Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Azamara - Day 2 - At Sea

What is clearly apparent is that Azamara Club Cruises has invested a great deal of effort in providing some of the best food at sea. For two mornings the breakfast buffet has equaled or surpassed any I’ve experienced—including even six star cruise lines! From fresh squeezed orange juice to customized smoothies to Italian roast coffee, both the quality and the quantity of choices have been outstanding. And the same can be said for lunches and dinner where the bar has been set high and has been surpassed each time.
It’s obvious Azamara’s strategy of moving a half step ahead of both Celebrity and Holland America Line into a new category, call it “Luxury Light” seems to have excellent appeal to the line’s core audience. This audience appears to be veteran travelers and cruisers who have high service and product standards as part of their vacation requirements. From personal observation, the passengers seem to be a rather sophisticated group, comfortable in the higher end staterooms on Holland America Line and Celebrity. What’s also noticeable is the variety of international guests from England, France and elsewhere.
The only drawback appears to be the size of the staterooms. The Journey was originally built for Renaissance Cruises (justifiably bankrupt) in the 1990s. Our balcony stateroom has a Princess sized balcony and bathroom—meaning quite compact in size. New mattresses, flat screen televisions and the biggest and fluffiest bath towels at sea have helped raise the standards about as far as they can be taken with the size limitations. With Azamara Club Cruises adding complimentary house wine at lunch and dinner, included gratuities, free soft drinks and water and free in-port transfers, the management has gone a long way in justifying the price increases that will come with the new additions.
What is nice is the lack of “on board huckstering to sell things to raise revenues.” This ship is very calm and mellow. Even the casino is smoke-free and much more like a European style gaming club. The signature Cova Milano Café is an excellent example of a laid-back public room on the ship. At night a pianist holds sway and guests can order either coffee drinks or wine and alcohol if they so wish. Various nibbles and desserts are always available at no charge in the Cova. The setting feels more like a living room with comfortable couches and chairs for guests.
. Also striking is the number of entertainers onboard. For a small ship the Journey has a big ship array of bands, individual performers and dancing and musical shows. The rock band called Mirage is four excellent musicians who play a great repertory of rock of all forms. And they guys are all excellent musicians. The only clunker was an opening night comedian who perhaps was the worst I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship.
Linda and I spent the day relaxing around the pool. The wind was a bit brisk but the sun was out and we enjoyed our books and snoozing. Linda has her Kindle loaded with 50 book so she’s in heaven on earth. Add to that, she found the daily Sudoko puzzles in the ships Library and is having fun with those. We had dinner with 3 other couples and enjoyed getting to know them. Denny and Sylvia are from the Island of Jersey in Great Britain so we learned a little about that small island community. Our evening was topped off with piano music at the Cova Café. A good day at sea. Looking forward to a repeat tomorrow.

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