We are having simply the best time ever onboard P&O Azura. I can highly recommend a Caribbean Cruise in January. What a way to start the year. Hope you are enjoying the updates from the hot and sunny Caribbean. Catch up with our adventures in Tortola and a typical day at sea.
Saturday 15th January 2011 – Tortola
I woke up this morning just as we were approaching Tortola a view of hill glided by and the next thing I knew we were berthing starboard side to. The aft end of a ship already berthed started to unfold along the side of the balcony and from my bed I could identify it as a Celebrity purely via the view of its balconys! How sad is that? Ive turned into some kind of freak ship spotter who can identify ships by looking at glass partitions on balcony’s. I should really have rolled over and gone back to sleep, but there was a day of Caribbean sunshine ahead of me. Why change the habit of a lifetime, so we started with breakfast under the bridge wing. We do wonder if the bridge observe our morning ritual via the fish eye under the bridge. Our American cousins are all piling off the Millennium and a couple of guys with metal detectors are attracting attention. What would posses anyone to want to pack metal detectors for a cruise? We were off the ship fairly early and straight onto a waiting open sided bus for the journey to Cane Garden Beach. Its worth every cent of the $8 one way fare, just for the scenic journey. It got a bit hair raising in places with some of the huge pot holes and in places total loss of road where it had slipped down the hill side. Cane Garden Beach was mega busy and it wasn’t much after 10.00am when we arrived. To see this beach at its best you really do have to arrive before 9.00am. We eventually found a row of vacant sun beds right on the waters edge and we were happy and settled. The sea was a bit fierce today with some angry looking waves rolling in, they were catching a lot of people unaware and taking paddlers off their feet. The tide often swept right up the beach and under or sun loungers, which again was a musing watching other peoples flip flops etc get caught up and float out to sea. Best pastime of the day became watching the people arriving on the tours for the beach stop and them standing admiring the sea. Next thing they knew a wave would sweep around their feet and they would not be impressed with wet trainers and shoes. Me and Mr C had a lovely wander right upto the far end of the beach and back. It really is a lovely beach, just a shame that it attracts so many people. The sun was very very hot as it poked its head around the palm trees, and it wasn’t easy for me to get in and out the rough sea to cool down. Mr C had a total blonde moment and dived in the sea wearing his sunglasses! That was the last we saw of those! The metal detector guys from the Celebrity ship were up and down the beach but we didn’t see them pick up any sunglasses.
At 1.45pm we decided enough was enough and we needed to head back to the ship, get out of the sun and where better place than Pussers Bar! We walked off the beach, straight into one of the many waiting mini buses. This was a real one with doors and windows but it was so hot in there even with the air conditioning on. It was so hot, the windows were scalding and Im sure you could have fried and egg on them.
We were soon back on the ship, washed, showered and changed and walking back into town to Pussers. As we suspected it was rammed, but we walked in and went straight to a vacant table. Lynn and I were sensible and started on Painkiller #1, but Mr C felt the need to go straight in for #4. Even Rod seemed on a mission with his Nelsons Blood! We ordered three plates of food to pick at and I was disappointed that the grumpy waitress didn’t serve us. She is so grumpy, she’s fun! We had ‘secret recipe’ Pussers chicken wings, cheese and bacon melt spicy fries, and nacho’s. Yum! We soon polished those off so Mr C ordered another plate of jerk chicken wings. By now he was on Painkiller #4 x 3! The place was emptying out which was getting quite worrying, but I think it was the Thomson Destiny crowd who must have vacated, because by the time we got outside at 5.00pm the ship was nowhere to be seen, so had clearly weighed anchor and sailed off. We had a look round the shop and some tango orange shirts caught the lads eye. Next thing we knew they were making purchases with plans to be the same at dinner this evening. The poor woman serving them has obviously seen drunken men making rash purchases in the past. She even humoured them and their silly little Monty Python sketches etc. Quite why Mr C was trying to sell her a cruise via a well known, award winning, travel agent is beyond me. But he insisted she had a business card and he left very clear instructions about checking my facebook page! We got outside and the ship was still there! Phew! It was a long quiet walk though and I was half expecting the ship to slip away at any minute. But Im sure the lovely Captain wouldn’t slip away without the Chadwick onboard. He wouldn’t dare : )
No time for sleeps or the sailaway party. I had a little bit of work to catch up and wardrobe planning for the night ahead.
