When we first heard about Azamara, it was on Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas. We have booked passage on Cunard, Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, NCL and Holland America, so we know the general drill and what to expect. The lure of a more upscale line was just what we were looking for, but were disappointed that we just did not find it in Azamara.
We had an ocean view cabin right near Guest Relations on Deck 4, which was a great location and a tremendous value. We purchased the optional spa deck package for $175 + 18% service charge and found that to be a much better way to go than booking a balcony stateroom. The balconies are very small relative to other lines, and in my opinion, not worth the money.
Here is What Worked in Favor of Azamara' "Luxury" Spin:
Zippered tote bag, binoculars and umbrella in our stateroom were a wonderful touch: especially for a Panama Canal cruise. The tote bag was ours to keep. The bathrobes and towels are a higher quality than other ships.
I am a steak girl, and thought I would favor the specialty steak house (Prime C) over the more seafood oriented Aqualina, but I really enjoyed the ambiance in Aqualina more. Also, you can order food from one specialty restaurant (I preferred Prime C's fondue for dessert) and enjoy it with your friends in Aqualina.
The Windows Cafe is fantastic for breakfast and Dinner, too! Huge assortment of breakfast food including made to order omelettes, waffles, pancakes, smoothie shakes etc. Also an impressive offering of herring, salmon, bacon, sausage as well as breads and pastries. For dinner, the cafe rotated its made to order offerings: including stir-fry (my personal favorite), pasta, and international themes such as Indian and Greek. We really enjoyed being able to swim and throw on a cover-up and have dinner on the back deck at night.
We never waited for a table in the Discoveries restaurant, and you could go to the restaurant any time, with a number of people or just the two of you. The veal was an excellent choice.
Loved the coffee: it was strong and fresh!
The Captain kept us informed of a delayed arrival time in Aruba caused by rough seas when we entered the Caribbean from the Pacific Ocean. He also explained that, because there were guests that had flights from Miami the morning we disembarked, we could not extend our stay in Aruba.
The Guest Relations Desk handled special requests really well.
The shows were well-done. The Twisted TV is not to be missed. We found the caliber of the dancers to be better than on other lines. Magician and comedian were also enjoyable: Eric's "how-it's-done" regarding card tricks was my favorite shipboard activity
The Cruise Director said it best: "You either like me, or you don't." We really enjoyed her. She is also a talented performer. Her show at the Cabaret is not to be missed.
Contrary to other postings, I found that the absence of hovering by bar staff at the pool to be enjoyable. If you patronize them enough, they will find you.
LOVED the limited smoking area.
LOVED having only 2 little girls on board: though the parents are typically more of an annoyance than the children...
The virtual bowling and duck hunting tournaments ala the Wii were great fun.
The crew was a little more mature and ALWAYS very polite and helpful
Here is what fell short of Azamara's "Luxury" Marketing Spin:
18% Service charge tacked on to Spa Deck was not warranted: Guests often left towels on chairs, and no one attended to it like the main pool area. Adding a service charge implies that there will be a level of service provided.
Would have enjoyed a broader variety of excursions: ports offering mainly 6 - 9 hour "best of" bus rides should be offset with more exotic offerings (such as the Swim with the Dolphins in Acapulco. In general, the shore excursion desk staff had limited knowledge of ports and activities.
The maps for each port were not to scale and lacked a basic "you are here" moniker.
The shops were very limited, as many small ships are, but to not be able to offer postcards from each of the ports of call was disappointing.
The enrichment lecturer was dreadful. Dry and monotonous, with a poorly designed PPT presentation. They only thing he enriched for me, was a nap...
The "Butler" was really just a cabin steward in a nicer outfit.
In listing these likes and dislikes, the cruise really was more enjoyable than disappointing. Azamara, by hyping itself as a "luxury" line, subsequently sets the bar higher, raising the stakes for criticism. Overall, we prefer the smaller ships to the larger mass-market vessels.
Bottom line: we would book passage on them again if we found another great deal.
Marty, stop lurking and post one of your own!