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Sail Date: October 2009
Review of Azamara Journey Cruise - October 11-25, 2009 - Southern Mediterranean This was the trip of a lifetime. The ports coupled with the exceptional cruise experience will make it a vacation that's hard to top. We had previously ... Read More
Review of Azamara Journey Cruise - October 11-25, 2009 - Southern Mediterranean This was the trip of a lifetime. The ports coupled with the exceptional cruise experience will make it a vacation that's hard to top. We had previously sailed with Royal Caribbean and others, most recently on the Liberty and Freedom of the Seas. Everything good we heard about Azamara was true. We loved the small ship experience that the Journey provided - few lines, usually easy to get a lounger by the pool, etc. The food was exceptional. I never thought that I could be tired of jumbo shrimp and scallops, but by the end of this cruise, I was! The attitude of staff on the ship was amazing. Generally, staff really take pride in their ship and the service they provided. This was most evident when commented on the mid-cruise survey that the service in the Breezes cafe (buffet restaurant) was inconsistent -- there were lots of waiters around, but they weren't helpful in getting drinks or anything else we needed after we got our food. Within 1 day of that comment, the food and beverage manager approached us directly to thank us for our feedback. We saw immediate, though short-lived improvement. A couple of nights later we were dining with a couple that ordered some wine at the start of dinner. They finished their dinner and the wine still hadn't come. Not impressive, especially considering it didn't seem passengers (in general) were drinking very much and liquor sales are a major source of revenue. The service in the main and specialty restaurants was exceptional. We witnessed the bread basket (that we didn't finish) being recycled to someone else's table! Our room was switched at time of embarkation to 4018. Unfortunately this was directly above the gangway, and we received an early wake up call from all of the noise each day the ship was docked or tendered (12 out of 14 days). The noise and duration made it next to impossible to sleep through. I would highly recommend that you avoid this room if sleeping past 6 a.m. is important. We had a lot of excursions for the first week of the cruise, so we were getting up anyway, but by the second week when we were taking things easier, we decided to comment to Guest Relations. They suggested we could move rooms, but at this point to pack and unpack felt like a lot of work. The creative solution was to offer us another room to sleep in. Ideally, we wouldn't have had to go through any of this, but the solution that was offered was creative. (I don't know what they would have done if the ship had been full....) As I mentioned earlier, the food was exceptional in all restaurants. The homemade ice creams were incredible. I really appreciated the healthy choices that were always available. The "If there's anything you would like, even if it's not on the menu" was a delight! Previous reviews have commented on the entertainment. It is what it is. The Staff Captain said that they recognize it's not the best and it's a deliberate choice in order to keep the prices of the cruises less than Oceania. We had dinner with the Staff Captain one night. It was refreshing to hear him speak so candidly about the ship and the cruise industry in general. Towards the end of our cruise the president of Azamara and several Celebrity executives came on board. In the days leading up to this, we saw a tremendous about of painting and polishing being done! On the day the boarded the ship, a fresh red carpet was on the gangway! It felt like Royalty was arriving! Talking with some of the Journey's management following their meetings with the executives, they indicated that Azamara's prices will be going up, as well as they will be looking for additional ways in increase on-board revenue. My hope is that Azamara retains the quality and value that they provided on our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Azamara Journey 11th October 2009 A lot of what I am saying in this review has been said before but is worth repeating. This was our third cruise with Azamara with a fourth booked for 2010 which indicates how much we like Azamara. ... Read More
Azamara Journey 11th October 2009 A lot of what I am saying in this review has been said before but is worth repeating. This was our third cruise with Azamara with a fourth booked for 2010 which indicates how much we like Azamara. The first successful ingredient is the size of the ship which allows passengers to meet others and make friends more easily. The second is the wonderful people from Captain Georgios Theodorou to all the staff who go out of their way to ensure that your requests/complaints are met and always with a smile. Leisl, of the Captains club /future cruises with her lovely mischievous ways. Ryszard Gusmann who went the extra mile to source the wonderful beef served (so I can torment our local butcher!) and who is working hard to get the good coffee we all like! Hotel Director Heike Cramer with a lovely smile for all. Tony Markey Cruise Director who works so hard to entertain us. I hope he can persuade the powers that be that a little more classics would be appreciated. The pianist, harp player and the lovely Jazz band that greeted tired passenger returning to the ship from Egypt were all so appreciated. Third is open seating that allows people to eat alone, if feeling tired or unsociable, or on larger tables where interesting people can be met. We met lots of lovely and interesting people. Fourth is the wonderful food, both in the speciality restaurants and, if feeling casual after a tiring day, the Breeza where the buffet choice is exceptional. The breakfast has so much choice and can be enjoyed on the open deck. This we did on most days. Fifth is the interesting itinerary. This was very port intensive (which we enjoy) and could be better balanced. We have suggested a sea day between Egypt and Israel to recover from the 10 hour day excursions. Some irritations still remain and have been noted to staff.. We do not like the charges for the shuttle bus (which have doubled since May!) and when shore excursions are cancelled due to lack of support we feel the ship could do more. It is not unreasonable to have reserve arrangements available (say; for a smaller bus) or at least the ship could facilitate introductions for those passengers that were interested so that they could make alternative arrangements. Finally we have advised and written before about perceived weaknesses and are very pleased to record that notice has been taken and many elements improved. The port and shore excursion information, that is very useful for independent travellers, and the very informative Port lecturer presented the details in a way that was easily understandable. Keep smiling and listening Azamara . We look forward to meeting you again next year. . Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Azamara Journey - Southeastern Mediterranean (October 11, 2009 - October 25, 2009) "The Pursuit of Excellence" Reflecting on the voyage, I would characterize the ethos of the ship's officers, staff, and crew as ... Read More
Azamara Journey - Southeastern Mediterranean (October 11, 2009 - October 25, 2009) "The Pursuit of Excellence" Reflecting on the voyage, I would characterize the ethos of the ship's officers, staff, and crew as having a focus on this motivation by demonstrated behavior and actions. For the record, we are in no way connected to the cruise company or any travel business - we are experienced cruisers - on the Azamara Journey and mostly on Celebrity ships but also with Royal Caribbean and Holland America. Now, on to some specific observations and reflections: Azamara - The Product is Cruise Experiences - the Strength is its People After completing our second voyage on the Azamara Journey, our conclusion is that we had two outstanding cruise experiences due to the wonderful people who serve on this ship. This time, the top leadership setting a tone of excellence were Captain Georgios Theodorou, Staff Captain Manos Aposkitis, Hotel Director Heike Cramer, and Food and Beverage Manager Ryszard Gusmann, It can be said that all the crew and staff 'have got it' - they consistently provide great customer service with a smile and go out of their way to please and 'do what needs to be done and do it well'. It was especially heartwarming to renew the friendships with many of the staff whom we had met on previous voyages. Embarkation and Sailing The embarkation process at the port of Piraeus was terribly delayed by the Port's Government officer responsible for passport control. He took 'his sweet time' to get into his station, simply to demonstrate that 'all were beholden to him' - how frustrating for the ship's management who were ready to receive passengers on board but couldn't proceed with the embarkation. The Onboard Experience Eating/Dining Having dined at Three-Star Michelin restaurants in Europe and at other fine dining establishments, leads one to have certain perspectives and expectations with respect to dining out. On the other hand, it is important to keep situations and circumstances in perspective, when it comes to eating and dining at sea. Based on our experience on the Azamara Journey, execution in everyday details is guided and exemplified by great leadership - service with excellence is provided under the direction of Heike Cramer (Hotel Director), assisted by Food and Beverage Manager, Ryszard and his team. The leadership is constantly practicing MBWA—Management By Walking Around, checking and correcting and perfecting. It is indeed a great pleasure to eat and dine great food selections beautifully presented, in a variety of settings: 'Open Seating' main dining in Discoveries Dining Room, various daily buffet selections in Windows Cafe, and the upscale Specialty Dining Restaurants (Aqualina and Prime C). Some special features to be highlighted are the Sushi Bar, the fresh juice and smoothie bar, very good selections of appetizers, main course dishes, and a fabulous baking and dessert presentation. Evening dinners in the Dining Room were always a wonderful experience - being welcomed with a friendly greeting by Maitre'd Moustafa - having great food with great presentation served by several outstanding waiters, Mario, Darren, Philbert. Everyone, at every level, is tuned to providing excellent service with attention to details - the prevailing attitude is 'listening and following up' on any suggestions that are provided. Serving staff and all ship service personnel always greet cruisers in friendly ways and offer assistance at every turn. Stateroom and Service On the R-8 Class of ships, a long voyage is much more comfortable in one of the Sky Suites - more space in every sense - a large amount of storage space, a larger bathroom with a bathtub/shower, excellent products (Elemis) - really a nice way to 'clean up' and perform the 'beautification routines'. The towels are nice and thick and very absorbent and the bedding is great. How were we looked after by our stateroom attendants (butler and assistant)? Let's say it straight - "the team of Arvind, Alvin, and Kevin were terrific". We don't look to a butler to unpack or pack but we expect service with excellence and that is what it has been. These guys aimed to please in every way: extra champagne glasses and a cheese tray and a plate of prawns to host some guests were delivered; soiled shoes after visiting Egyptian cities were cleaned in short order; any small requests were looked after expeditiously - all in all, the stateroom service team performed very well and showed great disposition. Entertainment and Programming The efforts of Cruise Director Tony Markey are recognized. Although the stage entertainment was not always to our liking (obviously, a subjective assessment), we appreciated the high quality of classical and vocal talent being featured. Some of the social gathering areas like the Cova Cafe and the entrance area to the Main Dining Room, became very popular whenever the pianist and harpist performed. Other Amenities Thalassotherapy Pool at the front of the ship, accessed from the Spa area, is overpriced. The T-Pool is fine but not nearly as wonderful as in other Celebrity ships (disregarding the size aspect) - the seating rails are not a comfortable configuration. The Steam rooms (male and female rooms) are really good - marble benches and good space for six people of so. The ship's Internet Communication Service needs to be significantly improved - it works with one of the worst Login and Time-tracking scripts I have experienced on ships. Guest Relations is blessed with some wonderful people with great disposition and patience - Yasemin deserves special mention. Ports and Tours This southeastern Mediterranean cruise was a very port-intensive voyage with extensive tour packages offered. Orientations to ports and tours were provided by the Shore Excursions Director and the outstanding and highly stimulating onboard Destination Lecturer, Jon Fleming. Overall - this was an outstanding cruise experience - reassuring us, that Azamara is continuing its 'pursuit of perfection'. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
This was our fifth cruise and up to this point, I can say that we really don't like cruising and much prefer land vacations. We are definitely not the type of people who look at a cruise ship as a vacation in itself. Our sole ... Read More
This was our fifth cruise and up to this point, I can say that we really don't like cruising and much prefer land vacations. We are definitely not the type of people who look at a cruise ship as a vacation in itself. Our sole purpose in cruising is to be able to visit as many different places as possible by using the ship as our floating hotel. We don't go on the ship looking to make friends, participate in any activities, sit around the pool, spend hours eating, etc. So, I guess you can say that we are definitely not in the mainstream when it comes to people who like to cruise. However, I decided about a year ago that I would very much like to see many of the ancient and historical sites of Europe. Cruising seemed like the ideal way to go. After much research, I found Azamara which had this great itinerary that would enable us to make this once in a lifetime trip to Europe and be able to see 12 different places all from the comfort of a floating hotel. The idea of a smaller ship also appealed to me; the price kept dropping, airfare was low, so off we went. Now that we are back home after an absolutely amazing vacation, I can say that we have finally found a cruise ship that we liked and would sail again given the right itinerary. Here is why: (I'm pretty sure that the ship was fully booked) No lines for the elevator (most of the time, we were the only ones on the elevator). No lines for disembarking the ship each day. No lines for the tender. No lines at the buffet - at the most, two people in the omelet, smoothie, stir fry, ice cream, etc. stations. You get it - no lines. It actually took a few days to sink in that we didn't have to wait around for anything. No dressing up - we hate getting dressed up. DH could wear khakis and a nice polo shirt even to the specialty restaurants and I could wear nice slacks and a regular top. The buffet selections and quality were better than any other ship on which we have sailed. Never even bothered to go to the dining room. Ate at both Prime C and Aqualina and those meals were excellent. In the buffet, salad fixings were always fresh; wonderful fresh fruit selection at all meals; great stir fry station for dinner; smoothies in the morning (however, I had to give them a glass of ice to add as warm smoothies just didn't make it for me); best ice cream I have had in a long time; desserts were good to mediocre, but that is okay based on how many desserts I can manage to consume. Quiet atmosphere; only one small child that I saw. No kids running, yelling, etc. Really does make a difference. Friendliness and helpfulness of the staff - expected, sure, but somehow I agree with others that this just seemed to be genuine not forced for the customer. Self-service laundry allowed me to pack just enough for four days. If you pick when you go to the laundry, you never have to wait for a machine. Courtesy desks for port information and port talks by the excursion director that were not only entertaining (for his sense of humor) but didn't spend time hawking ship connected stores or any stores for that matter but gave you real information that one should know. WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: My husband said that the coffee tasted like dirt. He ended up filling his cup with cappucino and expresso and three sugars in order to get something he could drink. Only one of the water dispensers (the one on the outer deck of the Windows Cafe) dispensed water at a decent rate. This is certainly a small item, but when one drinks only water, standing there while your glass slowly fills, is annoying. Why all the machines don't work the same was a mystery. The ice dispenser is another story and only to be experienced - needless to say, the floor around each machine is always wet. We attended one scheduled talk from the Wellness Center. Well, I know from previous cruises that anything from the Wellness area is eventually trying to sell something, although on this ship it isn't hard core sales. We went to one on Herbal Medicine and it was so bad I was embarrassed for the person. The acupuncturist was the presenter and she sat there with her laptop reading about the history of herbal medicine and really didn't have anything to offer when presented with questions except to say that they had a product for that issue. We left as soon as we could. We went to one on Back Pain, but when we saw her coming with her laptop, we got out of there as soon as possible. Well, I can't think of anything else I didn't like, and that was stretching it. GENERAL COMMENTS: We only went to one scheduled activity/lecture. Sea days are deadly for us but on this very busy itinerary they were needed just to rest up between very busy days. I did notice that if you leave out the various trivia events, that would eliminate about half of your options. None of the speaker topics interested me, so didn't go to any of those. Even though I never saw the cruise director, Tony, more than a few minutes introducing an act or whatever, I loved watching his and Kelsey's preview of the activities - they made me laugh every time - I thought his sense of humor was a riot. We are early to bed early to rise people and typically don't go to the shows. I didn't expect entertainment like on the big ships. We went to Twisted TV and it was okay. We went to one show - can't remember his name - someone who said he had come from Las Vegas - a singer/trumpet player. He certainly looked like someone who belongs in Las Vegas, but his show was actually pretty good. The house band was much better than expected and I enjoyed it when they played on the pool deck the evening we were in Monte Carlo. Chair hogs at the pool. Now, I didn't experience this directly because I didn't once sit around the pool. However, I did notice walking by that there seemed to be no open lounges and a lot of them had a book, bag, or something on them with no one in sight. Might have been a problem, don't know for sure. Excursions: This time around I decided that if we had to rely on ship excursions that it would ruin the trip. So, after much research, I booked private drivers and sometimes drivers and guides for six of the ports and they were worth every cent and it was expensive just for the two of us, but that is what made this trip so amazing. As an example, in Rome, we didn't just see or drive by, but went inside the Coliseum without standing in any lines, went into the sites from the Angels and Demons movie, had photo ops from the top of a hill overlooking Rome, had a two-hour private tour of the entire Vatican area, and a many other sites. It was an amazing day. Since we had never been to Europe and don't speak any other language except some Spanish, we were reluctant to go it on our own. So, in three of the ports we took ship excursions - La Spezia (to Cinque Terre), in Chios and in Volos. The two in Chios and Volos were to a few pretty/interesting villages, but in reality the villages are so small with so little to see and not much shopping that most of the time is just sitting around the small squares waiting for the time to get back on the bus. We did them just to have something to do those days. Fitness Center - This was the only time when I wished I was on a larger ship, like the Radiance of the Seas. The weight equipment was adequate but a larger selection would have been nice (I missed the inner/outer thigh machine). There was the typical morning stretch class (about 20 minutes long) but after 2-3 times, it wasn't worth making the effort. I was hoping for some type of aerobics class, but even on the Radiance I was often the only one showing up for such a class - just not popular on vacations, I suppose. The conditioning classes on this ship were just not that great. The fitness director, Ray, did a fine job with what he had to work with, just a little disappointing. I think he actually had the worst job on the ship; probably bored to tears half the time. But, he was very nice and did his job well. Nauplion was skipped due to election issues in Greece and Messina substituted. That was a wasted day - port was nothing special - so actually was basically another sea day. Could have done without Volos and Chios as well. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
I normally don't write reviews on travel, but after such a wonderful experience I felt obliged to acknowledge the great product Azamara offers. Nothing in this world is perfect or guaranteed, but honestly, I don't think any ... Read More
I normally don't write reviews on travel, but after such a wonderful experience I felt obliged to acknowledge the great product Azamara offers. Nothing in this world is perfect or guaranteed, but honestly, I don't think any cruise line could have done any better. If I had to say what set this cruise apart from previous ones, it would be the friendly and attentive staff, the relaxed atmosphere, no line-ups for anything, and amazing food. We sailed on the Azamara Journey from September 27, 2009 for 14 days from Barcelona to Athens. This was our 5th cruise and we previously cruised on NCL (Jade and Pearl) and RCL. We chose the Journey because of the itinerary and based on the positive reviews (the price was quite reasonable too!). Also, we liked the idea of a smaller ship with less lines, announcements, crowds etc. The only reason I could think of why anyone would not love this cruise line is if you cherish large, splashy theatre shows, or require other amenities such as rock-climbing walls, bowling alleys etc. My thinking is that if you are travelling with teenagers they might find Azamara a bit dull in the evenings...but we left our teenagers at home this time (the house was still in tact when we got home!!). The Ship: Very easy to get around and well laid out. The decor was nice and refined, and the ship is in great shape. It has most everything the larger ships do, just on a smaller scale. We never felt crowded anywhere, and there were no line-ups for anything....really impressive and relaxing!! The library is well stocked, and even has a section for swapping books. My wife was a bit worried that on a smaller ship she would feel more motion, but that was not the case. We did not encounter any storms, but there were some fairly heavy seas and we found the ship very stable. Food and Liquor Needless to say, the food on this ship is fantastic! There were a couple of things that were less than completely perfect, but I don't see how they could realistically improve in this department without going into the crazy exotic world! The menu was varied, and the red meat was very good (the lamb was some of the best I have ever had). Salads and fruits were always fresh, and OMG those desserts were great too. I could go on and on about the many fabulous meals we had, but trust me....no matter what your tastes are you will be happy and likely heavier when you leave. Our only possible suggestion would be to make the portions a bit smaller! We are red wine drinkers and were concerned that the costs would be too high (since there are no wine packages). However, we found that the prices were the same we would pay in a restaurant at home, and sometimes even cheaper. They had some wines on sale ($5 off) now and then, and if you wanted you could buy as many as you wished and keep them in their cellar (they will bring to any restaurant/bar on the ship very quickly). They had some very nice Argentinean cabernet for $25! You are also allowed to bring 2 bottles with you at the start of the cruise. Staterooms We had a balcony cabin. It was tight around the end of the bed and in the bathroom, but very nice and comfortable. We loved our room and balcony... Entertainment We did not see most of the entertainment or lectures, but based on what we did see and other peoples comments it was quite nice, but low key. The theatre is very intimate and more like a night club. For us, with so many ports in Europe we were quite exhausted after dinner and a few drinks! That comfy bed in our balcony cabin was hard to resist... They do tape and replay the lectures on the TV, so we often picked that up in our cabin. Shore Excursions At each port they bring on board someone to answer questions (I think they were from the tourist information office). They were always very helpful and friendly...some were quite entertaining). This was a really valuable service, and they offered great ideas. For example in Monte Carlo we wanted to go into Nice and walk around the old town...the woman gave us a map, drew our route to walk to the bus, told us how much it cost etc, where to get off, that there was a market in Nice that day...and off we went. It was too easy!! The ships excursions were very similar to other cruise ships. The nice part again about a small ship is that you felt more like a human being rather than cattle. We never had to wait to get off the ship...just walked right off!! Even when we tendered there was minimal wait time. Staff This is one of the greatest strengths of this cruise ship. From what I read of other reviews this is also the case with the Quest. We had a Cruise Critic meet and greet on the first night on board and met the senior staff, so that was an advantage. After that EVERY time you passed them they would either give a warm greeting or stop and chat...and it was quite genuine. If you had any request they would go out of their way to assist you as well. Sometimes it was almost embarrassing...we felt a bit guilty! Special mention to Heike and Richard (Ryszard Gusman)...they are worth their weight in gold. I hope we get to see them again one day!! The waiters are all very friendly as well and even though there is no assigned seating over 14 days we got to know several of them. Special thanks to Alex Malana and Divani Pollon...your service was great and we had some good laughs as well! We did not have any problems with anyone on the ship. How they can keep up their spirits with a new boatload of cruisers every couple of weeks beats me...but I hope they keep up the good work! Weather and itinerary Some experienced travellers we spoke to said this was the best time to travel in the Med...and I guess they were right. We had great weather - just a couple of showers. Most days the high temp was in the mid 20's (about 75F). Last time we cruised the Med it was August, and that was too hot for us (high 30's every day....close to 100F). We enjoyed most of the places we saw. Most of Italy we had seen before, but it is always nice to go back anyways since you only scratch the surface in Europe! Ephesus was incredible, Istanbul was very interesting, and Chios was a lovely island (we rented a car and drove around the south of the island). Other Guests I would guess about 60% of guests were American, with a good percentage of Canadians and Brits. Ages ranged mostly from 40's to 70's. Everyone seemed nice and sociable and quite laid back. We were travelling with friends so mostly ate as our own group, but everyone was very friendly whenever we did stop to talk. Overall At the end of the cruise it was really hard to leave the ship....and that is after 14 days! This was a wonderful experience and was excellent value for money. If Azamara has an itinerary that works for you...go for it! I have been spoiled and it will be really hard to go back to the "big ships" - I know they are nice, but nothing like being pampered on Azamara. Is it too early to start looking for the next cruise??? Marcus and Val Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
On entering the Journey for the first time, it became clear very quickly that this ship is indeed identical to the Quest. This was an advantage as I already knew where everything was located. My partner hadn't been on a cruise ... Read More
On entering the Journey for the first time, it became clear very quickly that this ship is indeed identical to the Quest. This was an advantage as I already knew where everything was located. My partner hadn't been on a cruise before, but had read the many mixed reviews and took some of the negative points with a large pinch of salt, prepared to make up his own mind. We both liked the size of the ship, allowing for easy access to all the public areas. The Sky Suite, although not really a suite, was a good size. Having the bath was a bonus as it increased the size of the shower area. We had a look at one of the other staterooms and the bathroom area and noted that it was an adequate space, considering the amount of time spent in the shower. However, for us, the extra space and the larger room and balcony was what we preferred. I had stayed in a penthouse suite on the Quest last year and it was a fantastic space, however, considering we spent most of the time away from the room, I felt it wasn't worth the extra expense this year. The stateroom staff (butlers and head butler) kept our suite well stocked and immaculate. They were prompt and efficient in fulfilling any requests we had, such as extra bottles of water, ice bucket refills, toiletries etc and were never intrusive. The ship was well maintained. The public areas were kept very clean, inside and out, with regular paint refreshing and stair banister polishing. All impressive! The staff around the Pool area were suitably attentive, asking if they could bring drinks and clearing away empty glasses to keep the area tidy. They were always polite and friendly, which added to the general relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The dining experiences were generally excellent. We only ate in the main dining area (Discoveries) once as we tended to prefer the variety of the buffet or the fine dining in Prime C and Aqualina. Once again, the staff were attentive, friendly and very helpful. The only danger was the 24 hour eating options available on the ship...clearly only a danger if you had the capacity to eat for 24 hours a day. There was always variety and plenty to chose from. The entertainment was as expected on a smaller ship but adequate, depending on what you wanted to see/do. We enjoyed taking part in the daily quizzes and chatting with others who took part on a daily basis. Evening entertainment was generally different musicians performing, or a great Comedienne, Diane Cousins, who was funny and a decent singer. The entertainment staff were enthusiastic and good at what they did. We enjoyed their company as well as some of the activities they provided. The ports on this cruise were generally very good. The only disappointing stop for us was Tunis. The rain didn't help, but it wasn't our cup of tea. The Tenders were well operated as were the shuttle buses when we were docked. In general, getting onshore was well managed. Our organised excursion to Pisa was cancelled last minute which was initially disappointing, however, it turned out to be a blessing, as the heavens opened and Pisa was a bit of a wash out. We opted to share a taxi with 3 others to see the leaning tower. We took our pictures, in the rain then went back to the ship to get dry. Our one sea day was quite rough at sea. We were lucky enough not to suffer with seasickness. The pool became a natural wave pool with the motion of the ship on the sea. It provided a lot of fun for those in the water and was soon very busy with lots of laughter as the water created wave after wave. That was the busiest day in the pool. The pool, in general was enjoyable and very clean. The temperature tended to vary from very cold to tepid. It was, however, very refreshing and welcome after sunbathing and becoming very hot! the ships information channel ran pretty much all day every day and was updated with useful information about the days excursions and daily activities. This, along with the daily itinerary, delivered the evening before, provided everything you needed to know. We used the spa deck a few times to enjoy the tranquility when we wanted to sunbathe away from the main pool deck. The thalassotherapy pool was enjoyable to a point, but on the very hot days, the hot water in the whirlpool made the experience a little uncomfortable. I doubt we'd pay for the use of the spa deck in future. It was $175 for a couple for the 2 weeks. The laundry service was excellent. The clothes returned were so clean and so well pressed it was a shame to wear them again, but also a pleasure. Well worth the money and saves having to pack a different outfit for every day of the cruise. Left room for taking gifts home. All in all, we found the Azamara experience very relaxing, friendly, satisfying and worthy of the 5 stars. I would say that if you want a relaxing cruise with the chance to see some of the Mediterranean ports that larger ships can't access, then Azamara is for you. If you want lots of entertainment options and activities, expecially in the evenings and that is important to you, then perhaps Azamara isn't for you. For us, the smaller ship with the more attentive, friendly staff, opportunity to see different ports in the Med and not feel rushed, pushed, overrun by children or waiting in long queues at food stations, was ideal. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
We decided to join Azamara Journey 2 days before departure from Copenhagen august 31, 2009. The only cabin not sold was an inside cabin - which we took. The cruise took us from Copenhagen to Barcelona and lasted 14 days. The boarding ... Read More
We decided to join Azamara Journey 2 days before departure from Copenhagen august 31, 2009. The only cabin not sold was an inside cabin - which we took. The cruise took us from Copenhagen to Barcelona and lasted 14 days. The boarding was the fastest we ever experienced, 5 minutes only. This was due to the fact that we printed our boarding pass online. Our cabin was as expected on the 8th floor. It was adequate for sleeping and shower, the only outside view you got was on channel 14 on the flat-screen TV showing the front of AZAMARA. The cabin service was just fantastic 2 guys took very good care of us during the whole cruise, our smallest request was fulfilled at once ( maybe it helped a lot - that I paid them 20 dlrs each within the first minute). I am a computer freak, the Internet on board are the fastest I ever experienced on any cruise. I could sit with my laptop all over the ship and use Skype with an amazing quality. The hotel-director Heike Cramer is a real champion. She is responsible for all the staff on board. Under her supervision and training they all act as "mini-Heike`s". The staff has been told that they are the face of AZAMARA, they all understood this. Always a big smile from everyone - trying all the can to please you in every aspect. If I had a cruise line, I would absolutely buy Heike to lead the staff - even at a costly price. The food on board was more than great, Azamara has two speciality restaurants, Aqualina and Prime C. No surcharge is paid to dine there, except 5 dlrs extra gratuity per person. The menu is out of this world, lobster, sea-bass etc etc. We dined in those restaurants 9 times out of 14 days. If this was in Copenhagen each dinner would have set us back 300 dlrs a head for sure. Being Danes we love real good coffee (not decaf), on 5th floor AZAMARA got the Cova Cafe. You got excellent service from 2 smiling girls. I am astonished to read in a review that a guy complained over paying 3 dlrs for the great coffee there, this guy should have stayed home. You get nice snacks with the coffee (free of charge of course). The passengers came mostly from USA, UK and Australia. I will guess that 80 percent was American - this made conversation very easy. I am a smoker, on AZAMARA you can smoke in the corner on Deck 9 - the pool deck and at deck 10 the Looking glass bar. We will for sure be back many times on AZAMARA Journey Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
Azamara Journey Copenhagen to Barcelona September 2009 The ship The ship is a small R class ship carrying about 650 passengers, the majority of cabins have balconies, and there are some larger suites on deck 8. There are 6 ... Read More
