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Sail Date: January 2015
Went on this ship 14 years ago and nothing's changed in all that time! It needs a total makeover, a total gutting of the ship. It looks old and feels old. The food in the dining room was only mediocre. They have 2 specialty ... Read More
Went on this ship 14 years ago and nothing's changed in all that time! It needs a total makeover, a total gutting of the ship. It looks old and feels old. The food in the dining room was only mediocre. They have 2 specialty restaurants which were better but they charge you extra to dine there. This felt like "nickle and diming". The cruise was not inexpensive--these restaurants should be included in the price. Also they advertise that soft drinks are included. However, if you decide to have a soft drink that is provided in your cabin's fridge, you are charged a fee! Really? Come on, this again is "nickle and diming". Gratuities are also advertised as being included, however, it is clear that the staff expect more. For example on our last day, they were waiting outside our cabin door and it was obvious that they expected to receive an additional tip. The entertainment was very amateurish. They could put you to sleep. The service was good--the staff did their best to please their customers. Shore excursions were very overpriced. You are much better off using a private tour guide either on your own or with a small group of people. We receive numerous emails from Oceania and are planning to try them for our next cruise. They don't charge for their specialty restaurants and any of their soft drinks. Also their ships are small and totally refurbished and some are brand new.   Read Less
Sail Date: January 2015
Due to the bad weather we missed the Buenos Aires port which we were looking forward to. ChoiceAir was the worst company to deal with. My husband and I never book through cruise lines but due to unpredictable weather we decided to take a ... Read More
Due to the bad weather we missed the Buenos Aires port which we were looking forward to. ChoiceAir was the worst company to deal with. My husband and I never book through cruise lines but due to unpredictable weather we decided to take a chance. ChoiceAir has an emergency team that is supposed to do everything they can to ensure you get to the ship. They did not accommodate our requests but were very responsive to other cruisers who managed to get to the ship on the first day. Other cruises who did their own air arrangements that were from our area also managed to get out before the storm. We were three days late. When we arrived at the pier our names were not on the list as passengers arriving late. It was as if they didn't care whether we made it or not even though they were notified. It took us a while to finally explain and get on the ship to check in. We are still trying to get some sort of compensation for the lack of customer service and incompetent employees from ChoiceAir. Azamara offers complimentary alcoholic beverages which we felt took away from the dining. We are not big drinkers but decided on this cruise for the itinerary and good food from past cruise. My husband ordered a cuban sandwich from the grill which was just a hoagie with meat, sauce and cubes of cheese. In the past this was grilled like a panini. The grilled blackened fish was just grilled with lots of oil and no seasoning. The dining room salad was so small I had to ask for another. There was no shrimp cocktail on the menu. The entrees were just ordinary nothing that stood out where you couldn't wait to taste it. Like my husband said the food was adequate but nothing to write home about. The italian specialty restaurant was nothing spectacular and not worth the extra cost. However, the steak restaurant was far & beyond my expectations and worth every cent. I just couldn't understand why these fine dining options were not available in the dining room like other cruise lines. There was no fresh spinach or berries; all was frozen and defrosted. Other than that the service was impeccable. We did not go to any shows; there was nothing that stood out for us. Only one of the two hot tubs jets were working. We missed a tender port due to severe winds. This was very disappointing as it was one of the top ten most beautiful places in the world. So missing Buenos Aires and Buzios really put a damper on the trip especially for the high amount of money I paid for this vacation.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
Picked this ship and cruise for the itinerary-- was so pleasantly surprised at how nice so many of the ports are-- you never hear much about places like Punta del Este, Ilha Grande, Ilhabela and Parati, but they have beaches and charming ... Read More
Picked this ship and cruise for the itinerary-- was so pleasantly surprised at how nice so many of the ports are-- you never hear much about places like Punta del Este, Ilha Grande, Ilhabela and Parati, but they have beaches and charming towns that rival anything in the Caribbean. Lopes Mendes beach was so beautiful. The fireworks New Year's eve moored in front of Copacabana beach were just stunning. Indeed, there were many Brazilians on the trip who'd booked the trip mostly for this. Interesting and chatty passenger mix of people from all over-- had many great conversations (Americans, of course, but also, people from Mexico, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, all over!) Another highlight was the Iguazu Falls--- not enough time to try to do this on our own, so we booked the ship's excursion for it--- and it was very well done. The Falls are stunning-- "Niagara on Viagra." Its a loooong day, but SOOOOO worth it. And, the excursion lady (not Azamara, their liasion person) called back our bus, when my husband discovered he'd left his cell phone on the bus, waited and waited outside the terminal for it to come back, and then sprinted to the airline gate with his phone and to accompany our group back to Buenos Aires and the ship! She was our hero! As to the Azamara staff and food, we thought the staff was great. We had a Club Continent suite, port side (We gotta have a bath tub!) so our space was great and we didn't experience the problems with noise and A/C that people on the starboard side did. Food was terrific, we're from the Los Angeles area, so we have access to good food-- and we thought the food at Aquilina, Prime C and also the main dining room, was excellent. Went to some of the shows and they were mostly good, too. We liked not having to sign a slip for every single glass of wine, beer, Coke-- we like the inclusive thing, although we tip the room stewards and the people at the specialty restaurants anyway. We had a great time, met LOTS of interesting people and would cruise with Azamara again! Love the size of the ship-- so easily navigable. And this all said, we've been on Silverseas, Celebrity, Crystal and other lines-- and we really liked Azamara! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
Just to be clear at the start of this review. I AM AN AZAMARA LOYALIST so the fact that there are some criticisms should be seen as hopefully constructive criticism. I have been critical of H Office actions such as laundry /internet ... Read More
Just to be clear at the start of this review. I AM AN AZAMARA LOYALIST so the fact that there are some criticisms should be seen as hopefully constructive criticism. I have been critical of H Office actions such as laundry /internet access but would go to the stake supporting the on board experience. In summary for those who may not wish to read further. Good cruise not great. Tango evening in Buenos Aries very good. Ship entertainment good although English female magician was a cross between Jo Brand and Tommy Cooper but good in the end.. I think some allusions may have passed the USA /Canadian audience by. Eric is as Eric does and was good as usual. White night party better than usual but not surprising as it was New years Eve with fantastic fireworks display (20 minutes long) from prime position in front line off Copacabana beach. Food fair Morale on ship appeared to be poor with little leadership shown by Captain. Passenger mix good with no predominant group. I was surprised to see so many non-Christian people on board but maybe they want to escape Christmas as a festival although Christmas decorations were confined to 1 Christmas tree and fake snow on band area in cabaret lounge. We were led astray by bad group in casino lounge most nights so had good time. Now to review/comments Flew down from Newcastle and spent pleasant 3 hours in Exec lounge with a glass or 4 of Champagne before boarding flight to Buenos Aries. Good meal and lie flat bed made the journey faultless. We then emerged into chaos of arrivals at BA . Found rep eventually with one of the smallest arrivals signs I have seen for a long time. Simple transfer to hotel and met people on bus who we had sailed with previously. Hotel fine and had lazy day around pool. Tried to organise taxi for next morning and knowing state of Argentinean peso offered to pay in dollars. Evening concierge was quoting $35/40 plus tip for what appeared to be only a 10 minute journey on Google but was quite insistent we should book now through him. We had transfers booked through hotel so did not make decision. Next morning approached day concierge and was quoted $10 which we took. Advised rep so that bus was not waiting for us. We prefer taxi as it enables us to go when we want and no scrum re bus and baggage. We had a friend who lost hand baggage case which was placed in bus hold but was removed by a thief before bus set off. We always wait now until baggage doors are shut before one of us boards bus. Straight on board at 11.00 to be greeted by Heike and proceeded to make our Prime C reservations. Rather than do a blow by blow account I intend to split review into sep sections. I am fully aware that a lot of people may not like what I write and will say I am nitpicking but how many coincidences/ failures create a trend, All I would ask is read and consider if these were your experiences what would you think? Safety. At one port we were advised of a 30 minute tender journey so therefore a probable 1 Hour 20 turn round. Of the first tender boats the first had an engine failure on the water. Life happens BUT the second ran out of fuel and also had to be recovered with consequent chaos to tender times. Far more serious was if there had actually been an emergency we would have had only half the number of boats available. Totally unacceptable. Comfort. Aircon We commented on cabin air con and despite curtains closed all day and running on maximum cooling it was practically impossible to tell difference between corridors/outside and room. Complained for 4 days but no differences made. Accepted it in the end even though other parts of ship were kept cool. Toilets. Had blockages /overflows on at least 5 days in both toilets as well as elsewhere in public toilets in deck 9. I realise that these are probably client inflicted but not by us as we are scrupulous about items. I can tell you that one of the worst experiences is when (as you do) you get up in the dark to go to the toilet at 3am you most definitely wake up when you enter toilet and your feet get wet. Fortunately clean water but still a horrible moment. I do not consider that a pot plant in dressing area is equivalent to “fresh cut flowers in suite” but probably a Larry cutback. Morale on board Having sailed at least 10 times with Azamara we look forward to returning and seeing regular staff and had even brought Christmas presents for people like Heike, Alex and other favourite waiters etc. It appears that unlike previous times staff are now rotated between Journey and Quest and we therefore saw far fewer staff that we knew. Missing staff included Adel restaurant manager and Dale and Victor head barmen. It was alleged problems with visas was the reason for this but efficiency suffered because of lack of experienced staff. We also had new F & B manager as well as executive chef Iwan. Staff were certainly not as happy or smiling as on previous trips and officers were hardly ever seen on deck or as previous eating in the Windows Cafe. Food We are early risers 7.45 a.m. and were able to dine in Windows outside deck every morning. At no time did we see the fresh orange machine working and after a few days it had disappeared completely. On asking I was informed “Brazilian authorities do not like you to see it” Hey, I am on Azamaras finest not one of Mr Fyffe’s boats. Smoothies were as good as ever and made as you waited. I was not impressed when waiting for smoothie when Captain walked in, was served before me and did not even say “Good Morning, are you enjoying your cruise?” Maybe he thought the vote of thanks I gave at the Captains dinner in the library 2 days before was not fulsome enough. Rest of food fine with fresh eggs made as requested but there did not appear to be as many staff to carry food to your table if required or requested. I do npt expect for myself as able bodied. 