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Cruise Review: P&O Cruises Azura Caribbean – Part 8

Wednesday 27th February 2013 – Grenada

Oh dear it’s the penultimate day! And due to the timing of going to bed last night it was an early start to the day. Mr C made the tea at about 6.30am this morning – I know, it was early and we are supposed to be on holiday, but things to do, places to go. You know how it is.  Two cups of tea later I felt as if I could tackle a bit of packing and by breakfast time Mr C’s case was packed and mine was over half way there.

Breakfast in XVII was all very civilised. Nothing has changed. The menu hasn’t changed and neither have the activities on the lower decks. I sit on the XVII terrace and love watching the activities of others. There are those that have to get a certain sunbed and its the mission of the day. There are those that go out just for a ciggie and its their way of waking up, some that sit and have coffee and others that rock up with their tray laden with 3 courses just because they can.  I’m enjoying my toast, I love the fact that the toast is actually hot an edible in XVII. I’m sure it’s the only place on any ship that produces fresh warm toast. I had my fresh orange, my melon drizzled in honey with natural yogurt and a salmon bagel with egg hollandaise. Not that I like egg. Mr Egg always gets hoofed to the side of the plate, because in all my 50 years I don’t like egg yolks.

Back at the Oronsay Suite Deepak was doing his thing and having a tidy around, as he does. He was a star last night so I thanked him. I also took the opportunity to ask him about packing. Do Butlers actually provide the packing service that the brochure and pre cruise literature suggests? Well, it would seem it is the less able that actually request packing and unpacking by a Butler and even then they have to be present to make sure all is as it should be. If for any reason they cannot be present then a second crew member has to be present as a witness. So it is not very often they are called upon for packing and unpacking services. I didn’t want my packing done for me, although that would be a very nice luxury, but I wouldn’t fancy a stranger handling all my bits and bobs.

We ventured ashore with the sole intention of going on the water taxi to Grand Anese Beach and that is exactly what we did. $8 return, payable on the water taxi. We didn’t queue and were straight on the little boat and on our way. Can you believe that I sat next to two ladies that complained they were getting wet. Clue is in the name – water taxi! On arrival at Grande Anse we took the decision to take a right instead of a left at the end of the board walk. The water taxi Grande Anse Beachpeople always tell you to go left and go see Captain Jack Sparrow for sunbeds and drinks, but we always do that so I fancied being a rebel for once. We took a right and we walked, and we walked, and we walked. In fact we walked all the way to the very end of the beach past about 32 resorts! Well it seemed like it! We never really intended to walk that far but a lady said that it was really nice at that end, but it became too commercial for me, so on arrival at the very end, we turned and walked a third of the way back. Mr C was so relieved when I finally found a sun bed I liked the look of lol. It was a nice pair of sunbeds, nice soft mattresses, nice and quiet and possibly the best rum punch I have had all cruise! I must have found my sea legs today because I kept venturing into the sea all by myself. Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t do sea!!  It was nice to sit somewhere completely different on a familiar beach, it enables you to appreciate things from a different angle. The next few hours were pretty much the same, just a Grand Anse Beach Grenadaloop of rum punch, dip in the sea, natter to the nice ladies next to us, and so on. My day was fully complete when singing man came along and sang two songs to me. One being about a beautiful lady in a white straw hat! No idea who she could be lol. But soon after that we could hear the fat lady singing from the top of Azura funnels. And when the fat lady sings, you just can’t fight it! She was shouting it loud and clear that the cruise was almost over and we had to get back onboard and do boring stuff like immigration forms, luggage tags, packing. Just rubbish stuff! I reluctantly packed up by bag, and walked along the beach dragging my towel behind me. why did the Grande Anse Beach water taxicruise have to be over. I was just getting into it! Plenty of water taxis waiting to take us bag, and scurry around in the bottom of my Mary Poppins bag I was able to locate the return tickets for the water taxi. Phew, nearly had to pay again. It was oh so hot today, so very very very hot. It just made the walk back to the ship even harder.

When we got back onboard we went straight to the tranquillity of the suite and I ran a Jacuzzi. Mr C went out for pizza and for a brief moment I wondered if it would be acceptable to eat pizza in the Jacuzzi. I’m sure you will be impressed to hear that I took the decision to drag myself from the Jacuzzi to the balcony, complete with P&O bathrobe to eat said pizza!

