In August 2018, Azamara Club Cruises expanded its two-ship fleet with the addition of Azamara Pursuit. The 702-passenger cruise ship fits nicely into the cruise line's commitment to destination immersion, as its smaller size allows it to get into ports that larger ships can't access. Fans of Azamara's other ships will find Pursuit feels familiar. (The layout of all three ships is virtually identical.) While the ship isn't new -- it has a long history dating to its debut under the defunct Renaissance Cruises -- it has been painstakingly refurbished so that most spaces feel modern and elegant. A neutral colour scheme serves as the ship's backdrop, which is punctuated with natural stone surfaces and rich, dark-wood detailing.
Azamara Pursuit is delightfully refined yet comfortable. The heartbeat of the ship is The Den, a large, central space located on Deck 5 that is decorated in dark woods and light carpeting and has numerous bookshelves lined with travel guides. It also includes a large bar, making it a spot passengers can lounge in night or day. This space replaces what had been a casino on other incarnations of the ship. Other highlights onboard include an enticing pool deck, two speciality restaurants (a steakhouse and an Italian venue), and a spa and large fitness complex. Pursuit includes two spectacular Spa Suites, located adjacent to the spa. These come with large soaking tubs that have unobstructed ocean views. While we felt slightly more could be done to connect the ports to the shipside experience, given the line's emphasis on destination immersion, the itineraries are what make a cruise on Pursuit worth booking, and the genuine service onboard makes a sailing with Azamara exceptional.
Daytime: By day, casualwear is the norm. You'll spend many days in port, so layers and comfortable walking shoes are a must. Poolside, passengers wear bathing suits, shorts, T-shirts and sundresses.
Evening: At night, the dress code is resort casual. Men wear slacks and collared shirts, while women choose dresses, blouses, slacks, capris or skirts. Azamara Pursuit hosts a white party once per cruise, so pack your whites -- you'll fit right in.
Not permitted: Bare feet, tank tops, short pants, ball caps and distressed jeans are not permitted in Discoveries, the main dining room, or any of the speciality restaurants during dinner hours.
Like its fleetmates, Azamara Pursuit spends much of its time in the ports it visits. As such, shore excursions are an important part of the cruise experience. While Azamara prides itself on creating excursions that engage passengers in local experiences, many of the tours you'll find are standard bus or walking tours. A variety of half-day and full-day tours are offered, and they run the gamut from panoramic or coach tours to more strenuous adventures. (The level of activity for each excursion, which you can book ahead of your sailing, is identified on the company's website pre-cruise or in documentation onboard.) Excursions are not included in your cruise fare, and have a fairly wide range when it comes to pricing.
Each passenger can enjoy an included AzAmazing Evening event, the cruise line's signature shore excursion offering, created to be a special and exclusive activity just for Azamara passengers. Events vary widely depending on the port visited but might include activities like a private concert at Ephesus in Turkey or a market visit followed by a bawdy cabaret in France.
Azamara Pursuit provides a shuttle for passengers to use, free of charge, to get from the port into the city centre and back. Additionally, it provides a concierge to help with creating and booking private experiences.
The main show lounge onboard is the Cabaret Lounge. It's a well-maintained and intimate space that features an intricate wood-inlaid dance floor. There's also a stage that hosts the ship's in-house production shows, such as "Four on the Floor," a lively blend of music from artists such as the Beatles, ABBA and Coldplay, as well as guest entertainers. The venue also has a movie screen for films, often related to the destinations the ship is visiting, which are shown during the day. Lectures and gathering ahead of shore tours also takes place in the Cabaret Lounge. During the day, Azamara Pursuit is light on activities, as most passengers are in port. On sea days, you can expect trivia sessions, often hosted at The Den, poolside music, and Ping-Pong or shuffleboard competitions with the activity staff.
