Azamara Cruises fleet
Review of Azamara Cruises
Azamara (azamara.com / fka "Azamara Club Cruises") is a premium cruise travel brand and a Sycamore Partners-owned company that currently operates four ships - Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest, Azamara Pursuit and Azamara Onward. Until 2021, Azamara was a subsidiary of RCCL-Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
All Azamara ships are R-Class vessels (built between 1998-2001) and originally owned by Renaissance Cruises (1989-founded/2001-defunct). Founded in 2007 as "Azamara Cruises", the company was rebranded twice - in 2009 (to "Azamara Club Cruises") and on June 18, 2019 (to just "Azamara"). The brand's logo was also changed.
On January 19, 2021, Azamara's parent company RCG (Royal Caribbean Group) announced an agreement to sell the Azamara brand for USD 201 million (~EUR 165,8M / ~GBP 147,6M / carve-out transaction) to Sycamore Partners. Sycamore Partners acquired the entire brand and its 3 ships, plus all the associated intellectual property rights and goodwill. The all-cash transaction was closed on March 19, 2021. The deal was assisted by Perella Weinberg Partners (financial advisor for RCG), Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (legal counsel for RCG) and Kirkland & Ellis (legal advice to Sycamore).
Azamara's CEO and President is Carol Cabezas, while Orlando Ashford is the Executive Chairman. Under the new ownership, the company's executive team also includes Doug Parks (CAO/Administrative), Nico Corbijn (Head of Marine Operations/fleet maintenance), Laura Krejci (CIO/Information), Rafael Pagliuso (General Counsel/legal matters). In 2022, Azamara moved its Global Corporate Headquarters to Miami Florida.
The brand's new owner Sycamore Partners (2011-founded, NYC-headquartered) is a major private equity firm with USD 15+ billion in capital and assets under management. Sycamore specializes in retail-, consumer- and debt investments, leveraged and distressed buyouts, complex corporate carveouts. The largest Sycamore Partners investments include Belk Inc (1888-founded American department store chain/2015-acquired), Talbots (1947-founded American retailer of women's clothing-shoes-fashion accessories/2012-acquired), Nine West Holdings (1970-founded as Jones Apparel Group, American designer and wholesaler of branded clothing-shoes-accessories/2013-acquired) and Staples Inc (1986-founded, American office retailer/2017-acquired).
On January 25, 2021, Sycamore purchased for Azamara the R-Class ship Pacific Princess (now Azamara Onward), which is sistership to/same-designed as the other three Azamara boats (Journey, Quest, Pursuit). The new name (Azamara Onward) was officially announced on March 19th.
In late-November 2021 Azamara signed a multi-year deal with VIKAND Medical Solutions (Fort Lauderdale-based company providing medical services to the maritime industry). By the contract, VIKAND manages all the fleet's medical operations, including medical facilities, staffing, equipment management, programs (outbreak prevention, emergency support, consultation).
Larry Pimentel was Azamara's President and CEO between 2009-2021. He formerly served as President and CEO of the cruise companies SeaDream Yacht Club, Seabourn and Cunard Line. Each Azamara vessel carries up to 694 passengers. Most of the company's customers (45%) are from North America, ~20% from UK-Ireland, ~10% from Australia-New Zealand.
Azamara has won many awards for its value, travel experience and service. Among its honors, Azamara won three awards in the same category with "Best Entertainment" to Azamara Journey, while Azamara Quest won "Best Fitness and Best Public Rooms" by 2015 UK Cruisers' Choice Awards. Azamara Club Cruises was listed amongst Travel+Leisure's "World's Best Awards 2014" in the large-ship companies category. Designed to provide exotic destination-driven itineraries, the line presents an intimate onboard experience while offering access to less-traveled ports of call that experienced cruisers want to visit.
Azamara gives an exciting opportunity to experienced travelers who look for more than what a traditional voyage can deliver. They are keener on traveling than cruising, but may still prefer the convenience that only a ship can deliver in exotic locales. Azamara provides this underserved group of vacationers what they want - an experience that is a bit different: more than premium, but not quite luxury. Azamara offers deluxe voyages with concierge-style amenities - for this one would have to upgrade to a suite on other lines.
Since its launch, Azamara has added more inclusive amenities to its cruise fares, including complimentary bottled water, brand teas and coffees, standard wines (by the glass), spirits and international beers (during bar hours), also free self-service laundry and shuttle bus service (town-port-town transfers).
The extensive overhauls of the two former fleetmates of Renaissance Cruises (1989-2001/defunct) resulted in brighter interiors with the addition of light and splashes of bold color in the drapes and upholstery. Areas that appeared stuffy now look welcoming, with contemporary artwork enhancing the decor. While the size of Azamara liners makes supports easy navigation and a high level of intimacy, there is no skimping on features that are abundant on larger liners, such as alternative dining and private cabin balconies. Cruisers may feel like they have checked into an upscale boutique hotel that happens to float.
