A cruise tends to conjure images of the silver surfer generation. Those that have money put aside and are happily “skiing” (spending kids inheritance) through their retirement. Happily meandering through the sunshine in exotic ports while the weather is miserable back in the UK.
A cruise is also something we have talked about and mulled over time and time again. The appeal of not staying in one place, really getting chance to explore the Caribbean, without the hassle of packing up and cart two children around on trains, planes and automobiles spoke to our wanderlust side.
So this January we, somewhat apprehensively on my husband’s behalf, set sail on P&O’s Azura where we rapidly discovered we couldn’t have been more wrong with our stereotypical cruise idea….
Landing into Barbados airport after a 9 hour flight, during which the Baby put together a guide on how best to entertain the little people in your life, we stepped out into the beaming sunshine all prepared for the struggle that is collecting your cases with children only to walk straight onto a bus. Straight into the ship’s customs, straight on board the cruise ship, met with leis and a (hideous) embarkation photo before apprehensively heading to check out our cabin. Entering our cabin we were pleasantly surprised and met with a floating balloon welcoming the boys along with a wealth of information in the daily newsletter “Horizon” and special Kids Club package.
Finding out that our suitcases were following us onto the cruise ship to be delivered to our cabin we set off to explore the 14 passenger decks and try to get our bearings a little bit. The husband leading the way with our map we headed towards the upper decks from our cabin, which was situated on deck 10, otherwise known as Canada deck.
First port of call was registering for the Kids Club. Information on the weeks schedule and where to find the club had been left in our room so off we went unsure of what facilities would be offered after our last holiday with a kid’s club, where facilities offered were more suited to children older than ours. Happily P&O Cruises realise this and Kids Club was not only large so spreading across the whole of deck 16 aft (the back to you and me) it was also split into five areas catering for every child from 6 months to 17 years.
The Baby room, a parent supervised area, filled with toys for the youngest passengers on board during the day before becoming the night nursery at night, was a great respite for us to take the Baby too when we experienced the tropical showers you come to expect of the Caribbean. Practicing crawling and taking a liking to chasing balls round *like a dog* here was where we got a little break. It was also where myself and the husband were able to sit and plan our shore excursions without having to worry too much about what mischief he was up to.
The Big One, although he loved the Baby room, was entertained next door in the Splashers Club. It was here he made friends with both the Reefers and the other children on board (of which there were more than we thought). With a soft play, film show at night and countless activities each day going on in Kids Club the Big One was entertained and incredibly looked after. It came to a point where whenever we went for breakfast we would see one of his new friends with much excitement and giggling. But more on that another day.
From registering at the Kids Club we headed down a level to check out the pools, though it took us another two days to find the children’s pool. You had to go to the back of the cruise ship on deck 15, outside and then up and back on yourself. But the Big One was pleased that we eventually found it.
There were three more, family friendly, pools on deck 15 – all very deep, with the shallowest being 1.6m (5’3″ in old school speak) which meant I couldn’t stand except on my very tippy toes. In turn this meant I couldn’t take the boys in without flotation aids, which I forgot to pack. Luckily I was able to grab a ring in the shop for the Big One and the little one was happy splashing on the edge.
There was also an adult only exclusive pool which we managed to sneak away to for a couple of hours while the Big One was in (wonderful, amazing) Kids Club and Grandma took the Baby for a walk around the Azura mile.
Back to that first day, we headed down to the lower decks and ambled round the promenade on deck 7. Deck 7 was to become a place I’d come to know and love . From walking early in the morning watching the sunrise to give the Big One chance to sleep. To walking round with the Baby trying to get him to take his nap, I could pretty much guarantee that halfway through the mile he’d be fast asleep but, especially when we were at sea, walking round and having a good old people watch while the sun glistened off the waves and the vastness of the ocean reminding me how big the world is meant I would always complete the full mile before heading back to meet my bigger boys.
That first night we managed to get back to the room to find our cases arrived in time for a quick shower before our dinner. Barely able to put one foot in front of the other being so tired (we’d managed a eight hour time zone change in 3 days) the Big One sparked out in the pram as we entered the Oriental restaurant. A quiet, but large, three course meal was enjoyed by us all with something for everyone on the menu. Which you get to take home at the end of the cruise, signed by your waiters. For the first week we took the Big One along with us, having let him nap in the afternoon and after a day or so there was a booster seat on his chair, special small cutlery and a special water glass ready for him, which he loved as he felt so special (and so did we!).
Following dinner that first night, in accordance with International Law, we attended the muster. The muster is a drill of what you need to do should the emergency alarm sound where you could potentially have to abandon ship. So off we went, trudging along with one, fast asleep 15kg 3 year old in the pram, an over tired 9 month old, two grumpy adults and 4 life jackets (with two especially for the children). Here we heard the Captain address the cruise ship for the first time explaining what to do and when. Demonstrations from crew on how to put your life jacket on and a little go ourselves before drill was over and we were free to do what we pleased for the rest of the evening.
What we chose to do, with one sleeping and one sleepy baby, was to head back to our room and go to sleep for the night. And a good job we headed back early as the next morning, due to time differences, started at 4am with the Big One giving the husband a chance to explore the ship as I (and the rest of the ship) slept through, getting his bearings, up and down each lift. Forward, Mid-ship, Aft. Wandering round the restaurants, peeking in at each bar on board, finding the photo stations, the coffee shop and ordering me birthday flowers via the reception drop box. Seeing other bleary eyed Dad’s pushing prams around the cruise ship, cue nudging me the rest of the holiday telling me who was part of the 4am club.
After his dawn stroll he came back to our cabin to wake me and the Baby up to really start our holiday at sea. That first day, along with being a getting our bearings, using the Kids Club, kind of day was our first day at sea. The first time I have ever spent at sea, as well as being the first formal night.
Being at sea that first day was the best thing for us because it meant that we really got to grips what was on the ship, from the Big One spending the morning in Kids Club to the Baby learning how to splash the water in the Jacuzzi, myself and the husband hitting the gym in preparation of running off the excesses we were preparing ourselves for in the upcoming weeks on the cruise.
One drink in the Planet Bar before heading to dinner, the sea streaming out behind us, the Big One watching in awe at the sea as the Baby slept peacefully in his pram. Well that moment. As the sun was setting behind us, everyone dressed in their best. That moment was the moment that we really became cruise converts.
And if you fancy reading what we got up to on our port days, or indeed where our port days were you can find out more here.
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