Azamara has turned me into a cruise convert*

Until a month or two ago, when I heard the words “cruise ship”, I imagined dreary canteen style lunch buffets, with 3500 people queuing alongside dry, pasty bain-maries filled with 2 day old pasta and wilting, soggy lettuce. I pictured screaming kids climbing over each other in the shallow end of a too-small pool, and rooms full of grey haired people playing bingo.

No, there was no way I would consider spending my precious annual leave days confined to a ship’s poky cabin and crowded entertainment areas, as opposed to being free to roam the streets of a foreign city.

I am now confessing that I was horribly mistaken, but in my defense  the only cruises I had heard of were the ones that go to “nowhere”, or an arbitrary “Portuguese Island” which is really just a barren stretch of beach without so much as a toilet facility.

You would have read my post about how my European holiday doubled in length, and how the idea of cruising with Azamara allured me, because its focus is “destination immersion”, meaning longer stays and more overnights at each port, so that you can fully experience the place you visit, whether that means going to a jazz club or enjoying tea and a pastry at a local cafe.

And so, I eagerly agreed to join Azamara on a cruise starting in Rome, stopping over in Tuscany, then sailing through the Italian Riviera and ending in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  

If you too are skeptical about cruising, here are some things you should consider. I’ve already asked for a copy of their 2014 itinerary and am planning my return.

1.    Yes, cruise ship rooms are notoriously teeny, ours was 16 square meters in size with a 6 square meter veranda. I could barely do an unobstructed 360 degree turn in the shower but despite the size, it still felt luxurious. Egyptian cotton bed linen, terry bathrobes and slippers, fresh cut flowers, high quality amenities, 24 hour room service, and most of all, a panoramic ocean view from the floor to ceiling glass door leading to our veranda, all helped to placate the lack of space. Also, you’re in a moving Sun City, so you’ll spend minimal time in your room. 

2.  Check what’s included in your package. Complimentary meals (a la carte food of a really high quality), bottled water, soft drinks, coffees and teas as well as selected alcoholic beverages were more than welcome after spending the equivalent of a home loan repayment on food in Spain, the week before we embarked on the cruise. Also free of charge- self-service laundry, and one “Azamazing Evening” event, a local experience rich in culture, which changes on every cruise. 

3.    How important is food to you when travelling? Would Burger King suffice, or is eating at the best local restaurants as important to you as visiting the destination itself? Because we had spent 2 weeks touring Europe prior to embarking the cruise, we didn’t have any desire to eat at the local restaurants situated at the various ports, but if the cruise was the only element of our trip, we may have felt that we were missing out on part of the travel experience by only eating on the ship. Of course, should a guest wish to dine outside the ship, they are welcome to, and it is quite easy to do this, because most nights guests were only required to be back on the ship by 9:45pm in time for a 10pm disembarkation.

The food was of an exceptional quality, with the menu changing every day

Discoveries, the main restaurant on board
4.     So what do you do when you’re confined to the ship? Dinner is only the start of the evening. As both my partner and I are under the age of 32, when I read that Azamara’s target market is guests between the ages of 45-65, I was a tad worried. It is fair to say that a lot of the entertainment is targeted towards an older audience, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing on the ship for younger people. Every night, after dinner, there is a performance in the cabaret theatre. This could be anything from a Broadway themed cabaret to a comedy show. After this, guests can gamble at the casino, or go upstairs to “the Looking Glass”, where there is a daily dance party- basically a nightclub without everything I hate about nightclubs- crowds, cigarettes and drunken rowdy people. This is more of a high class lounge; guests alternate between ballroom dancing and booty shaking. 

The Looking Glass

5.     How much does it all cost? The least expensive rooms, which are interior cabins, are priced at around $2300 per person for a 7 night cruise. The most popular room choice is the veranda room, which is priced at $3100 per person on average.

6.     What about excursions? These are on the pricey side, costing $130 per person on average for a half day excursion. One is by no means obliged to go on these excursions, because at each port there are plenty of taxi drivers waiting for passengers. You are bound to find other guests who want to go to the same places as you, so it is quite easy to share a taxi and split the cost. 

In my next post, I’ll share pictures and details of all the stunning ports we visited.

x H
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*Aside, I am entering this post into the Travelstart Blogger Experience Contest.