P&O Cruises - Azura

P and O Cruises' Azura is a family-friendly ship, launched in 2010, with a maximum passenger capacity of 3,100. Registered in London, the Azura cruise ship comes with a British feel and a variety of child-friendly activities, and is arguably the most advanced ship in the P and O fleet. Azura is best suited to families with young children who are seeking a big-ship environment for the maximum entertainment and fun factor. With good wheelchair accessibility and plenty of modern facilities, including age appropriate kids' clubs, P and O's Azura really is a ship with something for everyone. P and O's Azura has a British feel, with a style all of her own. On board, you'll find 7,000 pieces of art from 55 talented British artists, much of which is available to buy. There is also plenty of outdoor space, more quiet and intimate areas in public spaces to allow you to kick back and relax, and daily planners packed with daily shows and activities to suit everyone's tastes.

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Azura Hero Image

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Families With Children
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Fincantieri (Italy)
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110 and 220 volts
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P&O Cruises
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Apr 2010
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€535 million
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diesel-electric (42,000kW)/2
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Large Resort Ship
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A large ship with sedate decor to suit British tastes

P&O Cruises - Azura

Overview: Azurais P&O Cruises’ most advanced cruise ship. It is best suited to families with children and adult couples who are seeking a big-ship environment with comfortable, unstuffy surroundings, lots of options, and a British flavor.

The Ship: Azuraand sister shipVentura, which debuted in 2008, are the largest cruise ships yet built specifically for British passengers (until a new 141,000-gross ton ship debuts in 2015) and are P&O’s version of Princess Cruises’ Grand-class ships. With its rather flat, upright stern,Azuralooks a bit like a giant hatchback, although the ship’s side profile is softer and more balanced. Promenade walking decks are to port and starboard sides, underneath the lifeboats. You can’t walk completely around; it’s narrow in some places, with deck lounge chairs in your way.There are three main pools: two on the pool deck, one at the stern. Considering the number of passengers carried, there’s not a lot of outdoor deck space – unless you pay extra to go into a covered, adults-only zone called The Retreat, with its faux-grass floor, private cabanas, and personal waiter service. What’s new is a huge open-air movie screen, the aptly-named SeaScreen, forward of the funnel by the Aqua Pool.Inside, a three-deck atrium, with integral dance floor, is the focal point for social interaction. It’s a bit like a town center at sea. Four large, three-deck-high black granite archways provide ‘gateways’ to the center. It’s the place to see and be seen – as are the specialty dining venues – and a good location to arrange to meet friends. Also in the atrium are a smallish open-plan library that isn’t at all intimate or good for reading in, particularly when noisy events are staged in the atrium; the library includes computers for Internet access; and Java Café for extra-cost coffees, teas, cakes, pastries, and snacks.Other rooms, bars and lounges include the casino, the Blue Bar, the ship’s social hub; Brodies, a ‘traditional’ British pub (named after Brodie McGhie Wilcox, P&O’s co-founder); and the Planet Bar, set high in the ship, featuring a video wall.The upper-deck public room layout means you can’t easily go from one end of the ship to the other without first going down, along, and up. Those with mobility problems will need to plan their journey and use the most appropriate of three elevator banks. Overall, the ship attracts more traditional P&O repeaters and fewer families than sister shipVentura, depending on the itinerary and cruise date.Gratuities are optional, unless you choose Freedom Dining, when they are automatically applied to your onboard account. Smoking is permitted only on cabin balconies and in designated spots on the open decks.

Families: Azurais really child-friendly. There are clubs for the under-twos up to 17 years, plus a rock ’n’ roll school. Children between two and four will find Noddy, the popular Enid Blyton character, on board. There’s a Night Nursery for under-fives. Youngsters can also enjoy a dedicated Wii room; Scalextric at sea with Grand Prix-style track; 3-D cinema; and interactive classes. Family shore programs include aqua and ‘theme parks.’

