A Culinary World Tour With Azamara Club Cruises

Dining with Azamara Club Cruises is a well-rounded affair, guaranteed to leave your palate satisfied and your waistline a bit more "rounded." Not to worry ... there's a well-equipped fitness center onboard and plenty of walking to do as you explore all the destinations! You might be thinking “Oh, it's a cruise with the same buffet food day after day.” If you haven't cruised with Azamara, I'm sure you'll be delighted with their tremendous variety, quality of taste, and excellent personal service.

For casual and quick dining, the Azamara ships offer a very comprehensive buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Windows Cafe on Deck 9. The dinner menu is constantly varied with a new theme each day, so the buffet always offers different choices. To name a few, there were Mexican, Greek, American, Spanish, Italian, and Vietnamese dinner nights during my voyage. Indian Night is one of the most popular buffet themes, as it's prepared with care by Indian crew members.

I love the breakfast smoothie juice bar at Windows Cafe. The "Vigor" drink substituted as my "motor starter" instead of the usual cappuccino when at home. One morning in the Greek Islands, the chefs went to the port markets and purchased local nuts, fruits, and berries for a Greek yogurt breakfast bar. What a delicious eye-opener before our excursion into Santorini! Personally, I like to sit outside at the Sunset Bar and eat with the trade winds blowing on me as we sail, or even while in port. 

For desserts, there is always an assortment of wonderful treats prepared fresh daily by the pastry chef. They are small enough to sample a few, plus I always leave room for a scoop of gelato. I was told the ship makes five or six flavors fresh each day; the gelato is not supplied from a store-bought frozen container. And if your favorite gelato flavor is not on display, they can make it special on request. Grazie!

Discoveries Restaurant is the main dining room for lunch and dinner service on Deck 5. They will generally serve a three or four-course meal with waiter service. This is a dressier option than the Windows Cafe buffet if you prefer an upscale dining experience with attentive service.

The pool grill has been completely revamped and remodeled and is now called The Patio. It’s still outdoors on the pool deck, though. In addition to the yummy lunches – hamburgers, fries, salmon, fish, salad bar, and a 24-hour soft-serve ice cream machine with toppings bar (my favorite!) – they converted The Patio into a full-service, white tablecloth restaurant for dinner. This is a great option that allows a candle-lit, open-air casual restaurant on deck with waiter service for soups, salads, steaks, seafood, chicken, vegetables, baked potatoes, and sides. It's a perfect option if you arrive back on board hungry after a shore excursion (like we did) and outside of the open hours at Discoveries Restaurant or Windows Cafe.

The Azamara ships have two specialty restaurants on Deck 10. Each provides the fine dining experience of a 5-star restaurant or resort hotel. Aqualina is an Italian-themed restaurant serving classic pasta dishes, such as seafood linguini, and seafood and steaks with an Italian twist. The Prime C is a classic steakhouse restaurant similar to Morton's or Ruth’s Chris. Both offer fantastic cuisine, beautiful views, and are very romantic when sailing at sunset. The pastry team really shines here when it comes time for dessert, offering a wonderful limoncello soufflé at Aqualina and the equally delicious Ice Bomb at the Prime C. I highly recommend them and it's well worth a small surcharge of $30 per person to dine at these two intimate restaurants.

I found it new and refreshing that Azamara doesn't limit culinary experiences to onboard dining. Part of traveling is to taste the local culture, and Azamara accomplishes this very nicely with some new shore excursion packages designed to sample local foods and culture. I booked three "Cruise Global, Meet Local" tours, each visiting with local families who welcome you into their homes to experience firsthand how to grow, prepare, and cook dishes indigenous to the region and meet the people who make these port cities unique. In Kotor, we were welcomed into a Montenegro home and learned how to make gnocchi from scratch. In Dubrovnik, we visited a family farm where our entire lunch was made from crops grown in Croatian soil. And in Opatija, we visited a family-owned olive oil operation where one family member gave us an appreciation for the finer points of olive oil selection and applications in different lunch courses.

If all these choices are not enough, there are special party nights on the pool deck. A White Night party is included on every cruise. The crew converts the entire pool deck into an outdoor dining room and dance party. This cruise, they went all out serving grilled lobster tails. Surf and turf ...what a treat!  After consuming five lobster tails, I had to be choosy (not easy), because there were 50 to 60 more choices to be offered, including their famous Crêpe Suzette, custom cooked for dessert by the officers. And this cruise surprised me with two additional party nights. A Greek-themed celebration was special because the staff personally sourced local foods, even ordering 400 pounds of local Greek fish to charcoal grill. And an Italian finale had a very talented tenor creating a lot of goose bumps while singing opera during our final night in Venice. Now that's amore!

But the pièce de résistance for me was a French Chef's Table dinner, held at a beautiful elevated table for twelve, just inside the Prime C restaurant foyer. Simply put, this dinner rates as one of the Top 5 meals ever experienced in my life! Each of the five French-inspired courses is perfectly paired with wine by the sommelier, who chooses from the ship's extensive wine cellar. A three-and-a-half hour gastronomic delight of the palate and eyes, each course is delivered as a plated work of art to tempt the brain before the tongue. Also, as a shared experience with other passengers, it's a wonderful way to meet new friends. Book early as seating is limited. The cost is $110 per person, but a similar meal by renowned chefs such as Jose Andres or Wolfgang Puck would easily cost $250 to $300 per person. An Azamara Chef's Table dinner must be experienced at least once because it will be remembered for a long time.

Ann Tran

Ann Tran is a luxury travel writer located in Washington, DC. Ann has cruised with Azamara several times throughout Europe and Asia.

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