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Sail Date: August 2008
This was our first cruise on Azamara and my wife and I were not exactly sure what to expect. We booked the cruise on our Celebrity Baltic cruise a year earlier because of the great itinerary. Having cruised eleven times before, we liked ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Azamara and my wife and I were not exactly sure what to expect. We booked the cruise on our Celebrity Baltic cruise a year earlier because of the great itinerary. Having cruised eleven times before, we liked a smaller ship which the Journey was (33,000 tons and 700 passengers). Besides the itinerary, we liked the fact that the entire trip was casual dress and open seating. The fourteen day Holy Land cruise visited many of the Mediterranean ports and countries we had always wanted to see: Spain, Italy, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. We opted to plan our own air transportation rather than go through Azamara (Celebrity). When you do your own air, it can be a little nerve racking, but once you take the plunge it is fun and in most cases it will save you several dollars. After some research, we opted for the business class on Iberia (Spain's national airline). Flying from Phoenix Arizona to Madrid was smooth. A great advantage of flying business class was the use of Iberia's Madrid lounge on the layover from Madrid to Barcelona (our ship's port). We were able to rest and refresh ourselves at Madrid before our final hour flight to Barcelona. One word of advice is to try to avoid in-country flights with Iberia. There were no first or business class seats, and as one fellow traveler put it "it's a cattle call". No reserved seats on our one hour flight, but you can put up with anything for one hour. The airport at Barcelona was difficult to traverse. Somehow we got in the wrong arrival line, and after going through customs we found that our airlines' luggage was not anywhere to be found. After finding an English speaking official, we discovered that we would have to exit the airport arrival area, and then re-enter the airport before we could then find our way back to the Iberia's arrival carousal. This took over thirty minutes to go back through security and find our way to the Iberia's carousal. My little Spanish helped us to communicate our situation and to find the right exit doors. This experience was 180 degrees different from the well marked airport at Madrid. From what the officials said, we were not the only ones that have had this experience. The only good thing was we didn't have to wait for our luggage at the carousal. Our bags were one of the few left. We did decide to go through Azamara (Celebrity) to book a hotel, and I had emailed the hotel Casa Furster ahead of time to arrange for the hotel to meet us at the airport with transportation. We should stop here to say that one of the improvements that Azamara could make would be to include your airport to hotel transportation if you book one of their rooms. Not only don't they do this (as some other high end lines do), but they don't even give you a chance to pay for the service. If you are paying premium dollars for a cruise, this is one area that should be included. Now for the hotel! The Hotel Casa Furster was outstanding. We opted to pay a few more dollars for this hotel after reading the reviews from fellow travelers. From the personal greeting by name at the hotel entrance, to the personal escort to our room where wine and strawberries greeted us, to the unbelievable breakfast buffet we were not disappointed. The next morning after breakfast, we checked out and waited in the lobby for our transportation to the ship. From past experiences I was expecting to have a bus roll up, and after getting on and a few stops at other hotels we would finally arrive at the port. What a surprise when a van arrived, and my wife and I along with only one other couple got in and it took us directly to the ship. Checking in was good, but not great. Some of the check-in-lines were not well marked, and it seemed a little disorganized. We had a much better check in experience with Celebrity on our Baltic cruise. However, once on the ship everything was superb. From the greeting with Champaign and asking us if we would like for them to take our carry-on luggage to our cabin we were not disappointed. The first impression of the ship was excellent. Deck chairs were always covered with white towels, the public rooms were gorgeous, and the food was outstanding (More on the food later). Fellow travelers were made up of experience cruisers, many of whom 20 or more cruises was the norm. The ship was not designed for children's programs, and therefore most of the passengers were in their 50's or 60's with a small group of 30 to 40 year olds. Most passengers were from the U.S., but we had some from Spain, England, France and Germany. There was one down side to the fact that the ship was sold out for this cruise, and that was the lack of deck chairs available. I found the U.K. passengers staked out the promenade deck chairs early in the morning, and although no one was in the chair, they had placed their book and other belongs on the chairs early in the morning. My guess is that they would go for breakfast and return to the chairs for the rest of the morning. I had thought about moving the books and sitting down, but I was nice and moved on to other places. One of the best places I found to relax was in the Spa pool area. While they charge by the day or by the cruise (I opted to pay by the cruise) for the use of the pool area (a mineral spa and lounge chairs), it was well worth the extra expense. With most of the lounge chairs always seeming to be occupied by the pool or the promenade deck, this was a most welcomed retreat. Our veranda cabin was as expected, approximately 175 sq ft and very nicely decorated. Storage space was adequate even for a 14 day cruise, especially since we didn't have to pack the formal wear. If you decide to pack formal wear, be warned that you will run out of space in any cabin below the suite level. Our "butler" as they call the stewardess on the Azamara was outstanding. We were always greeted every morning and at any time during the day when she was around. The cabin was kept in great order with flowers, fresh fruit, a pitcher of water, and a bucket of ice. The only service beyond what we would expect a stewardess to do was a requested polishing of my shoes. They furnish a bag to place the shoes in, and the next day they were returned in good order. The staff on the Azamara Journey is the reason the ship runs as well as it does. We were always greeted with a "hello", and everyone seemed genuinely happy to serve you. However, the highest level of service came from the officers, especially the captain. I have never been on a ship where the cruise director met you as you arrived on shore to help orient you to the island, or a hotel director meeting you after a long shore excursion to welcome you back to the ship. What is even more impressive is that the captain on the last night of our cruise asked if he could sit at a table with my wife and I so he could visit. He wanted to know what we thought of the cruise and to see if there were any areas that needed to be improved. After fourteen days, we were not ready to leave. One of the reasons we loved the Azamara was the selection of eating places and the food. I know, all ships claim to have great food. What we liked most was the Breeza restaurant in the evening (also called the Windows during the day). Most of our meals were taken on the outside deck overlooking a great port or the ocean on sea days. The buffet was a little heavy on the Italian cru sine, but it always had delicious food. Most nights the buffet included sushi, an ice cream cart, salads, and several ethnic dishes besides Italian. The food was so great, that we only occasionally ate at the Discovery Dining room (the main dining room). That is not to say that the service or food was not good at Discovery, we just enjoyed the less formal and relaxing evening on the open deck. The Windows cafe during the day also did not disappoint. The breakfast juice bar was a highlight for my wife. Made to order smoothies, and fresh squeezed orange juice became a regular morning routine. Although each cabin is given at least two nights at one of the alternative restaurants (one a steak restaurant and one for Mediterranean food), we did not even feel the least bit tempted to try either. Many of the passengers said they were great, and if they are anything like the other restaurants I would think it could be a special treat. The other two eating areas are the Pool Grill where you find the traditional hamburger, fries and chicken sandwiches. We ate here once or twice and tried their turkey burger (one of our favorites at home), and liked everything. The Cova Cafe (the traditional coffee bar) always had treats or sandwiches on a cart during the day. Coffee and special drinks had a charge. I had hoped they would be able to make a "Starbuck" type drink, but was disappointed that they didn't have the equipment or know how to make any of my drinks. The seating area around the Cova Cafe was used by several passengers to read and people watch during the evening. This was a nice area, but could have been made much more of a coffee house if they had expanded the drink menu. The entertainment on board was above what I had expected for a small ship. This had to do more with the quality of performers rather than the type of performances. Big New York productions were not possible with the very intimate showroom. However, the ship brought in entertainment that matched the facilities. Individual singers, piano players, and the small (in numbers) Azamara singers were some of the entertainment that performed twice nightly in the showroom. Our lecture program consisted of a retired professor from the West Coast. She gave several slide shows on the countries and ports we were to visit. They were not overwhelmed by the attendance of the passengers. While I found her presentations interesting they were not at the level I would have hoped. This is an area where improvements could be made. Evening entertainment after the show was usually limited to a few game contests (like name that tune) or a piano player in one of the lounges. Azamara was recently recognized for their itineraries, and this is well justified. During this cruise we visited Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Alexandria, Port Said, Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. It was one fun packed day after another on our shore excursions. I am not going to go into detail on each port, but you can count or a well organized tour with English speaking guides. I only heard of one disgruntled passenger talk about his poor guide during the entire trip. I will just pass this on as "you can't please everyone all the time". In past reviews of Azamara I had read that the costs of the excursions were too expensive. While none of our trips were cheap, it seemed reasonable considering what we got in return. Most of our tours were in the $200 per person range, but included 8-10 hours of touring and a lunch. A few passengers went on their own, but in every case they had been in the country before, and were comfortable with security and language issues. Debarkation was a breeze, and the staff helped us off with our carry-on luggage (a nice touch as other lines have not done this) when our color tags were called. We booked a post night at the Marriott Athens with Azamara. The hotel was nice, but it was located in an area that had few restaurants, sightseeing or shopping opportunities. Since we had our own transportation from Athens to Phoenix, we also missed out on the transfers from the hotel to the airport and the breakfast since we had to leave at 5 AM to make our flight. This is the same issue as I had mentioned about our transportation upon arrival in Barcelona. With premium prices for the hotel, this transfer should be included in the cost even if we were not using the Azamara air program. Other passengers that had used the Azamara air program left the hotel at the same time we did for the airport. Arrangements could have easily been made to facilitate our departure with that group. While I have not covered all aspects of the Journey, I hope that I gave you a look at some of the important areas as you plan your next cruise. I would gladly sail again with the Azamara brand. The ship is beautiful, the service outstanding, and the itineraries are exciting. Not too many down sides, but be aware that cabins are on the small side, and this is not a family oriented ship. Could there be improvements? Of course! I think they could fine turn several areas that would change this line from very good to great. One of the reasons I think this line will succeed is their genuine concern for improvement. We were asked to make comments half way through the cruise, and they even called our cabin to go over our suggestions. At the end of the cruise we filled out the standard evaluation, and when we arrived at home they sent us an email evaluation. Considering early reviews of the ship just a short year ago, the Journey has come a long way. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
We have previously cruised with RCI (Voyager of the Seas) and NCL (Dawn, Jewel and Gem). We like Freestyle Dining on NCL so we were looking forward to the open seating offered by Azamara and chose this cruise because of it and the ... Read More
We have previously cruised with RCI (Voyager of the Seas) and NCL (Dawn, Jewel and Gem). We like Freestyle Dining on NCL so we were looking forward to the open seating offered by Azamara and chose this cruise because of it and the excellent fjord itinerary. With a great offer of $800 on board credit, and warnings from this Board about small bathrooms in the regular cabins, we opted for a Sky Suite 8064. Copenhagen We flew out the day before on a 90 minute flight from the north of England to Copenhagen and stayed overnight at the Marriott Copenhagen. The hotel was in an excellent location, a short walk from the Tivoli gardens and adjacent to a river boat stop which linked with the various canal cruises in Copenhagen. Embarkation The following day we were eager to get to the ship and arrived after a short taxi ride from the Hotel at around 11.30am, we were not the first to arrive but check-in didn't open until around an hour later. Having sat waiting we then joined a growing queue to check in. There was no sign of a priority check in line for suite guests, but, once open, check-in only took about 30 minutes. At check-in guests were being asked to state a preference time for eating on the first night and were given cards with their preferred time. This is to stagger arrivals at the main dining rooms and only applied to the first night, when I assume that otherwise most guests tend to arrive to eat at the same time. As passengers in a suite we were invited to make a reservation at one of the two speciality restaurants on the first night and we chose Prime C (more later). I don't know if this opportunity was open to all guests, but there was a restaurant Maitre'D taking reservations alongside check-in. Once on board we were told that rooms would be available from 2pm (and they were) and we found a sheltered spot on deck and had lunch from the poolside grill. Sky Suite Our Sky Suite was clean, spacious and very comfortable. There was more than enough drawer, cupboard and wardrobe storage in both the cabin and the bathroom. A bottle of Champagne was on ice, a small vase of fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit were on the table when we arrived The mini-fridge was stocked with the usual soft drinks, half bottles of wine, water and miniature spirits. We were advised that the bottled still mineral water and soft drinks (coke, tonic water etc) were complimentary and our butler and room steward kept us well supplied with both. Ice and a vacuum pitcher of water were also supplied. We had bath robes (XL size) an Azamara golf umbrella and a hair dryer in the room, together with a flat screen TV and DVD/CD player. We didn't see any binoculars, but as we had our own we didn't pursue this. Pay-per-view films were available ($12.99 I think) The bathroom was a good size with a full bath with shower over, plenty of storage and shelving and Elementis toiletries (soap, shampoo, conditioner, bath/shower gel and body lotion). There was a second wall mounted hair dryer in the bathroom. On two occasions we had some trouble drawing hot water and could only get warm. Overall the Suite was excellent - the best accommodation we have had on a cruise ship and a perfect place not just to sleep but to relax. The balcony was a generous size with plenty of room to stand and stare at the passing beauty of Norway, or sit and enjoy a drink, breakfast or dinner. The balcony had a small table - of a height suitable to dine from and two chairs. The air conditioning, on full, kept the room comfortably cool, but I imagine that it would be insufficient for those that like their rooms chilled. We were looked after by a room steward (Michael) who kept the room clean and tidy, a butler (Parvin) who helped Michael, brought the daily "Pursuits" and other information and kept the mini-fridge stocked and a head butler (Arvin) who dealt with in-suite room service and made our speciality restaurant reservations. All three were very efficient, friendly and discrete. The Ship We were looking forward to the difference of cruising on a smaller ship and, in the Fjords, the ship's size paid dividends. We were able to take more scenic inside passages, explore breathtakingly beautiful detours and pass under bridges that would have been impossible for larger vessels. Leaving Flam we were able to spend several hours on an unscheduled cruise down Naeroyfjord (with Geiranger one of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites) which was outstandingly picturesque. Despite its size, or perhaps because of it, we never seemed to be in a crowd or in a long line/queue, if anything I wondered whether the ship was full because there was always room in every bar and lounge - only in the main restaurants did you get a feel of a busy ship. In some areas this lack of people caused us some disappointments. We planned to join in a name-that-tune type quiz but found just four people huddled around a laptop computer with a member of the entertainment staff playing tunes from the PC software. On another occasion we hoped to join in the ballroom dancing but found no-one dancing in the looking glass lounge. Even the Cruise Director admitted that the on-board entertainment was being beaten hands-down by the passing scenery outside. The ship is kept in first class condition. The show lounge is no match for the theatres on larger ships but was ideal for the lower key entertainment offered. The Looking Glass lounge was the focus for livelier evening entertainment and was busy with Bridge players and people just enjoying the views during the day. Cova Cafe was a pleasant spot to enjoy piano music and a drink, or speciality teas/coffees (all at a charge) or a cake or cookie (free). The pool area was great and we were very lucky with the weather so we could make the most of it. There were hardly any children on board so the pool was used by adults taking a dip. There was always room to swim, sit in either of the two hot tubs, or find a lounger to sit on (though loungers in the sun were sometimes harder to come by). The wooden loungers are very heavy to move, but with thick cushions and toweling covers they were very comfortable. Dining Azamara offers open dining at the main restaurant - Discoveries. Guests turn up, without needing a reservation, when they choose to eat and can request a table just for their party or offer to join others and share. There were plenty of tables for two, but some were so close together you could converse easily with your neighbors if you chose to. We sometimes joined a short line when we arrived at around 8pm but were seated within minutes. Twice we were asked to take a seat in the adjoining Martini Bar until a table was ready for us and the wait was never more than ten minutes. Senior and Assistant waiters seemed to keep the same tables each night and there did seem to be an effort to match languages for non-english speakers, so that one evening we were served by a French speaking waiter and most of the people around us were French speakers, on another occasion our Ukrainian waiter was speaking Russian with many of his guests. Service was good and attentive. Food in Discoveries was consistently good to excellent, served hot and with very attractive presentation. The Menu was varied and tempting and there was an accompanying alternative menu of standard items for those who wanted something simpler. The decent European wines were a little pricey - thank goodness for our on board credit! We ate at Aqualina once and were put off the Tasting/Wine Pairing menu by the mediocre wine choices. Speed of service seemed to be a problem the night we ate there. We were asked to select our desert with the rest of our meal to help the kitchen avoid delays and we were sat for over an hour before we were served our soup. The whole meal took nearly three hours. Whilst we were in no hurry I couldn't see a reason for this, the restaurant was not full, there were plenty of empty tables. However, the food was good, when it arrived. We enjoyed Prime C more and went there three times in total (including our first evening on board). The steaks, salmon and lamb were all first class, the wild mushroom soup was wonderful and the chocolate fondue was a real treat. There is no cover charge for eating in the speciality restaurants but a reservation is required. We made our first reservation at check-in (see embarkation) and made our other three through our Butler. Suite guests are entitled to three reservations and other passengers to two but additional reservations can be made over and above these if the restaurants have capacity. Guests eating in the speciality restaurants are invited to pay a gratuity of $5 per person to cover service. Service was faultless and we were happy to pay the gratuity - which was added to our on-board account. We ate one evening in the buffet; we are not big buffet fans but gave it a try. The meal was fine, with stations offering pasta, pizza and stir fry - but it was no match for the restaurants. We also opted to eat on our balcony one evening, as the weather got better and the Captain promised beautiful scenery as we cruised away from Bergen. We called the Butler who arrived within minutes with the full menu from Discoveries and the wine list. He left us to make our choices and came back 20 minutes later with a table cloth, wine and water glasses and cutlery, vase of flowers etc and set up the table on the balcony. He took our order and we said we wanted to eat at around 8pm after we had showered and changed. First and second courses, bread basket and wine arrived as requested and we dined in the evening sunshine watching Norway pass by. Half an hour later the table was cleared and the main course and desert arrived. The food matched the quality in the dining room, the service was excellent and the setting perfect. Everything was cleared away when the room was turned down for the night later that evening. Lunches on board were mainly taken at the poolside grill where chicken, beef and vegetarian kebabs, grilled vegetables, salad, burgers, hotdogs and chips(fries) were all available to order. However, when it got busy the grill became a little chaotic and slow. Teas, coffees, still lemonade, orange juice, other fruit mixes and water were all available at the buffet free of charge. Afternoon tea was available between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in the buffet and twice on sea days the Discoveries Dinning Room opened for Elegant Afternoon Tea service. We also opted once for afternoon tea in our suite - but I have a dislike for hot water served in flasks mainly used for coffee - it taints the taste of the water and makes tea taste of coffee - a big problem for me! So we usually opted for the teapots in the buffet. Staff and Crew We had read very good things about the staff and crew working for Azamara and our experience confirmed those reports. Cabin staff, waiters and Maitre'Ds, guest relations, shore excursion and security staff were all friendly, helpful and efficient. Ships officers were highly visible and approachable. Captain Carl Smith was clearly in his element sailing through the Fjords and his enthusiasm and excitement at the routes he was able to take with the help of the local Norwegian pilots was infectious. He openly admitted struggling with the temptation to wake us all up with an early morning announcement to tell us how beautiful