We kept hearing how amazing Azamara was: "You will love it." "It's wonderful!" Etc. We certainly enjoyed our TA cruise, but the experience did not live up to advance notices.
Embarkation in Seville was super easy. No one was there when we arrived, so not even a minute's wait. However, the space was very small so if a crowd had arrived at once things would have been problematic.
Our first thought coming aboard was, "This is small." We had cruised on two other ships (different line) with about the same passenger count but those ships were significantly larger (roughly 50,000 tons vs. 30,300 tons). The size difference was evident everywhere -- from elevator landings to staterooms to public areas. With only around 500 passenger on board, sometimes this didn't matter, sometimes it did.
Some physical particulars: the four elevators were exceptionally speedy which was good as we had a lot of rocky seas when stairs are not the safest option; the bathroom was small, with a very small shower; the cabaret/theatre had a flat floor, which made viewing difficult; the under-utilized casino also doubled as an entertainment space for a pianist and for many games (trivia, etc.); the beautiful library was tucked away on deck 10 and we wouldn't have known it was there if we hadn't checked out each deck completely; the decor overall was very delightful throughout; everything seemed reasonably clean and in good repair.
Our stateroom had adequate storage and space. The balcony was largely taken up by a ridiculously oversized table that was permanently attached. I believe it was even larger than the tables for two in the dining room! The bed and pillows were fine -- let's face it, nothing is as good as home, right? Lighting was not great for bedtime reading, but I always bring a book light just in case.
The stateroom team was nonintrusive, prompt in service, and took care of everything requested. The wait staff throughout the ship was also very good. This was particularly noticeable in the pool area where it is easy to be overlooked in a large space.
Food was decent. The very first thing we heard from a fellow passenger were what dishes not to order/try, which was interesting. Some dishes were quite good. Others were not-so-great. The arrangement of Windows (buffet) and the presentation of the food was superior to most ships we've been on. Much more was available for self-serve (after the traditional 48-hour "we're afraid of germs" period); though you could sit down and order some things (omelets, burgers, etc.) as well. The pool-side grill was okay. Don't order the onion rings (as the first person we encountered said -- he was right), do order the veggie spring rolls.
The main dining room was on a single floor with no assigned seating or time. This worked very well with no waiting except when our party of eight requested a particular wait staff (entirely understandable). Some dishes were quite good. The wait staff worked hard to take care of special requests. We once sat with a couple who were keeping kosher and the waiter was very solicitous about their order. Unfortunately the food often arrived luke-warm. We didn't eat in the specialty restaurants as no one seemed very enthusiastic about them.
Being a trans-Atlantic, there were many sea days. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Melissa made many of those sea days less than desirable weather-wise. Since there was no retractable roof over the pool area, people gathered in the limited public spaces. There was significant crowding. Once, when people were gathered for a trivia game in the lounge area of the casino, I watched a waiter look on in dismay -- there was no possible way to thread through the crowd to deliver a beverage or take an order. It was like that for every single game, every single day -- people would share chairs and drag in stools from the slot machines. Mosaics, the coffee bar, was also quite crowded. I never saw a free table in there at any time. The Looking Glass lounge (10th deck, fore) was never too crowded, though when the progressive team trivia took place pretty much every chair was moved into tight knots. I suspect this area would have been utilized more except the top deck is where the ship's movement was felt the most.
Granted, all this crowding was probably driven by the combination of sea days and poor weather. However, we were also just slightly over 2/3 capacity, too.
The cruise director and some of the social staff seemed rather disengaged. Others were delightful. Actually a lot of the "management" types seemed disengaged. Maybe they'd been reading their rave reviews too much?
The passengers were a great group of people -- gregarious, well-traveled, and smart. However, the ship experience did not live up to expectations. Maybe we heard too much praise in advance. Plus, we also heard a lot of complaining on board. We had a good time. We'll sail Azamara again -- if the itinerary and the price is right.