Azamara is a luxury boutique cruise line that takes destination-intensive itineraries to the next level.
Azamara takes a three-pronged approach to the cruise experience, using ‘immersive itineraries’, ‘boutique hotels at sea’ and a ‘cruise global, connect local’ concept to set itself apart from other luxury cruise lines.
While all the smaller, luxury cruise brands talk about ‘destination immersion’, Azamara has attempted to take it a step further with ‘cruise global, connect local’.
The concept means that Azamara passengers can go biking along the dykes of Amsterdam with locals, taste whiskey in ancient distilleries in Scotland, or make mozzarella by hand in Italy.
It provides these shore excursions alongside the more traditional landmark tours and walking tours of major capitals in Europe, South America, Asia, North America and Australia where it predominantly operates.
Azamara’s destination immersion
Azamara cruise ships also stay longer in port than any other cruise line to give passengers the best opportunity to experience the shore excursions of their choice.
While docked at different ports, Azamara offers shore excursions that vary by activity level, including museum visits or walking tours.
The cruise line also offers restaurant recommendations if you’d like to explore the local dining scene.
Because of this, the cruise line operates voyages that are, on average, longer than most other cruise lines, even its luxury competitors. And when it does dock in port, its smaller ships are usually able to get preferential locations closer to the city centre.
The experience aboard an Azamara cruise
The three cruise ships in the Azamara fleet are all sister ships. Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest have been the backbone of the cruise line’s operations for the last ten years, but in 2018 Azamara Pursuit was added to the fleet, and then in 2020, Azamara Onward was purchased from Princess Cruises.
Each ship is an R-class cruise liner, launched at the turn of the millennium for Renaissance Cruises before it ceased operations.
The fleet offers an expansive blend of amenities for the size of the ships.
There are multiple dining venues, a casino, plentiful balcony cabins, a spa and a generously-sized fitness facility.
At just 181m in length and with a gross tonnage under 31,000, each is also small enough to remain intimate and friendly, with a camaraderie that grows between the 690 passengers during the long voyages in a way that can never be recreated during a week-long Caribbean jaunt aboard one of the new mega cruise ships.
The ships are much older than most mainstream cruise lines, but Azamara, backed by the capital investments of Royal Caribbean, has put huge effort and expenditure into keeping the ships top-notch in terms of both safety and aesthetics. In 2020, Azamara was sold by Royal Caribbean to Sycamore Partners for $201 million.
The feeling on-board is one of classic ocean liner luxury, without the ‘worn round the edges’ impression that one might usually get aboard an older cruise ship.
Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey were totally refitted and refurbished in 2016, with new public rooms and cabins added and almost all their soft furnishings changed or refreshed.
A similar overhaul was done on Azamara Pursuit and Onward ahead of their debut in Azamara colours.
What’s included in an Azamara cruise?
Another feature that sets Azamara apart from mainstream cruise lines (and its reflected in the price!) is the inclusive nature of its cruise experience.
All standard spirits, international beers and wines, gratuities, bottled water, soft drinks, and specialty coffees and teas are included in the fare, so a huge bar bill won’t await at the end of the cruise.
The laundry service is also complimentary and in many of the ports visited by the cruise line, a free shuttle service is provided from the cruise terminal to major points of interest.
There is also a concierge service for personal guidance and reservations, as you would find in a top notch hotel on land (remember, this cruise line sees its ships as floating boutique hotels). Suite passengers even get English butler service, priority check-in and departure, and free dining in specialty restaurants.
If you’re staying in a suite, you can also expect complimentary garment pressing of up to two items, afternoon canapes, a welcome bottle of sparkling wine and a wet bar setup in the suite.
The line also holds a complimentary AzAmazing Evening event for all passengers on all voyages except transatlantic and transpacific sailings.
Azamara sails to remote corners of the world, stopping in as many ports of call as possible, so there are plenty of opportunities for the ships’ stores to be restocked.
As a result, Azamara consistently wins plaudits for having some of the best fine dining available at sea.
There are four restaurants aboard each ship, all open-seating, but only ‘Discovery’, the cruise line’s main dining room, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (with lunch generally only served during sea days).
However, there is also Prime C, Azamara’s famous steakhouse, and the Italian specialty restaurant Aqualina.
To eat at either of these venues you need to pay US $30 per person (unless you’re staying in a suite category), and both only serve dinner.
On longer voyages, when lunch in the main dining room might become too familiar, you can also try out The Patio for burgers and other grilled fare, the Living Room for afternoon tapas and the Mosaic cafe coffee bar with its included-in-the-fare snacks and beverages.
Mosaic is actually a great option for those between hours when you fancy something to snack on between the main meal times.
The buffet restaurant aboard all three ships, Windows Café, is compact, but well-designed, so that it seldom feels cramped.
It offers an uber-casual dining experience, but also serves a few surprises, such as sushi, on occasion.
Entertainment aboard Azamara
Reflecting the socioeconomic demographic of its passengers (the vast majority are middle-aged and over), daytime activities aboard Azamara ships revolve around lectures about upcoming ports (focusing on the history and culture of the region being visited), computer skills courses, games of Bridge in one of the lounges, wine-tasting and cooking classes and of course a casino, conveniently located amidships.
It’s a little livelier in the evenings, with music recitals and set production shows in the Cabaret Lounge, dancing to a live band in the Living Room and the main event of every Azamara cruise, the pool party.
Types of passengers aboard Azamara
The music and food aboard Azamara ships is tailored to the tastes of the North American market, as this is where 45% of the cruise line’s passengers are sourced from, while the UK and Australia make up 20% and 10% respectively (on average).
The other 25% comes from the other major international cruise markets, such as Germany, Italy and France.
Azamara Middle East itineraries
Azamara’s ship Azamara Quest will cruise from Dubai twice in 2022. Her first Dubai cruise will be an 11-night roundtrip itinerary exploring the Arabian Gulf, departing Dubai on November 15th, 2022. The second Dubai cruise departure is a two-week voyage bound for Mumbai, India, departing November 26th, 2022.
Cruise ships in the Azamara fleet:
Categories: Cruise Line Focus