Another Azamarazing Journey
Cruise From Monte Carlo to Rome 1 Sept 2012
Decent journey from Newcastle to Monte Carlo via LHR/ Nice and BA T5 lounge.
Very civilised although having arrived just too late for bacon rolls was able to have snacks, drinks and Internet access.
Club Europe full but meal on board perfectly acceptable.
Met at Nice by Azamara rep (6 of us) and escorted to 50 seater coach.
We had to wait approx 1 hour for delayed flight from Manchester.
This did not please one passenger who after half an hour was demanding either
A: Coach set off immediately
B: A taxi be procured for him and his partner.
We other 2 couples refused to be drawn into this discussion and on arrival of other passengers set of for Fairmont Hotel Monte Carlo.
Unfortunately this was the day of match between Real and Chelsea so traffic was horrendous and hotel was full of gravy trainers (UEFA delegates).
Room was fantastic and overlooked F1 circuit hairpin.
Adequate breakfast next day and then taxied to port.
On arrival greeted by several staff we knew including Hotel director Heijke Berdos.
On board by 12 00 and having dropped hand baggage for later delivery went to Windows cafe for lunch where met other old friends /crew members Adele / Alex and Jose.
After lunch with complimentary wine and soft drinks went down to suite to meet butler?
Suite was fine with bath as well as shower.
Went to lifeboat muster drill to be advised that because of French (not Monegasque )dock workers and itinerary being set for 18 months the workers would not turn up at 5.00am to untie the ship with the result we had to leave early at midnight.
Not great for one couple who had stayed in Monte Carlo for 2 days before hand and had planned a night out in Monte Carlo to arrive at ship at 2.00am.
Imagine their surprise when they turned up to an empty dock.
They were able to be reaccomadated and transferred to ship at St Tropez next day.
This was totally NOT Azamaras fault and of course with such late notice they were unable to advise guests.
In addition because of Lufthansa strike action some 37 other passengers also missed departure.
Great advert for NOT making your own arrangements for arrival that day.
Good night sleep and down for breakfast to Azamara specialities Freshly squeezed orange juice /cranberry juice /freshly made eggs of all varieties including poached as well as boiled as well as freshly made toast bagels muffins .
Not bad to be sitting in open air watching the ships wake in the sun.
Onto sundeck with Azamara signature proper wooden loungers with full thickly padded loungers with white slip covers and towels.
Repeat as needed for 10 days.
As suite guests we had complimentary dining in Aqualina and Prime C as standard and happy to report my favourites of Goats cheese souffle /French onion soup and Grand Marnier souffle are alive and well.
If you ask they will serve almost any dish between the 2 restaurants and given 24 hours notice will prepare any dish of your request (subject to ingredient availability.) Probably no ostrich meat but we had a most beautiful salmon Wellington that the executive chef said had given him a new idea for possible menu changes
The only let down for food was the windows cafe lunch offering which was very repetitive i.e. 1 hot carved meat/chicken with some spicing/fish in sauce and some other bits.
They did have a good range of meat fish cheese to make fresh sandwiches or panini and if you were still desperate there was burger bar that did have good meat choices burgers hot dogs brochettes and speciality daily sausage i.e. German /Italian etc.
On galley tour saw prep areas etc. and 24-hour room service is available together with in room dining if required.
All soft drinks free at all times 24 hours daily and wines 3 choices at lunch /dinner times free flowing (average 4 glasses at lunchtime.!!)
All adequate quality including Roses and Rieslings for lighter drinking..
As suite guests we had 4 half bottles of spirits gin vodka whisky and rum as well as 2 bottles of champagne which took some drinking .
This is amazing and a great advert for compulsory tipping as staff are guaranteed a decent wage and are desperate to return and indeed approx 80% of front facing staff return after their initial contract and some have been working for Azamara for 5 years
You really feel humble when you realise these people are away from home for 6 months on 2 months off for 7 days a week yet they are still so friendly and remember your preferences re tea coffee etc.
On Azamara you get a questionnaire after 3 days to see if there is ANYTHING wrong so that they can fix rather than have a complaint later.
I simply commented on my card that for cruises with a fair percentage of Brits on board it might be nice to have Marmite sachets for guests at breakfast.
Within 2 hours I had a call from Executive chef stating they would try to obtain some at next port of call Livorno.
Imagine my surprise when at breakfast 2 days later waiter produced a jar for me.
Azamara had gone to the trouble of obtaining some via port agent and had sought me out at breakfast.
Embarrassing to say it was produced on a tray each breakfast for me.
Good with plenty of help on and off except Capri where Captain Johannes explained that they HAVE to use local tenders which are small craft seating about 20 on open boats.
These are really quite unsatisfactory, as you have to step onto boat side then boat seat and finally deck.
We are not old or infirm but we did not enjoy this at all.
Captain explained that they had offered to pay for ferries but use their own lifeboats but this option is always refused by boatmen.
Not sure why as I will quite happily be paid to do nothing or even go and earn some money elsewhere.
We also had unfortunate experience at St Tropez where we tendered in on Azamara boats and were deciding whether to go to Port Grimaud but decided it looked too choppy for the small boats.
We returned to tender back to ship.
As soon as we had left harbour it was decided it was too dangerous to disembark until ship was swung to make a lee for safer disembarkation.
We were therefore stuck on tender for an hour whilst ship was swung. Whilst not in danger it was very uncomfortable as life boat was pitching and rolling outside harbour walls.
Captain explained that French weather forecast had been for 15 knot winds whereas in reality it became 30 knots and he considered it dangerous to continue until ship was moved.
Did not do any Azamara as have been to ports already although if you book early you get 50% off pricing.
Some American guests did 8 excursions and they must need a holiday to recover.
The cruise director Eric De Gray is fantastic as appearances in Hairspray /Elvis impersonator and in Abba in final show.
Those who have seen it will agree it is amazing but do not want to spoil the surprise for others.
He is always around and approachable yet so self deprecating although he says one of passengers favourite sayings is "you should do this Professionally"
English comedian very good and his fiancee the singer also but pickpocket and Rat Pack impersonator less so and quite a few walked out of both shows.
A good mixture of nationalities Brits, Americans, Germans, Australians even including some Russians who wanted to gamble and eat in restaurants in bath robes.
Thankfully refused admission by Addel restaurant manager.
Always the Achilles heel of any ship although if you have a later flight you can stay on board until 11.30 with early lunch.
Unfortunately our flight did not qualify so we were dropped at airport approx 90 mins before desk opened.
On check inn up to Exec lounge which does not compare with LHR with a few croissants and cold sandwiches.
A useful tip is if you book an open cruise you pay Â£150 deposit to get Â£400 off your next cruise and this is in addition to any TA discount as this is transferable once you have decided on cruise.
You get best of both worlds.
A loyalty discount as well as any best price you can get from travel agent.
Overall a great holiday and we are looking forward to next one on 15 November