Our trip began on Tuesday February 23rd. Arrived at the airport a bit after 10 for a 12:05 flight. We went up to the Continental counter and presented our documents. The gentleman, Major Washington, took care of us. As he printed our luggage tags he asked if we had paid, we said yes. He told us next time do not as Continental does not charge military for their bags. He then proceeded to get his supervisor and proceeded to affect a refund for our bags!!!!
Arrived at the gate in plenty of time. Still reveling in the baggage refund, the flight counter personnel began to announce the boarding call. They announced pre-boarding for their Elite members; and then to my surprise they announced, "military personnel may board at this time." Wow a super gesture by the airline.
Once aboard our little puddle jumper, our flight attendant, Fernando, proceeded to make the standard announcements. He was great. Very entertaining and very efficient. He made the flight! Our flight was uneventful. Arrived Miami 15 minutes ahead of schedule, way to go Continental.
Taxi from the airport to our hotel, the Holiday Inn at the Port of Miami, cost us $23. A quick 20 minute drive at rush hour.
Check in at the hotel was a breeze. The room, not the Hilton, but very nice. Free Wi-Fi!!!! The room was clean, and had some very nice amenities; soaps, lotions and shampoos; iron and ironing board and a safe.
Right across the street, Biscayne St, was the Bayside Mall. Very nice. Several restaurants, tons of shops right on the bay. We chose to eat at Lombardi's Ristorante. Very good meal and generous portions. A caution here, check your tab, they apply a 18% gratuity. I didn't check and gave an additional 15%, I am sure Orlando the waiter was very happy!!!!
Morning found us with a very leisurely wake up. Check out was 11am. We checked out on time. A cab was parked across the street just waiting for us!!!!! Took about 5 minutes to the port and gave the cabby $8. Up to this point out trip was basically flawless with surprises.
At the terminal, baggage porters greeted the cab with luggage tags. After handing off luggage we proceeded to the terminal. All personnel were very cheerful and accommodating. Went through the security stuff, filled out our H1N1 questionnaire and then to the check in desk. Okay, we have cruised many times and are very experienced at this. All our documents in hand and ready. Oops I forgot to sign two documents, darn it. Oops again, the credit card I originally listed had been deactivated by the credit card company in January with a new card issued. I failed to make the change on our online documents. Again my screw up.
We spent a total of 5 minutes checking in. We were then directed to a seating area. We sat maybe 10 minutes when they announced we could board. We were aboard by 11:30. An area was set up to check hand carried luggage/items which were immediately delivered to your cabin.
Lunch service began at noon. We proceeded to the Windows buffet. Sushi to die for, yum. After lunch we walked around the ship. The ship is small, can get to any where aboard in 5 minutes or less. So our tour of the ship lasted ummm, 5 minutes!!!!!
Announcement that cabins were ready came about 1:30 so up to our cabin we went. Very very nice cabin. Roomy and nicely laid out, we were impressed. I'm guessing that around 1:45 our cabin phone rang, it was one of the gals my wife met on the Cruise Critic forum. She asked if we would like to meet them in Windows for lunch. Although we already ate, we obliged. Probably sat and visited an hour. The girls then went off to library, The guys went to the cabins. When I got to our cabin one suitcase was at the door. I proceeded to unpack. About the time I was done with suitcase 1, suitcase 2 showed up. By the time Lee got to the room everything was unpacked and suitcases stowed under the bed.
Mandatory lifeboat drill and sail away. So far great!!!! No rowdy kids, well no kids at all? No college "drink til we puke" kids either? I'm thinking I'm really gonna like this cruise.
We had dinner with our new friends in Windows. Very nice menu, lots of great Sushi, yum-o.
After dinner we headed to the casino. Very small and very empty. So we made our donation and headed to bed.
Thursday, a laid back get acquainted sea day. Had an impromptu get together with folks we met on the Cruise Critic forum. Did Broadway trivia and won a book mark for knowing the most popular YouTube download. In case you don't know, I Dreamed A Dream, by Susan Boyles!
We then attended the Cruise Critic party sponsored by Azamara. I'm guessing 30+ folks showed up. The Captain was there as well as several other ship staff. They served wine and more wine and you could order what you preferred. The party was wonderful, delicious snacks and no hurry to rush us out. Lee recognized the Captain from our first Celebrity Galaxy cruise. We had the distinct pleasure of being invited to his table on that cruise. We introduced ourselves and lo and behold that evening when we got back to our cabin we had an invitation to dine with the Captain again. Thursday eve we dined with friends in the Aqualina restaurant. Lee had broiled Chilean Sea Bass and I had broiled lobster. Along with appetizers and dessert we were full as a tick. The remainder of the evening found us in the casino, nope didn't win!
Friday, another day at sea. I can honestly say we are enjoying the quiet of the ship. Met up with new friends and really didn't do much of anything. Adjusted our reservations for Prime C so we could dine with friends. OMG, the Prime C was so good. Appetizer was Ahi Tuna Sushi for me while Lee had a traditional shrimp cocktail. Lee opted for the roasted tomato soup while I had the arugula salad. We both ordered the filet mignon, hers medium well, mine medium rare! Both steaks were prepared to perfection. Not sure what we had for desserts as several were ordered. However, the recommendation was the home-made doughnut holes. OMG they were awesome they were served with three different dipping syrups, chocolate, vanilla and caramel. Needless to say we were stuffed.