2 days running they ran out of English muffins? It appeared they were on ration as on third day it was like Cpl Jones in Dads Army. If you asked for them they were produced from a cloth covered basket behind the counter!!!! It was great if you liked peach yogurt as this was the only flavoured offered. Surely somewhere in Argentina sells other flavours. Lunch Not great lunchers but soups were fine although the hot dishes could surely have looked better and maybe fresher if they only used half the hot area. Mainly ate freshly made sandwiches and it is the first time I have had an egg mayonnaise toastie as it was whipped into toaster before I could say thank you. Also has on 3 occasions the “room service burger “which according to folk lore is made from tail end of fillets from Prime C. In no way was it the same as on previous cruises. On cutting into it it simply split into pieces rather like mince. Not good. Burger bar at pool area Changes here in that now instead of burgers/hot dogs being prepared as required they are cooked en masse and placed in chafing dishes for self selection. Result is you get a Mcdonalds type bun instead of toasted bun fresh from grill also French fries are kept in same dishes resulting in cool fries. Answer: Cook less per fry and they will be fresh and hot. I would rather wait a minute than have cold/luke warm fries. No extra cost but customer satisfaction. Afternoon tea Had served in suite and I notice now only 5 prawns instead of 6 for 2 people (17 per cent saving) I think they could do away with bits on sticks as they are rarely fresh Whilst on subject the English tea bags are useless and I am NOT a strong teas drinker. Dinner Mainly ate in Prime C and again there is no doubt that the quality of steak has changed dramatically as well as general food standards. It was obvious that they do a good job with pre prepared items i.e. soups, salads, crab cakes and desserts but the fresh items like steaks were often poor. This may be my fault but initially ordered well done fillet steak (major mistake for Americans) but It was like shoe leather. Next time ordered medium which was indeed pink in middle but still completely dry with no juices. Had it sat too long under the lamps? Moved onto halibut which was great but unbelievably they ran out of later in the cruise. How can that happen? They know their passenger load and it must come frozen. Later on they also ran out of Dover sole and one night they ran out between ordering and service. I reordered their daily special of pork steak which was great and came hot and juicy so it is possible. Lamb was not much better and they had no mint sauce except that provided from a bottle which you shook like vinegar over your meal. Mint jelly was so fluorescent it should be in Doctor Who. They provide Marmite and Vegemite for us foreigners surely they could get some Colmans proper stuff? Captains dinner was completely unremarkable as I cannot even remember what we had apart from a Margarita Sorbet which had melted and had to be drunk from the glass. I remember being advised by Chef Iwan whose first Captains dinner this was that we would be served with “Lettuce emulsion “ also “potato spaghetti” . The descriptions were better than the reality as most hot courses were warm/cold. I did not spot the truffels although they were on the printed menu Drinks As previous cruisers we were aware that they normally carry 2 Rieslings which are our preferred choice. Usually a discreet request to restaurant manager would enable us to have this from day 1. This time was advised you could only have the 2 on offer. After 5 days one waiter was bold or stupid enough to comment that there was a Riesling on menu in Discoveries restaurant that night so they then provided the Chilean Riesling. It appeared that the German Diennhard one was no longer stocked although a far better quality. The following comments are from other passengers so cannot vouch for absolute veracity but no reason to doubt them. One couple had friends on previous cruise that raved about a particular daily wine and emailed them about it. They asked if they could have this wine but were advised that it was not possible as it was a free daily wine and not until it was on daily list. No problem they said “Can we pay for it?. Answer “We cannot sell it as it is an inclusive wine.” Also suite members get 4 half bottles of spirits but are not allowed to drink them other than in your room. I understand that Azamara may not want you to drink your own shop bought alcohol but it seems bizarre that if you are sitting in a bar with the provided bottles and using Azamara mixers. You would actually be saving them money as you would not be using their alcohol. Unless my memory is failing I thought that pool bar served draught beer but no longer and the “International selection of beers” is Becks, Bud and Heineken Surely with Inbev reach Azamara could take on board a limited amount of local bottled beer at each replenishment point and use as limited edition. Perhaps our final room service breakfast was a useful metaphor for Azamara on board service. Bacon good, potatoes good, muffin were no bigger than thumb/forefinger circle with an extra inch in circumference, poached eggs bigger than muffins and the weakest orange juice I have ever drunk. Final conclusions The peer of the realm with a party of 16 most certainly will not return and Francis a German lady we have met on 2 previous cruises who received the LCV award on ship for most cruises at 25 will not be returning either. Disembarkation the usual shambles with 3 ships at the same time and 1 hour to check in at Windsor atlantica hotel on Copacabana beach. We were finally dumped at airport 4 hours before departure time with checkout not due to open for another hour. We were all flying on same flight so why was it not possible to delay departure by at least 1 hour.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
I had great expectations for the Azamara Cruise in South America but I came away very disappointed. I must say, that with the exception of two waiters in the café, the service was exceptional. The officers made themselves very visible and ... Read More
I had great expectations for the Azamara Cruise in South America but I came away very disappointed. I must say, that with the exception of two waiters in the café, the service was exceptional. The officers made themselves very visible and they were unusually cordial. I thought I would like the small ship experience but I did not. There were not enough activities going on in the ship. I realize that they had no control over this but the casino and the stores were closed most of the time because we were not far enough out at sea. I am not a big gambler but I would have played the slots some of the evenings. I also missed the constant live music that you find on the large ships. The food was excellent. I did eat in the Prime C and the Acqualina most evenings where food and service was impeccable. I was also delighted when I came home and had not gained any weight. We met some people that we enjoyed. Most were very experienced travelers, very loyal to Azamara, financially comfortable but not any more interesting than anyone we met on Celebrity cruises. I have read reviews where cruisers said that they brought their own toilet paper because it was superior to what was on the ship. I wonder if they have figured out yet that that may have been the cause of the plumbing problems aboard the Journey. We had to tender in most of the ports because there are not many large docks in South America. This would be the same problem for any ship that visited these ports but it did put a bit of a damper on leaving the ship. At least for now, I am booking my future cruises on the larger, more modern ships.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2012
Our cruise started in Buenos Aires, calling at Punta Del Este (Uruguay), then two days at sea, two nights (3 full days) in Rio De Janeiro, then Buzios, Parati, Ilhabela before finishing back in Rio. We had never cruised with Azamara ... Read More
Our cruise started in Buenos Aires, calling at Punta Del Este (Uruguay), then two days at sea, two nights (3 full days) in Rio De Janeiro, then Buzios, Parati, Ilhabela before finishing back in Rio. We had never cruised with Azamara before though our travel agent and the Cruise Critic reviews suggested that the cruise would be good -- and it was ! My wife and I had been looking for a cruise that visited Rio De Janeiro for Carnival for a few years and had considered a Silversea cruise last year but the price was high. Having been on a Silversea cruise through the Panama Canal we had been impressed by the service, quality of the food and the 'all-inclusive' package something which an Azamara cruise didn't quite offer. Food -- it was excellent. Apart from two nights, we had dinner in main restaurant (Discoveries) where we had good, friendly service in a very relaxed but semi-formal atmosphere. We found that most menus were both interesting and offeried plenty of choice. The presentation and cooking was exceptionally good -- better than we had experienced on Silversea (which was good). Also, although we rarely liked the complimentary white wine (normally a Chardonnay) the waiters would always find us an excellent Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for which we weren't charged for. Dinner on one of the other two evenings was in the speciality restaurant called Aqualina which was a more formal affair in a much smaller, intimate dining room at a cost of $25 per person (free to suite passengers) where the food and service was even better -- a similar standard that in top London restaurants. Entertainment -- it was OK. We don't go on cruises for the entertainment and tend to eat later so we often miss most of whatever is being presented in the 'showcase theatre'. On our cruise, the emphasis was mainly on singing with some excellent solo artists (including the Cruise Director himself) and a first rate band to accompany them. We were disappointed there wasn't more of a show which included dancing as well. Some of the various lounges also had music including a pianist, harpist and a two piece 'band' playing popular / country style music all of which were good. Service -- excellent throughout the ship. From the restaurant to the open pool deck, Guest Relations, shore excursions, cabin stewards -- they were all good. Our cabin steward and her assistant were especially good as they were always servicing our room without us getting in their way and kept it spotlessly clean. They obviously noted the times we went to breakfast, dinner etc. and then ensured you weren't disturbed beforehand and yet always serviced the room ready for your return. Also, they always seemed to be nearby. We must also highlight how impressed we were with the Norwegian captain. We saw him everyday and he would often stop and talk to passengers listening to their conversation in a very attentive way. He also had a 'dry' but quiet sense of humour which we liked. The ship seemed to very well managed and organised which must be a reflection on the captain and his fellow officers. Arrival in Rio De Janeiro for Carnival -- our one big disappointment as there was nothing special about this ! We were standing on the open decks 9 and 10 sailing into one of the most beautiful cities and for the best carnival in the world but there was no recognition of this. Some nice samba music would have been good along with some complimentary champagne and canapes all of which have been a perfect start to our stay in Rio. Come on Azamara -- you do most things so well ! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
I have to say, having had several large cruise ship experiences (Oasis, Voyager, Grand Princess etc) and having some taste of smaller ships (Paul Gauguin), my Azamara Journey experience was the first to warrant my time to write a bit about ... Read More
I have to say, having had several large cruise ship experiences (Oasis, Voyager, Grand Princess etc) and having some taste of smaller ships (Paul Gauguin), my Azamara Journey experience was the first to warrant my time to write a bit about it. Entertainment - While the quality did quite not match that of the larger ships, the feeling of entertainer interaction and appreciation was much more apparent and no less enjoyable. Cruise Director - By far the most talented cruise director of any ship (19 cruises). Erick is talented, versatile, accessible, hilarious, genuine and quite frankly the face of Azamara as far as I am concerned. My wife and I both felt that he is an asset a young company like Azamara if fortunate to have. In fact, a reason to return. Food - Outstanding, creative and delicious Ports Visited Punta Del Este: Great place for retail therapy for any price range. Easy to navigate and friendly local interaction Rio de Janeiro - We actually participated in the parade. We purchased costumes ahead of time and shared a once in a lifetime experience. As part of the Uniao da Ihla samba school with the theme "from London to Rio", the feeling of exhilaration was indescribable. Buzios: Great local shops, Trolley tour gave us a feel of of the peninsula, Retail Shops along the stone paved streets, along with some nice local restaurants and very friendly people only added to the experience. We would go back for a land vacation to this great spot. Unlike Rio and some of the other ports (almost exclusively Portuguese), a little English and more Spanish can be found here. Parati: Should be stricken from the itinerary. Reminded me of Fanning Island, near the equator and primitive. Ihabela: Similar to Buzios but, in my mind, Buzios gets the nod given the local feeling of friendliness. Ship Staff: Easily among the most competent and friendly we have encountered. Tips: Internet in Buzios and Ihabela costs about $1.50-$2.00 per 30 minutes vs .42 to .65 per minute on the ship. I purchased 2+ packages on the ship for $100 each (.42 per minute). Skype on ship is not supported given the speed capabilities. Thank you Erick, Imade, Carlos, Felicidad and the rest of the Azamara Journey family. George and Lori Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
