This was our first time on a premium cruise line and we did not know what to expect.
Were we going to wallow in the lap of luxury with peons feeding us grapes as we reclined on our loungers?
Caviar and champagne for breakfast, truffle sandwiches for lunch?
Sedan chairs to carry us to the pool?
Turns out, not so much.
All together it was a very nice experience but not terribly different from the mass-market cruises we've been on.
The major difference was with the size of the ship. 30,000 tons with 700 passengers makes for a very intimate ship.
Moving around the ship is easy. Nothing is more than 600 feet away.
The captain was accessible and I had a couple of chats with him. That's something that would not happen on the Anthem or Breakaway.
The decoration is very elegant. Public spaces have lots of wood, white paint and crown molding. Classy rather than glitzy.
Nice lounges with comfortable chairs and good views.
There were all sorts of perks, unlimited bottled water and soft drinks in the cabin. Towels at the gangway when going ashore.
Umbrellas and binoculars for your use on the cruise.
Beverages and tips were included.
The food was exceptional. We had exactly one disappointing dinner in the MDR. The rest were good to excellent.
Prime C is their a la carte steak house and I thought it was terrific. We ate there twice and had some of the best beef I have ever tasted.
Aqualina is the specialty Italian restaurant and it was not particularly to our taste. I found the decor to be very cold and institutional and the food to be inferior to the MDR. I'll skip it next time.
The entertainment was perfectly adequate for a cruise ship and very good considering the size of the audience. The ship's band was great. The drummer and horn section were particularly talented.
Most of the ports of call were tendered. On such a small ship, this was not an issue. No tender tickets, no waiting in line.
The actual Panama canal transit was very interesting. A guest lecturer provided a running commentary during the entire day and waiters were serving water to us on deck so that no one would be dehydrated.
Azamara offers two bonus features on their cruises. The AzAmazing evening and the white night party.
On this cruise the AzAmazing evening was a show that was set up on shore near Cabo San Lucas. Most of the passengers participated.
Azamara tendered us to shore and bused us into the desert where they had set up an outdoor theatre along with food and drink.
The actual production was a modified folkloric show and included some gymnastic displays. Sort of a down-market Cirque du Soleil.
The seating was uncomfortable. It was hard to see the stage and they had some serious sound issues.
It was not worth the cost and effort that Azamara must have expended to set this up.
The on-shore venue is a great idea. The show would have been adequately entertaining on board but combining the two did not work very well.
Although the fireworks at the end were great fun.
We tried to attend the white night party which is a deck party where all the passengers wear white.
We gave up when the line-up to the buffet grew so long that it ran most of the way down the pool deck.
We went to the MDR for dinner and found it to be very quiet for some reason. The service was really good that night.
By the time we got back we had missed everything but a couple of songs from the ship's band.
I can't say that I found their service much better than other cruise lines.
We had trouble finding loungers around the pool, just like NCL.
They forgot to make up our cabin one day, just like RCCL.
We had to wait repeatedly for an available dinner table, just like HA.
It was hard to find a table in the buffet at peak times just like everybody.
Our steward serviced multiple decks and was rarely seen after the first day.
Some things were not even done as well as the other lines.
In 17 nights, no one remembered what I drink at dinner. Breakaway, with 3,500 passengers, somehow managed to offer me my drink as I sat down.
The maitre d' in the dining room asked for our cabin number every night, HA's Volendam welcomed me by name after about the third day.
One particular irritation was a special request I made to the cruise director. He said that it would be passed to the hotel manager.
After a couple of days with no contact, I went to guest relations who tried to take care of the issue themselves. Unfortunately they gave me the wrong information. It took a fellow passenger to resolve the issue.
In conclusion - Yes, I'm coming to the end of this novella length revue -
This is not to say that we did not like the cruise.
We enjoyed ourselves very much and we'd be happy to travel with Azamara again as long as the price was commensurate to the product they are offering.
I agree that it’s a premium product and that I'm willing to pay more to travel with them
as compared to a "regular" cruise line but perhaps not as much as they think they are worth. I'll be looking for deals.
The cabin was small but adequate. There's ample storage space and the bed was quite comfortable.
The bathroom and shower stall were particularly cramped. I can't believe that I paid so much to shower in a phone booth.
As the cabin was near the bow, it was noisy as we came into port. The bow thrusters and lowering the anchor made the whole cabin vibrate. The rest of the time, there was very little noise.
The location could also bother people with delicate stomachs. There was a lot of movement in the cabin when the sea got rough. If you have a tendency to sea sickness, pick something more mid-ship.