were joined by the legend that is Mr Holden and a jolly good time was had by all. I managed a small cottage pie to line my stomach, and the fizz was quite free flowing. We had a window seat so were able to see the comings and goings on the dockside, which included Darcey Bussell and her entourage departing the ship.
After and hour or so, don’t know if we were supposed to stay that long, we decided that it was time to get out of there. We needed to get out on deck and check out this blazing hot sunshine that we had booked!
Deck 15 and all the way aft and we arrived at the Terrace Pool. Looks like the sunshine was taking a rest and saving its self for sailaway. Cocktails arrived and we were on deck, so part of the plan was coming together, shame the weather wasn’t! We watched a film crew interview Commodore Bergoine, don’t know what it was all about but the interviewer needed several rehearsal runs, with and without his anorak on. Then another film crew appeared and we were interviewed for a P&O video, haha it wasn’t quite as Hycinth Bouquet as my recent Cunard interview but what I was talking about I have no idea. Mr C refused to comment to camera, hes not keen on the limelight.
At one minute to two the front of house manager came over the tannoy to advise that the cabin stewards had done a wonderful job and had managed to get the cabins ready for us early – a whole minute early!! Bless ‘em they do work hard.
Eventually we left for the cabin. Wow, we don’t have a balcony we have a terrace! Its huge. Berthed directly opposite us in THV Patricia. Later today HRH Princess Royal will board and take up position to review the fleet as we form a V and sail past her. Within the hour we had unpacked, the cabin was organised and tidy and I went in search of a few snacks. Unfortunately it was too close to muster drill so all services had ceased. Arrived back at Chadwick Terrace and we had guests! We had the perfect viewing platform for all the ships passing, and for watching HRH arrive opposite us. We tried really really hard to get into the party mood, but it wasn’t quite how we all imagined it to be. The four ships berthed up at Western dock and we barely visible at times. It was raining, it was grey and it was cold. It wasn’t really July was it?!
We were promised a Marine Band on the Quayside which would have been nice. A bit of traditionalism, a bit of Anchors aweigh etc, but instead we got what looked like 5 students under a white gazebo. Don’t get me wrong, they were very good but in my opinion it was more like church music than sailaway traditional. Apart from anything else they were drowning out the sound of all the horn blasting, which took away even more of the atmosphere for me.
Adoina left her berth to the blast of what sounded like Cannons at just before 5.00pm and headed down the turning basin to turn, and then come back down to salute her sisters and lead the procession out of Southampton. Our balcony was the perfect viewing spot and we certainly didn’t miss anything. We saw HRH arrive and all her invited guests, and as soon as she was onboard she was away to take up her position at Charlie Anchorage, escorted by HMS Dragon.
Adonia could just about be seen in the heavy mist salute Ventura and as soon as she had passed her Ventura pulled off her berth and in turn Ventura collected her Sister Arcadia, and the line of three ships were starting this spectacular event. Aurora was next, closely followed by Oriana and next it was to be our turn. It all seemed to happen very quickly. Oriana passed infront of us, the florrilla of confetti cannons were set off and showered the dock side and then three almighty cannon blasts were let off right below our balcony and scared us all out of ours skins. We were pulling away from our berth and in what seemed like no time at all we were turning to join the procession and collect Oceana from berth 39. We decided that the best vantage point for forming of the V shape, the fireworks and the royal salute would be ontop of the bridge on deck 15. According to the Horizon this was being opened today for public use, so that is where we headed. The door was locked and the cabin steward that was stood in the corridor made it quite clear that he wasn’t going offer any assistance in getting the door unlocked for us. So we headed up one more deck and walked round the front of the gym area on the open deck. We could just hear the bangs of the firework display on port side, but we didn’t make it round there in time to see anything. We took up prime position right at the front of the ship and watched the procession of ships head out and turn right. But we were getting battered by the wind and the rain. It was blowing an absolute gale. We tried to protect ourselves from the wind and rain in our kagools but there was only so much we could take. The ships were heading into heavy mist again and the view was spoilt by the rotten weather. It was decided to check out the Chadwick Terrace again and we arrived there just as we passed crowds of people waving at Calshot Split. The shore line was packed.
It was then decided that we should head to The Walton Suite (previously known as the Chadwick Suite) for a cup of tea. Yes, I know that something you don’t hear me say very often but you have no idea how cold our bones were. It was so much calmer and less windy on the balcony and we were able to see all the ships infront of us go in towards THV Patricia to be reviewed by HRH Princess Royal. At this point I received the second call of the day from a very merry sounding bunch of VIPs on a cat just behind the Patricia. They had been waiting for “The Chadwick” to sail past so they could all cheer and wave! I waved my 175 flags and union jack flags frantically at them, but to be honest I doubt they were in any fit state to recall seeing me even if they had spotted me. Anyway we took our Royal Salute from HRH and that was another bit of the formalities over with. By now it was getting on for 8.30pm and it was time to think about food. The restaurants were on open sittings this evening, up until 10.00pm so after a bit of sprucing up we headed for the Oriental Restaurant for a hearty warming bowl of soup. Minestrone – perfect!! No wine though, I cant stomach wine again for a while. Oceana was on our tail and made for a pretty spectacular sight out of the aft window. It has to be said it was freezing in the restaurant. The aircon was blasting out, and was obviously set to tropical climes. I was frozen the bones and colder than when I was stood on deck 16 forward. I wasn’t sorry to get out of there. It was decided that we needed a nightcap and a warm comfy sofa so we headed for Blue Bar. We were joined by Mr H and it was now time for a real drink. A Cosmo! Very nice indeed. My bones were finally warming up. Oh we had a few giggles, and a couple more cosmo’s, quite what the conversation was about I cant quite recall but I’m sure Mr H will be able to review it all for us tomorrow. I think he may need another holiday after this one!
Wednesday 4th July 2012 – at sea
Oh it wasn’t the best nights sleep in the world. The aircon was doing what it always does to me and stuffing up my airways. The fog horn has been blasting for most of the night and I was wide awake from 6.00am and that was with the clocks forward and hour. It was a right pee souper outside and couldnt see beyond the balcony railing. Mr C had the foresight last night to order breakfast to the cabin and it arrived bang on 7.30am. Tea, toast, blueberry muffin and cornflakes. The fog started to lift at about 9.00am but I decided to check out the insides of my eyelids for a while. Mr C went to the gym to try and build the muscles up in his recently operated knees.
