There were very few kids on board and very few ancient decrepits. (Just in case you are wondering, I do hope I can still cruise when I am ancient and decrepit.) We met some nice folks, more so than on our previous cruises. The crew seemed eager to please and two of them went 'above and beyond' for us. We got the impression that they worked as hard as on other lines but were not so stressed. The ubiquitous Philip Herbert, Hotel Director, was friendly and approachable. If you had a comment to make, out came the little black book and he took a genuine interest.
The highlight was, of course, St. Petersburg where we had three days and took a private tour with 4 other couples with Alla Tours. That was well worth it. Our guide was great and we had the flexibility of changing the plan in response to the weather or people's wishes. She also could get a small group like ours into the major sights without waiting. The sail into Stockholm was very pretty, we spent a day on our own taking the Molli train, we wandered around old Tallinn, Lubeck and Helsinki.
The sailaway from Travemunde was great. We had a 32-piece male voice choir on quayside and the whole place turned out to wave us off. There must have been hundreds of people along the shore watching us pull out.
We agree with others that there does not seem to be much point in the butler. He meets you on the first day in a tux but other than that might as well be a regular cabin attendant. There's a cabin attendant as well. We ordered room service for breakfast twice. Both times it was hot. Half an hour after it was delivered, we got a call asking if everything was fine.
Dinner in the main dining room was O.K. Most of it was very good but the mains were disappointing, not very inspired and not hot. On the other hand, the two speciality restaurants were excellent and we managed to dine there six nights out of twelve. The highlights: seared foie gras, seared ahi tuna and the Grand Marnier souffle. Dale, the barman is a gem, as is Maggie, the sommelier.
Nice touches: the loungers are solid teak with thick padding and a fitted towel cover which is changed every day. In our room we had heavy robes, slippers, fresh flowers and fruit and binoculars.
Recognizing that we had only two sea days, we would have liked more guest lecturers. Our cruise experimented with something new - the Azamara 'High C's', (come on now, stop and think about it) a passenger choir professionally directed by Les Lankhorst. There were several rehearsals and a performance on the last night. Let it be said that the ship's entertainers still have secure employment.
While this was our first cruise on Azamara, it certainly won't be the last.