Just wanted to tell you a bit about my review of the cruise. To give you some background, I have been on hundreds of cruise ships via my former job as an inspector. As a passenger, we have been on six with our favorite cruise line, Celebrity, and one with Princess. We chose Azamara because of the size and the interesting port of calls. Whenever we cruise the first time with a new cruise line, I never identify myself as an ex-inspector or a cruise critic. I want to be an "ordinary" passenger. I think if you are identified as a cruise critic, the service and experience is skewed. So here goes.
Embarkation: The whole process was a breeze. The check-in staff were friendly, professional and very helpful. From start to finish, it took about five minutes. We walked aboard and were greeted with red wine or champagne (with a strawberry!) and personally escorted to our room, #7021, oceanview with a verandah. Wow, we were impressed and were sure Azamara was going to exceed our expectations.
Stateroom: The room was clean, the size we expected, and the fresh flowers were a nice touch. The bathroom was a tad small but we also expected it to be. Our stateroom attendant, Abdul, are the BEST!!! He was always available, kept our room and bathroom spotless, and always had a huge smile on his face. Azamara, if you are listening, he deserves a huge raise! Our butler, Melvin, on the other hand, does not. The man either doesn't speak English or chooses not to understand. When we asked him for something, it wasn't done or it was too difficult for him and Abdul had to do it. For example, my husband purchased a liquor package for the room. It was suppose to come with six mixers and a snack. We asked Melvin for ginger ale and two hours later, we found four cans of diet coke on the bed. We reminded him, we wanted ginger ale. Three hours later, three cans of Coke was on the bed. Finally, seeing our frustration, Abdul went and got six cans of ginger ale and put them in the refrigerator. We never did get the snack. With maybe five exceptions, we came back to the stateroom, it was unlocked! We asked Melvin about it and he indicated he would get someone to fix it. After 14 days, we were still just opening the door! If you have wine in your room, don't ask Melvin for a glass. He won't bring one, doesn't understand the difference between white and red wine glasses, and will take the water glasses in the room just for fun. We had to resort to stealing glasses from the Looking Glass Bar and hiding them in the safe!
Dining Room: The first night on the ship, we had to go to the dining room for dinner. No problem, we had planned to go. We show up at 7:00 pm and was instantly seated. We waited one hour to have our order taken. At 10:30 pm, we walked out of the dining room without dessert because we just could not seat anymore. Thinking it was just first day problems, we tried the dining room the next night. We went at 6:15 pm and finally, left at 10:30 pm. We ordered cocktails and never got them. When we did get our food, the waiters were in such a hurry, they plopped the plates down and ran to the next table. The only other time we were in the dining room the rest of the cruise was for breakfast. We had a wonderful experience at breakfast. The waiters were friendly, very helpful and what we expected the service to be. My opinion is at dinner, the waiters are responsible for too many tables and are spread to thin.
Windows Cafe/Breeza: We spent the rest of the cruise eating our meals here. Azamara, if you listening, re-configure the lines and how about a tray! You can't have two lines that meet in the middle and not have a traffic jam. Why do the waiters have to use the same coffee, juice, and water dispensers the passengers are suppose to use? On a brighter note, I want to commend Enroy Moore, a waiter at the cafe. He took the time to learn our names and ask where we were from on the very first day. He ALWAYS greeted us by name, was courteous, and was a credit to the Azamara. Azamara, if you don't promote him, you are crazy!!! On the other hand, the morning manager should be fired. One of the waiters (I 'm sorry I didn't get his name but he had blonde hair and was from Poland or Romania) accidentally dropped a glass right in front of my brother. His first concern was for the safety of the passengers. He made sure my brother was okay, informed other passengers of the glass and asked another waiter to get a broom. The manager came over and berated him right in front of the passengers. He went so far as to say," Are you so stupid you can't understand English or should I speak slower?" The manager didn't care about the safety of the passengers but only to scream at the waiter. Good grief, it was only a glass!
Activities of the Ship: I want to commend activity staffer, Carissa from Canada. She also was a credit to Azamara. She was friendly, fun, took the time to talk to us, and had unlimited patience. The jewelry making class Carissa taught was great. The trivia contests and "crazy" categories were alot of fun. Thanks Carissa for the luggage tags!Azamara, how about a scrapbooking class? I have scrapbooked every cruise and I think I could give you some pointers.