Our trip to the Antarctic on the Azamara Journey was by far the best criuse we have ever done. The Captain set the tone of the voyage as he was friendly and visible throughout and this attidude went for the whole crew from the Cruise ... Read More
Our trip to the Antarctic on the Azamara Journey was by far the best criuse we have ever done. The Captain set the tone of the voyage as he was friendly and visible throughout and this attidude went for the whole crew from the Cruise Director (Eric) to the waiters and the room stewards. Nothing was too much for them. Embarkation in Buenos Airies was fast and stress free with the Captain at the end of the steps to welcome each passenger (as he was at the end of the cruise to say farewell). We were welcomed with Champagne and taken to our stateroom where there was fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit. It was immaculate and kept that way throughout the trip by Aldo. In fact we had fresh flowers and fruit on a daily basis - not a mean feat in the Antarctic Ice. The voyage was fantastic. Out first port of call on day four was the Falkland Islands - a place we never thought was would get to. We took a trip to Bluff Cove to see the penguins (Gentoo, King and Magellenic) then discovered Port Stantley on our own. It was good to see that most of the crew were able to get ashore and also go on the tours - treated by the Captain. We later saw our room stewards photographs as he was very excited by this particular cruise. After this we headed out over the Drake Passage and into the Antarctic Peninsula. The passage down was very kind to us and day six saw us passing Elephant Island and heading into Iceberg Alley. Incedibly scenic. Later we carried on Southwards and day seven brought us into Paradise Bay having spent the morning at the Chilean Research base. Researchers were invited on board to chat to the passengers about their work - very interesting. Later the crew took on a small piece of an iceberg which was used for our drinks - it was quite safe to do so. We saw several further research stations over the course of the next couple of days including the British one. Day seven and we were off Deception Island. Unfortunately the weather had changed and it was too windy to negotiate the narrow passage to enter the crater - a little disappointing. The following day we turned back into the Drake passage - not so calm this time so we could appreciate what the sailors went through in the pioneering days. Our next port of call was Ushaia where we spent the day at the National Park of Terra Del Fuego then we sailed for Cape Horn which we circumnavigated in the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately the weather was still not kind as it was both cold and misty but it was good to have done this. Then it was two days of sailing to reach Puerto Madryn and the Peninsula Valdez National Park then again further sailing days to get back to Buenos Airies and our flight home. Entertainment was very good indeed and in keeping with the age range of the passengers. A lot better than we had been expecting given the size of the ship. The whole voyage was fantastic and the little touches made it better than expected such as certificates for going to Antarctica and rounding Cape Horn (individually named for each passenger and signed by the Captain)together with a voyage map, the chats with the Chilean researchers, the iceberg ice in our drinks, the lectures by a retired astronaut and others and the lack of the culture of trying to get more cash from the passengers for all extras. We had only a very small (less than $100) account at the end of the cruise - and this was mostly for the CD of the photographs taken by the ships photographer. All in all this cruise was fantastic and we will definitely cruise with Azamara again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
We arrived at a busy cruise terminal courtesy of Fred at Silverstar Cars (highly recommended) having done our own per cruise arrangements to visit the Iguazu Falls and see Buenos Aires staying at the Hilton (again highly recommended, great ... Read More
We arrived at a busy cruise terminal courtesy of Fred at Silverstar Cars (highly recommended) having done our own per cruise arrangements to visit the Iguazu Falls and see Buenos Aires staying at the Hilton (again highly recommended, great safe location). Six ships were embarking -it was a zoo but out of the crowds came a lady with an Azamara lollipop sign. From that moment we were shown/ escorted through the crowds in what was excellent organisation by Azamara. On board rooms became ready earlier than expected and we were delighted to see Pravin who had been our butler on a previous cruise would again be caring for us this time ably assisted by Hilda and Andrei. A first class team, our room was kept immaculate, sodas topped up, ice always there and every time we met them lovely smiles and conversation. This was a New Year cruise, the ship was full including 130+ Brazillian guests which gave a more lively ship than before which had its positives and negatives. The biggest minus was the number of children, most were well behaved but there were crying babies in the restaurant and parents who did not see the need even after tactful comments from staff, to remove them. You cannot blame Azamara for this and it did not happen all the time so did not impact significantly, but we mention it so future bookers understand there can be children on Azamara ships. We have cruised 3 times before with Azamara and have tended to use the Speciality Restaurants Prime C and Aqualina. These are both still of a high standard, though the recent menu changed has removed a couple of favourites in Prime C so we felt a little more limited in choice there. The biggest difference is in Discoveries. There has been a significant increase in quality there such that on food quality and preparation the difference with the Specialities is so minor as to be insignificant. In all restaurants lunch and dinner very enjoyable wines are included with generous pours and regular top ups. Sodas are off course free all day. Cruising at New Year allowed the ship to pull out all the stops for the New Years Eve dinner and they did- they asked everyone to select the restaurant and a time slot so they could manage the experience - an excellent move!! Mother Nature threw a few curved balls on this trip and what was so impressive was the way that plans were jiggled and rejigled the Food team were moving buffets inside and out, entertainment particularly during the Rio fireworks reset thanks to the rain. That said, midnight was a wonderful happy experience with crew and guests mixing on the decks in the rain enjoying free champagne and marvelling at the fireworks. We felt sorry for some who had put so much effort into the party plans to have their parade rained on but it did not stop this being a new year to remember. That brings us to the team onboard. It is hard to put into words how good they are, everyone greets you by name and tries to do all they can to anticipate what you want and make your trip happy. Plates are always carried for you from the excellent buffet to your table, chairs pulled out for ladies, drinks brought without asking, cheery smiles and conversation always initiated by them. They obviously love their jobs, are so proud of their brand and are well lead- on this cruise Captain Jason was in charge just ahead of going on vacation and the ever attentive Heike as hotel director. Two people who on other ships come in for flack or are seen as invisible have to get a mention -liesl, the guest relations manager who has a charming team at the desk, and Martina the Chief Housekeeper, friendly and so caring of her staff. A final comment about the staff, at the end if the cruise no one hangs around looking for a tip, no one says make sure you rate our service as excellent or please remember to mention me, my name is ...... - I think that says it all, they all know they have one all they can for you and their managers do as well (that said, extra tips were given and most graciously received and mentions were made on feedback forms) Finally before we come to the ports entertainment. Up to now a weak link, not so on this trip. We had heard before about Eric de Gray but had never met him. All we can say now is wow, what a delightful talented person, he hits the right level for the audiences. Entertainment was also provided by Eliot Finkel ( pianist), Bob Trunell (magician- how did he do that dollar bill trick?) and Bruce Parker an excellent singer who had everyone up dancing as he did soul and Motown. The production shows were good and Eric's role in two shows was outstanding ( where does he get his energy from) Ports of call We were able to take advantage of the 50% off early bookers offer so made most arrangements through the ship. It would have been difficult to choose between some trips but luckily we were back to back guests so could do second choices in the next trip. Punta del Este, an easy tender and we went on the drive round, trip to the Rali museum and Casa Pueblo. I think this was the best value and best organised tour of all we did Rio (first stop, the ship came twice here) we did Sugar loaf - being holiday season it was crowded and long lines but a private guide would have been no better than our great guide Buzios in New Years Day, a port where mother nature had other ideas, tendering was delayed for 3 hours and trips cancelled, we just relaxed on board Parati - a cloudy day but excellent 4x4 trip to the waterfalls and gold trail, safe, informative would thoroughly recommend. Others reported difficulties trying to get a4x4 trip with an English speaking guide on the pier and lost out as a result Rio 2 Corcovada, again very good, first class guide who got us all on the train in the crowds without a wait. In the evening we went on the Dinner and Plataforma tour, dinner was poor, the show good. Maybe if you want to do this and are confident with local taxis ( though some did have issues with dodgy meters) do it yourself or skip it as they had brought a small samba group in ship in any event. Disembarkation As back to back guests cannot say a lot other than it was perfect for us, did not even have to get off the ship if we did not want to. Had planned a tour but it was cancelled due to low numbers so we enjoyed a lazy day instead. We did hear from friend we made onboard that the disembarkation was good and well organised Overall A first class cruise the best way to see the Rio fireworks ( by the way 12 ships were watching but Azamara was front row!) and now let's see in our next review could they keep these standards up Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
Azamara Journey 9 February 08 to 27 February 08  South America/Antarctica-Round Trip Buenos Aires by Patrick and Harriette ReganWe wanted to see the Penguins and cruise through Antarctica and around Cape Horn.  We did all that on this ... Read More
