Sail Date: May 2019
We chose this cruise due to ports we were visiting for the first time. It was our first Azamara cruise on a smaller ship. We have cruised with Princess and royal Caribbean on our previous 9 cruises without too many complaints. We Just ... Read More
We chose this cruise due to ports we were visiting for the first time. It was our first Azamara cruise on a smaller ship. We have cruised with Princess and royal Caribbean on our previous 9 cruises without too many complaints. We Just loved the ship size, we agreed that it was such a relaxed feeling for both passengers and crew. The service was great, a big thanks to all the crew for enhancing our vacation experience... thanks to Pitoon in the casino bar for your professional service, cheers mate! As has been described many times the azamazing evening and white night were fantastic events. We will definitely cruise Azamara again in the future thanks to all crew from chefs to cleaners for service with a smile. Surprisingly we found the food to be an equivalent quality to previous cruises, but not as many choices. All in all really good food. We really enjoy eating in the dining room, but was disappointed when themed buffet style food was offered in both the dining room and the buffet at the same time. Why remove the dining room choice? If I wanted buffet food I would go to the buffet? Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
We were cruising across the Atlantic between Bermuda and Portugal when we decided to get married. We had thought about it before but didn't make plans to get married at sea. When we talked of our project to Tiago, the concierge, he ... Read More
We were cruising across the Atlantic between Bermuda and Portugal when we decided to get married. We had thought about it before but didn't make plans to get married at sea. When we talked of our project to Tiago, the concierge, he told us that people generally don't get married on cruise ships; they just renew their vows. Furthurmore, people generally make their request and the arrangements before the beginning of the cruise not during. But Tiago said that he would make his best to accomodate us. Not only was Azamara able to arrange everything for our wedding with only a few days notice but it was done in the most amazing way that went beyond our expectations. The ceremony was performed by the captain in a private room, we had flowers that Tiago ordered from a flower shop in the Azores, a pianist, a wonderful cake, champagne and a dinner in one of the specialized restaurants. Our guest, about ten friends that we had made during the cruise, were well looked after. While all of that was done in a very professional way, it was also done very seriously and with great respect in a warm and friendly atmosphere. It couldn't have been any better. We'd also like to thank Eric, the director, who directed the ceremony and made everybody feel, even the groom, relaxed and comfortable, and, of course, Captain Sanguineti who performed the wedding in a way that we'll never forget. Thank you Azamara! Maria Nguyen and Pierre Bujold, Ottawa, Canada Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
We wanted to sail again on a small ship. Since this cruise was NY to NY it made sense. This was the best cruise we have been on. Every thing was excellent. The ship, the food, the shows and the service. The Captain was very visible and ... Read More
We wanted to sail again on a small ship. Since this cruise was NY to NY it made sense. This was the best cruise we have been on. Every thing was excellent. The ship, the food, the shows and the service. The Captain was very visible and personable. The Cruise Director Eric was a hoot and very talented. Food in the main dining room and the best with at least a dozen selections every night. Food in the Steak House and Italian rest. was excellent with terrific service. They could not do more for you. the shows were great, Singers and dancers were great. Eric CD had a great voice. The Amazing Night aboard the Yorktown was the tops and something we never experienced before. The White Night in Bermuda was also a one of a kind. Everyone of the Staff and crew were extremely friendly and always said hello and how are you. Even the passengers were great. Having a Bridge Director pushed it over the top. 53% of the passengers were past Azamara guests. We became one as we booked another Amazing Cruise on board. It would be great to see more Azamara cruise out of NY. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
Azamara Journey has become our cruise line and ship of choice since our first 7 day trip down the Croatian coast. We made so many friends on that cruise and again on our Norwegian cruise a couple of years later We have just finished ... Read More
Azamara Journey has become our cruise line and ship of choice since our first 7 day trip down the Croatian coast. We made so many friends on that cruise and again on our Norwegian cruise a couple of years later We have just finished our 16 night Miami to New York that went through Havana, Aruba, Curaco , Bonaire, St Martin and Bermuda and this cruise continued to meet and better our expectations The staff are what makes this ship from the wonderful Captain Johhanes ... always available for a chat and prepared to change things up if it makes the customers experience better...all the way down to the staff who clean the toilets The size is also most important and we love the ease on getting on and off this ship Destinations continue to impress and I believe Norway will take some beating for scenery Special mention to Alec and Mario in the dining room who work tirelessly to accomodate guests needs. To our very good friend Roy in the bar... or this trip the coffee station... who is always smiling and going out of his way to make our cruise better, Melchor, Jolly in security who always welcomes us back on board, Aaron and Agust who made up our cabin every day, JR and Elij in the bars, and our dining room waiter most nights, yevgeniy... they and many others continued to provide amazing customer service The entertainment this cruise was the best we have had so hats off to the cruise director Eric This is not the most stylish ship nor the best cabins around but... it is like home and the vibe is relaxed Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
You can see photos from this cruise and our other sailings by following the link on our Cruise Critic profile page: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/profile/35108-jgnova/ I had a “zero birthday” coming up and wanted to do ... Read More
You can see photos from this cruise and our other sailings by following the link on our Cruise Critic profile page: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/profile/35108-jgnova/ I had a “zero birthday” coming up and wanted to do something special to celebrate – which provided a great excuse for another cruise. But it had to be something special – new ports and/or a new ship or, even better, a whole new (to us) cruise line. We also had the additional requirement that, because of health issues, the embarkation and disembarkation ports had to be within five hours travel time from our Northern Virginia home. I put together a list of options, which were mostly sailings from Miami or Fort Lauderdale that included the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao). One option stood out because it also included two days in Havana, Cuba, and was on Azamara Club Cruises Journey. This was a 16-night repositioning sailing from Miami to Manhattan, with stops in Havana, Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Barts, Sint Maarten, and Hamilton, Bermuda. With four new (to us) ports on a new (to us) ship and cruise line, this became the obvious choice. And we are very happy we made that choice. Ship: The ship is lovely and very well maintained, despite its age – they were even refinishing the corridor handrails near our cabin. Like other ships under the RCCL umbrella, Journey was filled with artwork – paintings, prints, and sculptures (many by Salvador Dali) all over. The ship felt very bright all over – even the staircases and elevator lobbies, despite not having windows, felt very bright and open. The only times the ship felt crowded were when everyone tried to be in one venue at the same time – like White Night by the pool or the last two nights’ shows in the cabaret – and the staff brought in chairs for those events so everyone could sit. Cabin: The cabin had plenty of room for all of our stuff – drawers in the desk and in the closet, lots of hangers. There was plenty of light in the cabin, including extra lights by the desk, the bed, and a working balcony light. The cabin thermostat even seemed to work properly! We discovered that the coffee table by the sofa had a lever that raised it from coffee table height to a height that worked for eating our room service breakfast when we couldn’t eat on the balcony. Food: The food selections and quality were outstanding. With the exception of the AzAmazing Evening, when we ate in Windows (buffet restaurant) because of time constraints, we ate all our dinners in Discoveries (main dining room). We usually arrived around 7 PM and never had to wait for a table, which we usually shared with others, allowing us to meet many new people. Besides the menu selections, each night’s choices also included a chef’s selection and something more international, typically linked to the international themed dinner in Windows that evening. We could choose wines (at no extra charge) from each night’s selection of two whites, two reds, and a rosé – and they would pour wines offered on previous nights as well. We ate most breakfasts on the balcony, which was a treat – the server would even spread the tablecloth for us! The food was hot and usually delivered on time. We could even add things to the menu if we wanted (like a smoked-salmon omelet!). I had a few breakfasts in Windows on mornings when we had an early excursion and the selection was excellent. As opposed to other cruises on which we’ve sailed, instead of placing the omelet order and waiting while it was cooked, I just took a table card with a number and the omelet was delivered when it was done. The servers also provided all of the beverages, including fresh-squeezed orange juice. The ship had a few options for lunch. On days when our excursion returned in early afternoon, we went to the Living Room, where they had small sandwiches and desserts available. (That venue also had tapas in the early evening.) Other days, I would grab a burger (delicious) from the Patio or a salad from Windows and eat by the pool. Service: Service on the ship was excellent. The staff and crew would always greet us – our cabin attendants would open our door for us if they were nearby when we were returning. The pool staff were constantly walking around to clear up towels from vacated chairs and to take drink orders and clear up empty glasses. Entertainment: The entertainment was excellent. The ship’s cruise director and assistant cruise director each did a couple of shows and they were great performers. The ship also had an onboard troupe of six performers (four dancers and two singers/dancers) who did three different shows during our sailing. We were also entertained by a violinist, a magician/comic, and a pianist/singer, who joined the ship at different ports during the sailing. The violinist was a special treat for this voyage because of his work with Cuban musicians and students – and because he was joined for one piece by his young son, an incipient star. This was in addition to the pianist in the lounge and the ship orchestra and instrumental trio playing at different times throughout the ship. Our only complaint was about the volume – the cabaret shows would have been much nicer several dB lower. Ports: With the exception of Sint Maarten, we used the ship excursions in all of the ports. Cuba: The tour guides both days were very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. The bus was quite comfortable as well. Cuba is a very interesting place to visit for many obvious reasons. There are very few private cars and most people use buses or shared vans for transportation. The six-lane highway leading to Havana was almost empty and there was little traffic in Havana itself, something unimaginable in most other national capitals. Most of the urban-area buildings are in various stages of disrepair, which is a shame because they looked as if they had been beautiful before the revolution. Houses in the outlying areas looked better-maintained. We did the Jewish Heritage tour our first day in Havana and visited a Jewish Cemetery, two synagogues, and a Jewish-owned boutique hotel. We got to meet with a community leader at one of the synagogues and he answered our questions about the Jewish community’s history and current life. Our second day in Havana, we went to Ernest Hemingway’s house in San Francisco de Paula (about 9 miles from Havana), and were able to see how he lived and the tower next to the house in which he did his writing. We then went to one of his favorite bars in Cojimar, where we saw “his table” and enjoyed a daiquiri made the way he drank them. We then went into Havana to another of his favorite bars (how many did he have?) and braved the crowds to have a mojito. We then had time to walk around the cathedral and other historical sections before returning to the ship. Aruba: As we had never been to Aruba before, we took a ship excursion tour of the island. This tour included a visit to an aloe processing plant, a lighthouse, a natural bridge, and the fascinating Casibari Rock Formations, which I’d like to visit again to see the petroglyphs. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and the bus was fairly new and very comfortable. Curaçao: Again, this was our first visit so we took the ship excursion for an island tour. We got to see a coastal national park to see the cliffs and rock formations along the coast and watch the strong surf. We also visited a lovely beach, the old salt flats in an unrealized hope to see the flamingos, and a former estate house most recently occupied by a famous local artist. As was the case in Aruba, the tour guide was quite knowledgeable and bus very comfortable. After a quick lunch in the Living Room, I hiked from the port into town to see the old synagogue, which we couldn’t tour because it was closed on Sunday. This also gave me an opportunity to walk across the Queen Emma Bridge, a pontoon bridge that floats on the water and swings off to the side to let ships through. I also was able to get a closer view of the Queen Wilhelmina Bridge, the tallest bridge in the world, and two other small lift bridges in Willemstad. Bonaire: Another new island and another ship excursion tour. The tour guide was knowledgeable, but the tour company used a smaller bus that was not as comfortable, especially for those stuck in the seats over the wheels. We got to see Bonaire’s lovely coastline, old salt flats with many flamingos raising their young, an old house showing how the early island residents lived, some slave huts right on the coast by the salt flats, and a modern salt processing operation. The tour guide was very good, but she had to keep telling the driver to slow down so we could take photographs. St. Barts: Although we had been to St. Barts five years earlier, we had seen only the port area in the capital so we took another island tour. This tour was in a mini-van and the tour guide was not very effective at discussing much about the island characteristics. We did get to see several beaches and the beautiful island geography. The company arranging the tours should have done a better job preparing a guide for the driver to use. Sint Maarten: We’ve been there several times and I decided to have a beach day. I had searched the web before the trip and found that two bars with beach chair/umbrella rental facilities had reopened at Orient Beach so I decided to go there for the day. There is a taxi rank right off the pier complex and the people there will assemble groups to various destinations. I was able to share a taxi with few other visitors (from another ship) and paid only $9 for the trip instead of the $25 the trip would have cost for just me. The taxi dropped us off mid-beach near the Bikini Beach bar, which looked nice. However, someone at the port had told me that Kon Tiki, a short walk down the beach, had better food. I paid $15 for an umbrella and comfortable chaise (including a cushion) for the day. There were attendants patrolling the beach to take food and drink orders, and the bar and restaurant looked great and had brand new facilities. So I had a lovely day on the beach watching people windsurfing and doing other watersports. Bermuda: We’ve been to Bermuda twice before, but we were docked at the Royal Dockyards at the far end of the island. We took ferry trips to Hamilton and to St. Georges, but had never seen the Bermuda countryside. This itinerary had us docked right in downtown Hamilton so we were able to walk around to see the shops and restaurants. We also took a ship excursion that drove along the south coast of the island to the Royal Dockyards, giving us a chance to see the lovely beaches for which Bermuda is famous and some historical areas. Embarkation/Disembarkation: Embarkation was fairly smooth with priority processing only for suite guests. While we had completed the forms for the Cuban visas, we forgot to bring copies with us, so we had to take time to write out second copies, which the port people insisted we needed even though we had copies at home. Disembarkation was slower than normal, probably because the immigration people had not planned on the high percentage of non-U.S. citizens, who took longer to process. Once through immigration, we located our luggage and found a porter quickly, who then took us out to the drop-off area. We were picking up a rental car and driving home, so I walked about 2 ½ blocks to the car rental office, picked up the car, drove back to the pier, picked up DW and our luggage, and headed through the Lincoln Tunnel. I think I spent more time in line at the car rental office than it took to get to the office and drive back and get to the tunnel. Overall experience: This itinerary was an excellent balance of port and sea days, with 8 ½ days in port and 6 ½ days at sea. The majority of the passengers were from the United Kingdom, which was a new experience for us, and we got to chat with a lot of people from places we had only read about. With fewer than 700 passengers on a smaller ship, we were more likely to bump into the same people repeatedly and get to know them. Even with open seating at dinner, we wound up having the same tablemates a few times and would greet each other by name when we were walking around the ship or sitting in the cabaret. Another pleasurable aspect of the cruise was that we didn’t feel hassled to spend money. Drinks and wine were included if we didn’t request premium brands, as were coffees. And there was no constant sales pressure to eat in the specialty restaurants, as we’ve experienced on other lines. The senior ship staff were always present and visible – the hotel director would frequently assist seating passengers in Discoveries and we saw the Captain walking around the tables at least once. The captain and hotel director were at the gangplank every morning when we left the ship for our excursions, wishing us a good visit. Captain Johannes and Cruise Director Eric had a constant repartee during the noon announcements, with the captain teasing the CD about his shirt every day and the CD finding something funny to say in response. They obviously have a great relationship and that enhanced the voyage. This was the best cruise we have ever taken, thanks to the ship staff and crew, ship size, passenger friendliness, food quality, and itinerary. We are looking forward to another. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
This was our first non mega ship cruise. We usually go on the new ships the smallest was the Disney Dream .Having sailed around Cuba so many times and seeing the lights in the distance. This was our chance to visit. To compare is not ... Read More
This was our first non mega ship cruise. We usually go on the new ships the smallest was the Disney Dream .Having sailed around Cuba so many times and seeing the lights in the distance. This was our chance to visit. To compare is not easy. I think it’s where you are in life and what your looking for. If you want a nice peaceful cruise with a crew who really is happy to take care of you.If you like tea in the afternoon and cocktails before dinner they have it. Cocktails and a vey good piano player with fellow cruisers is quite nice. They had a show one night and it was really good. They sang and danced their hearts out. The costumes were also notable. The Cabins... We had a balcony room and it was the usual. The bathroom was fine and we are not small people and the shower was not an issue. They are all small, on this ship they are very clean.. When they do you room the bathroom gets sanitized when they do your room AM and PM. I liked that and there were no issues.The rooms have quite bit of storage built ins and a closet. Food. We never ate sit down. We liked the Buffet and liked sitting in the back outside.They still have great service and white table cloths The food was good and lots of choices.Everything is nicely displayed.and they have servers to help you. Once again everything is about keeping things clean and you happy. I hate people who Double dip ect this was not happening. You could have as much as you wanted with your clean plate. ..Poolside eating.. They have a nice menu of the usual plus salad, nachos ect . You order they bring it to you.It’s very good and very nice to be taken care of. They also have Steak ect at night and the tables are all done up. Room Service. Added treat Everything is so good and great portions. They have both Gelato and ice cream machines and non sugared is a plus.The ship is quiet and attracts the older cruiser who appreciates good service, and good food. The crew loves them and the feeling is mutual Some people we spoke to had been on more than 5 cruises. It was nice to relax and just enjoy ourselves To be taken care of in the style that seems to be forgotten Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
