CruiseMates Newsletter

Azamara Marks First Birthday
by Paul Motter

Azamara, the small but smart sister company to Celebrity Cruises, is celebrating its first year in service this week. The cruise line consists of just two, small-capacity cruise ships each capable of carrying 694 passengers. The ships were acquired when parent company Royal Caribbean International purchased the Spanish cruise line Pulmantur. Both ships were origianlly built for Renaissance cruises in the late 1990s.

These ships belong in what is now referred to as the "deluxe" category, which is considerd just a notch below the top-of-the-line luxury ships, although there are not many differences between what you fet on Azamara and many other luxury cruise lines. Even though these ships are about one quarter the size and passenger capacity of the average cruise ship, each ship has four restuarants on board, all offering open seating, anytime dining.

Two of the restaurants require reservations, the the Mediterranean-influenced "Aqualina" and the steak and seafood restaurant, "Prime C," but both are offered on a complimentary basis to all guests. The main dining room, "Discoveries," is open seating and "anytime" while the casual dining Lido buffet area is comprised of "Breeza" and the "Windows Café" out on the terrace.

The guest experience on both ships is decidedly posh, with Azamara butler service in every stateroom and suite, as well as concierge-style amenities, including fresh-cut flowers, fresh fruit, Elemis toiletries, complimentary use of Frette cotton robes, two complimentary pairs of slippers, plasma TVs and plush European bedding.

Right now, both ships are sailing in Europe on exotic itineraries such as a 16-night Western Europe cruise featuring four destinations in Spain, the Channel Islands, a cruise through Germany's Kiel Canal, and a two-night stay in London near the Tower Bridge a vivid illustration of Azamara cruise ships' ability to visit locations larger ships can't reach. Azamara Journey also sails in the Baltic this summer, with several overnight stays in captivating ports of call.

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But this fall the itineraries become especially enticing; Azamara Journey will come back to North America to present two new, 16-night Panama Canal sailings, followed by a series of 12-night exotic Caribbean cruises through March 2009. when the ship will relocate to Europe.

Meanwhile, Azamara Quest will sail for exotic Asia beginning with a 24-night voyage from Athens, Greece to Singapore departing November 22, 2008. Next is an 18-night Southeast Asia voyage from Singapore to Hong Kong, China; two 14-night Southeast Asia cruises between Hong Kong and Singapore, and four 14-night Northeast Asia cruises between Hong Kong and Beijing (Tianjin), China.

Seven-night escorted cruisetour packages in Asia are available offering in-depth land-based tours in Hong Kong, Beijing, Xian and Guilin, and visits to the Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors.

Azamara Journey will come back to Europe in March, 2009 and Azamara Quest will return to Europe on April 7, 2009, sailing from Singapore to Athens (Lavrion), Greece, for its second season in Europe. All sailings on both ships including those in 2009 are open for booking.

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