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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2010
This ship is not comfortable for a trans Atlantic crossing. Compared to last year's crossing on the Solstice this one required my wife to take to our room and was like a cork in the ocean and add this to the extra 2 days to get to the ... Read More
This ship is not comfortable for a trans Atlantic crossing. Compared to last year's crossing on the Solstice this one required my wife to take to our room and was like a cork in the ocean and add this to the extra 2 days to get to the Azores. Besides being slow, it is also old although well maintained. Beware the rear cabins because the engine vibrations will drive you crazy. Activities were sparse but they do have a beautiful library. In fairness there were about 500 people on board and 400 crew. The entertainment was good considering and I do enjoy the ubiquitous Ms. Hamilton and her West End Cabaret. The Harpist seemed tired throughout the 2 weeks and the comedy was passable. The Stateroom was dated and had the smallest balcony I have ever seen. The bathroom likewise. Selection of TV programming was very small and the TV didn't swivel to a right angle to the bed. Now lets get positive and why I have booked again but this time for the quieter waters around St. Barts and St. John. in February. The service is to die for. No problem they couldn't fix. Nikki at the purser's desk was the best at her job I've ever seen (30+ cruises). Steward was very attentive. The friendly wait staff always anticipated your wants and needs and were there just as you were about to ask but were not intrusive. Evening meals were very well done, one overdone salmon fillet in 14 dinners and creme brule every night if you wish--not a bad percentage. The two complimentary wines were from a different country each night for a week. Most were very nice but if you wanted something else then the price was about half of other ships. Breakfast and lunch was also well prepared in the main restaurant. Room service had a good selection and was promptly delivered. The buffet was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment in quality and selection although my wife loved the smoothies with breakfast. I've read about the poor coffee and they were right however I switched to lattes and was happy. No Children--no children's program. Shore excursions were like any other cruise. Both getting on and off the Journey was a breeze with only 500 people on board. The free air from Toronto to Miami and back from Barcelona made this an incredible good deal. Finally the thing that made this cruise so special was the other passengers. This was the most interesting, friendly group that we have ever sailed with and I would like to thank all those that I met. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
This was my husband's third and possibly final cruise. We had tried a trans-Pacific cruise on Celebritiy's Millenium and then a Pacific Coast/Sea of Cortez cruise with Holland America. My DH informed me that if this cruise was ... Read More
This was my husband's third and possibly final cruise. We had tried a trans-Pacific cruise on Celebritiy's Millenium and then a Pacific Coast/Sea of Cortez cruise with Holland America. My DH informed me that if this cruise was not any better than the previous two, he was not going to cruise anymore. I am happy to say that the Azamara Journey was a terrific experience (I knew it would be since I had cruised on this ship twice before) but was thrilled that my husband agreed with me. FOOD; The most important part of the cruise for my DH is the food, and the Journey did not disappoint. We tried all the options: Prime C, Aqualina, Main Dining Room, Windows Cafe, the Pool Grill, and room service. Great quality and selection is available in the Main Dining Room, and the specialty restaurants are top quality. The chilled seafood platter and seared foie gras in Aqualina are fabulous, and the lava cake in Prime C is its signature dessert. Because we were in a Continental Suite, our butler Pravin also served us hors d'oeuvres and shrimp every afternoon. We took advantage of the complimentary dining in specialty restaurants for suite guests, but the $15.00 per person service charge for non -suite guests is well worth it. The Journey also offers Connoisseur Dinners a few times each cruise, and we also took advantage of this. Chef Singh made a wonderful dinner for 10 of us (using Prime C large back table for location) and Boris, the sommelier made some great wine pairings to accompany each course. The charge for the Connoisseur Dinner is $60.00 per person. One new feature of the Azamara Club Cruises is the addition of complimentary wine with lunch and dinner. I was afraid that the wines would be of poor quality, but I was pleasantly surprised. We had everything from French Chardonnays to Oregon Pinots and Chilean Malbecs. In addition, each night the ship offers an additonal bottle of a red wine and a white wine that you can purchase for half-price. We did this some nights and were very pleased with the choices offered. ACCOMMODATIONS: Because we were in a Continental Suite, we had ample space for everything. There is lots of storage in the cabin, two closets, and an extra-large bathroom, including tub, not shower. The Elemis products are great, especially the bath and shower gel. I don;'t think a suite is necessary to be comfortable on the ship, but it's nice if you have it. The extra-large balcony with table, two chairs AND lounger was especially nice to enjoy beautiful views. LECTURES: We had great lectures for all tastes. For the adventurous, there was Nigel, an outdoors enthusiast who shared videos of his most dangerous moments in the wild, as well as some footage of pandas. For the gardeners, we had the President of the American Horticultural Society who showed beautiful slides of plants and gardens. For the seacruisers, we had a few presentations by (sorry can[t remember his name) an expert who gave the history of the sea trade and some famous women pirates. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to one of the two shows presented by the five-member Cabaret Cast entitled :"Sing It and Swing It". It was ably performed,but we thought the best entertainment was provided at the Cova Cafe by Dan Daly and his great voice singing the classics and by the Kristin Lee trio up in the Looking Glass. Her voice is a dead-ringer for Pasty Cline and she is versatile enough to sing country, the Louis Armstrong classic "It's a Wonderful World", and pop. SERVICE: The Hotel Director Heike appeared to be everywhere at all times. She runs a tight ship and the results are spectacular service delivered with a smile and grace. Our butler Pravin was amazing and seemed to appear whenever we needed anything. He was assisted by Alvin and Juan who kept our cabin spotless, Wherever you are on the ship, the staff is friendly and helpful without being phony. It certainly adds to the whole experience. SHIP: The ship can have as many as 700 passengers, but on our trans-Atlantic cruise there were 600. We enjoyed the spaciousness and lack of "cattleherding" mentality. The main areas used by passengers are the Cabaret Theatre (for evening shows and lectures), the Looking Glass (for wonderful viewing and some activities), the Cova Cafe (specialty coffees and teas, in addition to the evening piano playing by the talented Dan Daly), and the Pool area with Outdoor Walking Track. The ship is in very good condition, and while we were in port we noticed painters painting the exterior and workers revarnishing the wood rails and loungers (some of the most comfortable we have ever experienced). It is a clean and inviting environment. PORTS OF CALL: Normally a trans-Atlantic offers relaxing days at sea with ports of call that are minor distractions, but this itinerary offered some great ones. Our first stop was in the Azores and Punta Delgata, then on to Gibraltar, Cartagena, and La Palma, Mallorca, before reaching our final destination of Barcelona. We enjoyed all of the ports of call, and the ship's tours were reasonably priced and significantly lower than the ones from previous cruises I have taken with Azamara. ACTIVITIES: We took advantage of the many activities offered during the cruise including the Team Trivia contests, the Musical Challenges, and the Battle of the Sexes. In addition, there were craft classes, bridge games, and yoga classes. There was so much planned everyday that we had a hard time deciding what to do. OVERALL: I would unhesitatingly reccommend the Azamara Journey for anyone who wants a lovey cruise experience with personal service, good food and wine, and a smaller ship. The average age of the passengers was 60 - 70 years of age (though there were some younger couples), and there were no children on our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
My wife and I made our first cruise to Europe and our first Azamara experience on the April 25th Barcelona to Venice sailing. We have previously sailed on a number of Royal Caribbean ships(have grown to hate the Windjammer) and the ... Read More
My wife and I made our first cruise to Europe and our first Azamara experience on the April 25th Barcelona to Venice sailing. We have previously sailed on a number of Royal Caribbean ships(have grown to hate the Windjammer) and the Celebrity Solstice. We can unreservedly say that our experience on the Journey was by far the best yet, and we already have booked for another European cruise next Spring. The small size of the Journey made for a very relaxed vacation without the crowds and stress of the larger ships such as the Freedom, Let me say that my wife and I do not cruise for the glitzy, resort-type activities, i.e. casino, shows, etc., but very much enjoy good food and service. For us sipping a nice cup of coffee at Cafe Cova and enjoying a first-class spa treatment is plenty of excitement. For our needs the Journey was a perfect fit. Our stateroom was plenty large for the two of us, and our cabin steward was first-rate. When we had a problem with our door lock it was promptly attended to. We felt sorry for the first worker who tried to get in by climbing over the balcony in the adjoining cabin. Unfortunately, our sliding glass door was locked. The food was uniformly excellent. We ate at Prime C twice where Marco provided outstanding service. I particularly enjoyed the Kobe beef sliders, while my wife raved about the mini-cinnamon donuts. Aqualina was also good. We were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food and presentation in the main dining room, which far exceeded our main dining experience on either RC or Celebrity. The complementary wines were certainly a pleasant addition and it was nice not to have to whip out the Seapass card every time we wanted a refill. My wife is a massage therapist and quite picky about spa treatments. She signed up for the massage deal offered at the start of the cruise, and also had a hot oil hair treatment. I had the hot oil and a shave, which is one of my special treats. The service provided by the wonderful Tamron and Teegan greatly contributed to our cruise experience and we certainly hope they are still with the Journey next year. I am a competitive bodybuilder so the gym was important to me. The facility was adequate, though the weights could have been heavier. Likewise it could have used either a smith machine or some more leg equipment. However, I made do and for the bulk of the passengers I am sure it was just fine. Maurice the fitness instructor was quite nice and always greeted me with a smile. We enjoyed all the ports. We flew in to Barcelona a day early, thankfully missing the volcanic ash, and stayed at the Marina Grand Eurostars near the port which was first rate. We spend the day roaming Las Ramblas and, despite all the dire warnings, saw no sign of pickpockets. We did the ships excursion to Pompeii at Sorrento which had an excellent guide. We also did the ships tour of the old city of Taormina which we enjoyed. Taormina with its gorgeous setting overlooking the sea, was probably our favorite port. We also particularly enjoyed walking the walls of the old city in Dubrovnik. We stayed a couple of days post-cruise in Venice which I would highly recommend. Rather than a hotel we stayed at the Al Palazatto bed and breakfast which was quite cozy and centrally located. Once we figured out the water taxis getting around was breeze. All in all, the Journey was perfect for an adult vacation, and we can't wait to next April to board her in Rome next May. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
I travelled on the Journey on her third cruise in May 2007. She was covering the Cape Liberty to St. George and Hamilton, Bermuda, route that first season and she was the perfect ship for a perfect destination (wish she would do that ... Read More
I travelled on the Journey on her third cruise in May 2007. She was covering the Cape Liberty to St. George and Hamilton, Bermuda, route that first season and she was the perfect ship for a perfect destination (wish she would do that again). Just completed the March 20 Caribbean sailing. Choose this ship based upon previous experience and the seven (7!!) ports of call. Embarkation and Disembarkation were organized, easy and swift. The stateroom with balcony was fine but I had forgotten that the bathroom is smaller than on, say, the Celebrity Constellation or Mercury. Two corners were angled and reduced the amount of room. Fine for one person though. Am allergic to feathers and the butler immediately changed out the duvat and pillows. Did need an eggcrate cushion to bridge the gap when the two twins were placed together to form the larger bed configuraton. The ship is just the right size for getting to know both the other passengers, the crew and senior staff. As a solo traveller, this made for many groups of new friends with whom I could share experiences and activities. The size also made for easy navigation throughout. The ports of call were good: three were old friends and four were new: St. Johns USVI, St. Barths, Martinique, Dominica, Grenedines, St. Kitts and Virgin Gorda. Good to not be in the frenetic tourist zones. We tendered in four of the seven ports but the service and timing were excellent. Liked that there was no 'recommending' of island shops and the excursion talks did discuss on what the island had to offer along with slides of recent excursions. One of the reasons that I chose the Journey was my remembrance of the outstanding quality of food. Alas, I don't believe the main dining room was a 5+ plus, as it was on the 2007 cruise, but more a 4. Service was sporadic - always courteous but sometimes poorly paced (took 15 minutes for the waiter to arrive to take our drink and food orders on one occasion). The buffet was a 3 - not bad but not overwhelming. Food was sometimes undercooked (breakfast potatoes) and generally not hot (despite the quick turnover) and sometimes slow to be replenished. The entire staff, from top to bottom, was wonderful. Senior staff was evident throughout the ship at many functions. The activities group was young and energetic. The enrichment speaker (from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland) was marvelous and one of the best I've experienced. I witnessed the cruise director, physician and nurse responding to a medical emergency with professionalism and care. My major complaint is the lack of support for the Verizon network. Neither the US nor the International systems were functioning for Verizon. A fellow passenger had even checked with Verizon and Azamara prior to the cruise to determine if his service would function; he was assured that it would; but it did not. Verizon is the major carrier in the US so this is a significant problem. There is wear and tear evident (rubbed finishes on wood, missing tiles at the pool, missing railings, stained stateroom carpeting). Azamara has never been a discount line so this is not good; Azamara Club is looking to compete with the well-known luxury lines and its new pricing structure is evidence of that. What I forgive at the former pricing is not what I will forgive at a 30 to 50% premium. The ship needs to be spruced up now to compete. (On the last day at sea, the entire port side of deck 5 was closed for painting. This was my and several others favorite spot for snoozing and reading.) Need more deck chairs on either side of deck 5. As a non-flying traveller, I will not be joining the Journey again soon as starting in Spring 2011, the Journey does not embark from the continental US. That is a shame because, with the right pricing and Verizon service, I would travel on the Journey again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
This was the 32nd cruise for these two Seniors, whose home port is Miami. We booked through an internet agency and quickly learned that this 12 day Southern Caribbean was to be the last cruise of the Azamara Journey, sister ship to Azamara ... Read More
