To cruise or not to cruise. That was our question.
You'll love it! You'll hate it! We really had little idea of what to expect with friends who had cruised telling us we'd love it and those who had never cruised telling us we'd hate being not being independent travellers. Well I have to say the first group one hands down. We cruised with the Azamara to The Holy Land in November 2010 and loved every minute of it. The crew were fantastic - so genuinely helpful and always courteous; the cabins were well equipped, though maybe slightly on the small side, and every day we got fresh fruit and various newsletters meaning we were always up to speed with what was going on in relation to excursions or on-board activities. The food in the various restaurants we thought was of 5 star standard with good quality linen, cutlery and glasses (for all that wine included in the price - well done on those selections too - I have been on holidays before where wine was included and mostly they were house wines of dubious quality). I used the gym and went to 2 spinning classes which I loved (a couple of extra bikes would be good as you had to book early to get on to the class which was over-subscribed) and my husband used the walking track each day. We both used the library and, being newspaper addicts, liked the daily news sheets available there (and the UK ones delivered to our cabin). The on-board laundry room was well equipped and I also used the ship's laundry service which was excellent and not expensive either.
The Azamara gets full marks for always having cold bottles of water available to take with you on excursions as you leave the ship and for always giving you a warm welcome back at the end of each trip. It was these little things that really stood out. Extra pillow? No problem. Broken light? Fixed very quickly. Breakfast on your balcony? No problem (and always delivered at the time requested). Seriously, and I don't have shares in Azamara, the only area I found to improve concerned the daily delivery of grapes to the cabins - they had several pips in. We have booked another cruise with the Azamara and are introducing some of our relatives too to this whole new way of having a holiday. It was the most relaxing holiday we have had and from start to finish we felt looked after by the Azamara and her crew. We also made some new friends - all helped by the dining experience and the option of sharing tables whenever we chose and through joining Cruise Critic beforehand. The Cruise Critic meetings on board were fun and at the final meeting most of the ship's directors were there to take on board (excuse the pun) any feedback. That was impressive. I could go on but that is probably enough.