Geirangerfjord looked bathed in an early morning mist. His detailed reports on the use of anchors, how many lines were securing us to the dockside and techniques for pulling away left most of us baffled and puzzling over the exact length of a shackle! entertainment were led by Cruise Director Dottie Kalusa and a small team. Shows were usually performed at 8pm and 10pm, with just one show at 9.30pm a couple of times. There was a talented troupe of five singer/dancers who provided three energetic shows, an American comedian, a female singer from west-end musicals, a Scottish classical and popular music violinist, a Chinese Dulcimer player and a virtuoso pianist Tian Jiang who played two shows - one of popular piano pieces and one of classics. But all of the entertainers had to compete with Norway looking its best in excellent weather and daylight until 11.30pm and that's hard to beat. Ports of Call and Excursions We were drawn to this cruise because of the itinerary which offered the very best of scenic Norway and we weren't disappointed. After a drenching in the rain of Oslo the weather just got better and better until we were seeking out the shade towards the end in Alesund and Stavanger. Temperatures hit 300C and the blue skies made the snowcapped peaks, the jade green water and the ice blue glaciers even more staggering. Comforted by our on board credit we booked ship's tours in most places - we couldn't decide whether the excursions were expensive because it was Azamara or because it was Scandinavia - either way we took the hit. The tours were well organized and the small ship size paid off again when it came to getting guests off the ship and onto tours. Oslo was wet. Having been before we remembered our previous guide's advice that there is no such thing as bad weather in Norway, just bad clothing. We explored the city center on our own for a couple of hours dodging showers and then joined the ships tour "Viking Heritage" taking in the City center, the Vigeland Sculpture Park, HolmenKollen Ski Jump, Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum. The whole coach got soaked and the sights were wonderful but they would have been better still in dry weather Eidfjord was the next stop and the weather was improving. We toured the Hardangervidda Mountain Plateau and travelled by coach, ferry and train. We saw the Hardangerjokul glacier from the coach, the Vortingfossen waterfall and Sysen stone dam, had an excellent buffet lunch at the Geilo ski resort and travelled by train from Voss to Geilo seeing what we thought was wonderful scenery, but which would be bettered as the cruise went on. In Bergen the ship docked a short walk from the Bryggen and near to the Fishmarket and City center. We visited Troldhougen (home of composer Edvard Grieg) which included a 30 minute recital before returning to Bergen and joining the queue for the funicular railway to the top of Mount Floyen (NRK70 return). The view from the top is well worth the wait and there is a café and toilets for those that need them. We enjoyed wonderful prawn/shrimp and smoked salmon open sandwiches bought in the fish market before returning to the ship. Weather that evening was glorious and we were able to cruise an unscheduled inside passage to Olden. Olden was the highlight for us, despite been little mentioned in our guidebooks. The fjord valley was emerald green, the sky was clear blue and the waters were colored jade by mineral deposits from the ice-melt. The ship tendered and the small town with a few shops was a short 15 minute walk away. We took a tour to the Briksdal Glacier which drove through the stunningly beautiful valley to a lodge about 1 hours walk from the foot of the glacier. The walk included some steep inclines and uneven surfaces, but we were warned of such by the shore excursion information. What would have been helpful would have been to know that the hardest walking was in the first 15/20 minutes after which it flattened off. Electric carts were available at extra cost to take passengers most of the way - but everyone had to walk the last 10/15 minutes to the glacier itself. We were lucky to see a chunk of the ice-blue glacier dislodge and tumble towards the lake below. Every turn of the walk to and from the glacier offered a great spot for photographs - I took far too many. At Geiranger we climbed Mount Dalsnibba (by coach!) with photo stops halfway up and at the very top. Both offered picture postcard views of the valley with our ship sitting alone, tendered in the fjord. On the way back we called at the Fjord Visitor center and saw a 10 minute slide presentation of life in the fjords over the four seasons (much more absorbing than it sounds) and wandered around a fascinating museum depicting life in Geirangerfjord. We left the tour there and walked back through Geiranger, past the church and to the ship, after stopping off for a beer - the weather was getting warmer. Molde is famous for its roses and an annual jazz festival. In the morning our tour started with the now obligatory "photo stop from a mountaintop" overlooking the town, the fjord and the Romsdal Alps. We then drove along the Atlantic Road (Construction of the Century in Norway) and visited a former German WW2 fortification. We explored the very pretty town by ourselves, but by the middle of Saturday afternoon it was closing for the weekend. We explored Alesund by ourselves and spent most of the time looking for shade to walk in. The town was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style after a devastating fire in 1904 and is very attractive. A trolleybus train took us round the town and made sure we got another "photo stop from a mountaintop". Flam we also did by ourselves. The Norwegian Tourist Board official who sailed with us on the cruise warned that it was best to get the early train as the larger HAL Eurodam was due to dock at 11am. We disembarked as soon as we could and bought tickets (NKR310 return) for the 8.35am train from Flam to Myrdal (a climb of 864m over 20km) with more stunning views at every turn. We stayed in Myrdal for 15 minutes before the return trip to Flam. There were options to walk or cycle some or all of the way back down. The train stops for photographs at the Kjosfossen waterfall (about halfway). Flam is another small pretty town and the railway museum (which tells the story of the railway's construction) is worth a wander around (entrance was free). Stavanger was our last stop before returning to Copenhagen. We took the City sights and Iron Age Village tour and were more than satisfied. Again the "photo stop from a mountaintop" was included - this time from the base of a telecoms tower! as were visits to an iron age farm, the three swords monument at Hafrsfjord, Stavanger Cathedral and a walk over the cobbles of Old Stavanger back to the ship. On every tour we were escorted by the official guide plus an Azamara crewmember who seemed not only to be helping but also assessing the quality of the tours. Whilst the tours were expensive, we were pleased with our choices and saw all that we wanted to see, and more. Disembarkation With a flight at 13.35 we were off the ship, without a hitch, by 8.45am and at the airport within an hour. We left our luggage outside our suite at 11pm on the last night and were reunited with it at Copenhagen Airport. Unlike on NCL where you can stay in your suite until you disembark, we had to be out by 8am and we waited in the buffet - no real problem. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed the ship, thought Norway was wonderful and that we saw it at its best, and were impressed by Azamara Cruises and her staff. We would definitely sail Azamara again. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
In a nutshell: Friendliest staff we've met on any cruise. It's a small, comfortable, elegant ship in the classic style. Room size was adequate, but storage was limited. Bathroom was incredibly small. Think of it as a ... Read More
In a nutshell: Friendliest staff we've met on any cruise. It's a small, comfortable, elegant ship in the classic style. Room size was adequate, but storage was limited. Bathroom was incredibly small. Think of it as a floating boutique hotel. Multiple days in some ports make it an ideal way to travel Europe. They have worked hard to improve their service to this niche market and it shows. Overall excellent value! Updates (Things Azamara has fixed from previous reviews) Bedside lamps. Glued tight to the table tops, they will not fall over. The light seemed adequate to us. Alarm clock. Small, battery-powered, digital clock provided in each room. Hangers. Closet was full of hangers. Bathroom storage. Very limited. Get a toiletry kit that hangs and it will help. - Ship Review - Embarkation. Luggage check-in was confusing and slower than it should be. Azamara did not send out pre-printed luggage tags, we had to fill them out when we arrived. That needlessly slowed down the process. When we checked in there were only a few other people arriving so it was manageable, but I expect it was a mess when crowds of people started arriving. Azamara needs to send out luggage tags in advance. Even if they don't want to pre-print or color code them, they could send out the generic tags for us to complete in advance. We beat the embarkation rush, so the line was short. Processing was quick. They solved the "rush on the dining room" problem of open seating by having you select a time slot for dinner on the first night. That seemed to work pretty well. We were seated near the entrance to the dining room on the first night and didn't see anybody wait more than about five minutes to be seated. Note to Captain's Club members: Immediately after check-in, there was a table to make reservations at Prime C or Aqualina if you want to eat there instead for the first night. After boarding the ship, we enjoyed our glass of champagne, a great lunch, and some quiet time before the cabins were ready at 2:00 pm. Service. From our arrival onboard, we immediately noticed a difference in the staff and level of service. For example, they were serving champagne upon entering the ship, but they did not have cranberry juice available for our underage niece. Shortly after making ourselves comfortable upstairs at the Cova Cafe, a waiter showed up with a glass of cranberry juice for her. We were shocked that they tracked us to our seats and followed up with delivering juice we had simply asked about. The service level at the buffet was also quite impressive. A smoothie bar for breakfast, a panini maker for lunch, and waiters who were carrying and delivering drinks to each table it was all a step above most other lines. However, here's an example of what really impressed us. My wife mentioned to me that she was going to return to the buffet to get an English muffin. A staff member overheard her say that and immediately offered to get it for her. He later came back to say that they were out on the buffet, but that it was on its way from the stores downstairs. Shortly thereafter he delivered it toasted and with butter just as my wife wanted! Clientele. Much more international than cruises we have taken originating from the U.S. Wide range of ages. Even though it was summer vacation, there were only about a dozen children aboard. Most of the children were well behaved, but one group of several families had about eight kids who would have been better suited to another cruise line. Cabin. Since we came on this cruise for the ports and didn't expect to spend any time on a balcony, we saved some money with an outside (non-balcony) cabin. Deck 4 mid-ship was a great location. Our cabin had a nice window with a large shelf in front of it that was a handy place to put stuff. (The butler also used it to store the extra pillows at night so they were out of our way.) The cabin itself was comfortable, with plenty of room to get around the bed, even without the "rounded corners" you see on lesser lines. However, the storage was very limited. We still had to "live out of a suitcase" for some of our clothes because there was not enough shelf or drawer space. Having a flat screen TV on the wall did free up some space in the corner unit over the safe for ice, water, glasses, etc. This was the first ship we've been on that had a reasonably sized safe in the room. Fresh fruit was replenished as we ate it. The bathroom was smaller than any ship we've been on in the last 10 years. If you are taller than 5 ft, you will have to sit at a 45 degree angle on the toilet. Other ships have small showers, but they are round with shower doors that slide making them more useable. This shower is narrow, so you might as well plan to get intimate with your shower curtain! Two of each 220V and 110V outlets at the desk made it easy to recharge camera batteries, etc. We brought an extension cord but didn't use it. Captain. We liked his technical announcements when departing port (as mentioned in other reviews), but some people didn't. He is younger than any captain we've sailed with before, but he was very personable and seems to be running a pretty good ship. He made several minor itinerary modifications to improve the cruise, such as departing Warnemunde at a time to take advantage of the fireworks display and slowing down for rough seas. Cruise Director. I thought Dottie was a bit goofy and seemed to focus on pleasing the older clientele, but this didn't make any difference in how much we enjoyed the cruise. However, our 12 year old niece thought she was a hoot. Hotel Director. We saw him everywhere. He is really working hard and doing a great job providing a fabulous experience for his guests. Entertainment. The show lounge is quite small, so that limits the entertainment options. If you have ever watched an episode of Love Boat, you know what to expect. Food. The dining room food was good, but not incredible. I was not particularly impressed with the specialty restaurants. Again the food and service was good, but not incredible. We really enjoyed the pool grill, which was open during the afternoon when everything else was closed. They had a wide variety of meats and vegetables to grill. We often enjoyed a mid-afternoon snack of excellent ribs, salmon, and burgers from this fast and easy location. Breakfast and lunch buffets were excellent. We only ate at the dinner buffet once the last night before disembarkation. It was marginal and we were very disappointed. Perhaps this was because it was the last night. We did notice that several things around the ship (personnel, services, availability of self-serve items like beverages, dishes, cookies, etc) were being dramatically scaled down that evening. Things weren't quite at the level we'd come to expect. Dress code. Every night was "country club casual." Wear what you would wear to a nice restaurant and you'll be fine. You might want to dress up slightly for the specialty restaurants. This is the first cruise where we left our formal wear at home, which was a real blessing with the baggage restrictions of European airlines. Internet. Like most ship internet it was slow and expensive. I had a difficult time connecting on several days. The computer room was beautiful, but don't plan to get much real work done online. Housekeeping. Butlers? I never even saw them dressed up pretending to be butlers. They are simply cabin stewards. We had a substitute for the first couple of days who made a lot of mistakes. When we got our regular stewardess back everything was fine. Photographic services. On some cruises you have so many great pictures it is hard to pick which ones to keep, particularly at the prices they charge. It was easier aboard the Journey because only some of the pictures were good and they were not as expensive. Ship Decor. Classic styling that felt warm and comfortable. The library was particularly cozy. Some areas are getting worn, particularly in the cabins, but we saw them trying hard to keep everything maintained. Fitness Center. Looked nice, but never had a chance to use it with so many port calls. Gift Shop selection. Very poor selection of branded merchandise. We came away empty handed when all we wanted was a quality souvenir shirt or jacket from the ship. In summary, we loved this cruise. We really enjoyed the service and ambiance of the ship. The itinerary was incredible and the size of the ship gave us better port access than other ships would have allowed. There's no better way to see this part of Europe and we would do it again in a heartbeat. - Port Review - We took this cruise because of the itinerary, and we were not disappointed. Take this ship if you want to focus on the port calls and spend your time ashore. You'll likely be board if you stay onboard because many services are limited during port days. Local experts. During our first stop in Warnemunde, a local woman was at a desk with maps of Warnemunde and Rostock. She also had directions on how to get to Rostock. It was incredibly helpful to have a local available to answer questions before venturing off the ship to explore on our own. Warnemunde. A very nice resort town with a several fun things to see and do. Lots of food stands and shops made us wish we had more time to spend there. The smoked fish looked great, but we didn't try it. The Oceania Regatta was in port with us, but the streets were filled with German tourists, not cruise ship passengers! The train station is nearby the cruise terminal, so it was easy to go to Rostock. We enjoyed most of the day in Rostock seeing the city walls, churches, and architecture of this medieval town. There is an incredible free museum housed in a convent building downtown. If you like museums, you could spend several hours there. We toured Berlin on our own in three days prior to this cruise and I would highly recommend that instead of spending seven hours of port time on a bus for only a few hours in the city. There is no way to properly visit a city like Berlin in just a few hours, but it that's your only opportunity to see it, don't miss it. Helsinki. We took a tour to see all the highlights of the city. It would have been nice to explore more of the city on our own, but we simply didn't have the time. St. Petersburg. One of the strengths of the Azamara ships is their small size. That allowed us to dock right downtown, which was a huge advantage. Having three days in St. Petersburg was perfect. You really need some time to see what this fabulous city has to offer. Of course, you can't see everything in three days, but it certainly helps to have that kind of time available. Of course we would have liked to see more, but it's always a balance between seeing a little bit of a lot or a lot of a little. On our first day we took an extensive tour and saw most of the highlights of the city. It was a beautiful day and the guide was excellent. On the second day we went to Catherine's Palace for an exclusive tour (the 60 of us had the palace to ourselves), show, and dinner. It was truly an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the palace that way, and we can highly recommend it. On the third day we went to Peterhof. After touring the palace we watched the graduation of the Russian Naval Academy at the fountains in front of the palace. It was another once-in-a-lifetime experience! After touring the grounds we took a hydrofoil back to the city. We really enjoyed our time in Russia. Although we had fantastic ship-sponsored tours, our only criticism is that there were not more options. For example, there was only one tour available during the second day, but it overlapped what we planned to do on another day, so it wasn't a good choice. We didn't have the opportunity to get Russian visas or make other tour arrangements prior to this trip, so we were restricted to what the ship offered. The trips were excellent. We just wish they had more options. If you can't get a visa, you might consider making independent tour arrangements with certified operators so you can see what you really want to see. Tallinn. We explored Tallinn on our own for a few hours. It was another medieval town with city walls, parks, churches, and incredible architecture. The ship had arranged a shuttle bus to downtown for a small fee, that was well worth it. Stockholm. Again, having two days in this city was excellent. There was so much to see and do! We took a tour to Sigtuna (a quaint town that I didn't think was worth the time it took to drive there). We returned to downtown for lunch, some sightseeing and the Vasa museum. On the second day we went to Drottingham Palace. While we enjoyed what we saw on the tours, in retrospect, I would have preferred to explore the city more on our own. Like many European cities, Stockholm has hop-on/hop-off bus tours. I think that's a great way to get your bearings and have transportation from one site to the next. They allow you flexibility to spend as much time as you want at each site. If you are comfortable touring on your own, without a guide, I would highly recommend that approach. Kiel. What a delight to join in the Kielerwoche (Kiel week) festivities. This city of 250,000 grows to 2 million people who are all there to sail, party, and have a good time. There are booths for food, souvenirs, candy, etc. for almost as far as the eye can see from downtown to the coastline! In one area downtown there was a huge variety of international cuisine booths. Entertainment was everywhere on the street and on outdoor stages. Of course, there are also beerfest areas with German bands. We explored the city on our own, but with so much going on we hardly scratched the surface. This would also have been a great place to spend two days. This was one of our favorite port departures and we will always have the memories of being one of the biggest ships sailing through the "yacht soup"! Copenhagen. Disembarkation went quickly and smoothly as you would expect from a smaller ship. However, the taxis were limited so the queue for the taxi line took about 20-30 minutes. After a quick cab ride to the hotel to check in and drop our bags, we were off exploring the city. This time we took the hop-on/hop-off bus to see the key sights. Despite getting advice that everybody took credit cards, these busses are cash only. Given the time we had available, this was a great way to see Copenhagen. After a quick afternoon nap, we went to Tivoli for dinner and to see the famous Tivoli gardens at night. It was fun and interesting to be at a "classic" European amusement park, but if you've been to Disney theme parks, it won't really impress you. One caveat: the food was excellent, but expensive. If you want to spend an extra day in Copenhagen, make sure you budget for it. With hotel, meals, bus tickets, Tivoli entrance, cabs, etc. the extra day cost $1,000 for the three of us! In summary, we'd love to book an Azamara cruise again with a similar itinerary. It was a great way to see the Baltic states of Europe and only left us wanting to see more. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
