OK A smart attempt at getting all the names in 1 header
This is my review and thoughts on this recent cruise from Barcelona to Athens.
These are my experiences and comments and as they say other person’s experiences and opinions may vary completely!!!!
Nicely refurbished ship but with some snagging issues which should have been sorted out on the 3 previous voyages.
Lots of new staff who look to be being moulded into the Azamara way by Richard Grusman and Jose Ortez MDR manager as well as Captain Carl.
No problems with any staff.
Would sail on her as equal to our favourite Journey but would depend on itinerary not ship
Nice flight down from NCL at the ungodly hour of 6 am but easy transfer to T3 for flight to Barcelona so had to forgo bacon sandwiches at T5 exec lounge but adequate refreshments at T3 and good flight to BCN .
Usual wait at customs but not as long as our American cousins who had up to one and a half hour wait.
This may be the Spanish revenge for the American type welcome at Miami to aliens as we are described.
A place I refuse to fly to or from now.
Had private transfer booked via Azamara and this is when the hell that is Miami/Guatemala kicks in.
Instructions are to report to Catalonia tourist office just outside customs area.
No problem except
1: They spoke hardly any English (Not good for a tourist office) and it was impossible to get them to help by ringing taxi number for us which was a UK number?
2: They knew nothing of any arrangements re taxis. Refused to help but pointed us to a taxi official who wanted to charge us for a taxi as he would not accept our voucher.
Eventually he pointed out a group of drivers lounging around one of whom had our name for pick up.
35 minutes wasted for want of correct information not being given to taxi driver as to pick up point
Decent drive to Casa Fuster hotel through approx 1,000.000 Catalans who were preparing to celebrate their national day that evening.
Casa Fuster is a grand old hotel but we got Room 101 which for students of George Orwell or British TV is where your worst nightmares are concentrated.
Sold as a balcony room (not a Juliet Balcony)
To my mind a balcony room should have
1: A view
2: Chairs to sit on
3: Be clean
The view was of a 7 storey block approx 15 feet away covered in some form of wrapping.
If you craned to the right you could see the back of housing with attractive items of clothing drying.
Possibly great for a specialist in underwear but not what I expect in an alleged 5 star hotel (More later).
No chairs on balcony or in room that were capable of being on said balcony and anyway it was filthy.
Nice bathroom so had an early night.
Up for breakfast at approx 8.30 and decided to see if we could get our taxi any earlier than 11.30 as we would simply be waiting around.
Miami strikes again
Asked concierge to ring taxi firm but no answer and surprise surprise no emergency number on Azamara paper work.
Went for an adequate breakfast and returned to concierge to try again.
Success on second attempt and we requested to move time from 11.30 to 10.30 and was met with flat refusal so merely got one when we needed it from the hotel at 10.30.
Final indignity was when we went to check our bill to be confronted by a Barcelona room day tax of 5 Euros for an alleged 5 star hotel.
As this tax has been in since April 2017 and Azamara advertise prices as “all inclusive “ I was not best pleased at having to pay this.
Arrived at port terminal after having to redirect taxi driver as he thought MSC was the same as Azamara!!!
Cannot blame Azamara for that!!!
This is where it starts to get better!!!
Luggage taken and booked in without any trouble.
Tea coffee etc. available.
As there were overnight flights from USA as well as early flights from UK airports there were approx 150 people waiting.
When embarkation called there was a God almighty scramble with people running!!! up escalator as well as a staircase!!!
Did they think it was going to run out of food?
Give out boarding numbers by check in time and board by same i.e 1 to 20 then 20 to 40 etc.
Got on board and dropped off hand luggage /advised we had to pick up later from drop-off point although I seem to remember that previously it was delivered to cabin.
Booked our Prime C dining with Willy Prime C maitre d.
Went to Windows Cafe buffet area and were greeted by one of our favourite people José Ortez who we knew as assistant waiter years ago who is now MDR head waiter.
The greeting was so effusive it attracted the attention of a group of American travel agents who were being hosted by East of America/Canada sales director and we became companions at drinking times although they obviously went on all the trips which we avoid (see later)
Went down to 7119 to meet butler Elro and his staff.
Room is decorated almost identically to the other ships with obvious difference of shower which was efficient but we may be old fashioned and we prefer a good old fashioned soak.
Greeted by nice bottle of Perrier Jouet Champagne $50 retail although this may be a “Sorry” for forgetting to book a connecting flight on our last cruise.
Room is fine with fancy shower and taps etc.
