Azamara Club Cruises Review
Azamara Club Cruises is one of the newest cruise lines in the business, created in 2007 as a sister-line to Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean. The “Club” added to its name in 2007 is meant to suggest “country club,” and that really is the kind of feeling you get on board.
Azamara offers a more high-end product than the mainstream megaship lines, but it stops short of being a true luxury line — and for cruisers, that’s a good thing, since with Azamara you get a lot of near-luxury amenities without paying the full luxury price.
Azamara’s two ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, are beautifully designed midsize vessels carrying only 694 passengers and about 390 crew — a passenger/staff ratio that’s higher than you’ll find at any of the mainstream and premium cruise lines, and not far off what you find on the luxury ships.
Service is definitely one of Azamara’s high points. Suites all come with real butler service, and attendants in regular staterooms will even unpack your luggage for you, by request. At the start of the European season in 2013, Azamara began to include complimentary standard spirits, wines and international beers throughout the ship’s bar during regular opening hours. And like the luxury lines, Azamara includes staff gratuities in its cruise prices, so you don’t ever have to think about tipping.
Other areas where Azamara overlaps with the luxury segment include:
- Itineraries, which tend to be longer and visit more out-of-the-way ports;
- Late evening departures and overnight stays at almost half of Azamara’s port calls, which let you experience the ports’ culture and nightlife; and
- Complimentary specialty coffees, soda, and bottled water available anytime.
One of the line’s best — and most distinguishing — features only came about this past year when the company created new, complimentary adventures ashore, dubbed AzAmazing Evenings, offered on every voyage. These special events take advantage of the line’s numerous late-night and overnight port stays.
AzAmazing Evenings kicked off in the spring of 2013 with a special event in Seville, Spain. During the complimentary excursion, guests visited the Andalusian capital of Semana Santa before continuing on to the Rock of Gibraltar to watch the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band play at the renowned St. Michael’s Cave. Guests could choose between two concert times (5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.). Azamara even provided local canapés and cocktails, free of charge.
There are also lots of little grace notes that make the experience special, like the fresh flower displays around the public areas, the fresh juice bar in the casual restaurant, and the cold towels offered to you at the gangway after a hot day in port.
Onboard, the line offers a solid mix of activities, from traditional games like shuffleboard and bridge tournaments to more unusual programs like golf clinics, poetry writing get-togethers, art seminars, computer classes, and wine-tasting sessions.
At night, you can take in a floor show or comedy performance at the theater, hit the casino, watch a late-night movie, go dancing, or catch an after-hours piano set at the cafe.
Dining service is always casual and relaxed: You can either show up when you like for dinner at the main restaurant or casual restaurant, or make a reservation for the specialty steakhouse or Mediterranean restaurant, both of which offer great ocean views from almost every table.
While Azamara does offer some weeklong cruises, most of its trips are 11 nights or longer, sailing mostly in Europe, Asia, South America, and the Caribbean. These relatively long itineraries, the generally quiet atmosphere onboard, and the higher-than-mainstream prices tend to attract an adult crowd, from their mid-40s on up.
These ships are not for families with children, since Azamara doesn’t offer any kind of kids’ activities at all. And they’re not for smokers either, since Azamara has one of the strictest no-smoking policies at sea — which, of course, is a plus for non-smokers.
The company that was created almost overnight seems to have finally hit its stride in 2013. The little touches like the recent change of livery, the introduction of complimentary beverages and, of course, the AzAmazing Evenings program as well as a focus on destination immersion are key components that differentiate Azamara from its competitors.
Azamara ‘Club’ Cruises Under New CEO Larry Pimentel
Published in October 2010.
Quoted recently in Seatrade Insider, a trade publication, Azamara Club Cruises’ President and CEO Larry Pimentel said of his brand: “My biggest problem is awareness. It’s not performance.”
See our Avid Cruiser video: Azamara Club Cruises’ Biggest Challenge: An Interview With Larry Pimentel
Awareness of the brand is not a new problem either. We wrote about it in 2008 in a story Why You Should Cruise Azamara Now. Since Pimentel took the helm in July 2009, however, Azamara has made strides in differentiating itself from its competitors and has become more inclusive as well as more destination immersive — all of which help establish brand identity.
The Avid Cruiser’s take? Azamara Club Cruises offers a quality product at a good value. The changes brought forth by Pimentel have added exceptional value to the Azamara cruise experience, although prices have increased from the bargain buys of Azamara’s early days. Azamara’s main competitor, and certainly a formidable one, Oceania Cruises, when it debuts in 2015, Viking Ocean Cruises.
In 2010, you could expect to pay around $200 or more per night, per person to cruise on Azamara Journey or Azamara Quest. Checking prices for next year, rates are more than $350 per night, per person. Seven-night cruises, for example, begin at US$2,449 for interior staterooms. Single travelers pay a 125 percent of double occupancy fares on select voyages.
On the new and improved Azamara Club Cruises, for example, wine with lunch and dinner as well as gratuities are now included in the cost of the cruise. In addition, the line also offers free specialty coffees, sodas and bottled water; self-service laundry machines; and shuttles in port towns. Passengers have made it clear that they don’t want to be nickel-and-dimed on high-end ships.