This was our first cruise on Azamara Journey and our second cruise in the Baltic Sea, the previous cruise being on Maasdam in 2000. We have been cruising for over 19 years and have cruised the Caribbean, South America, Asia, Alaska, ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Azamara Journey and our second cruise in the Baltic Sea, the previous cruise being on Maasdam in 2000. We have been cruising for over 19 years and have cruised the Caribbean, South America, Asia, Alaska, Mediterranean and the Panama Canal sailing on assorted cruise lines and ships, 20 in total. This cruise was a 12 night cruise sailing roundtrip from Copenhagen visiting Warnemunde (for Berlin), Sea Day. Helsinki, St. Petersburg (3 Days). Tallinn (Estonia), Stockholm (2 Days), Sea Day, Traemuende (for Luebeck or Hamburg) returning to Copenhagen. The cruise departed on a beautiful warm Sunday (high 20s C or 80s F). We had excellent weather especially for the Baltic in early June, with only 2 showers, one at sea and the other in Traemuende. We had to abandon the shorts and t-shirts after we reached Helsinki but it was still very comfortable time of year to visit the region, very green and lush. Azamara Journey - Ship Information One of two former Renaissance ships (R Six) in the Azamara fleet. The ship is beautifully fitted out and gives you that premium feeling while being intimate, less than 700 passengers and a little over 400 crew. Many of the passengers we met had planned to sail or had sailed Oceania and remarked how much the enjoyed Azamara Journey and one passenger who was a travel agent said he would be directing his clients to Azamara in the future because Azamara was better value for money. If we had a concern about the ship it would be the gym while well maintained was warmer than most gyms and the Hot Tubs on deck seemed a little light on the bubbles. One final point about the ship that is often left out of the reviews we have read about Azamara Journey is that her size allows her to get into smaller ports much closer to the city center. With the exception of Stockholm where there are restrictions on ships staying overnight at the close in piers, we were walking distance at every port we visited. For example in St Petersburg we docked in the city center (English Esplanade) only a 10-minute bus trip to the Hermitage. If we had Russian visas we could have walked into town. This is wonderful having visited St Petersburg in 2000 on Maasdam, we had 45 - 60 minute bus trip to the same location and that was provided there was no traffic. If you have been to St Petersburg you know how bad the traffic can be. Service, Captain, Officers and Crew We must say on the twenty cruises we have been on this cruise had the most visible, accessible and personable officers. We have never met so many of the ship's officers and the senior hotel staff on a ship. Many of the officers we met would stop and talk to you every time you met. The Hotel Director, Phillip Herbert and his direct reports were always around the public areas and keen to chat. Phillip was genuinely anxious and sincere in making the cruise enjoyable as were all of the officers. Dottie Kulasa was our Cruise Director and what a refreshing change from the Caribbean mega ships. She was the right mix of outgoing and cheer. Many of the ships we have been on the Cruise Directors always want to be the Life of the Party and for us this gets old. Dottie, like her staff seemed to be very visible and approachable. They really made us feel at home and kept us smiling. Our Captain was Carl Smith, the first British captain we have had the pleasure to sail with and definitely our favorite. In addition to the daily statistics at noon he would give the passengers information on the voyage and what might be of interest. At departure he would explain over the public address system how he would be casting off, which ropes, how the currents would affect the pull away from the quay, etc. It may sound like too much detail but everyone we met loved it. Shore Excursions As we mentioned this was our second Baltic cruise and we lived in Hamburg for three years so we only planned two excursions both in Russia because you cannot leave the ship except with a Russian visa that must be bought in advance or on a ship organized excursion. We strongly recommend if you are the independent sightseers and you are on Azamara in St Petersburg, that you get the tourist visa before you leave home. On Azamara you are so close to everything it would be great to have the freedom to walk off the ship. Both excursions we went on were very well organized and the guides were great. We took the 'Canals and Shopping' trip in St Petersburg which was great for us. We could snap pictures from the canal boat without all of the traffic. Our second trip was the one-day tour of Moscow. We left the ship at 7am and with our St Petersburg guide and were driven by coach to the airport for a flight to Moscow aboard the Russian airline and a Russian airliner, a Tupolev 155M. The flight to Moscow was on time but the return flight was about three hours late, not too different from a Western airline, and we got food on board on hour long flight! We do recommend the Moscow trip, the St Petersburg guide accompanied us the whole day and we had a local guide in Moscow and another guide in the Kremlin, all excellent. We had very nice dinner in the Writers' Club before returning to the Moscow airport. All the remaining ports we did on our own and as mentioned before we were within walking distance of the city centers except Stockholm where the cruise line provided a shuttle for a nominal fee. Having been to most of the tour locations we stayed in Travemuende and Warnemunde. Both towns were picturesque and not overrun with tourists. We do recommend that if you have the opportunity while cruising the Baltic or North Sea do try to visit Hamburg. Most non-German tourists do not know much about the city. It is beautiful, the city center surrounds two lakes and there are numerous canals running through the city with gorgeous homes and gardens. The city is the second or third largest city in Germany but you cannot tell. There are very few tall buildings as you find in Berlin and Frankfurt. It is also the richest city in Germany and the homes and buildings reflect it Copenhagen Airport, Transfers and Embarkation We booked our cruise quite late and we were traveling from London so we made our own arrangements. We had big problems due to delays by our budget airline. We had the port agent's contact details from our Azamara travel documents so we contacted the agent who was very helpful and let us know that we had enough time to get a later flight and make our ship. We recommend you carry the port agent details, had we not contacted the agent we may have not tried to meet the ship in Copenhagen and gone on to Warnemunde and missed a day on the ship. Within 35 minutes of leaving Copenhagen airport we were at the pier. Within another 15 minutes we were on board. We had preregistered so our only complication was that we didn't have luggage tags as all our documents were electronic. The shore staff had to find us luggage tags, which was done promptly. Stateroom We had a beautiful Sky Suite on Deck 8. The cabin was one of the biggest cabins we have ever had. The bathroom was very large with a bathtub / shower combination. The bathroom is appointed in granite or marble. Plenty of hot water and the extra thick bath sheets and towels were wonderful, not the highly bleached towels of the mega ships. The bed was very comfortable with European linen and mattress topper. The veranda was also very large though a bit narrow. We had a small fridge that was kept stocked with soft drinks and bottled water compliments of Azamara. Even though our cabin was near the elevators and below the Windows Café it was very quiet. Our butler and his assistant were very good and not obtrusive. They kept the cabin clean and comfortable throughout our cruise. We had room service breakfast on two mornings and the first time we were not clear on our order form so the steward called and clarified our order and everything arrived perfect. Dining Dining on Azamara Journey was wonderful. We enjoyed dinners in each of the two specialty restaurants twice. Prime C focuses on the Steakhouse feel and Aqualina's menu was seafood and Mediterranean cuisine. The service and the food were excellent in both. The Discoveries Restaurant was the main dining room and was open seating. The service and food were also excellent and they were more than willing to accommodate special requests such as my wife's favorite ice cream. We also had breakfast in Discoveries on three mornings and they were more than willing to fit our schedule i.e. fast service or a leisurely pace. The Eggs Benedict were outstanding. While there were minimal dress code requirements in the dining rooms there were no formal nights, which we missed. We did like being able to dine at Discoveries without a fixed seating but missed having the same waiting staff each night who are then able to learn your likes and dislikes. It also makes it harder to meet people. The remainder of the mornings we had breakfast in the Windows Café buffet or in our cabin. The Windows Café had a wonderful buffet that changes regularly even for breakfast. At breakfast they even had a smoothie bar where you could choose your own fruit combination from a wide range and it was made up for you right there and then. For lunch we had a mix of dishes from the Pool Grill and Windows Café. The Pool Grill was wonderful and everything was made to order which meant it was fresh however we recommend that if you are getting food from the grill and the café that you order from the grill first and then it will be ready after you get your other food from the café. One last point on dining or drinking, we love to have a quiet drink before dinner and seek out a reasonably quiet bar on the ship such as Michael's Club on Celebrity Cruises. Unfortunately on Azamara Journey the Michael's Club is the library. We asked the Maitre d' and he arranged with the Sommelier from the nearby specialty restaurants to find us a quiet corner in Michael's Club to enjoy our glass of champagne each evening before dinner. Summary A wonderful cruise in all ways, the itinerary was great and though we had been most places before we thought we enjoyed them more this time. The ship and our cabin were beautiful and comfortable with ship's size making everything, both on and off ship more accessible. The food and service was outstanding. Finally, the captain and his officers and crew made it most enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
M & M with Russia in mind We began our vacation with a two day pre-cruise package in Copenhagen. An Azamara representative was waiting for us at the baggage claim area & escorted us to our bus for transportation to our hotel. ... Read More
M & M with Russia in mind We began our vacation with a two day pre-cruise package in Copenhagen. An Azamara representative was waiting for us at the baggage claim area & escorted us to our bus for transportation to our hotel. Transfers went very well and the Marriott Hotel was nice & clean & located in a good area of the city. The hotel staff was accommodating as well. Transfers to the ship went as planned with no problems. This was actually our third time to cruise on one of these ships; we first sailed on the Renaissance R-2, then Oceania Insignia which are sister ships to the Azamara Journey, one can see that we like this type and size of ship. The Journey was a bit worn in places but we found the ship to be in good shape with a staff that was exceptionally better than most cruises we have been on. All the staff that we came in contact with were friendly and worked hard to accommodate us to the best of their ability. Captain Smith was especially personable. Food quality was both good and bad. We found that most of the fish dishes were over cooked or just not tender for some reason. Steaks were excellent as well as all the breakfast foods (great omelets & waffles) but the big surprise was the deserts. On all the other cruises we have been on the deserts look great but have very little taste. The deserts on the Journey were really good - they looked good and tasted good as well. Our attraction to this particular cruise was the three days in St. Petersburg. We loved it and it measured up to all that we had been told about. After weeks of looking at excursions and tours we finally decided on Alla Tours. We had a small group of four people for the tour and Alla furnished us with a guide, a driver and a Mercedes van. Our guide turned out to be a history professor at the University of St. Petersburg and she knew her subject from cover to cover. Her English was excellent and she was so accommodating. Our driver worked just as hard but he could not speak English. Price wise I think the Alla tour was well worth the money and we would highly recommend it to anyone. We were able to see so much and move around so quickly. M & M Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
Baltic Delight This was our first cruise on Azamara Journey and our 7th cruise since we started cruising in March of 2007 aboard RCCL's Voyager of the Seas. We have taken our family (daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter (10), and ... Read More
Baltic Delight This was our first cruise on Azamara Journey and our 7th cruise since we started cruising in March of 2007 aboard RCCL's Voyager of the Seas. We have taken our family (daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter (10), and grandson (13)) with us on two Caribbean cruises and on a 12 night cruise/tour to Alaska on the Radiance of the Seas. My wife and I have a cruise scheduled on the Explorer of the seas to Bermuda this October. The Azamara Journey is 30,277 tons with a 694 passenger capacity and a length of 593 feet. We are sold on this size ship. By the end of the year, we will have sailed on RCCL seven times, NCL once, and Azamara once. We have a family cruise scheduled on Carnival's Freedom next April from Ft. Lauderdale. So you can see we have really gotten into cruising. Caribbean Cruises are great for grandchildren as they like the programs on the ship, meeting new friends, and wouldn't care if it never visited any ports. I retired two years ago, but my wife is still working - someone has to pay for all this. We always wanted to visit St Petersburg and the Baltic, and I had scheduled a 13 night trip on Celebrity's Constellation which left out of Harwich England and spent 2 days in St. Petersburg. After doing a lot of reading and research, particularly on Cruise Critic's Cruise Reviews & News, I changed our reservation to a 12 night cruise on Azamara Journey. The primary reasons being that it was a much smaller ship which could dock downtown St. Petersburg within walking distance of the Hermitage - not at the shipyard way out of town, it spent 3 days in St. Petersburg, and it left from Copenhagen- you do have to go through town to get to the cruise terminal from the downtown hotels and to get to the Airport from the ship so allow time for rush hour - there are no bypasses around Copenhagen. We booked our own air travel via SAS airlines and arrived a day early in Copenhagen. We stayed at the Marriott downtown and could walk to Tivoli Park. We arrived at the hotel about 8am Tuesday after leaving Dulles Airport, Washington DC, about 5pm the night before. The hotel advertised a canal tour that stopped at the hotel about 9am. We took the approximately 2 hour tour and it was well worth it, we saw a lot of Copenhagen including the little Mermaid. We spent the afternoon at Tivoli Park - It is a must do in Copenhagen - there are a lot of restaurants and beer gardens in addition to the rides. With the time change, it was early to bed. The next morning we took a taxi to the Azamara Journey - We embarked about noon with no lines - we could have arrived earlier. The cruise gods were looking down on us - about a week before the cruise, I printed out the pre-boarding information and found out that we had been upgraded from a balcony to a Sky Suite (cabin 7058 to 8052) - I never did find out why, but we didn't complain - it was great, so much more room. Copenhagen is very expensive is all I can say, but still better than trying to get to Harwich England where the Constellation was docked. Shore Excursions: We really wanted to see everything in St. Petersburg. After a lot of research, we decided on a 3 day tour with Alla-Tours. Months ahead, we started planning our itinerary for the three days in St. Petersburg with Alla via her WEB site and email. We decided on a private tour with just the two of us, that way we could be more flexible, which really enhanced our 3 day tour once we got there. It wasn't much more expensive that having four people or more. Our tour guide (Elena V.), driver (Slava A.) and a black Mercedes sedan were waiting for us every morning at the pier, we would discuss our plans for the day and off we would go. We got to ride the Subway to see the beautiful stations and visit a local store about 5 miles out of town - it was like a Sams Club or a BJ's. We cannot say enough good things about Alla-tours. They far exceeded our expectations. In the long run it was cheaper than taking multiple ship tours over the three days, and we saw a lot more in comfort. Did I mention that we got head of the line privileges at all the museums and other sites - and the lines are LONG. This by itself is worth the money and time saved. Check out Alla-tours at http://www.alla-tour.com/. We went off by ourselves in all the other Baltic ports and had a good time seeing the sights. We like to visit the old churches and forts. Azamara had chartered shuttle busses in Tallinn, Estonia and Lubeck (Travemunde) Germany. In Stockholm, do not miss seeing the Vasa, the only remaining INTACT 17th century war ship - the water taxi will drop you off at the Vasa Museum - allow 1 to 2 hours to see it all if you are a ship buff. The ship docks in Travemunde and you can take the shuttle to Lubeck, about a 30 minute ride. The shuttle drops you off in the center of the old town of Lubeck and you can walk around - plan on walking 2-3 miles if you want to see most of the sights. I would suggest that you go to Lubeck early and then spend the afternoon in Travemunde - it is a great little seaside resort area. When you get off the ship, you are standing in the main restaurant and shopping area. Ship Services: Food was very good to excellent in all the restaurants and buffet on the ship. We never had to wait to eat or feel rushed - we usually eat early. There was never a problem getting a table in the buffet, including the outside tables, but again, we like to eat early. Everyone gets 2 reservations in the specialty restaurants without paying the surcharge, Suites get 3 free reservations, though you are asked to add a tip to the meal - well worth it for the service provided. The shows were upscale, I assume because of the older crowd. They had a concert pianist who played a wide verity of music, a violinist, and a folk show in St Petersburg with a local troupe. The theater is small, more like a large bar area with a large stage, but it is laid out well. You could arrive about 10 minutes before show time and still get seats. We enjoyed the entertainment. We used the self service laundry as it was a 12 night cruise and you can pack only so much, it would be nice if all ships had this service. The ship is small and easy to get around - we only used the elevators a few times. I kept expecting to run into the crowds on the ship, but they never appeared. Most of the time, it only took us a few minutes to get on and off the ship at the ports. You could count the children on one hand - probably because of the itinerary and time of year. The Ship and the crew more than met our expectations. We are now Azamara and small ship fans. We are not into the more expensive cruise lines which seem to have most of the smaller ships. Azamara provides an excellent small ship cruise experience at a reasonable price. That said, we are looking at a 35 day trip on Oceania in April 2010 that goes from Hong Kong to Athens, when my wife retires, as it has a great itinerary. Azamara and Oceania ships are sister ships that were purchased from Renaissance when they went out of business. As we had a flight home that left at 12:15 pm, we received luggage tags to debark the ship with the first group. When the color was called, we walked down the stairs a few decks to the gangway and couldn't believe that we were the first ones off the ship. We got our bags and were in a taxi to the airport within 10 minutes. It took about 45 minutes to get to the airport. Summary: The best cruise we have been on so far with a great itinerary, particularly with the 3 days in St. Petersburg. We enjoyed all the stops. Alla-tours was great. We highly recommend the Azamara Journey - the crew, from the Captain on down were outstanding. We particularly liked the Captains announcements when we arrived and left ports - He would tell you how he would use the engines and how he would deploy the lines based on the weather and our location within the port. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We flew to Rome for a couple of days before sailing. Since we had such a short time to see everything we booked Rome in Limo based on the reviews we found on this sight. Francesco picked us up at the airport and we had a fantastic day in ... Read More
We flew to Rome for a couple of days before sailing. Since we had such a short time to see everything we booked Rome in Limo based on the reviews we found on this sight. Francesco picked us up at the airport and we had a fantastic day in Rome. Rome In Limo also booked a private guide for us in the Vatican. Katerina was exceptional and between the 2 of them our Rome visit was fantastic. Not to mention that they had ways to get us around the very long lineups. I also suggested this company to a group on our ship for the Rome stop on our cruise. They booked Rome In Limo from the ship and their experience in Rome with this company was equally wonderful. We flew to Venice and the Azamara reps were waiting at the airport to pick us up. Registration went very quick and smooth and they got us into our room very promptly. The room was on the small size with less storage space compared to a number of other ships that we had been on and the shower appeared to be alot smaller than normal but it was very clean with a bowl of fruit and flowers awaiting us. They mention butler service however from my observation it was a room attendant like any other ship. He was wearing a tuxedo jacket. Maybe that is why it is 'butler' service. I am not sure what extra service we were suppose to receive to make it 'Butler' service however our 'Butler' was always pleasant and available. We did ask about unpacking just out of curiosity, and from reading comments on cruise critic and we were told that he was too busy. One pet peeve I have was the amount of money that the shipped charged to tender to the main square in Venice. $15 per day per person. It cost us $60 for the 2 days. I thought that was quite petty, especially for an upscale cruise ship. I would have rather seen them bury it in the cruise price and provide the tender for free. A bit of a downer the first day. We were on another R ship, the Tahitian Princess so we knew more of less what to expect from this size ship and it was all to our expectation. I thought the food in the evening was very good and the choices were excellent. This ship however had open seating and there were some problems the first few evenings with lineups and the amount of time it took to be seated. It appeared to work itself out later in the cruise and the Maitre D and his staff did everything they could to resolve the issues. Our brief complaint appeared to earn us VIP treatment the rest of the cruise. The 2 specialty restaurants are not to be missed. I would suggest you book them as often as you can. The coffee you get in the restaurants could use alot of improvement. The coffee is much better at the coffee bar however their is a charge for that coffee. Azamara should consider providing that coffee free if they want to be considered an upscale cruise line. We have had it free in a similar environment on a number of other 'regular' ships. We did not attend many of the evening activities choosing instead to dine late with new found friends. The shows we did see were just ok. I didn't hear pros or cons from anyone about the entertainment. We choose to go on the smaller ships to meet new people and have fun talking and spending time with them and we did just that on this cruise. Something this size ship lends itself very well for doing. So the shows were not that important to us. Some of the ports were not that great. I could have skipped both Koper and Bari as there didn't appear to be much to do in either place. I would have rather had an extra sea day. Also, I would have rather stayed in places like Dubrovnik or Monaco overnight or at least had a chance to experience the evening in some of these places. Considering we almost drifted from one port to the other because of the proximity I think it would have been more fun to experience some of these ports in the evening. Rather than leaving a 5 o'clock when the next port was fairly close. In Sorrento we hired Mariano from pleasantravel.com to take us around the amalfi coast. There were 6 of us and we had a fantastic time including a wonderful lunch in a local restaurant in the mountains. I would highly recommend Marianno if you need a guide for the day. For our stop in Rome we chose not to go into Rome again as we were there before the cruise. Instead we got off the ship and hired a cab driver to take us to Ostio Antigua (not sure of the spelling) It is the old Roman Port. It's a large area of ruins and well worth the visit. Our cab driver than suggested he take us to a town with the castle that Tom Cruise got married in. This was a real treat as the castle was wonderful and the local restaurant he took us too made us a special selection of different pastas for us to taste. All in all a great day. 2 other couples decided to join us in Marseilles as we hired a cab to take us to Aix en Provence and Cassis. We were fortunate to find Maurice at the docks. Not only did he take us to both places for a reasonable rate it turns out Maurice use to be a singer, mainly Elvis songs and serenaded us for the day. If you are in the port in Marseilles ask for Maurice. He speaks great English and it was fun spending the day with him. We spent 4 days after the cruise in Barcelona and I would like to give our hotel a recommendation. It is a 4 star hotel pretending to be a 5 star and the front desk staff are fantastic with their assistance and recommendations. The hotel is the Atrium Palace Hotel All in all it was a great cruise however I do believe Azamara has to step up their game to be considered an upper end cruise ship. Here our just some of the areas I believe they need to improve. Butler service, what is it? It sounds good but a let down when you realize it is a room attendant like other ships. The bath amenities are weak and the shower towel must go. Both the Century and Millennium had more luxurious towels. I expect tender service as part of the cost of the cruise. If the ship cannot dock close enough to the main area then they should provide free shuttle/tender service. Improve the coffee and make regular coffee free anywhere on the ship. Do not charge for it at the coffee bar. Better cart service during breakfast and lunch with drinks coffee etc. And the morning staff should be as gung ho as the evening dining room staff. Although we have never been on an 'upscale' cruise ship we have been on a number of regular cruises. This cruise matched any of the others we were on but did not go beyond that, with the exception of food, which I do believe was a notch up from many of the ships we have been on. I would highly recommend the Azamara Journey provided the cost was in line with the other regular cruise ships. I don't believe its in the Oceania league as yet based on what I would expect from an upper end ship and the comments I heard during the cruise from others who had sailed those other ships. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We took a back-to-back cruise on this small "R" ship (THE JOURNEY), leaving Barcelona for a 16 night cruise to the Western Mediterranean: ports in Spain and France; Lisbon; London; Amsterdam; the Kiel Canal and Copenhagen and a ... Read More
