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Dogster: The Azamara Army

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Apr 6th, 2011, 09:48 AM
  #1
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Dogster: The Azamara Army

‘Dogsterrrrr!’

She leapt to her feet, leant over the guest-relations counter and grabbed at me.

‘Give me a hug!’

Rather startled, I obliged. I didn’t recall such intimacy between us when we’d met before. I was rather glad there was a counter in-between.

‘I saw your name on the passenger list,’ she gushed, ‘oh, oh, I said, here’s trouble!’

As her cheek brushed mine, she laughed and whispered.

‘I didn’t really say that.’

Yes, you did.

A young blond man stood behind me, holding a welcoming glass of champagne. Unfortunately, I had to decline. My hands were full of Guest Relations Manager.

She was a largish woman, smart as a tack, with eyes as cold as ice. Somewhere between twenty-five and forty, I think - I never really looked that close; I was always a bit nervous in case she bit me. She could be warm as toast and Arctic, all in the space of a sentence. As Dorothy Parker once said, my hostess ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.

It wasn’t entirely her fault. If I had to relate to a ship full of cruisers for a living my emotional range would veer from rage to murder. She was very good at her job – except for those eyes, those killer Aza-eyes. They gave her heart away.
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Apr 6th, 2011, 09:52 AM
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My nemesis was a robust New Zealander with a penchant for ping-pong. I mean that in the literal sense, not the Thai. Once each cruise she would host the Aza-Pong tournament, clad only in a headband and shorts. She played a fierce game of defensive Table Tennis, always alert to the slightest threat – which was rather the way she guest related.

Madame Pong was an Aza-professional, devoted to the team. If they wanted a hired assassin, she’d be perfect for the job. Had the company asked her, she would just as readily have hit me on the head, thrown me in a pot and eaten me – instead, she was going to kill me with kindness.

‘Dogsterrrr!’

She would drown the pooch in Aza-love, blitz him with invitations, stun him stupid with special treats, indulge his personal foibles - the poor mutt couldn’t possibly complain. Then, at tomorrow’s Heads of Department meeting there’ll be a little announcement:

Beware of the Dog.

That should fence him in.

I had the feeling she’d read my last story about her employer.

‘Death by Azamara’.
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Apr 6th, 2011, 10:09 AM
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Hi guys, just for fun, thought I'd share a touch of my recent nautical adventure. This is a verrrry quiet room, so I imagine only jacketwatch and his dog will read it - but let's make an experiment and see what turns up.

Here's the link to 'Death by Azamara':
http://thedogster1.wordpress.com/death-by-azamara/

Fodor's doesn't even have an Azamara tag - or one that fits the location of the 31 night repositioning cruise Istanbul - Singapore via all the obvious places] that this story covers so I can't tag it. I guess you'll survive.

Let me know you're reading. I love a Greek chorus.
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Apr 6th, 2011, 10:14 AM
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I was stepping aboard a new Azamara.

Since my last abortive voyage some changes have been made. The company has re-branded, re-aligned and repositioned itself; now they are ‘Azamara Club Cruises’ and in the process of styling themselves as ’boutique’ – whatever that means. In the interests of fairness it was time to try again. Admittedly, only another staggeringly cheap last minute deal brought about this fit of fairness.

The mongrel was on a mission of surrender; no matter what happened, Dog would not jump ship this time; he would neither fight nor flee; he was going to enter into the spirit; he was going to see the light. No more cynical distance, no more elegant spite, he would join in and be one with the people, suck up the Aza-Mojo and have a wonderful, wonderful time.

I would abandon myself to cruising.

The Azamara Army must prevail.
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Apr 6th, 2011, 04:04 PM
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I love Cruise Critic.

If you ever want chapter and verse on the sheer small-mindedness of human existence, log in. Want a discussion about the thickness of the crepes suzettes? Log in. Need to know about the latest stunning developments in Afternoon Tea? You know where to go. You can discuss laundry for hours – just don’t criticize.

Actually, the Aza-boards on Cruise Critic are now little more than a stunning marketing exercise. Even the C.E.O. pops in for a chat. Season’s greetings are exchanged. Everybody congratulates everybody else. Host Andy weaves sycophantically between moderator and salesman. They have a Chief Blogging Officer who answers every facile query as if it is actually important. There’s even a Roll-Call so, once the cash is exchanged, you can cyber-meet and greet fellow incoming Azamarians bound, like you, for glory.

