Azamara is a cruise line that understands their guests and knows that we really want to stay late in port. For example, when you’re in Greece and enjoying a picturesque island like Mykonos, you want to have your ouzo outside at a little café in the evening, so you can people watch and see a beautiful sunset. There’s nothing like taking a stroll on a warm summer’s eve and enjoying the island as it starts to liven up. Azamara gets this. They call it destination immersion.
Not only does Azamara stay late in port, but they also offer “AzAmazing Evenings,” which gives their guests an unforgettable evening in port on each sailing. On my recent 7-night Greek Isles and Turkey cruise, our AzAmazing Evening was in Ephesus. We were able to enter Ephesus after it closed to the public, with the sun setting, and see a private concert in the Odeon, an ancient Roman amphitheater. Upon arrival to the venue, the captain of the ship, Captain Jose, greeted all of the ship’s passengers (nearly 700), and we enjoyed wine and appetizers before the concert. Who does that?! Azamara does, and it was an unforgettable evening. Oh, and did I mention it’s complimentary?
Azamara only has two ships, the Journey and the Quest, and each ship holds approximately 700 guests. This is a nice size ship. It’s not so big that it takes forever to walk the length of ship or to disembark, but it’s big enough that it offers the standard cruise ship fare – casino, good sized pool, entertainment, a variety of dining venues, outdoor bars, spa, and gym.
I sailed on the Azamara Quest, and the food was very good. I tried each venue, including the two restaurants with a surcharge, Aqualina and Prime C, and I found the main dining room just as tasty as the two specialty restaurants. The buffet was also quite good, and my favorite fare from the buffet was probably the last night when it was Greek food. After spending a week eating Greek food in port, the buffet really held its own. I also enjoyed room service breakfast daily while getting ready for the day’s adventures. I love a cruise ship breakfast on my balcony, and this room service experience did not disappoint.
The Azamara product is really outstanding. I wouldn’t classify it as a luxury cruise line, but it is definitely in the upper premium category. The interior, ocean view, and balcony cabins are fairly simple, but the suites (Club Continent, Club Ocean and Club World Owners) cater to the luxury end of the spectrum. I had a balcony cabin (Club Veranda), and it was lovely. It was understated, but very homey for my week at sea. The mini bar fridge in my cabin was constantly stocked, and there was a bowl of fresh fruit that was well-maintained. The bathroom was small but functional.
One aspect of an inclusive cruise that I appreciate is having the gratuities rolled into the fare. This means the staff has already been compensated for their service, and they are very attentive and helpful. All of the crew on the Quest were service-oriented. Another aspect of an inclusive cruise, which is a big one if you enjoy wine or a cocktail, is having the drinks included in the fare. On my sailing there was a complimentary drink menu, which was comprised of 30 standard cocktails made with select standard spirits, and wines of the day, plus international beer options. This means you can have half a glass of wine with lunch or try a drink you’ve always wondered about (Salty Dog – quite tasty on a hot day pool-side) and not live in fear of your final bill on the last night. In addition to alcoholic beverages, bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas are available throughout the ship. Yes, your daily mocha is included in your cruise fare! Azamara is not “all-inclusive,” but it is “mostly-inclusive.”
With Azamara, shore excursions are extra, unless you book into a special that offers complimentary shore excursions. All of the ones I took (6 out of 7 port stops) were good, and Azamara is dedicated to creating special experiences on land. They have introduced Insider Access, which offers small group (8-10 people) experiences unique to each destination. Because the Quest and Journey can visit smaller ports, you don’t always need a shore excursion. Sometimes you can walk to town, and explore on your own. I ended up coming back from shore excursions and changing and going back into town in most ports. Late stays in port means you can do this, which truly makes the Azamara cruising experience very relaxed and enjoyable. The onboard concierge is also available to offer complimentary advice and reservations for dining and entertainment in port, if you are looking for input or guidance.
Cruises are a great way to get a taste of a different culture and land, and it’s generally accepted that with this small taste, you may find a place you want to return to and spend more time. With Azamara you get a bigger taste of their destinations because of the effort put into destination immersion, and you may find yourself not “needing” to return to a port. Because of the late stays you may have enough time to really experience the area and get a feel for the local culture. Of course there are exceptions. Santorini? I “need” to return. I would love to share more about my experience with you and book your next cruise, so please contact me when you’re ready to indulge in this amazing experience and I’ll share a few more tips I discovered.