After years of traveling at this time of year on Celebrity, HA, and Royal, we decided to try a different experience with Azamara. We are a couple in our early 50s, and traveled with my parents. Overall - we loved it! The smaller ship ... Read More
After years of traveling at this time of year on Celebrity, HA, and Royal, we decided to try a different experience with Azamara. We are a couple in our early 50s, and traveled with my parents. Overall - we loved it! The smaller ship resulted in excellent service. Staff remembered our names, what we like to order, our cabin number, etc. We met some lovely people, and played trivia with a fun team we met every day. It was nice to bump into friendly faces around the ship. It was great to have a small number of passengers - we never had to wait long for anything. Not many crowds or lines, Embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze. The ship was beautiful, very classic in the décor. The cabin was ample in storage and comfort. We had a standard balcony cabin. The shower was stupid! We'd read the reviews and knew what the expect, but it was hard to navigate the tight space and shower curtain. I made it work, my husband flooded the bathroom. :) We found the Azamara experience really excellent. We loved the food in Discoveries and in buffet. We ate one meal in Aqualina and one meal in Prime C. With a very few missteps, the food was wonderful. The specialty dining was well worth the extra fee. The crew did an amazing job. It was pretty wonderful to see the captain around, and the officers. I've never cruised where they were so visible and a part of the experience. The entertainment was very good. They gave it their all! There's not really room for a big production show. It is an intimate space. I wish there was a bit more leveling for better viewing in the cabaret lounge, but we always enjoyed the shows and entertainers. The Azamazing evening was fantastic! We really didn't know what to expect and the top notch Third World reggae experience was so impressive. We loved it. We didn't do any ship excursions. I did spend time in the fitness center, and took a few spinning classes. I also had a nice massage in the spa. We really loved the extras that Azamara provides. The White Night party was really fun. We chose to eat in Discoveries, verus the buffet, but then hit the deck for music and dancing. The chocolate buffet was also pretty unbelievable! We aren't usually huge eaters, so buffets aren't our thing, but this was so beautiful and such great variety. The brunch was a fun experience, too. Overall, we would definitely do Azamara again. We are still working, so finding the right itinerary and timing may take a while, but we will be back. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
As a first time cruiser I was not sure what to expect however with excellent accommodation, excellent food, attentive, competent and friendly staff, there was little that could or did go wrong. Dining...Didn't need to upgrade to ... Read More
As a first time cruiser I was not sure what to expect however with excellent accommodation, excellent food, attentive, competent and friendly staff, there was little that could or did go wrong. Dining...Didn't need to upgrade to any of the packages on offer and ate mostly in the Windows and Patio areas. a delight. Booze....Didn't need to upgrade to any kind of premium package, the wines on offer were excellent as was the rum punch and beer. The Spa...Young lady insisted that I needed a haircut and I did, received and excellent haircut and not overpriced. Entertainment...The house band were excellent, the singers could sing and the dancers could dance. They all came together on the White Night event and were terrific. The set shows however were more high camp and cheesy than anything else, , although 70 this year I was brought up on the Stones and Beatles and Genesis, Pink Floyd etc If anyone plays Sweet Caroline to me again I will probably hit them. We were treated to terrific reggae with Third World and some chap from a West End Show who knew his stuff. In saying all that no one goes on a cruise for the entertainment. Excursions...Didn't go on any of the ships as found them overpriced, It was easy to get a local taxi in most of the Islands to take us round for an hour and cheaper. Everyone worked hard to ensure a good time was had by all. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
My friend and I had both lost our husbands and wanted a relaxing holiday in the sun. I had previously cruised with Celebrity and when an offer came for Azamara Journey we booked immediately. From start to finish it was brilliant. We ... Read More
My friend and I had both lost our husbands and wanted a relaxing holiday in the sun. I had previously cruised with Celebrity and when an offer came for Azamara Journey we booked immediately. From start to finish it was brilliant. We loved the outside eating areas, the friendly service,the food ,the staff (especially our cabin staff of 7022 and bartenders Paul and Jestin) Embarkation was easy. The Captain and the Cruise Director had brilliant repartee. The ship is great. We loved it because it was small. Our cabin was excellent and breakfast on the balcony was a real treat . The food was superb and we felt no need to eat in the specialty restaurants. The all inclusive drinks package gave us all we wanted. We didn’t organise shore excursions by choice and just wandered around the ports where we were docked or tendered. We arranged a shore excursion on the last day to the Everglades before transportation to the airport and that worked well .It was lovely that the Captain wished us a safe journey at the end of the trip . We could find nothing to fault . The reggae concert was an experience as was the white night party . Value for money -what can I say? I don’t know how they made a profit . Would we go again ? Try stopping us!!! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
The first thing to say is that we had a great cruise and would recommend Azamara Journey. The staff members were all friendly helpful and efficient and it seems a very happy ship. It is worth noting that some staff members had been on ... Read More
The first thing to say is that we had a great cruise and would recommend Azamara Journey. The staff members were all friendly helpful and efficient and it seems a very happy ship. It is worth noting that some staff members had been on board for many years and seem loyal to the brand. The ship in general, with the exception of the Discoveries Restaurant at Dinner time, did not seem too crowded. Discoveries could be noisy but the food and service remained excellent. The food in general was a high standard in all restaurants but we found that the ambiance of the Specialty Restaurants along with the high quality of gourmet food and service gave us a refuge and a quiet place to dine. Both Prime C and Aqalina had their own menu which remained the same throughout the cruise but were supplemented by Chefs Specials each evening. Suite guests were invited to a special ‘Best of the Best’ dinner which was an exceptional evening The complementary wines were a reasonable standard, particularly the white wines and there was an adequate selection of included drinks at the bars. The internet is well below the standard expected of Azamara in that when and if you can connect it is slow and tends to drop out. The Suites are given 235 minutes but the package otherwise is expensive and difficult to justify. Our impression was that the decor was dull throughout most of the ship, the exception being the Drawing Room/Library which is very colourful & a very pleasant place to sit. The Forward lounge was another excellent space to relax and enjoy friendly waiter service. We booked private tours of Havana, Vinales, Cienfuegos and Trinidad but decided to use the ships shore excursion for Santiago de Cuba as the ship was due to sail at 15.00. Sadly the latter, a Panoramic tour in Santiago was very poor and a huge disappointment. This was one of the worst tours we have ever taken; firstly we could not hear the guide, Lucia above the traffic in town and she did not have a microphone to help her. Secondly we were not aware that the bus would not stop to see the Revolution Square etc - we drove slowly past the places of interest rather than being allowed time to see them close up. If this is the intention then it should be made clear in the tour description. Finally, we signed up for a tour without a lunch stop (who needs lunch when you are fed so well on board ship) but were in any case taken to a poor quality lunch despite protests from most of the group. We felt this was a waste of time that might otherwise have been enjoyed at the monuments. More importantly, it turned out to be a waste of food as most of the group did not eat much and lots of food was returned untouched. When there is a shortage of food in Cuba and the locals endure rationing, this was also embarrassing for us and our companions. A very comfortable way to see Cuba on Azamara Journey. Worth Knowing: Immigration: Be very careful filling out the Cuban visa which costs US$ 75 and is issued as you embark. The check in agent said any mistakes would mean you having to buy another visa as a cost of US$ 75. The Visa is good for all ports in Cuba. The first time ashore in Havana the Immigration line was long & generally slow. On subsequent days off the ship, it was a quick wave through after a very casual look at the passport. Local Currency You need to change your foreign currency at the cruise terminal in Havana or at a bank in the square outside the terminal. The exchange rate is fixed and common to all banks. If you use US $ you are surcharged 10% making a total of 13% commission. We were advised to use GB pounds and were charged the 3% commission only. This is common to Euros and Canadian $ also. The tourist currency is the CUC which is worth 25 Cuban Pesos, the money used by locals. Rest Rooms Cuba has a strong health service which is free to Cubans but the health care does not apparently extend to public health as is obvious in the state of toilets in restaurants and bars. You should also have some small change for the person manning the toilets. Apparently it is not necessary but fully expected and in return you will be given a hand full of toilet paper. Take some tissue with you in any case. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
