Azura Baltic cruise


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#1
wales
123 Posts
Joined Nov 2015
Have just returned from Baltic cruise on Azura. Everything from beginning to end was faultless. Embarkation was swift we were having lunch at 12.30 and in our cabin P340 by 1.15. The food was excellant as was the service by the waiters. Cabin was kept spotless with towels and bed changed regularly.
The evening shows were all new finished off on the last night by Astonish a new show featuring Stephen Mulhurn.
All in all a magnificent cruise so much so that we booked a further 2 for 2019!
#2
Bedfordshire, UK
11 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
Glad you enjoyed it, we did too - a fantastic cruise with amazing ports of call. Wouldn’t say it was faultless, service was very hit and miss in the Meridian depending on which section we were in (freedom dining). Actually had to chase things up twice which we have never had to do before - once was to take our meal choices after being left with the menu for ages.
A relative travelling with us in a separate cabin had repeated trouble with their toilet, it was reported and swiftly sorted each time but the steward said it is a very common occurrence on Azura.
Can’t comment on the entertainment as we didn’t go to much, but I did really enjoy David Wright’s series of talks on Russian history.
But even with the minor niggles (and the fact Azura is looking a bit tired in some areas) it was all in all one of the best - helped by the most amazing weather, much better than we ever expected.
#3
2 Posts
Joined Jun 2018
I have also just returned from this Baltic cruise and would agree with the previous post regarding Azura's need for a refit and problem with toilets. The issue that concerns us is the way in which passengers who have booked independent tours in St Petersburg are treated. Those presenting port talks go out of their way to try and convince passengers that they must book tours with their excursion team. They also issue letters to passengers who have booked independently stating they will not be allowed to leave the ship until two and a half hours after docking. We were told we would be sent back if we tried to disembark any earlier. They are prioritising their own tours and disembarking all of these passengers first. To make the situation worse they are claiming this is the Marine Façade (port authority) regulation, which is not true.
Book independently, we would recommend Viator, who offer a range of tours and include the visa in their ticket price and so make the process simple. Passengers who did ship excursions were in groups of 14+ and complained of queuing. Small group with Viator, who contract a company called 'I Travel SPB' means 6 max and we didn't queue. The quality of the guide is excellent (thank you Olga) for a fantastic two days and meals in good traditional restaurants are included. to top it all you pay less than P&O charges.
#4
1,397 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
It is a Port Authority regulation that independent tour passengers may be asked to wait for up to 90 minutes before disembarkation.

But it only applies when the Port Authority deems it is necessary to reduce crowding in the pick up area.

The ship won't know if it applies until they get to port.

It also only applies on day one of a visit.

Official tours have far tighter timescales than independent tours and buses can't easily take short cuts back to port to avoid the crazy SPB traffic, so the tours need to be off asap.
#5
Edinburgh
3,686 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Originally posted by hollyjess
Have just returned from Baltic cruise on Azura. Everything from beginning to end was faultless. Embarkation was swift we were having lunch at 12.30 and in our cabin P340 by 1.15. The food was excellant as was the service by the waiters. Cabin was kept spotless with towels and bed changed regularly.
The evening shows were all new finished off on the last night by Astonish a new show featuring Stephen Mulhurn.
All in all a magnificent cruise so much so that we booked a further 2 for 2019!

