Azamara Club Cruises, often called “Azamara cruises” or just “Azamara,” is a relatively new cruise line owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, the second largest cruise ship operator (after Carnival) in the world. Azamara Club Cruises advertises itself as the “best small luxury cruise line,” but they haven’t always attached the word “luxury” to their brand name. Just a few years ago, the company held a press conference to announce a name modification – from “Azamara Cruises” to “Azamara Club Cruises” – and during this conference they said they prefer to label themselves “upscale,” as opposed to luxurious. Regardless of how the cruise line is classified, though, their services are certainly a cut above the industry average and their vacations have lots of enthusiastic fans.
Azamara was founded in 2007 and was originally supposed to be a part of Celebrity Cruises, which is the second largest cruise line owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises. (The biggest is the company’s eponymous cruise line, Royal Caribbean.) The company wanted to expand Celebrity’s sub-brand, Celebrity Expeditions, which specializes in sending passengers to remote locations, like the Galapagos Islands. The Blue Moon and the Blue Dream, ships operated by Pullmantur Cruises (also owned by Royal Caribbean), were going to be transferred to the Celebrity Expeditions enterprise and renamed Celebrity Quest and Celebrity Journey. However, it was instead decided that these two vessels should form an entirely new cruise line, Azamara. The ships are now called Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey, and they make up the entirety of the Azamara Club Cruises fleet.
Both the Quest and the Journey, which are sister ships with the same dimensions, are small to mid-range by cruise ship standards. They have a gross tonnage of 30,277 and they can hold virtually the same number of passengers and crew members, around 700 and 400, respectively. Like other small luxury cruise lines we’ve written about (e.g., Silverseas), Azamara is clearly not trying to directly compete with the major cruise lines (a few of which are owned by their parent company anyway). They are catering to a small niche of the cruise industry, targeting passengers who want upscale service and don’t mind if it costs extra (which it obviously does). Being on an Azamara ship is like staying in a “fine boutique hotel, only better,” as their website puts it. There are a number of high-end restaurants on board, or if you feel like staying in, room service is available 24 hours a day. Passengers on Azamara also get lots of free amenities. Bottle watered, soft drinks, coffee, and tea are all free, as are a few wines at lunch and dinner. There are also free shuttles to and from port (where possible), and concierges on board can take care of arranging any onshore activities. If you are staying in a suite, you even get an English butler to cater to your needs. You do get lots of specialized, non-industry-standard treatment on board an Azamara cruise, but the ship also has the staples of a cruise ship, like a large spa and casino.
To conclude, if you can afford to take a cruise with Azamara Club Cruises, they are definitely worth looking into. They visit most parts of the world, often following unique itineraries to reach various destinations, and you will be pampered on board the ship with specialized service. And while the ship is small and intimate, it still offers many of the services of a larger vessel. What more could you want from a cruise line?