Our 9th cruise and our 4th with Azamara. We were initially disappointed that the itinerary was changed from 3 to 2 days in Havana but we found the day in Key West to be very relaxing and a good start to the cruise. We always enjoy the ... Read More
Our 9th cruise and our 4th with Azamara. We were initially disappointed that the itinerary was changed from 3 to 2 days in Havana but we found the day in Key West to be very relaxing and a good start to the cruise. We always enjoy the ambiance on the smaller Azamara ships and appreciated how close we docked to the city on all our stops whereas the bigger ships had to use tenders to take passengers ashore. The staff were very attentive and friendly. We always enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea in the Mosaic cafe and were amazed how Jeston and Mark remembered our preference for green tea. Our cabin was excellent with ample storage, a good sized bathroom, a very comfortable bed and in a quiet position towards the back of the ship on deck 8. Both the food and entertainment were very good with Eric and the Captain forming a very funny double act. We have always enjoyed the White Night party in the past and we were not disappointed this time. We had 2 full days in Havana and booked a guide and driver with Cuban Trip Compass. We had a wonderful time exploring Havana in an old American Chevy with a very competent driver and a guide who spoke perfect English. We can highly recommend this company. Cienfuegos was very easy to explore on our own with the aid of the Lonely Planet guide and we booked an Azamara trip for Santiago as the ship was departing at 3pm. We arrived home with a greater understanding of the history and people of this fascinating country. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
This was my 8th overall cruise, and I chose this trip for the amazing immersive itinerary of Cuba. From the moment I stepped on the Journey, I appreciated the calming decor. It was so great to be on a ship of only 600 - you really got to ... Read More
This was my 8th overall cruise, and I chose this trip for the amazing immersive itinerary of Cuba. From the moment I stepped on the Journey, I appreciated the calming decor. It was so great to be on a ship of only 600 - you really got to know your fellow passengers...especially if you're an outgoing guy like me. We ate almost every meal at the discoveries restaurant and were VERY pleased with the quality, presentation, and taste of the food. I've been avoiding red meat recently, and they always had at least two fish choices(other than salmon)! i asked for freshly steamed broccoli and they always delivered on any request that I had. The entertainment wasn't extensive - but we did enjoy both shows by our cruise director...the VERY tall and lovely Eric! Please, please, please...book private tours of cuba! Do not take the cruise's excursions. they tell you that it is difficult when you get to cuba and that you can't get off the ship if you don't have a tour booked...NOT TRUE!!! All three of our private tours were AMAZING...private air-conditioned cars from the 50's. Do your research on TripAdvisor - and book with confidence! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
First of all, the ship is in good condition as well as the rooms, my wife and I booked a cabin with a balcony and it was really what we expected, maybe a little smaller than in the photos but we liked it. - Food and drink well, maybe ... Read More
First of all, the ship is in good condition as well as the rooms, my wife and I booked a cabin with a balcony and it was really what we expected, maybe a little smaller than in the photos but we liked it. - Food and drink well, maybe you could improve but in the same way it was not bad. - We had a lot of fun during the nine nights that took the cruise, dancers, music, it seemed an important event every night. - Excellent service, especially Mario our concierge who was very kind and helped us with everything that was presented, we even needed to make an urgent call to our tour agency and he gave us his phone. - About the shore excursions, very important, do not book with the cruise. For my tours in each port we booked with Viajes Vintage (viajesvintage.com) and we had an excellent experience, I HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND THEM, our guides were Yunet in Havana, Myldred in Cienfuegos and Lianne in Santiago de Cuba, we had during our excursion our own classic car with air conditioning very well maintained and we paid half of what we would pay with the cruise line. - It was very simple to get off the ship terminal in all ports but in Havana, it toke a while. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
My 7th time on Azamara and 4th time on Journey. This was my 36th cruise so trust my remarks. I have sailed on RCCL, Holland, NCL, Disney, Carnival, Princess and more. I escorted my group of 26 on the Journey for the 9 night ... Read More
My 7th time on Azamara and 4th time on Journey. This was my 36th cruise so trust my remarks. I have sailed on RCCL, Holland, NCL, Disney, Carnival, Princess and more. I escorted my group of 26 on the Journey for the 9 night intensive Cuba. Pre-Cruise hotel: JW Marriott on Brickell, fantastic. Ship Staff: Wonderful as ALWAYS!! From the stewards to Capt Johannes! Ship: Old World Classic Beauty!! My home away from home. Deck 4 Oceanvw, my favorite but I have stayed on every floor in balcony as well. Food: Outstanding as usual!! If you don't love the food on Azamara there is something wrong with you, sorry. Every meal fantastic, we ate at Prime C and Aqualina as well as main dining. Aqualina did not leave an impression on me last few times but a few revisions and it's right on par with Prime C at this point! Chef even prepared Baked Alaska off the menu as 1 in my party really wanted to try it!! Waiter brought out 5 fresh made Alaska's to our table and hands down the BEST I've ever had. And that was in the Main Dining room! White Night: Out did themselves with the lobster tail and shrimp on the BBQ! Never miss a White Night! Azamazing Evening: Ours was in Havana in the renovated theater from 1890 and still had the original wood floors! Incredibly beautiful and wonderful Lintz Cuban Ballet was an emotional experience. I was nearly brought to tears with this performance!! Excursions: Hemingways Havana, loved it! Havana Classic Car ride, loved it! El Nicho Natural Baths and Waterfalls, DO NOT MISS THIS! (Although too difficult for older and or out of shape travellers, you can still enjoy it buy walking upto the falls on the main path, then wait in the shady lovely restaurant while others do the rocky path up!) Tobacco and Rum Santiago, skip it ! This should be renamed and is not a factory as some thought. Not me as I read through the descripton but still not a great tour for me personally. Cuban History and Cultural talks: The best ever! Great insight from the lecturer! Onboard entertainment: Very very nice, not as cheeky as in a few past cruises. Great Spanish Guitar performance. Overall Commments and Tips: This is a truly Immersive Trip not a vacation to a caribbean island. A wonderful, educational experience in an oppressed world. Do not forget this folks as this is for those who want to expand thier minds and learn about Cuba and in an incredible way. Be kind to the Cubans as they love Americans but of course they only know Socialism and nothing else politically speaking. Bring little bottles of shampoo and lotions from the ship, hand them out to any local you meet. DO NOT BRING Canadian money! They will exchange it at the port but you cannot use it on the street like American Dollars or Euro's. Bring small bills of $20 and less, like lots of 5's and 10's. It is difficult to make change with local vendors. Even $1.00 bills, bring 50. You will need them for tipping which is HUGE in Cuba for guides, waiters and drivers, cabs etc. And yes bring little tissue packs and hand sanitzers or wipies! Dress lighlty it is hot in CUBA and Humid! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
Chose Azarmara because we did not want to be on a giant cruise ship with thousands of our closest friends. We chose this particular cruise because we wanted to experience Cuba and not just stop one place for a few hours. Service was ... Read More
Chose Azarmara because we did not want to be on a giant cruise ship with thousands of our closest friends. We chose this particular cruise because we wanted to experience Cuba and not just stop one place for a few hours. Service was stellar everywhere we went. After a couple of days in Windows Cafe, the server called me Diet Coke with a smile because it was a small enough ship to get to know people. Themed food night in some of the restaurants were well appreciated. The white night party on the deck was a fun evening. Lots of dancing! There seemed to be ample seating almost always in the pool area and plenty of activities for those who wanted to participate. The ship put up a big screen for the Superbowl and served Superbowl party foods for dinner which was a great touch. Getting on and getting off the boat at ports was a breeze.The ship was small enough to dock at all three ports so we didn't have wait to transfer to start our vacation. We chose to do private shore excursions, but did do the Tropicana & Santiago de Cuba though the boat, which were both well organized and interesting. Highly recommend the El Cobre tour which included an outstanding steel drum band who played music you would never expect from a steel drum. Our private tours were with Blexie - Havana & Caribbean Pearl Tours which were personalized based on our interests. They were both outstanding. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise mainly for the itinerary. We wanted to see Cuba and liked the fact that it only went to Cuba and involved several overnights. We really got a chance to experience several ports in Cuba. We also like cruising on the ... Read More
We chose this cruise mainly for the itinerary. We wanted to see Cuba and liked the fact that it only went to Cuba and involved several overnights. We really got a chance to experience several ports in Cuba. We also like cruising on the smaller ships. The service is more personal and you get to know the other passengers. We had a balcony cabin and it was perfect. There was enough storage space, bed was comfortable, and we made good use of the balcony, having breakfast there twice and using it for the sail-aways. We are glad more cruise ships re offering open dining as the Journey does. The food was excellent, prepared and presented well. The portions were just right for us, but those with bigger appetites can always order more food. The wait staff was very well trained and friendly. If you want fancy shows and lots of entertainment, this is not the ship for you. But we really enjoyed the ambiance and intimacy of this small ship. And there was enough to do and see. Over all, we loved the ship and the accessibility of the Captain. He was often seen walking around, and welcomed questions and conversation. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise line because of its itinerary and the Journey being a small ship: 690 passengers. We have been on small ships before and have thoroughly them. The itinerary was Cuba intensive: 3 full days in Havana, 1 day in ... Read More
