Author: Gareth Leach
We booked our cruise with Becky from Iglu who was very helpful in aiding us to complete our booking. We were very excited about our adventures around the Caribbeanon the Azura as this was our very first cruise. To say we were very impressed is a huge understatement to say the least. The ship was refurbished recently and boasts many great features. Wehn you first get on board, you can either include gratuities in your stay which work out to £70 per week or can opt out of gratuities and tip who you choose. In any case and whichever option you do choose, everybody on board from the cleaners and room stewards up to the captain of the ship work around the clock tirelessly to make sure that your cruise is as enjoyable as it can be so it definately makes it worth giving a little extra for the work you do. If you have not been on this ship before, one thing to note is that the bars, restaraunts and shops do not take any cash payments and all is done by using your cruise card.This acts as your ID on ship to be used to get on and off at port, to enter your cabin and doubles as an onboard credit card. You can check your bill on your TV in your room or can check regularly at reception. When you embark on the ship, you can either put money behind reception that will be used to pay your bill (obviously any differences being paid and any surplus being returned to you), If you regiester a card, you will receive a final bill which is debited from your account after you disembark and go home. The main benefit of this card is that you can jump in the pool at any time without worrying about a soggy wallet. The restaraunts are all very good with a huge variety of food, regardless of whether you want to eat like a horse or still try and be good, there is definately someting for everybody. It is said that you gain on average 1 - 2 lbs per day on a cruise - A gym is available on board - deck 16 behind breakers bar. We ate in the Venezia and Verona buffets at breakfast and had seated dining in the Oriental, Aft, Deck 6. Our waiters Ashish and Shanka were first class - 2 of the kindest gentlemen we have ever met and who made our first cruise experience most enjoyable. With 2 young girls who are picky when it comes to eating. The girls were treated like angels with a dedicated kids menu always being available and if you want more, you can have more. They were most accomodating - infact, my partner had to leave the restaraunt one evening and had already ordered a medium-rare steak. Once we had confirmed that she would not be returning, a fresh order was arranged and sent to our cabin - Amazing! Make sure you are around for someones birthday celebration, always fun to join in and clap along with the waiters. Wine service - FANTASTIC, great suggestions and always perfect with your meal. All restaraunts have hand santisers at the entrance and for those having a set dining time will usually be prompyed by the front of house team and where buffets are used, an automatic dispensing pump is available - you do get quite alot for one dispense so I would recommend tipping some of this out (unless you want to sanitise your arms and legs too). There is a poolside grill on deck 15 (midship) underneath with Breakers bar that serves 'pickup' breakfast options with the likes of bacon rolls and then lunch with hotdogs, bugers, chips, salad and a late discovered chilled selection from fresh fruit and compote yoghurts to light salads and freshly prepared rolls and wraps - amazing if you are getting off ship and dont want to pay for lunch whilst out - definately one to recommend - beef and horseradish sub roll - amazing. There are several bars on ship with a huge range of drinks, cocktails and mocktails available. All of the areas on ship have a waited service unless you want to sit at the bar and all waiters are quite happy to serve you all day long if desired. Whilst Juices, Water, Tea and Coffee are served at breakfast, Tea and Coffee can still be taken from the Venezia restaraunt throughout the day with water being readily available from the bars and dedicated water tanks in the Coral and Breakers Bar. All other drinks are to be paid for - we racked up a bit of a bigger bill than expected but we decided why not, we are on holiday after all! There is always something going on on the ship, from seminars in the bars and theatre, to shows, events and tribute acts, craft events, cooking masterclasses, dace lessons in the atrium right down to music and quizes around the poolside - there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything, It is definately a case of do as much or as little as you want. The headliners theatre company are definately worth a watch if available as well as daniel boys and the 4 tunes. Comedians and magicians also add to the selection as well as several other tributes including a truly fantastic freddy ercury tibute (dean richards) - we watched this guy in the Manhattan bar - deck 7, Aft and found him so enjoyable, we watched him again at the caribbean night with a robbie williams tribute - and the great finish - in the pool - such a laugh. Dont miss the sailaways either, these are a great way to show you a proud to be british and always a good opportunity to show we are better than the other ships in port and have a louder ship horn. The great british sailaway in St,Martin / Saint Marteen was definately the one to remember with union jack flags to wave at the americans (who were just leaving as we played out the national anthem) For those travelling with children, let them discover the reef club. Whilst we went on holiday as a family, the children really enjoyed spending time and making friends with others their age. They had great fun and made some great things. Competitions and on ship parties meant that mummy and daddy could relax in a bar for a couple of hours or in the playhouse theatre, deck 6 / 7 - front with a good show and with late pick up times 11pm or 2am (dependent on age) we could definately relax knowing that they were being looked after by the best people. Often paraded through the ship past those trying to relax in the sun, it was great to see them all having so much fun. Dressed as little pirates, they chased a naughty pirate around the decks and then threw him in the pool once they got their treasure. Something great to watch and fantastic to hear their little voices chanting as they walked in and out - such sweeties! Excursions are available through P&O but were a little pricy so we purchased what we wanted when on shore - a tip for you though, attend the seminars and talks about the ports you are visiting as you can pick up some great tips. Watch out for these in the Horizon magazine that ie delivered to your room with your night time choccies - definately worth attending. Also, dont get off the ship with the crowd, wait for a little while as you will then be able to haggle a bit more with the taxi drivers and excursion team on the islands as there will be nobody else around to hear you. We did this in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and saved ourself $50 dollars in a group of 4 - it took some work though but if you dont ask, you will never get. Some great places to visit on most of the islands however if tours are not your thing then there is normally lots to do close to the ship whether it be browsing through the shops or walking 10 - 15 minutes to a soft sandy beach. If you are planning on purchasing any alcohol or cigarettes / tobacco, wait until you reach St. Martin. This is a free port and offers the lowest prices throughout the carribean and well worth the wait - dont be tempted however to go over your allowances though as these can be taken from you at customs. Most places that are selling rum e.c.t will also deliver this to the ship for you so you wont have to carry this around. All in all, our trip was fantastic and truly enjoyable. Definately something we shall be doing again in the near future and defiantely through Iglu and with P&O although would like to experience other ships to see what they have to offer. Well worth the money that we paid for our holiday. Thank you to all on board Azura and to Iglu!!!!!!!!!