Well I resisted the temptation in the title to say Azamazing Journey on Journey so here it is.
Hopefully a review of our cruise will help others to enjoy the experience.
Flew down from Newcastle and spent some quality time in BA lounge at T5.
Good to see that the bacon sandwiches are as good as ever as a 6.30am from NCL is not conducive to breakfast before our flights.
Good journey to Athens in Club Europe apart from the usual ridiculous sizes of hand baggage.
Some were too physically thick to actually go into rthe overhead lockers and plane was delayed whilst some were sent into the hold.
It really is time BA started to refuse some of the ridiculoiusly oversized bags.
Not a bad chicken meal on board with 3 drinks included..
Arrived at Athens and met by Azamara rep and paparazzi as well.
It appeared that a minor politician was on our flight so we had to run gauntlet of photographers on exiting customs,
About 20 guests on 50-seater coach to Athens Hilton and on arrival at hotel baggage taken from kerbside to room straight away.
Good room with view of Acropolis which was illuminated at night (especially for us!!!??)
Good breakfast buffet but no wonder Greece has problems with productivity.
On arrival at dining room we were passed from Maitre D to 2 other suited gentleman who passed us on to two waitresses one of whom took us to a table.
We had arranged private transfer to port to avoid the inevitable waiting for a bus to fill up.
Boarding started at 11.30 and then the holiday really started.
Greeted on gangway on boarding by Heike Berdos (hotel director) who provided the customary glasses of sparkling wine.
How do they remember /know peoples names or are we so notorious?
Buffet was available in Windows cafe so up there to remeet Adel (restaurants manager and Alix Prime C manager) so arranged our speciality dining dates (included in owners suite package).
Had a few snacks with a very acceptable Chilean Riesling from their daily wine offering which makes an acceptable spritzer for my wife also.
(Tip if you particularly like a daily wine then a quiet word with section manager can usually arrange for it to be provided each day).
Down to suite to meet Manish our butler who was as always always available although apart from the odd room service early breakfast we did not need to bother him much.
3 bottles of champagne including one from Miami H Office (perhaps for my constant comments about out of date UK website) as well as the customary 4 bottles of complementary spirits.
Went to CC meeting in which I think we were outnumbered by the officers although it was good to meet "Sarasota Cruiser " who became friends (Thanks Mary Beth and Dave) and we dined with them in Prime C as well as Gosport 11 and Bill C who was on his 4 th of 5 B2Bs
I will split review into sep sections.
Owners suite 7114 is all it says it is
As in planes cars and houses you are paying for space and that you have in abundance.
A full 4 seater table on completely private balcony(you could even sunbathe nude with nobody to see but the birds) as well as 2 full length loungers.
Second guest bathroom with sink and toilet.
Room for another 4/6 seater dining table as well as 2 armchairs and sofa, then into screened off bedroom with second TV with enough space for all my wifes clothes with 6 full-length robes and drawer space.
Bathroom with jacuzzi bath with 2 showers one low down and one for standing.
The bath was not the easiest to get out of but obviously I managed it.
Unfortunately they also provided a set of scales which was my incentive to walk 3 miles a day around the deck.
We used Windows cafe for breakfast and lunches and as relatively early risers were able to get outdoor table each day although always sharing with others if they requested to join us.
We never saw any couples refuse a request to share a 4 top as there are actually no 2 tops outside although you could sit at the bar if you wanted to be together..
It is fabulous to have your own smoothies made with your choice of fruits and to watch the machine actually squeezing your glass of orange juice.
Great selection of cereals etc. and your choice of eggs etc. including boiled and poached as well as the fabulous crispy bacon etc. as well as roast meat for Americans who could also get this as room service.
There was Marmite and Vegemite for those who love those options.
Windows again and we usually just had a sandwich or something light.
I particularly liked the Chicken Brie and Avocado Tortilla which was a special early on in cruise and was able to get that made on request daily together with my Riesling.
There was always a daily roast freshly carved for you as well as 5 other choices of mains.
There was a pool grill which seemed to do a roaring trade with usual burgers hot dogs etc. with a speciality sausage like bratwurst each day also.
We dined in speciality each night but all the people we talked to had enjoyed either the Windows buffer options of seafood /Indian/ Italian /French/Turkish /Tex Mex etc. which were available from 6.30 pm. or the Discovery dining which is freestyle in that you can turn up at any time and make your choice of table size for companions.
We had a fabulous time in both speciality dining with one exception (see below) and if there is anything that you want making specially then Fabio the executive chef will discuss with you and make it for you.
There is always a daily special which was usually fish and we had brill /turbot and halibut on occasions all of which were great.
The signature courses are Goats cheeses souffle /French cheese and onion soup, rack of lamb and Grand Marnier souffle as well as their fillet steak.
We ordered a $58 bottle of Riesling (theme here) a 2005 Hugel but was not available? /sold out but the replacement Gewurztraminer whilst nice was not $58 better than the daily wine.
The dining is now really popular with one night more than 152 people dining.
This is beginning to spoil the experience as although the food and service are as good as ever it is not fun to see the waiters practically running between diners/kitchens and on one night there were 3 maitre D's having to help to clean tables with a finish after midnight from a 5.30 pm start without a break.
They should utilise the old bus boy position to pour water/lay new cutlery /remove old plates etc. rather than have the waiter do this unskilled task.