This was the 32nd cruise for these two Seniors, whose home port is Miami. We booked through an internet agency and quickly learned that this 12 day Southern Caribbean was to be the last cruise of the Azamara Journey, sister ship to Azamara Quest, under the "old plan" which basically was: buy your own wine, sodas, pay for specific shuttle buses, and perhaps a few more oft encountered items. Prices are to be raised accordingly, a small percentsge, according to what staff announced at one of two CruiseCritic meetings. According to management, this is to bring fares in line with prevailing "luxury" companion lines and ships. We quickly learned what sets Azamara apart from other ships of a less Luxe Category which we have sailed on. Having checked our two large bags, and both having carryons after a flawless and rapid embarkation, up the stairway to the boarding area, we found a welcome desk where we inquired where we might get lunch. We mentioned we would like to go to our cabin first and rid ourselves of carryons and were told we could leave them at the desk and they would be taken to the cabin for us. This extra touch, followed by the usual complimentary glass of champagne, began to set the them of exemplary service. But, you ask, and properly so, "Doesn't everyone now offer a glass of champagne?" Well, yes, but this was PINK champagne. We found our (now lighter) way to the Windows buffet style dining area on Deck 9, and though both remarking that it was an area of small seating capacity, in nearly all instances were able to find a seat, the rare exception being times when scheduling or events combined with a closed sit down dining room (titled Discoveries) threw more people into Windows than usual capacity permitted. There is a large outdoor area of seating, which is proportionately larger than usual. While we're "in" Windows, why not comment on food quality? Usually much much better than we have encountered on other lines (We have never done the UltraLuxe brands, i.e., Silversea, Seabourne, Crystal or Regent) At times, it was exceptional, especially for buffet service. Usual breakfast fare is outstanding for a smaller ship, with the usual omelet and pancake/waffle stations, but more frequently than not, with sides or "originals" not seen before to us. Ex.: For bagel toppings, six selections of cream cheese, one original, five with additions such as chives, et al. Oatmeal, two kettles, one with plain Oatmeal, another with milk and sugar already added for your convenience. There is usually a special side, such as peaches or pears poached with spices, and a selection of fresh fruit better by far than we have ever experienced, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Spot on ripe papaya, kiwi, pineapple and orange slices, the papaya and kiwi being the sweetest the BW (For the uninitiated or single, Beautiful Wife) Carol and I agreed to be the best we have ever tasted. Also of note: A coffee machine making fresh coffee of your selection, from conventional to DeCaf espresso and latte. The decaf espresso, a favorite of mine, is served with attractively trimmed, color wise, demi cups and saucers and, I quote: "This is the best espresso I have ever tasted...mild, nutty tasting and outstanding." I deeply regret this did not last, nor did the regular coffee offerings, seemingly deteriorating a bit each day until nearly undrinkable. Why? I have no idea. Could it be lack of daily cleaning? A shame. Perhaps most notable was a complimentary smoothie bar, open during breakfast only, staffed by two amazingly efficient and speedy young men, with an extensive array of various blendable fruits, juices and milks. (Regular, soy, yogurt and the like) You name it, it will quickly appear, literally. Accompanying the whimsical coffee machine an hilarious (though we have serious doubts the manufacturer meant it to be so) water and ice dispenser, which holds a secret of its own, fathomable to few on first, second or even subsequent attempts. Count me admittedly among the group termed "subsequent". You must hold the glass under the outlet and place the other hand in a certain specific position which entails a sensor plate, though this was unclear until near the end of our particular voyage, when an explanatory instruction plate appeared and solved the problem of the adjacent floor having continually been an unwitting ice receptacle, as a result of failed attempts by the desperate and thirsty among us. This area and machine quickly became the object of a great deal of colorful language and hands thrust into the air in full and complete surrender. Lunch was usually a fish selection, a chicken dish, both with vegetables, and sides, with the usual carvery station, and an extensive salad selection, as well as stir fry to order. One lunch was so outstanding that I wrote a personal note both to the Captain and to the Executive Chef, Lisa. Apparently no one had ever bothered in the past to do anything but enjoy, as the first time BW Carol and I dined in one of the two (absolutely outstanding) alternative restaurants (more later) we were greeted with three separate tableside visits to thank us for our kind remarks, the first by someone we took to be the Ass't head chef, the second by the Chef of the restaurant itself, and, to our amazement and near overwhelment (yes, we made that word up, so there) when I said to BW, "Well, what's next, the Head Chef herself"?, she, Lisa, did indeed appear expressing gracious thanks. Her assistant had even offered his personal extension" "If there's anything I can do for you, do please call me..." We did share the not so obvious question: "You have to wonder what the other diners must think of this impromptu parade of the chefs!" The main dining room, Discoveries, is single story, spacious and well thought out. Food was generally excellent and at times, truly outstanding. Chef Lisa and staff truly do themselves proud and are caring and extremely inventive and creative, and do an outstanding job. A dairy allergy was always well allowed for and taken care of by staff; we regret not having his name as he most assuredly deserves mention. Dining by reservation and not assignment, we nevertheless had the same waiter (Slobodan) and Ass't (Dogan) who were outstanding and quickly took care of our personal foibles. While we are on the subject, quick comment: The two alternative restaurants, termed "Aqualina" and "Prime C" are available to all passengers on a reservation basis, one each per voyage so that no one is denied the opportunity. To say more than that the food and service are exemplary and perhaps the best we have ever experienced may be an all too quick summary. BW applauded the hot mini Cinnamon donuts, served with three dipping sauces, and hot chocolate lava cake with ice cream. Another special touch...Baked Alaska desserts in Discoveries were individually made and served, and pronounced as, and I quote; "Out of this world..." by BW. Several poolside buffets displayed highly creative and appealing food, unfortunately not receiving the attendance it was absolutely worthy of. In Windows, meat loaf, served as individual portions in small dishes, rather than the "loaf" and tasting of only pure beef, not the usual adulteration of bread crumbs or the like. The requisite Lifeboat drill was quick and easy, as on our last voyage we were not required to don lifejackets, only to assemble in a comfortable public room, hear a safety address, and then for familiarization proceed to the designated lifeboat station. *The safety talk consisted of the usual: Please do not throw overboard cigars, cigarettes or disagreeable companions. If you are, during a drill or actual emergency, separated from your children they will be brought to you. If you receive the wrong children and like them better, you may keep them for the duration of the voyage, but no longer, as we have received complaints from both the authorities and disturbed grandparents. We ask that, in extreme cases, you refrain from the old trick of placing a paper with the name of another ship in your children's belongings or pockets as this seldom works out well in the end to mutual satisfaction and tends to upset responsible staff." In the same vein, our cabin (4035) had two different peepholes, one at eye level as well as a second at knee (crouching) level.*Inquiries having eliminated the possibility that the cabin had been previously occupied by the road cast of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we learned from staff that it is placed so that wily parents may ascertain that the children are attempting to get back into the room and quickly extinguish the lights and lock themselves in the bathroom. A clever ploy indeed. * More on cabin, this was configured as a cabin for the disabled; we aren't but welcomed the extra bathroom spsce, even though it was an inside. Another luxe touch, each cabin has both a steward and butler (seldom used by us) available for a multitude of functions including a daily fruit tray of your choice, and fresh flowers as well. Butler will also serve afternoon treats if ordered and desired. Both Butler and Steward were exemplary and unobtrusive. Storage space was ample and well thought out and would be ample for the duration of any length voyage. Staff in general...outstanding and near impossible to get by without a smile and greeting. Even the Customer Relations desk, adjacent to our 4th floor cabin. NO one, and we mean No one, gets by without a cheery "Hello" being called out. Newspapers in several languages are posted here, as well as in the entrance to the Windows cafe. Another luxe touch, daily bulletins are printed in color, not the usual B&W. More staff comments? When a specific room situation was noted, during a CruiseCritic meeting, to Hotel Director Heike Berdos and manager Ngawhira Fleet, quickly stepped in and solved it to our more than complete satisfaction. A thank you note was written to both, and each responded personally. Surprise...another luxe touch, a daily sheet of all upcoming movies is delivered to your cabin. These may be shown either in your room, on a flat screen TV, or on a larger screen in an appropriate area of the 5th floor Cova Cafe. Cova also contains ongoing snacks of a high order, complimentary, though specialty coffee and teas are not. BW, a sweets devotee of the highest order, quickly pronounced the chocolate biscotti the best ever experienced, as well as another favorite, chocolate croissants. Cova was one of three venues, depending on scheduling and presentation requirements, for the veritable plethora of Trivia contests offered. Well and cheerfully presented by CD Assistants Katherine, Chris and Oleg, these were not heavily attended, even on sea days, but admittedly made for easier chances to win. Prizes are thankfully not given out each time, small trinkets as key chains, luggage tags and the like, but are distributed by total number of winnings as stamped on an appropriate individual "score" sheet. This is given after the last contest of the day prior to docking and makes for a more worthwhile and useful selection of keepsakes. Gym and Spa? The gym is well equipped for the ship's size, with most machines available and well thought out. Oddly, the gym seemed very lightly attended compared to what might be expected. BW had a facial, won at one of several promotional drawings, and pronounced it a pleasing and professional experience. She noted that she had to actually inquire how to tip her young lady, a ready example of the lack of pressure for "ancillary" costs. There were never photographers making the rounds at dinner or other times. In fact, when we wanted a photograph other than at the staged settings, we spoke to the Photo Department head and were assigned a very able young man to meet us in a mutually chosen location. We were far more than pleased with his work. (In fact, the manager was also, apparently, as he asked if they might use the spread for display, and we willingly signed a release to that effect...look for us, ha) Never at any time was there continual and annoying pressure for extra paid services; very welcome and first class. Well done, Azamara. Entertainment? Azamara has, we understand, not having space for full production shows, adopted as policy having high class solo artists. This being true ( on one occasion we were so pleased we attended a (billed as: "High Energy Pianist") second show and bought a CD). We were surprised at the usually sparse attendance. We generally sat in a particular bench style row, for a combination of comfort, sight line and lighting) and on two occasions there was only one other couple (another joined later) in the entire row. This often occurred when, due to port scheduling, there was only one show, where logic dictates the presence of double the audience number at two shows... Our ports were, in order, after two sea days from Miami, St.Johns, U.S.V.I.,Gustavia,St.Barts, Fort de France, Martinique, Bequia, the Grenadines, Roseau, Dominica,Basseterre, St.Kitts,Virgin Gorda, B.V.I. In Martinique we did not ashore as it was raining; in Dominica as it was hotter than we wanted to deal with. We took no tours, having been to most ports before, and usually just debarked to walk around the adjacent shopping or to visit the Post Office to mail cards, a the ship did not provided mailings from all ports. FYI, we had previously taken the St.Kitts Train Tour and found it enjoyable snd worthwhile. -- Debarkation was, as embarkation, smooth and unruffled, though we were in the last off group and there could have been ample opportunity for any line bsckup. Final luxe touch? BW Carol and I were both encumbered with now multiple handsful we had not boarded with and found the exit very difficult. There were three courteous staff members at the stairway who offered to help us and each took a share of our burden and helped us to the baggage claim area. Again, well done and extremely impressive. BW and I, Dean, agree that Azamara has done an outstanding job with this line, and this ship. We would not hesitate to sail again on it and to recommend it whole-heartedly to our friends. Despite the (and they are few) limitations of a smaller ship (31K+ tons)the pluses far outweigh the negatives; the pluses are easy to find and the minuses near non-existent. Once again, Azamara, staff, Captain, and management, a hearty well done. (Note: the * = "Just kidding, they didn't really say that...) Best wishes, Dean and BW Carol 30 Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
We had a wonderful 12 day cruise on the Journey. We boarded the ship a little after noon without any wait at all. Greeted with a glass of champaign and the chance to store our carry-ons. Exploring the ship we found it to be reminiscent ... Read More
We had a wonderful 12 day cruise on the Journey. We boarded the ship a little after noon without any wait at all. Greeted with a glass of champaign and the chance to store our carry-ons. Exploring the ship we found it to be reminiscent of the old cruise ships. Modern, but decorated in heavy wood with photos, paintings and other artwork throughout. I guess you could say it had the elegant look. An hour or two later we were in our cabin. It was an inside cabin, somewhat small but perfect for our needs. Mainly to change, shower and sleep. Since the ship is smaller than most, all the public rooms are to scale. Elevators are small, but we never waited long for one. Pool was small, but it was never crowded. The lounge chairs all had heavy conformable cushions. There was never a wait at the bar and waiter service was readily available. No one was pushing drinks. The poolside "diner" had great burgers, chicken wings, tacos and other food. My only complaint was that there was usually only one cook and even with two, service was slow. This was mostly due to the fact that they only have one fryolator. So if you wanted chicken wings or onion rings, you had to wait until the fries were finished. I found the buffet area to have a large variety of foods for breakfast, lunch, & dinner. Omelets, waffles & pancakes made to your specifications. Many people took advantage of the smoothies. All kinds, and with fresh fruit. The coffee wasn't bad but the machines were very, very slow. Then I noticed a pot of coffee off the the side and it was full. Waiters were always available to fill or refill your cup. Lunch had a large variety and we loved their made to order sandwiches. At dinner there was plenty of variety, including sushi, and made to order pasta or stir-fry. Ice cream, cookies and other deserts were always available and are party responsible for the six pounds I gained. The main dining room was elegant and food very good. We always enjoyed drinks at the martini bar before dinner. Prime C was excellent but we canceled our reservation to Aqualina because we just weren't hungry. One day there was a pork roast put on by the officers. The shows were entertaining and never a problem getting a seat. The house orchestra, a trio that played at various parts of the ship, and a guitarist were all excellent. There was a guest lecturer who gave four lectures during sea days. They were on hurricanes, tides and tsunamis, sea exploration (who has rights to mine for minerals) and sea lore & fables. All were well attended and extremely interesting. The art auction was very poorly attended. The works available were interesting but only a few (less then a dozen) people ever attended and only a couple of buyers. The casino was to scale and I didn't have any complaints. I used the gym a few times and it was never crowded. I liked the outdoor walking/jogging track albeit it is 13 times around for a mile. I just wish people would learn jogging track "etiquette." You walk or jog in a counter-clockwise direction (all track & field events as well as car races go in that direction), stay to the inside to allow passing on the outside and please, please, don't just stop short or walk onto the track in front of a jogger. Tony, the cruise director did a fine job and he is one talented individual. Excellent singer. The officers were always around and available. Tours were given to the bridge, engine room and galley. I didn't go on the galley tour because I saw the movie Ben Hur and didn't want to get "recruited" to row. With the exception of Guadeloupe, we got off at all the islands. From the reports of fellow travelers, Guadeloupe was dirty and dangerous. Many people walked about a block or two, saw what it was like and returned to the ship. During a "Cruise Critic" reception everyone complained about that port and advised Azamara not to return. We took the Fan-Ta-Sea catamaran from St. Kitts to Nevis and had a wonderful time. Errol, one of the crew members from the tour department, went along and he is a riot. So was the crew. I am somewhat timid when it comes to snorkeling, but they gave me good instructions and put me at ease. We had an excellent barbecue on Nevis. We took a Virgin Gorda tour but wish we had just gone to the baths. We had only an hour there and it was so crowded we never had the opportunity to explore the grottos. St. Barts was really nice, of course, but expensive, of course. If you like to collect shells. They appropriately named Shell Beach and there are tons of them there. Here is a tip. Most people tell you you have to walk up a steep hill to get there. Go up Victor Hugo Rue till you get to the base of the hill. Turn right, follow that street to the end and left to the beach. No hill to climb. On St. Martin we took the Orient Beach tour and loved it. This is out third time on that tour and find it convenient. However, next time we will take a taxi, pay about $10 euro for a chair and umbrella and get to stay longer. Some of our friends went to Sunset Beach Bar to watch the planes come in. You can almost touch the big jets landing there. Also, regarding Orient Beach, there is an all nude section. Unfortunately, I again confirmed this year that there should be a law about some people taking their clothes off in public. On St. Lucia were booked a private tour and got to see a portion of the island. The cruise port is NOT a short walk to town, but it is a nice port and the city/town seemed cleaner than most islands. Disembarkation was quick and easy. In summary, this was a fantastic cruise. We met some wonderful people, had lots of laughs and felt the food and service were excellent. Although the drink prices tended to be higher than other cruise lines. Unlike many others who were on this cruise, we have never been on a "high end," "luxury" type vessel. We managed to get an excellent "deal" on the cost of this cruise and are grateful for the experience. However, it appears Azamara is raising its prices to a level beyond our means. I understand why they have to so it, but we are disappointed that we will be unable to cruise on this wonderful line. I highly recommend a Caribbean cruise on the Journey. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Having cruised on Oceanea's Regatta a year ago, we were keen to compare Azamara with them. We first sailed on one of the former Renaissance ships when flagged as Swan Hellenic's Minerva II. This ship is now with Princess lines ... Read More
Having cruised on Oceanea's Regatta a year ago, we were keen to compare Azamara with them. We first sailed on one of the former Renaissance ships when flagged as Swan Hellenic's Minerva II. This ship is now with Princess lines and will shortly move to P&O I believe, as the Adonia. We love the size and layout of these ships. Booking was easy through an online agency based in Texas. Their service was magnificent. I had praised their agent to her boss and, unexpectedly, was thanked with a bottle of wine in our cabin as a gift from the agency. We also managed to bring on, declared, the remains of a wine-box which we had bought in Heathrow's duty-free shop. We have few complaints about the cruise but the astonishing price of wine on board, especially after an additional 18% service charge, meant that we drank much less than we would have done. I suspect that the ship's profits would have increased if the price was lower. Embarkation was a doddle, by far the best we have ever experienced. We arrived at Terminal J and strolled straight on at about 1.30 p.m. Azamara's paperwork says to get there for 2 p.m. but this is wrong. People were able to board from about 11 a.m. Lunch was available, as were all public facilities. We wish we had known this. Our luggage arrived reasonably quickly, too. Our Oceania embarkation, in the very same terminal a year before, had been long-winded in the extreme. Standard balcony/veranda cabins are a bit on the small side on these ships but we are used to that and they are fine for us. Mind you, quite how some of the vast, unsightly, overweight passengers (mainly Americans) fit into the bathroom kept us guessing. We loved the flowers and daily replenished fruit bowl, both an improvement on Oceania. An easy-to-use safe was good. The flat-screen TV was fine but I should have liked a DVD player as well - which Oceania have. We sampled the free in-cabin canapEs one evening and very pleasant they were, too. Our 'Butler' and his assistant were excellent. The cabin was kept spotless and they were very friendly. We think the terms 'stateroom' for cabin and 'butler' for glorified steward are plain daft. We found plenty of people to talk to and joined up most evenings for dinner with very pleasant folk we had met during the course of the cruise. On the last night 10 of us were given the Captain's table for a final meal together. The ship had it's fair share of loud-mouthed amateur politicians, gossips, rumour-mongers and complainers (nearly all Americans) but they were easy to avoid. We visited 7 ports and they varied from excellent to awful (see below). As a former Port Lecturer on P&O, from the days (not so distant) that one gave lectures which encompassed many aspects of each port, such as history, architecture, places to get taxis and trains etc., rather than simply flogging the company's tours, I found the attempts by Azamara to cover this ground to be pathetic. Oceania, a year ago, were just as bad. Mind you, the port information sheets were better than Oceania's, although that is is not saying much. The TV presentations were so poor as to be an invitation to stay on board! We could have done without the ship's photographer (Oceania didn't have one) but he was not in any way overbearing and, let's face it, some people like posing! Azamara tries to do too much in its daily programme. The list which arrives in the cabin each evening is crammed with things to do, but they were generally of a pretty poor standard, with very few attenders. The daily general-knowledge-cum-trivia quiz, which on Oceania had over 100 attenders, was a very poor affair. The evening 'shows' varied from good to dire, not that this concerned us much. We sat at the back on the occasions we went and slipped away if appropriate. Essentially, Azamara is trying to put on a big ship programme with a small ship crew and budget. It doesn't work. However, the enrichment lectures, one on each sea day, were excellent. The food was tip-top throughout and, we would say, up to Oceania's superb standards. We met several people who also had experienced the rival brand and dining honours were declared about even. Each of the excellent special restaurants we had no difficulty booking into twice and the service and food was of a very high standard indeed. But we liked the main dining room just as much. The menu, service and food were all wonderful. The Windows buffet was tip-top too. Two grumbles in the food department. The main Discoveries dining room was not open for lunch on port days (it is with Oceania) and the 'Elegant Teas', served in the Aqualina Restaurant to the accompaniment of a harp, were a very long way from the wonderful offerings of Oceania, served in the forward lounge on deck 10, to the accompaniment of a string quartet. We made no use of the spa. I had to visit the doctor and this was quick and easy. I also spent a little time at the slot machines, coming out quits! We managed to resist the temptation to attend any art auctions, not least because almost all the pictures on show were hideous. One thing that the ship did fall down on was general maintenance in one or two areas. Where this showed was, particularly, in the tiling round the pool, which was shoddy, the pool-side whirlpools, which were clapped-out and in the care and presentation of some sun beds (wheels missing, clean but yellowing towelling covers). Disembarkation was simple. We wanted to be the last to leave as we were going on to a hotel in Miami for a few days, and knew our room would not be ready there. Well, we were among the last but this still meant we were off by 8.50 a.m. We chose Azamara over Oceania this year because, given virtually identical cruises, the price difference was huge. Quite what the effect of Azamara changing to 'Azamara Club' and putting up prices (to Oceania levels?) will be I do not know. Given the same cruise for the same price we would probably choose Oceania, but there's very little in it. However, since we have no intention of paying anything like the brochure price given in Azamara'a new dreadful 2010-2011 open-out 'brochure', it may mean we shan't be able to afford to travel with either again! This would be a great pity. The few petty grumbles above should not detract from an excellent cruise overall. We have no hesitation in recommending Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
We'd never cruised on a 30,000 ton ship and didn't know how much we'd miss the amenities and space of ships three or four times the size. We did miss some things but the camaraderie and atmosphere on Journey more than ... Read More
We'd never cruised on a 30,000 ton ship and didn't know how much we'd miss the amenities and space of ships three or four times the size. We did miss some things but the camaraderie and atmosphere on Journey more than compensated and we came away with happy memories of our 12 days on board. We will definitely try to return to Azamara on a future cruise. Hard to pinpoint but key to our enjoyment was the stress-free atmosphere created both by attentive crew and friendly, considerate fellow passengers. No formal dress, freestyle dining and simply fewer people all made big differences. We only saw 4 or 5 well-behaved children and a few young adults. The vast majority of passengers, like us, were "boomers" or older, not folk looking for a wild time. EMBARKATION AND THE SHIP: we arrived at the dock about 1 pm and were soon on board with glasses of champagne in our hands and directions to lunch while awaiting the green light to claim our stateroom. We were impressed with the unfussy, classic dEcor, attractive art work and some outstanding features like the library ceiling frescos. Unlike Solstice's, this is a real library with a good selection of books. We were surprised how small the buffet area was but soon saw there was a lot of variety on display and the plate (rather than tray) service system kept the diners moving. Our verandah stateroom was mid-ship on the port side of deck 7, close to a stairway and free of extraneous noises or motion when the sea got up. The cabin was small but livable for anyone under, say, 200 lbs or unusually tall or with more than 4 pieces of luggage to stow. There is a coin laundry with free iron on deck 7. Classy shampoos, creams and soaps are provided. Our butler Ronald and his assistant Chong kept the room spotless and added fresh fruit daily. They always had the room ready by the time we wanted to return. Not their fault, but some bath towels were in shreds and should be replaced. The verandah dividers weren't wide or high enough to create privacy which put us off eating out there. Though seating was often at a premium around the small pool, there was always a lounge chair free on the top deck, mercifully free of piped music, for a quiet read or gazing out at the ocean. We did miss the variety of shopping on board bigger ships and missed the customary Celebrity last sea day scrum around tables of half-price t-shirts and other bargains. A surprising disconnect was that though offered by the glass at the bar, we couldn't purchase bottles of Grand Marnier or Cointreau, and display space was taken up by 3 or 4 flavors of Baileys and vodka. DINING: We found the food outstanding in the eateries we tried, and were pleased that portions were relatively small. As recommended on the Roll Call, we reserved a table at Aqualina in advance and ate twice at Prime C., remembering as soon as we sat down to order chocolate and grand Marnier soufflEs. Halibut melted in the mouth and Colorado lamb chops were delicious. Bianchi's Argentine cabernet was a good buy. In Discoveries the maitre d' did an excellent job of satisfying requests, in our case often tables for two, and we never had to wait to be seated. Freestyle dining meant waiters couldn't get to know our individual food tastes, but we still managed to build relations with several servers and were always well looked after. There was a new menu selection each evening and standard "classics" always available. Fish and shrimp dishes were consistently excellent. The only disappointments were duck and pheasant. Lunch in the main dining room was a cool, relaxing escape from the tropical sun. The menu varied daily. Soups and burger of the day were particularly yummy. We ate healthy (well, fairly healthy, i.e. not too many eggs!) buffet breakfasts of plentiful fresh fruit, oatmeal, crisp bacon, and luckily enjoyed the strong coffee that some complained about. Fresh-brewed regular or decaf, espresso, cappuccino and latte, were available 24 hours from machines at Windows Cafe. Afternoon teas there and an Indian theme buffet were excellent. We didn't try Cova, the Pool Grill or any of the bars. ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES: We certainly missed Celebrity's cinema, big stage productions and more professional performers, but the resident band and small group of dancers/singers entertained with energy and style. We didn't see all the visiting artiste's shows nor get on the dance floor later at night. One lecture of the enrichment series was enough. Trivia sessions were fun. We didn't use the Spa, Beauty Salon, Fitness Center, Casino nor (thank God!) the Medical Center. PORTS OF CALL: The itinerary of small, relatively inaccessible islands was the main attraction when we booked. We went on two Azamara shore excursions and on independent tours elsewhere. In most ports we tendered, which was well organized and there were no long waits to get off or on the ship. The shore excursion staff on board was helpful and well-informed. Two of them came with us to personally share the experience and take notes. Errol was a "hoot" sorting the different tour groups, teasing and entertaining them prior to early morning departure. Local St John Azamara tour guide Wayne was well informed and amused us with his patter as we explored island highlights including magnificent views, the Annaberg sugar mill ruins and Trunk Bay Beach. In Martinique, Francoise led us on Azamara's "Historic Plantation & Gardens Tour" to little Sacre Coeur church, around magnificent Belata Gardens, and a banana farm. Then we tried and bought rum-based products at Clement Plantation. Especially for first time visitors, the tour was an excellent introduction to the island. Via the CruiseCritic Roll Call we pre-arranged private tours on three islands, all of which met or exceeded our expectations: On Bequia, 12 of us explored for 3 hours in two open safari taxis driven by Curtis Olivierre and his wife Sandra. Both have spent their lives on the island and know its history intimately, showing us all the main sites. We ended up with an hour snorkeling before returning to the port. Contact Curtis Ollivierre: challengertaxi@yahoo.com We were met at Roseau, Dominica, by Levi Baron of Bumpiing Tours, who took six of us on his guided "Roseau Valley Treasures" tour to mountains, gorges and waterfalls, after which we snorkeled at "champagne reef". Contact levibaron@bumpiingtours.com Waiting for six of us at Basseterre, St Kitts was Ilva Wallace who had guided us around the main island sights last year. This time she took us down South Peninsula to Reggae Bar on Cockleshell Beach and we enjoyed a morning snorkel in clear waters. Contact Ilva Wallace at ilvawallace_4@hotmail.com We decided to "wing it" both at St Barth's and Virgin Gorda. In St Barth's we wandered over to shell beach, window shopped the famous French boutiques, and picked up specialty foods and wine at an inexpensive supermarket right on the dock. At Virgin Gorda we hired a taxi for $45 to show us the views from various high points, the copper mine ruin and drop us at the top of The Baths. Be sure to allow at least an hour to see this justifiably famous rock formation and beach as it's a hike up and down and a scramble to get through the Devil's Cave. It would probably be too strenuous, by the way, for anyone with limited mobility. IN SUM: We had a grand time both on board and off exploring each island. For sure, we would like to return to cruise again with Azamara. The obstacle, alas, may be cost. As was expressed vehemently by CC members and discussed with senior ship staff in some detail at a coffee morning, there is strong resistance to Azamara's announcement of substantial fare increases. Many felt they couldn't afford to sail the Journey or Quest at the prices to be in effect from April 1 and, sadly, we may fall into that category. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
We left Belgium a day before the sailing, because with the stopover in Newark coming from Europe we would never get there in time for the sailing at 5 PM. After some stories on cruise critic I was even a bit worried that we wouldn't ... Read More
We left Belgium a day before the sailing, because with the stopover in Newark coming from Europe we would never get there in time for the sailing at 5 PM. After some stories on cruise critic I was even a bit worried that we wouldn't make it in time just leaving Europe the day before (snowstorms....) But everything went just fine. Boarding was so easy, just a few other people around and within minutes we were on board. My husband loved it, sitting in a comfortable chair sipping some bubbly just minutes after arriving at the dock. We loved the size of the ship, my husband found it a cosy ship. He already told me he wants to travel on smaller ships all the time now. Being a smaller ship you can feel the movements of the ship much better, but we don't mind because we never get seasick. Even in bed I like it when the ship goes up and down, so we usually get a cabin a the front of the ship (bow??). We also liked the food on board, all day long there is always something nice to eat or drink, starting with the smoothie in the morning and the coffee from the machine (lavazza coffee some member of staff told us)which for us was much better than the coffee that they would serve out of the coffee cans. Most of the people on board were not very young anymore, but we met very nice people on board and always had nice company at dinner because we don't mind sharing a table. We also had a meet and greet for cruise critic members which was nice, it is always fun to meet the people you have talked to on the boards. We had several nice excursions, but no ship excursions. Sometimes we just went for a hike on the islands we visited. Our cabin attendants were always very helpful and the room was usually cleaned when we got back from breakfast. We liked most of the service on board, staff was always very friendly and trying to help. We would definitely sail again with azamara if the time and itinerary are right. We don't need big shows at night and like a laid back cruise, with excursions and some reading in a comfortable chair and some nice food and that is what we got on board the Azamara Journey. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
