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Cruise Line Review

Azamara Club Cruises - Cruise Line Review provided by Cruise Critic

About

A brand-new cruise line joined the ranks in 2007 when Celebrity Cruises announced that its newly refurbished Celebrity Journey would instead become the flagship of Azamara, a brand-new cruise line. Azamara Journey was soon joined by Azamara Quest.

 

Celebrity, which took on Journey and Quest after parent company RCCL acquired the Spain-based Pullmantur, had originally planned to fold these 30,777-ton, 794-passenger boutique ships into its Celebrity Xpeditions sub-brand -- but it changed its mind. "We learned that these ships don't just constitute a slightly more upscale product than Celebrity," Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain says. "They are so distinct they deserve a line of their own."

 

Company executives have been frank about the fact that Azamara competes primarily with Oceania Cruises. Celebrity President Dan Hanrahan says this style of cruising is unlike anything ever offered by the line. As such, it not only deserved its own moniker but also would carve out a new cruise category: Azamara is billed as a "deluxe" cruise line (typically, cruise fleets are described as bargain, mass-market, premium, or luxury; deluxe fits in between premium and luxury).

 

At the heart of the differences between Azamara and parent Celebrity are the Azamara vessels themselves. Their smaller size and high crew-to-passenger ratio produce a more personalized and attentive level of service than their large cousins. Other aspects of the hotel departments onboard represent embellishments over those same aspects on Celebrity's ships. Butlers, for example, a perquisite of suites elsewhere, come with every stateroom, from the lowliest inside to the biggest, most luxurious suite.

 

Azamara's fledgling two-ship fleet, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, started life as Renaissance's R6 and R7, respectively. During the "vessel diaspora" that took place after Renaissance's collapse and bankruptcy, R-series ships wound up scattered across a variety of cruise lines, including Oceania, Swan Hellenic, Princess, and Pullmantur, from whom, as mentioned previously, Azamara inherited them.

 

At this point there are no plans to expand the line beyond Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.

 

Onboard Atmosphere

The cruise line's innovations to the original R ships include major stateroom upgrades, such as the addition of 32 "Sky Suites" on Deck Eight, and improvements across the spectrum of cabin categories, including new linens, carpeting, artwork, in-suite TVs and programming, and most notably, the extension of butler and concierge service to all accommodations.

 

Dining is all open seating in the main "Discoveries Restaurant" and a pair of new alternative restaurants--Prime C, a steakhouse, and Aqualina, featuring Mediterranean cuisine.

 

In contrast to other lines--where shore excursion personnel typically exist to sell, well, shore excursions--these two ships feature "excursion experts" who offer more comprehensive information about ports of call, augmenting an ambitious enrichment program.

 

Dress code is the increasingly ubiquitous "casual elegance."

 

Itineraries

From mid-2008 through spring of 2009, Azamara offers cruises to Asia, the Caribbean, Northern Europe, the British Isles, the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, the Holy Land, and through the Panama Canal. Itineraries for the remainder of 2009 and 2010 will be released in the middle of 2008.

Fellow Passengers

Azamara attracts an older (but active), well-traveled group who are looking for hitherto unvisited ports of call. Different itineraries will attract a different demographic, but the line is marketed mostly to North Americans, who make up the lion's share of the guests.

Cruise Critic

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