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Sail Date: October 2008
This was our 16th cruise and we did enjoy it. The Journey is a small and very well appointed ship. The service in the restaurants is excellent. The food was very good - not great. The two specialty restaurants are also very good - not ... Read More
This was our 16th cruise and we did enjoy it. The Journey is a small and very well appointed ship. The service in the restaurants is excellent. The food was very good - not great. The two specialty restaurants are also very good - not great. The shops on board leave a great deal to be desired with very limited selections. With such a small ship you simply don't have room for good boutiques. The spa was very nice and they offer some well priced daily specials. The entertainment was okay. The bands were very good and we especially enjoyed the harpist and pianist. The shows were okay but after seeing two we decided to pass. The guest comedian put on a really great show. The gals at the excursion desk were very pleasant and accommodating. We booked a suite which was quite nice and well appointed. Smaller than most of the suites we've booked on other ships. The bathroom was the smallest we've had in a suite. Be aware, take your shower the night before you disembark. There's no hot water on the morning you leave the ship. Our itinerary was Barcelona to Venice with stops in Monte Carlo, Rome, Sorrento, Bari, Dubrovnik, Split, and Koper. We loved them all. My favorites were Sorrento, Dubrovnik and Split. It's a lot to see in 10 days with only 1 sea day. This is not what you would call a relaxing cruise. It is a great way to see these countries though. Our butler, Raven, was a doll. He always remembered our names and greeted us with a smile. Our only complaint was with our head butler. He'd given us his card with his working hours and extension # on it and said if we needed anything to be sure and call him and he'd take care of it. We only made one request of him during the entire trip. I phoned him one morning to make a request. He sounded very groggy, I think I woke him up even though it was during his working hours. I asked that he make a couple of reservations for us. He was a bit grumpy but said he would take care of it. When 2 days had passed and we hadn't heard from him, we looked into it only to find out that he'd done nothing. When my husband questioned him about it he said that he'd told me he couldn't do anything. Now, that wasn't true and it made me angry. Our next door cabin neighbors told us they'd requested that he make a dinner reservation for them but he had the restaurant call them rather than take care of it for them, as was his job. I appreciate all the work the staff on the cruise ships do for us. They pamper and spoil us to a fault. BUT when they lie, that's where I draw the line. Two days before we were to disembark, we went to guest services and told them what had happened. They were uninterested. We requested that we leave the head butler half of what the recommended tip was for him. We were told we couldn't do that as our card had already been charged and our account was closed out. I didn't believe that either, we still had two nights on board. I don't like Azamara's tipping policy. If you get lousy service you shouldn't have to pay for it. I'd rather give it to those that are doing a good job which the rest of them did. This will probably keep us from sailing Azamara again. If they would have at least been concerned about our poor head butler service it would have made a difference, but they weren't. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
When we decided to return to the Baltic, we knew we wanted a small casual ship with a lot of time in each port. The itinerary of the Azamara Journey was perfect. There were 2 days in Stockholm, 3 in St. Petersburg, and a whole day in ... Read More
When we decided to return to the Baltic, we knew we wanted a small casual ship with a lot of time in each port. The itinerary of the Azamara Journey was perfect. There were 2 days in Stockholm, 3 in St. Petersburg, and a whole day in Tallin. We booked our own air and arrived 3 days early in Copenhagen. When we embarked (about noon), there were no crowds at all and the process was very smooth. We had a deluxe oceanview stateroom on the 4th floor. It was nice,quiet, had plenty of drawers and closet space, the bed was good, and the linens were soft. We also liked having a refrigerator. We asked the butler to take out all the mini-bar stuff so we could use it as we liked. It was the only thing we ever asked of him. He was pleasant, but he was no better or worse than any other stateroom attendant we have had in the past. There was a flat screen TV, but most of the time the in-house channel was not working. We brought our own travel clock and I'm glad we did. There was nothing in the room, and the TV didn't show the time. The food was excellent. We never used room service, but we ate in the buffet, the outside grill, the dining room, and the specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurants were our only disappointment. The food was good, but didn't seem much different than in the dining room. We did have lobster though, and that was never served anywhere else. We did not make advance reservations, just went upstairs and asked when there was space available for our group of 4. Except for the first sea-day, they weren't full at all. Frankly, I enjoyed the dining room more. On the topic of coffee: I am a daily coffee drinker and felt annoyed to have to pay extra for an expresso drink. For a cruise that advertises itself in an upscale niche, that seems pretty cheap. The only way I could swallow the stuff in the buffet was to dilute it 50%. All the Baltic ports are very easily managed independently, so we didn't use the shore excursions. I did meet several cruisers who had a good time on their side-trips, but we usually did the exact same thing for much, much less. The exception was in St. Petersburg. We hired a private guide from a company that is often mentioned in the destination board, and had a fantastic time. In several of the ports, Azamara chartered shuttle buses into the town center. It was never far, but the cost seemed pretty high and you were asked to pay each way. Another instance of a missed opportunity to make guests feel like this was a luxury cruise. I liked having a self-serve laundry on board. there were 3 washers and dryers. I went down once in the morning and everyone else had the same idea. When I returned late in the afternoon, the place was empty. The shows were OK, the casino was very small, and there was no movie theatre on board. It's a small ship, so it was about what I had expected. The cruise staff try very hard to be entertaining, but there are only so many times in the day a person can play trivia... I also found the cruise director to be loud and annoying, and if I turned on the TV to see our speed or position, she was always there. I think the ship is wonderfully laid out. It's easy to get around and because of the small size, there are no crowds or waiting anywhere. It was well-maintained and clean. Apart from not having convenient restrooms near the top lookout bar, everything was easy to access. Much has been written elsewhere about the library. It was not divided up on the Journey and there were books. Yes, there could have been much more, and I'm sure some avid readers were disappointed. I ended up with paperbacks that someone else had left, and contributed many of my own. Any criticisms I have are very minor. The trip was enjoyable, the staff hard-working, and I would go on another Azamara cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
We booked this cruise due to itinerary, price and bonuses...prepaid gratuities, on board credit etc. Our travel included airfare and transfers through the cruiseline. Flights were on LAN PERU and were fine...only problem was in Peru, ... Read More
We booked this cruise due to itinerary, price and bonuses...prepaid gratuities, on board credit etc. Our travel included airfare and transfers through the cruiseline. Flights were on LAN PERU and were fine...only problem was in Peru, where we were told we didn't disembark the plane -- we did. After a 8 hr flight they asked us for our previous ticket stubs. That was a bit alarming as one does not assume they are needed after the plane takes off. Information given to travelers was varied at the check in desk...most were told coming and going that no change of plane was necessary. On return flight, we were told we would disembark plane but reboard 20 mins. later. Turned out to be 1 hour 20 mins. Oh well....as a frequent traveler I am used to "going with the flow". I wish more people were this way....there is simply no need to rant and rave... Nevertheless, once on ground in Sao Paulo, we (eventually) found the Azamara greeters and after about a 30 min. wait were taken to the bus for transfer to Santos. No complaints here...they were VERY EFFICIENT in baggage handling etc. Embarkation was also VERY smooth and efficient. Had a quick meeting following the muster drill (also handled very efficiently) with fellow CruiseCritic.com members. We had arranged a private tour w/other cc members for Rio beforehand via cc. This was amazing...our guide was Marcos - great experience! We were also very lucky to have beautiful weather; not only for Rio but for the whole cruise! Following the first day tour, a few of us went to the Rio Scenarium nightclub for a taste of local night life. It is in a 3 story very old, historical building...former antique store that owner has built nightclub around. AWESOME - and very reasonable evening!! (We hired driver who stayed with us for entire evening...about 5 hours total and cost was approx. $30pp plus drinks...I DRANK...my tab with entrance fee was only USD $22.00. Very reasonably priced evening and no touristy "samba show" just real Brazilian nitelife. WOW - the local dancers are INCREDIBLE! Parati - Not much to see or do here. Alot of shops did not accept USD. Itapaji - See above. We over-nighted here - apparently only because it was the stop for the (PRICEY) excursion to the falls. Not much to see or do. I did hear that on Sat. some took a private tour to the beach w/ cable car. This seems to be the only saving grace for this port..the trip to the "German town" was a bust. Montevideo, Uruguay and B.A. Argentina were our favorite ports after Rio. (None of which did we use Azamara excursions. (They were very much over-priced and very limited. I'm never seen such poor choices before!) I have recently been told that Azamara will not be returning to South America for some time so I will now divert to speaking only of our "on-board" experience. We were led to believe we should expect "over the top" service and it wasn't even as good as we are accustomed to. We are very easy to please and certainly not "high maintenance" type folks. Had we not cruised many times on different cruiselines we would think we had very good service. AND>>>it wasn't bad per se...just not near what we have experienced on RCL and Princess. So for the extra $$ in tips per day..we didn't see the extra value. For example; we had to request things several times before they materialized..ice, dinner menu, etc. On most cruises our cabin steward introduces him/herself and remembers us by name. They will also rush to open our door for us when we see them in the hall. This cruise, none of the above was present. Maybe because we were in a lower cabin category (OV deck 6)...however on previous cruises in a inside cabin we were given much more customer service. The worst customer service was the front desk. "Albert P." (helped?) me for the first FOUR days of the cruise as our on-board credits had not showed up on our account. Each day he assured me he would take care of it and phone me with the results. NEVER ONCE did he call our cabin! Not even to say he was still working on it etc. Finally, on the FOURTH day, I asked him if he remembered me. He replied affirmative and even knew my name! He gave no explanation as to why he hadn't gotten back to me and even had a surely attitude. On this occasion, he started out telling me we had a total of $300 credit, then corrected himself and said it was $500...another few minutes passed and he had "found" more credit. I had told him 4 days in a row (and even produced written proof) that we were due $800 in credit. He ended up "finding" a total of $920 in credit at which point I told him to print it out. When my mom ended up with credit on her account at the end of the cruise she asked Alfred to transfer it to my account. He assured her he would..this was the last night of the cruise. The next morning, our final statement did not reflect this transfer. Once again, we had to call and request it be handled. "Alfred" was the poorest example of customer service representatives I have ever dealt with on a cruise ship. I cannot believe they have him at the Cust. Relations desk. Okay...on to the good things. The ship layout was great...we fell in love with this style/size ship. Our room was outstanding. Terrific layout and plenty of storage space w/o feeling crowded. Open seating and no charge speciality restaurants - WONDERFUL. Also used room service several times and it was OUTSTANDING, both the service and the variety available. Beds & Linen were OUTSTANDING! NO need for an egg-crate here...perfect! Less than Great - Television offerings - worst of any ship we've been on. They don't even offer videos of previous entertainment as they do on most ships. Entertainment - nothing really enticed me to attend. My mom attended some and described it as "so-so"...note..she is very easy to please. Casino - if you can call it that. Two BJ tables and slow if not nonexistent bar service. Whirlpools & pool - shut down at 8pm if not earlier. Age Demographics for this cruise - Although most cruisers were older than myself (40's) I found that the vast majority were very active if not older passengers. There weren't many wheelchairs or walkers..most everyone was very ambulatory and active. All in all, I would sail the Journey again given a great itinerary and price but would not pay premium prices for the pleasure as I didn't see the added value they advertise. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
Azamara Journey 9 February 08 to 27 February 08  South America/Antarctica-Round Trip Buenos Aires by Patrick and Harriette ReganWe wanted to see the Penguins and cruise through Antarctica and around Cape Horn.  We did all that on this ... Read More
Azamara Journey 9 February 08 to 27 February 08  South America/Antarctica-Round Trip Buenos Aires by Patrick and Harriette ReganWe wanted to see the Penguins and cruise through Antarctica and around Cape Horn.  We did all that on this 6,000 mile, 18 day, Azamara Journey voyage.CRUISE VALUEWe've been watching the Internet prices on Antarctic cruises for the past couple of years.  We don't want to cruise anymore on the megaships that carry around 3000 passengers.We like Celebrity, enough to have reached the Elite level of their Captain's Club.  We've had excellent food and service, and we decided to try their new, premium cruise brand,Azamara?.  The emails of this company, which often referred to itself as ?a premium cruise line, ended withSmaller ships.  Out-of-the-ordinary destinations. Unmatched amenities - this is Azamara?.The Azamara Journey cruise looked like the small ship cruise experience we were looking for.  18 days of South American cruising, including 5 days cruising Antarctica beginning and ending in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We spotted an offer online on the net that included air travel from Miami, gratuities, and a two hundred dollar shipboard credit.  With the added air to Miami from Vancouver BC, and factoring in the cost of drinks and extra gratuities to those who earned it, the price for two cruisers in a category 2A balcony cabin was ten thousand dollars.  We decided to splurge and spend most of our yearly vacation budget on this 18 day cruise.  The flying to and from Miami added two more days and a hotel day to the trip.  Twenty days for ten thousand dollars works out to $500. per day for the two of us.  That's one to two hundred dollars more per day than we've been averaging for the 2 or 3 balcony cruises per year that we like to take.The prices were around 35% higher than the internet offerings on Celebrity M class or the Princess megaships doing this itinerary, or about 20% more on Holland America, to be able to cruise on this small ship.  The Journey would be able to cruise into areas of Antarctica inaccessible to the big ships.GETTING THEREThe cruise was offered with round trip air travel from Miami to Buenos Aires.  We carry Alaska Air credit cards and get a mile for every dollar we spend, so we used a combination of mileage and cash to fly Alaska to Miami so we could avoid the midwestern or eastern part of the US in the winter.The bad news was that the only flight offered from Seattle to Miami is a redeye.  We took a puddle jumper from Vancouver early enough to dine at Anthony's Fish House, which is a real restaurant, not an airport fast food place, inside the secured area at the Seattle airport.  We can't say enough about Anthony's food, service and prices, and we had delicious chowder and Cobb salads with shrimp. Yummy.  The perfect to soften the blow of a five hour redeye to Miami crammed into the back of a 737 with poor seat pitch.MIAMIWe arrived in Miami around 7AM, got our luggage and booked a day occupancy room (checkout by 6PM) at the Miami Airport Hotel, which is located right in the terminal.  We had breakfast at their Top of the Port restaurant and went to bed.    LAN ARGENTINA AIRLINESwas to be our carrier to Buenos Aires, and they recommended that we start checking in 3 hours ahead of time.  We checked out of the hotel at 6PM and Joseph the bellman took our bags to the Lan Argentina counter in Terminal J, which is a brand new concourse, for our 9PM flight.  It's a lengthy walk everywhere at the Miami airport and once through check in and security it's another long walk.  Whew!The lines were long to check in as well as to pass through security, and the extra time kept us in a relaxed mood in the middle of the organized chaos of the airport.The problem of noise pollution in public areas is everywhere now, and the gate area where we waited had brand new flat screen TV's blasting CNN while airport background music also played on different speakers, regularly interrupted by loud PA announcements.  We couldn't wait to get on the plane and get going.The plane was a 767 that had been totally refurbished. Very spiffy.  Very clean.  The food service was good, harkening back to the airline service of yore including a blue room (restroom) that a person over six feet tall can stand up in.We had a nice dinner; chicken or beef was offered along with complementary wine service and a variety of soft drinks.  There was a high quality entertainment system with an individual screen for each passenger, with free movies, games, etc., and a free headset.We were also provided with sleep masks and ear plugs.In the morning, coffee, juice and omelets were served.  We were well taken care of by Lan Argentina in the person of Lucia, who was the cabin attendant in our section.  Thank you, Lucia.BUENOS AIRES   We filled out our customs and immigration forms on the plane and passed quickly through the modern terminal. Cruisers need to be aware that the stamped portion of the paperwork returned to you, needs to be kept and turned in when you depart Argentina.  You will also need to pay the departure tax when you leave. We easily found the Azamara reps, who guided us to the airport transfer vehicle included in our cruise price.  Our luggage went directly from the plane to the ship. It was a pleasant, sunny day with the temperature in the mid 70?s.  We rode through the central part of Buenos Aires, which looks a lot like cities in Europe, on the way to the terminal where the ship was docked.  We got to the terminal about a half hour before the ship could be boarded and had strong, perfectly made lattes and pastry for two at a small cafe in the terminal.  The price was about five dollars US including the tip.  The exchange rate is around 3.20 pesos for every US or Canadian dollar.EMBARKATIONwas very smooth.  We turned in our boarding passes, which we had printed at home after filling out the necessary forms using the Internet.  Staff scanned our boarding pass, checked our passports, and gave us our cruise cards. The whole process took less than 5 minutes.When we boarded the Journey, we were greeted with complementary champagne (or cranberry juice), and we saw   Hotel Director Niyazi Korkmas, who was in the entrance lobby watching over the boarding process and greeting passengers.  We like to see Hotel Directors out and about and talking with the passengers.We were fried from 2 nights of redeye flights and we stopped by the poolside grill for a quick sandwich before we crashed for an afternoon nap.  They were offering the usual hamburgers and hot dogs, plus lovely kebabs and many other grilled delights.  Chips, salsa and guacamole were always available. FOOD QUALITY AND DINING SERVICEExcellent, everywhere on the ship, under the direction of Executive Chef Milos Pales and Restaurant Manager Ryszard Guzman.  From Discoveries dining room to the grill at the pool to the specialty restaurants Aqualina and Prime C, the Windows buffet and room service, the food is good. Well prepared and presented in sometimes dazzling ways, particularly in the specialty restaurants.  The array of pastries and desserts is unending, and the croissants are properly crisp and buttery.  The beef is excellent on this ship, too.  We have been served lesser cuts of meat on many cruises lately, and the beef on this ship was of high quality.  Food and Beverage manager Desiderio Cavaco is to be commended for the quality provisioning of these dining venues under the supply chain difficulties of a cruise all the way through south South America and Antarctica.  SPECIALTY RESTAURANTSChef Anthony Mauboussin presides over the kitchens for both Aqualina and Prime C, the Journey's specialty restaurants located aft on deck 10.  Azamara has eliminated the previous surcharge for this restaurant.  The only cost is the suggested tip to the servers of five dollars each for our two servers.  Ten dollars US buys a truly fine dining experience.PRIME C This is the specialty dining steak house.  We made a reservation through the Captain's Club before we left for the cruise, because main dining rooms can be a zoo on the first night of a cruise.  We were still exhausted from our back to back redeye flights, but we knew we had to get up from our nap and eat dinner to keep up our energy and to turn our body clocks back toward normal.We were greeted and seated by Maitre d Gokhan, who runs Prime C.  