Our cruise started in Buenos Aires, calling at Punta Del Este (Uruguay), then two days at sea, two nights (3 full days) in Rio De Janeiro, then Buzios, Parati, Ilhabela before finishing back in Rio. We had never cruised with Azamara before though our travel agent and the Cruise Critic reviews suggested that the cruise would be good -- and it was ! My wife and I had been looking for a cruise that visited Rio De Janeiro for Carnival for a few years and had considered a Silversea cruise last year but the price was high. Having been on a Silversea cruise through the Panama Canal we had been impressed by the service, quality of the food and the 'all-inclusive' package something which an Azamara cruise didn't quite offer.
Food -- it was excellent. Apart from two nights, we had dinner in main restaurant (Discoveries) where we had good, friendly service in a very relaxed but semi-formal atmosphere. We found that most menus were both interesting and offeried plenty of choice. The presentation and cooking was exceptionally good -- better than we had experienced on Silversea (which was good). Also, although we rarely liked the complimentary white wine (normally a Chardonnay) the waiters would always find us an excellent Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for which we weren't charged for. Dinner on one of the other two evenings was in the speciality restaurant called Aqualina which was a more formal affair in a much smaller, intimate dining room at a cost of $25 per person (free to suite passengers) where the food and service was even better -- a similar standard that in top London restaurants.
Entertainment -- it was OK. We don't go on cruises for the entertainment and tend to eat later so we often miss most of whatever is being presented in the 'showcase theatre'. On our cruise, the emphasis was mainly on singing with some excellent solo artists (including the Cruise Director himself) and a first rate band to accompany them. We were disappointed there wasn't more of a show which included dancing as well. Some of the various lounges also had music including a pianist, harpist and a two piece 'band' playing popular / country style music all of which were good.
Service -- excellent throughout the ship. From the restaurant to the open pool deck, Guest Relations, shore excursions, cabin stewards -- they were all good. Our cabin steward and her assistant were especially good as they were always servicing our room without us getting in their way and kept it spotlessly clean. They obviously noted the times we went to breakfast, dinner etc. and then ensured you weren't disturbed beforehand and yet always serviced the room ready for your return. Also, they always seemed to be nearby.
We must also highlight how impressed we were with the Norwegian captain. We saw him everyday and he would often stop and talk to passengers listening to their conversation in a very attentive way. He also had a 'dry' but quiet sense of humour which we liked. The ship seemed to very well managed and organised which must be a reflection on the captain and his fellow officers.
Arrival in Rio De Janeiro for Carnival -- our one big disappointment as there was nothing special about this ! We were standing on the open decks 9 and 10 sailing into one of the most beautiful cities and for the best carnival in the world but there was no recognition of this. Some nice samba music would have been good along with some complimentary champagne and canapes all of which have been a perfect start to our stay in Rio. Come on Azamara -- you do most things so well !