Last fall, I went on a Mediterranean cruise through Greece and Turkey with Azamara Club Crises. I had an absolutely fabulous time, but this was in spite of the cruise line, not because of it. Those of you who have been reading for awhile know that I generally have a policy of only writing about positive experiences that I’ve had. However, for the second time in s2f history, I had such a negative experience that is a result of systematic problems with a company and not a possible anomaly that I feel it is necessary to provide a consumer alert for Azamara Cruise lines. It really doesn’t take much to please me when it comes to travel. I lived an entire summer in London in Flat with a bathtub with a gaping hole and a very slow drain and was happy as a clam, so I was surprised to have been so disappointed by a cruise line that pegs itself as a “Light Luxury” line. So without further adieu here is a review of the good, bad and the ugly concerning Azamara:
If you decide to book a cruise with Azamara, I highly recommend using a travel agent. I did my own research for this trip and knew exactly what I wanted to book and decided to book with one of Azamara’s agents. I had no issue with initially booking the trip over the phone. The agent was very pleasant and booked the stateroom I wanted for the Greece/Turkey experience. I gave her my payment information and indicated that I was prepared to pay in full. She indicated that I only needed to pay a portion and rest could be paid several months later. She took my email address and told me that I would be receiving cruise information via email. I stupidly assumed that this would include a reminder when the balance was due. Several months later, I had not received ANY communication from Azamara, I decided to login online and pay the balance in full. Much to my surprise when I logged into my account, I saw that my booking had been cancelled. When I called to inquire as to why the booking had been cancelled, they said I had not paid the balance. Mind you, I paid a $3000 deposit, so you would think that a reminder email or courtesy phone call would be in order before cancelling my booking. I did not even know when the due date was for final payment and never received any email notification that payment was due. When I expressed my displeasure to the agent on the phone, she chastised me and said that Azamara cannot be responsible for sending everyone an email reminder to make final payment….really?!?! The last time I checked you can build in automated reminder emails in your systems and no extra manpower is required. That is called smart customer service in a digital age and the cruise line should be better equipped to handle bookings from travelers who like to plan their vacations independently….after all the cruise line didn’t have to pay an agent a commission for our booking!
Day of Cruise
On the day of the cruise my husband and I had no idea where to board the ship because Azamara never provided us with the port number. Fate was on our side and we ran into a couple from New Zealand whose travel agent had provided them with the necessary information.
On board Experience
The overall on-board experience was adequate. However, it certainly did not rise to the level of “luxury” service promised by the cruise line. We routinely had to go find a waiter in the dining room to take our drink order after we had already eaten half of our meal and we were parched. After observing the wait staff routine for a few days, I realized that it is a model of inefficiency, which points to very poor management and in no way reflects poorly on the staff. For example, if you are dining outside at the Windows cafe and ask for a soda. The waiter must go inside, get a glass, come back outside the bar area, fill it with ice and the soda you ordered. There is a bar stocked full of glasses right outside but the wait staff are not allowed to take those glasses because they are for bar orders only. Why not just re-stock bar glasses more frequently rather than make patrons wait ten minutes for a glass of water? What Azamara lacks is the attention to the little details and it is the details that truly create luxury. For example, they have a cafe that serves coffee and light snacks on the 5th floor. One of those snacks is hummus. However, there is no bread, chips or veggies to accompany the hummus. But if you go to the 9th floor and the pool grill area there are pita chips for everyone to enjoy…of course with no dip and certainly no hummus. Why hasn’t management thought to bring some chips from 9 to 5 and some hummus from 5 to 9?
Helloooo Tell us what to Wear?!
The cruise line never informed us of any dress code beyond the “resort casual” dress code they advertised online. Since I never got any cruise documents, I had no idea that all of the dining rooms except for the Windows Cafe require men to wear pants and no jeans are allowed. My husband only packed jeans, so we were effectively denied access to three of the four dining rooms. When we complained to the guest relation’s staff, they asked us if this was the first time that we cruised with Azamara. When we said that it was, they told us that the next time that we cruise with them we will get more information. Why do we have to be repeat cruisers to get access to information? They also indicated that we are not the only passengers who complained about not having the proper attire to enter the dining room and asked for our room number to se what they could do…they never got back to us (we complained on day 2 of a 7 day cruise). They had a White Party one night…but of course we never received any information about a White Party before the cruise so my husband wore a Red shirt to a White Party. How hard is it to send an email with specific information on the dining room dress codes and any themed evenings or parties. I am a researcher at heart and I spent hours on the Azamara website and perusing my documents before the trip and there was ZERO information on dress code other than “resort casual.”
My favorite folly was the Mykonos Miss. We were scheduled to be in Mykonos on day 4 of our cruise. We all arrived in Mykenos. We went to the deck and took pictures, woke up early and ate breakfast so we could get an early start to the highlight of our trip. 30 minutes before we were scheduled to begin tendering ashore, the Captain gets on the loud speaker and tells us that the winds are too strong for us to safely operate the tenders to shore. He said he was working on a new port and would let us know when he found one. Now, clearly the cruise line has no control over the wind, but upon further research I found that this is a frequent occurrence with a ship of this size, yet were given no warning that the most anticipated part of our itinerary could be aborted. The captain came on the loudspeaker a few hours later and said that we were going to dock early in our next port of call, Kusadasi. Part of the selling point of an Azamara cruise is that they have heavy ports of call and minimal “at sea” time. In fact, the cruise is so focused on ports of call that there is very little on board entertainment. So we land in Kusadasi and there is NOTHING to do. We ended up going on our own and trekking two hours on local Dolmas to a remote beach.
I think the “on our own” is the key phrase to describe out Azamara cruise experience. We were truly “on our own” for this cruise…isn’t the point of going on a cruise to not be “on your own,” but instead to be pampered by a ship full of crew and staff. Well, not the case on Azamara…Sorry Azamara, we wont be cruising with you again to find out if repeat cruisers get the attention they deserve.