June 3, 2015
"From bow to stern, and stern to bow, there is no area on the line's ships that will be untouched," Azamara CEO Larry Pimentel said in an interview.
The dramatic refurbishment of the 15-year-old ships - both former R-class vessels, so named because they were acquired from Renaissance Cruises - will take place in 2016. Azamara Journey will enter dry dock in January 2016 in the Bahamas and Azamara Quest will receive the changes during an April 2016 dry dock in Singapore.
During the interview, Pimentel outlined the changes, which he said were drawn from years of customer surveys and comments:
Suites: The line has steadily reworked the ships' top 10 suites since October 2014, Pimentel said, outfitting them with new furniture, wallpaper and fabrics. During the refurb, the bathrooms will be completely redone, with massive upgrades to sound, lighting and hardware. "I would be prepared to say that even the most finicky guests will be quite pleased with these accommodations," Pimentel said.
Continental Suites: The largest suite category will have a top to bottom refresh, with new curtains, fabrics and electrical works. The cabins will have built-in flat-screen TVs and the beds will have headboards that reach to the ceiling. Renderings for the continental suite bathrooms show an airy space with natural accents.
Cabins. All staterooms are receiving new fabrics, new black-out curtains, new duvets and pillows and furniture, closet doors, and TVs . The bathrooms are also undergoing a serious modernization with new hardware, although "the footprint is the footprint," Pimentel noted.
Dining. The biggest change to dining will the addition of a new Asian specialty restaurant, Kibo, on the aft of Deck 9. The a la carte restaurant, open only for dinner, will be located in the outdoor space that's currently part of Windows Café. It will serve dishes from Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea, accompanied by high-end sakes and other localized drinks, Pimentel said. He noted that the indoor portion of Windows will remain open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In addition to Kibo, the line is expanding its pool grill to include a new outdoor dining room with new lighting, new canvases and a new beverage station that will be open for dinner.
Not many changes were made to Discoveries Restaurant, the ship's main dining room, Pimentel said, as that area was refurbed a few years ago. The restaurant will have new art, new fabric and textiles, however, to be consistent with the rest of the upgrades. The bar will also be updated.
Lounges. Another area that will see significant changes is the Looking Glass Lounge on the bow of Deck 10. The ship's computer center will move to this area, a new card room has been added and there will also be a new wine and tapas bar, Pimentel said. The tapas, served buffet style, will be complimentary; in addition to complimentary wines that Azamara offers, the bar will offer a new selection of international wines by the glass. "It's going to be reminiscent of a large, elegant living room," Pimentel said. "This will be a great place to go for wine lovers."
Spa/Salon. The spa will be redesigned as a new concept from Steiner called The Sanctum, Pimentel said. Chief among the makeover: two spa suites that will have a Zen Buddhism feel. These new "gigantic" suites, located where the computer rooms currently are, are designed to "quickly sell out," Pimentel said. Renderings of the spa also show a nail bar and pedicure area; there will also be a Medi-Spa and an acupuncture clinic.
Wifi. The emphasis on contemporary will extend to the ship's Wifi, which will be pervasive throughout the vessel, Pimentel said. A guest app will be available for passengers to make reservations and book shore excursions.
All in all, the ships sound like they will be radically different, lookwise, a year from now. What won't change, Pimentel said, is the line's emphasis on destination immersion.
"We're in the business of selling the land," he said. "Everything we do is outside the ship. People who come to us are travelers, not tourists."
While Azamara is facing new competition for its position as a premier, destination oriented cruise line from Viking Ocean, Pimentel said his line pioneered the concept. "No one stays longer in port, no one has more overnights," he said. "It's a fantastic idea. Everyone should copy it."
--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor