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NOW COMPLETE Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

NOW COMPLETE Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

Postby bobbyoscar » 08 Aug 2016 14:05

The Western Med – Cruise A619
Ex Southampton 22nd July 2016 onboard Azura


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As previously, we had opted to drive down to Southampton and stay at the same Premier Inn. Unfortunately, this time the drive was not straightforward (M1, M25, M3) as road works and congestion on all three motorways saw us arrive in Southampton at 17.30 having taken three and a half hours instead of the usual two hours and ten minutes. We had checked in online so were soon in our room and not long to wait until dinner.

The following morning, after breakfast, I repacked the car and we left at 10.45. Our check in time was 15.30 but as there were five ships due to depart we took the view of preferring to be at the terminal and having to wait, rather than competing with everyone else on the road.

We had free parking at the terminal and once all the documentation was complete, made our way into the building and to the Assisted Boarding area where we waited until they were ready for us. Boarding began at 11.30, we were called just after 12.15 and ten minutes later we were on the ship. We were taken to Verona for a buffet lunch and at 13.00 an announcement was made that all cabins were now ready.

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I had seen photos of Azura and was well aware that she was a large ship (3000+ passengers) but nothing I had read had prepared me for how big she actually is and how ugly I thought she was. She looked to me as if someone had taken a knife and cut a slice from her rear end.

Once we had found our cabin using the little map provided (I was able to dispense with that on Day 10), we explored a little before Muster and then sat outside on the Prom as we followed Ventura out of Southampton.
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I have already reviewed our cabin but forgot to mention Rose, our steward, who was lovely. We also met with her boss, Mary, (Deputy Manager, Housekeeping) who called on us from time to time to make sure we had all that we needed.

There are three MDRs on Azura. Two are used for ‘anytime’ dining whilst the Oriental Restaurant was for fixed dining which is what we had opted for. Throughout our cruise, the food was excellent and the service faultless. We hadn’t realised when opting for fixed time dining that The Oriental restaurant could only be accessed by the lifts and stairs at the back of the ship. In order to avoid crowds going to either the Theatre or the bars, we found the easiest way for us was to take the lifts down to deck 7, walk outside along the Prom Deck to where the aft lifts were situated and then take the lifts down to deck 6 where the restaurant was situated. We did consider asking to be switched to one of the other restaurants but we were so fortunate to be seated with a lovely family of four so decided to put up with the inconvenience of it.

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The Oriental Restaurant

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The Peninsular Restaurant

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The Meridian Restaurant


After dinner we sat in the Malabar listening to a singer before making our way to The Glass House which was quieter and where we could be found every night after dinner.

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Malabar, showing ramp

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Outside of Malabar

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The Glass House


We had two sea days before reaching Gibraltar which gave us some more time to try to find our bearings.

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The Terrace Pool

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The Sea Screen

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The Coral Pool

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Shore Excursions

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Manhattan


That afternoon, we really did think we had made a huge mistake in booking Azura and we spoke about future cruises being made only on much smaller ships. However by mid morning of the next day we were starting to have a change of mind. I think it may have been to do with starting to find our way around, chatting with some very nice other cruisers and staff being there and offering help whenever I appeared to be lost. And it is so wheelchair friendly.

On the second sea day, I did manage to embarrass myself by trying to break into someone else’s cabin. I had left Andy outside on the Prom Deck whilst I returned to our cabin. I pressed the button for deck 10 and got out at what I thought was our deck. Strange thing was the scanner wouldn’t accept my card when I tried to swipe it. A man’s voice behind me said that he thought I had the wrong cabin. I replied that my cabin was C304 and it says 304 on this door. To which he replied that the cabin was E304. Profuse apologies and a hasty retreat from me.

We had all our meals in the MDR or popped up for a pizza or baguette and fresh fruit from the Grab & Go at lunch time, so I can’t comment on the speciality restaurants. There was also plenty to do, if you wanted to, during the evenings and sea days. This was a Strictly themed cruise so dresses used in the show were to be located near the atrium, shows were held in the theatre, master classes for adults and children as well as Q & A sessions were also held. The dancers were also seen around the ship, talking to passengers.

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Dresses from the Show displayed around the Atrium


This cruise was full including 500 children on board and the little people we came across were delightful and very well behaved. However, there was a problem with a minority of teens. Our dinner companions, two of which were aged 18 and 21 told us of some of the teens thinking it ok to make a mess in the buffets in the late evening/early morning by throwing salt, pepper and sauces around including deliberately pouring them onto the carpets. The entire ship was also woken up on four separate occasions at 3am, 4am, 5am and 6am on different days by The Bridge giving out the name and cabin number of individuals and telling them to contact reception immediately. When this was coupled with no engine noise and the realization that the ship had stopped, we really did think, as did others we spoke to, that someone had fallen overboard. We found out later that it was a boy that had decided to stay in someone else’s cabin and his parents had reported him missing. We certainly didn’t have a problem with personnel from the ship doing what they had to do to try to locate someone missing, but this was not a one off as it happened three more times caused by one or other of the occupants of two particular cabins. These are just a couple of examples.

