This was a relatively late booked cruise due to Azamara cancelling a full 3 week dry-docking and adding this cruise. We had an owners suite again at a very good price. It was also complicated by Azamara later further changing cruise by shortening by 2 days. We were able to change flights etc so no major problems for us and Azamara had guaranteed to pay peoples 2 day expenses in Malaga because of delays.
We had our 2 days in Malaga and boarded on 17 November in lashing rain and thunder.
In view of what happened later little did we recognise the omen.
As ship had arrived empty from dry dock we had hoped for no hassle but because of Azamara/port authorities bureaucracy it took ages with no less than 3 sets of queues.
On board eventually but unable to access cabins straight away (Why as ship had had 24 hours with no passengers).
Went to CC meeting on first night which was interesting as Captain was practically accused of lying when he said there were no extra contractors on board.
Was berated for stopping at Gibraltar on Sunday (shops closed) and for deciding to dock at Cadiz which added fuel to conspiracy theory.
Also took flack for Madeira on Sunday for same reason although wherever we stopped on a Sunday would be closed.
Captain still did not explain how a 24 hour strike delays the ship by 2 days but Hey Ho
Ship had only 560 passengers of whom more than 500 were Brits with only 20 Americans.
Ship looks nice with new hull colour although the Azamara blue is about as blue as Newcastle United colours. (Black and white for non UK readers)
New carpeting and old chairs newly reupholstered but not all.
Prime C bar stools saggy.
New curtains in suite but still old carpeting.
Sun decks still had old wooden chairs which had been sandblasted but I thought they were to be replaced on refit.
We began to feel like the Queen as all we could smell was fresh paint.
At one time there were 12 painters on various parts of deck but as these were a special squad from RCI they were not "contractors"
No new Astroturf on deck 11 which had also lost the old plastic emergency sea day chairs.
This led to bed rage on sea days with other passengers lying on mattresses on bare decks like refugees from Darfur.
I pray they get some more before their full 700 passenger trip to Rio on 3 Dec with 6 sea days on the trot!!!
We booked our speciality restaurants for alternate night at our normal 8.30 times and was great to see Adell, Mr Harry, Santos and other previously met staff.
This is where I will be flamed and accused of being a snob but the passengers on this cruise were not Normal Azamara passengers.
We heard of people complaining that because somebody else had an upgrade they were ENTITLED to one.
If you book, accept and pay for a deck 3 inside then that is your contract but the Entitlement culture won out. As this cruise was a late arrangement the curse of Azamara struck again.
The 50% off deal flogged out via Sky TV and discount agents attracted customers but if any of them rebook it will be a wonder.
If Azamara marketing had done their job properly then this cancellation /reinstatement disaster could have been turned into a positive.
We only found out about this cruise via a blog.
When we rang Azamara to check the pricing we had to tell the telesales operator about the deal.
If I had been involved it would have been first item on any telesales script even for customers who were ringing about another cruise.
If I was involved in marketing (as I was for 30 years) I would have announced a 5 day sale via email to all Club voyage members but of course that was too easy and they do not have an accurate list anyway (still waiting for email offers after 3 weeks of sign up with different email address).
I would then have contacted the top 400 UK independent travel agents and offered them a deal and can you imagine the word of mouth this would have generated..
The mix of passengers were the allegedly stereotypical Fred Olsen (old) Saga (older) and some RCI (boorish)
The atmosphere in the venues was reminiscent of a mortuary waiting room with the warmth of an ice cube factory.
The total winning on slot machines after 10 days was Â£1800 which is about 1/10th of normal.
We never saw more than 5 of 40 machines in use and blackjack tables were almost never in use.
Thank God for the crews sake tips were included or there would have been a queue of 450 miserable Brits at reception to get them removed.
There were about 30 couples that were good fun.
After 3 days it became apparent that the 500 Great British Public were absolute creatures of habit and were descending for breakfast at 9.00am in MDR with 200 friends in tow and dinner was even worse with one day 300 turning up in half an hour.
Even McDonalds at the Olympic village would struggle with this!!
Instead of putting a separate flyer with daily bulletin explaining that if everybody turns up at same time the some will be disappointed they tried to rearrange double shows etc and move breakfast to buffet option in MDR as well as normal Windows cafe.
It was obvious that this was a completely different passenger set.
