Review: Our First Sailing With Azamara Club Cruises
Our Review: Sailing with Azamara Club Cruises on the Azamara Quest
Quick. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Some of you answered chocolate, some vanilla, while others might answer mint chocolate chip, strawberry, cookie dough, or a myriad of other choices.
With hundreds of thousands of luxury boomer travelers reading our website, newsletter, and social media outposts over the course of a year, we are constantly asked: what is the best ocean cruise line?
And just like ice cream, the best ocean cruise line depends on your palate, your travel style, your desired destination, and of course, your wallet.
In my mind, ocean cruise lines can be segmented into four general categories:
- 4-star large-ship brands
- 4.5-star small ship brands
- 5-star brands
- and finally, expedition ships that will take you to the Antarctic and such.
Azamara Club Cruises (LINK) fits into the 4.5-star category with its main competitors being Viking Ocean Cruises and Oceania Cruises.
It seems that it always takes me several days to write our review articles as I struggle with how to condense 10-days of experience into a readable and informative format. And, as I’ve learned over the years, folks enjoy bullet-points. Let’s proceed in that direction.
First off, two things:
- If you have questions that I haven’t covered in my article, please feel free to ask questions in the comments section at the bottom of this article.
- And, so that we don’t bury the lead: we enjoyed our experience, would love to sail with them again, and we feel that Azamara Club Cruises will be just perfect for many baby boomer travelers looking for a 4.5-star small ship experience.
With that said, let’s get started…
Highlights From our Azamara Club Cruises Sailing
- Boutique, upmarket cruise line – Cruise lines in the 4.5-star space are careful not to call themselves luxury as one person’s definition of luxury is going to differ from another’s. And, Azamara Club Cruises isn’t trying to compete with the true luxury cruise lines. In my view, the 4.5-star cruise lines are best for those who don’t want to sail with 5,000 people, desire a more upscale experience, and view the destination experience as more important than that of the ship. After all, while the ship is certainly important, isn’t this all about going to a destination? Here is how Azamara defines themselves: “founded in 2007 and then re-launched as Azamara Club Cruises® in 2010, Azamara is a boutique upmarket cruise line operating two 690 passenger ships, the Azamara Journey and the Azamara Quest. The company serves an upmarket segment of international travelers, who tend to be curious and well-traveled, and as a whole are eager to explore new destinations and cultures.” Azamara Club Cruises is a wonderful option for those who desire to step up from the large-ship 4-star brands.
- Small Ships – While we recommend the larger ships for our clients who might be more budget conscious or perhaps looking for a multi-generational experience with the family, as a rule, we prefer to recommend the small-ship cruise lines that start at least in the 4.5-star or higher category. With just a few exceptions, if we send couples on the big ships, they come home with complaints as their expectations were not met. When we stick to the smaller ships, we get very few complaints. Think about it, the ships with Azamara Club Cruises carry a maximum of 690 guests. Your experience on these smaller ships is going to be significantly more intimate than a floating city with nearly 6,000 people aboard. Plus, when you’re in port, you can get into smaller docking areas that the larger ships couldn’t dream of getting into. When we were in Dubrovnik with Azamara Club Cruises, we were docked right outside the city. We hopped aboard our tender and were walking the streets of Dubrovnik within 10 minutes. The large ships were docked 2-miles outside of the city, and those poor folks had to be bused into the city. Being identical ships, the Azamara Journey and the Azamara Quest were both inaugurated in 2007, and hold 690 guests in 345 staterooms: 46 Club Suites, 200 Club Veranda Staterooms, 73 Club Oceanview Staterooms, and 26 Club Interior Staterooms. Both ships were refurbished in 2016 and look shiny and new. While you can’t see the Azamara Quest in my photograph below, we were moored with the yachts in Dubrovnik where the large ships are lost in the fog somewhere down the coast. You can see the Azamara Quest in my photograph through the ground cover in my second photograph.
- Space Ratio – One of the specifications that we like to pay attention to when choosing a cruise ship is its space ratio. To determine this, we take the ship’s gross registered tons (30,277) divided by the maximum passengers (690). By doing this, we get a space ratio of 43.88. That’s not bad. The best are north of 50, and the worst is below 25. We never felt crowded on board, although we did notice that on our sea day, the pool area was a bit crowded.
- Dining Venues – The main restaurant aboard the Azamara Quest is called Discoveries. We enjoyed most of our meals in Discoveries and found the cuisine to be quite nice. The staff was attentive and the chef mixed up the menu each night so that you didn’t feel like you only had the same choices each night. While there are specialty restaurants aboard (Prime C for steaks and seafood – Aquilina for Italian), we were very content to enjoy the main dining room each night. If we needed a quick bite, then we would enjoy the Windows Cafè which is the ubiquitous buffet found on most cruise ships. Another favorite stop of ours was The Patio, a casual grill on the pool deck where we enjoyed their grilled tuna wrap and a small bit of frozen yogurt from the nearby self-service station. I would give our dining experience a rating in keeping with our overall 4.5-star rating. While you’re not going to dine at a Thomas Keller restaurant aboard the Azamara Quest, I’m confident that you will enjoy the cuisine.