Bar and Drinks: Every afternoon, we played cards in the Looking Glass Bar. The first day, the waiter asked if we wanted anything and we said no. The second day we ordered four sodas. The bill came with the 18% added gratuity for a grand total $10.49. I could but three 12-packs for that! Maybe I'm wrong but we didn't add any more tip, we thought 18% was enough. We never saw another waiter the rest of the cruise. If we wanted a drink or soda, one of us had to go to the bar and order it ourselves. Does anybody know if Azamara is keeping the 18% or are the waiters getting it? I just assumed the waiters were getting the tip. One good thing was the martini tasting. It was my first time tasting martinis but a word of advice, make sure you go to the tasting as a group and order one set. The martinis pack a wallop and are a great deal.
Port of Calls: We had some weather issues which caused some changes in the port of calls but overall, all the ports were great. We especially loved the fact of less crowded ports. We didn't realize how much we got spoiled until Carnival docked in the Turks and 3,000 passengers got off. I know a lot of passengers complained about Mayaguez and Ponce but not us. Our ship was only the third ship to ever dock there. What they lacked in 50 different shore excursions, they made up for in friendliness. We had a blast walking around the city center's and talking to the people who live there. They were so excited we were there and made us feel so welcome. We walked by the law university in Mayaguez and a lady asked if we wanted a free tour. Okay, I'm game. It was wonderful and I learned alot. Who knew a law university could be interesting! I have spent hundreds of dollars on shore excursion and never feel as welcome as I did in Puerto Rico. The free drinks, soda, coffee and food on the dock was a great surprise. Watch out for the "high octane gasoline." It packs a wallop like the martinis. Dominica was another stop we enjoyed thoroughly. We rented a private taxi with Tony for the day and travelled all over the island hitting the usual stops of Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald Pool. Tony was an excellent tour guide and taught us all kinds of things about the island to include wildlife, flora, customs and what it is like to live there. He even stopped especially for me so I could enjoy a "Chubby" soda and he paid. Guadeloupe started out a bust with everything closed because of Sunday. Bad planning on Azamara's part! We walked around the town and found the Fort. If you go to Guadeloupe, take the time to walk to the Fort and tour the grounds. It is a photographer's dream (I took over 100 photos there) and it is free (we did put some money in the tip jar). We were very disappointed in the Dominican Republic. We boarded a catamaran and for two hours, we barely moved in the water (engine only, no sails) along the coastline through floating mounds of sewage and received numerous sales pitches to come back and stay in one of the 5-star resorts. The Caye Levantado was horrible. To get to the beach, you had to run the gauntlet of very pushy tourist souvenir vendors only to discover, the ship runs the beach stuff and everything costs money to include a beach chaise. Drinks with 18% gratuity. Cold hamburgers and french fries. Shame on you Azamara! Turks was by far our favorite stop even with the Carnival hordes. The diving and snorkeling were the best I have ever done. Make sure you had a pina colada at Margaritaville with southern comfort. YUM!!!!
Shore Excursions: My only comment on shore excursions is MAKE SURE YOU READ THE DESCRIPTIONS THOROUGHLY!!!!!! More than one excursion was more strenuous than described. Example, we were on the ultimate adventure in Antigua. The zip lines were a blast and even though I screamed like a little girl on the 160' vertical descent, I loved it. What we didn't expect next was a 3 and 1/2 hour hike up mountain, down a mountain, up a mountain, and down a mountain with no water and 90 degrees. We had people hurting, bleeding, and severely dehydrated only to find out at the end of the hike that we couldn't use any of the facilities at the beach resort. No bathroom, no water. They instantly, shuttled us to a dock and we "boarded" a blow up dinghy to the catamaran. The rest of the excursion was great even though we didn't snorkel like planned. Another passenger told us he bought a shore excursion which indicated a level walk in the countryside. He was 80 years old with a cane but in pretty good shape. He also experienced the same thing. He went up a mountain, down a mountain, etc. He said the only thing that saved him was the trombone player from the ship who helped him. As a seasoned cruiser, we rely on the cruise ship's description of a shore excursion to be accurate. Azamara, you have not done your homework!
Shipboard Credits: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SOMETHING IN WRITING ABOUT SHIPBOARD CREDITS BEFORE YOU BOARD. We were promised $200.00 for early booking or $125.00 for Captain Club members. We didn't get either one.
Well this review turned out to be longer than I expected. Sorry. The last question is would I recommend this cruise or cruise line? No, I would not. As a "ordinary" passenger on Azamara, I expected the experience to be better than Celebrity. They have advertised the line to be five-star and in line with Costa or Crystal. They aren't even close. We are returning to Celebrity and Princess.