We are dining in Sindhu this evening so pre dinner drinks in the bar there. But first I had to have a diversion to the Swarovski sale in the shop onboard. Luckily for Mr C there was nothing that enticed me, or nothing that I didn’t already have.
I ordered the other speciality cocktail in Sindhu. I had tried the other one the other night, and although it was nice it was far more of a deck drink than a pre dinner drink. So tonight I ordered the other one, which a was long drink but when it arrived the waitress knew it wasn’t to my liking so it was taken back and we opted for glasses of champagne instead. Avalon popped by to see how we were doing and we tried in vain to get the choice of cocktail menu put to rights. Avalon feels our frustration at not being able to get the drinks we want to drink on deck etc, simply because they are not loaded on the micros. We need a weeks consultation with P&O to get the drinks menu kicked into touch.
We were a little late going through to dinner but it didn’t affect the service. As we have come to expect from the likes of Orchid and East etc the service was slick and professional. Menu choice and my own personal tastes would still give preference to Orchid, then East and then Sindhu. But everything we had was very nice. The lamb was getting very good praise from the lads. We chose the chicken lavender (or was it violet?) infused korma, which was nice but I was full from the delicious starter and complimentary cup-a-soup from the chef. I had the orange and pomegranate trifle for desert. Now that was to die for! The bread and butter pudding also seemed a big hit.
If you are celebrating a birthday onboard and want something really special, can I suggest you celebrate in Sindhu. It has got to be the most entertaining and exciting celebration of ‘Happy Birthday’ that I have ever seen at sea. Loved it! It wasn’t our birthday by the way but a table close by.
By the time we had taken desert, after dinner liqueurs, coffee etc it was getting on for 11.30pm. where does time go at sea? We had arranged to meet with Avalon in Grey Bar (sorry Blu Bar) and we thought he might have thought we had stood him up. We had a very sociable evening in there and Avalon introduced us to the English Garden Martinis. Why have we not discovered these before? They are to die for. Simply wonderful! In other words we like! You see this is why we miss the old school bar staff. They know about drinks and their experience is being overlooked. I suppose this is why Avalon is now a BM. He just needs to pass his skill and knowledge onto the new boys now. Unfortunately Avalon couldn’t stay out and party but left in the knowledge that he had ensured his passengers were happy and we partied on until the bar was closing, and the ghostbusters were in doing their cleaning duties.
The lads had come up with some pathetic challenge to try and out do us and stay up later than us. That failed miserably when Rodders from Team Orange caved in and went to bed at about 1.00pm. Mr C was under the impression that he could still out do us and couldn’t see that he had already got a failed mission as half his team were missing. We wandered down to Brodies much to Cliffords shock! I think he thought he had a night off with us ladies being safely tucked up in bed hours again, but oh no. We continued to play along with Mr C’s little game of who could stay out the latest. I knew he couldn’t resist the feel of his soft white Egyptian sheets on him. He took some convincing and was so sure he could resist them that he allowed us to take him upto the cabin just to have a look at them. Yes, we had him! He took one look at the bed, unbuttoned his shirt and admitted defeat. Team Orange had been defeated by two girls! I think that also means we get £150!
Sunday 16th January 2011 – at sea
Breakfast under the bridge wing where else! A unique little venue, that has become our frequent early morning breakfast location. This morning was no exception and we were there at 8.00am for 8.30am. Flying fish are in abundance and some dolphins would have been cool, but it wasn’t to be. We were on the early morning shaded side but it was hot! Too hot can you believe? Elsewhere on the ship people seemed to be scurrying about on a mission leaden with towels and books, and I knew that was going to be a bad sign for when I eventually did want to venture on the deck. I didn’t exactly make a choice about how my morning panned out, but me and the laptop spent quite a bit of time together in the coolness of the cabin. Mr C tried sitting on the balcony, but it was too hot so he took refuge at Beakers Bar with a cold bottle of beer. I eventually got outside to join him but the heat was intense. Not even a hint of a breeze out on the open deck. People were laid frying like they had never seen sun before.
