As the third ship in Azamara Club Cruises’ fleet, the 702-passenger Azamara Pursuit has increased the line’s capacity by 50 percent, but even more importantly, is allowing the upper premium brand to sail to new destinations. The line’s three ships will sail to more than 400 ports of call and Azamara is adding country-intensive itineraries, themed cruises and land / sea packages that include African safaris (partnering with Micato) and journeys to South America’s Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls.
Azamara Pursuit first sailed as the former Renaissance Cruises’ R-8 and later sailed as Swan-Hellenic Cruises’ Minerva II, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess and P&O Cruises’ and Fathom’s Adonia. After acquiring the ship earlier this year, Azamara updated and revitalized the 30,277-ship at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Azamara Pursuit began sailing in late August and Travel Agent was onboard for a christening / preview voyage.
Fresh Look, New Spaces: Overall, this boutique-style ship looks fresh and pleasing-to-the-eye. We like the contemporary — yet warm — interior décor created by outfitting specialist MJM Group. The ship also has a similar look to that of sisters Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey plus has many of the brand’s most popular signature spaces. That said, there are some changes.
Stressing that Azamara is always seeking ways to do more for guests, Larry Pimentel, Azamara’s president and CEO, says the line added more accommodations to this ship. It also took 40 or so staterooms on several decks and turned them into Club Continent Suites and added other suites elsewhere too. Overall, the ship now has 351 staterooms /suites. “We’ve added a lot more suites because that category is what sells first,” Pimentel says.
The Living Room is one of many elegant public spaces onboard Azamara Pursuit.
Travel Agent toured several suite categories. We particularly liked #8088, Bordeaux, a Club World Owner’s Suite. It’s one of six 560-square-foot suites with a large verandah; master bedroom with queen-size bed; large flat-screen TVs plus floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors in both the living room and master bedroom; a marble master bathroom with a shower (similar suites on the line’s other two ships have a tub); plus a guest bathroom, minibar, writing desk and in-room safe. One could easily spend several weeks or even months here in comfort.
Club World Owner’s suites accommodate up to three people. The veranda has lounge chairs and four chairs and a table for al fresco dining. This suite’s guests also receive inclusive amenities plus English butler service; four hours of complimentary Internet per guest; one free bag of laundry service per suite every seven days; complimentary seating in specialty restaurants; priority embarkation and debarkation; complimentary in-room spirits, and a $300 per person onboard credit per person.
We stayed in a balcony stateroom, #6050, on Deck 6. Some original dark wood remains, but mostly the cabin exuded a light, airy feeling. We loved the extremely comfortable bedding, duvets and pillows; good storage; and a nicely appointed bathroom with fluffy white towels, a gray and white color scheme, one sink, a shower and toilet. This stateroom had a very nice, light colored sofa; opposite that was a separate desk area with large mirror, refrigerator and drawers. Could be improved? In between was a coffee table (nicely moveable up and down) but it was a tad too big for the space when the desk chair is in use.
The Den: Also new, Azamara repurposed a part of the guest relations area that previously housed shore excursions and future cruise sales. In partnership with AFAR magazine, “we created a new area called The Den,” says Pimentel. This large lounge and destination-focused area has a piano, light “live” music in the evening, a lengthy bar, comfortable seating areas and those shore and future cruise areas plus destination-focused experts, activities and spirits.
To create more space onboard, the ship’s casino also was removed. With so much port time, the casino simply couldn’t be open that often. Azamara’s guests also book for destination immersion not for gaming. “It’s not the essence of the brand,” Pimentel emphasizes. The casinos also will be removed on Azamara’s other two ships.
Dining Options: With open seating, the main Discoveries Restaurant serves such tasty dishes as Gulf of Mexico shrimp with cognac and garlic and filet mignon with black truffle sauce. The casual Windows Café seems a step up from the typical cruise buffet, and highly recommended is the seafood themed night with mussels, clam, crab legs and claws, salmon, tuna and more. For an al fresco dining experience adjacent to the café, Sunset Veranda is a covered, open-air outdoor patio.
Two savory specialty restaurants - Aqualina with Italian specialties and Prime C with steaks and seafood - are complimentary to suite guests; other guests pay a $30 per person charge. One of the most popular spots on the ship is Deck 5’s Mosaic Café, which serves up espresso, cappuccino, cookies, cakes or croissants. It was often packed during our cruise. Clients with a sweet tooth can head to Swirl & Top, a self-serve frozen yogurt station.
During the day, the Patio is the ship’s pool grill area, but it transforms during the evenings into a sit-down, al fresco dining experience with table service, tablecloths, candles and a different menu. Advise guests to bring white attire for the White Nights party here, with food stations and “live” entertainment. The ship also has 24-hour room service.
Artwork: Gracing the atrium is a replica of Andy Scott’s “Beacon of Hope,” a famous statue from Belfast, where the ship was outfitted. The ship also has a robust collection of original artwork, many pieces by emerging, regional artists. Behind the guest relations’ desk is a lovely rose petals piece by Argentina’s Silvia Rivas. The ship also has a resident artist program so emerging artists can interact with guests.
The Discoveries Restaurant often serves dishes that reflect the destinations visited. // Photography: Susan J Young
Entertainment & Shopping: The large Cabaret Lounge offers live performance for professional, full-stage musical reviews. Guests can see as many as four different shows, plus also hear classical music soloists and bands; listen to enrichment talks; and watch films. Another venue we liked — particularly for the comfortable loungers with sea views — was Deck 10’s elegant Living Room with a bar, seating areas and a card room.
The Drawing Room is a peaceful spot, perfect for reading or relaxing, and guests can borrow library books. The Pursuit Shop sells handbags, sundries, souvenirs and more. At the Photo Shop, guests can check out professional photos taken by the ship’s photographers, buy photo supplies or use touch screens to browse and buy photos.
Health and Fitness: The Sanctum spa offers a variety of treatments — everything from a 50-minute “Fire and Ice Manicure” to a 100-minute Elemis Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage — and its Sanctum Terrace also has a soothing thalassotherapy pool. Other amenities include a pedicure area, dedicated barber services stations, teeth whitening, hair services, a Medi-spa and acupuncture clinic. Fitness buffs will appreciate state-of-the-art gym equipment, exercise classes, personal training services, on-deck yoga and bootcamp programs.
Overall, this ship is true to the brand, soothing to the eye and delivers on top-notch cuisine and service. But for Azamara’s guests, it’s still all about the itinerary, destinations, overnights / late nights in port and maximum destination immersion. Azamara Pursuit scores high in that regard as well, as the ship will make 15 maiden calls during 2018-19 and take guests farther across the globe.