Azamara Journey Copenhagen to Barcelona September 2009 The ship The ship is a small R class ship carrying about 650 passengers, the majority of cabins have balconies, and there are some larger suites on deck 8. There are 6 bars/lounges and one main dining room and 2 alternative restaurants. The very large library is a lovely room with fireplace (non functioning!) and a grand piano. There is one pool with no magradome cover, a gym and spa and a small internet room. There is WiFi coverage throughout the ship including in the cabins. Reception, tours and future cruise desks are all on deck 4 around the atrium, most other public rooms are on deck 5 including the two small shops, the casino and the show lounge. On deck 10 forward is the Looking Glass Bar a crow's nest bar with great views. The self service Windows Cafe is on deck 9 We were welcomed on board with a complimentary glass of champagne which was the first of many small touches like iced water every day in the cabin; coffee tea and juices available all day. The only negative from our viewpoint was the shuttle charge around $20 pp in two of the ports we visited. Cabin 6076 Butler Kusairi and his assistant Ryan. Cabin 6076 is a roomy balcony cabin, there are 2 full length wardrobes and 1 half length with 4 small drawers, a dressing table with 4 drawers and 2 shelves and bedside cupboards with 2 shelves. There is a small 2 seat settee and a coffee table. The shower room is small but adequate, one cabinet and 3 open shelves. Elemis soap, shampoo and conditioner are provided as are 2 Frette bathrobes and complimentary slippers. With our grade of balcony cabin we also got afternoon tea and canapEs if desired, a fruit basket topped up every day and breakfast service in cabin. There is no charge for room service. Electrical sockets 2 European 22o volt & 2 American 110 volt sockets available, high enough to get adaptors in without a trailing adaptor. Dining There is one main dining room with free seating and 2 alternative restaurants with a $5 pp recommended tip. Prime C is a steak House and Aqualina a mainly fish based menu. Everyone can book 2 visits to each alternative venue and members of the Celebrity Captain's Club can book once before the cruise. If there are tables available you can actually go more often. We visited both alternatives and had excellent meals and first class service. However the main dining room food was better than we have encountered to date on cruise ships so we were not tempted to book more than our entitlement. We never found a problem getting a table in the main dining room and after our first night the waiters suggested we ask for one in their area again which we did and this made life easier for them and us as they got to know our likes and dislikes. Mohammed and Anton were very attentive as was the female sommelier (Magdalena?) Breakfasts we had in both the self service Windows cafe and the Cova cafe in the atrium area where they had paid-for coffees and a great range of pastries and sandwiches later in the day. Entertainment We are not show goers so we did not visit the theatre at all. Diane Cousins, a Welsh singer/comedienne was one act we had seen previously, there were a couple of musicians as well as the ship's own theatre group. The other activities were some lectures relating to the itinerary; craft, language, computer and sport classes as well as sports tournaments. What suited us were the number and quality of various quizzes. The Activities director Kelsey and her team were all bright and intelligent and as a result the quiz questions and variety were extremely well done. Most were team events and we got to know a lot of people! For each event you got a stamp for turning up and extra stamps for winning, and at the end of the cruise your cards were redeemed against prizes dependant on the number of stamps collected. The evening trivia quiz was attracting about 100 people on our small ship. The itinerary did lend itself to this as there were sea days almost every other day. Staff The staff were, without exception, pleasant and attentive and seemed to be more plentiful per head of passenger than on our other cruises to date. As an example our first evening aboard we dined at the Prime C with friends who had arrived that day. The waiters, Frederick and Michael, saw a birthday card and gift and when the time came to order sweets they arrived with a birthday cake! This was indicative of the "extra mile " attitude onboard. Azamara arrange a cocktail party with drinks and canapEs for the Cruise Critic forum members (as long as there are more than 25) and some of the officers attended including the cruise director Tony. We also were invited to visit, with about 18 others in our group, the bridge, galley and engine control room. We were asked to keep this quiet as not everyone had been invited. We don't know what criteria were used but they were all enjoyable and we did notice at least one other group doing similar tours. Later in the cruise there was a coffee morning for the CC group attended by Heike the Hotel Manager, Scott the F&B manager, Liesl the Captain's Club Manager and Tony the cruise Director. The purpose was to receive direct feedback about our experiences; all of which were listened to with interest and we certainly got the feeling that the Azamara crew were really anxious to please. Staff we came into contact with regularly all made an effort to greet you by name and took time to talk to you for a minute or two. It seems like a very happy ship to work on. Ports Copenhagen We arrived for a pre cruise stop at the Marriott Copenhagen on the 27th August. We flew out with SAS the flight was fine, everything was on time we landed at 1.05pm and were in the hotel at 1.35pm so no complaints there! The room is fine: super king bed shower and bath, lots of space. After unpacking the few things we need for our stop we went out for a walk round in the sunshine. We are only about 5 minutes walk from Tivoli so we start there and then headed off into town. There is an International Food Market in Nytorv square including some British stalls, everyone seems to be doing good business. We have a nice Italian meal in the square behind the Cathedral and head back for an early night. Friday we head off for the station about 5 minutes walk from the hotel and buy the 24hr 120Kr transport ticket and get the train to Helsingore which takes about 45 minutes along the coast. Turning left out of the station we follow the pedestrian arrows for the 20 minute walk to Kronborg Castle. The castle is quite small and I am sure Hamlet wasn't ever really there, but it is interesting and there is a good view across a very narrow strip of water to Sweden. Helsingore itself has a nice old town centre and we have a wander round and go inside a couple of nicely restored churches then get another train to Hillerod where we get the 701 bus outside the station to Frederiksborg Castle. The castle is in a beautiful setting on a lake and has lovely formal Italianate gardens. It houses a museum about Danish history but we opt to just walk around the grounds. We then walk back to the station and get the train back to Copenhagen. That evening we meet up with old pals from P&O cruising and have a lovely natter and bite to eat in the hotel. Next morning we get the only taxi driver in Copenhagen who didn't know where Rosenborg Castle wss, so we showed him the map of the city centre to refresh his memory and get there in about 10 minutes! It has lovely baroque interiors and is home to the Danish Crown jewels which are very nicely presented. We then walk to Amalienborg Castle, look round the marble church and wait for the Royal Guard who have marched after us from the barracks at Rosenborg to change the guard at noon. We had a coffee in a lovely restaurant called Zeleste just off Nyhavn and then walked down Stroget to the Royal Copenhagen shop whose cafe was recommended for "Smushi" which are small smorgasbord open sandwiches, a very trendy place and hugely expensive, cost us £30 for 4 small sandwiches and 2 soft drinks! We carried on down Stroget and hid from a very brief thunderstorm in Il Condotori del Glace another Copenhagen institution where we were charged £20 for 2 coffees a cake and an ice cream! This is a very expensive city. That night we went to KrebseGaarden restaurant for Albert's birthday meal, this was a superb experience. Only 3 choices of starter, main and dessert, but beautiful cooking very fresh ingredients and excellent staff. We got a glass of Cava on the house to celebrate his birthday and had a super evening. Kiel Canal We started our transit of the canal about 7am so by the time we woke at 7.30am we were already well underway. The canal is surprisingly small and "domestic", it had the feel of a larger version of canals back home that narrow boats travel on. There were mainly fields alongside, although we did pass through some small towns and lots of people stopped to wave as we passed through, as not too many cruise ships go along the canal. We reached the final locks about 4pm and headed off towards Amsterdam. Amsterdam As Azamara is a small ship we berthed at the Passenger Terminal just 5 minutes walk from the Central Station, so we walked ashore and stopped for a coffee on our way to the Anne Frankhuis. We had pre booked tickets for the Anne Frank house online, which were for a one hour time slot and let us avoid the long queue waiting for tickets. The museum was well laid out and very moving. People seemed genuinely touched by what they were seeing. After this we found an Indonesian restaurant for a typical Dutch Rijsafel which is a little like an Asian tapas, small amounts of different dishes with a bowl of rice. We then walked around Amsterdam for about 3 hours before making our way to Pier 10 on the harbourside behind Central Station where we met up with our friends for a pleasant meal. Azamara was in port until midnight, but we slept through all our leave taking! Rouen In Rouen we had booked the ship's tour to Paris on your own. The coach did not leave until 9.30am so it was nearly 11.30 when we were dropped at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. We headed off to the first patisserie we could find (yellow awnings on Avenue de la Bourdonnais) which by luck was excellent, first class coffee and croissants and a sparkling clean toilet! We then walked back and took photos around the Tower and got on the hop on hop off Car Rouge bus tour (24€ pp) which gave a very good overview of the city. After a brief dash downstairs to avoid heavy rain we got off to explore inside Notre Dame. The church seemed to have been recently cleaned and restored on the outside and was a very busy area. We had lunch nearby which was OK but not brilliant and then walked to Sainte Chappelle but there was a long queue to get in so we got back on the bus to complete the tour as time was short. We headed back and got ff at the Trocadero behind the Eiffel Tower with some super views across Paris. The tour bus back set off at 4.30pm so not very long to see the sights but a good taster. La Rochelle There was a $15 dollar shuttle into town, but this seemed to have been organized by the port and they only sent 3 buses so there was quite a long wait for some people to get into town which was a 30 minute drive away. Then one bus broke down in the afternoon, so when we got back to the ship we were pleasantly surprised to have a letter advising that we had a full refund. The tourist information people provided a map and suggested walking tour of the historic town. La Rochelle itself is a beautifully maintained old town, with 4 towers guarding its ports one of which is now a very picturesque yachting marina. There are some excellent seafood restaurants around the old harbour where we had a lunch of fresh mussels and sardines before continuing our walking tour of the town. There were some lovely small shops in the galleried streets so a very pleasant place to while away a day. Bordeaux We were met at the port gate by Marjorie from the Bordeaux Taxi Assoc (contact@bordeaux-excursions.com ) whose services we had booked ahead of time via the Bordeaux Tourist Office. (Tour from 10am to 3.30pm for 4 people €280) She took us along the promenade and out to the St Emilion area, first stopping at the Petrus vineyard to see their grapes, unfortunately only professionals are invited to tastings there! We were booked onto a tour at the Franck Mayne winery, which is a beautifully restored chateau with about 45 hectares of land. Marjorie had told us a lot about the wine making process and this made it a lot easier to follow the tour. We went into the pressing area and into the old caves under the limestone plateau. This was followed by a tasting of two of the chateau's wines. Next we went to St Emilion for an excellent lunch at Chai Pascal where we had meats, pates, salmon and cheeses plus a bottle of excellent wine and 5 coffees for €64! Lunch was followed by a walking tour round the pretty town of St Emilion where we were lucky enough to see a very rare ceremony in the local church inducting two wine Chancelleurs who act as ambassadors for the area's wine growers. The town was very busy when we returned to the ship as it was Sunday and there were a lot of groups and families walking along the river or picnicking on the grass. Bordeaux itself will have to wait for a future visit to be explored. Vigo As we have visited Vigo previously on a number of occasions we merely had a walk around town and along the sea front in the sunshine, sat over a cup of coffee and went back on board for an idle day. Gibraltar Again we had visited many times before so intended only to stretch our legs, however it was Gibraltar's National Day, almost everything was closed and Casemates Square was packed with what seemed like the whole population bedecked in red and white and already very cheerful at mid morning, so we got a taxi straight back to the ship for yet another sea day! Palma We took a ship's tour to Valdemossa to visit the convent where Chopin and George Sands stayed. It was an early start and we reached the town in about 30 minutes so had a walking tour before the Convent opened at 9.30am, Then we had a tour round the cells that had been occupied by Chopin and a set of cells occupied previously by Carthusian monks. Our guide Julia was a very direct lady and was at pains to point out that Chopin had only been there for 55 days and that very little of what was displayed was his but it was an interesting experience and Valdemossa is a lovely village. We had a short time to wander round then we got off in Palma town and walked round there for a while, it was very busy being Saturday and the National Day of Mallorca! We took a taxi back to the ship as the shuttle cost $10 pp one way and the taxi was only €8. Barcelona Only too soon and time to to go home. We had opted for a direct flight at 8pm rather than going via Heathrow so we got to the airport at 8.30am collected our bags and took them to the left luggage area and got the bus back to Barcelona where we had an enjoyable lunch at Los Caracoles, a real rabbit warren of rooms that has been a restaurant since 1835 and you go through the kitchen to reach the dining area! A good recommendation from our fishmonger! Photos of the ship http://www.flickr.com/photos/jobloor/sets/72157622251229051/ Photos of the cruise http://www.flickr.com/photos/jobloor/sets/72157622250194275/ Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
I consider myself an experienced cruiser, at the age of 44. This may have been my 12'th cruise or so (it becomes hard to keep count). It was my third cruise of 2009 and my first with Azamara. I have sailed with Celebrity many times ... Read More
I consider myself an experienced cruiser, at the age of 44. This may have been my 12'th cruise or so (it becomes hard to keep count). It was my third cruise of 2009 and my first with Azamara. I have sailed with Celebrity many times including my first two of 2009 on the Infinity and the Solstice, so I knew what the minimum standard would be when I booked with Azamara. I was not disappointed. This was my first cruise on a smaller ship. I'm more used to the flashy behemoths like the Solstice where walking from one end of the ship to the other is like a shore excursion in itself. I wondered, would I be happy on a smaller boat. Would I be happy on what I consider an older refurb? Would there be enough to do? Would there be enough to eat? The answer is yes. My scale confirms that. In a nutshell, the staff really were excellent all around. They do go out of their way for you. Executive chef Lisa...what a dedicated genius. She is clearly an inspiration to her staff and it is reflected in the quality of the cuisine all around the ship....in the main dining room, in the buffet and at Aqualina and Prime C specialty restaurants. Her multiple cooking demonstrations involving her staff who are usually behind the scenes is commendable. I love fine cuisine, and quite frankly I usually lower my expectations on a cruise ship compared to my at home dining experiences. However the food exceeded my expectations. Even the afternoon tasty savories delivered to your stateroom are miles ahead of the non-descript canapes that Celebrity serves to Concierge class and above guests. For 13 out of 14 nights, we had breakfast room service usually on the balcony. Always delivered when requested. My only complaint on food and beverage: as expected, the standard coffee throughout the ship is DREADFUL. It essentially forces you to stop by Cova Cafe to pay for your. Personally as a deluxe cruise company, they really should provide better standard coffee. Our stateroom service was excellent. Never in the way. Always impeccably cleaned. The rooms are well appointed. The beds are comfortable. Showers small and water pressure could be a little better. Fluffy big towels and Frette bathrobes. Good interactive (but small) flat screen TV, with minimal loss of satellite signal on this sailing. The gym had everything I needed (except liposuction treatments). The Azamara crowd tends to be older than us on average so don't expect the youthful craziness of a Carnival cruise. It seems most Azamara guests are frequent cruisers. If you live in North America, I recommend purchasing an Azamara or Celebrity Passages $100 deposit for an unspecified future cruise if you like the brand, while on board. You will get $300 on board credit on a 14 day cruise (less for shorter). Unfortunately previously the deposit was applicable for both Azamara and Celebrity. Now your purchase has to be for Celebrity OR Azamara (or as I did, one for both). In short, it was a terrific cruise vacation and was a great way to spend two weeks in Europe. Other ports of call: Rouen: city itself is rather boring. I did not go to Paris as the drive is not worth it for the few hours there. La Rochelle: Lovely little city but terrible port far from the city. Shuttle service was a disaster getting to town so Azamara politely waived the $15 shuttle fee. Bordeaux: Totally awesome with the ship docking literally on the downtown waterfront. No terminal building. Beautiful city to visit and a drive to St. Emilion must be done. Car rentals are at the train station which is about a half hour walk or a tram ride. They have a beautiful modern tram system there. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
Our wonderful cruise began with a short flight from Heathrow to Copenhagen, followed by a very easy and inexpensive 12 minute train journey to Copenhagen Central Station then an expensive taxi ride to Frihaven where the Journey was ... Read More