We chose this cruise line because of its itinerary and the Journey being a small ship: 690 passengers. We have been on small ships before and have thoroughly them. The itinerary was Cuba intensive: 3 full days in Havana, 1 day in Cienfuegos, and overnight in Santiago. The ship was great as was the food and service. Officers and captain were very visible. Highly recommend Azamara. Currency exchange in all 3 ports in Cuba. 10% penalty for US$. No penalty for Euros or Canadian. No problem getting off the ship and doing own thing in Cuba. In fact after the first day in Havana, we didn't even have to go through customs. We didn't do Azamara shore excursions as for many years I have hired private tour guides. In Havana we used Blexie Tours. I highly highly recommend them. We had a private guide, George, and classic cars for 2 of our 3 days in great shape with a/c. The third day we went on our own just soaking up the ambiance of the city. Very friendly people. In Cienfuegos I used Fer Tours. Good tour as well. Not as great as Blexie in Havana but then there is not as much to see in Cienfuegos. Traveled in a classic car in great shape. In Santiago used Out of the Box Tours. Maike (spelling??) was our guide. Highly recommend this tour as well. I could have paid for this tour in US$. Many times you have to pay to use the bathrooms and sometimes no toilet paper. Would recommend having small denominations of coins like 25, 50 cents to use and take toilet paper. You should tip 10% in restaurants. Our guides we tipped considerably more. 25-35% per couple. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
This "immersive" cruise to Cuba was perfect. It stopped in Havana for 3 days, then Cienfuegos and then an overnight in Santiago de Cuba. We were a bit taken back by the age of the ship at first but it was in excellent ... Read More
This "immersive" cruise to Cuba was perfect. It stopped in Havana for 3 days, then Cienfuegos and then an overnight in Santiago de Cuba. We were a bit taken back by the age of the ship at first but it was in excellent condition, the service was exceptional and the small size made it fast and easy to get ashore. Our only criticism was the inability to make reservations in the main dining room and occasionally mediocre food. We had a balcony cabin on Deck 7 that was quite spacious with a loveseat sized couch and coffee table in front of the sliding glass doors. The balcony was larger than most with a dining sized table and chairs. Room service servers routinely brought a white table cloth and we enjoyed meals on the balcony while in port. Though the bathroom was very small, it was perfectly adequate. There were plenty of outlets and USB ports near the beds for recharging. Internet service, though pricey, was the best we ever experienced on a ship. Dining is more limited than on some ships with the primary choices being the main dining room, the buffet or one of two specialty restaurants, one steak house and one Italian. The only dining room option was anytime dining with no reservations possible and on one evening we had a fairly lengthy wait. We appreciated the variety of options and the "theme" nights but the food was unpredictable - sometimes truly excellent (e.g. perfectly cooked steak) and sometimes "send it back" quality. We participated in one Chef's Table that was absolutely superb! Room service menu options, service and quality were extremely good. As expected for such a small ship (750 passengers) the entertainment was limited. A real highlight was that the two cruise directors doubled as entertainers and both were truly excellent. We really enjoyed Alicia Hill in both her entertainment and cruise director capacities. She seemed to know everyone on the ship. The White Night activity at which dinner was served poolside followed by dancing and entertainment proved to be really fun. Service was always fast and friendly and the crew went out of their way to accommodate requests. Standard drinks are included and there is no mandatory tipping. That said, we felt that the crew expected tips. Snacks and drinks were abundant. The crew was attentive, even to the point of remembering us and our preferences from one locale on the ship to another. We like wine and found the Sommeliers and wine list to be exceptional. The drawback to this wonderful ship and crew were the shore excursions in Cuba. We did two excursions when we arrived in Havana and both were dreadful. We don't fault the cruise line for this at all as both excursions were operated by the government with government employed tour directors, in government buses, that took us to government run restaurants and establishments. After day two, we figured out how to use private tours and find private restaurants and the rest of the trip was fantastic. We were very appreciative that we had a "floating hotel" to go home to every night and would recommend a cruise as a first trip to Cuba for anyone. We highly recommend this cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
This was our 1st cruise in 14 years, and we have been intrigued by Cuba for even longer. As new empty nesters and not yet retired, costs still are kind of a thing. Some of our choices reflect some effort at economy, which we found is ... Read More
This was our 1st cruise in 14 years, and we have been intrigued by Cuba for even longer. As new empty nesters and not yet retired, costs still are kind of a thing. Some of our choices reflect some effort at economy, which we found is achievable even on Azamara. Our past cruise experience had been on 2,000+ passenger behemoths; part of this review relates to the (first for us) small ship experience. For economy, we flew to Miami early on departure morning (a decision we'd like to have back as we were gambling with winter weather up north). Our Deck 6 midships cabin had an obstructed view through the window. We felt little ship motion, no vibraiton and we were well-insulated from public space noise by other cabins. The obstructed view meant a savings, but we could see well enough for us. We love the (little) R ships and we felt seeing the same staff and passengers lent a sense of collegiality and hominess. Sometimes some passangers might feel the activity selection was insufficient for their tastes - whether this is a legit concern really needs to be weighed in terms of cruise demographics. Our school-year sailing to Cuba meant that the average passenger age was about 66, with a pretty tight standard deviation. In our mid and late 50s, we were decidedly among the youngest on board. Now and then, all of the programmed activities were for an older age group. We were happy enough on our own, but not everyone would be. Azamara pays attention to the details. Embarkation and debarkation were a breeze and the food was outstanding. We did not do the upgraded restaurant or drink options; we are foodies and still do not feel it necessary as the food in the main dining room was great. Here is an interesting and important observation about food during dinners too: portions are modest and gluttons will be disappointed. To us that was fine, but might not be for everyone. There always is the buffet option, with rotating regional specialities each day. All you can eat there, but it lacks the ambience of the main dining room. Along this same vein, there only was a midnight buffet one light with late-ending nighttime shore excursions. Otherwise, no. Fine with us too. Another nice thing about the dining room was this: no assigned seats or times. You come when you want. If you like your waiter and remember his/her name, you can ask for that section but need not. The tables are close enough to strike up conversations with neighbors if you want, but one need not. We have recollections of assigned seats on other cruises with incompatible table-mates; we like Azamara's solution. Room service was included and perfect every time we used it (for coffee in the mornings). Tips are included in your fare; we tipped our room stewards and waiter anyway. Service from absolutely everyone was top-notch. We did the shore excursions sponsored by the cruise line and generally were very satisfied. Mind you, Cuba is new to tourism and Azamara is new to Cuba. Some growing pains were inevitable and showed. Overall, we feel we really learned a lot about the Cuban people and culture, which is why we went. There was one child on the boat, under the age of 20. She was two years old. This is not a cruise for young families or children. The boat simply is not equipped. We knew that and were happy. We definitely would go again on Azamara, on an R-ship (we love the smallness) but might do something a bit more tourism-experienced than Cuba next tme. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Cuba was the lure and Azamara offered the most intensive experience with 3 ports, Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. I won't talk about Cuba much here as I wrote a photo review on the Celebrity board with 1700 photos. This is ... Read More