That packing is still niggling at me. Why cant it just finish itself? Do you think Deepak would do it for me if I was desperate lol. I did a bit more but then I decided that I just couldn’t do anymore. I think I might have got too much sun on the beach today. More than likely when we were trekking the full length of the beach, as it was a little too breezy to enable me to wear my sun hat.

I had left myself a choice of outfits for this evening, but if I’m honest I just wanted to curl up in bed with the TV on and a sandwich. Mr C likes to have his glass of wine in Glass House at the start of pre dinner drinks, and I never object to a drink in my favourite Bar. Al was accusing me of leading him astray last night, lol, I can’t think what he means.  A final Benares in Sindhu is a must, so we headed there next, before the final dinner in the restaurant. The Restaurant manager and head waiter had missed us last night, but we never really seemed to build a rapport with the waiters this cruise, which is unusual. I wasn’t feeling too great from the effects of the sun, so I was glad when the meal was over Planet Bar was decided upon for our nightcap and I did wonder if I would survive for much longer. We sat in the wing looking down P&O Azura the length of the ship and reminiscing. We even reminisced back to the Grand Event cruise and commented that it would have been a good viewing point for the Grand Event Sailaway. Great idea, pity it was only seven months too late!  But oh how we giggled tonight. What we giggled about is not entirely clear, but giggling is a laugh isn’t it.

Back at the suite the cases were haunting me, they just needed the last few items in, the toiletries sorting into a bag for the day room, and a few bits and bobs putting into the hand luggage. But I was no sooner inside the suite door and I started to feel a bit queasy. I was tired, like very tired, which didn’t help. Plus, I had too much sun, and yes I had consumed a sherry or two this evening, so it was all adding up. The more I tried to just sort the cases the poorlier I felt. I just wanted it all to stop now. Take me home, just snap your fingers and put me at my own front door, now this instant! To make matter worse Mr C doesn’t do packing. He goes away a lot for work, but trust him with his own packing and all sorts of disasters occur. But now, at this present moment in time he was going to have to sort it. I may have mentioned this before, but if there is one thing I have noticed about the suite at the aft is that Azura does get a bit of a jiggle on at times. A jiggle is the only way I can describe it really. It’s sort of a fast, sideways jiggly motion. To make matters worse we were in that rough bit of sea, similar to the Bay of Biscay in Barbados, sometimes its a bit bouncy and sometimes it’s nice and smooth. Tonight it was bouncy! So back to the packing, Not only was he going to work out what needed packing, what needed wearing for the beach tomorrow, what needed wearing for the journey home, and what just needed keeping for the day room. But he also needed to read Mr Immigrations notes to see what stickers went where, what to do with security seals, how to apply the airline tags, where to stick the receipts etc. I couldn’t help him. I was curled up in a ball on the pillow space, just wanting home to appear. Somehow, bless him, he managed it. I was fine once the lights were out. I was just tired, very tired! I don’t think that’s the way its supposed to be after a ‘relaxing two week Caribbean cruise is it?

 

Thursday 28th February 2013 – Barbados

I was awake well before we berthed in Barbados. I confess it was sad to see the dockside and the crane again. Mr C was immediately despatched to do the immigration thing in Manhattan. I have no idea what goes on in there as its Mr C’s job, but he was back in a flash. I thought that was because he had left half of the required paperwork on the desk in the suite, but no we had been immigrated! Royal Caribbean was berthing just as we arrived for our final breakfast in XVII. We had our usual table by the rail, and all below us was pretty much the same as it had been all cruise.

I was keen to get on with our day and just disappear to the beach for a few hours, but I needed to transfer our hand luggage from the suite to the day room that Deepak had booked for us a few days earlier. Now that was a great perk of having a Butler! The queue was horrendous for those that didn’t have a Butler to do these errands, and if you waited for the queue to go down you ended up having to pay more for a higher grade day room. Can’t quite see why P&O charge extra for an obstructed view or outside cabin. I can see the point of charging extra for a balcony day room, but more for a window or obstructed view just seems like an excuse for extra revenue! Anyway, we had our day room booked, but we had to wait for the cabin steward on that section to clean it before we could transfer the bags. P&O want you out of your cabin by 8.30am, but don’t make day rooms available until 10.30am. I was getting a bit agitated as it was messing up my day. I kept patrolling past our inside day cabin, but it wasn’t being touched. No key in the door. We were caught between a rock and a hard place. As it approached 10.30am I think the cabin steward took the hint and started on C712 which was to be our day cabin. Time was up, my bags were going in. I only wanted to store them in the wardrobe area but I don’t think he was too impressed. I asked for a key? No, not until he had finished, but he tried to assure me that the hand luggage would be fine. He suggested I leave it there and he would leave the key in the door. Oh good idea, not! Let all and sundry invite themselves in and rob me of my passports and essentials. I won in the end and the key was granted.