I think we headed to the casino to drop a few nickels before we headed to the Looking Glass lounge for the Champagne Request hour. You basically put a name of a song in a bucket and if your song was picked the band played it and you got a glass of champagne. The band and the DJ were very good. Not totally the music we prefer, but we managed to dance several dances. After this event we headed back to the casino, hmm it was closed and it was only 12:30am. Next day I learned the casino policy; if the tables are idle for 30 minutes they close the casino!!!!
Saturday, St Croix day, we slept in, not sure why, but we didn't get up til about 10:30. We took our time and probably got off ship around noon. St Croix was nothing to write home about. We walked around the little town, bought a few souvenirs, drank some local beer and headed back to the ship. It was so hot. We cooled down and headed to lunch. Grabbed our books and found a quiet little niche and vegged for a couple of hours. I opted to head back to the cabin and nap, while Lee found a tucked away lounge chair, where she tried to read, but ended up napping.
This is Captains Dinner night, so we had to clean up and dress. Great part about this line is no formal wear. I did put on a sport coat. Lee as usual was stunning. We began the evening in the Cova Cafe lounge where pre-dinner drinks of your choice were served. Can't have a Captain's dinner without a photo shoot. We all gathered on one of the elegant staircases and pictures were taken by the ships photography staff. Escorted to the Discoveries Dining Room, we were seated at the Captain's table. Our drinks were brought to the table. The wine of the evening was introduced, both a red and a white. Lee had red, I had white. Both were very wonderful wines. The dinner was outstanding, far too much food for one seating, but we managed. Well heck, we didn't want the Captain to feel as if we did not enjoy it!!!!!
We ended the evening in the Looking Glass where Karaoke with the band was the venue for the evening. We had a ball. Danced a few dances, got up as a group and sang Friends In Low Places, what a hoot.
The last singer of the evening happened to be Jordan Bennett of Les Miserables. Yes he was fantastic and what a treat for us. Sunday found us in Marigot, Saint Martin. Very disappointing as it was Sunday and nothing was open, go figure! So we grabbed a cab and headed to Philipsburg on the Dutch side. Well not too much better over there either. Only one ship was in port and not much was opened, but more than in Marigot. The girls shopped. We stopped for lunch at Taloula's cafe. Lee had a burger and I had a grilled mahi-mahi sammie. Visited the Guavaberry Emporium, tasted a few of their samplings and headed back to Marigot. Prior to catching the tender we went to Sarafina's Bakery. A nice French style bakery. Had an afternoon snack, boarded the tender and returned to ship. Spent the rest to the afternoon doing laundry and prepping for dinner! Dinner in the Discoveries Dining room, sadly it was a disappointment. The appetizer was good, however, the remainder of the meal was not so great. Lee had chicken and it was not good at all, overcooked and cold, as was the baked potato. My wine braised baby back ribs were, well, at some point in life I am sure they were ribs! Not good, so I am pretty sure we will not dine there again.
The buffet, Windows by day, Breezes by night, has been very delightful. Every evening sushi is served and every evening the Sushi chef prepares a special sushi.
After dinner we headed to, where else other than the casino. Still donating at this point, I have faith the slots will loosen up eventually.
After a few minutes there we headed once again to the Looking Glass for the big Country Western night!!!!! I got yanked onto the floor to assist the activities person in learning/teaching a line dance. Thankfully I wasn't up there alone, Lee and a few others came to my rescue. All in all we had a fun evening.
Monday found us in Gustavia, St Barths (pronounced Barts). Although a very nice little island town, being French and being they use the Euro we found it very expensive. Most folks we spoke with said the same thing. We met up with a few other couples and had lunch alongside the marina. Seven beers, one coke and two pizzas ran us $61 Euro, which came close to $100 USD with tip!!!!
All in all a good day with the entire evening ahead. Plans this eve include a group dinner, five couples, topside for the Island Party.
The Island party was fun, lots of food and dance. Lee got so hot in port that when we returned to ship she had her hair cut. Short and cool!!!!
Tuesday found us on the island of St Lucia. We took a tour with a private little touring company Cosol tours. The owners brother, Yellow Bird, led our tour. Ten of us boarded a very nice air conditioned mini bus and headed out. The tour included unlimited cold drinks, and a local lunch which consisted of fried chicken, fired fish, Johnny Cakes, fritters, fruits and desserts. The chicken and fish had their own special dipping sauces, which included a local favorite, banana ketchup!!! Nope I didn't try it.
We headed to I assume the other side of the island where we stopped at a beach nestled below the Piton Mountains. We observed the volcanoes of Sulpher Springs, climbed to fresh water falls where several of our group waded in the cold waters while others jumped in!!!! COLD!!!!! Yup you guessed it, I did not get in the water.
