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Azamara Onward - Almost Identical


AZAMARA ONWARD

“Onward” is the latest “R” class ship to join the Azamara Fleet. The “R”class ships were originally operated by Renaissance Cruises. When Renaissance Cruises went belly up in 2002 the “R Three” as she was known was taken over by Princess Cruises along with “R Four” being renamed “Pacific Princess” and “Ocean Princess”. In 2021 Princess announced that “Pacific Princess” had been sold. Azamara were the buyer and “Azamara Onward” came into service in 2022.


Like most refitted ships she was not without her problems for the first few months, so it was with trepidation that I boarded “Onward” for my second Azamara Cruise in January this year. My first Azamazing Cruise on “Pursuit” was a Spain Intensive last year and I just loved what Azamara had to offer.


Drawing Room - Azamara Quest


The first three Azamara ships and “Onward” are almost identical, but not quite. The main difference is the Drawing Room (library/quiet space) has been replaced by the Atlas Bar on "Onward" more about that later.



Embarkation in Miami was a little different, mainly handled by shoreside staff. Previously on “Pursuit” Lee Hethrington the Cruise Director and his team of entertainers had welcomed guests in the terminal building in Lisbon.


Once onboard “Onward” safety drill was a piece of cake as small groups of passengers were welcomed to the muster station following which we were free to explore the ship. This time around, the ship was almost full of a mixture of nationalities, but mainly American, Canadian and British making up the majority. Wisely we headed straight for the Specially Dining Reservation desk and were soon sorted out with our request. We later noticed that the queue for this had multiplied.


Although embarkation did not start until 2.00 pm a light lunch was being served in Windows Café the self-service restaurant. Snacks were also being served at other locations and so the orgy of overindulgence began.



Sail away party on deck was a bit of a non-event. The advertised band did not appear, or if it did l missed it. The other main difference between this and my first Azamara Cruise was the absence of Officers on deck mingling with the passengers. On Pursuit sail away from Lisbon a lot of senior officers were on deck doing the rounds.





This theme continued throughout the cruise; the officers were present on deck but tended not to be as socially active with the guests as l had previously experienced. The big exception to this was the captain. Carl Smith. An English captain whose noon announcements could be heard and understood along with the interesting facts he imparted

Captain Carl Smith


A fellow old seadog onboard had sailed with Capt. Carl many years ago on Swan Hellenic. So, l had the chance to meet him early on in the cruise. He found it amusing that l had worked on the Original Pacific Princess “The Love Boat”.


Azamara Onward Senior Officers


I got to chat to Chef JP Keane on a number of occasions, He and his galley team produced some great food during the cruise. From memory he had 4 bakers, 14 pastry chefs and a galley team of 86, the galley worked around the clock. I like to judge the expertise of the galley staff on one or two simple things. Firstly, the bread, which was pretty good and egg cookery especially poached eggs and omelettes. The late great chef Albert Roux always had his chefs fry an egg during their interview for a job. Well, “Onward” passed my egg test and the orange juice at breakfast was always freshly squeezed another one of my little foibles.


Azamara Onward - Brunch Buffet


What really surprised me was that chef JP shared with me daily food costings per passenger per day, which l honestly did not expect him to do. He explained that Sycamore Partners were very accommodating to requests and the food budget since they took over Azamara from Royal Caribbean Group.


The White Night buffet was costed out at just over $10,000 around 400 guests join in the buffet leaving over 200 guests eating in the speciality restaurants and main dining room. It was very easy to see where the money had been spent on this delicious display of dishes, it was good to see the officers barbequing and dishing up the food. Sadly, having spent several hours preparing the deck for the party we had all got nicely seated when the heavens opened, and everyone dived for cover. It was not quite the same eating the food in Windows Café as it would have been on deck. The party was also moved indoors to the Cabaret Lounge which although very enjoyable was not exactly dancing under the stars.


Like most smaller ships the entertainment was limited. Lots of Trivia and quizzes and a couple of port enrichment lecturers during the day. During the cruise, one of The Signature Singers and Dancers fell ill and on a couple of evenings The Assistant Cruise Director and resident pianist filled in with solo shows. Guest entertainer Jeff Newman did a very entertaining mind-reading show, which had everybody baffled. Two shows a night 8.00pm and 9.30pm. It was a little tight some nights getting dinner and making it to the show on time.


The Americans do like to eat early. One evening we were sat in Mosaic café chatting to Capt. Carl enjoy a late cup of tea and could not believe the queue forming at the MDR at 5.30pm for 6.00 p.m. dinner. Dinner is open seating, and you can arrive at your leisure.

We found that arriving at 8.00pm we normally had to wait for 20 mins for a table. This is the first time we have experienced this on a smaller ship, but to be fair this was the first time since covid that the ship was almost full capacity.


Atlas Bar - Azamara Onward


It was not until ½ way through the cruise that we discovered the Atlas Bar. On other Azamara ships this is the Drawing Room \ Library which we had noticed on “Pursuit” was little used. So, on their latest ship “Onward” they have redesigned this space into the Atlas Bar. It is more compact and serves Premium Cocktails, they do charge extra for these unless you have signed up for the “Ultimate Drinks” package. It is very relaxing for a pre-dinner drink with friends.


During the cruise, you can also join a Mixology Class in this bar. Call me old-fashioned but to me, it was a Cocktail Lesson.


Since covid “Azamazing Evenings” have been suspended. These evenings usually involve the majority of the passengers being whisked off to a location to enjoy local entertainment, drinks, and food. The first one of these to be reinstated on “Onward” took place in Philipsburg, Saint Maarten. However, it was rather a bitty sort of evening. First off dinner was served onboard in Windows Café, but you had to eat at 5.30 pm to attend the show at 7.30 pm. Which was held on the dockside a short walk from the ship.



We were welcomed by a Rum Punch which l noticed most people did not drink. We were then entertained by a very good band and singers, colourful dancers, and stilt walkers, but not really the “Azamazing Evening” I was expecting. Hopefully, they will soon be back in full swing.




At the end of the evening, we normally retired to the Living Room, a beautiful room overlooking the bow above the bridge. The resident band East Pearl played some good music as people took to the dance floor. Come 11.00 pm they packed up and DJ Astrid a charming lady started to spin the disks, but sadly most evening the room soon emptied apart from one or two stragglers, yes l was normally among them.


Azamara Onward

I must say Azamara is introducing Starlink Internet onboard its ships. This has been developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, it is defiantly a step up from most cruise ship internet services, but still a little on the expensive side at $29.95 for one day or if you book for the whole cruise $19.95 a day, but you can only have one device connected at a time. Just Saying.


All too soon the ship is heading back to Miami, and it is time to say goodbye to your newly made friends and thank the wonderful Azamara crew. The welcome we received from the captain at the top, down to the utility steward cleaning the brass bannisters on the companionways was always friendly and welcoming and we really felt that we were part of the Azamara Family.


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