Although we have travelled extensively, this was our first experience cruising and we were thrilled with the entire trip. Mindful of possible inclement weather we chose to fly into Ft. Lauderdale the day before departure to ensure our ... Read More
Although we have travelled extensively, this was our first experience cruising and we were thrilled with the entire trip. Mindful of possible inclement weather we chose to fly into Ft. Lauderdale the day before departure to ensure our timely arrival to the ship. On the sailing day we took a short tour of Ft. Lauderdale as I has spent many Christmas celebrations there as a child and wanted to see if I would remember any places (which I did!). We arrived at the Port of Miami around noon and were immediately invited onboard our new, temporary home. We had a lunch at the buffet and toured the ship to familiarize ourselves with the different things available to us. Our luggage arrived before 3 p.m. so we unpacked; pleasantly surprised with the number of hangers and drawer space. We went outside to watch our departure and waved adios to Miami. It was suggested that we eat at the earlier seating for the 1st evening...this would be the only evening we would have to make a choice of dining times. The next day was spent at sea and although the weather wasn't the best we enjoyed the relaxation time. While on board we took advantage of the lectures, cooking demonstrations, casino, shows, computers, pool, bars, etc. All of the people involved with the day to day activities were very helpful and always had a smile or nice word to say. The 48 nations represented by the crew on the ship can be proud of their ambassadors; they were excellent. The excursions we chose were informative and very enjoyable. The driver and narrator in Dominica were particularly helpful. We were able to eat in the 2 speciality dining rooms a total of 3 evenings. Each meal was memorable from the amuze de bouche to the coffee and desserts and wines. The meals in the Discovery restaurant were also enjoyable however we were a little disappointed with the seafood. We felt that the fish was frozen and were a little surprised at that. We ate in the Windows Cafe twice for a 'lighter dinner' and loved the shushi and sashimi available, as well as the stir-fry and pasta choices. Finally, the disembarkation was extremely organized and well handled. We had transfers to Ft. Lauderdale and were delivered to the airport in a timely manner. To summarize our cruise experience I think we can say it was a great vacation which we would love to repeat, although to new destinations, and we look forward to planning something soon. PS. We visited 7 ports but the ability to select 7 ports wasn't available. Also, loved the 2 days before ports and 2 days after ports "at sea" and would always want this choice. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
My sister and l arrived 3 days early so that we could enjoy Miami and each other before our adventure at sea was to begin. Our arrival at the Azamara Schedualed hotel "The Epic" was better than we expected! They upgraded us so ... Read More
My sister and l arrived 3 days early so that we could enjoy Miami and each other before our adventure at sea was to begin. Our arrival at the Azamara Schedualed hotel "The Epic" was better than we expected! They upgraded us so that was a bonus. I think the $150/night charged to the cruise line was about half of what we paid for the room so booking yourself might be more economical. We were given free breakfast vouchers and only had to pay $8 to include the hot selections. It was very busy at all times so the free glass of wine before supper helped to take our minds off our wait. The shuttle to the cruise port was not well known to us so was shocked when l found out 30min. before it arrived that 11am was pickup time. If l hadn't called we would have missed it. The embarkation was a breeze! We were offered a sparkling Zinfandel on arrival and proceeded to the Windows Cafe for our lunch. Sudarto greeted us with his friendly smile and a muchacho (macchiato) and we laughed about that for the rest of the cruise! That was the beginning of a great first impression with all the staff. At first we were not pleased with our room as it was dusty and warm with a gnarly blue car blanket on the beds. Our butler was a little tardy about bringing us ice and so we never had water and wine on the rocks. One night he missed us all together, we did not like room 6078 so were moved to 7028 5 days later as the lack of sleep was getting to us. Hot and humid does not make sleeping comfortable. We had foamies put on our mattresses as we found the beds hard. Now as soon as we got to our new room the cruise started to pick up momentum!! We started to enjoy using our balcony as just opening the sliding door once would have meant 25C all day and night. We were actually able to keep the door open in the new room so that we could hear the wonderful music from the TV station with the web cam. We loved the Masterpiece Theatre channel too!! A little hiccup with the plumbing made for some stair climbing on our last night as toilets were not working. Breakfast on the veranda lost its charm after we discovered how amazing it was in the windows cafe. Even in the Discoveries it was boring as Herring, sardines and stinky fish is not what l eat first thing in the morning. Our supper in the discovery was the best part of the day esp when the desserts were served. I only gained 3 lbs as we made sure to walk the stairs and eat lots of delicious fruit and good for you oatmeal with ground flax in the mornings. We loved the lamb kabobs at the pool grill and found the staff very hard working and friendly. The ice-cream was so yummy and l ate sorbet at least 3 times a day. Fresh fruit and the excellent quality of food made for less waste and made guilt free foraging a daily adventure. The smaller ship was a first for me and it won't be my last. We met so many wonderful people and danced together and laughed till our faces and sides hurt! The Musical trio of Mickey,Larry and Dallas made the cruise so special as they entertained us by the pool and up in the Looking glass. D.J.Oleg helped us to work off our days feasting into the wee hours and his sweet demeanor and dance moves a great way to end the day. Our many friends laughed, visited, danced, ate, drank and made plans for the next day! Loved the ports, even the tenders! I think that all cruisers should experience the Azamara Journey so that they will have the chance to meet wonderful friends, friendly crew, listen to great music and dance, drink free specialty coffees with no hassles if you ask for soy milk!!! and get to know islands that are hidden gems. The front desk staff were very helpful and always attentive to our needs. So many activities on sea days made for a relaxing cruise. Now if there was a way to stop all the seat saving then everyone could enjoy basking in the sun! The sanctuary was great but there too was lots of seat saving so we just moved the books to another lounger. We enjoyed the shower in the sanctuary as our room was so hot.It was worth the $100 for a shower curtain that doesn't hug!!! I bought an underwater camera on board but was disappointed when l was unable to use my 20 free photo downloads as the picture machine was ancient. Ronaldo was very helpful and accommodating and should get cudo points for having to wear the dolphin costume our in the sun!!! Loved the feeling that l was on a non smoking cruise!! Loved Azamara! Loved Bequia, Gustavia, St.Johns, and St.Kitts!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
We have just gotten back from our cruise - and are having a really hard time adjusting to reality. We had flown into Orlando and drove down to Miami. Here are some of the highlights: Staff - so welcoming and courteous. Everyone would ... Read More
We have just gotten back from our cruise - and are having a really hard time adjusting to reality. We had flown into Orlando and drove down to Miami. Here are some of the highlights: Staff - so welcoming and courteous. Everyone would always greet you and ask if there was anything they could do for you - from stewards to the officers. Room - our first time with a verandah and now I'm spoiled (poor hubby). The room was on the small side but more than adequate with plenty of storage. We loved our location because it was close to most everything (room 6048). Food - excellent! Enjoyed the smoothie bar in the buffet (especially since I caught a cold our second day out, and the smoothies helped me get up in the mornings). We always went to dinner in the main dining room with a sense of anticipation. The beef (steaks, tenderloins, etc.) were always tender and flavorful. For lunch we would pick up snacks in the Cova, and our goal was to try to be hungry for dinner (we usually didn't succeed). Ports - our favorite was St. Lucia. We had made arrangements through Island Divers for a day of snorkeling at the Ti Kaye resort. Saw lots of fish ... even a moray eel. Try to snorkel before all the other excursions get there - they stir up the sentiment. For lunch, we had the fish cakes (fantastic!) for an appetizer, cheeseburgers and ice cream for dessert. Amazingly good!! Overall we had a fantastic cruise. One morning we walked into the laundry and a fellow passenger was complaining that she had to pay - on Crystal, it's free! She didn't appreciate my explanation that it's not free - you pay a lot more up front! I feel very fortunate that we sailed on Azamara when we did. We understand the prices are going way up, out of our price range. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2010
We have been sailing the Celebrity Brand since 1990 and decided to try Azamara last year when it was still the high-end brand of Celebrity. We sailed on the Quest to Southeast and Northeast Asia last winter and were extremely pleased with ... Read More
We have been sailing the Celebrity Brand since 1990 and decided to try Azamara last year when it was still the high-end brand of Celebrity. We sailed on the Quest to Southeast and Northeast Asia last winter and were extremely pleased with all aspects of the two - 14 day back-to-back cruises. Thus we booked this 16 night cruise on the Journey while still on the Quest. Since the Journey and the Quest are essentially the same ships there are very little differences in their layouts. However, our veranda cabin on deck 7 on the Journey had a more convenient layout than the one on the Quest. On the Quest we had a cabin on deck 8 (8031) while this year we were on deck 7 (7075). The deck 8 cabin had the bed next to the veranda door while on deck 7 the love seat sofa is next to the veranda door. The deck 7 layout made it much easier to get into and out of bed for the person sleeping on the side facing the veranda door. They have installed a wall mounted flat screen TV's in the cabins which has the added benefit of freeing up additional storage space where the older CRT type TV monitor was situated. Our room butler and her assistant were outstanding and we rewarded them with an additional gratuity for their wonderful service. The ship's officers and service staff were friendly, courteous and responsive to any requests we had. Since Azamara Club Cruises only has two ships, it was not surprising to meet crew members from our previous cruise on the Quest. The Hotel Director, Philip Herbert, was on the Celebrity Galaxy when we sailed on it in the Mediterranean Sea in 2006. The hotel services (housekeeping and dining) crew's morale reflects his high devotion to the comfort and cruise experience of the guests and their well being. The food in all venues is better than Celebrity's and we consider the Celebrity food to be outstanding. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the cafe and then had dinner in either the Discoveries restaurant, cafe or one of the two specialty restaurants. Where we ate dinner depended on what was being served, for example on three different evenings there were theme buffets in the cafe. Of the two specialty restaurants our preference is Aquilina versus Prime C. Although the food is comparable in either restaurant, Steakhouse style dining is not one of our favorite venue since the meals tend to be too "heavy". Since the ship has less than 700 passengers, the embarkation and disembarkation process was very smooth in San Diego and Miami. Of note is that in Miami we docked at the pier adjacent to Royal Caribbean's headquarters and not at the Miami cruise ship terminal. Thus we avoided the congestion when multiple cruise ships are disembarking at the larger Miami terminal. This was our forth trans-Panama Canal cruise and what surprised us was the rough seas we experienced after leaving Hautulco, Mexico. A large storm, probably as a result of the El Nino in the Pacific hit the ship. Fortunately the captain and staff warned us to take precautions. The storm was so rough that its after effects prevented our tendering a day and one-half later at San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua and we had to continue on to our next port. Due to the inconvenience and disappointment in missing a port the ship offered during lunch an open bar at the pool and lookout lounge or free glasses of wine at lunch in the dining venues. A nice touch that was enjoyed by many happy guests. We had a wonderful time on the cruise and met many nice people. We enjoy the adult trivia games and thus had an opportunity to meet fellow passengers with the same interests. The cruise entertainment staff were very friendly and accommodating. The Meet and Mingle for Cruise Critic members was a well planned event and senior officers attended and welcomed us. They even had a end of cruise coffee gathering to say farewell to us. Although the ship is a nice size with an intimate setting, we still like the larger cruise ships. In particular we miss the Rendezvous Lounge on the Celebrity ships and their larger theaters. The show lounge on the Quest and Journey are too small especially if the event attracts a large audience. We would consider sailing again with Azamara, but we have previously sailed to all of the itineraries they have scheduled through April, 2011. They should take advantage of their ships' smaller size and find exotic warm weather ports for Northern Hemisphere guests to visit during the winter. The Journey sailing in the Caribbean during the winter months is not that attractive for us to pay a premium cruise fare. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
We had been on the Journey twice before [ 1)Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland and 2) the Western Mediterranean] and it was fantastic. Weather was poor here in North Carolina and we saw that the Journey was in the Caribbean. We signed up ... Read More
We had been on the Journey twice before [ 1)Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland and 2) the Western Mediterranean] and it was fantastic. Weather was poor here in North Carolina and we saw that the Journey was in the Caribbean. We signed up based on our previous experiences with Azamara, and the Journey specifically. We did not even check the itinerary until one week before the cruise. No sooner had we gotten on board, when two crewmen hugged my wife. "You're back, so glad to see you." It only got better from there. We encountered no problems and enjoyed the cruise thoroughly. We really didn't want to get off when we saw the weather back home. The food was great in the main dining area (Discoveries). We also ate in each of the two specialty restaurants (Aqualina and Prime C). The bartenders remember your preference after the first request. The ship's officers are friendly and approachable. We enjoyed breakfast on the veranda every day. It was served hot and to our specifications each day. The ship stresses cleanliness to prevent any outbreak of illness. We like that! We had tours of the Bridge, the Galley, and the Engine Control room. Every question was answered competently. The ports of call were interesting and a little off the beaten path. You weren't swamped by passengers from other ships. We thought the entertainment was not quite as good as our three previous Azamara cruises, but it wasn't bad. All in all, it remains our favorite Cruise ship and Cruise line. We look forward to our next voyage. Mostly because the crew makes you feel like FAMILY and goes out of their way to please you and make sure everything is done right. CarolBob from Greensboro, NC, USA Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
Hello: Had a great time on the Journey. Here are the highs: Great food, never had a bad meal and I feel the food has improved over last year, we sailed on the cruise Jan.'09. The activity staff made the cruise. Tony did an excellent ... Read More
