I have been back from Azura for 2 weeks now and it feels like months. It doesn’t take long for reality to kick in does it?
If you hadn’t already gathered it from reading my blogs of the cruise, it really was an excellent Caribbean cruise. The best to date for sure! We had the best of times and shared it with some fantastic company. The laughs were too many to mention. But…. you had to be there!
Ive realised since writing this that I never mentioned about the man that nearly missed the ship in St Lucia.Captain Paul was not a happy bunny, and quite rightly so. The ships company had already made final checks, and the ship had been cleared to depart. Gangways were in and watertight doors closed. But then a man walked onto the dockside from the now closed duty free area and was faced with a ship about to sail. As you can imagine there was a fair bit of cheering from on looking passengers already onboard. Captain Paul soon advised us that our departure time was very very tight this evening as we had to fit in with aircraft arrival and departures on the runway very close by. Clearly we couldn’t be in its flight path when one needed to take off or land. So a late passenger was not too well received because getting the ship secured again, and water tight doors opened, was going to take time. As the man concerned was able bodied and able to do so, we were advised that he would be put into the pilot boat and bought to the ships side once we had cleared the dockside. Clearly the man concerned was very embarrassed as he boarded the pilot boat and sat with his back to the ships side for the duration of the whole procedure. By now 90% of the starboard side was hanging over their balconys, plus a lot more beside on prom and sun decks. He never looked up once! Nor did he look up when he was bought alongside the ship to climb back in. I don’t know if this involved a rope ladder or whether he was simply able to climb back via a watertight door. I did wonder if Captain Paul had words, but I doubt the passenger concerned will ever do it again. Needless to say, nobody was late back to the ship in any of the other ports!
As you have probably gathered The Retreat was a disappointment for me. I was so looking forward to my day in there and it didn’t live upto my expectations. I have since spoken to others that had very similar experiences to us, and I have read reviews that also mention the same. It’s such a shame as I had received really good feedback from many of my clients, hence why I wanted to experience it for myself. I can only put it down to poor spa management during our cruise? Poor customer service really rattles me and the fact that the Spa manager never got in touch with me after my discreet comments to the reception staff, rattled me more than the experience itself! Next time I am onboard Azura I hope to give it a second try.
The GlassHouse is one of my favourite venues on the ship. Loved the food, and the fact that it offered a good alternative dining option during the day and the evening. I like the fact that it explained all the wines in a really simplistic way, in a language that I could understand instead of all that flowered up nonsense that usually describes a wine. I wasn’t so impressed that they ran out of so many of the more popular ones though. I have never really known that on a ship. Clearly it is a very, very popular venue, both during the day and the evening, and I am fairly confident that there will be a Glass House onboard Ventura in the near future!
The two ships, Azura and Ventura, do have their physical differences. Some of them quite obvious, and some of them very subtle. The most obvious ones being the Seascreen and Glass House. The sea screen seemed an odd place to me. Always popular during the day with every sunlounger taken, but not that many people appeared to be there for the film – until you dared to pause and stand infront of one of them for more than a nano second and then the gust of ‘tuts’ was often enough to blow you over the rails into the pool! I did wonder if people preferred to be there because the sunloungers had mattresses on? Whatever the reason, it was popular place to sunbathe so get there early if you want a lounger. Its not for me to extol the benefits of a movie being played while at sea or in port, because I don’t watch films and wouldn’t even have the TV on in the cabin if it weren’t for Mr C. The noise from it didnt seem to travel and I cant say that I ever heard it from the neighbouring coral pool area.
I heard nothing but praise for Seventeen, but we didn’t dine in there during the evening, so again thats another one for next time!
Sindhu – didn’t seem to have the buzz of East and I would have liked to have seen a daily special like they do in East on Ventura. Having said that we had a great night in Sindhu and would go back. The waitresses were all charming and explained the courses etc. The bar area was used more because it was more open to the main walkway of Prom deck, and again I think that East on Ventura will eventually be remodelled to be opened up in a similar sort of way. It was a great people watching bar, which will always be a pastime of mine!
