Family holidays are a great way to escape the busy lives we all lead and enjoying quality time with our children and together as a couple is more important than ever. Daniel Greening took his family on their first cruise holiday aboard P&O Cruises’ Azura for a 14-night Transatlantic adventure to the Caribbean.
As you know, if you have ever had kids, holidays are regimentally planned out, the cases packed 90% for the kids with a small space next to the shoes for mum and dad. Normally the departing airport would be chaos; looking at screens and keeping the kids next to you is almost impossible. However, because we were departing from Southampton we had a complimentary coach to pick us up from Manchester Airport and take us down to the port. When we arrived at the airport, the P&O Cruises meet and greet stand stood out a mile, so we knew exactly where to go. They took our cases from us and the next time we saw them was outside our cabin on board. They made a fuss of the kids and guided us to the coach, and from this moment on we felt special. The kind and courteous treatment continued throughout our holiday.
When choosing our cruise we received lots of help from the staff at Bolsover Cruise Club. We got advice on just about everything relating to our needs as a family, explaining important details like sleeping arrangements in the cabin and the food available on board.
Azura is known as one of the larger family-friendly ships in the P&O Cruises fleet, so it was a good choice for a first cruising experience.
Here’s my seven-year-old son William’s explanation of how he found his very first cruise experience and what the highlights were for him and his sister, Lucy (age 3), along with some notes from mum and dad to show our side of the story too.
Boarding Azura / 21 Oct 2017
Mum and dad talked to the lady behind the desk, then she took a photo of us all with a little camera. The lady put a yellow band on our arms, she said it’s so we don’t get lost. We ran down a big corridor with windows that took us to the ship. Lots of ladies and men that looked like Captains smiled at us and talked to us. The carpet was red. When we first saw our cabin we could only see two beds, then the lady came and folded another two beds out of the roof for me and Lucy. We climbed straight up there to sort out our teddies.
Mum & Dad
We had the security checks and were given our cabin cards. It wasn’t very busy and the staff were extremely helpful, which made the whole process go smoothly. Walking to the ship and seeing it up close made it so exciting for all of us. The kids ran to the ship, where we were met with smiles over a red carpet. The room was lovely and our steward, Larni, was extremely friendly and helpful.
At Sea / 22-24 Oct 2017
It was a bit rough at the beginning and I liked the feeling of moving around on the sea. It made me laugh to see everyone swaying about. We watched a film on the seascreen with some sweets from the shop and got all snuggled together under a big brown blanket. We went to kids club after tea and started to make some new friends.
Mum & Dad
The novelty of being at sea was exciting for us all as we began our journey to Madeira. The cabin was comfortable and because we had a balcony we could use this for some family time with tea and cakes. We had the first of four formal nights this evening. It was a great experience to get dressed up and have the ship’s crew on hand to take professional photos to remember the night by. As we had the Freedom Dining option we were able to use the restaurants at any time, so after dropping the children off at kids club we enjoyed a romantic meal at the Peninsular Restaurant, followed by a comedy show at the Play House Theatre.
Madeira / 25 Oct 2017
We went on a bus around the town and we saw lots of banana plants. We went for a walk and found a play park and go karts, where we played while mum and dad had a drink. We stopped to get an ice cream and there were loads of lizards. We tried to catch them but they were too fast. I dropped some ice cream on the floor and they came and ate it, so I put some on my fingers and sat still and they licked it off my fingers!!! Lizards like lime and lemon flavour Calippos.
Mum & Dad
When we arrived at Madeira the weather was lovely. As this was our first port we were slightly nervous about leaving the ship and how easy it would be to get around and get back to the ship in time. We needn’t have worried as there were a number of taxi drivers offering tours and advice, and we were given a map so that we could make our own way around. We bought tickets for the Yellow Bus, which took us on an open-top bus tour around the island with a recorded tour through the headphones provided.
At Sea / 26 – 31 Oct 2017
Kids club was my favourite place on the ship because there were lots of people to play with. There was a soft play area, lots of colouring and things to make, PS4s to play computer games, and we watched TV and films. Lucy did lots of colouring every day and we played games and sang songs with the leaders who were really fun. I liked the big pool too and kept trying to touch the bottom. I made lots of friends at kids club and wanted to go there every day. I liked the food on the ship too, because it was different every day. My favourite was the chicken pie and there were loads of puddings. My daddy arranged a visit to the bridge to meet the Captain. I asked him lots of questions, like how long he had been sailing Azura and whether he had ever seen any sharks. I got to see the radar and sit in the Captain’s seat and I got to look through some gigantic binoculars out to sea.
Mum & Dad
With so many sea days between Madeira and the Caribbean, we were lucky to have fantastic weather. Most days, after the biggest breakfast ever, we would spend some family time at the pool. There were a number of different pools and we never struggled to get a sun bed. There was a very shallow pool which was brilliant for the kids as they could play together in there, and the bigger pool was great for us to all get in together so they could practice their swimming. Kids club was open most of the day, only closing for an hour or two at lunchtime and teatime, so we also got some relaxing time by the pool (and the bar) and even managed the odd afternoon nap. The food was amazing and you could have whatever you fancied, whenever you wanted it.
St. Kitts / 1 Nov 2017
It was really hot when we got off the ship. There were lots of people selling necklaces and other things, and a man with a monkey wearing clothes. I held three monkeys, one on my head, one on my arm and one on my shoulder. We went on a jeep and went through a rainforest and went for a walk through some gardens where we saw a hummingbird. Then we went to the sea and went swimming. The sea was warmer than the swimming pool on the ship and I got to see fish when I went snorkelling with daddy. Lucy liked swimming in the sea too and we both liked collecting shells and stones to bring home. When we went back to the ship we had a sailaway party, which was really good. Everyone was singing and dancing.
St. Lucia / 2 Nov 2017
We went to the beach again and swam in the sea. I got to ride a jet ski and the man let me have a go. We went really fast and he said I was crazy. The sand was really nice and white and felt nice between my toes. We had another sailaway party when we got back to the ship and then we went to kids club where I told my friends about where we had been.
Antigua / 3 Nov 2017
When we got off the ship there were people playing music and dancing. We went to the beach again because it was our favourite thing to do. There were some men on the beach with coconuts and a big knife, so we went to buy one but the coconuts looked weird because they were big and green, not brown and furry like the ones in Asda. The man gave me the coconut and a straw and I drank the milk from inside. It tasted really nice but Lucy didn’t like it. Daddy had rum poured into his.
Barbados / 4 Nov 2017
We went for a walk to the beach in Barbados, instead of getting a taxi like we did everywhere else. It wasn’t as sunny but we still played in the sea and drew pictures in the sand with a stick. We went to a bar for a drink and saw one of my friends from the ship. Then it was time to go back to the ship to get ready to go to the airport and go home. We had an amazing holiday and didn’t want to get off the ship. We joked about finding somewhere to hide so we wouldn’t have to leave.
Mum & Dad
The beaches of the Caribbean islands are fantastic for children, as the seas are shallow and warm. It was Lucy’s first time in the sea and she took to it like a duck to water. The holiday was brilliant and relaxing, and the kids had a great time both on and off the ship. The journey home was stress free, as your suitcases are taken from your cabin the night before so we only had our hand luggage, and we were lucky to get a private cab transfer to the airport. We travelled home on a TUI Dreamliner, which was great for an overnight flight as each seat had a TV screen of its own to watch films, TV and even play games. This kept the children entertained until they fell asleep.