In "Settings", I have clicked "Never" against "Automatic opening of notification area", but I don't think that's the right place.
Also, is there any way to block senders (like I can in Hotmail)?
No. You can only set up a filter from the Inbox to direct such mail to the trash folder. I use Outlook.com and blocking is not always effective there. I happily accept that a blocking feature in VM mail would be useful though. Guidance here:
Superuser 2017/18 Use Kudos to say thanks Mark answer as "helpful" only when the problem is solved Please don't send me private messages unless I ask you to. I do not work for VM. The advice I give is based on my best understanding of VM policy and practice. You rely on it at your own risk.