Our wonderful cruise began with a short flight from Heathrow to Copenhagen, followed by a very easy and inexpensive 12 minute train journey to Copenhagen Central Station then an expensive taxi ride to Frihaven where the Journey was berthed. We arrived around 12noon and although the seemingly local staff were well intentioned, they didn't seem to know what they were doing. They got us to fill in forms about whether we had recently been ill or not and then asked us to sit in groups for a while. Eventually they called us to join a long queue to check in, even though we are Elite CC members and there was a separate check-in, they still directed us to the long queue! Anyway, it still only took about 20 minutes in total and we were soon welcomed on board with a glass of pink fizz. Once on board, we were invited to leave our carry-ons for transporting to our room, before going up to the Windows Cafe for a delicious lunch. Our room was ready at 1.30pm and it was perfect. We had a 2A balcony cabin (room 6017). It was a good size, lots of storage space, a fridge that was actually cold, binoculars and umbrella to use, slippers and tote bag to keep. Everything was good quality - lovely thick bathrobes, constantly changed luxurious towels, great bed linen, comfortable bed. The bathroom is small, but functional, with constant hot water at all times. Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and soap are all Elemis products. No shower gel is provided. The interactive tv worked very well and it was good to be able to see and check our on-board account growing rapidly day by day! We met our butler, Croox, who was really helpful, and immediately brought me a thin pillow, 40 extra coathangers and two wine glasses. You are permitted to bring on 2 bottles of wine at the beginning of the cruise but no more during it, unless you are happy for it to be confiscated until your departure. This seems a bit unfair as the cruise called at Bordeaux and offered excursions to various vineyards. I know this is a topic that has often been discussed on the boards, and I really think that they should allow one bottle of wine to be brought on board at each port of call. Okay, if you take it to the dining room, you can still pay the 25$ corkage fee. I don't think it would detract from bar sales on board either. We brought on our two bottles on arrival and we would have a glass with our evening canapEs on the balcony, but we still had cocktails before dinner, wine every night with dinner, and drinks in the bars following that. As 6017 is above the Cabaret lounge, we did experience some bass sounds from musicians practicing during the first afternoon on board. We thought we would have to ask to be moved but, fortunately, never experienced any problems after that. During performances we were always at dinner during the early evening show, around 8.15pm, and either enjoying the 10.15pm performance in the Cabaret lounge or would be doing something elsewhere on board. Everything was quiet by 11pm, so we never had to move. The ship is immaculately maintained, the food in all the restaurants is exquisite and the staff is Azamara's biggest asset. Their sole purpose in life on board seems to be to ensure that everything is as perfect as it can be for the guests. Nothing is too much trouble. We sailed on Journey 10 months ago and felt that it was the happiest ship we had ever sailed on and we would still say the same now. It was good to catch staff off-guard, chatting and joking with each other, so I really don't think the good humour was staged for the guests. We were staggered that some members of staff recognized us and even remembered our names from 10 months previously. How on earth do they do that? I'm sure we weren't that memorable, or troublesome! Entertainment and activities on board were very good. The guest artists were excellent, but the resident singers seemed to be somewhat immature, although most of them had fine voices. I understand this particular group was about to leave the ship. The Cruise Director, Tony Markey and Kelsey, the Activities Officer, did a brilliant job. There's plenty going on - something for everyone. No-one cajoles you to join in and there are no embarrassing, cringe-worthy games, but some excellent quizzes, cookery demonstrations, wine tastings and mixology sessions were held. We had a sea day between every port day during our 14 day cruise, and it was often difficult trying to fit in everything that we wanted to do and would often find we had missed something. The library on board is one of the best I've ever seen at sea and a beautiful place to chill. The enrichment lectures were really good. Most were loosely based on the ports of call but focused on history, wine, music, the arts etc and for once, not on shopping! In fact, there is no hard sell on anything on the Journey, which is an absolute plus for me. You really are treated as a guest not a cash cow. The ship was just about full and on some days there was a little difficulty in finding a sun bed around the pool /whirlpools but there is always the upper deck, 10. Pool service was good, with the staff constantly removing towels from the beds. Each afternoon they would come round with some little delicacy - sherbet and nuts or fruits, for example. There is no pressure to buy drinks and the pool staff will just as happily bring you a free coffee or juice as they will bring you a beer. Talking about coffee - there are some great self service coffee machines that grind the beans as you wait but others where it is obviously instant stuff - get to know which ones are which and you won't be one of those who complains about the coffee! Room service coffee is just the same - sometimes it was obviously freshly ground and other times instant. Food on board is delectable. Room service food always arrived on time and hot, with a phone call to let you know it was on its way. Discoveries, the main dining room is open for breakfast, lunch on some days, and dinner. We always ate around 8.30pm or later and never waited more than 3-4 minutes for a table, either for two or to share with others, if we chose. The food in Aqualina, one of the two speciality restaurants, is exquisite. The seafood platter is outstanding. It is served on a bed of crushed ice and contained half a lobster, green lipped mussels, snow crab, langoustines, clams etc. There is an excellent wine list too - different lists in different restaurants. You can always choose to have dinner in Breezas, which during the daytime is the Windows cafe. The quality of food is still excellent but the room could be made to look a little more inviting in the evening, perhaps by putting on tablecloths. The only noticeable change was a tea light on the table. One morning we were too late for the whole range of breakfast fare (it being past 10am) and my husband just commented to one of the waiters that we had missed it, but we would be happy with a late continental breakfast (available until 11am). "No problem, what would you like?" he was asked. His cooked breakfast was then promptly delivered to him. Just one example of the brilliant service on board. The afternoon canapEs, delivered to your stateroom, are also on a par - delicious little morsels. Those from our CC Roll Call met after muster drill on the first afternoon and quickly formed friendships. It was a great idea of Gary's to ask us to introduce ourselves and there was some hilarity when we had to give out the stupid names by which we are known on CC! On this 14 day repositioning cruise we sailed from the Baltic, across the North Sea, into the English Channel, out into the Bay of Biscay, around the Atlantic coast, before sailing into the Med. Each port day was followed by a sea day which provided a good opportunity to relax between exploring each new port of call. Our journey on 30 August began in Copenhagen, which was cooler than London but there was no need for anything more than a lightweight jacket. We left Copenhagen and sailed through the Kiel Canal, with people waving all the way. The Captain has one of those huge wavy hands that he responded with. He tooted the ship's hooter as people lining the canal called a welcome over their tannoys. It was great fun. In Amsterdam, the ship berths very close to the town centre and so it is an easy walk into town. We visited Anne Frank's house and had a canal ride, walking for around 5 hours before returning to the ship. We have visited Amsterdam a number of times and can recommend the Botanical Gardens. We have been wanting to visit the Maritime Museum for the past two or three years but restoration is taking much longer than expected. The next stop was in Rouen. It is a very interesting place and, of course, there is much to see in relation to Joan of Arc. As we had previously visited Rouen, this time we went to the Musee de Beaux Arts and Flaubert's House/the Musee de Medicine which also has a lovely physic garden. All my adult life I had wanted to visit La Rochelle and loved this beautiful little port with its ancient towers guarding the harbour. The harbour front was packed with fish restaurants and there was a complete street full of wonderful ice-cream shops. We spent an enjoyable hour or so visiting the Museum of Protestantism. The local brass band was on the harbour side when we arrived, they stayed there singing and playing all day long and only left when the ship did. I think we all knew their songs by the time we left, but it was so lovely and as we pulled away there were many towels, napkins etc to be seen waving to them from those on board. In Bordeaux the ship pulled right up to the quayside in the centre of town. What a beautiful city it is and I see that next year the ship stays in Bordeaux overnight. We went to the Zoo and just walked around, enjoying the parks, waterfalls, chocolatiers etc. The weather was lovely and warm and the sun was shining at last. In Vigo we took a ship's excursion to Santiago de Compostela. This was a great day out visiting the place where the relics of St James and his two disciples are contained. We saw pilgrims walking towards this ancient town and the cathedral was packed solid for the 12 o'clock mass. I think we were slightly shortchanged as our guide kept hurrying us on and telling us that time was short when, in fact, we were back on board an hour before we should have been. Next was Gibraltar. As it was their national day, the whole place was packed solid with tiny tots to great grandparents decked out in red and white. We enjoyed being a part of it all, though some of the young people did begin to look slightly worse for wear by mid afternoon. Our last port of call was Palma, Majorca. It was so hot walking along the waterfront but then we spotted a hop-on-hop-off bus and enjoyed a two hour tour of the city, all around the cathedral, shops, up to the old village, the castle etc, before heading back to the ship for a dip in the pool. Disembarking in Barcelona was so easy. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and waited for our 'colour' to be called and we boarded a coach for a tour of the city before being deposited at the airport for our short flight back to the UK. This was our second cruise on Azamara Journey and it was just as great as our first. If you are looking for a wonderful quality cruise where interesting itineraries, fantastic food, great lectures and a guest orientated staff are high priorities, I recommend Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
We booked this cruise because of the small size of the ship and the itinerary and were so glad we did!! We fell in love with the small ship experience, no crowds and the familiarity with the crew. The ship is beautiful and classy. It is ... Read More
We booked this cruise because of the small size of the ship and the itinerary and were so glad we did!! We fell in love with the small ship experience, no crowds and the familiarity with the crew. The ship is beautiful and classy. It is clean and in great shape. We had a balcony cabin. Although it was smaller than on other cruise lines,It was still adequate. The shower, however, was a bit small. They did furnish umbrellas, binoculars, fresh flowers, robes, slippers and fresh fruit in the rooms. The Butler, however, is nothing more than a room steward in a tux. The food in the dining room was very good. The specialty restaurants (2) are available with only a suggested 5.00PP gratuity, a real treat from the usual 30.00PP charges of most cruise lines. The activities included, amoung others, trivia, line dancing, arts and crafts, WII games, bingo, and name that tune. The activities staff was fun and energetic. The entertainment was okay. The onboard Cabaret Singers were just okay. Entertainers brought on the ship were good to excellent. Tony Markey, the Cruise Director, sang several times and was very good as both an entertainer and Cruise Director. However, if entertainment is your number 1 reason for cruising, I would not recommend this ship. The crew were probably the friendliest we have experienced. Always greeting you with smiles and many times by name. The small ship meant no lines, no crowds and personable service. It allowed us to actually dock right in the city of St. Petersburg, while the larger ships were docked in an industrial area outside the city center. From our balcony we could view the lights of the city at night. Just beautiful. Upon returning to the ship from ports we were always greeted with "Welcome Home" and that was the way we felt. They brought a representative from the tourist information center of most ports onboard to hand out info about the area. this was a great help, handing out maps, bus timetables and prices, literature, etc. We have never seen this done before. The Daily Pursuits also contained info about the port and sights to see. We booked all our tours for this cruise privately. Denrus in St. Petersburg, which was very good, but we would have preferred to have only had 2 days (instead of 3) and 1 additional day in one of the other ports. Warnemunde was one of the friendliest ports. We took the train to Wismar, had a private guided tour, then returned to the port. Tallinn Estonia was one of our favorite ports. Small, old and quaint. We just walked around the city. Helsinki was beautiful. We took the Hop On Hop Off bus around. Stockholm was our least favorite port, we took a city tour, then walked around the old town. We found it simply old, not quaint like Tallinn. Travemunde (another German port) was once again beautiful, friendly and fun to simply walk around. Many cruise lines constantly push photos, DVDs, "recommended shops", tours, etc. On this ship we were never pushed to buy anything and that was nice. This was our first experience with Azamara. We do intend to cruise with them again and have been recommending this cruise lines to our friends. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
We have cruised with Celebrity and Azamara before. This was our second cruise vacation on the Journey. We recommended the cruise to six friends and we managed to convince them to join us on this 14 day western Med. cruise from Copenhagen ... Read More
We have cruised with Celebrity and Azamara before. This was our second cruise vacation on the Journey. We recommended the cruise to six friends and we managed to convince them to join us on this 14 day western Med. cruise from Copenhagen to Barcelona. They all had a wonderful time (two of them are very experienced cruises, and the other four are "green-beans" to cruising. The Journey really stands out in its Food and Beverages department. Scott and Lisa "Brownie" and their teams are doing an excellent job in delivering an miraculous food experience. The staff on the Journey do not seem to know the word "no". They will always try to accommodate requests, even rather unreasonable ones. We requested Beef Wellington one night, and Lisa prepared it very well, we later on became known as the "Wellingtons". We had Escargot and roasted foie gras about 5 nights... No problems... We cannot compare the standard of the F&B department to what we experienced in May. This is perhaps slight worrying, as Azamara may be struggling with delivering consistency over time. we enjoyed all ports. La Rochelle was a rather interesting port as we were unable to leave the port on your own. This issue was swiftly resolved by the Hotel Manager offering one of the tour operators to take us in their car. There were some challenges with the pay-for shuttle bus service into town, but I understand that no guests were charged for this service in the end as it did not meet Azamara standards. A very professional way to win customer goodwill. The Journey is a perfect size ship. It never feels crowded and most facilities wee never over-used (including the gym). I only wish that they had a fresh-water pool on-board. Entertainment was a little weak for our age group, however, Philippe (the DJ) is excellent, and the bands are good. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
This was our first Azamara cruise; we picked it because of the itinerary, because we like smaller ships, and because of positive reviews we read on Cruise Critic. We will take another cruise on Azamara, given the right itinerary and ... Read More
This was our first Azamara cruise; we picked it because of the itinerary, because we like smaller ships, and because of positive reviews we read on Cruise Critic. We will take another cruise on Azamara, given the right itinerary and timing. We made our own travel arrangements, spending three days at the Copenhagen Marriott prior to the cruise. When we checked in, the desk clerk suggested we upgrade one of our rooms to the Executive level amenities, which included Internet service, unlimited items from the minibar, and access to the lounge with breakfast, snacks, hors d'oeuvres, and drinks for all three of us. We did, and found it well worth the incremental cost. Both of our rooms were clean, quiet, and well-appointed. On one day, we took the train from the central train station to Helsingor so we could visit Kronberg Castle. It was cold, rainy, and windy-just perfect for wandering around the castle grounds like a brooding Hamlet. We also enjoyed walking around the old part of town. We spent the other two days exploring Copenhagen, including Tivoli one evening. One night, we had an excellent dinner at Restaurant Peder Oxe, which is located at Graabroedretorv 11, in a peaceful old square with several restaurants, just steps away from the Stroget. The owner also operates the restaurant directly across the square from Peder Oxe, where we had brunch one day. Both restaurants are worth seeking out. On embarkation day, we took a taxi from the Marriott to the cruise terminal, arriving around 1:30PM. The line to check in was long, and the port staff we encountered in the terminal appeared to be well-meaning but not well trained. Different staff members gave us conflicting and inaccurate information about forms that we needed to complete, sending us back to the end of the line to fill out papers that we did not need to fill out. When we finally reached the check-in counter, the woman at the counter picked up her handbag and left without a word, presumably to take a break. The man that replaced her did not know how to check us in; eventually, the woman returned from her break and showed him what to do. I did not note the time we started the process, only the time I started to get annoyed, which was about 30 minutes before we completed checking in. We've taken many cruises on many lines, including out of Copenhagen, and have never encountered an embarkation remotely like this. Once we boarded the Journey and were greeted with glasses of sparkling wine, our moods brightened considerably. We were escorted to our rooms, and Pras, the head butler, and Alvin, the assistant butler, dropped by to introduce themselves and to offer their services. Within minutes, Pras had made reservations for us in the specialty restaurants. Both Pras and Alvin were helpful throughout the cruise; whenever we were in the hallway, either Pras or Alvin always seemed to be there, asking if we needed anything. Pras was particularly helpful when we were packing to leave, magically appearing with packaging materials for some delicate items I had purchased. Our rooms were in good condition and, like the rest of the ship, were kept spotless throughout the cruise. The two problems we reported-a slow tub drain and a difficult-to-open verandah door-were fixed immediately. We were pleased with the quality, variety, and presentation of the food in all the restaurants. We thought that the service everywhere, and especially in Aqualina where Alex and Roman took great care of us, was first rate. We never had a problem getting additional reservations in either specialty restaurant. We never had to wait for a table for three in the main dining room at lunch or at dinner. And, importantly, we never felt as though we were being rushed to make way for another party. All the staff we encountered were overwhelmingly pleasant and helpful. When our daughter was under the weather on one particularly rocky night, at least half a dozen different staff members approached her, unasked, offering their own surefire remedies for seasickness. (After a few ginger ales, a plate of crackers, and a green apple, the seas calmed down, and she felt fine again.) We loved the mix of large and small ports, all of which we explored on our own. We especially liked it when we were the only cruise ship in port at the smaller ports. The ship provided useful information and maps about each port in advance. Often, someone from the local tourist information board came onboard to provide additional information. It was quite refreshing. We attended the shows at the beginning of the cruise—in particular, we really enjoyed the performance by Doug Cameron, an incredible violinist. Later on, a combination of exhaustion from touring ports and queasiness from the rough seas kept us away from some of the shows. Debarkation was simple. We walked off the ship and located our color-coded luggage dock-side. There were plenty of taxis. Port staff directed us to a taxi that would accommodate the three of us and loaded our luggage in the taxi for us. We were at the airport about 25 minutes later and on our way home shortly after that. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