Azamara Journey 9 February 08 to 27 February 08  South America/Antarctica-Round Trip Buenos Aires by Patrick and Harriette ReganWe wanted to see the Penguins and cruise through Antarctica and around Cape Horn.  We did all that on this 6,000 mile, 18 day, Azamara Journey voyage.CRUISE VALUEWe've been watching the Internet prices on Antarctic cruises for the past couple of years.  We don't want to cruise anymore on the megaships that carry around 3000 passengers.We like Celebrity, enough to have reached the Elite level of their Captain's Club.  We've had excellent food and service, and we decided to try their new, premium cruise brand,Azamara?.  The emails of this company, which often referred to itself as ?a premium cruise line, ended withSmaller ships.  Out-of-the-ordinary destinations. Unmatched amenities - this is Azamara?.The Azamara Journey cruise looked like the small ship cruise experience we were looking for.  18 days of South American cruising, including 5 days cruising Antarctica beginning and ending in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We spotted an offer online on the net that included air travel from Miami, gratuities, and a two hundred dollar shipboard credit.  With the added air to Miami from Vancouver BC, and factoring in the cost of drinks and extra gratuities to those who earned it, the price for two cruisers in a category 2A balcony cabin was ten thousand dollars.  We decided to splurge and spend most of our yearly vacation budget on this 18 day cruise.  The flying to and from Miami added two more days and a hotel day to the trip.  Twenty days for ten thousand dollars works out to $500. per day for the two of us.  That's one to two hundred dollars more per day than we've been averaging for the 2 or 3 balcony cruises per year that we like to take.The prices were around 35% higher than the internet offerings on Celebrity M class or the Princess megaships doing this itinerary, or about 20% more on Holland America, to be able to cruise on this small ship.  The Journey would be able to cruise into areas of Antarctica inaccessible to the big ships.GETTING THEREThe cruise was offered with round trip air travel from Miami to Buenos Aires.  We carry Alaska Air credit cards and get a mile for every dollar we spend, so we used a combination of mileage and cash to fly Alaska to Miami so we could avoid the midwestern or eastern part of the US in the winter.The bad news was that the only flight offered from Seattle to Miami is a redeye.  We took a puddle jumper from Vancouver early enough to dine at Anthony's Fish House, which is a real restaurant, not an airport fast food place, inside the secured area at the Seattle airport.  We can't say enough about Anthony's food, service and prices, and we had delicious chowder and Cobb salads with shrimp. Yummy.  The perfect to soften the blow of a five hour redeye to Miami crammed into the back of a 737 with poor seat pitch.MIAMIWe arrived in Miami around 7AM, got our luggage and booked a day occupancy room (checkout by 6PM) at the Miami Airport Hotel, which is located right in the terminal.  We had breakfast at their Top of the Port restaurant and went to bed.    LAN ARGENTINA AIRLINESwas to be our carrier to Buenos Aires, and they recommended that we start checking in 3 hours ahead of time.  We checked out of the hotel at 6PM and Joseph the bellman took our bags to the Lan Argentina counter in Terminal J, which is a brand new concourse, for our 9PM flight.  It's a lengthy walk everywhere at the Miami airport and once through check in and security it's another long walk.  Whew!The lines were long to check in as well as to pass through security, and the extra time kept us in a relaxed mood in the middle of the organized chaos of the airport.The problem of noise pollution in public areas is everywhere now, and the gate area where we waited had brand new flat screen TV's blasting CNN while airport background music also played on different speakers, regularly interrupted by loud PA announcements.  We couldn't wait to get on the plane and get going.The plane was a 767 that had been totally refurbished. Very spiffy.  Very clean.  The food service was good, harkening back to the airline service of yore including a blue room (restroom) that a person over six feet tall can stand up in.We had a nice dinner; chicken or beef was offered along with complementary wine service and a variety of soft drinks.  There was a high quality entertainment system with an individual screen for each passenger, with free movies, games, etc., and a free headset.We were also provided with sleep masks and ear plugs.In the morning, coffee, juice and omelets were served.  We were well taken care of by Lan Argentina in the person of Lucia, who was the cabin attendant in our section.  Thank you, Lucia.BUENOS AIRES   We filled out our customs and immigration forms on the plane and passed quickly through the modern terminal. Cruisers need to be aware that the stamped portion of the paperwork returned to you, needs to be kept and turned in when you depart Argentina.  You will also need to pay the departure tax when you leave. We easily found the Azamara reps, who guided us to the airport transfer vehicle included in our cruise price.  Our luggage went directly from the plane to the ship. It was a pleasant, sunny day with the temperature in the mid 70?s.  We rode through the central part of Buenos Aires, which looks a lot like cities in Europe, on the way to the terminal where the ship was docked.  We got to the terminal about a half hour before the ship could be boarded and had strong, perfectly made lattes and pastry for two at a small cafe in the terminal.  The price was about five dollars US including the tip.  The exchange rate is around 3.20 pesos for every US or Canadian dollar.EMBARKATIONwas very smooth.  We turned in our boarding passes, which we had printed at home after filling out the necessary forms using the Internet.  Staff scanned our boarding pass, checked our passports, and gave us our cruise cards. The whole process took less than 5 minutes.When we boarded the Journey, we were greeted with complementary champagne (or cranberry juice), and we saw   Hotel Director Niyazi Korkmas, who was in the entrance lobby watching over the boarding process and greeting passengers.  We like to see Hotel Directors out and about and talking with the passengers.We were fried from 2 nights of redeye flights and we stopped by the poolside grill for a quick sandwich before we crashed for an afternoon nap.  They were offering the usual hamburgers and hot dogs, plus lovely kebabs and many other grilled delights.  Chips, salsa and guacamole were always available. FOOD QUALITY AND DINING SERVICEExcellent, everywhere on the ship, under the direction of Executive Chef Milos Pales and Restaurant Manager Ryszard Guzman.  From Discoveries dining room to the grill at the pool to the specialty restaurants Aqualina and Prime C, the Windows buffet and room service, the food is good. Well prepared and presented in sometimes dazzling ways, particularly in the specialty restaurants.  The array of pastries and desserts is unending, and the croissants are properly crisp and buttery.  The beef is excellent on this ship, too.  We have been served lesser cuts of meat on many cruises lately, and the beef on this ship was of high quality.  Food and Beverage manager Desiderio Cavaco is to be commended for the quality provisioning of these dining venues under the supply chain difficulties of a cruise all the way through south South America and Antarctica.  SPECIALTY RESTAURANTSChef Anthony Mauboussin presides over the kitchens for both Aqualina and Prime C, the Journey's specialty restaurants located aft on deck 10.  Azamara has eliminated the previous surcharge for this restaurant.  The only cost is the suggested tip to the servers of five dollars each for our two servers.  Ten dollars US buys a truly fine dining experience.PRIME C This is the specialty dining steak house.  We made a reservation through the Captain's Club before we left for the cruise, because main dining rooms can be a zoo on the first night of a cruise.  We were still exhausted from our back to back redeye flights, but we knew we had to get up from our nap and eat dinner to keep up our energy and to turn our body clocks back toward normal.We were greeted and seated by Maitre d Gokhan, who runs Prime C.  We had thought we would just pick at our food and go back to bed, but we ended up having delicious soup, a popcorn shrimp appetizer and buttery filet mignon which was cooked perfectly.  We added creamed spinach, onion rings perfectly fried and chocolate lava cake for dessert.  A gold star for the Prime C steak house -- and all for just the previously mentioned five dollar gratuity for each of our two servers.DINNER AT AQUALINAMaitre d Marius Borchila welcomes us to this lovely, light filled room that he manages with a watchful eye.  We cruised with Marius previously on the Mercury.  This is the most pleasant dining room on Journey.  Aqualina specializes in seafood; Prime C is more meat oriented.  Some previous reviews I read in November 07 were not happy with the specialty restaurants on the Journey, but things have changed for the very much better.  The food is good on the Journey, and there is way too much of it.  Seriously, we would prefer smaller portions, because we know they'd bring us seconds if we asked.Couple this with the fact that at dinner at Aqualina we were treated to a magnificent sight.  Our table was in the window at the very back of the ship, and as twilight lingered, we were mesmerized by a long, slow display of icy, Antarctic beauty.  It went on for miles and miles as we moved through waters littered with small chunks of ice, surrounded by rocky mountains which were themselves surrounded by glaciers along their shorelines, and pressed upon from above by clouds.  This was a nice, leisurely dinner, absolutely delicious from the arugula/bacon/goat cheese salad, brie in baked in phyllo dough through the broiled lobster tail, down to the chocolate souffle.  All the food we've been served aboard has been fresh, well-prepared, and served most graciously; this dinner, served by Catalin from Romania assisted by Basant from Mauritius, was no exception.  Azamara wins the specialty restaurant comparison to the other cruise lines.  We were able to eat at Aqualina a few times. If Discoveries dining room has a wait list and open tables are available at Aqualina or Prime C, you may get a table in these alternative restaurants again.CABIN/BUTLEROur truly non stop, hard working butler/cabin steward is Pravin, and his assistant is Rennie.  There is a list of butler services available at this cruise level, including packing & unpacking, afternoon tea service, dinner reservations, etc.  It sounds too good to be true, because our butler is more a cabin steward in what we used to call ?soup and fish,? meaning a swallow tail coat and dress pants, like a butler in a movie.  On Celebrity's Mercury, which we cruised in the summer of ?07, the butler is a butler with only butler duties but here it's more window dressing.  These 2 hard working men have 22 cabins to service.  The biggest number I ever saw a steward with an assistant do before was 18 and I thought that was excessive.  I can't imagine them having time to do butler tasks, but I see some of my fellow cruisers attempting to use them like they were their personal servants. The butler/stewards smile and keep our cabins clean & nice.  We wouldn't think to ask them to do the stuff Azamara offers, such as packing and unpacking your bags, making alternative dining reservations etc., beyond the usual duties of a cabin steward.  On the Mercury a butler has more time to just be a butler and can do the little things such as those offered in the Azamara brochures.  On the Azamara Journey the butler takes your preprinted order form for tea snacks and savories a la Celebrity Concierge class.  The cruiser checks the boxes for the items he wants and assigns a time for delivery to the cabin within the window of the service time stated on the form.  You must be in your cabin to take delivery at the appointed time.  We'd rather not schedule our snacks, so we passed on this delivery method.  We don't like the fact that the room service that is pre-ordered from the form the night before is brought to our hard working butler/cabin steward for delivery.  We have someone delivering food who might have just been cleaning a toilet.  Not that our steward is unaware of hand washing, wearing work gloves etc., but mistakes can happen.  Not very cruisey.On the Mercury the butler knocks on your door at tea time and you pick out some snacks from the cart if you're in the cabin. We like the fact that the Discoveries dining room opens later for breakfast, 8AM, than on many ships, so that the waitstaff who worked late the previous night can hopefully get a bit more sleep before coming to work.  These folks also work hard.  We also like the fact that the dining room is open until 930AM, so we can eat there on the days we choose to sleep later.MORE CABINThe cabin itself is from designs over a decade ago. Cruising has changed so much since these R ships were on the drawing boards.  There are only two 110 volt AC plugs in this cabin, and they are nearly unreachable; the rest of the plugs are European.  There are no switches near the bed to turn on low power nightlights; the switch in the center of the new headboard turns on multiple overhead lights that would disturb a sleeping companion.  The bedside lamps are not weighted on their bases, so they are lightweight and too easy to knock over.  That's not all bad though; since I was able to hold the lamp in one hand and my book in the other, I was able to read in bed!  I had that nightstand taken out of the cabin because it too was a lightweight vertical stand with no drawers and only an 8 by 10 inch surface on top. Once the lamp was placed there, no space was available for glasses (reading or drinking) or the ever important remotes.  I knocked the lamp and the nightstand over the first night more than once. The beds are good, with high threadcount sheets, a selection of pillows, and a quality comforter.  Your suitcases fit under them.  There is a wall mounted 23 inch Samsung Hi Def flatscreen TV, with an arm that can swing it for watching TV in bed or from the sitting area, with unblocked inputs for our DVD player and our Nintendo Wii.  We mentioned the input blocking because we were amazed to find them blocked on our last HAL cruise.  We brought a universal remote, (Sony, cost sixteen dollars) so the inputs could be selected, because the remote supplied is for hotel use, set up for ordering room service, examining one's cruise account and video on demand for pay movies, including adult, by the way.  There is another way to access the multiple inputs, which we found a week into the cruise.  On the lower right side of the black frame around the screen of the 23 inch Samsung flat screen TV is an array of imperceptible, black on black frame, selectors for inputs under the word ?source?.  They operate electronically without the selector having to be depressed, merely touched, like a touch screen computer display, and they react quickly and electronically.  There are 2 HDMI inputs, AV 1 & 2 and component video inputs.  