This was allegedly Larry P s room on naming cruise so was surprised to have some minor snags.
1: Vanity room sink did not drain
2: 1 of veranda chairs legs was aprox ¾ inch short so rocking
3: Loungers were pretty dirty and stained.
4: There were at least 14 varnish drips on white superstructure below rails.
5: Lower Owners had completely mismatched rails.
6: Patio doors had never been cleaned or painted properly.
7: Missing patio door stop
8: Drainage channel by doors was rusty and equally that area had never been attended to on refit.
I would have expected these to have been spotted on snagging but when pointed out to Agnelo Chief House keeper they were fixed within 12 hours.
Outside the room was a fire hose cupboard with a massive (12 inch ) dint which had been there since refit and which only need knocking out as door was metal but not done by the time we left the ship.
I intend to split rest of review into sections rather than day by day.
Used Windows cafe each am and had outdoor table as weather was great each day.
Mark the “egg man” was able to make fresh eggs for us however we wanted i.e. poached fried or however.
Rest of food OK except bacon which was of the greasy translucent type where you spent time trying to get the crispiest.
After commenting and showing restaurant manager /staff what I meant it was improved for 1 day but then reverted to type again.
Lunches were fine with always 2 great soups to choose from.
Crazy on hot days but I felt they actually helped to cool you down.
Was always able to get our favourite Riesling wine after discreet requests.
Also tried the hot dogs from the Patio cafe and they must have changed suppliers as they were tastier and not as fatty as previous cruises.
Dined in Prime C most nights and were fabulously looked after by Willy, Angel, Darryl and all the other staff.
Food great as always although to my mind crab cakes and fillet steaks were smaller than previous cruises although maybe everything appears smaller nowadays
A little disappointed that they did not take the opportunity on their new ship to tickle the menu a bit.
I have yet to see the pheasant confit or swordfish ordered and I am sure that the man who sold it to Azamara got the better end of the deal.
I have asked on all 3 ships now how many they sell and all you get is a wry smile and no answer.
I am sure the crew must be sick of it as it must be going out of date by now even though it is frozen.
Wayne/ Willy were able to fill all our requests for off menus choices such as Goats cheese Soufflé and Dover Sole from Aqualina as well as some special halibut dishes.
The Best of the Best dinner was new Executive Chef Danni s first and we have to say of our 16 cruises this was the best presented and tastiest we have ever had and Fabio and Iwan had done fabulous meals in the past.
It was a delight to look at as well as eat.
Had the afternoon snacks served in our room each pm and tasty as they were would not really miss them.
Once again the Azamara ice hockey pucks/scones were still in evidence.
How is it that nobody across all Azamara ships can make a scone that is soft inside and does not need a saw to split it?
Saw part of the magicians act and he was entertaining.
Tony Markey and his wife had a show and although good I preferred his Blues brothers and Danny Boy.
Amanda Poulson was great and had a standing ovation as did the new singer whose name I unfortunately forget (Sorry whoever you were).
WHITE NIGHT WAS GREAT FUN AS WE WERE WITH THE PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED TRAVEL AGENTS.
We had dined in Prime C earlier next to two British couples who were playing competitive crossword puzzles between mouthfuls of food
It appears that you had to answer your opponent’s clues before you could do your own.
We then joined the travel agents
The conga was not as long as previous cruises but good fun anyway.
The crews prayers were answered as it began to rain slightly at 10.00 so they were able to set about clearing earlier than normal.
The assorted travel agents and spouses then came back to our suite for a final night cap.
You can get 14 people in for drinks although it was cosy!!
Highlight of the trip was the 4 Sopranos in Goldini theatre in Livorno.
Busses and then a 200 meter walk to theatre.
A 45 minute programme of light opera and finished with some more modern pop items.
Back to ship for any light buffet snacks and so to bed.
We do not do ships trips as we consider them an absolute rip off.
Did not get off as we have been there many times.
Spent time in Thalassotherapy pool area which was strictly policed i.e. you had to give up your room card to get access pass and the old back route via gym has been blocked off.
Maximum 2 other people in there
It appears that the “Night under the Stars” has been abandoned as the bed area has been removed and saw no publicity for it anywhere.
On previous cruises I understand that most couples had their dinner, a cuddle and then went back to their own room.
Got off and walked to get on the tourist train at Ooceanographic museum.
Stopped at Palace for usual tat i.e. fridge magnet and walked back through the gardens and managed to keep my wife away from the shops.
