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Sail Date: February 2015
This was our third trip on the Journey. We have not been on any other cruise ships , so cannot compare. Overall it was a good trip. We very much like the small ship experience, no kids ambiance, and the staff are all excellent , and ... Read More
This was our third trip on the Journey. We have not been on any other cruise ships , so cannot compare. Overall it was a good trip. We very much like the small ship experience, no kids ambiance, and the staff are all excellent , and seem to "know you personally". Other guests were predominantly "senior", but well travelled and easy to get into conversation with. The one point many other repeat guests agreed on was the apparently more lax dress code in the evenings. OK they still state "resort casual" ..and I don't want/expect suits/ jackets/ties, but now there are more Hawaiian shirts , polo shirts , and even some T shirts. This lowers the tone..."dressing for dinner" was less of a pleasure. It is a smallish pool area, which can get a little crowded, but the sundeck is always quiet and spacious. As others say , the excursions are way overpriced. At BVI I think they were charging $20 for a 5 minute beach transfer , and the local taxis wanted $5. Also , like everyone else, I want to moan about the drinks policy: I resent the hard sell on embarkation... you really do not need to purchase the package. The free daily wines are fine , and you can always request "yesterdays wine" , or "the Chardonnay" in you want to. The frustrating thing is : no "sparkling" wine available (only champagne at $18/glass!), and the crazy (only -some- are- free) cocktail rules : so you cannot have say a negroni, and the "free " list is hidden at the back of the winelist and consists of weird drinks with no ingredients listed.. The entertainment is a bit mixed: we had an awful unfunny "comedian" (Bruce Smirnoff) , and a harpist , who tried to tell lame stories...The ships little dance troupe however were excellent . It is an older ship : the bathrooms are tiny, and all the port side loos were blocked for almost a whole day..meaning the public loos were not a pretty sight... The food in my opinion is fine. We are vegetarians, and there were always one or two options on the menu. The Head chef tried to be helpful , and offered to make whatever we wanted , but the "off-menu" items were not that successful , so we relied on repeat ordering from known successes. There is a slight tendency to rely on pasta and curry as veg options though. A major plus for us is "free seating" policy : eat when you like , at table for 2 or with friends. There is a slight feel of cost trimming : odd items in the buffet "ran out", and the buffets were not as varied or "sumptuous" as I remember from our first trip a few years ago. Would we go again? probably yes , but ideally we would like to try a more “dressy” experience (but budget could be an issue!) Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2015
This was our third trip on the Journey. We have not been on any other cruise ships , so cannot compare. Overall it was a good trip. We very much like the small ship experience, no kids ambiance, and the staff are all excellent , and ... Read More
This was our third trip on the Journey. We have not been on any other cruise ships , so cannot compare. Overall it was a good trip. We very much like the small ship experience, no kids ambiance, and the staff are all excellent , and seem to "know you personally". Other guests were predominantly "senior", but well traveled and easy to get into conversation with. The one point many other repeat guests agreed on was the apparently more lax dress code in the evenings. OK they still state "resort casual" ..and I don't want/expect suits/ jackets/ties, but now there are more Hawaiian shirts , polo shirts , and even some T shirts. This lowers the tone..."dressing for dinner" was less of a pleasure. It is a smallish pool area, which can get a little crowded, but the sundeck is always quiet and spacious. As others say , the excursions are way overpriced. At BVI I think they were charging $20 for a 5 minute beach transfer , and the local taxis wanted $5. Also , like everyone else, I want to moan about the drinks policy: I resent the hard sell on embarkation... you really do not need to purchase the package. The free daily wines are fine , and you can always request "yesterdays wine" , or "the Chardonnay" in you want to. The frustrating thing is : no "sparkling" wine available (only champagne at $18/glass!), and the crazy (only -some- are- free) cocktail rules : so you cannot have say a negroni, and the "free " list is hidden at the back of the winelist and consists of weird drinks with no ingredients listed.. The entertainment is a bit mixed: we had an awful unfunny "comedian" (Bruce Smirnoff) , and a harpist , who tried to tell lame stories...The ships little dance troupe however were excellent . It is an older ship : the bathrooms are tiny, and all the port side loos were blocked for almost a whole day..meaning the public loos were not a pretty sight... The food in my opinion is fine. We are vegetarians, and there were always one or two options on the menu. The Head chef tried to be helpful , and offered to make whatever we wanted , but the "off-menu" items were not that successful , so we relied on repeat ordering from known successes. There is a slight tendency to rely on pasta and curry as veg options though. A major plus for us is "free seating" policy : eat when you like , at table for 2 or with friends. There is a slight feel of cost trimming : odd items in the buffet "ran out", and the buffets were not as varied or "sumptuous" as I remember from our first trip a few years ago. Would we go again? probably yes , but ideally we would like to try a more “dressy” experience (but budget could be an issue!) Read Less
Sail Date: February 2015
This was our first Azamara cruise and will not be our last. From the very first day until the last, the service was superb. The food was excellent in both the Discoveries Restaurant and the Window's Cafe. We particularly enjoyed ... Read More
This was our first Azamara cruise and will not be our last. From the very first day until the last, the service was superb. The food was excellent in both the Discoveries Restaurant and the Window's Cafe. We particularly enjoyed dinners in the Window's Cafe sitting at the stern of the ship, enjoying the sunset and breeze. The waiters and staff were super responsive and friendly. Noteworthy staff - Jennifer, Erwin, Joey, Lyric, Carlos, and of course the entire management team, and many more. The Captain was everywhere and Eric DeGray is, without a doubt, one of the most talented Cruise Director's I have ever encountered. He is to be commended for the excellent entertainment throughout the ship but particularly the evening productions. Azamara promises an Azamara Evening. I fully expected a visit to a touristy attraction where we would get some champagne and see Tango dancers but the Azamara went over and above! We were so impressed and entertained and really overwhelmed by the Azamara evening. We were taken to a famous archeological site, the El Zanjon de Granados, where we toured the historic tunnels only to arrive at an impressive dining area with a Tango production artistically describing the history of Tango through narrative and dance. The Journey was elegantly furnished, clean and lovely. Our cabin was not exceptional but a bit higher standard than other RC lines and the bedding and pillows are what made it seem a step above, as well as draperies and furniture. We had a nice balcony. Any complaints that I was aware of (we had very few) were addressed quickly and earnestly by staff. So impressive. There is a laundry room which is helpful on long cruises. Of course, best time to use it is very early and not "at sea" days. The Land Discoveries were excellent, well organized, and efficient. I felt safe and well prepared for all excursions. One great treat are the Cultural Presentations which are offered in advance of and for all ports visited. The speakers were informative and added humor and their own prior experience, and were available for the entire cruise which was really very nice. Lastly, we encountered some of the most delightful fellow passengers who were interesting and friendly. I can't wait to travel on Azamara again. It was truly one of our best vacations. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2015
My husband and I just returned from the 12 Night Rio Carnival & Buenos Aires Voyage on the Azamara Journey and we can't stop raving about the trip. We are well-seasoned travelers who have taken more than a handful of cruises, but ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from the 12 Night Rio Carnival & Buenos Aires Voyage on the Azamara Journey and we can't stop raving about the trip. We are well-seasoned travelers who have taken more than a handful of cruises, but this experience was really "la creme de la creme." We love cruising for the ease with which it allows you to see multiple destinations: you unpack your bags once, you see many amazing cities, and the time spent traveling between them is an opportunity to unwind in a hot tub, to lounge by a pool with a fruity cocktail, to play trivia, to sing karaoke, to eat abundantly, to visit the casino, or to do whatever the heck it is you like to do. However, on other cruises, the typical downsides are that your time spent in each port is usually limited to a fast-paced day trip, the food is usually B+ at best, and it is hard to feel truly relaxed when you are rushing around so much. Azamara has unlocked the code to facilitating a superb vacation. This trip had four full days at sea, so there was plenty of time to unwind and relax. We visited the astral spa twice for facials and massages, which we really enjoyed. We also paid extra to use the Thalassotherapy pool and private deck (it's free for those who book a suite), which we felt was a worthwhile expense for the VIP privacy benefits it provided. We had a blast in the casino and the entertainment on board was better than most. The fact that we spent two days and one night in both Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro meant that we were able to truly experience both cities and their nightlife without feeling rushed. We especially enjoyed the AzAmazing evening in Buenos Aires where we toured a fantastic historic home and were treated to a spectacular tango show. Afterwards, we ventured out into town on our own and had one of the best meals of our lives at an authentic Parilla in town (Don Julio). Obviously, it goes without saying that Carnaval in Rio is a bucket-list activity, and Azamara did a great job of organizing everything (at an extra cost), while making sure everyone felt safe. I especially appreciated the little tea sandwiches which were waiting for us in our stateroom when we returned from