Finally, I am writing up our review of the Christmas trip aboard the P&O Azura. It’s only taken me three months! Now this trip had been booked nearly two years in advance and by the time the trip rolled round, none of us could quite believe that we were finally going.
Flying Out To Gatwick
This was our first time flying out to a cruise and I was nervous about how the children would cope, and also how I would cope with the flying and the children. The start of the trip didn’t bode well. We had left ourselves plenty of time to get to Gatwick from Jersey. In December, the island can become fogbound meaning that you are often unable to get off the island for days at a time. On arriving at the airport we learnt that our EasyJet flight was delayed. Not the best of starts. However, after what felt like the longest delay ever, but was probably only about an hour, we were finally on the plane and taking off.
Hampton by Hilton Hotel
On arriving at Gatwick we checked into our hotel, Hampton by Hilton. It was a large corner room, the bathroom was pleasant and everything was clean. Mr C and I had a large double bed and the girls shared a fold out settee bed. We had booked online, months in advance, and as a result we managed to get the room at a really good price.
Everyone slept well and the next morning we grabbed breakfast from downstairs in the hotel. Breakfast was an uninspiring buffet, consisting of congealed beans and some rather sad looking and very rubbery scrambled eggs. As we had a whole day to kill, and it was also Youngest’s birthday, we decided to head over to the retail park at Crawley where they have a good selection of restaurants and a cinema. We watched Paddington Bear 2, which if you haven’t seen it you must! Hugh Grant makes the most dastardly villain and is a joy to watch.
We were all a bit overawed by the cinema as it felt massive (especially compared to our little cinema on Jersey) and we were very excited to discover it even had a Starbucks. Needless to say, Mr C and I filled up on caffeine.
After the film we headed to Frankie and Benny’s for Youngest’s birthday lunch. It was really good value and it was the usual fare you would expect from the restaurant. Hardly a tastebud sensation but it kept the children happy. In fact, the girls loved Crawley so much so that we needn’t had bothered with the cruise!
Getting to Crawley Retail Park From Gatwick Airport
Getting to Crawley we had used the airport’s taxi service which roughly cost us £15. Coming back, we used a local firm and it was half the price. Therefore, it is well worth finding the number for a local taxi firm.
Jetting Off To Barbados
The next morning we rose early as we thought that there would be long queues at check-in. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we were able to walk straight up to the check-in desks. It was quick and painless. Our luggage was all checked in and we were asked the usual routine questions. There was a close call when the girls were asked if we had packed their Christmas presents. We had to tell the lady that we were hoping that Father Christmas would be able to find us on the boat, whilst trying to give her a look that shouted “THEY BELIEVE IN FATHER CHRISTMAS”!
We then walked through security. It might have been a Friday during the Christmas holidays but we didn’t have to wait long and it was very fast and efficient. As per usual, I was the only one pulled aside and I found myself put in the strange machine that scans your whole body. I managed to refrain from doing jazz hands. We had quite a bit of time to waste before the flight so we headed to Jamie’s Italian where we filled up on breakfast. We always like Jamie’s in Gatwick and find the food to be really tasty. It’s not the cheapest but there is a Jamie’s deli attached where there is more of a limited menu and the food is ready to go and as a result it is more cost efficient. We like sitting in the main restaurant as we find that the servers don’t rush you out and that means you can just enjoy the view and watch the planes taking off and landing.
The Shops At Gatwick
After Gatwick we looked around the shops. There isn’t a huge amount of shops for such a big airport. You have the usual duty free and WH Smith and then Jo Malone, Jack Wills and Harrods to name a few. Again, we found that our plane was delayed and we getting quite impatient as we had already been at the airport for ages. I felt like I was turning into Tom Hanks from the film, The Terminal. To pass the time we went to WH Smith and stocked up on some holiday reading, sticker books and sweets!
On Our Way – TUI Dreamliner
Finally, after about a 2 hour delay, our plane arrived. It was the TUI Dreamliner. I sat with the girls and Mr C sat across the aisle. I was worried about how the girls would cope with 8 hours on the plane but I needn’t have, they loved it! On the Dreamliner you get televisions on the back of each seat and with movies and games. The children loved watching the movies and were kept entertained for the whole flight.
There was sufficient legroom on the flight. Mr C is a tall 6ft 5 but he found that he was fine in the standard seats. Unfortunately, our seats were near the toilets and that did mean, as it was a long flight, there were lots of people stood in the aisle next to us; some people would possible find this annoying. We were served two meals on the flight. The food was warm and pleasant enough and the children ate all of theirs up.
What To Wear?
As we were going to significantly warmer temperatures, we weren’t sure what was the best thing to wear. In the end we decided on tracksuit bottoms, with a t-shirt, and hoody. I would say that you will want layers as the air conditioning on the plane can be quite chilly.
As we were all on our way to a holiday, everyone was cheerful and in a good mood; some people were very happy as they were getting into the holiday spirit, if you know what I mean.… There was a definitely a happy and excited vibe on the plane.
Come back next week to find out how our check in on the boat went and our initial impressions of the P&O Azura! Would we be happy or sinking at sea?