So what do we think of this ship now? From initially thinking we had made a big mistake, after five days we were smitten with her. However, if this had been a short cruise of four days we would have left this ship thinking never again! I still think she is not very pretty to look at but we came to like this ship very much; Azura is very wheelchair friendly, easy to get around and we had a wonderful time. The only difficulty we found was getting into the theatre as the ramp is quite steep and requires a second person to push the user up it. We can’t wait to sail on her again.

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The Atrium

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Sindhu Restaurant

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Deck 16, outside


I forgot to mention about the number of people that would come up to ask and begin with, ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I have a friend who is in a wheelchair.............’

P & O, we should be on a commission.
Last edited by bobbyoscar on 10 Oct 2017 18:08, edited 5 times in total.
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Cruises booked:
October 2018 – P & O Oriana - Cadiz - Catania - Corigliano Calabro – Venice –Zadar - Dubrovnik - Kotor - Corfu - Gibraltar
February 2019 – P & O Aurora - Andalsnes – Tromso – Alta – Stavanger
September 2019 - P & O Azura - Malaga -Messina - Mykonos - Piraeus - Santorini - Katakolon - Gibraltar
bobbyoscar
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Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

Postby bobbyoscar » 08 Aug 2016 14:06

The Ports


Gibraltar – 25th July
Ajaccio – 27th July
Civitavecchia – 28th July
La Spezia – 29th July
Monte Carlo – 30th July
Marseille – 31st July
Cadiz – 2nd August


Gibraltar

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As I had booked a private taxi, we had arranged to meet Sue and Pete in our cabin and then make our way down to Deck 4 to disembark. However, as most passengers were also disembarking at the same time and the stairways were very crowded, Sue and Pete were sent back to Deck 5 to join the queue whilst we waited for ‘the guys’ to assist Andy to disembark. Whilst waiting for Sue and Pete to come ashore, we couldn’t help but notice crowds of passengers milling around two people, having photographs taken and lots of chat going on. We had no idea who they were but Sue informed us they were Anton Du Beke and Judy Murray, from Strictly, waiting to come onboard; Ian Waite & Natalie Lowe having sailed with us from Southampton.

Outside the terminal we waited for our taxi and waited and waited! After 20 minutes, I telephoned the company (having remembered to print off all my emails from them before leaving home) and explained that we had a booking and were waiting for them, as arranged, outside the terminal. After taking more details I was contacted by a very apologetic lady who confirmed that we did indeed have a booking but we had been forgotten about and she had just sorted out a taxi and it was on its way to us.

Well, what can I tell you about the vehicle? It did indeed have some ramps to enable a wheelchair to be pushed into the vehicle and air con. Thanks here to Pete for assisting. It also had a few dents, as did all the vehicles we saw. I was a little concerned about how Andy had been strapped in but he said he was fine. Pete bravely sat in the front with the driver whilst Sue and I sat behind. When we braked sharply at one point, we both had visions of Andy coming over our seat and landing in our laps or the back doors flying open and Andy disappearing out of the back, never to be seen again. Think of a Carry On film and you won’t be far wrong lol. (By the way, Pete is very good at the one-liners.) By now, we were all in a giggly mood at the situation we had found ourselves in.

As to the tour itself, I had booked The Rock Tour and that’s what we did. Our first visit was to the Caves, very impressive it was too. There is a lift which Andy could use to take him down to the first floor. From there we went to the Nature Reserve and the monkeys, where some happily posed for photos. Our time there was cut a little short though as an ambulance needed to get through and it’s a single track road.


The Caves & from The Nature Reserve

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We also visited the Siege Tunnels before being driven back through the town and arriving back at the cruise terminal where we queued with passengers from ‘Spirit’ who were berthed opposite us. Cold drinks were brought to us by our crew, as they were at all terminals, whilst we waited to embark. We left Gibraltar just after 6pm bound for Ajaccio.


Ajaccio


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We had no tour booked here so spent some time wandering around where we were berthed. There were some cafes and shops alongside the dock area. Although the area where we were was flat, there were few drop down kerbs making it difficult to get around with the w/chair. Other w/chair users also said the same.


Civitavecchia (Rome)


This tour was offered by the ship and worth every penny we paid. Our tour was in a wheelchair accessible vehicle which took three wheelchairs and three carers. It was spotless, very comfortable and the driver was very good. Our guide was joining us in Rome so our driver chatted to us as we drove.