Eventually I decided to get up and get in the shower. We needed to get out and about. But oh heck, where had all these people come from. Everywhere seemed crowded with people. All decks of the atrium had people busy going from deck to deck. It was way too busy for me. We went down to the photographers to see the official Grand Event photos that had been taken by all seven ships photographers and exchanged. Non were over impressive in my opinion and Mr C had taken equally as good ones. Some nice photos off all seven Captains and the Commodore together but other than that nothing I wanted to buy. The official aerial photo and plaque had not long been unveiled by a very special gentleman – the most cruised passenger, (goes by the name of Mr H) down on deck 5. Thats a nice photo!
I checked out the shops and also went into the duty free shop to see what all the recent fuss was about purchasing spirits for in cabin consumption etc. I had heard stories that you could purchase it, but it only got delivered on certain days etc, which could be as late as 4 days time. But I asked and was told if I wanted to order bottles to take home I could do so now and collect at the end of the cruise. If I wanted to purchase spirits for in cabin consumption, it was exactly the same price as ‘take home’ and I could purchase any day after tomorrow and take it with me at the time. I presume I could only purchase it from tomorrow onwards because we need to be inside/outside the EU or something? Beefeeter Gin £12, Bombay Sapphire £16, Southern Comfort £22, Bacardi £14, Smirnoff Vodka £12, Bells Whisky £12 etc. Cigarettes started at £26 for 200.
While we were in the shop Mr C bumped into a friend from home. Last time he saw him was on Ventura year before last lol. Turns out Steve was in the shop looking for socks. He had been left in charge of his own packing for once and forgot to pack socks! I came to the rescue with the offer of a pair of Mr C’s new socks.
The only place that we could find that was quiet and tranquil was Glass House and that suited me fine. While Mr C ordered my glass of Canadian Fizz I went off to complete the rsvps for Caribbean lunch and to deliver a pair of new socks to the other end of the ship! When I got back Steve and Jane were sat having a drink with Mr C so I could have saved myself a journey. We were later joined by Lynn, Rodders and Rebs and we decided to stay for lunch. The Celeb that is Mr H stopped by for a chat. I was beginning to think he had been lost at sea because we heard a public announcement for him this morning, but it turns out he was trying to be located for an official engagement. We all had many laughs in the GlassHouse today and I consumed another couple of Canadian Fizz and had a Blind River with my fish n chips. I guess my wine ban is over then! Me and Mr C shared a knickerbocker glory and then it was declared snooze time.
I had a much better sleep in the afternoon than I did last night. While I was out pressing my dress for this evening, the cabin steward had delivered the peninsular slippers and pins. Mr C was not impressed – one size clearly does not fit all!
Captains Welcome Aboard Reception in the Atrium tonight. The plan was to get there 45 mins early, get a seat by the rails and send the boys to locate drinks in GlassHouse, but when we got there at 7.30 all seats had been taken. We decided to stand over by the rail on the opposite side by the shops. I confess I am not a lover of these events, but I’ve been cruising a long time so why do I need to stand in a crowded room to see a Captain address his passengers. Personally I would have preferred to sit in a bar of my choice and had half hours complimentary bar. We couldn’t get a drink for love nor money. We were in the wrong place, only one waiter passed us all evening and he had red wine or whiskey nothing else. Just as the Captain was speaking I spotted a waiter collecting glasses and fluttered my lashes to plead for a drink – only to toast the ships company you understand. He came back a few minutes later to explain that he was told he couldn’t get drinks round to us but he was trying. Another few minutes later he reappeared shielding a tray of fizz and guarding them from the crowds so that nobody en route could take them. For us, he went the extra mile and I was impressed!
Captain Keith Dowds did his speech, introduced his senior officers and told us that yesterday 569 000 tons of P&O ships sailed out if Southampton to celebrate 175 years and we were now part of history.
Dinner was in the Oriental Restaurant for us, table 101. Im sure we only saw one waiter all evening but the others tell me that there were two of them. No fun tables round by us, all looked very serious, maybe it was a first night thing. I was chilly again with a stream of aircon down my back. Had to have Mr C’s jacket on towards the end of the meal. Must remember to take a wrap with me tomorrow evening. After dinner we headed for Planet Bar and it was very busy in there, so we ended up on the Starboard wing. From there we went for a flyby through Manhattan and Malibar and ended up in Blue Bar for a nightcap.
Thursday 5th July 2012 – La Coruna
Rubbish nights sleep again and I woke to mist and drizzle. I got really disorientated again as we slipped into La Corruna. As I watched us sail in from my bed I obviously thought we were going in forwards but when I got up and looked from the balcony we were reversing in. I keep forgetting which is forward and which is aft from this cabin. Its very grey out there. After another little snooze I opened my eyes to see Adonia turning infront of the balcony. I wasn’t expecting that and for a moment I thought we were re-enacting the Grand Event. The weather started to look promising at one stage with little pockets of blue sky breaking the thick grey sky, but it wasn’t long before Adonia was blending into the mist and it was raining again. Its stopped now but for how long I don’t know!
We sat and had coffee in Java and watched people coming back onboard, at one point it started to brighten up, so we ventured outside. Breakers wasn’t open, so that was that. Decided to have a pizza for lunch but unless you wanted mushroom and onion, onion, or mushroom, the choice wasn’t great, instead I settled for a chicken baguette from the grill and Mr C had chicken fillet burger. Some people were determined to sunbath, despite it being thick cloud and chilly in the air. They soon moved when the heavens opened! We went for a wander through to Terrace Bar and bumped into Val & Dave and stood at the bar chatting for a while. We saw a couple of tiny pockets of sun but it wasn’t long before the rain swept along the open deck again.
Neils Sailaway party at 3.15 so we went along to that and guess what? The sun shone!!! Yay that got everyone in the party mood. All the usual party dances were fully embraced and at last we could enjoy a drink in the sun. We sailed out before Adonia, but she was so small I couldnt see her from where I was stood. Two songs before the end of the party the heavens opened and swept across the deck so fast we hardly had time to run for cover. That was the end of that! Although I’m told that Neil, and two of his team, carried on in the pouring rain.