What they should have done was offer free drink to all customers who had left the restaurant by 8.30 as what was happening was that people were table hogging to get the free wine and then staggering out with yet another glass. The waiters were reduced to removing table cloths to try to get early sitters to move out.
Equally they could have offered a glass if you were waiting but as it was they all sat in MDR waiting area looking miserable.
We have dined at 8.30 pm in MDR on many occasions before and never had to wait but the massive Brit numbers overwhelmed staffs ability to cope
Azamara makes great play of pricing @$27.50 for speciality dining and would not allow it for free and indeed the perk of suites is the free dining although of course you have paid from Â£1000 to Â£3500 for the privilege so imagine our surprise when it was offered at half price to try and relive pressure on the MDR.
The whole point of the speciality dining is that it can be taken at your pace and the waiters are not rushed but have time to talk with you.
Normally you do not have to book days ahead but can be fitted in without too much trouble as they are never full
After this announcement suite guests were being offered 6.00 or 9.00pm appointments only.
Once again this could have been sorted out with a 24 hour delay by advising suite guests of this unannounced change to get their bookings in.
I am sure suite members were impressed. NOT.
I did not bother to try to get any refund for the 8* $27.50 loss of benefit as Azamara would say "times change suck it up"
We were unfortunate to be in Prime C on the night of the $70 special dinner.
A difficult night for any chef with having to produce 20 identical meals at the same time but was the start of the disaster.
It was obvious that the place was overstretched as this was first night of deal and the waiters were practically running.
We were in the "corridor " tables between kitchen and serving station so were in terror of a tray full of food descending about our ears but no other tables available.
My wife's first course crab cakes were cold but no comment made.
We then waited 35 minutes for second course which came completely wrong.
2 sets of lamb chops when I had ordered fillet steak.
Taken away and waited another 20 mins for steak to appear.
It was obvious that this had been sitting under a hot lamp for an hour as it was completely overdone but lets get it eaten.
We then ordered a frozen dessert which had not arrived and after a further 20 minutes.
Maitre D was seen talking to waiter and he then approached us to say that he had asked the chef to hurry this up.
My wife who owns a catering company asked what the delay was told it needs plating up!!!
5 cold items to be arranged on a plate took them 40 minutes in total.
It was OBVIOUS that they were MASSIVELY overbooked on a special night and I do NOT blame the wait staff or kitchen staff as they had to suffer the consequences of a stupid decision taken apparently by Miami in response to GBPs desire to eat as a herd.
Equally we had a table booked in Aqualina for 8.30 and on arrival Nicolii advised us that it was not quite ready.
"No problem" we said "we will just wait".
"No" he says "they came at 6.00pm and have not had their main course as they said they did not wish to be hurried"
We were seated elsewhere but they eventually left after 4 hours.
NO wonder the MDR could not cope with people like that.
Additionally 2 tables in Aqualina were having a drinking competition with the free wine and the ladies had to be practically carried out at the end of meal.
I like to have a coffee on aft deck at Windows cafe whilst my wife gets ready and on all other cruise tables would be full by 8.00am but on this cruise you could practically get a table at any time.
The staff and meals were as usual Azamara standard but I did feel sorry for staff as I have never been on such a dour cruise.
The cruise director should be prosecuted under trades description act as he was never seen around the ship and to compare him with Tony Markey or Eric De Gray was fanciful.
It was obvious that the Captain knew there were a lot of unhappy people when he was reduced to practically begging us to rate the ship as excellent.
Finally I had $200 shareholder credit which was applied automatically on previous Sept cruise on Journey but some Jobsworth in Quest Back office refused to add this despite having an email with confirmation reference and even producing copy of share certificate .
After 9 days of badgering and 2 meetings with the Hotel Director he agreed to authorise this himself.
On leaving ship he was at gangway and confirmed that he had still not received confirmation from Miami that I was entitled to this.
1: Those who have cruised Azamara before were short changed.
2: Those who wanted to try Azamara with a view to another Azamara cruise would almost certainly not book again if they thought this passenger set was normal.
3: The other passengers will have no intention of ever using Azamara and goodbye.
Would I sail Azamara Quest to Canaries again NEVER
Would I sail Quest again UNLIKELY
Would I sail Azamara Journey again. YES in a heartbeat and signed up for open certificate deal whilst on board.
Great owners suite but a bit rocky in bad seas