Welcome to the beginning of a family holiday.
My Cousin and her Fiance, whose names I shall be keeping out of this, decided to have a destination wedding. The location of the wedding; somewhere in the Caribbean Sea aboard the cruise ship, Azura. They are hereto referred to as the Bride and Groom.
Having never been to the Caribbean and being fond travellers, myself and my wife, H decided to sign up and tag along for the ride. The inclusion of my sister, L meant that the entirety of my immediate family would be present, all three of us. That is if you do not include our beloved cat who reluctantly went to the kennels instead. The rest of the family are made up of my Uncles, Aunts and Cousins with some extended family members from my Aunts family also joining us. All in all I believe there were 18 of us. 15 of whom opted to fly from Birmingham airport, whilst we 3, flew from Gatwick.
One Uncle is obviously the Father of The Bride and his lovely wife, my Aunt is the Brides mother. My other Uncle is singularly referred to as Patient zero or collectively, along with his travelling companion as the Hetero life mates. My Cousin refers to the Brides brother and his spouse and his hilarious son are probably going to be the cousins wife and the toddler.
Having driven down last night and resting our heads in the nearby Travelodge that will be home to my car for the next two weeks. We got no where near enough sleep as we arrived late and our flight was early in the day. Our taxi arrived promptly at 6am and we were at the terminal in minutes. All good so far. We walked in and faced a long queue for Tui airlines check-in desks. We quickly discovered that our flight was only a charter and there was a separate queue for P&O that was thankfully much shorter.
In that queue was where we got our first indication of what life aboard a cruise ship would be like. Not because the floor gently ebbed from side to side but simply that we were asked to sign something declaring we had not suffered any sickness or diarrhoea recently or severe coughing or sneezing, with a clear disclaimer stating that saying yes could result in a refusal to sail. I suffer from allergies and am prone to sneezing repeatedly for a minute or so with no warning or apparent cause so about this time i was shitting myself that I’d have an attack and be hauled off by what will become known to us as, The Purell Police.
Having passed their admittedly feeble inspection, we checked our bags and made sure that we had fitted the luggage tags as securely as possible because they are made entirely of paper from our printer. Yes, we had to print our own luggage tags and fit them ourselves with the cunning use of about 30 staples in each. Everyone else had a cruise brochure delivered to their door and in the back were pre made plastic tags that were made for this very purpose. Our brochure either never made it, or more likely, went directly into the recycling bin with the 60 or 70 other brochures that P&O had mailed us advertising other cruises. The tags are important though, not only is it to make sure your bag is put on the correct flight but also, you don’t collect it at the other end, it’s taken straight to your cabin for you. Excellent service, lets hope it continues…
The airport departure area was as you would expect, it’s the same area for all flights, although we did see a few eccentric characters with cruise luggage tags (yes, some people had extra ones that they attached to their hand luggage, for reasons only veteran cruisers will probably understand). We saw one chap in a white linen suit and fedora that quickly earned him the nickname ‘Man from Del Monte’ and a large woman in a blue velour travel suit with bright red shoes. I hope she was comfortable in it because she frankly looked ridiculous.
The flight itself was a Boeing 767 so not too shabby. We fly long haul to Asia regularly so we often end up on A380’s which are without doubt the best way to fly, in my own opinion. Like I said earlier, this was a flight run by Tui but chartered by P & O. They gave us a meal and a snack, each with a complimentary drink whilst on board, however anything else, drinks or snacks based had to be paid for. I was a little outraged that there was no option when it came to the meal but having to pay for extra cups of coffee was a bit much. When my wife made the point to a steward that we don’t usually pay for things long haul, we were informed that it was P&O’s policy and nothing to do with Tui. This was our second taste of what life would be like on board a cruise ship. It’s not enough to pay a huge amount of money to P&O for the pleasure of simply being aboard their fine boat. They want you to keep handing them money, constantly, for the entire time you are there.
The first few days a bit thin on media, the Photos and videos start up once we actually get to the islands and start having a few experiences.
So far, the trip had been much like a normal holiday. Once we landed was where the differences began to show……
Read the next instalment here.