This was our ninth cruise and the first on Azamara. The weather was not great, it rained almost every day at some point. Even when not raining, we had to wear jackets to keep warm. There were very few kids on board and very few ... Read More
This was our ninth cruise and the first on Azamara. The weather was not great, it rained almost every day at some point. Even when not raining, we had to wear jackets to keep warm. There were very few kids on board and very few ancient decrepits. (Just in case you are wondering, I do hope I can still cruise when I am ancient and decrepit.) We met some nice folks, more so than on our previous cruises. The crew seemed eager to please and two of them went 'above and beyond' for us. We got the impression that they worked as hard as on other lines but were not so stressed. The ubiquitous Philip Herbert, Hotel Director, was friendly and approachable. If you had a comment to make, out came the little black book and he took a genuine interest. The highlight was, of course, St. Petersburg where we had three days and took a private tour with 4 other couples with Alla Tours. That was well worth it. Our guide was great and we had the flexibility of changing the plan in response to the weather or people's wishes. She also could get a small group like ours into the major sights without waiting. The sail into Stockholm was very pretty, we spent a day on our own taking the Molli train, we wandered around old Tallinn, Lubeck and Helsinki. The sailaway from Travemunde was great. We had a 32-piece male voice choir on quayside and the whole place turned out to wave us off. There must have been hundreds of people along the shore watching us pull out. We agree with others that there does not seem to be much point in the butler. He meets you on the first day in a tux but other than that might as well be a regular cabin attendant. There's a cabin attendant as well. We ordered room service for breakfast twice. Both times it was hot. Half an hour after it was delivered, we got a call asking if everything was fine. Dinner in the main dining room was O.K. Most of it was very good but the mains were disappointing, not very inspired and not hot. On the other hand, the two speciality restaurants were excellent and we managed to dine there six nights out of twelve. The highlights: seared foie gras, seared ahi tuna and the Grand Marnier souffle. Dale, the barman is a gem, as is Maggie, the sommelier. Nice touches: the loungers are solid teak with thick padding and a fitted towel cover which is changed every day. In our room we had heavy robes, slippers, fresh flowers and fruit and binoculars. Recognizing that we had only two sea days, we would have liked more guest lecturers. Our cruise experimented with something new - the Azamara 'High C's', (come on now, stop and think about it) a passenger choir professionally directed by Les Lankhorst. There were several rehearsals and a performance on the last night. Let it be said that the ship's entertainers still have secure employment. While this was our first cruise on Azamara, it certainly won't be the last. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
We cruised on the Azamara Journey 30 June 2009 12 night Baltic cruise out of Copenhagen, stopping in Warnemunde (3 hours from Berlin), Helsinki, St. Petersburg (3days, 2 nights), Tallinn, Stockholm (2 days, 1 night) and Travemunde (near ... Read More
We cruised on the Azamara Journey 30 June 2009 12 night Baltic cruise out of Copenhagen, stopping in Warnemunde (3 hours from Berlin), Helsinki, St. Petersburg (3days, 2 nights), Tallinn, Stockholm (2 days, 1 night) and Travemunde (near Lubeck). We signed up quite late (10 June) for a 1A (or higher) Balcony Guaranty at what we felt was a very good price considering that tips and air from Washington Dulles (IAD) were included. We had discussed doing a Baltic cruise sometime, and having cruised Celebrity a number of times we had discussed trying Azamara, but other than those two facts this sudden discussion was driven by the price offered.  Our GTY ended up being a Sunset Veranda (SV) facing forward immediately under the ship's Bridge (normally priced higher than a 1A).   Our Azamara last-minute procured air had a one hour British Air connection in London Heathrow (LHR). Although one hour is listed as a legal connection within Terminal 5, I think it would be missed probably 90% of the time, given that one has to deboard, go to the boarding pass check point, stand in line there, go up a floor, go through a Security Inspection, go down a floor and then locate your new gate. The Flight Service Manager [Purser/ Chief Flight Attendant] on our IAD-LHR could not believe this was a legal connection. Not only did we and the other Azamara couple on our IAD flight miss our LHR-CPH connection, but we were joined by 16(!) other people from other flights who also missed this connection. British Air did nothing to expedite our connection in LHR, but the service desk did get all of us on a later flight to CPH, and BA called Azamara's Copenhagen port agent for us so that we could let them know that we were confirmed for a 15:30 arrival at CPH. We arrived CPH at 15:30 and after getting all our suitcases (amazingly no bags had gone astray) and making it to our bus transfer we were on the ship at 17:00 (the Journey's scheduled departure time). We spent part of the extra time in LHR to buy some wine to have in our stateroom. There was actually a group of 14-16 (presumably from a connecting airport other than LHR [I never confirmed that]) who were trailing us by about half an hour who also made it to the ship. A Gold Star to the Journey for getting us on-board with grace, but a Black Star to Miami for starting with an overly optimistic schedule.   Arrival at the Journey was painless. Although I did not realize it at the time, upper level management including the Hotel Manager were there to make sure that everything went smoothly. On the ship we were greeted with Champagne and had a White Glove escort to our stateroom. In the Stateroom we had a notice that the Cruise Critic kick-off party was in half an hour, so were off. The Cruise Critic Mix & Mingle was relatively well attended by CC members, and I think (by this time I was a little groggy) by the AZ Journey Hotel Director, Cruise Director, Captain's Club Hostess and other officers. In as much as the ship was leaving the harbor of Copenhagen I don't think the Captain was in attendance, but that is certainly understandable.   We are fairly experienced cruisers (Celebrity 10+, RCI 6, NCL 2, Cunard, plus quite a number of small foreign based lines), but this was our first cruise on Azamara, and our first cruise on a "Deluxe" line (I guess that's what you call something between Celebrity ["Premium"] and "Luxury"). We were not disappointed. Service on the Journey was a definite step above Celebrity. This was especially noticeable in the Cafe were the main complaint would be that the tables were bussed too rapidly (watch your plate as you are getting low on food as it may disappear while you are not looking). Through out the ship the entire crew (not just the ones assigned to you) always had a cheerful greeting as you passed. Hotel staff from the Hotel Director Philip Herbert on down was friendlier and more accessible than any I have the pleasure of encountering. The Celebrity CC boards are full of people claiming that Celebrity's service is bound to slip because Celebrity implemented  an auto tipping policy early in 2009; Azamara has auto tipping and the service was definitely superior to Celebrity's good service. In my working years I was always on salary, and felt that good effort and results on my part would be recognized and lead to promotion; I feel that Azamara's crew is professional and feels the same way. I know that appearance and reality are not always the same thing, but I do think the Journey has a happy crew.   We are Elite on Celebrity, and perhaps because of this we received invitations to tour the Bridge, the Engine Control Room and the Galley. While these invitations were not extended to everyone (indeed in the Daily Notices there were statements that tours were not available), I had the feeling that anyone who expressed an interest in any of these areas could probably obtain an invitation to their area of interest.   Not surprisingly for a European cruise, passengers came from many countries. Azamara is a US company, so there were lots of people from the USA and also lots of Canadians. We talked to passengers from Mexico, several South American countries, a number of European countries, Turkey and New Zealand. As always there were some people who were more interesting to me than others, but not one that I went out of my way to avoid.   Given the smaller size of the Journey, I was not surprised that on-board Entertainment did not include Broadway style production shows. In addition to lecturers and guest entertainers, the ship's song and dance group consisted of five talented young people who did cabaret style shows. The entertainment was a pleasant supplement to the port intensive schedule.    Main Dining was open seating. There was appropriate distribution between small and large tables and little trouble getting the table size you wanted (we were a party of two but enjoy sharing a table with others and always were accommodated at an English speaking table for six or eight; tables for two or four also seemed readily available). We are early diners and the Maitre d' always immediately gave us a table of our liking; when we would be leaving the dining room around 8-8:30 pm there was a short line of people waiting to be assigned a table. All main dining room meals were made especially for you, so modifications (eg no sauce or different vegetables) to the meal were easily obtained on the spot provided the ingredients were on that meal's menu. You could get items found nowhere on that day's menu (eg escargot), but these needed to be ordered in advance so that the chef had those ingredients out for preparation. Fresh squeezed orange juice was available at breakfast, and the Cafe had a smoothie bar at breakfast that made to your order. Azamara consistently had good food with good presentation and service. The Main Dining Room is generally not open for lunch on port days, but it is worth noting that when the weather turned inclement on our second day in Stockholm and more than the usual number of people remained on board, management quickly made the decision to open the MDR. There were two specialty restaurants on board - Aqualina is Mediterranean and Prime C is steak oriented. You are guaranteed at least two visits if you wish (more visits if space is available), and there is a "suggested gratuity" of $5 per person. While nice, these restaurants did not perform as well as the Ocean Liner restaurants on Celebrity's M class ships, but then those charge $30 per person.   Azamara's direct competition is Oceana - identical ship structure, and similar itineraries. We talked with several people on board the Journey who had also cruised Oceana and most gave an edge to Oceana in the food department, but one person thought Azamara's food was definitely better. The consensus was that Oceana was slightly better, but that you also were paying more on Oceana. None of these people seemed disappointed in Azamara given the pricing.   Was the cruise perfect? - nothing in this world is. One night in a Specialty Restaurant the timing of our two entrees got out of sync and one arrived less than hot. The stopper handle for the bathroom sink was somewhat obstructed behind the faucet, and therefore difficult to pull up. The shower was on the small side and had an overly friendly shower curtain. These were all items easily lived with given the quality of the service and the food. My main complaint is that Azamara has spoiled me for "main line" cruises. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Pre-cruise information: The information Azamara sent about the ship, the food, the activities and the shore excursions was extensive. As I said, I think the excursions are expensive, but probably in line with other higher end cruises. One ... Read More
Pre-cruise information: The information Azamara sent about the ship, the food, the activities and the shore excursions was extensive. As I said, I think the excursions are expensive, but probably in line with other higher end cruises. One suggestion: It would have been helpful had they sent passengers information about weather. If one goes to the Caribbean, it's likely that people will know what to wear. But when traveling to Northern Europe, a guide as to weather conditions would have been helpful.Check In:  We had met friends at the Marriott in Copenhagen for breakfast. We found an Azamara representative in the hotel who told us we could purchase transfers to the ship for $36.00 per person. Consider a taxi would have cost $55-$60 per couple, we thought it a good deal.We hopped a bus with about 20 other passengers. We arrived at the ship a little after 1:00 (boarding began at 1:00). We had no line and process went smoothly. At the end of the line, prior to getting on the ship, we were asked if we wanted to make a reservation for one of the 2 specialty restaurants for that night. The maitre' d said the the first night in the regular restaurant was usually crowded and hectic, so he suggested one of the 2 specialty places. It turned out to be a great idea because both of these places, Prime C and Aqaqlina, were quite, elegant and delicious.Room:  When we first walked into the room, we were disappointed seeing how small it was. There seemed less storage space compared to Windstar, where the rooms are probably the same size, but seem a bit larger. We usually slide our suitcases under the beds to get them out of the way, but we had trouble fitting them there. We ended up lifting the beds, so the frames actually rested on our suitcases. Not ideal.The bathroom was one of the smallest I've seen on a ship. Little space around the sink for toiletries, thought there was a cabinet to store things. We only had one drinking glass, and we asked for a 2nd but it never came. The towels were great, especially the huge bath towels. The personal products are Elemis, very nice. Our balcony was a reasonable size, with a table and to chairs, but no room for lounge chairs.We tried room service once. It was a joke! The food came on time, and it was good, but the server simply put the tray on our little round "coffee" table and left it there to balance. We had one sofa and one of us had to drag a chair in from the terrace. We ate balancing out plates on our laps. Other cruise lines have a creative room service set up so people can eat in chairs and enjoy the experience. If it were warm outside, we certainly could have eaten on the balcony.The TV was a smallish flat screen with one movie channel, BBC News and one miscellaneous channel, in addition to the normal ship information channels. there was no MP3 player, CD or DVD player.Food: Mostly above average. The 2 specialty places were excellent. The service was great, wine selection was reasonably prices and the food was very good. The policy is to allow those passengers with a stateroom (with or with our balcony) 2 reservations and those with suites, 3 reservations. Additional nights are allowed if there is space. Perfectly understandable so that all passengers have the chance to eat there. There is a suggested "additional gratuity" of $5.00 per person.As on all ships, one could never go hungry. The Pool Bar was open from 11-6 serving burgers, fries, hot dogs and a special or two everyday. there were at least 2 other places open for lunch + room service. One of the bars had free pastries and small sandwiches most of the day. Specialty coffee, espresso, cappuccino and soft drinks were extra.Excursions: Overall, very well run and organized. The excursion desk was in the guest relations lobby and the three-four women who staffed the desk and organized the trips were terrific. All were multi-lingual and very helpful. They had told me that they are required to go on excursions and evaluate local tour guides (something that Windstar often does not do), and evaluate the excursion for value. As I said, they all seemed expensive and all could probable have been done on one's own. But the convenience of letting someone else do everything and being back at the ship in time is a comfort.This was one of the first of any ship's including three ports in Iceland on its itinerary, so even the ship's crew hadn't known what to expect. The weather was excellent, the waters were mostly calm and the stops were varied enough to make it interesting. During the sea days, there was an expert from each country on board offering "enrichment" lectures.Entertainment:  Coming from NYC, we are admittedly jaded. However, they did try to provide variety. There was a main show in the Cabaret each night. In other parts of the ship, there was a solo guitarist, a solo harpist, and small band and a DJ. Considering the crowd was on average, close to 80, there was not a huge turnout for the