Three ports in Cuba, three days in Havana. . .all were enticing! Our first cruise on Azamara, a little pricey, but we were determined to make the trip. As others have said, we, too, were led to believe that you needed to participate in the high-priced Azamara excursions every day in order to comply with both U.S. and Cuban rules for U.S. visitors. Not true. Although we did three tours because we wanted to, on other days we sought to comply with the people-to-people commitment on our own. Basically, the Cubans care about what you bring into Cuba, but generally not what you do while there. U.S. government cares what you are doing while in Cuba, but were really lax when we returned with no one even asking what we had to declare. Go figure.
A couple of months before the trip, the number of days in Havana was reduced to 2 days--disappointing--but apparently beyond control of Azamara. Same for need to be tendered, not docked, into Santiago de Cuba. Tendering took 20 minutes from ship to dock, and was well handled by the crew.
For us, Labadee, Haiti--the private resort owned by Azamara's owner, Royal Caribbean--was wasted on us. Azamara passengers appear to average age 72, and I cannot imagine they took advantage of all the outdoor activities offered--again at high prices--or even just lie on the beach for a full day. There was even a charge for a nature walk around the resort. Really?! Lunch BBQ was great--avoid the food set out in the sun--but saddened by watching the under-nourished and water-denied dogs wandering about. Come on, Royal Caribbean. . .even if these animals are owned by locals, put out food & water, and perhaps have them spayed.
Since this ship is the original, but refurbished, R6 (now-defunct Renaissance Cruises), we felt very comfortable having traveled on the R1. The Club Veranda Stateroom was very nice. A few minor negatives: smallish bathroom, poor quality of TV set image, magnifying bathroom mirror was fine if passenger is over 5'7". Large comfortable bed, ample storage space, a zillion hangers in a lighted closet, incredible steward service, free self-service laundry (on level 7). Public areas were comfortable and always clean.
Discoveries dining room (main) is large and can be noisy--come early or late to avoid this. Service is wonderful, and the food is good quality. Because of size, however, the occasional buffet there can get a little chaotic. The more casual dining option, Windows Cafe, is always buffet, but better passenger flow. Food is tasty but some items can be more cafeteria-like. Once we saw the additional cost for the two specialty restaurants, we decided to stick with the dining that was included in fare. We're used to not being charged extra on Oceania and Celebrity. Oh, Internet was also extra--not so on Celebrity, Viking, or Oceania.
Having been on small cruise ships, we do not expect Broadway shows or big entertainment events. The few singers were very good, although music selections were a little dated. The Azamara Orchestra is really a 4-man band. . .and they were excellent. The 24-year old leader plays piano and delivers witty repartee. The White Nights was much more to our liking with music and dancing from the 70s. Think most of the 600+ passengers turned out for this on-deck activity.
There was one enrichment speaker for the whole trip: four presentations in ten days. He knew the material, but his delivery was deadly. I was not the only one who nodded off to sleep while the professor droned on.
We will price Azamara voyages in future, but we might find better value for the same trip on Azamara's sister Celebrity ships. Yes, they are larger, but not one of the "Leviathan of the Seas" class ships!
Excellent tour guide for historic overview. Also took the Jewish Cuba tour in Havana--same great experience.View All 76 Historical City Center Reviews
Went off on our own, which included a visit with the woman (and her family) who is the head of the tiny Jewish community in Cienfuegos.