Hello: Had a great time on the Journey. Here are the highs: Great food, never had a bad meal and I feel the food has improved over last year, we sailed on the cruise Jan.'09. The activity staff made the cruise. Tony did an excellent job as cruise director. The waitstaff in all the venues were excellent. A real funny guy was Ivo(sorry if I spell it wrong) he was the matre'd at Prime C his famous line, "if you have a compliment my name is Ivo, but if it is a complaint, my name is George", t was the way he said it that made it really funny. I just can't say enough about this crew. Now for the lows(and I had to search for this): The only thing I would say as a low, was some of the ports didn't have a lot of things to do if you didn't take an excursion. We like to just get off the ship and go for a long walk. The port we liked the best was not on this year's cruise. It was St. John USVI. They really did a great job of looking after us on the cruise. I would give this ship and crew a 5 star rating. Thanks for all your efforts. CanadianTom Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2010
My husband and I were on the Azamara Journey for this 12 day Caribbean cruise. I will tell you some of my observations without repeating what others have posted. Transportation: We started in Fort Lauderdale and had to find a way to get ... Read More
My husband and I were on the Azamara Journey for this 12 day Caribbean cruise. I will tell you some of my observations without repeating what others have posted. Transportation: We started in Fort Lauderdale and had to find a way to get to Miami. SAS Transportation was not able to help us. I reserved Michael Rozenbaum, www.US1TransportationService.com. He showed up, on time, in an immaculately clean Lincoln Town Car. He was well dressed and helped us with the luggage. I will use him again. After the cruise we used SAS Transportation, www.ridesas.com, to get from the ship in Miami to the airport in Fort Lauderdale. The driver, Tony, was waiting for us when we got off the ship. He picked us up and then picked up others from other ships. The trip went well and it was only $15 plus tip per person. Arrival: We got to the ship around 11 AM and walked right on. We gave them our luggage, they gave us some champagne, and we gave ourselves a self tour of the ship. As others have described it in other posts I will just say it is very nice. We were allowed into our cabin, around 2 PM. Cruise Critic: The Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle party was held on the first day at sea. All the officers were there to greet us, answer questions, and wish us a great cruise. The day before we left the ship there was another CC get together. This time they wanted to be sure we enjoyed the cruise and asked for input on how they could improve the Azamara cruise experience. We had very few ideas for improvements as the cruise was excellent. The Cabin: When you walk in there is a very nice bag on the bed to use on your port days. They do not leave little pieces of chocolate on your pillow at night. Instead they leave a plate with truffles, petit fours, chocolate covered strawberries or other delights. There is an interesting vase with some green stems in it in the cabin. As time passes the green stems turn into flowers which are still in their prime when you have to go home. The fruit bowl is kept full with ready to eat fruit. You don't have to wait until it ripens. Activities: Be sure to go to the raffles in the shops. You show up, they give you a raffle ticket, and then they pull a ticket. You may be a winner! Winners got jewelry and gift certificates. They have an asterisk by some of the activities on the daily program. When you participate in these activities you get the presenter to sign a special paper. On the last full day of the cruise you take your paper up to the Looking Glass and get rewards. The categories for rewards start at ten points and go up by tens. You get different things depending on how many activities you attended. The rewards include Azamara book marks, mugs, and tee shirts. The Experience: The best restaurant on the ship is the Aqualina. I had the best meal I have ever had there. You can go there more than once. They request a $5 gratuity per person. The officers are everyplace. They show up at the shows and greet you as you enter the theater. They are there in the morning when you get off the ship to wish you a good day. They pass you in the buffet and greet you. I figure they must work at least 22 hours a day! If you have any concerns they are addressed immediately. Part way through the cruise they asked for suggestions for improvement. I had a suggestion and the head of the relevant department called me to discuss it. This does not happen on the big ships. They make you feel like the passengers really matter to them. The Ports: There were seven ports in seven days. We went on shore every day except one. The sixth day, at Antiqua, the seas were high, the tenders were bouncing, we were tired, and we had been there before so we stayed on board. We had been to St. Martin recently so we just got off the ship and walked around for a while. In St. Croix, St. Barts, and Virgin Gorda we got a driver and toured the island. Each time we waited a little beyond the gangway until we had four to six people who wanted to tour before we hired a driver. They charge by the vehicle and not by the person so we all benefited by going in a group. All tour drivers spoke English and did a great job of showing us their island. Most tours were about $15 per person. In Dominica we found Oris Campbell, joca_57@hotmail.com. He took us around the island. He speaks English and did a good job of pointing out the highlights of the island. For St. Lucia we booked Cosol Tours, www.cosol-tours.com, before we left home. It was absolutely the best day of the cruise. Cosol drove our van and another man drove a second van. He showed us the island, fed us island food, took us to a snorkeling/swimming spot and generally treated us like royalty. If you go to St. Lucia you want to contact Cosol. The charge is $65 per person for a 5 to 6 hour day. It was well worth it. Conclusion: I have never seen a crew so eager to please the passengers. We really enjoyed our first Azamara cruise and look forward to going on another.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Contrasts between getting there and getting back via the Airline Industry and the cruise experience on Azamara were marked. British Airways from Toronto to Barcelona via Heathrow were their abysmal worst. Aged 767 with non operative ... Read More
Contrasts between getting there and getting back via the Airline Industry and the cruise experience on Azamara were marked. British Airways from Toronto to Barcelona via Heathrow were their abysmal worst. Aged 767 with non operative Audio/Video and funny food (We were in World Traveller Plus- an upgrade) Once again we were not treated to a visit to the fabled Terminal 5 in Heathrow but, after 7 hours, bundled like upright cattle into a bumpy bus that took us from the plane to the vicinity of Terminal 5. We were then switched to another similar packed bus that drove us back , past our aircraft, to terminal 3. After cooling our heels in Terminal 3 and buying Tea and Scrambled Eggs for $30, we were taken by bus to our Barcelona Flight where we stood in the rain and boarded our plane up steep stairs. Once in Barcelona it improved, new Terminal, clean, modern,.efficient. Taxi to the Hotel Onix Ramblas through heavy heavy traffic, arrived at about 2 pm. Woke up at 9.30 pm with a need for food. Fortunately Barcelonians are night owls so that was no problem. Next day we took the hop-on/Hop off bus from Placa Catalonia round the city, time for 2 routes and then a visit for a coffee at the rooftop of Corte Ingles, wonderful. People so polite and civilized! Then a taxi to the Journey. I wrote last year that 'Azamara is great but its not Oceania', well I now eat my words. It was the most fabulous, relaxing experience ever, and we have done some cruising! The ubiquitous Philip Herbert, Hotel Director has improved the experience so much it ran flawlessly. The cabins were the same size, but towels were bigger, Fresh Fruit (spotty last year) was lovely, Fresh Flowers. The cabin staff helpful, pleasant and hard working, as were all the shipboard staff. Special mention to Bar Waitress 'Maria' from Columbia who instantly recognised us from last years cruise and was omnipresent day and night with her friendly, happy demeanour. What a lovely employee, so typical of the HR policy of Azamara!! The fo0od was exemplary whether in The Discoveries Dining Room, no fixed dining times, tables for 2 through 10 so you could sit as 2 for Breakfast and enjoy the company of others for Dinner. Absolutely no complaints about the waiters, Maitre D's and Sommelier, we never had anything but friendly respect and wonderful tasting, presented and timely meals. We dined at Windows on occasion also at the Prime C Steak House, service and cuisine extraordinaire, as good as the best on shore restaurants. We4 did not try Aquilina but hearsay said it was excellent. The ship was lovely, in good shape and kept in great order by the staff constantly cleaning. Our Ports of call were interesting. Alicante, we had visited before so stayed aboard and stay in the sun and read. Gibraltar, an odd mix of Spanish and the UK of 25 years ago, Marks and Spencer, British Home Stores and Fish and Chips plus some excellent Draught Guinness and Murphy's Stout. Madeira was wonderful as was a revisit to La Palma , Canaries. We did our own tours at all spots as the Azamara Tours are just not value for money in any way shape or form. I think that was the view of most passengers judging by the turnout for the tour buses. We did visit Coco Cay Bahamas. It looked lovely but as a company owned Island with catering from the ship and 'Made in China' artifacts on sale was not enticing enough for us. We stayed aboard. Fortuitous as a storm came over and the tenders returning to the ship emulated the most vomit inducing rides at an amusement park. The tender returning the catering supplies finally gave up trying to return supplies to the ship after some jettisoning of tomatoes and cutlery. I was astonished to see all the waiters etc leaping in very large swells, without lifejackets of any sort. The entertainment was, in my opinion, for a ship of Journeys size good. A wonderful Orchestra, Max on the Piano in the Cova,a talented Harpist and a solo guitarist gave you music 'wherever you went'. a special word has to go to the Entertainment Staff, Kevin Coyne, Oleg from the Ukraine,Craig from 'Yorkshire' and a lovely newcomer to Azamara Katie Foster who was dropped into her first cruise at the deep end putting up with us at our constant trivias and similar games. She was beautiful, talented and read 'The night before Christmas' at the Christmas concert in a manner reminiscent of a young Julie Andrews. We had 2 Cruise Critic Receptions, a Greek Dancing Lesson from the Captain, a Passenger Choir, A Crew talent night (They are very talented especially Shirley, a lovely singer from HR) a Passenger talent night, 2 magicians, a resident crew of singers/dancers. Great, great ,great. Disappointing was a female fiddler (Violinist would be a bit pretentious) she lacked stage presence or real personality and the programme was a bit awful. We weer warned by others after the first show, we went to the second and left as it was a bit painful. The cruise director, John Howell, was a bit insincere, forever praising the Captain and the Orchestra and droning on and on and on oozing insincerity. He liked the sound of his own voice and was obviously reading scripts of the company 'line' However he didn't interact too often with the passengers unless standing with a microphone telling us of how he was a star on Broadway incessantly. One complaint only- Azamara, your coffee is awful, often undrinkable. The rest was fab, fab fab. We will return, most, if not all I spoke to were of similar opinion. They did 'Launch' Azamara Club Cruises' on board- main opinion was "Why spoil a good thing' nothing is free, local wines complimentary etc makes prices go up. The suites get one thing, the rest get less, starts a class system that would shutdown the 'extended family atmosphere' . However it must be good as John Howell was extolling it to the rooftops every chance he had to lay his hand on a mike. We arrived in Miami in a rainstorm, debarkation was best organised9sed ever, however the storm was so bad Air Canadas incoming flight to Miami got diverted to Nassau, it finally arrived 8 hours late at 6 pm. The captain had exceeded his hours so they had to fly another crew down from Toronto. We finally got to Toronto at Midnight 15 hours after leaving the ship. Air Canada gave us a bag Of Potato Chips and 'Free' coffee. The bags all arrived however. What a wonderful cruise, if they don't increase their prices I may not return to Oceania!!! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Panama Canal Cruise - 12/18/09 to 1/3/10 This was the best vacation we have ever taken in our 20 years of marriage!!! It was the perfect combination of casual and upscale. I felt like we were newcomers on the ship having only taken 5 ... Read More
Panama Canal Cruise - 12/18/09 to 1/3/10 This was the best vacation we have ever taken in our 20 years of marriage!!! It was the perfect combination of casual and upscale. I felt like we were newcomers on the ship having only taken 5 cruises. The clientele was from all over the world and had cruised to many ports of call. We picked this cruise since it was through the Panama Canal and was from 12/18 to 1/3. If you have never been through the Panama Canal, we thought this portion of the trip was worth taking the vacation for. We sprung for a room with a balcony and it was worth every penny as we often sat out there to read or take in a sunset or slept with the door open to hear the sea. Ports of Call Port Antonio, Jamaica - We have been to Jamaica before and didn't like in the past on this cruise. Wish it would be replaced by another stop. Cartagena, Columbia - We took the Fortress tour which was interesting. The street vendors in Columbia are pretty pushy! Panama Canal, Panama - It is hard to describe going through the locks, especially seeing enormous vessels with only 1-2' to spare on either side.....Amazing! Puntarenas, Costa Rica - We went on the Cloud Forest tour. This started with a 2 hour bus ride from sea level to 4500' elevation to the Cloud Forest. The ride scenery was great and once you get to the top, we went on the Suspension Bridge tour over the rain forest. A wonderful tour and one of the highlights of the trip. San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua - We decided not to take another 8 hour tour and took the shuttle to the town. After we got there we took off our shoes and walked the beach for about an hour before we decided to have a few beers at a local place. Lots of fun. Hautulco, Mexico - This is a made up Mexican city for cruise boats. Given that, it is small and quaint and a good place to spend a few hours. Acapulco, Mexico - Best tour for us....Releasing baby turtles to the wild. We had about 30 folks on the tour and we got to learn about sea turtles. The baby turtles we released were hatched that morning and we placed them on the beach so they could get to the ocean. By the way, make sure you have them make you a corn tortilla from their small restaurant, it was great. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - We spent a week in Cabo about 7 years ago. It has changed greatly and is way too commercialized. If you can, try and avoid the downtown area....too many tourist shops. We were there with 3 other ships and the downtown was mobbed. We did have a nice lunch in a small cafe later in the day after many of the other tourists had left. Azamara Highlights: 1. Casual relaxed atmosphere throughout the ship. 2. Staff was friendly. 3. Prime C and Aqualina were much better than the Discovery Dining Room. Service and food were definitely worth the time to get a reservation and you can easily go more than the two allotted times. 4. New Years celebration was fantastic! They sure know how to throw a party. 5. Loved the morning/lunch/dinner buffet for the variety and especially the outdoor seating area. 6. We noticed that given 24 hours notice the chef would make any request as was seen by an Indian feast at the table next to us that was not on the menu. 7. Healthy eating options. We both spent 18 days away from home and did not gain an ounce! It was equal parts exercise and healthy eating. You can see how we did it on my wife's blog at Foodsforlonglife.com. 8. Tony, their cruise director, was amazing. He also was an incredible professional singer. They are lucky to have him. Azamara items to improve: 1. Ship galley and bridge tours should be limited to fewer guests even if that means giving more tours. Our galley tour had around 35 people and if you were not near the chef you could not hear anything. 2. There should be more of a selection of herbal teas. They had flavored black teas instead of pure herbal blends. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Perhaps this was the perfect moment to cruise with the Journey: at the time when they upgraded their service to semi-luxury and before the price hike. In any case, our experience was dramatically better than what we expected from lukewarm ... Read More
