Fledgling Azamara Cruises coming of age
Ship Review by Michael Coleman, November 2008
One of cruise travels newest names is hitting its stride.
Azamara Cruises, a brand introduced by parent company Royal Caribbean just 17 months ago, features two intimate 694-passenger ships: Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.
The lines debut, however, was as auspicious for new passengers as it was bold.
The ships formerly of the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises fleet – had been slated to join Royal Caribbeans Celebrity Cruises brand but a last-minute about-face resulted in the creation of not only a new line but the birth of a new cruise travel category.
“We created Azamara Cruises to target an area of the market that we believe is underserved,” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean. “This new line falls into the deluxe category a category between premium and luxury.
There are but a few premium lines (Celebrity, Holland America) and luxury brands (Cunard, Regent, Seabourn, Silversea) plying todays oceans but other than Oceania Cruises which debuted in 2003 to serve an upper premium market, the Azamara niche stands alone and has quickly become a big hit with cruise savvy passengers.
Azamara Cruises is expressly designed for experienced travelers who appreciate what a cruise vacation has to offer, but are looking for something a little different, said Azamara Cruises president and CEO Dan Hanrahan. Be it pampering and personalized service, extraordinary cuisine or off-the-beaten-path destinations with truly immersive excursions.”
Before each ship entered service, however, Azamara invested some $40 million in onboard improvements. Look for two complimentary specialty restaurants – the Mediterranean-influenced “Aqualina” and a steak and seafood restaurant dubbed “Prime C” – 32 new suites on each ship and entirely new bedding, decking, flooring, carpeting, art collection and design schemes aboard each mid-sized vessel.
The line features butler service in every stateroom and suite plus concierge-style amenities including fresh-cut flowers, fruit, Elemis toiletries, complimentary use of Frette cotton robes, two complimentary pairs of slippers, plasma TVs and plush European bedding.
Virtually all onboard staterooms offer ocean views, 68 per cent of which feature a private veranda. Look also for wireless Internet service in all staterooms and public areas. Stylish lounges, shopping, a casino, AstralSpa by Elemis and an Internet cafe round out the many onboard diversions.
There are no formal nights. Country club casual, however, is the preferred apparel which pleases the onboard set especially after a lengthy day or overnight stay in one of the worlds top cities or lesser known, off-the-beaten-path locales.
It is here, in the less-traveled ports of call and other remote destinations where larger ships cant reach, that Azamara is making its mark. Exotic, destination-driven itineraries, complete with expert lecturers, clearly appeal to the lines discerning clientele.
So much so, in fact, Azamara is already drawing on a healthy roster of repeat guests – plus newcomers – eager to experience some of the lines 175 scheduled port calls in over 60 countries in the coming year.
A promise to explore the worlds great cities and lesser known ports is not just a mere slogan at Azamara.
On my voyage aboard Azamara Quest, for instance, the ship not only offered all of the creature comforts one comes to expect from a deluxe category cruise ship, but it also delivered some of cruise travels most in-depth shore excursion experiences.
Dubbed shore immersions, the ship took passengers beyond the local trinket and jewelry stores and into the heart and soul of respective port communities.
Journeys typically begin with the aide of a destination specialist guests map out shore excursions from a host of choices – followed by expert onboard guest lecturers who bring the pending off-ship experience to life.
Look also for some of the most detailed port literature at sea.
The daily onboard newsletter did indeed feature information about the best local shopping areas trinkets from the Ukraine are hard to pass up – but additional literature delved deeper into local history, key points of interest, local customs, cuisine and even drink specialties.
The destination packet titled Port Explorer- also featured local maps, contact and currency information plus useful words and phrases.
The globe-trotting ships have a busy season ahead.
Beginning this fall, following its first European season, Azamara Journey will offer two new, 16-night Panama Canal sailings, followed by a series of 12-night exotic Caribbean cruises through March 2009, when the ship will relocate to Europe.¨
Azamara Quest, meanwhile, will set sail in Asia with a 24-night voyage from Athens (Lavrion), Greece to Singapore departing in late November, followed by an 18-night Southeast Asia voyage from Singapore to Hong Kong, China; two 14-night Southeast Asia cruises between Hong Kong and Singapore, and four 14-night Northeast Asia cruises between Hong Kong and Beijing (Tianjin), China.
Seven-night escorted cruise tour packages are available for guests interested in optimizing their Asian experience, through in-depth land-based tours in Hong Kong, Beijing, Xian and Guilin and visits to the Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors.
Azamara Quest will return to a second season in Europe beginning April 7, 2009, following a Singapore to Athens (Lavrion), Greece, voyage.
Both ships offer pre-and post-cruise tours for guests seeking to extend their vacation experience.
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I recently heard you are cruising from NYC to Paris in April 2012. Can you please confirm this, and if so, send me details.