Time for a very brief snooze but we were bobbing about a bit in the sea. Captain had managed to find a few holes in the sea. I was soon changed and out of there and swapped my forward cabin for the aft Planet Bar. Maybe not the wisest of moves given the current sea conditions. Not impressed with the drinks menu, nil choice of martini cocktails is not good. We settled for the drink of Europe – rose champagne, even though we were supposed to be in the Orient this evening.
After dinner we wandered around for a while. Had planned to do Planet Bar but it was busy, stuck our head in Fogwell Fax show in Manhattan. It was packed in there and he was doing an impression of a train! We ended up in olde faithful Blue Bar but oh it was warm in there. A man was making a scene because bar staff were, quite rightly, refusing to serve him due to the fact he wasn’t wearing a jacket on a semi formal night. I hope his request to speak to the purser was met and that he was given the official response! Pub or try another cruise line!! After that we decided to try Planet Bar again, by which time we were down to just Lynn and myself. It wasnt quite happening up there either. We had a drink, but that was hard work as I dared to ask for something off menu. Need to inject a bit of personality behind the bar! From there we headed to Manhatten and settled on a couple of barstools. We were soon joined by Neil Oliver for a drink and a catch up.
Friday 6th July 2012 – at sea
Still no real sunshine to speak of today, its not good. It is warm and pleasant though so it could be worse. Caribbean Tier lunch in Meridian Restaurant at noon and I would love to be able to tell you what a wonderful, grand and special occasion it was, especially with it being the 175th Anniversary cruise etc. But sadly it was just a lunch on a table hosted by an officer. Dont get me wrong, we probably had one of the nicest officers in the restaurant, Heidi from the Ents team. We all had a great laugh and I think she was relieved that she didn’t get a table full of whingers and whiners. I have been cruising since 1967 and did I feel special or elevated in any way by attending this lunch? No! In fact I think I am correct in saying that everyone at our table was infact an ‘honorary’ Caribbean member, having become Gold with the required 1500 points and elevated to the Caribbean tier which requires 2500 points. But anyway thats turning into a right old whinge so enough now! I didn’t see the Captain in attendance, and we had the briefest of visits to our table from the Loyalty Manager. The wine was very nice though. We had a good time, and Heidi certainly had a good time. We threatened to turn up for killer darts this afternoon, but we thought it might bring her career to an abrupt end if we did, knowing how serious most of these ‘fun’ activities get!
After lunch we wandered up to Breakers, and whats the first thing you would expect Mr C to think about? A pizza!!! I think its the equivalent of coming out the pub drunk on a Friday night and wanting a kebab! Anyway, he stands in line, orders his pizza, and comes skipping up the stairs proudly swinging the pizza under our noses. But as he does so, his enthusiasm gets the better of him and the pizza launches itself off the plate like a frizby and falls face down on the deck! He is mortified but the rest of us find it hysterical. And so did most of the rest of the deck to be fair, but there were the usual po faced people scattered around who were utter disgusted with the drunken louts behaviour!
Too much excitement for me, so I retreated to my bed. I can sleep in the afternoon, but it aint happening at night. I manage a couple of hours sleep at night but then I’m wide awake again. I woke at 5.15 and went out on the balcony. Still no sun to speak of but you could feel it. So I showered and sat on the balcony for a while enjoying the fresh air and warmth.
Formal tonight and we had arranged to meet in Glass House, but just as we were leaving the cabin we got a phone call to say that there had been a delay from the Walton Suite. We went ahead to the Glass House and decided to try Ollys wine flights. I followed that with the Pellar Canadian Fizz. And later in the dining room we had Ollys recommendation of wine, which begins with G and has Turkish delight and marmalade in it!
After dinner we went to the Planet Bar for a while, then ended the evening in Manhattan – as you do!
Saturday 7th July 2012 – Madeira
I have been awake, what seems like, forever. I watched the dark night turn to a grey morning, I watched lighthouses come and go closely followed by the lights of Madeira. It was a bit grey as we pulled alongside port side too, but then this glow appeared behind the clouds on top of Monte. It was the sun!! We had found it. It does still exist. Yippee!! I had breakfast on our terrace to celebrate. I could have been anti social and sunbathed on the balcony, but I knew that the deck would be empty so I went up there, by Breakers bar. Oh so tranquil with hardly anyone around. All passengers had gone ashore to sample the delights on Madeira. The Caribbean Cruises were slipping down nicely and Mr C had a bucket of Bud! Well we had to – it was to celebrate the sun coming out! We stayed on deck until Noon and then had to retreat to the cabin.
Walton Tours had booked Tea at Reids Palace this afternoon so we assembled at said assembly point and disembarked to find a waiting taxi to take us upto Reids for Afternoon Tea. I hadn’t been to Reids since I was a child so was looking forward to returning. We had time for a wander round the hotel and gardens before tea and I made the mistake of asking the waiter, who must have worked for Hitler in a previous life, the directions to the gardens. We are not allowed in the gardens! Not what the chappie who did the meeting and greeting advised us, but whatever – they will be full of stupid gecko lizard things anyway. We decided to have a glass of Kir Royal instead in the Cocktail Bar (much to the lads disgust!) the bill seemed to be scaring them so I had to deal with that bit at the end. Tea on the terrace. As we had pre booked and advised them that we were celebrating a special occasion. They responded by advising we would be looked after and made sure we would be given a nice table on the terrace. It was a small table for 4, made do for 5. I had a view of a corner post, two had a view of the hotel wall and I don’t think the view from the other two seats was that special. Just to top it off we got Hitlers grumpy waiter to serve us. The table was rammed with tea pots, there was nowhere to put anything – special table indeed!! The sandwiches were ok, certainly nothing delightful or special. My little fruit tartlet had a hair inside it and I could not have been any more discreet in informing Hitler the waiter of its presence. I suggested he might like to bring me a clean plate due to the presence of said hair and pointed out its whereabouts nice and quietly. A new plate was delivered without even a hint of an apology – nor did an apology come as we paid the bill and left. My advice would be to keep your 31.50 euro in you back pocket and take afternoon tea in the restaurant onboard ship! Reids charge for the name, and don’t deliver a decidant afternoon tea. Our taxi was there as promised and we were back at the ship at around 4.45pm. A quick change out of posh clothes and we were up at Breakers Bar enjoying sailaway party with Neil and his team n the sun. Fab, this is what we came away for – sunshine and sailaways. One thing I have noticed is that its no longer ‘Back onboard for 4.30pm sail at 5.00pm’ its now ‘please ensure you are back onboard for 5.00pm –we sail at 5.00pm’ and sail on time we do! How Neil and his team went on for over an hour in the sun and the heat, singing and dancing around is beyond me. We needed at least a couple for drinks to just jiggle on the spot.