Azamara's all-inclusive "luxury club" like experience includes complimentary beverages (spirits, wines, international beers, bottled waters, specialty teas-coffees, soft drinks), AzAmazing Evening (shore excursions themed on local cuisine and traditional entertainment), onboard gratuities, onboard concierge and butler services (in suites). The AzAmazing tours are complimentary evenings ashore offering a fabulous way to immerse in the region's/destination's culture.
In September 2021 Azamara announced a partnership with Starboard Cruise Services (retailer) for fleetwide retail services. The deal also expanded the brand's shoreside (late-evening and overnight port) retail offerings and activities with local products by artisans and craftsmen, including visits to their own shops/studios. The retail collections are mainly culture-themed and genuine to each visited cruise port/country.
Marked by wealth and elegance, Azamara voyages are professionally planned and managed all the way through your stay with the company - both shipboard and ashore. On all Azamara ships, ~93% of all staterooms are outside, with 70% of them having private step-out balconies. Onboard service is outstanding: from butler service in every stateroom to the 1 staff member to every 2 guests ratio. In every stateroom, passengers receive a high level of service, which is rarely found on larger cruise liners.
On September 26, 2017, Azamara announced an agreement with P&O UK (Carnival Corporation subsidiary company) to purchase the ship Adonia (Azamara Pursuit). Adonia's last P&O cruise was a 15-day Barbados roundtrip itinerary (booking code D804) February 23 through March 9, 2018.
The vessel will join Azamara's fleet of 2 sisterships (Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest). The planned delivery is for March 2018. The ship will be renamed "Azamara Pursuit". During the scheduled drydock refurbishment, the cruise ship's decor was changed, as well as the names of bars and lounges, cabin categories and amenities.
In late-January 2021, Azamara's new owner Sycamore Partners purchased the R-Class boat Pacific Princess (now Azamara Onward), which is sistership (by design) to all Azamara ships.
(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2021
Due to the Coronavirus crisis, Azamara canceled all cruises with pre-scheduled departures in the period March 13, 2020, through September 2021. Operations resumed in 2021 with the ships QUEST (Aug 28/Greek Islands from Piraeus-Athens), PURSUIT (Sept 28/Greek Islands from Piraeus-Athens), JOURNEY (Oct 13/Greece from Piraeus-Athens), ONWARD (May 2, 2022/Maiden Voyage/Mediterranean from Monte Carlo to Venice).
All affected bookings received full refunds (100%), including on prepurchased through Azamara cruise packages and services. With rebooking are offered 125% refunds in FCC (future cruise credit) to be used on itineraries that depart up to Sept 30, 2022. The FCC must be redeemed by April 30, 2022. Changing the FCC to a monetary refund (100%) must be done by May 20, 2021. Azamara's Cancellation Policy was extended to allow penalty-free cancellations up to 48 hours prior departure (all officially canceled itineraries) and receive an FCC.
Itinerary of Azamara Cruises
With regularly scheduled cruise itineraries in the Caribbean, South America, Australia New Zealand, Asia and Europe, Azamara offers a wide choice of premium travel excursions marked by a 5-star hotel (all-inclusive) shipboard experiences, like in-cabin spa treatments, gourmet dining, white-glove service. Azamara's shore excursions offer special insights into the visited regions' history, culture, traditions, geology, wildlife. Each voyage includes one AzAmazing excursion included in the cruise fares.
Azamara customers can also book fly-cruise deals to sailings in the Caribbean (including Panama Canal transition), South America, Asia, Hawaii, Alaska. For Formula 1 fans there is even a "Monaco F1 Grand Prix Cruise" in the Azamara's schedule each year.
Under the company's new ownership (Sycamore Partners since 2021), Azamara now operates a fleet of four ultra-luxury ships - Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey, Azamara Pursuit, Azamara Onward (fka Pacific Princess).
Azamara 2021-2022-2023 itineraries
Azamara's 2021-Q2 itineraries include sailing across 4 continents from January through March. Changes include new country-intensive sailings in Japan, the introduction of Azamara Pursuit to Australia and New Zealand, additional experiences in South Africa and South America.
In Japan, Azamara offers 15- and 16-night itineraries with calls at up to 13 cruise ports, including Aomori, Hakodate, Kobe-Osaka, Tokyo. Starting in 2019, the company offers immersive shore excursions program to showcase the country's culture in its various regions. Azamara Pursuit debuts in Australia-New Zealand (2021) and visits 18 ports, including Melbourne, Sydney, Akaroa, Auckland, Napier. The company is also introducing new experiences in South Africa and South America - a "Rio Carnival Cruise" (Azamara Quest) and a South Africa roundtrip (Azamara Journey).
In April 2019, Azamara announced its 2021-2022 schedule featuring 140+ overnights worldwide and discovery-themed itineraries in Eastern Europe (an expanded the Black Sea and Turkey program) with overnights in Istanbul and resort towns like Antalya and Sinop.
Azamara's 10x maiden ports included Amami, Arica, Brest, Fraser Island, Guayaquil, Manta, Milos, Pylos, Tema-Accra, Warrenpoint (Northern Ireland). In 2021, Azamara doubled the overnight stays in France and Spain (since 2015). Shore tour options include Andalusian Gastronomy Experience in Seville Spain and Nantes/Loire Valley.
