I have broken this review into segments rather than a day by day account.
Azamara is back on track with one of the best cruises we have had
Azamara transport and travel arrangements
Caught flight ex NCL to spend some time in Concorde room at LHR before boarding 9.25 pm flight to Mumbai.
Service on board excellent and the flat bed was conducive to a good night’s sleep after a few more glasses of champagne after the few pink ones in CCR.
We had heard horror stories re Indian immigration but we were met at aircraft door with electric buggy and whisked to separate immigration desks and after picking up luggage were escorted to private taxi for the hell that is Mumbai traffic.
Anybody in a Tuctuc must have a death wish.
I presume anybody learning to drive only learns to turn left as turning right is a nightmare.
Arrived at Taj for overnight stay which was great and met a few Azamaraites who were equally bamboozled by letter from Azamara promising “a plague of locusts” or similar if we arrived at port before 12.30 pm,
We then got a note saying coaches were available at 11.00am.
Usual Indian chaos to get on bus but have to say boarding experience was as good as anywhere else in the world.
Return journey was equally pain free although watching Indian staff unloading suitcases one by one down a ramped passenger gangway was painful.
Luggage was then loaded onto airport 2 suitcase size trolleys for other day labourers to put into shed.
I understand from Azamara staff that ALL supplies for this 20 day voyage were also loaded case by case up this similar gangway.
I dread to think how many cases were carried up this gangway for this cruise.
Why they do not invest in a fork lift truck and some grocery cages I do not know.
Met at bus and directed to far left of terminal where First class passengers are processed.
Usual Indian security where I was convinced soldier was reading our TA documentation upside down until baggage handler suggested he look at a separate list for our names.
Taken to seating area with settees etc where staff come to you and process you.
HOW VERY CIVILISED.
Went to GVK lounge where snacks were available.
My wife had foot massage and I also had a complimentary back massage.
I am convinced that at some period he was actually walking on my back so hard was the pressure.
Usual long walk to gates where the final bit of Indian idiocracy waited.
To get to plane using the lifts you have to press arrivals button!!!
Onboard usual First service with a good meal and some decent wines.
Watched I ,Daniel Blake and Hacksaw Ridge.
Both amazing films in their own way.
Landed in UK and spent some time in CCRoom before the final indignity of BA flight to NCL and a Bl ... y Awful experience.
Had priority boarding but my wife’s pass would not work in self boarding gates.
Told by staff to wait until ALL the other passengers were boarded before they could/would do anything about it.
Bad idea to say that to my wife but as I was on other side of barrier could not help but got it sorted.
Got on plane to find passengers seats double booked which took some time to sort out on a full plane.
20 mins taxiing and then take off.
Staff were completely disorganised .
As we were in row 2 we could see discussion/chaos for ourselves.
Started serving CE meals to discover they only had cutlery for 2 people!!
Eventually found some plastic cutlery but doubt if they actually got to serve everybody as trolleys were only put away minutes before landing.
As we have sailed before we knew the score and booked our restaurants straightaway with Daniel and Alex.
We only ate once in MDR as early dining prior to private LCV entertainment so cannot comment meaningfully.
We did use Patio cafe at night on several occasions as it undoubtedly serves freshest food on ship.
After all it is cooked to order.
Prime C as good as ever and was able to get personalised dishes given notice.
I.e. Goats cheese soufflé and halibut when I fancied a change from fillet steak.
Crab cakes and Onion soup good also but I wonder how many people actually order the pheasant confit.
Good to see cheese trolley on display but still a pity that it is not brought to the table with a few specialist cheeses rather than merely the standard ships cheeses.
Windows buffet was fine for breakfasts in the outside area before it got too hot during the day
Good to see Marmite as well as Vegemite although I was not convinced by the Indian Marmite look alike with red label.
English sausages at breakfast were some of the best I have tasted on ship and the German sausages were also very good.
I realise I might sound like a UKIP loving Brexitting little Englander.
Not convinced that any premium ship should be serving Shepherd’s pie even on an English themed buffet night and I understand that the Indian night dishes were not a great success speaking to some other guests.
