This was my 53rd cruise. I have been on most all of the popular cruise lines. My Aunt and Uncle have praised Azamara to the highest and recommended that I give it a try. Azamara does some things great, but a few things are in need of serious improvement.
This cruise was from May 17, 2012 - May 29, 2012
12 nights from Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Southampton, England.
We left our home in Bethesda, Maryland and flew out of Dulles Airport, direct to Amsterdam. We booked the air with Azamara as a package with the cruise. The flight was fine, when we arrived signs were waived in the airport for us to grab our luggage and jump on a clean bus to take us to the ship. As we waited to check in, plenty of comfortable seating was available, as well as coffee, tea, and snacks - nice!
Check in was a breeze and we were on the ship.
The ship is extremely clean as well as being very small by today's standards at about 30,000 tons, and holding 690 passengers. Our cruise included 550 passengers. The ship rarely felt crowed, and was very easy to navigate. There are two elevators forward and two elevators toward the back of the ship. The wait time for elevators is average compared to other ships.
Be prepared to almost always stop on deck 5 - main dining room, casino, shops, coffee bar, and show lounge, deck 7 - many cabins, and deck 9 the buffet, pool deck and spa.
Deck 9 - The buffet always had a nice selection for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Service was usually good at this location. Two staff members in this area did an extra nice job- Ernesto- a bar server- always a big smile and bringing me a Sprite Zero immediately every time he saw me. Also Gustavo- he worked at the stir fry station, big smile and remembered my name from the 2nd day on and knew I wanted my stir fry with no pasta or rice. Unfortunately on two different mornings the service in this area was extremely poor. One morning the only three unoccupied tables available needed clearing. I sat at one, and pushed the dirty dishes away while my traveling companion went up to the buffet. Even after I went to the buffet and came back the tables were still not cleaned. I had to hunt down clean silverware, get our own coffee, then get our own juice.
I am not sure what was going on that morning. Another morning a similar lack of service was the problem - not good at this level of cruising.
Just outside the pool area is a grill that serves a variety of dishes you may request and they give you a number and bring your meal to you. The burgers there were the best, especially with Swiss cheese and mushrooms. Both times I ordered the Onion Rings they were cold- not good! They also have a very small salad bar and a few other menu items. I only did the burgers both times they were so good.
The pool area in nice with very comfy padded lounge chairs. And- oooohhh so nice, no need to check out a pool towel with your room card. Towels are around for your use. Two small hot tubs in this area that were rarely used. I got in once and fully enjoyed the relaxing results. The spa/gym is on the front of deck 9 with an ample size gym for the size of this ship.
Deck 5 has the nice show lounge called the Cabaret Lounge with no bad seats or poles to block your vision. Saw several of the shows. The entertainment was average- not great, but not poor. The singers and dancers did 3 main shows- the 1st called "Play, Stop, and Rewind" it was average. The 2nd was "Voices" the singing and dancing were superior to the 1st show, but the costumes were super ugly- twisted up looking denim outfits that looked like they slept in them. The 3rd show was probably the best - "Stage Door to Dreams". There was one other show that included the cruise director Eric De Gray - "A Tribute to ABBA" - this was also better than average.
Deck 5 also has the casino - about 50 slot machines and several gambling tables. It was only open two nights during cruise and very few people were participating. There are also two small shops on Deck five. One shop has jewelery and the other a few articles of clothing, perfume, and a few odds and ends. Both shops were also only open two times during the cruise.
Another VERY nice area on Deck 5 is the Mosaic Cafe opening about 8:00am every morning and staying open until about 10:00 or 11:00 pm. They had a nice variety of free coffee drinks and a small station with elegant snacks- such as small plates of cheese, shrimp, and sweets.
The Main Dining Room is also on this level. Food quality and selection were excellent. I just wish the service was as good. On three nights the service was EXTREMELY slow. One night was sat with our menu in our lap for almost 30 minutes before we were offered a drink or asked what we wanted - not good.
