Moving up to the Luxury Cruise Market
After close to 20 years of Cruising, all of it on “Contemporary” or “Premium” Cruise Lines,My Husband and I decided to take the Plunge and try one of the Luxury Cruise Lines. We chose Azamara Club Cruises.
Azamara Club Cruises is a new player on the Luxury Cruise Market, with 2 small ships, 698 guests per ship, The Azamara Journey and The Azamara Quest. Azamara is owned by Royal Caribbean International who also owns Celebrity, and as the newest entry into this very competitive market, Azamara is attracting new and devoted followers with a combination of Amazing deals, huge on-board credits and an impeccable on board experience. They have positioned themselves as a “Port Intensive” cruise experience and starting in 2012 their Itineraries will be spending more time in Ports and following many of the most exciting world events, so you can be in Monaco during The Grand Prix, Floating off Copacabana Beach on New Year’s Eve, watching the Fireworks, in London for Wimbledon, and in Cannes for the Film Festival.
But back to our cruise! We decided on an 11 day Sea of Cortez Cruise in January departing from San Diego. We flew in and our flight path took us directly over the top of the Sparkling Azamara Journey as she awaited our arrival in the Brand new San Diego Broadway Pier. It was so exciting!
Check in was the smoothest and most relaxed I have ever experienced. It took no longer than 5 minutes from handing our suitcases over to the Longshoreman to stepping on the ship… ah this is what they mean by service!
Once on board we were welcomed and invited directly up to the Buffet, Windows Café where the incredible wait staff welcomed us, found us a table and invited us to choose either a white or red wine of the day as we settled ourselves at our table. (2 featured wines are offered complementary at lunch and dinner every day). Food was absolutely delicious, with choice of hot entrees, sushi, salads, made to order pasta and a carvery.. lets just say desserts were the best I have ever had on board a ship!
After lunch we made our way to our Inside Cabin, and were pleasantly surprised by the extra amenities including Elemis Spa Toiletries, and I could really get used to 600 thread count Egyptian Cotton Sheets!
Our Room Steward, “Carlo from Chile” was a dream and anything we asked for arrived instantly!
Our tour of the ship left us pleasantly surprised, I had expected a 700 passenger ship to feel smaller and offer less amenities, but although the areas were smaller, we never felt crowded, there were always enough loungers on deck, and let me tell you, never having to line up for anything is indeed my passport to heaven!
My favorite places on board were the Library with it’s gorgeous painted Ceiling, and the Thalassotherapy Pool right at the front of the ship was a complete find, with a small daily entry fee, it was usually empty, and was where I watched the sunset last for hours one evening as we sailed west, all on my own.
Dinner was open seating and casual, and I found I really liked it..(along with the free wine which was always decent quality and generously poured!), the Maitre D’ seemed to have an uncanny knack for sitting us with really interesting people who we had amazing conversations with and enjoyed very much.. and the food… oh, the food……
Our shore days were great, if the port wasn’t directly in town, Azamara laid on complementary shuttle buses, and we chose not to book any shore excursions, although the big draw for this cruise was the 16 hour Copper Canyon train ride from Topolobambo. In Guyamas, as the first ship of the season, the town greeted us with the high school band and the cheerleaders twirling their batons! The entire town had been given a public holiday to welcome us, and we had a truly delightful day in town. With a small ship you get to sail into less well known (and less busy) ports, and that is truly a luxury.
Entertainment was definitely different than on larger ships, there was no dedicated Broadway style theatre, but the main Cabaret lounge did put on great shows with a small group of Singers and Dancers as well as comedians, stand alone singers and a dazzling magic show. The daily lecture series was excellent as well. The Casino was small and intimate, but as a non-gambler I can’t comment much except to say everyone seemed to be having a good time.
The 2 specialty restaurants were amazing and at $15 cover charge per person were a screaming deal. As well as lovely food (the BEST Filet Mignon I have ever had) we also learnt so much from Laurentia the Sommelier who took the time to educate us about the reason for different shaped glasses for different kinds of wine!
We found we spent very little money on board ship, I did treat myself to Acupuncture but this is not a shopping cruise! There is one small shop on board, and it was not very exciting!
Inclusive Amenities on Every Azamara Voyage
• Boutique red and white wines with lunch and dinner
• Gratuities included for housekeeping, dining and bar staff
• Complimentary shuttle bus service in many ports
• Bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas throughout the day
• Complimentary self service laundry
• True English butler service for suite guests
• Specialty dining available (complimentary for suite guests)
We had a fantastic holiday, and found that with so many inclusive amenities, our on-board account was really reasonable, no sticker shock when the bill arrived. I guess with Luxury Cruising, you pay up-front and then there is no need for the Cruise Ship to make up costs by charging you for everything they can once you are on board.
I strongly recommend anyone who is thinking of stepping up to The Luxury Cruise experience, to start with Azamara, who are working hard to gain a foothold and consequently offering some spectacular deals!
Check this video at: http://www.azamaraclubcruises.com/content/en_US/html/homepage/youtube_test.html