The absolute BEST cruise experience I've ever had. Azamara beats all other hands down, and for the money offers excellent value.
Stateroom was very comfortable with wonderful beds and high-quality linens. Shower was a little cramped, but that's the worst I can say about the room, so that's not much at all.
Room service offers many HOT breakfast choices, (all were excellent), not just continental-style like most lines nowadays. Staff was outstanding across the board. My 87 year old mother stayed onboard during some port visits and they always kept an extra eye out for her, never allowed her to carry her own tray or plate from the buffet to the table, always checking to see if they could get her anything. I don't know who is doing Azamara's staff training, but they are worth their weight in gold.
Itineraries were excellent, not the usual spam ports; speakers on board day before to lecture about following day's ports were also wonderful.
Food was also excellent. We were going to try the optional restaurants, but just kept having such great food in the dining room that we never wanted to go anywhere else. I can see why Azamara consistently gets good reviews for the food and food service. Also, there was a nice lounge just outside the dining room that was very comfortable to go to for pre-dinner drinks. Greatly enjoyed the included cocktails and drinks. You can get a cocktail or beer, wine, soft drink, etc. basically anytime there is food being served. Which is pretty much almost all the time. All bars were open and made great drinks, no stingy pours here. Standard brands of liquor were fine for me (Finlandia vodka, Jim Beam bourbon, etc.), so I did not purchase the liquor upgrade package, even though it really was reasonably priced at $12.95 a day. My Finlandia martini was just as enjoyable as a Grey Goose one!
Decor was fantastic; classy, understated and more like a fine hotel than a ship. So many ships nowadays I find garishly decorated and somewhat loud and over the top. Noise level (or lack of noise) was also a welcome feature. It was nice to be in a public area and not be bombarded by piped in music all the time. Casino was small, smoke-free (a great thing for us), and extremely accommodating. I usually don't visit the casinos onboard because the smoke is unpleasant, but for the first time in years, I actually enjoyed dropping a few dollars at the roulette table.
AzAmazing Evening was quite nice and extremely well-executed. That is basically a free shore excursion that they comp everyone with. It was probably normally priced at around $150 per person, so it was nice that they give you that. Again, this excursion was facilitated with Azamara's own staff, in addition to local guides, so the level of service and attention was most impressive.
Being a smaller ship of about 500-600 passengers (I never could get an accurate answer on that), it was very nice to be able to get from your stateroom at the front of the ship to the dining room at the back without feeling like you just walked a 5k marathon. It's amazing how one doesn't realize how much time you spend walking from one end to another to do something on the bigger ships. And for my older mother, it was nice to know she could so comfortably get around. But the ship certainly does not FEEL small. It was the best of both worlds. Public areas were never crowded, nor felt crowded. 2 hot tubs and pool were always sparkly clean. Can't say that for other cruises I've been on lately. My biggest complaint would be that the hot tubs and pool closed at 8:15 p.m., and I think they should keep them open to at least 10 p.m. But that's the worst I can say about this cruise, so that really is nothing.
embarkation and debarkation was a breeze, with only a 1-minute wait to get onboard. Again, they have so many well-trained, efficient staff, things moved along quite quickly. Also never had to wait to get on a tender for the tendered ports.
I'm a Virgo, and we are known for being critical and hard to please. But I must say, there was nothing on this ship that did not greatly exceed my expectations, and I've been on several nice, high-end, expensive cruises.
The captain was quite engaging, accessible and frequently wandered by to ask how things were going. The CAPTAIN, not a junior officer! Unheard of in today's world of cruising.
I will probably only go with Azamara from now on, they impressed me that much. I think it's the best cruise for the money out there. You won't be disappointed.