The steel band were playing and a barbeque was around the Coral Pool, but queuing for a burger with people in swimwear in this heat is not my kind of fun, so we chose to eat in GlassHouse. So much more civilised. The menu had changed since last week, and we both had Catch of the Day. Very nice indeed, and for a small cover charge of £4.95pp. Very reasonable for alternative dining. Our own personal drinks advisor, Avalon, had told us last night to try and Canadian Fizz. You see this is why experienced crew with knowledge are invaluable. I would never have thought to try a fizzy wine made from frozen grapes, but I will be drinking more! It was very nice indeed and I managed two glasses.
After lunch we went off on a bit of a wander. First stop for me was the Library to see the internet manager. I had wondered why I hadn’t received 20 minutes internet credit for purchasing the top package of internet time at the beginning of the cruise. It seemed to have been standard practice for years that when you purchased the 240 minutes, at £65, you got the 20 mins free if you made the purchase within the first 24 hours departure. His response was that it doesn’t apply to all ships in the fleet, which seems a little bit odd. My internet time is all used up, so I asked if there was any special deal for purchasing another top package, and sadly there isn’t.
Next stop was tours. Im not a lover of Curacao due to those dam lizard things that roam the beaches like they own the place! Mr C flicked through the tour guide but didn’t see anything inspiring so we didn’t book a tour.
Gemma, Future Cruise & Loyalty, was the final port of call. I needed to ask about Future Cruise Credits and deposit as the deposit amount seemed to have changed. Of course, as a travel agent I am already aware of the scheme I had been advised that it was a £200 future cruise payment, which is then used as a deposit or part deposit for when you eventually book a cruise back home through your regular ABTA travel agent. In return you would also receive additional and generous amounts of OBC for the booking, just as you would have done if you had already confirmed a booking whilst onboard. The system now seems a little simpler. You simply make a future cruise credit payment of £50pp and in return you get an additional £50pp onboard credit of a future cruise booking that you make with your regular travel agent. You have also paid £50 towards your deposit. The future cruise credit lasts for 12 months and you can book any cruise during the 12 month period to receive the credit.
I had my first ride of the cruise in a glass lift upto deck 15. We walked all around deck 15 looking for Lynn n Co, but it was my idea of hell out there. Baking hot, to an unbearable degree (this is coming from me who loves the sun) and sunbeds laid out without any consideration for fellow passengers. If someone had spotted a space, they had laid a bed in it. I knocked a few as I walked past them out of sheer devilment so as to disturb them for their inconsideration of not leaving a pathway to allow movement of passengers and stewards. There were large groups of chairs all over the place with sunbathing towels and books where their occupiers had no doubt nipped back inside away from the blaze of the sun. This is the point at which I realise my ideal ship is either a Cunard Grill class, where I would have a dedicated deck of comfortable sun loungers and plenty of space. That to me, is the equivalent of having a small ship feel on a larger ship. Or of course I could choose to sail with the luxury brands such as Silversea and Regent etc and really have some space! Of course, if I had enjoyed the Retreat, that could have been my ideal venue!
We retreated to the cabin. Mr C laid on the bed and was gone within nano seconds. Looks tempting, so I snuck under the duvet and the next thing I knew the canapés were being delivered, so it must be ticking on toward evening. I threw open the balcony doors but the heat from the sun hit you full on. It really was very very hot, but I keep telling you that don’t I?!
Black and White night and Portunus party this evening. Could be another Boys V’s Ladies, late night stop up challenge ahead of us, so just as well I have fitted in some sleep.
Pre party drinks in the Blue Bar gave us plenty of frock watching opportunities, before moving onto the Portunus Party in Manhattan. Kisses from the Captain and hugs from Neil, what more can a girl want! We were well looked after with drinks and it was a very sociable affair. Gala dinner was very nice too although the cherries jubilee didn’t come near to those served on Queen Victoria. Oh, I was so spoilt on Queen Victoria.
There were all sorts going on in and around the ship. Black & white ball, Night at the Oscars, theatre show, double karaoke, dancing in the Atrium. We chose to go back to blue and drink our new found English Garden Martinis. We must have been tipsy because we had a portrait photo taken which looks very nice. The boys declared that there was no challenge this evening and retreated to their beds, leaving Lynn and I sitting in Blue Bar until the early hours putting the world to rights. We left there well after lights out and were shocked to see Brodies still absolutely packed with Karaoke in full swing. Had there been a bar stool with our name on it we might of stayed, but there wasn’t so we took a carriage to our suites.