I particularly welcome those of you who are already a keen follower or supporter of Dream Designs Colchester but also welcome anyone who is new and who might of only just discovered us.
I have taken the time to divide this Special Blog into various sections, in an attempt to make it easier for you to read about our recent 2 night cruise aboard P&O Cruises’ Azura! Each individual section includes a selection of our many photographs in easy to use slideshows.
I do hope that you will take the time to read through this Special Blog and take a look through the various slideshows.
President & Managing Director
Dream Designs Colchester
In the end we arrived in Southampton at about 13:18, meaning the whole journey took around 3 hours 15 minutes. We had chosen to stay at the Premier Inn in Southampton nearby to West Quay and right next to Carnival UK. We had stayed there before during our overnight stay in September before our visit to Seabourn Sojourn. As we had stayed at the hotel before, we were given the chance to pick where our room was. I chose to have a room on the top floor and this time facing southwards, not looking out to the multi-storey car park as we did last time. Gavin had parked his car in the hotel’s car park so that we could easily unpack our luggage and take it up the room. Once we had done so he parked the car in the multi-storey car park, directly behind Premier Inn.
Once the car was parked we took our hand luggage and my laptop back down to the hotel and had a rest and got changed ready for my visit to Southampton Solent University. As I’m sure many of you will be aware I am hopefully going to being studying BA (Hons) Cruise Industry Management as of September 2013.
After leaving Southampton Solent University I wanted to take a look at the Titanic Memorial which is only a short walk away. I have never seen it in person before, only on TV. On the way back to the hotel we stopped off in West Quay, the giant shopping complex in Southampton, where we grabbed a drink and bite to eat at McDonalds.
We got back to the hotel just before 17:00 and had rushed back as I had arranged to meet with some fellow ship friends, including: Christian Reay, Anthony Marshall and Daniel Gosling not long after. I had met with Christian before but not Anthony or Daniel. Christian and Anthony are both undertaking the same BA (Hons) Cruise Industry Management degree in Southampton and were also boarding Azura the following day. Anthony was the first to arrive a little after 17:00 and had just had his first day of a work placement at Carnival UK. Christian and Daniel arrived not long after. We had a great evening together and enjoyed a few drinks as well as a bit to eat. An old school friend of mine, Paulina who is now studying at Southampton University also came to meet us. (Thanks to Daniel for the photos of my drawings!)
Gavin and I walked Paulina back to the bus stop as it was getting late and we waited until the bus arrived, before coming back to the hotel at around 22:30. We packed our luggage cases again and made sure we had everything ready for the morning and were ready to board Azura.
In order for Azura to berth at Ocean Terminal she had to make a sharp turn and on this particular morning two tug boats were there to assist. We took quite a few photos and then headed back to the hotel to pack our last few items.
Once we had been able to enter the car park we were directed where to park and then took out our cases and anything else to take aboard, including my two drawings of Azura and the new P&O Cruises’ ship arriving in 2015, before making our way over to Ocean Terminal. Our two largest luggage cases were taken off of us, which relieved us of a little extra weight. We entered the terminal not long after 11:00 and went upstairs to the embarkation lounge, where we were given our embarkation cards (Green B) and our health check forms.
At about 11:15 I went over to speak to one of the women handing out the embarkation cards to explain that we had a meeting aboard Azura at 12:00, so we needed to be aboard quite soon. She informed me that we would likely be aboard by then anyway and to wait and if not, come back over to her.
I waited until around 11:45 and then decided to speak to someone again. The original women I spoke to was busy, as by this time lots of passengers were beginning to arrive. I spoke to another member of staff, who simply said there was nothing she could do and that she could only allow passengers with priority boarding to beginning embarkation at check-in. So I waited nearby the desk and when there were less passengers arriving spoke the original member of staff who was much more helpful. She was very understanding and took our embarkation cards from us and got someone to escort us to the priority boarding queue. After a short time we were able to go to one of the check-in desks and were given our stateroom cards and other relevant documents and then made our way to security.
