Tango, Salsa & Samba Voyage Cruise
on the Azamara Pursuit
12/8/19 to 12/21/19

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Page 1 – Pre-Cruise in Buenos Aires, Embarkation & Ship
Page 2 – Cabin, Dining, Activities, Entertainment Ports of Call:  Montevideo, Uruguay 
Page 3 - Ports of Call:   Sao Paulo (Santos), Brazil;  Parati, Brazil;  Buzios, Brazil

Page 4 - Ports of Call:  Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Page 5 - Ports of Call:
  Punta Del Este, Uruguay 


Not too long after my darling wife, Carol, died in March 2019, our dear friends from Leeds, England, Paul and Gail, told me that they were going to go on a South American cruise on the Azamara Pursuit that went to Rio de Janeiro.  Rio had been on our bucket list for a long time.   I knew that I had to make new memories, or the old ones were going to kill me.  Plus, the pricing on the cruise, especially with Azamara, was a real bargain, so I couldn’t pass it up.  Carol would never get to see Rio in person, but hopefully she would in spirit through me.  A few months later, another couple whom we had cruised with, Bob and Holly, decided to also go on the cruise.  I might be traveling solo, but I would have 4 friends along for my first solo cruise.

Pre-Cruise in Buenos Aires

An advantage of living in south Florida is that it is easy to find direct flights to Buenos Aires from Miami.  I had found a ticket for less than $900 for the 8.5-hour flight.   With the flight arriving at 7:08 am, it would allow me to have almost a full day there before boarding the ship the next day.  We arrived on time; but the immigration line was very slow.  Even with it not being a very long line, it still took almost a half hour to ger through.  On the bright side, the luggage was sitting next to the conveyer belt, so there was no waiting there.  As I had done on my two previous times in Buenos Aires, I booked a transfer to my hotel with the Manuel Tienda Leone remis service (https://tiendaleonmdq.com/home).  They have always been dependable and reasonable in the past, plus their office is right outside the baggage claim area.  I walked to the counter, paid for my trip by credit card and the driver was there to take me to his car.  Too easy!

I arrived at the Hotel Madero (www.hotelmadero.com/en)  at 9:00 am, checked in. 

I then went to the restaurant to meet up with Paul and Gail.  They had already been in Buenos Aires for four days enjoying the city and everything dance related.  They are top notch dancers and booked the cruise to experience the vibrant dancing environment.  The first thing I did was to take my luggage up to their room, since my room wouldn’t be ready for a while.  I then returned to the restaurant for some coffee and breakfast, when Bob and Holly arrived.  They had been in town for two days already and had an in-depth private tour the previous day with Paul and Gail.  I was finally able to catch up and start my vacation.  Paul and Gail had a separate tour booked, so I was going to do a free form self-guided tour with Bob and Holly.  With my having toured Buenos Aires on two separate cruises, I had seen the main highlights already, as had Bob and Holly the previous day.  We had hoped to tour the Water Building, but it was closed due to Advent, so we modified the itinerary.

We hailed a cab outside the hotel and headed for the Santisimo Sacramento church.  We had all previously been to the famous Metropolitan Cathedral where Pope Francis used to officiate; but this did look like a pretty church to check out.  With the taxis being so inexpensive, it made it quite easy to get around.  Most rides were $5.00 or less.  On the way there we passed by one of the many lovely French styled buildings in the city with a lovely statue in front of it.  Buenos Aires is known as the Paris of South America.  There are so many gorgeous buildings there. 


After a little confusion with the taxi driver, we arrived at the church.


As we walked into the church we were blown away by the gorgeous gold and white altar area. 


There were also many beautiful stained-glass windows.



I liked the woodwork on the lectern and doors.


As I walked up closer to the altar, I was able to appreciate its beauty even more.


There were just so many lovely things to look at in this church.



After leaving the church we began walking to our next destination, the San Telmo market.  While walking we saw lovely buildings and down one of the streets we were crossing, the Buenos Aires Obelisk.  It was erected in 1936 to celebrate the quadricentennial of the first foundation of the city.


I asked Bob how much further it was to our destination.  It was still a pretty good way to go.  Since I was still recovering from my right knee’s torn meniscus that gave me so much trouble on my most recent cruise, we decided to just hail a cab.  It was much faster and only cost a couple dollars.  The market area was located in a square and didn’t have as many vendors as we were expecting. 


We decided that it might be a good time to rest at one of the cafes and have some coffee.  There was a couple doing a tango demo on the other side of the square.  The waitress told us that they would be coming right next to where we were sitting shortly.  So, we would have coffee and entertainment.  When the dancers came, they put on a nice show, but a slower pace than I was hoping for. 

