My travel agent booked my wife and me on the above voyage representing that this would be a five star experience, appropriate for the celebration of my wife's sixtieth birthday and consistent with our usual "birthday" cruising choices (Crystal, Regent, Oceania, Holland America, etc.) I regret to say that we were greatly disappointed with Azamara.
CABIN: Besides the diminutive shower, the lack of storage for toiletries is unacceptable. The toilet itself is problematic in that anyone less than six feet tall is left with dangling feet. While the size of the stateroom is small, it would be acceptable if some thought would have been given to its furniture. For example, the night tables with 12"x15" tops were useless in that a lamp was fixed in their center and occupied most of the surface, further, they lacked a drawer. The one shelf in the night tables was impossibly difficult to reach and the minuscule size of their space only emphasized the absurdity of their design.
MAIN DINING ROOM: it was glaringly obvious that the facility was grossly understaffed resulting in slow service, exacerbated by the open seating style. The menu was anything but good, nutritious food befitting a five star operation. For example, sea bass was served to my wife with both a baked potato and mashed potatoes, but no vegetables. In fact no fish was served with a vegetable (unless specifically requested!). I was served lamb chops which were fit for resoling shoes, not for human consumption. Soft shell crabs could not be cut with a hacksaw. Filet mignon was served with tomato sauce on top. In fact most dishes were served with an assortment of nondescript sauces which did not enhance their taste. The one time that lobster was on the menu, a tail overcooked beyond belief was served. The chef's attempt to prepare escargots in a butter sauce was laughable, in a sad way - by the time they came to the table the butter had congealed into an inedible mess. Of course recourse to "something else" may be had, but by then one looses ones appetite waiting and waiting and waiting. What was utterly lacking was just simple plain palatable food unspoiled by incompetence in the kitchen.
WINDOWS CAFÉ: The tile flooring of the cafe becomes as slippery as an ice rink due to condensation. A meager attempt of the staff to cope with the situation by laying down mats in strategic places is foiled by the simple fact that there are not enough mats to do the job! People were slipping and sliding repeatedly and it is pure chance if no serious accident occurred. Again the problems of understaffing and food choices are blatant. The cooked foods were drowned in creamy, or tomato based sauces, or swimming in grease. A "healthy" alternative just was not there.
POOL GRILL: It would have been helpful if there had been a posted menu of what was available. The turkey burgers were good, but they were not discovered until late in the trip. Incidentally, the stateroom information book only listed frankfurters, hamburgers and garnishments (coleslaw etc.) which were generally bad.
POOL DECK: So many chairs that there is no room to move! Is it understaffing or incompetence when food leftovers noted at 4PM are still littering the same tables on the pool deck well after midnight? And what about the unwillingness of the deck staff to prevent adults taking infants with/ without diapers into the pool (we found out that in at least one instance, the infant who was taken into the pool was the child of an officer of the ship). This was called to the attention of the Guest Relations Manager, the Hotel Manager and Security personnel, by us as well as a number of other passengers, to no avail. Only after the matter was called to the attention of the medical officer was action taken and the pool drained. In fact the pool had to be subsequently drained several more times due to infant's being taken into the pool and the inevitable poo floating in the pool.
SHIP MANAGEMENT: The unwillingness of the Guest Relations Manager to make herself available to discuss anything was a classic. She was on her break and wanted us to wait until after her break to see her. The Hotel Manager was equally unresponsive. As I eventually told the Captain, in her presence, her arrogance is exceeded only by her incompetence.
PRIME C RESTAURANT:. The meal was memorialized by my having a slab of fat instead of a veal chop, replaced by a section of inedible tendon. It was not a good experience and convinced us that this specialty restaurant was not worth a subsequent visit.
EXCURSION PROGRAMS: We spent over six hundred dollars on shore excursions. Compared with our experience on other voyages, at least two of the excursions were a total waste of money. The Santa Marta City tour gave us little to see or learn, the 'significant' historical events amounted to Simon Bolivar having slept there for eleven nights before dying. The special folkloric show was a sham performance by four couples in native costume. "La Crucecita" and scenic drive tour in Huatulco, Mexico, can be summarized as one continuous sales pitch for condominiums and to attract future tourism to the local hotels.
FITNESS CENTER: The fitness center has a reasonable number of cardio machines for the passenger complement. However, not all machines could be used simultaneously because of obsolete electrical capabilities
SPA FACILITIES: The men's shower stalls did not have shampoo and at first use no shampoo could be located. When this was called to the attention of the spa attendant I was told that a half gallon bottle of shampoo was available to be shared by all. The second time I was there , there was indeed a bottle of shampoo to be shared, however, the next time it was nowhere to be found. When I inquired, I was told that "it must have been stolen by a passenger" and I was advised in the future to bring the shampoo from my room. This would of course defeat the entire purpose of my using the spa facilities which was to free up our stateroom's shower for my wife's use. She too needs shampoo. Any attempt to shave in the spa facility turned into a "comedic act" because there is no mirror over the one and only sink, nor is there a sink under the one and only mirror (unless the sink and mirror in the toilet stall is used thereby precluding anyone else from using the toilet).
MISCELLANEOUS: There was a production crew including actors for the purpose of developing an ad for AZAMARA. It would have been good to know prior to the cruise that we might be inconvenienced by such filming instead of being confronted with it once at sea. In addition, when we were in Huatulco, a large number of "visitors" who I believe were being given a tour of the ship once again interfered with the passenger "space" on the ship. Our overall experience on AZAMARA left us feeling like "guinea pigs" on an experimental cruise, for which we paid..