Monday, May 06, 2013

Azamara “Club” Cruises…The Name Says it All

The name Azamara rolls off my tongue with the fluidity commonly found in a romance language.  The name is a composite word derived from “Aza” meaning blue and “Mar” meaning sea. In addition, the star, Acamar, inspired it. In classical times, the star Acamar was the most southerly bright star that could be seen form the latitude of Greece. But how does the “Club Cruise” belong in the name in? Actually, it is quite apropos!

“Club” implies a sense of belonging, or being a part of something. An association dedicated to a particular interest or activity.  In the case of Azamara, it’s an implied membership; an affinity to take the road less traveled, explore the world, and immerse oneself in diverse cultures. I must say, after my recent cruise on the Azamara Quest, I definitely buy into that philosophy! There’s a feeling of camaraderie on an Azamara voyage between guests and staff and guests and other guests. Nobody is a stranger for long.  Whenever we returned from a day in port, the staff greeted us with a  ""Welcome Home,"" and it actually did feel like we were returning to a real home away from home! 

Inviting, intimate social spaces throughout the ship emphasize the cordial club-like atmosphere, and can’t help but foster friendly conservation with fellow global travelers. Discoveries Lounge, located just outside the main restaurant, is a congenial bar that’s a favorite gathering place for pre- and post-dinner conversation and drinks. I found it to be the perfect spot to meet friends before heading into the dining room.  If any one of us were running late the rest of us would sit here and enjoy a glass of wine in the comfortable surroundings. Fellow guests would congregate and everyone would share the details of their day in port.

My favorite spot onboard was the Mosaic Café, which I felt was the heart of the ship. It’s a great spot to pick up a quick bite to eat or dream away the time with a cappuccino and good book. More importantly, both spaces made me feel like I was sitting in someone’s living room, as there were always other guests there ready to chat about what they were reading, or their thoughts on the amazing places we were traveling to. Within days of embarkation I knew many of my fellow cruisers by name, and many more at least by sight.

Don’t think of missing Azamara’s poolside buffet and party, held at least once on every cruise. Colorful décor, linen-draped tables, and a fabulous buffet feast make this an event like no other…I felt like I was at a dinner party on someone’s private yacht! The evening commences with soft background music that transitions to a live band to dance the night away!  I’ve never experienced anything like it on any other cruise line and it was a highlight of our trip!

Dinner was never a cattle call.  We strolled down to the dining room a different time each evening and were usually seated without a wait. The menus were varied and inspiring and everything I ordered was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. The dress code onboard is resort casual which I found to be an easy and comfortable way to both pack and dress.

The fact that there are so many amenities that are included at no additional charge makes you feel more like a guest and less like a consumer!  It was so nice not to have to sign for every drink, smoothie or gelato!  Bottled water was always available, including in the gym and in a big cooler readily available to grab as you exit the ship for a day in port. In addition, the gratuities for housekeeping, dining and the bar staff were included so there is no need to calculate tips and pass out envelopes. And may I mention what a treat it was to have freshly squeezed orange juice each morning for no additional charge!

The Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, are beautifully designed midsize vessels carrying only 694 passengers, so you will never feel lost in the crowd. A voyage with Azamara Club Cruises is much more than just a cruise. Like the name suggests, the ambiance onboard is much like that of a country club. You truly feel a part of an elite group, traveling in a way that many will never experience."

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