The Cruise Critic Meet & Greet is held on the first day of each cruise. It’s an important bonding exercise. A parade of brass is led out to schmooze the customers, greasily assuring them that they are the most important sub-species on board.
Really. Honestly.

Azamara care, they really, really do – and the more you pay, the more they care. In return Cruise Critics care about their company – they take ersatz Aza-ownership. The Azamara Army is growing by the minute. People just want to belong.

There they are – our Masters and Commanders; all lined up in a dark blue row. There are introductions; from Executive Chef to Chief Engineer, Housekeeping Supervisor to Food and Beverage Manager to Environmental Officer, Human Relations Officer, from Staff Captain to Club Voyage Hostess - a parade of brass from each department, all paying homage to the most important Critical Cruisers in the world. If there was an Aza-medal for Niceness, they’d be wearing it.

‘We read all your posts,’ the Hotel Director will ooze.

‘We learn from everything you say,’ the Cruise Director will coo.

‘Anything you want, just come to us!’ Guest Relations will positively drool, ‘without you we are nothing…’

‘Just tell us – we can’t read minds…’

'We consider every suggestion...'

‘We ne-e-e-d you,’ choruses everybody in a uniform.

The staff is dressed in dark blue quasi-Navy uniforms with gold epaulettes and identifying golden stripes. It’s a look from another time, barely changed since the Twenties. The heavy gold stripes on their cuffs and shoulders draw witness to their service in battle. They are all scarred veterans of the Cruising Wars.

'Trust me', all that blue is saying; 'trust me', says the gold on their arm; 'trust me', I am powerful; trust me with your life. For all that their uniform says, they might as well dress up as firemen.

How about the Azamara Arm-ani? Prada-mara?

Dolce and Gabbazamara?

Who was it that decided that Azamara should adopt military uniforms? Militaries exist to counter perceived threats. What do they do when they find a threat?

Neutralize it.

Just like these fancy-dress Generals were doing to the Cruise Critics.
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Apr 9th, 2011, 09:40 PM
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"he would join in and be one with the people" - hmmmm. Is it possible? Is it desirable?
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Apr 9th, 2011, 10:59 PM
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Bless you thursday. I've given up on this post. Zero response = zero more story. I can take a hint. lol lol lol.

The few lost souls who come by this board can go here:
http://thedogster.wordpress.com/the-azamara-army/
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Apr 10th, 2011, 03:10 AM
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My guess Dogster is that people are not posting to your
missive as they are used to reading trip reports that
are detailed in the day-to-day activities.
Will check out your wordpress site.
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Apr 10th, 2011, 05:06 AM
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yup, Rhea. I'm trying to reinvent the trip report - maybe people get confused. But, I think really it's just about numbers. I put this same teaser in CruiseCritic and had nearly 4,000 hits on the story in my website. That's a lot for me. I was very excited. Strangely, CC closed the thread down - I can't think why.

As you'll see, it's long but people seem to gobble it up in one go. Lots of jokes and a little bit of sad. Thanks for your response.
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Apr 10th, 2011, 06:43 AM
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I have just read it dogster. Yep, me and two others. So far. My dog???? Yo are my dawg.
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Apr 12th, 2011, 05:14 AM
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What a delightful surprise!

The Greek chorus may be slow to assemble, but we are here.
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Apr 12th, 2011, 05:30 AM
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Gasp! Responses! Hello marya and jacket. I miss my Asia board cronies. It's tragically slow in here. Pointless, really. Much more fun with the chorus.

Anyway, settle in and enjoy marja. Spread the word. I worked hard on it. It's a bit of a magnum opus - but, I think, an easy read.
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Apr 12th, 2011, 10:31 AM
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Ah, a welcome dose of dogster wit. Very well done, indeed. The characters are vivid and the language beautifully polished. Gilbert & Sullivan, move over.

I am both chuckling heartily at the skillful send-up and feeling grateful that a cyberspace veil shields the rest of us from your keen gaze. Only language tics can be offered up here.

