The ultimate guide to Azamara cruise ships and itineraries
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Azamara Cruises is interesting. Although it includes more in its fares — gratuities, basic alcohol and some shore excursions — than most cruise lines, it’s not full-on luxury. However it’s not mainstream, like Carnival or Royal Caribbean, either.
It has carved out an industry niche that caters to affluent, well-traveled cruisers who enjoy smaller vessels, a country house ambiance and itineraries that focus on destination immersion.
The ships in its four-vessel fleet are nearly identical, all belonging to the R Class, which was originally developed for now-defunct line Renaissance Cruises. Azamara prides itself on bringing its passengers familiarity and onboard experiences that are similar from ship to ship. You won’t find waterslides or roller coasters, and that’s exactly how the line’s demographic likes it.
One of the line’s most notable hallmarks is its focus on longer, later stays in port. Coupled with its AzAmazing Evenings program, which takes cruisers ashore to experience cultural performances in jaw-dropping locations, the experience is a little less superficial-feeling than other cruise excursions.
Here, you’ll find a rundown of all the crucial information you’ll need to decide if an Azamara sailing is right for you.
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3 things TPG loves about Azamara Cruises
- Its ships’ smaller size and rich history.
- Later port calls that allow passengers to experience nightlife in several destinations.
- Its upscale yet homey onboard ambiance.
What we could do without
- Its lack of accommodations for solo cruisers.
The Azamara Cruises fleet
Azamara Cruises is one of the cruise industry’s smallest lines, with just four ships — Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey, Azamara Pursuit and Azamara Onward — at the time of publication. All of Azamara’s vessels are R-Class ships, originally built for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, which folded in 2001, just a couple of years after the vessels debuted.
Azamara has rounded up the ships — including the most recent, which it acquired from Princess Cruises during the pandemic — over the years and refurbished them to add the line’s signature upscale furnishings. In fact, it did such an impressive job that you’d hardly be able to guess that the vessels are more than 20 years old.
Each of the ships has the capacity for about 700 passengers, which places them in the midsize range — large enough to provide a laundry list of amenities, but small enough that passengers can still enjoy calls on a number of ports that larger ships can’t access.
At just a little more than 30,000 gross registered tons apiece, the ships are about an eighth of the size of Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, which is the largest cruise ship in the world.
During 2020’s industrywide pandemic shutdown, Royal Caribbean Group, which previously owned Azamara, sold the line to private equity firm Sycamore Partners. Azamara’s president, Carol Cabezas, told TPG that the firm has plans for expansion. Although Cabezas didn’t elaborate, Azamara fans anticipate that new hardware could be in the line’s future.
Destinations and itineraries
Azamara’s ships sail in several regions, including Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, with an emphasis on the Mediterranean, Baltic Sea, Western Europe, British Isles and Greece.
“They cannot get enough of Croatia, Italy, Greece,” Cabezas said. “Those are the kinds of places that people want to sail in, so we’ve dedicated a lot of the deployment into those country-intensives. That and Black Sea.”
Azamara prides itself on being destination-immersive, which includes staying late in port — often until 10 p.m. or even overnight — to allow passengers more time to soak in the heritage. On most sailings, the line also offers its signature AzAmazing Evenings, which take cruisers ashore to iconic venues where they can experience local cultural performances. (At the time of publication, the line was offering cultural performances onboard, rather than ashore, due to COVID-19.)
Most itineraries range from a week to two weeks in length, but the line has also offered itineraries lasting more than 100 days, calling on more than 60 ports in more than two dozen countries.
Who sails Azamara Cruises
Due to its price point, popularity in Europe and lack of short voyages, Azamara appeals to older, more affluent travelers with a surplus of vacation time. The average age can fluctuate from sailing to sailing, but it’s common to find most passengers in their 60s and 70s.
The line’s demographic is largely well traveled and port savvy, with many passengers forgoing shore excursions in favor of independent exploration.
Azamara also draws a large number of repeat cruisers, many having sailed with the line numerous times.
Cabins and suites
All of Azamara’s staterooms, regardless of type or category, include at least one queen bed that can convert to two twins, a desk/vanity with a phone, nightstands with reading lamps, at least one TV that’s a minimum of 40 inches, outlets and USB charging ports, a minibar, individual climate controls, closets, a safe, a hair dryer, robes, slippers, umbrellas and fresh flowers.