Azamara has also broadened its itineraries and now offers longer stays in ports (many departures are at 8 p.m. or later). Azamara also offers more overnight stays than it did in the past.
At 60 percent of the ports they visit, Azamara’s two vessels now stay late into the evening, and overnight in 38 destinations, more than triple of what was offered in the past. Also, in some destinations two-night stays are becoming more common, giving passengers three days of touring.
Dining in the main restaurant is open-seating. Both ships also feature the specialty restaurants Prime C and Aqualina. Specialty dining is complimentary for suite guests every night, with a $15 charge for stateroom guests.
Also featured on both ships is the AquaSpa, which offers a host of spa treatments and massages, as well as gyms equipped with the latest in exercise equipment. Exercise classes include yoga, Pilates and a number of cardiovascular based work-outs.
Chinese acupuncture is offered, as well as the services of massage therapists.
Azamara Club Cruises ReviewsTo read a review of a particular ship, click the link under "Read the Review." If applicable, our Live Voyage Reports offer a day-by-day overview of an actual cruise onboard. In some cases, there may be more than one report, to be sure to see if your favorite destination is represented.
|Ship Review||Live Voyage Report|
|Azamara Journey Review||Azamara Journey 2015 Refit|
|Azamara Quest Review|
Avid Cruiser Posts, Photographs and Videos Featuring Azamara Cruises.
- Azamara Focuses on Countries, Cultural Immersion
- Azamara Journey vs. Oceania Regatta
- Upper Premium Cruises Defined
- Updated: Our Azamara Quest Review
- Azamara Journey Update
- Azamara Journey Refit: In Keeping With Azamara’s ‘Cool,’ Adventurous Image
- Coming To Azamara: A Major Makeover
- Cruising’s Quest For More Varied Cuisine
- A Journey & A Quest: How Larry Pimentel Is Revitalizing Azamara Club Cruises
- Six Years Later, Azamara Club Cruises, Redefined & Refined
- Limited-Time Offer: Azamara Club Cruises Offers Free Shore Excursions
- Three Key Players Offering Upper Premium Cruises
- Azamara Club Cruises Announces 2015 Voyages
- Oceania Cruises: Celebrating A Decade Of ‘Affordable Luxury’
- Avid Cruiser Voyages: Asia
- The Avid Cruiser’s Take: Carnival Breeze Ship Review
- Another Misfortune At Sea, But Well Handled, Passengers Say
- Five Reasons Why I Prefer Cruising On Small Ships
- Two Caribbeans: Which Suits You Best? Big Ship Or Small Ship?
- Islands In The Stream: What Is Your Preference? Big Caribbean Island Or Small Island?
- The Caribbean’s Most Up and Coming Cruise Ports
- Big Ship? Small Ship? Which Is Better For Your Caribbean Cruise?
- Azamara Journey Under The French Flag In Sensational & Small Sanary-Sur-Mer
- Six ‘More’ Tips To Extract More Joy From Your Cruise
- A ‘Chief Blogging Officer’ Weighs On What He Feels Differentiates Azamara From Oceania & Other Cruise Lines
- Azamara Or Oceania? Operating Nearly Identical Ships, But With Differences That Sway One Writer
- On Azamara Quest: Table for 18?
- What’s Cooking On Azamara Quest?
- On Deck: Azamara Quest 007 Party
- A Year Of Living Lavishly
- Azamara Club Cruises: Recap of Video Interviews With Larry Pimentel
- Azamara Club Cruises, Offering ‘Extraordinary’ Value Now & Going Forward
- ‘Seabournizing’ Azamara Club Cruises
- The Evolution of Azamara Club Cruises, Crew Enthused, Wine Uncorked
- How Will Larry Pimentel Change Azamara?
- Azamara Club Cruises, Speciality Coffees, Bottled Water, Soft Drinks, Wine With Lunch & Dinner, Gratuities – All Included
- Azamara Club Cruises Longer Stays In Port: An Interview With Larry Pimentel
- How Is Azamara Club Cruises Is Evolving: An Interview With Larry Pimentel
- Azamara Club Cruises’ Biggest Challenge: An Interview With Larry Pimentel
- Interview With Larry Pimentel: How Azamara Became Azamara ‘Club’ Cruises
- Assessing Azamara
- At Last, On Azamara, A More Inclusive Cruise
- Cruising Europe 2010
- Azamara Cruises, Welcome To The Club
- Asian adventures planned for 2010-11 on Azamara Quest
- Commentary: Crossing Lines: Big Ship, Small Ship
- Read A Special Report Featuring Azamara Cruises
- Azamara Offers On-Board Credits For Europe 2009
- Read The Summer Issue of Avid Cruiser Magazine
- Why You Should Cruise Azamara Now
- Menorca, Spain
- A 30-Second Break From Real Life
- Tunis, Tunisia
- From The Bridge
- Dining At Prime C
- Sweet Life: Azamara Quest’s Sky Suite 8069
- Mosaic Cafe
- Azamara Quest, Docked In Barcelona
- ‘Quest’ For Perfection
- Dining Destinations At Sea