Flight on Turkish Airways was on time and we were served lunch with free drinks. Arrived at Ataturk Airport and all was well until we had to locate our transport. We were told to look for a person holding a card with our name on it. This was, in reality, a piece of paper attached to fencing, along with 100s of others, as we entered the arrivals area. We then had to wait for nearly half an hour to be told to go, with others, to a minibus.
The booking-in system at the ship was quick and efficient. Once on-board we went to the Windows Cafe for lunch whilst our luggage was delivered to our cabin (sorry Veranda Stateroom). Our Stateroom (6083) was roomy, with a lot of storage space, and had a flat screen TV. The bed was large and had the deepest mattress I’ve had on any ship. The bathroom was small and only had a shower (no bath) but this was perfectly acceptable. Bottled water was complimentary and replaced daily.
We always ate breakfast and lunch in the Windows Cafe. There was a very large selection at breakfast with the exception of breakfast cereals which there was little choice. Lunch again had a large selection but very little variation in the menu. Even though it was it was supposed to be self-service we were served every day. Infection concerns were given as the reason. The one thing I could not understand was that there were no trays and getting a cold plate for salads was a constant problem. They want to serve salads in a bowl, cold meats/cheese on another plate. Then I wanted a roll and butter but I only have two hands! I had to find a table, put down what I had then go back for what I couldn't carry.
Every night we ate in the Discoveries Restaurant. On entering we were asked what table size we required and escorted to a suitable table. This worked very well and we met many friendly people. Different wines were served each night but some were very much house wines. The food was good but not the high standard we expected of this level of ship. Again the menu was not as varied enough each night. One night many of us at the table had venison which looked and tasted like liver!
All the staff on the ship were very friendly and attentive. Nothing was too much trouble. The singers and dancers performed to a high standard. However, they had to double up on quizzes etc. which can only be expected on a ship of this size. However, they were clearly not trained to do these additional functions.
We did not take any ship organised tours as we thought that they were far too expensive but chose instead to just walk around the towns where we docked. We did not buy anything or had a drink in these ports as each only wanted their own currency and not the Dollars or Euros we bought with us. There were too many different currencies to keep changing small amounts.
Nessebar was an old picturesque town with many old churches. However, they had people on the doors to levy a charge on all who wished to enter. I believe that this was only done when a ship was in port. All in all, a pleasant port of call.
The same cannot be said for our next port, Constanta. This can best be described as either London or Coventry after the Second World War blitz! I'm surprised that any ship would want to visit here. Many houses, cafes and shops were either boarded up or just a shell. This was a tender port and we were met by local guides who handed out maps of the town. Not a lot of people around. However, the centre town square was a light relief with very attractive buildings surrounding it.
After a day at sea we arrived at Batumi which was definitely the highlight of the whole cruise. We docked in the town and walked around this very attractive and clean city. There were many beautiful buildings some old and some very new. This was also the place where we were to experience the AzAmazing Evening. Most of the 700 passengers went to the Batumi State Musical Center for a show entitled “Legends of Dance”. It was so well organised and the show was of an exceptionally high standard. On our return to the ship we were met with many locals who had come down to the sea front just to see the ship. The ship had laid on a band to greet us and we were served drinks prior to us getting back on-board. The sail away was also impressive as the locals waived us away and many of the building had their own light shows.
The last port was Trabzon. After a steep climb up from the harbour we entered a town which was very much like Istanbul in character. Many very busy streets and squares. It was too commercialised but there were no problems with being hassled by the local shops.
The ship had advised us of the disembarking procedures a couple of days before. We had been scheduled to depart the ship at 7:45am which I queried as our flight was not until 12:55. It was changed to 8:45am without a problem. However, 9am was the very last disembarking time. It did give many passengers the feeling that, “The cruise is over, get off”! Many passengers were leaving on flight much later than ours.
The coach, taking us to the airport, took ages to leave the port and made very slow progress through Istanbul. Once away from the city we made speedy progress to the airport. We had to have our entire luggage scanned on entry. This seemed a bit excessive. Otherwise check-in was speedy and efficient. The airport is vast. We left from gate 221. The flight home, on Turkish Airways, was on time and again a pleasant experience.
Would we travel again with Azamara again? Probably not as their normal cruise pricing is way above what we would normally spend. Their food in the main restaurant also is not up to the standard of other cruises we have been on. However, it is a good ship with very friendly staff.
Our Stateroom was roomy, with a lot of storage space, and had a flat screen TV. The bed was large and had the deepest mattress I've had on any ship. The bathroom was small and only had a shower (no bath) but this was perfectly acceptable. Bottled water was complimentary and replaced daily.