We recently sailed from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Athens on the Azamara Quest (30,000 tons with 694 guests and 407 crewmembers) in a Club Continent Suite. We enjoyed the service provided by our excellent Butler and Stateroom Attendant. I was asked what the butler does for you onboard – the welcome letter in our suite gave us some ideas: assistance with unpacking/packing, daily news delivery, in-suite breakfast, lunch and dinner service, evening hors d’oeuvres daily, afternoon tea service, shoe shine service, assistance with reservations for specialty dining, shore excursions, and spa appointments, etc. Our butler, Eyup, also assisted us when we encountered rough seas tendering in Sorrento and our clothes were soaked – off they went to be returned clean and dry the next day!
Our 7-day itinerary was packed with ports. After a quick pre-cruise visit to the highlights of Rome (be sure to pre-book if you want to visit the Vatican to avoid very long lines), we experienced an easy check in process at Civitavecchia and sailed for Sorrento. Captain Carl Smith, from the Isle of Man, provided lengthy daily updates about the voyage. He let us know from the start that he likes to talk and advised those interested in hearing his information to tune in on the television as his commentary would not be broadcast in the staterooms. The ship’s shore excursion from Sorrento to Pompeii was very good. Water was available at the gangway each day and the tour also included a coupon for another bottle during the excursion. The ship had local tourist information staff onboard each day to provide maps and information, which was very helpful. They also provided an information desk ashore in Sorrento. The weather caused the Captain to change itinerary from tendering in Taormina to docking in Messina the next day. Shuttle buses were arranged back to Taormina (where we found some excellent Sicilian pizza) and all shore excursions were revised to operate from the new port. In Chania, we were docked and had shuttle service in to the harbor town near an interesting market. We explored the Venetian Docks and the Grand Arsenal area on our own, had lunch at a waterfront café and walked out to the lighthouse and the Fort of Firkas. Our next stop was Mykonos with its beautiful water and beaches, charming town center, and exciting nightlife. The ship was in until 11pm and a well-attended Motown-themed dance party was held on the pool deck with the Hotel Director, Ryszard Gusmann, preparing flambéed desserts on the side for guests’ dining pleasure. Our dinner reservation conflicted with our attendance, but fellow guests told us they really enjoyed the “Dancing with the Stripes” contest modeled after television’s “Dancing with the Stars” – billed as “your chance to Cha Cha with the Chief or Bolero with the Bar Manager”, which took place before the deck party. We arrived early the next morning in Kusadasi, where most everyone made their way to the ruins at Ephesus before exploring some of the many shopping opportunities back in town. All too soon we were back onboard to sail for Athens.
We did our best to try as many dining venues as possible during the trip. The dress code onboard is resort casual with no formal nights. The service and food in all areas were excellent – from amazing waffles at the Windows Café for breakfast, to tea and pastries at the Mosaic Café in the afternoon, to fine dining at Discoveries Restaurant in the evening. The open seating format allowed us to meet many interesting people from the U.S., Canada, Denmark and the U.K. during the cruise. The Discoveries menu includes a large list of “classics” available daily as well as numerous appetizer, salad, pasta, entrées, and desserts that varied each day. I enjoyed a wonderful filet mignon at Aqualina and delicious sautéed giant shrimp at Prime C. The complimentary wine selection was very good. We returned from port each afternoon to a selection of hors d’oeuvres in the stateroom. Our butler also brought a full service breakfast on the balcony one morning and tea service one afternoon.
We had just one sea day on our way from Italy to Greece, which meant most of our time onboard was spent having breakfast or dinner. We did make good use of the jogging/walking track on deck 10 as several other people did with the nice weather. The Astral Spa staff was professional and did a good job with the manicure I booked. The eConnections Manager was also very helpful with setting up my email access. The Cruise Sales Manager was kind enough to arrange a tour of some staterooms in various categories, which was much appreciated.
Azamara Club Cruises offers great value with complimentary gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff; complimentary coffee, tea, soda and bottled water throughout the day; complimentary self-service laundry; complimentary wine by the glass in all dining room venues and room service during lunch and dinner hours; and complimentary shuttle service to and from ports, where available. Specialty dining and English butler service are also complimentary for all Suite guests. It is a very nice experience without having to sign for all the above items or having them appear on your guest account at the end of the cruise. I look forward to an opportunity to try one of their longer itineraries in order to take better advantage of the onboard experience as well – they are doing a terrific job!