We used them for the DVD player we brought and our Nintendo Wii, which we use to play Tiger Woods 08 golf game. There is only one drawer in this whole refurbished expensive looking dark wood cabin.  What little storage there is, is in cabinets or on closet shelves, a lot of it so low that it is difficult to access or even see your things, compared to Celebrity M class Infinity balcony cabins that have lots of clever storage and little shelves in the bathroom with barriers that keep your stuff from falling off the bathroom shelf.  Ergonomics weren't enough of a consideration when they refurbished this cabin. We think the cruiser of today is interested in cabins set up in more of an hi tech sensibility like more hooks, open shelving above open closet area with double poles and finally bathrooms with simple shelving, designed to keep your bathroom stuff safe from falling off in a rough sea. There is only one shelf in this bathroom other than the sink top, and no medicine cabinet, no storage under the basin. Instead of the telephone being near the bed it's in a deep corner of the vanity area where it usually gets buried by things left on the counter. We don't think a marine architect or for that matter a designer familiar with cruising had anything to do with figuring out the storage a cruise passenger needs.  Not the standard of the premium cruise line Azamara is trying to brand itself as.  Celebrity M class and HAL Vista class cabins are more premium (with appreciably lower cruise fares) than ours on the Journey.  We're told that 30 million dollars was spent to refurbish these ships, but it doesn't begin to show in this category 2A balcony cabin. This cabin also lacks a privacy curtain, to divide the sleeping area from the sitting area so one could read while the other person sleeps.STAFF AND CREWWhat is truly premium on the Journey is the ?can do? attitude of the staff and crew.  From the Hotel Director, the guest relations staff, cabin stewards, Asst. Maitre d's, servers, housekeeping staff, busboys and bartenders, this is a well managed crew in all departments working to give us an excellent cruise experience. GUEST RELATIONS DEPARTMENTThey are an amazing bunch with Ngawhira Fleet, the front office manager, and an efficient, multi lingual team manning the hotel desk.  Ngawhira helped us settle in, running interference to get a situation with our shower fixed immediately.  We also want to thank Alfred and German of guest relations for the helpful service cheerfully offered by them and the entire front desk staff. ANNOUNCEMENTSThis is a blessedly quiet ship.  The Captain's informative, brief daily report at Noon every day is the only in-cabin announcement. His microphone technique is very good. Afternoon naps are quiet and restful, not like some ships with endless announcements.There is one announcement missing, and we do not miss it.  On almost every other ship we've been on, there is a LOUD recording attending your every elevator ride, announcing the approaching floor.  On the Journey, a small video screen announces the floor, and lets one know if people are getting on or off.  This boon is probably a result of the size of the Journey, there being so many fewer people to move around.COFFEETastes like instant would be a compliment. Not up to the standards of a freshly branded, self proclaimed ?premium? cruise line. We were on RCCL's (parent of Celebrity/Azamara) Radiance of the Seas in the fall of ?06 and they were featuring Seattle's Best Coffee and it was truly premium and available everywhere from the dining rooms to room service at no charge.  The only decent coffee on the Journey is at the Cova coffee bar, with a $3 charge.  Wake up and smell the coffee, Azamara senior management!  You seem to be striving to be almost Crystal; Crystal light, so to speak, but Crystal doesn't charge for designer coffee anymore.  The food is good on this ship and the coffee should be as well.COVA CAFEis the designer coffee place.  Our thanks to Ryan, Alexander, Maria and Eliana, who brew great lattes for the three dollars we have to pay.  There are always pastries and little sandwiches and other goodies at the Cova.  We tended to retreat to the quiet of the Cova during the day and its piano bar feeling at night.ENTERTAINMENTWe enjoy piano player/song stylist Dan Daly who is in the Cova Cafe, at the piano from 9P until late, most evenings.  The Azamara trio plays nightly in the Looking Glass lounge.  They have a great repertoire in all the musical genres.  Guitarist German Vilches and Harpist Melissa Calusio also entertain in different venues.  Melissa also plays for tea, afternoons in the Aqualina Restaurant, and German sits in on his guitar during the jam sessions.  There were solo violinists, pianists, a couple of singers, a Chilean Folklorico Troupe and a comedian/raconteur headlining in the Cabaret theater, which is the main showroom.  The accent on entertainment seems to be more in a classical soloist vein. THAT?S HOLLYWOODAn excellent show in the Cabaret theatre.  Simply staged and beautifully sung by five talented, young performers, the men are K.J. and Brandon; the women Brooke, Amanda-Jane and Natalie. The show is a tribute to the music and lyrics throughout cinematic history.  We enjoyed it immensely.  The 7 piece Journey orchestra provided live music for this well paced show.  It's a cabaret setting, much like a night club rather than a theater, giving the show a nice intimacy with good sight lines.  This show is a wonderful change of pace from the typically over produced (too many singers and dancers, too many wardrobe changes) Broadway type shows that seem to try too hard, which we have seen on some cruise ships.  The sound design and levels were good, allowing us to hear everything without it becoming too loud.  Kudos to all involved, from the talented singers to the technical crew. MORE ENTERTAINMENTThere are two other shows done in this manner, ?Twisted TV?, a parody of guess what?, and ?Sing It and Swing It?, a tribute to the big band era.  JAZZThere were 2 late evening (10:45PM) jam sessions in the Looking Glass lounge, with some members of the orchestra and other musicians on board playing Jazz from Antonio Carlos Jobim to Thelonius Monk. FALKLAND ISLANDS/PORT STANLEYOur first stop after leaving Buenos Aires: Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands.  Rough seas and bad weather got us there late, then we waited for clearance and after the people who had purchased excursion tickets were tendered, we managed to get off around 3:30PM.  The last tender back was changed to 7:15 PM making for a very short time in a unique place.  The sun came out and we wandered around in short sleeves. We checked with the visitors? center about seeing some penguins and were told about the penguin bus (the sign on the minibus says Penguin Travel) that stops right at the parking lot of the center.  Ten dollars US per person for a round trip, 15 minute each way, van ride to Gypsy Cove, where we saw many penguins.The penguins are in an area that is cordoned off, because there might still be some Argentine land mines from the ?82 war on the beautiful beach.  (They thought the British might land troops there.  Didn't happen.)  The area was swept for mines after the war but the possibility remains that they were not all found, so the area is restricted by signs and fencing.A group of several hundred penguins were gathered, sunning themselves on the beach, others of them swimming around close to shore, and smaller groups were up in the scrubby dunes between the walking trail and the beach.  They were cute and plentiful, and some of them walked up so close to the observation point where we were that we got some excellent photos of these dear little birds. The other penguin excursions (from the ship) were very expensive (as much as $200 dollars) and required bone shaking rides of 60 to 90 minutes to see a different type of penguins.  Some cruisers expressed the thought that those less accessible birds were indeed ?better?.This price disparity brought to mind the high priced Alaska excursions to glaciers versus taking the city bus in Juneau for a couple of bucks to the edge of Mendenhall Glacier.  There are always options, even in a place as small as the Falklands, population around 3,000.  Our driver, Fiona, gave us a nice ride to the penguins and told us a bit about the Falklands.  Children born here have the option at age 16 to leave for more secondary and university education, anywhere they wish, that is at least partly paid for by the Falklands government.  Now that's a government truly in action.  The kids do not even have to repay the kindness with a few years of social service, they have only to develop themselves as they wish and graduate!Across the harbor is a monument on the low hills with the names of the British protector ships that won the Falklands war, and even now there is always a British warship anchored in the harbor or patrolling the area.SMALL SHIP CRUISINGWe like this small ship a lot.  It is easy to get anywhere quickly.  The ambience is that of a boutique hotel.  The bad news is that in order to make it profitable, Azamara has to charge more for drinks and excursions because of the fewer passengers on board.  DRINK PRICESThere is no wine package.  The soft drink card is $5.00 per day plus 18%.  The cheapest jug level glass of wine, with the tip, is nearly nine dollars and change.  High prices for vin ordinaire.  Mixed drinks are high priced and martinis are around 12 dollars.  You're allowed to bring in a couple of bottles of wine per passenger, which we did in Ushuaia (first port out of Antarctica; southernmost city in the world).HOUSEKEEPINGThis ship is clean.  Not just picked up and vacuumed. Cleaning and polishing goes on 24/7.  Kudos to housekeeping supervisor Esta from Hungary.ELEPHANT ISLAND, ANTARCTICAWe listened to expert Niki Sepsas relate the story of the harrowing adventure of the Shackelton expedition.  The captain sailed us back and forth slowly past Elephant Island, giving everyone a chance to take a good look and get an excellent photo opportunity.  It's starkly beautiful here, very much like Alaska.  There are interestingly shaped icebergs floating near us as we get a close up view of the island.  One of the icebergs has penguins sunning themselves with a few swimming and diving near the iceberg as the Journey passes by.  This penguin sighting was announced by the captain as he brought the Journey as close as he safely could.  Thank you, Captain Karlsson.CRUISE DIRECTOR/STAFFPaul Grant.  An affable sort, who dresses beautifully.  He was very sensitive to cruisers? desires and tastes, organizing a jazz jam session one evening after dancing in the Looking Glass lounge.  He then went the extra mile by greeting the listeners after the session for feedback.Unfortunately, generally there was a bit of a reverberation inherent in his announcing technique, as if he was projecting to the back of the room as he would without a microphone despite the fact that he was speaking into one. Captain Karlsson, on the contrary, is clear and easy to listen to.  I guess he spoiled us!The cruise staff Ryan, Naomi and Kelsey along with activities director Matt have a full range of activities for interested cruisers.QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSIONwas held in the cabaret with the hotel director, the cruise director and the food and beverage manager fielding passenger queries.  We appreciate them making themselves available for a question and answer session.ICEBERG ALLEYIn the late afternoon after leaving Elephant Island we arrived in Iceberg Alley.  There were Penguin colonies on some of the ?bergs.  Some of the icebergs have interesting rectangular or pie shaped geometric shapes.  We photographed the busy penguins lolling in the sun and cavorting in the water.  Some were skittering down the last 6 feet of solid ice into the water, while there were always just as many other penguins trying incessantly to clamber back up.WINDOWS CAFEis the buffet on deck 9.  There are numerous selections,  including a smoothie bar, manned by the hard working Jesus, Mario and Wandaka.  You can get fresh fruit smoothies, with protein powder if you desire, and a variety of fresh juices.  In the morning there is a fresh-made waffle and pancake station, omelet bar, large selections of breakfast meats, including a delicious baked ham carving station, plenty of tasty, fresh baked pastries, hot and cold cereals etc.  The negative about this buffet for us was the fact they have chosen not to have trays.  It is harder to load and handle plates with everything so people are scurrying more to get stuff they forgot and it exacerbates the already crowded conditions in this smaller buffet space when everybody is up and hungry.  Every previous Celebrity cruise we have been on has had trays.  But, to show how responsive the staff is to the passengers: on the fourth day of the cruise after some complaints, trays were made available for those who wished them.This is a small ship, so when the Journey is in a cold place like Antarctica, the buffet overflow tables aft on the Windows patio at the stern of the ship are unusable.  They bring in as many tables as they can from outside but there isn't room inside for all of the outside tables in bad weather, making it difficult to find a seat.  The good news is that there is plenty of room in the Discoveries dining room on deck 5.DISCOVERIES DINING ROOMA lovely, light filled room.  