Cuba was the lure and Azamara offered the most intensive experience with 3 ports, Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. I won't talk about Cuba much here as I wrote a photo review on the Celebrity board with 1700 photos. This is about the ship and the cruise line which was new to us. We sail medium size ships from the Princess and Celebrity lines and of course due to their size they have more variety to offer. Azamara excels in terms of providing an elegant and relaxing environment with less than 700 passengers. Even after 9 days on board we hadn't eaten in all their venues nor spent time in all the rooms on board. We adapted to the leisurely vibe on board and just a couple of days into the experience were already liking what we saw of Azamara. Would we sail with them again? Yes and have already booked a 7 day Rome to Venice in October 2020 which will include a 10 year Azamara anniversary meet up in Koper, Slovenia, with the other two ships in the fleet. We even booked the same aft cabin again. Cabins are small but well designed (back in the year 2000) and elegantly appointed. Elegant and tasteful are key words to describe the Journey. Soothing on the eye. We sailed with considerate adults who showed respect to each other. It's the staff that make a ship a home for a week and the staff are keen to be of service and represent the brand well. I had hoped they wouldn't be too formal or stiff and was delighted to find them loose and ready to laugh and smile without forcing. Very personable. The dining was the best we have enjoyed at sea, without the expense of a Specialty restaurant. Discoveries restaurant produced fine breakfasts lunches and dinners without fail. Surprises were two brunches, complete with live music and served by Officers. Highlights of the cruise! Even the pool cafe, the Patio, stood high above the deck fare on our other two lines of choice with expansive menus, table service and really well-prepared simple dishes. A good first impression was made on boarding- a glass of champagne, then relaxing on a pool deck without canned music and with thickly padded loungers with pillows, while waiters made sure your glass would not dry out. Only one announcement from the Captain and CD each day. Officers who greet you as they pass. Two unique Home Runs, apart from the Azamara trade-mark overnight port stays which first attracted us to the brand are the Azamazing Evening and White Night Party. Both smoothly executed considering 600 or more guests attended each event. In the case of Havana's Azamazing Evening we were all treated to an incredible performance by the Lizt Alfonso dancers which is one of the most passionate and moving performances we have seen outside of an Opera House or theater in the USA. Kudos Azamara! White Night, an on deck BBQ buffet with music and dancing was held on a warm evening tied up in Cienfuegos and we all got a chance to applaud the crew who were introduced in a parade. Azamara was pricy but included gratuities and basic beverages on board. I upgraded to an Ultimate Beverage package and had the choice of anything on the ship and that was a good move given my preferences. Entertainment is constrained somewhat in the evening shows by the showroom which is on one level so no tiered seating-get there early for the best views-but the artists and CD (Alicia Hill) give it their all. There are plenty of relaxing and cosy areas to sit with friends and enjoy coffee or a beverage aboard the ship , including a real library with books made from paper! Good first impressions continued day after day and there was no let-down. Just a great crew, steeped in the brand culture. They try to impress and with us succeeded and provided a very memorable experience. We have now added Azamara to our Princess and Celebrity roster of go-to cruise lines. Norris Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We picked this ship for 2 reasons: 1 - we like Azamara (this was our 4th cruise on Azamara) and 2 - we liked the itinerary, especially the 3 days in Havana. Unfortunately, the itinerary was changed prior to our sailing and we had only 1 ... Read More
We picked this ship for 2 reasons: 1 - we like Azamara (this was our 4th cruise on Azamara) and 2 - we liked the itinerary, especially the 3 days in Havana. Unfortunately, the itinerary was changed prior to our sailing and we had only 1 1/2 days in Havana and 2 days in Cienfuegos. One day in Cienfuegos would have been enough, and a second day in Santiago de Cuba would have been better. This was not Azamara's "fault" and we did not blame them. In Havana, Cienfuegos and Labadee (Haiti), we were docked; we tendered in Santiago de Cuba. The tenders ran frequently and was not a problem. We took only one Azamara excursion, a Jewish tour. We had very good presentations at the two synagogues we visited and a good appreciation of Jewish life in Cuba. Our tour guide tried, but was not well informed about Judaism, and got "defensive" when we pointed out mistakes in his presentation. The leaders at the synagogues were fantastic. At the other ports, we took private tours (Tours by Locals and Shoretrips). There were 4 of us traveling together and the private tours were the way to go; especially in Cuba! Our tour guides were well informed and deftly maneuvered us around crowded streets. Much to our delight, we were able to visit markets, historic sites and buildings, barber shops, 2 hair salons, a department store, etc. While most of the tour guides were "careful" in what they told us, I left Cuba with a much better sense of what day-to-day life is like for its citizens. Back on the ship, service was excellent. Servers even remembered what we liked to drink! There had been a G-I outbreak on the sailing previous to ours, so there were heightened precautions in effect (e.g. no self-serve at the buffet). The staff all took it in good stride. The Captain gave us a daily briefing on the number of cases reported, as well as a daily reminder to "wash our hands for 20 seconds." Fortunately, there was not a repeat outbreak on our sailing. The only negative about this cruise was the food. The food, even in the Aqualina specialty restaurant, was mediocre (Prime C was very good). In the Discoveries restaurant, I even had to send back a piece of meat that look like it had been run over by a car! Dinner buffets in the Windows Cafe were a disappointment. However, the food during White Night was good. Our last Azamara cruise was 2 years ago, and my recollection is that the food was much better on that sailing. Two months ago, we sailed on Windstar and that food was superior to Azamara's. We did not attend any of the shows. Lounge entertainment was okay. Announcements were kept to a minimum which we appreciated. The cruise director was available, but not a nuisance. We will sail Azamara again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
I chose this cruise because it had a Cuba Intensive itinerary. That said, I did book most of my excursions through private companies. Places I wanted to go such as Vinales National Park were not on their Itineraries and I often dislike ... Read More
I chose this cruise because it had a Cuba Intensive itinerary. That said, I did book most of my excursions through private companies. Places I wanted to go such as Vinales National Park were not on their Itineraries and I often dislike being with the busload of people. Also, I have traveled many times on Celebrity and Royal and had never tried Azamara. The ship is a very easy to manage size in terms of getting from point A to B. The rooms (veranda) are considerably smaller than their sister ships, but adequately appointed. The whole ship is miniaturized in general. Things I really liked: Staying more than one night in Port. Azamazing evening was very well organized. They did a sensational White Night Party on the main deck. Labadee was wonderful arriving on a small ship and having the island to ourselves. The attention to detail and service was very good. It was very relaxing traveling on a small ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
Of the 10 days only about 2 an a half were sea days. The itinerary changed from what was originally offered. We ended up with an overnight in Havana, Cienafuego, and Santiago de Cuba. Great tours in each. Also stopped in Haiti at Royal ... Read More
Of the 10 days only about 2 an a half were sea days. The itinerary changed from what was originally offered. We ended up with an overnight in Havana, Cienafuego, and Santiago de Cuba. Great tours in each. Also stopped in Haiti at Royal Caribbean 's island (Labadee) which was a fantastic beach especially since we were the only ship and less than 700 passengers. Standard alcoholic drinks free in the bars on ship and on Labadee. The drinks and bar service were great. Tips included but gave a few more to room and wait staff. Food and service on the ship were excellent. Shows on board decent but not great but better than river cruise boats. The smaller ship with 700 people made getting on and off easier than larger including tendering. Activities on board were normal cruise ship activities. Actually one of the best cruises ever. I would do Azamara again if the itinerary was unique. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Azamara Journey Cruise November 10 thru November 20, 2018 Cuba Intensive Miami, Santiago de Cuba (12-13), Grand Cayman (14), Cienfuegos (15-16) and Havana (17-19) We recently completed our first cruise on Azamara on the Journey. It ... Read More
Azamara Journey Cruise November 10 thru November 20, 2018 Cuba Intensive Miami, Santiago de Cuba (12-13), Grand Cayman (14), Cienfuegos (15-16) and Havana (17-19) We recently completed our first cruise on Azamara on the Journey. It was a 10 day Cuba intensive cruise from Miami going to Santiago de Cuba, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos and Havana and then back to Miami. The cruise stayed overnight in each of the Cuban ports including 2 nights in Havana. We had booked one of their continental suites, 8068, on deck 8 , which meant we got a variety of included benefits in addition to the regular Azamara benefits. This included unlimited dining in the two specialty restaurants and a 4 bottle bar setup in our room including vodka, rum, gin and scotch. All bottled water is included in your cruise fare which considering Darlene only drinks bottled water on cruises is a really good benefit for us. We flew in a day early to Ft Lauderdale because of the lack of direct flights from St Louis to Miami. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale Airport North Cruise Port. We have stayed numerous times when leaving Florida on cruises. The hotel has a small shopping center next to it so you can pick up any forgotten or just needed articles for the cruise and has always had a clean room and decent breakfast for us to use. This is a good place for people looking for a place to stay either before or after a cruise. If you stay in the area, there is a good Greek restaurant, Mini Pita, in the shopping plaza right next store. They serve wine as well and the food is excellent. We ate a late dinner there the night we flew in so I know they are open until midnight. This meant we had to arrange transportation from the Hampton Inn to Miami the morning of November 10th. I used Wall Street Transportation & Limousine World Wide Company. They sent a Cadillac SUV and driver who arrived on time at 11:15 AM and drove us to the RCL docks in Miami where our ship was. The limo was clean and the driver friendly and I can recommend this company for transportation needs in Miami. After arriving at the port, the process of signing in and getting on the ship was excellent. One we got on the ship, we went to the buffet restaurant on deck 9 for some lunch while the rooms were being made ready. At around 1:30 PM as we were finishing our lunch which included a selection of 2 white and 2 red wines each day, they announced the cabins were ready for occupancy. Generally the wines offered were very good and during the whole cruise we only purchased one extra cost bottle of wine and instead drank the free wine for lunches and dinners. While I don't consider either my wife or I wine experts or wine snobs I do feel the house wines offered both red and white were perfectly acceptable. We did have one red that we tried that we ended up not drinking but it could have just been a bad bottle. Our continental suite, 8068, was a pleasant surprise. There was plenty of space for 2 of us and the bathroom had a nice walk-in shower. Darlene felt it was