BarbadosWe decided to take a cab to the beach after last weeks 30 mile trek into town lol. Luckily for us there was a mini bus just waiting for two more passengers to fill it, and those two were us. We were into town and on a sun lounger faster than we could have walked to the port gate. I confess that there are more exotic bars in Barbados we could go, but we like Dees Bar. It is what it is, the drinks are cheap, the service is first class. The view is identical to the smarter bars either side, and the welcome is more than friendly. We had a shower or two of liquid sunshine, thankfully only light ones. But we had parasols to shelter under. The rest of the party was about 30 mins behind us, and they confessed they nearly didn’t bother due to the liquid sunshine. But we all agreed it was the best decision to spend our last few hours on the beach. I was somehow cajoled into drinking beer again. I think it was something silly like 4 bottles for $10, hence why they thought I should partake in this form or refreshment. According to the lads it did not taste as good as last week when it was illegal! I love the sea in Barbados. It’s always warm, you can just stroll in and stand around looking back at the beach and the palm trees. Bliss!

Dees Bar BarbadosBut we had to face facts. The cruise was over, like it or not, the cruise was over. We needed to get back to the ship, get showered, put on some fresh clothes. We reluctantly packed up our things for the very last time. I asked Linda, who had looked after us so well keeping the drinks refreshed, to put my sun hat in her bin. But she said she would wear it and remember me.

Back onboard we couldn’t retreat to the suite, instead we had to venture into an inside cabin. It’s been a while since I habited an inside cabin, and I confess I don’t think I could ever go back. It was smaller than the actual bedroom area of the suite. The bathroom was tiny, adequate, but too small for me. I showered, washed my hair, dried and styled it as fast as I could. Then we retreated with our bags to the Glass House. Ooh disembarking Glass House P&Opeople were everywhere, some looked happy, some looked sad. Most were just sitting, not ordering drinks or eating, so we broke the mould. Mr C had a flight of wine and Bison Burger. I had a glass of white and battered fish and chips. I could see the new passengers arriving in coaches through the window. That was us two weeks ago. We kept an eye on the flight departure board and our flight was on time. I stood overlooking the Atrium for a while watching the new passengers arrive and being bombarded by the Spa staff, wine package info, would they like to book for Sindhu? Why can’t P&O just make newly embarked passengers feel welcome rather than hassled?! Personally I would rather be greeted with a friendly welcome onboard,. Can I help? And oh, if they offered a nice cool drink, now wouldn’t that be nice.

We knew our call for our flight was imminent. No point in fighting it. We had to disembark. We made our way down to deck four ahead of the announcement and arrived there just as the call was put out for all those passengers on flight TCX147 to Manchester. That was us! Piff paff puff and we were gone. Old news now. Azura had new passengers to look after.

We were straight onto a coach and on our way to Barbados airport. It was a very busy rush hour, but the driver knew what he was doing. He took a few back roads through streets and villages and we were there pretty swiftly. As soon as I got off the coach someone came over to say Hello that I have known for years. Funny how you meet people in the strangest of places. Well not that strange a place if I think about it. Now the fun begins. Airports do my nut in. Show this bit of paper, show that, show passport, where’s the pink bit of paper? You haven’t signed the blue bit of paper!  That bit of stress out of the way and next it was security scanning. In the chaos of packing last night, my makeup bag hadn’t been put in the hold case, so I feared having it all confiscated as I already had my quota of liquids. No, it passed through the scanner completely undetected. Bit worrying! Mr C meanwhile was having trauma. The first security man said he didn’t want laptops out of the case, the second one snapped that he did. Then he wanted Mr C’s crocs and his belt, and his watch. I meanwhile was trying to grab all the stuff coming out the other end of the scanner. Mr C caught up with me but realised he didn’t have his belt, he looked back and could see it was caught just inside the scanner. He reached in to get it but I thought the security guard was going to shoot him. Mr Laidback C had his back up and snapped back at Mr Guard. Ooh dear Calm Down Dear. I tried eyelash fluttering at Mr Ratty Guard and he backed down, but very reluctantly. Executive lounge, get me to the executive lounge. Ahhhh, long cold vodka and coke. Thats better! It was very busy in the lounge today, we struggled to get some seats. Nodody famous kicking around though.  After a few nibbles and cakes from the self serve buffet area, a couple of vodkas and a quick change of clothes to something warm and comfy it was time to go to the gate.