Brodies was really popular, and I spent more time in there than I would have imagined. It was lively until late most evenings and one of our favourite bartenders was in there too, so that will always be a draw. It was clearly more popular than Manhattan which never seemed to have anyone in on the nights we investigated.
Planet Bar just seemed a bit lifeless this time around and I felt the decision to make it a quiet bar was not the best use of this lovely room. We never found it very popular until the end of the cruise when a lot of passengers seemed to go and investigate what they had missed out on.
Malabar always seemed popular and I don’t think we walked through there, pre or post dinner, to find it anything but busy. Cabaret, dancing and piano recitals seemed to be the main mix of entertainment.
It was really nice to walk through the top of the Atrium most nights and look down to see passengers enjoying the dance floor, which is another new addition to Azura. This always added to the atmosphere as it filtered up through the atrium.
I did t use the theatre. We stuck our heads in on occasion, but sitting still and being quiet will always send me to sleep after a meal and some wine, so we stayed out of there.
The deck parties and sailaway parties were excellent. I dont think I have seen a Tropical party so well attended in years! The sailaway parties were fab and full of dancing and singing, but if its not your cup of tea there are more than enough quiet areas to retreat to.
In general, Azura did ‘feel’ very much like the Ventura. I didn’t feel the ‘elegance’ or ‘Aurora’ feel that so many speak about. I put this down to the fact that Azura was in the Caribbean for fly cruises. For me it ‘felt’ no different to the fly cruises I have experienced on the Ventura the last couple of years. Im sure that when she returns to her Southampton cruises the elegance ambiance will return, and hopefully I will be back onboard to experience it.
The ports – well I’m just happy if the sun is shining in the mornings, and never really select a cruise for the actual ports of call. I might pick on destination in general or timing etc. It was overcast in St Lucia and the liquid sunshine was a bit heavy early on in Barbados and Grenada, but it was soon gone and forgotten. According the ships log the temperature was frequently recorded as 29 degs, but it felt much much hotter than that some days on the beach. Thank goodness for the Caribbean sea, and the rum punch!
The flight delays were unfortunate. I have clients on P&O departures every Friday and Saturday, and it is rare to have flight delays for anything other than the weather. Yes, I was disappointed when I first heard about the delay, like I said, I became my own worst client! I wanted my holiday to start when it should have started. But in reality it made no difference at all to our cruise. We arrived at silly o’clock on Saturday morning, instead of early afternoon on the Friday. But I think it helped me slip into the new time zone much quicker and I didn’t feel anywhere near as shattered as I usually do during the Saturday in Barbados. P&O did all they could to ensure we got out to join the ship and looked after us for the inconvenience. I will never forget how welcoming our cabin looked as we opened the cabin door that morning. It was so cool and inviting. Everything was pristine. Fresh sandwiches, water, wine, a welcome onboard note on the bed, and a letter explaining what P&O intended to do for us. I was instantly relaxed and more than happy to sit on the balcony and be thankful that I was there.
P&O charter flight do make it simplicity itself, with flights from regional airports, no baggage reclaim at the other end and coaches waiting to take you from the aircraft steps directly to the ships side in Bridgetown. Im not a lover of flying, but I can just about survive the eight and half hours in the sky knowing what will be at the other end.
Azura is a fabulous ship, with something for all age groups. P&O has an uniqueness that I never seem to experience on any other cruise line. I feel welcome. I feel like I belong. I feel like we and the passengers around us are the only ones to have ever set foot up the gangway. Its our ‘home’ for the duration of the cruise, not a just a floating resort or holiday destination. This contributes to a relaxed atmosphere and a great time onboard. I need to return to Azura sometime soon to try all the venues etc that we simply never found time for this time around.
So yes, all in all, a fabulous cruise, on a fabulous ship. One that I can highly recommend!