a little small but it was perfectly functional and we managed to make it with a single sink for the 10 days we were on the ship. The bed was comfortable but came with 2 feather pillows which we should have exchanged as Darlene is allergic to feathers and dusk, But instead I used those 2 pillows and she used the other two. Our suitcases arrived early enough we got them unpacked and put away before the ship sailed at 5 PM. There was enough space to get everything either hung up, put onto shelves or into drawers and still have some extra drawer space for cameras and other items. We went up to the bar at the stern of the ship for sail away from Miami and got a few pictures of the skyline of Miami as the sun set. Then we attended the meet and greet for cruise critic members who had signed up followed by a cocktail party for frequent cruisers. We are Elite on Celebrity and Diamond of RCL so we were given Discoverer status on Azamara and were invited to the Discover welcome back cocktail party. We had made reservations for several nights of specialty restaurant dining when we first got on the ship as I had read on CC that sometimes they can be hard to get later during the cruise. So we ate dinner the first night in Prime C, the Journey's steakhouse restaurant. We ate at around 8:30 and had a really nice meal. This was the only night we ordered a bottle of wine rather than just drinking the “free” wines and although it was a decent red, it really wasn't much better than the daily offerings. We ended up taking the bottle back to our cabin and drinking it there over the next day or so. The next day was a sea day so we slept in a little late and got breakfast in the 9th deck buffet. It was surprisingly not crowded and offered eggs cooked to order as well as a number of items immediately available including fried or scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, etc. They also had fruit and cereals. The coffee in the buffet was better than on most ship's buffets and the orange juice was freshly squeezed. To be honest the day passed quickly. We went to the sit down dining room for lunch and were not really particularly happy with the selection or the service. Since it was only open during sea days for lunch, most of the rest of time we went to the buffet restaurant for lunch and breakfasts. For evening dinner we decided to try the regular dining room and were seated at a table for 8. The service and the food was a mixed bag. Sometimes it seemed the waiters were being asked to service too many tables and when the main courses arrived they were warm rather than hot. Again the offered wines were good and although you had to occasionally remind the server when you needed a refill, there was plenty for everyone. The next morning we would be arriving in our first Cuban port of Santiago de Cuba so we wanted to try to turn in a little early which we did. We had ordered room service for our breakfast so we would be ready for our ship's tour at beginning at 9:30 AM. We decided to eat on the balcony as the table looked like it was bigger than the one in the cabin. Our butler, Ronald, called at 8 AM to let us know our breakfast was on the way and he arrived with it about 5 minutes later. I had ordered the steak and eggs which arrived hot and cooked correctly. Darlene had an omelet with veggies and cheese. But she ended up getting some of my steak as I couldn't eat it all. We also had berry bowls and a fruit plate we shared and lots of hot coffee. We had decided on doing ship's tours in Santiago and in Cienfuergos in order to use up the $700 in cruise credit we had gotten for booking the suite on Azamara. Another reason was that about 2 weeks before the cruise we were notified that instead of docking at Santiago as was originally scheduled we would be tendering in that port. Evidently their cruise port had been damaged by a storm or hurricane a few months before and had not yet been re-certified for use by cruise ships carrying US passengers. By doing a ship's tour we would be among the first passengers being tendered into the port and would get an early jump on the day's activities. We went to our tour meeting place in the theater at around 9:25 but evidently people must have started arriving much earlier and we were in the fourth bus going on the fort and city tour we had selected. They had rolls, doughnuts, juice, coffee and tea there for people who had skipped breakfast, which was a nice touch. After a short wait we were led down to the tender deck and boarded our tender for what turned out to be a 20-25 minute tender ride to get to shore. I'm not quite sure why the Captain had been ordered to anchor the ship out as far from shore as he did but it made for a long tender ride. After arriving on shore we had to go through Cuban passport control and then stop to exchange US dollars for Cuban CUC currency. Officially the exchange rate is 1 US to 1 Cuban CUC but they charge an extra 12% fee to exchange US dollars. They only do this will US dollars not other currencies so if you are traveling to Cuba you might want to get a few hundred dollars of Canadian money before going and use it to exchange. We exchanged $350 dollars US and got 308 CUC. They rejected one of our 50 dollar bills because it had a mark on the back side so check any bills you are looking to exchange before planning on using them. Once we had some Cuban currency we then proceeded to our assigned bus. The buses were a pleasant surprise in that they were relatively nice Chinese vehicles with good AC and relatively comfortable seats. The tour we had booked was called "Colonial Santiago" and was a full day tour that included a tour of downtown Santiago, a stop at San Juan hill where Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders fought a battle, a visit to colonial era fort, lunch, and a musical dance program by Cuban musicians. Our guide was a Cuban woman who spoke good English and tried to answer any questions we had. The port we had been taken to seemed to be in a mainly commercial area and our first drive was to the main square in Santiago where their cathedral was. There is also a large public building where Castro gave one of his early speeches declaring his rebellion against Batista. Also off this square is one of the oldest surviving houses which was built in 1545. We also then walked through a shopping area used by the locals and the guide pointed the 2 types of stores, government owned and private owned. Next we boarded the bus for a trip to San Juan hill for a short visit. This was made famous by Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders during the Spanish American War or as the Cubans call it the second Cuban War of Independence. Here there were statues, cannons and a reconstructed blockhouse. We re-boarded the bus for the drive out to the fort which was on a peninsula on one side of the bay from where Santiago sits which took us about an hour or so. Let me mention here that it was hot the day we were there, above 90 degrees and although the bus's AC worked well most of the places we visited didn't have much shade or any AC which made the day one you needed to drink a lot of water. Arriving at the fort we had to walk up numerous levels of steps to get up to the main gate of the fort. The fort was placed at a narrow entry to the bay on which Santiago sits. Pirates had used the bay as a place to get fresh water from the streams that flow into it and also to restock their ships with other provisions prior to the Spanish building the fort here. Castillo del Morro San Pedro De La Roca was begun in 1619 and was continually expanded and worked on right up into the mid 1800's. The views from its battlements were really spectacular and it is hard to believe that the fort was taken by pirates several times given its position and how difficult it must have been. The interior of the fort contained a chapel where the guide told us of the legend of the white lady. Evidently the wife of one of the commanders of the fort is supposed to haunt the fort looking for her husband who never returned from an expedition to Florida. We didn't see her but we were not there at night or in the early morning when she is supposed to appear. There was a small museum with items found in the fort and weapons from the time the fort was used. But the fort required climbing up and down a lot of steps and most of it was in the direct sunshine so it was hot. Darlene decided with several other tour members to leave the fort early and go down to the restaurant where we would be having our lunch. When I arrived at the restaurant, she had saved me a seat and they served us Cuba Libre drinks, rum and coke basically. Then also gave us Cuban beer and bottled water. The food was served family style and was a variety of small portions of chicken, pork, fish, beans, rice and fried plantains as well as Cuban bread, This was followed by some cake and ice cream as well as Cuban coffee but no decafe coffee. The food was all right but not great and the restaurant was not air conditioned but even if it did have ceiling fans, it was still hot. There were a number of souvenir stands along the walkway back to the bus and we ended up buying a wood carving that according to the artist is a symbol of the male and female. I think we paid 20 CUC for it and the guy who sold it said it took him 4 days to carve. Our last stop was back in Santiago where we were to attend a Cuban dance presentation by a group of Cuban dancers and singers who have traveled around the world putting on their performances. It was interesting but might have been more so if I understood Spanish. We arrived back at the tender port around 4:00 PM and were able to board a tender relatively rapidly. The trip back to the ship was uneventful but just as long as the morning ride in had been. We had looked at a different excursion at this port which went to the city of Trinidad which is supposed to be a world heritage site. We decided on the tour we did because we worried about the length of the bus ride. Once back on the ship we talked with several couples who we had met the first couple of days on the cruise who did that tour and who were very critical of the length of the bus ride, they said it took almost 2 hours to get there and another 2 hours back with basically boring scenery the whole trip. They also said the lunch wasn't particularly good and that all in all it was a trip they would have just as soon not taken. The Journey stayed in the bay until around 6 AM in the morning and then sailed for the Caymans giving us what amounted to our second sea day. We decided to try the dining room for a sit down breakfast which we often do on sea days when on a cruise. The whole experience re-enforced our first impression of the main dining room. Again the service and the food was a mixed bag. We had arrived towards the end of the serving period and the restaurant was only partially occupied. We said at a table for two but it was arranged