Accommodation: There are 27 price grades, but really just five types of accommodation: suite with balcony; family suite with balcony; outside-view twin/queen with balcony; outside-view twin/queen; interior cabin. Although there are more balconies than aboardVentura, more than a third of all cabins have no outside view. Some have extra third/fourth berths that fold down from the ceiling.Most welcome are 18 single-occupancy cabins, a first for P&O Cruises. They are located in a small section on the port side. Also new are spa cabins, with added amenities and direct access to the ship’s spa, and two large suites for large groups.While the suites are small when compared to those of lines such as Celebrity Cruises or Norwegian Cruise Line, whose top suites are four or five times the size, they are intelligently laid out, and feel spacious.Standard in all cabins: bed runners, 10.5 tog duvets, Slumberland eight-inch sprung mattresses, and Egyptian cotton towels. Tea/coffee-making facilities are adequate, with UHT, rather than fresh milk. Bathrobes are available only for passengers occupying grades A, B and D accommodation. There are UK three-pin sockets plus US-style 110-volt sockets for electrical devices.Open closets provide easy access, but the ‘no trust’ attached hangars can bang against the wall when the ship is ‘moving’. Balcony cabins have wooden railings atop glass dividers, green plastic floors, a couple of small chairs and drinks table, and an outside light. Most cabin bathrooms are small, as are the shower enclosures.Wheelchair-accessible cabins, which have a large, user-friendly shower enclosure, are mostly located in the front section of the ship, but one of the main restaurants is aft. So be prepared for lots of wheeling time, and waiting time at the elevators.There is no room service breakfast on disembarkation day, when you must vacate your cabin by 8am.

Cuisine/Dining: P&O’s marketing blurb claims that there are 10 restaurants. There aren’t. There are five genuine restaurants (Peninsular, Oriental, Meridian, Sindhu, and Seventeen), the rest are bistro-style eateries or fast food joints.The three main dining rooms, Peninsular, Oriental, and Meridian, all have the same menus. Peninsular and Oriental offer fixed seating dining with assigned tables (typical seating times: 6:30pm or 8:45pm). In the Meridian restaurant, you can dine when you want, with whomever you want, between 6pm and 10pm – P&O calls it ‘Freedom Dining,’ although at peak times there can be a bit of a wait, and it’s not open for breakfast or lunch. Occasionally, special dinners are served in the main dining rooms, one of which is a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs event.Wheelchair users should note that breakfast in the fixed dining restaurants typically ends at 9:30am on sea days and 9am on port days. To take breakfast in the self-serve casual eatery, you may need to wheel across the decks containing the forward and mid-ship pools and lots of deck chairs – not easy. Alternatively, you can order room service breakfast – typically cold items only.Other dining options.Sindhu is an Indian restaurant (reservation-only, extra-charge). It is overseen by Michelin-star chef Atul Kochhar, whose specialty is British and Indian fusion cuisine. The food is cooked to order, unlike in the three main dining rooms. Table seating includes several alcove-style areas that make it impossible for waiters to serve food correctly without reaching across others at the same table.For the Glass House, TV wine expert Olly Smith has helped create a ‘Select Dining’ restaurant and wine bar. The venue offers seafood and grilled items, paired with wines chosen by Smith. You can, of course, have a glass of wine, without food.The cuisine is very good in Seventeen, a reservations-only, extra-charge, à la carte restaurant in a quiet setting, with plenty of space around tables for waiters to serve correctly. The venue also features an outdoor terrace for warm-weather areas.Venezia is the ship’s large, casual, self-serve buffet eatery/food court, open almost around the clock, with a large indoor-outdoor seating area. The buffet layout is confined, and can get congested. On the same deck, adjacent to the forward pool, are a poolside grill and pizzeria. Verona is a family-friendly self-service eatery.In addition, 24-hour room service is available in cabins.

Entertainment: The 800-seat Playhouse Theatre, which spans two decks and is located at the front of the ship, is an excellent venue for shows and, with two large video screens on either side of the stage; the sightlines are very good from all seats.The Manhattan Lounge, a multi-function social/entertainment venue, hosts family shows and cabaret acts, and is a late-night disco. Malabar, another night venue, has decor based on the hotels on Marine Drive, Mumbai. Cabaret, live bands, and dancing are featured here. Meanwhile, the Planet Bar, a nightclub and entertainment venue, is an activities room by day and a club by night.

Spa/Fitness: The Oasis Spa – located forward, almost atop the ship – has a gymnasium, aerobics room, beauty salon, separate male and female sauna and steam rooms (no charge), and 11 treatment rooms. An internal stairway connects to the deck below, which contains an extra-charge Thermal Suite (£15 per person, per day, or a composite price per cruise). Treatments include special packages for couples, and the SilverSpa Generation.

Berlitz Guide © Apa Publishing 2015

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