Our travelling consultant Richard writes about two recent cruises in the northern hemisphere...
Azura pictured after her recent refurbishment including new Union Flag livery that first appeared on Britannia.
I have sailed on far larger ships, namely Queen Mary 2 and Celebrity Solstice, however I have never sailed on a ship with nearly as many passengers as the 3,300 Brits with whom I shared passage aboard P&O's Azura over the last fortnight. Yet with all those souls (plus over 1,000 crew), she coped admirably well. Buffet queues, passenger flow and even the tender operation in Cannes were as good as I have ever experienced.
Many Australians will find Azura to be of familiar design, as she is modelled on the Princess Cruises Grand Class design. However, Azura is most definitely Britain-on-sea which begins daily with 'ye olde English' Breakfast, the traditional Goanese P&O curries, the importance of deck chairs both in and out of the sun, and the British-style entertainment.
Despite the hype of Australians now cruising everywhere on just about every ship, I did not encounter any at all except for one crew member. This contrasts with my previous fortnight aboard Queen Victoria where Australians comprised 200, or 10% of the passengers. And yet the itinerary was excellent with the real surprise being a call to Cartagena, a world heritage city which is in magnificent order and the locals are justifiably proud. The convenience of a Southampton round-trip should appeal to Aussie Anglophiles and the rail service between Waterloo and Southampton departs half-hourly and takes 80 minutes, but note that the other services from London Victoria take appreciably longer and are not as frequent.
I boarded in the aftermath of Australia's loss at Cardiff, and so chose to blend in by wearing a Barmy Army shirt. A week later, with the swift revenge at Lords, I proudly reaffirmed my nationality which was met with the begrudging mirth that only the old enemy can muster. If indeed you are an Aussie Anglophile, you will enjoy a P&O cruise from Southampton, but it always helps when we have the upper hand. After all, we only sing when we're winning.
[Photo credit: "Azura in Skjolden, Norway" by Branwal100 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Azura_in_Skjolden,_Norway.jpg#/media/File:Azura_in_Skjolden,_Norway.jpg]