Azamara Onward Mediterranean cruise

Best suited to mature passengers looking for a traditional, quieter cruise experience.

THE BACKGROUND: The latest addition to the Azamara fleet marks the reunion of four small cruise vessels, known as R-Class ships, which were originally constructed for the now defunct Renaissance Cruises and built up a loyal following.

Azamara Onward was constructed in 1999 and from 2002 sailed as Pacific Princess for Princes Cruises. After being acquired by Azamara in 2021 it underwent an extensive refurbishment. With a larger than average ratio of public space per passenger, the 11-deck ship carries up to 670 guests and is able to dock in smaller ports that are inaccessible to large cruise ships.

Joining sister R-Class ships Azamara JourneyQuest and Pursuit, Azamara Onward was renamed in Monte Carlo in May and will spend its inaugural season in the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean.

THE ROOM: With its expansive wooden decks, some laid out with steamer chairs and areas such as the glittering Mosaic Cafe, the ship has a very classic and welcoming feel. While it is difficult to completely transform older cabins, modern additions include USB ports.

KEY FACILITIES: A key part of the Azamara experience is what happens off the ship rather than aboard, so there are no waterparks or glitzy shows. Instead passengers can expect to visit lesser-known destinations, with plenty of time spent in port, and each cruise features at least one AzAmazing event. On our sailing this was a ‘takeover’ in the pretty Italian Riviera village of Portovenere where the line had arranged for musicians and singers to perform along a self-guided circular route with a waterside food and drink area serving complimentary local specialities. It was a real highlight.

Back onboard a highly anticipated event is the signature Azamara white night party held on deck. The rest of the entertainment is fairly low-key and includes song and dance shows in the Cabaret Lounge.

A nice touch is the Destination Shop that sells clothing and souvenirs from the destinations being visited. The ship also has a spa and gym.

RESTAURANTS & BARS: A notable addition to Azamara Onward, which isn’t available on its sibling ships, is the Atlas Bar. Located up on Deck 10, and replacing the library on the other vessels, the travel-themed bar was my favourite spot for a pre-dinner cocktail. It specialises in imaginative craft cocktails combining ingredients from around the world, including Date of Cairo with vodka, Egyptian date sauce and passionfruit juice, and Osaka Spice, mixing sake, lime juice, lime syrup and wasabi. For an additional fee there are small bite pairing recommendations such as wagyu beef with Osaka Spice. It’s a standout venue.

There are seven places to dine and the two included restaurants are Discoveries, which is the most formal, and the casual Windows Cafe buffet. Food was good throughout. A nice touch is the Windows Cafe transforming into a waiter served a la carte venue at night, with menus showcasing destinations visited, such as a French menu one evening and Mediterranean the next.

The cafe extends out into the al fresco Sunset Veranda, which is a beautiful spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner on warm days and it is heated on chillier evenings.

My favourite speciality restaurant was the Italian-themed Aqualina, an elegant and light room with panoramic windows. Other places to eat are the Mosaic Cafe, serving tempting pastries and treats, and there is also a pool grill and 24-hour room service.

THE VERDICT: Fans of Azamara and anyone who enjoys small-ship cruising in a cosy atmosphere with longer stays and overnights in some ports will enjoy this ship. It is best suited to mature passengers looking for a traditional, quieter cruise experience rather than those in search of all-singing all-dancing entertainment.

THE DETAILS: A seven-night Italy Intensive cruise staying in an inside cabin starts from $1,119 (£907).