We had thought we would just pick at our food and go back to bed, but we ended up having delicious soup, a popcorn shrimp appetizer and buttery filet mignon which was cooked perfectly.  We added creamed spinach, onion rings perfectly fried and chocolate lava cake for dessert.  A gold star for the Prime C steak house -- and all for just the previously mentioned five dollar gratuity for each of our two servers.DINNER AT AQUALINAMaitre d Marius Borchila welcomes us to this lovely, light filled room that he manages with a watchful eye.  We cruised with Marius previously on the Mercury.  This is the most pleasant dining room on Journey.  Aqualina specializes in seafood; Prime C is more meat oriented.  Some previous reviews I read in November 07 were not happy with the specialty restaurants on the Journey, but things have changed for the very much better.  The food is good on the Journey, and there is way too much of it.  Seriously, we would prefer smaller portions, because we know they'd bring us seconds if we asked.Couple this with the fact that at dinner at Aqualina we were treated to a magnificent sight.  Our table was in the window at the very back of the ship, and as twilight lingered, we were mesmerized by a long, slow display of icy, Antarctic beauty.  It went on for miles and miles as we moved through waters littered with small chunks of ice, surrounded by rocky mountains which were themselves surrounded by glaciers along their shorelines, and pressed upon from above by clouds.  This was a nice, leisurely dinner, absolutely delicious from the arugula/bacon/goat cheese salad, brie in baked in phyllo dough through the broiled lobster tail, down to the chocolate souffle.  All the food we've been served aboard has been fresh, well-prepared, and served most graciously; this dinner, served by Catalin from Romania assisted by Basant from Mauritius, was no exception.  Azamara wins the specialty restaurant comparison to the other cruise lines.  We were able to eat at Aqualina a few times. If Discoveries dining room has a wait list and open tables are available at Aqualina or Prime C, you may get a table in these alternative restaurants again.CABIN/BUTLEROur truly non stop, hard working butler/cabin steward is Pravin, and his assistant is Rennie.  There is a list of butler services available at this cruise level, including packing & unpacking, afternoon tea service, dinner reservations, etc.  It sounds too good to be true, because our butler is more a cabin steward in what we used to call ?soup and fish,? meaning a swallow tail coat and dress pants, like a butler in a movie.  On Celebrity's Mercury, which we cruised in the summer of ?07, the butler is a butler with only butler duties but here it's more window dressing.  These 2 hard working men have 22 cabins to service.  The biggest number I ever saw a steward with an assistant do before was 18 and I thought that was excessive.  I can't imagine them having time to do butler tasks, but I see some of my fellow cruisers attempting to use them like they were their personal servants. The butler/stewards smile and keep our cabins clean & nice.  We wouldn't think to ask them to do the stuff Azamara offers, such as packing and unpacking your bags, making alternative dining reservations etc., beyond the usual duties of a cabin steward.  On the Mercury a butler has more time to just be a butler and can do the little things such as those offered in the Azamara brochures.  On the Azamara Journey the butler takes your preprinted order form for tea snacks and savories a la Celebrity Concierge class.  The cruiser checks the boxes for the items he wants and assigns a time for delivery to the cabin within the window of the service time stated on the form.  You must be in your cabin to take delivery at the appointed time.  We'd rather not schedule our snacks, so we passed on this delivery method.  We don't like the fact that the room service that is pre-ordered from the form the night before is brought to our hard working butler/cabin steward for delivery.  We have someone delivering food who might have just been cleaning a toilet.  Not that our steward is unaware of hand washing, wearing work gloves etc., but mistakes can happen.  Not very cruisey.On the Mercury the butler knocks on your door at tea time and you pick out some snacks from the cart if you're in the cabin. We like the fact that the Discoveries dining room opens later for breakfast, 8AM, than on many ships, so that the waitstaff who worked late the previous night can hopefully get a bit more sleep before coming to work.  These folks also work hard.  We also like the fact that the dining room is open until 930AM, so we can eat there on the days we choose to sleep later.MORE CABINThe cabin itself is from designs over a decade ago. Cruising has changed so much since these R ships were on the drawing boards.  There are only two 110 volt AC plugs in this cabin, and they are nearly unreachable; the rest of the plugs are European.  There are no switches near the bed to turn on low power nightlights; the switch in the center of the new headboard turns on multiple overhead lights that would disturb a sleeping companion.  The bedside lamps are not weighted on their bases, so they are lightweight and too easy to knock over.  That's not all bad though; since I was able to hold the lamp in one hand and my book in the other, I was able to read in bed!  I had that nightstand taken out of the cabin because it too was a lightweight vertical stand with no drawers and only an 8 by 10 inch surface on top. Once the lamp was placed there, no space was available for glasses (reading or drinking) or the ever important remotes.  I knocked the lamp and the nightstand over the first night more than once. The beds are good, with high threadcount sheets, a selection of pillows, and a quality comforter.  Your suitcases fit under them.  There is a wall mounted 23 inch Samsung Hi Def flatscreen TV, with an arm that can swing it for watching TV in bed or from the sitting area, with unblocked inputs for our DVD player and our Nintendo Wii.  We mentioned the input blocking because we were amazed to find them blocked on our last HAL cruise.  We brought a universal remote, (Sony, cost sixteen dollars) so the inputs could be selected, because the remote supplied is for hotel use, set up for ordering room service, examining one's cruise account and video on demand for pay movies, including adult, by the way.  There is another way to access the multiple inputs, which we found a week into the cruise.  On the lower right side of the black frame around the screen of the 23 inch Samsung flat screen TV is an array of imperceptible, black on black frame, selectors for inputs under the word ?source?.  They operate electronically without the selector having to be depressed, merely touched, like a touch screen computer display, and they react quickly and electronically.  There are 2 HDMI inputs, AV 1 & 2 and component video inputs.  We used them for the DVD player we brought and our Nintendo Wii, which we use to play Tiger Woods 08 golf game. There is only one drawer in this whole refurbished expensive looking dark wood cabin.  What little storage there is, is in cabinets or on closet shelves, a lot of it so low that it is difficult to access or even see your things, compared to Celebrity M class Infinity balcony cabins that have lots of clever storage and little shelves in the bathroom with barriers that keep your stuff from falling off the bathroom shelf.  Ergonomics weren't enough of a consideration when they refurbished this cabin. We think the cruiser of today is interested in cabins set up in more of an hi tech sensibility like more hooks, open shelving above open closet area with double poles and finally bathrooms with simple shelving, designed to keep your bathroom stuff safe from falling off in a rough sea. There is only one shelf in this bathroom other than the sink top, and no medicine cabinet, no storage under the basin. Instead of the telephone being near the bed it's in a deep corner of the vanity area where it usually gets buried by things left on the counter. We don't think a marine architect or for that matter a designer familiar with cruising had anything to do with figuring out the storage a cruise passenger needs.  Not the standard of the premium cruise line Azamara is trying to brand itself as.  Celebrity M class and HAL Vista class cabins are more premium (with appreciably lower cruise fares) than ours on the Journey.  We're told that 30 million dollars was spent to refurbish these ships, but it doesn't begin to show in this category 2A balcony cabin. This cabin also lacks a privacy curtain, to divide the sleeping area from the sitting area so one could read while the other person sleeps.STAFF AND CREWWhat is truly premium on the Journey is the ?can do? attitude of the staff and crew.  From the Hotel Director, the guest relations staff, cabin stewards, Asst. Maitre d's, servers, housekeeping staff, busboys and bartenders, this is a well managed crew in all departments working to give us an excellent cruise experience. GUEST RELATIONS DEPARTMENTThey are an amazing bunch with Ngawhira Fleet, the front office manager, and an efficient, multi lingual team manning the hotel desk.  Ngawhira helped us settle in, running interference to get a situation with our shower fixed immediately.  We also want to thank Alfred and German of guest relations for the helpful service cheerfully offered by them and the entire front desk staff. ANNOUNCEMENTSThis is a blessedly quiet ship.  The Captain's informative, brief daily report at Noon every day is the only in-cabin announcement. His microphone technique is very good. Afternoon naps are quiet and restful, not like some ships with endless announcements.There is one announcement missing, and we do not miss it.  On almost every other ship we've been on, there is a LOUD recording attending your every elevator ride, announcing the approaching floor.  On the Journey, a small video screen announces the floor, and lets one know if people are getting on or off.  This boon is probably a result of the size of the Journey, there being so many fewer people to move around.COFFEETastes like instant would be a compliment. Not up to the standards of a freshly branded, self proclaimed ?premium? cruise line. We were on RCCL's (parent of Celebrity/Azamara) Radiance of the Seas in the fall of ?06 and they were featuring Seattle's Best Coffee and it was truly premium and available everywhere from the dining rooms to room service at no charge.  The only decent coffee on the Journey is at the Cova coffee bar, with a $3 charge.  Wake up and smell the coffee, Azamara senior management!  You seem to be striving to be almost Crystal; Crystal light, so to speak, but Crystal doesn't charge for designer coffee anymore.  The food is good on this ship and the coffee should be as well.COVA CAFEis the designer coffee place.  Our thanks to Ryan, Alexander, Maria and Eliana, who brew great lattes for the three dollars we have to pay.  There are always pastries and little sandwiches and other goodies at the Cova.  We tended to retreat to the quiet of the Cova during the day and its piano bar feeling at night.ENTERTAINMENTWe enjoy piano player/song stylist Dan Daly who is in the Cova Cafe, at the piano from 9P until late, most evenings.  The Azamara trio plays nightly in the Looking Glass lounge.  They have a great repertoire in all the musical genres.  Guitarist German Vilches and Harpist Melissa Calusio also entertain in different venues.  Melissa also plays for tea, afternoons in the Aqualina Restaurant, and German sits in on his guitar during the jam sessions.  There were solo violinists, pianists, a couple of singers, a Chilean Folklorico Troupe and a comedian/raconteur headlining in the Cabaret theater, which is the main showroom.  The accent on entertainment seems to be more in a classical soloist vein. THAT?S HOLLYWOODAn excellent show in the Cabaret theatre.  Simply staged and beautifully sung by five talented, young performers, the men are K.J. and Brandon; the women Brooke, Amanda-Jane and Natalie. The show is a tribute to the music and lyrics throughout cinematic history.  We enjoyed it immensely.  The 7 piece Journey orchestra provided live music for this well paced show.  It's a cabaret setting, much like a night club rather than a theater, giving the show a nice intimacy with good sight lines.  This show is a wonderful change of pace from the typically over produced (too many singers and dancers, too many wardrobe changes) Broadway type shows that seem to try too hard, which we have seen on some cruise ships.  The sound design and levels were good, allowing us to hear everything without it becoming too loud.  Kudos to all involved, from the talented singers to the technical crew. MORE ENTERTAINMENTThere are two other shows done in this manner, ?Twisted TV?, a parody of guess what?, and ?Sing It and Swing It?, a tribute to the big band era.  JAZZThere were 2 late evening (10:45PM) jam sessions in the Looking Glass lounge, with some members of the orchestra and other musicians on board playing Jazz from Antonio Carlos Jobim to Thelonius Monk. FALKLAND ISLANDS/PORT STANLEYOur first stop after leaving Buenos Aires: Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands.  Rough seas and bad weather got us there late, then we waited for clearance and after the people who had purchased excursion tickets were tendered, we managed to get off around 3:30PM.  The last tender back was changed to 7:15 PM making for a very short time in a unique place.  The sun came out and we wandered around in short sleeves. We checked with the visitors? center about seeing some penguins and were told about the penguin bus (the sign on the minibus says Penguin Travel) that stops right at the parking lot of the center.  Ten dollars US per person for a round trip, 15 minute each way, van ride to Gypsy Cove, where we saw many penguins.The penguins are in an area that is cordoned off, because there might still be some Argentine land mines from the ?82 war on the beautiful beach.  (They thought the British might land troops there.  Didn't happen.)  The area was swept for mines after the war but the possibility remains that they were not all found, so the area is restricted by signs and fencing.A group of several hundred penguins were gathered, sunning themselves on the beach, others of them swimming around close to shore, and smaller groups were up in the scrubby dunes between the walking trail and the beach.  They were cute and plentiful, and some of them walked up so close to the observation point where we were that we got some excellent photos of these dear little birds. The other penguin excursions (from the ship) were very expensive (as much as $200 dollars) and required bone shaking rides of 60 to 90 minutes to see a different type of penguins.  Some cruisers expressed the thought that those less accessible birds were indeed ?better?.This price disparity brought to mind the high priced Alaska excursions to glaciers versus taking the city bus in Juneau for a couple of bucks to the edge of Mendenhall Glacier.  There are always options, even in a place as small as the Falklands, population around 3,000.  Our driver, Fiona, gave us a nice ride to the penguins and told us a bit about the Falklands.  Children born here have the option at age 16 to leave for more secondary and university education, anywhere they wish, that is at least partly paid for by the Falklands government.  Now that's a government truly in action.  The kids do not even have to repay the kindness with a few years of social service, they have only to develop themselves as they wish and graduate!Across the harbor is a monument on the low hills with the names of the British protector ships that won the Falklands war, and even now there is always a British warship anchored in the harbor or patrolling the area.SMALL SHIP CRUISINGWe like this small ship a lot.  It is easy to get anywhere quickly.  The ambience is that of a boutique hotel.  The bad news is that in order to make it profitable, Azamara has to charge more for drinks and excursions because of the fewer passengers on board.  DRINK PRICESThere is no wine package.  The soft drink card is $5.00 per day plus 18%.  The cheapest jug level glass of wine, with the tip, is nearly nine dollars and change.  High prices for vin ordinaire.  Mixed drinks are high priced and martinis are around 12 dollars.  You're allowed to bring in a couple of bottles of wine per passenger, which we did in Ushuaia (first port out of Antarctica; southernmost city in the world).HOUSEKEEPINGThis ship is clean.  Not just picked up and vacuumed. Cleaning and polishing goes on 24/7.  Kudos to housekeeping supervisor Esta from Hungary.ELEPHANT ISLAND, ANTARCTICAWe listened to expert Niki Sepsas relate the story of the harrowing adventure of the Shackelton expedition.  The captain sailed us back and forth slowly past Elephant Island, giving everyone a chance to take a good look and get an excellent photo opportunity.  It's starkly beautiful here, very much like Alaska.  There are interestingly shaped icebergs floating near us as we get a close up view of the island.  One of the icebergs has penguins sunning themselves with a few swimming and diving near the iceberg as the Journey passes by.  This penguin sighting was announced by the captain as he brought the Journey as close as he safely could.  Thank you, Captain Karlsson.CRUISE DIRECTOR/STAFFPaul Grant.  An affable sort, who dresses beautifully.  He was very sensitive to cruisers? desires and tastes, organizing a jazz jam session one evening after dancing in the Looking Glass lounge.  He then went the extra mile by greeting the listeners after the session for feedback.Unfortunately, generally there was a bit of a reverberation inherent in his announcing technique, as if he was projecting to the back of the room as he would without a microphone despite the fact that he was speaking into one. Captain Karlsson, on the contrary, is clear and easy to listen to.  I guess he spoiled us!The cruise staff Ryan, Naomi and Kelsey along with activities director Matt have a full range of activities for interested cruisers.QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSIONwas held in the cabaret with the hotel director, the cruise director and the food and beverage manager fielding passenger queries.  We appreciate them making themselves available for a question and answer session.ICEBERG ALLEYIn the late afternoon after leaving Elephant Island we arrived in Iceberg Alley.  There were Penguin colonies on some of the ?bergs.  Some of the icebergs have interesting rectangular or pie shaped geometric shapes.  We photographed the busy penguins lolling in the sun and cavorting in the water.  Some were skittering down the last 6 feet of solid ice into the water, while there were always just as many other penguins trying incessantly to clamber back up.WINDOWS CAFEis the buffet on deck 9.  There are numerous selections,  including a smoothie bar, manned by the hard working Jesus, Mario and Wandaka.  You can get fresh fruit smoothies, with protein powder if you desire, and a variety of fresh juices.  In the morning there is a fresh-made waffle and pancake station, omelet bar, large selections of breakfast meats, including a delicious baked ham carving station, plenty of tasty, fresh baked pastries, hot and cold cereals etc.  The negative about this buffet for us was the fact they have chosen not to have trays.  It is harder to load and handle plates with everything so people are scurrying more to get stuff they forgot and it exacerbates the already crowded conditions in this smaller buffet space when everybody is up and hungry.  Every previous Celebrity cruise we have been on has had trays.  But, to show how responsive the staff is to the passengers: on the fourth day of the cruise after some complaints, trays were made available for those who wished them.This is a small ship, so when the Journey is in a cold place like Antarctica, the buffet overflow tables aft on the Windows patio at the stern of the ship are unusable.  They bring in as many tables as they can from outside but there isn't room inside for all of the outside tables in bad weather, making it difficult to find a seat.  The good news is that there is plenty of room in the Discoveries dining room on deck 5.DISCOVERIES DINING ROOMA lovely, light filled room.  Restaurant Manager Ryszard Guzman and his Asst. Maitre d's are very attentive to the customers? needs.  With no traditional seat assignment, the staff has to seat people by themselves or with others as desired.  Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  High standards of food and thoughtful service.  There is no assigned seating at dinner, so tables are shared and you meet a lot of your fellow cruisers.  If you prefer to dine without company at your table, there are always tables for two available.The food at Discoveries is tasty and interestingly garnished and presented, a feast for the tastebuds and the eyes.  A half step up from Celebrity M class or Holland America and for us, two steps above Princess. BREEZAAt dinner time the Windows cafe morphs into Breeza, with elegant buffet dining and  Sushi, pasta, antipasti, stirfry, pizza and many other tasty foods offered.  A dining alternative that is truly casual. Shorts, jeans or whatever are welcome at Breeza. GERLACHE STRAIT, ANTARCTICAWe arrived in the Looking Glass lounge, at the bow of the ship on Deck 10, at around 3PM.  We had believed the captain when he announced that the beauty of this part of the Antarctic Sound was such that we'd remember it for the rest of our lives.  We sat enthralled by the scenery, which was already revealing itself prior to our entering the strait, and we were rather amused -- well, maybe half annoyed -- at the music playing on the sound system.  It was quite appropriate for the night club venue that this room becomes much later, but it seemed to add nothing at all to the spectacular vistas opening in front of us.  It would have seemed more appropriate to have softer music to enhance the feelings of awe we were experiencing, rather than music which seems designed to elicit a nervous twitch.Then, at 3:30PM, when we were entering the Strait, what did we find ourselves in the middle of but the start of a game called ?The Battle of the Sexes Trivia?!  Well named.  Who, taking enjoyment from this game, would need or even appreciate this spectacular scenery as a backdrop while they were busy with their competition?  Could this use of the Looking Glass lounge, with floor to ceiling windows, really take precedence over the enjoyment of the cruisers who were relaxing with each other while experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime sight, the raison d'etre of the cruise?HIGH TEAand it certainly is.  Every afternoon, with proper scones with clotted cream, delicious tea sandwiches and pastries with a harp tinkling in the background, tea is served in the beautiful Aqualina.  