At the end of March 2017 we booked a two-night “taster cruise” with P&O (UK) aboard the ship Azura departing Southampton on the Friday, hitting Zeebrugge on the Saturday then returning to Southampton for the Sunday morning. This would be our first cruise with P&O and we picked it for a number of reasons:
- pretty cheap as cruises go,
- we were familiar with the ship layout having cruised on Grand-class ships before so were intrigued to see what differences the decor would make,
- with an upcoming cruise on Princess in June and an arrangement where P&O cruises count towards Princess loyalty (but not vice versa) this would allow us to advance a level before that and gain a few perks.
We had a balcony room, A610. Identical layout to a Princess standard balcony room with slightly different colours used inside, as you’d expect. Differences included the UK plug sockets, a kettle to make your own tea and coffee, and a bowl of sweets. Fully intending to steal the sweets before disembarking we discovered the bowl was emptied before heading to bed on the second night. A couple of bottles of water were provided free while a larger bottle of water and a stocked mini-fridge would incur additional charges if used.
The view from the balcony was what we expected: we weren’t overlooked on our deck but could see down onto the deluxe balconies (mini-suites on Princess) below; the balcony was a good size allowing the chairs to be moved and positioned easily (as opposed to Royal-class ships operated by P&O or Princess).
Dropping our carry-on luggage in the room we then headed off to orient ourselves and see what the ship had to offer. One of the first things we discovered was that the ship’s deck was dotted with various pieces of art sculptures by Andrew Sinclair.
The rest of the top deck was very familiar to us – swimming pools where you’d expect them, for instance – and a band was performing live as part of the pre-sailaway party.
Inside the Azura things were less familiar on account of the names, functionality, but mostly decor of the various spaces. The atrium, for instance, felt very enclosed on account of its dark colours and bold, black columns. There was definitely the sense that you were in a flashy, modern hotel in some big city rather than a luxurious ship. Some seating at the bottom of the atrium did look appealing, though.
Malabar was Azura’s equivalent of Explorer’s on Princess. The decor here was pretty decent but we can’t comment on the venue itself as the trip was too short to experience any event in it.
Manhattan was the larger venue on the same deck, equivalent to Vista on Princess. There were plenty of New York-style and deco references in fitting with the name of the place and a cabinet with some interesting shoes on display which caught my wife’s eye. We very briefly wandered down to Manhattan on the first evening and very quickly left again as it was very noisy and fully-packed. The short cruise encouraged a bit of a party atmosphere on board and it felt like most of the ship was present. While it might have been fun and probably great for people-watching we suspected getting a drink would prove to be nearly impossible and we’re fond of the odd drink.
The Planet Bar would prove to be the place where we spent the ends of both evenings on board Azura. Equivalent to Skywalkers on Princess this was more of a quiet, live music venue than a disco with its strangely compelling feature being the wall-mounted screens showcasing various vistas from around the world.
A few more interior shots of the cruise ship Azura.