Azura’s black Sea Cruise

In October 2012 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.

This was the second time we had cruised on Azura.

The Itinerary

EPSON MFP image

Our Accommodation

We had booked a Deluxe balcony Cabin on 9 Deck

with full en-suite facilities

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

Dining

Azura has many dining venues and we chose second sitting in The Peninsular Restaurant……

…one of the three main dining restaurants. There is a selection of alternative themed restaurants, three of which require a supplement to be paid. These are the Michelin starred Atul Kochhar’s ‘Sindhu’…

where dishes such as ‘Tawa Jingha are served on the dinner menu

and the classic fine dining Seventeen

which additionally has a delightful ‘al fresco’ patio dining area overlooking the stern of the ship…

where diners can experience the best Jamon Pata Negra carved at their table…

Entertainment
Azura boasts several entertainment venues and caters for many different entertainment tastes, the main venues being the 788 seat theatre where the ship’s main production shows are performed…

and two cabaret style show lounges, Malabar

and Manhattan

In addition there are many bars and lounges for relaxing evenings with differing styles, again to suit all tastes. My favourite venue, certainly for a pre dinner drink, was The Planet Bar

 

Decks and Pools

Azura is well served for deck space and boasts four pools. The main pool area is centred midships with two pools, one being The Coral Pool

There is another pool at the stern of the ship, which also accommodates my favourite sun worshipping spot, The Terrace Pool

In addition Azura has an area known as The Retreat. This is a Spa complex and an area with a difference. It has its own dedicated pool, The Oasis Pool

An al fresco spa terrace with entry numbers restricted, child free and a daily/ half daily admission supplement charged. A variety of treatments and massage are offered  under airy cabanas in addition to healthy eating alternatives being served.

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…

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…

The Siege Bell, Grand harbour, Valletta

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…

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

 

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.

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

A full review of our visit to Odessa is available in the ‘Port Review’ section of this Blog.

And so to Yalta. Again a full review of our visit to Yalta is available in the ‘Port Review’ section of this Blog.

How about this for a taster…

The Swallow’s Nest, Yalta.

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 and 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…

Tourist boats navigate the Danube Delta, Romania.

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 at this most vibrant of cities.

The Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

Day two in Istanbul saw us, among other things, learn to master the  İstanbul Metrosu  (Metro) and visit the Turk Telekom Arena,  in the Şişli district of Istanbul, home of Galatasary FC

I even bought a shirt

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.

Solent Richard in front of the Celsus Library, Ephesus.

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

The Corinth Canal

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.  

Castell de Bellver

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…

Sailaway party from Palma. Guess how many entertainment staff end up in the pool?

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.

3 responses to “Azura’s black Sea Cruise

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  2. Pingback: Cruising Mates | Solent Richard's Cruise Blog·

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