Yummy.LIBRARYThere are lots of books, haphazardly arranged. It's a beautiful room with big comfortable chairs and couches.NEPTUNE?S BELLOWSThis morning's adventures marked the end of our three days in Antarctica.  We saw ruined huts of past scientific expeditions, and an abandoned station whose country needs its money for more immediately practical matters.  This was a volcanic area, in which during times of eruption the sea actually boils.  Today there was steam rising as we cruised past.  Our last view before heading to open waters was a large colony of chinstrap penguins whose rookery was along the shoreline.  The birds were too far away to see with our eyes but we got some pictures with our 18x zoom lens.  It was fun watching smaller groups of them, up to a hundred or so, arcing through the water like small dolphins as they headed away from the ship, presumably back to the colony.  Capt. Leif Karlsson said that the three day cruise through Antarctica, his first time, is the highlight of his sailing career, and he hoped it was that for us as well.  The ice pilot, Capt. Ulrich Demel, said that he suspected that the Capt. would be very happy once the ship had successfully passed through the narrow, rock lined exit, Neptune's Bellows.  We saw Capt. Karlsson at the Cova coffee bar shortly after we got back out into open sea and he had a big, satisfied grin on his face.  We mentioned to him later that he looked like he had won the lottery and he said that's about how he felt getting back to open sea.CAPE HORNis breathtaking. We rounded Cape Horn in the late afternoon, and by doing so we each officially became a ?Cape Horner? complete with a certificate signed by Capt. Karlsson.  USHUAIA, ARGENTINAis known by the locals as ?fin del mundo?, the end of the world. A lovely town surrounded by snow capped peaks and close to Pargue Nacional Tierra del Fuego (156,000 acres) with its bays, lakes, rivers and high mountain peaks.  There is abundant bird life there.  The parque is 11 miles west of Ushuaia.  Cab drivers are waiting at the end of the pier and will take you to the parque at a very fair price.This is a busy commercial port, dangerous (large forklifts moving containers being set down by cranes.  Trucks moving supplies for the various ships, etc.), for cruise passengers to walk through, even worse for the physically challenged passenger, and with a strong smell of diesel fuel.The walk to the end of the pier here from the ship is about a kilometer.  When we berthed on other cruises at Mazatlan, or Puerto Limon, etc. in the commercial port area, we were shuttled through the working area in jitneys, mini vans, etc., to keep us safe from the vehicles working on the pier at the various berths we had to pass to get to the shore.  We had to be very careful walking here, because the port crews, truck drivers and giant forklift drivers are not very mindful of pedestrians.  There were no Azamara crew members directing the path to take and no pathway painted or cordoned off.  Cruisers had to keep their eyes open and walk sometimes on both sides of the pier depending on the irregular vehicle movement.  Poor planning on the part of Azamara Cruise lines!  Not premium in any way.  It's not just a comfort issue but a serious safety issue. We spoke to the Hotel Director, Niyazi Korkmaz, and he said there was nothing he could do; it was up to the ?authorities?.  We believe that it is the Hotel Director's and corporate Azamara's job to deal with the authorities by working with the local chamber of commerce and Government Tourist Agency to obtain the proper permits for the pier and find drivers who have a pier security clearances to drive rented mini vans or similar vehicles.Since the ship can bring transportation vehicles to the ships? gangway to send passengers off on excursions, then they can shuttle passengers through this dangerous working port.We had a nice lunch at Tia Elvira; cannelloni and spaghetti for two, with soft drinks and tip for only $20.00 US, well below the tourist prices found at some of the local bistros.  We found a nearby internet cafe one block north of the pier on Ave. San Martin and checked our email, etc.  If you walk a couple of blocks, there are excellent bargains and souvenirs to be had.  We even found a new halter for our broodmare, Ruby of the Amazon, including a lead shank for $21.00 US. at El Faro, a large shop of much variety, a block from the pier.  There is a lot of horse equipment for sale here in Argentina.  You never know what you will find to buy on a cruise vacation.  We love this kind of surprise.We visited a few shops along the pier on our way back to the ship.  At Huellas del Sur, Harriette got a beautiful pashmina scarf to round out her cruise wardrobe, for 96 pesos at 3.20 pesos to the US dollar (about $32 US).  It is woven in pinks going on purple with some electric blue in there, and the weave makes it reminiscent of the tweed of a Chanel jacket.  Everything in the shop was of high quality, most of it silk or wool.  The ambience here reminds us of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.PUNTA ARENAS, CHILEHere again our access to the from the ship to the foot of the pier and the town has been lacking in ground transportation or a safely marked pathway.Today, on the way from the Journey to the town of Punta Arenas, there was another problem:  WIND.  El viento.  The wind really, really blows at this port, all day long.  The walk itself was doable for us, the pier being shorter than that at Ushuaia, but had I lifted both my feet at the same time I might have been swept along with none of the effort of walking at all.  Add the salt spray stinging us, and we allowed ourselves to be blown back to the comfort of the ship; after a time the wind died down a little and we made it all the way.I'm glad we did; we both enjoy empanadas, which are this culture's version of a pot pie crossed with a taco:  flaky pastry encloses beef or chicken, with olives and hardboiled egg in this case.  We found these at ?Happy Hours? cafeteria, along with really delicious strong coffee and a Coke with the original zing, from a glass bottle.  Ten dollars US, including the tip.The cab driver, for a five dollar US flat rate fare, took us to a corner downtown, where there is a square block of tree-shaded park in the center of town.  There are many craft vendors set up with prices much lower than the many stores that stock crafts and souvenirs.  We acquired 3 small penguins including one in a snow globe for eight dollars US total.  This town seems similar to Mazatlan, Mexico.PUERTO MADRYN, ARGENTINAA lovely place.  Nice new pier with no bustling commercial activity.  At this port, a shuttle bus and a guide named Teresa who rode the bus with us, gave us much info about the town as we rode to the end of the pier.  When we returned she queried us about where we ate and what we shopped for, and how did we like it all.  Puerto Madryn is going all out to welcome cruisers.  The pier is next to a park overlooking a very broad beach with the business district across the street.  We went to the Telecom internet cafe, 3 blocks from the pier, and then to the supermercado, 2 blocks from the pier, to stock up on a few toiletries.  We took pictures of some majestically artistic graffiti pieces that were up on some old dilapidated buildings that sit ready for redevelopment next to new properties under construction, and then we strolled back to the pier.  This place reminded us of Cabo San Lucas, the old town, in look and ambience.PUNTA DEL ESTE, URUGUAY (aka Punta del Expensivo)Upscale pricewise, ala the French Riviera, Beverly Hills etc.  The locals tout it as the St.Tropez of South America.  A lovely harbor/marina.  We tendered in past rows of large yachts docked in the marina.  Warm and pretty.  Bikinis and shorts were the uniforms of the day along the pedestrian promenade skirting the marina.  We walked 3 blocks to the left of the pier and one block up and had a delicious, fresh made, expensive pasta lunch at El Viejo Marino for about $52.00 US, including soft drinks and the tip.  Shrimp and spaghetti with a thin red sauce of fresh tomatoes and gentle seasonings.  Sublime!  We also tried the spinach and ricotta ravioli in a not too heavy cream sauce. TIPPINGThe gratuities here on the Azamara Journey are $12.25 per day, per passenger, higher than most cruise lines.  This covers the Butler/steward, his assistant, the waiters, the asst. Maitre d's, the asst. Chief Housekeeper, etc.There is an additional 18% tip added to bar drinks, bottles of wine and designer coffee purchases at the Cova Cafe. That's 3% more than other cruise lines. We bring a bunch of US singles and give them away for good service.  Room service waiters who deliver us a midnight snack get a couple of bucks.  If we order a club soda or a designer coffee or a single glass of wine, we give the server an extra dollar in cash over the tip on the tab.  It makes us feel good to do this to thank deserving staffers.  We don't overdo it but it needs to be done in our opinion to show our appreciation.  The standard tips don't cover the level of service available on the Azamara Journey.MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAYA truly lovely city, very friendly to the cruiser.  This is an example of an industrial port that also accommodates us slow walking cruisers in comfortable safety. No shuttle was necessary.There was a clearly defined, green painted walkway edged with a white border and pictographs indicating access for pedestrians and handicapped persons.  This green path led us safely to the main (and nearby) tourist center, so that we could not wander into the large trucks which were carrying in loads of logs, etc.  On the pier and at street crossings there were uniformed traffic control personnel who politely waved us through when it was safe.Maybe a hundred meters from the ship was the ?Communications Center,? a phone and internet center right here inside the port, where we were able to quickly check our email.  There were telephones as well, and postal services.  The price was a fraction of the cost of using the internet on the ship, and the connection here was at a high speed.  We brought our laptop and plugged in.  There were also computer stations for rent. Another short walk through the main gate of the port and you cross the main street and walk a block and you have arrived at the port market, ?Mercado del Puerto?.  There we had lunch (pasta again) at La Marosqueria, and it was delicious and about half the price ($26.00 US) of our lunch yesterday in Punta del Este.There were numerous restaurants, some with very low prices indeed; a grilled sausage sandwich on a fresh baked roll with fries for around for $3.00 US.  There was a variety of delicious smelling meats, fish and chicken being grilled, empanada stands and pizza.  The place was filled with locals on their lunch hour, always a good sign.There are shops with beautiful locally made goods of leather, knit garments of wool; silver jewelry with inset gemstones was plentiful also.  We did not come across the numerous cheap trinkets for sale at so many cruise stops.Walking outside the Mercado on neighboring streets, we passed many colorful fruit stands.  This neighborhood was very photogenic, in fact.  Many buildings are in semi-ruin awaiting renovations.  There are architects? signs on buildings in renovation and you can see the gentrification starting to happen.  The textures, rusted iron scrollwork, ornate doors and window trimmings, and wildflowers (some might say weeds) that will bloom no matter what made for great photographic backgrounds as well as subjects to feature.In Montevideo we found the shopkeepers to be friendly and helpful. They were quoting an exchange rate of 20 pesos to the US dollar on this day.  The port security troops are courteous and helpful.  Our limited Spanish and their limited English was a good enough match.  We want to return to Uruguay for a longer vacation.BUENOS AIRES, the return.We rode from the Azamara to the Emperador Hotel in downtown Buenos Aires in a minivan, and by happy coincidence, we had the same driver who had taxied us from the airport to the ship 18 days ago:  Carlos.  At first the ride seemed a bit harrowing; the method to progress from one street to another or from one lane to another, etc., is to nudge your vehicle's way in front of whatever conveyance could possibly give way.  There were countless near-misses, and even a pedestrian who did not seem to notice that our van began moving forward before he had cleared it!  BUT:  there were no raised voices; no obscene gestures.  No horn honking at all!  It was very peaceful chaos!EMPERADOR HOTELSeeing the uncomfortable conditions in the holding area Azamara had reserved for our wait, we tried to book a room for the day but there were none available.  A knowledgeable staffer confided that they were overbooked.  There were a lot of cruise ships at the port; Insignia, Sinfornia, Rotterdam and the old Zenith, re-branded as Island Cruises.  One could relax at a table in this secure, sterile waiting room or wander.  We wandered upstairs and had a nice lunch in a light filled room with big windows overlooking a courtyard and garden with ivy covered walls.  Birds, fountain, shaded sitting areas; a pretty place.  You may purchase wi-fi for the day on the hotel network from the bartender. SUMMING UPAzamara proclaims the following at the bottom of the e-mails I exchanged with the Customer Relations Department:?Smaller ships.  Out-of-the-ordinary destinations.                  Unmatched amenities - this is Azamara?.Well, we loved the small ship.  The food was really good, south South America and Antarctica were majestic, but the unmatched amenities were not evident in many ways.The first of these things was the cabin.  Although the space would have permitted ample, easy storage, there was very little, and it wasn't very usable.  It was impossible for one cabin mate to stay up reading while the other slept, which could be corrected by installing a retractable drape between the bed and a lighted reading area with adjustable wall lamps above the couch.  A very easy thing to do. Celebrity ?M? class ships and HAL's ?Vista? class both excel in ?cabin ergonomics,? making a comfortable nest for the duration of the cruise.The lack of shuttle service on two of the piers we stopped at was quite unsafe.Why was it not possible for the Azamara head office to align with local business associations for the benefit of both Azamara's passengers and the port town?  This planning was not premium.CRUISE AIRThe airline travel booked by the cruise line has us coming off the ship after 18 days of relaxing and cruising into a long, long wait for the plane for Miami that leaves at 11:15PM.  We expect to leave the ship and a few hours later board a flight home.We had tried to avoid this 13 1/4 hour wait lasting from leaving the ship at 10:00 AM to our flight, departing at 11:15 PM.We obtained permission pre-cruise to leave the ship a day earlier, on our first of 2 days in Buenos Aires, so we could spend the day relaxing on the ship, and after an early dinner, proceed to the airport, arriving there 2 1/2 to 3 hours before our flight.   Miami based Azamara Customer Relations warned us that we could be required to clear immigration and customs as early as 9:30 AM that morning, and be required to then leave the ship, and be faced with the same long delay, in a strange city, with our carry-ons in tow, without a secure hotel holding area.So, we chose not to leave the ship a day early.  As it turned out, passengers who had elected to do so were allowed to stay aboard the Azamara Journey until 5:30 PM.  No more cruise line booked air for us. We tried to change our flight on our first day back in Buenos Aires but by then the price for the change was triple what we had been offered pre cruise. To come off an 18 day cruise with that wonderful relaxed feeling, and to spend a long, long day and into the night, 13 ¼ hours waiting for the nearly nine hour redeye flight, dashed our cruisey feelings and left us thinking that Azamara is not the premium cruise line they have branded themselves as.  CRUISE VALUE REDUX/FUTURE CRUISESWhen we cruise again we are returning to HAL, Princess or Celebrity M class. We want more bang for our buck. We're glad we saw Antarctica on a small ship but we are going back to more ?popular priced? cruising.  When we complete a cruise we usually have the next one already booked, but we are waiting and watching the internet for the exceptional cruise values that have recently been available.  We have never seen so many last minute cruise bargains or received so many e-mails from the cruise lines we sail.  It's a cruise buyer's market now if your schedule is flexible.Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
I went on the Azamara Journey from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires with a cruise through the CHilean Fjords and 3 islands in Antarctica. It was an absolute pleasure....with few exceptions. I am a seasoned traveler and have done 15 or so ... Read More
I went on the Azamara Journey from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires with a cruise through the CHilean Fjords and 3 islands in Antarctica. It was an absolute pleasure....with few exceptions. I am a seasoned traveler and have done 15 or so cruises, most of them in the extended "exotic" category. Azamara was one of the best: Staff: Was simply outstanding - every attempt to please the passengers was made from every level. Captain Smith was a very special leader and his staff has made the trips fun, educational, interesting and adventurous. He was enthusiastic about the trip and it was infectious for all aboard. I know the passengers will try to book a trip with him again - a new filter for the travel agencies will be captain. He is personable and informative about what he was going to do and was upfront about the weather, the seas, etc that we might encounter. I think that was not well received by everyone, but I certainly appreciated it. Itinerary: Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords were outstanding. Captain Smith changed the itinerary slightly so that we could see Garibaldi Glacier and the big Icebergs in Antarctica Sound. I have never been in such awesome country. We also had wonderful weather which helped. The ports were all good - Shore excursions: The excursions were professionally run, the meals on the excursions were good, but there were little details about the excursions and the prices were outrageous. The staff was as helpful as they could be, but since many of the ports were new to them, they didn't have experience to discuss them. Disembarkation and embarkation were fairly quick and uneventful. Food: The food and service surrounding the food was great overall. The absence of some cruise standards like a lobster night (not lobster cakes, pot pie...real lobster tails), caviar and specialty desserts was hard, but overall the beef was the best I have ever had and the entrees were great. The salads were weak and the desserts were just okay. The buffet at breakfast and lunch was good except for the 6 days we were at sea. The freshness of fruits and vegetables was good except for the sea days. Activities: They planned a lot of activities for when we were at sea - more than most of the cruises I have been on...and, they were pretty interesting. Lecturers were good - dance classes a lot of fun - casino and tournaments were good - entertainment was okay...Andreas was outstanding...very knowledgeable, personable and seemed to always be working. We attended wine tasting with Stephania which was outstanding. We had a number of sea days and she improved the wine tasting over those days to include food pairings and specialty wines...was outstanding...and, she and her team were delightful. In fact, all of the staff and service people were delightful and really interested in making you happy. Free style eating - we did not have any problems in getting a table eat the best times an we ate in the specialty restaurants a couple of times. Service and food in the specialty restaurants was a step above, but the menu could be changed a little more often on a long trip. Things that could be improved:The gym could have more classes at a time that people could participate, and perhaps another treadmill or two. An additional laundromat would be good - the one we had was mobbed most of the time. Need to buy a few more programs and movies for TV but apparently it has improved a bit. A wine card like some of the other cruises would be nice. Overall it was a special cruise with seasoned travelers who knew what to appreciate and what to ignore. The teak handrails were not even something I noticed, no less inspected. I was more interested in how I was treated. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
After a beautiful 2 days in Buenos Aires, we were taken to the ship by our guide and translator Lydia. Check in was very smooth and we were invited to dine in Aqualina at 7:30pm. Apparently they no longer charge to dine in the alternative ... Read More