close to 2 other tables for 2 on either side both which were occupied when we arrived. One was just getting their coffee and the other looked like they were in the middle of their main breakfast meal. We got menus when we say down but it took a few minutes for someone to come back to ask about coffee and juice. We were surprised to find the menu here wasn't much different from the suite breakfast menu for room service. Darlene ordered the steak and eggs like I had the day before and I got waffles since that isn't something we fix at home. It took awhile for the food to arrive and when it did the steak was prepared correctly but was significantly smaller than the one I had gotten from room service. Getting coffee refills became a matter of watching for waiters and signaling them to come over rather than having them come by and offer to refill our cups. By the end of the meal we had decided to skip future breakfasts in the dining room and either do room service or the upstairs buffet. Grand Cayman is always a tender port and since I had left my extra batteries and charger for one of my cameras at home by mistake, I wanted to go to a camera store and get a charger and possibly an extra battery so around 11 or so we headed down to the tender deck and rode into Grand Cayman. This time the tender ride was only a few minutes as we were anchored much closer with the 3 or 4 other bigger ships there with us anchored out further. I found a tourist map which had one camera store listed “Cathy's Cameras” which was on the main road that runs along the shore. It was located in the lobby of the Sunset House Hotel. Assuming it couldn't be too far a walk we began walking down the sidewalk and just kept walking for what seemed to be forever. Had I known how far it was I would have gotten a taxi but once we were over half way there and in spite of the heat, there didn't seem to be anyway to get a taxi to take us the last half. To make things worse, I was looking for a battery and battery charger for a Canon camera. It turns out Cathy's Cameras doesn't carry any Canon products at all and according to them no one in the Caymans carries Canon products. They did have a generic charger that looked like it would work with the battery in my camera so I spent $45 for it. Unfortunately when I got it back to the ship I got it to work once and then when I tried to use it the second time it failed to recharge my battery at all. So all and all the whole trip was a waster of time, money and energy. We were able to get a taxi back to town and then went shopping for some ribbon or shoe strings that Darlene could use to keep her hat from blowing off her head. We ended up finding some shoe laces in a drug store and decided to head back to the ship for a late lunch. We luckily caught a tender quickly and were back in time to do the buffet lunch upstairs. My plan in the afternoon had been to go to the Sanctuary where they had a hot tub and sauna but instead we decided to do some laundry in the free laundromat on deck 7. They give you the soap for free and the machines which looked relatively new were also for free. We ended up doing 2 loads which took up the rest of the afternoon. That night we went to the other specialty restaurant called Aqualina which is Italian influenced cusine. In Cienfuegas we booked the ship's "Nuestra Senora de Jagua" tour. Explore the history and culture of Cienfuegos on this journey to the Fortress of Nuestra Señora de Jagua, followed by a scenic drive and a walk down the Santa Isabel Boulevard. Your journey begins with a visit to the Fortress of Nuestra Señora de Jagua, located at the entrance to Cienfuegos's beautiful bay. Learn about the city's rich maritime traditions and the history of this fort, founded in 1745. Nuestra Señora de Jagua is the only Spanish military fortress constructed in the late eighteenth century Renaissance style. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a panoramic drive through the heart of Cienfuegos. Then, it's off to the Teatro Tomas Terry, a magnificent opera house and theatre that seats 950. Marvel at sumptuous Carrara marble and hand-carved Cuban hardwood decorations. Finally, explore the bustling Santa Isabel Boulevard before returning to the ship. We arranged for 2 days of tours with Fer 2 Havana tours originally and then had to alter our arrangements because Azamara changed their schedule and Fernando was very good at changing our 2 days to 3 days at the same price. We did an evening when the ship arrived and met our guide, Javier (Pepe), met us in the square directly across from the ship at 7 PM. He then changed plans as we had already eaten on the ship and we went to the Hotel National for a drink which has been in Havana forever and has been where all the famous and infamous people stayed. We had very good rum drinks there and enjoyed the ambiance before going on the cannon firing at the fort in a vintage 53 Pontiac hardtop with A/C and then to the Buena Vista Social Club.where we stayed for drinks and listening to the Cuban music. For the cover charge which I think was 30 CUC each we got 3 drinks each. I got Cuba Libre and Darlene had a beer and 2 bottled waters. The music was loud and we left after about an hour and 45 minutes. Our driver had waited for us and drove us back to the ship. The next morning at 10 AM we met Javier again in the square and we did a walking tour of the four main squares of old Havana for about 2 1/2 hours, Then we had lunch at a really private restaurant that was a little expensive 80 CUC for the 2 of us with one glass of wine each. We both got a seafood dish with lobster, shrimp, fish and rice and veggies. We also each got a desert. The restaurant was totally full but many of the people there were from either other Fer Tours or other guides. Javier then met us outside and we walked to where we met our driver for the rest of the day in his 1956 red Chevy convertible. The car wasn't his but the owner had gotten too old to drive so he hired him to take care of the car and drive it. We had the car for 3 hours and saw a lot of Havana with an informative driver. He left us off at the ship at 4:30. Finally the next morning, our ship was in Havana for 3 days, Javier again met us in the square at 9 AM and we got in another old Chevy hardtop with A/C and went to Hemmingway's house, followed by a visit to the town where he kept the Pilar and his favorite bar there. Then we came back to Havana and went to Fusterland. This is an area of Havana an artist began decorating with mosaics and painting and included a visit to his house. If you have been to Barcelona and see Guidi's village there this is similar but maybe more colorful and tropical. Our ship was sailing at 3 PM so Javier and the driver dropped us off at 2 PM by the ship. These were great tours with a great guide, Javier, who is a psychologist in real life. The cost for the 3 days was $480 US which was a fraction of what similar tours thru the ship would have cost. If you are going to Havana give Fer Tours a chance to give you a great time in Havana. The last night after finishing packing we went to a Chef's dinner in Prime C. It was labeled Cuban night and had a variety of Cuban influenced foods prepared by the chef each matched with good wines. There were 5 couples there including us. Several had gotten a free Chef's dinner in a promotion that some cruise agencies were running for people who booked suites. Unfortunately we paid for ours. The food and company was good. It was hosted by the ship's young environmental officer who was from Serbia or Croatia, I can't remember. But he spoke good English and was a personable young man. We only saw the Chef at the first of the meal. The wines and courses were announced by the head sommelier. All in all we enjoyed our cruise and especially getting a chance to visit Cuba. It is a friendly and welcoming country that unfortunately is badly in need of a lot of infrastructure repair. The long USA embargo and the loss of help from the USSR when it fell shows. The old cars in Havana especially were interesting and fun to see. It is amazing how they have managed to keep them running. Our tour guide in Havana, Javier (Pepe), did a great job and we left him with a good tip at the end of the last tour. I hope someday he gets to travel to the USA where he has a sister living in Florida. One of the things we learned from him is how most Cubans his age are still living with parents and in many cases grandparents all in one home. That was the case with him and with the driver of the convertible we were with for 3 hours. He said it was the most common and only way they could afford to live at all. The average wage for a Cuban worker is $30 a month with a few highly skilled doctors or higher governmental officials making more. Given there is no such thing as a home loan, if you can find a home for sale, you have to pay cash which few Cubans can possibly do. Well this is long enough for now. Azamara is a cruise line that we will be looking at for future cruises as we enjoyed the friendly and helpful crew and the ship's size as well as the complimentary wine and cocktails. Have a great next cruise. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Well, always liked Azamara and realized they were doing Cuba with a lot of time ashore. We were led to believe that you had to do prebooked tours to meet Cuban government rules, etc... That wasn’t truly the case. Because we had a lot of ... Read More
Well, always liked Azamara and realized they were doing Cuba with a lot of time ashore. We were led to believe that you had to do prebooked tours to meet Cuban government rules, etc... That wasn’t truly the case. Because we had a lot of on-board credits, we did some ships tours. They were very good. A bit long day one in Santiago de Cuba. Overall we wouldn’t have maybe seen some of the great musical talent we did, or experienced a unigue family restaurant if not on these tours. A good mixture of sea days too. They’ve been changing the itinerary as they go to eliminate an issue or two. The ‘ 50’s American cars were quite the attraction. The AzAmazing evening was just that of course. Weather great, if a bit hot. We did a wine tasting on board that was fun, and Marcio the DJ does great I-pad classes. Our favourite spot is always the back deck, the Sunset bar, although our balcony wasn’t bad either! We don’t get into much else, a cruise is good downtime. Been there done that with extra restaurants etc. Havana needs 2 days/ nights for sure. La Taberna, a great bar very near ship. Staff always helpful and friendly. A few newer staff on this one due to the Pursuit. We stayed in Bricknell prior, good choice. Read Less
Azamara Journey Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 5.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 1.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 5.0 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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