No time for afternoon snoozes today, it was a quick turnaround and we were out and in the Planet Bar for 7.15pm. Oh boy, it gets busy up there. We had bar stools today, they are like gold dust to get. The bar menu is still not impressing us though with its very limited selection. Mr H joined us and he has had a good day so all is well with the world.
We decided to dine in Tratorria this evening and we seemed able to get a table without any hassle at all, unlike previous cruises where it has been so popular it becomes stressful to try and even obtain a pager for there. We were given a pager just incase and we were called at 8.15pm as suggested. I had possibly the best bowl of soup ever in there this evening. A big bowl of homemade minestrone. Trouble was it was massive and it was so nice I consumed the lot. That meant that by the time my Pollo arrived the tummy was asking for no more food to be sent in that direction. Mr C had the ‘BBQ on a stone’ for one and just the fumes were enough to put me and Lynn off our food. It eventually sent me outside for some fresh air. He said his fillet steak was the best ever though. We eventually waddled out there at around 10.30 pm and went in search of more fresh air. Mr H was sat at Breakers Bar so it seemed only right that we also partook in the balmy evening air. Much hilarity followed, so much hilarity that there is far too much to share, but Mr H has now been fully initialled into our world. There was much talk about theorys, boswains, Joseph and Mary, Velcro and zips and even a donkey. Dave was telling us about his special event lunch with Santa and It all became a bit too much when the gritters came along and started to grit the decks below. When we looked the bar had closed anyway, so whilst Mr H retreated to another bar to try and work it all out we decided to hit our respective pillows and retire for the night.
Sunday 8th July 2012 – La Palma
I would love to advise that I had my first good nights sleep, but my brain seems to want to sleep when I first get in bed and then lay awake for the rest of the night until its time to get up again, by which time it decides to partake in some more sleep. When I did awake for the second time I was greeted with a scene from the bible with a big rocky hill outside my window. Then there was a gentle rat a tatt tatt at the door and I could only imagine it was Joseph and Mary! When they knocked for the second time I realised it must be breakfast delivery and nudged Mr C to awake and open the door. All in all, a very confusing evening night and morning so I went back to sleep for an hour.
By 8.30 I was up on deck by Breakers bar. The sun was out and it was peaceful – no sign of Joseph and Mary! I just laid and took it easy. At one point I got so hot I had a dip in the pool, and partook in a couple of Planters Punch. Mr C was despatched for a jacket potato and beans from the grill, but he claims he never knew I disliked cheese so got me one with cheese and beans! How long have we been married? It clouded over and threatened a bit of rain, my eyelids were fighting me for last nights sleep so I went to my bed – bliss! As you can gather I didn’t go ashore. I came for a rest not to dash around like a lunatic!
I felt the need for my bed after lunch and so that is what I did. I slept for two solid hours and woke feeling like I needed much more. I should really have made the effort and attended sailaway but it really was too much of an effort – sorry Neil. I could hear most of it from the balcony and partook mentally. I had work to do (I know, its Sunday too!) so I had to sit and do that. My nails needed repainting so there was another task needed attending to.
Decided to have pre dinner drinks in Sindhu this evening and sample the Balnares cocktail! Nice!! We really like! Chicken nibbles were nice too. I had gone out in a lovely bright orange cocktail type dress and some really high shoes, but sitting in Sindhu made me realise I was not best comfy. So I decided to go back to the cabin and slip into something less restrictive and shoes that were a little more functional. So before we left Sindhu I had dress change number 1 of the evening. I made it as far as the restaurant and within the first couple of mouthfuls of soup the belly started to send threatening messages up. Basically the belly was saying ‘send any more food down here and you will regret it’ so before main course arrived I had to make my excuses and leave. I was feeling non to bright. By the time I reached the restaurant entrance I was having a bit of a panic – should I go up one deck and out on prom for some air? Or should I take the back route back to the cabin? I chose the back route to the cabin but by the time I got there I really was having a bit of a panic feeling and needed air. Ooh dear whats up with me? lights out and close eyes time to see whats what when I emerge from the other end of another snoozle.
Im collected an hour or so later by Mr C and I decided on dress change number 3 of the evening! And why not? I knew there was a reason I bring so much stuff on my holidays. Tropical Party up on deck and as per usual its blowing a bit of a gale up by Breakers and it did try spitting a bit of rain. Im not a lover of deck partys. I used to be, but to me its just a lot of noise blowing about in the wind – I must be getting old lol.
We decided to go for a bit of a reckie and see what else was happening around the ship. We walked through Glass House and that was fairly busy with most seats taken. Blue Bar was very busy and we stood little chance of getting in there. The Atrium was also very busy with the dance instructors and lots of people observing. Malibar had a female vocalist doing a spot of Caberet. Manhattan had people sat waiting for something, but not sure what. Planet Bar was packed and the bar stools were free so it was a sign. I wish I could say we felt welcome but the bar staff, apart from one, lack charisma. A drink was ordered and the boys amused themselves with the wall of Africa. We hadn’t been in 5 minutes and they started to wipe down the bar. I had a quick count up and there was well over 40 people sat in the room at the time. Next they collected all the bar menus from the tables so people took the hint that it was about to close and left. I didn’t hear any bar staff go around asking if anyone would like to stay for another drink. Very reluctantly we were asked at the bar if we would like another drink and I think we had one out of defiance. This is advertised as open until late and I don’t think midnight on a cruise ship is late! Couldnt help thinking they were determined to close before the deck party ended and they all descended on the bar.
So we decided it was time to head back to bed. Due to my lack of meal this evening it was decided we would go via deck 15 for snacks. I admit the food on offer looked really nice – pizza, jacket pots, chilli and a chicken tikka. I reached in for a slice of pizza and felt nil warmth from the lamps above. Yes, my pizza was stone cold! So instead I made a couple of fresh ham and lettuce rolls and enjoyed them. Meanwhile Mr C went back for some curry, but as he put it on the table infront of him I could see it didn’t appear quite right. I touched it with the back of my hand and it was stone cold. Not even warm. He was disgusted that I wouldn’t allow him to eat it, but it wasn’t worth the risk. And they wonder why there is nori virus about. Best of it is one of the chefs heard my comment about the pizza and made no attempt at all to check for himself.
