This was my fourth cruise and first on Azamara. After reading reviews for months, finally adding my own. Was a really good trip overall but in many ways I just don't understand the hype that surrounds this brand. Not a complaint just my thoughts. Saved my gripes for the end. Cruise was round trip departing out of Athens from Oct 19 thru Oct 26th:
Pre cruise Hilton Athens:
Gorgeous wide open bright lobby, lots of glass and marble. Quick check in and I got a room with an Acropolis view. Very cool! Room was large and spotlessly clean. I'd like to have the shower and bathtub in my home! Rooftop bar/restaurant had stunning nighttime views of the Acropolis. Hotel bars and restaurant good but not great food and very pricey. 55 euros for two glasses of wine and a skewer of chicken souvalaki for dinner. Included breakfast was adequate, standard stuff.
Transfer to Pier:
Letter at check-in at Hilton indicated what time to meet the bus in lobby. Pretty large group of about 75 people went in two buses at 12:00 and 12:30. Azamara rep was on site at the hotel in the morning for questions and directing people to the bus. Call me a privacy freak but I was not really cool with the bulletin board by the Azamara table with everybody's name on it. Saw no need for that at all. Aprox. 30 mins to pier, lot of Azamara people directing where to go inside. Check in was pretty quick, aprox. 15-20 mins in line and I had my cabin card and was on the ship at about 1:30. Greeted with champagne/juice. Able to get in cabins at about 2:00. Luggage showed up within about an hour which was nice (well it was in the hall being lined up ready to be delivered and I took it in my self), poor guy working there was mortified!
Interiors were spotless everywhere. Looks pretty much just like the pictures in the brochure/online. Very elegant, lots of marble/granite, metal scrollwork, lots of cream, green and gold colors with an old world vibe. Good signage everywhere. Bars and pool grill and buffet restaurant were open at time of boarding. Modest effort made to upsell people on the drinks package but nothing annoying on first day.
Small but fairly standard size with balcony compared to prior cruises. Spotless, nice touches with fresh flowers and a fruit plate and included drinks section in minibar which was replenished throughout the week. Complimentary tote bag in room at check in (pretty nice bag actually). Bathroom, spotless and small. Standard stuff. Cabin attendant very efficient all week.
Breakfast buffet was pretty average overall. The omelet station was disappointing both times I tried it. Sit down restaurant was "closing" 20 mins before posted hours both times I went so I never got to try that for breakfast. With early starts for most of the excursions I needed to be in and out quickly. Never went hungry but never impressed.
Pool Grill/lunch buffet was a bit mixed. Some of the offerings in the buffet were quite good such as the made to order sandwiches and salads. (Nice that only staff vs a couple hundred people with likely grubby hands touching the serving utensils). Buffet is not my favorite to say the least. The bright spot at lunch was really the Pool Grill. They had a menu, it was all cooked to order and they would find you where ever you were seating. Wings, burgers, grilled sausages, 4 or 5 different kinds of kebobs, club sandwiches, ribs, tacos etc.
Dinners. Discoveries and Prime C Restaurant Ate in main restaurant Discoveries all but one night when I went the "specialty" restaurant Prime C. Overall my thoughts on dinners were again, mixed. The main dining room was gorgeous in its interior, although stiflingly hot every evening. Discoveries menu had the "always available" section and then the "daily specials". Many nights the two were not that different. Can't complain about the quality but portions were small and in some cases really tiny. Some of their food descriptions left a lot to be desired, for example "cheese and onion soup" was really French onion soup and "rack of lamb" was a tiny lamb chop. Many of the meat portion size descriptors on the meat cuts were way way off in terms of what the menu stated vs what showed up on the plate. Frankly the menu was pretty basic, was hoping for something a bit more. Again, never went hungry but was never wowed either.
Prime C was also gorgeous in its interior and looked out over the bow of the ship with floor to ceiling windows. Menu a bit more mixed but in my opinion still pretty basic. I ordered the filet rare and it came to the table medium. I sent it back and the re-fire was perfect like it should have been the first time. Was actually the best dinner I had all week.
Overall service in both restaurants Have mixed thoughts on the service. While the service received was always good, it was frequently slow and drawn out. Dinner easily took two+ hours most nights. While tables for 2-6 were frequently empty in the dining room, they definitely pushed you to sit with other people at the large tables which I truly resented. (Luckily I met some really cool people to share with but if I had not I would have had a real issue with that)
Bar staff were uniformly great everywhere throughout the ship the entire cruise. All the included alcohol and wines worked well for me. Good to very good quality on the wines.
With the exception of the ungodly early start times (8:30AM) for most of them, all of the excursions I booked thru the ship were great. Shuttle buses right by the pier, extremely knowledgeable guides and nicely paced. Ultimate Ephesus and Rhodes walking tour in particular were superb.
With the exception of Kos they were all very enjoyable. Not sure what the draw was on Kos. Santorini, Rhodes and Ephesus were all outstanding in very different ways each of them. Mykonos and Marmaris both very pretty and enjoyable as well.
My poor thoughts on ChoiceAir have been further amplified. Finding a suitable flight home on Sat was made impossible due to the direction of "absolutely no flights before 1:00PM" causing me to have to stay over another night in Athens. Imagine my surprise when the captain announces that "due the volume of early flight departures they will be anchoring at 4:30AM with initial disembarking beginning at 5:30AM". Could have easily made a 12:30 flight that I had found that ChoiceAir refused to book and saved myself a couple hundred bucks!
Transfer to post cruise Hilton from ship This falls into the it's never too late to make a bad impression category. There were two buses at the 8:30 disembarkation one for the Hilton and one for the Bretagne Hotel and Hilton hotels. I am sitting on the first Hilton bus when a man and a woman approaches and says "we'll need you to come with us". I asked what was wrong and they just herded me off the bus. They then hustle a couple onto the bus to sit where I was sitting. When I asked what was going on they said as I was alone they wanted to get the couple onto the other bus first. Excuse me but that was a huge WTF moment for me. It was seriously more important for a couple to get on a bus that was going to the same place arriving maybe 15 mins apart?? And the driver had attitude when I insisted they take my luggage off the first bus and put it on the second. He made a snotty comment about "keeping people waiting". What were they going to do with my luggage leave it at the curb?? I really had to restrain myself from saying something. I made it almost a whole trip without experiencing solo discrimination but as I pointed out earlier it is never to late to leave a really bad impression.
Post cruise Hilton From prior travel I had a vague memory of Europe ending daylight savings time a week earlier than the USA. (This did not occur to me prior to leaving to check out myself, go figure!) When I asked two different people at the desk they knew nothing about it. Bought a newspaper and didn't see anything either and thought I was mistaken. Next morning sure enough there was a flyer at the desk alerting people to change clocks back, would have been nice to know the day before when you are getting up at 3:30AM the next morning! And no "included breakfast " that early either.
Did I have a great time, absolutely! Did it live up to some of the hype I have read, some ways yes and others sadly no. Loved the size of the ship and the service was really good albeit slow overall. I was impressed by the number of repeat cruisers and the fact that in many cases the crew recognized people. Saw many instances of smiles/handshakes and hugs all around.
That transfer experience really left me on a very flat note though. Will I cruise Azamara again, for a great itinerary and pricing absolutely would.