late night entertainment.Ship: Perfect size! Passengers on this ship were very well-traveled. Many had been on 30-40 cruises and many of them were on high end ships. Almost all felt this competed with the best. Many liked the casual atmosphere - no formal night. Some folks did were suits to dinner, but others just shirts and slacks. People could have gone to a buffet dinner where shorts and jeans would have sufficed, so that option exists.The spa was great. They offered the usual range of massages, facials, and manicures, but also had a board certified acupuncturist on board. there was a steam room in the men's and ladies' locker rooms. Robes and slippers were provide. Behind the spa, there is a private terrace with a whirlpool. This was available for an additional $175 per couple for the cruise. I guess the idea is that some people would prefer to sit in a private area with only room fro about 15 other guests. We did not do that. There is also a gym staffed by one person. She led classes in yoga, pilates, body toning, etc. These classes were attended by 10-12 people. There were also exercise machines and probably due to the older crowd, were always open.The track on Deck 10 is 1/13 of a nautical mile. The weather was good enough most days to use it. The pool was on Deck 9 and shielded by plastic panels from the wind .There were 2 Jacuzzis.It was easy to get from one part of the ship to another. I over heard one guest comment that she didn't have to wait for elevators as she had on so many other ships. There were many physically challenged people including several in wheel chairs. I think the crew did an excellent job in assisting them.Staff: Maybe the best yet! John Howell, the cruise director, seemed to be everywhere! He constantly asked people how things were going. He greeted everyone as they headed out on daily excursions, walked around during sea days, poked his head into the restaurants and emceed the evening entertainment. The level of staff excellence, however, was attributed to the Hotel Director, Philippe (don't recall his last name). I talked to him and he came from Crystal and Celebrity and applied his knowledge and experience to the Journey. All staff were always smiling, offering "good morning", "how was dinner", "can I help you with anything"?When someone we were eating dinner with had an unusual request, a wait said, "nothing is impossible on Azamara". That kind of response is usually what you hear from Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton hotels!Debarkation: Very smooth and organized.Suggestions: They had given out a mid-cruise assessment form. Good idea. We wrote a few comments and got calls the next day thanking us for our comments. We had complemented an staff member and she came over to us and thanked us. So it was clear the staff read passenger comments and took immediate action.So outside of the smallish rooms and very small bathrooms, I'd say this was one of our top cruise experiences.If one wants to be picky, it could be said the some of the furniture in the rooms and in public spaces looked a bit worn. There was also a small dedicated smoking area that lots of people complained about, but at least smoking was not allowed in the casino, which was a huge issue on Costa. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Pre-cruise information: I selected this particular cruise for the simple reason that the itinerary provided 3 days in St. Petersburg, 2 days in Stockholm, and 2 days in Copenhagen (not counting the day of embarkation). It didn't hurt ... Read More
Pre-cruise information: I selected this particular cruise for the simple reason that the itinerary provided 3 days in St. Petersburg, 2 days in Stockholm, and 2 days in Copenhagen (not counting the day of embarkation). It didn't hurt that I had read great things about the Azamara ships and that the itinerary coincided with our daughter's work schedule. It turned out that there were many other reasons that made this cruise wonderful, and a few hiccups (mostly outside the control of the ship) that made the trip "interesting."  I originally booked a sky suite (to better accommodate 3 adults), but when prices started falling in the spring, I found a penthouse suite that became available after final payment was due that cost us, after taking into account OBC and prepaid gratuities, all of $140 more than we originally paid. This may well be the only time we ever end up in a penthouse suite. The second great thing about the cruise, obviously, was the itinerary and the independent excursions we arranged and undertook in each of the six ports (see below). Finally, and contrary to the forecasts even the day before our departure from the US, was the weather - other than 30 minutes of misting in Copenhagen on the day of our embarkation, we had perfect weather, meaning lows in the low to mid 60s F and highs in the mid to high 79s F.  We arrived in Copenhagen a day early and took a taxi (about $40 US) from the airport to the Marriott (booked via a Priceline bid). The cost was acceptable (everything in Copenhagen is costly), the amenities and condition of the hotel were great, but the location was simply not good. The Marriott is several long blocks from Tivoli Gardens and even farther from most other major attractions in Copenhagen (e.g., Stroget, Nyhaven, Little Mermaid). The city is walkable, but make sure you have good walking shoes!   The night before embarkation we met up with CC roll call buddies at the Absolut Ice Bar for a couple of drinks (about $25 pp per drink) and then went to Tivoli for a nice dinner at Groeften. Then walked back to the Marriott. Checkin: We got a cab from the Marriott to the ship's berth at Frihavnen for about $30 US. We arrived at the ship around 11:45 and made it onboard in about 20 minutes (no line but still forms to fill out). Our cabin wouldn't be ready until 1:30, so we met some of our CC roll call friends on the pool deck (deck 9 on the Journey) for a cocktail then on to our cabin when ready. We had already made reservations for Aqualina for our first at sea day and made the rest of our reservations as soon as we were in our cabin. As suite guests, the ship asked us to select one of its specialty restaurants, so we selected Prime C for our sailaway dinner since we'd be going to Aqualina a couple of nights later. We also made reservations for a couple of additional nights at Prime C and Aqualina while in line. Room:  When we first walked into the room, we were elated with its size, arrangement, and furnishing. The PH suite is aft and is about 560 square feet PLUS a huge veranda that wraps a bit around the side of the ship. The bedroom is spacious, with lots of closet space (more than the three of us could use) and a vanity area just outside the adjoining large bathroom (equipped with Jacuzzi). A second half-bath is just inside the entry to the suite, and the living room (with a 4-seat round dining table) was equipped with a sofa bed (that our daughter said was perfectly comfortable) and a large-screen TV. The veranda was equipped with a dining table for four on starboard side of the veranda, and with two chaise loungers on the other side. The veranda was accessed by sliding glass doors from the living room and from the bedroom. Service in our cabin was great. Our "main" butler (Arvind), second butler (Minish) and housekeeper (Rosalie) were unobtrusive but always available. Rosalie was possibly the best stateroom attendant we've ever had - incredibly personable, warm and helpful. Our daughter asked Rosalie (on the sly) on our last sea day if she could make a towel animal for my wife; when we returned after dinner my wife found two "kissing" swans on our bed, which was also adorned with rose petals! Arvind was prompt every morning with breakfast (full breakfast a couple of times, juice and coffee/espresso every other morning), and Minish was always around (quite often helping Rosalie). Arvind or Minish were also prompt with our tea and/or savories every afternoon if we ordered them the night before. Given how port-intensive our itinerary was, there were a few days when we didn't get to have them, but when we did the food and their presentation were great.  Food: Mostly wonderful. The 2 specialty places were excellent, as was Discoveries (the main dining room). The service was great, wine selection was reasonably priced and the food was very good. We generally had breakfast at Windows Cafe (the buffet line, which changed name to Breezea for the evening meal), and it was always tasty. My only complaint about breakfast there was with fellow passengers, some of whom apparently don't know the meaning of lining up at the omelet station. Lunch at the buffet was mixed - maybe we were spoiled by the main dining room and the specialty restaurants. They offered sushi a couple of evenings that our daughter really enjoyed. We only tried the pool bar/grille a couple of times - had a nice burger and fries. The ship also sponsored special evening buffets a few nights (featuring port-related foods), including our overnight in Stockholm where they even made their own "ice bar" that was a lot of fun. Excursions: Other than taking the ship's shuttle from the dock to downtown areas in Stockholm and Copenhagen, all of our excursions were independent. We either "did" DIY (Helsinki, Tallinn, Stockholm and Copenhagen) or our privately arranged independent tours (used SP-B Tours for Berlin and St. Petersburg). The main reasons we decided to use a private tour guide for Berlin and St. Petersburg were to keep costs lower than tours offered by the ship and to keep the size of the group smaller.  Ports: Warnemunde/Rostock for Berlin: As noted, we used SP-B Tour for our excursion to Berlin. Although we ended up seeing lots, in the future I wouldn't take a trip from this port to Berlin. The distance is simply too great and too much time is spent in transit. Unfortunately our driver from the dock to Berlin spoke no English so we were occasionally out of touch with what was going on. Our tour guide in Berlin (also arranged by SP-B) was a young American (maybe 30 years old) who was incredibly knowledgeable and accommodating. That being said, however, it still took us 4 hours each way in transit, and we were getting nervous about getting back in time, particularly when the driver couldn't tell us how long it would take to get out of Berlin (the traffic at 4:30 pm was horrendous). We got back with 45 minutes to spare, but the 9 of us in the minivan were getting pretty nervous. Helsinki: We would have enjoyed Helsinki quite a bit were it not for two hiccups - we were there on a Sunday and the summer solstice, meaning that the market area (some would say the major attraction) was essentially shut down, and I was pick-pocketed at the Tourist Information Center. The pick-pocket incident was weird - we had gone into the TIC to purchase tram tickets. I took out the leather "pouch" containing my Euros and sea-pass card (but no credit cards or ATM cards, thank goodness), took out the money for the tram tickets, put the pouch on the counter, and the next second it was gone. We told the agents behind the counter and they didn't seem to be very concerned. When we came back to the TIC just before returning to the ship, they were more concerned and told us to report it to the police - my wife tried to from the ship's phone, but the police authorities said we had to appear in person to file a report. Since the ship was about to leave, we didn't file an official report. Lesson learned? Not even Tourist Information Centers are safe from pick-pockets. St. Petersburg: Simply incredible. Of course, the fact that the Journey docked at the Lt. Schmidt embankment right on the Neva River, across the river from the Church of Spilt Blood (viewable from our veranda) made it even better. Our tour guide, Elena (from SP-B Tour) was great (as was our driver Yuri). We had the same group (11 of us) for all three days. We had no problem disembarking (at least problems no greater than anyone else getting through passport control) - the first day it took about 30 minutes, the other two days there was no line so disembarking was a breeze. The first day we drove about the city with a couple of stops for photo opportunities, then drove to Catherine's Palace - about a 40 minutes drive and then VERY long lines through the palace itself. Our lunch that day was so-so - blinis and a soda pop at an outdoor cafe.  Our second day started a bit later (9:00 am) and included, at the end of the day, a canal ride that was fun and restful. This was after our 2-3 hours at the Hermitage (incredibly ornate - much more so than the Louvre and the interior even rivaled Versailles). That morning we visited Peter and Paul fortress and cathedral, where we got to visit the memorial graves of all the Romanovs and enjoy an acapella (sp?) group singing in a closed side chapel and then visited the Church on Spilt Blood. At the end of our tour the second day, our guide accompanied us to a Stolle's near the Mariinsky Theater for a bite of dinner before attending an opera at the theater. The opera (a contemporary The Brothers Karamazov) was interesting and fun, but we opted out after the first act (and 15 scenes) that lasted a bit over 2 hours. As previously arranged, our driver Yuri met us outside the theater and took us back to the ship. Our final day in St. Petersburg included a visit to a market (with tastes of various local foods), a short subway ride (one stop - very interesting) and then a drive to Peterhof for a walk through the gardens and fountains and a visit to Mon Plaisir (a small "palace" actually used by the Romanovs). We returned to St. Petersburg by hydrofoil (very cool), then a late lunch at another Stolle's (think pies), and finished up at Yusupov's palace (site of Rasputin's murder). When Yuri and Elena drove us back to the ship at 4:00 (ship departed at 5:00), Elena pulled out a bottle of vodka for all of us to have an informal toast to conclude our visit to St. Petersburg. I would recommend SP-B Tour (aka Viktoria on the CC forums) without hesitation. Our group was small, we saw lots, and the price was much less than comparable activities obtained through the ship's excursion offerings. Tallinn: We had about 10 hours in Tallinn. Rather than walk to the town (maybe a 20 minute walk, but through some industrial areas) we took the ship's shuttle that deposited us next to the old town. Tallinn was a great escape - a step back in time and obviously smaller than St. Petersburg. Lots of walking, a little shopping, sitting in outdoor cafes drinking (beer in my case, cappuccinos for most of us), and people-watching. We did visit a couple of churches but mainly just enjoyed the day. That night we were treated by the senior officers on board to the Best of the Best.  This was a fabulous dinner held in Michael's Club, a six-course dinner paired with wines, hosted by the Captain and Hotel Director. They gave the ladies beautiful red roses and the men miniatures of Estonian vodka. The service was impeccable, to say the least. Stockholm: We arrived in Stockholm a bit ahead of schedule - around 9:30. I'd bought us Stockholm cards, so we took Bus #76 to the Vasa Museum (very interesting for a bit more than an hour) then walked to Skansen, another must see. We found it disappointing - I'm sure that families with children might enjoy it more, but we left after 30 minutes or so. We walked to the Grona Lund where we caught the ferry to Slussen at the southern end of Gamla Stan. We walked a bit, found a restaurant with outdoor seating for lunch, and then walked some more. Then on to the Royal Palace, the Royal Treasury, a store to buy Tom Tars, and then walked to the Stockholm Ice Bar (another one!). Enjoyed a drink there, but afterwards opted out of public transit and caught a taxi to the ship (about $20 US). Dinner on ship that night with late night cocktails on the pool deck and the Journey's rendition of their own Ice Bar. Very fun.  The next day I decided to take it easy while my wife and daughter took the ship's shuttle back into town for a little more shopping. They also caught the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace at 12:15 or so. I whiled away my time with a massage at the Aqua Spa (my wife and daughter had already spent some time and money there). The sailaway that afternoon at 6:00 pm was beautiful (through the archipelago), and we had a photographer come to our suite for an in-suite sitting (or actually, on-veranda sitting). Entertainment:  To be truthful I only went to the cabaret once - for a folkloric show after we got back from the opera. Enjoyed that very much (and it was taped and on the ship's TV periodically after that). The theater is much smaller than what we had on the Celebrity Millennium and the Princess Caribbean, but it was adequate to the task. But for people expecting big productions, it might be a disappointment. My only other "entertainment" was the casino, which I enjoyed too much, if you get my drift. Ship: Perfect size! Many liked the casual atmosphere - no formal night. Some folks did wear suits to dinner, but others just shirts and slacks. People could have gone to a buffet dinner where shorts and jeans would have sufficed, so that option exists. The spa was great. They offered the usual range of massages, facials, and manicures, but also had a board certified acupuncturist on board. There was a steam room in the men's and ladies' locker rooms. Robes and slippers were provided. Behind the spa, there is a private terrace with a thelassotherapy pool. This was provided as an amenity to Penthouse and Royal Suite guests and was available to others for an additional $175 per couple for the cruise. We used the thelassotherapy pool probably 5-6 times each. The weather was good enough most days to use the pool on Deck 9 and its hot tubs. Staff: The level of staff excellence can be attributed to the Hotel Director, Philip Herbert. He had prior experience on the Crystal and Celebrity and applied his knowledge and experience to the Journey. He was incredibly gracious and helpful. The captain/master (Georgios Theodorou) was affable and friendly. The Cruise Director, John Howell, seemed to be everywhere! He constantly asked people how things were going. He greeted everyone as they headed out on daily excursions, walked around during sea days, poked his head into the restaurants and emceed the evening entertainment. He also taped a segment in the casino bar one night discussing the activities the following day and featured my wife, daughter and one of our new friends (they were whiling away their time while husbands/father sat at the blackjack and poker tables); his only mistake was that he called my wife "Candy" throughout the video (which was repeated numerous times on the ship's channel on TV the next couple of days) - it was hilarious when the three of them gave unexpected answers to John's questions. Debarkation: Very smooth and organized. Would I sail Azamara again? In a NY minute, in a heartbeat. Enough said!   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Beautiful ship and perfect for passenger count less than 700.  Ship size allows for entry into Ports of Call not normally available with larger ships.  Such as Parking up the Seine in Rouen and Greenwich UK. Allows for easier access to ... Read More