Monday 9th July 2012 – Tenerife
Where was my breakfast? Silly Mr C had ordered for 9 to 9.30 in error! No worries a quick phone call and they offered to deliver. The sun was just creeping from behind a thick band of cloud and for the first time this cruise we were starboard side to. Gee it is hot! Lynn had long awaited Baby News!! Yay for baby Chloe. We decided to go ashore for the second time this cruise. I needed to stretch my legs and we decided to walk into town. A lot of redevelopment work is continuing along the port edge. It seems to have been going on for as long as I can recall. The underpass leading to the other side of the dual carriage way is no longer there and we had to go quite a way to the right to get across the road and then double beck on ourselves. There is a lovely lagoon type area in about the spot where we used to arrive into the town from the underpass. It was 26 degs as we walked up the main street. The shops weren’t even open yet, which saved a few pennies. We walked up the one street and down the other and found ourselves back on the front much in need of a cooling drink. We sat at the Atlantique and I had a refreshing vodka and coke lol. It was huge! Had to wash that down with a cola. Did a few character assassinations with the lady sat next to me so it was a very enjoyable hour or so just people watching and allowing the world to pass us by. Its quite a walk back to the shuttle pick up point, but by the time we got there we had just missed a bus so decided to walk back to the ship. I don’t think Mr C’s knees were very impressed, but exercise is good for them lol. We beat the bus anyway. We were debating all the way back whether we would have sun on our balcony, and we did. Very hot sun too. I had to take advantage of that, so I opened a bottle of Pellar and sat there for a while enjoying the sun and the comings and goings of the dockside. I nipped up to the Grill for a baguette of the day which was tuna and sweetcorn – yum. Mr C took advantage of room service and had a selection of sandwiches and a pizza. I swear the pizza was hotter and fresher than if he had fetched it himself.
Mid afternoon the sun slipped off the balcony so we wandered upstairs and partook in another bottle of fizz with Lynn to wet baby Chloe’s head. Another sailaway party with Neil and the team but I was going to have to duck out again. I was frazzling, needed a shower etc so I retreated to the cabin for a shower. I laid on the bed and an hour later I was opening my eyes. I needed that!
Semi formal night tonight – not that you would notice looking around. Oh dear sort the dress codes out!!! Anyway, we didn’t let the side down. Pre dinner drinks in Glass House and for some bizarre reason Mr C decided he was going to have a pre dinner starter of king prawns, mushroom salad and fish cakes. Where does he put it??! We had Pellar in Glass House and another bottle of fizz in the restaurant with dinner. For the first time in ages I actually enjoyed my meal tonight – nothing wrong with the food, I simply haven’t actually felt the need to sit through a meal lately. But tonight I enjoyed Chicken Sweetcorn soup and grassfed steak. Waiter also had baby news. He became a Dad for the first time last night too!!! We should have sat him down and given him a beer but I doubt the restaurant manager would be best pleased with that.
Talking of food, we had a sneak preview of the 175th Heritage menu for tomorrow evening! They are going back in time and offering a similar menu to that of what I recall when I was a child. Course after course including fish course, salads and cold meats, savoury course etc. If the waiter thinks I am going to eat my way through that lot he can think again. Hopefully Mr C wont feel the need to either.
We had a rendevouz in Planet Bar with the invisible bank man, but as we had no idea what he looked for we don’t really know if he materialised, so we left after we had finished our drink. Me and Mr C strolled down to Blue Bar and sat at the bar with Mr H and his guest listening to old sea tales and generally having a good old laugh. Mr H had to be re-educated re the donkey and Joseph and Mary! He’s had a long cruise!
Meanwhile back at the cabin our 175th commemorative gift had arrived. Im not going to pretend to be impressed! I was expecting something unique and special to those of us were on the Grand Event cruises, instead we have a book that has been on general release for a few months and I would suspect that many of the passengers have already purchased. So it felt like a bit of an afterthought to me. That and the commemorative certificate have done little to impress me!
Tuesday 10th July 2012 – at sea
Breakfast at 7.00am! Mr C is loosing the plot, but his theory is to wake up and be fed, then he can go back to sleep and wake up properly without feeling tired or hungry. I couldnt even raise my head off the pillow this morning so my breakfast stayed on the tray a while longer. There was a thick grey band across the sky but we could see that the sun was fighting it, and in the end the sun won. It was an absolute glorious morning with blazing hot sunshine. We left the cabin to give Ratheesh time to do his rounds and by the time we got back from our little wander around the cabin had been attended to. I sat out on the balcony with a bottle of Pellar and just chilled. It was sheer bliss (but hot) dont think I can recall applying quite so much suncream but I didn’t want to burn.
I decided to take Mr C out for lunch and he thought I was predictable and guessed we might be going to glass House. Wrong?! We went instead for Nashata in Sindhu. Choice of 3 small plates for £4.95. Plenty enough for me but I think Mr C was secretly hoping I would leave some of mine for him to finish off.
I didn’t expect to see the sun still on our balcony when we returned but it was just about hanging in there. I pulled the chair upto the railings and had about another 40 mins before the sun went up and over the top of the ship. I laid on the bed to cool off and the next thing I knew the duvet was ontop of me and two hours later I was being woken by a knocking on the door. Fruit delivery!! Mr C went out to see the boat building competition and somehow my eyes closed again. Then there was a knocking at the door again. I know its really lazy but I was half asleep and I really couldnt be bothered to go to the door. Then they knocked again, and I thought if its important they will use the pass key to come in and I will just be ‘asleep’ so I retreated under the duvet. Now the ‘knock’ had changed to a tapping of the cabin key on the door, a polite tap of the door and someone has entered. Ok I thinks, put down what ever it is you are delivering and leave! I heard someone take a couple of steps across the cabin floor, realise I was under the duvet, and retreat back to the corridor. Then he knocked the door. Really reluctantly I got up (I know, I said I acknowledge I was being really lazy but I’m on holiday) I opened the door to a smiley cheery waiter with a plate full of canapés in his hand. Oh lovely some fish paste filled pastry boats! I smiled as sweatly as I could muster, thanked him and left them for the human dustbin called Mr C to consume when he gets in.