Come on back to the terra firma of the Asia board and let folks there know you are writing. I only chanced to discover the Azamara thread when I followed the trail on a Bhutan posting. (Not planning a trip alas but just read Lisa Napoli's "Radio Shangri-La.") More Asia board regulars would like to read this.
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Apr 12th, 2011, 08:37 PM
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Dogster, I loved your reports (and overall blog), too. I found your initial posts on this thread to be rather cryptic, but your longer blog posts gave enough context to appreciate your amazing wit and insight.

That said, given your previous Azamara experience, why did you do another long cruise with them?!?
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Apr 13th, 2011, 02:26 AM
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Great to hear your responses marya and TPT – and some lovely praise. Thank you.

Mostly, marya, I’m fairly open about the fact I’m writing about ‘something’ – meaning whatever they choose it to mean. Often, in a masochistic kinda way, people rather like being written about. I’m not sure that Rudi would share that sentiment.

The fact of the matter is – no one is safe. Faced with the world of me and my keyboard, everything – including me – is up for grabs. So maybe that cyber-wall is a blessing.

TPT: The glib answer is that this last cruise was a super cheapo, last minute deal that fitted my plans perfectly. I jumped on at two weeks notice. The real answer is a bit more complex.

I can see you’ve read ‘Death by Azamara’. My utter confusion and horror at that trip was as much shock and awe at ‘cruising’ as a culture. Azamara was merely the conduit to what was, at that time, a new experience. The piece could just as well been called ‘Death by Seabourn’.

When one has a Hell-trip, I’ve learnt that at least 50% of the problem is in me. Once the heat fades and a few years go by the scales drop from my eyes. Sometimes I am 100% of the problem. Azamara was fine – it was cruising that I didn’t like. My reaction was as much to do with me as cruising. More so, probably.

I saw it as a challenge. Hence my protestations at the beginning – I WILL enjoy myself, I will succumb. I just failed to leave my critical faculties at the door, that's all. The real trip was into the lives of these extraordinary passengers.

I wasn’t bored for a moment.
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Apr 13th, 2011, 07:11 AM
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So dogster whats the next adventure? Keep those TR's coming. After all you are Fodors best tale spinner. . BTW have you been to Istanbul? Silly question I suppose as you seem to have been almost everywhere. . Any tips for say a nice, local, out of the way place to see? We will have a few days precruise there in Oct. Larry
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Apr 13th, 2011, 05:35 PM
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I see you turn your finely tuned observation skills on yourself as well.

I should have asked simply "why did you do another long cruise" and omitted the "with them" part (or more precisely, why another long cruise with a certain market segment of the cruise industry). And I think your answer is really that you do enjoy these cruises, for some definition of "enjoy"... and likely not the enjoyment the Azamara folks had in mind! Definitely a fascinating cast of characters. Thanks for writing!
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Apr 13th, 2011, 06:41 PM
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Heya jacket. I was in Istanbul for a second before this cruise. I've been there a coupla times. You just have to get off the tourist beat, that's all. I highly recommend the 'W' hotel and area. Verrrry cool. Just grab the standard day tour for sightseein. You'll see all the stuff easy. It's all good. There's some wonderul things to check out but many,many tourists. go to the hammam. Make sure your airport to hotel transer is prearranged. Istanbul is easy.

The Ciragan Palace is verrry nice, too - but in another zone. You'll get all that grovel on the boat, anyway - try the 'W'. It's another Istanbul. Turkey now, not Turkey then.

SPT: what I most enjoy is all that food - and the supreme pleasure of not having to worry about a thing. Which, of course, leaves me a lot of time to observe the clients... I'm fascinated with the shipboard dynamic of the caged multitudes. A relocation cruise, as you know, has a different dynamic than a port-intensive one. The smaller the ship, the more dynamic.

I've done a lot of river cruises in Asia - that's when you really see the knives come out.

A trawl in here will reveal more:
http://thedogster.wordpress.com/cruising/

Ocean Odyssey might make you laugh.
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Apr 15th, 2011, 04:19 PM
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More brilliant writing... I'm going to have to send you a bill for all the time I should have spent working...
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Apr 16th, 2011, 03:51 PM
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SPT: . I tried to reply to this from work the other day but was really toooo busy. The thought did cross my mind however.
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