We left Premier Inn at approximately 10:25, a little early, but we needed to be aboard by 12:00 as we had a meeting arranged with P&O Cruises’ Social Media Executive. It took no more than 15 minutes to get to Ocean Terminal, where we were directed to the car park. We were so early in fact, that we had to wait before we could enter the car park.
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
We boarded Azura on Deck 6 (F Deck), into the Atrium, which is a spectacular sight! We took one of the glass lifts up to Deck 14 (Rivera Deck) where our stateroom. We had booked a GA category Balcony, R516.
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.
We then headed back to our stateroom, after finishing lunch at about 14:20. I wanted make sure I could get my lifejacket on, as on my three previous cruises my Dad has always helped. Gavin and I had no problem getting them on. Our Muster Station was D, which is in Malabar, the Photo Gallery and Sindu on Deck 7 (Promenade Deck).
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!
We left our stateroom once again and went up to Deck 16 (Aqua Deck) to the area around the Coral Pool for the sail away party. We had some lovely sunshine although it was still quite blustery! Whilst we waited to sail, Tracey Britton a ship friend from Facebook spotted me and rushed over to say hello. Traceyalso introduced Gavin and I to her friend Alison. It was great to meet them both, who were enjoying the weather outside at Breakers Bar.
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 soGavin 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)
As we cruised out of the fog bank into sunshine again I decided next to go to reception. Gavin also came with me to reception in an attempt to meet with the Master of Azura, Captain Julian Burgess and show him my drawing of the new P&O Cruises ship, especially as our meeting with P&O Cruises’ Social Media Executive was cancelled. The crew member I spoke to at reception wasn’t particular helpful and didn’t seem to have much time for me or want to listen. As a result I think he found it difficult to understand my request and was not very helpful. I ended up handing a letter over to him, for the Captain and I was told they would get it too him, although it might not be right away. Gavin and I then headed back to our stateroom to take my drawings back.
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)
The next morning we awoke at about 05:30, at which point we were just passing Sark and approaching the other Channel Islands. We took a few photos on the balcony and went back to bed.
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.
After Azura had passed Guernsey we decided to go check out the Gym on Deck 16 (Aqua Deck). I am a member of a local Health Club in Colchester and visit around 2-4 times a week. The gym was pretty good, better than Queen Mary 2’s in my opinion. There were more free weights and lots of machines too. We didn’t work out for long as the movement of the ship made using the free weights a little difficult and slightly uncomfortable. Once done, we took a little look around the Oasis Spa and then went out on deck where it was quite sunny, but very windy.
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!
We spotted our friends Christian and Anthony up above on Deck 19 (Sky Deck) and they later came down to enjoy a drink from the Terrace Bar. Due to the movement of the ship in the rough seas the water kept sloshing out of the pool and a few passengers became stranded on deck chairs around the Terrace Pool. I went over to speak to Christian and Anthony and asked them to take a few photos of us in the swimming pool. We also arranged to meet in the Atrium at 15:30 to get some photos together with my two drawings.
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)
After the noon announcement we made our way back to our stateroom and sat on the balcony for a short period of time as it was a little chilly in the wind. We then got changed and went to get lunch from either Verona or Venezia on Deck 15 (Lido Deck). It was very busy yet again and we had trouble finding a seat. In the end we took our food back to our stateroom and ate it on our balcony.
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 theCruise 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)
Gavin and I were then going to join Christian and Anthony for afternoon tea in the Meridian Restaurant on Deck 5 (P Deck), but there was an extremely long queue right around the bottom of the Atrium, leading into the restaurant. Instead we decided to go for a drink together in Brodie’s on Deck 6 (F Deck). It was nice to relax for a bit and chat about ships! After finishing his drink Gavin went to Regalia to get some gifts for his work colleagues whilst I waited with Christian and Anthony in Brodie’s.
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)
We were then ready for our last night of our cruise aboard Azura, we headed down to the Atrium to hand my note over to the Cruise Director. Very annoyingly we had missed him whilst in our stateroom. So we went to reception and spoke to another crew member who was very helpful. In the end the Cruise Director came to meet us and said he would send an urgent email to the Captain. Unfortunately we did not get to meet the Captain during this particular cruise.
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 woke up very early at 04:00 at which point we were just passing Ryde on the Isle of Wight. I took a quick look from our balcony and woke Gavin up doing so. It was far too early to get up and we were both still very tired, so went back to sleep. We awoke properly at 05:50 and had just passed Fawley. We had of course missed Calshot but could see the castle in the distance. The two bathrobes which were delivered from the night before came in handy, as we rapped them around ourselves whilst we were on our balcony before getting dressed. We stayed on our balcony until we had passed Hythe Pier.
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.
Sadly it was then time for Gavin and I to disembark Azura, after what had been a truly very enjoyable two nights at sea. We left our stateroom at 07:50 and headed to the Photo Gallery on Deck 7 on our way to our disembarkation point, Manhattan, which is just along from the Photo Gallery anyway. We collected our two photographs of the drawings and made our way to Manhattan.
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.