We were out early this evening at just before 7.30pm but everywhere was really busy. Struggled to get a seat in Blue Bar but got a nice table overlooking the atrium on the third attempt. Dinner was later this evening at 8.45pm because it was the Heritage 175th menu, yet somehow we still managed to be late for dinner. We don’t do it on purpose we just bump into people en route for a chat and then there was the sunset to be observed and a 5 min stroll to the restaurant can take us 15 minutes. We were so late this evening that the restaurant doors were shut – guess who they sent in first?! The waiters don’t mind and they say it helps with planning and serving. They have 22 to serve and if we all arrive at once it must put pressure on them. At least this way he can get them all served and then attend to us, we are always a course behind but someone has to be last and we aren’t bothered so all is well. We didn’t partake in each and every course. I was disappointed that they hadn’t resurrected the ‘sweet trolley’ for the occasion and I asked for the fruit bowl, just to have a look but he bought me a plate of grapes lol. He also insisted that Mr C had some Welsh Rarebit. We were of course the very last to leave.
Somehow we ended up back in the Blue Bar after dinner. We should really have made the effort to go down to the aft end of the ship to see what was happening, but did we have the energy? No.
Wednesday 11th July 2012 – Lisbon
What a glorious sunny day in Lisbon. Woke up as breakfast arrived at 7.30am. We were just approaching the River Tagus and plenty were out on their balconies to see us go under April 25th Bridge. We berthed up from the bridge, but not around the corner as I have become used to. We decided to get the shuttle bus into town, because although I thought we were close to the back of BlackHorse Square I couldnt be sure. What a waste of time the shuttle bus was. Took about 30 mins to drive what would have easily taken us 10 mins to walk. They stopped dropping us in Black Horse Square a few years ago when they redeveloped the square, and the past few times I have been here they dropped us at the Square by Hard Rock Cafe. Today they dropped us at a different square about midway between the two. We had a gentle stroll down to Black Horse Square and stopped for a coffee and custard tart – as you do! Then we had a stroll back via the shops and it was time for Chicken N chips at Bon Jardin. We got there for 12.30 and by 1.00pm it was rammed with people stood on the pavement waiting to be seated. It was yummy and I washed it down with two glasses of white wine and galss of freshly squeezed orange juice – it was supposed to be a fanta but it all got lost in translation. We had another wander through the town and to the world famous custard tart shop for a supply of custard tarts. Then we wandered back down to Black Horse Square and sat in the glorious sunshine for a quick vodka and coke. I could have sat there sat there all day. I cant describe how blue the sky was or how glorious the sunshine was, but I just wanted to stay there until the sun went in. We strolled back to the ship and it did take about 10 minutes. The sun was on the balcony so after a refreshing shower (yes it really was that hot today!) I was sat on the balcony with yet another custard tart!
We had a group of about 30 local dancers turn up on the quay side and perform for us. Lots of twirling and stamping of clogs – made me feel quite dizzy. There was also one dressed a bit like a tree but we didn’t see him do a lot. Great British Sailaway up on deck and by the time we got there it was rammed. It was a sea of flags being waved in the air. Something else was also in the air – excitement! Someone onboard had won a world cruise and the Captain was due to announce the winner at sailaway. ‘Captain Keith of little words’ took his time getting there though, used the excuse of getting the ship down the river and under the bridge. It wasn’t us that won, it was a man on A deck aft and he didn’t appear to be at the deck party. I could say that the Sailaway party was just like any other I have witnessed but I have to be honest and say I haven’t witnessed one that packed and with that much flag waving in the past. Amazing atmosphere all round. We danced and jigged and waved our flags and drank copious amounts of Caribbean Cruises. The people on the April 25th Bridge must have thought that Azura was full of loonies on their way to the happy farm with the way we were screaming, yelling and waving our flags. A good time was had by all.
Deck party went on for a while and so it was a fast turnaround for pre dinner drinks, which this evening were in Planet Bar. We tried ever so hard not to be late for dinner this evening and I don’t think we were the last in for once. Chicken & chips was on the menu lol like we hadn’t had enough of that today. Lovely tomato soup too, but the poached peaches desert wasn’t upto much. Feroz, our waiter never lets us leave the restaurant without him giving us the spiel of the day. Tonight he saw us trying to make a getaway and he rushed over to inform us that ‘Tomorrow sir, Madam, the chefs will come into the restaurant’ Mr C instantly quipped ‘where they going to sit’ “Oh no sir they don’t come and sit with you…” and poor Feroz went to great lengths to explain to Mr C what would be happening with the Chefs Parade. He must think we are crazy!
No quiet after dinner bar for us this evening, it was straight into Manhattan, even had a bit of a dance. It was a long way back to the cabin to bed though and everywhere we passed en route was closed down for the evening.
Thursday 12th July 2012 – Oporto
We were on the quayside by 9.30am this morning watching the local dancers who had come to greet us. I think Portugal must like us as we had dancers on the quay side both today and yesterday. Glorious sunny morning, but chilly on the dockside in the shade of the ship. There is absolutely nothing at the port or quayside and we had the option of a bus to the port gates – to give us access to taxis and the metro, or shuttle into Porto. I don’t think I can ever recall seeing so many shuttle buses waiting to take us out. We were on bus 19 and I think they were numbered upto 24. Impressive!! And they were complimentary too – not many cruise lines offer free shuttle services these days. It was a long way into Porto, approx half an hour, but the driver did take the scenic coastal road and it was a lovely ride in. We past all the lovely big houses that overlooked the bay and the river – stunning! The shuttle took us to the top of a big hill in Porto and there were many options of which way to walk. We did have a map, and I was map reader, and map reading has never been one of my strong points. But we did find the railway station which was part of the P&O tour and had beautiful tiled walls. We walked down a massive hill to get to it which was lined with shops. We walked up the centre concourse which had some important looking building at the top, then we walked a few of the back streets and retraced our steps back to the bottom of the hill. But then I went off on a tangent and walked down another hill, which could only mean yet more hill to walk back up to get to the starting point. Mr C wasn’t happy with that and insisted we walk down the other side of the hill in search of a river. What a work out that was, and in the heat! So back up that hill we walked across the park and nearly sat in a bar for a drink, but they weren’t open. So we kept walking, past another two squares and along all the shopping precinct. Eventually we crashed out at a side cafe and even I consumed a beer. 2.10 euro for two beers! How cheap is that?! So then it was a gentle stroll back to the shuttle bus. The driver took the motorway route back and we were back in about 15 or 20 mins. It was really chilly on the dockside in the shade of the ship and it seemed a little odd to see the security staff on the dockside in winter coats and woolly hats, when I was in a sun dress and had been roasting in the sun.