So here I am on the plane. Squashed in again like a sardine up against the side of the aircraft. I am not looking forward to this at all. We have a different man sitting on the end of our row, infact, most around us are different, so clearly those that don’t pre book seats are not offered the same seat on the return journey. There is a bit of a kerfuffle at the front of the plane. One man has dropped his boarding pass and it flew off down the runway, so crew need to wait to make sure he is who he says he is and is where he should be etc. Then there is something going on in Premium section. A lady has been allocated a seat next to someone who is taking up a bit too much room and she is not too happy. She had been split up from her husband, and it was clear she wasn’t going to be comfortable for the long flight back. A stewardess came through to economy and asked a couple with a small infant if they would give up babys seat to accommodate the lady? No, they were having non of that. After a bit more tooing and frowing, someone on the front row was moved along a seat and the premium lady came and sat in economy. Ok, can we go now? It was dark, there wasn’t a lot to see, the taxi around the airport seemed to be forever, and eventually we got faster and faster until we were off the ground. Bye bye Barbados!

The cabin crew never seem quite so chirpy on the way back to the UK, wonder if that has anything to do with them not having overnights in Barbados to look forward to? They made a few announcements about food, services, etc, but they might as well have been talking gobbldy gook because I understood non of it.  I had a plan, food, ipad tv, sleep. If only they would get on with serving the food my plan might work. Pre dinner drinks arrived first. I chose the pink fizz, but was so long waiting for the dinner that I put it in my bag for a later date. I had a bottle of sprite from the exec lounge which was a far more sensible option. Dinner was ok, not bad for airplane food, but how long did it take to get the rubbish cleared. I bet it was there best part of an hour. They had just got to the front to start serving tea and coffee and turbulence started. Oh my days, it was bad! Like really, rock and roll, shake you up and down bad. And it went on for ages. The pilot came on and apologised but it would be lasting about 45 minutes. Oh great! It was pretty scary! Of course you couldn’t take your seat belt off during that time, couldn’t go the loo. You just had to sit and be shaken. I decided to watch some Junior Doctors on the ipad. Big mistake! I had tuned into an episode where a junior doctor was trying to insert a tube up a patients nose and it was all going very wrong. He was gagging, I was gagging. I had to slam shut the lid and compose myself. Eventually the seat belt sign went off and it all calmed down, but you should have seen the rush for the loos. I needed a cup of tea, but did it come? Did it heck! No instead they served duty free, inflight shop, anything but the tea. The struggle to try and stay awake for a cup of tea was not worth it. I propped my pillow against the side of the aircraft and dozed. I can’t call it sleep. Then I put my ipad back on and watched the rest of the series of Junior Doctors. It was getting light outside. A box containing an orange juice, a yogurt and a bread roll had been delivered. That will be breakfast then! Mr C and his new seat buddy had spotted that Fawlty Towers was on someones inflight TV just infront of them. They both tuned in and laughed in unison at the tops of their voices. The whole plane was turning round to look at them. Clearly at 5.00am in the morning the rest of the passengers on the plane have lost their sense of humour. They are not amused!!

So there it is. Cold, dark miserable Manchester airport. I do not like the look of that at all. Off the plane, through immigration, down to the carousel for baggage and the wait began. How long would the cases take, it seemed like a long time. Always good when you do actually locate your own cases and you know they have got on the same flight as you. In the lift, in the car, blanket over my knees and retrace our tracks to home.

New passengers would be in our suite now. New passengers would be sat at our dining table. No more need for nice dresses and sparkly jewellery. No more need for flip flops, swimsuits or sundresses. It was all over. Filed under memories!