The embarkation check in process was abysmal. We had submitted our pre-boarding forms electronically along with photos and brought copies with us. When we got to check in, NONE of that work paid off. Their computer system could not call up the data provided electronically, so we had to supply it AGAIN while the person entered it finger by finger on the keyboard. Then their system could not read our passports and THAT information had to fingered in. After 20 minutes of this misery, the system would not print out a confirmation and cards. We were directed to another check in person and the ENTIRE PROCESS WAS REPEATED for another 15 minutes. Neither of the ship's IT people were able to help or explain. As Discoverer level loyalty cruisers, we did expect a better performance by the check-in people.
Our cabin was well maintained by the crew assigned to it.
The on-board WiFI system is much better than in the past. More reliable and much easier to use.
As is the norm for Azamara, the buffet and main dining rooms serve good meals and the service is very attentive. The buffet changes each night to a different country cuisine. When the meals are not what we were interested in, we have the option of eating al fresco in the Patio Grill. Nightly specials are very good there. We did not use the room service for meals. WE did not go to the specialty restaurants on this cruise. We have in the past and found that the meals in the other venues of the ship are just as good and more casual as they do not require reservations.
We always buy the top shelf beverage package and found at least one bartender at each bar had some skills in mixing drinks.
We do not go to the production shows when cruising, but prefer to go to the smaller venues around the ship where music is playing at the bars. This trip was no exception and the music was fine.
This cruise did not have an Azamazing evening.
There was a White Night. The crew always does a great job with the food and entertainment that night.
We took only private shore excursions and because of the many ports which were cancelled, it was real scramble to get refunds at the last minute from the vendors
What has happened to Azamara since expanding their fleet by 50% last year? Their backroom operations in Miami are horrendous. On this voyage nearly 40 people were told that they could get a China visa through a group visa with Azamara. When the ship arrived at the first Chinese port - no visas, so the people either had to leave the ship and fly away or stay in their cabin for the next 8 days.
More backroom problems came about when passengers were given the wrong port departure and arrival locations for this voyage. Hotel reservations and ground transportation plans were utterly worthless when it was discovered that Harumi in Tokyo was the departure point, rather than Yokohama which was the information provided by backroom personnel. Also, impacted was Hong Kong where Kai Tak was given as the disembarkation point when in fact it was Harbour City. These are not incidental oversights to travel plans, but severe problems when planning many pre- and post- cruise activities/costs.
Why did Azamara choose to sail during the local typhoon season? A devastating one hit Tokyo (the embarkation port) 3 days prior to boarding, another one hit central Japan 3 days after boarding, another one hit between China and Japan on the 10th day of the cruise. Over 1/2 of the originally advertised ports were skipped by the captain and the whole trip was a hodgepodge of unplanned ports, repeated ports and twice as many sea days. Totally worthless.
A few months before final payment was due, passengers were advised that the ship was not going as planned to South Korea because of some restrictions applied by China. A misleading narrative was provided in the letter. Factually, in March of 2017, two years before the passengers on this voyage got a letter, RCCL, the parent company of Azamara, published their new corporate policy through Reuters News Service that they were terminating South Korea ports on China cruises. The entire cruise industry knew in the first quarter of 2017 that ports in South Korea were not to be included in direct cruising with China. Why did it take Azamara 2 years to tell the booked passengers and why did they continue to offer/advertise the cruise with the South Korea ports when it was in violation of corporate policy and Chinese law?
Travelling with Azamara should not require the passengers to check and double check the planned itinerary because of the above ineptness of the company. While the company can bemoan that this voyage cost them too much to conduct, the passengers bore the financial brunt of shore-side incompetence. When the cost of air flights equaled the cost of the cruise for most passengers, Azamara did not seem to care that their mishandling of the whole voyage from start to finish resulted in those losses. The ship crew was not at fault for any of the above problems as this voyage was doomed by the planning and shore-side offices.