Perhaps this was the perfect moment to cruise with the Journey: at the time when they upgraded their service to semi-luxury and before the price hike. In any case, our experience was dramatically better than what we expected from lukewarm reviews and ratings posted all over the web. Fantastic: food in specialty restaurants, at $5 surcharge per person. We spent there almost every evening. Great: crew, service, and the atmosphere they created. When Norwegian lost our luggage in the previous back-to-back cruise, they were extremely helpful to get it back. Food in the buffet and the main room. Cabins: not very spacious but very nicely organized and pleasant. Ok: butler (= upgraded steward). Entertainment was ok to solid. Not so good: excursions. The excursions director was funny and informative but the quality of some excursions was horrible. In Jamaica, the guide thought that we were on a different trip (I thought initially that she was joking). She was not prepared and did not know what to say. So she was singing songs etc. Azamara reimbursed us for this trip though. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Background info: We have been on more than 10 cruises on such cruise lines as HAL (5), Princess (2), NCL (1), Celebrity (2), Cruise West (1), etc. After recently doing a cruise on Celebrity, we decided to try Azamara. The price was less ... Read More
Background info: We have been on more than 10 cruises on such cruise lines as HAL (5), Princess (2), NCL (1), Celebrity (2), Cruise West (1), etc. After recently doing a cruise on Celebrity, we decided to try Azamara. The price was less than Oceania - who we had previously looked at and offered several categories of discounts, including military, resident and senior rates, which made the price even harder to resist! Travel to port of embarkation: Because this was a Transatlantic cruise, airfare was cheaper through the cruise line than by me doing it independently. With some trepidation, I took air and transfers through Azamara. Our connections were very good and we made it to BCN without any problems. Azamara was at the airport to meet us. Luggage was taken to a motorcoach when we arrived at 8 am. Since we couldn't be boarded until at least 11 am, we went on a tour of the city - which we were very happy about. We got a great tour of the city. Would you believe some people complained? They were tired and wanted to go directly to the ship. We were tired also, but the guide pointed out the terminal was cold and they would have to wait for hours so this was their alternative - a tour of the city! We were grateful for the tour since it was all we would get to see of the city. I had tried to work out air and hotel for a few days prior to the cruise, but Azamara said they had none available. We booked back in mid-August and at a discount fare. Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal at about 11 am. There were separate lines for suites - one other couple was ahead of us so we went through quite quickly. We were given our room keys. Pictures were taken as we boarded the ship. As we walked through the terminal, we were able to buy our 2 bottles of wine. Once onboard we were greeted with glasses of champagne and told the rooms were not ready. We made our way to the Windows Cafe for lunch. The rooms were ready about 1:30 PM. We actually snuck down a little earlier because we were desperate to lie down - after the long flight. Stateroom: Our stateroom was very well appointed. It was a sky suite. The carpet and upholstery looked fresh and clean. The bed came equipped with many pillows of various sizes. The bathroom had a toilet, tub with shower and one sink. Shortly upon arrival, the toilet would not flush - even after several flushes. This proved to be a problem several times and had to be reported to the front desk. Only after the mid-cruise comment card, did it get repaired to our satisfaction. The balcony had a good-sized table and two chairs. The cabin was near the aft, but did not have excessive noise or vibration. No noise from the deck above, either. The beds were exactly like the beds on Celebrity - a bit disappointing for us. We were hoping for better. We requested an egg crate mattress after the first night and this made things better. They are due for new beds - hopefully after the first quarter of 2010. Food: The food was excellent in the MDR and in Windows. We also tried both specialty restaurants. Prime C was more to our tastes than Aqualina. I had prebooked Prime C prior to travel through Captain's Club and booked the other two visits on the day of embarkation. The variety and freshness of the food (Particularly on a 14 day cruise) was impressive. The salads were so fresh! It was as if the greens had just been picked. How they accomplish this is beyond me! The beef - mainly had fillet mignon was excellent - both in MDR and Prime C. Loved the Smoothie Bar in Windows. We were always able to request a table for two in the MDR and receive it. We usually went to eat at 6 PM. Entertainment: The entertainment was surprisingly good and we usually don't attend shows, but we did on this cruise. We went to the special nights when they had guest entertainers: Jacqui Michaels, a vocalist; Brett Cave, a pianist; Claire (forgot last name, a violinist. We also had a crew talent show and a passenger talent show that were fun. The last night, all the entertainers put on a special Christmas Holiday show that was excellent! Crew: The crew on Azamara is excellent - especially the upper management. Comments made on the mid-cruise comment cards were addressed by senior management and every effort was made to try to fix problems. That was very much appreciated. Hotel Manager. Philip Herbert was excellent. The Captain, Georgios Theodorou, was the most personable Captain I have ever met! He was everywhere! He even gave a Greek dancing class that was a complete success with all the guests. If there are any problems on your cruise, my impression was that all you need to do is let them know, and they will try to improve any problems. That goes a long way to making us want to return! Spa: I did have 2 treatments - a pedicure and a facial. Both were well done. I also purchased an individual pass to the thallo spa area. I was disappointed with this after the first visit. It was a large thallo hot tub, but seats did not go all the way around. There was a drain in the middle that stuck up that you could catch you toes on and the jets were not all working. Since this was a TA, there were several days when this area was closed off due to the roughness of seas and then there was an electrical problem which put the thallo pool out of order for several days. I called the spa manager to look in to a partial refund and this was done, which was very fair. I don't think I will bother purchasing another pass, however. Public areas: The ship is the most elegant ship I have ever been on - just beautiful and well- maintained. The chairs around the pool area are teak and have pads that must be 5-6 inches thick! They are very comfortable. There are many areas to sit and read. The fitness area is small, but comfortable. There is one self-service laundry on deck 7 which takes coins. Alicante, Spain: Our first port was just beautiful! We did our own thing and took the free shuttle in to town and then boarded the Hop On /Hop Off bus. It cost just a few Euros and gave a great overview of the town. When we finished, we walked along the waterfront and looked at all the beautiful yachts along the waterfront. Very nice stop! Coco Cay: Nice stop after a long TA cruise. Had many shady spots to sit. Many, many chairs. Not as nice as HAL's Half Moon Cay, but nice. Comments about coffee situation......   One thing that needs improvement is the coffee.  I tried coffee in every venue it was offered at.....MDR, specialty restaurants, from all 3 machines in the Windows Cafe ....I even purchased coffee in the Cova Cafe and it was the worst of all!  I found the coffee to be undrinkable, as did many of my fellow cruisers.  Many mentioned it on their comment cards.  I hope Azamara does something soon to address the coffee issue! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN -- My wife is a veteran of 14 cruises and I have taken 11 so while we are not grizzled cruise old-timers, we are no strangers to the sea either. She has more trips under her belt because she takes our daughters on ... Read More
EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN -- My wife is a veteran of 14 cruises and I have taken 11 so while we are not grizzled cruise old-timers, we are no strangers to the sea either. She has more trips under her belt because she takes our daughters on one-on-on outings. September 27, 2009 my wife and I took a 14 day cruise of the Med from Barcelona to Athens with stops in Monaco, Italy and Turkey aboard the Azamara Journey. We want to make it clear we are not affiliated with the cruise industry in any way and this is the first review we have ever written. In any event we enjoyed the cruise so much, my wife and I wish to share a few reflections on the trip, the crew and the Journey. EXTENDING—When one travels across the sea it is always good to spend a little extra time on each end which we did in Barcelona before boarding and in Athens at the conclusion of the cruise. These were very nice respites and really helped us to get acclimated. We would highly recommend the practice to others. TREATED LIKE FAMILY--First the term family really does apply. Having sailed on 3,000 plus passenger ships and on some with around 2,000 and then the Azamara Journey we are hooked on small ship sailings, especially if other ships are anything like the Azamara Journey. On the advice of our travel agent Leslie Kraus (Cruise Club of America), who has booked all of our previous trips, we first tried out the Journey last spring sailing Trans-Atlantic from Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona and liked it so much we decided to see if this was a fluke. On the spring TA voyage we enjoyed the downtime, re-learning to play bridge, the educational lectures and we each read half a dozen books. This was our first taste of the Mediterranean and we wanted more. Our fall return to the Journey was everything we expected and more. Many of the same crew were still on board and remembered us. It was like going home again and seeing old friends. Hotel Director Heike Cramer was new to us and delightful. (We had become friends with Phillip who was director on the Spring TA.) Don't know how Heike manages wearing high heels every day. Captain Georgios Teodorou was proud to be showing us his home islands. Food and Beverage Manager Ryszard Gusmann did an outstanding job and Tony Markey was full of himself as usual and we mean that in the best possible way. It takes lots and lots of energy to do the job Tony does so well. By the same token, this Azamara family, down to the passengers, is composed of adults. We love children and have raised three daughters and took them cruising with us as young adults. But if you have younger children and want to cruise with them the Journey might not be your cup of tea—at least in the Med or TA. Might be different in the Caribbean but the ship does not really offer that much for youngsters. CRUISE CRITIC GATHERING—Like on the TA in the spring the officers of the Journey hosted a gathering of about 30 of us Cruise Critics. It was a very nice reception and the crew lingered far longer than any of us expected. Although we had gotten to know Tony on the last trip, this time we had an in-depth conversation. This was great way to start the adventure. ENTERTAINMENT--If you like big glitzy shows then small ships like the Journey are not for you. But for intimate quality entertainment the venue is just right, the shows are not crowded, there are no bad seats, and you even get to personally know the entertainers. At least we did. We enjoyed all the shows we attended although we did not make them all because after a full day on the excursions one often was ready for bed after dinner. In Istanbul they even brought a local band and a belly dancer on board—quite enjoyable. SHORE EXCURSIONS--The excursions were good values and were well equipped. We felt like we were reliving 3000 plus years of history on fast forward. We especially enjoyed the sit-down lunches in Florence and Rome. Riding in Mercedes buses was a treat and although we thought we would never be one of those people with a listening device following a paddle-holding guide through the Coliseum, museums and ancient ruins there we were. And the system really does work reasonably well as it keeps the guide from having to serve as a mother hen/or father rooster. Just stay in range of the transmitter. Some with limited mobility might find many of the tours a bit taxing. "Read and follow the guidance describing the activity level" is our best advice. Another added benefit was the unexpected goodie bags in the buses relating to the tour of the day along with the usual bottle water. The tour operators go the extra mile for the comfort of those touring. For instance, in Istanbul when touring the mosques we were not near public restrooms. The tour operators had rented mobile restroom trailers and stationed them strategically which were very nicely appointed and much appreciated. We do not know how the bus drivers manage to maneuver the huge buses on the small streets in many of the towns, villages and in Rome, Florence and Istanbul. We cannot say enough about the professionalism of all drivers. All the guides had a great command of English and knew their subject matter and their enthusiasm was contagious. Some had lived in the U.S. and even understood American idioms. All the guides seemed to enjoy what they did. It was not "just a job" but they were proud to show visitors their country. Following is another example of how accommodating the tour operators were. By the second day in Istanbul my wife had seen enough mosques and palaces and really wanted to shop so mid-way were able to get on with another of the tour outings so we could take the time needed to buy those hand-made Turkish rugs that are getting so expensive these days. We took personal delivery last month of the rugs we bought and were so impressed we bought another off the delivery truck. EMBARCATION/DEBARCATION--Having stood in lines with some cruises to board and to go-ashore, we can report things are definitely not that way on the Journey. There are no lines. Maybe that is a quality for smaller ships but in any event, crowd control is handled well. When first entering the ship we never really stopped moving only pausing slightly to sign our name and receive our cruise card. We were delayed only slightly, and delightfully so, by a crew member offering us reservations for the specialty restaurants (no charge). This was a nice touch and we signed up. We think most cruises have gotten better at handling check in now that most things are all pre-arranged on the web. Same with going ashore for the tours—again, there were no lines. Although if everyone would have shown up when they were supposed to for tours then even this would have gone even smoother. It is always bad when you have to wait for people so everyone can leave together. Not sure there is a better way since we are all human beings and for some 7:30 a.m. means 7:45 or whenever one wants to arrive. Even so everyone did get back on the ship on time and we did not have those dreaded and repeated calls at every stop for "Sheila in Baja 4067" to please check in if you are on-board. We believe that is partly due to the maturity of the passengers aboard the Journey and that the majority are well-travelled. DINNING-As always there was more than enough great food. The specialty restaurants were just a cut above, but the regular Discoveries dining room was good and service was prompt and friendly. The appetizers in the specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, were quite good, maybe better than the main courses. The large windows in Discoveries allow for some outside viewing while you are underway. And if you want something special, like escargot, just let your waiter know the night before and it will be prepared for you the next evening. We ate well but did not gain weight although we certainly enjoyed the outstanding desserts. Probably because we walked more than two miles each day on our excursions and up on deck when we had time. Thirteen times around equals one mile. On other cruises we have found the desserts "look" good, but they all taste the same. Apparently they just color and flavor the sugar differently and call it something else. Not the Journey though, flavors were crisp and balanced and even the ice cream selections were excellent and varied. Windows Cafe is the buffet adjacent to the pool deck area and has very passable food. Not gourmet, but not bad and you can get something other than loads of carbs. Some nice fish dishes for lunch and the made-to-order omelets at breakfast are good as well as the pancakes or waffles...and lots of good fresh fruit. The buffet was not of the massive caliber of some of the bigger ships and that's O.K. because the lines are not there either. Food at Discoveries was adequate and selection was just varied enough. But one could live on the fruit smoothies we had for breakfast every morning and the fresh breads at all meals were outstanding. After learning the secrets of making them from watching the staff make ours every morning, fresh breakfast smoothies are a practice we have continued every weekend since returning home. SPA—I did not use the gym as we walked instead but it appeared to be well appointed. However, my wife did attend yoga classes (no charge) and felt the instructor was very qualified. She did not have to sign up but was just able to attend as she was able. And of course my wife had her usually spa treatments and enjoyed them. As noted earlier we did walk a lot and there was ice water and juice available on the track in the mornings. This was just another nice gesture. DRESS CODE--No ratty T-shirts and obscene hats on this cruise. Dress was casual elegant with polo shirts for the men while the women wore skirts or pants. There was not a formal night on this cruise but some, including me, did wear a coat and tie to the alternate dining venues or to the Captain's welcome party and my wife does like to wear long dresses to show off the new sparklers she seems to find where ever we travel. CASINO--Was small and limited but people seemed to enjoy it. Was much more crowded when we did the Trans -Atlantic last spring than on this trip as there were so many stops and it was go-go-go