On Friday I set sail aboard P&O Cruises’ Azura on a seven-day voyage from Southampton to the stunning scenery and fjords of Norway.
I arrived at Southampton’s Ocean Terminal around midday and encountered a very efficient and organized embarkation experience which took no more than twenty-five minutes in total, which was not bad at all. Anyway I was onboard the largest ship in the P&O Cruises fleet and heading on up to the upper decks since all staterooms were still being prepared for occupancy. I was amazed at how busy the ship was already; however after a little bit of wandering around I managed to find myself a nice table outside in the shade where I could sit down, relax and grab a bite to eat.
Almost immediately after sitting down I was approached by a waiter asking would I like a drink. I asked for a Coca Cola, however almost immediately after saying what I wanted I was being flogged the “summer value soft-drink package”. This is where I could get twenty “pint-sized” Coca-Cola drinks for £30 odd something. This sounded like it was quite a good offer until I found out that this applies to draught drinks only. Now if you have cruised before like me you will probably know that the majority of cruise lines use “post-mix” versions of Coca Cola etc; which is then served draught. Now I know that this sounds like a rant however I personally, nor do quite a few people I know like the draught versions of Coca Cola. . . it tastes horrible. So in the end I asked if it would be possible to just have a can of Coke instead, not realizing that the ship only had the small mixer-sized bottles of the drink that were £0.90 each. A mixer can wasn’t even enough to fill the whole glass, even with a load of ice too. So you can assume that I spent a small fortune on soft-drinks this cruise!
Now on to the buffet. Although there were two, they felt quite small and more than often always crowded. And one of the biggest pet peeves of mine is seeing people not use the many hand sanitizers that are located around the food areas, even when there are crew members standing right beside them. There is always the risk of norovirus and other illnesses anywhere, but more so on a cruise ship. And after being told about the precautions during the muster drill and finding several leaflets in ones stateroom; you would think that people would get the message.
My balcony stateroom (L303) was located on the Lido deck on the starboard side at the forward end of the ship. It was a decent size with plenty of storage space, comfortable beds, a nice bathroom and a good sized-balcony. The stateroom was a little smaller than those I have had on other cruise lines, however there is more than enough space for two people, even though I had the entire stateroom to myself. Each stateroom also featured tea and coffee making facilities, something of which lacks on American ships. On a positive note, I was located on the same deck as the swimming pools and the buffet venues, so it was only a short walk to grab a little dessert before bedtime.
I was assigned to the 20:30 dining time in one of the ships‘ main restaurants. On P&O Cruises, you can elect to dine at the fixed time of 18:30 or 20:30 each evening, or opt for the freedom dining option which allows you to dine at a time that suits you with just a minimal wait. The menu was okay and the food was average, however I felt that my Chicken Breast with Chips and Gravy was very salty. They certainly were not using Bisto! So after dinner I headed on up to the buffet on my way to bed and ended up picking up a couple of shortbreads to munch on before retiring for the evening.