Oporto was a gem of a port, one I was not expecting. Its rare that any port impresses me! But if ever you see a cruise itinerary with Oporto on it, don’t overlook it. I cant wait to go back and see what I missed.
Back in the cabin we had received a delivery. It was our Complimentary half bottle of Mumm Champagne as a Peninsular benefit. It had been arranged very nicely on the side with two glasses and a little card that read ‘your champagne is chilling in the fridge ready for you to enjoy’ Well, it would have been very nice if it was chilling in the fridge but it was at room temperature just sat there, neither use nor ornament! As far as I am aware it should be delivered during a formal night for you to enjoy as a pre dinner drink, but as the last formal night has been and gone, it makes it a bit late. Yes, maybe a bit of an unnecessary whinge but if P&O are going to do these little gestures I wish they would go the full 100% and do it correctly! Luckily I did still have some fizz on ice so finished that off instead on the balcony in the hot glorious sunshine. Mr C laid down on the balcony floor and went to sleep in the sun. Later Mr C went upto Sailaway and I stayed behind to get a bit of packing sorted. Dont want to attempt it tomorrow incase there are any lumps in the sea.
Peninsular Party in Manhattan this evening and we had arranged to have a pre dinner drinks with Mr H in Planet Bar. It was a lovely calm evening and I do love the view out of the aft of Planet Bar. I spent a bit of time chatting so more or less ended up necking my glass of European Rose and we headed for the Party. Sorry Captain, and Neil, but I cant be doing with the queues to enter via your door, so we opted for the more fast track port side entrance where we were greeted by the lovely Executive Purser David Shepherd. I got kisses off him, which I doubt I would off got Captain Keith, lol. Mr H was ushered down the front of the room as he was a VIP, but it was made quite clear by the person doing the ushering that it was for ViP’s only. We stood for a few minutes surrounded by Officers of all ranks, but clearly they didn’t want to engage with us as guests so we retreated to the front and rescued Mr H from the naughty corner. Some ViP area thats was and I suggest P&O host the section if they wish to segregate their ViP’s! No exciting announcements or things we didn’t know from the Captain or the Loyalty team and then it was time for Mr H to take centre stage as the Most Travelled P&O Passenger on the Azura Grand Event Voyage. Three cheers for Mr H! After a chat with Neil, then the Captain it did mean that we were pretty late leaving the party, then on the way out we were stopped by the Chief so that was another natter. Ooops!! How late am I for dinner this evening!! The others had all gone in before me so I was left for the walk of shame a lone tonight! Parade of the Chefs this evening lol. But I wasn’t that late lol!!
Mr H had requested an evening of Dancing and Merryment this evening so thats exactly what we did! After a quiet little drink at the bar in Blue, we went straight to Manhattan and partook in a few light refreshments. And yes, Mr H and my good self did have a little jig on our own private dance floor. Oh a good time was had by all, and it went on until the wee small hours. But here’s a first, we outlasted the legend that is Mr H, lol.
On the way back to the cabin we did something that we hadn’t done all cruise, we went for a stroll along the prom deck. The cool deck on my bare feet was sheer bliss!
Friday 13th July 2012 – at sea
I don’t like last day of a cruise. They are not so bad if it is hot and sunny outside, but it wasn’t looking good out there. After breakie we went for a bit of a stroll around to give the cabin steward time to straighten the cabin up and then I attacked the rest of the packing. It all seemed easier than normal, so I must have at last perfected my case packing skills lol.
Decided to have lunch in Glass House but it was busy, like really busy! So checked out the lunchtime menu in the main restaurant, which wasn’t shouting at me so it was back to the Glass House. Still not a vacant table in sight. We sat at the bar so I could keep my beady eyes on vacating tables, but you had to be quick. As soon as someone started to gather their belongings together to leave you needed to pounce. I did apologise to the occupants of the table I ended up with, but they understood and we had a laugh. Then I remembered my drink was on the bar, lol. The logistics of how to get that back in Mr C’s absence was saved by an eagle eyed waiter. I opted for the old faithful which is fish and chips and Mr C had the surf n turf, which he said was delicious. We sat and people watched for a while and I was able to observe various other peoples tactics for gaining a seat during this busy time. Two ladys were being far too polite and kept missing every opportunity to get themselves a table to have lunch at. I could have stayed longer if my eyelids had been in tune with the rest of me. They were very heavy again so it was back to the cabin for a rest.
No cruise with Mr H onboard, would be complete without a ‘cabin pour out’ So at 7.00pm it was all round to Mr H’s cabin to help consume the three bottles of champers that he had accrued in his fridge. Oh we did have some giggles as we recollected the events of the previous ten evenings onboard Azura. It all seemed to start a long, long time ago in the Meridian Restaurant for Peninsular embarkation drinks and nibbles. In the mean time we had stood like idiots in the freezing cold wind and rain to watch some ships leave Southampton, had sipped lots of fizz, had had many, many laughs and despite a few niggles all agreed had had a good time. Me and Mr H seemed to have to do most of the champagne drinking so 3 bottles was a bit of a challenge but we did manage it. The room and the corridor seemed to have a little bit of a wobble on on the way to the restaurant. And yes, you have guessed it, it was gone 8.30pm when we arrived at the Restaurant, but it wasn’t 8.45pm so technically we are not late. Luckily for us, we had an agreement with our waiters which worked better for both us, and them, about the time that we arrived. Feroz, our waiter has been a little gem and we have told him that he may not realise it yet, but he will miss us tomorrow night lol. I will miss his debriefing every evening.
Last nights are always a bit strange and we wondered what to do and where to go. It was decided it would be Planet Bar and we sat and reflected on our Grand Event once more, but it was too much for Mr C . He was falling asleep under the skyline of whatever part of the world Friday is in Planet Bar. And so to bed. Cases had already gone at tea time. Clothes were folded into the hand baggage and sleeping under the duvet to be done.