the Sambadrome at 5 am. It made me feel like Azamara was my mom and always looking out! Overall, we enjoyed the Land Discoveries we booked. They were convenient and helpful to get a good lay of the land. The day we disembarked, we booked a tour of Rio, which allowed us to fill the day (before our 11 pm flight home) seeing all the major sights (Sugarloaf, all the beaches, Christ the Redeemer), while our luggage was safely stored on the bus, and included a complimentary trip to the airport. The food and service on board the Azamara Journey is superb (and we are really picky). On other cruise lines, the specialty restaurants are your best bet for a decent meal. This isn't necessarily true on the Journey. The food is great everywhere, so don't feel compelled to book them, however the service is extra great if you do. Likewise, we appreciated the all-inclusive aspect to the booze. The wines, cocktails and beers that came included were perfectly fine and made it easy to drink without worrying about the bar tab. Lastly, the fact that the ship is smaller afforded a sense of camaraderie among the passengers and we made dozens of new friends. Our only word of caution is that families traveling with children may be dismayed to find that the cruise did not expressly cater to young children. Honestly, we highly recommend this trip and plan to cruise with Azamara again in the future. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
I was on the Rio to Buenos Aires 9 day cruise that disembarked Dec 22. I'm a pretty experienced cruiser having been on over 70 cruises including now 2 on Azamara, 2 on Oceania, Seabourn, Crystal, as well as a range of other lower ... Read More
I was on the Rio to Buenos Aires 9 day cruise that disembarked Dec 22. I'm a pretty experienced cruiser having been on over 70 cruises including now 2 on Azamara, 2 on Oceania, Seabourn, Crystal, as well as a range of other lower price point lines over the past 25 years. I have been at sea for 100 days this year. In my opinion, service by all staff, crew and officers (with one exception by Guest Services) was excellent. In particular, all dining room/buffet staff were extraordinarily efficient, polished and friendly without being intrusive. Heike, the Hotel Mgr, was more hands on than any other 4 striper I have ever observed at sea. She does a great job with staff. Our cabin was a forward veranda, deck 6 - a standard sized veranda with flat screen and a minibar stocked with free beer, soft drinks and water. Bedding was comfortably sumptuous. Veranda chair and table quite comfortable as well. Pretty much what one would expect from a premium line. We opted out of room service afternoon tea or any other room service for that matter. The daily fruit plate and soft drinks were sufficient for our in cabin needs. The entertainment was just okay. The violinist virtuoso show and the and comedienne/magician show were entertaining, however I have typically seen considerably better production shows from the onboard dance and singing team on even mass market lines. The costumer especially needs practice or a bigger budget. The cruise director, Eric, participated more actively in the evening cabaret entertainment than the CD of any other cruise I've been on. He's okay as a singer and dancer, but could stand to cut back at his attempts at joke telling. I thought the various daily activities could have been presented earlier in the day. It seemed that many lectures, games, etc., were scheduled for late afternoon which created timing conflicts. I would also have also preferred more dancing before dinner. The orchestra was great, but rarely played for dancing pre-dinner (once I think). While the service was uniformly great throughout the ship, I can not say the same for the food. I have occasionally written about food/restaurants for a couple of small So Am publications. In anticipation of the platitudinous "tastes in food are so subjective" rejoinder, it's my observation that there are sufficiently well-defined limits to the subjectivity of food taste and quality that most people can generally agree that something is good, bad, or in-between, e.g. most would prefer a well prepared lobster to poorly prepared frozen fish sticks. We tried the French chef's table ($75 pp add-on) and I was disappointed. As is customary with haute cuisine, there were no condiments on the table (insulting the chef and all that). Unfortunately, my appetizers/soup would have benefitted from some spicing up. Please pass the non-existent pepper and olive oil for that tuna tartar. Lackadaisically, I chose not to bother asking our waiter to retrieve some. My bad. The main course of beef loin was, not surprisingly, as flavorless as it was tender. Change the cut or sauce it more elaborately. The sommelier droned on with esoteric comments on the wines to such length that one was tempted to start a food fight or do anything else that would get him to stop talking and start refilling glasses. I find it hard to believe any of the 12 diners were interested in how long before the must is separated from the pomace of each wine. I experienced the same disappointment in Aqualina ($25 pp add-on). The ravioli pasta encasing a lobster flavored filling (vaguely so flavored owing to the apparent paucity of lobster) was gooey/mushy almost to the point of inedibility. Were they reheating these things in a microwave? In order to constitute a decent portion, the two large shrimp scampi of my main course had to be plated