Two showtimes in the Cabaret Lounge (typically 8:15 and again at 9:30) ensure that everyone has a chance to see that evening's performances. You'll find a piano player in The Den (by Spirits bar), tickling the keys on and off all evening. A band might play by the pool or in the Living Room. After 10, the dance floor in the Living Room heats up ever so slightly with DJ-ed tunes. Azamara's premier event is its White Night Party, a poolside barbecue held once per cruise. Passengers get into it, dressing in white (you'll stand out if you don't) and enjoying a beautiful outdoor buffet, with fresh seafood, grilled meats and incredible desserts. As the evening goes on, the event turns into a real party, with live music and lots of dancing. Azamara Pursuit doesn't have a casino.
Most sailings on Azamara Pursuit include a guest lecturer, who will give a few talks. Longer cruises might host more than one lecturer. We found lecture topics to be mildly interesting (marine life, maritime navigation), but would have liked to see them more specifically focused around the destinations visited. Passengers looking to research ports and shore excursions can head to The Den, which houses a small travel book library, along with the shore excursion and future cruise desks to answer any questions about itineraries or activities ashore.
Azamara Pursuit has just a few bars onboard, but there's never any problem finding a drink. The location of the bars is smart, in main public areas, with a late-night option tucked away at the top of the ship. There is no real distinct atmosphere to each bar; it's easy to grab a drink at any and end up sitting or hanging out where the afternoon or night takes you. While a short list of standard spirits, wine, beer and soft drinks are included in your cruise fare, many of the cocktails on offer at the ship's bars aren't covered. If you're someone who likes to try new drinks or enjoys premium wines, Azamara offers several beverage packages.
Cabaret Bar (Deck 5): The Cabaret Bar serves passengers when activities take place in the Cabaret Lounge.
Spirits (Deck 5): The large bar located in the middle of The Den, Spirits serves up drinks throughout the day and into the evening. It's located at the centre of the ship and is the hot spot for hanging out, especially close to dinner. You'll find seating at the polished marble bar, or you can grab drinks in the more intimate table-and-chair setup. There's even an imitation fireplace here, guaranteed to make you feel cosy. A piano player performs and even hosts singalongs at night, while trivia usually takes place here during the day.
Mosaic Cafe (Deck 5): For coffee or tea anytime, head to the Mosaic Cafe, which will provide your caffeine fix in a comfortable setting. The venue feels spacious because of its proximity to the ship's beautiful open atrium. People grab coffee here -- select alcohol is also available -- and linger because it's just a great space for a chat. Mosaic Cafe is open from early morning to late at night.
Discoveries Bar (Deck 5): Located adjacent to Discoveries Restaurant, Discoveries Bar should be a nice, cosy spot for grabbing a drink, but it's open only around dinnertime and feels like less of a destination and more of a convenience. We never saw many other passengers spending time here, making it an underutilized space.
Pool Bar (Deck 9): The Pool Bar is open from late morning until late evening, offering up drinks poolside.
Living Room (Deck 10): Open the latest of all the bars on Azamara Pursuit, the Living Room is an elegant space with a dance floor that gets moving after dinner and the evening shows. A DJ plays hit music each night, with themes like Michael Jackson or the '70s. Karaoke is occasionally hosted here, as well.
Prime C Bar (Deck 10): Prime C Bar is located at the entrance to Azamara Pursuit's steakhouse. The bar is surprisingly lively around dinnertime, with bartenders serving up cocktails and glasses of wine. Patrons tend to stand in group conversation while awaiting their tables. It's open only during dinner hours.
Deck 9 is the ship's main outdoor hot spot. A good-sized pool serves as the centrepiece; it's flanked by two hot tubs. (A note that with long days in port, we found ourselves wanting a soak in the evening, only to find the hot tubs closed each night at 8 p.m. when everyone was finally back onboard.) There's also a stage, where live music is played. Plenty of padded lounge chairs are available, and a couple of small seating areas with couches and tables invite conversation. Pool towels and fleece blankets are available for use by the pool, which is a nice treat when it gets chilly. There's a small smoking section on the port (left) side of the ship.
