Wonderful cruise to Norway
Michael Bankover | April 1, 2018 | P&O Cruises | Azura
Joined the Azura in Southampton for a weeks cruise to Norway. As usual the boarding arrangements at Southampton were hassle free. After unloading the luggage we were booked in and on board within 30 minutes.
We were initially worried about travelling on such a large ship with over 3500 passengers. We have been on QM2 and whilst being larger than Azura has fewer passengers. However, we should not have worried, the ship offers loads of areas and bars where you can go and find a seat without trouble.
We booked a balcony cabin as this is the norm when we cruise. However this time we did not book the actual cabin and booked a Getaway package. In this you are guaranteed a balcony cabin but do not know where it is located. We booked at the end of May some 8 weeks before sailing and were informed some 3 weeks before sailing of our cabin. This was located on Deck 15 which is the highest deck with cabins. The cabin was located at the front of the ship and close to the Spa. The cabin was adequate and offers an area for your clothes which does not have any doors and is located immediately opposite the bathroom. The space provided was very good and because there were no doors clothes don’t tend to get crushed. The bathroom as usual is quite small but adequate. The balcony contained two reclining chairs and a footstool and was of sufficient size. Being on the top deck the cabin is not overlooked and is also protected as the deck above gives it total cover. The cabin was much larger than the previous P&O ship (Oceana) and the area where the clothes hung could also be used as a dressing area as it had a full length mirror on one wall. A well thought out cabin. The cabin also had tea/coffee making facilities which were not on the dressing table but on a separate unit.
The cruise visited Bergen, Andalsnes, Olden & Stavanger and during the 7 days we had two formal evenings, two semi-formal and the remainder casual.
We chose Freedom dining as we do not like to be tied down to a particular time to eat and also because you get the opportunity to meet other cruisers. On the first evening we had to wait 45 minutes for a table which we put down to the fact that people were not used to the arrangements. The 2nd evening was a formal night with the crew being presented at 8.15, we chose not to go to this and instead decided to eat at 7.45 i.e. before the crush and again had to wait 45 minutes. We found this to be frustrating and not in the true sense of the word “Freedom Dining”. We complained that this was extremely annoying and was tending to spoil the whole dining experience. The following night when we presented our cabin numbers we were quickly taken to a table without any waiting time and it was as if the staff had been made aware of our comments, in fact the same thing happened on every other evening. So the complaint certainly worked. The food in the dining room was more than adequate and there was always a full choice so never had an issue. Service was excellent.
For Breakfast and lunch we used either the Verona or Venezia buffet restaurants. The choice in both was very good and even thought there were 3,500 passengers we never had an issue finding a table.
Our first port was Bergen and we chose not to take a tour but instead took the shuttle bus (free) into town. We opted to go on one of the Open Top buses which took about an hour and showed us all the interesting parts of the town. We then walked around what is a very interesting town and visited the World Heritage buildings along the sea front. Anything in Norway is expensive so we were careful where we stopped for a drink and did not bother to have anything else whilst off the ship.
The 2nd port was Andalsnes and on this we chose to go on the Trollstighelman Scenic Drive tour. This takes you from the port along a road with 11 hairpin bends. Very scenic tour with loads of areas to take photo’s. The road is one of the most scenic in Norway and is only open between May – September due to weather problems. It was originally planned that docking would be by way of tenders but we actually docked right in the town which was a bonus.
The next port was Olden and here we took the Briksdal Glacier by Troll Car tour. The coach takes you up to the Glacier and from the drop off point you take a Troll Car to about a 10 minute walk to the Glacier. Other tours to the Glacier (which were a little cheaper) dropped you off at the car park and then visitors had at least a 45 minute walk. I would highly recommend the Troll car because some people looked extremely tired trying to walk to the Glacier. The Glacier was amazing and is 7,300 years old and it’s colour is blue, very unusual and magnificent. An excellent tour even though it was expensive.
The last port of call was Stavanger and the ship docks right in the town so only a short walk to the shops etc. Of all the towns visited this was the most interesting to walk round. It has all the usual shops but also a very quaint old part with white painted houses all built close to one another. Each house tries to out do the next with its flower displays.
The sail-away from Stavanger was delayed by 2 hours but the entertainment team kept going for over two and a half hours keeping everyone entertained.
We visited most of the bars on the ship and always found a seat, drinks on board were reasonably priced and what you signed for you paid, there was no additional service charge added.
We have cruised several times and have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable ships and cruise, we would have no hesitation in choosing Azura again.
Being so close to the Spa we chose to pay for a Thermal pass for the 7 days, the cost was ?60 per person and allowed you total use of the Steam Rooms, relaxation rooms, Sauna and even the adult only pool. You could go as many times as you wanted and was excellent value for money.
Our cabin steward (Dean) was excellent and always kept the room clean and tidy and whilst we paid for tips within our overall charges on board we did give him a little extra at the end because of the service offered.
All the tours were very well arranged with meeting points being on shore rather than having to wait on board and be escorted off.
We only went to one show in the main theatre which was excellent and one show in one of the lounges.
All in all a great cruise.
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