My husband, twins sons and I took a cruise from India, through the Souez Canal and on to Greece. India has long been a bucket list destination for me and when I saw this itinerary I told my husband "I am going on this. You can come too if you want" haha. I had also been very much wanting to try out Azamara -- their casual luxury, personal service schtick was extremely appealing for me. We usually cruise on Celebrity, Princess, or RC but I had long been petitioning to upgrade the budget to a smaller, more intimate environment with less crowding. It was a dreadful experience, one that I will never, ever repeat, and I have spent since then telling everyone what a disappointing, dismal experience Azamara is. Hopefully I can save others from the same terrible experience.
I won't detail all the disappointments -- just a few that still stick in my mind, 22 months later. First, embarkation was dreadful -- basically a metal shed (hey, at least not in the sun) and extremely disorganized. After the chaotic checkin we were shuttled by rickety bus to the ship side. I don't mind that the ship is older -- I much enjoy Grand Dame hotels, actually -- but this ship is extremely shabby. The furnishings, the bath fixtures, the dining room, the carpets, the tableware --- everything is faded, chipped, well worn (worn out) and the carpeting smells dirty throughout the ship. The entire ship smells dirty, actually. The public bathrooms smell particularly bad, although this may have just been our trip. Hopefully they aren't usually so "sewer-y" smelling and prone to overflowing.
The cabin was very depressing. Our beds were metal cots, literally; they had no bedskirts so it looked like we were sleeping on Army cots. The seating was stained and icky -- I lay towels on top of any surface before sitting on it. When we checked into our suite we found a cache of cigarette butts and ashes next to the bed, which made me wonder if the room had even been at all vacuumed between the lasts guests and us.
Both my teenage sons and my husband (and numerous other passengers) got Norovirus the first two days on the cruise. To me that speaks of a dirty ship improperly cleaned between sailings. The dining buffet was, for all intents and purposes, shut down for several days due to Norovirus.
In other illness news, a week into the cruise my son and I were served rotten milk in the main dining room. By rotten I mean clotted and thick, chunky, like lumpy yogurt. How the kitchen/wait staff managed to pour not only one glass but two with the milk in that state is beyond me. My son took a huge drink of it without checking first (as only a teenage boy can glug liquids) and immediately began to gag. The wait staff was shooting HIM dirty looks for making a scene when they were the ones who gave him (us) rotten milk. When the clotted milk was shown to the dining room manager he did not apologise, rather just rolled his eyes and walked away. This would be unacceptable in a dive truck stop, much less a dining room in a so-called luxury ship. Turns out that the milk was past-date. I would think they would have checked the inventory more frequently and discard before serving old food, but obviously not.
The staff, while mainly trying hard to do their jobs, were clearly unhappy. I had one wait staff tell me he hated his job so much that he was considering suicide (very jolly holiday conversation, that) and I spent the rest of the trip checking in on him and worried for him (In fact I still think of him and hope he lasted through his contract and got to go home with out feeling so trapped he did himself harm). Another server regaled me with a story about how she was so desperate that she tried to cause herself to abort her baby by throwing herself down the stairs while pregnant. Other staff showed the strain by being thoughtless and rude to the passengers. One of my sons visited a particular bar each night for a cup of hot cocoa before bed, mainly because he thought the bartender was interesting. Not so nice--- the bar tender caught me one afternoon and proceeded to tell me that my son ought not drink any more hot cocoa because he is already too fat and doesn't need the sugar, (the boy is 5'10", 165lbs and an athlete-- hardly obese.)
Aside from the rotten milk, the food was uniformly pretty bad except the homemade ice cream, which was very good. The specialty restaurants were noting special -- more or less the same quality of food, just had an up charge. I lost 8 lbs on the cruise because I would often skip eating.
The dancers were laughably terrible and the guest comic was a very foul mouthed middle-aged woman from NYC who told very crass stories which did not seem to amuse the mainly elderly British crowd (or me, either, and I am far from a prude). The main comedic entertainment was seeing the ridiculous suits the Cruise Director wore each night -- they were so awful and tacky (shiny, gray and greenish snakeskin-patterned high-water, stove pipe legged suit, anyone?) that I feel like he had to be deliberately dressing like that to amuse the guests.
One nice thing was the mini-bar drinks being included. Our room steward kept that stocked and it was much appreciated. We did enjoy the ship excursion we took into Abu Dabi that included lunch in a hotel. The food at the hotel was outstanding, and while my family said it was only fantastic compared to the slop on board the ship, I disagree. A couple months later I retuned to Abu Dabi with my husband for an unrelated trip, ate at the same hotel and the food was equally as good.
The other nice thing was the one and only nice conversation we had with any ship officers -- they weren't really officers, actually --they were contractors hired to defend us in case we were attacked by pirates. One night we had a cook-out outside on the deck and two of these 20-something young men came over and sat with us and talked to our sons about their jobs, working on the cruise ships, and generally were a delight. Other than seeing the engineering marvel that is the Suez Canal, they were quite the highlight of the trip for my boys. Far, far, FAR more personable than ANY of the ships officers, none of who could be bothered to interact with the passengers.
All in all the cruise itself was a total bust and I never, but never will step foot on another Azamara Cruise. Ick. I have repeatedly asked the company to remove me from their mailing list but so far they insist on continuing to send me marketing materials, so I don't think their head office has it together very well, either.