You'll find a Ping-Pong table on Deck 10 and a shuffleboard court on Deck 11.
In addition to the Pool Deck on Deck 9, Decks 10 and 11 are home to sun decks, where passengers can soak up the sun in lounge chairs or covered sunbeds. There are also two funky egg-shaped hanging chairs on Deck 10 that are perfect for snuggling up with a good book and a view.
Most of Azamara Pursuit's services are found on Decks 4 and 5. Deck 4 has the ship's guest relations desk, concierge and medical centre. On Deck 5, you'll find the photo gallery (within The Den). This is also where the ship's shore excursions desk and future cruise/loyalty centre are located. On Deck 5 midship, near the cafe, are the shops: Indulgences, a jewellery store, and the Pursuit Shop, which is the gift shop. Sales are held throughout and you can find clothes, bags, small gift items, costume jewellery, perfume, logo items and necessities like seasick medication or sunscreen. Also in the central atrium area on Deck 5 is Artwave by Azamara, a gallery concept that has done away with the standard ship art auctions. The New York City-based company has partnerships with Steiner sports memorabilia as well as The Dali Universe sculpture collection. Another unique aspect is the artist-in-residence program that brings an artist onboard -- typically from one of the ports visited -- to create and discuss their work. The art is available for sale.
A card room and internet cafe are located on Deck 10. You must purchase an internet package to use the Wi-Fi onboard Azamara Pursuit (unless you're sailing in a high-end suite). Package prices vary widely based on length of sailing, but it's a better bargain to purchase for the full cruise rather than by the day. IT assistance can be found at the guest relations desk on Deck 4.
The Drawing Room, also on Deck 10, has a great collection of fiction and nonfiction books to borrow while onboard, and makes for a quiet pretty place to sit and read. Likewise, The Den, on Deck 5, features a number of travel books for you to peruse while you're sailing. A self-service launderette is located on Deck 7 (across from stateroom 7076). Here, you can do laundry or iron clothing for free, though you'll be fighting for the clothes iron the closer you get to dinnertime.
The ship's main spa complex is The Sanctum, located on Deck 9. The spa is adequately sized for the number of passengers onboard. Treatments include body wraps, facials, massages, scrubs and body sculpting. Prices are generally higher than what you might pay on land, but there's a nice variety of packages that bundle several treatments together. Spa treatment rooms are relaxing and quiet. The spa also offers acupuncture. An adjacent salon offers manicures, pedicures, haircuts, styling and treatments, and men's grooming services. An 18 percent gratuity is added to all spa and salon services. Off the spa, at the front of the ship, is the Sanctum Terrace, a private deck that includes a bubbling saltwater bath and lounge chairs. Passengers can buy one-day or full-cruise passes to the terrace, which offers a quiet retreat. Access is an included perk for suite passengers, and an hour of enjoyment is also offered to passengers with a booked treatment. Changing rooms feature marble tiles, honey-coloured wood lockers and marble sinks. They also have large steam rooms, which are complimentary for all passengers.
Azamara Pursuit features a good-sized fitness centre, with cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers, weight machines and dumbbells. A number of fitness classes are included in the cost of your cruise. (Think yoga, spinning and Pilates.) Sign-up is required for fitness classes. A jogging track is located on Deck 10; 14.5 laps make up a mile.
Azamara Pursuit offers several dining options, some included and some for a fee. Regardless of where you dine, menus offer a solid variety, and dietary restrictions are easily accommodated. (Those who have specific dietary needs should inform the cruise line in writing 80 days ahead of their sailings and confirm with the restaurant manager once onboard.) We saw one passenger with a food intolerance ordering dinner from a menu the night before to ensure the meal was specially prepared.
Menus in Azamara Pursuit's main dining room and buffet restaurants are designed with a global experience in mind; some options reflect the foods eaten in the destinations visited. Passengers who wish to dine at a number of the speciality restaurants can purchase dining packages.