After approx 1 hour and twenty minutes we drove into the grounds of the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, where our guide joined us for the rest of our visit to Rome. This building certainly whetted our appetite as to what was in store for us. It was just stunning and we could have stayed there for much, much longer.

The Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls


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As we were in a mini bus showing the sign for wheelchair users, we were able to drive down narrow streets where vehicles are not normally allowed to drive. Our driver would point to the wheelchair picture and other drivers would just pull over to allow us to continue. Our guide told us that we were able to see so much more than those that have to use the coaches as they would not be able to access the streets we had and would have to walk from place to place, thereby cutting down on the time that could actually be spent at the various sites. The only site we had to walk to (about 50 metres) was The Trevi Fountain as there had been an accident blocking the road. Here are some of the sights we saw. Apart from the Trevi Fountain, and St Peter’s they are all taken from inside the minibus.

The Colosseum

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The Trevi Fountain

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The Spanish Steps

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Victor Emmanuel II Monument - the Wedding Cake

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We were then driven to St Peter’s where we disembarked and were shown where we had to meet up later for the journey back to the ship. This last part of our tour was unaccompanied. Before leaving us, our guide told us that despite all the queues we could see, wheelchairs have priority. So we were to make our way to the front of the queue where we would be seen and barriers would be removed to allow access.

This really didn’t sit well with us. We are Brits, we like to queue and queue jumping is a little alien to us. We needn’t have worried though because we were spotted by security and, from quite a way back, the queues were stopped to allow us to continue the route into the Basilica. From joining the queue until reaching the Basilica took us ten minutes instead of the two hours that others had to wait. We were again spotted and Andy was pushed up the various ramps (otherwise it’s steps) into the building where another security guard escorted us to the lifts.

Security was extensive and high profile (police, carabinieri and army) but it was only a couple of days after the terrorist attacks in France.

Well, what can I say to describe the scene that met us as we entered St Peter’s? What an amazing place. I was moved to tears by what I could see around me.

St Peter's & The Swiss Guard

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All too soon, we had to leave to meet up with our fellow passengers and return to the ship.

Roman History is something I know a ‘little’ about having taught it for many years. Our guide to Rome was excellent and on returning to the ship I made Shore Excursions aware of how good he was.

This day was our wedding anniversary and was rounded off by a congratulations card from Sue & Pete and balloons, singing waiters and an Anniversary cake when we went into dinner. A magical day with fab memories to look back on in years to come.

La Spezia


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The port had provided buses to take passengers to the terminal building and which also took wheelchairs. The floor near the middle doors could ‘flip over’ making a ramp and there was then a section for wheelchairs to be stationed, a bit like where buggies are stored on our buses. We boarded the bus for the 5 minute journey, unfortunately, I almost become ‘Andy less’!

Our driver took a bend so fast that Andy’s chair moved and continued to slide towards the middle doors. I grabbed the side of the chair, checking that the brake was on, it was. Whilst other passengers leapt up and held on tightly to prevent any more movement. The driver just continued on his way.

We spent a couple of hours ‘walking’ along the front which was relatively flat and had drop down kerbs to negotiate. We didn’t get very far as kept bumping into people we recognised from the ship.


Monte Carlo


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We were due to stay in this port until midnight for the fireworks but Sue had been notified five days before we sailed that they had been cancelled and therefore we would be leaving at 9pm. I was finally notified on the day we sailed, by Cruise Select.

We didn’t get off at this port as I had read that it was very steep. Sue told me that she had found various lifts which could be used to negotiate the terrain. So, that’s for next time.

As we sat on the Prom Deck or our balcony, we saw ‘money’ sailing in and out of this port and I took a shine to quite a few boats! Having seen the Grand Prix on numerous occasions, I half expected to see F1 cars come racing in front of us.

Marseille



We had intended taking the Shuttle Bus into the town which took approx 35 minutes. Unfortunately, Andy wasn’t feeling too well and the idea of having to spend over an hour travelling in hot weather didn’t inspire us, so we decided to stay on board. We were later told that the reasons we were docked so far out was because Marseille has something resembling ‘the jungle’ as in Calais, close to where we should have parked and there were concerns that the first thing passengers see of Marseille is that, coupled with concerns for the security of the ship. How true that is, I don’t know.


Cadiz


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Cadiz was our last port and we were surprised to find out how we both liked this town. We parked right in the middle of the town and it was very easy to get around. Lots of drop down kerbs, flat terrain and places to have a sit down before continuing. We were also told the HOHO bases have ramps for wheelchairs, so something for next time.

Britannia was parked opposite us, so lots of horn blowing as we left bound for Southampton.


Other


The evening before we arrived in Gibraltar, as we were walking along the Prom Deck, a lady suddenly stood up and very excitedly pointed at the water. There we saw a pod of about seven dolphins all leaping out of the water. It was absolutely wonderful. As we were heading for dinner, unfortunately, we had no camera with us.

