This was our first cruise on Azamara. Now we are spoiled! Yes, it is more expensive upfront, but what you get is unsurpassed. Tips, features wines, soda, specialty coffee and teas, snacks, ice cream, even fresh squeezed juices: all included.
Even with only 640 passengers, there were 3 lecturers on board the ship: a naturalist, a geologist, and an expert in geo-political of Western Europe. The captain was everywhere with the passengers, but when he told us that he was stopping for some fresh fish as we entered the North Sea from Norway, we really didn't believe him -- until the ship stopped and a fisherman pulled up along side.
While we had several sea days, we were so busy learning that we had no time for trivia. Even hearing the cruise director's experience fighting pirates was amazing and interesting.
The physical condition of the ship, although older, was spotless and very well maintained inside and out.
Seating in the cafe was adequate, even at the busiest times. The dining room was lovely and with true "any time dining" policy that worked well. Even embarkation and disembarkation were smooth and without stress.
The entertainment that we liked the best was the incomparable Brooks Aehron on the piano. Whether with the band, with aCD accompanment, or as a soloist, the music was phenomenal. Added to the music were explanations of the composers, the pieces, and the times when the pieces were written.
As much as we enjoyed the food in the dining room, we also enjoyed the food in the cafe (aka 'cafeteria'). Everything was well-prepared to our liking. Service was excellent and flexible. If we wanted to stay and chat with our tablemates, that was fine with the staff. If we were in a hurry, that also was not a problem. All featured wines were included in the price for the cruise. However, if the featured wine was not to your taste, the rest of the wines were very reasonably priced.
At various times, we sat around the pools, even though they were a bit too cold to use in those latitudes. When we were given the towels, we did not need to leave a deposit on our sea pass to insure the return of the towels. Lap robes were also provided, as were robes and slippers in our cabins.