We took a back-to-back cruise on this small "R" ship (THE JOURNEY), leaving Barcelona for a 16 night cruise to the Western Mediterranean: ports in Spain and France; Lisbon; London; Amsterdam; the Kiel Canal and Copenhagen and a 12 night cruise to the Baltic Region: Germany; St. Petersburg, Russia (for 3 days..perfect); Helsinki; Tallinn; Stockholm (for 2 days)and Lubeck. We missed one port on the first cruise (La Rochelle, France) due to a barricade of the port by fisherman on strike. Otherwise, every other port was excellent to outstanding...especially LONDON where we cruised the Thames River all the way to the London Tower Bridge, took a 180 degree turn and backed up to the bridge. Approaching the bridge that way was one of the highlights we will never forget. We took a full day private tour of Berlin (outstanding), and a private 2 day tour of St. Petersburg (unforgettable) and a flight to Moscow through the ship's excursion desk (our ONLY excursion through the ship and well worth it). Spending 3 days in Russia was one of the impelling reasons for booking this cruise and is nowhere enough time to see all there is to see of this incredible area. Cruising the Kiel Canal was delayed due to construction and traffic and our delay into Copenhagen caused a real headache for the front office. They handled it well and most passengers were satisfied with new flight arrangements thrust upon them. Fortunately for us, we stayed on the ship for our next cruise, although we had to change cabins (that's a long story for another time). The 2 cruises were outstanding and the food was excellent. We ate mostly in the dining room, open seating (we like it); but, occasionally we ate dinner in the buffet and several times in the "Specialty Restaurants": PRIME C Steakhouse and AQUALINA Seafood Restaurant. We liked the Aqualina better for service and enjoyed the fresh seafood selections over the offerings of the steakhouse. Both restaurants have excellent ambiance and wine selections. The service in the main dining room was excellent and the variety, taste and presentation of the food was as good as it gets. Our stateroom was comfortable and always kept in neat order by the attendants (we only saw the "butler" when we called for special service). But, we had fresh fruit and flowers every day. Room service was excellent and fairly efficient. The size of the ship is one of the best features: it is SMALL compared to the megaships we have cruised on before. Only 650+/- passengers and 400 crew. Having a cabin mid-ship (and on deck 4) was a plus: no walking down long hallways and hardly any sea motion, especially when cruising around Gibraltar where it got a little rocky. The "country club casual" dress code is also a PLUS. It was nice not having to wear a tie or jacket. This certainly also helped with keeping the weight of the luggage within airline limits. The staff: front office, officers, waiting, and activities was outstanding in every respect...they made us feel like royalty!! No exaggeration!!! We have been on ships with friendly staff; but, this experience topped them all. Even the Captain is young and was often seen around the ship mixing with passengers. Entertainment was very enjoyable with a variety of performers and guest lecturers, often very talented and interesting. Of course, we did not expect large production shows as on large ships, but the 5 member cast of dancers and singers were full of energy. The activities staff did a nice job of keeping us entertained. The library is pleasant with a fair collection of books. The bars and cafes are also fine, but we rarely used them. The pool area is also delightful with very comfortable, well padded, deck lounges and a very nice grill with terrific ribs, burgers, etc. We did not have time for use of the spa. Next time, possibly. We thought the prices of merchandise in the ship's stores was "pricey" compared with other ships, possibly due to this being an "upscale" cruise line. Embarkation in Barcelona was smooth and efficient as well as our transfer to the airport in Copenhagen 26 days later. Our only headaches were a strike at Charles DeGaule Airport on the way to Barcelona and a HUGE crowd of passengers waiting at Customs and baggage at Dulles on the way home. Flying is no longer fun and is the worst part of the experience. We originally booked on the Regatta (Oceania Lines) but cancelled for the Journey instead. We are glad we did!!! We saved money and we believe Azamara is comparable with Oceania in every respect (this, based upon comments from many fellow passengers who have cruised on both lines). We are already looking into several more cruises on the Journey and one on the Quest (the sister ship). No doubt, Celebrity Cruise Lines has a really winner in these ships. We only hope the increasing costs of fuel and food do not put the cost of cruising on these lovely ships out of reach. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Azamara Journey 5th May 2008 Western Mediterranean and Adriatic Coast Ten months ago my travel agent offered me this cruise at a very good price, my friend, my parents and I decided to place a deposit. I left it to the very last minute ... Read More
Azamara Journey 5th May 2008 Western Mediterranean and Adriatic Coast Ten months ago my travel agent offered me this cruise at a very good price, my friend, my parents and I decided to place a deposit. I left it to the very last minute before I committed our money, I was concerned at the initial negative reviews and well publicized start-up problems. After re-assurances from my TA that things had indeed improved and some very good recent reviews we went for it. I'm so pleased we did, for my friend and myself this was cruise number fifteen, six of which were with Celebrity so we were eager to see how the cruise experience differed, if at all. Embarkation was quick and efficient with wheelchair accessible transport waiting for us at the airport (I am a wheelchair user) after a short transfer we were onto the ship within a few minutes of arriving at the Port. The ship This was our first time on a R class ship so we were not quite shore what to expect, especially as she was quite a bit smaller than any other ship we had sailed on up till now. In the end we found her elegant, roomy and very comfortable. If you have sailed Celebrity you would probably describe the ship as a big floating Michaels Club. All public rooms were attractive, stylish while not being over fussy. Looking at some photos of her in her earlier days she seemed a little over the top and quite chintzy, I think they must have addressed this in the refurbishment as now their seemed to be more of a contemporary edge to her styling. There is no real atrium as such, but you do get a two level reception area, the lower level comprises of Guest Relations, Captains Cub, Shore Excursions and a display area for jewelry and upscale gifts. From here there is a grand staircase to the second level where you will find the Cova Cafe, a few shops and a small entertainment area for the harpist and where the singing pianist performs of an evening. We had many a break here after getting back on the ship after our jaunt ashore. The coffee served at the Cova was good but as with Celebrity they carry a cover charge. On the plus side there was always savories and pastries available at no charge, these were always delicious. The main dining room was called Discoveries, a well lit elegant room with excellent sea views, when the blinds were open. The chairs were well padded and comfortable while tables were well set. I did feel some significant vibration at the rear of the room on one occasion, as well as feeling a bit claustrophobic when seated on one of the flanks where the tables were placed very close together. It also felt busy when full, with significant noise levels. Azamara operate freestyle dinning; we all know the concept by now, did I like it? Well to be honest the jury is still out on that. I love the flexibility and the fact that we had a table reserved for us in Discoveries most nights, so we didn't have to wait like some others did. Some nights there was a bottleneck when for whatever reason passengers wanted to eat at the same time. On these occasions the service felt a bit rushed and a little disorganized. The self service dining venue was the Windows Cafe, again at the stern on one of the upper decks. It also had great views. At the rear it had an alfresco dining area, one of my favorite areas on the ship. The main entertainment venue was the Celebrity Cabaret Lounge, not large but room enough for the type of act normally seen on this type of ship. In fact the evening performance was usually repeated twice, which resulted in the second show lacking atmosphere due there not being enough people in the audience to fill the room. There were also occasions where the air conditioning was over-zealous making the room cold and quite chilly. Cabins were comfortable being fairly standard in size with a decent amount of storage space, although the bathrooms did feel small. The beds were very comfy with hotel style furnishings and classy linen. Overall the ship felt comfortable enough to look forward to returning to, after a hectic day ashore. I loved the sheer amount of glass used in its design as well as the general height of the public rooms giving a spacious airy feel. This is best exemplified sitting in the Looking Glass lounge, excellent views from floor to ceiling windows, sitting on comfortable club style seating or chesterfield style benches. This room also doubles as the location for the disco of an evening and a common haunt for receptions and more general meetings. Food - Of our cruises so far this has to be the best food yet and by some margin. The food in the main dining room on some occasions compared quite favorably to other ships speciality restaurants. Not all meals were a raging success, on one occasion the lamb shank was more mutton, and on another occasion for some reason the sirloin was tough which was odd because for the rest of the time the steaks were of good quality. The menus were varied and well thought out. Soups and deserts were superb, which was a relief as some of the early criticisms stated that deserts were unimaginative and tasteless, that certainly wasn't my experience. Again the trend followed through to the Windows Cafe, food was varied and always tasty, and for the most part nice and hot. I understand that the buffet area food is about to be put under review, although we were very satisfied as it was. Of the two speciality restaurants onboard, Aqualina had the best ambiance, excellent service and food which easily warranted the slight cover charge. On the other hand we could not be quite so positive about the steak house PrimeC. A more contemporary feel to this venue where we had a late reservation for our meal. Due to slow service, buy the time we got to the entrEe we had lost our appetite and interest to be honest, having said that the food was ok. The Service Again truly excellent, all members of the crew, whatever their role were polite, courteous and eager to help, with a cheery smile night and day. This I feel has lot to do with the hotel director Philip Herbert, hot foot from Crystal he knows his stuff, and if things carry on the way they are, service on this line will be hard to beat. There were a few issues though, my toilet blocked everyday for the first few days, and although we were very patient in terms of waiting for the problem to be permanently resolved, when I pushed the young man at guest relations and asked that it be fixed once and for all, I was met with a considerable degree of attitude. This was pointed out to the GR manager, after which the young man was politeness itself. In fact we were given another cabin which was an upgrade so alls well that ends well. I did hear a few moans from other passengers about the way their cabins were attended to, e.g. fruit not being replaced often enough etc, but we had no complaints and were very pleased with the unobtrusive service from the butler and assistant. Now to the much discussed question was the butler really a butler or a cabin steward, well he did everything we wanted, when we wanted, so to be honest we didn't care what he was called. Entertainment Cruise Director Paul Grant was charming without being obsequious, obviously making an effort to get to know all the passengers talking to most on a one to one basis. On the whole I felt the entertainment was very good, no big production shows, but then we are getting to the stage of seen one, seen them all, so we were happy with what we were given. In fact singer Paul Emmanuel and comedian/magician Chris Blackmore were great, managing to get a very hard to please audience whooping and cheering, no mean feat I can tell you. The Azamara singers were five very talented young people who performed three shows over the eleven night cruise. Although I felt they were as capable if not more so than others that we have seen, their material let them down a bit, not really engaging the mixed nationality audience as they might have done. All other entertainers were worth seeing, some more memorable than others. Excursions The usual issues of no provision of wheelchair accessible tours I'm afraid, but then this is an issue for RCCL excursions, not specifically Azamara. The excursions manager did make an effort to provide something, but this turned out to be a standard tour on a standard tour bus, having to be lifted bodily up the stairs by the tour escort and my friend. At least they tried to organize something. I have no real feedback for the quality and range of tours other than that. THE GOOD •Service •Food •Excellent Cruisecritic reception where all the Senior Officers were present. Itinerary- loved Slovenia ie Koper as well as Croatia. •Local Tourist Information guides on board the ship to help the more independent traveller. A really nice touch. •Good range of tv in the cabin, accessed by on demand type service. •The upscale atmosphere of the ship-no kids. •No queues. THE BAD AND THE UGLY •No wrap around deck, also the sun deck was only accessed by stairs. •The dress code was not adhered to in the main restaurant, it was meant to be resort or country club casual, a lot of passengers took that to mean DISNEY resort I think. •Certain passengers giving off an air of sophistication by treating some of the wait staff like dirt. Again not exclusive to this ship. •As the ship is older it is not ideal for people with mobility impairments, the doors leading to the outside decks are very heavy and the ramps have lips, which make them difficult to negotiate. With the assistance of my friend and the use of a lightweight wheelchair it wasn't a huge issue for me. •The Azamara trio giving it large at sailaway at the same time we were given the honor of a local youth brass band playing for us on the quayside at Koper. Acid Test- would I sail again with Azamara, the answer is undoubtedly yes, it would just depend on their rates and future itineraries. It seems rates are significantly up for 2009 so we will have to see. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2008
With some trepidation we embarked on the new to Europe Azamara Journey. However our fears were not justified. However flights booked with Azamara were ridiculous, a less than two hour flight from Manchester to Venice took 7 hours going via ... Read More
With some trepidation we embarked on the new to Europe Azamara Journey. However our fears were not justified. However flights booked with Azamara were ridiculous, a less than two hour flight from Manchester to Venice took 7 hours going via Frankfurt. We would in future always book our flights ourselves. Embarkation was swift and efficient and the glass of champagne very welcome, just one of the many little touches which made the cruise special. The ship itself is very clean and luxurious and the staff very pleasant and helpful. The cabins, whilst small, are beautiful and well equipped. Little touches like flowers, fruit, umbrella and binoculars and especially the canapes at tea time were a lovely touch. The Butler however is nothing more than a cabin boy and the probably not has helpful as other ships we've been on. The pool area was wonderful and the beds plentiful and very luxurious, no loud music was an added bonus. Whilst we have no complaints about the food we don't think it was as good as the Carnival and Princess although the speciality restaurant 'Aqualiga' was excellent, we can't however say the same for the Prime C. We didn't enjoy our meal in there and the service was very slow but many people on the ship had enjoyed it so maybe we just chose a bad day. We can't comment much about the entertainment as we only went to two shows which were not up the standard of other ships. The daily entertainment programme lacked imagination and there was never anything we wished to partake in. We enjoyed three tours but found them poor value for money sometimes the guides talked so long about a particular thing they left us no time to see a place. The ports of call were all lovely and interesting and where tenders had to be used very quick and efficient. One down side of the cruise was the dress code for dinner which should be smartened up. To see shorts jogger bottoms tee shirts and trainers at night is not our idea of a luxury cruise. A couple of optional formals for people who prefer to dress for dinner would be a good idea. We spoke to many people who found the dress code difficult and would prefer something more formal. In fact we have many friends who cruise and would love the Azamara for it's luxury but we could not recommend as they would not like the informal dress. As we are not bothered much about the entertainment we would certainly cruise Azamara again if they smarten up the dress code. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
We arrived in Barcelona three days before sailing and what a city. We found a wonderful hotel one block from Las Rambles and in the middle of the action but a very quiet room with a great city view, Hotel Olivia Plaza , and breakfast was ... Read More
We arrived in Barcelona three days before sailing and what a city. We found a wonderful hotel one block from Las Rambles and in the middle of the action but a very quiet room with a great city view, Hotel Olivia Plaza , and breakfast was included. After our busy Barcelona days we were ready for the ship. Getting to the port is a little hectic at the suggested 1:00 P.M., traffic is horrible, but once you are at the port it is a piece of cake. The Journey's staff was waiting for us and embarkment could not have been easier. Before we knew it we were on this lovely ship and from the moment we entered, were treated like old friends. We walked around the ship and since it was such a pretty day found a lounge at the pool deck and enjoyed the beautiful wonders of this ship and the view of Barcelona! The pool bartender who also works the Martini bar (his name slips my mind...as does the name of our butler) came right up, introduced himself and took our champagne that we had brought with us and put it on ice. This was how it was always handled on this ship, they never pushed us to buy drinks but were always available if and when we need one. This was so nice compared to the other ships we have been on. That was the beginning of our dealings with an exceptional staff. Lunch was being served in the Windows Cafe, which is beautiful. The food was the typical ship type buffet, nothing spectacular but good and the breads especially their brown brown, (I still need to get that recipe) and desserts were excellent through out the entire trip. Our room was ready early and very clean, though we heard from some that their rooms were a little deficient, but never our complaint. Our butler was there to greet us and was always available in a flash with a smile if we needed him. We were in room 7084 (great location even though near the elevator, we never heard any noise and very close to the laundry room. A real plus and you would be surprised how many fun people you meet in a laundry room!) The rooms are small but we weren't in them very often and bring a reading light the bedside lamps do not work for reading. You won't be watching much television either nothing to watch! My husband would have liked more variety. No alarm clock but the wake up system works very well. For those who bring a lot of clothes more hangers please. After the lifeboat drill our "roll call" group met in the Looking Glass Lounge, which was another gorgeous room. This is the first time we were involved in a "roll call" and cannot recommend it more, it was great to have friends to start the cruise with. We are not seasoned cruisers and through this group (thank you John and Betty) were able to experience a very well planned out adventure! Dinner that night was a little confusing, we all were given a time to eat in the main dinning room, but those with early reservations enjoyed the food and beautiful ambience, and forgot about us with later dinner times. We really had to wait, and the food was not very good, which was a worry. But I knew this was the first night, so we enjoyed the company and looked forward to giving it another try. But, the manager, Richard found us the next day and apologized and promised to make improvements (I still don't know how he heard about our worries...) But true to his promise dinners after that night in the main dinning room were wonderful. We ate in Aqualina and Prime C six nights and what can I say, exquisite! The service was fantastic and so accommodating, I prefer seafood and was always given my favorite from Aqualina (sea bass) in Prime C. The executive chef Kyle is incredible, he never seemed flustered even in the most hectic situations, always had praise for his fellow workers and a true passion and talent for the art of cooking. He made time to come to our table every night and even asked for suggestions, which were very few, and believe it or not the two we could come up with were corrected the next day! There is now a great macaroni and cheese and cheddar cheese at the omelet station! I still can't believe how young he is, Celebrity better guard him like the gem he is! The wine steward/stewardess Stephania was always a bright spot in my day. She and our bar hostess (I forgot her name too but she was from Columbia) always made dinner or our impromptu parties a pleasure. We did not take any of the cruises excursions but the staff was always available to help us with our plans and give us great suggestions. We were able through the roll call set up private tours, Azamara's ones were very pricey. Liesl gets a gold star! Ports were wonderful, but not enough time. I do not recommend doing Pompeii and the Amalfi coast in one day, oh well guess we will have to do it again! Koper was beautiful, nothing to do at the port but take a cab 15 minutes and you are in a wonderful waterfront village, Piran. Room service always arrived on time, and hot, which was a great time saver on those action packed port days. Don't forget to grab a smoothie in Window's they were great for "on the run" days too. Philip the Hotel Manager is another gem, they keep this up they could make a necklace. He was always available (I don't think he sleeps) and made every cruise adventure come true, thank you Philip. Truly the only complaints I had on this trip were the spa reception staff and the piano bar. Thank goodness we had talent among us (not me) but Chuck could play the keys, Paul and Jessica from the activity staff could really sing as other passengers and helped make some enjoyable Cova nights. We didn't make it to many shows since we spent so many hours in the dining rooms enjoying new friends. But the comedian was funny. I think another sea day or two would have been great. This was a fantastic vacation and I truly have the Azamara staff and my new found Cruise Critic friends to thank for it. I hated leaving in Venice and waving good-bye to the Azamara Journey and I too want to know "where is my butler now?" Lori Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
