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Bergen from Floyen

Almost a week has passed since we disembarked from Azura and it’s time to do a summary of our thoughts on the cruise.

We chose this cruise well over a year ago for two reasons. First was the itinerary which included no less than six ports (out of seven in total) that we had never visited; in fact two whole countries, Iceland and the Faroes, would be new to us. The second reason was that we enjoy Azura – we like the cabins, the balcony size, the fact that you can walk (almost) round the promenade, and the collection of bars and restaurants. So how good were our decisions?

We ended up frustrated by the itinerary – or perhaps it would be fairer to say that we were frustrated by how it happened, day-by-day. Chief among this would have to be the weather. I think we were being realistic in our expectations – you don’t go almost to the Arctic Circle, even in June, expecting high temperatures and unbroken sunshine. We had in fact packed for all eventualities – lights clothes for some sunshine hopefully, but also reasonably heavy fleeces and of course waterproofs. In the end it was the latter that we seemed to need most days. The weather was good for the first two days at sea and we enjoyed the sun on those days, but thereafter the only time we saw significant amounts of sun was in Akureyri. It rained in Bergen and Alesund, it rained and was bitterly cold in Isafjordur, it rained on and off in the Faroes, and it was grey and overcast and not warm at Belfast. Sadly, the overcast & cold theme continued during the last couple of sea days – the first from the Faroes to Belfast, and the second from Belfast down the Irish sea and then around Devon and Cornwall and into the English Channel. I’d been hoping for some warmer weather and perhaps some sun during that day. Didn’t happen. So we seemed to spend a lot of time getting a bit wet and a bit cold.

Then of course there was the missed call at Reykjavik. I’m not criticising the decision to abandon the call because I don’t know the full details nor do I have the requisite knowledge of the requirements. Nonetheless it was disappointing. For us it was just one more port that we’d been looking forward to, but we gathered that for a lot of passengers Reykjavik would have been the highlight of the cruise, and many people were very disappointed indeed. Azura was a pretty subdued ship that day. It didn’t help that because of the high winds, walking round the promenade was cold and windy that day; and it was even more frustrating when the clouds rolled away during the evening and we had that spectacular sunset that night. So during the day the ship was full of disappointed passengers wandering around looking for something to do. (To be fair to the on-board team, they did arrange a programme of events at very short notice.)

We certainly enjoyed the ports that we visited; there was something at each of them that was rewarding. At Bergen we enjoyed walking the paths on Floyen (and I had the quiet satisfaction of getting the pre-cruise Floybahnen tickets right); we were delighted by the architecture at Alesund; we enjoyed the waterfall and the geo-thermal landscape at Akureyri (but were frustrated because we wanted to spend longer); we even found a couple of things at Isafjordur that were good – the photographs in the Library & Art Gallery, plus of course the coffee & cake in the cafe/bar, Husid; the Faroes were delightful, certainly out of Torshavn; and we enjoyed the Titanic experience in Belfast more than we expected. But we found the number of sea days too many – it should have been six but was actually seven, out of thirteen full days. Indeed, we also felt that a fourteen night cruise might itself be a bit longer than we really want, these days – we were ready to get off several days before we actually did so, and I have a feeling that would her been true even if the weather had been better.

As regards Azura itself, we had no complaints. The cabin was perfectly fine, we enjoyed the balcony on the first couple of days, Freedom dining worked well for us, we thought the food in the MDR was good, and as ever we enjoyed the drinks in the Glasshouse and the Planet bar. (And in the Glasshouse we enjoyed the food as well.) We had a couple of meals in Sindhu which were good, but perhaps not great – I think the concept needs refreshing a bit. We didn’t go to any of the shows in the theatre; instead we watched a couple of films in the cabin during the late evenings. We enjoyed a series of talks on ‘Literary Performers’ by Priscilla Morris during the day times, and we also watched a film in the theatre one day. And finally, we were impressed by the hardy souls on sunbeds around the Sea Screen – every time we passed that spot there seemed to be some people there, wrapped up in blankets.

Overall, we enjoyed the cruise – we certainly don’t have negative feelings about the ship or about cruising as a result of this cruise. Would we do a similar cruise again? – I’m not sure, but probably not. I’d love to see Alesund or the Faroe Islands in sunshine but that can never be guaranteed. If we went again, there’s every possibility that we’d simply repeat the experiences of this cruise.

So where does that leave us for future cruises? Well, after two successive years in northern waters we want warmer weather next time. We also think that we don’t want too many sea days, so that points us towards a fly-cruise. So (as I posted previously) we’ve booked a seven-night fly cruise on Oceana for September 2018, to be preceded by a two night pre-cruise stay at a hotel in Malta as part of the holiday. We’re already looking forward to it.

3 Responses to “Azura 2017 – Conclusion”

  1. David says:

    Did you see the cruise log of notes from the bridge? It read like a work of fiction to me. For example:

    Friday 16 June 2017 – Southampton
    Throughout the course of the evening, easterly courses were set through the English Channel Traffic Separation Schemes on towards the south-western tip of England, where just off Land’s End [sic] she would turn to the north en-route to Bergen.

    Monday 19 June 2017 – Bergen
    Bright and sunny conditions met Azura with light winds making for some decidedly clement weather.
    . . .

    Once under the Askoy Bridge, Azura continued through the narrows and south of Fedje Island, and from here the ship set northerly courses up towards the Nordfjord where Olden lies.

    Saturday 24 June 2017 – At Sea
    During the course of the evening, Azura sailed past the beautiful landscape and stunning views of the glaciers and Iceland’s infamous Eyjafjallajökull, known for its 2010 eruption, which we left on our port side as we proceeded towards our next destination, Tórshavn.

    • Tom Burke says:

      Yes I did, and I noticed some of them myself. Especially the bit about going round Land’s End on the first day. And I remember other passengers asking about the volcano on the 24th.

  2. David says:

    We laughed too at their description of the capable hands of Captain Hoyt:

    Captain Hoyt “took the con” of the vessel whereby
    he swung her round 180° before coming astern
    for almost a mile, negotiating oil rigs and berthed
    cargo vessels as he went before bringing Azura
    port side alongside the Belfast Cruise Terminal
    berth at 05:20. This challenging manoeuvre was
    made to look easy in the capable hands of Captain

    Where were those capable self-congratulatory hands in Reykjavik?

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