Gavin and I had a professional photograph taken together before boarding the ship, which we later purchased on board. Security was quite a performance and we were required to take of your belt, jacket and shoes. I also had to take out my laptop. This is all quite understandable but somewhat frustrating as you aren’t given much time to get your things together before someone else is coming through. After this frustrating performance we quickly made our way along the gangway and we boarded Azura just after 12:00.
Day 1 - Southampton
When we got to the stateroom it was still being sorted out, but we were allowed in and put our things down. We had a wonderful surprise box of chocolates from Carol Marlow, Managing Director, P&O Cruises! At this point, we were still expecting a text message or phone call about our meeting, but hadn’t heard anything, so rather than waste time waiting, Gavin and I went to explore the upper decks of Azura, including Deck 15 (Lido Deck), Deck 16 (Aqua Deck), Deck 17 (Sun Deck), Deck 18 (Ocean Deck) and Deck 19 (Sky Deck). We had a great view of Southampton from the top of the ship!
At approximate 12:30, Gavin received a text message saying informing us that our meeting had been cancelled, as the member of staff from Carnival UK was unable to get aboard Azura. We continued looking around the upper decks of Azura and then went down to the forward promenade deck on Deck 8 (E Deck) to watch a container ship depart Southampton from the very front of the ship. As the planned meeting was now not going to take place we went back to our stateroom to get changed into something more casual.
After getting changed it was time for lunch, so we made our way up one deck to Deck 15 (Lido Deck) to the two buffet areas, Venezia and Verona. We got our lunch in Venezia but it was extremely busy and there were no seats, so we walked with our lunch into Verona at the stern of the ship, where after sometime we finally found an empty table! A couple sat next to us as they too couldn’t find an empty table.
It was then time to continue exploring Azura, moving down to the lower decks, Deck 5 (P Deck), Deck 6 (F Deck) and Deck 7 (Promenade Deck). We took one of the glass lifts from Deck 14 (Rivera Deck) down to the atrium on Deck 5 (P Deck). Whilst taking photos of the Atrium we noticed Christian and Anthony at the top of the Atrium. We walked up and chatted with them for a little while before continuing our look around.
After our look around the lower deck we went back to our stateroom at about 15:40, for a brief rest and to get ready for the Muster Drill. A short while later, after the first Muster announcement had been made, we left our stateroom with our lifejackets and went up to the SeaScreen area on Deck 16 (Aqua Deck) & Deck 17 (Sun Deck) to hear the ship’s whistle and alarm bells sounded. It was very loud and made us both jump even though we were expecting it!
We then carefully made our way down to Deck 7, to our Muster Station, D, where we stood in the Photo Gallery. It was very crowded and lots of passengers kept standing in the way, not allowing others to pass. I found other passengers very annoying at times who make comments such as “I’ve done this before”. I bet they have not sunk before! Or “Which Muster Station is mine?” even though it’s on the back of their stateroom door and on the lifejacket they are carrying!!! Throughout the Muster Drill there were a number of very loud passengers who kept talking and making such a fuss.
After the Muster Drill we walked back up to Deck 14 (Rivera Deck) to take our lifejackets back to our stateroom and get ready for departing Southampton!
The atmosphere was really great and everyone was getting excited as we prepared to sail. The DJ was playing some great music which only added to the excitement.
We were about to sail, only didn’t. An announcement was made that one person had to get off the ship and two passengers had just arrived in Ocean Terminal. At this point I think only two aft mooring lines were attached and I think I might have even heard the bow thrusters, which I guess might have been being used to keep the bow of Azura alongside. As we weren’t sailing Gavin and I went down to the promenade on Deck 7 (Promenade Deck) to find Christian and Anthony, as they said the night before they would be there for sail away, so Daniel could get some photos of them from Town Quay.
