We had traveled on Azamara when it was Renaissance in northern europe.We decided we liked the small ship experience because it offers a child free (and therefore quieter)experience, was geared to our age 66/70 in terms of entertainment offers. Casual dressing and no formal seatings was a major draw.
The specialty restaurants were superb. We liked the menu at Aqualina better, but both were excellent. Service was elegant. They even prepared escargot for us, which wasn't even on the menu. Service and food at Discoveries was disappointing, no better than Celebrity. Pool grill was fantastic. Excellent quality food.
Boarding and disembarking procedures were quick and painless. Good organization.
Room was clean and made up often. Service and responsiveness very good. However--we had a terrible mattress, lumpy and sloped which belonged in a low grade motel. It should be thrown out immediately. Room looked like it could use a decorating upgrade. It was showing its wear. Big screen TV was great.
Entertainment: Ray and Carla, Carlos and guitarist were very good. Cabaret entertainment was poor. The comedian was good, the other entertainers were sub-par. The Broadway review at the end of the cruise could have been good if they had actually chosen shows and songs that the audience actually knew. They were from bad or unknown shows with the weakest songs. That part of the entertainment could and should be easily fixed.
Our only real complaints were about the change in itinerary and the shore excursions:
The reason we took this cruise was because it had an overnight in St. Barts. 4 Days before we arrived at St. Barts, the Captain had already cut it to one day in anticipation of possible tendering issues due to swells. However it turned out that we could have stayed both days--he said eventually that we could have come in on a Sunday and a Monday, but since stores were closed on St. Barts on Sunday, he chose to only come in on Monday. Since when does availability of shopping determine the port stay? We were very, very disappointed with that. Also, we could not see the Baths at Virgin Gorda when our port was changed to Tortola, also due to possible high swells. It turned out that the Baths were open, but we were never even offered the option to ferry over to them.
Another disappointment was changing the port on St. Martin from Marigot, which is beautiful to Phillipsburg, which is a dump. We should have at least been offered a shuttle over to Marigot to make up for that.
Another issue was that all excursions that included a beach stop (including Tortola)ended before 1:00 and no option was given for those people who wanted to stay later. You're on your own was the attitude. Azamara should offer two options when a beach stop is given: Return to ship as scheduled or a second pickup two hours later should be offered for those who which to stay on the beach. In one case, we had to rush off the beach (when we were on our own) to get back to the ship, because it was sailing early to an unscheduled stop on St. Thomas, arriving at St. Thomas in the afternoon, making the day short and worthless, since shopping was already closed when we arrived. St. Thomas should have not been chosen as the alternate port, since it is a big ship stop and not worthy of a luxury ship stop. That hideous stop replaced the missing day at St. Barts -- extremely poor port choice.
Note: on days we were at sea--the grill at the pool deck was fantastic. Great quality and service--definitely better than the buffet.
To sum it up, the ship, crew and cruising experience were great, but it seems like Azamara could definitely improve the quality and selection of the land tours, which are integral to the cruise experience.
I will certainly consider taking another Azamara cruise in the future, but the tours and departure times were certainly be taken into consideration first.