In January we headed aboard the Azura with the boys, and my mum, and loved it. The Azura turned us into complete cruise converts and this is why a cruise should be your next holiday and you should consider heading aboard the Azura too!
It’s been no secret that we love to take our boys round the world, and if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have seen that we (I say we, in all reality it was Grandma – thanks again Mum!) took the boys out for a Caribbean cruise aboard the Azura, one of the P&O Cruises fleet, in January.
I wrote about why I thought cruising was a great idea for a holiday with children, and that we were excited, though it could be said that my husband was more on the apprehensive side, as there was so much on board for both us and the children.
The big question is – did it live up to my expectations? I mean 8 Caribbean Islands in 2 weeks was always going to be pretty special but what about the Azura?
I’d have loved to spend the extra money and indulge in a suite finances (as in my mum’s) weren’t stretching that far so we were in a family cabin with pull down beds in.
This was our biggest concern before going, space or lack of it. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how roomy it was. No, it wasn’t the biggest room I’ve ever stayed in but it more than served our purpose.
2 single beds with a pull down bunk that was stored up in the day with a travel cot positioned at the end of the bed maximised space and made the room manourevable even with a pram.
Then there were the little touches that make a world of difference travelling with children. The balloon that was floating on the bed when we arrived welcoming us, the bedding being changed from the heavy, white duvet to the lighter blue duvet meaning that the Big One was able to pull it up over himself at night to get cuddled and cosy. The big thing though was that we were able to get a bed guard, the beds are high so you can store your suitcases underneath once you’ve unpacked (again, more space saving) and he has a tendency to fall out of the bed, by adding a bed guard that eased our worries and our make shift attempts with pillows strewn on the floor.
We had a set table, at a set time, each night in the Oriental with a wonderful waiter (Jonathan) which we may have found a bit restrictive despite the fact that the menu changes daily if it weren’t for the other options on board. The buffet on Lido deck for a more casual affair. Or for a cover charge, ala carte at The Beach House where I enjoyed a cook your own steak.
The tapas-esq Glass House with plush velvet seats, an array of wine to match your food and a delightful selection of small plates or indeed for those who want, one larger plate.
The Indian fusion delights from Atul Kouchers Sindhu, where we spent my birthday, sans children.
Or the ultimate in fine dining at the Epicurean, which my mum treated us too. The smoked salmon carved at the table.
The night nursery pager going off between courses sending me rushing up to settle the Baby, expecting to come down to my dinner cooling on the table, delighted to find that although the wine level had dropped dramatically the waiters had waited until I returned to serve our dinner. Which was delicious and a complete pork indulgence (a given seeing as we live in Dubai).
Followed by more table spectacular with Crepe Suzette for pudding.
We ate and ate. From buffet breakfast to ala carte. Lunch on board and on shore. Different restaurants, different flavours.
Something to suit everyone, from baby through to Grandma. We even discovered the Babys penchant for spring rolls from kids tea.
One thing for sure is that we didn’t go hungry. Not once.
We needed to cater for all of us, age range from 8 months to mumble, mumble Grandma. With different interests and needs, from wanting to crawl and just eat anything he can get his hands too, to needing to burn off all that excess energy, to plane spotting geeks, to wanting to sit and read, to the casino.
Was at a funny age where he wants to do everything but can’t quite get there. His crawling was more of a belly shuffle across the decks and he was often quite content to sit back and watch. When he wasn’t we were able to let him splash on the edge of the pool and have a cool down crawl round the edges as the water was too deep for me to stand and take him in (and too cold it was take your breath away freezing!).
Then when he wanted something else to do, or more accurately a free for all crawl around without being picked up and deposited back to wherever we were sitting we took him up to the Baby room next to the kids club. A parent supervised room filled with toys and games suitable for the little ones who aren’t quite big enough to go to The Reef. In here the Baby spent a lot of his time crawling after balls. Much like a dog…..
The Three Year Old
I have but two words. Kids Club. The Reef have a variety of clubs depending on your child’s age and the Big One was in the youngest group for 2-4 year olds as a Splasher. While we didn’t use the club all day, every day, after all it was a family holiday, it was a fantastic tool that was available. We got to the point where the Big One was asking to go and play with his friends at kids club. Where he was excitedly waving at other kids across the buffet on the Lido deck. He painted. He coloured. He drew pictures. He played games. He explored the ship looking for pirate treasure. He made chocolate crispie cakes (and ate the lot). In short he had a whale of a time in there.
When he wasn’t busy in Splashers we spent time exploring the Azura. From swimming in all of the pools.
To “working” in the library, to having a coffee to watching the waves out of the window. We developed a love of the sea!
We didn’t really dip into the bag of toys we had hauled with us except at dinner time and even then it was only his beloved Planes that came along where he happily made runways out of knives and sat quite contendly.
Ah yes, us. Can’t forget about the parents, though you often find yourself coming second when you have children.
Not so this holiday. This holiday, most nights we were able to utilise the night nursery and the kids club. Both boys were happy and we were able to talk as a couple, romance as a couple, and gamble….as a couple!
Knowing that the boys were safely asleep or watching a film, with a pager securely in my handbag should they need us (and when we didn’t hear it, a Reefer coming to find us…..sorry about that again girls!) we were able to enjoy our evenings together (and with my mum). From meals out where we weren’t answering incessant questions about why, why, why, WHY!!!!!! To drinks watching the live music on stage to heading to the casino for a little flutter. There were shows on every night but we didn’t head to any because of the heady knowledge that we were free and we could talk to one another!
What we did do on a couple of nights was to indulge in the open air cinema, one night taking the boys up and snuggled under the fleecy blankets, the boys asleep in our arms as we giggled to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2. Another night the Baby not playing ball, so we headed back to the cabin, while the Husband and the Big One stayed cuddled under the stars watching the Man from U.N.C.L.E.
From dinners, to drinks, to perfecting our poker face. Days spent together. Then nights with the boys and nights without the boys. Formal photographs, walking under the stars, sipping on champagne.
It felt like a real holiday, where we weren’t restricted to sitting in the room once the boys were asleep, hiding in a bathroom, whispering to each other. It was wonderful to reconnect. To enjoy each others company. To do it all without worrying we were going to wake one of them up!
My mum is a widow and although she has been on cruises with my Dad this was her first solo cruise. Hence the big family cruise to help her build her confidence.
In the day, when we didn’t request her service for babysitting, there was plenty for my Mum to do if she wanted, catered to the solo traveller. From talks on what to do in each port, to iPad lessons, to wine tasting. The ability to sit on deck as we sped through the seas, just people watching. She was in her element.
The part that was worrying my mum was the solo aspect of her trip, but she certainly wasn’t alone in her solo trip, and she was able to be as social or antisocial as she wanted.
We are converted to cruises…
I haven’t stopped gushing about the cruise since we came back. I honestly couldn’t believe how incredible an experience it was with children after all our nerve-wracking thoughts at the beginning. The things which we thought would be difficult, such as an inside cabin for all four of us, are actually things we would make sure to have next time. The utter blackness of the cabin ensured that the boys slept, alongside the gentle rocking motion of the ocean.
We loved it so much we’ve been busy looking for our next cruise, Summer 2017 we’re thinking, the Baby will be big enough to join in Splashers with his Big Brother then……