Gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff included
Boutique house wine at lunches and dinners included
Specialty coffees and teas, and one brand of bottled water are included
Up to $250 onboard account credit included, courtesy of TheCruiseLines.com
TheCruiseLines.com exclusive: Select departure dates feature a concierge host, with a bon voyage cocktail party and one shore event included
Resort casual attire - no formal nights
Destination rich itineraries, with overnight or late night stays in many ports
Speciality shore tours such as a walk down memory lane in Liverpool with the “In the steps of The Beatles” tour; a private demonstration of chocolate flavours in Dubrovnik; a “Theatre A La Carte” evening in London; Croatian liqueur tasting in Zadar; an Imperial Russian Court evening at Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg; an evening gondola serenade in Venice. Additional charge applies to shore tours.
Azamara Included Values
+ value-added Azamara extras!
♦ Destination Immersion - longer stays in port and often overnight stays
♦ Azamazing Evening - one exclusive evening ashore event on every voyage
♦ FREE gratuities
♦ FREE bottled water, sodas, specialty coffees and teas
♦ FREE fine wines and standard spirits in bars, restaurants, on deck
♦ FREE shuttle service to/from select ports
Azamara is one of the newest cruise lines in the business, created in 2007 as a sister-line to Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. The “Club” in its name is meant to suggest “country club,” and that really is the kind of feeling you get on board. Azamara offers a more high-end product than the mainstream megaship lines, but it stops short of being a true luxury line — and for cruisers, that’s a good thing, since with Azamara you get a lot of near-luxury amenities without paying the full luxury price.
Azamara’s two ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, are beautifully designed midsize vessels carrying only 694 passengers and about 390 crew — a passenger/staff ratio that’s higher than you’ll find at any of the mainstream and premium cruise lines, and not far off what you find on the luxury ships.
Service is definitely one of Azamara’s high points. Suites all come with real butler service, and attendants in regular staterooms will even unpack your luggage for you, by request. And like the luxury lines, Azamara includes staff gratuities in their cruise prices, so you don’t ever have to think about tipping.
Other areas where Azamara overlaps with the luxury segment include:
•Their itineraries, which tend to visit more out-of-the-way ports;
•The late evening departures and overnight stays at almost half their port calls, which let you experience the ports’ culture and nightlife; and
•The complimentary house wines served with lunch and dinner, and free specialty coffees, soda, and bottled water available anytime.
There are also lots of little grace notes that make the experience special, like the fresh flower displays around the public areas, the fresh juice bar in the casual restaurant, and the cold towels they offer you at the gangway after a hot day in port.
Onboard, the line offers a solid mix of activities, from traditional games like shuffleboard and bridge tournaments to more unusual programs like golf clinics, poetry writing get-togethers, art seminars, computer classes, and wine-tasting sessions. At night, you can take in a floor show or comedy performance at the theater, hit the casino, watch a late-night movie, go dancing, or catch an after-hours piano set at the cafe.
Dining service is always casual and relaxed: You can either show up when you like for dinner at the main restaurant or casual restaurant, or make a reservation for the specialty steakhouse or Mediterranean restaurant, both of which offer great ocean views from almost every table.
Azamara Club Cruises tends to attract an adult crowd, from their mid-40s on up. These ships are definitely not for families with children, since Azamara doesn’t offer any kind of kids’ activities at all. And they’re not for smokers either, since Azamara has one of the strictest no-smoking policies at sea — which, of course, is a plus for non-smokers.
Azamara Cruises, Welcome To The Club
by Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.
It seems that everyone wants to belong to a club. Even cruise lines have such aspirations, but the phenomenon is apparently exclusive to two-ship cruise lines. There’s SeaDream Yacht Club, and now there’s Azamara Club Cruises. The latter is only a rebranding of the hastily launched Azamara Cruises – the two-ship brand that came to surface in 2007 with the 694-guest Azamara Journey and sister ship Azamara Quest.
Azamara’s newly refined brand features more inclusive options for guests such as gratuities, house wines with lunch and dinner, and coffee and bottled water throughout the day. Azamara Club Cruises also focuses on slowing the cruise experience down with more overnight stays and late night departures from ports of call to increase opportunities for immersion in a destination.
Since taking the helm of Azamara Cruises, Larry Pimentel, who once headed up SeaDream Yacht “Club,” has spent several weeks talking with travel agents, past guests and media to determine how to make his great-to-exceptional goal a reality. “This isn’t a strategy of going ‘from good to great’,” says Azamara Club Cruises’ President & CEO Larry Pimentel. “This is about taking an already great product and making it exceptional.”
Azamara Club Cruises will visit 187 ports in 58 countries in 2011, with itineraries featuring more overnight stays, including Istanbul, Turkey; Sorrento Italy; a full three days and two nights in St Petersburg, Russia; and multiple overnight stays in Southeast Asia including Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.
“We’re going to slow down the tempo, and allow our guests to not just see the destination, but to live it,” Pimentel says. “Consider destinations like St. Tropez or St. Petersburg, Russia. If you’ve experienced them only by day, you haven’t really experienced them. With Azamara Club Cruises, through more overnight stays and late-night stays, you can.”
The destination focus of Azamara Club Cruises inspired the brand’s new tagline – “You’ll love where we take you” – and will extend to its shore excursions. The new brand will will offer experiences such as a two-night package from Bangkok to Laos; an overnight tour from Hiroshima to Osaka via bullet train; a three-night experience from Mumbai including a visit to the Taj Mahal; overnight tours in Israel between Ashdod and Cairo, and a Grand Egypt tour featuring the best of both Luxor and Cairo.