Beautiful ship and perfect for passenger count less than 700.  Ship size allows for entry into Ports of Call not normally available with larger ships.  Such as Parking up the Seine in Rouen and Greenwich UK. Allows for easier access to the main cities in Europe, i.e. Paris and London.Cabin was a special treat due to size and spaciousness for us.  Had chances for upgrade but due to the possible heavy seas, being on the lower decks proved a blessing.  Fortunately the Atlantic, Biscay Bay the English Channel, North Sea and Baltic were very nice for the entire trip. Room issues, The in room clock was hard to read during the day and impossible at night.  Also very difficult to deal with time zone changes as almost no one could figure out how it worked.  The cabin Butler knew , but had to be asked instead of realizing it needed to be changed. these need to be changes so as to see them in the dark.  Most night vision clocks are easy to read.  Not so here.Waste of paper.  On other ships, the trash had places for paper and separate places for everything else.  By having two types of recepticles allows for recycling of paper. Not so here. should be considered if space allows.FoodBy and large the food was very good. Excellent on the Acquilina C, but no different in their Beef high-end restauarant, Prime C.  Menu stated Rib-Eye Bone-In.  When ordered, no bone.  when asked what happened to the bone, waiter had no idea what i was talking about.  Very little in depth understanding of the menus.  He could repeat it but seemed to be doing it without comprehension.Windows Cafe Mostly, food was either cold, over cooked or dry.  This happend on a number of occasions, at lunch, when at sea or early morning breakfast, when needing to catch an early Shore excursion.  Very dissapointing.  suggestion to try to relocate the food service so that the constant opening and closing of the glass door to the outside seating area doesn't take the heat away from the food.  Perhaps make the food available at the other end of the room, so it doesn't have the effect of the door opening and closing. Observation of the machines cooking the waffles in the morning.  the exterior of the waffle iron didn't look like it had ever been cleaned. Also, with having bowls of butter available to add to the waffles or pancakes, perhaps a knife would be much easier to transfer butter to the place, spoons get to be really messy and difficult to work with on the pancakes.  Same for the butter and cream cheese near the toaster.  By the way, all toast seesed to come out partially burned.  perhaps it needs to be cleaned more frequently.Shore excursions,From Greenwich, the procedure with the dock and their tender made it very annoying as it seemed like their tender people weren't very adept at their job. The banged into the portible floating terminal a number of times.  If it is necessary to have a portable terminal between the ship and shore, then why not tie up the portable terminal to the dock and have the Cruise ship outside of it, thereby eliminating the need for their tender.  Saves money, gas, time, and reduces confusion.Suggestion:  Inasmuch as there was a tour to Leeds Castle in Kent, perhaps a much better trip would be to go to Warwick Castle.  A little further in getting there, and as there was a two hour trip to Paris, previously, the small time difference to get to Warwick Castle and the experience when you get there is far superior than Leeds Castle.  Also, the extra time doesn't really matter as the ship remained at Greenwich for 24 hours.CrewWonderful attitude and tried to be as attentive as possible.  The attitude came from the top down and it showed.Due to the smaller size of the ship, you actually saw people more than once, both on shore and aboard.Entertainment,John the Cruise director ,was delightful and very much a part of the experience.  The only weak performance came from the Comedian during the second week.  Slow to engage the audience and extremely dry pointed attempts at understanding his humor.  the The other performers were very good.Overall a great experience on a new ship for us.As we love the itinerary, We would travel again on Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Our first cruise had taken a year to plan and execute, stacks of homework done on research, ploughing through endless cruise reviews and background information.  Hence it's only right that I include my review for any other potential ... Read More
Our first cruise had taken a year to plan and execute, stacks of homework done on research, ploughing through endless cruise reviews and background information.  Hence it's only right that I include my review for any other potential first timers out there doing the same as we did, I can say in the first instance - we had an awesome time and hope this review will be of some benefit to someone out there. We started by determining the criteria we would use as our basic requirements, eg ship size (passenger numbers), ship's facilities, ports of call, must have good general reviews etc etc - you need to know the answers to these questions to find the right ship and cruise for you. We did this homework and came up with the Azamara Journey, sailing out of Venice in early May 2009. As most people will tell you first impressions mean a lot - and the Journey impressed us from day one - we were pretty much hooked! The embarkation process and staff were great right from the outset, we met our man Johanes (butler) almost immediately and he looked after whatever we needed from that point, including getting some tailoring done during our day at sea!  Our first meal at the Prime C specialty restaurant, on the first night, was sensational with views over Venice as we sailed, all our subsequent meals, at any of the eating venues were great, we did not have a bad meal during the whole cruise - definitely a highlight. The open seating arrangements at meal times allowed us to meet some awesome people, hi to Tom and Nancy (from USA) and Leo and Lillian (from Belgium) if you're reading this, we had no expectations about this aspect of our cruise but it was another definite highlight. We did not partake in any of the shore excursions, (we thought they were a touch too expensive), preferring to make our way around the ports of call, our itinerary:  Koper, Slovenia - as we arrived on a Sunday most of the place was closed, but that was OK too, we had a good look around, including doing some close up and personal shopping at the local flea market. Zadar, Croatia - a really beautiful place, as was the case in all our ports an amazing history of battles won and lost over time, we enjoyed wandering the narrow lane ways here and did some good shopping along the way. sights in and around the harbour the highlight here (for me anyway) Dubrovnik, Croatia - the fantastic walled city, although walking the wall is an effort, it's well worth it - take your time, close your eyes and enjoy. We loved it, we took a break in a cafe outside the wall, on the seaward side, and enjoyed the local wine and beer, yet another highlight! Santorini, Greece - WOW, what a place! The township is perched atop the cliff with the most spectacular views, the only way up is either via cable car, donkey ride or walk (a very steep series of steps - covered in donkey poo). We arrived ashore (using tenders) to find a substantial queue for the cable car, the donkeys were never going to work for us so that's right we legged it up the hill! This was tough but a lot of fun too, dealing with the donkey traffic was a great laugh (after they left!) Anyway, Santorini was (you guessed it) a highlight1 Nauplion, Greece - another relatively quiet place, we took the opportunity to walk around the coast, enjoying the views of the bay Athens, Greece - this was the only place we arranged a tour, we did a half day with a local taxi, which was arranged prior to leaving Australia, once again we were well looked after and I can recommend spyrostaxitours.com if you're looking for a good tour. (Cheaper than ship excursion). The disembarkation process was very well drilled, if possible, too fast! We were enjoying breakfast one minute then gone (and hopefully) not forgotten the next, it was very efficient. Are there any negatives I hear you say??? The only comment I'd say - the size of the shower cubicle in our room, pathetic I know, but it was really small - I did know that prior to arriving but it was still a bit of a surprise. Also, the cost of some of the beverages was a touch rich, but didn't stop us drinking!! I believe the bottom line of any review is would I cruise with this mob again??  Without a doubt I'd love to be on the Azamara Journey again, we loved it, perhaps they could send me through some discounts on the back of this awesome review!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Several priorities led us to select this particular cruise: 1. TIMING was to coincide with our 40th anniversary. 2. DURATION since we prefer cruises of ten or more days. 3. COST, or perhaps I should say value. 4. ITINERARY, which proved to ... Read More
Several priorities led us to select this particular cruise: 1. TIMING was to coincide with our 40th anniversary. 2. DURATION since we prefer cruises of ten or more days. 3. COST, or perhaps I should say value. 4. ITINERARY, which proved to be the bonus element for this cruise.  5. CLIMATE, we would be escaping summer heat and wanted moderate to cool weather.This particular sailing of AZAMARA Journey fulfilled all of our requirements in a spectacular fashion.  The only thing I would change about this entire trip would be to allow another day in Barcelona. Flying in from California only one day ahead was not really sufficient. We had to choose to either see Barcelona or catch up on sleep. Sadly, sleep won. After nearly falling off the top level of the hop on hop off bus, we gave in and returned to Hotel Colon for a "nap" that lasted until the next morning. If you want a hotel that puts you in the middle of the Cathedral square, adjacent to shopping and at the hub of the city, Hotel Colon will fit your criteria. Their strength is the premier location and the very nice breakfast that is included with your room. If you need the comfort of a plush room with high end bedding, you might want to look elsewhere, but we would choose this hotel again based entirely on location. Embarkation was a complete breeze. We waltzed through the whole process without lines or delay. The ship is lovely. Public rooms are comfortable and the veranda suite seemed very similar to the same category suite on the Celebrity ships we've used in the past. ***AFTER THE ROOM SWITCH... More storage than we could possibly fill. We started the cruise in a standard veranda suite, and moved on the second day to the sky suite. I would estimate that the sky suite provides approximately triple the closet space, drawers and cupboards, and there is no comparison of the counter space, both in the suite and in the bathroom. The shower over the bathtub provides a generous amount of space compared to the tiny stall shower (with its clinging shower curtain) of our original suite. Simply cannot say enough about the luxury of having such a large suite, especially for a cruise as long as this one. The Sky Suite provided space and storage comparable to the Marriott Hotel we used in Copenhagen and it was larger than the Hotel Colon, which we used in Barcelona for the night before embarkation. In the dining room on the first evening, we ordered a couple of bottles of wine; a white and a red. I'd read from previous reviews that the bottles would be stored and returned to our table on the following night. Since we had demonstrated an interest in the wine list, we were immediately introduced to Boris, the very capable sommelier. He mentioned a wine tasting event being planned on board the ship and inquired about our interest. We were enthusiastic about adding that to our agenda and Boris promised to let us know about the details. I have to tell you, attending that first wine tasting was to be one of our best, all time decisions! Subsequent to that first event, we were privileged to enjoy two entire wine dinners, with specialty dishes and individually paired wines served in an intimate setting for eight to ten guests and attended by ship's officers, Ryszard Gusmann, and Philip Herbert. These proved to be a highlight of the cruise. During the second dinner, which was held in a beautifully adorned Michaels Club, each course was prepared and presented with table side comments from Chef Kyle. We were absolutely treated like royalty at these dinners, and the friendships forged, plus the wonderful company of Ryszard and Philip, all enriched our whole experience. Specialty dining experiences were, as intended, superior to the dining room, though the dining room was quite good. We generally had excellent service and, as promised, any left over wine was promptly delivered to our table each night, regardless where we dined. We did notice that the main dining room seemed to consistently cook a little "to the done" so for you who prefer your beef or lamb on the rare side, don't hesitate to ask for RARE.Another note about the wine and corkage issue, we did take a couple of special birthday and anniversary bottles on board. We knew we would be charged $25. corkage but what we didn't know was how it would be received... The wine staff could not have been more accomodating. They were gracious about accepting our private bottles and even complimentary of our choices. No hint of a negative attitude from anyone. If you have special bottles you really want to take with you, something you care enough about to drag it half way around the world in your luggage, don't worry about being given the cold shoulder from the wine staff. Ports of call and stateroom details are covered separately, but if you are "big people" like we are, and you can afford the extra money, pay for the upgrade to the sky suite. Overall, this was a wonderful itinerary. We were blessed with fabulous weather at each port. Paris and London were both enjoying extraordinarily fine, sunny days during our visit. The alternating sea days and exhausting port excursions proved a perfect balance. The cities like La Coruna, or St Malo, which were meaningless to us before this trip, are now cherished memories with fun stories to accompany our photos. You are reading this review to make a determination of whether you would like to travel on this ship or this itinerary. If you have children traveling with you, you should probably select a different ship. The AZAMARA line does not pretend to cater to children, though there was one family with teenage children on our ship and they seemed to have a great time. If you are a fan of the great big stage shows, you should probably select a different ship. If you need a golf simulator or a climbing wall, this is obviously not your ship. But if you enjoy exceptional service, fine dining, comfortable accomodations and not being faced with standing in line for everything you want to do, by all means, book AZAMARA as soon as you can.As for itinerary, this trip served as a great introduction to Western Europe. We saw places we'd always dreamed of visiting and we also discovered places we'd never heard of before. Sort of a "box of assorted chocolates" approach to visiting Europe.We can't say enough good things about the staff on this ship. As mentioned before, the wait staff, Boris and the entire wine staff, and the chefs were all first rate. We were impressed with a tour of the kitchens and recognize the "unsung heros" who do all the prep work to keep those meals coming endlessly throughout the days and nights. Butler, Soobash, kept our ice bucket filled and learned our preferences. He also decorated for my birthday (without being tipped off by anyone). The tone of hospitality is set by Philip Herbert, Ryszard Gusmann and Boris. They went to great lengths to do anything and everything possible to enhance our experience. We will look forward to sailing with this ship again, partially to renew friendships with these wonderful men. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Overall I'd give Azamara a solid A for this performance.  The ship itself is compact.  No feeling of hiking half way across a shopping mall to get from the food areas to activity areas.  At 30,000 tons/700 passengers/400 crew the ... Read More
Overall I'd give Azamara a solid A for this performance.  The ship itself is compact.  No feeling of hiking half way across a shopping mall to get from the food areas to activity areas.  At 30,000 tons/700 passengers/400 crew the experience is fairly intimate with an individual service feel.  The crew had a genuinely happy attitude; not just pasted on smiles.  The head of the hotel staff (Phillip?)  was very interested in feedback and very easy to talk to.  His subordinate on cabins (a very tall lady from Latvia IIRC) was also a top notch officer.  Very helpful and cheery personality.  Our cabin butlers and cleaner were attentive to our needs without being intrusive.  I expect they'd have done a lot more for us had we asked, but none of us were in to meals in the room or room service in general.  Once they figured out our favorite soft drinks, we had a large supply replentished frequently.We especially liked the country club casual dress code.  No more lugging suits and extra shoes for formal nights.  Some of our fellow passengers pushed the envelope in a negative way but not to the point where we felt like we were at a Dennys.  The crowd was older.  Of the 575 guests, I'd guess 125-150 were over 75-80.  There were very very few people under 50.  This made for a well behaved easy crowd.  The weather once we left the Med was excellent, but still colder than most for sun bathing.  The pool area was rarely heavily used.  Food was good to great.  We especially enjoyed Aqualina.  Excellent rack of lamb, fish dishes etc.  The relaxed pace and excellent service made for fine dining.  The only niggle is eating here while under way, we felt more shudder from the engines/props than in the main dining room.  Service in the main dining room was also excellent.  Open seating means you don't establish a relationship with wait staff, but that's the price you pay for near instant seating on any size table you prefer.  Most of the meals were excellent.  A few were near misses but perhaps that's a reflection of trying new things more than poor prep.  Buffet dining for breakfast and lunch were good.  The choices are not as wide as on a 2000 passenger ship, but we always found many healthy, tasty choices.  This cruise only had about 575 passengers.  We never had much problem finding seating or with feeling crowded in the buffet area.  We didn't want a sit down breakfast or lunch so didn't use the main dining room for either of these.  The only niggle in the buffet was a shortage of water hot enough to make tea at times and no obvious source of extra silverware.  The servers/bussers were quick/efficient/helpful.  Activities were adequate.  Personally I'd rather read a book than do trivia/bingo/crafts but there was enough of the later to keep my wife/MIL happy.  The entertainment varied from great (Tian Jiang) to adequate (house singers).  Not my cup of tea either but most seemed happy with the entertainment though there was rarely a fight for seats.All in all I'd rate Azamara highly.  I only had one negative experience which unfortunately was as we disembarked which left a bit of a bad taste.  Our cruise director had been reading some notes re the scenery in the Kiel canal.  Clearly he'd had little prep and pronounced "draught" (as in water depth, depth of ship in the water) as it's spelled about 25 times rather than "draft".  It got to the point that people were snickering up in the forward lounge each time.  As we left the ship the next day, I mentioned this to him thinking I was doing a good deed. No one else was around or I wouldn't have said anything.  Got my head bit off as his smarmy "dear guests" demeanor dropped away and a haughty prig emerged.  After a few seconds I just let it go and waited nearby for the rest of my party.  He kept on dragging it back up for the next few couple getting off the ship to share how he was "being taught how to say draft".  To my amusement, one of the men said "I'd been meaning to mention that to you".   Went right over his head.  Not a deal breaker and perhaps "dear John" was just having a bad day, but I would avoid him in the future. I didn't find St. Malo in the list so I'll put in some info here.  It's a lovely small seaside town circled by huge fortified walls.  Lovely place to spend a few hours wandering about.  Not a typical cruise ship port but very much geared toward tourism as the nearby Mont St. Michel is a big draw as is the Normandy/Brittany coast.  Good shopping, pastries, moules etc.Rouen is an industrial city 125 KM up the Seine from the sea.  The cruise up the river was a highlight.  The town itself is typical Europe.  The Medieval center is scenic with a very modern church dedicated to Joan D'Arc who was burned at the stake here.  The old town was worth a wander and the market was fabulous.  Most just blasted off for Paris but as we'd been there a number of times, taking a 1 hr train each way or a 2 hr bus ride didn't seem worth it just to have 5-6 hrs in Paris.  We'd also been to Monet's house (Giverny)  before but that's also worth a visit.Transportation was poor.  The ships shuttle left a lot to be desired according to those that used it.  We easily got a cab to town but couldn't find one to return and had a bit of a walk.  Fine for the healthy, but rough on the old folks.  The riverside walk is very nice though 45 min to town at a slow pace. 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Sail Date: May 2009