Packages save a bit of money, and there's enough variety among the packages to get exactly what you want -- several even include the Chef's Table. A number of dining events are hosted throughout each cruise, including a beautiful brunch spread on the pool deck that typically includes local food items accompanied by jazzy tunes from the onboard band -- on days when the ship arrives late in port.
Discoveries Restaurant (Deck 5)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L) and Dinner (D): The main dining restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner daily and lunch on sea days. Tables are available for anywhere from two to eight people, and seating is open, meaning passengers can dine when and with whom they wish when the restaurant is open. (Reservations are not accepted.) The restaurant, located at the back of the ship on Deck 5, is decorated in beiges and whites, and it features a centre section that is raised about a step higher than the rest of the space. While there are plenty of tables, there isn't a lot of space between them, especially those around the windows. It makes for a more collegial environment, as you'll be drawn into conversations with people sitting nearby. But if you're looking for a quiet, private meal, you might want to look elsewhere onboard.
Menu selections at Discoveries are vast for all meals, which is a bonus for people who have special dietary needs or are simply finicky about their food. All menus clearly identify which dishes are gluten-free, healthy choices, vegetarian or vegan. Some dishes are even labelled "vegan option," meaning the chef can prepare the dishes for vegans upon request.
At breakfast, dishes include lighter fare like fruit and cottage cheese or yoghurt, or fennel and citrus Mediterranean salad. Hot dishes like eggs prepared just about any way you could imagine, pancakes, waffles and French toast are also served. There's always an egg dish of the day, as well. Coffee and tea are served, along with fruit juices. The menu also has several Asian dishes, including congee and omurice, a fried rice and chicken omelette. Fans of shakshuka, a traditional Arab egg dish, won't be disappointed.
Dinner is a multicourse affair, with appetizers like baked Brie and poached pear, or seared tuna with wasabi mayonnaise. That's followed by a soup or salad course, with selections including pumpkin bisque or frisee salad. Entrees might include roasted duck breast served with polenta or horseradish-crusted salmon. Finally, dessert might be a cheese plate or gelato. A number of "always available" options are on the menu each night, including escargot, shrimp cocktail, steak, chicken breast and salmon.
You'll also find a chef's recommendation as well as a "world cuisine selection," designed to bring the flavours of the ports you're visiting onboard. Included wines are designed to pair with the menu, and they change each night. If you aren't a fan of the red, white or rose offered, you can choose from a menu of other included options. Or, you can upgrade to a premium wine, for a fee.
Windows Cafe (Deck 9)
Meals: B, L, D: Azamara Pursuit's buffet restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The buffet itself is fairly small but adequate for the number of passengers onboard. If you drew a line down the middle of the buffet, you'd find options are the same on the port and starboard sides. There's plenty of seating, both indoors and outdoors, and wait staff regularly circulate to make sure you have drinks.
For breakfast, Windows Cafe serves cold options such as cereal, yoghurt, cheese, muesli and fruit, along with hot selections such as eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage and grilled mushrooms. An egg station serves up dishes a la minute. There is also a complimentary smoothie station at the bar.
Lunch might include soup, salads and sandwiches made to order. There's always a sandwich of the day, and you can opt to get any sandwich hot-pressed. Hot options for lunch might include fish, pasta or chicken, and there's a carving station. You'll also find a large selection of desserts -- including a rotating variety of hard ice creams and sorbets.
Dinner is themed every night, with options like Mexican, Indian or Italian. Additionally, when chefs purchase fresh ingredients in port, they set up stations to serve up items like salads made with feta cheese from Greece or pasta highlighting mushrooms from Italy. Daily options might include pasta, salad, sushi or stir-fry, along with a carving station. And as with lunch, dinner offers a huge variety of desserts. A chocolate buffet is typically held one night of each cruise.
