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Guest Solent Richard

Azura's Black Sea Cruise

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Guest Solent Richard

Twelve months ago my wife and I completed a 24 night cruise on board the P&O cruise ship Azura which took us from Southampton to the Black Sea and back again to Southampton.

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This was the second time we had cruised on Azura.

Our Itinerary

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We had booked a Deluxe balcony Cabin on 9 Deck...

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Our Cabin met all our requirements and made an excellent home for the duration of the cruise.

The Cruise Itinerary.

Our first Port of Call was a hastily re-arranged one. We had been scheduled to spend a day in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. However, industrial action at the port made a stop there a trifle risky and P&O quickly organised a visit to Oporto. Good news for Mr and Mrs Solent Richard despite having to quickly cancel a privately arranged tour of Estadio de Luz – the home of Benfica FC.

We had visited Lisbon on many occasions and will no doubt call again but Oporto was a first for us and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise…

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Two sea days were to follow before we entered Valletta Grand Harbour, Malta . We took the opportunity to visit Mdina – the Silent City – as well as a walk around the ramparts of Grand Harbour…

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Our next ‘Port of Call’ was the Greek Island of Rhodes. Here we took the opportunity to take the local bus service to the

town of Lindos in order to visit the Acropolis of Lindos…

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Having bid farewell to Rhodes we now headed for the Black Sea. Perhaps one of the great aspects of this particular cruise was

the full daylight transit of the Dardanelles, sail past Istanbul, and then the Bosphorus

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Once through the Bosphorus we headed for Odessa ( another quick change to the original itinerary) Nothing significant, just the dates of the visits to Odessa and Yalta were switched in order to avoid congestion at Yalta.

At Odessa we had hired a private tour guide in order that we could both make the most of our time in Odessa while particularly visiting the famous Odessa Catacombs...

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The inscription in the Odessa Catacombs- a patriots warning to the enemy. It reads ‘Blood for Blood, Death or Death’

A full review of our Odessa visit can be found on my Blog...

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/one-way-to-do-odessa/

And so to Yalta. Again a full review of our visit to Yalta can be found on my Blog...

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/one-way-to-do-yalta/

How about this for a taster…

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Our final Black Sea port was the Romanian port of Constanta at the mouth of the River Danube.

For this visit we turned to the ship’s excursion organisation, took a two hour scenic drive through the Romanian countryside to Tulcea, before joining a mini-cruise through the Danube Delta, the second largest in Europe…

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Cruising out of the Black Sea we again navigated The Bosphorus but on this occasion berthing at Istanbul for an overnight stay where we made the most of our time touring and sightseeing this most vibrant of cities.

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A full review of our time in Istanbul, and an exercise in just what can be achieved, can be foun at...

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/one-way-to-do-istanbul/

The next port of call after a day at sea was re-programmed from Kusadasi to Izmir. No real big deal as both ports serve as places to dock when a visit to Ephesus is planned.

We again hired the services of a local tour guide for a visit to Ephesus

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'Where else to be photographed than outside the Celsus library'.

Our next port of call, and definitely now heading home, was Athens. Here again we relied on a Ship’s excursion to get us to Corinth, site, not only of Ancient Corinth, but of The Corinth Canal…

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We now had a further two sea days as we cruised westwards towards the island of Palma de Mallorca, a place visited many times. P&O provided a complimentary shuttle bus and on this occasion we indulged in a little morning retail therapy while in the afternoon I ventured up to the Castell de Bellver which dominates the Palma skyline and is well worth a visit.

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No review of a P&O ship could be allowed to pass without mentioning one of the more enduring traditions of P&O – The Sailaway Party…

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Three further pleasant sea days and a calm crossing of the Bay of Biscay saw us arrive in Azura’s home port of Southampton. Twenty Four nights since leaving and a veritable treasure trove of memories of the places we had visited.

Summary

This was our second cruise on the Azura and we knew exactly what to expect. From our more than comfortable accommodation, the entertainment and the port visits, this cruise was one outstanding experience. Food wise P&O offers pretty middle of the road British fare to a reasonable standard. One knows what one is getting and a request for a variation or additional items and alternative vegetables are always happily accommodated. Azura has two outstanding speciality restaurants which we made full use of: not to mention The Glass House, a wine bar and restaurant created in partnership with TVs Olly Smith which also gets full marks from my wife and me.

Entertainment was particularly very good: something for everyone. Indeed, such was the variety on most evenings that a conflict existed on where our priorities should take us. We danced, dined, watched some really good shows and enjoyed the Cabaret evenings in the Manhattan and Malabar show lounges.

Deck space and sun lounger availability was more than adequate and there was always the alternative of The Retreat for those wishing to spoil themselves.

A second excellent cruise on board P&O’s Azura and again, good value for money.

Would we cruise again on Azura?

Damn right we will. No hesitation.

As this section of the Forum is entitled 'Cruise Destinations' I will review our time on board, the dining, the entertainment and P&O life in general on a separate thread.

I would be pleased to answer any questions from members wishing to gain a further insight into this excellent 24 night itinerary.

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Great pictures as always Solent Richard. The only comment I would make is that although P&O call it a Black Sea cruise, and whilst a fabulous itinerary, it only visited 3 ports actually in the Black Sea as I don't count Istanbul. There are many beautiful ports in the Black Sea and I feel it is a great shame to visit only 3 of them.

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