Nice afternoon on balcony.
Lazy day on ship
Livorno 2 days
Walked around Livorno for a couple of hours and then took the canal cruise for an hour for 12 Euros which was lovely. See later comments on pricing
One of the highlights and we spent time wandering the streets and people watching and there were plenty of people to watch.
Took 25 euro taxi to this hilltop town which was buzzing with tourists even though we were the only cruise ship in town.
You can tell that there is plenty of money around here (Mafia?) as nearly every shop was a high fashion brand Prada, Valentino etc.
Walked around promenade area and then found the tourist train (4 Euros) which took us all round the town including back streets and past a Lidl for any of us who were feeling homesick.
Back “Home” and started the job of packing to return home.
Disembarked at 8 .00 am to farewells at gangway from Tony and Richard.
Another great Azamara touch as this must always be the busiest day of any voyage.
Private transfer to airport and were able to access lounge early so has somewhere to sit as Athens is a very busy airport with 160 check in desks and it felt like they were all being used.
Security etc far better than Barcelona.
Back to NCL via T5 and lounge.
The whole experience on board.
Staff, Food, Attentiveness, Entertainment and the general vibe as well as good passenger mix..
Miami Miami Miami Miami
I well know that they are not deliberately making life difficult but they are RESPONSIBLE for the problems
1: Taxi transfers
No emergency numbers on paperwork.
No properly organised information for pick up point at Barcelona.
Advised to be there 15 mins before pick up time so as Nervous Nellie’s we were there at 8.00am for 8.30 pickup.
Taxi turned up at 8.40 after having to chase up via phone call.
2: Non inclusive costs for hotel.
OK only 5 Euros but the principle is important
3: Excursion costs
We should be grateful that they charge so much as it obviously helps to reduce cruise fares but they are simply gouging.
20 years ago it was probably true that cruise lines may have known the ports better than travellers but with internet that is no longer true.
I also accept that there is the comfort of a guarantee of not missing the ship but to charge £100 pounds each for a bus trip to Rome or Florence or Nice on a 50 seater bus when the cost of that bus is approx. £1000 is not acceptable
Equally the cost of a 5 hour bike ride at £100
The offer of insiders tours on board to see Galley/Bridge and Engine room at $89 when there can be NO EXTRA costs to Azamara as personnel conducting these tours will be salaried is equally ridiculous.
The final gouge was the Livorno canal tour.
The “comfortably outfitted motorboat “ is as comfortable as a packed tender boat with fibre glass seats with no cushions .
It is walkable from ship i.e. no transport costs and Azamara charge $75 for a 12 Euro cruise which we took earlier in the day.
To be fair Azamara offer “a luscious Dessert at a special little spot after the cruise” but my goodness it would have to be special at approx $60.
4: Spirits bar.
It should be obvious that putting the piano at one end of this area would enable pianist to engage with his audience as currently he is facing the bar and has no ability to interact.
Additionally if piano is at one end then if you wish to have conversations with your new friends or do competitive crosswords you can simply sit at far end.
Apparently “Miami” have refused to listen to current feedback and will take no action for 6 months.
It is time these were “tickled”.
I think the Speciality menus are at least 2 years old.
Any operation would/should continually look to see what the least popular items i.e pheasant confit/black pudding etc. and look to change them for something new.
My choice at breakfast would be kedgeree but I am sure Bonnie, Azamara blogging officer could come up with a poll.
I would like to see smaller laid out trays of food at breakfast as there is nothing that looks less attractive than a 12 inch tray of half served scrambled egg or 18 fried eggs looking at you.
6: Dress standards
I realise that this is very subjective but I can recognise the difference between “smart casual “and “scruffy”.
Ship staff were not empowered to refuse people access to areas based on their clothing as Miami had stated they could only “advise” not refuse.
Unless there is some enforcement we will soon have backward facing baseball caps in main dining areas at night.
I remember being refused access to a “brunch” a few years ago on Journey because I had a pair of good shorts on. (Not swimming trunks).
How times have changed.
7: Guest relations
I went to try to speak to Richard (hotel director) twice and was advised “not in his office” but no attempt to page him.
3rd time of asking I asked the female receptionist if he would leave message for convenient time to talk/meet him.
No message left so obviously the message from Guest Relations was never passed on as we saw him on leaving ship and he made no apologies for being unable to contact us.
It was not a complaint so no reason to avoid us.
These are my opinions and experiences and other peoples opinion may vary.
No problems other than snagging issues as detailed