We started our Trans-Atlantic cruise with Hellos and Smiles from all the people who worked aboard. We headed for the Windows Cafe and it was a bit busy with everyone arriving at the same time. We found some excellent choices of food and ... Read More
We started our Trans-Atlantic cruise with Hellos and Smiles from all the people who worked aboard. We headed for the Windows Cafe and it was a bit busy with everyone arriving at the same time. We found some excellent choices of food and sampled all the desserts. My husband and brother-in-law also sampled the ice creams. Gave it only a medium rating but it could not of been that bad because when ever I saw them they had a dish of ice cream in their hands. We loved Breeza Cafe. Sitting there with an espresso during days at sea was a delight. The Pool Grill was a favorite when sitting at the pool during sea days. Yummy French Fries and Hot Dogs. The first person we ran into was Phillip the Hotel Manager. He always has a kind word or joke to say and his smile made your day. Azamara better not let him go. The pool deck staff was wonderful and always there with a hot or cold towels, depending on the weather along with blankets for the cool days at the pool and chocolate covered sherbet pops. Our Butler Andrew and was another Gem. Andrew and his assistant always new what we needed and had it before we could ask for it. Had our room cleaned by the time we got back from breakfast or dinner. I miss the Truffles and Chocolate dipped Strawberries. Oh where is Andrew? We like to eat late for dinner so by 7:45-8PM it was not to difficult to get a good table. We traveled with my Sister and brother-in-law and after sitting at 3 different tables with 3 different servers we choose to sit with the same servers for the rest of the cruise. They were Jasmina and Jelena from Serbia. What a wonderful attentive pair. We never had a problem getting them for the rest of the cruise. We found the formal dining room food to be excellent! Never had a bad dinner because our servers directed us to the right choices. We ate at both Prime C and Aqualina 4 times and all were wonderful dining experiences. We enjoyed our fellow passengers. They were well seasoned travelers. My husband and I have only been on 14 cruises so compared to us they had seen the world. We meet a wonderful group of people and have e-mailed them since our return and hopefully will see them on another cruise. I was afraid that there would not be enough to do on such a small ship compared to the larger ships but we found plenty to get involved in during the sea days. My husband loves to line dance and his brother-in-law took it up for the first time. It was a great work out. Naomi from Australia was the instructor. She was a good sport. Along with the rest of the Cruise Staff. We played Trivia with Kelsy every day at sea and it became a bit of a rivalry between several groups. We still e-mail them with Trivia questions. We attended the wine tastings and Stefania and her staff made it such a delight. We looked forward to seeing her and getting her suggestions for which wine we would be having at dinner that evening. I found the tours good that we took but not a great variety in choices. For the most part our tour guides were excellent and spoke English very well. We only had one rainy day on land and that was in Ponta Delgada, Azores. We had booked a trip to Sete Cidades and a wine tasting. The fog had rolled in that morning and we could not see down from the top of the mountain but as we came back down the mountain it started to clear and the rest of the tour was worth it. The variety of entertainment was excellent. We always seemed to end our evenings at the Cova Cafe listening to the piano bar player. When we passed by Gibraltar at 11:30 pm Captain Karlsson announced that he would get as close as he could so we could see the outline of the Rock of Gibraltar. It looked like a Christmas tree all lite up. What a highlite of the trip. As an added treat Captain Karlsson would lean over the bridge and say Good Morning every morning to My Husband and me. Our Balcony was just below the bridge. When it was time to leave the Azamara Journey, Captain Leif Karlsson was waiting to say good by to everyone and Paul the cruise director was waiting to shake our hands at the bottom of the gang way. My husband is already planning our next cruise on the Journey. Vivian Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
Arriving at the pier at noon, the height of the rush hour, I expected a few lines and the opportunity to meet my new shipmates! WRONG! Two minutes in line by myself and onboard within 10 minutes of stepping out of my taxi. I purchased ... Read More
Arriving at the pier at noon, the height of the rush hour, I expected a few lines and the opportunity to meet my new shipmates! WRONG! Two minutes in line by myself and onboard within 10 minutes of stepping out of my taxi. I purchased transfers from the airport to the pier and there was a bit of a delay and some confusion about the transportation but - hey - this is Barcelona! I met a wonderful couple who were so much fun that we became friends for the entire cruise! My luggage was whisked away and I didn't see it again for several hours until I was onboard and ready to unpack and settle in. Welcomed aboard by a warm hello and sorry for the cabin not being ready, followed by a few glasses of champagne as my carryon was whisked away to be put in my room while I had some lunch, made me feel like I was home immediately! A few moments later, as I was happily yakking with my new friends, I was told that my cabin was now ready and could I follow them upstairs to see if all was in order. :-) And boy was it in order! Fresh flowers, fruit, wine, clean, fresh and sunny! I was in heaven! My butler arrived to welcome me and ask if he could unpack - I have died and gone to heaven I think as I pinch myself repeatedly - but no thank you I would never be able to find anything if he did. My new friends were waiting and I had to go for lunch with them. I am already busy. I travel solo - and love it! I am not shy and I always meet wonderful people to play with! Maybe it's karma, or maybe it's my sunny personality and charm LOL !! Either way I was already having way too much fun. Lunch was wonderful outside in the warm Spanish sun. The service was great and everyone seemed genuinely happy to see and serve you! The best part of the this cruise line is the staff and crew. They strive to exceed expectations in every way. I could comment minutely on every detail of the experience - which others have already done - but that is not the way I would like to post this review. Your experience on Azamara should be taken in as a whole. Of course there were some lags in service and some things not picture perfect - get over it! The drinks are little pricier than the rest but I had perfectly lovely bottles for around $40 and glasses for $7.00. You are on vacation on a quality cruise line so "suck it up" LOL! It is nothing in terms of the big picture. I loved having a butler and I don't care if some of you think he was not a butler -- he was MY butler and he made up my room every day for me, brought me coffee and treats and offered to pack and unpack for me. He pressed my clothes and returned them to me and was there for me with a happy smile at daybreak and a lovely welcome home when I came back from port! Maybe you all have a butler at home who you are used to - but I do not. For these 10 days, I had a BUTLER and I was the Principessa Contessa! And I loved it! The food was way beyond expectations. Just having someone else cook for me makes my life much better and I will eat what they prepare for me and like it. On this ship, I LOVED it. Thank you Kyle! This adorable young Executive Chef in the Specialty restaurants went out of his way to solicit our recommendations for improvement. Although there was precious little to make any recommendations on, the two things which came up were auctioned immediately. I was flabbergasted! I have shoes older than this talented young man and here he was creating and managing like he was born to it. BRAVO! The experience was wonderful. Philip - the Hotel Director - made life perfect every day! His staff was professional, friendly, eager to please and struggling to make everything a unique and positive experience for each passenger despite the fact that they have been in operation less than a year. Remember that Azamara is a young line trying to find it's identity in a very crowded market. I like to think that this brand is "frivolous sophistication" for the affluent young and the young at heart. No pretentious environment here. Casual and fun and positioned right between RCCL "blue collar" cruising and Silver Cloud supreme elegance. I LIKE IT! Keep the kids off - this is serious adult fun with the very best staff and crew I have ever seen in 35 years and 77 cruises! Sitmar and Royal Viking are born again together in this line! I miss it and I WILL be back! SOON! Now hurry and book a cabin before they are all gone! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
Review of Azamara Journey, 16-night Transatlantic cruise from April 9-April 25, 2008: I will use a 1 to 6 star rating system to match the ratings generally used in the industry. Typically, 5 stars are assigned to premium cruise lines and ... Read More
Review of Azamara Journey, 16-night Transatlantic cruise from April 9-April 25, 2008: I will use a 1 to 6 star rating system to match the ratings generally used in the industry. Typically, 5 stars are assigned to premium cruise lines and 6 stars are reserved for the luxury cruise lines. Food, Main Dining Room (5.3 stars): Ingredients are excellent. Cooking: generally excellent. Variety: excellent. I don't remember the food on our Crystal cruise very well to be able to compare, but I'd say that the food on the Journey was of slightly lower quality than on Crystal. Also, Crystal tended to be more consistent in the quality of cooking and there was a big difference in the buffet food (see below). Food, Buffet (4.5 stars): This was definitely inferior to the food in the main dining room. They tended to have the same items in various sections of the buffet during the entire cruise and this made it less interesting over time. Also, I think the quality of ingredients and cooking was inferior to that served in the main dining room. Most of the stewed dishes tasted very much like "buffet" food in inexpensive restaurants. Food-Related Problem: A big problem was the main dining room being closed for lunch on all port days, forcing guests to dine at the buffet. People would get back to the ship around 2 PM and the buffet would be jammed. So, aside from the inferior quality, there was the problem of far too many people trying to lunch at the same time. Specialty Restaurants: We dined at the specialty restaurant, Aqualina, and I'd give their food 5.5 stars. We also dined at Prime C (which has a somewhat limited menu of steaks and seafood) and I'd give them 5 stars. Wine List (5.7 stars): The wine selection on Azamara ships is excellent. I was able to find several very drinkable and reasonably-priced wines in the main dining room as well as at the specialty restaurants. It was very reassuring not to be subjected to pricey and unexciting wines. My experience at the wine tastings, however, was disappointing, as the selections were not exciting and, at best, included one decent wine out of four. This was in contrast with our experience on the Quest in February 2008 where the wine tastings were very exciting and involved interesting wines. Fellow Passengers (4.5 stars): Passengers we met were mostly on a par with Celebrity Passengers and of a lower socioeconomic level than on our Azamara Quest cruise (Feb. 2008). Nevertheless, there were many friendly and unpretentious passengers and we did manage to meet some interesting couples. I'd score the average socioeconomic level as moderate to high. In contrast, I'd rate the socioeconomic level of Oceania and Crystal passengers as high. Entertainment (4.5 stars): Good, but not excellent. Considering a passenger capacity of about 700, they obviously cannot afford to spend a great deal on entertainment. Nevertheless, there were three talented artists who did some of the main shows. The in-house performers were not exciting. The lounge performers were of poor to fair quality. The harpist was a bore and the lounge pianist was mediocre. The trio that played at the pool and at the top deck lounge was fine. I think this is an area where they can easily afford substantial improvement without additional expense. Excursions (?; not my thing): a bit on the pricey side. One can easily do much better independently. Activities(3 stars): very few. There was a great deal of repetition. The same pair presented lecture/performances on about 7 occasions and the singer and pianist were both fair to good. The main available alternative was the trivia game. I think this is an area that could use a great deal of improvement. Basically, the lounges were empty and quiet during afternoons, particularly on port days. They definitely need to do more about supplying more varied and interesting entertainment in the various lounges throughout the day. Even a player piano would be better than having an empty lounge. The Ship (5.5 stars): It is built in an "older" style with rich, dark paneling and warm colors. The various public lounges and dining rooms are nicely decorated. This is one of the 7 or 8 original Renaissance ships and the three we've been on so far have been the nicest-looking ships on which we have ever traveled. Service (5.3 stars): Excellent. There is little difference between quality of service on Celebrity and Azamara. The staff and crew appear to be very well trained (as with Celebrity) and happy to be working on the ship. This, in turn, reflects on the friendliness and helpfulness they show passengers. My Complaints: They closed the main dining room (Discoveries) for lunch on all port days. This appears to be getting to be a trend with cruise lines and is a real negative for us. If you don't go ashore on a port day, there is little to do anyway on the ship and the buffet can get monotonous and uninteresting quite rapidly. Anyway, the buffet food is clearly inferior to the food in the main dining room. When you write your comment cards, please be sure to request that the main dining room be kept open for lunch on port days. My second complaint is that the ship basically hibernates on port days. Lounges are quiet and empty and there are no activities of interest. An effort needs to be made to generally liven up the ship, particularly on port days. Basically, cruise lines use the port days to drastically reduce operational costs (food, entertainment, activities). This is good for them, but makes for monotonous days on the ship for passengers who stay on. Only when passengers voice their demands for better services on port days will the situation improve. Let us use the comment cards to request better food, activities, and lounge entertainment during port days. Cruise lines do respond when passengers consistently state their preferences. If passengers begin demanding (via their comment cards) more varied and better entertainment in the lounges, more options for food at lunch time, or more varied activities throughout the cruise, some of those demands will eventually be met. Overall (5.0 stars), I'd say that Azamara is an excellent cruise line and wish they had more ships, particularly on the West coast. Value (4.8 stars): Value is the overall rating in the preceding paragraph divided by cost. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
It was our 15th Cruise and simply the best. The size of the Ship is perfect. The numbers of Guests make ship very personal and easier for the crew to pamper all of them. It need a short time to feel like in a big family ( in a luxury way ... Read More
It was our 15th Cruise and simply the best. The size of the Ship is perfect. The numbers of Guests make ship very personal and easier for the crew to pamper all of them. It need a short time to feel like in a big family ( in a luxury way ). Our Cabin 7012 with Balcony was really nice decorated. The space of the Balcony was good. The size of the Bathroom was small, specially the shower. You have to be a thin person to feel well in it. Our Neighbor was really fat and we wonder how can he use the shower. All cabins have Butler-service but this is a big word for it. We never can find our Butler when we need him. The mostly part of the guests a retired and americans. On this cruise there stay 50 europeans and absolute no kids. That makes the Cruise smooth and silent specially by the Pool deck. The most comfortable deck chairs and really enough for every one. The Food was unfortunately good. Amazing taste and presentation. Then pound more weight ((for two ). The atmosphere of a Club Ship with free Restaurant Choice makes it relaxing ( No fixed time) The Specially Restaurants ( nominal service charge 5 Dollar per person ) are excellent ( you have to make a reservation ). The Entertainment was for the size of the Theater really good. No big Broadway Production but very good Singers and Guest Acts ( Comedy ). The Gym was small but the Trait-mills are new and enough. You have to sign up for the Fitness lesson most of them for free. The Route from Miami to Barcelona was very good not so much sea days in a row ( maximum 4 ). The ports of call a interest and easy to handle alone. No guided tour needed. Embarkation and Disembarkation goes really fast and easy. It was one of our best cruises and not our last on this perfect Ship. We are a German Couplet in the age of 42 and 44. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
My husband and I have over 20 cruises under our belt, from week long Caribbean cruises to a full World Cruise. I believe those of us that cruise are blessed to be able to travel in style and see the places we may have only dreamed of. All ... Read More
My husband and I have over 20 cruises under our belt, from week long Caribbean cruises to a full World Cruise. I believe those of us that cruise are blessed to be able to travel in style and see the places we may have only dreamed of. All ports are different as well as all cruise lines. some just do it better than others. I believe my husband and I have just experienced a perfect cruise on the perfect ship, Azamara Journey! From the moment our plane landed everything went as planned. A rep from Azamara was at the airport to greet all the arriving passengers and whisk us away to the ship. Within 10 minutes after arriving at the Terminal we were on board and enjoying our complimentary Champagne. Our Balcony stateroom had more than enough room for storage and it was very clean and fresh. We really enjoyed the full size table on the Balcony as it allowed us to enjoy many meals under the evening stars. Room service was great except once, which you can forgive if they happen to be busy. Our cabin attendant worked very hard and did a great job. All rooms have a Butler, and while I don't think it works as good as it sounds, he did try hard and did a good job. The ship is small, a little over 700 passengers. What it lacked in size it made up for in spirit. All the staff were friendly and you managed to meet everyone. The Captain, Leif Karlsson, was absolutely outstanding and he set the tone for the whole cruise. He was always around the ship talking to every one and he had a great sense of humor. He always kept passengers informed of what was going on. He was a class act all the way, even standing at the gangway when we left thanking us all. He was certainly the best asset of Azamara. Liesl, the Captains club rep on board, was perfect in her job and seemed to know everyone's name. Another great asset of the ship! Paul, the cruise director did an outstanding job, a true gentleman. As it is a small venue there are no dance productions in the Cabaret. However, all the guest performers, which were mostly singers, were very good. The food on this ship is the best of any cruise line we have been on. Because it is a small ship all food is cooked to order and it shows. Steaks were done perfectly and everything arrived hot. The presentation of the food was a definite 10 out of 10! There are 2 alternate restaurants which passengers can dine in and there is no cover charge. A five dollar tip per person is suggested, and believe me, it is worth much more than this. The food and the service were absolutely perfect. We took this cruise as it visited 4 ports in Brazil and we enjoyed them all. Next year this ship is no longer going to South America and that is a shame. I would have loved to go to Antarctica on this ship. My husband and I would definitely recommend this ship, no matter where it sails! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
I am a CRUISE SPECIALIST and terribly critical when I cruise because I am looking for the best for my passengers .... this cruise did not disappoint! My biggest concern was actually getting to the cruise on time as a huge storm had moved ... Read More