Whilst in Gibraltar, we had this cheeky chappie come visit and stayed on our balcony for about half an hour much to the delight of our fellow passengers.

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I have emailed Accessible Shore Excursions since returning, to register how disappointing it was to have only one W/A excursion available from the ship. I had a reply the following day to apologise and to tell me that it is a situation they are aware of and are trying to rectify this by using different shore excursions providers in some of the ports so as to enable W/A tours to take place. I have also been asked to email again once I have decided which future cruise(s) I am interested in (before booking) and I will be told what is available at present and what they are negotiating to provide the following year.
Last edited by bobbyoscar on 15 Aug 2016 12:42, edited 3 times in total.
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Cruises booked:
October 2018 – P & O Oriana - Cadiz - Catania - Corigliano Calabro – Venice –Zadar - Dubrovnik - Kotor - Corfu - Gibraltar
February 2019 – P & O Aurora - Andalsnes – Tromso – Alta – Stavanger
September 2019 - P & O Azura - Malaga -Messina - Mykonos - Piraeus - Santorini - Katakolon - Gibraltar
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Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

Postby Mungo » 08 Aug 2016 17:58

A good start Glynis! :mrgreen:

Can't wait! ;)
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Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

Postby Trace » 08 Aug 2016 18:34

Mungo wrote:A good start Glynis! :mrgreen:

Can't wait! ;)


Same here... :)
Tracey :-)
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Postby bobbyoscar » 08 Aug 2016 19:16

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Just a taster, folks, while I'm waiting for 'David Bailey' :wink:

He has told me that he's going to start sorting them for me to choose tomorrow which means he has to stop processing his air show photos :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Cruises booked:
October 2018 – P & O Oriana - Cadiz - Catania - Corigliano Calabro – Venice –Zadar - Dubrovnik - Kotor - Corfu - Gibraltar
February 2019 – P & O Aurora - Andalsnes – Tromso – Alta – Stavanger
September 2019 - P & O Azura - Malaga -Messina - Mykonos - Piraeus - Santorini - Katakolon - Gibraltar
bobbyoscar
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Posts: 4663
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Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

Postby Trace » 08 Aug 2016 20:35

bobbyoscar wrote::lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Just a taster, folks, while I'm waiting for 'David Bailey' :wink:

He has told me that he's going to start sorting them for me to choose tomorrow which means he has to stop processing his air show photos :clap: :clap: :clap:



No rush at all but we are all here waiting thinking.... will there be anything interesting to read at brekkie... :lol: only kidding..... :lol:
Tracey :-)
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Postby Mungo » 09 Aug 2016 07:03

Trace wrote:
bobbyoscar wrote::lol: :lol: :lol:

Just a taster, folks, while I'm waiting for 'David Bailey' :wink:

He has told me that he's going to start sorting them for me to choose tomorrow which means he has to stop processing his air show photos :clap: :clap:



No rush at all but we are all here waiting thinking.... will there be anything interesting to read at brekkie... :lol: only kidding..... :lol:


I'm waiting too Trace! :lol: Even though we were on the same cruise we did many different things! :mrgreen: Looking forward to reading Glynis' review. :D
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Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

Postby bobbyoscar » 09 Aug 2016 07:18

Mungo wrote:
Trace wrote: No rush at all but we are all here waiting thinking.... will there be anything interesting to read at brekkie... :lol: only kidding..... :lol:

I'm waiting too Trace! :lol: Even though we were on the same cruise we did many different things! :mrgreen: Looking forward to reading Glynis' review. :D


No pressure, then :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Cruises booked:
October 2018 – P & O Oriana - Cadiz - Catania - Corigliano Calabro – Venice –Zadar - Dubrovnik - Kotor - Corfu - Gibraltar
February 2019 – P & O Aurora - Andalsnes – Tromso – Alta – Stavanger
September 2019 - P & O Azura - Malaga -Messina - Mykonos - Piraeus - Santorini - Katakolon - Gibraltar
bobbyoscar
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Posts: 4663
Joined: 01 Jun 2011 19:16
Location: Bedford
National Flag:
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Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

Postby Trace » 09 Aug 2016 08:27

bobbyoscar wrote:
Mungo wrote:
Trace wrote: No rush at all but we are all here waiting thinking.... will there be anything interesting to read at brekkie... :lol: only kidding..... :lol:

I'm waiting too Trace! :lol: Even though we were on the same cruise we did many different things! :mrgreen: Looking forward to reading Glynis' review. :D


No pressure, then :lol: :lol: :lol:


Non at all Glynis.... :lol:
Tracey :-)
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Azura A619 Western Med 22 July - 5th Aug 2016

Postby Mungo » 09 Aug 2016 09:21

:lol: :lol: :lol:

Glynis did you try any of the speciality restaurants? :?:
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