This was our first cruise with Azamara. A short, three day cruise followed with a post cruise package on the Orient Express. (I have not been able to positively verify, but believe this is the first season for a collaboration between the two. It was also the very first of these limited offerings)
We arrived in Venice the day before and spent the night at the Hotel Antichi Figure. This is a lovely little gem situated on the Grand Canal directly across from St Lucia train station. We cannot say enough good things about this small hotel, from communications prior to our arrival to the lovely alfresco breakfast looking out at the activity on the canal.
Embarkation was among the fastest and most efficient we have experienced. Heading up to the pool deck while we waited for the "all clear" for staterooms, we opted to lunch at the Patio where we found a wide assortment of cooked to order items are available daily. In addition to some of the best burgers we have had at sea, they also offer beef, lamb and chicken brochettes, in addition to a salad bar and other options.
Other dining venues include the specialty restaurants (which we chose not to try this cruise) and the Windows Cafe, the buffet, which we only visited once. While understandably smaller than the buffets on other larger ships, do not let the size discourage you! The variety changes daily and they generally have a theme for dinner.
The main dining room is quite nice, and the staff very attentive. Two specials of the day are offered at dinner, however we were not as impressed with with these. Overall we felt the menu was comparable with other lines we have traveled, and nothing to get excited over. Perhaps the specialty restaurants are where Azamara shines?The included wines (one red and one white) were nothing special but quite drinkable. Likewise, the included bar menu selections were quite restrictive.
Surprisingly, even with the short itinerary, we were fortunate enough to experience a White Night Party on our second night. The buffet was amazing and the entertainment just the right mix to please everyone. Our Cruise Director, Tony Markey, was amazing and talented. First time to have a cruise director who was also an entertainer!
Before we knew it we had returned to Venice. Disembarkation was smooth and efficient as well as our transfer to the Grand Monaco Hotel for two nights before our trip on the Orient Express. Having the extra day and a half was perfect to get in sights we had missed out on before.
Transfer to the Orient Express was also efficiently handled and we were aboard the famous train in less than an hour. I will just say that the train itself lives up to its reputation for style and service. The amenities provided are first class. There was an abundance of food, but I will say that the quality was not quite what we were expecting (a large portion is obviously pre prepared and finished aboard the train). The scenery and ambiance were sensational.
Bottom line while this was a short cruise, Azamara did not "wow" us as we had hoped. We were grateful for the opportunity to experience the Orient Express, but would not consider it something you would do more than once.
We were in a forward cabin with full views out the bow of the ship, including anchoring lines and activity. Departures are fine and interesting to watch, but if you are wanting to sleep in I would NOT recommend this location. The noise of the anchor and lines cannot be ignored. The stateroom itself is well appointed and there was ample storage available. The bathroom on the other hand was extremely cramped with only a few small shelves for toiletries. The shower is extremely small with a shower curtain that is constantly clinging to you. The biggest issue was with the door to the bathroom...which is not only narrow, but physically restricted so that you cannot open it all the way. We would not recommend this cabin at all, and find it shocking that this is considered a premium veranda stateroom.
Another tour arranged through Trip Advisor and Walking Tours of Italy. St Marks after Dark is an outstanding tour to take...even if you have visited the Basilica before. Beginning across the square with our guide learning the importance and history of the Basilica. Having access without the daytime crowds, and being able to quietly take in the glorious illumination of the inside of the chapel is inspiring. The tour also allowed us to visit the original crypt area as well as a look behind the alter to view the glorious gold and jewel icon that resides there.View All 47 St. Mark's Square Reviews
We arranged a tour through Trip Advisor to visit Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle about an hour or so away. While the sights were beautiful, our "tour guide" was basically just a van driver and "ticket obtainer", so we were somewhat disappointed. The caves are Slovenia' equivalent to Carlsbad Caverns, yet what sets them apart is the train ride you take to enter the cave system. Out is a guided tour at that point, on a schedule, so there is no opportunity to enjoy on your own. Predjama Castle is built into the cave network and is utterly fascinating. A self guided audio tour was provided (though we were limited by our driver as to how much time we could spend). I would recommend doing these on your own if you have the time.View All undefined undefined Reviews