This is our second cruise on Azamara. We took a similar Caribbean cruise on the Quest in November 2007 (it's second public sailing). We travel for the itinerary & ambiance of the ship, not the size & numerous activities & large crowds of larger ships. We were obviously impressed with our first cruise on Azamara, but wanted an itinerary with some islands we haven't visited, plus returns to our favorites. We enjoy snorkeling & usually do this 4-5 times each cruise. Amenities included (in all cabins): Butler (glorified stateroom attendant), flat screen TV (limited channels & not much variety), minibar, umbrella (folding - for use ashore if inclement weather), mini-binoculars, large zip-tote to keep, use of luxurious bathrobes & slippers (to keep). Fresh fruit everyday, canapes in afternoon, flowers. This time, a small portable clock was also included. Staff ratio is 1:2 passengers. Most passengers we met were retired though we are not but are in our late 50's.
Embarkation Very smooth since we pre-registered our info online; however, we were pleasantly surprised to find we had been upgraded. We had booked cabin 6005 (oceanview without veranda in forward starboard behind suites across bow) since we had this when we were on the Quest as it has extra interior room since it's at the point where the bow starts to a point but there's not enough room for a veranda. We were delighted with the upgrade, but it did cause a problem with our luggage being "lost" until after we had sailed by over an hour. Apparently luggage delivery people were not told of our change in cabin. Also, cabins were not available until after 2 p.m. & we had embarked around 12:30. Lunch was available at the buffet (Windows Cafe) immediately.
Cabin Cabin was as we anticipated with enough storage for clothes, a loveseat which we used frequently, a table with two chairs on the veranda which we also used a bit, small bathroom, with small shower but toiletries from Elemis Spa in large enough bottles to last the entire cruise. Soap, however was in bar form. Shower controls were two "dials", one for temperature (which did not need to be reset every time you showered) & the other for the water flow.
Dining Discoveries dining room was much improved over our experience on the Quest & we were pleasantly surprised to have the same Maitre'D. Dining is open seating & this worked well every night except sailing night. Upon embarkation, we were asked our choice of dining time that evening only, so we chose 6:15 & were given a "reservation"; however, apparently, many passengers didn't make their "reservation" or just decided to show up when they wanted so we had a fair wait. All other nights, we walked right in or waited only 5 minutes or so. We believe the overcrowding on sailing night was due to the fact that no one used the specialty dining rooms so everyone was in the main dining room. Food was excellent, especially presentation. Specialty dining was just a cut above the main Discoveries DR. Our beef was always prepared as requested & the cuts were superb. We enjoyed the open seating at Discoveries & met many lovely people who we frequently were seated with again by chance. Dress code is "resort casual" with men never requiring a jacket though some wore them & women frequently wearing slacks, not just skirts & dresses. We also had breakfast in the room several times when we had early excursions in port. The variety of menu is good for room service & it was always delivered on time. Breakfast at Discoveries was excellent & had many menu choices. Windows Cafe (the buffet) was available for all meals, but we used it mostly for lunch & breakfast.
Public rooms Decor was beautiful for this former Renaissance ship with wood & teak kept in good shape from those days. Though we didn't use it, casino was "large" for the ship's size. Cabaret Lounge is small & therefore there are no large production numbers but for the 5 young talents who performed 3 numbers, it was adequate size. The 3 females & 2 males were slightly better than the ones on the Quest, however, the productions were the same 3 we had seen on the Quest. Fitness center was more than adequate for the ship's size although frequently busyI used it first thing (around 6 a.m.) since I'm an early riser. I did not attend any classes. It was open til 11 p.m. Computer internet room was open 24 hours which was great. Prices were average ($.65/min.), but there were packages available. The Looking Glass lounge was on deck 10 forward (top interior deck) & was used for multiple purposes such as harp demonstration in the afternoon, dance lessons, & dancing in late evening. Also, events were moved from poolside in case of inclement weather to this venue. The library (Michael's Club) is beautiful but we only used it for a cocktail party for previous Azamara passengers (there were 30-40 people there & the Captain took the time to talk to everyone in attendance this bodes well for Azamara). There was a piano there & many board games & cards also available. ShopsSmall but there were "sales" & free logo clothing after spending only $100.
Shore Excursions Because Azamara has small ships, there are limited local shore excursions & some were cancelled for lack of interest. We found good snorkeling & water-type tours to satisfy us (the only port we did not do a tour was Antigua because we had been on the one we were interested in previously). Prices were reasonable but the times they were scheduled did not permit passengers to do two tours in one port. We usually were accompanied by someone from the shore excursion desk or another staff member (for ex., the harpist is an avid diver & snorkeler) & they were always congenial, helpful & friendly.
Staff & crew The Captain mingled with the passengers frequently & participated in events other than cocktail parties (he was a judge at a dance contest). He also participated in a question/answer session at the end of the "farewell from the crew" event for about 45 min. His chief engineer & the hotel director were also there. The Cruise Director, Sue Denning, was over the top (her personality) and a good singer. She performed several shows (some impromptu) & also had an hour-long question/answer session. She was from England & our cruise was her last for a couple of months so she could have time off with her family, but she assured us she would be back to the Journey. Eric Brauman, a comic magician from Cleveland was good & he showed us some tricks of the trade at the end of the cruise. The DJ, Ron Hollywood was funny too. The entertainment staff was multi-talented. We also enjoyed the Mirage Trio who were on the Quest in Nov. 2007, although with a new drummer this cruise. They limit their poolside music to the same songs, but in the lounge in the evening they will entertain requests. Dan, the piano bar player was also multi-talented playing other instruments & singing other types of music.
In summary, even though all itineraries are at least 10 days, there are 4-5 washers/dryers in a laundry room (nominal fee with detergent included), steamer, iron & baskets to use so one doesn't need to pack more than one week's clothing. There also is a portable hair dryer in the room & shampoo, conditioner & body lotion are provided. The ship's design automatically lends itself to great congenial times with passengers & crew. The crew does not push anything on you as in sales of drinks, photos, excursions or anything else. One makes what they want of their cruise with as little or as much participation as desired. Clocks are in several public areas, unlike other ships where it's impossible to get the time if you don't have a watch. In short, if Azamara has an itinerary we would enjoy in the future, we will most certainly book it.