Fodor’s Expert Review
Best For People Who Want
Smaller ship convenience with the amenities of a mid-size luxury brand. Butler service in every stateroom, port-intensive itineraries and alternative dining options.Read More
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Larger ships with plenty of onboard activities; extensive children’s facilities, big casinos, elaborate stage shows, short sun-soaked itineraries.
The main dining room, Discoveries, features open seating, meaning you can dine whenever and with whomever you please, and the promise of stellar nightly selections not to be missed. Examples of entrees include gulf shrimp with cognac and garlic or a filet mignon with black truffle sauce.
There are two alternative restaurants on board; Aqualina, with the focus on seafood, and Prime C with the focus on steaks and chops. All of the dining rooms feature complimentary wine (red or white) plus an extensive wine list available. Cuts of meat from these alternative restaurants are U.S. Angus aged 24 days before service.
The obvious service distinction with Azamara is the inclusion of butler service with every cabin who is generally available to do the special favors a room steward would not do. Want to have a cocktail party for friends in your cabin? The butler will arrange for the champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Want to book a shore excursion or get a reservation in the special restaurants? Just tell the butler what you want, no forms to fill in or lines to wait in. Want a full dinner from the dining room menu served course by course in your stateroom? The butler will do it.
In keeping with the Celebrity Spa style, the ships have an Aqua Spa with Thalassotherapy pools, hair salon services, aerobics, and gym and acupuncture services. The Spa is all the way forward on deck 10 for panoramic views of the sea while working out. Suite guests are also given complimentary access to this thermal suite throughout every cruise.
There are no children’s facilities onboard.
The dress code is always resort casual with no scheduled formal nights. Formal attire is welcomed if the guest desires to wear it. No bare feet, tank tops, caps, bathing suits, or jeans are allowed in the dining room or specialty restaurants. Additionally, no tuxedo rentals will be available onboard.
Examples of resort casual attire include sportswear, shorts, casual dresses, skirts, and pants in light fabrics such as linen, cotton, silk and wool gabardine for the women. For the men the line recommends sportswear, golf shirts, shorts, pants, and a sportcoat if desired, (but not required) in light fabrics such as linen, cotton, silk and wool gabardine.
These ships put their focus on providing the guest with ultimate comfort while taking the ship on unusual destinations. Stateroom amenities including butler service, plush bedding and furniture and spacious bathrooms are accompanied by fine dining and onboard enrichment in the form of lectures and demonstrations. But these are not ships where you will idle away your time on sea days wandering between the pool and the steam room. More likely you will use your stateroom to recover from exhausting shore excursions followed by sumptuous meals and then soon to bed.
Suite passengers are given a slate of comfort conveniences such as complimentary soda and bottled water in the room’s mini-bar, plus complimentary wine by room service at any time. Generous portions of Elemis bath products are included.
The onboard cuisine has been improved dramatically since management by Larry Pimentel and his capable second in command Edie Bornstein came aboard in early 2010. Suite guests are allowed to dine in either of two alternative dining restaurants at any time with no additional charge. For the rest of the guests the cover charge is $15 per person.
Wine is always complimentary onboard for lunch and dinner, with a red and a white wine both coming from a collection of unusual “boutique” wines from unusual places such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, etc. Each night, the two wine selections come from similar regions. If the wine is not to the liking of the customer, which is rare (these are not “2-buck Chuck” brands), then other complimentary wines are offered. There is also an extensive list of special wines available for additional fees.
Gratuities are included in the cruise fare. This covers all service personnel, including the waiters and head waiters who look after guests in the dining rooms; housekeeping staff; and butlers and stateroom attendants.
Entertainment options are simple yet diverse musical offerings that range from upbeat dance bands to intimate piano bar entertainers. The showcase theatre features a talented cast of musicians as well as a host of variety entertainers. There is a small casino with some slots and a few table games like Blackjack, roulette and “Let it Ride.” No Craps tables.
Inside cabins are the smallest at 158 sq. feet. Features include two lower beds convertible to queen size; flat-screen television; refrigerator with mini-bar; thermostat-controlled air conditioning, direct-dial telephone and voicemail; desk; in-room safe; hand-held hair dryer.
