Friday the 27th April started as any other morning usually would of late, wet and cold. Myself, my husband and the girls all rushing around like headless chickens in attempt to get ready for the day ahead; work, school, swimming, homework, the usual monotony, Oh – and a cruise!
For those of you who are not familiar with cruising, embarkation simply means, to board the ship. As you may or may not be aware, I have a love for cruising, and a great lack of patience, especially when I am super excited – therefore embarkation for me, can be frustrating; only because I have a desire to board the ship like yesterday. We arrived at Southampton docks around 10:15am, which was a little assuming considering our E-BlogBlogtickets had stated a boarding time of 15:00 hours. Impatient me incoming…
My past cruises (all bar one) have been with Royal Caribbean. This time we were sailing with P&O on board the Azura. The first difference between the two cruise companies is that one is all out American and the other is perfectly British. I have now learned that they cannot be compared. Although I was buzzing with excitement, I was also anxious, anxious because sailing with me – my closest friend of 29 years – Stephanie. If you have read my introductory blog, then you will know that I traveled around Australia in my 20’s, with non other than Stephanie, It’s also worth pointing out that this was the first exploration the two of us have had since then. I had decided to surprise Stephanie with the cruise for a um, lets just say, very special birthday. Stephanie has had to, in the past, endure bleeding ears from my constant verbal diarrhea with regards to my previous cruises. This was my attempt, and the perfect opportunity to lure her into the world of my addiction. I am what you call a “cruise feeder”. I’m damn sure I get that trait from Mother dearest.
After running around the terminal like a couple of excited children on Christmas morning, clearly cheesing off the disembarking passengers whose beds in their cabins were still warm, we got chatting to a lovely, attentive lady named Maggie (Hi Maggie). Maggie has worked for the cruise line for over 29 years and was full of helpful and insightful facts. One of those facts was about to test my patience – “you might not be able to board the ship until the time stated on your boarding pass – 15:00 hours”. Well let me tell you now, I had a face on me like a bull dog chewing on a wasp, needless to say I was not impressed. Thankfully timing was on my side, poor Maggie must’ve paid attention – not only to my disgraced facial expression, but to my phone screen lighting up and pinging every couple of seconds. Instagram cruising companies and sites were all wishing us a great time on our cruise. Maggie had also overheard my excited, loud speel about how I was going to create a new blog dedicated to our time on Azura. I’m sure you’ve already guessed it; just in case you haven’t, marvelous Maggie decided that she would love to make sure we could make the most of our time, consequently ensuring that we were on board the ship by 10:45am. The process was incredibly smooth – our luggage was collected from the second our feet touched the ground at the drop off point. We made our way to check in, attached a debit/credit card to our sail card, smiled for a photo and waited for a minute or two to be called for embarkation. Ahhhhhh, happiness and peace resumed.
Day 1 – Southampton
It was clear to see the ship was pretty empty when we embarked, which gave us the perfect opportunity to explore. There was no looking at the strategically placed deck plans, at this point, oh no, we were not down for that, after all, neither of us are what you’d call “conformers” and we both like to live a little on the wild side. Isn’t that part of what exploring and travelling is all about? After getting wonderfully lost and walking the entirety of the ship, of which I must add is stunning, we realised that lunch was overdue. Retreating to Verona (buffet style eatery), it was clear that there were various choices for lunch, including; curry, salad, pâté, steak and mushroom pie with mash and a whole lot more besides, not to mention the puddings! We were completely relaxed by this point, watching the world go by, OK not quite – we watched fellow cruisers join us, more and more by the minute until the ship was likely at full capacity.
Sail away Party.
Sail away is often a highlight for many cruisers, including myself. This one however was like one I had never experienced before. It was wet, and the wind whipped across the top decks – you could almost taste the salty air. Sail away parties usually consist of flags, a live band, a good few drinks, loud honks from the ships’ funnel and land lovers waving frantically at us ocean dwellers having a ball on top deck. The weather did not dampen our spirits or anyone else’s for that matter. It was announced that the party would be moving to the inside of the stunning ship. Despite this, Stephanie and I stuck to the norm (for once) and stayed put, enjoying delicious, mouthwatering cocktails and babbles with our new cruise friends. It is to be said that this is one of my favorite things about cruising and travel is meeting like-minded people from all over the world, that in itself is amazing. The atmosphere on board was electric, positive and everyone was in high spirits.
There was so much entertainment on first evening, thankfully we could cram it all in by staying up way past our bedtime – which we did! In fact on evening two, we didn’t actually make it to sleep at all. You can read more about that in part two of my blog (coming soon). Back to our first evening – after overindulging on fine foods, we made our way to the Playhouse (800 seats) theater for a show – Showmaddymaddy, a tribute to the band Showaddywaddy. The older generation were clearly having blast, singing along to the familiar hits and dancing in their chairs, it wasn’t much to our taste; we snuck out quietly.
During the course of our first evening, I do believe we stopped by almost every venue for a drink, it would’ve been rude not to. After all, I knew that I would be blogging about my time on board so saw it as a an absolute must, for contents purposes of course. Each and every venue on board Azura left us open mouthed, gawping. Imagine if you will, “the scream” but two of them. The intricate design of the Malabar had me feeling like I was in Mumbai, it has an exotic vibe to it, which is always welcoming. The casino and Brodies, is beckoning and strategically placed, with screens streaming live football (my husband would’ve been in his element, had he come along). Manhattan was probably my favorite, I don’t know about Steph, I never did ask her. Manhattan, in all its art deco glory, had us all feeling like we had just stepped out in New York. Flashing lights and brilliant beats, ensured we stayed put for the majority of the evening. A great vibe…
As 01:15 approached we both knew we had to give in and head back to our stateroom for some rest, ready for Bruges and the day ahead. Furthermore, we knew we were going to lose an hours sleep because of the time difference. Upon arrival, our stateroom had been prepared for turn down by our wonderful attendant Justin. Cute little touches were applied; a chocolate on each of our pillows, and the corner of our quilts carefully and precisely turned down at one corner. Perfect! Which is also the word that best describes the deep sleep we both had during our first night on board the amazing Azura.
Find out what we got up to on day two. Part 2 of our time on board Azura will be up next week. Don’t forget to pop back to my site. Please check out my other pages (See below). I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog and I thank you for taking time out to do so. I am forever grateful.
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Keep dreaming dreamers…
Love Claire x