It wasn’t too far back to the hotel, so we would just walk there.  It was quite an enjoyable one with us taking in some of the beautiful Buenos Aires architecture.



Upon arriving at the hotel, I was able to get my room key and finally get to see my room.  The public areas of the hotel were quite attractive and more modern than I was expecting.  


The room was a nice size one and it had a bar/dining area in it. 



The bathroom was also quite roomy.


The room also had a small balcony.  I was very pleased with the Hotel Madero.  All of the employees were very pleasant and helpful, which is always a plus.

That night Paul and Gail were going to a Tango show with dinner.  They also had a tango class before it, so they were quite excited.  Bob, Holly and I had a pleasant walk along a canal to a steak house we were going to.  

Just outside the restaurant was an old schooner that had been turned into a museum and an unusual bridge.  It is called the Bridge of the Women.  It is a pedestrian bridge that was built in 2001.  The center portion swings open to allow larger boats to pass through.


The Villegas restaurant had an attractive interior and a reputation for serving great steaks. 



After placing our order, Bob spotted a flash mob dancing along the dock.  I had to run out and get photos of it.  Not something you experience every day.

I wish that our dining experience had been better.  I had ordered a medium ribeye.  I normally order medium rare, but the photos in the menu showed that medium was actually what I consider medium rare.  What they brought me was a couple of well done chunks of beef.  I had to send it back, which is something I don't think that I have ever done before.  Bob’s steak was also overcooked, but it was edible.   The meat they brought me was actually tenderloin medallions rather than the ribeye I had ordered; but it looked OK.  The beef was quite tender, but it didn’t taste like it had been grilled.  It was just kind of a bland piece of meat.  None of our steaks had a normal steak flavor.  Oh well, at least we had experienced Argentine steaks in Argentina.

Having not had a good night’s sleep while on the plane the previous night, I was ready get to bed.  I was hearing a lot of street noise.  I had read some complaints about that on TripAdvisor.  Apparently, one side of the hotel is worse than the others, the side I was on, the front side.  With it being Saturday night, it was probably worse than normal; but I was surprised that it was so loud in the room.   I walked out onto the balcony to see where the noise was coming from.  Pretty much everywhere!  The next morning, I realized why it was so loud.  The windows facing the street side were opened slightly on each side.  I should have checked, but I never did wake up during the night. 



We each took separate taxis to the port from the hotel.  Mine only cost 154 Argentine Pesos or about $2.57 US.  Getting to the port and being dropped off was very easy.  The previous time we did it, there was a terrible traffic jam of taxis and private cars trying to jockey for position to drop people off.  It was a real mess, since there is only one lane where people can be dropped off in front of the terminal.  With it being a Sunday and a smaller ship, it made a huge difference this time.

Upon entering the terminal, we were assigned numbers indicating which group we would be in for the security check, registration and boarding.  I got to the terminal around 10:30 AM and was assigned number 2.  After about an hour, the process finally started.  It went relatively fast, and we were on the ship just before noon.  We did have to take a bus type vehicle from the terminal to the ship, since it was a good distance away through an industrial port.  We were told that we wouldn’t be allowed into our cabins until about 2:00 PM.  One nice feature was that you could check hand luggage when boarding, so you didn’t have to lug it around for 2 hours.

The muster drill was at 4:00 PM and the ship left port at 5:00 PM, the same time as the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle get together was scheduled.  Rather inconvenient, since I enjoy watching sailaway, but it was better than having to wait until the 3rd day to meet everyone.


I have previously been on four of the eight former Renaissance Cruise Line ships.  They are all small ships carrying around 650 to 700 passengers.  The ships are comfortable, but they have never been a favorite of mine, since they were very dark and old looking.  With the Pursuit being Azamara’s newest ship, they had done an outstanding renovation job before they put it in service.  I couldn’t believe how much I liked this ship.   Much of the dark wood, dark carpets and dated patterned furniture upholstery had been replaced with much brighter and newer looking decor.  I found the Pursuit to be a very pretty and comfortable ship.  I will happily cruise on her again.

As on my first and only other Azamara cruise ten years ago, the service is the line’s strong suit.  They do have the friendliest officers that will regularly converse with passengers, and much more than just a casual hello.  Although the small size of the ship limits the amount and types of activities, Azamara has stood out from the crowd with their Azamazing Evenings and White Nights celebration, which I will discuss later in the review.

The Pursuit has a 2 per room capacity of 702 passengers. This cruise only had 507 passengers, so at a 70% capacity it was most comfortable to get served and get around.  At full capacity or above, some of the public areas might get crowded.