Restaurant Manager Ryszard Guzman and his Asst. Maitre d's are very attentive to the customers? needs.  With no traditional seat assignment, the staff has to seat people by themselves or with others as desired.  Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  High standards of food and thoughtful service.  There is no assigned seating at dinner, so tables are shared and you meet a lot of your fellow cruisers.  If you prefer to dine without company at your table, there are always tables for two available.The food at Discoveries is tasty and interestingly garnished and presented, a feast for the tastebuds and the eyes.  A half step up from Celebrity M class or Holland America and for us, two steps above Princess. BREEZAAt dinner time the Windows cafe morphs into Breeza, with elegant buffet dining and  Sushi, pasta, antipasti, stirfry, pizza and many other tasty foods offered.  A dining alternative that is truly casual. Shorts, jeans or whatever are welcome at Breeza. GERLACHE STRAIT, ANTARCTICAWe arrived in the Looking Glass lounge, at the bow of the ship on Deck 10, at around 3PM.  We had believed the captain when he announced that the beauty of this part of the Antarctic Sound was such that we'd remember it for the rest of our lives.  We sat enthralled by the scenery, which was already revealing itself prior to our entering the strait, and we were rather amused -- well, maybe half annoyed -- at the music playing on the sound system.  It was quite appropriate for the night club venue that this room becomes much later, but it seemed to add nothing at all to the spectacular vistas opening in front of us.  It would have seemed more appropriate to have softer music to enhance the feelings of awe we were experiencing, rather than music which seems designed to elicit a nervous twitch.Then, at 3:30PM, when we were entering the Strait, what did we find ourselves in the middle of but the start of a game called ?The Battle of the Sexes Trivia?!  Well named.  Who, taking enjoyment from this game, would need or even appreciate this spectacular scenery as a backdrop while they were busy with their competition?  Could this use of the Looking Glass lounge, with floor to ceiling windows, really take precedence over the enjoyment of the cruisers who were relaxing with each other while experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime sight, the raison d'etre of the cruise?HIGH TEAand it certainly is.  Every afternoon, with proper scones with clotted cream, delicious tea sandwiches and pastries with a harp tinkling in the background, tea is served in the beautiful Aqualina.  Yummy.LIBRARYThere are lots of books, haphazardly arranged. It's a beautiful room with big comfortable chairs and couches.NEPTUNE?S BELLOWSThis morning's adventures marked the end of our three days in Antarctica.  We saw ruined huts of past scientific expeditions, and an abandoned station whose country needs its money for more immediately practical matters.  This was a volcanic area, in which during times of eruption the sea actually boils.  Today there was steam rising as we cruised past.  Our last view before heading to open waters was a large colony of chinstrap penguins whose rookery was along the shoreline.  The birds were too far away to see with our eyes but we got some pictures with our 18x zoom lens.  It was fun watching smaller groups of them, up to a hundred or so, arcing through the water like small dolphins as they headed away from the ship, presumably back to the colony.  Capt. Leif Karlsson said that the three day cruise through Antarctica, his first time, is the highlight of his sailing career, and he hoped it was that for us as well.  The ice pilot, Capt. Ulrich Demel, said that he suspected that the Capt. would be very happy once the ship had successfully passed through the narrow, rock lined exit, Neptune's Bellows.  We saw Capt. Karlsson at the Cova coffee bar shortly after we got back out into open sea and he had a big, satisfied grin on his face.  We mentioned to him later that he looked like he had won the lottery and he said that's about how he felt getting back to open sea.CAPE HORNis breathtaking. We rounded Cape Horn in the late afternoon, and by doing so we each officially became a ?Cape Horner? complete with a certificate signed by Capt. Karlsson.  USHUAIA, ARGENTINAis known by the locals as ?fin del mundo?, the end of the world. A lovely town surrounded by snow capped peaks and close to Pargue Nacional Tierra del Fuego (156,000 acres) with its bays, lakes, rivers and high mountain peaks.  There is abundant bird life there.  The parque is 11 miles west of Ushuaia.  Cab drivers are waiting at the end of the pier and will take you to the parque at a very fair price.This is a busy commercial port, dangerous (large forklifts moving containers being set down by cranes.  Trucks moving supplies for the various ships, etc.), for cruise passengers to walk through, even worse for the physically challenged passenger, and with a strong smell of diesel fuel.The walk to the end of the pier here from the ship is about a kilometer.  When we berthed on other cruises at Mazatlan, or Puerto Limon, etc. in the commercial port area, we were shuttled through the working area in jitneys, mini vans, etc., to keep us safe from the vehicles working on the pier at the various berths we had to pass to get to the shore.  We had to be very careful walking here, because the port crews, truck drivers and giant forklift drivers are not very mindful of pedestrians.  There were no Azamara crew members directing the path to take and no pathway painted or cordoned off.  Cruisers had to keep their eyes open and walk sometimes on both sides of the pier depending on the irregular vehicle movement.  Poor planning on the part of Azamara Cruise lines!  Not premium in any way.  It's not just a comfort issue but a serious safety issue. We spoke to the Hotel Director, Niyazi Korkmaz, and he said there was nothing he could do; it was up to the ?authorities?.  We believe that it is the Hotel Director's and corporate Azamara's job to deal with the authorities by working with the local chamber of commerce and Government Tourist Agency to obtain the proper permits for the pier and find drivers who have a pier security clearances to drive rented mini vans or similar vehicles.Since the ship can bring transportation vehicles to the ships? gangway to send passengers off on excursions, then they can shuttle passengers through this dangerous working port.We had a nice lunch at Tia Elvira; cannelloni and spaghetti for two, with soft drinks and tip for only $20.00 US, well below the tourist prices found at some of the local bistros.  We found a nearby internet cafe one block north of the pier on Ave. San Martin and checked our email, etc.  If you walk a couple of blocks, there are excellent bargains and souvenirs to be had.  We even found a new halter for our broodmare, Ruby of the Amazon, including a lead shank for $21.00 US. at El Faro, a large shop of much variety, a block from the pier.  There is a lot of horse equipment for sale here in Argentina.  You never know what you will find to buy on a cruise vacation.  We love this kind of surprise.We visited a few shops along the pier on our way back to the ship.  At Huellas del Sur, Harriette got a beautiful pashmina scarf to round out her cruise wardrobe, for 96 pesos at 3.20 pesos to the US dollar (about $32 US).  It is woven in pinks going on purple with some electric blue in there, and the weave makes it reminiscent of the tweed of a Chanel jacket.  Everything in the shop was of high quality, most of it silk or wool.  The ambience here reminds us of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.PUNTA ARENAS, CHILEHere again our access to the from the ship to the foot of the pier and the town has been lacking in ground transportation or a safely marked pathway.Today, on the way from the Journey to the town of Punta Arenas, there was another problem:  WIND.  El viento.  The wind really, really blows at this port, all day long.  The walk itself was doable for us, the pier being shorter than that at Ushuaia, but had I lifted both my feet at the same time I might have been swept along with none of the effort of walking at all.  Add the salt spray stinging us, and we allowed ourselves to be blown back to the comfort of the ship; after a time the wind died down a little and we made it all the way.I'm glad we did; we both enjoy empanadas, which are this culture's version of a pot pie crossed with a taco:  flaky pastry encloses beef or chicken, with olives and hardboiled egg in this case.  We found these at ?Happy Hours? cafeteria, along with really delicious strong coffee and a Coke with the original zing, from a glass bottle.  Ten dollars US, including the tip.The cab driver, for a five dollar US flat rate fare, took us to a corner downtown, where there is a square block of tree-shaded park in the center of town.  There are many craft vendors set up with prices much lower than the many stores that stock crafts and souvenirs.  We acquired 3 small penguins including one in a snow globe for eight dollars US total.  This town seems similar to Mazatlan, Mexico.PUERTO MADRYN, ARGENTINAA lovely place.  Nice new pier with no bustling commercial activity.  At this port, a shuttle bus and a guide named Teresa who rode the bus with us, gave us much info about the town as we rode to the end of the pier.  When we returned she queried us about where we ate and what we shopped for, and how did we like it all.  Puerto Madryn is going all out to welcome cruisers.  The pier is next to a park overlooking a very broad beach with the business district across the street.  We went to the Telecom internet cafe, 3 blocks from the pier, and then to the supermercado, 2 blocks from the pier, to stock up on a few toiletries.  We took pictures of some majestically artistic graffiti pieces that were up on some old dilapidated buildings that sit ready for redevelopment next to new properties under construction, and then we strolled back to the pier.  This place reminded us of Cabo San Lucas, the old town, in look and ambience.PUNTA DEL ESTE, URUGUAY (aka Punta del Expensivo)Upscale pricewise, ala the French Riviera, Beverly Hills etc.  The locals tout it as the St.Tropez of South America.  A lovely harbor/marina.  We tendered in past rows of large yachts docked in the marina.  Warm and pretty.  Bikinis and shorts were the uniforms of the day along the pedestrian promenade skirting the marina.  We walked 3 blocks to the left of the pier and one block up and had a delicious, fresh made, expensive pasta lunch at El Viejo Marino for about $52.00 US, including soft drinks and the tip.  Shrimp and spaghetti with a thin red sauce of fresh tomatoes and gentle seasonings.  Sublime!  We also tried the spinach and ricotta ravioli in a not too heavy cream sauce. TIPPINGThe gratuities here on the Azamara Journey are $12.25 per day, per passenger, higher than most cruise lines.  This covers the Butler/steward, his assistant, the waiters, the asst. Maitre d's, the asst. Chief Housekeeper, etc.There is an additional 18% tip added to bar drinks, bottles of wine and designer coffee purchases at the Cova Cafe. That's 3% more than other cruise lines. We bring a bunch of US singles and give them away for good service.  Room service waiters who deliver us a midnight snack get a couple of bucks.  If we order a club soda or a designer coffee or a single glass of wine, we give the server an extra dollar in cash over the tip on the tab.  It makes us feel good to do this to thank deserving staffers.  We don't overdo it but it needs to be done in our opinion to show our appreciation.  The standard tips don't cover the level of service available on the Azamara Journey.MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAYA truly lovely city, very friendly to the cruiser.  This is an example of an industrial port that also accommodates us slow walking cruisers in comfortable safety. No shuttle was necessary.There was a clearly defined, green painted walkway edged with a white border and pictographs indicating access for pedestrians and handicapped persons.  This green path led us safely to the main (and nearby) tourist center, so that we could not wander into the large trucks which were carrying in loads of logs, etc.  On the pier and at street crossings there were uniformed traffic control personnel who politely waved us through when it was safe.Maybe a hundred meters from the ship was the ?Communications Center,? a phone and internet center right here inside the port, where we were able to quickly check our email.  There were telephones as well, and postal services.  The price was a fraction of the cost of using the internet on the ship, and the connection here was at a high speed.  We brought our laptop and plugged in.  There were also computer stations for rent. Another short walk through the main gate of the port and you cross the main street and walk a block and you have arrived at the port market, ?Mercado del Puerto?.  There we had lunch (pasta again) at La Marosqueria, and it was delicious and about half the price ($26.00 US) of our lunch yesterday in Punta del Este.There were numerous restaurants, some with very low prices indeed; a grilled sausage sandwich on a fresh baked roll with fries for around for $3.00 US.  