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Deluxe Is In The Details

Azamara at SeaAzamara Journey

By Georgina Cruz

When Royal Caribbean and Celebrity executives Richard Fain and Dan Hanrahan announced the formation of Azamara Cruises a year ago, they dubbed the line “deluxe,” which they classified as an intermediate step between “premium” and “ultra-luxury.”

“Deluxe,” like so many other things in life, tends to be different things to different people. Soon after my husband and I boarded the Azamara Journey in the Mediterranean, during the welcome aboard party, the ship’s master, Captain Leif Karlsson gave passengers his definition in terms of quantity and quality: “We give you moreand better food and better service,” he said, alluding in the service department to the fact that every stateroom and suite onboard has a butler.

The vessel’s hotel director, Niyazi Korkmaz, who shared that the line spends more than twice as much per passenger for food than premium lines –and gave us such tidbits as that the Chilean sea bass is flown refrigerated instead of frozen to the ship—additionally described “deluxe” as something that provides “comfort and choice.” Korkmaz cited that the Azamara Journey has a resort casual dress code with no formal nights, “very comfortable, particularly in this day and age with the problems one encounters with airlines,” he said. And he added as an example of choice that the ship, with a guest capacity of 700, offers four restaurants, so passengers have variety and since the number of passengers is low, rarely encounter waits. The ship’s main dining room and the buffet-style restaurant with action stations are free of charge; the two alternative restaurants, Aqualina (Mediterranean cuisine) and Prime C (classic steakhouse fare) have a suggested gratuity of $5 per person.

After sailing for 12 nights on the Azamara Journey, I have drawn up my own list of what constitutes “deluxe” to me, and it is details, details, details.

  • Welcome aboard details: A complimentary glass of champagne or fruit punch handed to you in the gangway speaks volumestelling you that you have just entered a world of luxury and pampering where they care about you and your well being. Upon reaching your stateroom on the Azamara Journey, you find a complimentary one-liter bottle of mineral water (so welcome after arriving totally parched from a long flight) and a complimentary large canvas bagwith a zipper, just a detail, but one that actually makes the bag useful as when the zipper is closed contents are kept private and cannot spill.
  • Stateroom amenities: “Deluxe” here to me goes beyond the plush mattress and bedding, flat-screen television (all available on the Azamara Journey and now becoming commonplace on many ships). To me “deluxe” are the large, more than three-ounce bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion from Elemis featured on the Azamara Journeynot the tiny one-ounce ones provided by many lines that are used up in a couple of days, and you may have to go out looking for your cabin steward to get additional supplies. Azamara also features plush terry-cloth robes that actually dry you instantly when they come in contact you’re your skin (not the flimsier ones provided by some lines) plus slippers, and oversized, custom-made, thick and thirsty bath towels of Egyptian cottonso big I could make myself a sundress and a pair of shorts out of one of them. One problem here: the towels are so huge that it is hard to hang them for re-use on the existing hardware from when the ship was Renaissance Cruises’ R-Sixbut since the towels are custom-made, the hotel director said in the future they may add loops to the towels to hang them easily from the existing small hooks on the bathroom door. Still other great features are a table large enough to eat dinner comfortably or play a game of chess on the terrace; a warm, but lightweight duvet (you don’t need a small crane to lift it off you to get out of bed as you feel you need sometimes in some hotels and other ships’ accommodations) and two deck blankets in case you want to use your veranda and there’s a chill in the air. And probably best of allbutler service—you can say, “the butler did it” when it comes to arranging restaurant and spa reservations, providing daily customized fruit baskets and mini-bar selections, afternoon tea and goodies, even assistance with packing and unpacking if desired.
  • Food service: One truly “deluxe” touch for my taste is the complimentary fruit smoothies in the Windows Café, the casual buffet-style restaurant, every morning. We had more than a half-dozen fruits to choose from including papayas, mangoes and blueberries and a choice of milks (whole, skim and soy) and yogurt and honey, and, “voila, breakfast in a glass,” as one of our fellow passengers exclaimed upon being served a delectable concoction of yogurt, papaya, mango, strawberries and honey. Call it delightfully “deluxe” at that!
  • Entertainment and enrichment programs: Often when a ship has open seating dining, there is just one show, late in the evening to allow for all passengers to be able to have dinner and then go to the show. For passengers who, like me, are early risers and who like to dine early and retire early, if there is one show only, say, starting at 10 p.m. or later, we usually opt to skip it. But on Azamara Journey, most evenings there were two presentations of the shows, one at 8 p.m. and a second one at 10 p.m., so everyone could take in the show at the time they wished. Other welcome features: a well-stocked, honor system, 24-hour library where I found National Geographic Books like Arctic Tale, the informative Rough Guide to Morocco (Casablanca was on our itinerary) and other wonderful books like the Smithsonian’s The Secret of the Pyramid about a new theory on the building of the pyramids from the inside out using an interior ramp. Also, the ship offered enrichment lectures about the regions and ports visited, not just summaries of shore excursions.
  • Miscellaneous services: The fast disappearing self-service launderetteit is non-existent on most new ships from mass market to moderately priced to premiumis available on Azamara Journeyand with a flat-screen television and two comfy upholstered armchairs to boot. For those of us who love to pack light and avoid steep laundry charges, this is a truly “deluxe” touch. We used the self-service launderette three times during our voyage ($2 per wash, $2 per dryer cycle, soap included) and this detail made quite a difference to our comfort: we packed lightly, saved our money and did not have to wash our clothes in our bathroomas we have to do on many other ships. Judging by how well frequented the self-service launderette was with more than a half-dozen passengers using it on each of our trips there and as we passed it on our way to the restaurantsit was a few cabins down from oursit was appreciated by many.

Details, details, detailsthey all add up to comfort, choice, better food and service, and a betterdefinitely “deluxe”cruise experience.

For information on Azamara Cruises including rates and itineraries, visit www.azamaracruises.com.


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