The various public rooms are shown below by category.  Since this cruise was right before the Christmas cruise, the Christmas decorations made the ship look festive.  I am including photos of the decorations in the various venue categories.

Dining Rooms -

Discoveries Restaurant – This is the main dining room for the ship and is located on deck 5 aft.  It is a single level room with a tasteful and comfortable atmosphere.  There is plenty of room around the tables, so that it never felt crowded.  Most of the tables were for just two people, but they could easily be put together for larger parties.  There were a few larger oblong tables for parties of eight.




Windows Café – This is the buffet area and is located on deck 9, the pool deck.  The restaurant is in the shape of a U, with long sections of tables.


The serving stations are located at the base near the back of the ship.  The serving station lines are separated by a small area that can get crowded during very busy times, but it always went quickly for me.



There was a great selection of items including sushi, way too many sweets and really good creamy ice cream.


Since it was the Christmas season, the buffet area was also decorated festively.

Sunset Veranda – I am putting this venue next to the Windows Café, since it is an extension of the buffet at the aft of the ship.  It is a great place to have a meal or just sit out and enjoy a drink.  The only issue I had with the veranda is that on hot days when the doors opened it kept the buffet seating areas rather warm.  There isn’t really much that can be done about it, but it was a problem; and probably is when in very cold climates too.


Aqualina – The two specialty restaurants are located at the top of the ship on deck ten aft on the port side of the ship.  Aqualina, the Italian themed restaurant is located on the port side.  The eating area is in a L shape, with a long section along the windows.  The area next to the aft windows is a bit different in that the windows are at a strong slant making it a bit awkward if you are sitting on that side of the table.  But the restaurant, although understated for a specialty restaurant, is most comfortable.  There is a bar area that is not used as a bar, since Aqualina is supplied by the Prime C bar next door.  The cost to eat at Aqualina is $30.  The last time I was on Azamara, it only cost $5. 




Prime C - This is the ship’s steak house.  The floor plan design is the same as Aqualina, except in a reverse L shape, since it is on the starboard side.  The main difference is that they have a real working bar that you can sit at before dinner if you wish.  It also costs $30 per person to eat there.  We ate at both of these specialty restaurants five times during the cruise and there were always plenty of empty tables.



The area at the entrance to the restaurant is used for the Chef's Table dinners.

Mosaic Café – This is the coffee shop and it is located on deck 5.  The seating area stretches around the upper atruim area.  In addition to various coffees and teas, they have an assortment of goodies to go along with your drink of choice.  I did find it surprising that it was rarely very crowded.  On most ships, particularly in the morning, the coffee shops are packed.  Perhaps the 70% occupancy caused some of this.



The Patio – This is the casual grill area where they provide hamburgers, hot dogs and various other types of food items.  It is just outside the starboard side of the buffet.  It is in a covered area just before the pool.  It is very convenient for those that hang out in the sun.  Unlike most ship grills, they don’t take orders at the counter.  You have to sit down, and a waiter will take your order.  They really need large signs telling people that, since people get frustrated waiting in line until they are told to sit down to order.


Swirl & Top – This isn’t actually a venue, but it is listed on the deck plan, so I am showing it separately.  It is the where they have the soft serve ice cream machines right next to the grill counter.  The flavors changed, but they only provided paper cups and no cones.


Lounges (Link to Menus)-

Living Room - This lounge was my favorite on the ship.  It is on deck 10 at the front of the ship, so the views are quite good during the day.  It is used for various activities during the day and live entertainment is provided late night and during the late afternoon; which makes it a great place for pre-dinner cocktails.  I would also go there for a quiet place to work on this review’s narrative. 





For those that are hungry, they have small sandwiches and other food available until 4:00 PM.  Then at 5:00 PM a tapas bar is set up.

During the evening, the dance floor can get quite crowded.


My favorite bartender on the ship worked in the Living Room. Vadym is from the Ukraine and was just an exceptional waiter and just great guy.

The Den – The Den is a multi-purpose room, with its primary function being a lounge.  It is located on deck 5 just behind the Cabaret Lounge.  This area used to contain the casino, which has been eliminated.  Many activities are housed there during the day with live entertainment during the evening hours. 



Discoveries Bar – This lounge is just in front of the Discoveries Restaurant on deck 5.  It is a convenient place to have a drink before dinner or to wait on others who are dining with you.



The area near the entrance was decorated for the season.

Pool Bar – On the forward end of the deck 9 pool area is a bar for those who enjoy laying around the pool. 


Shops -

Indulgences – All of the shops are located midship on deck 5.  Indulgences is the ships jewelry store.



