This cruise was the first of B2B cruises which took my wife and I from Dublin to Lisbon and then onto Nice. We cruised on the Quest in 2009 (Best of Italy) and last year from Singapore to Athens and then B2B to Rome so it was hard not to draw comparisons. Close your eyes for a minute and you could be either ship but there were differences. The excellent standard of service that we expected of Azamara was there, the shore excursions were outstanding but a couple of aspects I found were disappointing. Let me start with the check-in in Dublin. Why on earth does Azamara promote on line check-in (which I dutifully completed) when the port staff at Dublin have to repeat the process... and made a hash of it. Finally had to sort out the account billing arrangements at Guest Relations in the days after we embarked. My comment about the redundancy of the check-in arrangements were met with furious nods of agreement.
Despite having Azamara's President, Larry Pimental and his wife Sandie on board, I found the food was below par. Aqualina was a joy but the one and only time I visited Prime C, I was served a fatty and grisly piece rib eye steak. I could have returned it but wanted to keep pace with my table companions. I know that the menu catering is designed around the North American taste buds but with a number of Brits and Aussies on board I asked the Hotel Director is she could put out English bacon at breakfast in Windows. Bingo!... there it was the next day than after that on just the odd occasion. I dared not ask for Vegemite like I did on the Quest last year. On that occasion, the quite extraordinary Phillip Herbert, the Hotel Director went out his way to meet this request. The cappuccinos dispensed from the Expresso machines in Windows were undrinkable - best described as a strong flavoured sludge. On the other hand the food and coffee served elsewhere on the ship was very good. Mosaic's coffee and snacks were great. Discovery was excellent.
The highlight of the cruise was the wine tasting and dinner in Bordeaux hosted by Larry Pimental. The food and entertainment at Chateau Kirwan was memorable although I thought the wines were a little overrated. The experience reinforced my view that value for money, there are many wines around the globe which would give the French wines a run for their money. The only real issue I had with this excursion was the long periods we were confined to buses in 30 deg C heat with little AIRCON while we waited for stragglers to turn up.