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Ship Visit to Azura
P&O Cruises
Southampton - 14th October 2011

Report and Photos ©2011 Stephen Macey
Additional Photos ©2010 Ian Boyle


AZURA - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle
AZURA leaving Southampton - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle


   

2011 Visit Reports
Revisited ships will not be reported unless significantly revised since our previous visit

Athena

Azura

Crystal Serenity

Rotterdam

Saga Pearl II

Saga Ruby

 
AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA at Southampton - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Atrium Dance Floor
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Atrium
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Atrium
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Atrium
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Atrium Cafe
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Art Gallery - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA stair well
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA pool - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA pool - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Casual dining area. They all look the same on these ships!
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - One of the many passenger bars. This room has constantly changing images projected of different parts of the world.
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Sindhu Restaurant. (Indian)
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Open air film screen
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - pool
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Oasis Spa Pool
The Oasis Spar. P&O publicity and our tour gave me the impression that only spa guests or those in spa cabins have exclusive use of this area. A shame, as its one of the nicest parts of the open decks.
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Spa - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Gym - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Gym at Southampton - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Spa facilities
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Balcony Cabin
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA -.An appealing use of nautical themed decoration
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - The Playhouse
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA stair well - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - The Glass House
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - An example of the ships internal art work. I rather liked it, it grows on you
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Broadies
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - The Library
Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA at Southampton - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


Ocean Liner Society ship visits are always highly enjoyable occasions, providing the opportunity to visit a ship and have an all too brief taste of the joys of those embarking on a sailing day and enjoy the company of fellow OLS members and enthusiasts before disembarking.


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Atrium - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


Friday 14 October was such an occasion for me and I set out for Southampton to visit the P&O Azura with more than my usual anticipation. I had been asked to provide a review of this event. As a person with traditional tastes in cruise ships and ocean liners, I was anxious to approach this task with an open mind, as Azura is about as far removed from the traditional P&O ship of my youth as it is possible to get.



AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Atrium - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey

Azura, under the command of Captain Paul Brown had arrived in the early morning from Lisbon and was about to depart, alas after our departure, for a two week Mediterranean cruise, with Cadiz as the first port of call.


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - Atrium - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


The P&O passenger of 1964, used to ships like the Chusan, embarking in Azura, would probably think they were boarding a space ship, as opposed to a cruise ship and I was determined to give her a fair chance and not dismiss her with some of the comments usually employed by middle aged shipping enthusiasts. After all, any ship is designed to make her owners a profit and her characteristics are determined by her cargo and the trade she is engaged in. It is simply not good enough to dismiss modern tonnage as “blocks of flats on barges” without considering what their owners are trying to achieve and what market segment they catering to.



AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA pool - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


The Azura is one of the larger ships in the P&O fleet. She is a Grand Class ship of 115,000 tonnes built by Fincantieri at their yard in Monfalcone in Italy. Entering service in April 2010, she is described as a family friendly larger ship and I was interested to note that P&O’s publicity described her interiors as more traditional than her sister the Ventura. She has accommodation for over three thousand passengers, an extensive array of facilities to cater for most tastes and requirements, together with traditional dining options, as well as free style dining and other dining facilities, including a bespoke Indian venue and “The glass house”, a venue providing quality cuisine and wine tasting. Azura has something for everyone, a modernist and a traditionalist would find something to enjoy.


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA pool - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


My first impression when arriving at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton was not altogether positive, the ship was enormous and reminded me of a huge articulated truck or shopping trolley. Unlike Aurora, whose exterior appearance takes my breath away, Azura was no vision of beauty. All of my prejudices and preconceptions sprung to the fore as I entered the terminal and met up with the OLS party. We were all formed in to groups for our tour and my party was fortunate to be allocated a very well informed and pleasant guide, who answered endless questions as well as pointing out past and present landmarks in Southampton as we walked the open decks. Our guide for the day was huge asset and far better informed than guides on other P&O visits I have made. He (and his wife who does similar work) take a genuine interest in cruise ships and attended the OLS ship show a few days later at our suggestion.


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Casual dining area - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


We entered the ship at the bottom of the atrium, which is located over three decks with a cafe, art gallery, book shop, library and shopping area. I was pleasantly struck with this area, finding it bright, but not gaudy and impressive in its size. This area, like the entrance to Aurora, which I visited last year, made a statement. In the case of Aurora, it was “ocean liner style”, in the case of Azura, it was like a modern slick hotel, more New York than Eastbourne. The furnishing was modern and uncluttered and I found it crisp and appealing.


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Bar - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


We were soon transported by lift to the ships upper decks. This was an amusing aspect of the day, Azura is enormous and the various groups needed to be fairly tightly controlled by our guides, who showed considerable patience and humour in maintaining a reasonable flow, to enable all the parties to arrive in the ships restaurant for a delicious, well served lunch, which included red and white wine, at the same time. That lunch was by far the best one I have enjoyed on a ships visit.


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Sindhu Restaurant. (Indian) - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


My initial impression of the open decks was that they were a little cramped. This may be an unfair one, as I didn’t have long to linger and gain a lasting impression. Azura stands very high in the water and we had stunning views over Southampton and the other ships in port, which included Queen Mary 2. Azura has extensive spa facilities, which seem to take up a significant part of the space on the upper deck. I was under the impression that this area is reserved for those using the spa. If this is the case, non spa users would be missing out on one of the nicer parts of the open decks. The fitness / spa facilities to be found in Azura would be a delight to anyone interested in such activity and are second to none. One feature on the open decks was a large cinema screen, which doubtless provides much entertainment, especially for families.


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA at Southampton - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


Our tour included the usual inspection of accommodation of both the high and low end of the scale The ship has nine hundred cabins with private balconies. I found all the cabins to be well appointed and decorated in a cheerful way. One feature I enjoyed throughout the accommodation and many public rooms was the use of photographs of sailing yachts, relevant for the location and beautifully done. Azura has some eighteen single cabins available. This is a refreshing development in cruise ships, though in my view there should be far more. An ever increasing proportion of the population consists of single people, who are as relevant and entitled to be accommodated as anyone else. Another welcome feature is a number of cabins designed for family use, not unlike family rooms to be found in hotels. This is particularly relevant for Azura, which in my view is an excellent venue for a family holiday. I use the word “venue” deliberately, as many cruise ships are moving resorts. Azura, although clearly a ship, if on dry land would be a resort in its self.


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA at Southampton - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


All too soon it was time to disembark and leave Azura to her paying quests. The impressions I departed with were positive ones. I enjoyed the day enormously and found the P&O representatives, in particular our guide, to be friendly and well informed. I was impressed with Azura and found her atmosphere to be refreshing. Although I was sorry not to find a bar like Andersons, on the Aurora and Oriana, I appreciate that Azura is perhaps catering to a different audience, one which she caters to very well.

The proof of any pudding is in the eating. Azura might not be my first choice of ship for a cruise, but if the itinerary and price were right, I would certainly sail in her.


Stephen Macey.
24/01/12.




AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA Cabin - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA at Southampton - The Playhouse - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey
AZURA - The Glass House - Photo: ©2011 Stephen Macey


AZURA - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle
AZURA leaving Southampton - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle

AZURA - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle
AZURA Brest - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle





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