There was a variety of delicious smelling meats, fish and chicken being grilled, empanada stands and pizza.  The place was filled with locals on their lunch hour, always a good sign.There are shops with beautiful locally made goods of leather, knit garments of wool; silver jewelry with inset gemstones was plentiful also.  We did not come across the numerous cheap trinkets for sale at so many cruise stops.Walking outside the Mercado on neighboring streets, we passed many colorful fruit stands.  This neighborhood was very photogenic, in fact.  Many buildings are in semi-ruin awaiting renovations.  There are architects? signs on buildings in renovation and you can see the gentrification starting to happen.  The textures, rusted iron scrollwork, ornate doors and window trimmings, and wildflowers (some might say weeds) that will bloom no matter what made for great photographic backgrounds as well as subjects to feature.In Montevideo we found the shopkeepers to be friendly and helpful. They were quoting an exchange rate of 20 pesos to the US dollar on this day.  The port security troops are courteous and helpful.  Our limited Spanish and their limited English was a good enough match.  We want to return to Uruguay for a longer vacation.BUENOS AIRES, the return.We rode from the Azamara to the Emperador Hotel in downtown Buenos Aires in a minivan, and by happy coincidence, we had the same driver who had taxied us from the airport to the ship 18 days ago:  Carlos.  At first the ride seemed a bit harrowing; the method to progress from one street to another or from one lane to another, etc., is to nudge your vehicle's way in front of whatever conveyance could possibly give way.  There were countless near-misses, and even a pedestrian who did not seem to notice that our van began moving forward before he had cleared it!  BUT:  there were no raised voices; no obscene gestures.  No horn honking at all!  It was very peaceful chaos!EMPERADOR HOTELSeeing the uncomfortable conditions in the holding area Azamara had reserved for our wait, we tried to book a room for the day but there were none available.  A knowledgeable staffer confided that they were overbooked.  There were a lot of cruise ships at the port; Insignia, Sinfornia, Rotterdam and the old Zenith, re-branded as Island Cruises.  One could relax at a table in this secure, sterile waiting room or wander.  We wandered upstairs and had a nice lunch in a light filled room with big windows overlooking a courtyard and garden with ivy covered walls.  Birds, fountain, shaded sitting areas; a pretty place.  You may purchase wi-fi for the day on the hotel network from the bartender. SUMMING UPAzamara proclaims the following at the bottom of the e-mails I exchanged with the Customer Relations Department:?Smaller ships.  Out-of-the-ordinary destinations.                  Unmatched amenities - this is Azamara?.Well, we loved the small ship.  The food was really good, south South America and Antarctica were majestic, but the unmatched amenities were not evident in many ways.The first of these things was the cabin.  Although the space would have permitted ample, easy storage, there was very little, and it wasn't very usable.  It was impossible for one cabin mate to stay up reading while the other slept, which could be corrected by installing a retractable drape between the bed and a lighted reading area with adjustable wall lamps above the couch.  A very easy thing to do. Celebrity ?M? class ships and HAL's ?Vista? class both excel in ?cabin ergonomics,? making a comfortable nest for the duration of the cruise.The lack of shuttle service on two of the piers we stopped at was quite unsafe.Why was it not possible for the Azamara head office to align with local business associations for the benefit of both Azamara's passengers and the port town?  This planning was not premium.CRUISE AIRThe airline travel booked by the cruise line has us coming off the ship after 18 days of relaxing and cruising into a long, long wait for the plane for Miami that leaves at 11:15PM.  We expect to leave the ship and a few hours later board a flight home.We had tried to avoid this 13 1/4 hour wait lasting from leaving the ship at 10:00 AM to our flight, departing at 11:15 PM.We obtained permission pre-cruise to leave the ship a day earlier, on our first of 2 days in Buenos Aires, so we could spend the day relaxing on the ship, and after an early dinner, proceed to the airport, arriving there 2 1/2 to 3 hours before our flight.   Miami based Azamara Customer Relations warned us that we could be required to clear immigration and customs as early as 9:30 AM that morning, and be required to then leave the ship, and be faced with the same long delay, in a strange city, with our carry-ons in tow, without a secure hotel holding area.So, we chose not to leave the ship a day early.  As it turned out, passengers who had elected to do so were allowed to stay aboard the Azamara Journey until 5:30 PM.  No more cruise line booked air for us. We tried to change our flight on our first day back in Buenos Aires but by then the price for the change was triple what we had been offered pre cruise. To come off an 18 day cruise with that wonderful relaxed feeling, and to spend a long, long day and into the night, 13 ¼ hours waiting for the nearly nine hour redeye flight, dashed our cruisey feelings and left us thinking that Azamara is not the premium cruise line they have branded themselves as.  CRUISE VALUE REDUX/FUTURE CRUISESWhen we cruise again we are returning to HAL, Princess or Celebrity M class. We want more bang for our buck. We're glad we saw Antarctica on a small ship but we are going back to more ?popular priced? cruising.  When we complete a cruise we usually have the next one already booked, but we are waiting and watching the internet for the exceptional cruise values that have recently been available.  We have never seen so many last minute cruise bargains or received so many e-mails from the cruise lines we sail.  It's a cruise buyer's market now if your schedule is flexible.Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
This was the first time we had sailed on Azamara. We liked the size of the ship very much and thought the senior crew members were excellent. We liked most ports but felt a few of them could have been missed. The ship tours were way too ... Read More
This was the first time we had sailed on Azamara. We liked the size of the ship very much and thought the senior crew members were excellent. We liked most ports but felt a few of them could have been missed. The ship tours were way too expensive. We were able to get our own for more than half the price with english speaking guides. We had a very pleasant dinning experience in the main dinning room. We had the same waiters most nights and they were very good. We did not experience the best of service in the two special restaurants. The food was very good everywhere and the presentation was excellent. The cabins were fine and the staff was very willing to please. Did not really understand the to do about a butler. He often looked uncomfortable in his tux. Did not thank that was necessary. Did not think the entertainment was wonderful. The ship's dancers & singers were very entertaining but most other nights were so-so. We felt that the last shows were too late starting. The Journey band has a way to go. The combo was much better that played by the pool and in the lounges. The Cruise director was very good. He was very visible and very knowledgeable on all subjects he spoke on. The Casino was ample and the staff very nice. Too bad it had to be closed while cruising in Chile. We would surely cruise again on the Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Last year, Celebrity bombarded us with mailings promoting their new cruise line Azamara and after awhile we became intrigued and decided to do some research. We are frequent cruisers and have been on the Celebrity Galaxy several times and ... Read More
Last year, Celebrity bombarded us with mailings promoting their new cruise line Azamara and after awhile we became intrigued and decided to do some research. We are frequent cruisers and have been on the Celebrity Galaxy several times and knew that Celebrity does a good job on a medium priced cruise. We called Celebrity's hot line about Azamara's South American sailings and they happened to be running a special that was too good to pass up. We gave a minimum deposit on the 18 day Chilean Fjord cruise over New Years and Xmas. The cruise started in Buenos Aires on 12/23 and ended in Santiago on 1/10. Although most of the ports were unfamiliar to us, the idea of cruising the tip of South America and through Cape Horn was very appealing. We booked our own pre and post tour arrangements, staying at Starwood's Park Tower in Buenos Aires and the Marriott in Santiago. We had been in Buenos Aires 8 years ago on another cruise and had stayed in the same hotel and loved it -- butler and all. The Marriott turned out to be somewhat off the beaten path but we enjoyed the suburbs and had no trouble taking a cab into the main city. Embarkation was somewhat confusing and took longer than usual with lots of desks to check into but we were in high spirits and soon we were checking out our cabin and the ship. The stateroom and bathroom were small but we are used to this on cruise ships but the closets and the drawer space were adequate for our three suitcases full of stuff. The staff introduced themselves but when we needed to call no one was manning the desks and we had trouble finding our steward/butler. The butler aspect is a nice gimmick but she was mainly a steward and nothing different from other cruises. The bedding was lovely and we enjoyed crawling into our fresh linens every night with a different cookie or chocolate on the bedside table. We loved the open seating and casual dress code aboard ship. The main dining room offered a comprehensive menu and the food was delicious. We found ourselves requesting the same table as we enjoyed our wait staff a great deal and wanted to sit with the same nice people every night. The specialty restaurants left much to be desired. We liked the minimum charge but the food was not all that special and the service was very slow. Lobster was not an option every night as it usually is on other ships. The ship offered a wide variety of activities but we would have liked more specialty lectures about world affairs, etc. We were never quite sure where the band would be playing for pre-dinner dancing. The entertainment was sorely lacking and the band was terrible, although our cruise director Andreas was wonderful. He was truly a jack of all trades, with his informative lectures and late night astronomy sightings. However, we would have liked more comedy shows as the last one was quite good. Also, the show times were either too early or too late and need to be adjusted. We only took two shore excursions and preferred to book our own independent travel. On previous ships, the crew would offer more assistance if you wanted to go on your own. On the Journey, the staff would only explain their own cruises. The ship's excursions were terribly overpriced which needs to be adjusted. Disembarkation went very well and we were off the ship in no time. All in all, we had a wonderful time. Our 18 days went by in a flash. We would definitely cruise on the Azamara line again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
After a beautiful 2 days in Buenos Aires, we were taken to the ship by our guide and translator Lydia. Check in was very smooth and we were invited to dine in Aqualina at 7:30pm. Apparently they no longer charge to dine in the alternative ... Read More