After a beautiful 2 days in Buenos Aires, we were taken to the ship by our guide and translator Lydia. Check in was very smooth and we were invited to dine in Aqualina at 7:30pm. Apparently they no longer charge to dine in the alternative restaurants. Guests are only expected to tip $5.00 per person, which is very reasonable. Upon having our picture taken for the cabin card, we were given a glass of pink Champagne. We had to find our way to our suite, since there wasn't anybody to take us. The Penthouse suite is very nice and spacious, although not as large as I expected. The bathroom is comfortably sized. The counter however had spots of soap residue or something on them. We told the butler to please have the cabin steward clean it up. That was disturbing to me. Dick liked the 2nd bathroom. I loved the Jacuzzi tub. There is lots of closet space, with plenty of hangers, many shelves, but not enough drawers in my opinion. Finally we did a ship inspection and noticed several areas that were not really up to par. The teak on the chairs was in bad need of refinishing, as were most of the handrails. Then it was time for lunch, which was buffet style and everything we had was very good. No complaints there. Luggage arrived fairly timely, just in time for the lifeboat drill. The actual explanations of what to do in case of an emergency took place in the dining room. The tables were set and I felt it may be unsanitary to have all the passengers sit there fiddling with their vests etc. Maybe the theater would have been a better venue. Then we all went to our actual life boat stations. When that was over, it was time for a cocktail and we realized there were no coasters. The suite is furnished in fine Cherry woods and it's a shame to set iced glasses on that. We used Kleenex. The small paper coasters would be great. Capt. Carl Smith is young, funny and very personable. He makes a lot of informative announcements, which Dick and I enjoyed, but others think are too much. Different people have different tastes. In the evening we had dinner in the Discoveries dining room with 2 other couples. The plates are basic white, not in any way decorative. Flatware is basic stainless steel. The service was adequate at best. It took a long time for somebody to take our drink order and we finally hijacked Yuli.... our favorite cocktail waitress. She took care of us from then on, although I don't think we were actually in her section. It took even longer to have our food order taken. None of the food items were delivered to the correct person. In other words, I ordered Prime Rib and Ed ordered Shrimp, the waiter tried to deliver Ed's Shrimp to me and my Prime rib to Ed. That happened with every course. I had to request and wait for horseradish and although Yorkshire pudding was supposed to be part of my dinner, I never received it. Hellena refused to eat her appetizer because there were so many finger/thumb prints on the plate she got disgusted. Dinner took an easy 2 ½ hrs. so we missed the show. We tried Discoveries again later and the service was fine. So it depends on which section you're in. TV programming is ok at best, and any good movies are Pay per view. Thank goodness for the DVDs we brought. One afternoon was a Cruise Critic discussion group get together with the Hotel Director, Food & Beverage Mgr., Front Desk Mgr. and Mahalia. They were eager to hear our suggestions for improvement and there were quite a few. Dick and I decided to "dine in suite". The dining room menu was delivered around 4pm and we placed our order with Raj, our Butler. At 7pm he prepared our table and served us dinner, brought up in courses from the dining room. Raj has worked in a Relaix & Chateau hotel and is very well trained. During the evening Xavier, the Asst. Chief Housekeeper came to check and make sure everything went well. We found out that nobody had ever requested this! We had a couple of cocktail parties and ordered appetizers etc. from Raj and it worked out very well. A good time was had by all Things on the ship got better every day. We spoke to the F & B Manager and Hotel Director practically daily and they kept asking for suggestions, which we were happy to make, and whenever they could, they would implement them. We had no major complaints. The crew can't do enough, the food is good and anything that needs fixing gets done when you ask them. We ate in Prime C and Aqualina several times. The food and service there is great. I don't recommend the NY Strip. It seems to be overdone most of the time. Everybody loves the Lobster. For breakfast and lunch the Windows Cafe is very good. The Pool Grill has Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Nachos, all kinds of "comfort food" and wonderful fresh fries. A few times we tried Breeza, which is the buffet at night. They have Sushi, Sashimi, and stir fry to order, a pasta bar and all kinds of food. When you're not real hungry, that's the place to go. We tried the Elemis Spa. The services are very expensive and when I questioned the receptionist, telling her that it's much cheaper on other ships, I was told that South America adds a tax to all services. That would explain the high pricing for shore excursions also. The spa facilities are adequate at best - nothing fancy. Near the front desk is a co-ed waiting area. Men's and women's locker rooms, steam room, showers and bathrooms can be accessed from there. From the locker room one can access the private outdoor Jacuzzi and lounge area. Unlimited access to that area is $113.00 for the duration of the cruise. New Years Eve was handled perfectly and everybody enjoyed the toast on the pool deck and entertainment put on by the entertainment staff in the Looking Glass Lounge. Management was really good about keeping the buffet open longer, so returning guests can eat there or at the pool grill. Finally we arrived in Valparaiso, where we had to disembark. We decided 18 days is not enough. Disembarkation was pretty organized. Our guide and driver met us at the terminal and we went off on our tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. Overall, I would say Azamara has a "journey" ahead of them, but if the staff continues to try as hard as they are, they'll make it. We will try it again. If anybody has questions, I'll be happy to answer them. My email is traveler_chris@hotmail.com. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
The Azamara Journey was advertised as a luxury small-ship cruise equivalent to Oceana--and it may be that someday, but it certainly isn't that now. The intent is there, the effort is there, but the execution... There were many good ... Read More
The Azamara Journey was advertised as a luxury small-ship cruise equivalent to Oceana--and it may be that someday, but it certainly isn't that now. The intent is there, the effort is there, but the execution... There were many good points. Embarkation was a breeze--efficient, friendly, quick. The ship itself is a gem, just the right size to be comfortable. You can get from anywhere to anywhere on board in less than 5 minutes. Azamara is an off-shoot of Celebrity and, as on Celebrity, we were greeted with a glass of champagne, BUT, no escort to our cabin. On a ship that prides itself on its crew:passenger ratio, why did they drop that Celebrity courtesy? CABIN Plenty of storage space. Ample closets and lovely wood hangars that you don't have to slide on and off that hook and ball combination. I guess they don't expect Azamara passengers to steal hangars. Lots of drawer space, too. There is a refrigerator and safe, flat screen TV and lots of nice luxury touches. The ship provided robes and slippers, binoculars and umbrellas. The Elemis soaps, shampoo, conditioner and lotion were lovely. One large free bottle of Evian. Two hair dryers--one in the bathroom on the wall and a non-attached hand dryer at the vanity. The fabrics on the sofa and throw pillows, like the fabrics used on all furniture throughout the ship are top quality. The bathroom is small, but adequate as is the balcony. The towels are Egyptian cotton and very absorbent EXCEPT FOR THE DECORATIVE BROWN BAND (totally unnecessary). Whatever decorator suggested that touch should be thrown out of the decorator's guild. That band is already pilling and will make the towels look shabby in no time. Plain cotton would have been much better. Now, what is lacking. 1)Space in the bathroom to put a cup or glass. 2)Makeup mirror anywhere, in the bathroom or at the vanity/desk, with good lighting. 3) Good mattresses. It was like sleeping on a brick. I have been told that the mattresses were ordered, but not received yet and that some ships in the Celebrity fleet are already reequipped. Why didn't they start with the "luxury line?" The pillows, on the other hand, were wonderful and the linens quite good. They did pad our bed with foam, so that made sleeping bearable, but nothing as good as Holland America. 4)A reasonable TV channel selection. On cruises billed as luxury and all of long duration, you'd think they would skip the Cartoon Network and replace it with a financial channel. CNN International is OK, but the regular CNN to keep us in touch with home would have been nice, too. New movies on pay-per-view would be good, too, especially on long cruises. CABIN STEWARD AND BUTLER Both of these gentlemen were unfailingly helpful, courteous and efficient. The cabin was always clean. No towel animals. The butler brings fresh fruit every day and fills the vase with flowers (usually). There is a different sweet every night. The butler will, if requested, unpack and pack, shine shoes, serve breakfast and afternoon tea. Frankly, I didn't see the need. If someone else unpacks it will take me three days to find everything. There are already too many opportunities to eat without an additional meal and all the other duties are carried out by the room steward on other ships.  PUBLIC AREAS Beautiful, tasteful, elegant, for the most part. Luxury fabrics. Lots of bars and nooks. A small sitting area off the casino with a large screen TV was popular for sports. The Cova Cafe was another popular spot, with snacks available all the time--sweets, small sandwiches, and other delights. Coffee, tea, chocolate, too. Entertainment was provided by a pianist and/or harpist. Looking Glass (10 forward) was the spot for games and trivia. Lots of bridge players, mah jongg, games of all sorts available. At night, there was usually music, live or DJ. I didn't use the Martini Bar, so I won't comment. The casino seemed to be adequate, but the huge bar that took up a lot of floor space in the middle was hardly ever used. The library was supposed to be Michael's Club in the evening, but every time I was in it, it was just the library, much too big and beautiful to be so underutilized. The shops run toward the expensive and impractical-- fine jewelry, expensive semi-precious items and costume jewelry. There is a small selection of clothing, an area the size of a kitchen cabinet for sundries and that's about it. The pool is small but adequate, not too deep. The lounge chairs are wood, with thick upholstered cushions. Be sure to reserve one in the shade by 8am or you're out of luck. A trio played at poolside for about an hour each day. The pool and deck are kept very clean. The pool is salt water and is drained, cleaned and refilled daily. SPA I didn't use the spa services much. The exercise classes are free--Pilates, spinning, aerobics, yoga. There seem to be sufficient number of treadmills, etc. Other spa services seemed pricey, but that's the case on most ships. The thallasotherapy pool (heated saltwater bubble pool) that we enjoyed so much on Celebrity for free is for fee only on this ship-- $125 for the cruise. I doubt anyone used it. I suggested that they make it a Captain's Club perk and it may be on future cruises. INTERNET Slow, slow, slow. Many terminals, inadequate bandwith. It can take 10 minutes or more to reach your ISP, at $.53 a minute and even then you may not be able to sign on. We protested and got a refund. The best time to use it is between 6-8am, when the bridge and the ship offices are not downloading anything. Better still, use the internet cafes available on even the smallest island or in terminals.  DINING The Windows Cafe (buffet) is roomy, with adequate table space inside and outdoors on the stern. The food is of excellent quality, better than most ships. The dishes became repetitive, which was to be expected on an 18 day cruise. Trays are available, but it is better to use plates alone. There are machines for coffee, tea, iced tea, lemonade and a variety of fruit drinks. The coffee machine is slow and badly adjusted. It gives either half a cup or an overflow. Refills from the wandering waiters are spotty. Wait staff is very friendly. We ate breakfast and lunch there throughout the cruise but service is available in the dining room, too. Breeza is the poolside grill. It offers hamburgers, hot dogs, Polish sausage and nachos, with a salad bar. There is a daily special, too. The hamburgers are average; the french fries are excellent as is the sausage. They have cheese and chili to top the nachos, but no salsa. The specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, are really good. Service is wonderful and the ambience makes it a special dining experience. Discoveries, the regular dining room, is a problem and I don't know what they can do. It was terrible for the first few days. Some people gave up and ate only at the Windows Cafe. The food is usually excellent, with a few misses--dry chicken (they don't do poultry well), undercooked fish occasionally, but they correct anything like that immediately. There has been much care and attention paid to the quality of the food, the presentation, the tableware and the general ambience, all to the good, but the service is spotty at best and the room can be noisy, chaotic and crowded. The waiters often confuse orders, dishes hit the floor, diners get bumped by passing waiters and other diners. I don't think they have the free-style dining concept fully under control. Dinner often takes 2 hours or more, most of that time taken with waiting for dishes to arrive. Your soup can sit at a station for half an hour before anyone brings it to the table. Rarely were we asked if the dinner was satisfactory or if we wanted anything else. The wait staff just seemed relieved to be able to carry out orders. If you weren't happy and wanted to change your order--good luck! Refills of coffee, soda or other drinks on request; they are not refilled automatically. It isn't the atmosphere of a luxury dining room. WINE SERVICE AND BARS I didn't use it personally but heard,"I ordered wine, but when it arrived, I didn't like it. The wine steward tasted it and said, 'It tastes OK to me.'" That is not professional conduct. Other comments "I don't mind paying $50 for a bottle of wine, but not for the $3.98 Trader Joe special." Mixed drinks are very overpriced. Should a Cosmopolitan cost $15.00? CHILDREN'S ACTIVITIES none OTHER ACTIVITIES The usual--lots of trivia, name that tune, pictionary, ring toss, etc. Some more innovative activities included acting class, poetry, etc. The cruise staff was cheerful, energetic and friendly. Becky, the cruise director, is transferring to Quest in the Caribbean and Andreas will be doing South America as he speaks multiple languages. Ryan and Carissa worked very hard to keep everyone entertained. Carissa's Battle of the Sexes was a highlight of the cruise. SHORE EXCURSIONS Lousy. I have never, in all my years of cruising, seen so many people angry and asking for their money back. The descriptions were bad--mild wasn't always and neither was strenuous. It was as if the shore excursion people had never been to these ports and had no personal knowledge of the conditions. There was little control over the onshore personnel. Most people were told to make their own arrangements if they weren't happy with what was available and, believe me, our own arrangements were better. After one or two bad experiences, most people cancelled their tours. The best part of that department was the local person who came on board for 2 hours in the morning to explain what was available on shore so we could make our own arrangements. ENRICHMENT Wonderful! The lecturer was knowledgeable and entertaining, never dull. He spoke to packed audiences about Brazil, Portugal, the importance of cricket and soccer, the history of the samba and tango and kept us enthralled. GUEST SERVICES E for effort, but they were over their heads on this cruise. It was a demanding bunch of passengers who expected the kind of concierge service one would get at a Hyatt and what we got was "I don't know." They have to check with the home office in Miami for everything. We asked them to check on our reservations for the flight home, which they promised to do and said they did, but at the end, they were not able to do it. They had to be cornered into that admission. LAUNDRY There is a do it yourself laundry on Deck 7, but be warned, there is rust in the water and it may stain your clothes. If this happens call the butler, give him the garments and they will be cleaned at no charge. Bring your own fabric softener, stain remover and other laundry items. Detergent is provided. CAPTAIN AND BRIDGE CREW Friendly, super competent and always available to passengers. He is the youngest captain I have ever seen and he is great! DISEMBARKATION Smooth and fast. The problem was with the last day. We all were booked on red-eye flights out of Sao Paulo, not known as a tourist mecca. The routes had no rhyme or reason. Why did they route someone who wanted to go to Charleston, SC through Toronto? We were off the ship at 9:45 am with a flight at 11:30pm. Tours to fill the day were offered at $190 each but there is nothing to see in Sao Paulo unless you like pitiful slums. After much coersion from the passengers, the cruise line came up with a hospitality room to leave your luggage and some day rooms at our expense. It was not carefully thought out. SUMMARY Azamara has potential, but a long way to go. It is not even up to usual Celebrity standards yet.   Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
Journey Review The Journey is a beautiful ship which although smaller has a more spacious feel than many larger ships. This was our 5th trip on Celebrity and we will be making comparisons between Celebrity and Azamara. We are a 50ish ... Read More
Journey Review The Journey is a beautiful ship which although smaller has a more spacious feel than many larger ships. This was our 5th trip on Celebrity and we will be making comparisons between Celebrity and Azamara. We are a 50ish couple and were travelling with our 3 children in their 20s. Embarkation Never been to Cape Liberty and, while I wouldn't want to wander around there at night, it was an easy location to get to and through. Long term parking is adjacent to the terminal. There was no shuttle running from the parking lot when we arrived, but there was one when we returned. The parking lot is huge so a shuttle is a good idea. An alternative is to leave someone with all the bags and have one person park the car. Ironically, there was an attractive waiting area with snacks and beverages even though there was no wait. (We could have used that in Ft. Lauderdale.) Arrival Onboard We were greeted with the customary champagne, but hadn't realized that we wouldn't have an escort to our room. Even though it is a smaller ship, some directions would have been appreciated. We dropped our bags in the room and went to the buffet where we meet our children who had boarded separately. Stateroom We had booked one 1A and one 2A on deck 7. Both veranda cabins were nicely furnished with frigs and flat TV which was easy to see. The flowers and fruit were a welcoming touch. There was a nice table on the balcony perfect for breakfast. The bedding was the nicest we have had and mattresses the most comfortable - no need for an egg crate. The bathroom was small but not a problem for us. (Perhaps because I loved the showers at the Spa.) Our rooms were quiet and well situated. The only drawback to 7103 was that when we left the room, we walked right into the cart with refuse from other staterooms. Our "butler" offered to make our specialty reservations but we had already taken care of it. She did later change a reservation for us to a later time; otherwise, besides the delivery of "savories" twice, the services were those of a stateroom attendant. I think the term "concierge" is more appropriate and less misleading than" butler" and that the descriptions in the Azamara literature should reflect the reality. It is not that I feel more services are needed, rather that they should not be overstated. One minor change was that we needed to place a card on our door to have our room made up. It seems that open seating made it difficult for staff to plan their cleaning (even though we ate at the same time each night and told our butler this.) One night our room was turned down before we left for dinner Restaurants This is where Azamara really shined. We had consistently very good food in all venues -beautifully presented with some real gems. Our first night we ate in Aqualina which was outstanding - perfect rack of lamb, foie gras appetizer, excellent sea bass, and chocolate souffle. The setting and service (we requested Carla) were both first rate. (Carla also supervised the room service orders and we would get little notes from her throughout the week.) We had dinner at Prime C on our last night when we were fighting 12 foot swells. It's a beautiful room and the service was excellent. Much less crowded than MDR. The lobster bisque was superlative as was the chocolate lava cake. Perhaps because of the waves or the fact that we had had such good food in the MDR, I found that I preferred Aqualina. Others in my family would disagree. Both are excellent We were delighted with the room service breakfast menu (it included waffles and French toast - two favorites) and ordered that the first few mornings. As a rule I prefer not to go to the buffet in the morning. However, I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter encouraged me to venture down. Not only were the selections excellent and attractive, there was none of the chaos I had feared. We were always able to get a table (with an ocean view yet). The only time I had to wait for waffles there were only a couple people ahead of me. Even on disembarkation morning, I walked right up to the waffle and smoothie bars. The absence of lines throughout the ship was a big plus. The breakfast selection was vast with some unusual additions like shrimp hash. Fruit and berries were plentiful. Smoked salmon was always included along with a choice of cream cheese. The smoothie bar and espresso machine were appreciated. In addition to the pancake, waffle, French toast station, there were also made to order omelets. For lunch the buffet was also great. There were so many choices it is easy to miss some special dishes. Look for the salmon cerviche and Thai vegetable curry. I found the Thai dishes at the buffet and in the MDR to be excellent. There were many international dishes such as moussaka, quesadillas which I didn't try. We didn't eat at the buffer for dinner other than the very good sushi and some cheeses as hors d'oeuvres. (Table service at Breeza had been discontinued on our sailing which we would have liked to try.) The grill. A favorite of the rest of my family, I had never been a fan. (I used to go to the Aqua Spa Cafe available on M ships). However, one day we returned from the beach after lunch and I was delighted to find excellent gyros at the grill. Also, the fries (which I don't usually eat) are amazing and in great demand. This may be the only thing you have to wait for on the ship. The grill also had fruit kabobs one day. Cova Cafe was a mainstay for snacks. It had the longest hours and featured tea sandwiches and pastry. Their almond and two varieties of chocolate croissants are wonderful. Discoveries, the main dining room. As long time Celebrity cruisers, we were skeptical about open seating. We didn't miss the formal nights, but liked the consistency of the same table and wait staff. Since we were a party of five, sitting with others was not an issue. The restaurant manager Richard (wrong spelling) was a gracious and welcoming presence. He seated us at a window table with a very pleasant and efficient team, Jaysingh and Elena. Please tell them "hi" from the family at Table 20. We ate at 8:15 every night. The appetizers on the menu were excellent and there were often many which appealed. We missed some of the old dinner choices but found most new selections to be sophisticated and well prepared. Some of the labor intensive touches