Another night we arrived for dinner at 8:15. I asked if we could be finished by 9:30 because I really did want to see the show. I requested a table for 2 because smaller tables usually move faster. I was assured we would be done in time for the show and be given to the some of the best wait staff on the ship. We were ushered to a table with 5 other people - that should have been the first sign of trouble. We waited another 20 minutes to have our order taken - sign #2 of a problem. 10 minutes later when drinks arrived nobody got the drink they ordered - it was like musical chairs with drinks - sign #3 there is a problem. Almost an hour and a half later with no entrees in sight and everyone just finishing their salad I excused myself to go to the show, missing what I had expected to be my favorite meal of surf and turf. I just wonder if the staff assigning the seating had a clue as to what they were doing.... more about that below.
Deck 7 is mostly cabins and also included the free self service laundry facility. The free laundry is a joke. There are only 4 washing machines and 4 drying machines for the ENTIRE SHIP. The first few days one washing machine was down, and two of the other washing machines did not work properly for the remainder of the cruise even though I did mention it on my mid cruise evaluation. With two of the washing machines, you press the start button and the agitator immediately starts twisting your clothes even though there is no water in the machine. It keeps twisting while the water is filling. The main problem is that 4 washers and 4 dryers are not nearly enough to work for 550 passengers. One day got very heated and a shouting match took place because someones clothes were sitting in the dryer for 3 minutes after the cycle ended. I heard there were a few other heated moments in this area. They need another set of these machines on decks 4 AND deck 8 were most of the cabins are located. I was lucky, I did use this area early one morning, but by the time I left about 10:00 the troops were arriving with their stinky pants in hand for a new round of "Battle for your Whirlpool Washer". And if you make it through round one, round two may be a bit more fun - "How long will your Vanity Fairs Last?" in the dryer that is after the cycle is complete, until someone yanks them out and puts them on display on top of the dryer - skid marks and all.
This ship has many good things:
Most of the service is good. The staff at the Guest Relations Desk were very nice. Our cabin stewards Husein and Fransisco were wonderful. The food quality and selection is a full step above many of the other cruise lines.
Easy to navigate being such a small ship.
Ship is very very clean.
The free wine at lunch and dinner is very nice, as well as the free soft drinks.
We had two very nice cocktail parties and the free drinks were flowing, I do mean flowing, they were not stingy at all.
The Mosaic Cafe was fantastic - great staff, great coffee, great snacks - all included in your cruise!
My traveling companion purchased on of the upgraded beverage packages and said it was worth every penny!
Some non-service at breakfast at the buffet - two times - bad.
SLOW service in the dining room - three times - very bad.
Six times our television broke in our cabin - each time I went to the Guest Relations and they helped, but really should the TV die six times?? Really?
The laundry on deck seven - I think I have already beat that dead horse above!
The mattress on the bed - this needed to be replaced years ago, what are they thinking passengers will not notice? Is it really that difficult to have a nice mattress? The average passenger will be spending 1/3 of the time there, this item should be top notch- especially at this level of cruising. If you want a good mattress one cruise line wins hands down in this area - Holland America - they have the best!
THE VERY WORST:
On the 6TH evening of the cruise I asked the staff at the desk at the entrance of the main dining room if they could do a small birthday celebration for my traveling companion on his birthday - May 28 - Monday. They said "sure" a cake and singing would be done. I was expecting a cup cake and a few waiters/bus staff to come around and sing Happy Birthday- done all the time on cruises.
Two days later I checked AGAIN with the staff at the entrance of the main dining room to confirm that a small celebration would take place, also confirming my cabin number. Each time you go to the dining room they request your cabin number. I even saw them type in what appeared to be a note for the birthday celebration. They assured me a 2ND time they would honor my request. On May 28 the day of the expected birthday celebration we had our complete meal WITHOUT one bit of birthday celebration. I was so utterly disappointed, how could they forget? Do these people really know what they are doing? I did not think my request was unreasonable. This was THE VERY WORST - and absolutely unacceptable.
Will I travel Azamara again....maybe, maybe not.....I am leaning more to maybe not - the lack of the birthday celebration was such a major disappointment.