Let's start with if there were problems, they have been or will shortly be addressed.
From my Previous Post from the SHIP on the last day (used up the last of our minutes): It was an excellent trip. We made a few new friends and truly enjoyed our cruise.
The staff is outstanding, I mean really outstanding, they are friendly and go out of their way to ensure everyone is having a good time. The personal attention we received on this trip far exceeds anything we have experienced on our 6 previous cruises.
I, like many of you, have been reading the comments on cruise critic for insight into our cruise. Well, I have to say I was very much relieved once we started cruising. I feel like I am reporting on a completely different ship and experience then some of the previous cruise critic reports.
First of all, the dining experience was outstanding. Starting with the embarkation process, Azamara has added a new feature in which they ask you what time you would like to dine at, on the first night only. This seems to have resolved any previous issues with line-ups especially on the first night. We rarely saw anyone waiting, if they did it was not more then a few minutes. For us we chose to be at the same table each night and it was always available and the staff seemed to know we would eventually be there. We dined at Aqualina one night and really enjoyed it, one recommendation, make sure you try the soufflé, it is out of this world! Domenique was on this voyage and he is excellent as some previous critics have reported. We very much enjoyed afternoon tea in Aqualina, again a highlight, the Harpist is very talented.
The entertainment staff and the Cruise director Andrea and his staff were all excellent! The Cabaret is very intimate and gave us a feeling of being part of the show for each performance. We enjoyed all of the shows. The performers are very friendly and are often at other events off hours and interact with the passengers on a regular basis, much more then we have ever seen.
Special mention to the following crew which we very much appreciated their personal attention: in the Dinning Room, Czjka (hard worker and always upbeat), Nitish, Ghanowa, Mario, and Maria the bar waitress from Columbia, our butleress, Maria Franco, George the officer who I was lucky enough to dance with we even won 4th prize!!
BACKGROUND Myself, my husband and my in-laws traveled together on this trip. We have all been on 6 other cruises, not the same ones, with a number of different cruise companies between all of us. All of our previous cruises were on bigger ships, the closest to this size ship was the Nordic Prince and the Song of America, otherwise larger ships with about 2,000 to 2,500 passengers. I was particularly worried this ship would rock & roll, but it didn't, not on our trip and we did have some rain days. I was worried about my mother-in-law, she had been a sick on the Nordic Prince a number of years ago and if anyone would feel it would be her, she was fine the entire trip.
EMBARKATION The was painless, however one of the bus rides from one terminal building to the other seemed a little over kill we could have walked in one or two minutes, if that. As reported previously they have this process under control, even at the New Port of Santos, for Azamara, everything was quick and orderly. We were given Champaign as we entered the Ship and has some food which was welcome by this time even though we did have a big breakfast in Sao Paulo at our Hotel before leaving for Santos.
CABINS The Cabins were a real treat for us as this was the first time we had a balcony, so worth it and someone told me you can't go back once you've had one, that might be true... In any case on this ship I would absolutely recommend it, especially for the difference in price from a window cabin, it's worth it! The bathroom while not big was fine and the shower was fine and not the smallest I've seen. The bath products are actually excellent as reported and they certainly give you plenty. The robes and slippers a real treat, never had that before either.
POOL AREA While yes the Pool is small, this is the smallest I've seen, it works well enough and is not crowded. The area around the pool is very nice and chairs were a dream. The Grill has excellent food and while we only ate there twice it was very fresh and the fries are very good.
BUFFET Windows was excellent for Breakfast! The blueberry pancakes and omelets are very tasty, The juice bar seems to be an under utilized area, they make any combination of juices to order, I would suggest trying this out.
CASINO The is a great area, not very big and it felt friendly, I can say I should have won but I forgot "know when to walk away", maybe next time. I won a free Casino T-Shirt on a raffle so it wasn't a complete loss.
ACTIVITIES We especially enjoyed the lecture on The Beauty of Mathematics in Nature, well worth attending. I liked the Food Demo and the talk about Gems.
