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Friday, 15 February 2013

Azamara in fine trim for welterweight stoush

Azamara Quest in new blue livery

by Roderick Eime

Cruise ships, like elite boxers, come in all shapes and sizes. From nimble flyweight cruisers with a dozen or so berths, to the new super heavyweights carrying passengers in their thousands, there are vessels to cater to every taste and budget.

While mass market luxury may seem an oxymoron, there is a category of ship designed to deliver the comforts and onboard accoutrements of the familiar, ocean-going vessels, but retaining the low volume, crowd-free comforts of the more exclusive, boutique ships.

This ‘small ship’ category is certainly larger than those normally seen on these pages, but warrant mention based on their ability to provide a more personal, intimate experience while still retaining the range of enriching worldwide itineraries otherwise reserved for the great liners.

Azamara Club Cruises featured in Gourmet Travellers’ “Top 10 luxury cruise companies”, rubbing gunwales with the likes of Seabourn, Silversea, SeaDream and Hapag-Lloyd. Lofty company indeed, although you could easily expand that list to include Ponant and possibly Paul Gaugin.

Azamara’s two 700-passenger ships, Journey and Quest, both recently underwent drydock refurbishments and emerged with a distinctive new blue livery applied to their superstructure. But the upgrades were not limited to simply a coat of paint and new drapes.

Shipwide renovations included new carpets, upholstery, and a new colour palette in public spaces reflecting the cruise line’s inviting atmosphere; new mattresses and upgraded veranda furniture for suites and staterooms; and a resurfaced pool, and new sun lounges and pool towels on the outer decks. The Casino Bar also was expanded and enhanced with new furniture, while the Spa and fitness centre was refreshed with a new steam room, showers, and state-of-the-art Life Fitness cardio equipment. Crew areas were also upgraded.

On the culinary front, guests can now enjoy a new caviar and champagne bar within Aqualina, one of the ships' two speciality dining venues, as well as a new Chef’s Table concept featuring three wine degustation menus – Italian, French and Californian. At Mosaic CafĂ©, the ships' central gathering spot, guests can purchase a freshly brewed cup of bespoke coffee.

To further emphasis the line’s point-of-difference, the forthcoming 2013 and 2014 itineraries were overhauled to provide a more destination rich and location immersive experience for Azamara’s discerning guests with special attention afforded iconic cruise ports in eight of the world’s most exciting destinations, including Rome, Athens, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Istanbul, Jordan and Israel, India, and China.

ACM travelled aboard Azamara Journey almost straight from dry dock in Singapore, through Vietnam to Hong Kong, with extended stops in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay, allowing us to venture as far afield as Hanoi or enjoy a relaxing cruise among the signature limestone formations.

"Azamara Club Cruises' guests have an unquenchable desire to immerse themselves in the history, culture and night life of the destinations we visit, which is why we offer them longer stays, more overnights and night touring," said Claudius Docekal, the Deployment and Destinations specialist to the assembled media guests.

With these revamped itineraries and yet more guest inclusions planned, Azamara is making its presence felt in this exclusive small ship club.

For more information, contact your ICCA travel agent, visit www.azamaraclubcruises.com or call 1800 754 500.

1 comment:

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