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About Pietrocruiser

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  1. Pietrocruiser

    Azamara and singles

    Has Azamara abandoned the single passenger? My first experience of cruising was six years ago when I was persuaded by the salesperson at Iglu to go on a West Indies voyage from Puerto Rico to Bermuda and New York. He said at the time that if I started with Azamara I would never want to sail with any other company. Being inexperienced and with not much money at the time I booked a deck 3 porthole cabin for £1500 for a 10 day cruise but, as I was my birthday, I suspect, I was upgraded to an Ocean View cabin. And the sales person was right - I had a fantastic time. But it was only after having tried other companies of the same and higher star rating that I realised that Azamara remains my preferred choice. I have now completed 10 trips on Azamara. One of the major attractive features of the Azamara pricing structure was its policy for certain cruises to add +25% to the cost of double-occupancy rates for single passengers (as opposed to the double +100% of most other cruise lines). On each cruise they gave a list out of the cruises to which these reductions applied and to which other benefits could be added. It really was a great deal. As a result of this (but not solely due to this) the Azamara passenger list was varied, of different age ranges and consisted of a good balance of couples and those travelling on their own. To support singles they had hosted first night gatherings of those travelling alone and they went out of their way to make single guests feel valued and included. As a result also, however, there was a core gathering of single travellers who seemed to live on the ship because on many of my subsequent voyages they were there (you know who you are!). Perhaps they wanted to get rid of that element. It may be a combination of the above, the weak pound, Brexit, competition and expansion (Azamara now has three wonderful vessels with the addition of the Azamara Pursuit) but the Azamara world for singles has all but disappeared. As I write this I am on the maiden voyage of the Azamara Pursuit and journeying to the Norwegian fjords. Not only was my ticket price more than double the advertised double-occupancy price and I have found out that I am paying at least £500 more than the double occupancy rate, but the atmosphere has changed. The vast majority of passengers look like those on other cruise lines I have been on - mostly couples with the average age certainly in the retirement range. The diversity has gone and it felt like a retirement home. On the second night there was advertised the single travellers’ gathering - UNHOSTED - which means how are you supposed to know where the gathering is and what incentive is there to turn up. The singles could always be identified because they formed a rather heterogenous and odd collection of individuals (I never participated in them after my first experience). But this time there appeared to be no such grouping. Incidentally the LGBT group WAS hosted. But that is not the end of the story. I tried to book a back-to-back cruise. The price I was quoted by Iglu was £11,900 for a single occupancy of a club veranda (i.e. balcony). However I was told that if I could invent another person, I could get the whole cabin for £9,700. This is a very disappointing result for single travellers - bring an imaginary friend or face a further penalty of £2,270 in addition to the double fare you have to pay, just because you can’t find a friend to share with. I can imagine that singles on a cruise do create challenges which more settled couples do not, but they do not eat double, they occupy only one bed, on Azamara the spending potential is more limited anyway with all-inclusive deals. But it is a great loss for those of us who prefer to travel alone, not to be able to afford to travel on what was up until now ‘home at sea’ for us. Azamara’s best deal for singles is now +50% but this is really just the mirror image of the deal of ‘buy one get one half-price’ for double occupancy so it is not really a concession. I still love Azamara and the crew and particularly those who come into regular contact with passengers (catering, housekeeping etc.) really make the Azamara experience what it is. For those of us who are not in natural groupings, the staff actually ARE the Azamara experience and I know that I am not the only one whose cruise was made so special by the smiles and chat of those who went out of their way to interact with us. It is interesting on this particular cruise where there are the ‘old hands’ who have worked with the company for many years who are just naturals at the job; the new ones just employed for the first time are finding their feet and are a bit cautious about their interactions; but they will hopefully learn. I would certainly want the Azamara experience to continue but if it becomes like all the other lines, then I fear that specialness will get eroded until it disappears all together. There are other cruise lines, and newer ones appearing, which are offering incentives for singles but that may be as transitory as was the Azamara deal. When I find one I will get back on here (or possibly not because if it becomes standard knowledge, as was Azamara, then these deals too may disappear). If Azamara wanted to throw over board its loyal single passengers, then it appears to have succeeded. I really want it to succeed as a company but that may have to be without me. Pietrocruiser