Two small premium ships under the Celebrity Cruise umbrella - destination and experience-focus, gourmet cuisine
Azamara Cruises is separate brand under the Royal Caribbean International umbrella. The two ships are former Renaissance R-ships, of which eight were built (all identical). At first, the ships were assigned to the Celebrity Expeditions branch of Celebrity Cruises, then it was later decided to give these ships their own brand name. Then in 2009 as Larry Pimentel, formerly of Seabourn, Cunard and most recently of SeaDream Yacht Club, took over the helm, the name was changed to Azamara Club Cruises.
As a brand, Azamara is designed to appeal to the more adventurous traveler who wants the sophistication of the Celebrity ships with the more exotic and adventurous itineraries a smaller ship can offer. The most recent marketing change, beyond adding the word "Club" to the name, was to move away from the marketing category the line was traditionally associated with, Deluxe," to a new category called "up-market."
The ships each have the usual assortment of inside, ocean view, balcony and suite categories. But the ships only carry 694 passengers, and each stateroom comes with butler service, a daily fruit basket, fresh cut flowers, 24-hour room service, a sweet surprise on your pillow each evening, afternoon canapés, complimentary shoe-shine service, a 23" plasma television, Elemis bathroom products, two nights of complimentary specialty dining, new European bedding, and complimentary use of binoculars, umbrellas and plush robes.
Lunch and dinner include complimentary wine, with a red and a white wine both coming from a collection of unusual "boutique" wines from unusual places such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, etc. Each night, the two wine selections come from similar regions. If the wine is not to the liking of the customer, which is rare (these are not "2-buck Chuck" brands) then other complimentary wines are offered.
People who book suites get, in addition; complimentary dining in both specialty restaurants any time, plus complimentary pressing of their laundry, complimentary in-room nonalcoholic specialty coffees, soda and water, expanded Elemis bathroom amenities, afternoon tea service, a complimentary bottle of champagne and more. All suites have also been updated to include all new carpet and fine furniture.
Azamara focuses on the worldly passenger interested in knowledge and self-improvement. Even on the balmiest afternoon, far fewer fellow passengers are likely to be sunning by the pool than inside listening attentively to a guest expert lecture about destinations, technology, cultural explorations, art, music or design. Topics on tap usually relate to your destination or else cover a topic of more universal interest. Count on lectures on food and wine.
Entertainment options are simple yet diverse musical offerings that range from upbeat dance bands to intimate piano bar entertainers. The showcase theatre features a variety of cabaret-style entertainers.
Staterooms are on the smaller side by contempary standards but are certainly comfortable enough. Extra care and attention goes into the service and quality of bedding and linens. This is a high value smaller ship cruise line where the food and service are in the same league as Oceania's smaller ships, but the value is better (it costs less).Shore Excursions
The focus for Azamara is adventure or intellectual destinations; itineraries will offer the far-reaching corners of the world. Azamara shore excursions are said to go far beyond an ordinary tour; one must be prepared to be totally and completely immersed in local cultures, cuisines, history and lifestyle.
The brand boasts that each excursion is an experience unto itself solely because the ships visit the ports and cities that larger cruise ship rarely see. One of the boasts if Azamara is that they will try to dock as close to every city center as possible, including downtown London on the river Thames, in Rouen for access to Paris, or near the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, for example.
Every cruise has one special shore event at no additonal cost known as an Azamazing Experience. It is usually a dinner party at an exotic location; a castle in Tuscany, for example.Attire
Country club casual fills the bill.Tipping
Gratuities are covered in the cruise fare. This covers your Butler & Stateroom Attendant as well as all restaurant staff.Dining
Azamara has excellent food - much in keeping with the former Renaissance tradition as well as the culinary prowess iof sister cruise line Celebrity.Fellow Passengers
Mostly widely-traveled couples in the 50 to 75 year old age group looking for good service and unusual destinations. Don't expect to see many if any children at all, especially on longer voyages. There are no services for kids provided.
The dress code is always resort casual with no scheduled formal nights. No bare feet, tank tops, caps, bathing suits, or jeans are allowed in the dining room or specialty restaurants
Examples of resort casual attire include sportswear, shorts, casual dresses, skirts, and pants in light fabrics such as linen, cotton, silk and wool gabardine for the women. For the men the line recommends sportswear, golf shirts, shorts, pants, and a sports coat if desired, (but not required) in light fabrics such as linen, cotton, silk and wool gabardine.
Azamara Cruises does not offer any formal children's programming or have youth staff onboard. If you choose to take your kids you will be on your own to keep them entertained.Past Passenger Programs
Celebrity's Captain's Club will extend to guests who become loyal guests of Azamara. Captain's Club members on Azamara will receive benefits similar to Celebrity. Reciprocal benefits apply between Azamara, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean whose Captain's Club program has been extended to cover the new brand, reciprocity benefits remain unchanged. Azamara guests who are Captain's Club members will be credited on their Celebrity's Captain's Club account.
The rewards program for Azamara Cruises is the same as for Celebrity Cruises, you can redeem credit card rewards points for onboard credits or cruise discounts with the exception of having the ability to redeem points for complimentary upgrades and cruises. If you are using your Celebrity Rewards credit card, you will receive double points for any dollars spent while onboard.