We arrived at the port at around 1000 due to our getting an early flight. We were told check-in would commence at 1100 and there was coffee, tea, soft drinks and cookies available in the terminal while we waited. We had a quick walk around the terminal area and returned just after 1100 by which time a small queue had formed. We were on the ship with a glass on fizz by 1130. As others have said, you can leave any hand luggage at a desk on arrival for delivery to your room later.
The ship was docked at a terminal right near the centre: a five minute walk to the bottom of La Rambla and right underneath the middle tower of the cable car. Great location if you chose to get off to explore the town after embarkation.
We booked an interior guarantee and were lucky enough to be upgraded to an ocean view room on deck 4 right next to Guest Relations. No problems with noise, except when the lifeboats were being lowered for use as tenders - that woke us up.
Lovely room, big window, plenty of storage space. As others have said the bathroom is very small and the shower curtain a pain. My tip: there is a drain outside the shower underneath the sink, so place the shower curtain outside the shower and let the excess water drain in there. This stops the shower curtain billowing in and sticking to you. You will see what I mean when you try it!
The TV system is not as good as that on the new Celebrity ships we have been on with far fewer interactive services and free videos, but perfectly good nonetheless. And the in-stateroom menu seemed more limited than on Celebrity.
We had a look at an interior room before we left. Perfectly nice, but inevitably dark. Do try and get the window if you can, or are lucky enough to be upgraded like us!
Kept spotless by our faultless steward team - friendly and did their work without us ever having to ask for anything - perfect.
Overall this is excellent, and much better than the Oceanview cafes we had experienced on Celebrity. Inevitably there is a smaller choice than on bigger ships, but we never had any problem finding something we enjoyed for breakfast and lunch (we never got around to going for dinner). At breakfast do try and grab some of the almond croissants before they inevitably go: delicious! The sandwiches, salads and fish were always very good, and the ice-cream became a regular afternoon treat - try the rum and raisin and peanut flavours.
At breakfast your waiter will even serve you from the menu - omelettes, eggs, pancakes, waffles etc if you prefer not to queue and will also serve and replenish hot and cold drinks.
Having said that waiter service in the cafe, as in the dining room, could be a bit spotty. Sometimes it was excellent, sometimes you could be ignored on sitting down for 10 minutes before finally being able to place a drinks order.
We never had a problem finding a table for two or, if none was available, taking a larger table, but never had to share and the serving areas never felt busy either, but this may have been because the ship wasn't full. Overall, the Windows Cafe was a great improvement over the equivalent on Celebrity ships.
Discoveries dining room
Quality of food overall very good, and similar to Celebrity. Soups invariably excellent. Good choice every night.
Again service was spotty. Some waiters were excellent: Victor (attentive and hyperactive!), Boris and Sudarto stand out. Other waiters were frankly poor. We made this point in the mid-cruise survey and the restaurant manager personally apologised and asked for more info at our next visit to the restaurant. We told him about our good experiences but did not pick out the poorer waiters; but I think he knew who we meant.
As most will know, it is entirely select dining on Azamara. I thought we would probably have to sometimes wait for a table for two, rather than sharing a table, at peak times, but we never did. Kudos to the restaurant managers for their polite, professional manner and for always being accommodating.
There are downsides of select dining - no regular waiter to get to know your preferences. It became too arduous to ask every night for a small gap between courses, and entertainment was not scheduled to coincide with dinner seatings. We prefer to eat between 2030 and 2100 and the main event in the Cabaret Lounge was usually at 2145, so we had to be in the dining room at 2000 to make it. This isn't a criticism of Azamara - how else could they do it? - but just one downside to select dining.
We took breakfast in Discoveries twice - both times excellent service, but similar food to upstairs. Good choice for peak times as it was quiet both times. Only served until 0930.
Prime C was excellent for steak - a great table and great service. Food very good indeed.
Aqualina a bit of a disappointment. Little bland in parts.
Overall, our feeling is that the offerings of these restaurants are not distinct enough from those in the main restaurant. Think of Silk Harvest or Qsine on Celebrity. Yes, it's a really nice steak, but I can have steak any day I choose in Discoveries. And the quality was no where near that in Murano on Celebrity.
However, $15 is a really reasonable cover charge, so can't complain too vociferously. For us, a more overtly Italian, Chinese, Indian or Thai restaurant would provide some much-needed variety.
CD Eric de Gray was very good. Excellent singer, funny, and put on some good shows. We especially enjoyed the broadway show on the last night and the rock n roll party on deck (although, again, waiter service at that event was distinctly poor).
The Azamara Orchestra was excellent. We really enjoyed the jazz night in the Mosaic Cafe (but could a better venue be found, I wonder - it was standing room only in the end), and were sorry when a mooted second night of jazz did not materialise. Dan, the orchestra's lead man, also accompanied a few solo gigs for the Azamara singers, including a 'diva' night which was very good.
No big flashy shows, but overall the entertainment was pretty good.
We had no sea days on our cruise, so it was very port intensive.
Palma - one of our favourite cities. A great place to wander around.
Mahon - a new one for us. Lovely small town, great places to walk, markets to visit etc.
Sete - a dump. Smelly, crowded and totally dirty. No redeeming features. Give it a miss in future, Azamara!
Marseille - wonderful! We loved it. Building in the port meant that getting to town was a bit of an assault course, especially for those with mobility problems. Eric told us that this work was not envisaged so they scrambled to find some coaches for a limited shuttle service on day two there. A great city.
Sanary Sur Mer - also wonderful. Nice to have the contrast of such a quaint, small fishing village after Marseille's busyness. Great bars on the front for a beer. We went back ashore before dinner. Could have stayed longer.
St Tropez - overrated. The town nowhere near as nice as Sanary. Perhaps a good idea to book excursions to other places next time. Overnight here too. Spent the second day onboard as our manufactured sea day!
Portofino - picture perfect and wonderful. Eric and his team led a walking tour to the lighthouse which we did not take part in, but a great thing to offer. Make sure you're up for the walk - it's quite a long and hilly walk. The village was absolutely packed with 4 ships in. Again, we came back ashore before dinner and the place was almost deserted. Had an (expensive) drink by the marina, and it was lovely.
Monaco - visiting just before the grand prix probably not the best time. The tender docked way out in the middle of nowhere, but a gallant effort to resolve that problem with detailed and illustrated walking instructions and again a guided walk by Eric et al. Tip - use the buses to get around 1EUR no matter where you go, and information given onboard.
A great feature was the hospitality desk by guest relations each day: local representatives to give tourist information, maps etc. This feature was not explained to us (as far as we can remember) so it took a few days before we realised what it was. Stop by for a map at least, but be prepared to queue for any other info.
The inclusive nature of the cruise makes a world of difference. House wine flows at lunch and dinner, and how nice to go into the fridge to get a Diet Coke without wondering what the account is looking like, as many espressos as you'd like and no hard sell on any items either. This also, I think, encourages spending on cocktails which one may order sparingly if you had to buy wine with dinner etc. This along with the included shuttle services, complementary laundry facilities etc were really appreciated. There are many aspects to draw one back to Azamara, but this inclusivity is a key one.