have been restored like wrapping the lemon as Celebrity did in the old days. Favorite entrees were the duck, prawns, lamb chops, salmon, NY strip steak. There was always a good Caesar salad which you could order with chicken or shrimp. While many dishes were innovative, the ingredients high quality and presentation beautiful, the seasoning on some dishes could have been more assertive. This was only the second week for the new menus; the dishes are very good now and can only get better with some fine tuning. Desserts were strong. I was surprised that my favorites were not my usual chocolate choices which were also good, but rather an apple tart, bananas foster, and crepe suzette. We ate lunch in the MDR twice and had good service and food. Once we went primarily for the apple tart, bananas foster and brownie sundae which are always on the lunch menu. Overall our service was amazing including being speedy when we once requested that. The one drawback is that the dining room seems to have too many tables. This might explain the absence of the dessert cart - it could not maneuver between tables. The wait staff were friendly but were obviously working very hard. They had to reset the tables after diners left which was distracting to those still eating. We can not evaluate open seating since we asked to be assigned to the same table every night; this greatly enhanced our experience. Tea and Savories. We went to tea at Aqualina once for tea and it was lovely with harp music and table service. We found that stopping by Cova worked out better with our schedules. We didn't order tea in the room but had savories twice and they were excellent. Being tied down to a time didn't seem worth it except for sea days. Activities My favorite activity was the T pool on the spa deck. (It took one day to heat up). While on Celebrity I gravitated to the T pool to escape the noise of the main pool; this was not necessary on Journey. I actually went into the main pool for the first time on a cruise and had the pool to myself. The Celebrity Cabaret was nicer that I expected and we had no problem with sight lines. The performers were good, but the material was not exciting. The magician had left and we had a piano player instead. The comedian was diverting as was the show about Hollywood. The nice thing was that attending was not a must but was pleasant if you could make it. The guitar player on board was very good. The piano player outside Cova was not my taste. The harp music was lovely. The pool band was fine. There were the usual activities - we participated in the Broadway name that tune, martini and wine tastings, and culinary demonstration. We also attended the Captains Club reception. We missed the Captain's toast because we were at dinner. There were also some very distinctive events. There was a very nice cruise critic get together in Michael's Club which was well attended by senior staff who were eager to talk and listen. The ship arranged for Shabbat services. The soon to be Captain held a star gazing talk. There were performances by a noted local musician and the Goombay dancers which was outstanding. Port Experience We were docked in very convenient locations in both St. Georges and Hamilton. It was very easy to get on and off the ship. Bermuda was wonderful but won't go into here -particularly since only one more sailing. Return Trip After having had perfect weather in Bermuda, we returned with winds over 40 mph and 12 foot waves. The Captain made an announcement asking women not to wear heels and for everyone to stay off of the open decks. We had a very enjoyable day anyway. Our rooms were aft and it seems the motion was worse in front of the ship. Disembarkation We had a very nice breakfast at the buffet. We were scheduled to leave at 9:10 and weren't called until almost 10 which was fine with us since we got to have some more time on the deck. (Have I mentioned how comfortable the deck chairs are?) Once we were called, we went quickly through customs and to car. Comparison with Celebrity Although it seems that Azamara is trying to differentiate itself from Celebrity, there are enough similarities to ensure a comfort level. The main differences from Celebrity are the lack of formal nights and open seating. What you don't have: midnight buffet, baked Alaska night, informal elegant tea, production shows, Aqua spa cafe, children's program, Captain's club gift. What you do have: shorter or no lines, senior staff accessible, less crowding, a very low key atmosphere, different pillow treats every night, tea available in room, more artistry in food presentation. For instance, instead of just plain broiled lobster tails, lobster was prepared four different ways; instead of baked Alaska we were served a dessert sampler. Also, the Journey is non-smoking except for two areas. The bedding and robes were of higher quality and concierge class amenities were in all cabins. We have always enjoyed Celebrity and also enjoyed Azamara very much. I feel the two lines complement one another and would sail either with pleasure. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
Arriving at the dock and checking in was flawless and quick. Probably the best check-in experience I've had. Upon boarding, we were greeted and offered a glass of champagne which was just slighly cooler than room temperature. Yuk!! ... Read More
Arriving at the dock and checking in was flawless and quick. Probably the best check-in experience I've had. Upon boarding, we were greeted and offered a glass of champagne which was just slighly cooler than room temperature. Yuk!! Since the rooms are not ready until after 1 PM we went to the buffet. After big ship buffets, this one seems very small with few selections, but all selections were excellent. I'm always grateful to Celebrity for their breads and pastries---they fall way below most ship lines in quality and taste and I can therefore resist them. The Journey's breads and pastries were no exception. Desserts were also boring--again, I thank them, although the presentations was always wonderful. Cabins are small---175 sq feet--bathrooms are tiny. Nice table and chairs on the balcony. Decor is scrumptious, new and fresh. The cabin service was just wonderful--we almost never saw our "butler" but everything was always clean and neat. One thing the "butler service" did for me was to convience me that these were services I don't need. I can--and prefer to, pack and unpack myself. My shoes don't need shining. I don't need tea deliver to my door between 4-5PM (especially since I have to order it by 11 AM--come on now, I'm on vacation--I don't want to plan my day that far in advance). Tea is available in a lovely restaurant on deck 10 at the same time. I also don't need tiny sandwiches deliver to my room between 4-5PM--same reasons as above. Other butler services like full breakfast room service was available thru room service. I had room service twice. Once for the breakfast that I order the night before--it arrived ten minutes early and lukewarm. The second time we ordered hamburgers from room service about 3:30PM after returning from shore and they arrived hot and yummy in about 15 minutes. We ate at both speciality restaurants---Prime C on departure night was only half full---it took almost three hours to eat--way too long. The food was very good. Wednesday was Aqualina--much better service--only half full--good food. Neither of the speciality restaurants had exceptional food. The food in the main dining room, Discoveries, was very good and I would have skipped the specialty restaurants if I would have known that the quality difference was so small between speciality and regualr dining. Discoveries has way too many tables set way too close together to give you a fine dining experience. It's a shame because the overcrowding takes away from the experience. I'm sorry that I waited until the last evening to partake in evening buffet--pasta station, stir fry station---much more--they even put white table cloths on the tables. The ice cream is made onboard and very good---sugar free vanilla is exceptional. Shows were good--we didn't see the comedian. Lectures were good and interesting. If you are a Martini fan, don't miss the Martini bar right outside of Discoveries. Mr Martini, AKA Rusti, makes the world's best. The "bar" vodka is Grey Goose. The Martini cost $10.00 but it's worth it. It's so huge that partner & I asked Mr. Martini to split it between two glasses--which he graciously did. Each was the size of a usual restaurant martini. Only funny thing is these tiny little olives--not the kind you'd expect in a quality martini. To show you what a great guy Mr. Martini is, we complained about the size of the olives and the lack of our favorite blue cheese stuffed olives. The next evening we had blue cheese stuffed olives. He had taken these tiny olives and stuffed them with blue cheese himself---not an easy task when they're so tiny. Smoking may cause some problems on Azamara---we traveled with a couple of people who smoke and they were surprised to find that they could not smoke on their balcony--they did anyway-- and got a terse letter from the captain. They will not travel this line again and since we travel with them frequently, we will honor their preference to be able to smoke outside on their own balcony. Without exception, the service is wonderful throughout the ship. This was my first small ship experience and it told me that I'm a "big ship" kinda gal. I found it too small, not enough choices in things to do or places to eat--the ceilings alway felt that they were caving in on me. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Here goes with my stream of consciousness review, and it may be ridiculously long and chock-full of positives and negatives. I call 'em like I see 'em. Agree or disagree at your leisure. When I read reviews of a ship, before I ... Read More
Here goes with my stream of consciousness review, and it may be ridiculously long and chock-full of positives and negatives. I call 'em like I see 'em. Agree or disagree at your leisure. When I read reviews of a ship, before I sail her, I always prefer the cheerleading mega-positive reviews. But this isn't that. And, obviously, these are just my experiences. Your experiences may/will be completely different. Embarkation stress (this obviously isn't the norm, but it happened to us). Had air with Azamara and arrived in Newark at 1:20 - granted, a bit later than ideal, but Azamara had approved the flight so we didn't think there'd be any problem. As soon as we arrived, on time, and were waiting for luggage, the guy shows up with the "Celebrity" card (they might want to put Azamara on the card too, as I'm not sure everyone knows Azamara is owned by Celebrity). So it's like quarter til two, got the luggage, good to go. The guy says they're waiting for two more people. Fine. We wait, and wait and wait. Now it's 3:15. Uhm, excuse me, I believe the ship sails at 4:00. He says not to worry. Finally, after all this time, he figures out that the two people had taken an earlier flight and were already on the ship. So, we finally get on the shuttle and make our way to the terminal (yes we have to carry our bags to the ship, because the porters are long gone). They're about to close the doors at the terminal. There was a bit of an attitude from the check-in people, as if it was our fault we were woefully late. We get shuttled to the ship. We look up to see all the other passengers in the middle of muster drill. Well, at least we missed that. We finally get on the ship. I was only mildly annoyed. I was on vacation and I was on the ship. I thought about saying something to the front desk people, but decided it wouldn't really serve any purpose. First impressions of the ship. Beautiful. Dark and elegant woods and fine fabrics. Clearly much nicer, and warmer, than some of the newer, overwrought plasticy ships I've sailed. There are some really beat-up areas though, where big chunks of the veneered wood missing and not replaced. Some newly-done upholstery that wasn't finished (staples sticking out and untrimmed fabric), guess they ran out of time. As someone on an earlier post mentioned, they replaced pictures on the walls with smaller pictures in the main dining room, so there are these unsightly holes and scarring where the larger pictures were. Okay, I know what you're thinking, his glass if half empty! But I'm really not the kind of person to sit around and look for imperfections, I know every ship will have some issues, but some of these were really obvious and should have been addressed during the refurbishment. And about the pictures/art. Again, I know this was mentioned before, but they've used all of these modern prints everywhere. Kinda corporate generic stuff. Mostly, they don't work and are in complete conflict with the style of the ship. Just some really odd choices, it seems to me. It's not that modern, per se, wouldn't work. In fact, I think the big glass necklace sculpture on the main staircase is very cool. But, to sum up, despite these issues, the ship is beautiful. Pretty much gorgeous, I'd say. And the size of the ship, for me, is perfect. Also the layout. This was my tenth cruise and by far the smallest ship. I would prefer to be on this size of ship, or smaller, from now on. Just really easy to get around. We had a verandah stateroom on 6. The decor was lovely. There was plenty of storage, I thought. The bathroom was tiny but quite useable. The "butler" did his job well, but please please please Azamara, stop calling them butlers, simply using the term "butler" isn't fooling anyone. I really loved the room, despite its relative smallness. Except the television. Okay, complain, complain. But they put the tv about eye level when standing. And plasma, or LCD tv's (I don't know which it was), need a direct line of sight to see the picture clearly. It was impossible, when sitting on the bed or the couch, to see the tv clearly without craning your neck. To really see the picture, you have to stand up and watch, not ideal. And I do think a television is important on a cruise, for me anyway. Sometimes I want to relax in the stateroom and watch a movie. I thought the food ran the gamut from decent to outstanding. Too wide a range, I believe. We ate at Prime C the first night and it was fantastic. About as good as anywhere. Service was serviceable. We ate in the main dining room the second night, and it was probably the worst dining experience of any of my ten cruises. First of all, there are simply too many tables in the main dining room. They have lots of tables for two lined up, so it's not like eating alone at all. But I think we were in the worst table for two, which was right in an aisle. So it was a bombardment of waiters rushing madly back and forth. It was very loud and stressful in there. The engine noise/vibration doesn't help, though that's clearly something that can't be fixed. The service was honestly about what you'd expect in a Chili's. But I can't blame the servers for this. They obviously do not have time to give good service, like, you know, getting you something to drink. Azamara has simply not figured out how to do this open seating concept. They can't handle the glut of people that show up from seven to eight-thirty. They must fix this. The food was okay, although my fillet, which I wanted medium-rare, was completely overcooked, uniformly brown. I might have sent it back but the waiter, and his assistant, were nowhere to be found. Other courses were typical cruiseline fare, nothing special. Should I expect better than typical cruiseline fare? I think so, at least with how this new cruiseline seems to be positioning itself. Ate at Aqualina the third night, and again, wonderful food, nice service. But if you sit in the back area of the restaurant, you may wonder why it's so bright. Our waiter said they knew this but couldn't fix this problem(?), so I'd request a table in the front for more atmospheric (darker) dining. Actually, we ended up eating at the specialty restaurants on four nights. It was definitely worth the cost to have a nice, relaxing, excellent meal. The other nights in the main dining room we ended up going really early, around six-fifteen, to avoid the chaos. It was much better, in terms of service. Food was fine, though again nothing really memorable. We ate in the buffet thing several times, which we usually do not do. They actually close the dining room, much to my chagrin, at lunch during the two Hamilton days, so we had to eat the buffet. Full disclosure: I hate the buffet thing. Though granted, I think this was better than most. But the food was never hot. Don't know why, it was just always lukewarm. And the food was just okay. But the sushi at night was much better than I've had on any other line. The dining room lunches were much better. The service was much better than at night, as well, simply because there are so many fewer guests to serve. But why do they have the same lunch desert menu every day? The bananas foster and the apple tart were both excellent, but couldn't they try something else? Just askin'. I think I'm being, perhaps, pickier here than I would be on, say, Royal Caribbean, or Holland America, or Princess, because I have the sense that Azamara is trying to be, at least, a little step above these lines. I'm not sure they are, yet. I'll just interject here that the best cruise food I've ever had was on the Celebrity Mercury, ten years ago, before Celebrity was acquired by RCCL. I wish that cruise line still existed... Another whining complaint: I was hoping beyond hope that I wouldn't have to see the "sale" tables of goods every night at the shops. It's just so dang tacky, and, if I remember, every line I've been on does it. Purses and close out perfume and costume jewelry lined up on a folding table. Do all the more upscale lines (Crystal, Seabourne, Oceania, etc.) do this? And the ubiquitous art auctions. I've seen the same "art" being sold on every cruise I've ever been on. But clearly they make money for everyone involved (except the purchaser), so they're not going away. Yikes, I'm getting too negative here, I know, but here's some more good stuff: the gym, terrific, especially for the size of the ship. It was never crowded and they had excellent equipment. The martinis were well-made and HUGE (maybe a bit too huge). The beds and pillows and sheets and towels and robes, all very good. The bed-time treats in the room, a lovely touch. The cruise director seemed very good, I mean, he was actually around and talking to people all the time. He seemed very friendly and helpful. The poolside loungers were the best, amazingly comfortable, and usually easy to get. The pool, though small, was nice, though I think some of the tiling surrounding it looked kind of sad, and probably should have been replaced. Oh, and Bermuda is a fantastic island. Lots to do, easy to get around, amazingly friendly people, not in your face trying to sell you junk you don't want (St. Thomas, anyone?) I'd love to go to Bermuda again. Entertainment: Hmmm. I don't know, nothing really appealed to me (and here I'm referring only to the musicians around the ship, not to the main shows). I wish more lines would start employing some quality jazz ensembles, or classical musicians, or interesting singers. I suppose the entertainment on Holland America is more to my personal liking. But whenever I see a musician, like the guitarist on this ship, with a laptop computer in front of them churning out some electronic drumbeat, I want to run the other way. And he seemed to be pretty good too, despite the computer generated music. As far as the bigger shows, I only watched a few minutes of the five singers cabaret thing, so I can't judge the other shows. So, to sum up: overall I enjoyed the cruise, lots of the food, size and beauty of the ship, Bermuda, the special little amenities, like fruit, and flowers, and goodies. What didn't work so well for me? Mainly the service. Overall, it was no better or worse than any other line. There were excellent employees, and others who didn't seem interested. I believe this is the most important element for this new cruiseline to address. That and the main dining room. Though I've gotten used to the eat-when-you-want concept on Princess, etc., I think maybe this ship would run much better with old-fashioned assigned dining times and tables. Would I sail them again? Sure. But if I found an Oceania cruise with similar pricing, I would definitely do that. And no, I've never been on Oceania. But if I had to rank this cruise, it would be below all of my Celebrity cruises, and above everything else. So a solid second. But I think Azamara is pointed in the right direction, though, and I'm glad I went. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We very much enjoyed our cruise on the Azamara Journey to Bermuda. I would not categorize this as a luxury cruise line but saying that it is a premium cruise line would be appropriate. Boarding at Cape Liberty in NJ could not have been ... Read More
We very much enjoyed our cruise on the Azamara Journey to Bermuda. I would not categorize this as a luxury cruise line but saying that it is a premium cruise line would be appropriate. Boarding at Cape Liberty in NJ could not have been easier. Once aboard you are greeted with a glass of Champagne and directed to the buffet area at the stern of the ship. The Journey is a smaller vessel with a much more intimate and laid back atmosphere than you'll find on the larger ships. We really enjoyed the smaller more intimate atmosphere aboard the Journey. We liked the fact that there were few, if any, children on board. We found it very easy to meet people on board, everyone including the crew was very friendly. Let me start with what Journey does right. The food in the Main Dining Room and the Premium Restaurants is very good and in some cases exceptional. Sometimes the kitchen in the Main Dining Room gets overwhelmed with a rush because of freestyle seating but we much prefer freestyle seating because we could choose who to dine with. If there was a wait in the Main Dining Room we'd just have a drink at the bar and meet new people. The Journey is beautifully decorated and has a classic interior design. This ship also has a modern spa facility and a gym with brand new work out equipment. I was impressed. My wife enjoyed their small casino area which had enough games to keep her amused. They also had some shops on board that looked interesting but shopping is not our thing when on a cruise. Our cabin was nicely appointed and our balcony was furnished with a new table and two chairs. Our bed was very comfortable and the linens were soft. Our flat screen television was interactive and offered many entertainment choices, it even included a few free channels with new movie releases. Our butler/room attendant was very nice and usually quite attentive. If you want afternoon tea in your room you'll have to request it, it's not automatic. We did not go to see any of the live entertainment on board but our friends who did go to see the cabaret enjoyed it very much. Things that need improvement on the Azamara Journey. The in-room wet bars have not been installed yet, so all we had was a small refrigerator that sat on the floor of our cabin, taking up precious space. The bathroom in our Deluxe Ocean View Room w/Veranda was very tight. Sitting on the toilet, I'm 6'4", was a bit of a challenge because you could not square off your legs because it was on an angle to the bathroom door. Overall service at the front desk needs improvement, it was difficult to get answers to basic questions from some of the attendants until they consulted a manager. Perhaps this is a language issue because you'll find that English is not the first language of most of the crew. The pool on board Journey is very small but if you are going on a cruise just for the pool than this is not your ship. Overall, we would sail with Azamara again. We'd probably go with the bigger room (Sky Suite) next time though. We're disappointed that the Azamara Journey will not be sailing to Bermuda anymore though because we love Bermuda. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We sailed on the AZAMARA JOURNEY from Cape Liberty on September 29th. We booked our air travel through the cruise line and were very disappointed with our air schedule both going to Newark and returning to Dallas/Fort Worth after the ... Read More
