As a shareholder of RCCL I am really appalled by my recent cruise experience on this ship.
It was like drinking warm "COLA" without the fizz! The product was subjected to savage cost cutting by RCCL and very poor management structure by RCCl which relies on "bullying " the staff to be pleasant to passengers to make up for the shortfall of quality!
The ship is managed from Miami with people there who have no idea how to treat a worldwide clientele. The management structure is top heavy and relies on the Hotel Manager and the head Maitre'D to sort out the daily mess of the incompetent heads of some departments who are there with their partners who may also be working on board who have a very "cosy life " on board.
For the first time on a cruise ship we encountered many files when boarding in Singapore and in India. These were in two areas where people ate on tables and in the food counters in the buffet line areas - especially in the salad and sandwich bars. I spoke to the F&S manager about this and he told me that he could do nothing more than he had already done which really raised my blood pressure and I decided to speak to the Hotel Manager and he instantly responded by adding in more processes to their daily cleaning which did help but did not completely eliminate the problem throughout our cruise and we still had flies on board on getting off at Athens.
Food - we usually eat in the buffet restaurant for breakfast and although there was lots of choice if you were not worried about your cholesterol I was very disappointed with the quality of the bread (at breakfast - because at lunchtime and dinner the bread selection was much better). I also was very disappointed that there were no mushrooms for breakfast except for two days.
At lunch we ate at the buffet again and usually it was quite good with plenty of choice. In the evening we started off eating in the restaurant and my wife got fed up with having her fish undercooked all the time. I could not get a decent curry for love or money. In all fairness they did try many times and it was not for lack of effort on their part. I am not quite sure if the Chef was up to the job really and this was an opinion expressed by many other guests. The maitre D' did say that they did not have the correct spices on board to make a curry.
In the end we ended up eating in the buffet area most night and the stir fry counter was absolutely superb in their stir frys and nothing was too much trouble for them. The sushi counter was also excellent. They always had a curry and usually some sort of sort of a carvery which was for the most part very good.
One thing to note is that in the buffet area you cannot get decent coffee after breakfast as you have to use a machine which produces very chemically tasting drinks. The tea selection was excellent which was only let down by the temperature of the water needed to make hot drinks as it could not go above 95 degrees. The cold drinks selection was also very good (better than on most ships).
Eating in the dining room we never once had a problem getting a table for two - one negative the service was always very slow - another reason for eating in the buffet section.
The in room service was second to none and very prompt and efficient and the menu selection was the best we have ever seen.
Entertainment - TV - films - shows - singers/entertainers - During the day we tended to take part in the quizzes going on where they give you one stamp for turning up and one stamp for winning - if you think you are going to get a better prize for having more stamps (winning all the time like we were) then you will be disappointed as most people at the end of the cruise got the same prizes (or very nearly) - still it was a nice idea to get some prizes. The questions in the quizzes tended to be repetitive and very much aimed at a very much older crowd (over 60s). It is also worth noting that passengers were encouraged to write quizzes as the cruise activities staff ran out of ideas. As for the TV - it was a complete disappointment - free movies - the same programmes on all channels were repeated throughout the day and throughout the week and all the good stuff required you to pay for the same. Very few movies on in the evening i.e. in the cinema (cabaret lounge) and those that were on were old and for kids or over 60's again). There were only two or three entertainments that came on board and they had to overcome the absolutely bad acoustics of the cabaret lounge and ended up being way too loud to enjoy - most of the entertainment was geared for the over 60s again and anyone younger felt very much left out). There were three onboard entertainers in the evening - the harpist was very good, Jim Badger (pianist/singer) was at times quite entertaining and friendly - we also enjoyed Kenny Stringer who was a guitarist/singer who did as many requests (from his list) as possible and it was enjoyable and we were able to join in and sing along.
Gym - the Life Fitness equipment was superb - however the instructor was not very on the ball with regard to health and safety as there were a number of machines that needed attention, he also allowed people to use the machines in sandals and even barefoot and sometimes men came in with just their swimming trunks which really does not promote hygiene.
Tours - we went on one tour in Alexandria and it was disappointing in the lady who was conducting the tour was too much focussed on getting all the people on our bus to buy jewelry in a store we would be going to at the end of the tour. An extra hour was added on to the tour for this purpose. When we got the store at the end and were told we would be there for an hour we were livid as we did not want to buy anything and a group of us just stood outside waiting to get back on the bus and get back to the ship. It was a complete waste of our time and we do not like tour operators bullying us to buy stuff. It should be mentioned in tours in future that there will be no shopping trips and that we will not be taken to various locations just to get us to buy stuff.
Would we recommend Azamara to other people? This is a hard one -not if you are under 60! If you are over 60 however and would like to go to bed at 2130 hrs then this is the ship for you. We would like to praise the Captain, the head Maitre'D and the Hotel Manager who do a great job with limited resources.