Perhaps you have been staying away from cruising because you don’t like crowds and lineups, being overwhelmed by mega-ships, having to pay for drinks and tipping, or feeling too rushed in the ports to fully enjoy your visit. Well, Azamara wants to show you a different way to cruise and hopefully “change the way you sea”.
That’s the new tagline of this upscale boutique cruise line, which just welcomed the fourth vessel into its fleet in early May.
The Revamped Azamara ‘Onward’
Christened in Monte Carlo by Beth Santos, founder of a networking community for female travelers called Wanderful, the ship was purchased from Princess Cruises and extensively refurbished. Although it wasn’t a full gut-and-rebuild, all public spaces received new carpeting, upholstery, and furnishings, as did all suites and most standard staterooms.
The ship measures 592 feet long, 84 feet wide, and carries just 684 guests and 408 crew, almost identical to her three sisters.
Intimate ship size is one of Azamara’s key pillars of strength. The Onward can sail into remote harbors and up narrow channels that large ships cannot reach. On our late April cruise, which stopped in Marseille, we docked in the heart of town next to the waterfront shops and restaurants. In the distance, more than four miles away, large ships were seen berthed at the commercial port, and their guests had to take a taxi into town.
Welcoming lounges with names such as The Den and The Living Room offer relaxing spaces in muted colors while the outdoor deck has a casual eatery called The Patio, a small pool, hot tubs, and comfortable loungers.
New onboard the Onward is Atlas Bar, which replaces the underused library found on other Azamara ships. Taking a cue from guests’ comments, the space has now been converted into a lively meeting point, with comfortable seating and a large bar serving specialty cocktails and fancy appetizers.
A Sea of Inclusions
A cruise with Azamara means you don’t have to worry about extra charges. Standard wine, beer, and spirits are included in the cruise fare. I counted five brands of beer, 17 cocktails, and nine types of spirits on the complimentary list, along with house pours of white, rosé, and red wines. Non-drinkers can enjoy unlimited mocktails, specialty coffees, teas, sodas, and bottled water. (Premium beverage upgrades are available for purchase, and include top-shelf brands and those specialty cocktails from Altas Bar.)
Gratuities to the crew are also covered, which typically carries a value of $15 per person per day onboard the big ships. There is also a complimentary self-service laundrette, and if the ship isn’t docking at the city center, a shuttle service will provide complimentary transfers where available.
Fine Dining on the Ocean
The food onboard Azamara is outstanding. Meals are served in Discoveries restaurant in an open-seating format, where guests can dine at any time and with whomever they choose. Menu items incorporate regional cuisine reflective of the ship’s itinerary with always-available favorites such as shrimp cocktail, strip steak, and Caesar’s salad. Windows Cafe is the casual buffet with al-fresco seating and has returned to self-service for food, but beverages are being dispensed by crew members. Two reservations-only specialty restaurants, Aqualina (Italian) and Prime C (steakhouse), carry an extra charge but are complimentary to suite guests. Last but not least, there is complimentary room service.
On each cruise, guests are treated to an exclusive Azamara event. Called the White Night Party, the entire pool deck is transformed into a sea of white (and guests are encouraged to dress accordingly), the culinary team presents an elaborate buffet, and there is music and dancing under the stars. As the sun sets behind the hills in Monte Carlo and the city begins to sparkle with twinkling lights, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect backdrop for a memorable White Night fête.
More Ways to Sea
Azamara specializes in destination immersion, giving its guests plenty of time and ways to enjoy each port of call. While the big ships often depart a port by 4 or 5 p.m., Azamara stays until 10 or 11 p.m. or overnight, where guests can enjoy dinner or take in entertainment ashore. A prime example on our itinerary was Porto Venere in Italy where the ship stayed for 15 hours, allowing us to fully tour the charming seaside villages of Cinque Terre. The ship also overnighted in Monte Carlo, with plenty of time to explore the glamorous port. In 2022 alone, Azamara Onward will offer 85 late-night and 21 overnight stays on its European itineraries.
Carefully curated excursions also go beyond panoramic drives. Guests on Azamara tours can soak in the history, flavors, and cultures of each port by visiting local families, dining at renowned restaurants, touring colorful markets, and meeting estate winemakers.
Azamara’s signature AzAmazing Evening where guests are treated to a private concert or performance at an exclusive venue is now complemented with AzAmazing Day to offer an in-depth, full-day discovery of a port of call.
Guests wanting more immersion can book one of many one-country-only itineraries for a deep dive into a specific destination. Country-intensive cruises include sailings to Greece, Japan, Scotland, Australia, and more.
Azamara Hopes to Sea You Soon
With 15 years of experience, four intimate ships, and a robust global itinerary lineup (including a 155-day world cruise scheduled for 2024), Azamara is shining a spotlight on cruising as you don’t know it and hopes to welcome you onboard for a different way to voyage. Ask your professional travel advisor for more information.