Saturday 14th July 2012 Southampton
Oh I seen it coming – the grey skyline of Southampton! As per usual I was awake much earlier than I needed to be and Southampton unfolded infront of my eyes. It was grey and cold and miserable looking with more rain threatening. No point delaying the obvious, it was all over! So it was up early and straight to an early breakfast in the main restaurant. Table for two was easily acquired but what do you know, I was two tables away from someone loudly announcing they were staying on for the next cruise! Why do I always find the gloater on the last day, lol. I kept my breakfast nice and simple with a bit of bacon and egg to fill me up until I got home, but Mr C went for the full works. I just kept drinking more tea while he ate.
We were out of the cabin just before 8.30am and already the public rooms were filling up. I went to see if I could have a nosey in the suites on the aft of C deck but they were still occupied, so then I trecked up Riviera deck to have a look at the large inside cabins and see if I could familiarise myself with the Suites on Riviera. Then I bumped into Sharma, my favourite Butler, who used to be our table waiter regularly on the Aurora. He still remembers all the childrens names and asked after all of them. What a shame I hadn’t thought to go and look for him sooner.
By the time I got back down stairs to Mr C they were just about to start disembarkation process so we were off with the first group, collected the car keys from CPS and on our way by 8.50am
So The Grand Event was over. On 2nd April 2011, I, along with many other travel agents and cruise specialists did battle with the booking systems to try and secure every pre registration that we had for all of the Grand Event Voyages. It was a tense morning. Oriana sold out in record time, Oceana filled quickly and prime cabin locations across all seven ships disappeared before our eyes. The booking systems crashed more time than I care to remember. My nerves were on a knife edge but sheer determination enabled me to secure a booking for each and every one of my clients. All received the cabin allocation that they wanted and all were very very happy. From that moment on I started to look forward to The Grand Event!! Over the next 15 months I waited eagerly for more plans for the day to be revealed. This was a big day to me – all seven P&O ships sailing out at the same time! Imagine the horn blasting?! Imagine the party! So did it live upto my expectations?
I think its fair to say that most of us expected sailaway from Southampton on 3rd July to be a warm sunny one. After all, thats a fair enough assumption for a July afternoon. Sadly it wasn’t to be! But nobody can be to blame for the weather. With true British spirit we were determined to enjoy it no matter what, so we donned our kagools and tried really hard to enter into the spirit of it. But if you would have told me that I would be stood on a balcony clutching a cup of tea saluting HRH on Patricia I would have told you that you were barking mad, but thats how it happened. I think maybe I expected too much from the sailaway. I had it in my head, from something that I had been told somewhere along the line, that all seven ships would form a V and salute each other. So I imagined all seven ships, forming a V and sitting more or less still just off the coast of Portsmouth or the South Coast and having a right good horn blasting session. How fab would that have been? But in reality what happened was 4 of the seven ships sailed past our bow and blew their horn as they passed. We then just proceeded down Southampton water in a line, and as we passed HRH we went a little further to the port side so she could salute us. Alternate ships passing HRH on the Port and Starboard sides. I think if we had sat in a V formation and she had sat in the middle of us it would have been far more impressive. All horns blaring, and all that lol. Maybe my technical knowledge isn’t enough and its not actually possible for all seven ships to sit, or sail, in a V formation?
So what was happening onboard. Well we just about heard the announcement to say that the deck barbeque was cancelled, which was fair enough. We never really ventured out on deck due to the inclement weather, other than when we finally sailed. And, shock horror, I never claimed my free glass of sailaway fizz to toast the occasion!! The party atmosphere was lost, not that I’m sure many people ever found it. After a chilly experience in the restaurant we sat in the Blue Bar just like it was any other first night onboard a P&O Cruise. The next morning it was pretty much business as normal with nothing ever really materialising to mark this as a “Grand Event”! The plaque was unveiled by the most cruise passenger, but this was never promoted as a public event. The Heritage display, I presume, was the canvas outside the theatre? There was no special entertainment provided, no special guest artists and all in all I thought the entertainment in general was a bit to mediocre and not what I was expecting for a “Grand Event”! Dont get me wrong, Neil and his team were fantastic, they put their heart and soul into whatever they did, the sailaway partys were some of the best, but it was all what we had become to expect on any other P&O Cruise. I was expecting something ‘Grand’ Somewhere along the line. We didn’t t even have a tribute act!
On Maiden Voyages, or for crossing the line ceremony’s I have always received nicely presented certificates. I thought the one we received to confirm we were part of the Grand Event was embarrassingly poor. Something put together on photo shop. It hasn’t made it to my office wall which is a shame.
And then there was the celebratory gift to mark P&O’s 175th Anniversary. Yes, I do hear the word ‘gift’, but I would have thought for such a momentous occasion we would have received a really nice keepsake as we have done in the past for Maiden voyages and the like. But I do question P&O’s decision to give each cabin a copy of the 175th Book. This is a book that has been on general sale since January and already owned by a lot of P&O followers and fanatics. A book that was being heavily promoted onboard in the shop and the book shop, a book that had been promoted over the past few months with onboard book signings by the authors, so I don’t understand why P&O didn’t think many of us would already own it? I know budgets may be tight during these hard times, but this was not a cheap cruise. It was a premium priced cruise for a premium Grand Event, but the benefits were poor in my opinion.
The Heritage meal was a nice touch and I enjoyed seeing the three different picture menus that they produced. But at the end of the day the Heritage Menu was just a little bit of a revamped Gala Menu.
Lots of little things could have been done to recreate the magic, such as the dinner gong each evening, nostalgic evening events and daytime activities, displays of memorabilia, a themed evening for the different era’s etc. Of course they could never have created the deck party that should have been at Southampton Sailaway, but no effort was made to ever do anything in its place. We never had another deck Barbeque during the cruise. We could have had a deck party during a sea day, surely they could have thought of something along the lines of deck party/street part with nostalgic P&O footage on the big screen etc. I would just like to have seen some effort made for such a special cruise.
So, yes, for me it all fell a little flat after day one. On my return I had to question would I normally choose to cruise for 11 days to the Canary Islands in July at a higher than normal peak price? Of course the answer would be no .
But having said all of that, we did have a fantastic time on Azura, just as we always do – and I think thats it! This should have been a Grand Event, but in reality it doesn’t stand out from being any different from any other cruise that we have done with P&O. It simply didn’t live upto the hype.
At least I can say I was there!!
Full set of photographs from my Azura Grand Event Cruise can be viewed HERE