The ship that will take us around to the mainland of Greece and Turkey and to the islands of Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes carries about 700 lucky people. It’s a new line but loading went smoothly and we were delivered to our cabin with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of nice touches. There was the cold towel, and the cold champagne when we entered and the assurance that our luggage would magically appear in our room. (It did.)
The ship looks a lot like a Four Seasons inside — elegant dark wood, curving staircases — it’s easy to forget this is a boat. The cabin itself was lovely but somewhat narrow and the shower did not speak romance to me. Happily, we were upgraded to a suite (low on the hierarchy of suites that Azmara has but a huge improvement over our previous cabin). The suite has everything I want in a cruise room — a private balcony with room enough to eat and lounge and a bathroom that two people can use without elbowing each other in a territorial power grab for sink space. Most important to me: there is a tub and a shower two people could use together if they were inclined to do so.
The suite has all kinds of other nice touches as well. At three o’clock, “your” butler arrives with a tea service; it’s kind of a shock to open your door and see a linen-bedecked tea cart spread with desert delicacies. Nonetheless, I got over my shock, and took three. About an hour later, another knock and there he was again, with savories (calamari, grilled chicken and shrimp cocktail). He will set this up for the two of you on your balcony or in front of the small couch in your room. Does this sound romantic to you? I was missing my guy big time now.
The ship feels intimate. All the cabins have been designed not to feel institutional. It’s easy to feel there are only a few hundred people on the boat with you — and that is especially true for the two specialty restaurants where most people have to pay a fifteen dollar surcharge to dine (suites get it free, another nice touch). Actually, there are very few “nickle and dime” extras that you have to pay for: your cokes and wine at meals are free and you only pay for excursions and discretionary purchases. I like that a lot. I think if you are on a romantic vacation you don’t want to have to check with each other every ten minutes about whether to spend money on wine, or how much to tip everyone. The easier the better — most everything is figured out in your initial price.
I interviewed the ship’s hotelier Philip Herbert and charming guy that he is (I have often wondered if any non-charming people work on ships), he is dedicated to making the trip special for couples. Want a marriage or recommitment ceremony? A special evening out? A room bedecked with rose petals and fresh flowers? It’s all possible, just ask.
So here we are, looking out the window at blue water and bright skies and about to pull in to our first shore excursion. Life is good.