along with 3 medium shelled shrimp, the kind served throughout the ship. What about just adding one or two more large prawns cooked as scampi? The pasta side (a requested substitute for rice) was dry and ordinary. I fared better in Prime C, but just barely. The lobster bisque was nothing like the rich creamy concoction I have had in other specialty restaurants on other lines. The one spaghetti noodle floating in the dish was as much a surprise to my waiter as me. He later informed me it was designed as the raft supporting the lone miniscule piece of lobster served atop the bisque. The veal tenderloin main was okay, but I would have preferred the option of a more flavorful veal chop. The accompanying baked potato was obviously reheated/nuked, but it still arrived insufficiently warm. Service was okay, but no better than the MDR. Speaking of the MDR, I ordered the Chef's Selection on the first night - pork scallopini with a crab sauce. It was not good. Nor was I impressed (favorably) with any of the subsequent meals in the MDR. Ditto for the buffet in Windows Café. I have to believe Azamara has cut back on food costs. Either that or it needs to reexamine its home office menus/preparation. The paradigm example of ineptitude were the corned beef finger sandwiches served after returning from the Azamazing evening - 2 inches of bread (not rye) surrounding a thin sliver of beef. They got the bread and the beef confused! The hamburgers served at the pool grill can stand to be upgraded and why was sweet pickle relish only available upon request? Unlike the hamburgers, the veggie burgers were prepared freshly each time and were very good. Lastly, what is with the all inclusive drink list? The house wines were fine, but I thought that the selection of mixed drinks that were not included made little sense. After all, other mixed drinks using identical or almost identical ingredients (no cost differential) were included. I could have a bloody mary, grasshopper, marguarita, or screwdriver free , but not a Negroni or cosmo? It struck me that there was little thought given to the composition of the all inclusive drink list. A minor distraction, but perhaps an indication of the frugality of the executive menu makers. p.s. When operating in So Am waters some thought should be given to keeping the dining venues open later in the evenings. People who live in Bs. As. seldom sit down to dinner before 9 pm - when the MDR and specialty restaurants were closing down. p.p.s Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed the cruise. Food was disappointing only because I had higher expectations.     Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
This was our first cruise with Azamara. Most of our cruises have been with Crystal and Celebrity. We are a couple in our late 30s and really enjoy a more subdued, upscale environment. I was a little worried having booked this cruise, as ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Azamara. Most of our cruises have been with Crystal and Celebrity. We are a couple in our late 30s and really enjoy a more subdued, upscale environment. I was a little worried having booked this cruise, as the photos of the ship online make the decor look very dated and old-fashioned. I was also concerned about being on a much smaller ship than we are used to. However, I needn't have worried on either count as the ship was fabulous. As soon as we embarked, I saw how the "classic" decor of this ship really works and created a cozy, high-end environment. The ship, while older, has obviously been well-maintained and we saw very few areas that need updating (most notably, the hallways and soft-goods in the rooms should be updated). We found the ship very easy to navigate, quick to get from one area to the next and very comfortable. The Azamara service doesn't disappoint (except by the rude girls at Guest Relations), as staff members are readily available to assist with whatever your needs might be. We really appreciated never having to wait for a drink, as servers are constantly checking on guests. This is a BIG change from Celebrity, where it is next-to-impossible to get a drink server's attention. Crew were generally very friendly and available. The officers are very visible as well. Azamara holds one Azamazing Evening per cruise. Ours was in Rio de Janeiro. We were bussed to a location where we were offered cocktails and given a Samba show. It wasn't "amazing", but it was a fun night and we appreciated doing something that we wouldn't have seen on our own. The transport to the event was seamless. The return transport was a little less so, but wasn't bad. Food was uniformly good all around the ship; although the buffet could use a little more imagination and variety. We found most of our meals in the main dining room to be good to excellent. We also dined in Prime C and Aqualina, both of which offered fabulous service and excellent food. The main weak point were the gross sandwiches offered in the buffet for those of us returning from the Azamazing Evening. We stayed in a Club Continent Suite, which was a fantastic room - very large and had everything we could want. We were very happy to have so much storage space and not to have to climb over each other. The only drawback was the location being under the buffet (noisy), but that could have been prevented had we checked the deck plans. We will continue to cruise primarily with Celebrity, because we do enjoy the activities on the larger ships, but we really enjoyed Azamara and wouldn't hesitate to sail with them again (in fact, we have one booked for 2017!) Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2012
