Azamara Cruises, the industry's newest cruise line, has made adjustments to Azamara Quest's launch after the poor debut of its first ship, Azamara Journey; that ship's extensive refurbishment was not completed in time for its inaugural sailing.
Azamara Quest, originally slated to sail its maiden 12-night Caribbean voyage on October 19, will now launch on October 24. That gives the line, which is conducting an equally intensive refurbishment of the vessel, an extra five days to complete the work.
"When we had the trouble on Journey I made a quick call," Azamara President Dan Hanrahan told Cruise Critic. "We really need to slow Quest down and dissect what went wrong with Journey because we will not repeat that experience.
"That would be unacceptable," Hanrahan adds. "So we're going to modify the first cruise. We'll take an additional five days in dry-dock." Hanrahan noted that the refurbishment process, which for Journey was very complicated occurring in four places (Brazil, Trinidad, the Bahamas' Freeport and Bayonne), will be easier. Azamara Quest will undergo its upgrades in a European shipyard -- thus eliminating the logistics complications faced by Azamara Journey -- though he declined to name the yard.
As a result of the five-day padding added to Quest's schedule, the first cruise would have started on a Wednesday which Hanrahan noted was awkward. Instead, the line has created a two-night sampler cruise that sails from Miami to Coco Cay, a private island in the Bahamas. The second will be a five-night trip to Key West, Playa del Carmen and Costa Maya. And then the ship will be back on schedule. "As much as we hate to do this," he added, "we want people who board Quest the first time to have a terrific experience."
Affected passengers were contacted by Azamara's reservations team and offered two options: cancel for a full refund, or rebook on another 12- or 14-night Caribbean, 14-night Panama Canal, or 12-night South America cruise in a like category on Azamara Journey or Azamara Quest between October and December of this 2007, excluding Christmas and New Year's sailings. Those who choose to rebook will also receive a $300 per-stateroom onboard credit ($600 per suite).
1cruiselvr posts on Cruise Critic's Azamara forum, "I was booked on this Quest cruise and received the notice of cancellation this morning. I guess Azamara realizes they won't be ready in time for this sailing. Our options weren't much. Shipboard credit if we move to other dates. Nothing but a refund of deposit should we cancel completely."
But, there's light at the end of the tunnel: "I have already replaced my disappointment with anticipation for my new cruise -- 11/24/07 sailing on Quest," 1cruiselvr goes on to say. "I am very excited about the new vacation plans but I'm sure on 10/19/07 I will be thinking at my desk 'I should be on vacation now.'"
LHT28 says, "It is well within the full refund time slot so people will not lose deposits and if they booked air independently they should be able to recover the cost if they bought cancellation insurance ... It is better that Azamara canceled now than a few days prior to the cruise. People have time to find an alternative vacation."
Even before this announcement, Azamara Cruises was off to a rocky start. The inaugural sailing of its flagship Azamara Journey was delayed a day because it simply wasn't ready, and passenger response from that early sailing was mixed.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor, and Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor