Up until this year, I’d never been interested in going on a cruise and quite frankly the idea of being stuck on a boat at sea for days at a time wasn’t a very appealing one. With that being said, after much deliberation (and persuasion from my cruise-loving boyfriend), I went on my first cruise back in June of this year. Apologies this post is a little delayed, I’ve been working on my blog before posting any new content.
We opted for a 12 night Canary Islands cruise, on one of the larger P&O ships, the Azzura. We got up at the crack of dawn, hopped on our coach (I wouldn’t recommend getting a coach all the way to the port) and made the four-hour journey to Southhampton. On arrival, it was a pretty quick and painless experience checking in and getting through security; not too dissimilar to an airport experience. And just like that, we were given our personal cruise cards (a little on that later) and shown the way to board the ship.
On entering the ship, we were faced with a stunning centre stairway view and the sheer size of the ship was made ever so clear. It was huge. We then had our ‘arrival photo’ taken, which was one to remember, and then we made our way up the many flights of stairs and along the mile-long corridors to our cabin.
The Cabin and Sea Sickness
I initially thought we would be having an inside cabin due to not really wanting to spend a lot of time in our room, but my boyfriend actually surprised me with a window view cabin, which proved to be amazing when arriving into ports every morning. The cabin itself featured a nice sized double bed, a desk/dressing table, a TV (albeit a small one), a wardrobe area and a small but adequate bathroom. It had everything myself and my boyfriend needed for our 12-night stay.
One thing I thought I should mention, which really was the only negative of the cruise, was my sea sickness. Sailing from Southhampton meant we had to travel in English and more choppy waters for a day or two and having never been on a boat before, this really affected me. Let’s set the scene; metre high waves, rain, wind and not being able to walk in a straight line were just a few of the things that lead to me feeling sick for the first two days. The extent of these choppy waters was definitely something I wish I’d known about beforehand, but after those two days, I got my ‘sea legs’ and felt perfect for the duration.
The Cruise Ship and Crew
After unpacking and having a bit of a rest, we set out to explore the ship, which for the first few days I found very difficult to navigate. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was huge; 19 floors and a million staircases later we discovered the restaurants – more on that later – the shop (which became part of my daily routine, the theatre (yes an actual cinema style theatre) and most impressively, the top decks which featured three pools, bars, hundreds of lounge chairs and tables, as well as games such as a basketball court and koyts. I definitely found myself getting lost in the first few days, but after that, I managed to successfully navigate from one end of the ship to the next without even having to look at the signs. Other places on board were a few bars including the daytime sports bar that transformed into a casino in the evening, a beauty salon and gym and a library.
With the sheer amount of areas onboard and activities going on, you never felt bored and despite there being a whole load of people on the ship with you, to me, it never felt crowded or over-packed. One thing I would note though is that we went during term-time and so there wasn’t an abundance of children. We did, however, speak with one of the crew members who said it’s like a whole different ship during the holidays, so bear that in mind if, like us, you don’t have children. There was also a daily newspaper left in your room, detailing the following days’ events and the theme for the evening; for example Formal or Tropical.
Speaking of the Crew, we met some of the nicest people while on board the Azzura. Those who really stood out for me and boyfriend though were the restaurant staff and onboard photographers; both of which made our stay just that bit more enjoyable and personable. For breakfast and lunch we ate in the buffet most days, but in the evenings we had our designated dining time of 8 pm, and it was then where our evening waiter pulled out all the stops. He was quick to welcome us aboard and made every meal a delight, telling us about his experiences as a crew member and recommending what to see at each port, which just added to our evening meal. He also rectified what few problems we had food-wise and didn’t grumble or complain once. We found ourselves talking to him both in the evenings and when we spotted him on deck during the day.
As for the photographers on board, they were all super friendly and made you feel so comfortable being in front of the camera. Our ship offered a photography package and as it was my first cruise, and our first ‘proper’ holiday together, we wanted to take as many photos as possible to remember the experience. These included disembarkment photos, sail-away photos, candid evenings and of course my favourite, the super formal ‘posed’ photos. This was a super fun experience getting dressed up and having our photos taken professionally, it’s a memory we’ll now have forever and for that I’m grateful. The photographers themselves though were a pleasure and definitely went above and beyond to ensure we got the best outcomes possible. We even went for drinks onboard with our ‘bestie-photographer’ friend after getting on with him so well. Great Crew members really can make an experience even better!
The Port Days
The port days were, of course, the most exciting; getting to leave the ship and explore a new place every day was definitely a new experience for me. Now I won’t go into too much detail on this section as I’d literally be here all day, but the ports we visited were: Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, La Palma, Madeira, Lisbon and Vigo. My favourite definitely had to be Madeira as the cable car experience we took was s much fun the views were incredible and despite it being scarily high it was something I’ll never forget. Vigo also has a special place in my heart as that’s where myself and my boyfriend celebrated our one year anniversary, I’ll never forget this day and being in such a beautiful place just made it even more special – and decided to walk up a million steps to the top of a hill, but that’s a different story!
One thing to note, which is sort of port-related is your cruise/key card. This is basically your way of getting into your room, but also identifying yourself at ports getting on and off the ship. A mistake I made four times while onboard was deactivating my card by putting it in my pocket next to my phone. They don’t tell you this beforehand, but yes, that led to me taking four too many trips to reception to get it reactivated.
Overal I was pleasantly surprised by my first cruise experience and it exceeded all expectations I had. I had such an amazing experience, and getting to share it with my boyfriend on a holiday he loves, made it extra special. Would I recommend going on a cruise? YES is my honest answer. Do your research and choose a ship that’s right for you, as there’s so many out there ranging from ages (we’d definitely look towards a younger-aimed ship next time) to activity types etc. I’d love to hear about your cruise experiences too!