Azamara also offers new "Grand Voyages" via B2Bs (back-to-back cruises) around the world with bookings receiving onboard credit for each leg of the voyage plus free WiFi. Grand Voyages are designed for travelers opting for longer itineraries with more destinations while saving money on the booking. An example is the 69-day South America Circumnavigation (Miami roundtrip / January 2022) covering a total of 32 countries - including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Antarctic Sound passage.
Due to set sail in spring 2022 for her inaugural season, Azamara Cruises offers passengers the chance to join the maiden and christening voyage of Azamara Onward, starting in Monte Carlo Monaco and finishing in Venice Italy. Azamara Onward is pushing forward the future of Destination Immersion experiences with 50% of its cruises being Country-Intensive itineraries, featuring 85 late nights and 21 overnights in multiple European cities.
The inaugural deployment of the vessel includes a series of exotic sailings ranging from 7- to 15-nights, where passengers can uncover the Black Sea mysteries during a visit to Constanta Romania or the Potemkin Stairs of Odessa Ukraine. A PerryGolf Mediterranean cruise is also offered along with new land explorations, such as an AzAmazing Journeys in Greece and Cappadocia, along with journeys throughout Italy, Spain, Turkey, Croatia, and more. Highlights of the new pre-/post-land tours include "Wonderous Cappadocia" (4 nights pre-cruise, 3 nights post-cruise), "Stay Local in Istanbul" (2 nights pre-cruise, 2 nights post-cruise), "Mythological Greece" (5 nights pre-cruise, 5 nights post-cruise).
Azamara Pursuit is scheduled to set sail to South Africa from January to March 2022 with 6 back-to-back (B2B) cruises, 5 of which are Country-Intensive itineraries, and restart pre-/post-cruise land explorations with luxury safari operator, Micato Safaris, named the #1 World’s Best Safari Outfitter by Travel+Leisure for 10th time. Highlights from Azamara Cruises' immersive pre-/post-land programs include:
Greater Kruger National Park Safari & Winelands (5 nights pre-cruise/5 nights post-cruise): Azamara guests are introduced to 2 different sides of South Africa – first exploring Kapama Game Reserve, home to 40+ mammal species. Then, visit the Western Cape, boasting the perfect climate for making world-class wines.
Victoria Falls & Chobe Game Park Safari (5 nights pre-cruise/5 nights post-cruise): Passengers travel through Zimbabwe to Botswana to experience Victoria Falls, one of the world's Seven Wonders. Then continue to Botswana to enjoy dawn and evening game drives through Chobe National Park.
Azamara’s cruises in South Africa offer a total of 16 late nights and 11 overnights throughout the winter, as well as 5 dedicated Country Intensive itineraries, allowing passengers to travel deeper and visit more ports in one country.
Highlights of the journeys include:
- PerryGolf Sailing: Azamara’s South African cruises feature a 12-night Golf Voyage through its partnership with PerryGolf, the leading provider of international luxury golf vacations. The voyage will include 5 rounds, beginning with Humewood Golf Club in Port Elizabeth which has hosted numerous PGA events, and is one of the top-rated gold clubs in South Africa, and will stop for play at notable clubs along the coast, such as East London, Pearl Valley, Zimbali, and Durban Country Club.
- Immersive Destination Programming: Azamara shore excursions are operated by Abercrombie & Kent’s cruise division, Akorn. Guests can experience Thula Thula, one of the oldest private game reserves in KwaZulu-Natal,and join rangers aboard an open-top 4×4 vehicle for a drive through Africa's bushveld. The day ends with a buffet featuring local African cuisine.
In September 2020, Azamara announced new itineraries for 2022-H2 and 2023-Q1. The program includes 80+ new itineraries with a total of 170 overnights and 300 late-night port stays. Season's highlights include maiden port calls (Dakar Senegal, Aberdeen Scotland, Tinos and Syros in Greece) and more "Country-Intensive Voyages" scheduled.
In 2022-2023, Azamara visits a total of 275 ports worldwide, among which 26 are Greek. Azamara Quest operates a "Greek Intensive Voyage" (roundtrip from Piraeus-Athens on October 15, 2022) that visits Tinos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Agios Nikolaos (Crete), plus Kusadasi Turkey.
In late-2022 - early-2023, the company also offers the Black Sea and Holy Land (Egypt-Israel Intensive) cruises. Further south, Azamara will continue with its South Africa Intensive program. One option is the 14-night "South Africa Intensive Holiday" with Azamara Journey (roundtrip from Cape Town South Africa) leaving on December 22, 2022.
Azamara's Europe 2023 schedule lists all ships in the fleet (Pursuit, Quest, Journey, Onward) and includes a total of 95 itineraries visiting 40+ countries and 200 ports. Seven of the European seaports are maiden/new for the brand - Alta Norway, Brest France, Cesme Turkey, Fredericia Denmark, Goteborg Sweden, Heimaey Island Iceland, Mariehamn Aland Finland. A "Black Sea Intensive" itinerary visits ports in Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine.
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