We all watched as a small gangway was put in place and a number of passengers and crew got off the ship. The bow mooring lines were also re-attached. The two passengers must have also got on, but I don’t remember seeing them. After quite some time the gangway was finally pulled back aboard so Gavin and I left Christian and Anthony and swiftly made our way back up to Deck 16 (Aqua Deck).
Finally, the mooring lines were taken off and we slowly began to move from the quay. The atmosphere was fantastic in the sunshine and with the sail away party in full swing. Azura slowly maneuvered into the Solent as we left Southampton in our wake and began our journey out to sea.
As Azura headed down the Solent, we went to the bow of the ship, where Gavin spotted an awful lot of cloud off in the distance. We then made our way further towards the stern, up to Deck 17 (Sun Deck), where we could see right along the ship. An announcement was then made by the Captain to inform passengers that we were heading towards a dense fog bank and that the ship’s whistles would be sounded at regular intervals as we entered the fog.
Azura continued cruising down the Solent and before long we entered the bank of fog just past Fawley. The fog was so dense that from the stern we could no longer see the bridge wing at the bow. Because of the fog we were unable to see Calshot, where Gavin and I went on July 3rd 2013 to see P&O Cruises’ seven ships depart on the day of The Grand Event.
As we couldn’t see much we headed back to our stateroom to take a look from our balcony. We could hear other ships and their whistles but could not see them. The fog slowly become less dense and we could see land again. I called my mum to let her know we had sailed, even though somewhat later than planned.
Night 1 (On Route to Guernsey)
It was then time for dinner, but we opted not to have dinner at our designated restaurant and instead went to one of the buffets again, Venezia. Here you get to choose what you want, when you want and how much you want. All the food was very nice and I took some fruit back to our stateroom.
We then headed down to the Atrium, where I did some shopping in Regalia on Deck 6 (F Deck). I brought a model of Azura, a couple of large pens, a sharpener and a fridge magnet. I spent around £36.00 if I remember correctly. The Photo Gallery on Deck 7 (Promenade Deck) was next, where we found our photo from embarkation earlier that day. We brought it and a nice photo album as well; this was around £17.95 in total (£7.95 for the photo and £10.00 for the album). In the list of activities in our stateroom, we had read that there was a comedian in Manhattan, which is a little further along from the Photo Gallery at the stern of the ship. We found a seat and enjoyed a drink whilst we caught the end of the show. It was fairly good, but could not compare to the comedian aboard Queen Mary 2 last year in my opinion.
Once the performance had finished we went back to our stateroom and took back the items I had brought from Regalia. Our stateroom had been turned down, with the chocolates on the bed and curtains closed. The ship was moving a little bit now, so to prove we weren’t going crazy we went up to the Aqua Pool on Deck 15 (Lido Deck) where the water in the pool was sloshing about quite a bit. We walked along the upper decks outside to the bow of the ship. I then thought it would be good to go down to Deck 8 (E Deck) and take a walk around the bow of the ship on the upper promenade area. It was extremely dark, with no external lights and very windy. We didn’t stay out there for long and quickly got back inside. On our way back to our stateroom, we found Christian and Anthony’s stateroom on Deck 8 (E Deck).
Now back at our stateroom it was time for some rest as it was getting late. We had both had a very long and busy day and were quite tired, so it was time for us to get some sleep.
Day 2 - At Sea (Morning)
At 07:30 we woke up again and this time stayed up. From our balcony we could see land off in the distance. I noticed it still looked quite rough and thought then that we wouldn’t be going ashore at Guernsey due to the sea conditions. Our stateroom on Deck 14 (Riviera Deck) was on the same level as the navigation bridge. We could see the ship was definitely moving in the swell by lining up the bridge with the horizon. A short while later an announcement was made from the bridge to inform passengers that we would not be visiting Guernsey. Azura had made an approach but the Pilot confirmed it was too rough to go ashore.