On the way back Yellow Bird stopped for an afternoon snack of freshly baked bread and mild cheddar cheese, a local favorite, it was soooo good. The tour lasted about six hours and needless to say, a fun time was had by all.
Back on ship we chilled for a bit, showered and readied for dinner. We went to the buffet and then headed to the lounge for swing dance lessons, followed by the ships band tribute to Glen Miller. Then it was off to the casino to deposit our daily donation.
Wednesday: Dominica, first time here we opted to do a Caribbean Cooking tour. Got in a van and were driven maybe 30 minutes from the pier. Up, up, up, I mean like up into the mountains to our hosts home. Once you see the pictures you'll understand the up up up part. We prepared a main course, a salad, and a dessert, along with a side dish and a drink. The main course included a fish dish of Marlin! The end result was fantastic.
Back on ship we basically bathed and headed for dinner. Ate again in Prime C and it was okay, my fault, I ordered a NY strip. Wasn't the best, but the company was great!
Off to the casino. Still no luck. The casino was holding a ticket drawing. The casino floor manager handed us tickets at the last minute. Lee won a massage, drink vouchers, match play vouchers, a casino t-shirt, a bingo card and $50! A few minutes later my number was called. I got all the stuff Lee got except for the massage voucher, my voucher was for 50 minutes internet time. Yee-haw! Dropped our nickels and headed to bed.
Thursday found us in Antigua. From our balcony we could see the tenders, The sea was rough, the tenders bounced around like a rubber duck in a bath tub. We decided not to go ashore. We spent a leisurely day not doing much of anything. Played several trivia games and played on the Wii for the first time, we bowled, it was a lot of fun.
Off to dress for dinner. We all gathered in the buffet for another Island Party. One of the best dinners served. After we headed to the casino. On the way we stopped at the ship stores and received a raffle ticket for a drawing. Dumb luck, we won a $25 gift voucher!!! Spent a bit of time in the casino and headed for bed.
Friday we hit our last port of call, Virgin Gorda. We had breakfast aboard and headed for the tender. Off ship we stayed in the tender area. Only a few shops, but the girls managed to find a few items they just couldn't live without. Headed back to ship, Lee had a 2 o'clock massage.
We met again for Wii bowling and again I was the champion!!! Stayed for the afternoon trivia and bingo, didn't do well at either.
Met four other couples for dinner in the Discoveries dining room, we sat the Captain's table, sans the Captain. Had an okay meal, the prime rib was delicious. Lots of "lack of attention to detail." But the fellowship far outweighed the latter.
Again off to the casino, opted in on the Roulette tournament, but did not do well at all. Went to our first show, not the best we've seen. Back in the casino I actually hit a $90 jackpot, woo-hoo.
Clocks go back an hour, an indication we are heading West for home!!!
Rough seas tonight due to a weather system that passed through earlier. A bit of rain, but no big storms. The seas were rough enough that the drawers in the vanity were opening and closing banging in each direction. Just one reason carrying a roll of packing tape is a good idea. I taped the drawers shut!!!
Saturday, only one more day before we are on our way home to Arkansas. We're really missing our cats and dog. Twelve days really seemed to be much longer, we are ready to be home.
This morning the ship staff sponsored a military veteran meeting and a Cruise Critic coffee. Both were very nice. I can say that on this ship, it being so small, the ship's staff including the Captain have been very visible and very personable. The staff were featured in a little function called "Waves." Here the staff officers and many of the crew members were introduced along with the country they represented.
Basically this was a farewell, thus "Waves," they waved good-bye with hopes we would chose Azamara again. Immediately following "Waves" the Officers served a BBQ lunch on the pool deck.
Not much going on today, the ocean is pretty rough and the ship is really rocking. A lot of folks wearing those motion sickness patches behind their ears. You can really feel the ship moving. Sleeping last night was a bit rocky, figure tonight will be the same. A lot of vibration and a lot of rocking.
I did laundry while Lee played trivia, she came back with winnings, a couple of leather bookmarks and a couple of luggage tags. Woo-hoo!
Dinner in the buffet and then off to the casino and then to bed.
Sunday found us still rocking and rolling on the high sea. At some point we'll pack. Luggage must be outside the door by 11p.m. Oscars tonight as well. Last dinner onboard. We all, eight of us, gathered on the pool deck outside the buffet area and enjoyed a last dinner together. We shared champagne and wine and toasted the cruise.
After dinner several of us hit the blackjack table, we all lost. We then settled down to watch the Oscars. The ship's staff set up very nice finger food trays in the casino lounge area so folks could watch the Oscars and snack. Oscars over, we headed to bed. Last night onboard.
Monday morning we awoke alongside the pier. Off to breakfast, sat, chatted and said our good-byes. Always sad to have to leave, but there is always another cruise in the future!
All in all we had a great time. Were there negatives? Yes, but nothing so dramatic or disturbing that it affected our cruise. If you are expecting a five star cruise, you are going to be disappointed. If you are expecting a very quiet laid back cruise, with good food and good service, you'll have a good time.
Will we cruise Azamara again? It could happen! Hope you enjoyed the review and if you have specific questions, ask away.