while docked. We were in port a lot so the casino hours were limited. CABINS--We had our usual balcony which was great but we were never in the room long enough to really sit out and sun as we seemed to be always on tour. Though we did enjoy our morning room service coffee on the balcony, which was very relaxing. There is one thing on which both my wife and I agree--this is a relaxing ship, a friendly ship. In the cabin there was fresh fruit daily, mini-fridge and min-bar as well as voice mail on the phone, in-room safe and a small flat screen TV which carried GPS navigation information where you could order room service and keep track of your account. The bath products (Elemis) were excellent and robes and slippers are standard. The butler service was much appreciated. BEVERAGE SERVICE--One of the things were really like about the Journey was the fact the bars and waiters are not in your face pushing alcohol. The cocktail servers are there but they are pleasant and not pushy. We have been on other cruises where you could not turn around without a cocktail server asking you if you wanted a drink. There also seemed to be a lot more wine served than hard liquor which may also say something about the age or sophistication of the passengers. IMPROVEMENTS--Although as noted the television interactive feature has been added to allow you to keep track of your bill and to take other actions, the ship's internet operation still has problems even after new servers were installed. We had the same sort of problems last spring on the TA trip. It was better this time, but not great. We know you go away to relax but we have become too dependent on the net as a means of communication--just like this posting. And in the past we have enjoyed the art-at-sea program. The art director (not an Azamara employee but a private contractor) disappeared mid-cruise which led to some speculation that he was not retained. OVERALL--The cruise was relaxing for the most part even with the fact in the first 7 days we had 7 shore excursions--each of which we thoroughly enjoyed. The standing joke among the passengers was "if this is Tuesday it must be Rome"—a line from some old movie. There were only two sea days on this trip. We like sea days to recover. We must be getting older. All the crew was great. We did not have one unpleasant experience. We believe the strength of the Journey is the crew of caring, friendly staff who want to make sure ever thing is right for the passengers. And it appears to be a lot of "management by walking around the ship." We always saw the ship's officers around. With one notable exception even the passengers were fantastic. There is always one in every crowd and we had ours. If there are others who took this trip and read this review you will know to whom we refer, but even she became a cause for a laugh. "You will never believe what she has done now," was the opening of many conversations with fellow passengers. But Tony the Cruise Director was generally able to politely keep her under control. GOING AGAIN—Perhaps the most telling part of our review is this--before the 14 days were over we had made friends with new crew members and new fellow passengers with whom we continue to communicate and we have again booked Azamara though our on-board friend Liesl Smit, Manager Captain's Club Cruise Sales. Not sure when and where but we will decide to go but we have lots of time to decide that. Linda and Ron Maryland Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
Preliminaries: We took the 12-day cruise from Rome (Cittivecchia) to Barcelona starting on November 19, 2008. We flew British Air from LAX to Heathrow (Premium Economy class) and British Air economy to Rome. It was our first use of ... Read More
Preliminaries: We took the 12-day cruise from Rome (Cittivecchia) to Barcelona starting on November 19, 2008. We flew British Air from LAX to Heathrow (Premium Economy class) and British Air economy to Rome. It was our first use of Premium Economy as an alternative to "cattle class" at double the price of coach but will probably do it again as it is an almost affordable alternative to business class. From Da Vinci airport we joined two Canadian girls and hired a van to take us to our hotel. Normally we would have taken the bus but it was late and we splurged on the 40E to get us to the Montecitorio. Hotel was a great location; clean, but quite small, with a flat screen TV that did not work and a broken shower door. Every shower flooded the bathroom and it was the smallest shower we have ever seen, smaller than the bathrooms on any of the 27 cruises we have been on and we have been on some small cruise ships. Of course of the three clerks we dealt with could not fix the shower or get the TV to work. Also, the advertised computer and wifi was in Italian and almost unusable. Do not stay at the Montecitorio, it is poorly run and not worth the stress. In the end we got them to knock 10E off of the 80E price but it took a lot of badgering to even get that concession. We came into Rome a day and a half early and did a few sites in the day we had: Spanish Steps, Trevi, Colleseum, and took the Free Tour to the Vatican along with 3 Polish students and 2 Canadian young women. I tipped Paulo our guide 20E because I knew she would not get much from the students and young women. We rolled our bags to Silvestre Square, a short-walk from our hotel and caught the bus to the central train station for 1 Euro each. At Stanzia Termini we bought 2nd class seats to Cittivecchia for 9E for the both of us and took the one hour train ride in relative comfort. We joined a German couple and hired a taxi to take us to the ship from the train station for 5E each. Total transportation cost from our hotel in Rome to the ship was 20E for both of us. Azamara Journey THE GOOD The Azamara Journey is a great ship. We chose it because of its itinerary, its relatively small size, and its no coat and tie policy. It had 650 passengers on one of the old Renaissance (VI) line ships that we have traveled on before. Arriving around 2:00 PM embarkation was flawless-A 5 minute line and a non-bureaucratic approach had us on the ship in 10 minutes. At check- in we were able to book a dinner at Prime C (the alternative steakhouse) that night, which did not count against our two -dinner limit at the two alternative restaurants. We carry our own luggage on—one bag and one backpack each-and had everything put away in the spacious basic outside cabin that had lots of storage space and was generally well laid out but with some flaws (see, "the Bad" and "the Ugly). The cabin was #4020 and in a great location, across from the medical office and right around the corner from the stairs and elevator. The dark woods and large mirrors made it seem larger than it was. It was more than big enough for us and the outside window was huge. Storage space was excellent and we did not use all that we had. Our two roller bags fit easily under the bed. Food—The buffet (Windows) was ready and was usually good but as with all buffets you have to be careful what you choose. The no-tray available policy is a hard to get used to but more cruise lines are going to it and the lines do move faster without the trays. One bonus was that the grill around the pool had in addition to the usual hot dogs, hamburgers, and tacos, beef, lamb, and pork shish kebob that was cooked to order. The lamb was great but the beef a bit disappointing. Specialty Restaurants—The specialty restaurants were worth the extra gratuity of $5 each. My wife's cowboy steak (bone-in rib eye) was excellent in Prime C (the steakhouse) and I had Colorado lamb chops that were delicious and cooked to perfection. The wild mushroom soup was an outstanding dish on the cruise. The crab cakes were also excellent as and appetizer as were the donut holes (called mini-donuts) as a desert. At Aqualina (seafood restaurant) we shared Chilean sea bass and lobster. Both were excellent although some of the guests felt that the lobster was tough. I like some chewyness to my lobster so I was fine with it. A special note, Aqualina offers a Mediterranean platter as a cold appetizer that is 2 clams, 2 mussels, 2 crab, 2 shrimp, and a lobster. It is an excellent meal in itself. Their lobster bisque is very good but it is a full -bodied soup that would be too strong for the palette of many Americans. Discoveries—The food in the main restaurant Discoveries was usually good and sometimes great. One caveat about the food— the chief does a great job on the veal and lamb dishes, but has trouble with the beef. My wife does not eat veal or lamb and is particular about her beef dishes. She struggled to find beef dishes she liked in the main dining room but she loved the cowboy steak (rib eye on the bone) in Prime C the first time we ate there—the second time was a different story. I ate beef once in the dining room and it was the hanger steak (skirt steak) and was quite good. The one good beef dinner my wife had was the prime rib which was excellent the second to the last night. We ate lunch twice in Discoveries and a Cobb salad we had for one of the meals was one of the finest dishes we had on the cruise. I also had a very good Red Snapper for one of the lunches. We also ate breakfast in Discovery twice and it was nice to have our eggs not overcooked. We had poached eggs on corned beef hash and it was excellent. For all our meals we found no crowds in Discovery and they would give you a private table or you could join a group. We sat with others for dinner and sat by ourselves for breakfast and lunch. The only exception was Thanksgiving when Discoveries was crowded and we had a wait. We decided to eat at the buffet at Windows which is curiously renamed Breezes for dinner. We had an excellent Turkey dinner but no stuffing or mashed potatoes, which seemed odd as they had mashed potatoes on other days for lunch. Windows—The breakfast buffet in Windows was excellent and had a nice variety of dishes. The carved ham every other day was a real plus. On the days they did not have the ham it would have been nice if they had corned beef hash on those days. We only had corned beef hash twice and it was on a ham days. The fresh rolls were good but the pastries were uneven. The exception was the cinnamon role bun that was excellent but hard to find and we only found it one day. The donuts were also excellent. Best dishes on the cruise: In Discoveries it was the Veal chop, Prime Rib, Duck Ravioli starter, and the Lamb shank. In Aquilina, the Chilean Sea Bass and the Medetteranean Medley starter. In Prime C the Colorado Lamb chops and the Wild Mushroom soup. In Windows for me it was the anchovies that I put on my real Caesar salad that I would make for lunch. Great quality and ample quanity. For the outside grill it was the lamb shish ke bob that was cooked to order. The waiters in the buffet did an excellent job of clearing tables and bringing you drinks at both breakfast and lunch. They did it with a smile and an excellent attitude and were offended when you made your own coffee or tea as they were more than willing to do it for you. Service—The staff on the Journey on the whole is a very happy staff and they go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. Hi, good morning, good day are the norm as they greet you when they see you. The cabin steward (called butler) and his assistant do a fine job and they learn your rhytums to provide service. The dinner serving staff did a reasonably good job but the festival seating (freestyle) policy makes it difficult to get consistency. One night our table of 8 waited 28 minutes for our order to be taken. At around the 23 minute mark I said something to the waiter and he apologized but blamed the wine. Two of the four couples were drinking wine. Maybe the wine steward was not working that night. At the end of the meal he again apologized and really meant it. We allow 2 ½ hours for a dinner meal so if we are trying to make a 10:30 show we will dine at 8:00. With the start we had I was concerned the meal would go three hours, which is too long. The dining staff slips up a little more than they should but most of that comes from the automatic tipping policy that the cruise lines introduced about a decade ago. The Journey does a better job that most at combating this "slipshodness" that has crept into the service part of the cruising industry. Those of us who cruised before the automatic tipping was introduced know the difference and miss the "old days." The entire crew and service staff is very international with 50 nationalities represented and a strong presence from the Balkan states. Entertainment —It was surprising on the Journey that it was very good to excellent. Newlyweds Justine and Robin and the three other singers knock themselves out with their shows based on old time 40s music. Their song selection could be better as they tend to rely on too much Sinatra and some esoteric songs that the audience was not familiar with. But there enthusiasm cannot be beat. Dan and the Journey orchestra were excellent and an added bonus was the show put on by him on the piano and Kristen Lee doing the vocals of torch songs, old standards, and ballads one late night. A concert pianist and a pop singer who had sung the old Love Boat theme song were both performers we enjoyed. We missed some of the other shows but the entertainment we saw was impressive. Shore Excursions—We usually travel independently and seldom use a ships shore excursions as we find them restrictive, expensive, and artificial. Their only asset is that they are convenient. We made an exception on this cruise as we took the ship's excursion in Tunis for $36 each and the one in Sicily for $34 each to Mt. Etna. Both were decent values. Other than that we went on our own. Many of the excursions ranged from $200 to $300 per person and often included lunch, which we do not need. One positive note is that the Journey does not attempt to discriminate against independent travelers as other cruise lines do. When you want to get off the ship you walk down to the gangplank and walk off to the dock or to the tenders. We have other lines attempt to restrict us from leaving their ships until the ship's tours have left or use a cumbersome numbering system to get off the ship. Thankfully, the Journey does none of that nonsense and recognizes that independent travelers should not be treated as second class citizens. Independent Travel—We rented a car in Sorrento for our two -day stop and drove to Pompeii to see the ruins and then on to Vesuvius which we climbed. They said it was a 20 minute climb to the top but it took us 40. We are 66 and 59. The second day we drove the Amalfi coast to Ravello and stopped in Amalfi and Positano as well as other scenic spots along the way. We felt that this was great value for the cost and it had been a lifetime dream of mine to drive the Amalfi coast and match my skill with the aggressive Italian drivers. Total cost for the two day rental car from Avis was car $192, parking 15E, and gas 10E. None of the ships tours went to Vesuvius or Ravello and if we would have done the ships tours it would have been more than $400 and we would not have seen as much. To the best of my knowledge we were the only ones to rent a car and drive the Amalfi coast. Most of the passengers were experienced and well traveled and in terms of age we were right in the middle. On Malta we hired a cab to take us around for 45E for 2 hours. Our stops were the Presidential gardens, a glass blowing operation, a gold and silver store and the Medieval town of Mdina. Our tour took 2 ½ hours and afterwards we walked around Valleta and enjoyed seeing the graduating college students in nursing, notaries, and lawyers celebrate. We took public busses and trains to Pisa and Florence from Livorno. The train station in Livorno told us we could take the 4:27 back to Livorno. When we got to the train station to return from Florence they told us there was no 4:27 because it was cancelled on Sunday. We could take the 5:25 but it would not arrive until 6:58 and the ship was leaving at 7:00. It looked like we might miss a ship for the first time in 27 cruises. Eventually we found a train to Pisa that would leave at 4:58 and get into Pisa at 6:10. We took that train and it arrived in Pisa 5 minutes early; we raced through the train station and found a cab to take us to the ship in Livorno for 45E. An extra expense we had not counted on but we got to the ship at 6:40 and were not late. This is one of the pitfalls of independent travel—it is not as secure as the ships tours. If we missed the ship we would have taken the train to Portofino—our scheduled next stop. The ship could not land in Portofino because of the weather so we diverted to Genoa. We had to scuttle our planned train trip to the five villages of Cinque Terre and Genoa became a rest day with one quick trip on the free shuttle around the city during the heavy rains. We rented a car from Sixt in Monaco to do the French Riviera to Cannes, Nice, Villefrance, and Cap Ferrat. It was a new Peugeot for 50E + 14E in gas, a good deal booked on the Internet before we left. Compared to the Amalfi coast this drive was a breeze. It is something to see the fashionable European women walking the promenades of Cannes and Nice all dressed up and many had their little dogs. We ate lunch on the promenade in Cannes with sandwiches we had packed that morning at the breakfast buffet. In fact, when we are trekking for the day we always pack sandwiches with the French rolls and deli meats and cheeses from the buffet. We are almost always gone for the whole day so we do not have the opportunity to eat lunch on the ship. We bring baggies and ties from home to pack the sandwiches. We had a great day with the many stops on the French Riviera and the only drawback was finding the rental car place to return the car. It was in a Marriot Hotel in Cap d Ai a town adjacent to Monoco. We could see the Marriott sign from the highway but because of all