Once the announcement was over we decided to go up on deck and we could see the water in the Aqua Pool was moving a little due to the swell. We then headed to the stern to get some more photos and took some from the side of the Planet Bar on Deck 18 (Ocean Deck). The speciality restaurant, Seventeen was open so we had a look in there and took some photos too. We then headed down to Deck 7 (Promenade Deck) and went outside to take a closer look at the sea conditions.
We then went to get breakfast in Verona on Deck 15 (Lido Deck). Breakfast was really nice and as I normally do, I opted for a cooked breakfast, as did Gavin. Whilst having breakfast we could feel the ship moving a lot more and at times it was quite uncomfortable and I almost left Gavin and went back to our stateroom. Azura was now cruising alongside Guernsey and then made a 180° turn at which point another announcement was made. It was confirmed again that we would not be going ashore and that we would be spending the day at sea. Additional activities would be put on so we could enjoy the extra time aboard ship.
Azura then began to head closer towards Guernsey, so we went back to our stateroom and out on the balcony to take a look. We took lots of photos and could see quite a bit through the binoculars as well. We could still feel the movement of the ship a little and I recall seeing wave heights on the TV in our stateroom of 8.2 – 8.7 feet.
We then went back to our stateroom to get changed again, as we decided we would try out swimming, despite the cool wind. At first we went to the Coral Pool on Deck 15 (Lido Deck) but only went in the Whirlpool Spa or Jacuzzi. We dipped our toes in the pool but it was a little cold. We then went to try the Aqua Pool but it was a bit busy so I suggested the Terrace Pool at the stern on Deck 14 (Riviera Deck). No one was in this pool so Gavin and I had it all to ourselves. The water was actually very warm!
At 12:00 the Captain made the noon announcement and the ship’s whistle was sounded. It was much quieter at the stern. The Captain informed us that we would be taking an Eastwards track toward the French coast before heading North out into the English Channel and Eastwards again.
Day 2 - At Sea (Afternoon)
When we had finished our lunch we went up on deck again, but passed the buffet and got a small desert each and took it with us to Deck 19 (Sky Deck), where we enjoyed the sunshine and view from a deck chair. It was very relaxing watching the wake of the ship as we cruised Northwards between Alderney and the French coast. We had a quick go at golf whilst on deck too!
We then went back to our stateroom to rest for a while, before meeting Christian and Anthony later that afternoon. Gavin went to sleep for a little while and I went to reception to ask if my letter to the Captain had been passed on. I spoke to a different crew member, who was quite helpful. He told me that the Cruise Director, Matt, would be in the Atrium at 17:15. I could hopefully get to speak to him and get him to pass a message on to the Captain.
I then went back to our stateroom and woke Gavin up. We both got dressed into our suits and got ready to get the photos with my drawings of Azura and the new P&O Cruises’ vessel. We headed down to Deck 7 (Promenade Deck) to the Blue Bar in the Atrium where we met Christian and Anthony. We took some great photos of the drawings, with the crystal chandelier behind in the centre of the Atrium.
Day 2 - At Sea (Afternoon /Evening)
When Gavin had returned, we went back to our stateroom and took what Gavin had brought from Regalia to leave in there, rather than carrying it around with us. At this point Azura was sailing eastwards along the French coast, but now in the English Channel. For the majority of the cruise we left the TV on the navigational channel, so we could see where we were and the weather, temperature ect…
As we didn’t visit or anchor at Guernsey, rather than having a Sail Away Party on deck, instead passengers enjoyed what was described as a ‘Sail in Party!’ in the Atrium. Gavin and I went to watch and music was played by the ship’s DJ and members of the ship’s Entertainment Department got everyone singing and dancing. Towards the end of the party we went back to our stateroom to write a note to hand over to the Cruise Director. Gavin and I also got changed into our formal wear and black ties ready for the second night on board.