We sailed on the AZAMARA JOURNEY from Cape Liberty on September 29th. We booked our air travel through the cruise line and were very disappointed with our air schedule both going to Newark and returning to Dallas/Fort Worth after the cruise. The schedule was horrible because of the routing and connections and we were one of the last to arrive at the ship for embarkation. Embarkation went smoothly, as almost everyone else was already on board. The embarkation photographer was no longer taking pictures. Our stateroom on deck 6 was nice and of average size with a very small bathroom. The balcony was fairly small with a large table and 2 chairs. The balcony was covered which is nice for privacy and when it rains. Storage in the stateroom was good with plenty of drawers and closet hanging space. Our "Butler" greeted us soon after we arrived in our stateroom. He agreed to make reservations for 4 in the AQUALINA restaurant for the night of our choice. We were traveling with another couple who were also on deck 6. There were fresh flowers in our room and a plate of fruit. The flowers were changed once or twice during the duration of the cruise and fresh fruit was added as needed. The "Butler", however, is only a glorified term for the usual stateroom steward or attendant. He was not particularly friendly and we did not develop much of a rapport with him during the cruise....just an occasional "hello" or response to a request. Room service on the JOURNEY was very good and very prompt. The breakfast menu is extensive and you can order from the dining room menu during the hours that the dining room is open. The Discoveries Dining Room was quite nice, but there is a lot of vibration at the very rear. The food was good....not exceptional, but good....and the presentation of the food was excellent and very artistic. The WINDOWS buffet had good food, but it needs improvement in the manner of serving. Many of the foods on the back of the serving stations were hard to reach. We did not experience long waits in being seated in the main dining room. We usually had a glass of wine in the MARTINI BAR after making our reservation and waited there for our table. We also enjoyed the guitar player who entertained most evenings there. The service in AQUALINA was very good, but we did not consider the food to be special enough to warrant a surcharge. The LOOKING GLASS BAR with its panoramic view was one of our favorite spots for relaxing during the day when no other activities were going on there....also a nice place to have a drink when the bar is open. We only attended one "show"...the HOLLYWOOD show...and it was enjoyable, but nothing like the entertainment we have seen on larger ships. While we have been on many cruises, the JOURNEY was the smallest ship on which we have cruised. It never seemed crowded. We experienced some very rough seas on our crossing to Bermuda and many people became sea-sick or had difficulty walking as the ship "rocked and rolled". Probably there would have been less motion on one of the larger ships with effective stabilizers. The rest of the cruise was "smooth sailing" with most of the time being spent in the ports of St. Georges and Hamilton. This ship would not appeal to the younger and more active cruiser as the onboard activities are limited, but it is relaxing and nice for the older crowd. The daily program delivered each evening could use some improvement too. All in all, it was a nice cruise, but we would not repeat it. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
On September 15 a lady friend and I ( aged 50) sailed on The Azamara Journey to Bermuda. The journey is a beautiful ship and we loved her. Getting on the ship was very quick and we were greeted with a glass of champagne. Everything on the ... Read More
On September 15 a lady friend and I ( aged 50) sailed on The Azamara Journey to Bermuda. The journey is a beautiful ship and we loved her. Getting on the ship was very quick and we were greeted with a glass of champagne. Everything on the ship was very clean and well decorated. Our room was very nice and we had a picture window. Our room steward did a great job of cleaning and replacing linens.We had fresh fruit and flowers also. (This was done twice a day.0 \The food was wonderful from the buffet, to the main dining room, to both of the specialty restaurants. I especially liked Prime C. The steak was one of the best ones I have ever had. The service was especially good in both of the specialty restaurants, but wonderful in the main dining room. It was a lot easier to get a table quickly if you would sit with others. We had to wait 10-15 minutes a couple of nights for a table for two. Go before 7 or after 8 if you don't want to wait. It is less crowded then.Ahmet was a great waiter and we asked to be served by him each night. We did not take any of the tours so I can not evaluate them. We bought a bus and ferry pass for 3 days which was $28.00. ( at guest relations deck 4.)We enjoyed Bermuda very much and had wonderful weather. Be sure to go to Horseshoe Bay in Hamilton and Tobacco Bay in St. George. The entertainment was good although unlike a large cruise ship.There was a harpist, a comedian, magician, steel band,cabaret music and a combo. They also had an art auction, bingo, dance contest, dancing, and the usual cruise activities. We enjoyed them all. The staff was very friendly and tried very hard to please. They work so hard and want everyone to have a wonderful vacation. The pool and pool area was lovely. People spent a lot of time there on sea days. Drinks were good and not watered down. They were priced reasonably. Wine is cheaper by the bottle as they will cork any unfinished wine. Dress code was dressy casual at dinner.Although there were some suits and sport jackets, many men wore nice pants with long sleeved shirts. Dress pants with a nice jacket or sweater set was the norm for women. Although there were no long gowns, some women did wear short dressy dresses. The only complaint we had is that the chef did not seem to be able to do a vegetarian fare for dinner. My friend seemed to be served pasta most nights. A little variety would have helped, but we also realize the Azamara is new and very few vegetarians on board so far. Overall, we had a wonderful cruise. Happy Sailing! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
Azamara Journey by Arzz This review is written from the perspective of a frequent Holland America cruiser who has also cruised many other cruise lines. I have never taken a Celebrity cruise. The ship itself is intimate and beautiful. ... Read More
Azamara Journey by Arzz This review is written from the perspective of a frequent Holland America cruiser who has also cruised many other cruise lines. I have never taken a Celebrity cruise. The ship itself is intimate and beautiful. Azamara has done an excellent job of making this ship look almost brand new. The atmosphere everywhere on board is understated, elegant and suggests the ambiance of a fine gentleman's club. We arrived at Cape Liberty around 11:30 am and the embarkation process was really not a process at all. The terminal was configured to handle crowds with many lines all taped off and ready to snake back and forth to move large numbers of cruise passengers -- however, there were no lines. We dropped our luggage with a porter outside the terminal and we quickly passed through all the required check points. Within minutes were on board the Journey. We were greeted with a glass of champaign as we entered Journey's elegant atrium on deck 4. Guest Relations, Shore Excursions and an assortment of comfortable sitting areas wrap around the wide staircase that is featured in so many photos of this ship and her sisters. We sat down, enjoyed our beverage, and met some of the other passengers with whom we would share our week. Since the cabins would not be ready until 1:00 pm and we were a little early to enjoy lunch we self-toured the ship. We previewed the Celebrity Cabaret, the show lounge on board. It is entirely located on a single level of the ship, reminiscent of the lounges used for dancing and shows on the older cruise ships rather than the glitzy, multi-floor theaters of today's behemoths. It has a stage at the front, and for a ship this size we found it to be quite functional and a pleasant change from a large, impersonal, show lounge. We also walked through the classic wood paneled dining room, the Cova Cafe, the casino and past the ship's shops. Throughout the fifth deck the ceilings are adorned with paintings of winged gods, goddesses and cherubs reminiscent of the frescos found on the ceilings of the palaces of Europe. We were often amused, however, when looking at the facial expressions as the cherubs invariably appeared to have a hand buried in the folds of the clothing of some goddess or other. The Cova Cafe is located at the top of the atrium stairs on Deck 5 -- it is not an enclosed space -- it is located between the shops and the dining room so that there is much foot traffic that passes through. As I am not familiar with this area on other Celebrity ships I do not know whether this is an anomaly. We enjoyed afternoons sipping elegant coffees and unusual teas here, as well as evenings relaxing to the music presented by Jacqueline Dolan and her wonderful harp. The on board casino is somewhat small, appropriately sized for the smaller ship's population. It contains several slot machines (penny, quarter and dollar machines) as well as gaming tables. During the few days that the casino was closed during our stay in Bermuda the casino seemed to be completely taken apart and reconfigured. The best that we can tell was that many of the slot machines were moved around, others were removed. The gaming tables were reconfigured and a lounge-like sitting area was created in one corner. The casino was, however, up and running right on schedule as we left the Bermuda coast and headed out into the Atlantic. At the top of the ship is the Looking Glass Lounge, reminiscent of the Crow's Nest on Holland America ships. It is a beautiful space with 270 degree views that I believe was under utilized on this cruise -- but then the four day stay in Bermuda makes a lot of things about this cruise unusual. The only criticism I have of this space was the decision to stage the band at the center of the front windows which effectively uses a large section of what would be, otherwise, prime seating area to enjoy scenic views. As this ship wanders off to places like the Chilean Fjords this deficit will probably be felt dearly by passengers seeking a definitive seat from which to enjoy the sights. Michael's Club is a wood paneled lounge that really looks like the archetypical gentlemen's club. It serves as both a lounge area and a library. We only sampled the cuisine at one of the two specialty restaurants on board, the Prime C -- and it was excellent, but both of these restaurants are elegant and pretty -- they are located on deck 10 so the views from these spaces are as good as the food. The on board spa is again smaller than that found on many ships but they still offered a variety of spa services as well as acupuncture and a small therapy pool. The small gym was well equipped with a variety of exercise machines and free weights. The pool on deck nine is surrounded by incredibly comfy teak lounge chairs covered with thick cushions that during the day are each equipped with a rolled beach towel just waiting to be used (nice touch). Another nice touch is that a few of the lounge chairs are doubles. The Windows Cafe is located on deck 9 and offers a variety of buffet style foods at breakfast and lunch as well as a pretty casual dining venue at dinner time. Our cabin was a deck seven standard verandah cabin. It was a clean, bright exceptionally pleasant space adorned in dark woods, green curtains and a beige paisley print in the carpet. The new carpeting and soft furnishings made it look virtually brand new. The bed was extremely comfortable and was covered by many pillows. The room also had a love seat sized couch across from a small desk. The closets were in the entryway opposite the bathroom. The closets consisted of a double doored space with a clothing rod and a shelf above, a one doored space that had four nice size drawers with a very short hanging space above (we were hard pressed to find garments short enough to hang here -- we would have appreciated more drawers). At the end of the closet was a corner unit that probably used to contain the TV. It now consists of a few open shelves, a cabinet of closed shelves which included a programmable safe, and a bottom cabinet that contains a small, space age looking refrigerator. Not everyone recognized the object in this cabinet immediately as a fridge. It is about the size of a old computer tower but it does have space for a small selection of beverages and liqueurs inside. There was additional storage in the desk -- four small drawers on one side and two shelves on the other. The wall opposite the bed sported a nice sized flat screen TV which was easy to view from both the bed and the love seat -- being wall mounted it was out of traffic patterns and away from potential cabin storage space. Nice feature! Our verandah was small with a table and two chairs that are well set up to enjoy a room service breakfast out of doors. The bathroom is, how shall I say, a tiny, tidy space. We are not particularly large people but we did have to become intimate with the shower wall in order to shower. The sink had a nice sized vanity with a medicine cabinet and a shelf below the vanity for storage. Though small it was very functional and very clean. And, we always had more than enough fluffy towels and face cloths. The food was excellent and well prepared. We had no desire to eat in a specialty restaurant more than once as we were so well taken care of in the Discoveries Dining Room (the main dining venue). The dining room staff could not do enough for us. We are sorry that we did not get to know them better. With the open seating we were served by different people almost every meal. We really did miss assigned dining. We also wonder if the staff will be sufficiently compensated through the auto tipping system. With assigned dining we usually tip extra (above the amount required by the auto tip) at the end of the cruise if we have received excellent service (which we usually do), will the staff miss this additional income? While the food was excellent, we do have suggestions on the food front: We found it very difficult to eat a light and healthy diet on board. We are accustomed to having, on the menu, both a vegetarian selection and a healthy selection among the dining choices. We missed these options while on board. We also found ourselves wishing that there had been more vegetables on our plates. And, we noticed some redundancy on the menus. We would have liked to see more variety. The Oriental duck consomme was on the menu at least three meals in a row (two dinners and one lunch, I think), many of the salads greatly resembled each other and most were garnished with goat cheese (I have nothing against goat cheese, I like it a lot, but it was ubiquitous during the cruise). One day at lunch there was a smoked salmon appetizer that was presented with a dill cream cheese that looked virtually identical to a smoked salmon appetizer that appeared at dinner that same night except that the lunch version was cut into circular shapes and at dinner it was presented as a triangle. For those folks wondering what day the bananas foster is offered for dessert, do not fear that you will miss it as it is on the dessert menu at both lunch and dinner on several days -- and it is excellent. We really truly enjoyed several of the on board amenities such as the fresh flowers all over the ship, but particularly the fresh flowers in our cabin. The in cabin fruit bowl that was replenished and freshened as necessary was very nice to have. We enjoyed both the robe and slippers -- and an amenity that we have not seen before -- the floor mats that were left each night, one on each side of the bed, that said "good morning - good night". We truly appreciated the Elemis products in the larger, 3.4 oz bottles. And, the evening treats that were left in our cabins (cookies, fudge squares, truffles) were a welcome change from the mundane chocolate. Though we did not feel the need to indulge the ability to have afternoon tea daily in the cabin, or receive a plate of savories at mid to late afternoon was really nice. We also enjoyed the use of the binoculars that were provided in each cabin. Things that we missed: The larger cabins that are standard on Holland America. Though Journey's cabins are well designed they are rather tight on space and DH and I had to plan our in room movements to be in concert rather than collision with one another. We question whether the standard cabins have sufficient storage space to properly accommodate the longer voyages that are planned for these ships -- particularly the ones that will require clothes for more than one climate (like South America). We truly missed a self service laundry -- having one on board would have reduced the amount of clothing that we traveled with by about 40%. We do not object to paying for laundry service however for many of our things (especially those that are delicate or prone to shrink) we were unwilling to surrender the control of the temperature settings of the wash and dry cycles to unknown individuals. I really miss the make-up mirrors that Holland America has mounted at the cabin desks. We really miss the wrap around covered promenade deck for walking purposes. We know this is not something that Azamara can fix but due to the small size of the ship, getting exercise on board was very difficult -- the jogging tack on the upper deck is rather small (13 times around equals one mile), and not covered so that it really does not replace the promenade. We would have definitely preferred assigned dining times. The situation was such with dining that if you did not appear at the dining room by about 6:30, you had to wait to be seated at dinner. We do this at restaurants at home and have no desire to do this on a cruise vacation. It is easy to miss shows and other cruise activities when dining times are uncertain. When we have paid a significant daily tariff we consider waiting to dine to be unwelcome, wasted time. I have experienced main stream cruising, budget cruising, and premium cruising. Azamara claims to be a Deluxe cruise line and we believe that the intent is to compete directly with Oceania and other similar cruise lines. If there were no charge in the alternative dining venues and passengers could choose between all of them, I believe that it would relieve the crowding in the main dining room as well as present a more deluxe, overall, cruise experience. Please correct me if I am wrong but I do believe that when this ship was built there were several dining venues from which to choose and the cost of each of them was included. A nice touch that I heard is a Celebrity tradition, is to offer a cold face towels to passengers as they return to the ship. We do applaud this practice as we really enjoyed it -- but on at least two of our in port afternoons the ship, apparently, did not have enough face cloths to go around and therefore our cabins were left without them. I assume that this is a detail that it should be easy for Azamara to correct. We were caused real stress on board when the baggage that we left at the pier at ll:30 am did not appear in our cabins until over an hour and a half after sailing (after 5:30 pm). We were disturbed by this for many reasons. First we had no way to know for sure if it had made it on board until it was too late to initiate a search at the pier. Second, we like to unpack before the muster drill so that when the ship sails, we are really on vacation. Watching the ship leave the harbor in New Jersey was a large priority for us. And third, if at all prone to seasickness, unpacking while at sea is not a pleasant occupation. DH and I do not ever remember being on a cruise where the bags arrived at our cabins after we had actually left the port. We hope that Azamara could make this a priority and improve the baggage delivery service. Other small concerns -- the coffee served in the dining rooms and the specialty restaurant was terrible. Not up to the standards that we would expect of a deluxe (or even premium) cruise line. --We enjoyed the butler service on board, though we are not sure that our butler was any different than a normal cabin attendant. Our cabin service was, by and large, excellent as small things like the need for replacement soaps and kleenex were automatically noticed without us asking for these things. Once we had to ask for an additional bottle of water. What we found disturbing, also easy to fix, was the frequent knock at our door when we were in the cabin to deliver paperwork -- if we delayed getting the door (say to take the small time to put on a robe) the butler would unlock the door and start to walk in. Each door had a mailbox as well as a space beneath the door that could be used to deliver paperwork. We felt it unnecessary to have these things placed on the bed or given to us by hand -- we got annoyed by the intrusion as this seemed to happen several times during the week. This should be another thing that Azamara could easily fix. Despite the minor deficiencies (and we do consider them to be minor) noted in the last several paragraphs we had a very mellow cruise. Though we are Holland America medallion cruisers -- would we sail this line again? The answer in yes. Would we sail this line rather than HAL if all things were equal (price and itinerary)? -- in that case we would probably choose HAL. But if offered a superior or unique itinerary and a fair price, Azamara Cruises will definitely see us again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
