This was a short break cruise – two nights including a port call in Zeebrugge, Belgium.
Azura was the last of the Super-Grand class ships to be built. Her sister ships include not just P&O Cruises' Ventura but also Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess of Princess Cruises. Azura differs from her sisters primarily in the interior decoration.
With various modification, the design can be traced back to Grand Princess. At one time, Grand Princess was the world's largest cruise ship. Today, on a relative scale, these ships would still be considered large but are close to the cusp of being considered medium-sized ships. However, Azura and Ventura are significantly larger than the other ships in the P&O Cruises' fleet with the exception of Britannia (and the forthcoming Iona).
I have taken short break cruises on P&O Cruises before but this was significantly different. The passengers were younger and much more hard-partying than the traditional somewhat staid P&O Cruises' passenger. This was not surprising as short cruises tend to attract a young crowd. In addition, P&O Cruises gears its various ships to appeal to different market segments. Azura and Ventura are geared towards younger passengers.
Almost all of the passengers were British. P&O Cruises caters to the British market. While sister company Cunard Line is British the way foreigners think of Britain, P&O Cruises is Britain at home. The food, entertainment and activities are those that appeal to modern British people. The onboard currency is pounds sterling not U.S. Dollars.
Although Azura is marketed as family-friendly, there were few children on this voyage. Instead, you had couples and groups of friends partaking in a whirlwind holiday.
There is nothing flashy or extravagant about Azura's décor. Nor is it old-fashioned. Rather, it has a crisp contemporary look with subdued lighting. It is the kind of décor that a British traveler would like to encounter at a new up-market hotel in New York, Tokyo or even London.
For this cruise, I had one of Azura's solo occupancy cabins. Azura was one of the first ships to have cabins designed specifically for people traveling on their own. The cabin was comfortable and roomy. It was also well-laid out.
The solo cabins were created out of space that had been part of the casino on the earlier Super Grand class ships. (Gambling is not as popular on ships serving the British market as it is on ships catering to other markets and so the casinos can be smaller). As a result, the cabin was in the midst of the public decks and was convenient to the reception desk, the shops and the main dining rooms. The only problem was that the music from the neighboring atrium drifted into the room in the evening.
In the evenings, Azura has two primary entertainment venues - - the theater and a show lounge at the aft end of Deck 7. On the first evening, a group called Shomaddymaddy performed a lively “Rock and Roll journey through the last 50 years” while in the Manhattan Lounge Justine Riddoch did a tribute to Tima Turner. On the second evening, the ship's production cast performed an esoteric fantasy show in the theater. There was an 80s dance party in the Manhattan Lounge. Justine Riddoch sang rock and soul songs in the midships Malabar lounge. There was also live music elsewhere in the ship.
If you did not feel like leaving the cabin, Azura had an exellent and extensive array of complimentary movies on the interactive television.
Azura has three main dining rooms. One of these is open for breakfast, lunch and afternnon tea on an open seating basis. For dinner, two of these restaurants have a flexible dining system while the thirrd follows the traditional two-seating system. You decide which system you want when you book the cruise.
I had all of the meals in the main dining rooms. The menus offered good variety (all of the main dining rooms follow the same menus). The food was enjoyable.
The waiters in the main dining rooms were more reserved than on ships catering to the North American market. Their primary concern is efficiency rather than forming a relationship with the guests.
I had occasion to visit the reception desk several times during this voyage. I was impressed by their responsiveness and ability to resolve issues (stains on the sheets and problems with the interactive TV and my onboard account) quickly.
It rained during most of this voyage. However, Azura had no difficulty handling the sea and there was little movement of the ship.
The ship appeared to be in good condition with no visible rust. Similarly, the public areas were clean and properly maintained.
Cruise ship review - - P&O Cruises - - Azura - - Short Break