Each cabin has its own bathroom with towels, bath products, a shower, sink/vanity, storage shelves and a toilet. Additionally, all rooms include daily make-up and turndown services, as well as 24-hour room service, a tote bag, a daily bulletin of activities and turndown treats.
All suites come with complimentary butler service for their occupants.
Accommodations on Azamara’s ships come in four types: insides (no natural light, 158 square feet), outsides (windows that don’t open, 143 square feet), balconies (small outdoor deck areas with sliding glass doors) and suites (like balcony cabins but larger and with more perks). There are several options within each category, including seven cabins on each ship that allow access for passengers in wheelchairs and scooters.
Options within the balcony and suite categories are:
Club Veranda: This basic balcony-style cabin offers 175 square feet, plus a 40-square-foot veranda with two upright chairs and a small table.
Club Veranda Plus: The same size and general layout as regular Club Verandas, these rooms factor in passengers’ loyalty status to determine the level of benefits occupants will receive during their sailing. All passengers booked in Club Veranda Plus accommodations are entitled to complimentary Wi-Fi minutes, one free bag of laundry every seven days, one complimentary meal for two in a for-fee restaurant every seven days, priority embarkation and disembarkation and free in-cabin alcohol.
Club Continent Suites: The smallest of the line’s suite accommodations, Club Continent Suites are 266 square feet with 60-square-foot balconies. They include all of the amenities mentioned above, as well as a large seating area with a 55-inch flat-screen TV. Besides the TV and the increased square footage, some Club Continent Suite bathrooms also have bathtubs instead of only a stand-up shower.
Club Spa Suites: These suites are located near the Sanctum Spa on each vessel. In addition to soothing decor, cruisers booked in these rooms can expect healthy snacks to be delivered daily. They can also enjoy in-cabin spa music and their own glass-enclosed soaking bathtub. Additionally, Club Spa Suites have rain showerheads and all of the amenities afforded to veranda cabins but with a larger (55-inch) TV and 414 square feet of space, plus a 60-square-foot balcony.
Club Ocean Suites: These 478-square-foot luxury digs come with 173-square-foot verandas, a separate living room and bedroom setup (each room with a 55-inch TV), marble shower-only bathrooms (except on Journey and Quest, which have bathtubs), dressing rooms with vanities and additional closet space. Further, passengers staying in these suites have access to all of the perks to which those in balcony cabins are entitled.
Club World Owner’s Suites: The Club World Owner’s Suites are Azamara’s most lavish, offering everything afforded to those booked in Club Ocean Suites but with significantly more space — 603 square feet with 233-square-foot balconies. They have marble bathrooms (with bathtubs on Journey and Quest) and separate living room and bedroom areas, each with its own television (55 inches in the former and 40 inches in the latter).
At this time, the line does not offer any cabins for solo cruisers, which means the already pricey fares for Azamara’s sailings double if you’re traveling alone.
Restaurants and dining
Azamara’s dining options, although few, are impressive. Steak and seafood are often in the spotlight, and the quality is outstanding.
The line’s ships each have one main dining room, Discoveries Restaurant, that allows passengers to dine at any time during set hours for complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner. The waiter-served menu there changes daily, and you should plan on spending at least 90 minutes for dinner, especially if you’re having dessert.
Windows Cafe is the line’s free buffet venue, which appears on all ships and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Previously a self-serve eatery, thanks to the pandemic passengers now simply point to what they would like and a crew member doles it out. For dinner, cruisers are seated and given menus — which change nightly to highlight differing cuisines, such as Mexican, German and Greek — and order from a waiter. Although it’s sit-down table service, it’s still faster than the main dining room. Outdoor seating at the ship’s aft offers fantastic views, weather permitting.
Prime C is the fleet’s for-fee steakhouse restaurant. Its menu includes several meaty options like steak, chicken, duck and lamb, plus soups and salads. Dining there costs $30 per person, and reservations are recommended.
Aqualina is where passengers will find extra-fee seafood, Italian and French cuisine in a light, airy atmosphere. The menu might feature items like lobster, seared tuna and the catch of the day. Reservations are recommended, and the cost is $30 per person. (Note: At the time of publication, the venue was temporarily closed due to COVID-19-related capacity restrictions, but diners can still order from Aqualina’s menu while dining in Prime C.)
Azamara also offers themed Explorer’s Dinners for $65 per person, focusing on a different cuisine — think French and Italian — each time. Chef’s Table is another option. For $95 per person, cruisers can enjoy a seven-course meal paired with wines. During the experience, the chef explains each dish, and the ship’s onboard sommeliers go over the wine selections.
