Background info: We have been on more than 10 cruises on such cruise lines as HAL (5), Princess (2), NCL (1), Celebrity (2), Cruise West (1), etc. After recently doing a cruise on Celebrity, we decided to try Azamara. The price was less than Oceania - who we had previously looked at and offered several categories of discounts, including military, resident and senior rates, which made the price even harder to resist!
Travel to port of embarkation: Because this was a Transatlantic cruise, airfare was cheaper through the cruise line than by me doing it independently. With some trepidation, I took air and transfers through Azamara. Our connections were very good and we made it to BCN without any problems. Azamara was at the airport to meet us. Luggage was taken to a motorcoach when we arrived at 8 am. Since we couldn't be boarded until at least 11 am, we went on a tour of the city - which we were very happy about. We got a great tour of the city. Would you believe some people complained? They were tired and wanted to go directly to the ship. We were tired also, but the guide pointed out the terminal was cold and they would have to wait for hours so this was their alternative - a tour of the city! We were grateful for the tour since it was all we would get to see of the city. I had tried to work out air and hotel for a few days prior to the cruise, but Azamara said they had none available. We booked back in mid-August and at a discount fare.
Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal at about 11 am. There were separate lines for suites - one other couple was ahead of us so we went through quite quickly. We were given our room keys. Pictures were taken as we boarded the ship. As we walked through the terminal, we were able to buy our 2 bottles of wine. Once onboard we were greeted with glasses of champagne and told the rooms were not ready. We made our way to the Windows Cafe for lunch. The rooms were ready about 1:30 PM. We actually snuck down a little earlier because we were desperate to lie down - after the long flight.
Stateroom: Our stateroom was very well appointed. It was a sky suite. The carpet and upholstery looked fresh and clean. The bed came equipped with many pillows of various sizes. The bathroom had a toilet, tub with shower and one sink. Shortly upon arrival, the toilet would not flush - even after several flushes. This proved to be a problem several times and had to be reported to the front desk. Only after the mid-cruise comment card, did it get repaired to our satisfaction. The balcony had a good-sized table and two chairs. The cabin was near the aft, but did not have excessive noise or vibration. No noise from the deck above, either. The beds were exactly like the beds on Celebrity - a bit disappointing for us. We were hoping for better. We requested an egg crate mattress after the first night and this made things better. They are due for new beds - hopefully after the first quarter of 2010.
Food: The food was excellent in the MDR and in Windows. We also tried both specialty restaurants. Prime C was more to our tastes than Aqualina. I had prebooked Prime C prior to travel through Captain's Club and booked the other two visits on the day of embarkation. The variety and freshness of the food (Particularly on a 14 day cruise) was impressive. The salads were so fresh! It was as if the greens had just been picked. How they accomplish this is beyond me! The beef - mainly had fillet mignon was excellent - both in MDR and Prime C. Loved the Smoothie Bar in Windows. We were always able to request a table for two in the MDR and receive it. We usually went to eat at 6 PM.
Entertainment: The entertainment was surprisingly good and we usually don't attend shows, but we did on this cruise. We went to the special nights when they had guest entertainers: Jacqui Michaels, a vocalist; Brett Cave, a pianist; Claire (forgot last name, a violinist. We also had a crew talent show and a passenger talent show that were fun. The last night, all the entertainers put on a special Christmas Holiday show that was excellent!
Crew: The crew on Azamara is excellent - especially the upper management. Comments made on the mid-cruise comment cards were addressed by senior management and every effort was made to try to fix problems. That was very much appreciated. Hotel Manager. Philip Herbert was excellent. The Captain, Georgios Theodorou, was the most personable Captain I have ever met! He was everywhere! He even gave a Greek dancing class that was a complete success with all the guests. If there are any problems on your cruise, my impression was that all you need to do is let them know, and they will try to improve any problems. That goes a long way to making us want to return!
Spa: I did have 2 treatments - a pedicure and a facial. Both were well done. I also purchased an individual pass to the thallo spa area. I was disappointed with this after the first visit. It was a large thallo hot tub, but seats did not go all the way around. There was a drain in the middle that stuck up that you could catch you toes on and the jets were not all working. Since this was a TA, there were several days when this area was closed off due to the roughness of seas and then there was an electrical problem which put the thallo pool out of order for several days. I called the spa manager to look in to a partial refund and this was done, which was very fair. I don't think I will bother purchasing another pass, however.
Public areas: The ship is the most elegant ship I have ever been on - just beautiful and well- maintained. The chairs around the pool area are teak and have pads that must be 5-6 inches thick! They are very comfortable. There are many areas to sit and read. The fitness area is small, but comfortable. There is one self-service laundry on deck 7 which takes coins.
Alicante, Spain: Our first port was just beautiful! We did our own thing and took the free shuttle in to town and then boarded the Hop On /Hop Off bus. It cost just a few Euros and gave a great overview of the town. When we finished, we walked along the waterfront and looked at all the beautiful yachts along the waterfront. Very nice stop!
Coco Cay: Nice stop after a long TA cruise. Had many shady spots to sit. Many, many chairs. Not as nice as HAL's Half Moon Cay, but nice.
Comments about coffee situation......
One thing that needs improvement is the coffee. I tried coffee in every venue it was offered at.....MDR, specialty restaurants, from all 3 machines in the Windows Cafe ....I even purchased coffee in the Cova Cafe and it was the worst of all! I found the coffee to be undrinkable, as did many of my fellow cruisers. Many mentioned it on their comment cards. I hope Azamara does something soon to address the coffee issue!