We were so looking forward to this cruise. A once in a lifetime trip to Antarctica. We originally booked to do the holiday with Celebrity cruises but when we saw Azamara was doing the same cruise on the same day but one we switched ships! We always book suites and booked suite 8050 - midships. We had high expectations of the ship and accommodation as throughout 2012 it was widely known that Azamara was being refurbished and refitted. It was also due a technical overhaul.
Were our expectations met?
Embarkation at Buenos Aires was a breeze. From arrival to getting on the ship took just 20 minutes and that included a bus ride of 5 minutes to the ship. Which was where we met our 4 new Canadian friends for the first time!
We were sharing with our new friends on the bus how much we loved Azamara and how exciting it was to be going on a ship that had just been refurbished.
So what was our first impression of the new blue hull. Well sadly, we and our new friends were not impressed with the dirty blue hull. It had detracted from the sleek look of a luxury cruise liner and now looks more like what it is, a 20 year old ship! This seemed to be the general view of all our fellow passengers we spoke to.
So that aside we were warmly greeted and welcomed aboard with a glass of champagne and many smiles. All the public areas looked really nice and there was a freshness about the ship which was very positive - all looking good so far. We eagerly went to our suite to see what it now looked like.
To our dismay since we were last on board Azamara 18 months ago - nothing had been done! so not only was it the same, all the furniture, bathroom etc was 18 months older. Over the next 24 hours we noticed we had a broken armchair that needed to be replaced twice, worm bed covers, pictures and furniture damaged, ill fitting doors which let in really cold wind so we had to use packing tape to seal the doors, balcony screens that rattled, and just a tired old tatty bathroom. In addition to that it was very noisy cabin as it is a below a workroom on Deck 9. The staff started work most mornings at 5.00 a.m.! We were told we had new mattresses and new balcony furniture - woopee!
Oh well - we were still on a trip of a lifetime so off we went.
.... so what about the cruise destinations? Montevideo and the Falkland Islands were WOW - the highlights of our trip. Antarctica was amazing - a real treat and privilege. We then hit very bad weather (Hurricane Force winds and 8m high waves!) This caused a lot of complaints but we don't blame Azamara for the weather! We missed Ushuaia and the Cape because of the weather and then had a day in Puerto Madryn - all in all a great cruise.
Other highlights of the cruise is as everyone says .... the staff. They work tirelessly always smile and really want everyone to be happy. We met great people and the food was excellent. Entertainment was average but you don't go on Azamara for the entertainment. We had great fun every night in the Casino and often danced and drank the night away. We spent loads of money in the shops! So happy memories :-)
BUT the lasting memory sadly is one of poor accommodation. We spent nine thousand UK pounds on our suite and we expect better. We spent 3,000 US dollars on board - we are good customers. Did we complain - YES. That was even more of a sham - the Hotel Director was a stand in for the cruise and not empowered in our view to make decisions so he emailed head office. He was looking to give us a 25% reduction off a future cruise but after waiting and waiting we told him not to bother as we will never sail with Azamara again. He was gob smacked that we were giving us a future cruise discount but we explained it is not about money it's about positive experiences - we do not go on holiday to complain.
All this is a great shame but there are many more companies out there who will be more than happy to take our money. We have two Cunard cruises booked - one in May - one in September. We have booked the Queens Grill suites so it be very interesting to compare.
Anyway, for completeness disembarkation was also efficient and a breeze!
Final comment - Azamara have some of the best staff at sea - there are very badly let down by management. I would not recommend Azamara if you really want a luxury experience. I would recommend Azamara as a friendly ship with good food and interesting itineraries.