As a professional vacation advisor, Valerie Ambrose always keeps an eye open for experiences her clients will enjoy, even when she’s on a personal vacation. During her recent vacation, her “trusted advisor” genes kicked in and she returned with lots of information to share about her “AzAmazing” Azamara Club Cruise. Here’s Valerie’s first-hand report:
The Azamara Cruise Onboard Experience
I consider Azamara a solid First-Class-Plus cruise. The atmosphere is casual yet elegant, thus the “Club” part of the line’s name. In keeping, dress is resort casual. No formal wear is expected, although men may want to pack a sport coat and ladies smart evening wear for the specialty restaurants or dinner on land.
With a 2-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio, the crew is very passenger friendly. I sailed on the Azamara Journey and felt that it is the perfect size with less than 700 passengers. On our cruise, most of the passengers were retired American or British, seasoned travelers.
One of the “plus” factors in my First-Class Plus rating for Azamara is the complimentary amenities that are included: house spirits, beers and wines; bottled water; soft drinks, specialty coffees and cruise gratuities. Valerie’s tip: Upgraded beverage packages are available for purchase.
We were comfortable in our cozy 175 square foot Club Deluxe Veranda Stateroom with a 40 square foot Veranda. Cabins have a classic décor and a small sitting area with sofa. Stateroom baths have the typical small shower stall, a cabinet for toiletries and a few additional shelves, while suites have a bath tub. All staterooms have a small refrigerator with a stocked mini bar. Valerie’s tip: Be sure to check the pricing sheet; not all beverages are complimentary.
Plenty of bottled water is available – it’s replenished daily in room and you can take a bottle from a cooler as you depart the ship for touring. Self-service laundry with detergent is available and prompt room service is available 24/7. Valerie’s tip: After 6 p.m. you can order select complimentary spirits, beers and wines from room service, but you need to order with food.
Another First-Class Plus factor (actually blurring the lines toward the Luxury category) is that Azamara sets itself apart from other cruise lines by spending more time in port – including evenings and overnights – with a focus on destination immersion. Our cruise itinerary was the Best of the Holy Lands Voyage, including Greece, Israel and Turkey. We enjoyed overnights in Jerusalem and Istanbul, plus late evening departures (8 – 10 p.m.) from every port.
Valerie’s tip: I loved having the longer stays in ports and overnights to really immerse in the destinations. There might be three or four other cruise ships in port, but by 5 p.m. Azamara was the only ship left. We would dine with the locals, shop without crowds or just sit out on our balcony to take in the sights and sounds with a completely different atmosphere in the evening!
Most itineraries offer a special complimentary “AzAmazing” evening event. Our event took place in Ephesus where they recreated the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We saw a show about Cleopatra and Mark Antony, where entertainers performed with a live orchestra – and live snakes! To complete the scene, we were surrounded by Roman Soldiers (all costumed locals). Valerie’s tip: Don’t miss the AzAmazing evening event! It was an immersive experience that brought the incredible UNESCO site’s ancient history to life.
We had three full days touring Israel with knowledgeable guides and an overnight in Istanbul to experience the local culture. Tours averaged 24 passengers. Shuttle service between port and town is provided if not within a short walking distance.
Nightlife and entertainment onboard included a Vegas-style casino and an entertainer in the Casino Lounge. The Cabaret Lounge offered pre-dinner dancing with an orchestra or a guitarist at the Looking Glass Lounge. Three theatrical productions, comedians, a magician and duets rounded out the entertainment. Later in the evening a DJ played in a lounge, although the guests were generally not a late night partying crowd. Valerie’s Tip: One especially fun onboard event was the White Night Party that featured an outdoor buffet, live music and a crew parade with just about everyone onboard participating.
The main dining room is open seating for breakfast and dinner, with lunch served on sea days only. You can either dine alone or join other passengers.
The buffet restaurant, Windows Cafe, is open daily and has rotating themes each night for dinner. Reservations are not required. The buffet breakfast had just about everything you could want. If something is not available, you can special order it and it will be delivered to your table. Valerie’s tip: There is a 24-hour coffee station available in the Windows Cafe, but no other help yourself beverages. This is a plus if you prefer to be waited on but a negative if you want beverages immediately because there can be a short wait on a busy morning.
Azamara has two specialty restaurants, Aqualina, serving Classic Italian, and Prime C, a classic steakhouse. A cover charge of $25 per person applies to each, although specialty dining is complimentary for suite guests.
The Chef’s Table offers a five course meal paired with wine and hosted by an officer or a guest speaker ($95 per person). Valerie’s tip: Azamara has multiple dining packages available for purchase.
While in Kusadasi after a long day of touring we decided to have dinner at the buffet at their outside dining area in the back of the ship. Since we didn’t sail until 10:30 p.m., many of the guests were onshore and it felt like we had the ship to ourselves. We dined al fresco with a beautiful view of the city lights spilling down the hillside and listened as speakers sounded the call to prayer across the still air. It was a truly unique and memorable experience.
To learn more about Azamara Club Cruises and have your own AzAmazing experiences, contact the cruise vacation experts at Covington Travel.
Valerie Ambrose is a Luxury Vacation Advisor with Covington Travel. Her passion in life is seeing the many wonders of the world and the people that make it interesting. Her goal in her career is to create WOW experiences and lasting memories for her clients.