- White Night – One of the things we noticed right away is that the mix of people on board our sailing was different than other lines that we’ve enjoyed in this space. The crowd trended younger, and in the mix we found baby boomers and older, quite a large contingent from the LGBT community, a few solo travelers, quite a number of families with children, and our ears were also treated to a number of different languages aboard as well. Quite an eclectic mix, wouldn’t you say? While I certainly wouldn’t call this a party boat, the vibe was a little more upbeat and energetic. Because the crowd tends to be a little more lively, Azamara Club Cruises hosts a complimentary White Night Party aboard ship on every cruise where everyone dresses in white and we all enjoy a festive get-together on the pool deck replete with a fabulous buffet (think grilled lobsters, steak and every imaginable food and dessert). Further, we were treated to a group of Greek dancers that were brought on board, the cast from the Cabaret Lounge entertained with wonderful music, and all of this was set to a beautiful moonlit night in the ocean caldera of Santorini. Magical, it was! I have a picture to share with you. Please pardon the graininess of the photo. It is a panorama that I shot with my iPhone in the low light.
- AzAmazing Evenings – Another treat afforded to the guests of Azamara Club Cruises is the so-called AzAmazing Evening offered on most sailings. While moored in the port of Dubrovnik, Croatia, they offloaded over 600 of us to the small Lokrum Island Nature Reserve to enjoy a lively evening of entertainment from Croatian Cellist Ana Rucner. Take a peek at my video below from this special evening.
- Stay Longer. Experience More – Azamara Club Cruises pioneered Longer Stays and More Overnights. With its two ships, the focus on these extended stays and authentic local experiences keep evolving. “Stay longer. Experience more.” is the philosophy behind every Azamara Club Cruises voyage.Capitalizing on longer stays in port, more overnights and night touring, Azamara Voyages deliver to guests authentic cultural experiences across the globe. The ship’s smaller size allows for visits to ports larger ships are unable to venture to. In 2017, Azamara will take passengers to more than 200 ports, in 68 countries, including 195 late night stays and 82 overnights. Azamara’s commitment to Destination Immersion coupled with exceptional onboard service offers a unique cruise vacation for those who love travel. What’s not to like about that? Right?
- Back to Back Voyages – Because Azamara Club Cruises is operating with only two ships in their fleet, they can turn what might seem to be a disadvantage to an advantage for their guests. While many cruise lines will run the Athens to Venice itinerary over and over, Azamara Club Cruises will stretch out a series of back to back itineraries that will allow folks to explore many different areas and spend less money all at the same time. While we needed to hop off the ship in Venice, many of the ship’s passengers continued from Venice to enjoy a string of back to back cruises stretching out for 31-days. And, to make it even more interesting, the longer you sail, the more savings Azamara Club Cruises will offer to you.
- Elegant Interiors – Azamara has “club” as a middle name because the brand seeks to offer its guests an intimate, country club-like ambiance. I think they pulled it off. I immediately liked my surroundings when I stepped aboard the ship. Take a peek at these photographs I captured in the lobby.
- Staterooms – OK. Here is the only place that I am going to offer a little negativity. I felt that the majority of their staterooms trended towards the small side as compared to their direct competitors. 299 of their staterooms clock in at 175 sq. ft. or less, and while the living space seemed workable, the bathrooms required the finesse of a ballerina to get around. Therefore, if you prefer a larger stateroom, book early so that you can get one of their 46 beautiful suites. For our next sailing with Azamara Club Cruises, I’ve got my eye on this beautiful Club Spa Suite (photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises). Check out that soaking tub in the back looking out over the ocean. Pretty sweet, right?
Well, I think that about covers what I want to share with you about our onboard experience.
Again, Azamara Club Cruises is perfect for the traveler who might want to step out of the 4-star large ships to enjoy a more intimate 4.5-star upscale experience. And, we also found that luxury travelers tend to scoop in to quickly take up the suites as they enjoy the overall Azamara experience. We get that and would put ourselves in the same camp.
Now that I’ve shared our onboard experience, stay tuned as we share the fun from each of our ports of call.
For more information or to book your own Azamara Club Cruises experience, please call Roaming Boomers Travel Services at (480) 550-1235, or use our convenient online information request (click here) and we’ll reach out to you. Plus, through our affiliation with Virtuoso, we’ve probably got complimentary VIP perks to add to Azamara’s best offers.
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