On March 2nd, 2020, the Azamara Pursuit set sail from Buenos Aires for a 21-day cruise scheduled to explore destinations throughout Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, before concluding in Peru. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans. But what didn’t change, and will never change, is our commitment to providing exceptional service at sea.
Today, we want to share the story of how our guests and crew onboard the Azamara Pursuit came together to keep each other healthy, happy, and safe on their extended journey home.
An Extended Journey Begins
The first seven days aboard the Azamara Pursuit were everything our guests expected. However, after only three ports of call, countries began reacting to the ever-evolving news about COVID-19 by restricting access to their ports. This meant the Azamara Pursuit was denied entry to many of its planned ports, and the itinerary was changing day-by-day. Entering this very fluid environment, our crew’s top priorities were ensuring transparency, providing regular updates to our onboard guests, and taking strict precautions to keep the Azamara Pursuit healthy, clean, and free of COVID-19.
Initially, the Azamara Pursuit was scheduled to debark in Lima, Peru. When those plans changed, we made our way to Chile. Here, the Azamara Pursuit had to anchor outside of Chile for three days to load provisions (food and other essentials) with a crane and fuel via a fuel tanker. Then, alternate arrangements were made, and a course was plotted through the Panama Canal destined for Miami. No one was allowed on or off the ship during this time. All sanitation precautions and CDC requirements were in place to keep our guests and crew healthy.
A Crew Unlike Any Other
With enough fuel and food, the Azamara Pursuit charted a new course, one that would take it to Miami, where guests could safely disembark and head home. We’re so proud of our crew for going above and beyond to make sure guests were comfortable and entertained throughout this long journey.
Ryszard (Richard) Gusmann: Richard is our Hotel Director aboard the Azamara Pursuit. He and our Guest Relations team worked tirelessly to completely redesign all of our guest services, programs, and entertainment to create a feeling of calmness and relaxation for our guests as they spent nearly three weeks at sea.
Chef Monika Whitaker: Chef Monika is a staple in the Azamara Pursuit kitchen, dreaming up delicious dishes for our guests. While at sea, she and her team prepared healthy gourmet meals daily. Beyond that, she also got creative, putting together special themed meals to delight our guests as they attended on-deck gatherings.
Cruise Director Tony Markey: Cruise Director Tony is someone who can think on his feet, and he certainly proved it during this journey. Thanks to Tony and the entertainment team, guests kept busy with programmed enrichment classes where they could improve their creative writing and memoir writing (a good skill to have in such interesting times!). Guests were also invited to participate in art and language classes, as well as attend several additional onboard productions and shows.
And speaking of shows, stand-up comedian Michele Balan proved continuously that humor can be found in any situation, and laughter truly is the best medicine. Performing multiple sets, as well as hosting game shows, Michele kept guests in good spirits and well entertained.
In addition to Michele, we had musician Tom Seals onboard the Azamara Pursuit. Tom, renowned as one of the UK’s finest blues and boogie-woogie piano players, had toes tapping and guests dancing the night away throughout their time at sea.
Last, but certainly not least, a big thank you to Captain Carl Smith, who, in the face of challenging circumstances, treated our guests with the utmost care and respect. Every day he would provide afternoon and evening updates to our guests. He also ensured that he was available throughout the day to answer any questions our guests may have.
A Big Thank You to Our Guests
None of this would have been possible without the support and understanding of all of our guests sailing with us – thank you!
Because everyone onboard the Azamara Pursuit was in good health, guests were able to
continue enjoying cruise life with no interruption. A passenger named Christie shared that guests felt “like the luckiest people on Earth” aboard the Pursuit because they were not restricted to their cabins for the duration of the cruise. Instead, they were able to take part in activities like dolphin and whale watching, yoga and stretching classes, and even attend the signature Azamara White Night party. Truly, their journey on board felt like time spent at a home away from home.
In fact, we’d like to share with you a note we received from two couples, Bob and Karen, and Dino and Dilek, who were aboard the Azamara Pursuit during this time.
“To the CEOs of Azamara and Royal Caribbean,
We are two couples traveling on the Azamara Pursuit that departed Buenos Aires on March 2nd. While this is our first Azamara voyage, we’ve been on many other cruises and have traveled extensively. We will certainly remember this as our most unique experience. And before this voyage concludes, we wanted to take the time to recognize the heroic efforts of Captain Carl Smith and his crew.
Captain Carl has both literally and figuratively sailed us through troubled waters, all the while displaying exemplary leadership. His daily noon briefings have both comforted and made us laugh. We were delighted when he stopped for a brief chat over coffee one day only to realize that his walkabouts were a regular event to collect and respond to questions. He not only cared about our well-being, but that of the crew as well, and took care to publicly thank them.
And speaking of the crew, a huge thank you to the people working tirelessly to take care of us. To single out only a few — the bartender who took the time to do magic tricks; Kostin, another bartender who smiled patiently at our silly questions; the Peruvian bartender who educated us on piscos; Igor and Vladimir, baristas extraordinaire morning and night; the many, many wait staff who always had a smile as we asked for Tabasco. And a big shoutout to Paulo and Katryana who kept our rooms spotless. In fact, Katryana is probably one of the hardest working people we met. And we can’t even name the countless other workers we never saw who helped keep us comfortable and safe.
And last but not least, thank you. No doubt, Captain Carl wouldn’t have been as effective if he didn’t have the support and resources of the corporate office.”
Welcome Aboard the “Happy Boat”
Bob, Karen, Dino, and Dilek were not the only guests with positive things to say about their unique time at sea. In fact, after a few days, guests unofficially rechristened the Azamara Pursuit “The Happy Boat” — something that certainly put a smile on all of our faces.
Ashore and Assured
When the Azamara Pursuit arrived in Miami, it called for celebration, but our job wasn’t over. We were committed to ensuring our guests not only returned to land safely, but that they also returned home safely. We arranged flights for all of our guests and provided private buses to transport them to the airport. Passengers from more than 25 different countries returned home.
During a decidedly difficult time, we’re so happy to be able to share this story with you. Our voyage lasted more than the 21 days expected. Throughout that time, everyone at Azamara, from the staff and crew onboard the Pursuit to the team onshore, worked tirelessly to get our guests home safely, all while taking excellent care of each other every step of the way. And our guests were certainly appreciative. In fact, when an Azamara voyage concludes, we send a survey to our guests to gather feedback and have them rate their experience. As of April 2nd, 2020, this voyage is on track to be one of our highest-rated journeys.
From all of us at Azamara to all of you, thank you for taking this journey with us. Stay safe, and we’re looking forward to exploring the world again with you soon.