Prior to the cruise, spent five days in Pais on our own, then took the train to Rouen, spending two days at the Hotel Mercure with a view of the cathedral out our window. This was a perfect way to wind down after the crowds in Paris--loved the city and enjoyed the hotel. From our hotel, it was about a 15minute taxi ride to the ship. I love cruising and have enjoyed every cruise I've ever been on (all 17 of them). However, Azamara on this cruise probably had the best service and friendliest crew of them all. Checkin was very quick and easy, then we were handed a glass of champagne as we boarded the ship. Rooms were ready shortly after we embarked. Rooms were stocked with fresh flowers and fruit daily, as well as soft drinks in the frig.In addition we enjoyed the free specialty coffees and free wine (which flowed freely) at lunch and dinner. Another plus was the fact that shore excursions were half-price if booked online prior to the cruise--this made them an unbeatable value. We had planned on doing many ports on our own, but decided it was a better deal to book the half-price excursions.
They also have a free laundromat onboard, with three washing machines, which is a great idea but two of them were broken the entire cruise. We could never get to a machine so we had to give up and wash clothes in the shower and hang them to dry in our room. I think the people whose rooms were nearby were the only ones who got to use the machines. It would be nice if you could reserve a time to use the laundromat, same as making a reservation for the restaurants, so anyone needing to wash clothes would be assured of one time during the cruise, especially before dragging all your clothes from the other end and deck of the ship numerous times and never finding it available.
Ww had spent five days in Paris and two in Rouen before boarding the ship, and were already tired and had a suitcase of dirty clothes when we got onboard. This cruise was port intensive (11-day cruise with a different port each day, no sea days) so we went to bed by 11 each night and so can't comment on most of the onboard activities. The one evening show we saw (Helen Jayne) was good. The weather was too cold and rainy to use the pool. We were gone all day on excursions so didn't do any of the day activities. Our day consisted daily of ordering room service in the morning (it was yummy), taking an excursion, returning to the ship tired (and usually wet because we didn't have but a couple of sunny days), getting cleaned up, having dinner then going to bed before midnight.
Our favorite place on the ship was the open air deck (I think it was named Windows)on the back of the ship by the buffet restaurant. Had the greatest views of anyplace on the ship, a bar (with free wine at lunch and dinner), and even blankets when the weather got too chilly. Enjoyed the different themes each night (stir fry bar one night, paella another, Mexican food one night), plus several entrees to pick from, an antipasto and salad bar, and sushi and several different choices of gelato as well as other desserts. The other attraction for us here was they had a guy playing acoustic guitar and singing each night (don't remember his name but he was very good) so we usually stayed there until he finished, then had a glass of wine outside on the deck enjoying the view before going to bed. We only ate in the main dining room about three times--the food was good but generally a little too exotic for my liking. (If you are a foodie, you will probably love it.) Our other favorite food experience onboard was to order room service breakfast most mornings before our excursions. Room service breakfast here had some of the best eggs made to order and omelets I've ever had, instead of just the continental breakfast available on some other cruiselines. Liked the fact that there were no formal nights on this cruise also.
Ports: We loved Rouen. If you ever leave on a cruise from Rouen, it is well worth spending a couple of days here beforehand.
Took the tour to Stonehenge (we were on the bus that broke down. And contrary to rumors that circulated among some passengers on the ship, the bus driver and guide took good care of us, and once they determined the bus couldn't be repaired, had a replacement bus pick us up in about 45 minutes, which I thought was pretty fast since we were in the middle of nowhere. We still had plenty of time to see Stonehenge. As for Stonehenge itself, I was somewhat disappointed (thought it would be a lot bigger); am glad I saw it once but wouldn't go back. Several of the ports in England were somewhat boring, with not much to do. In Waterford we took the excursion to Jermaine Abbey, which was pretty, but regretted not taking the Waterford factory tour after hearing other passengers describe it. (We didn't sign up for the Waterford glass factory tour because I read on the internet that the real factory had closed, but discovered (too late) that they have reopened a part of it just for the tours and other passengers told us you still get to see them make some of the glass as well as some beautiful chandeliers, etc). One of our favorite excursions was to Mont St. Michel although would have preferred less time in the cathedral in order to have some free time in the town. Enjoyed Bruges but again would have liked more free time in town. Once we returned from this excursion, took the free bus from the ship to Blankenberg and spent a great afternoon at a sidewalk cafe overlooking the beach and ocean. Antwerp was great, and we were docked right in the middle of town making it easy to sightsee on our own for our two days there. In Amsterdam we took the ship's excursion to Keukenhof Gardens, which was thoroughly enjoyable, although the acres of tulips outside the garden were no longer blooming in May.
Disembarkation and reclaiming our bags was probably the easiest of any cruise we have been on.
Overall, this was a great cruise, in spite of dreadful weather on most days. Can't wait to do Azamara again!!