I am a CRUISE SPECIALIST and terribly critical when I cruise because I am looking for the best for my passengers .... this cruise did not disappoint! My biggest concern was actually getting to the cruise on time as a huge storm had moved through Arizona on Monday, we actually had blizzard conditions, and then moved into the mid-west causing all kinds of cancelled flights and travel delays that extended over the weekend I was traveling. My original flight from Phoenix was cancelled but I was rescheduled onto an earlier flight which actually worked out better for me and my flight to Sao Paulo, while leaving an hour late actually made it in at our scheduled time of 9:30am on the 22nd. I was amazed to fly over the forests of Brazil and even more amazed at the size of Sao Paulo. My trip through the airport was uneventful and the AZAMARA ambassadors were waiting for us just outside the customs gate with big smiles and within minutes we were on our bus for our 2 hour transfer to the pier. I would love to tell you that I saw a bit of Sao Paulo but I was exhausted and had no trouble falling asleep during the ride. We arrived a the pier and within minutes I was checking onto the ship and was very pleasantly surprised to find that I had been upgraded from an ocean view to a balcony cabin. AZAMARA kept my passport and visa and provided me a receipt. I find this practice a little disconcerting but then when you realize that some of the immigration authorities board the ship at 4,5, 6 AM, I am happy not to have to participate in the passport checks. Cruise card in hand and a short walk directly into a most beautiful, comfortable, friendly and intimate main lobby where I was presented with a glass of champagne and an apology for the fact that my cabin was not quite ready, but, if I wanted, someone would take me there so that I could leave my carryon. OK, I am already impressed with the service. I go to my cabin, my card key doesn't work, my escort takes it back to the front desk and returns within a couple of minutes with a working card and tells me that the cabin is ready after all. Fantastic! I promptly put out the do not disturb sign and jump in the shower to freshen up and change into those spare clothes I had packed. (Isn't my TA good?) Just as I reach out the door to change the do not disturb sign I meet my cabin steward, "WEEKLY" and of course we laugh about hoping the service is more like 2 x daily, a joke I am sure he has heard many times and my butler SOOKIMAN. Sookiman asks me if he can unpack for me when my bags arrive, but of course, the one chore I really hate and he WANTS to do it, my smile is getting wider all the time. Up to deck 9 and the Windows Cafe for a quick luncheon ... what a great buffet, salads, carving station, breads galore, very comfortable padded chairs and beautiful tables with quite and gracious servers trying to meet your every need. To the Pool Bar for my first umbrella drink and then it is off to explore. This is a "small" ship but very well designed and it seems to be larger than it really is. The beautiful mahogany and teak walls and floors and the subtle colors immediately made me feel comfortable and at home. Everywhere I encountered staff or crew there was a genuine smile and offer of assistance and whenever I encountered other guests they all seemed happy and excited to be there. The ship is quite easy to find your way around and all the public rooms easily lead from one to another. There is entertainment just about everywhere you look and due to the ship layout one "sound" does not overlay the other. For instance, there is a harpist at the Cova Cafe and less than 100ft. away there is a guitarist in the Martini bar playing at the same time and you only hear the one you are in close proximity of. Fantastic! This also holds true of the passenger noise, it is quite well buffered and makes the cruise even more relaxing. While all the cabins were sold on this sailing there were only 600 passengers instead of the 700+ the ship is designed to hold. Some of the crew cabins have been turned into guest cabins but this may be changing as there were a couple of times that it did seem they were short staffed. This was most noticeable at the buffet area. The pool area is beautiful with a small pool and two hot tubs surrounded by teak loungers covered in thick padding and toweled covers. The Pool Grill area has beautiful wicker tables and padded chairs, a fabulous grill with everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to lamb and ribs and fish and grilled veggies as well as a salad bar, soft serve and drink station that always had lemonade, fruit punch, ice tea and water available. Smoking areas are extremely limited on this ship as AZAMARA promotes themselves as a non-smoking line and I don't believe that I saw anyone breaking the smoking rules. The theatre on this ship is small and intimate but the acoustics are extremely good, to the point that some of the stronger voiced singers almost out sang the room. There were some very good shows and some really fine performers, vocalists from England and Russia, violinists, pianists and the members of the AZAMARA Cabaret group; funny show TWISTED TV mostly aimed at Americans so we had to explain to quite a few people who Martha Stewart is and why her ending up in jail was so funny ya would've had to be there. I took advantage of the small but well equipped spa for manicure, pedicure, hair cut and acupuncture. The gym is very well equipped and had classes of every description. There is a small Thelassotherapy pool with loungers on the bow of the ship and it appeared to be constantly in use. Cruise Director Paul Grant is funny and subtle and quite at ease with all the passengers. His talks and introductions were never over the top and he was truly enjoyable to watch and seemed to remember everyone on the ship. There were fabulous enrichment programs available from art classes, beading, knitting and lectures on history and current events. There were great ballroom dance lessons and language lessons. The mix of passengers was wonderful and the ages were mostly from 40 - 80. I only met 4 children onboard and they were 13, 14, 15, 17 and from Canada. The educational mix was fantastic and the career cruisers made up most of the passengers. There were several couples that were on their 4th sailing of this ship which says a lot since it is so new. Many couples were also on the middle leg of a 3 or 4 leg cruise and were thinking of signing on for additional cruises. Almost every single person I spoke with had top ratings for this ship. Of course there are always people that will never be satisfied and you will find them everywhere. I tried to consider their complaints, which were usually about something that had nothing to do with the actual cruise line or staff, in an objective manner and never found them to have any basis that would make me change my mind. (Things like, why can't the captain out run the wind and rain to ... they should warn us that the ship will be running late when there was a problem that kept us from leaving Recife on time ... something to do with the pilot boat... and one woman complained when she could not get the bartender she wanted ... he had broken his leg while on shore that afternoon and she took it as a personal offense ... go figure people). I will say that I was very disappointed in Brazil as a whole. It is extremely expensive, dirty and graffiti seems to cover every building from the ground to as high as can be reached, historic buildings included and there doesn't seem to be any effort to curtail it. I was traveling by myself and it cost $250 for a Rio by night dinner show (Brazilian bar-b-que and Samba historical dance show) and ½ day city tour (the best part being Corcovado with the misty clouds moving in and out over the Sainto de Christo) and another $108 for ½ day Ilheus (Il-hoos) rain forest tour. In the rest of the towns and cities, a bunch of us just got off the ship and hired taxis and small vans and had just as much fun. The most beautiful parts of Brazil are the forests and plantations; we went to a private native animal reserve that is open to the public and runs on donations there were more tortoise than I have ever seen and green monkeys and an animal that looks like a rabbit in the face but had the body of a large rodent that was really quite cute, lots of fabulous birds and a private Orchid plantation with flowers like I have never seen before. We were treated to a luncheon on one of our tours with amazing rum punch that had a base of passion fruit yum, I can still taste it. AZAMARA feels that the Brazilian government really makes it hard for cruise ships and I was told that they won't be going back there next year. The weather was not as cooperative as I had hoped it would be but it was the end of the summer down there and the days were cloudy and misty and some had very heavy rain so you just made sure you had your umbrella and a cover up. Unfortunately from the 26th of March through the 3rd of April the seas were very high (12 - 15 ft) and it was very windy (28 - 40knots) so navigating the decks was a challenge. I swear there was one night that I became air born and another that I experienced weightlessness ... but as I don¿t ever get motion sick I took it as a challenge and still did as much as possible. Dinner in the Discoveries restaurant was outstanding and I did not have a single meal that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. I also tried Aqualina and Prime-C. Aqualina was my absolute favorite (5 times) and I found the service in all the restaurants to be top notch in every way. By the way, anything special you want for dinner you can let the dining room know and they will accommodate you. You can order from the main dining menu in your cabin as well. The signature Celebrity bread sticks were in abundance and the crème brulee in the Discoveries is only outdone by the crème brulee in Aqualina ... different kitchens. The foie gras with candied oranges in Aqualina is sublime and their seafood platter appetizer is a great meal in itself. Seating in the main dining room is open after the first night and tables range from 2 - 12 or more if you wish. The Martini Bar is beautiful and a wonderful gathering place before dinner and they will accommodate your every whim when it comes to drinks. When I know how much the ship was heaving and moving about it is amazing that there were no guests with dinner or drinks in their laps ... one night we did see a stack of glasses come tumbling down but no one was injured. I was invited to dinner with the Captain, Leif Karlsson, and I must say he is the most approachable, available and involved captain that I have ever had the pleasure of sailing with. The meal was in the main dining room where he dines every evening and the food was off the regular menu, the wines were outstanding and so was the company. I met a very lovely woman from Japan that is a free lance travel writer and she is doing a story on this ship and the Captain. He was really a good sport when we had the Crossing of the Equator ceremony and he was tossed in the pool ... he took 3 other officers along with him! The ship was always clean and the staff was always accommodating. The announcements were few and far between but it was always easy to find information if you required it. There is interactive TV in each cabin that allows for everything from booking shore excursions to daily activities planning to room service and monitoring you expenses. There are first run movies with one being shown daily in the theatre. I also received the ship copy of the NY times in my cabin every evening along with the Daily AZAMARA Pursuits. Additionally there was a hospitality desk available as a courtesy in every port. AZAMARA makes it clear that it is a courtesy only and they are not responsible for the accuracy of the information and it is provided AS IS but it was nice to have someone familiar with each area to talk with. Whenever I needed to contact the customer service desk the phones were always answered quickly and politely. I LOST my glasses in Barbados (left them at a cafe/bar) and someone actually brought them to the ship and when I noticed them missing (10 minutes after having left the pier) they actually volunteered to bring the lost and found box to my cabin so I could see if they were there. I went down and there they were but .... what a nice gesture. I would rate this a 11 out of 10 cruise and will tell my prospective clients that it is understated elegance. No formal nights is a definite plus but it didn't keep many from dressing for the evening I didn't see any tux clad men but lost of nice jackets and ties. I will have no problem fully recommending this cruise line and this ship to anyone. AND I AM MOST DEFINITELY GOING ON THEM AGAIN!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
This was the first time we had sailed on Azamara. We liked the size of the ship very much and thought the senior crew members were excellent. We liked most ports but felt a few of them could have been missed. The ship tours were way too ... Read More
This was the first time we had sailed on Azamara. We liked the size of the ship very much and thought the senior crew members were excellent. We liked most ports but felt a few of them could have been missed. The ship tours were way too expensive. We were able to get our own for more than half the price with english speaking guides. We had a very pleasant dinning experience in the main dinning room. We had the same waiters most nights and they were very good. We did not experience the best of service in the two special restaurants. The food was very good everywhere and the presentation was excellent. The cabins were fine and the staff was very willing to please. Did not really understand the to do about a butler. He often looked uncomfortable in his tux. Did not thank that was necessary. Did not think the entertainment was wonderful. The ship's dancers & singers were very entertaining but most other nights were so-so. We felt that the last shows were too late starting. The Journey band has a way to go. The combo was much better that played by the pool and in the lounges. The Cruise director was very good. He was very visible and very knowledgeable on all subjects he spoke on. The Casino was ample and the staff very nice. Too bad it had to be closed while cruising in Chile. We would surely cruise again on the Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
We just returned from a wonderful cruise on the Azamara Journey today after a 12 day cruise and 2 day precruise package. We embarked on the cruise on Dec 11. We started in Santos (Sao Paulo port) and ended in Buenos Aires. We had a ... Read More
We just returned from a wonderful cruise on the Azamara Journey today after a 12 day cruise and 2 day precruise package. We embarked on the cruise on Dec 11. We started in Santos (Sao Paulo port) and ended in Buenos Aires. We had a fabulous time. I sometimes wondered if I was on the same ship mentioned in some other reviews. For back ground I am 59 years old and my husband is 61. We have sailed 9 times on Princess, once on Celebrity, once on Carnival and once on Renaissance (now out of business). We are both still working. We have sailed on the very same ship when it was the R6 (Renaissance) and a similar ship with Princess (Tahitian Princess). The average age on guests appeared to be around 60 and there were less than a dozen children aboard. There are very few children's activities. We arrived 2 days early booking our own air and transfers to the hotel (we prefer to do this as we have had several bad experiences with cruise air on other lines in the past. We booked the 2 day pre cruise package at the Hyatt which was beautiful and very well priced (far below booking on our own). It included wonderful breakfasts and ships transfers. The only problem was the transfers to the ship were very poorly handled by the company contracting with Azamara. The liaison did not speak English or Spanish and really was not even sure what ship we were boarding. Azamara needs to have one of their own staff members supervising at the hotel. The ship is beautiful. It is a small intimate ship and unlike the larger floating hotels. They have done a fabulous job restoring and upgrading. The rooms are small but well laid out and we had a private balcony were we had breakfast many mornings (excellent). The bedding is new and very comfortable. We slept very well. The Elemis amenities were very high quality. There were flowers and fruit in our room upon arrival and replenished as the ship went on. The flat screen TV was lovely but I would like more programming/channels. There was on CNN sports, CNN (for ships?) TNT and TMC. There was also the ability to do pay per view films. The only negative is that I would also like shower/bath gel. It is mainly a non smoking ship and we never smell smoke anywhere. The pool is small with 2 jacuzzis tubs but never crowded. The lounge chairs are wood with very comfy pads. My biggest beef is that the jacuzzis closed at 8:00 PM. There is another Jacuzzi (thallastherapy spa?) at the front of the shipthat was open until 10 with more deck chairs, but the ship charged an additional $100 per person to use this during the cruise. I never saw anyone using it and I think this is rather tacky. On a premium line charge a few dollars more and include these things. The gym is very nice and well equipped. It was well used but not crowded. The Steiner spa treatments are good but expensive (the same as all other cruise ships). The crew was (with a few exceptions) helpful and very friendly and approachable. The Captain is British, young and interacted easily with the guests. They are constantly striving to make this a premium line and are receptive to comments and make changes very quickly. The cabin steward (butler?) and his assistant did a great job. I never ordered tea or canapEs in my room so I do not know the quality. The guest relations staff was extremely helpful. The dining is open seating, which we prefer. We never, ever waited more than 5 minutes for a table. Sometimes we ate alone and sometimes with new friends. When we cam in with 8-10 people it took a few minutes, when we were alone we were seated immediately. Some waiters were faster than others, if you found one you like you could ask to be seated at one of their tables. I liked the food, my husband not as much. The ingredients are all high quality. An attempt is made to make the food more "Nouvelle Cuisine" style. The food was somewhat bland, but considering the demographics of the passengers I can understand. The food is not over salted. The plates are unusually shaped and often glass 3 part "tasting dishes" were used. The desserts were excellent.. The salads a bit unimaginative. The food in the specialty restaurants is different but no better than the regular dining room. The buffet breakfast was very always very good. The lunch buffet was good but the ice cream bar was wonderful. I never ate at the pool side grill. Tea in Michaels was elegant and the snacks in Cova Cafe were very nice. Breakfast room service was great. I ordered room service pizza one night and that was terrible (good service awful microwave pizza). The wine and drinks were a little pricey. The ships excursions were a mixed bag. Some were very good, some were ok and some were bad. This is no different than our experience on other cruise lines. They were not cheap but this is the same on all ships we have been on. We particularly enjoyed the Tango show tour in Buenos Aires, the Jewish Heritage tour in Montevideo. The Blumenau tour was not very good. We did not take the 2 day Iguaza Falls tour ($1400 per person) and thought this should be offered as a pre or post cruise tour rather than spending 2 nights in Itajai while 38 people took the tour. The entertainment was nice but weak (Princess does a better job of the same size chip). The dancers and singers and band were very good We found Celebrity's entertainment to be weaker than other lines also. Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and quick. However people who flew in the same day had trouble getting their transfers at the airport and it was a 2 and ½ hour drive in traffic. The ship took a day room at a local quality hotel for use by guests while waiting for their planes. Overall we had a great time and will most likely book another cruise with Azamara. We like the smaller, upscale ships with open seating. We find the atmosphere friendlier. We do not miss formal nights and midnight buffets. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Last year, Celebrity bombarded us with mailings promoting their new cruise line Azamara and after awhile we became intrigued and decided to do some research. We are frequent cruisers and have been on the Celebrity Galaxy several times and ... Read More
Last year, Celebrity bombarded us with mailings promoting their new cruise line Azamara and after awhile we became intrigued and decided to do some research. We are frequent cruisers and have been on the Celebrity Galaxy several times and knew that Celebrity does a good job on a medium priced cruise. We called Celebrity's hot line about Azamara's South American sailings and they happened to be running a special that was too good to pass up. We gave a minimum deposit on the 18 day Chilean Fjord cruise over New Years and Xmas. The cruise started in Buenos Aires on 12/23 and ended in Santiago on 1/10. Although most of the ports were unfamiliar to us, the idea of cruising the tip of South America and through Cape Horn was very appealing. We booked our own pre and post tour arrangements, staying at Starwood's Park Tower in Buenos Aires and the Marriott in Santiago. We had been in Buenos Aires 8 years ago on another cruise and had stayed in the same hotel and loved it -- butler and all. The Marriott turned out to be somewhat off the beaten path but we enjoyed the suburbs and had no trouble taking a cab into the main city. Embarkation was somewhat confusing and took longer than usual with lots of desks to check into but we were in high spirits and soon we were checking out our cabin and the ship. The stateroom and bathroom were small but we are used to this on cruise ships but the closets and the drawer space were adequate for our three suitcases full of stuff. The staff introduced themselves but when we needed to call no one was manning the desks and we had trouble finding our steward/butler. The butler aspect is a nice gimmick but she was mainly a steward and nothing different from other cruises. The bedding was lovely and we enjoyed crawling into our fresh linens every night with a different cookie or chocolate on the bedside table. We loved the open seating and casual dress code aboard ship. The main dining room offered a comprehensive menu and the food was delicious. We found ourselves requesting the same table as we enjoyed our wait staff a great deal and wanted to sit with the same nice people every night. The specialty restaurants left much to be desired. We liked the minimum charge but the food was not all that special and the service was very slow. Lobster was not an option every night as it usually is on other ships. The ship offered a wide variety of activities but we would have liked more specialty lectures about world affairs, etc. We were never quite sure where the band would be playing for pre-dinner dancing. The entertainment was sorely lacking and the band was terrible, although our cruise director Andreas was wonderful. He was truly a jack of all trades, with his informative lectures and late night astronomy sightings. However, we would have liked more comedy shows as the last one was quite good. Also, the show times were either too early or too late and need to be adjusted. We only took two shore excursions and preferred to book our own independent travel. On previous ships, the crew would offer more assistance if you wanted to go on your own. On the Journey, the staff would only explain their own cruises. The ship's excursions were terribly overpriced which needs to be adjusted. Disembarkation went very well and we were off the ship in no time. All in all, we had a wonderful time. Our 18 days went by in a flash. We would definitely cruise on the Azamara line again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
"It's your first cruise and you're going on one that's 18 nights long?' was the common refrain from friends. We had long resisted the idea of a cruise, we tended to make our own travel arrangements, often ... Read More
"It's your first cruise and you're going on one that's 18 nights long?' was the common refrain from friends. We had long resisted the idea of a cruise, we tended to make our own travel arrangements, often meandering through Europe by car, or finding out of the way Caribbean locations off the beaten track. But then my wife found this trip by a new cruise line that seemed to fit. Free style seating, no formal nights, a relatively small number of passengers and an itinerary that sounded perfect; Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, rounding the Horn on New Year's Eve. So for the first time in our lives we put all our travel arrangements in the hands of someone else (the cruise line) and hoped for the best. The flight to Buenos Aires meant a connection in Chicago, but once we got there, Azamara took over and we began to experience the Azamara "touch". We had booked an extra night in BA to experience some of the delights of that wonderful city. We stayed at the Sheraton, located near the famous Florida shopping street, and not far from El Temo and the docks. As expected all luggage was handled efficiently by the line and their representative at the hotel gave us several wonderful tips on enjoying the city. We even decided to eschew the free transfer to the ship in favor of spending more time at the famous El Temo flea market. A quick cab ride from the hotel brought us to the embarkation shed at the port of Buenos Aires. The embarkation procedure went very smoothly, and soon we were on the ship, handed a glass of champagne, and escorted to our stateroom. Thanks to Cruise Critic and its message boards, we had a pretty accurate idea or what to expect, our Veranda stateroom was snug, but well laid out. It was larger than some of the European "boutique" hotel rooms we've stayed in recently. The R-ship's newly renovated cabin had a flat screen, a comfortable bed and enough storage space to accommodate our three weeks worth of clothing. We were greeted by our butler, Natasha, who turned out to be absolutely wonderful, anticipating most of our needs and remembering all of our preferences. The television provided much of the onboard information we needed. We went up to the specialty restaurants to make our one free reservation, only to be told that the policy was changed beginning with our cruise. No surcharge would be assessed, so we happily made reservations for the entire cruise, alternating locations. Our dining experience was therefore somewhat different that most, and it was fantastic. The waitstaff was utterly professional and beyond friendly. The maitre d', Zoltan, made every evening a truly luxurious dining adventure. The food was truly to die for. Every dinner we ate was the equal of some of the best restaurants in NYC. A special thanks to Domenique, the head of food services, who spent time with us and gave us a real appreciation for the way in which the ship was provisioned. So we began to really enjoy and appreciate the "Azamara experience". As the cruise settled into its first week, we could not get over how genuinely friendly the entire crew was. They created such a nice atmosphere, that as we meet other passengers, one of the first topics of discussion was the crew and the atmosphere they were creating for the passengers. As we traveled down the coast of Argentina, moving into Patagonia, the "culture" of the ship became more apparent. They might not have the largest shows, but the jazz combo playing at cocktail time was just right. The activities on board were designed for those who absolutely needed them, but most of the cosmopolitan mix of passengers did their own "thing". The gym was well utilized, and the activities there were excellent. Tanning on pool deck was a favorite activity while the weather held. But for most, the scenery and ports were the major activity. (Personal disclaimer: We did not take any of the excursions offered by the ship. We made our own arrangements in each port, either renting a car and driving ourselves, or renting a car and driver for the day). The captain and crew kept us informed of any changes in our itinerary. When high winds prevented us from docking at Comodoro Riverdivia, resulting in an unexpected day at sea, the crew quickly set up new activities to take up the slack. When high seas threatened mass sea sickness, the captain took us through the Beagle Passage for an unbelievable morning wakeup at the Garibaldi Glacier, which was absolutely stunning. All during the voyage, crew members showed real interest in our daily excursions. And at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, we rounded Cape Horn Island, and headed into the Pacific. When we finally reached Valparaiso, we had had the trip of our lives. We had made new friends, both among the passengers and the crew. Perhaps the voyage was best summed up by a crew member, who, when asked by my wife if it was possible to get something after the lunch buffet had closed, replied, "Madam, on Azamara everything is possible". And it was. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