Thanks for that. Azura is one of my favourite ships so think it's time to book another cruise on her
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#6
Edinburgh
3,686 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Originally posted by spider3
I have also just returned from this Baltic cruise and would agree with the previous post regarding Azura's need for a refit and problem with toilets. The issue that concerns us is the way in which passengers who have booked independent tours in St Petersburg are treated. Those presenting port talks go out of their way to try and convince passengers that they must book tours with their excursion team. They also issue letters to passengers who have booked independently stating they will not be allowed to leave the ship until two and a half hours after docking. We were told we would be sent back if we tried to disembark any earlier. They are prioritising their own tours and disembarking all of these passengers first. To make the situation worse they are claiming this is the Marine Façade (port authority) regulation, which is not true.
Book independently, we would recommend Viator, who offer a range of tours and include the visa in their ticket price and so make the process simple. Passengers who did ship excursions were in groups of 14+ and complained of queuing. Small group with Viator, who contract a company called 'I Travel SPB' means 6 max and we didn't queue. The quality of the guide is excellent (thank you Olga) for a fantastic two days and meals in good traditional restaurants are included. to top it all you pay less than P&O charges.
We had no trouble waiting to disembark on our independent tours on Britannia last year. We left straight after docking and before the tours started getting off. We used SPB and they were outstanding
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#8
Surrey, UK
1,676 Posts
Joined May 2006
Originally posted by tartanexile81
We had no trouble waiting to disembark on our independent tours on Britannia last year. We left straight after docking and before the tours started getting off. We used SPB and they were outstanding
New immigration rules in SPB this year - ships tours are cleared off the ship first. We had a 90 min wait to get off ship and clear immigration but still managed to meet our independant Alla Tour time at 8:30. We started queueing on the ship at 7AM. This was on Celebrity Silhouette in SPB 16th-18th June. Days 2 and 3 were OK, straight through immigration.
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#9
11 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
The delay in getting off ship in the Baltic is very worrying! We are going there in a fortnight and were thinking of doing an independent tour as the small group P and O tours we were interested in are all waitlisted. There doesn't seem to be much difference in cost/itinerary between P and O versus independent but if P and O are going to make it very difficult for us to get off ship - I'm scared we could miss our independent tour!
#10
UK
2,529 Posts
Joined Sep 2011
From my understanding and reading, this is a new regulation at St Petersburg from the new port owners and the government for this season and nothing to do with P&O, presumably to try to regulate the congestion. It must be tough for the independent tour companies, who are very good in St Petersburg.

We have friends going out on Arcadia to the Baltic soon and we are going in 2019 on Azura, so will be able to report back then.

Tartanexile81, fancy coming to check out Azura and the Baltic too?
#11
UK
42 Posts
Joined Aug 2017
Originally posted by JeiaMoore
The delay in getting off ship in the Baltic is very worrying! We are going there in a fortnight and were thinking of doing an independent tour as the small group P and O tours we were interested in are all waitlisted. There doesn't seem to be much difference in cost/itinerary between P and O versus independent but if P and O are going to make it very difficult for us to get off ship - I'm scared we could miss our independent tour!
As I understand it, the independent tour groups all wait for the ships to clear. They are aware of the issue and the last thing they want is to lose business. Just ensure they know what ship you are on, and they will know when you are likely to be clearing immigration. Give them a call.

It's not P&O making it difficult, it's the port authority, and it applies to all cruise lines. Given there were six cruise ships in SPB when we were there, I guess their reasoning is to avoid crowding in immigration.
#12
11 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
Thanks Scriv and Simon-t for the reassurance! It's Arcadia we're on (8th July) and we are thinking of doing a tour with Alla Tours, but we have never booked an independent tour before (always done our own thing where possible or a ships tour if not). This is also our first time in Russia and between the World Cup and the new port rules, I'm very nervous about delays!
#13
London, England
4,106 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Originally posted by spider3
I have also just returned from this Baltic cruise and would agree with the previous post regarding Azura's need for a refit and problem with toilets. The issue that concerns us is the way in which passengers who have booked independent tours in St Petersburg are treated. Those presenting port talks go out of their way to try and convince passengers that they must book tours with their excursion team. They also issue letters to passengers who have booked independently stating they will not be allowed to leave the ship until two and a half hours after docking. We were told we would be sent back if we tried to disembark any earlier. They are prioritising their own tours and disembarking all of these passengers first. To make the situation worse they are claiming this is the Marine Façade (port authority) regulation, which is not true.

Book independently, we would recommend Viator, who offer a range of tours and include the visa in their ticket price and so make the process simple. Passengers who did ship excursions were in groups of 14+ and complained of queuing. Small group with Viator, who contract a company called 'I Travel SPB' means 6 max and we didn't queue. The quality of the guide is excellent (thank you Olga) for a fantastic two days and meals in good traditional restaurants are included. to top it all you pay less than P&O charges.


No, don't book Viatour, they are only a third party reseller. Much better to book direct with one of the many local tour operators.


