We travelled independently to Miami and made our own way to the transit hotel. The hotel seemed to being used by more that one cruise line, it was basic and functional but not unpleasant. Departure morning started with some chaos as everyone was leaving at the same time and there was a long wait for a lift, as people with baggage were unable to enter a lift, which was constantly full with people from lower floors. We eventually reached the pick up area where hundreds of people were milling around trying to see which coach they were supposed to be heading for. More direction and organization please.
On arrival at the port the check in was seamless, Sky suite and above, passengers did have a separate check in, we were in our suite quickly and efficiently and were very pleased with the accommodation. The butler was helpful throughout the cruise although we did not ask him for more than regular deliveries of ice.
The open seating dining was fine although there were some evenings when everyone seemed to want to be seated at the same time . The food and service in the main restaurant and the buffet restaurant was excellent as were all meals and we particularly enjoyed the Prime C restaurant, best veal chop I have ever eaten. The "suggested" extra service charge of $20 per head though, to eat in the 2 speciality restaurants is unacceptable and should be withdrawn. Service in those 2 restaurants was very slow. We were pleased to see cleansing dispensers were evident throughout the eating areas, very important nowadays, most passengers used them to clean their hands before entering the eating areas.
The deck facilities, bars etc were excellent, the sunbeds clean and new,we enjoyed the space and the plentiful supply of towels. But it was all ruined for the first couple of days until after numerous pleadings and complaints they at last turned off the appalling piped music blearing out over the whole deck area, the same tape, over and over again, I was at the end of my tether by the time I threatened to throw myself overboard if it were not at least lowered in volume. PLEASE AZAMARA get rid of this intrusive torture.
The excursions were mixed,it was a matter of luck which one chose, on the whole they "did what it said on the tin" although too expensive, not value for money in some cases. The "expert" on board was informative, we enjoyed the Panama Canal transit even having done it many times before, he brought it alive for first time passengers.
I travelled with RCCL for 12 years from their days with just 4 ships, we particularly loved the old Sun Viking with approx 725 passengers so were delighted to discover Azamara as we will not cruise on any of the new mega ships. We were particularly delighted to find that the Quest and Journey are identical to the old Minerva 2, Swan Hellenic's last ship. The only difference being the Wheeler Bar is now a casino!
Disembarkation day went without a hitch. We stayed another week in Acapulco but lost our luggage between Acapulco and Mexico City but that is another story, nothing to do with Azamara. We would thoroughly recommend an Azamara cruise, and have,in fact, already booked another cruise in 2009. One tip, dear prospective passengers, save up for a Sky suite, it is worth it, if only for the afternoon tea trolley that rumbles to your stateroom door loaded with unmissable tasty, fattening goodies.