ENTERTAINMENT No there are no BIG PRODUCTIONS but with the space and number of entertainers on board they do a really good job of making each night interesting and fun. We really did like all the shows, some more than others but we never left completely disappointed. As I mentioned above the Ship entertainers are very good and because they are so personable and friendly with the passengers it gives the shows at night a different feel.
SHORE EXCURSIONS We actually only booked one with the Ship but it was really good in Parati we went on a "Party Ship" to two different beaches and they sold "Cipirina's" on board which were the best I tasted in all of Brazil. Otherwise we did our own thing in a few Ports, no problem with getting a Taxi and were part a larger group in Rio and Itajai. Loved Argentina, Camboriu and Parati, plus Rio is Rio, loved it too. Speaking the language does help but I don't think it's a must have, not at all.
DINING Completely enjoyed this, the portion sizes are just right so you can actually try more different courses. The presentation was excellent. The only issue for me personally is a seafood allergy, so much of the shrimp, scallops were off limits, but they did look really good and my husband loved it. The staff was very attentive to ensure I didn't have anything I shouldn't. My absolute favorite was the soufflé at Aqualina.
AFTERNOON TEA This I have never experienced on a ship, we went a number of days while at sea to Aqualina for tea and treats and to listen to the Harpist play, it was every relaxing.
DISEMBARKATION I thought this would have taken longer and was surprised how quickly we got off the ship. We had a Taxi waiting for us so it was all like clock work getting off the ship and back to Sao Paulo.
I can tell you we loved our Cruise and would recommend it to all!
I hope your cruise is as wonderful as ours!
A little about our stay in Sao Paulo after the Cruise.
SAO PAULO POST CRUISE
We stayed one additional night and day in Sao Paulo and even though it rained the second day we had a wonderful time and saw many more interesting spots. For those wondering about prices, the taxi trip from the ship to our Hotel Downtown was $185Reals (Divide by 4 very reasonable). We had arranged with the taxi driver who originally drove us to the ship from Sao Paulo to pick us up, like clock work he was there. Once in Sao Paulo we wondered on foot and took one local cab the first day. If you do stay in Sao Paulo, a hotel near Ave. Paulista is a good location; you can wonder on this massive street and feel very safe, we did. It's a business district and the locals are dressed to the nines. There was a Christmas Show with a group of about 60 kids singing Nutcracker songs the evening we arrived at 6:30 outside of one of the banks. The banks also have their lobbies decorated with Christmas themes like I have never seen before, all free for everyone to wonder through and enjoy. We saw about 30 or so Santa Claus' wishing Christmas Cheer to everyone walking and driving by, this was a really good photo. Speaking of which I took many pictures on this street and again felt very safe. It reminds me of Time Square or Yonge Street a little. We saw a few helicopters making roof top landings to pickup executives at the end of the day.
We stayed at the Maksoud Plaza, it was in a great location and very safe. I have to say the city view from the 19th floor from the odd numbered rooms is incredible.
We hired the same driver for the second day for $300Reals, this included tip and drop off at the Airport later, (which alone is a standard $100Reals), he was with us from 11 am to 6:30 pm. We went to a number of places, the open market on (15th of Nov St, I think) it was amazing with only people on the street. The Train Station is impressive from the inside, the old churches and buildings are wonderful and the mix of architecture is well... very unique. We tried a local restaurant which serves food by the weight, or the Kilo the first night (just make sure you eat somewhere over $2.50 Reals for 100 grams, you get much more variety and better food, so said our Taxi driver, I think we paid $2.89, the entire meal was less then $40Reals for two with drinks. The second day we tried this deboned grilled chicken that was to die for, again the Taxi drivers recommendation. We went to a shop that only sold hot sauces and teas, I mean really hot sauce, we'll see if we can actually eat it or cook with it.... Too much more to mention, lets just say it was our first trip to Brazil but it won't be the last....I hope not.
I should mention we speak Portuguese which in Brazil does come in very handy and now that we have been once, we feel much more comfortable about returning. But if you don't speak the language, downtown you will find many people do, also the Hotels have tours in many languages.
Glad we stayed the extra time in Sao Paulo.