My husband and I took this cruise as an early 25th wedding anniversary trip. It was everything we hoped it would be and more. All of our other cruises had been with our 4 children and when budget was our main concern. This cruise gave us an opportunity to live it up a little but also without breaking the bank.
The ship was in excellent shape. I would describe the decor as country club casual. It was comfortable without being pretentious or formal. The walls were wood panelled in the common areas of main lobby and the dining room bar. The chairs were deep and comfortable and the fabrics and colors muted and serene. Our stateroom was typical of most cruise ships with the exception of the bedding. The bedding was very nice and comfortable. The room had a small love seat and cocktail table as well. We appreciated the mini-fridge for the complimentary sodas and water bottles. The shower was the size of a linen closet, but that is what I expected. Our stateroom attendant Maria made sure to turn down our bed nightly and left treats as well. She answered every call I made to her immediately and was able to fulfill my request quickly. I didn't see her around much, but our room was always clean and fresh. She also left the next day's issue of Pursuits and any port information we would need for the next day.
Food: The food was very good in the main dining room. My only problem with the menu was that it seemed to be heavy on seafood/fish which I do not eat. There are probably 5 new main entrees offered per night as well as their typical 5 entrees that are offered every night. The steaks were very tender and cooked to order. The wine flows freely in the dining room which was a nice change from having to pay for it. The drinks I ordered were very well poured and I felt like I got my money's worth. The food in the buffet was also very good. We ate there several nights after having toured all day and not wanting to shower and change before eating. The wine flows freely here as well. The difference between Azamara's buffet and the buffet of the larger brands is that there are several chefs on the line making each person's food on the spot with wonderful fresh ingredients. So, instead of dishing up your food from a chafing dish, the chef sauteed it for you from your requests and then gave it to you fresh. There were stir-fry stations, carving stations, salad stations, and a nightly specialty station (seafood, thai, indian, etc.) They offered fruit, cheese, bread, desserts and fresh gelato at every meal as well.
Specialty restaurants: We did eat at Prime C and Aqualina. The food at Prime C was very good. The steaks were not necessarily better than the dining room, but the steak choices were more diverse. The level of service was greater here as well. Aqualina has a very seafood centered menu. I did, however, have the lobster and it was grilled to perfection. The portions are not huge which is nice because it makes it easier to try a starter, soup, salad and dessert. At $15 per person it was well worth the extra money to visit these specialty restaurants. At $25- which is what they will be starting Jan. 1 - I am not so sure since the dining room food was really good. Suite guests do not pay the upcharge.
Pool: The loungers are very nice and cushioned. The pool is small, but not too many people actually lay out or use the pool even though we had 2 half days in ports and one sea day. No problems getting a lounger in the sun. The hot tubs were not very hot to begin with but a guest asked them to turn it up and they did with no problems. There are 2 hot tubs. It is also easy to get a drink at the pool as there is plenty of wait staff to take your order. The pool grill was very good. They served burgers, hot dogs, kebabs, fish, fries, etc. The food was fresh, hot, and good.
Fitness Center: With all the walking I did I did not utilize the fitness center. My husband did on a couple of occasions and reported that it was very nice and certainly had everything you could need or want in there.
Spa: Did not use:(
Shore Excursions: We took 3 excursions from Azamara and really were happy with 2 of them and just okay with the 3rd. Compared to the other excursions that we got a group together for and booked on our own I would have to say that while Azamara's excursions are more expensive, the old adage "you get what you pay for" is certainly true. They do a very good job of vetting their tour providers and it showed. If you get an opportunity to book excursions when they have a 1/2 off excurison promotion then do it. You will not be disappointed.
Ports: The ports were great. We did Livorno, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Girona (Granada), Gibraltar, Cadiz (Sevilla), and Lisbon. We were unable to port into Nice due to high winds. Having a smaller cruise ship allowed us to port in places that some other ships are too big to get to. Also, we had overnights in Barcelona which allowed for 2 full days in port and an overnight in Cadiz as well.
Laundry: It was great having free self serve laundry available. However, they could really use more washers and dryers. It was always crowded and getting a machine was difficult.
Entertainment: For the most part, the entertainment we saw was very good. The comedian, Bruce Smirnoff, was very funny. Cheryl Cole had a very good singing voice and her show was worthwhile. It didn't appear as if a lot of people took part in the entertainment, but it was much better than the other ships I have been on.
All in all, this cruise line is great. The level of service was excellent. It was so nice to come back from a day of touring to someone saying "Welcome Home, would you like a nice cool drink or a cool towel to refresh with?". Every worker made a point of saying good morning or nice to see you. Many engaged you in conversations about where you are from and told you something of where they are from. Not having to pay for wine with meals, soft drinks, and specialty coffees is really a bonus. Pre-paying your gratuities is also nice in that you do not have to worry about it.
The only improvements I think they can make is to their TV options. They did not have much to offer and they frequently went down. Also, for the price, I think they could include some internet/Wi-fi in their pricing and then make it free for guests.