The Patio (Deck 9)
Meals: L, D: Located just outside Windows Cafe, The Patio is a casual alfresco grill open for lunch and dinner. During the day, it features a great buffet salad bar and hot options like burgers, kebabs, chicken wings, sandwiches and fries. At night, tablecloths are added to the tables and options like steaks, salmon and ribs are available. One afternoon per cruise, an Officers' Barbecue is held, where the ship's officers serve guests a tasty lunch, including a traditional pig roast.
Swirl and Top (Deck 9)
Meals: Snacks: Not so much a venue as a quick spot to grab soft serve, Swirl and Top is actually two self-service ice cream machines offering a variety of flavours, though the flavours change regularly and instead of receiving chocolate or vanilla, you might find yourself with only banana or strawberry. It also has a small buffet of toppings, including fruit, chocolate, candies and sauces.
Mosaic Cafe (Deck 5)
Meals: Snacks: Mosaic Cafe offers an array of grab-and-go treats, sandwiches and sweets. In the morning, it's pastries and muffins, while lunchtime brings mini-sandwiches and tapas. You'll also find coffee-friendly options like biscotti and cookies. This is the spot to order your morning latte or an afternoon cup of tea.
Meals: 24/7: Room service is offered 24 hours a day, at no additional charge. Breakfast can be ordered via door hanger, left on your doorknob the night before. It's a great option for passengers who want to ease into their day with a hearty breakfast in their rooms. A good variety of hot and cold options are available, and they rival what you'd find in the main dining room or buffet. Lunch and dinner options include soups, salads and sandwiches as well as heartier options like strip steak or salmon. You also can order off the Discoveries Restaurant menu when the main dining room is open for dinner.
A card left on your door by 11 a.m. also indicates if you would like an afternoon tea service in your stateroom -- including hot water, a variety of tea bags, two types of sandwiches and scones with cream and jam -- or a selection of "savouries." On our voyage, we received deviled eggs, curried chicken and tempura shrimp for two.
*Pricing was accurate at time of review but may have changed since.*
Aqualina Restaurant (Deck 10); $30 per person
Meals: D: Aqualina Restaurant serves a four-course Italian dinner, with traditional offerings like minestrone soup, lobster ravioli and veal scaloppini. The restaurant is light and bright, with stark white tablecloths and natural lighting. For an additional 10 to 15 minutes of patience, we had the option of two souffles for dessert.
Prime C (Deck 10); $30 per person
Meals: D: The ship's steakhouse offers up plenty of quality beef, but it's also got a large number of seafood options. Starters include cold-smoked salmon, tuna tartare and beef carpaccio. Choose from main courses like New York strip, filet mignon, veal or Cajun-spiced swordfish. Side dishes include steak fries, spatzle and steamed vegetables. While the menu is meat-heavy, there are enough options to keep vegetarians happy.
Chef's Table (Deck 10); \$95
Meals: D: For something special, try the Chef's Table, a five-course meal paired with premium wines. Held multiple nights in one of the speciality restaurants, the Chef's Table is hosted by a senior officer or special guest. The menu changes from night to night and involve themes, like French or Italian. Dinner is limited to 12 passengers, and reservations are required.
When Azamara refurbished Pursuit, it invested heavily in the ship's 351 cabins. Only the closets and vanities remain from the original structure, and care went into choosing super-comfy bedding, padded headboards, and lovely couches and night tables. Because the ship originally was built in 2001, cabins in general are fairly snug. Colour schemes are neutral, relying heavily on beiges and creams along with soft greys.
All cabins include flat-screen TVs, mini-bars, desks, in-room safes, hair dryers, bathrobes and slippers, 24-hour room service, flowers, a tote bag, and turn-down goodies like chocolates and truffles. A clever amenity are the USB ports in the lights on either side of the bed, so passengers can easily charge their phones or other devices.
Bathrooms also are tight though well-appointed, with a sink, shelves, toilet and showers. For most cabins, showers are a squeeze and feature curtains that cling to your body once you start the spray; they aren't weighted at the bottom so are especially inclined to reach out and grab you. Toiletries include shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, bar soap and lotion.
