Disclaimer – all the photos in this post are Mr Cs because the big banana somehow deleted all my photos off my memory card. I’m not cross. Much!
In my previous post I shared how we found the travelling to Barbados. This post sees us finally arriving and I share our thoughts on the P&O Azura.
Arriving in Barbados
Finally, we arrived at Barbados. It was now about 6pm local time but 10pm UK time and as a result the children were feeling a little tired. However, they showed no signs of flagging due to the sheer excitement of being on holiday. Getting off the plane involved the usual scrum of people jumping up and trying to barge their way off. I swear that if everyone took it in turns we would be able to get off the plane a lot quicker. I think it needs to be made law that you have to wait your turn!
We finally exited the plane to find coaches waiting to transport us to the boat. We stood in line patiently and waited for our coach. This was extremely efficiently organised and it was a relief to be able to find that there wouldn’t be too much hanging around. Finally, we squeezed onto our coach, our hand luggage piled around us. P&O sort the rest of your luggage for you and the next time you see it is when you arrive at your cabin. On sitting down on the coach, Youngest promptly fell asleep. We hurtled through Barbados at what felt like a breakneck speed, but was actually probably a rather sedate and leisurely drive. We drove past palm trees that were decorated in Christmas lights; it all felt a little surreal and magical. 45 minutes later and we had arrived at the port and I had to gently wake up Youngest. Never rouse Youngest from her sleep, it’s what I imagine it feels like to wake a lion up from its sleep.
Check-in On The Azura
We arrived at the check-in desks and signed for our boat cards. Again, it was extremely efficient and we were on the Azura in no time. The ship was decorated beautifully for Christmas and the girls’ jaws hung open as they stepped on board to see the massive Christmas tree, pretend fireplace and hundreds of lights twinkling.
How We Found The Azura
The P&O Azura was going to be our home for the next two weeks and we were excited but also a little nervous. We had been a little disappointed with our previous Canary Island cruise on the Ventura because the ship had felt dated and worn in places. I have recently learnt that the Ventura is actually finishing a refit now, so I would be tempted to try the ship again to see how she has improved. I needn’t have worried about the Azura, yes she might be a bit older than some of the other ships but she has been beautifully cared for and maintained.
Our Inside Cabin
A big part of us being able to afford a cruise has been the fact that we have always been able to get away with the smallest inside cabin. I’m not sure that will be possible anymore. This time we found the cabin to be very small for all four of us. Getting ready on a morning and on an evening felt like some fiendish challenge as we all struggled to get dressed without bashing each other in the face with our respective limbs. Now that the children are 5 and 8 years-old, we really need a bigger cabin.
Despite the small size, the cabin was extremely well equipped. There is lots of hanging room for your clothes. You have a cabin steward who will bring down the upper Pullmans for you every evening. The children slept in these and found them fine. The cabin also comes with a television with films, mini bar, hairdryer and a small bathroom. The shower didn’t have the best water pressure and it had a shower curtain (one of my pet hates) but apart from that it was ok.
You don’t spend much time in your cabin so I think an inside cabin is always a good option. We might just have to consider a larger inside cabin next time.
This is a spacious ship that isn’t short on entertainment spaces. In fact, there are 12 places to drink on this ship.
Our favourite was The Glass house where we always found the service to be amazing. The Glass House is a lounge where you will find wines chosen by wine expert Olly Smith. The wine is very reasonable value and extremely tasty, be careful as you may find yourself liking it a bit too much.
We also tried The Planet Bar on a couple of evenings. The children had rehearsals (more on that later) some evenings and for the first time in a very long time, Mr C and I found that we had time to ourselves. Obviously, we did what any self-respecting parent would do, we hit the cocktails. I developed a taste for martinis. No more than two though because they were lethal and I knew that I would struggle getting down from the high bar stools. The Planet Bar also had a very cool audio-visual wall which was displaying recorded footage of scenes from around the world. We didn’t just go to the Caribbean on this cruise, thanks to that wall we saw the whole world.
There are also a number of alfresco bars around the ship. These were great when the boat was leaving port and you wanted to sit outside, watch the live entertainment and have a cheeky drink.
The Retreat Spa and Gym
I am ashamed to say that I didn’t really make the most of these facilities. I could blame the trips we were going on but really going to the gym on this holiday couldn’t have been further from my mind. The Retreat section of the ship is an adult only part of the ship and, therefore, ideal if you want to hide from your children. Obviously I never felt the urge to hide from my children *cough*.
