Courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Pursuit is a luxe addition to the Azamara Club Cruises fleet.

Hannah Walhout
September 12, 2018

Azamara Club Cruises, the small but mighty upmarket brand from Royal Caribbean, has debuted a new ship. Azamara Pursuit is the first addition to the fleet since the brand launched a decade ago — and it’s part of a larger expansion that will connect Azamara to more destinations and communities than ever before.

This is the third ship for Azamara, a brand that started out with two: sister ships Journey and Quest. The fleet stayed small for a decade before deciding to strategically expand. “Azamara is a brand with purpose,” said Larry Pimentel, the company's President and CEO, at the ship’s naming ceremony. “Small is also beautiful.”

According to Pimentel, having more ships in rotation will allow Azamara to “stay longer in each place, with more night cruising, overnights in port, and late night excursions than any other cruise line.”

The ship has had several lives before joining the Azamara fleet, sailing for Renaissance, Fathom, and P&O. Azamara’s design team executed a bow-to-stern renovation, technical update, and rebrand to echo the soft, natural tones, elegant touches, heavy woods, and upmarket character of its sister ships.

“Our guests appreciate the gift of travel,” said Pimentel. “They have an explorer’s state of mind. They love experiences. We simply focus on our guests’ passion.” Pursuit itineraries will sail to 61 destinations new to Azamara, including 15 new ports of call. 

Pursuit will also be offering “country intensives” — routes that incorporate several places in one country to experience its many facets and spend more time immersed in the culture. “We realized guests have bucket lists,” he said. “What if we could completely circumnavigate Japan, for example, or New Zealand?”

Travelers love Azamara because it provides a different type of cruise experience than other major lines, focusing on the time on land rather than time spent at sea. “It’s about thinking outside the ship,” said Pimentel, noting that Pursuit routes will offer extensive time in port, nighttime excursions and locally focused experiences, and a slower cruise experience — less time hopping from port to port, and more time exploring the destinations.

I recently traveled to Southampton, England, for the Azamara Pursuit Naming Ceremony and celebratory voyage, traveling across the Channel to Cherbourg, France, and exploring the beautifully-renovated ship. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest addition to Azamara Club Cruises.

Ship Design

Pursuit has a total of 351 staterooms and suites, spread across decks 4, 6, 7, and 8. There is plenty of open public deck space and a number of lounges spread throughout the ship. There are nine guest decks with room for 702 passengers at double occupancy — a crew size of 400 makes for a nearly unmatched guest to crewmember ratio. At 84 feet wide and 592 feet long, this is a midsize ship that feels neither suffocatingly small nor overwhelmingly large.

Originally built in 2001, Pursuit headed to Belfast, Northern Ireland, for a complete renovation. It is now decked out in the classic Azamara aesthetic, with the addition of several spa suites, new restaurants and entertainment venues, and expanded public and outdoor space. Walking onto the ship for the first time, I was impressed by the tasteful design and color scheme, which harken back to an era of more exclusive ocean liner travel: dark hardwoods, plush velvet and quilted upholstery, brass patina, and touches of marble and stained glass.

Courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Staterooms

There are four types of stateroom, ranging from the least expensive interior (windowless) rooms to larger staterooms with balconies over the water. I stayed in a Club Veranda Stateroom on deck 6, which included a comfortable sitting area and writing desk, plus a table and chairs on the balcony perfect for a nightcap over the water.

For those desiring more space or privacy, a number of suite levels are also available. The largest Club World Owner’s Suite, of which there are only six on board, provides over 600 square feet of interior space — including a separate master bedroom — plus a marble bathtub, separate dressing room with a vanity, and floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening onto a 230-square-foot veranda at the stern.

Azamara employs an all-inclusive model, covering meals, beverages and spirits, self-service laundry, and shuttle services. Amenities for passengers staying in suites include the assistance of an English trained butler, in-suite afternoon tea service, complimentary dining at the ship’s specialty restaurants, and more.

Courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Dining

Pursuit’s elevated main restaurant, Discoveries, serves a rotation of buffet dinners and a la carte menus inspired by the day’s destination. For a more casual experience, try the Patio, a poolside outdoor space, or the Windows Cafe, a buffet setup that includes a live cooking station where chefs use ingredients purchased in port. For coffee, head to Mosaic Café, serving up Nespresso drinks, pastries, and sandwiches. After your meal, grab a digestif at one of the ship’s several bars, or head to Swirl & Top for a frozen yogurt dessert.

There are also two specialty dining venues on board, with reservations available for an additional fee (waived for suite guests). At Aqualina, you’ll find dishes from the extensive culinary canon of Italy, served in a refined setting with floor-to-ceiling windows over the water. The menu includes comfort foods like minestrone, eggplant parmesan, and tiramisu, as well as specialties like Sogliola di Dover and a duck confit risotto with forest mushrooms. Prime C is the ship’s classic surf and turf venue, with a richly-decorated dark wood dining room and an extensive wine list to complement the indulgent fare. I chose to split one of the large format entrées — the Chateaubriand for two, carved tableside — which was a standout. 

Wellness

Like its sister ships, Pursuit features the Sanctum Spa and outdoor terrace, complete with a saltwater whirlpool bath looking over the water at the bow. An extensive menu of treatments is available by appointment, including facials, massages, body sculpting services, and an array of all-day packages. Azamara is noted for offering acupuncture services at sea, employing experts in Chinese medicine who can also offer nutritional consultations and traditional herbal treatments.

Also on board is an extensive gym and indoor track, with complimentary group classes from cycling to deckside yoga, plus personal training services and boot camp programs. The onboard salon offers a variety of hairstyling services, manicures and pedicures, and other beauty rituals.

Courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Entertainment

Nightly entertainment in Pursuit’s Cabaret Lounge will include brand-new shows, including classical performances by Miami-based Magic City Opera and the exclusive 54 Below at Sea, featuring performers from the famous New York City cabaret Feinstein's/54 Below. Live music, film screenings, and onboard seminars are also on offer.

Each sailing includes classic Azamara events, including the famous White Night Party, held poolside with live entertainment and a decadent al fresco dinner. But the highlight is the beloved AzAmazing Evening, a signature event that Azamara continues to expand with more exclusive locations and over-the-top programming. During one of the frequent late-night stays in port, guests will be whisked away to a one-of-a-kind venue — a Greek amphitheater, say, or a historic estate — and treated to a site-specific dinner with local specialties and performers. (Their first ever such event featured three Italian tenors with a private performance in a medieval castle).

Courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Destinations

The ship’s inaugural season will take it around Europe and the Mediterranean, before heading on a transatlantic voyage for itineraries in Central and South America (and even Antarctica). In spring of next year, it will head back east for various sailings around Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and beyond. Eventually, Pursuit will head to destinations entirely new to Azamara, including Hawaii and French Polynesia, and the line will have roots in over 400 ports on all seven continents.

With Pursuit, Azamara is beginning to pioneer the concept of “Destination Intensives,” with deep dives into popular countries and regions. Upcoming itineraries include a series of Greek Isles Intensives, with stops on Mykonos, Santorini, Patmos, Paros, and more, as well as intensives in destinations that are less commonly seen by sea, such as Israel, Japan, and Cuba.

When it comes to excursions, Azamara’s motto is “cruise global, connect local.” Recognizing guests’ interest in meaningful, immersive travel experiences, the programming puts an emphasis on local connections — dinner with a local family, for example, or a neighborhood tour led by a resident — and the groups are limited in size.

Azamara collaborates with operators on the ground in each port, and no two excursions are alike. Examples include a home-cooked meal at the Americas’ oldest continuously-inhabited house, in Lima, Peru; catching and cooking King Crab on the Norwegian island of Magerøya; or a nighttime tour of Shwedagon temple in Yangon, Myanmar.

To book: azamaraclubcruises.com, 3-night cruises from $1,199.

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