The launch of Azamara Club Cruises back in 2007 came almost as a complete surprise. Originally intended to be part of the Celebrity Cruises fleet, the two ships that would come to form the backbone of the Azamara fleet were suddenly repainted and rebranded. Two former R-Class ships built for Renaissance Cruises, the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest would change the face of small-ship, upper-premium cruising forever.
Now, after nearly a decade in service, Azamara Club Cruises is holding its own amid growing competition in the very cruise category the line helped to create. Oceania Cruises continues to expand its fleet, and Viking Cruises’ recently launched Viking Star is aimed squarely at the kind of guest that Azamara targets.
Still, Azamara shows no signs of slowing down. The line recently announced that both Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest will undergo extensive drydocks next year as part of what the line is calling the “Reimagine Azamara” program.
To start with, all staterooms will be completely redone with a brand-new color scheme that uses porcelain and stone materials throughout, complete with new earth tones that have been dusted and faded to add a sense of relaxation to each stateroom and suite.
Top-of-the-line suites will also get an extensive makeover. Furniture like coffee tables, end tables and dining tables will be replaced with more modern looking pieces. Bathrooms – always a sore point with cruisers due to their tight original designs as specified by Renaissance – will be larger and will feature new fixtures to make better use of available space.
The real story, though, has its roots in the ship’s onboard spas. During the drydock, the existing Azamara Spa on both ships will be extensively remodeled. Renamed The Sanctum, the spa will get new carpeting, wall treatments, windows, and other soft furnishings.
It will be the largest refit these two ships have ever undergone to this particular area, which will be completely reimagined. With a new general arrangement and reworked floor plan, The Sanctum will offer all the usual treatments you’d expect from a major shipboard spa, but with the addition of an open area and outdoor deck space that will be available for guests who would wish to have select spa treatments out in the warmth of the Caribbean sunshine.
Both ships will also be outfitted with brand-new Club Spa Suites, dedicated staterooms that will be located near The Sanctum spa and which will offer guests additional amenities and features over and above those found across other levels of stateroom accommodations.
Club Spa Suites will feature his and hers sinks in the bathroom, along with a separate standalone rain shower and rich wood grain panelling. From the shower, guests will be able to watch the world go by via the way of an inset window. On the Veranda, a private soaking tub will overlook the ocean and provide an intoxicating option for those who want to take a dip.
Amenities afforded to Club Spa Suite guests are plentiful. In-room spa music will be featured in these suites, along with plush Frette robes and slippers, daily healthy snacks delivered each afternoon, a US$200 spa credit per suite, and a night in Private Places. The latter is particularly noteworthy, as the private, on-deck area that is secluded away from everything else normally runs for a few hundred euros per person.
In fact, Nights in Private Places is just one more example of how Azamara Club Cruises has evolved over the last decade. This expensive evening is also one of cruising’s most memorable, starting off with champagne and canapes served on your own private deck by a personal butler.
Dinner is then served, with seafood and meats cooking on a sizzlingly hot stone grill. After dinner and dessert, take a plunge in the private Thalassotherapy pool before you don soft Frette robes and turn in for the night – to your very own on-deck bed, complete with turndown service. It’s a private night, and a night under the stars all rolled into one.
The Azamara Journey will enter dry dock in January 2016 in the Bahamas, and the Azamara Quest in April 2016 in Singapore. It’s just more proof that, as Azamara Club Cruises nears ten, the upper-premium line is just getting started.