the construction it was difficult to figure out the route to hotel. We finally made it but it was after 6:00 and they were closed so we dropped the keys off at the Mariott front desk and made our way back to the ship by public bus. We took a public busses and trains to Bandol and St. Cyr out of our Toulon stop as it proved to be too difficult to get to San Tropez where we wanted to go. These are picturesque towns but were nearly deserted as it is the off season. After partial day at sea we arrived in Barcelona at 3:00 PM. We stayed on the ship as we had visited Barcelona before. THE BAD The room design has three major flaws: the bathroom was big enough but needed two more inches in width in the shower; in sitting on the toilet my right knee had to curve a bit as I sat as the wall so close; the third flaw "reading lighting" fits into the "Ugly" category. There is a strange door situation between the open bathroom door and the closet as they seem to open the wrong way and run into each other. The bathroom door swings into the hall area and bangs against the closet when it is open. This is a choke point in the room that could have been avoided by having the door open to the room rather than the hall. The server cutting the ham in the morning (excellent quality and offered every other day) had trouble slicing it thin even when asked to. He tended to chunk it. Maybe the cutlery he was using was not sharp enough. He was also in charge of making the eggs and omelettes which were good but he could not cook them soft or over easy partly because he did not have the skill and his pan was too hot. Most Americans like their eggs over-cooked so it is not a problem but I like mine soft in the French style. Actually the knives left something to be desired in all the restaurants. My wife and I usually resorted to using our Swiss army knives that we always carry to cut the meat. It was a better choice than having the meat end up in our lap because of a dull knife. Inexplicably, the second time we ate in Prime C my wife's Ribeye Cowboy steak was served well done after she ordered it medium rare. The brought her a new steak which took some time to prepare. They were very apologetic about it and the Executive chief even came to our table to apologize—a nice gesture. My wife commented on how much we enjoyed the Wild Mushroom soup and the Executive Chief brought her the recipe. That is class. Sadly the replacement ribeye was rather tough but we did not say anything as they already felt bad enough about the mistake on the first ribeye. The one espresso machine that made decent espresso was located on the fantail outside of the buffet (Windows) restaurant. Of course after three days the "out of order" sign went up. I asked them to fix it but they either did not understand or did not have anyone on board that could do it. This is a problem on other cruise lines as well (Holland American's Amsterdam VI) and I don't understand why they do not have either a spare machine or they do not train someone to fix it. Eventually they did fix it and they admitted they had trouble figuring it out because it was a new and different machine than the others in Windows. Some comments we heard from other guests but we did not experience directly were that the casino when we were at sea closed at midnight, even the slots. We are non- gamblers but in my former life as a gambler that would have made me angry. Also, the $200—$325 price tag on some of the tours in Italy were thought to be excessive. THE UGLY The lighting for reading in bed is atrocious. The two night stands each have a table light on them (they are too low and are really mood lights rather than reading lights) but these are anchored to the table so they cannot be move closer to your body to be used. This problem could have been avoided if canned lights would have been placed in the ceiling to act as reading lights over each person's bed. They did put three canned lights in the room but one is in the hall, one over the desk, and one is at the foot of the bed. There is also no canned light to illuminate the largest closet—it is very dark and hard to see your clothes. The put canned lights in the room but there placement is not good and they need more of them. Surprisingly the carpet needed a good shampooing or needed to be replaced as it was worn and looked tired. Departure— We had a 9:00 flight out of Barcelona on British Air so we were up at 5:30, went to Windows for breakfast at 6:15 and it was jammed. After breakfast we carried our luggage off the ship—we were the first ones off—and went outside the terminal and hired a taxi to take us to the airport for 35 E. When we got there we had a one hour line at BA to check in and check our bags and we were in the fast bag drop. You have to wonder what the slow bag drop would be like. We made our flight got to Heathrow and then did the Heathrow shuffle to get on our flight back to the U.S. The 10 ½ hour flight back to LAX was uneventful and it was nice to have some breathing room in a not full cabin in premium economy. Final Assessment—Would we take an Azamara cruise again. Absolutely. A perfect sized ship with interesting itineraries. The service staff was exceptional; they really made an effort to please. This is the first time since the automatic tipping went into effect about 10 years ago that approached the old fashioned service that we used to get before the automatic tipping. I still miss handing out those brown envelopes. The automatic of $12.25 a day is on the high end of the spectrum but it is deserved. Our Butler Ivan did a generally good job and his assistant Husan was outstanding. He even took our bags down the runway on departure day. Other things we really liked were no blaring announcements in the rooms. We did the trivia a few times but with so many port days not as much as we usually do. It was well run and we won 4 book reading lights and a bookmark. Some of the events give instant gratification to the winners while other you earn points that can be redeemed for prizes at the end. We prefer the former system but prizes and point system allowed non -winners who also participated to get something. We will be studying Azamara's itineraries and look forward to booking them in the future. Let me know what you think of this review. If you want to contact me by E-mail for any other information, especially about independent travel on cruise ships, I am tombarnes1@cox.net Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
We selected Azamara based on the recommendation of our T/A. We have sailed HAL numerous times, and Princess cruises once. The Azamara Journey was presented as a 'boutique' cruise line, similar to Oceana Cruise Lines. ... Read More
We selected Azamara based on the recommendation of our T/A. We have sailed HAL numerous times, and Princess cruises once. The Azamara Journey was presented as a 'boutique' cruise line, similar to Oceana Cruise Lines. Here's the down and dirty: Cruise ship was great; small and intimate. Very well maintained. Ports were fabulous! Holy Lands were a once in a lifetime experience. A must see for everyone... Staff was very courteous and gracious. Food was generally excellent. The main restaurant as well as the two 'special' restaurants were VERY GOOD. We did not care for the food in the buffet area. Quality in the buffet area was generally lacking. Coffee was uniformly AWFUL. Azamara really needs to pay attention to this detail. Entertainment: Orchestra was very good. Very! Singers/Dancers..well, they did what they could. Some of them were rather long of tooth and appeared to be arthritic.. While the entertainment was not great, it was passable. Cost: very competitive. We feel it was a very good value. Shore excursions: Staff was very helpful. Prices were somewhat high IMHO. Would we go again: Perhaps...maybe...probably.. DW and I do not think that Azamara is quite as good as Holland America. HAL's food is consistently superior, in the buffet section as well as their main restaurants. Staff on HAL were much more 'personable'. We noted that while the staff on Azamara was very good and courteous, they were not as warm or friendly as the HAL staff. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
We have cruised "off and on" for the last 35 years but much more recently on Celebrity, RCCL, NCL, Oceania and now Azamara. We had a Sunset View Balcony at the front of the ship on Deck 7 - has the advantage of no cover over so ... Read More
We have cruised "off and on" for the last 35 years but much more recently on Celebrity, RCCL, NCL, Oceania and now Azamara. We had a Sunset View Balcony at the front of the ship on Deck 7 - has the advantage of no cover over so you can breakfast in the sun with room service. Great to see the crew at work on docking and leaving and first glimpses of a new port memorable. Bathrooms are small but adequate and there is enough cupboard space as on fly cruises 23kg of luggage is all you can take. There is an excellent self service laundromat on board with American washers and dryers but the ironing boards are a bit small!!The ship is extremely well maintained nothing "tacky" or too bright and the staff constantly cleaning. Santizing before all meals and reboarding was mandatory and a good thing too. Open Dining is a big plus as is not having to pack a dinner jacket for formal nights The staff were excellent and after four days the maitre'd of Discovery dining room knew our name and room number! Nathan in the Martini bar, on my second visit, said "your usual sir!" Food first class and Aqualina is certainly to the same standard as Michelin star restaurants in London. Downsides - Brits are a bit aghast at 18% service charge on all drinks and the bar prices are quite high. As there is open dining $12.25 per person per night for gratuities is added to accounts to cover all staff. Shore excursions are very expensive and there is either $10 or $15 for the shuttle bus into town. The internet is a better source for much cheaper shore excursions and with perhaps 6 people joining up through Cruise Critic get much more individual attention and not hanging around for someone on a coach load of 50 people who has disappeard at the last minute to use the toilet. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Cruise to the Holy Land 2009 "Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the ... Read More
Cruise to the Holy Land 2009 "Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can." We decided to fly from our home in Greece, via Athens airport, the night before our cruise and stayed at Hotel Bramante. This had been recommended by a range of cruisers, mostly because they offered a taxi transfer from Fiumicino at a better rate than cab and limo companies I'd researched and they also provided free transfers to the ship the next morning. It was a very pleasant hotel indeed and we were thrilled with our choice. The breakfast room the next morning was full of people, mostly Americans, off on various cruises, though only one other couple were travelling on Azamara Journey with us and these two soon became good friends on board. Once at the cruise terminal we were checked in incredibly quickly, however and once on board and provided with champagne we began to relax in the gorgeous surroundings of the Journey. It's a small ship but wonderfully fitted out, with many features reminiscent of a gentlemen's club, with tasteful artworks and trompe l'oeil effects in various places. Inside our stateroom we were very pleased to find a bigger room than some of the reviews had led us to expect, with an excellent balcony. This was wonderful for us, since it had a good sized table at which we enjoyed breakfast most mornings. I was pleased to find room-service breakfast on Azamara is much than on Celebrity (and certainly better than the concierge menu), with lots of well-cooked and innovative 'set' dishes as well as a good choice of individual items. Breakfast always came within the requested time, heralded as usual by a phone call The 'butler' of which Azamara make a great fuss is only a flashy stateroom attendant (the butlers wear tailcoats!), but our man Manish was very good, providing an unobtrusive yet efficient service and keeping our room and bathroom scrupulously clean and ensuring we had plenty of water, ice, fruit and chocolates (the night-time pillow treats on Azamara are hand-made, served on a plate and not on your pillow and include such things as chocolate-dipped strawberries, hand-made chocolates and truffles.) Now, I've eaten in some very good restaurants in Britain and can honestly say that the food on Journey competes with the best of those restaurants. We ate twice in Aqualina and once in Prime C , originally intending to go back for more times (you're entitled to two visits but they'll let you have more if there are spaces) but decided that the main dining room, Discoveries, was extraordinarily good. I like the room itself very much and very much appreciated the way the maitre 'd understood quickly which table we liked best and managed to keep it for us every night, so that we could be served by the lovely and very funny Alex. It was in Discoveries that I had what I think might rank as the best meal of my entire life. The lobster main course was even better than the one we had on the Orient Express a few years ago and the dessert involved what I can only describe as a giant Belgian chocolate on my plate, together with a pot made of white and dark chocolate filled with chocolate mousse. What's not to like? Entertainment on Journey is mostly cabaret style, which suited us down to the ground. Musicians around the ship included an excellent harpist, a guitarist and a pianist/singer. Activities staff organised a range of events and both the guest lecturer Jon and excursions manager Jean-Michel gave excellent talks on ports of call. It was good to find that these talks did not include any of the usual 'here are the shops we want you to go to' and concentrated instead on what there was to see and the history and culture behind it. Much of what we liked about Azamara - and what made it a definite cut above Celebrity, is current sister company (though, apparently, Azamara will soon float on its own, though still as part of the RCI family) - were the little 'touches' that were provided at various times. All cabin grades get what amounts to concierge class, but with better extras, such as the two much better quality tote bags. Go for an early morning run round the jogging track and you'll find a table laden with jugs of cold juice and iced water; whilst you wait in the cabaret lounge to go on your excursion there's a table with coffee, tea and pastries, just in case you're still peckish so soon after breakfast. Good quality Elemis 'proper' bottles of toiletries are provided in the stateroom bathroom. Azamara are rightly proud that they don't hound you for every cent they can squeeze out of you like other ships. Like many fellow guests, especially our American, Canadian and Australian friends, we booked this cruise for its itinerary - we had two nights in Israel and two in Egypt, as well as stops in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey - and we were not disappointed. The pyramids are awesome, absolutely breathtaking and I have no idea what those who complain about their proximity to the modern city of Cairo are on about. We did some very aggressive haggling with the peddlers at the pyramids and got some great prices on the items we'd set out hearts on buying. Perhaps our greatest coup was achieved by talking to the bloke in both Greek and Italian, neither of which he could speak, resulting in getting a fine table cloth for 2 Euros. 3 t shirts for 10 Euros was another good buy - 14 years previously I'd paid 1 British pound for a t shirt I still have (despite all the warnings from guides not to trust the stuff they sell on the streets) and expected some degree of inflation, but felt 3 for 10E was a good price. We opted to take the ship's tours in Egypt and Israel as we were nervous about booking private tours, perhaps with good reason - on the Egyptian tours there was a fully armed security guard on every bus. There were two passengers who did their own thing in Alexandria and didn't make it back for the sail-away, I'm sorry to say - but I'm glad it wasn't me. On our other stops we mostly did our own thing, having a splendid time on our first day in Sorrento where we bought some good quality Italian wines to bring home (as Greek wine is execrable) and scored some outstanding Xmas shopping bargains. In Rhodes, which we've visited before but never tire of (we were only there in September, in fact, as we have Greek family there) we went back into gorgeous Rhodes town for a wander and a spot of Xmas shopping before re-boarding the ship, which docks right outside the medieval city gates. Chios was a big surprise. It was the last day of the cruise and nobody felt much like doing any sightseeing, so nearly everyone just wandered ashore (the ship docked alongside the waterfront) and walked round the town. It turned out to be lovely - Chios is quite a well-to-do place and has a very lively, untouristy harbour town, which absolutely buzzed on a Saturday morning. We definitely plan to return, hire a car and see what we missed on the island. Disembarkation on Azamara is completely pain-free, civilised and easy; we were off the ship twenty minutes earlier than forecast, in our booked taxi and heading for the Corinth canal by 9.30am, reaching home within two hours. We left the ship at the end of the cruise feeling bereft - we made a lot of new friends aboard - it being a relatively small ship, it's so much easier to meet and get along with fellow cruisers - and greatly enjoyed meeting crew and officers regularly around the ship. We're back on Azamara Journey in a year's time to do the repositioning to Miami, but who knows if we'll hold out that long! 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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