By Deborah Stone, Cruise Critic contributor (4.0)
The ship, which is the second ship of this size for P&O (the first was sister ship Ventura, which was launched in 2008), will be familiar to fans of Princess Cruises, as it is built on the same design as Princess' Grand-class ships. Yet Azura definitely oozes P&O's traditional style: full dress codes, afternoon tea, deck games and ballroom dancing. Dancing is especially popular, and dancing sessions feature prominently in the daily programme. There is always something happening on one of the ship's three dance floors, including the wooden one in the atrium, which hosts regular dance evenings.
While these much-loved favourites strike a chord with P&O aficionados, some innovative firsts, such as new dining venues and entertainment options, are exciting repeat passengers and attracting new ones too. Many of these now established features -- such as SeaScreen (the new outdoor cinema) and the adults-only Retreat sun deck -- have been borrowed from sister line Princess.
Azura is marketed as a family-friendly ship and has clubs for children ranging from 2 to 17, plus a good range of sports courts for tennis, football and basketball. Children over 14 are also allowed in the excellent gym if accompanied by an adult.
However, couples and singles are well catered for with sophisticated evening venues such as The Glass House -- a wine bar and restaurant for which TV wine expert Olly Smith has selected 32 different wines for cruisers to enjoy -- and the Sindhu restaurant, where the menu is by Michelin starred Indian chef Atul Kochhar. In all there are nine restaurants and 10 separate bars including the night club style Planet Bar with a giant plasma screen.
Passengers who prefer an adults-only vacation can book into The Retreat, a stylish sun terrace with cabanas for alfresco spa treatments. It has easy access to the spa and thermal suite plus its own pool -- one of four pools on the ship. There are also the well-publicised solo cabins. The fact that there are no extra supplements to pay is great news for single travellers -- but be warned, you will need to plan ahead to nab one of these cabins as there are only 18.
Evening entertainment is a mix of family and adult entertainment ranging from tribute bands to West End shows and dancing until the small hours.
Overall, P&O has done a good job of making sure everything runs smoothly. The staff work hard and create a pleasant atmosphere for passengers, the entertainment and dining options are appealing, and the new additions give the right amount of extra sparkle to this mainstream ship.
Azura's increasing number of mini-cruises are popular with younger folk, including 40-somethings. Azura is also popular with solo passengers thanks to its 18 purpose-built single cabins and activities for single travelers. The welcome mat is rolled out for solo passengers, as the ship offers singles meet-ups, including a number of solo afternoon tea parties and "travelling alone" get-togethers with crew and officers.
The dress code is announced in the Horizon daily paper and enforced from 6 p.m. in the Meridian, Peninsular and Oriental Restaurants, as well as the speciality Sindhu and Seventeen Restaurants and The Planet Bar and Blue Bar. A men's black tie hire service is available through P&O's Web site for pre-cruise bookings. Swimwear is never allowed in any indoor bar, restaurant or lounge.
|First time and last time cruiser.|
August 2014 yannolian
I booked the cruise after several family members told me of their wonderful cruise experiences. How disappointed I was. Firstly, may I say how good all the staff were, especially the buffet staff. I felt however really let down by the lack of ...continue
|Cutting corners will not work|
August 2014 rich12
What has happened to P&O?
This was our 10th cruise with P&O and they seem to be getting progressively worse every time
Embarkation was quick and easy as always. Cabin ready by 2.00pm.
Like a ...continue
|A touch disappointed|
August 2014 Andrei11
I will try to be as balanced as possible. Let me start by saying that we are in our 40's and cruised with many different lines but this was the first with P & O and from Southampton.
Was not impressed with the itinerary change a few ...continue
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