BOARDING - was a breeze! There was a separate area for suite embarkation but everyone was going through rapidly.We were on board in less than 15 minutes. We were told to go up to the Windows Cafe for our lunch-the cafe was nicely appointed ... Read More
BOARDING - was a breeze! There was a separate area for suite embarkation but everyone was going through rapidly.We were on board in less than 15 minutes. We were told to go up to the Windows Cafe for our lunch-the cafe was nicely appointed and the food enjoyable. When we arrived at our suite-we found it very inviting,although not as large as our suite on the Noordam. SAILING- We went up to the pool which had very comfortable chaises but the hot sun on the dark blue cushions just held the heat-definitely a towel required to sit on. Although the pool is too small for the size of the ship, it still is extremely refreshing. Late afternoon we met up with our butler. He turned out to be a wonderful asset to the line but we felt he was overworked in his position of room attendant plus butler. Throughout our trip on the Journey, we found the staff excellent and the restaurants to be top draw. However, we do feel there are some kinks in the running of the hotel part. On our entrance to our suite,our phone had a message for an earlier passenger and for 7 days nobody could fix it. The shower did leak because there wasn't enough enclosure. A shower curtain or an extension of the panel is needed.On our last full day of sailing with a full ship-passengers didn't have enough teak chaises and the older ones had been roped up so people couldn't find chaises. We helped untie some and move them for some of the passengers but no staff was around to assist.A glaring error was made by the Purser -unbelievable that our bill was placed on our door for anyone to read. It was placed that way for our mid-trip bill and our final bill. It wasn't even put in an envelope! In all my times cruising this was a first.Evidently-they feel that your bill can be placed outside your door for anyone to read. It wasn't even in an envelope-in all my cruising I have never seen it done that way! FINAL THOUGHTS- My experience on the Journey with the crew from the delightful Captain to the Maitre' D to the staff in general was excellent. I do believe that with time and maybe more experience by the Hotel Manager and Purser that this will be a ship definitely worth going on. I know I will most likely be on it again and look forward to an wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
Azamara Journey Review June 9-16, 2007 The port of Bayonne, New Jersey is about ½ hour from the Newark Airport (a $45 cab ride). Upon arriving at the port, there is a sense of desolation, as this particular dock has fallen into disuse. ... Read More
Azamara Journey Review June 9-16, 2007 The port of Bayonne, New Jersey is about ½ hour from the Newark Airport (a $45 cab ride). Upon arriving at the port, there is a sense of desolation, as this particular dock has fallen into disuse. Apparently, Celebrity/Azamara is using the port for the summer in the inaugural season to go to Bermuda. Embarkation was easy and organized although two of our bags were lost in the hold for several hours. We boarded the ship around 1:00 p.m., ahead of the scheduled 4 p.m. sailing. We went straight up to the two 'fine dining' restaurants, the Prime C and the Aqualina, to make reservations for dinners. We were given one complimentary seating by the ship and paid an additional $25 per person for the other reservations. More on this later, but the restaurants are on a par with New York dining and service. From this point, we ventured into the very nicely appointed exercise facility where we booked into spinning classes that were offered 3 times per week at 8 a.m. NOTE: reset your clocks on the first night out, as we missed the first session because we had not advanced our room clock. The cabin: we originally booked a Sky Suite but received a call two days before sailing that the suites were overbooked. We were offered a 'sweet' deal to downsize to a veranda cabin. $1500 credit and $300 on board credit later, we were in a veranda cabin one deck below the suites. The A-1 category cabins were just fine and very similar to other Celebrity veranda cabins: ample space for luggage, king bed, a desk with a chair, lighted vanity, drawers on one side, cabinet on the other, flat screen TV with CNN, ESPN, 4 movie channels, veranda (the same size as the Sky Suites) with a table and two chairs, a small sofa and table, triple closet and drawers, room safe and corner cabinet which would presumably someday contain the mini bar which was absent in our cabin. The in-room amenities: toiletries were all ample quantity and quality: Elemis brand. Towels were refreshed twice daily, plenty of supplies. One bottle of Evian was provided at the outset, but there was a charge for additional water, which staff told us was 'very expensive'. Including a bottle of water each day would have been a nice touch, adding to the elite status being sought by the ship. In port, 2 liters of water cost around $2.50. Bedding was very nice, new, comfortable, and refreshed every day. The butler service: The cruise line advertises one butler shared between two cabins unless you are in a suite where you have your own butler. Our butler was excellent, but he was training room stewards so he was responsible for much more than just our cabin. He delivered fresh fruit twice to our cabin, fresh flowers once, 2 canapés on two different nights, and he oversaw the placement of towels, turndown, newsletters, etc. in our cabin. The idea of a butler is very appealing, but for all other purposes, it was difficult to see a difference between butler service and the service of a room steward or cabin attendant. The cruise staff: This is where the cruise line shines. They have gathered the brightest, most congenial group of cruise members that we have ever seen. Each person, from the cocktail server, casino workers, room stewards, line waiters, sommeliers, maitre’d, activities personnel, harpist, piano player…whomever we spoke with…they LOVED their jobs and it showed. What a great crew! Entertainment: A gracious and talented harpist played daily on the mezzanine level. Also, a pianist who covered everything from jazz to the ‘one hit wonders’ shared the same space or traveled to Michael’s Club on the 10th floor. He was a terrific talent. The ship had a small orchestra and a pool band, neither of which played often enough during the daytime. The Cabaret, where the main entertainment occurred, hosted a very funny comedian/magician who made $20 bills move from envelopes into grapefruits, and cards float through space, as he included the audience in participation and told clever jokes. Another night a low-key humorist enlivened the audience with home grown humor. Two nights held no show time entertainment. Two nights gave us the typical cruise ship shows with ‘That’s Hollywood” and “Swing” type songs and dance done by attractive 20-somethings. The final night was a conglomeration of all of the above, without the comedian/magician from the first night. Overall, the entertainment was good, but not great. Three nights offered two seatings but the remaining two nights offered only one seating. On board entertainment: This is probably the weakest area of the cruise. The old stand-bys of pool games such as pass the hula hoop or pass the orange under the chin, King of the Cruise, Bingo, and Trivia are just overdone. A truly upscale cruise should be able to come up with something a little more innovative and “status” appropriate. Excursions: BEST of the lot! Everything from carriage rides, motorized bikes, snorkeling, ‘snuba’-diving, walks, and taxi tours was included. Look over the offerings and make your plans accordingly as it seems that EVERYONE leaves the ship when in port. The beaches in Bermuda are excellent and it is easy to grab a cab in port and go to the beach. Dining: The Prime C is billed as a steak restaurant and it does have excellent cuts of steak as well as great fish, veal, and pasta. Most folks seemed to think the Aqualina was a seafood restaurant but it has a strong French/Mediterranean influence. Service in both restaurants was impeccable! The menu changes so you can dine more than once, as we did, and get a good variety. Save room for the food, though…servings are ample and upscale, so you will truly want to ‘dine’ while in these venues. Desserts are to die for…and change frequently. The soufflés are well worth the experience. The ship: This particular ship was commissioned in 2000 or 2001 as the former Renaissance Cruise line. The furnishings are completely new in the suites and most of the veranda rooms have new carpet, bedding, etc. Yet there is evidence of the age of the ship in many areas where rust can be seen at the joints of balconies, poles, and stairs as well as bubbles on the finish of the teak railings. The pool looks like an antique compared to the newer ships. The tile is aging and the grout is discolored. The surface is actually quite slippery as there were two ‘slip and falls’ that required surgical care during the week. Crossing the Gulf Stream, this ship had a lot of movement. Several voyagers were ill on the going over and the return due to movement. The waves did not reach over 9 feet, but it could be felt everywhere. Four crew members told us that this was the calmest crossing to date. Our air conditioning went out twice while we were in port for a total of about 15 hours. It was restored both times, but there was no comment made by the guest services. We had to initiate all of the questions and did not receive any explanations or apologies. The Azamara Journey is seeking to establish itself as a ‘cut above’ the rest of the line as an adult venue with class and taste that pampers its guests. The daily papers note that jeans or shorts are not permitted in the dining rooms, yet every day we saw evidence of many diners in jeans and shorts. When we asked the staff about this, no one seemed to be aware that we were being told that there was a dress code for dining. Customer service had called each person before boarding and informed us that there would not be a formal night, yet on the third or fourth night, we were encouraged to wear our ‘gowns and tuxedoes’ and “make it a night at the Ritz”. Azamara Journey has not yet found its niche, but it is making a lot of strides in the right direction by hiring brilliant staff. We look forward to seeing the improvements to be made to make this into a true ‘first class’ journey. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
We booked our cruise onboard Mercury last summer then transferred the booking to the online TA that we have used for many cruises. This review was written as a day by day report to give an ongoing perspective to our experiences. Saturday ... Read More
We booked our cruise onboard Mercury last summer then transferred the booking to the online TA that we have used for many cruises. This review was written as a day by day report to give an ongoing perspective to our experiences. Saturday We arranged for a car service to pick us up at 10:30 from the Residence Inn Times Square which we found an excellent place to stay. We used Marriott points and saved a bunch since breakfast and light suppers were included. About 10 minutes after we left the hotel we stopped to pick up Kelly and Lauren from our Roll Call and headed through the Holland Tunnel to Cape Liberty cruise terminal. Traffic was light for a holiday weekend and the trip took less than ½ hour. On arrival at the terminal, we handed over our luggage and checked in easily with our preprinted Express Pass - very easy and fast check-in with friendly personnel. About 5 minutes later we boarded a bus for the short ride to the ship. We were among the first to board (no problem with two bottles of wine we carried on) With champagne in hand, we headed to the buffet for lunch. We had pizza and salad at a table on Deck 9 aft (outside) with Kelly and Lauren. I left to check on our dinner reservations at Aqualina (which I had made via Celebrity's customer service manager from home). This was my first meeting with Dominic who informed me that the reservation was indeed made for the day and time requested, added a reservation for Prime C and informed me that we were not in cabin 7039 as we thought but had been moved to 8049. I was surprised and wondered the cabin had been changed. During lunch, the announcement was made that the cabins were ready (12:45 pm) so we went to explore our new cabin. What a nice surprise. The upgrade fairy is alive and well and lives on Journey! We had been upgraded from a balcony cabin to a lovely Sky Suite (not as large as we've seen on other ships, but lovely nevertheless). The dEcor was elegant and we enjoyed the gold and burnt orange colors. Nice balcony with a rectangular table and 2 chairs on which we enjoyed room service breakfast several times as well as afternoon wine.The bathroom was large with a tub and shower (design looked lovely but caused water on the floor every day - the narrow glass partition probably should have been wider) Elemis toiletries were in containers large enough to last all week with some to take home. Towels were of very good quality and attractive. The Cabin had plenty of drawer and closet space (two tier hanging rods made hanging longer things difficult) and empty suitcases fit easily under bed. Our butler, Nelson, came in to introduce himself (dressed in tux with tails) and tell us a bit about the ship's services. We told him we needed some things laundered/cleaned due to our week in NYC prior to cruise. He opened our first bottle of wine for us and poured us a glass -...we knew that our cruise had begun and it was sublime. We unpacked and did a quick tour of the ship where we found things in good shape, went to muster drill, and then to deck 11 to take pictures as we sailed past the Statue of Liberty and out of NY harbor. A wonderful start to our long awaited cruise. We went to the Martini Tasting in the Looking Glass Lounge - excellent with larger portions than on previous ships. In fact, we split one tasting and I had to ask to have my final of 3 drinks held until the next night - no problem! We enjoyed having fun there with the bride and her wedding party from the wedding that had occurred on the ship prior to sailing from Bayonne). Dinner in Discoveries - there was ½ hour wait at 8 pm. We asked to share a table and had dinner with a lovely couple from the UK (both of the wives were nurses so we had lots to talk about). Our table was in a very noisy location in the center of restaurant - a location that we didn't repeat. Food was good and the service adequate. We ordered a continental breakfast for 8-8:30 AM. and went to bed early. We slept very well on a comfy mattress with lots of pillows. Restaurant descriptions .....All restaurants are quite attractive. Aqualina is, as you might imagine light with sea colors and Prime C has lots of dark wood. Seating is good - lots of windows and not crowded. Discoveries - the main restaurant/dining room - is attractive with tables quite close together. Suggest you ask for a table of size you wish in the back section (right side is a bit quieter) and chose an early or late time. Most crowded during the 7:15-8:15 hour with waits of 30-45 minutes which makes the Martini Bar crowded and noisy. We found having Martinis in the 10th deck Looking Glass Lounge each evening was quiet with lovely views and a wonderful bartender (Marco from north of Dubrovnik) with beautiful eyes - yes, I did like looking at him ? We really enjoyed the Cova Cafe which got crowded pre-dinner and during evening entertainment. We always found seats but some days it was harder than others. Surprise! Justin Roland, our Captain's Club Host on Mercury last summer was the combination CC Host/Future Sales Mgr. He called and we stopped to see him before dinner - friendly, helpful as always AND he invited us to the Captain's Table for dinner. Thanks, Justin...more about that later. Sunday Our room service breakfast (OJ, French Toast, fruit and hot water to make our own 'good' coffee using portable French Press) arrived after phone call at 8:20 AM as requested. Ordering at least coffee and juice is a wonderful way to get a wake-up call and have coffee first thing in the AM - a must for us. We slept well after figuring out how to reset AC since it was very cold in the room. Awoke at 7 so relaxed, read and enjoyed the balcony until food arrived then had it placed on the table on the balcony. Food was not 'set-up' and attendant refused a tip! Weather was warm and breezy with some clouds. After breakfast, Art headed to the Looking Glass Lounge to read and I checked with Justin to see if Connections party invites had been sent - he didn't know but said he would check. Met Art and saw the few children onboard with a counselor playing trivia, cards and games and generally having a good time. We went to return a book to the library and discovered the Connections party in progress - we had not received an invite (due to cabin change apparently) but got in on enough to hear comments from CD John Howell and ask a few questions. John asked for feedback, answered questions and, in general, seemed sincere. I volunteered to collect comments and send to him. Had lunch from sandwich bar in Buffet area (called Windows) with some cold salad selections and again sat outside on deck 9 aft. Then went to ask Justin about Captain's Club activities. Again found that the list never made its way to our new cabin and we had missed the Senior Officers' Party for Select and Elite members. I was bummed and not happy with the nonchalant response I got...but got over it and obtained a list of other activities. Went to Art Auction (Champagne and enjoyed the bidding - one of our Roll Call members did quite well). Then on to Battle of the Sexes Trivia - which is one of the few games we really enjoy - ladies lost but anything can happen in the battle of the sexes - 2 more times to go! Had little sandwiches and listened to the Harpist at Cova Cafe - she plays beautifully and has a very nice voice. Not crowded and pleasant place to relax. Sat on our balcony until time to shower and dress for our evening with the Captain! I was glad I had brought one dressier outfit (not formal but a bit more than country club casual) which was perfect for the evening. We met Justin and the 3 other invited couples at 7:30 in the Martini Lounge. Introduced ourselves and chatted over drinks until the Captain joined us then were led through Discoveries by Justin who had let us know the appropriate protocol. We had our picture taken at the table with the Captain. Dinner was very nice - a congenial group, active conversation and an engaging Captain! Much fun. After dinner we went to the Cabaret for Showtime with Antonio Salci - an amazing pianist and entertainer - and the wonderful Journey orchestra. A truly terrific show. Stopped by the Casino for the raffle of $500 and other gifts (we didn't win but it was fun to see the winners' reactions). We went to bed early to get up to watch the ship go through St. George's cut - a must do activity. Ordered coffee for 6:30 AM so that we could be dressed and on deck for the 7:45 event! Monday Awakened at 6:30 AM by call saying our coffee and OJ were on the way... dressed and on deck by 7:15 to see the approach to St. George's - got some good pictures of the pilot boat transferring the pilot to Journey on a cloudy morning. Going thru the cut was exciting but those who had done it before were disappointed that the town crier in uniform and canon shot were non-existent. After breakfast we walked from ship to King's Square where we began our self-directed walk through St. George (from Frommer's Bermuda 2007 book). Made a few wrong turns due to poor signage but managed to find all of the buildings on the list. We especially enjoyed the Unfinished Church at the top of a hill...great pictures and interesting plaques explaining why the church was not completed. After 2 hours returned to the ship for rest and lunch - sun had come out and it was quite warm so our spot on the aft deck was a welcome site. We had excellent shrimp scampi salad and a sandwich. Note: Art had been searched thoroughly at Bermuda security where a photo ID as well as ship's pass was required. This often happens to him...hmmm; wonder if he's on some kind of list ? After lunch we went back into town to mail some post cards we had bought that morning - post office is a few minutes walk towards the square - large white building on left side (postcard stamps are 70 cents apiece!). Then we hopped on a #11 bus towards Hamilton - up the steps next to Cafe Latte - and used it as a tour bus to see some of the residential sections of the island. Enjoyed the views and the narrow, curving roads. It was fun to see how many locals greeted each other and asked about family members as they got on and off the bus, passed golf courses, hotels, large beautiful homes, etc. We got off at the ferry landing in Hamilton and took the ferry marked Dockyards/St. Georges. Sat on top deck (both covered and uncovered seats available and I had it to myself with one other passenger - Art stayed below). It was a fantastic ride - beautiful scenery, breeze blowing, great picture taking spot. When we stopped at the Dockyards, I ran downstairs to bring Art to the top deck and we enjoyed the longer ride back to St. George's Island. Bought a couple of requisite Tee Shirts on the way back to the ship - no long security stop this time. Art napped while I showered to get ready for dinner at Aqualina. Still no canapEs delivered to the room. Enjoyed the Harpist in Cova Cafe again and our nightly martini in Looking Glass with Marco (who has figured out that Art wants the same Bombay Sapphire each night and I like to try whatever new one he suggests). So far I've enjoyed his Cosmo, Paradise, and Green Apple martinis with more to come. Aqualina - very good food and service and we loved that it was complimentary (one night for all; 2 nights for suites). I wasn't thrilled with the Paella that I ordered since it was not rice-based but rather small kernels of corn (not bad, but not what I expected). And the crème brulee was beautifully presented (as was all of the food) but not the best. Art enjoyed all of his meal! There is a tasting menu that includes wine with each course that adds $50 to bill. We passed and ordered wine by the glass which was an excellent