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#14
London, England
4,106 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Originally posted by JeiaMoore
Thanks Scriv and Simon-t for the reassurance! It's Arcadia we're on (8th July) and we are thinking of doing a tour with Alla Tours, but we have never booked an independent tour before (always done our own thing where possible or a ships tour if not). This is also our first time in Russia and between the World Cup and the new port rules, I'm very nervous about delays!


We have done the Baltic before and loved SPB. We are going back again this year. Last time we booked our tours through Alla and were very satisfied, so have booked again with them. They are extremely well organised, so we are not expecting any issues.


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#15
Wirral, England
2,154 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Did P&O offer an excursion called 'St Petersburg Explorer' for your cruise and, if so could you please tell me what the cost was? That tour is listed as a 7.75 hour excursion, which allows for quite a lot of free time at three locations in the city. I have asked this and a couple of other things on a new thread, but I thought asking here I may have more chance of it being seen by P&O passengers.


We have spent time in a hotel in SPB so are thinking we could well be best getting a visa each as we have gathered all the info needed for the form early this year for the visas for our May river cruise and hotel stays, so it would be pretty easy for us to apply again.
#16
11 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
Originally posted by LondonTowner
We have done the Baltic before and loved SPB. We are going back again this year. Last time we booked our tours through Alla and were very satisfied, so have booked again with them. They are extremely well organised, so we are not expecting any issues.


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Thanks for the info LondonTowner . Can I ask what tour you did last time with Alla?
#17
London, England
4,106 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Originally posted by JeiaMoore
Thanks for the info LondonTowner . Can I ask what tour you did last time with Alla?


I have mobility issues so we did the 2 day Comfort Tour. We are doing the same tour again, but it has changed slightly which we don't mind. We have also booked the evening Faberge Museum.


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#18
Surrey, UK
1,676 Posts
Joined May 2006
To allay anyones fears regarding SPB - the issue we had was getting off the ship as the queue in the atrium started very early. We queued at 7AM and were about 30 back from the front. We were allowed off the ship at about 8:10 and then getting through immigration was only about 15-20 mins as there were lots of turnstiles operating and we met out tour on time at 8:30. As I said this was on Celebrity not P&O but I guess the process will be the same on all ships as this is a rule put in place by the immigration authorities. There were 5 ships in on the day. We had a great tour with Alla on the 3 Day Grand Tour, only having 14 on the bus makes getting on and off much easier and the smaller bus makes parking and dropping also much easier.
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37 Cruises - 20 Ships - 408 Nights at Sea
P&O (22): Old Arcadia, Arcadia, Aurora(2), Azura(4), Britannia(2),Oceana(2), Oriana(6), Ventura(4)
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#19
89 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
Just back from this cruise as well. Weather great and enjoyed the cruise along with my four sons. Few negatives I'm afraid to say. Sea screen in need of repair and apparently its been like that for a year now. First time trying freedom dinning and I would say its hit and miss in terms of service standard. Ranging from 40 mins wait for a plate of soup to 60 mins and all three courses rushed out to us.

Day two my son got a bad ear infection which I put down to the pool. Four nights of screaming through the night in pain then not allowed in the pool.

I have read many reviews in the past about ships being tired and in need of upgrade. Buy and large this has been nit picking imho. However I have got to say Azura is in need of upgrade and in general it looks like a ship PO are letting run down.

As I say I enjoyed the ports and weather etc had a great holiday.
#20
Edinburgh
3,686 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Originally posted by Scriv
From my understanding and reading, this is a new regulation at St Petersburg from the new port owners and the government for this season and nothing to do with P&O, presumably to try to regulate the congestion. It must be tough for the independent tour companies, who are very good in St Petersburg.

We have friends going out on Arcadia to the Baltic soon and we are going in 2019 on Azura, so will be able to report back then.

Tartanexile81, fancy coming to check out Azura and the Baltic too?
Maybe another time!
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Still to come:
P&O Aurora USA and Canada 16th September 2018
P&O Ventura Bermuda, USA and Caribbean 5th February 2019
P&O Oriana Spain, Corsica and Italy, 17th September 2019. CANCELLED BY P&O
Celebrity Infinity Adriatic, Sicily and Spain, 24th August 2019
P&O Ventura USA and Caribbean February 2020