Azamara may have given a more modern twist to its two midsize ships, but they both still retain the refined ambience of an elegant upmarket hotel.
A multi-million pound upgrade injected a fresh feel into the interiors of the 686-passenger vessels, ushering in a look that is more contemporary boutique than country house.
Yet passengers stepping aboard Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest will still find the signature dark wood panelling and classic brass fittings, leading into a stately central staircase with wrought iron balustrades sweeping regally into the reception area.
For passengers wanting to make an entrance, this is definitely the place to do it in classic style.
An added bonus is that these ships are so easy to get around, with spacious corridors that are wheelchair accessible. Yet their compact size also means everything is within easy reach without the long hikes sometimes involved on larger ships.
The new stylish furnishings, in a palate of natural shades of taupe, biscuit and fawn, perfectly balance classic with modern and one of the most notable changes is the spacious Living Room lounge at the ship fore, which used to be more of a night-time venue.
Thanks to the new lighter feel, it is a natural place to come in daytime and snuggle up on sumptuous velvet sofas or slip into birdcage-style swinging chairs to relax with a good book or admire panoramic views through the floor to ceiling windows.
The swirly cream carpet resembles one of the complimentary cafe lattes that passengers can help themselves to from the new drinks machine, which itself accompanies tempting snacks served during the day and into the evening.
One of the more novel touches are the interactive ‘technology tables’ randomly dotted around the lounge, where guests can send postcards by selecting an online card and typing in a message before despatching it into cyberspace.
An oasis of peace and tranquillity, the Sanctum Day Spa has undergone a transformation and given a light and airy feel with a new entrance and two swanky new spa suites that include access to the wellness facilities and even come with their own balcony hot tub.
Guests will find a decent-size gym, with lines of exercise machines facing the full-length windows, to give inspiring sea views as users sweat off the pounds gained in the restaurants.
Spa fans can even try one of the new treatments, an Elemis Jade Stone Therapy where hot and cold stones are used alternately in a massage designed to relax and invigorate simultaneously.
The spa deck is equally tempting with its own thalassotherapy pool and irresistible cabana day bed. Guests wanting to while away the days here can buy a separate cruise pass, but anyone booking a spa treatment can relax there before or after their treatment.
Azamara is renowned for its special experiences, both onboard and ashore, and couples willing to splash out on a special experience can take advantage of its Nights in Private Places programme to book the spa deck for a private dinner and even spend the night on the cabana, specially made up as an al fresco bed.
But that’s if they can drag themselves away from the new-look cabins and suites, where plush textured wall coverings and flat-screen TVs facing the beds give a sybaritic feel. Lines of US and European plug points and USB connections on the lamps ensure that mod-cons are not forgotten too.
The ensuites, with their marblesque tile surroundings, are equally plush and passengers staying in the butler-service Continent Suites can opt for a bathtub or walk-in shower.
Even more spacious are the accessible staterooms, which enable easy access for wheelchair users and less able-bodied travellers with wider doorways and a clutch of other aids that include roll-in showers and grab bars.
Outside, the main pool deck has been spruced up with new tiles and “future teak” (that’s artificial teak to you and me), and is a peaceful sheltered retreat that is a world away from the busy hubs on bigger ships.
There may only be one pool, but that is plenty as nothing ever feels too crowded.
The former Pool Grill has become The Patio, offering al fresco dining and smartening up for the evenings with enhanced surroundings and a special menu, while the buffet-style Windows Cafe has been refreshed with more up-to-date furniture and extra tables for two to accommodate couples wanting their own space.
The same can be said for the classy Discoveries Restaurant, the main dining venue, which promises flexibility on every level with anytime dining and flexible dress codes. The intimate speciality restaurants, Prime C steakhouse and Aqualina, serving European cuisine, offer a more personalised dining experience, albeit for a supplement.
Azamara’s ships may have been given a facelift, but their essence has not changed and the classical features that have always made them so popular have been enhanced by the more sophisticated surroundings.
For more information call 0844 493 6006 or visit www.azamaraclubcruises.co.uk
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Azamara.