The ship has a smattering of connecting cabins in multiple cabin categories, and five wheelchair-accessible cabins: three in the interior cabin category and two that are Club Continent Suites. A number of cabins also feature convertible sofa beds, making them ideal for families. Suites can accommodate rollaway beds.
Inside: Azamara Pursuit features 26 Club Interior cabins, each measuring 158 square feet. These cabins feature no windows and are located on Decks 4, 6, 7 and 8.
Oceanview: Azamara's 79 Club Oceanview cabins are actually a hair smaller than the inside cabins, measuring 143 square feet. These cabins come with windows, though some have views that are obstructed by ship features, like lifeboats or beams. Four cabins, designated Category 04, are larger, at 215 square feet. These are located at the front of the ship on Decks 6 and 7; the two on Deck 6 can connect to the ship's Club Ocean suites on that deck.
Balcony: Coming in at 175 square feet, the ship's Club Balcony staterooms have balconies that are 40 square feet. Balconies feature sliding-glass doors along with two chairs and a dining table. We're impressed with the size of the table on the balcony -- large enough for two people to comfortably dine without having to shuffle plates on and off endlessly. There are 200 cabins in this category. Starting with itineraries in 2020, some of these cabins will be designated as Club Balcony Plus, which come with a host of perks. (Cabins will be the same as Club Balcony staterooms, though they will cost more because of the additional amenities.) Perks include 120 minutes of internet or $130 toward a full voyage unlimited package, one free bag of laundry service per stateroom every seven days, one night of speciality dining for two per week, priority embarkation and debarkation, and complimentary in-room spirits.
Club Continent Suite: Azamara Pursuit's Club Continent Suites are 266 square feet and feature 60-square-foot balconies. These don't have any separation between the living and sleeping spaces. Each of these 34 cabins includes a larger flat-screen TV, more spacious bathroom -- some include a bathtub/shower combination -- and seating area with two chairs and a table (vs. the sofa configuration at lower cabin levels). Suite passengers in this category and above get a host of perks, including English butler service, 240 minutes of internet, one free bag of laundry service, complimentary speciality dining, priority embarkation and debarkation, and in-room spirits.
Club Spa Suite: There are only two Club Spa Suites on Azamara Pursuit, and both of them are located on Deck 9, within the Sanctum Spa complex. At 414 square feet, these spacious suites have an open layout that is designed perfectly around a deep, round soaking tub surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. The tub has various massaging jet options and sits adjacent to a brilliant shower with a rainfall showerhead. The rest of the suite picks up on the spa vibe, with soothing, light colours and comfortable bedding and seating. The bed and living area are combined; here, you'll find a bed, sofa, table and desk as well as dual closets. The 60-square-foot balcony opens from this space. The bathroom features dual glass bowl sinks, vanity, shelving and a separate water closet for the toilet. Passengers in this category and above also receive a $300 per cabin onboard credit, which can be applied toward things like spa treatments and shore excursions.
Club Ocean and Club World Owner's Suites: Azamara Pursuit features four Club Ocean Suites, which sleep up to three people each, and six Club World Owner's Suites, which also can accommodate three. Club Ocean Suites range from 440 to 501 square feet, depending on location. (Two suites are located at the front of Deck 6, and the other two are right above them, on Deck 7.) Each features 178-square-foot wraparound balconies, a separate master bedroom and living area, two 55-inch flat-screen TVs, marble master bathroom with shower and a powder room. Living rooms include a dining table for four, sofa, table and conversation chairs. Balconies include dining tables for four along with two lounge chairs.
The top suite category onboard, Club World Owner's Suites, are located on Decks 6, 7 and 8 at the back of the ship. All six of these suites are 560 square feet with 233-square-foot wraparound balconies. Suites have master bedrooms separated from the living rooms, two 55-inch flat-screen TVs, marble bathrooms and a powder room. Living rooms include a four-person dining table, sofa, chairs, side tables and cocktail table. Balconies have dining tables for four and two padded lounge chairs.