The Pursuit Shop – This is the ship’s general store/logo shop.  It is quite small and has a limited selection.  Prices are high and it can be challenging to find something to spend left over non-refundable onboard credit on.  I didn’t have that issue to deal with on this cruise, but I am sure many did, since there was a lot of OBC offered to get bookings.



Art Gallery – This shop has very limited hours.  So, limited that I was never able to find it open and had to take photos of it through the windows.


Photo Shop – The shop is located on the starboard side of the Den.  Unlike on some lines, Azamara wasn’t very pushy about taking photos; which was appreciated.  For those that did have their photos taken, they could see them and purchase them in this area.  Rather than the racks of photos usually used to display photos, these were displayed more like on a laundry line for drying clothes.


Other -

Cabaret Lounge – This is the main theater located at the front of the ship on deck 5.  This room is the main reason that I prefer not to cruise on this class ship.  The room is set out like a cabaret with most of the seats on a level floor.  The back section of the room is slightly raised above the main floor.  This means that unless you are sitting on the front row, your view will probably be obstructed by someone’s head.  I much prefer stadium seating where most seats are on a higher level than the row in front of them.  Since I like to take photos of shows and performers, it is probably more frustrating for me than most people. 




Atrium -  This is a very pretty and classic looking area of the ship.  All of this class of ship from all the lines that own the previous Rennaisance Cruise Line ships have the same type atrium area with the elegant stairway and ironwork.  It is pretty from every angle from both decks four and five.




Guest Relations – This is located at the base of the atrium stairs on deck 4.  I did need their assistance a couple times during the cruise.  They were most helpful and friendly.


Concierge – The Concierge desk is next to Guest Relations.  As usual, I had no need for the Concierge on this cruise.

The Sanctum – This is the ship’s spa area on deck 10 at the front of the ship.  It is a small facility, but they have the normal salon and treatment rooms.  I have included a copy of the spa menu in the Menus section of the review.




Sanctum Terrace -  The terrace area at the very front of the ship is reserved for suite guests or those that want to pay extra to use it.  It is a very nice space and much more peaceful than the pool deck area for sunning. There were waiters who would come and serve drinks; but also there was a phone so in-between the waiters coming, you could just ring down for drinks.




Fitness Center – This room is located just inside the Sanctum.  For its size, it does have plenty of aerobic and other nice equipment. 



The Drawing Room – This is the beautiful library area located at the rear of Deck 10, across from the Aqualina and Prime C restaurants.  In addition to being a quiet place to read, it is a good place to wait for someone before dinner in one of the specialty restaurants.




Card Room – This area is part of the Living Room on deck 10.  It is at the back of the room on the starboard side.  It was pretty popular.  They also had a jigsaw puzzle table.


In Touch – This small area on the back wall of the Card Room is supposed to be their computer center.  I never saw anyone using it or anyone there that could help people who had internet issues.  It is kind of a waste of space in my opinion.

Pool – The deck 9 pool area with two hot tubs was pretty popular on this cruise.  The well-padded lounge chairs with plush beach towels were very comfortable.  There was a nice balance of open and shaded areas for those that didn’t want to get burned.




At the rear of the pool deck on the port side is a very comfortable enclosed sitting area.  It would get a decent breeze making it a great place to read or just take a nap.


Ping Pong Table – There was a single ping pong table on the forward starboard side of the pool deck.  It was pretty popular.

Shore Excursions – In the forward part of the Den are several different venues.  The shore excursion desk is on the port side and it keeps busy most of the time until the end of the cruise.


Cruise Again – Right next to the shore excursion desk is the Cruise Again office.  This is where you can get assistance booking another cruise.  Since they offer additional promotions to book a cruise while you are on board, it is a pretty popular place.

There is also another Cruise Again desk close by adjoining the Photo Shop.  It wasn’t staffed during this cruise.

Promenade Deck – There are promenades located on both sides of deck 5.  There were some loungers available.   The deck did not go entirely around the ship, just on the sides.


Jogging Track – With the Pursuit being a small ship, the deck 10 jogging track was also small.  It took 14.5 laps around it to get a mile.


Sun Deck – At the front of the ship on deck 11 is a large sunning area.  It is quite a comfortable space with outdoor furniture and lounge chairs.




At the very front was an interesting piece that made a statement “Forever Forward”. Using the shadow of the letters.

Shuffleboard – On the port side of the Sun Deck is a shuffleboard court.

Laundry – There is a self-service laundry on deck 7.  There are six washers and six dryers; as well as an iron and board.  There is no charge for it and the soap is provided.  You do need to bring dryer sheets.   It gets very busy near the end of the cruise.





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