The Patio, a gratis poolside venue, puts on a waiter-served spread during lunch hours each day. The menu stays the same throughout each sailing and might include items like spring rolls, nachos, burgers and chicken fingers.
Mosaic Cafe is the cafe found on each vessel in the fleet. It offers free finger sandwiches, cookies and pastries, as well as a variety of specialty coffees, most of which are complimentary. It’s a nice place to go if you’re feeling a little peckish between meals.
Those passengers who don’t feel quite up to a full meal for dinner can head to The Living Room, a bar and lounge area that doubles as the nightclub on each ship. There, sandwiches and pastries are offered in the afternoons, and tapas are available during dinner hours.
For anyone who missed dinner or who finds themselves hungry in the middle of the night, room service is a free option, 24 hours a day. The menu is considerable, providing pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads and a plethora of other options.
Entertainment and activities
Entertainment on Azamara is engaging and fun, but not nearly as extensive as what you’ll find on ships in larger fleets. You’re likely to encounter musicians in bars, lounges and nightclubs, and song-and-dance numbers in the theater, along with an occasional comedian or magician. What you won’t find are huge LED screens, acrobatic performances or shows with high production value — and that’s exactly how the line’s target audience likes it.
Theaters and shows
During the evenings, there’s a piano player in The Den lounge, and the ship’s band plays in The Living Room nightclub before a DJ starts spinning dance tunes there late into the night.
As far as theater happenings, you might spot a movie screening on the daily schedule or turn up after dinner to find that there’s a boy band performing Justin Bieber hits while dressing like they’re part of a doo-wop group. Overall, it’s low-key but enjoyable.
Other interior attractions and activities
Hosted activities run the gamut from added-fee wine tastings, scavenger hunts and complimentary deck walks and water aerobics to destination enrichment lectures, dance classes and shore excursion presentations. Also spotted on some daily schedules are coloring, word search challenges and Q&A sessions with officers.
However, one of the most frequent and popular onboard pastimes is trivia. There are multiple rounds offered each day, and they focus on subjects that are often tied to the destinations the ships visit. (Think Greek gods and goddesses or ABBA on Greek Isles itineraries.) Each person receives a grid sheet for stamps, with one stamp given for simply participating and two stamps given to the members of the winning team for each round. At the end of the sailing, passengers tally their stamps to collect Azamara logo prizes.
There’s also a number of unhosted activities, such as ping-pong, darts, crossword and sudoku puzzles, board games, book swaps, knitting get-togethers, shuffleboard and LGBTQ, singles and Friends of Bill W. (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetups.
Additionally, one of Azamara’s signature activities is its White Night Party, usually found once on each voyage. Passengers are encouraged to dress in white for an evening of dining and entertainment under the stars.
Apart from shuffleboard and a jogging track, there’s not much on the outer decks of Azamara’s vessels if you’re not a sun-worshipper. There’s ample deck space with loungers, and a main pool with two hot tubs where passengers can go to cool off — or warm up. There’s a second pool for thalassotherapy near the Sanctum Spa, but it’s open only to cruisers staying in suites or those who book passes to use it.
Another one of Azamara’s signature offerings is AzAmazing Evenings — a series of complimentary nighttime shore excursions that take passengers to famous landmarks, such as Ephesus in Turkey or the Russian Ballet, for culturally immersive performances. Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions, AzAmazing Evenings have been replaced by Destination Celebrations, which involve the ship staying late in port and bringing local talent onboard to perform outdoors.
Although children are welcome onboard, there are no kids clubs on Azamara’s ships, and there is no special programming for young cruisers.
What to know before you go
You will need a passport for most of Azamara Cruises’ sailings. The only ones for which the combination of a birth certificate and photo ID (such as a driver’s license) will suffice is on a closed-loop cruise — one that leaves from and returns to the same U.S. port and visits places that include Alaska, Hawaii, Bermuda, Canada and the Caribbean.
Passports should be valid for at least six months after your travel concludes.
Gratuities are included in all of Azamara’s fares. Passengers can choose to leave extra if they wish. Spa services will automatically have an 18% gratuity added.
Azamara’s Wi-Fi is some of the worst we’ve experienced at sea. In addition to being pricey ($19.95 for 60 minutes, $29.95 for full-day access or $19.95 per day for unlimited access for the duration of the voyage), it’s spotty at best, especially when the ships are at sea. Azamara officials say the line is planning tech upgrades in the coming years, which hopefully will include a stronger connection.