Sangiovese. Only problem with advanced reservations is that you choose the day and time before knowing the activities onboard that might conflict with your chosen time. After dinner we went to the Cabaret for the Hollywood Stars (singing). They were quite good but too much sea air, food and wine sent us to bed before the show was over ? We made great plans to visit several beaches starting early the next morning. Tuesday Awoke early and thought I heard 'rain'...convinced myself that it was a dream and went back to sleep. Work for good at 8:15 AM and the dream was still playing. It was a dreary, rainy, windy day with, at times, torrential rain. We have a rule to never let the weather hold us back and to not 'sweat' the things we can't control. So....off to breakfast and the Captain's announcement that there would be rain/clouds/showers all day! After breakfast in the dining room, we put on the raingear that we had tossed into our duffels at the last minute and grabbed the umbrella that we had taken from our car and the one in our cabin closet and off we went! We walked down Front Street trying to stay on the covered sidewalks as much as possible, wandering in and out of shops and, amazingly, buying nothing! Wandering on some side streets, we asked a local if there was an Internet Cafe nearby - thankfully, there is one just a block or two from the ship (if you're interested in finding it, cross the street in front of the ship, turn left and make a right on a street whose name begins with a B (sorry but I didn't write it down ? ). It's on the left hand side of the street up a hill. Nice place with helpful employees and complimentary coffee, tea and hot chocolate which we relished in our cold and soggy state. We bought a ½ hour Internet card for $4. Fast connections with an easy to access timer. We left the card with the minutes we didn't use in our cabin hoping one of the crew uses it. We sent a group message to friends and family and posted an early report on CC then went back to the ship soaking wet to mid-thigh! It took 2 days for our jeans to dry! We changed and went to Windows for lunch. We ate with 2 nice couples (one from NJ and one from Pearl River, NY). So far, the tally we've been keeping re: Journey is clearly in favor of larger ships - most people we've talked with had been on Zenith several times and would not have chosen a ship the size of Journey if given a choice. We, on the other hand, although booked on Zenith, love the size of Journey and took the opportunity today to book a Best of Italy cruise on Quest for fall 2008! For us, trips like those in the Med. are so port intensive that having no formal nights and open dining times works much better. And the itinerary is excellent - all Italian with one stop in Split, Croatia and starting and ending in the Rome port. We hope to plan a pre-cruise trip to Tuscany so we were happy campers. After lunch we went to Michael's to enjoy the comfy atmosphere while I wrote in my journal and DH read his book with a nap thrown in! Today we received a survey form from the Hotel Director, David Kelly and we noted the still broken messaging system, public bathroom near main dining room that needed attention, lack of canapEs and almost invisible butler. We made the point that if Azamara wishes to compete with Oceania, these details needed to be addressed quickly. Went for our nightly delicious Martinis by Marco in Looking Glass followed by dinner in Discoveries was good (food and service) but quite noisy. We asked for a table towards the back but we needed to be further back to avoid the noise in the front of the restaurant. Certainly didn't keep us from eating and enjoying dinner. We did not go to hear the piano player, Dan Hodge, as we had heard him lots of times in Cova Cafe. The NewlyWed-Not-So-NewlyWed Game was funny as always with the usual risquE comments by those married the longest. But a fun way to spend a ½ hour. Just relaxed the rest of the evening, chatting with new friends and wishing the Casino was open. The required closing while in port, when you're in port for the bulk of the cruise, left a lot of people with time on their hands in the evening. Wednesday I realized this morning that Alexandra Battery Beach Park was near St. George and not near Hamilton as I had written down. So, after breakfast, we headed to the Ferry Dock to take the ferry back to St. George. We asked for directions from a shop owner in King's Square and she told us she had never heard of the beach. I had gotten the information from a Cruise Critic who had collected beach glass there with his wife (see www.lavasurfer.com/info/bermuda.html for long, interesting and helpful information.) We spent a few minutes looking over two maps and were able to show the local lady where the beach was (she called it Battery Park and told us how to get there). Off we went on a mile long, hilly walk through a lovely residential area to find Cut Road. I was excited to stand near the cut since I had taken pictures of that very spot as we sailed through the cut. I climbed up into the Fort, took a bunch of pictures and we continued on our way down the road. We came upon a rather large fort-like Battery building with a small beach park a bit further down the road. Two women who I had told about the beach the night before had arrived before us (by bus) and told us that since low tide wasn't until the afternoon, there wasn't a whole lot of glass on the beach. There was also a bunch of large jelly fish washed up on the beach so we trod carefully. We collected enough off of the seawall to make me happy and walked to the nearest bus stop to take #11 back to Hamilton. On the way back, I surprised Art with a stop at the Swizzle Inn - highly recommended by lots of guidebooks and posters on Bermuda threads. We had the Rum Swizzles that everyone recommended with a Triple Dip snack plate. We were not impressed. The Swizzles were good but small and the snack just OK....it was quite noisy. We sat on the upper deck and lots of traffic including buses passed frequently. But we have pictures of us drinking there and the bus stop was directly across the street. I wanted to stop at Crystal Caves but we had spent a lot of time getting the glass and I was ready to go back to the ship for lunch. After lunch we took a ferry to the Dockyards. Really enough to do there for several hours, but we just walked around the Crafts Center and watched a few craftswomen showing their crafts. We didn't find anything of interest so we walked over to the Snorkel beach which looked shallow and safe for children. It was cool and windy - we waded into the water, brrrr! It was too late to go into the museum since the last entry was at 4 PM and we thought the $8 admission fee too high for the short time that we would have. So we took the # 7 bus back to Hamilton. It drove along South Road past all of the beaches and some nice hotels and beautiful views crossed the shortest draw bridge and we saw more residential areas. We decided to try to make our last day (we were sailing at 3 PM) a beach day! The bus stopped a short distance from the entrance to the security area to return to the ship. I must include that the Bermudian security people here were the nicest, funniest and most pleasant people I've ever seen in that kind of position. By the time we had left and returned to the ship several times, they were almost our friends - bantering with us and telling funny stories. We went back to the Looking Glass (of course) but I wasn't feeling well (the snack at Swizzle Inn??) so this time I had a Ginger Ale. About an hour later, we headed for our reservation at Prime C. It is a lovely place with very good food (my favorite, though, was Aqualina). Dominic was making his rounds again, stopped to talk to us and was his usual charming self. After dinner, we stopped at the Cova Cafe to listen to the music. Captain Bouzakis walked by and stopped to talk with us. He told us that he would be bringing the Quest online in September. We told him we hoped he was still there when we sailed the following September. I'd guess he will be used to do start ups of other new ships (just my intuition - nothing he said. We then meandered to the Cabaret to see the Comedian/Magician who we really enjoyed. We had seen him (or someone with a similar act) on a previous cruise. He had some very funny interactions with members of the audience. The White Night festivities were later that night but we chose not to participate - masquerade type parties are not our thing. There was a street festival on Front Street and we listened to marching bands and laughter for awhile and then went to bed in hopes of an early start the next day. We had heard that if we got to Horseshoe Bay by 9 AM, the beach would be relatively empty for several hours..... Thursday Last day in Bermuda, so we followed our plan and got up at 6:30, had breakfast at the buffet and hopped a #11 bus to the bus station changing to the #7 bus to Horseshoe Bay. On the way we realized that we had just used expired bus passes. We hadn't used the pass in yesterday's rainy weather and hadn't realized that the 3 days were consecutive. At least we weren't found out and didn't have to spend time in a Bermuda jail?. Only a 10-15 min ride took us to the path down to the beach. There were very few people there as we'd been told. We rented beach chairs ($10 per chair with a $5 returnable deposit) and set them up in the beautiful cove on the right side of the beach that reminded us of Virgin Gordo. I then walked the length of the horseshoe shaped beach - white sand with some red flecks giving the sand a slightly pink tinge. The day was perfect, sunny with puffy white clouds, warm air temperatures but cold water temperature. We spent several hours enjoying the beach, watching the kids play in the shallow water, chatting with others arriving from the Journey and relaxing in the sun on our final day in Bermuda. We waded in the water in the cove - not as cold as in the open ocean - so that we could say that we had been in the water at least once. We packed up to head back to the ship. We had planned to climb back up the hill to get the bus but met a couple going back to Journey and shared a taxi back ($17). We said our final good-byes to our port security friends, dropped our things in the cabin and went to lunch and then started packing. Packing is a chore that I don't like especially when it signals the end of a wonderful vacation. But getting most of it done left me with time to enjoy the last afternoon on board, be on deck for sail away with Kelly and Lauren, and to take final pictures of Hamilton from the top deck. I got back to the cabin in time to watch the pilot boat retrieve the pilot from Journey and to enjoy a glass of wine on our balcony. We went to the Captain's Club party at 6:30 in the Cabaret. We asked for Martinis when the waitress came around to offer wine/champagne/Mai Tais. She was happy to oblige and so we enjoyed our last Martinis of the trip. A couple we met at the Captain's table got the award for the most Celebrity cruises (21) - we were frequently reminded that X and Azamara were part of the same brand. I wonder if this will change as cruisers rack up numbers of Azamara cruises. We had dinner in Discoveries served by our favorite waiter in a quiet area in the back of the dining room. Lobster tails were on the menu tonight - mine was good; Art's was excellent. I found that my appetite was decreasing from too much overindulgence on previous days. We had planned to go to the evening show, but, once again, we were tired from the beach outing and crashed early. Wondered if we're getting old or just relaxed - decided it must be relaxation?. Friday and Saturday Whew...the bitter sweet end of every vacation is upon us...looking forward to picking up our little schnauzer and seeing the family, but sad to leave our relaxing and beautiful Sky Suite and ending our vacation. We decided to be 'served' all day today and asked for and got our favorite waiter and good table locations each time. We had ordered OJ and coffee early so we really had 2 breakfast...but even oatmeal tastes good when it's served with a smile. After breakfast we went to the pool deck, DH in the shade and me in the sun. We read and relaxed until 11 AM when we went to the Martini Bar for the complementary Chardonnay blending seminar for Captain's Club members. The tables were nicely set up with multiple glasses, napkins, etc. Justin, 3 Sommeliers and a Maitre D' and the two of us. After about 10 minutes, when no one else had joined us, Justin gave us the choice of a 'one on one' seminar or a bottle of wine with dinner. We chose the wine and thanked the group. As we were leaving, Justin pointed out that one of the Sommeliers was from Australia. He knew that we are sailing on Mercury in Feb from Sydney and looking forward to a winery tour while there. We asked the Aussie if he could recommend a wine tour and chatted with him for a few minutes. After a light lunch, we went to the Chef's Culinary class which was terrific. The Exec Chef and Dominic had an entertaining repartee going between them; they were very funny. Audience members asked questions and the Chef introduced members of his staff such as the Pastry Chef and Senior Asst Chefs. He demonstrated how to sear and prepare a Filet Mignon, Polenta, veggies and sauce. Then everyone got to sample the food. We really enjoyed this and stayed afterwards to tell them so. Then the final Battle of the Sexes; a large crowd showed us this time with raucous participation from the younger members who had just completed a funfilled karaoke session. Misty was in charge again and kept the momentum going...ended with a tie and a Bonus round with the question being answered correctly by a retired school teacher - a WOMAN! Guess we showed them - by gender and age!! It was a lot of fun and I have a certificate to prove that I get the last word for a year! I spent most of the rest of the afternoon finishing up our packing and leaving out our travel clothes for the AM. We then finished the last of the two bottles of wine we had brought onboard with us and dressed for our last pre-dinner drinks in the Looking Glass. We were supposed to meet fellow cruisers there and have dinner with them, but, unfortunately we didn't have their last names or cabin number, so when they didn't show, we couldn't reach them to see if we had the wrong time. So...we laughed it off, finished our martinis, said good-bye to Mario and Maria (the other bartender/waitress in the Looking Glass) and went to dinner. We stopped for music at Cova and then found that we had a long wait for dinner...which wasn't bad since I wasn't at all hungry. We bumped into the honeymoon couple with whom we had breakfast one morning and offered them one of our 2 bottles of champagne (one in the room when we arrived and the other sent by the CD) since they were driving and we couldn't carry bottles onboard and had no room in our luggage. It was fun to give them a bottle with a Celebrity Label as a momento of their honeymoon cruise. Didn't eat much for dinner...after ordering the Grilled Salmon that is on the menu every night. It was cooked exactly as I liked it, too. After dinner, we wandered around the ship visiting some of our favorite spots and then went back to the cabin and put our luggage tags on and the bags in the hall. Saturday AM Somehow I awoke spontaneously at 5:30 AM -I went out on the balcony just as we passed under the Veranzano Bridge. The sky was pale pink and there was a light mist over the city...breathtaking! I grabbed my camera and woke Art to see the amazing scene. I stayed on the balcony until we were almost at the dock taking some lovely sunrise pictures and enjoying see the Statue of Liberty welcoming us back against a blurred skyline! We dressed and went to breakfast in Discoveries...taking the last bottle of champagne with us to give to someone who was driving home. The majority of our fellow cruisers seemed to be from NJ, PA and NY so a lot of folks drove or had cars drop them at the port. We sat with 2 couples from NJ and they were happy to take our little gift home. Had our final meal with our trusty waiter, retrieved our carry-ons and went to hang out in the Cova Cafe until our 'color' was called. We met our honeymoon couple who thanked us for leaving the champagne outside their cabin door. Disembarkation was a snap...short wait, picked up luggage, short bus ride, quick customs' check and a walk dragging our luggage to the taxi area. We were given a town car for the same price as a taxi and in 15 minutes we were heading to the check-in point for our flight. We had several hours until our flight so were in no hurry...and, of course, getting through security took no time at all ?. Our flight was delayed by 45 minutes but was uneventful. Our shared sandwich of airport food was not what we had come to expect! We spent the waiting time talking about our favorite times on the trip and looking forward to our next cruise in Feb. 2008. In summary,it was a very good cruise for us; not perfect or the deluxe trip we had anticipated, but fine. We look forward to sailing Azamara in the future when all of the kinks are ironed out. The ship was beautiful; we enjoyed Bermuda and we met many very nice people. The people we meet (crew and passengers) always influence our travels more than anything else and they were wonderful! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
I have always wanted to visit Bermuda and there is no doubt cruising is the most economical and (IMHO) the best way. We originally booked the Celebrity Zenith in a Category 11 Concierge room. A few months later I was informed of the switch ... Read More
I have always wanted to visit Bermuda and there is no doubt cruising is the most economical and (IMHO) the best way. We originally booked the Celebrity Zenith in a Category 11 Concierge room. A few months later I was informed of the switch to the Celebrity Journey and subsequently the Azamara Journey. I was very happy about this because now I was in a Sky Suite, about 60 sp feet bigger and a nice balcony which the Zenith did not have. Being touted as a step up from Celebrity and on par with the likes of Oceania I was really looking forward to this trip. I traveled with my wife along with my 21 yr old son and his roommate from college (they were in an inside cabin) After reading messages from cruisers on the first 3 sailings I was more amused then concerned since I have NEVER had a bad cruise so here goes: EMBARKATION: In a word EASY. If you are in a suite you bypass the longer line and the photographers! It took us less than five minutes to get on the ship after arrival in the terminal. I also noticed (noon) that the other line was not too long. This is one advantage of a small ship! We also had an extremely smooth ride to Bermuda - smoothest ever out of NYC. CABIN: I was in 8039, one of the new Sky Suites. For me it had plenty of space - the room itself, the closets and the bathroom. I am a big guy and loved the size of the bathroom. The were broken fixtures on the sink that I was told "we know". The bathtub is unnecessary and a little to high to climb in and if you are 6' tall your head will scrape the ceiling. The worst design flaw here is that there is no door or curtain - the floor gets VERY VERY WET ! I showed a couple of senior staff members and all they could do is shake their heads ! They claimed they had no idea. The "BUTLER" was nothing more than the cabin steward in a tux. We did receive fresh fruit a few days and some awful canapes every day but nothing special. SHIP: I love this ship: this is the old R6 from Renaissance and last year I was on the Tahitian Princess which was the R4 so I already knew I would like it. I have to say though that I can't figure out where the $19 million went to refurbish it, a lot was the same as the Princess ship down to the same carpet, fixtures, some paintings and the awfully in need of a refurb pool. Very odd that the front of the ship was much colder than the rear - especially the Cabaret deck 5 forward - many complained it was too cold - I loved it. SERVICE: Mostly excellent. Room service was spotty but is 24 hours, the dining room was mediocre as due to open seating there is no connecting with the same people and the waiters for the most part just go through the motions. There were a couple of exceptions to this. My cabin staff was also quite good. FOOD: Mostly very good. Aqualina and Prime C were excellent, the dining room was very good to excellent (no better than any other cruise I have taken) for lunch and dinner but I found breakfast, both at the buffet and in the dining room to be VERY disappointing. The sushi bar on deck 9 was very good and, on a day that I found odd, on Lobster tail night the buffet had the best Beef Wellington I have EVER had - and no one knew !!! Yes - I did both that night. CASINO: Small but very professional and the best manager I have ever dealt with. No blackjack or slot tourneys and the Texas Hold 'Em machine is a total rip-off. SHOWS: The production shows were only singers and geared toward the over 65 crowd - not my thing. I was disappointed that there were no production shows; I know its a small "stage" but Princess did it really well. The instrumentalist and comic magician were TOP NOTCH. The magician ( Carl Andrews) best I have ever seen on a cruise ! SHORE EXCURSIONS: I did not do any but my son had one cancelled that he ended up doing on his own with the same person! He was told the person cancelled so he called on his own and the person did not even know it was cancelled and was really angry at the cruise line. I do not want to get more into detail but suffice it to say that the shore excursion desk was not truthful. There did seem to be a lot of excursions offered. ART AUCTION: Yes I now the good and the bad but this is a guilty pleasure for my wife and I. I have never seen so little money spent on the auctions this trip. Azamara and Park West thought everyone on board was a millionaire. Ridiculous choices - there should have been much more under $500-1000 I do not want to ramble any further but I was surprised there were no port talks and discussion of how to get around Bermuda. Quite a few old folks in wheelchairs I saw going to Horseshoe Bay Beach(GREAT PLACE) but did not know of the really steep hill to get to it! No midnight buffets or decent food late either. The are some crappy sandwiches by the coffee bar though. Drinks were great but terribly overpriced. I am only trying to be honest. The cruise was excellent and we all had a great time. I think that Azamara will be a deluxe line one day, that day is not today. They need to deliver quickly what they have promised or their credibility will disintegrate quickly. For what they are charging now I would not sail with them again, for what I paid though, I definitely would. 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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