Our sixteen-day Azamara Club Cruise from San Diego, through the Panama Canal, back up to Miami was as close to perfect as a cruise can be. We rented a car in Los Angeles and drove down to San Diego on the day of departure. We turned in the car at the San Diego airport. Car rental companies provide a free shuttle service to the port which is five minutes away. Our bags were immediately taken to the ship and we checked in and were aboard in less than ten minutes happily drinking champagne.
Our verandah stateroom on the sixth deck was spotless when we entered and was kept that way the entire trip by our stewards Derrick and Winston. I had asked for no down or feathers in the room due to allergies and that was already taken care of as were other requests such as a good reading light and chair at the desk so that I could work on the trip. There were flowers and fresh fruit every day. We requested papaya and every day, a fresh plate of papaya, mango, and lime appeared in our room. We never had to ask for anything twice. The service could not have been better. Gratuities are now included.
Speaking of food, we particularly appreciated the wide variety of breakfast items available no matter what type of room you have—everything from pancakes and waffles to eggs and salmon. Every morning we were awakened to breakfast at our door at exactly the time we ordered it. And every morning we breakfasted on our verandah—a lovely treat in the middle of winter. For other meals, we tried all the restaurants on board and found the variety of offerings, presentation, and quality of the food good to outstanding. We enjoy the open seating policy and the poolside barbeque nights when huge, freshly-caught tuna, grouper, and mahi-mahi were grilled outside and offered with many salads, sides, live music and dancing. The now-included wines with lunch and dinner were usually outstanding. We particularly enjoyed the South African pinotage and the French rose.
Due to the recent violence in Mexico, we took only ship excursions at every stop. Each was well-organized and offered as much or more than we could have arranged on our own. Although somewhat expensive, we did feel that the excursions on Azamara were less costly than on many other cruise lines.
We enjoyed the entertainment on board. On sea days, there were games such as trivia all day long. We are not fans of big, glitzy shows, so the vocalists, magicians, and pianists were fine for us when we could make the shows which are offered twice a night so you don't feel rushed at dinner. We also were lucky to have many talented guests, so every night the mosaic lounge in mid-ship would be packed with Carlos Avalon playing piano and various guests singing. We also were treated to morning concerts by a world-famous pianist, who practiced every morning on the Steinway in the library. It was heavenly to drink coffee and start the day with Schubert, Chopin, and Grieg.
We have never in our fifteen cruises have found a friendlier, more diverse group of guests (from more than 20 countries). There was a generosity of spirit throughout the ship and which started with the captain, staff, and crew who were always available, accessible, and friendly. The ship offers cruise critic get-togethers as well as cocktail parties for returning guests both of which offer additional opportunities to get to know others. In every way, this cruise exceeded our expectations.