Lunch buffet was good with some really good soups (crazy in a hot climate but good nevertheless)
We were able to get our preferred Riesling at all venues and meals via a discreet request.
Best of Best dinner was a standout meal by Iwan which included one item covered in gold leaf.
Rather a shame to think where that gold leaf was in 2 days time.
I gave toast on behalf of the guests to the Fabulous 5
Finally got to identify Excited of Harpenden and Riocca but missed Uktog
A great mixture of nationalities that seemed to gel together except for one couple who were famous within a couple of days for their complaints.
I understand from talking to staff and other guests that this was ther first ever cruise.
Why you would choose the longest cruise in the book to start with I do not know?
We thought the anecdotes we heard were exaggerated until we met them dining in the Patio Cafe one night.
They changed tables 5 times and complained to the chef and his supervisor for approx 7 minutes about the quality of the food.
I do not intend to repeat what was said but it was unacceptable to abuse anybody in that way and they left the chef in tears.
We spoke to him as well as Heike (Hotel Manage)r and Thomas (Food and Beverage Manager) to ensure that if any complaint was made then we would support the chef as the behaviour was completely unacceptable.
We noticed later that Azamara seemed to have nominated Guest relations staff to sit with them at meals etc. to check their behaviour.
Usual great show from Eric as well as 2 great female singers.
Firstly an American lady and finally i.e. 2 days only an English singer.
White night party was good with a great conga line around the decks as normal.
Eric of course finished a great cruise with his trademark skating.
Well organised transport with snacks etc. available.
Fortune tellers etc.
Ports of Call etc.
I am probably too old for third world countries and Dubai is probably as far as we will travel future.
I cannot believe that India has 100 nuclear weapons but allows their population to live and work in such squalor!!!
Firstly unless you go to a hotel or take tours there is nothing to do at most calls.
We did one private tour on the Cochin backwaters and it seemed a long way to go to sit in a boat to watch people bashing their clothes in the river.
Had raging row with taxi driver in Sri Lanka after agreeing $60 fare for three hours with fixer as well as driver.
We were the confronted with demand for $200 to be paid via ATM in Ceylon currency.
In UK it is alleged that ther is a thriving Srilankan crime syndicate which specialise in ATM Pin code stealing.
It was only when we demanded to be dropped off at police station that demands were dropped.
A bad taste to an interesting day.
This was usually a farce.
At one port we happened to be first in line to be processed after the leaving crew.
It was like Lilliput Big Enders vs. Little Enders.
The 6 personnel had a 5 minute discussion which appeared to revolve about whether they stamped your card or signed it first . or did it simultaneously
Eventually the man with the biggest moustache got his way.
I recognise they are entitled to be on the ship all day but I do not see why their wives and children should be allowed on board stuffing the buffet and blocking stairs for photographs.
I guess it is part of the way things get done in these countries
I do not normally try to pick individuals as ALL staff contribute to the experience but here are 2
1: Angello Housekeeping Manager.
We met him an Owners suite private reception and my wife made a throw away comment about it being a pity there were no magnifying mirrors in the bathroom.
On return to room after reception there were 3 different magnification mirrors for my wife to try.
Followed up 2 days later with a call to see which she preferred.
2: Russian waiter Kuril who noticed our struggles to get a working salt cellar.
From then on at every meal he saw us he provided a condiment pot with loose salt without prompting.
1:As above salt and pepper shakers of either variety china or metal are simply not fit for purpose
You either spend time with toothpick or take bottom off and get rice with salt.
At first I thought it was restricted to outdoor area but same in MDR.
They should invest in Perspex grinders so that they can work and you can see if they need filling.
2: They ran out of glass bottled free sparkling water fairly soon and I do not consider Soda water or sparkling flavoured water (label states No fruit content) as acceptable alternatives.
Fortunately we had a good supply in suite.
3: I understand that standard serving protocol for serving tea is to provide a separate saucer for disposal of dunked teabag rather than have drips etc. on cup saucer but this was rarely implemented.
Also I believe it would be better to have teabag dry when presented so that the individual can decide on strength of tea.
First world problem I know!!!
Azamara is back to its best and we look forward to using our free nights soon.