Service - at every level of interface with the crew responsible for making the guests comfortable and welcome did an outstanding job. From the welcoming crew, to the housekeeping staff, to the bartenders, to the food service staff and the captain's staff, everyone was engaging and helpful. Lots of smiles and upbeat conversations for the entire time we were on-board.
Required Safety Muster - Kudos to Azamara for having a sane approach to the required safety training. While too many cruise lines force you to don the life jackets and squeeze on to decks like kindergarten children lining up for class and made to stand unbearable amounts of time to wait for every nit-wit to be checked off and doubled checked by roll call, Azamara conducts the training seated in the main dining room where you can actually hear the instructions over proper PA systems without people snorting down your neck and pushing.
Disembarkation at various ports - the tender and docked processes were well orchestrated and performed in a very timely way. There was never a wait and never the stuffing of people into stairwells awaiting the door to open as has been the case on many other cruises we have taken. First time we have not felt like cattle or sheep being prodded to get on and off the ship.
Self Service Laundry Room - three full size washers and dryers with standard operating times along with two ironing boards are available between set hours made this ship better equipped than any other ship (except Crystal). Too often, other cruise lines have underpowered or undersized washers and dryers and the cycle times for wash or dry exceed 1 hour each. These units cranked out clothes in less than 30 minutes and allowed for lots of guests to get their laundry done. There were the usual loud buffoons on board who huffed and puffed because they could not leisurely stroll in one afternoon and have an empty washer and dryer dedicated to their immediate need to process a load that consisted of two items for their formal attire for the same evening.
The Buffet - Normally used for breakfast and dinner, took place in the Windows Café with comfortable inside and outside seating. The variety of choices were large and changed daily. There was a lightning fast cook at the made-to-order egg station who got the orders perfectly. The dinner buffet was a different country or culinary theme every night and provided a great relief from the buffet boredom that so often happens on cruises.
Aqualina specialty restaurant - gourmet Italian food served with perfect attention to detail by an attentive staff. Wine parings across multiple courses were well done. Do not miss this.
Lunch Buffet, Dim Sum - a special event was held on one sea day and it was a great dim sum buffet with many Asian cuisine choices beside the delicious dim sum. It was a do not miss event.
Public areas are well distributed around the decks with plenty of nooks and crannies available for alone time with a book or for quiet conversation with others.
The room was impeccably maintained day and night by the housekeeping staff who faithfully provided the soft drinks and water in the quantities we requested, daily.
The Bartenders were knowledgeable and skilled at all the bars.
The Pool grill was the best place to eat on sea days with the officer crew frequently wearing the aprons and serving a special theme buffet. Bravo to the captain and the crew.
The gym was well equipped and the steam room was a great place to work off the aches from all the walking during the many days of excursions.
Entertainment - poolside live music and small public area music were all that we encountered and enjoyed. We stayed away from the nightly entertainment except for the Azamazing Night. It was a spectacular event where a city park in Saigon was converted into a stage and seating area for the whole ship to be provided food and musical/dance entertainment performed by talented Vietnamese. Again Bravo to Azamara.
Embarkation - many of the guests were told by their TA's that the starting time for boarding would not happen before 3 pm. It turned out that boarding started at 11:30 am and a buffet lunch was available. RCCL central operations information people need to get the story straight for the Azamara operations. Misleading guests as to the boarding time by over 3 hours is unacceptable and caused many people inconveniences such as extra cost for storing their luggage rather than turning it over to the ship. The fact that the ship would process all 600+ guest's Vietnam Visas was never made public or part of any advisory prior to departure. The on-board fee of $50 pp was never published as a cost of this cruise. Once again RCCL central operations needs to get the right information published in a timely manner. This type of surprise is unacceptable.
Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle meeting - the crew chose a location on the ship to host the party for the 50 people registered. The location was being used by other crew members at the same time and they were chasing people away from the meeting. By the time the captain and his staff arrived to get the situation straight, only 12 people attended the meeting. The only place announcing the event was the daily handout sheet (Pursuits) and most people were scrambling to get their luggage and unpacked rather than reading about a meeting that took place 2 hours after the "3 pm" check in. The staff on-board was advised that the Meet & Mingle would have been more successful if it was done the next day which was a sea day. Poor planning and even poorer execution diluted the Meet & Mingle event.
The Main Dining Room - We had breakfast for the first morning at sea. We watched in shock as our orders were delivered to two other couples, both of whom arrived 10-15 minutes after we were seated. Overall, our meals finally came after 30 minutes. Didn't think two omelets should take that long. Total service failure. That same evening we chose to have dinner at the Main Dining Room and prime rib was on the menu. When ordered rare, medium to well was delivered to the table. The meat was COLD and tough to cut. The cut contained gristle and was flavorless. 3/4 of the meal was left uneaten as we left. Total service failure. After two straight failures we gave up on the main dining room for the next 14 days.
Prime C - We ate there two times and of the four dishes served three of them involved cuts of beef. The Filet Mignon was incorrectly cooked and was very tough to cut. The Rib Eye was more like the sole of a shoe with gristle running throughout the cut rather than fat. The NY strip steak was incorrectly cooked but it didn't matter as it was tough and flavorless. Someone needs to investigate the purchasing and preparation of beef on-board this ship. It is just plain atrocious, especially when compared to the term of Prime C - the label they choose.
Respiratory Illness on-board - over 60% of the guests were experiencing some kind of cold and cough condition after the third day on board. Many guests were discussing their visits to the ship's doctor. More than halfway through the cruise, there were cases of guests leaving the ship for hospitals and some did not resume their cruise. At our final port, we did notice cleaning equipment being used in each cabin to disinfect the surfaces. Our medical bills were over $500 for examination and treatment of sinusitis, post cruise.
While everyone overreacts to the small bathrooms and showers, the cabin is well appointed with plenty of storage space allocated unless someone brings 15 pairs of shoes. There is a nice lock-up safe for the stuffy ladies who bring their tiaras for their nightly appearances at dinner and the shows. The bed was comfortable and the A/C worked day and night to keep the room pleasant. The ability to review your bill on the TV monitor should be adopted by all cruise lines, but sadly it is not a widespread practice as yet. The veranda was used frequently for meals and evening drinks. Being just a short walk to the only laundry facility was a plus. The room was quiet and no engine noise was heard.