INTRODUCTIONI have cruised a total of 55 times on almost all lines save acouple of the ultra luxury ones. In 2007 the wife and I sailed on a 15day Oceania Insignia crossing. Later in 2007 RCL Ltd launched theAzamara line by acquiring and ... Read More
INTRODUCTIONI have cruised a total of 55 times on almost all lines save acouple of the ultra luxury ones. In 2007 the wife and I sailed on a 15day Oceania Insignia crossing. Later in 2007 RCL Ltd launched theAzamara line by acquiring and refitting two "R" class ships ostensiblyto compete with the three virtually identical ships currently operatedby Oceania. There has been enormous interest, particularly on the partof Oceania aficionados, in how the Azamara experience shapes usagainst Oceania. Having now sailed both I was able to draw somecomparisons.EMBARKATIONWife and I hopped on an overnight bus in Rio de Janeiro where wereside for the 6 hour ride to the embarkation port of Santos. Giventhe normally heavy traffic it can sometimes take more than 2 hoursjust to travel the 60 miles by bus from Sao Paulo's Guarulhos airportto the pier in Santos. We figured we could save time and hassle if wetook the bus to Santos directly and avoided airport check in, taxisand transfers, etc.At the Santos bus terminal we hailed a cab for the 15 minuteride to the pier. As we arrived at 7:00 a.m we opted to drop off ourluggage and continue in the taxi for a tour of the area, principallythe neighboring beach town of Guaruja. In contrast to Santos, Guarujais a charming, upscale resort popular with well to do Paulistas. Nexttime we arrive way early for a Santos embarkation we will spend timeon the beaches of nearby Guaruja. You may want to consider that too.After the usual hassle with the cab driver over the agreed fareit was back to the ship's terminal where we had to wait almost 2 hoursto board despite having been promised by Azamara reps that boardingwould start an hour sooner. Though I am normally impatient I havelived in Brazil long enough to know that getting things done here canoften take longer than anticipated, especially since this was thefirst time Azamara was embarking in Santos. We browsed the fewterminal shops until the embarkation desk opened. We were among thefirst to check in so there were no lines. William, manager of thePrime C specialty restaurant, had set up a separate desk where all paxwere required to make a dining room reservation for the first night, awell meaning effort to avoid an unmanageable crunch at any of thedining venues on night one. In point of fact, perhaps because we tendto dine after 8:30, we never had to wait more than a minute or two tobe seated in Discoveries, the main dining room, or either of thespecialty restaurants. That the ship was sailing with less than 500pax, (70% capacity) no doubt also facilitated seating.CABIN AND BUTLERWe made our way to our aft SSV cabin without benefit ofchampagne cocktail or assistance, neither of which matter to us thoughit might to some. This was our first time in an aft veranda which wechose because of the oversized balcony, its only distinguishingfeature. We weren't much concerned with excessive movement while atsea because on this itinerary the Journey would be hugging the shoreand sailing up river in Buenos Aires. After several hefty markdownsfrom the original price at which I booked, the cabin finally wound upcosting us $3240 which I consider a real bargain; however, I don'tthink the extra size of the SSV balcony justifies a significant pricepremium primarily because both adjoining verandas are completelypartitioned by metal walls which together with the prominent overhangtends to create a boxed-in sensation. The regular verandas on my deckappeared sufficiently spacious to comfortably accommodate a diningtable and two chairs for those who want to dine on their veranda.Shortly after freshening up we toured the ship. As expected thelayout is virtually identical to the Oceania Insignia and similarlywell appointed. We returned to our cabin to find our bags had arrived.While we were unpacking our butler, Natasha, neatly attired in atuxedo like uniform, entered to welcome us and explain her function.This was our first butlered cabin so I was eager to hear thedescription of her duties. Aside from shining shoes, makingreservations in the specialty restaurants and delivering afternoonsavories to the cabin, I could not distinguish her duties from thoseof the typical cabin steward. We are ordinarily low maintenancepassengers so any services supplementing the usual cabin stewardservices are superfluous for us. As it turned out I assigned Natashaseveral extra chores which she cheerfully undertook with only the mostfleeting of quizzical glances at me. Natasha (and her assistant)performed all routine and not so routine tasks well and always with anengaging sense of humor.The cabin itself held no surprises. The bed, e.g., firm paddedmattress, high thread count sheets, and feathered/down pillows wereall first rate and super comfy just like those on the Insignia. Thebathroom shower was a bit small and the water pressure a bit low, butneither to the point of inconvenience. The robes and towels wereplush. We appreciated the binoculars, umbrella and especially the handheld hairdryer in the vanity desk. The table and chairs on the verandawere more comfortable than expected. There was one significantproblem, a malfunctioning air conditioning unit. The wall thermostatdid not properly regulate the temperature and, worse yet, the ceilingunit occasionally made a loud noise that lasted several minutes. Idelegated oversight of the repair to Natasha. After the ElectricalDept failed to fix it in a couple of tries, at my urging I think shefinally invoked the aid of the Chief Engineer. Anyway, it got repairedafter a few days.SERVICEThe outstanding feature of the on board experience was thewonderful attitude of all staff and crew. While they may not havealways hit the mark, every single person I encountered sincerelyendeavored to please as much as possible. This excellent attitudefacilitated acceptance of the occasional shortcomings in food, tableor room service, guest relations service, etc. The eagerness to pleaseand to improve so permeates the ship that one can easily foresee theoverall Azamara cruise experience getting even better in thenear future.In fact, many managers were new arrivals. I was informed that theHotel Mgr had boarded less than a week before we sailed. He was anextremely affable and apparently very capable guy. The home officeExec Chef, Tomas Symanski, was also newly aboard to revise the menuswhich are, in deed, in need of revision particularly in the specialtyrestaurants. I think the Cruise Director, Andrea Oliveti, was alsorecently transferred from the Azamara Quest. They and the F&B andDining Room Mgrs were all very intent on upgrading the food andservice. All of these senior officers hosted a group of CCers at whichmany issues were discussed and considered. I think the opinion of themajority of those present was that our expectations were beingexceeded, perhaps because expectations had been tempered by widespreadnegative criticism at the inception of the company's operations.DININGUnlike Oceania, Azamara charged a $20 and $25 cover for extravisits to specialty restaurants, Aqualina and Prime C respectively(penthouse occupants got two freebies, all others got one). Azamarahas announced that this surcharge is soon to be eliminated and eachpax will be entitled to one additional specialty restaurant meal.With the exception of the Windows Cafe buffet on deck 9 (wow,what a breakfast!) I did not think the food was as good as what I hadexperienced on Oceania's Insignia, but certain dishes at each of thedining venues were very good, a few excellent. The roasted sea basswhich I ordered in Discoveries on the first night was up there withthe best fish dishes I have ever tasted and had me thinking the foodwas going to rival that of the Insignia, a notion which got dispelledas time wore on. In Aqualina a seafood bouillabaisse was to die for.On the negative side the lobster newburg was the only lobster dish oneither specialty restaurant menu (actually it's only on Aqualina's,but as they share the same kitchen you can order off either menu). Itwas tasty, but I would have preferred to have had a choice of asimpler lobster preparation. Large scallops were delicious onenight, but on another in a different venue their delicate flavor wastotally obscured when presented on a bed of bacon. The duck breast inDiscoveries was as bad as the stuffed quails were good.Having lived in Buenos Aires for a couple of years and writtenan article on steakhouses for the local English language daily Iconsider myself something of a steak connoisseur. I did not think thesteaks were of sufficiently high quality in Prime C though I didn'ttry the so-called Kobe beef available for an $8 surcharge. Roast primerib was not on the menu and should be in a good steakhouse.Desserts were generally uninspiring throughout except at theWindows buffet where early in the cruise I came across a fantastic,dark chocolate mousse which, alas, I was never to see again. I'm surethe kitchen would have accommodated a request for more, but my wifereminded me of my promise not to overindulge in desserts so I left itto chance and as fate would have it I never saw that mousse again.Next time I am requesting it.I expect the Exec Chef will be working to achieve greaterculinary excellence throughout the ship. Hopefully, the company canpurchase better steaks and add more lobster to the menus in thespecialty restaurants. Timing in the kitchens and table service needsto be ratcheted up as well.  I had fabulous service 3 of the 4 timeswe dined in the specialty restaurants as well as most nights inDiscoveries, but suffered mediocre service once in each place.By way of example how hard the company is trying to please theywere quite generous in offering "comps.". For instance, when inresponse to a query by our waiter in Prime C, we mentioned our mildcriticism of a steak, William, the manager, soon appeared and compedus for a return visit. Another time when our Discoveries waiterneglected to advise us in advance of the $25 corkage fee, a publicizedfee that I knew existed, the exuberant Dining Room Manager, Chaika,came over at the end of the meal and removed the charge on the groundswe were not expressly advised in advance - I didn't have the heart toundermine his generosity by mentioning I knew about the fee. Finally,as a gesture of thanks for a small favor wife and I did, providingsome info on Rio, we were comped at Aqualina by the F&B Mgr. It'sdifficult not to enjoy yourself when those kinds of thingscontinuously occur.For breakfast we ordered light, continental style breakfasts viaroom service all but one day. In my experience room service is theweakest link in the food service chain on board, but the Journey roomservice crew did way better than most. They always arrived with almosteverything at the appointed time. Once late in the cruise they optedto come at 7:00 am instead of our customary 8:30 when I neglected tojot down the time we wanted our breakfast served. I assume the blamefor that although 7:00 was a bit curious in light of our known custom.Okay, I'm nitpicking.The weather forced us up to the deck 9 breakfast buffet once andI was amazed at the selection of nicely prepared items available, notthe least of which was a juice bar from which you could order almostany fruit/veggie concoction imaginable. Given that sumptuous breakfastbuffet I'm glad I avoided temptation by opting for the continentalbreakfast on our veranda.For lunch we either ate at the deck 9 buffet which was absolutelyfirst rate or indulged in a hamburger with fries or salad at thepoolside grill. I didn't like the franks, but the burgers were prettygood even though well done is mandatory. Cheese, bacon and sauteed mushroomscan compensate for the lack of rareness. I would also have preferrednot to have had to cope with those tiny plastic bags of ketchup,relish, mustard, etc. My dexterity isn't what it used to be and it'sdarn annoying trying to tear open a whole bunch of those bags to squeeze outtheir minuscule contents. I neglected to write that on my comment card.Maybe someone who agrees with me can do so in the near future. I wasdisappointed with the pizza, but I'm always disappointed with pizza atsea having grown up in New Jersey and NYC's little Italy. I think ithas to do with the lack of crispiness in the pre-baked dough and theblandness of the tomato "gravy."  Lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch andcoffee were always available from dispensers located in the buffet andnear the poolside grill.ENTERTAINMENT AND SHIPBOARD ACTIVITIESThe Journey's showroom/ theater is, like the other R ships,without a raised stage. Consequently, it's more intimate than thetypical large ship showroom and well suited to the cabaret showsperformed by the Journey cast of five singers and dancers. Theypresented three very entertaining shows during the 12 night cruise. Iwas impressed with the quality of the talent although I thought theshows' production values (staging, lighting and costumes) could havebeen better. I didn't catch much of the other showroom entertainmentthough my Brazilian wife told me the young group of Brazilian dancersthat performed when we were ported in Itajai were very good. Theorchestra was one of the better ones I have heard on ships although Iwould have liked more pre-dinner dance opportunities. The talentedband that played poolside made a lot of music for a trio.Andrea Oliveti was a capable, good natured cruise director. Hisequally good natured staff conducted numerous activities throughouteach day maintaining a cheerful enthusiasm even whenattendance was less than SRO. I was taken back when only 4 peopleshowed up for a mid-morning trivia session. Boy, what a bunch of couchpotatoes. Unfortunately, there was little in the way of enrichmentlecture. Wife and I even briefly manned an orientation desk to providetips on Rio a day before we ported there.The library (aka Michael's Club) had an honor system checkout andwas open all hours. I would have liked to have seen a better stockedlibrary - I could not find a single travel book. I believe tea wasserved there in the afternoon ( I never ventured to events featuringmore food). There is a piano in the room and I understand it was usedduring tea. In any event I wonder why tea service and the piano cannot be relocated to the large forward Looking Glass lounge (like it ison the Insignia) so that the library can be maintained as an oasis ofquiet.In addition to the piano player, there was a guitar playerperforming in the evenings near the casino entrance on deck 5 as wellas a harpist who performed near the Cova Cafe on deck 5 (a spot wherespecialty coffees and drinks were available for a charge). I confess Idid not catch their acts except in passing, but the guitarist wasBrazilian and sounded pretty accomplished. Each of the musicians hadtheir own small group of devotees.The internet connection aboard ship was so notoriously slow thatthe computer room was hardly ever occupied except for the occasionalfree class offered by the host. Pay TV programming was available inthe cabin. I am not a fan of pay TV movie programming, but if it helpsto hold down the base cruise price I guess I can suffer through thealternative non-pay movie programming that existed. A few almost firstrun movies and selected classics were rebroadcast several times everycouple of days and, of course, there was ESPN and the annoyinglyrepetitious CNN. The TV had an interactive service enabling one to reviewhis shipboard account, purchase excursions and check restaurantreservations, etc.The gym in the spa contained more than an adequate number ofelliptical machines, treadmills and stationary bikes in addition to abrand new assortment of cable machines and free weights for usbodybuilder types. I never had to wait to use a piece of equipment andI worked out 1.5 times per day. There were spinning classes andperhaps other classes, but I' m not a "class" guy so I wasn't fullyaware of schedules or cost, if any. Wife and I got haircuts,manicures, pedicures, etc. before leaving on the cruise and did notuse the spa so I can not opine on the quality of those and the otherservices offered. There was a room designated for acupuncture whichmight be of interest to some.The casino was appropriately (Insignia-sized) small. It containeda bunch of slots, a roulette and a couple of blackjack tables and alarge, hi-tech, automated Texas hold'em poker table that will soon bereplaced in view of its failure to attract players.PORTS AND EXCURSIONS The itinerary for this cruise consisted of Buenos Aires, Itajai,Paraty, Rio de Janeiro and the return to Santos. The ship departedSantos on Thursday, Nov 29 and made its first port of Buenos Aires onSunday, Dec 2. We sailed away from BA the same night. That was ascheduling error. Compounding that we also arrived in Rio de Janeiroon the following Sunday and departed Rio on Monday afternoon. Both BAand Rio are world class cities and arriving on a Sunday when so manyof the things to see and do are closed is unwise. Conversely, afterleaving Buenos Aires we overnighted in the small southern Braziliantown of Itajai apparently so that the ship could run an overnightexcursion to the falls of Iguazu for a small (30) group willing to payabout $1400 pp. This type of scheduling should be avoided on futureruns in these waters.I have not gone on a ship excursion for many years preferring tofend for myself. In Itajai, we paired up with another couple from theship and hired a taxi to take us to the German colonial town ofBlumenau located about an hour from port. Itajai has some prettybeaches close to the pier, but it rained the next day so we cancelledour outing to the beach. The Journey tendered passengers ashore inParaty, a picturesque colonial town located 140 miles from Rio. Tiedup at the pier where the passengers alighted were dozens of schoonerships of various capacity. For R$20 ($12) one could purchase a 5 hourschooner trip that included time for swimming and snorkeling among thenumerous islands that dot the Brazilian coast. Be sure to leave acouple of hours for shopping along the town's cobblestone streets.Paraty is an artsy, craftsy place.CONCLUSIONIn view of the spectacular effort by all staff and crew toplease, this cruise was delightful even if some things were notabsolutely perfect. The minor inconsistencies in service are sure tobe eliminated given the obvious concern by all senior officers toachieve excellence. It is hoped that the on board presenceof the line's Executive Chef portends a revision of the menus and animprovement in the quality of the food offerings particularly in thespecialty restaurants. When that happens the Journey will offer anoverall cruising experience very comparable to that which we enjoyedon the Oceania Insignia. Let's face it, because of a weak US dollar,the relative high cost of land travel throughout the world makescruising on a ship like the Journey a darn good value.   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
Let's start with if there were problems, they have been or will shortly be addressed. From my Previous Post from the SHIP on the last day (used up the last of our minutes): It was an excellent trip. We made a few new friends and ... Read More