On tackling management about this sadly the answer is cost /profitability although the extra $3800 dollars from that one night would cover a lot of extra staff.
Do the bean counters not realise that EMPLOYING extra staff would actually boost productivity by approx.50% by reducing waiters workload as it would enable waiters to actually serve more customers thereby satisfying customers and Azamara H Office.
I notice that since our last cruise on Quest in November the cheese trolley has been abolished and you are simply served triangles etc.
The final Captains dinner set up in the Library is always an opportunity for Fabio to show his skills to a smaller audience and once again Fabio did us proud with all course and well chosen wines to match.
He finished off with a spectacular ice-cream served in a spun sugar base on a 8 prong sugar base. (How that is made I do not know?) but it was a fabulous end to the dinner.
We did not do all the shows but Tony Markey the entertainment director was around all the time and his "Blues Brothers " and "Hairspray" routines as well as his performance at the White Night were all great
This had to be held in the cabaret lounge because of the weather forecast.
Although this was a shame it probably made for a better night as the dance floor is bigger and the crowd is more concentrated rather than spread across 2 decks.
It even got me up bopping trying to keep up with the few (approx 8) but lively youngsters on board.
The comedian Rich Ceissler wax very good and his routine was not too "Americanised"
We did not go on Cretan Amazing evening on the sea front as folk dancing and fake Cretan weddings are not our scene but it appeared well organised with plenty of food and drink (as one had been held earlier in the year then any teething problems had obviously been sorted) although some people thought it was a bit too long at 3 hours.
No organised excursions taken at any ports as we prefer our own thing.
We would have enjoyed Kotor more if it had not rained ALL morning and the sail in was spectacular and a great point to watch from was the sanctuary where you get a clear view rather than through glass.
Dubrovnik and Split we would certainly visit again but sadly we were disappointed with both Santorini and Venice as they were just FAR too overcrowded to enjoy pushing through crowds to see anything
There were 12 cruise ships in Venice on the days we were there and it was just a pushfest.
In addition because of high tide St Marks square was beginning to flood and they had the wading boards reading for use so adding to the overcrowding..
Sadly Carly Simon had it right
"We paved over Paradise and made it a parking lot"
A great mix of various nationalities with Brits /US /Canadians in majority but a good contingent of Australians /New Zealanders as well as other European nationalities.
Age range mostly 50+ but no wheelchairs or Zimmer users that I saw although perhaps the port intensive itinerary may have put off the less mobile.
Dress code was as always smart casual although we did see suits/jackets occasionally at fine dining as well as at Captains dinner.
This is where Azamara REALLY shine and because of their loyalty to their ship you continue to see the same faces cruise after cruise.
Obviously Heike /Tony /Fabio /Adel and Alix lead the teams but there are so many others to name who both remember your name/preferences to mention all but Jose from Prime C ,Ibrahim from Windows as well as Grandpappy Dale the Jamaican bar manager who is retiring this year after 30 years on ships.
We will see him again in October and will be wishing him well.
Room staff Manish Lyric and helpers almost had the room cleaned before you left and obviously we ensured that all these people were rewarded personally as well as by the inclusive tipping policy.
1: On night of Cretan evening there was a water cut to decks 6 to 10 i.e. nearly all main facilities.
Obviously this was a logical time to have this maintenance as approx 600 of 644 guests would be onshore by then but there was no prior advice of this.
A call to Manish confirmed this was a wide scale problem but a room was found on deck 4 for us to shower in and bottled water provide for teeth and emergency toilet flushing.
We received a note with daily bulletin that night at 10.00pm advising us of cut from 6.00pm
Heike the hotel director was mortified when she heard of this and personally apologised to us.
I would not have liked to have been at the meeting to discuss the lack of communication the next morning
We heard of one American lady who is trying to claim for cost of cruise due to emotional stress of not being able to shower for 4 hours. Perhaps the tale had improved in the telling although staff had confirmed that they had had "a very difficult passenger"
She was lot luckier than a Norwegian trio in an owners suite who had no effective sewage functions for 5 days and who had to traverse one third of ship and go down 2 floors to use toilet facilities at night.
We also witnessed poor treatment of a waiter in Aqualina in front of us.
2: Now to my Mr Grouch mode.
Why do they take 8 waiters from their duties to sing "Happy Birthday" to somebody they do not know merely to satisfy the ego of some individual .
The quicker this ritual is confined to Happy meal celebrations at McDonalds the better.
If people wish to celebrate their birthday then by all means get a cake but sing themselves.
3: Finally although this is not strictly Azamara responsibility I believe their communication was poor and to merely have a tourist lady with maps is not the best way to ensure 600+ people get a good and safe start on their visit to Venice..
Most people in Venice will off course wish to visit St Marks Square and of course to go by water boat.
To do this honestly you have to buy a ticket at a shop approx. 200 yards from the boat stop and if you were caught without one the fine would be horrendous.
It would not be impossible to explain clearly on a A4 page the requirements and logistics as people were running backwards and forwards to this little shop.
Equally I do not see why the Authorities could not offer ticket facilities at exit to port.
On nice nights keep Windows cafe outdoor area and Pool Bar open later as these close at 10.00pm currently.
Not suggesting 2.00am close but certainly 11.00pm should be doable
Would we do Azamara again.
Of course and we are off again in 5 weeks from Athens to Dubai.