This was our first Azamara experience and our first visit to Australia. Fortunately we had hit some of the must do experiences before boarding (barrier reef, kola cuddle, Alice Springs) so our itinerary being significantly rescheduled by cyclone Debbie did not spoil our trip as much as it could have done.
Embarkation at Sydney was so simple with about 650 passengers and some on board already doing B2B there was no waiting at all, fill in the forms, get on the ship and take a glass of bubbly, I really appreciated that we could leave our carry on bags once we were aboard and they were taken to our cabin. The size of the ship is perfect - two staircases and decks 3-11 make it so easy to get around, we had a inside cabin which was fine as there is so much space on the public decks, on several occasions we had an entire bar/lounge area to ourselves for a whole afternoon on a sea day. There was always space, in the pool, by the pool, in the buffet, at the shows, at the bar, though loungers in the shade fill up fast there were lovely big squishy chairs under cover which suited us better.
There was some really exceptional food, the seafood buffet with oysters and smoked halibut stood out as did the rare lamb steaks from grilled. We eat in both specialty restaurants and Prime C was certainly our favorite. Aqualina everything looked spectacular but failed to quite hit the mark for us.
The shows we saw were entertaining with a great band and cast of six talented performers who all worked very hard. If you are seeking west end style shows this is probably not the ship for you but there were some real treats such as Kym Purling a wonderful musician with an astounding life story and the Azamazing James Morrison evening. Personally I would have liked more talks and fewer trivia challenges but just my preference.
What made this cruise stand out was the level of service practically every member of staff was exceptional. Drinks were replenished instantly and guest services rearranged my private tour excursions when our ports were changed. On the last evening after 18 days of gourmet overindulgence DH could not find anything in the buffet that leapt onto his plate, one of the waiters seeing he was not taking anything came over and offered to fetch him a steak - I think it says a lot about the service we had during the rest of the voyage that we were not even surprised by this offer.
The cabin was not at all cramped with lots of wardrobe space and even enough shelves in the bathroom. We took all the alcohol out of the fridge and filled it with water. We also had to ask for the fresh fruit to stop arriving as it took up lots of space and we really did not need any more food! A great touch was the USB sockets under the bed side lights which meant charging phones was no problem. The bed was so comfy and the room so dark and quite that I don't think we have ever slept so much (though the unlimited free wine may also have helped)
Due to Cyclone Debbie we had two days in Brisbane. The first day we took the city cat ferry for a very exciting ride from the port to the South bank, did the wheel and botanic gardens then caught the free shuttle bus back to the ship (thank you Azamara). The second day we took the public bus to the Kola sanctuary wonderful place I have now petted a kangaroo and seen a platypus!
We did Sydney on our own. My suggestion is take the ferry from circular quay under the bridge to Milsons Point (one stop) walk back across the bridge towards the city for great views, visit the exhibition in the North pier where you can get to the top of the tower and see 360 views, finally continue on the raised path which curves round to the left and take pictures from the viewing platform above circular quay. Also visit the statute of Trim the cat out side the library.
Take the public bus to the botanic gardens and walk though the rain forest - one of the most impressive sights of our whole trip to Australia. Back to the ship for lunch and then spend the afternoon flopping around at the lagoon - life is good.