Our friends had cruised on Azamara previously and had already booked this cruise. We have cruised before on large ships and didn’t really like the experience. So we weren’t really interested in cruising again until we checked out the itinerary which included Petra, Jordan and Athens, and that our friends raved about the cruise line.
The ship, cabin, facilities and crew: Ship was nice and had everything we needed. Pool area was very nice with chaise lounges (used “at sea” days). Restaurants were clean; staff attentive although some staff stood out, but no complaints except for shore excursion staff (discuss later). The cabin (deck 4) was dated and not as clean as I would have liked. The cabin is small but manageable. We brought extra hangers for our clothes which helped. Bed was very comfortable and sheets were luxurious. The cabin has a TV with limited number of channels including news (if interested). Cabin was quiet. We didn’t hear the neighbors very often only when leaving occasionally. The ship has complementary laundry facility including detergent but it’s often busy and at least one washer and dryer was not operational. Suggest using early or when in port if possible otherwise you’ll have to wait. The staff takes ship’s cleanliness seriously to prevent illness from spreading. As far as I know the ship didn’t have any gastrointestinal illnesses (thankfully!).
We ate at all but the Italian restaurant. The food, presentation, and serving staff were excellent. We did eat at the Prime C (upgrade $30 pp),which was good but I don’t think it was any better than the Discoveries dining room which is included in cost. No better base wine selection either (disappointing). Which leads me to the beverages ... base alcohol choices included in cost was disappointing especially the wine selection. Some (and I am being nice) were literally undrinkable in my opinion but others in party seemed ok with the choices (I don’t think I’m a wine snob as we typically drink California wines about the $10- $20 price range). These wines were worse than some box wine I’ve had! Many came from So Africa (the worst), Portugal, Spain, Italy; occasionally New Zealand, S America and California. We considered buying the upgraded wine package but with no opportunity to taste and unfamiliar with the wineries it didn’t seem worth it. I drank the wine when I could but generally opting for Newcastle beer and lemon drop martini! Azamara needs a much better sommelier. Entertainment was better than I expected. I typically don’t like ship entertainment and definitely didn’t attend all but the ones I did attend were enjoyable and quality. Tim Seals pianist was exceptional. There was a magician too which I thought would be hokey but he was very good. The cruise ship’s band Smooth Sensations were also very good. They had another singer “Big Red” who was also good.
Excursions: since we were traveling with seasoned Azamara travelers they generally don’t use the cruise line’s excursions instead opting to book private tours for just our group (7 to 10 people). But we did book four cruise excursions (extra cost). One was to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. Several buses carrying about 20-25 people were used. While traveling to destination the tour guide spoke about the area and customs (and q&a) and discussed history of the site at destination. He was knowledgeable. The tour included a buffet lunch at a hotel which was good but I thought took too long because we felt rushed at the site. It was a long day about 14 hours. Other excursions (salalah, muscat, and Dubai) were enjoyable and local guides were knowledgeable. We are not fans of coach buses or touring with that many people - always seem to be waiting for someone. We had prebooked our ship excursions before boarding the ship, which I recommend. In conversation with other travelers, we were surprised how many travelers who did not. Some missed out on excursions because they were booked and Azamara wasn’t able to get more buses/guides. So book ship’s excursions ahead. Ship’s shore excursion staff: we noticed one of our booked tours that we paid more than the ship’s published price. Not much; $10 pp. we asked the ship’s staff and was told he would check with his manager and get back to us. A few days passed and we still hadn’t been contacted nor did we receive a refund. We contacted staff again but this time different person. He immediately refunded the difference. So the first guy forgot I guess?
Suez Canal and Security: thought I would cover this because we hadn’t been to Middle East and wasn’t sure what to expect culturally and with safety. We never felt unsafe or threatened in any ports or cities. Our guides were local and were very patient with answering our group’s questions about culture, history, food, laws etc. I did some research on appropriate dress especially for women so I was prepared to dress more conservatively in Muslim countries (Jordan, Egypt, Oman) which was usually just covered shoulders and capris unless visiting a Mosque or religious site (head covered, pants/skirt full length, long sleeved tops). Jordan, Oman and Dubai are extremely safe. Guides insisted they have very little crime. they were clean and graffiti free. Egypt was dirty and very rural. If you have seen the movie Captain Phillips you know that Somalia has pirates. Don’t worry the ship is prepared for the unlikely incident. So during this section of the cruise near the gulf of Aden the Ship takes precautions (lookouts posted, fire hoses ready, dims lights at night). I also read that cruise ships aren’t usually targeted because the ship are faster and can create wakes that can sink a small boat). We didn’t see any pirates.
AzAmazing and White Night: unfortunately because of a long private tour in Israel that returned late we were unable to attend the AzAmazing night. However other travelers told us it was great. We did attend the Ehite Night which was enjoyable and plenty of food. Cons: started to rain lightly and with some tables out in open that was an issue. Thankfully it didn’t last long! Tables are first come first grab. We had a group of 10. Even though we got there early we were still challenged to find a suitable table. I think seating should be assigned/reserved especially for larger groups. Also the food is buffet and was chaotic with everyone getting up at same time; some pushed/ shoved! They should number the tables and call just a few tables up at a time. A bit too unorganized in my opinion.
Fitness and other activities: many travelers walk the upper deck above pool. There is a well equipped fitness center which we used a couple of times. They have spa services which we did not use. The ship holds discussions on locations, history, and art by professors in the field - not exciting but informative. Other activities are also available such as arts and crafts, casino, bingo but we didn’t do any of those. There’s a library and business center with internet and board games. We did not purchase internet so never used that service. We used our mobile phones service (T mobile international plan) in ports. Worked well for us and was much less expensive ($15 per month per device for text and data).
Overall we had a great time. Most travelers were friendly and wanted to chat. Many were from Australia, Britain, NZ, and US. Most travelers were in their 70’s; we are about 10+ years younger. Only one or two kids under five. A couple of travelers in their late 20’s who appeared to be traveling with family. Mostly couples, single older women and some LBGTQ. They do offer mixers for singles and LBGTQ. Apparently if you book a cabin you can somehow place your name to be considered for upgrade at lower cost, but you need to do this in the website. Our travel agent didn’t tell us and our group forgot to mention it. About a month before embarking they were all notified of cabin upgrades for a discounted cost. We contacted our travel agent who said she would do what she could but we were never contacted. They all got veranda cabins on deck 7; we were stuck in steerage. Lol. They got better cabins for about the same price we paid. So be sure to sign up for the upgrade!
We would travel again on Azamara.
Cabin was small but manageable. Bathroom shower could have been cleaner (some mold). Mattress was very comfortable. No balcony but we did have a decent sized window. Quiet.