Outside staterooms are 170 sq. feet, have either portholes or big picture windows. Features include two lower beds convertible to queen size; flat-screen television; some with sofa bed; refrigerator with mini-bar; thermostat-controlled air conditioning; direct-dial telephone and voicemail; desk; in-room safe; hand-held hair dryer. All category 07 staterooms have a panorama window with an obstructed view. All category 08 staterooms have a porthole instead of a window.
Veranda cabins are 175 sq. feet, plus a 45 sq. ft. balcony. Features include a queen size; floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors; sitting area with sofa bed; private veranda; flat-screen television; refrigerator with mini-bar; direct-dial telephone and voicemail; desk; in-room safe; two hair dryers, one in the bathroom and another at the desk. A complete assortment of complementary bath products from Elemis comes in every bathroom.
Sunset Veranda staterooms are 175 sq.ft with verandas ranging from 46 to 64 sq. ft. Features include two lower beds convertible to queen size; floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors; sitting area with sofa bed; private veranda; flat-screen television; refrigerator with mini-bar; thermostat-controlled air conditioning; direct-dial telephone and voicemail; desk; in-room safe; hand-held hair dryer. Veranda measurements are approximate.
Sky suites with private balconies are a roomy 266 sq. feet, plus a 60 sq. ft. balcony with two chairs and a table. Features include two lower beds convertible to queen size; floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors; sitting area with sofa bed; bath tub; private veranda; flat-screen television; DVD/CD player; refrigerator with mini-bar; thermostat-controlled air conditioning; direct-dial telephone and voicemail; desk; in-room safe; hand-held hair dryer.
Royal Suites range from 440 to 501 sq. ft. with verandas ranging from 105 to 156 sq. ft. Features include separate living room; floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors; master bedroom with two lower beds convertible to queen size; convertible sofa bed; master bath with whirlpool tub and separate shower; guest bathroom; private veranda; flat-screen television; DVD/CD player; refrigerator with mini-bar; thermostat-controlled air conditioning; direct-dial telephone and voicemail; desk; in-room safe; hand-held hair dryer.
Forward suites have direct sight lines of the rope deck on the front of the vessel. And if you’re in a forward cabin on Deck 6, you’d better hope you like the orchestra that performs (and rehearses!) in the Cabaret Lounge, as you’re right above it, and will be hearing a lot of them!
The Penthouse Suite is 560 sq. ft. with a 233 sq. ft balcony. It features a separate living room; floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors; master bedroom with two lower beds convertible to queen size; convertible sofa-bed; walk-in closet; dressing room with vanity; master bath with whirlpool tub and separate shower; guest bathroom; private veranda; flat-screen television; DVD/CD player; refrigerator with mini-bar; thermostat-controlled air conditioning; direct-dial telephone and voicemail; desk; in-room safe; hand-held hair dryer.
All suite guests receive complimentary chilled soda, bottled water and two bottles of hard liquor at no extra cost. A chilled bottle of champagne is set in the room before embarkation. Complimentary wine is available by room service at any time.
Launched in 2000 for Renaissance Cruises, which ceased operations in 2001, the former R7 was acquired by Azamara Club Cruises and launched as Azamara Quest in 2007—a sister ship to Azamara Journey. Azamara Club Cruises spent tens of millions refreshing the ship, and it shows—where it once appeared stuffy, it became welcoming. Another extensive renovation scheduled for 2013 will update her interiors with new carpets, upholstery, and a new color palette in public spaces. Additionally, she will have a new dark-blue hull. Azamara Quest sets sail primarily in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas as well as Asia and far-flung exotic destinations in the South Pacific. Occasional repositioning voyages include the Panama Canal and Caribbean Islands.
At 30,277 tons, Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey are medium-size ships and well suited to the somewhat more exotic itineraries for which they are deployed, whether in the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, or South America. The ships initially entered service for Renaissance Cruises and served in Spain under the Pullmantur flag until 2007. With their entry into the Azamara Club Cruises fleet, a new option is available to passengers who prefer the boutique-hotel atmosphere of a smaller ship without the luxury-class price tag.
Each ship has a variety of signature features, including the Martini Bar in Casino Luxe, a casual sidewalk café–style coffee bar, and the distinctive Astral Spa with an acupuncture suite and expansive relaxation deck with therapy pool. Each ship has two specialty restaurants. The exclusive experience includes butler service in suites and concierge-style amenities in all categories of accommodations.