Let's start with if there were problems, they have been or will shortly be addressed. From my Previous Post from the SHIP on the last day (used up the last of our minutes): It was an excellent trip. We made a few new friends and truly enjoyed our cruise. The staff is outstanding, I mean really outstanding, they are friendly and go out of their way to ensure everyone is having a good time. The personal attention we received on this trip far exceeds anything we have experienced on our 6 previous cruises. I, like many of you, have been reading the comments on cruise critic for insight into our cruise. Well, I have to say I was very much relieved once we started cruising. I feel like I am reporting on a completely different ship and experience then some of the previous cruise critic reports. First of all, the dining experience was outstanding. Starting with the embarkation process, Azamara has added a new feature in which they ask you what time you would like to dine at, on the first night only. This seems to have resolved any previous issues with line-ups especially on the first night. We rarely saw anyone waiting, if they did it was not more then a few minutes. For us we chose to be at the same table each night and it was always available and the staff seemed to know we would eventually be there. We dined at Aqualina one night and really enjoyed it, one recommendation, make sure you try the soufflE, it is out of this world! Domenique was on this voyage and he is excellent as some previous critics have reported. We very much enjoyed afternoon tea in Aqualina, again a highlight, the Harpist is very talented. The entertainment staff and the Cruise director Andrea and his staff were all excellent! The Cabaret is very intimate and gave us a feeling of being part of the show for each performance. We enjoyed all of the shows. The performers are very friendly and are often at other events off hours and interact with the passengers on a regular basis, much more then we have ever seen. Special mention to the following crew which we very much appreciated their personal attention: in the Dinning Room, Czjka (hard worker and always upbeat), Nitish, Ghanowa, Mario, and Maria the bar waitress from Columbia, our butleress, Maria Franco, George the officer who I was lucky enough to dance with we even won 4th prize!! SOME SPECIFICS: BACKGROUND Myself, my husband and my in-laws traveled together on this trip. We have all been on 6 other cruises, not the same ones, with a number of different cruise companies between all of us. All of our previous cruises were on bigger ships, the closest to this size ship was the Nordic Prince and the Song of America, otherwise larger ships with about 2,000 to 2,500 passengers. I was particularly worried this ship would rock & roll, but it didn't, not on our trip and we did have some rain days. I was worried about my mother-in-law, she had been a sick on the Nordic Prince a number of years ago and if anyone would feel it would be her, she was fine the entire trip. EMBARKATION The was painless, however one of the bus rides from one terminal building to the other seemed a little over kill we could have walked in one or two minutes, if that. As reported previously they have this process under control, even at the New Port of Santos, for Azamara, everything was quick and orderly. We were given Champaign as we entered the Ship and has some food which was welcome by this time even though we did have a big breakfast in Sao Paulo at our Hotel before leaving for Santos. CABINS The Cabins were a real treat for us as this was the first time we had a balcony, so worth it and someone told me you can't go back once you've had one, that might be true... In any case on this ship I would absolutely recommend it, especially for the difference in price from a window cabin, it's worth it! The bathroom while not big was fine and the shower was fine and not the smallest I've seen. The bath products are actually excellent as reported and they certainly give you plenty. The robes and slippers a real treat, never had that before either. POOL AREA While yes the Pool is small, this is the smallest I've seen, it works well enough and is not crowded. The area around the pool is very nice and chairs were a dream. The Grill has excellent food and while we only ate there twice it was very fresh and the fries are very good. BUFFET Windows was excellent for Breakfast! The blueberry pancakes and omelets are very tasty, The juice bar seems to be an under utilized area, they make any combination of juices to order, I would suggest trying this out. CASINO The is a great area, not very big and it felt friendly, I can say I should have won but I forgot "know when to walk away", maybe next time. I won a free Casino T-Shirt on a raffle so it wasn't a complete loss. ACTIVITIES We especially enjoyed the lecture on The Beauty of Mathematics in Nature, well worth attending. I liked the Food Demo and the talk about Gems. ENTERTAINMENT No there are no BIG PRODUCTIONS but with the space and number of entertainers on board they do a really good job of making each night interesting and fun. We really did like all the shows, some more than others but we never left completely disappointed. As I mentioned above the Ship entertainers are very good and because they are so personable and friendly with the passengers it gives the shows at night a different feel. SHORE EXCURSIONS We actually only booked one with the Ship but it was really good in Parati we went on a "Party Ship" to two different beaches and they sold "Cipirina's" on board which were the best I tasted in all of Brazil. Otherwise we did our own thing in a few Ports, no problem with getting a Taxi and were part a larger group in Rio and Itajai. Loved Argentina, Camboriu and Parati, plus Rio is Rio, loved it too. Speaking the language does help but I don't think it's a must have, not at all. DINING Completely enjoyed this, the portion sizes are just right so you can actually try more different courses. The presentation was excellent. The only issue for me personally is a seafood allergy, so much of the shrimp, scallops were off limits, but they did look really good and my husband loved it. The staff was very attentive to ensure I didn't have anything I shouldn't. My absolute favorite was the soufflE at Aqualina. AFTERNOON TEA This I have never experienced on a ship, we went a number of days while at sea to Aqualina for tea and treats and to listen to the Harpist play, it was every relaxing. DISEMBARKATION I thought this would have taken longer and was surprised how quickly we got off the ship. We had a Taxi waiting for us so it was all like clock work getting off the ship and back to Sao Paulo. I can tell you we loved our Cruise and would recommend it to all! I hope your cruise is as wonderful as ours! A little about our stay in Sao Paulo after the Cruise. SAO PAULO POST CRUISE We stayed one additional night and day in Sao Paulo and even though it rained the second day we had a wonderful time and saw many more interesting spots. For those wondering about prices, the taxi trip from the ship to our Hotel Downtown was $185Reals (Divide by 4 very reasonable). We had arranged with the taxi driver who originally drove us to the ship from Sao Paulo to pick us up, like clock work he was there. Once in Sao Paulo we wondered on foot and took one local cab the first day. If you do stay in Sao Paulo, a hotel near Ave. Paulista is a good location; you can wonder on this massive street and feel very safe, we did. It's a business district and the locals are dressed to the nines. There was a Christmas Show with a group of about 60 kids singing Nutcracker songs the evening we arrived at 6:30 outside of one of the banks. The banks also have their lobbies decorated with Christmas themes like I have never seen before, all free for everyone to wonder through and enjoy. We saw about 30 or so Santa Claus' wishing Christmas Cheer to everyone walking and driving by, this was a really good photo. Speaking of which I took many pictures on this street and again felt very safe. It reminds me of Time Square or Yonge Street a little. We saw a few helicopters making roof top landings to pickup executives at the end of the day. We stayed at the Maksoud Plaza, it was in a great location and very safe. I have to say the city view from the 19th floor from the odd numbered rooms is incredible. We hired the same driver for the second day for $300Reals, this included tip and drop off at the Airport later, (which alone is a standard $100Reals), he was with us from 11 am to 6:30 pm. We went to a number of places, the open market on (15th of Nov St, I think) it was amazing with only people on the street. The Train Station is impressive from the inside, the old churches and buildings are wonderful and the mix of architecture is well... very unique. We tried a local restaurant which serves food by the weight, or the Kilo the first night (just make sure you eat somewhere over $2.50 Reals for 100 grams, you get much more variety and better food, so said our Taxi driver, I think we paid $2.89, the entire meal was less then $40Reals for two with drinks. The second day we tried this deboned grilled chicken that was to die for, again the Taxi drivers recommendation. We went to a shop that only sold hot sauces and teas, I mean really hot sauce, we'll see if we can actually eat it or cook with it.... Too much more to mention, lets just say it was our first trip to Brazil but it won't be the last....I hope not. I should mention we speak Portuguese which in Brazil does come in very handy and now that we have been once, we feel much more comfortable about returning. But if you don't speak the language, downtown you will find many people do, also the Hotels have tours in many languages. Glad we stayed the extra time in Sao Paulo. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
Review of the Azamara Journey Sail date: 6 October 2007 As to some background; we are avid cruise ship travelers, having completed over 50 cruises, of all types, including freighters, river ships, barges and cruise ships. We prefer ... Read More
Review of the Azamara Journey Sail date: 6 October 2007 As to some background; we are avid cruise ship travelers, having completed over 50 cruises, of all types, including freighters, river ships, barges and cruise ships. We prefer smaller ships and, thus, were glad when Celebrity acquired the Journey, a 700 passenger vessel. Embarkation: We used Celebrity air to travel to Newark. The flight, fortunately, was uneventful and our baggage actually arrived with us. We were met by shore representatives and were transported to the port with only slight delays. The actual embarkation was, without doubt, the easiest and least stressful ever experienced. We were on ship within 15 minutes. Upon embarkation we were directed to the Windows Cafe to have lunch and wait for the cabin preparation to be completed. This was done by about 1:20 pm. Cabin: We were in a Sky Suite. Overall, the cabin was quite nice and very comfortable. The bath, though small, was adequate. The veranda is small and contains a table and two chairs. The verandas do not offer any privacy due to the transparent frosted glass partitions, which have a large open space surrounding them. HOWEVER, the one glaring error, in the redo of these cabins, is the apparent absolute absence of soundproofing. This is especially noticeable between the cabin and the deck above. The noise of the movement of people, furniture and equipment was overwhelming. During party time, on the pool deck, especially at night, you can forget about relaxing, much less sleeping. In our view, a major mistake, especially considering these are nearly the most expensive cabins, on the vessel. Dining: The food was outstanding. In fact, we felt this is some of the best cruise ship food we have had in many years. All dining rooms, Discovery, Prime C and Aqualina were very good. Actually, the food in the main dining room, in our view, was the best of the three, although Aqualina was the most attractive. The main dining room tended to be noisy and the tables seemed to be crowded. The Windows Cafe, buffet for breakfast and lunch, was good, but on a par with most other mid level ships. The food was hot, when required and cold when required. Adequate describes it. While the dining areas had disinfecting hand wipes, it seems the liquid dispenser form, like found on other Celebrity ships, would be more effective. As a side note, we would like to see a return to fixed dining as opposed to the open dining concept. Just our preference. Ship activities: Bermuda is a destination which requires one to spend a great deal of time ashore. As a result, we did not use any of the ships activities. We did note the daily program offered plenty of them. Therefore, for those who chose to stay aboard, I am sure there were lots of options open to them. As with the activities, we did not attend any of the ships shows. That is just our preference. Based on comments from other passengers, it appears the entertainment was standard cruise ship fare, somewhat scaled down due to the ship's size. Shore excursions: There were pages of options. We chose to use public transportation passes, which were available for sale at guest relations. This because we had been to Bermuda a few times before and knew our way around. Also, this is such a small place that it is very easy to get around. If one wanted to do a tour, however, there were many options and they appeared to be reasonably priced. General observations: In our view this is a great ship. Comfortable and just the right size. The negatives are few. Cabin noise in the Sky Suites was the greatest complaint. For the life of us, we can not understand Celebrity's insistence on the use of "Butlers". This is an absolute waste. Our "butler" spent the better part of his time assisting the cabin steward. I guess it is just one way of creating another "gratuity" payment. Would we do this ship again - a resounding yes, but not in a Suite. Would we recommend the ship. Again, yes, but stay away from the Suites. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
My husband and I cruised on the Journey's first 14-day sailing on October 27th. It was a great cruise and the Journey is a wonderful ship though they do have some work to do to become what I feel they are trying to market Azamara to ... Read More
My husband and I cruised on the Journey's first 14-day sailing on October 27th. It was a great cruise and the Journey is a wonderful ship though they do have some work to do to become what I feel they are trying to market Azamara to be in comparison to the other cruise lines. The boat is still in need of renovations, repairs and updates; this would not be the expectation on the upscale, luxury lines. But what Azamara is currently doing right, is done with 5-star class, style and service. The check in was a breeze; we were on board within minutes and eating a fabulous lunch. Though the check in was great, we would get a taxi the next time versus arranging for transfers. We waited in the airport 2 hours for a bus full of passengers to arrive before we could leave for the ship. We were not a happy crowd! A constant theme throughout the trip with one fabulous meal after another fabulous meal. All other passengers commented on the amazing quality and presentation of the food, which certainly includes the service of the personnel. In addition, both of us thought the buffet area and the dining room were very clean. We are also happy to report no known cases of any viruses on board. We had an inside cabin and encountered very few people in other inside rooms; the majority of the rooms on board are ocean view and balcony rooms. We felt the room was perfect. We had no problems with seeing the TV as others have reported however there are very few channels to chose from but there were 2 movies running each day. Since we were cruising during Halloween, one of the movies was a horror movie/thriller (Frankenstein, Halloween, The Birds, etc). This did get a little old; maybe a day or two with horror movies but enough was enough! The bedding is as wonderful as others have reported; a very comfortable nights sleep every night while on board. The bathroom is very small for sitting on the toilet and for taking a shower. The Elemis toiletries in the bathroom are great - no need to bring shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bar soap, cotton balls, shower caps, or Q-tips. We opted for evening showers in the spa using the shower with 7 heads on many nights...it was very relaxing. It was rumored that our cruise was the last free cruise to have use of the T-pool, the showers and the changing rooms however I am not certain if that is true. On our first day, the manager of the spa gave us a tour and she did say this was the last free cruise but it was her first day on board and she could have been uninformed at that point. The gym area was never crowded and there was no wait for machines. The T-pool was very hot on most evenings but we still found it a relaxing and very underutilized area. The hot tubs by the pool were not working properly the whole cruise; we did mention this at the front desk and they acted as if this was new information to them. You can ask for berries and grapes in your fruit bowl instead of apples, etc and they will comply unless/until they run out. The flowers were never dead as others have reported. We did not utilize the "butler" service but we are pretty low maintenance. Dinner was a wonderful experience each night. The first night was very crowded and we were escorted upstairs to Prime C for a free meal...a very nice surprise...but we did want a table for 2 only so this was their quick solution. The Prime C meal was perfection in all regards - sea bass for me; surf and turf for my DH. We knew it was going to be a great vacation with a beginning like this! Since we enjoyed Prime C, we opted for Aqualina on our "free" night (inside rooms get only 1 free night). Though we read many reviews noting that Aqualina was their preference, we found our meals lacking in quality, interest and presentation. Lobster for me and a filet for my DH; we both commented that the dining room meals were consistently superior to Aqualina (even the desserts). A table for 2 in the dining room was never an issue though most of the tables for 2 are very close together (a long line of small tables) therefore you feel as if you are dining with other couples but you do not have the obligation of making small talk. We did hear comments from others that they experienced frustration being seated at the larger tables - if someone was having wine(s), was a slower eater, or a talker, dinner could take 2 hours. Even though we agree that vacation is time to relax, we don't have the patience or the interest for this; we opted for a table for 2 every night. We tried Breeza (the evening name for the buffet area) 2 nights so we could enjoy the stir fry one night and the pasta the other; we read many positive reviews and had to agree that this was a nice option after a long day in the sun. The guitar player/singer in the evening added a nice ambience. The morning buffet seemed fairly consistent the days we ate there as was the menu in the main dining room; some breakfast variety would have been nice. Room service was excellent and arrived hot and as ordered. You receive a card each evening to make your selections; you chose your time of delivery. It is an excellent system and it does work! Lunch was varied in the dining room and in the buffet. The floor in the buffet area was very slick (esp in the mornings) - this is a problem that needs to be remedied quickly as it is quite a hazard. The soft serve ice cream machine was working well and was used quite often; chocolate and vanilla were most common but they whipped up some strawberry on some days (it was the best!). The grill was a hot spot in the afternoons; great fries; good hamburger and steak sandwich choices; the veggie burger was perfect. Entertainment...well, sometimes not so entertaining! The Journey cast was great and everyone turned out for their shows; the 2 comedians were awesome; the international guitar player was exceptional. One entertainer, Loretta Holloway, forgot the words to her song twice and we eventually left. We heard the next day that she was singing to an empty room by the time her show was over. Hopefully she won't be invited back. There was also a steel drum player that was probably very good but his background music drowned out his instrument; I think the crowd dwindled down to a few people by the time his show was over also. The evening party on deck for Dancing under the Stars and the local Bermuda dancers was extremely fun; wish they had done more things like this; great turn out and lots of drinks being sold. We were disappointed that they only had a movie showing once in the theater during the whole 14-day cruise; this is usually a favorite of ours to enjoy a few movies in the theater but we may have been spoiled on Holland America with this option. Bermuda was as good as reported by everyone; very safe and very easy to navigate by bus. The original itinerary included Grand Turk. Azamara sent letters to some passengers to note that Grand Turk had been removed from the itinerary though we were not aware of this until we were 1 day into the journey. This was a big disappointment to us and to others. We get tons of mail and email from Celebrity, Azamara and all the other cruise lines so we are not sure the problem with us not getting a letter or email notification. Labadee is a great place and very relaxing; we heard too many awful stories about the market so we didn't even venture in. Seemed like most people brought back the usual trinkets so I don't think we missed much. We tendered as early as we could and got a great spot; DH snorkeled and had a great time. They do require you to wear a vest if you chose to snorkel. The meal on the island was awesome but the locals eating with us was very odd. They took food with their hands and really piled it on their plates. A lot of locals were on this private part of the island but no one really seemed to be doing anything unless they knew they would be readily tipped for their service. No need to book a tour for Santa Marta. Once you get off the ship, you will be in an area to take a van tour for $20 each. Definitely a better option than going to the beach or walking around on your own. You see some nice sights, great views, do a little shopping, see the "resort" area; you will definitely leave feeling that these are very happy people that welcome the tourists. We arranged a private tour in Cartagena through Lee a.k.a. "Mister Emerald"; he was very responsive by email and provided a wonderful tour guide and driver. We were a group of 7 Cruise Critic members; $20 each for the tour and $25 for entrance fees to the museums. It was a good deal for what were able to see. Cartagena is a great place to see; plenty of history. Much better to see with a guide than to attempt this on your own; it did not look unsafe but just too expansive to really see effectively without a plan. You won't go wrong contacting Lee and you will feel very safe. On our last cruise, we went through the Panama Canal so we opted for the City Tour offered through Azamara. The majority of people on our bus felt the tour lacking in any substance or quality; I met several at the tour desk the next day filing a complaint form. We did also and received a letter reply (obviously mass produced) that we should have read our Terms and Conditions. I responded to their letter by sending a note stating that we only wanted to get what we paid for and what was advertised. They again responded with a letter that they would bring our complaints to the tour operators attention and they attached a copy of the Terms and Conditions. This was the greatest disappointment of the trip. Don't trust Azamara on the tours; thinking back through the committed itinerary and the product we received, it was not even realistic time wise. Our tour guide even told us he did not like doing tours with the cruise companies; it was obvious to us!! The San Blas Island stop confirmed that we were finished with cruising in the Caribbean for a while. It was just another stop to see the beach and be offered lots of trinkets by the locals. Many took very over priced cabs ($40 each) to see the island but we jumped on the bus for 25 (or 50) cent each - we saw enough of the island; went to the beach and went to the main shopping/tourist area. They take the 1-3 siesta time seriously and all shops were closed then. The most interesting part of the stop was watching the cars, buses, and scooters (with 3 and 4 people on them) go by; seeing the military people; and talking with a few of the locals. Definitely not a place to return to but not unsafe or scary enough to stay on the boat as many did. This was a long tender ride but with such gorgeous water, that was fine with us. Disembarking was a problem...the boat was not cleared for a few hours for some reason. Then they let everyone get off at once as people were really getting loud about the delay; the luggage area was a zoo and there were only 2 immigration agents to check everyone out; I don't think we can blame Azamara for this but we were not concerned with the details at that point, we were ready to begin our 2 days in Miami. If you opt to stay over, check out the Indian River Hotel...very affordable nostalgic "south Beach style" hotel one block over from the beach and the boardwalk with a wonderful Cuban cafe across the street (Tropical something Cafe - so good we ate their twice - $13 total for dinner for 2). Just a few blocks walk on the boardwalk and you are in the heart of the South Beach excitement. The boat handles well for its size; we loved the size of this boat! The smaller casino did not appeal to some but it was fine for us since we only spent about $3 in it. There are only 2 shops on board; they pull out the gold by the inch table and the boxed jewelry tables as usual. The art show was priced quite high and people were buying (much to our constant amazement!). Bring some extra wire hangers if you are on a 14-day sailing. We hung a dollar store shoe organizer on the closet door for toiletries, meds, etc that kept us organized since the bathroom was so small; we trashed it instead of bringing it home for a future trip but it was a well spent $1 before we left. They don't do a great job clearly listing all of the times and places to dance/watch others dance with the band. The band is wonderful and there were some very entertaining dancers on our sailing though we encountered them by surprise. The program has a list of activities and then a list of the musical offerings in a different location. Try breakfast in your room a few days; a very relaxing treat for us! Afternoon Tea in Aqualina is formal so they bring the cart around and serve each person; very time consuming so we only did this once. However, when it was offered in Michael's, it was on a cart where you could make your own selections; much quicker. Michael's had a great library and was a relaxing place that was consistently quiet. Michael's, the dining room, the theater, etc were well air conditioned so pack a sweater/wrap esp for evenings. Most took the resort casual theme a step too far but they were on vacation so it was no big deal to us; we did hear a few nasty comments about it from others. A few nights into the trip, resort casual turned into t-shirts; this is obviously offensive to some. There was one little boy on board; no other children; this is definitely not a kid's boat though even in the summer time. We were in port with the Quest and received a pass to go on board and check it out; exactly the same as the Journey though it seemed to be in slightly better repair from our limited surveillance. Your butler will empty your fridge so you can store your wine brought from home or other items as you see fit. We received choc covered strawberries 2 evenings and very tasty treats on the other evenings (some items seemed to be left over from tea time); it was odd that these treats left in your room were not covered in plastic wrap so they would be stale by morning if you chose not to eat them that night (covering food could be a personal preference I suppose!). If an itinerary and price came along that fit our needs, we would definitely sail with Azamara again (though we would not book any of their excursions). It was an overall great cruise!! 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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