ONE OF THE NEWEST ENTRANTS in the premium cruise category, Azamara Club Cruises operates just two small luxury liners worldwide, the Azamara Journey and the Azamara Quest. Both boutique vessels hold around 700 passengers, and their size enables them to go where the big resort ships can’t. In fact, it’s Azamara’s destination-intensive itineraries that set it apart, as do its late-evening and overnight stays at ports both familiar and exotic. Passengers can explore exceptional locations in greater depth, and these extended dockings are especially sweet during longer sailings in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf, as well as in the Caribbean, Oceania and Asia.
Azamara refreshed both vessels stem to stern in early 2016, treating passengers to spotless ships with the latest high-tech features, including enhanced internet services. Ship interiors are decorated in the plush style of a classic 1930s ocean liner with plenty of attentive crew on hand to ensure a relaxed, country-club atmosphere. All the staterooms, rather compact, come with basic butler service, and the majority feature private balconies. Following their 2016 upgrade, both ships now provide spa suites with rain showers and outdoor soaking tubs.
While Azamara’s two specialty restaurants require a surcharge (except for guests in suites), passengers pay no tips and can enjoy complimentary coffee and tea, as well as standard spirits, wines and beers, throughout the ship. Dining is of exceptionally high quality at all the open-seating restaurants, even the poolside grill, which now spreads tablecloths and lights candles for alfresco dining. The Steiner Leisure spa offers a salon, fitness facilities and even an Acupuncture at Sea clinic. Also on board are self-service laundries, a casino, a cabaret and a golf net.
To underscore its destination-intensive itineraries, Azamara recently teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to bring aboard noted speakers on conservation and species preservation. Extended shore tours, known as Overnight Adventures, give guests a chance to go inland and join up with the ship at a later port. Passengers can tour the ancient temples of Bagan while on a Myanmar cruise, for example, or partake of a Bedouin adventure with a desert overnight in Oman.
Azamara has two unusual cruises in the offing. One is a World Journey in 2018, Azamara’s longest cruise ever. Spanning 102 days, Azamara’s Sydney-to-London world voyage will call on 60 ports in 29 countries, with 18 late-night and 13 overnight calls. Special events along the way include a fashion show in Ho Chi Minh City, an evening at a village house in Muscat and a chance to cheer on the competitors tearing up the streets during the renowned Monaco Grand Prix. The other cruise of special note comes when Mexico-based Desire Resorts charters the Azamara Quest for a Sept. 26, 2017, Adriatic cruise. What’s unusual about that? It’s an adults-only, clothing-optional week at sea, with onboard themes to match.
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