Azamara was easy to book.  I booked direct because they promised to match any prices decreases. Booked our own air directly with USAirways.  We also booked our own hotels for our stays before and after the cruise.  We took taxis to/from ... Read More
Azamara was easy to book.  I booked direct because they promised to match any prices decreases. Booked our own air directly with USAirways.  We also booked our own hotels for our stays before and after the cruise.  We took taxis to/from the ship.  The cruise line charges for these services seemed too high for us.  For example, we stayed at Le Meridien in Barcelona for 179E including breakfast.  They even threw in museum passes and coupons for coffee. I got a great deal and I knew it.  I booked an guarantee cabin on the ship.  I got an assigned cabin about 2 months prior to sailing.  It did not include an upgrade.  I was a bit dissappointed that we did not get any upgrade.  Not even one cat.  Captains Club advanced standing got us nothing.  However, our balcony cabin was fine.  Certainly enough space for storage.  Our butler stored out larger luggage.  We put our carryons under the beds. The storage space was good.  The bathroom was a bit small, but okay.  We got used to taking showers sideways.  The shampoo/conditioner/soap were excellent quality.  Towels were big and heavy.Hairdryer was good. Bathrobes and slippers were provided.  Also, a cloth totebag, umbrella, binoculars, hairdryer were in the cabin. We brought a plastic waterbottle which we had our butler fill with ice and water.  It was great on excursions. Beds were okay. We really enjoyed the deck area  when we were able to use it.What we did in ports:  Gibraltar  ....took a shared taxi to town.  Took a taxi to top of the rock, went inside the caves, saw the  apes.    La Coruna...walked in the old town  St. Malo.....walked the ramparts, enjoyed the stores and quaint streets, ate lunch at a cafe  Rouen........took the express train to Paris (1 hr), ate lunch at Pompeii ( a nice cafe near Madeline which we had found a previous trip), took the metro to Muse D'Orsay, walked in the Tulleries gardens, metro to St. Lazarre train station where we went back to Rouen, ate dinner at a cafe in the old market square in Rouen  Antwerp..... took the ship excursion to Ghent for a canal ride and tour (very good tour)  London.......took the ship excursion London Panorama and Pub Lunch( very good tour)  Amsterdam.... tram to flower market, tram to Riijksmuseum, walked to the Van Loon House ( a find), walked through the antique district, tram to ship  Kiel Canal.....enjoyed watching the process of going through the locks.  The scenery along the canal was beautiful.  We wanted to sit on our balcony and enjoy.  However, on that day we were shocked to find 2 Azamara workers on our deck scraping, painting, etc.  We had not been told that this was to happen.  The smell was awful and we were not able to enjoy our balcony that day.  Be aware that the cabins balconies connect ..a key is needed to open them.  We were not happy.  Copenhagen...disembarkment was a breeze.  Taxis were easy to get.  Taxis took credit cards.  Stayed at Hilton.  It was an excellent hotel and a short walk to the airport.   I liked the open seating, the casual dress, no lines.  The food was good, but not gourmet.  The coffee was poor.  The choices could have been better. On a 14 night cruise, the desserts were repeated too often.  Most entrees were good, but portions were very large. Specialty restaurants were a nice option.  Liked Prime C better than Aquilina.  Service was excellent. I missed the therapy pools on Celebrity....the outdoor pool on the front deck of the spa wasn't very good. Would I cruise again on Azamara?  Most likely....if I like the intinery and the price was right.  The service was very good. Philip, the hotel director seems to really care.  John Howell makes the cruise fun.  Everyone smiles.  People are happy.  Sign up for the CruiseCritcs party.  We had 4 get togthers with our group.       Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Okay, Thought to try and give a good well balanced review of a 14 night back to back cruise on Azamara Journey that took me to 10 ports of call. We had booked a inside cabin and had high hopes of getting an upgrade. Immediately upon ... Read More
Okay, Thought to try and give a good well balanced review of a 14 night back to back cruise on Azamara Journey that took me to 10 ports of call. We had booked a inside cabin and had high hopes of getting an upgrade. Immediately upon boarding we went to guest relations and asked about it and got an immediate upgrade to a Veranda cabin...for a small fee that was reasonable beyond words. This was my first veranda and I am now ruined I must say. Nothing better than sitting on the balcony in a scenic port of call at the end of the day. The Cabin was in very good shape, neatly arranged and all space was sufficient for two women traveling together. I had to have my suitcase stored by the steward and that was taken care of promptly. The bath was tiny...but it was efficient. Not a fan of the shower curtain and the daily lamination, but it was of good quality. Bed linens were VERY comfortable and clean. Absolutely nothing negative to say in this regard. However, in the second week of our trip we had to switch cabins and this cabin(6048) was in need of some TLC which I am sure they are taking care of. The hot water in that shower was unpredictable at best and the shower curtain in that shower was a bit worn and tired. The towels were always luxurious Turkish cotton and I just loved them. The crew was outstanding and not enough can be said about their professionalism and genuine caring attitudes. I say genuine because it is my feeling that they were not canned responses they gave to the passengers but well thought out meaningful responses. It made everyone feel special. The food was fantastic. I ate at Prime C and Aqualina and my cruise mate like Aqualina over Prime C, while I proffered Prime C. Regardless, it was a fabulous meal and very quiet and relaxing for both restaurants. The main dining room was equally as good with the usual busy hubbub of the main dining room. Service was always good there and the wine was ALWAYS kept full. Speaking of the wine, the complimentary wine was very good however not what I expected it to be. Alot of Chilean, South African and Australian, New Zealand wines as well as a few Italian wines. I fully expected the wines to have a theme regarding the cruise such as since we were in the Med. there would have been wines only from that region. But, that is not to say this is a complaint(only a suggestion) as only a few of the wines were not to my taste and a bit heavy(I prefer red wines). The entertainment was great. I typically do not do any shows as I prefer a more intimate surround for socializing. This is why we promptly found Jaqueline, the harpist who performs in the Martini bar nightly and Dan Daly who performs in the Cova Cafe to be a perfect fit for us and not a night went by that we did not listen to their beautiful music. There was also a guitarist that performed in the Windows Cafe nightly and played fabulously, especially Santana among many. The pool area was very comfortable and even on the busiest days a lounger could be found. What a lounger it is too...soft and cozy and I never wanted to get up once I lay down. They seem to have a running tally of loungers they maintain and so none were in bad repair. The pool was nice if only a bit tired around the tiles...I think a sprucing of the tiles will do wonders for all the negativity regarding the pool area. The hot tubs were not really to my taste...no jets really so a bit disappointing. I imagine it is the next thing on the refurbish list but will have to be done when in dock for several weeks. They had redone the Thalassotherapy pool to our chagrin and so was not available the first week or half the second week. But, when we finally got to see it we were pleased. Beautiful deck furniture of teak and this gorgeous glass tile used on the tub itself...would be fantastic if they did the pool in the same tile. Did not use the casino except for the cruise critic meet and greet, which is provided regardless if there is only one person or 25...so no worries for those concerned in this area. We got that straight from the Cruise Director and stated as a company policy. The Casino lounge has some very comfy chairs though and being smoke free makes it a good place to sit where it is quiet. Another good quiet spot is Michael's library. Cozy bookshelves and leather chairs with comfy sofas...I fell asleep on the sofa our last day at sea and had to make myself get up when people started floating in. Laundry service was efficient and what we turned in the afternoon was sent back the next morning. One thing I did note was the two sea days we had one each week. They were chocked full of activities and we did get the chance to take a bridge tour which was fascinating. I was extremely disappointed that there was no guest lecturer and although both weeks were very busy itineraries I do believe there was time for a lecture in there. That is the biggest negative I have regarding the week. They did say the lecturer had been booked for the first week but had to back out. Another great activity was Zorba dancing with captain Theodoru(I just know I spelled that wrong so please forgive me Captain). He is a great fun-loving man who is warm and considerate. We got to eat dinner with him in our second week and also was fortunate enough to have two vice presidents from RCI there as well, one for hotel rest. management and one for refurbishment. They were gracious as well and wanted honest up front answers regarding what needed changing on the ship. At that point it was only the hot tubs and cold showers...We told them that they were doing a great job and to keep it up.   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We had cruised Oceania twice and loved the experiences but was anxious to see if Azamara could raise the bar.  We definitely feel they did!  Although after reading several reviews on this site this past winter I was a little skeptical.  ... Read More
We had cruised Oceania twice and loved the experiences but was anxious to see if Azamara could raise the bar.  We definitely feel they did!  Although after reading several reviews on this site this past winter I was a little skeptical.  There were definitely some negative comments posted here that made me question booking the April 15 Sorrento Stopover but I am glad we did!  Azamara is definitely listening to their clientele and acting upon their comments.  We booked our cruise through Largray Travel (Mary Peptides) who I found online.  I did our own air through Orbitz as we are committed to Delta!  This was the only downer on the trip as Delta left Atlanta an hour late due to boarding a lot of standbys and finding their luggage.  We therefore missed our connection to Venice and because we are talking only a couple days past Easter the first 2 subsequent flights were sold out so we arrived in Venice 9 hours late.  Fortunately, Azamara picked up on our delay and had a private driver there to meet us.(even though their literature said transfers ended at 4 PM)  We left the airport at 5:35 pm and sped to the dock as we were informed the Port Authority closed at 6:00.  This was quite an experience as the Italians shouted at each other as to whether or not we could board as they were closedbut ultimately we did get on and everything went much smoother after that!Azamara hosted a meet and mingle for about 30 of us and did a good job of listening to everyone's comments.  It was the first time we have ever had a group large enough for one of these parties.  They had a least 5 senior officers there to listen to our comments.The itinerary of this cruise was awesome and our main reason for booking.  The dining experiences in all 4 venues were wonderful.  We even thought the Breeza experience much better than on Oceania.  I didn't have a bad meal the whole 10 days and even some very memorable ones.  One dessert (a Pavlovano, not chocolate) was outstandingtasty and very artistic!  I am only sorry I did not get a picture of it!The shore excursion staff did a nice job!  We only booked 3 excursions through them and chose to book others independently in Split and Kotor.  I felt the ones we did were a decent value for the money.Capri and Sorrento we did totally on our own.The crew was outstanding and very friendly.  Captain "Theo" was very approachable and seem to care very much about pleasing his quests. I loved the evening appetizers which were quite tasty and artistic and the night time pillow treats were awesome I always tried at least one before bedtime and stashed the rest in the minibar for later.  Who doesn't love a chocolate covered strawberry with their roomservice coffee in the morning!Azamara you did a fantastic job we will be back! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Embarkation: what a breeze on such a small boat and the staff took our luggage immediately unlike the experience of some others reported on cruise critic. RCI tells you that you can't board til 3p but from reading the forums I ... Read More
Embarkation: what a breeze on such a small boat and the staff took our luggage immediately unlike the experience of some others reported on cruise critic. RCI tells you that you can't board til 3p but from reading the forums I discovered many do board early and enjoy lunch on board. When we disembarked, staff told us that the Journey allows passengers on as early as 11:30am! I think we arrived around 1p- the entire embarkation process took about 15 mins. Staff- Azamara really shines here. The staff was uniformly outstanding and friendly. There's also a relaxed vibe on board- staff seems genuinely happy- not sure if that's really the case but it appears to be.Food-I would give it a B plus. Dishes ranged from terrific to a few mediocre things but if you get something you don't like, just send it back and try something new. Aqualina- we only ate here once and it was a disappointment- food did not seem to be as good as the main dining room and there was something about the lighting and vibe we didn't especially care for. Prime C was wonderful- since Aqualina shares the same kitchen and chefs I don't know why there should be a difference. Prime C was very beautiful, small, serene with outstanding wait staff. Good options for non meat eaters too.We ate here twice. Reservations were only available at the speciality restaurants for one night each but by arriving very early one night at Prime C (6pm) we got a table.The only food item I found unacceptable were the green beans- clearly frozen and dreadful but advertised as "haricots verts" on the Aqualina menu. These were fat, frozen ol snap beans not haricots verts.Fresh squeezed orange juice in the spa area was wonderful but oj delivered to the room for breakfast was poor and watery. Morning room service coffee also poor. But these are really our only food complaints, for the most part food was delicious and we ate ourselves sick. Ports- a dream come true to finally visit places I've read about for yrs. However, just as in the Caribbean, there are none that I would return to for a visit on a land based vacation with the exception of Ravenna, Italy. (In the Caribbean my exception is Antigua because of its breathtaking beaches).Rome- thought we would hate it- thought it would be dirty and chaotic. Wrong! Rome was clean and fantastic. We would love to return here some day.Sorrento- I've been obsessed with the Amalfi coast for yrs and was thrilled to finally get here but was surprised at the sort of seedy feel of the place. We hired a private taxi to take us up to Ravello. Unfortunately, his English was too good and he talked non stop but did take us to an outstanding restaurant in the village of Ravello. Ravello was very attractive.Corfu gray but we could see the outline of the hills and sea which were stunning. Corfu Town was quite seedy and downmarket. We had a very mediocre lunch here at Rex which other tourists were frequenting. We strolled around the fort area.Montenegro- took the walking tour of the old town- kind of interesting- then hired a taxi to take us up into the hills to a village famous for its ham and cheese. Views from above were breathtaking.Split- took the Palace walking tour- very interesting- then hired a private taxi to take us to a nearby village on the water which was overrun with tourists. Split is a large city with many new bldgs and not very attractive- Dubrovnik is supposed to be prettier.Ravenna- arrived on an official holiday- all the shops were closed but churches and mosaics remained open. A beautiful, affluent town with typical wonderful Italian food. 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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