Ask the children what they love about P&O cruises and it wouldn’t be the amazing places we visit or the terrific trips we go on, no it would be the kids’ club. We can’t keep them out of them and this trip was no different. As it was a Christmas cruise the kids’ club was doing a nativity and our two announced that they wanted to be in the play. This meant lots of rehearsals, including in the evening. This was the first time that we agreed to let the children go to kids’ club at night and it felt rather strange. Hence why I hit the cocktails. I must have been trying to drown my sorrows ;-). Kids’ Club is always really well organised and every day has a different theme. The nativity was fantastic and seeing Oldest and Youngest up on stage was a really special moment. I may have cried. Oldest even had the starring role and now thinks she is destined for international stardom. She wants to see her name up in lights.
Watch Jane McDonald on that cruise programme and you might be forgiven for thinking that cruises are all ballroom dancing and elderly couples dancing cheek to cheek across a dance floor. That isn’t what cruises are all about, but there are still your older clientele who like to dance and who are we to argue. Well, our two decided that dancing wasn’t just for the older generation and they insisted dancing cheek to cheek with each other, gliding in between the other guests. I’m not sure how the other dancers felt about their two little gatecrashers but they did get a standing ovation so they can’t have been all bad. The dancing tends to take place at the bottom of the atrium. There are also two other dance floors.
We might be in the Caribbean but it isn’t Christmas if you don’t watch Home Alone and the Azura didn’t disappoint. There is one big screen outside and they also use another screen inside the theatre. The screen outside was showing films daily. It felt rather bizarre to be watching Home Alone outside in the glorious Caribbean weather. The children loved it and it was one of the only ways that we could tempt them out of kids’ clubs.
P&O has its usual sit down restaurants included in your price. This was where we tended to eat and the food was always very good. Sometimes the service felt a little hit and miss. Also, due to the children often being at rehearsals, we sometimes ate just the two of us. This was the first time we had done this on a cruise and I’m not entirely sure that I liked it. As we don’t get to go out for dinner alone very often, we would opt for a couple table when asked. However, we might as well have said that we were happy to eat as group because our table would always be so close to others that we would feel compelled to talk to the people on the table next to us. It wasn’t all bad though because it did mean that we met some really interesting people. You will find that the Azura sit down restaurants are almost identical to the other restaurants on the P&O ships. The only thing that tends to change is the artwork.
There is also a buffet restaurant and a buffet next to the pool that serves salads, chips, burgers, pizzas and hot dogs; this is all included in your price. Finally, you have a selection of paid restaurants where you can pay if you feel like treating yourself to an extra special meal. One of the paid restaurants on the Azura is an Indian restaurant created by Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar. The Glasshouse was also doing a special wine and meal pairing night. As we were determined to have one romantic meal we booked ourselves in. This was £30 for 5 courses and wine matched to each course. We were rather dismayed when we arrived to find that we had been sat on a table with another couple. So much for our romantic meal. As we were paying for this meal we naively assumed that we would be put on a table by ourselves. However, the couple were really lovely and it was a fantastic meal. It just would have been nice to have been informed of the fact we would be sharing a table when we booked.
There is so much entertainment on the ship. Too much to go into in this post but you will find courses, movies, comedians, singers, live bands, quizzes and theatre shows. You can normally find something to keep you entertained. There is also a small library.
On the Azura you will find a fantastic Whitewall art gallery. There was also a jewellery shop and other shops stocking books, make-up, clothes, perfume and spirits. They do stock well-known brands like Benefit, Joules but I’m not sure they are cheaper than buying back home. Also, you need to bear in mind that they might not have the greatest range of products. I managed to pack two odd nude high heels, both with different height. I only discovered this when I went to put them on and realised that my left leg felt shorter than my right one. Walking in them meant that I felt as if I was leaning to one side. I clearly couldn’t wear them so I headed to the shop to buy a new pair of heels. They didn’t have any and so formal nights saw me wearing a pair of sparkly flip flops. Not the best look.
As mentioned earlier, the service was very hit and miss on the Azura. Sometimes we would be waiting for ages and then the next time we would find ourselves constantly being offered drinks. This was also the first time we had been on a P&O cruise and found ourselves subjected to hard sells for additional events. It felt like someone was trying to sell us something every time we sat down. I understand that they have a job to do and they are probably working on commission but I don’t want to feel constantly harassed. We were even subjected to the hard sell when we were having dinner one evening. It felt very intrusive and I really hope that P&O stop doing this.
The Trips And The Itinerary
This Caribbean cruise had a great itinerary and there were some fantastic trips including snorkelling, sailing with pirates, swimming with turtles and lazing on the beach. This is a whole other post though and I will share the ports we visited and the trips we went on over the coming weeks.
Overall, we were really impressed with the P&O Azura and we had a great Caribbean cruise. Our verdict is that this is a great cruise for families.
In my next Caribbean cruise post I will be talking about our first port – Barbados!
Also, check out my Instastories highlights where I shared our Caribbean cruise.