Azura - not bad, but needs a lot of improvement
Let's be fair to P&O - it's not the most expensive of cruise companies, and the cutbacks over the years have probably been necessitated by trying to keep prices competitive.
But - there does come a point when you start to think economies are being taken too far, and if you pay quite a lot of money for a suite you do expect it to be in a reasonable state. Ours wasn't - the bathroom lights flickered the whole time (really problematic for anyone suffering from epilepsy), the shower didn't drain properly, the sofa was tired and uncomfortable, the front of one of the drawers was falling off, and on occasions there was no hot water.
On top of that, all the TV channels were out of action for more than half the entire 12 night cruise, and the excuses being given out throughout (poor satellite reception) proved to be just a downright lie – it was equipment failure, and little attempt was made to rectify it. Attempts to contact the Customer Service Manager about this, and the other issues, were blocked by the reception staff, who said it wasn’t ‘protocol’ to allow a passenger to speak directly to the Customer Service Manager!
There was, incidentally, a strong smell of sewage on the Promenade Deck, and I learned afterwards that this had been going on unrectified for some time and even permeated some of the cabins.
On the plus side, the food was very good in the Main Dining Rooms, and exceptional in The Epicurean (chargeable). Plenty of food, plenty of choice, and we really enjoyed all the meals – apart from the awful ‘coffee’ they serve.
All the staff were excellent, throughout the ship, and I include in that the reception staff who blocked all access to the Customer Service Manager – they must have been told to do that.
The entertainment onboard was rather limited – just the one guest speaker (though he was very good) and pretty mediocre pub-style entertainments in the evening. The Headliners were good, as always, but we didn’t see much of them. Frankly we were disappointed with what was on offer and found ourselves at a loose end on several occasions. The fact that the TV channels were all out of action for so long didn’t help.
Disembarkation was an absolute shambles. The promised priority disembarkation for suite and other passengers just didn’t happen. We were asked to wait in a particular area of the ship and told we would be collected. Nobody came to collect any of us, and we were all then expected to join an enormously long queue to get off the ship, along with all the other passengers.
All in all, this was not the best of cruises. We enjoyed the ports, we enjoyed the food onboard, and we felt the staff were doing their level best. The state of the suite was very disappointing, though, and it’s to be hoped they’re completely gutted and revamped at next April’s refit. The fixed showerhead in the bathroom is utterly useless, particularly for women, and it’s also to be hoped that something a little more practical and functional will be provided – as most hotels manage to do.
Better entertainment is needed – and more of it. The sewage smell also needs to be sorted out. And if customers ask to speak to the Customer Service Manager they should not be blocked from doing so.
There are lessons here for P&O, but there are also some costs. I do hope that the bean counting accountants don’t succeed in doing to P&O what they did to Mercedes for a period. If costs are cut any further there won’t be any passengers left who are willing to book.
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