After a beautiful 2 days in Buenos Aires, we were taken to the ship by our guide and translator Lydia. Check in was very smooth and we were invited to dine in Aqualina at 7:30pm. Apparently they no longer charge to dine in the alternative restaurants. Guests are only expected to tip $5.00 per person, which is very reasonable. Upon having our picture taken for the cabin card, we were given a glass of pink Champagne. We had to find our way to our suite, since there wasn't anybody to take us. The Penthouse suite is very nice and spacious, although not as large as I expected. The bathroom is comfortably sized. The counter however had spots of soap residue or something on them. We told the butler to please have the cabin steward clean it up. That was disturbing to me. Dick liked the 2nd bathroom. I loved the Jacuzzi tub. There is lots of closet space, with plenty of hangers, many shelves, but not enough drawers in my opinion. Finally we did a ship inspection and noticed several areas that were not really up to par. The teak on the chairs was in bad need of refinishing, as were most of the handrails. Then it was time for lunch, which was buffet style and everything we had was very good. No complaints there. Luggage arrived fairly timely, just in time for the lifeboat drill. The actual explanations of what to do in case of an emergency took place in the dining room. The tables were set and I felt it may be unsanitary to have all the passengers sit there fiddling with their vests etc. Maybe the theater would have been a better venue. Then we all went to our actual life boat stations. When that was over, it was time for a cocktail and we realized there were no coasters. The suite is furnished in fine Cherry woods and it's a shame to set iced glasses on that. We used Kleenex. The small paper coasters would be great. Capt. Carl Smith is young, funny and very personable. He makes a lot of informative announcements, which Dick and I enjoyed, but others think are too much. Different people have different tastes. In the evening we had dinner in the Discoveries dining room with 2 other couples. The plates are basic white, not in any way decorative. Flatware is basic stainless steel. The service was adequate at best. It took a long time for somebody to take our drink order and we finally hijacked Yuli.... our favorite cocktail waitress. She took care of us from then on, although I don't think we were actually in her section. It took even longer to have our food order taken. None of the food items were delivered to the correct person. In other words, I ordered Prime Rib and Ed ordered Shrimp, the waiter tried to deliver Ed's Shrimp to me and my Prime rib to Ed. That happened with every course. I had to request and wait for horseradish and although Yorkshire pudding was supposed to be part of my dinner, I never received it. Hellena refused to eat her appetizer because there were so many finger/thumb prints on the plate she got disgusted. Dinner took an easy 2 ½ hrs. so we missed the show. We tried Discoveries again later and the service was fine. So it depends on which section you're in. TV programming is ok at best, and any good movies are Pay per view. Thank goodness for the DVDs we brought. One afternoon was a Cruise Critic discussion group get together with the Hotel Director, Food & Beverage Mgr., Front Desk Mgr. and Mahalia. They were eager to hear our suggestions for improvement and there were quite a few. Dick and I decided to "dine in suite". The dining room menu was delivered around 4pm and we placed our order with Raj, our Butler. At 7pm he prepared our table and served us dinner, brought up in courses from the dining room. Raj has worked in a Relaix & Chateau hotel and is very well trained. During the evening Xavier, the Asst. Chief Housekeeper came to check and make sure everything went well. We found out that nobody had ever requested this! We had a couple of cocktail parties and ordered appetizers etc. from Raj and it worked out very well. A good time was had by all Things on the ship got better every day. We spoke to the F & B Manager and Hotel Director practically daily and they kept asking for suggestions, which we were happy to make, and whenever they could, they would implement them. We had no major complaints. The crew can't do enough, the food is good and anything that needs fixing gets done when you ask them. We ate in Prime C and Aqualina several times. The food and service there is great. I don't recommend the NY Strip. It seems to be overdone most of the time. Everybody loves the Lobster. For breakfast and lunch the Windows Cafe is very good. The Pool Grill has Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Nachos, all kinds of "comfort food" and wonderful fresh fries. A few times we tried Breeza, which is the buffet at night. They have Sushi, Sashimi, and stir fry to order, a pasta bar and all kinds of food. When you're not real hungry, that's the place to go. We tried the Elemis Spa. The services are very expensive and when I questioned the receptionist, telling her that it's much cheaper on other ships, I was told that South America adds a tax to all services. That would explain the high pricing for shore excursions also. The spa facilities are adequate at best - nothing fancy. Near the front desk is a co-ed waiting area. Men's and women's locker rooms, steam room, showers and bathrooms can be accessed from there. From the locker room one can access the private outdoor Jacuzzi and lounge area. Unlimited access to that area is $113.00 for the duration of the cruise. New Years Eve was handled perfectly and everybody enjoyed the toast on the pool deck and entertainment put on by the entertainment staff in the Looking Glass Lounge. Management was really good about keeping the buffet open longer, so returning guests can eat there or at the pool grill. Finally we arrived in Valparaiso, where we had to disembark. We decided 18 days is not enough. Disembarkation was pretty organized. Our guide and driver met us at the terminal and we went off on our tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. Overall, I would say Azamara has a "journey" ahead of them, but if the staff continues to try as hard as they are, they'll make it. We will try it again. If anybody has questions, I'll be happy to answer them. My email is traveler_chris@hotmail.com. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
18 day South American cruise just completed, so here are some thoughts. If Azamara seeks to be the "upscale version" for the Celebrity Line it falls short. Overall, This is NO Regent, but you do get a lot of cruise time for the ... Read More
18 day South American cruise just completed, so here are some thoughts. If Azamara seeks to be the "upscale version" for the Celebrity Line it falls short. Overall, This is NO Regent, but you do get a lot of cruise time for the buck. Embarkation: Easy, but our luggage did not get to cabin by sail time. Layout: Heaving the heavy doors on the pool deck to get anywhere must be hard for older folks...why not have sensors open the doors?? The layout of the ship seemed counterproductive. Butler service: In name only. Call them cabin stewards and stop pretending. Stateroom: Adequate, with smallish bathroom and no tub, just shower. Furnishings looked like a garage sale purchase. Captain: Exceptional communications and treated us to Fjord and glacier cruising when he couldn't get into one of the ports. Cruise direction Andrea Olivieri was a delight...and added a stargazing session Food: Unimaginative. Portions are large but seafood was mushy (where were the great mussels and fish that we saw at the ports of call??) and meat came rare even when requested well done. Desserts were flavorless. They definitely need a pastry chef. Waiters seemed to hurry us along, snatching plates even when we were not finished. Some were terrible or untrained, others seemed to respond much better. It was actually more relaxing to dine in the buffet area. Wine by glass: Come on guys, change the selection depending on the night. Very limited. One sommelier seemed clueless, the other knowledgeable. Specialty dining: 2 "special" restaurants with one visit each included in price. Sounds nice but the meals were not any better than the regular dining room. Big deal, ho hum Drinks: Costly, and having to present your room card for a drink at the pool area or in the lounge was annoying. Entertainment: The trio was great, but the orchestra (esp brass) could use some...er, tuning. Harpist was nice touch and pleasant. Comics and featured acts were so-so. Aside from the extra effort by the cruise director, the enrichment talks were abysmal. Excursions...Don't waste your time on Montevideo city tour. Stick to the penguins and scenic tours elsewhere. Azamara tours are costly, but the alternative taxi and do it yourself tours take you into uncharted waters (ie play it safe, take the tour bus and accept the extra costs).. Computers: Get there in the early morning to log on. I think they need to use a different satellite. The IT guy tries hard and was helpful, but the broadband was, ah, narrow. Spa: good Store: $7 for 4 Pepto tablets? Get real. Activities: Bridge tables set up next to the Nintendo Wii arcade. Not conducive to play. Casino: Lotsa slots. Could use some more blackjack tables in place of the video poker table that no one used. Overall, there is a lot of potential, but would benefit from some changes in the layout, the kitchen and ongoing training of the waitstaff. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
"It's your first cruise and you're going on one that's 18 nights long?' was the common refrain from friends. We had long resisted the idea of a cruise, we tended to make our own travel arrangements, often ... Read More
"It's your first cruise and you're going on one that's 18 nights long?' was the common refrain from friends. We had long resisted the idea of a cruise, we tended to make our own travel arrangements, often meandering through Europe by car, or finding out of the way Caribbean locations off the beaten track. But then my wife found this trip by a new cruise line that seemed to fit. Free style seating, no formal nights, a relatively small number of passengers and an itinerary that sounded perfect; Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, rounding the Horn on New Year's Eve. So for the first time in our lives we put all our travel arrangements in the hands of someone else (the cruise line) and hoped for the best. The flight to Buenos Aires meant a connection in Chicago, but once we got there, Azamara took over and we began to experience the Azamara "touch". We had booked an extra night in BA to experience some of the delights of that wonderful city. We stayed at the Sheraton, located near the famous Florida shopping street, and not far from El Temo and the docks. As expected all luggage was handled efficiently by the line and their representative at the hotel gave us several wonderful tips on enjoying the city. We even decided to eschew the free transfer to the ship in favor of spending more time at the famous El Temo flea market. A quick cab ride from the hotel brought us to the embarkation shed at the port of Buenos Aires. The embarkation procedure went very smoothly, and soon we were on the ship, handed a glass of champagne, and escorted to our stateroom. Thanks to Cruise Critic and its message boards, we had a pretty accurate idea or what to expect, our Veranda stateroom was snug, but well laid out. It was larger than some of the European "boutique" hotel rooms we've stayed in recently. The R-ship's newly renovated cabin had a flat screen, a comfortable bed and enough storage space to accommodate our three weeks worth of clothing. We were greeted by our butler, Natasha, who turned out to be absolutely wonderful, anticipating most of our needs and remembering all of our preferences. The television provided much of the onboard information we needed. We went up to the specialty restaurants to make our one free reservation, only to be told that the policy was changed beginning with our cruise. No surcharge would be assessed, so we happily made reservations for the entire cruise, alternating locations. Our dining experience was therefore somewhat different that most, and it was fantastic. The waitstaff was utterly professional and beyond friendly. The maitre d', Zoltan, made every evening a truly luxurious dining adventure. The food was truly to die for. Every dinner we ate was the equal of some of the best restaurants in NYC. A special thanks to Domenique, the head of food services, who spent time with us and gave us a real appreciation for the way in which the ship was provisioned. So we began to really enjoy and appreciate the "Azamara experience". As the cruise settled into its first week, we could not get over how genuinely friendly the entire crew was. They created such a nice atmosphere, that as we meet other passengers, one of the first topics of discussion was the crew and the atmosphere they were creating for the passengers. As we traveled down the coast of Argentina, moving into Patagonia, the "culture" of the ship became more apparent. They might not have the largest shows, but the jazz combo playing at cocktail time was just right. The activities on board were designed for those who absolutely needed them, but most of the cosmopolitan mix of passengers did their own "thing". The gym was well utilized, and the activities there were excellent. Tanning on pool deck was a favorite activity while the weather held. But for most, the scenery and ports were the major activity. (Personal disclaimer: We did not take any of the excursions offered by the ship. We made our own arrangements in each port, either renting a car and driving ourselves, or renting a car and driver for the day). The captain and crew kept us informed of any changes in our itinerary. When high winds prevented us from docking at Comodoro Riverdivia, resulting in an unexpected day at sea, the crew quickly set up new activities to take up the slack. When high seas threatened mass sea sickness, the captain took us through the Beagle Passage for an unbelievable morning wakeup at the Garibaldi Glacier, which was absolutely stunning. All during the voyage, crew members showed real interest in our daily excursions. And at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, we rounded Cape Horn Island, and headed into the Pacific. When we finally reached Valparaiso, we had had the trip of our lives. We had made new friends, both among the passengers and the crew. Perhaps the voyage was best summed up by a crew member, who, when asked by my wife if it was possible to get something after the lunch buffet had closed, replied, "Madam, on Azamara everything is possible". And it was. Read Less
Azamara Journey Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 5.0 4.4
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 5.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.1
Family 1.0 4.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.8
Service 5.0 4.6
Value For Money 5.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 4.3

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