Originally published July 2009, this article was updated October 28, 2010.
I was happy to hear that Larry Pimentel was named President and CEO of Azamara Cruises (now Azamara Club Cruises). Larry, who has headed both Cunard Line and The Yachts of Seabourn, was also instrumental in the success of SeaDream Yacht Club, which ranks among my best cruise experiences ever on the two times I have sailed on SeaDream (search SeaDream Yacht Club for an archive of my coverage).
What will Larry bring to Azamara? That remains to be seen, of course, but one can only imagine that the luxury cruise veteran will notch up “deluxe” category Azamara to contend with Oceania Cruises, which commands higher per diems and, in my opinion (at the time I wrote this), a superior on-board product.
During its inception Azamara announced its aspiration to be a “deluxe” category cruise line, positioned between premium cruise lines (like sister brand Celebrity Cruises) and luxury brands (such as Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises).
Deluxe, however, probably has more meaning to cruise line marketing departments than to consumers. Azamara is essentially in the premium category, along with Celebrity. [Note, the positioning has changed since Pimentel took the helm. See related videos: Interview With Larry Pimentel: How Azamara Became Azamara ‘Club’ Cruises.]
Though I enjoyed my sailing on Azamara (in 2008), I was frustrated by some of its policies. It’s a small issue perhaps, but as a Sky Suite guest, I was entitled to complimentary speciality coffees – but only if I ordered them in my suite. Ordered in the Mosaic Cafe, that cup of cappuccino – free on Oceania – cost me nearly $5 ($4 plus 18 percent included gratuity). I could, however, return to my suite, order the complimentary cappuccino, and return to the Mosaic Cafe with coffee in hand. And oddly, a can of Coke was $4 from my suite fridge, and only $2 at the beverage outlets outside the suite.
If these nickel-and-dime issues have not been sorted out already, I’m sure Larry will bring a sense of clarity and continuity to Azamara. [In fact, the issues have been sorted out as of April 2010, when Pimentel instituted a more-inclusive policy. See the video interview: How Azamara Is Evolving.]
Azamara got off to a bumpy start when the cruise line was launched in spring 2007. The line was hammered, particularly in the online cruise chat rooms and forums, and it has yet to gain the awareness of Oceania. [See related video: Azamara’s Biggest Challenge, Brand Awareness.]
Azamara surely will benefit with Larry at the helm. I wish him fair winds as he sets off on this new journey.