Azamara Club Cruise’s speciality tours include a Ferrari driving tour in Civitavecchia, Italy; a walk down memory lane in Liverpool with the “In the steps of The Beatles” tour; a private demonstration of chocolate flavours in Dubrovnik; a “Theatre A La Carte” evening in London; Croatian liqueur tasting in Zadar; an Imperial Russian Court evening at Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg; an evening gondola serenade in Venice; and high tea at the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai.
Azamara Club Cruises will expand its focus on wine to include vintages from boutique wineries around the world. Guests will have the opportunity to taste high quality wines unavailable at home, because the selected vineyards produce a strictly limited quantity each year, distributed primarily locally. The featured wines will be offered complimentary at lunches and dinners on every sailing.
Well-being will be a core component of the Azamara Club Cruises experience, too, with onboard and land-based experiences designed to help guests feel and look healthier and more youthful. Azamara Club Cruise’s aim in wellbeing is to help guests balance their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual needs through massages, facials and other spa treatments, as well as acupuncture, yoga, Pilates, and enrichment programmes.
Azamara Club Cruises also has transitioned to a primarily all-inclusive experience, with the following included in the cruise fare:
• a specific brand of bottled water offered at no charge throughout the voyage, whether in public venues or in staterooms;
• specialty coffees and teas;
• housekeeping and dining gratuities;
• shuttlebus service to/from port communities, where available;
• destination-influenced entertainment and enrichment programs;
• all meals and room service;
• house wine at lunches and dinners;
Specialty dining in Azamara Club Cruise’s intimate Prime C steakhouse and the Mediterranean-influenced Aqualina will be complimentary for suite guests for the duration of their cruise.
Azamara Quest For Perfection
by Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.
All staterooms on the 694-passenger Azamara Quest (and on sister ship Azamara Journey) feature upgraded amenities such as European bedding with duvet and pillow-top mattress; 100 percent Egyptian-cotton bathrobes; umbrella; binoculars; bottled Evian water; welcome fruit basket; fresh-cut flowers; pillow menu and more.
Suites come with all of that and more: priority check-in and departure; priority luggage delivery; complimentary garment pressing (two items); priority tender service; fragrant drawer liners upon request; silk-wrapped hangers; Hansgrohe showerhead; welcome bottle of champagne; daily fruit basket; daily hors d’oeuvres served in-suite between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and complimentary espresso/cappuccino when ordered in-suite. Soft drinks are also free of charge when taken from the suite mini-bar.
Azamara features multiple dining venues: the main open-seating dining room Discoveries; the reservations-only Prime C and Aqualina ; and Windows Cafe. The latter is remarkable in that during dinner, diners often will find sushi, sashimi, whole lobster and a carving station in what is essentially the lido buffet on other ships.
When in port, the aft section of Windows Cafe transforms into Brisas, an outdoor floating café overlooking exotic ports of call.
Breakfast in Windows Cafe features a juice bar, with complimentary fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies. For those who appreciate healthy dining options, the Pool Grill serves up turkey and veggie burgers, baked potatoes and kebabs in addition to the usual burgers and hot dogs.
There is no additional charge to dine in the specialty restaurants, but Azamara suggests a $5 gratuity, which may be charged to your stateroom.
Dining At Prime C
In 2007 Las Vegas-based culinary consultants Blau & Associates were tapped to work with the Azamara fleet. Elizabeth Blau and her team are credited with helping transform Las Vegas into the culinary destination that it is today.
My first dining experience aboard Azamara Quest was at Prime C. And what a treat.
Azamara is spending 50 percent to 60 percent more than sister Celebrity Cruises on food cost, according to Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, vice president of hotel operations. The extra spending really shows in Prime C.
Azamara Quest was docked in Barcelona on the night I dined in Prime C, and although many went ashore for dinner, Prime C was buzzing. “We have the best restaurant in town,” joked Food & Beverage Manager Anton Winkler, as he approached a table of staff officers enjoying dinner.
Because Prime C and Aqualina seat only 75 to 80 per night, getting a table at the popular specialty restaurants can pose challenges for those who procrastinate. All guests have priority access to two dinners at the specialty restaurants on each sailing. Suite guests get priority access on one additional night. Other nights are available for dining in either restaurant – or both – on a space-available basis.
For recommendations on what to order, I asked for help from Roman Georgiev, assistant maitre ‘d in Prime C. Here’s Roman’s suggested menu (and by the way, the menu never changes at the specialty restaurants).
• Soup: Three Onion Soup, with gratinated Gruyere cheese and onion tart.
• Starter: Crispy Popcorn Rock Shrimp, with a trio of sauces, accompanied by a glass of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay
• Entree: 8-ounce Filet Mignon, with wild mushrooms and truffle steak fries for sides, accompanied by a glass of Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon
• Dessert: Chocolate Fondue
Wish you were here?
Azamara Quest’s Mosaic Cafe is where Starbucks meet the sea.
Well, not quite, but this cozy cafe on deck 5 serves up the goodies, such as cafe latte, cappucino and Americano.
You could pay less ashore in Barcelona, of course, but on Quest, sweets such as chocolate chip cookies, biscotti and minature cakes, are included.
Mosaic Cafe also offers specials such martini, daiquiri and margarita tastings.
The Mosaic Cafe is open daily from 7 a.m. until. 11 p.m.