For those of you considering taking a high end cruise, you may want to read my reviews of our experiences on board Crystal, Oceania, Seabourn, Silverseas, and Regent. I do focus on the food in my reviews, so ... Read More
For those of you considering taking a high end cruise, you may want to read my reviews of our experiences on board Crystal, Oceania, Seabourn, Silverseas, and Regent. I do focus on the food in my reviews, so I apologize in advance if it's not your main criterion. Interestingly, my wife and I had never heard of Azamara before we booked this cruise. We were in Greece for a destination wedding, and had to cruise on a certain day: Azamara's Pursuit was the only high end cruise available: boy what a lucky option it turned out to be! (Azamara is Royal Caribbean's luxury cruise line.)
Let me start with a few minor disappointments: the specialty restaurants charge 30$ per person, and there is a charge for the wifi. We weren't really happy about these two things, and therefore things got off to a rough start. I know what you're thinking--and you're completely right: when spending that kind of money for a nine day cruise, why complain about a few small fees? I agree completely, but my wife was a bit upset. The ship was recently refurbished, so everything inside was "like new." They took out the casino, however--just an FYI. Their other two ships do have a casino.
While this cruise only had one sea day; and thus I expect that many other passengers were able to use their carrier's data service while in Europe, and not the ship's wifi, their wifi was faster than the complimentary wifi offered on all the other cruise lines I mentioned at the start of this article. I was also given free wifi by my travel agent, so the internet turned out to be great after all. When I say "great" I mean you can check your email, and most web pages that aren't "image intensive" load reasonably quickly. (Don't even think about watching videos though.) You couldn't even do these things on the other ships I have taken. (I still don't understand why these high end cruise lines don't offer high speed wifi for an additional fee, as does Royal Caribbean and other mainstream cruise lines.)
I'll get to the details, but my wife and I enjoyed ourselves more on this ship than on all the other luxury cruises we have taken. Three reasons account for this: 1. The staff is extraordinarily friendly. 2. The food is delicious. 3. There is a great deal to do.
As we were departing for an excursion, and I swiped my key card with the security guard, I saw on his monitor the words "Enjoy your time downtown." In other words, I get it: even though the staff is told to say these types of things, they do a good job "acting," and it comes across as genuine. You can't pass a crew member without them saying, "Did you go a shore today? How was it?" and so forth. Most of the crew exuded a genuine warmth which was definitely noticed by many other passengers as well. Everybody commented about the friendliness of the crew. Many other cruise lines staff go through the motions, but it doesn't seem as genuine as on the Pursuit.
While the food was not as "upscale" as on Regent and Oceania, I enjoyed it much more! When I say "upscale" I am referring to expensive foods such as caviar, scallops, tuna, jumbo shrimps, lamb chops, sushi, etc. Honestly, I'm not sure why I enjoyed the food more on the Pursuit than on the other cruises I have taken. They didn't have as much of the aforementioned food items as Oceania and Regent, but they did serve each of the items. Even though there were no separate side dishes available with dinner, I still found more variety at every meal onboard the Pursuit than other ships.
Breakfasts are pretty much the same--even on high end cruise ships, and fresh orange juice was always available. Very high quality smoked salmon, too. They also had a smoothie bar open for breakfast. Aside from the smoked salmon and fresh squeezed OJ, my experience has been breakfasts are the same on every cruise line, whether an expensive one or not.
There seemed to be more variety for lunch than I have previously experienced. Always a pork dish, a chicken dish, a seafood dish, a pasta dish, a beef, dish a cutting board meat, etc. In addition to a huge variety of salads and vegetables, pizza etc. The mashed potatoes were amazing! I did notice many pork dishes available for lunch and dinner. This is a plus for me, but may not be for you.
The desserts were amazing!: bananas foster, many "crumbles," tiramisu, ice cream, puddings. On Regent, it was only cookies in the afternoon. While Oceania has a famous "high tea" with about 8 daily desserts, i still enjoyed those on the Pursuit a bit more. The coffee shop always had a few sweets as well.
The only negative I found, I also found on every other cruise: no drip coffee. Just the espresso machines.
While I was surprised that there were no "sides" available at dinner--other than what came with your entree, the variety was quite large, and the food extraordinary tasty.
Like the competition, they have a few items which are available every night in case you don't like the daily options.
The food that was served in the buffet had some common items with the sit down menu; but it also had many dishes that were not available at the main restaurant. This is in contrast to many other ships, where the buffet food is identical (pretty much) to that served in the dining room.
And just to be clear, tuna, scallops, steaks, lamb chops and sushi were available on different nights on the Pursuit. Not in the amounts found on Regent or Oceania, but available nonetheless. For the price we paid, this fact did put me off a bit. As much as I love pork, I felt I was "paying for lobster."
I'm not sure if it's fair to compare cruise fares, because there are so many different fares depending upon when and whom you book with. But our feeling was that Azamara was among the more expensive cruise lines. A basic beverage package including alcohol is complimentary, but excursions and air fare are not. In addition, a suite with a balcony was thousands more than just having a window. I don't remember this being the case on the other ships we've taken.
On the Pursuit they had a "white night" party where everyone is encouraged to dress in white, there is an outdoor barbecue and live performances by the entertainers--a lovely party. The quantity of food was what you might expect on Royal Caribbean: there must have been ten entrees and twenty salads, plus breads, appetizers, desserts, etc. As for the performances, the singers hit every note! The songs sounded remarkably like the original songs they were "covering." I'm very ignorant about music, but even I could hear that they did an outstanding job of singing.
They also had a chocolate night on the last night: I missed it but heard it was very well done.
Finally, they offered a complimentary evening in Dubrovnik, to listen to a famous local cello player. They bused us both ways, set up seating in the middle of an outdoor square, and arranged the concert for anyone on the ship who wanted to attend. A lovely touch. I'd say about one half to two thirds of the passengers showed up.
There were two hours of trivia available each day. The cruise director hardly made any announcements--and none that went into your stateroom. The captan did make a few and they were well done. And a nice touch was that the disembarkation instructions were not handed out until the very end of the cruise: talk about a buzz kill! Many competitors do it on the second or third day.
The spa had someone who did acupuncture (for a fee). I tried it for the first time for my hips and was pleased at the results. Gym is similar to what you might expect. Typical fitness classes were offered. We didn't do any Azamara excursions. A magician performed two shows on one night only and this was a refreshing change to the entertainment, which mostly consists of Broadway songs, and musicals, as is the case with most cruise lines.
I can't stress enough that we had fantastic times on all the cruise lines I mentioned at the beginning of this review, but our new favorite is Azamara. Read Less