In a surprise move parent company Royal Caribbean International announced the formation of an all-new, deluxe cruise line in 2007. Two vessels originally slated for service in the Celebrity Cruises fleet, which were built for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises and acquired with the purchase of the Spanish cruise line Pullmantur, were the basis for the new line, Azamara Club Cruises. Designed to offer exotic destination-driven itineraries, Azamara Club Cruises presents a more intimate onboard experience while allowing access to the less traveled ports of call experienced travelers want to visit.
When a cruise line sets a course to break the mold in an industry where the product falls into traditional categories—mainstream, premium, luxury—it’s an exciting opportunity for experienced travelers who may want more than what a traditional cruise can deliver. More interested in traveling than cruising, they may still prefer the comfort and convenience that only a cruise ship can deliver in some exotic locales. Azamara Club Cruises gives this underserved group of travelers what they want—a cruise experience that’s a bit different. Not quite luxury but more than premium, Azamara offers a deluxe cruise with concierge-style amenities for which you’d have to upgrade to a suite on other cruise lines.
In addition, since its launch Azamara Club Cruises has added a number of more inclusive amenities to passengers’ fares, with no charge for a specific brand of bottled water, specialty coffees and teas; shuttle bus service to/from port communities, where available; standard spirits, wines, and international beers throughout the ships during bar hours; and complimentary self-service laundry.
Extensive overhauls of two ships that formerly sailed for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises have resulted in interiors that are brighter with the addition of light, neutral carpeting throughout, and splashes of bold color in the upholstery and drapes. Areas that once appeared stuffy are now welcoming, with contemporary artwork further enhancing the decor. Each vessel weighs in at 30,277 tons and carries only 694 passengers. While the size affords a high level of intimacy and makes the ships easy to navigate, there is no skimping on features normally abundant on larger ships, such as private balconies and alternative dining. Cruisers may feel that they’ve checked into an upscale boutique hotel that just happens to float.
- 9 passenger decks
- 2 specialty restaurants, dining room, buffet, pizzeria
- Wi-Fi, safe, refrigerator, DVD (some)
- 1 pool
- Fitness classes, gym, hot tubs, spa, steam room
- 8 bars, casino, dance club, library, show room
- Dry-cleaning, laundry facilities, laundry service
- Internet terminal
- No-smoking cabins
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
Designed for lengthy cruises, all staterooms have ample closet and storage space, and even standard cabins have at least a small seating area, although bathrooms in lower categories are somewhat tight. Wood cabinetry adds warmth to the decor. In keeping with the trend for more balconies, 73% of all outside cabins and suites have them.
Amenities include plush beds and Egyptian-cotton bedding. Bath toiletries, a hair dryer, TV, refrigerator, personal safe, and robes for use during the cruise are all included, but you must move up to a suite to have a bathtub, as lower-category cabins have showers only.
Club World Owner’s and Club Ocean suites are particularly luxurious, with living–dining rooms, entertainment centers, two TVs, separate bedrooms, whirlpool bathtubs, guest powder rooms, and very large balconies overlooking either the bow or stern. Thirty-two Club Continent suites on each ship have a queen-size bed, television, bathtub, personal safe, and hair dryer. All suites have a welcoming bottle of sparkling wine, minibars with two bottles of spirits, and butler service.
Six staterooms are designated as wheelchair accessible.
Food & Drink
The formal Discoveries restaurant has a single open seating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Evening meals feature classic favorites with a twist, such as filet mignon with black truffle sauce. Supplementing the main restaurant is the casual Windows Café, where you can dine indoors or alfresco with a view over the ship’s stern. Two upscale alternative restaurants—Aqualina and Prime C—require reservations and carry a cover charge for most guests. A poolside grill offers hamburgers, salads, pasta, and other favorites for lunch and dinner, a pizzeria dishes up a variety of pies by the slice, and patisseries serve specialty coffee drinks and pastries; 24-hour room service augments dining choices.
Bars tend to be on the quiet side, suitable for socializing and conversation; however, the Looking Glass observation lounge can be lively when the entertainment staff takes over and the band plays dance music. Entertainment is also sedate, with cabaret-style shows by night and enrichment lectures by day.
Spa & Fitness
Operated by Steiner Leisure, each ship’s spa offers a full menu of massages, facials, and other treatments; and an aesthetics suite featuring acupuncture, laser hair removal, teeth whitening, and microdermabrasion. The relaxation deck with its huge therapy pool is available to guests who book a spa treatment or purchase a day pass.