Night 2 (On Route to Southampton)
On our way to dinner in the Meridian Restaurant we got our photos taken in the Atrium. On booking our cruise we decided on freedom dining, so we could go anytime we wanted before the two allocated times. Upon entering the restaurant we were asked if we didn’t mind sharing a table. Gavin and I had no problem with this. We really enjoyed our dinner and Gavin loved his first formal evening aboard ship. The two other couples who shared our table were very friendly. Unfortunately one of the gentlemen on our table was feeling a little unwell due to the movement of the ship and apologised and went back to his stateroom after the main course. Desert was very delicious and as I often do, I chose ice cream! The only problem I had with our dinner was the wait between our main course and desert, which took nearly 30 minutes. In the end we were in the Meridian Restaurant for around 1 hour 30 minutes.
After our delicious dinner we went back to our stateroom, which had been turned down ready for our last night aboard. Gavin and I then spent some time packing and we left our two large luggage cases outside our stateroom. We had a steward then deliver two bath robes which we hadn’t asked for, yet he said they were for R516, so I let him bring them in anyway. Azura was moving quite a bit again as we slowly cruised back to Southampton and at times it was a little uncomfortable. When we had finished packing the majority of our other things, we went up to take a look at the Aqua Pool again, which was only one deck above our stateroom. The water in the pool was moving quite a bit again, so the ship was definitely moving in the rough seas.
We then took a glass lift down to the Atrium and made our way to The Playhouse. The show had already started, but we joined other passengers in the doorway and watched for a little while. After that we went out onto the Promenade Deck to take a look at the waves. It was quite rough.
We then went back to our stateroom again to get my drawing of Azura as I wanted one of the photographers on board to take a photo of Gavin and myself together with it in the Atrium. Once we had got the drawing we went down and had our photo taken. The photographer was very impressed with the drawing and showed quite an interest. Gavin and I went back to our stateroom to get the other drawing of the new P&O Cruises’ ship arriving in 2015 and a business card for the photographer. We had a photograph taken with the second drawing too.
Next we made our way along to the Photo Gallery to find out photographs from earlier that evening before dinner. A crew member helped us find them and we brought two of the four photos, which we £16.95 each. The previous night they were only £7.95 each, but they were not as expensive then, simply because it was not a formal night!
Once we had brought our two photographs we headed back to our stateroom to retire for the night, before our arrival back to Southampton the following morning.
Day 3 - Southampton Arrival
We then got dressed, but put on our suit jacket and shirt from the night before, as we didn’t put these in our suitcases the night before. This way we would have less to carry off when we disembarked. Once dressed, Gavin and I quickly made our way up to the stern on Deck 16 (Aqua Deck) as Azura carefully turned and maneuvered backwards alongside Ocean Terminal. Two tug boats where there to assist again as it was still quite windy.
Once the aft mooring lines where attached and we were alongside (around 06:45) we went inside as it was very chilly and enjoyed another full English breakfast in Venezia. After breakfast we went back to our stateroom to get everything together ready to disembark. We also watched a giant car carrier ship arrive alongside near the Queen Elizabeth II terminal.
We only sat down for a few minutes before a crew member came to inform us that we could disembark then if we wanted, so we made our way to the gangway in the Atrium on Deck 6 (F Deck). There was quite a queue and for a while it did not move. It was quite frustrating as we had lots to carry, but before long the queue was moving.
It is quite a walk off the ship to Ocean Terminal, along the gangway and then along numerous slopes down to the lower level of the terminal where passengers’ luggage is situated. We noticed one of our cases right away, but it took a minute or two to find the other. As we had so much to carry we put the two luggage cases and my laptop case onto a trolley and took it over to the car.
We left the car park at approximately 08:50 and had a fairly smooth journey home. There were a few hold ups on the M25 and we took a wrong turning onto the M4 at one point, but quickly corrected our mistake. We arrived back to Colchester not long after 12:30.
I would also like to extend my appreciation to P&O Cruises and thank them for a truly wonderful cruise experience aboard Azura.
I hope that you have enjoyed this blog and welcome any comments and feedback.
May I finally take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support.
President & Managing Director
Dream Designs Colchester