Carry-on drinks policy
You can bring your own drinks — including wine, beer and liquor — on Azamara’s ships for private consumption in your stateroom. If you wish to drink them in public areas or dining venues, you’ll be charged a $10 corkage fee.
Generally, Azamara’s vessels are nonsmoking, except for clearly designated areas on the forward port (left, when facing the front of the ship) side of the pool deck. Passengers are not permitted to smoke in other public areas or in their cabins, including on their balconies.
All Azamara ships have self-service laundry rooms onboard. They’re free to use and include complimentary detergent. The vessels also offer send-out wash-and-fold service, as well as dry cleaning and pressing, all for an added fee.
Outlets in each cabin consist of a mix of North American and U.K. options. Standard balcony cabins have two of each at the vanity, and two additional North American outlets can be found just above the minifridge (although one of them is used to plug it in).
Additionally, the line has added USB ports near the beds so you can charge your devices as you’re curled up in bed scanning Instagram reels or catching up on the latest episode of “Stranger Things” (Wi-Fi permitting, of course).
The currency onboard is U.S. dollars. Passengers will each link a credit card to their onboard account (or put up a set amount of cash), as all onboard charges are cashless. The room key each cruiser is issued at embarkation serves as a room key, charge card and ID card when disembarking and reboarding the ship in port.
On all sailings — except for those departing from North America, where the drinking age is 21 — the legal minimum age for alcohol consumption is 18.
Azamara recommends a “resort casual” style of dress, which prohibits bare feet, baseball caps, tank tops, torn or distressed jeans, bathing suits and shorts in the main dining room and all specialty restaurants. More casual wear is allowed in the Windows Cafe buffet, but shoes are required, and cruisers must wear cover-ups over their bathing suits.
There are no scheduled formal nights onboard, but passengers are welcome to dress up. They are also advised to bring a white outfit for the line’s signature White Night Party, held once per voyage.
Azamara Cruises’ loyalty program
Azamara’s loyalty program, Azamara Circle, has five tiers for passengers to reach, based on the number of points they earn each time they sail. With each new tier, they unlock additional benefits, such as free Wi-Fi minutes, complimentary laundry service and discounts on spa treatments and future cruise bookings.
- Adventurer (1-149 points).
- Explorer (150-299 points).
- Discoverer (300-749 points).
- Discoverer Plus (750-2,999).
- Discoverer Platinum (3,000-plus points).
How much does an Azamara Cruise cost?
Azamara sailings are on the pricier side, with fares for weeklong sailings stretching into the thousands per person, especially for higher-end accommodations. Fluctuations occur based on cruise length, cabin type, itinerary and time of year.
At the time of publication, the least-expensive booking we found was $1,459 per person (not including taxes and port fees), based on double occupancy, for an outside cabin on a seven-night Western Mediterranean voyage from Rome’s Civitavecchia. The price for a suite on the same sailing was $3,349 per person.
However, you’ll find less nickel-and-diming on Azamara voyages than you will with mainstream brands, as gratuities and basic beverages — soda, bottled water, coffee, a couple of daily house wine selections, beer and standard liquor — are included in the price of the cruise. AzAmazing Evenings are also rolled into the fares.
Passengers can expect to shell out extra for top-shelf spirits, spa treatments, shore excursions, professional photos, Wi-Fi and send-out laundry and dry cleaning services (assuming they don’t receive them for free, based on loyalty status).
How to book
Cruisers can book Azamara voyages directly through Azamara, either on the line’s website or by calling 833-292-2292; virtually through a third-party online travel agent; or by calling a travel advisor, who can help with all the details for a commission that’s usually covered by the cruise line.
Most cruise lines have their own cobranded credit cards, but unfortunately, Azamara is no longer one of them. Passengers used to be able to use cobranded Celebrity Cruises or Royal Caribbean International credit cards to book Azamara voyages, but it’s unclear whether that is still possible, given Azamara’s split from Royal Caribbean Group.
To maximize your spending when you book, use a card — like the The Platinum Card® from American Express — that will earn you additional points on travel.
Azamara cruises are a good option if you’re looking for an upscale line that offers excellent food and service at the lower end of the luxury price spectrum. You’ll also receive a more destination-focused experience, with longer stays in port that allow you to take in the local nightlife.
The ships across the fleet will be familiar to you after just a sailing or two, and their elegant-but-relaxed vibe will leave you feeling like you’re simply enjoying a drink in a friend’s living room.
Featured photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy.
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