14NT Best of Italy
Civitavecchia, Italia to Civitavecchia, Italia
Oct 2, 2010 to Oct 16, 2010
Ports: Sorrento (overnight), Taormina, Ravenna, Trieste, Venice (overnight), Dubrovnik, and Livorno (Overnight).
Before we boarded we had some idea as to what to expect as we had sailed the Azamara Journey on April 1, 2010. That was, however, the first day of the new "Azamara Club Cruises" re-branding with totally new procedures in place. Unfortunately, many of the crew members were not aware of these changes and there were some glitches. Nonetheless, it was a great cruise.
Boarding for this cruise on the Quest was quick and easy. On deck 4 we were greeted with champagne and given the opportunity to check our carry-on bags and have them delivered to our staterooms. It was before 1pm, the time that the staterooms would be available.
We, along with our friends from the hotel, proceeded to deck 5 where we gave them a quick tour all the way forward to the Cabaret lounge, then all the way back to the Discoveries dining room. They concluded, just as we had on our first day on the Journey, that this was going to be something special. From there, it was up to deck 9 and the Windows Cafe for lunch.
The Windows Cafe is a buffet type eating area with seating inside or outside (looking out from the rear of the ship.) There are two lines for the main courses, and separate lines for soups, sandwiches, breads, fruits, desserts and ice cream. If a grilled burger or hot dog is more to your liking, the grill area near the pool will have what you want. Tables are set with placemats with utensils wrapped in cloth napkins. Beverages of your choice (including wine at lunch and dinner) are served at your table. Evening meals in the Windows Cafe have live music.
The Windows Cafe offers choices of hot/cold cereals, custom made omelets and fried eggs, and a waffle /pancake section for breakfast. Most evening meals in the Windows Cafe also include a stir fry area with a fabulous selections of meats, fish and vegetables.
After lunch we were off for the balance of the ship's tour. Forward past the pool area and to the spa and the Internet area. Then up to the Looking Glass lounge on deck 10. During the day this is generally a very quiet and peaceful area, but after the evening show it becomes very active with live music and dancing going to the wee hours of the morning. On deck ten there is the walking/running track. Deck 11 offers additional sunning areas on both sides of the ship, in the forward area.
Off to our staterooms, with luggage already delivered. Our balcony stateroom was on deck 8, on the port side, just to the rear of the forward elevators. The room is spacious, but not large. There are sufficient drawers and shelves for two people. Closet space is sufficient and our stateroom attendant quickly brought us an additional supply of hangers. The TV is in a corner cabinet that has a cabinet below with a storage shelf, safe, and mini-fridge. The desk next to the sliding glass door includes additional storage space, as do the night stands. The bathroom was stocked with Elemis products, which my wife loves.
Our stateroom attendant quickly picked up on the fact that I would, generally between 6:30 and 7:00, go to deck 9 (near the pool bar) to get coffee for both of us. Yes, we could have ordered it the night before but we didn't want it delivered before we actually woke up. Upon returning to the room, Giri would be right there to open the door for me so that I did not have to do a juggling act with two coffee cups and the room key. Minor detail but it was truly appreciated.
Dinner in the Discoveries dining room is "when you like" between 18:00 and 21:30. We never had more than 1-3 couples ahead of us; most of the time there were none. Seating is a table size of your choice. Service in the dining rooms was very good, with both the waiter and assistant waiter being very attentive. Wine is served with dinner (in a glass that never seems to get empty). Menus varied daily but there were several meat, fish and vegetarian selections that were always available. Dessert menus were basically the same daily with one or two changes daily.
Food quality was overall good to excellent, with some dishes being better than others. For the best food quality there is the choice of the two specialty restaurants on deck 10, aft. Prime C and Aqualina. Both offer exceptional food and service for a per person cover charge.
The evening deck party buffet, served by the senior officers of the crew is fantastic. This is a very elaborate buffet where you are likely to find a whole roast pig, a huge prime rib, and a very large tuna (being grilled on a barbeque.) Of coarse vegetables, salads and bread are abundant. Oh yes, the wine flows freely that evening as well. Live music is provided. Since this cruise was in a region that offered cooler evening temperatures, large, individual blankets were offered to all that wanted them. This event was duplicated at lunch on one of the sea days.
The pool area offers an abundant number of comfortable lounge chairs. Service from the pool bar is excellent. The bar server is always nearby but never hovering. The half-price for Heineken draft at $2.37 was a daily bargain over the bottled variety. One special thing about the pool area is that you can easily carry on a conversation in a normal voice. Even when there was music available, it was always in a lower, pleasant volume. Pool type contests are non-existent.
One thing that you do not have on Azamara are constant announcements. The Captain will make a brief morning, noon and evening announcement followed by a brief update from the cruise director. Other than that, the announcements are few and far between. Captain Carl is a very personable individual and makes it a point to mingle with the passengers, quite often joining them for breakfast or lunch in the Windows cafe.
Another thing that you will generally not find onboard is children. This ship does not have any facilities for children. Even teens will find that this ship is really quite boring. Both of our sailing have had a couple teens onboard; and they were, by their own accounts, quite bored on the sea days.
The central point for evening entertainment is in the Cabaret Lounge, all the way forward on deck 5. There is a variety of entertainment throughout the cruise. One night, Tony, the Cruise Director, did a one man show. He is really quite the entertainer and singer. Most nights the lounge was filled to capacity. For those that get to know the bar servers on the pool deck, you will again find them in the Cabaret Lounge, and then again in the Looking Glass after the show. For those who want something a bit more laid back, there is live music in the Mosaics bar, mid-ship on deck 5.
We cannot, from first-hand experience, attest to the quality of ships excursions; we are avid do-it-yourself adventure seekers. Passengers that we spoke to who did take ships excursions were generally pleased. Most port days the cruise line offered complimentary shuttles to city center; unless the ship happened to be docked "right there" (as it was in Trieste and Venice.) by the way, before you leave to go ashore, grab a bottle or two of water to take with you. It also is included at no charge. Details of our shore adventures will be posted on our blog site by early November.
Returning to the ship after a long day in port, you are greeted with clod towels and lemonade or ice water. On the cooler days, hot chocolate was substituted for the lemonade.
We had two Cruise Critic Meet and Mingles on this cruise. The first was on the first day, the last on the last sea day. Both were attended by the Captain and several of the Senior Officers. Our host was Tony, the Cruise Director. It was very apparent that these meetings were very important to Azamara. They let us know that they did read Cruise Critic on a very regular basis. During the Q&A session, Lisa posed a question to the Food Service Director regarding the possibility of having whole grain bread at dinner. He asked for her stateroom number and made a quick phone call. The next day, and everyday thereafter, she had her whole grain bread.
In summation, this was another excellent cruise from Azamara. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and were truly sorry to see it end. We will sail with them again. Small ship cruises are the way to go for us.