This was our second Azamara Cruise and first time on Journey, the identical twin of the Quest. In fact, we had the same exact cabin (7005 - Club Ocean Suite) as we did on the Quest, and imagine our surprise to have the same Butler, Alwyn! ... Read More
This was our second Azamara Cruise and first time on Journey, the identical twin of the Quest. In fact, we had the same exact cabin (7005 - Club Ocean Suite) as we did on the Quest, and imagine our surprise to have the same Butler, Alwyn! There were many familiar faces on board from the Quest, so we felt at home right away. The Journey is well-maintained and our suite was just as we remembered on the Quest. Tons of closet space, plenty of outlets, and the wonderful huge forward facing veranda. The highlight of staying in a top-category suite on the Journey for us was certainly the "Best of the Best" dinner. Held once per voyage, this formal dinner is set in the Drawing Room with background music provided by the excellent harpist, Jacqueline Dolan. Guests are welcomed with a flute of champagne. Candles, white linens, long table set with fine china - this is right out of the days of classic steamships and is a special perk only for guests in the four Club Ocean Suites on the front of the ship, and the six Club World Owner's Suites located aft. Dinner was hosted by Johannes Tysse (Master of the Vessel), Magnus Davidson (Staff Captain), Nikolaos Baltsavias (Chief Engineer), and Heike Berdos (Hotel Director). Couples are seated together at formal place settings complete with name cards, and the officers are interspersed, making for easy conversation. Interestingly, there were 8 couples in attendance, suggesting that 2 suites may be empty or those guests opted for less formal dining. (There are about 480 total passengers on board.) Service is a classic "Ballet of Service" provided by the ship's white-gloved butlers who were keen to show off their training. Executive Chef Fabio D'Agosta prepared the meal, and wine pairings were orchestrated by Angelbert Macalinao, the Sommelier. After a toast by the Ship's Master, the culinary magic began. Last night's first course was called "Royal Dome" and consisted of jumbo shrimp on salmon, avocado, and crab tartare with chives and smoked mousseline this was paired with a Bollini Pinot Grigio from Trentino, Italy. The second course was decadent. Seared foie gras on honey walnut raisin bread with hazelnut roasted figs and black current syrup. The bright acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc from Clos du Bois in Geyserville, California was the perfect foil for the richness of the foie. To cleanse the palate, chef offered a delightful lemon and basil sorbet, which delighted in both taste and aroma. The main course was a choice of parmesan crusted Chilean sea bass with saffron risotto, sun-dried tomato pesto, and basil infused oil matched with a Pouilly-Fuisse from Louis Jadot, Burgundy, France or a "contemporary Tournedos Rossini" of veal tenderloin, Madeira jus, truffle oil, and yes, more foie gras - paired with a dark and luscious Merryvale, Starmont, Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California. Dinner conversation revolved mainly around the world travels of guests and officers - Heike shared her tip for the best Tango show in Buenos Aries. (This morning we found she had slipped a brochure under our door!) To top things off, Chef Fabio created a "surprise" for dessert - and indeed it was a bit of culinary sleight of hand. I'll keep it a surprise for the next guest! After dinner, a bit of Warre's 2003 LBV porto was offered, along with coffee and tea. Ladies were offered lovely long-stemmed red roses as we said our thank-yous and good-nights to the officers. Dinner ran from 7 pm to just about 20 minutes til 10 pm, so we missed the start of the show. Others have commented before about the friendliness of the crew, the intimacy of the ship (without feeling crowded), and other highlights. Suffice it say, my take is that anyone who loves food and wine will very much love the "suite life" on an Azamara Club Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
This is the second review of our back to back cruise, we thought it was appropriate to do two reviews as they were two different cruises and we will focus particularly on the differences. As back to back cruisers, our view of ... Read More
This is the second review of our back to back cruise, we thought it was appropriate to do two reviews as they were two different cruises and we will focus particularly on the differences. As back to back cruisers, our view of embarkation was a little different. Azamara handle back to back extremely well, we had been invited to early evening drinks a couple of days previously when our new room keys were given to us, all we had to do was go to the gangway, punch out the old cards and punch in the new cards on change over day. We did go into the terminal and could see that Azamara had asked for their land agents to put a lot of people on the ground to help guests, the issue was the English language skills of some, however the majority of guests we spoke to had had a fairly smooth embarkation. We had the opportunity to see how the ship is stripped down on changeover day -- it is very impressive, every part of the ship seemed to be getting scrubbed, polished and cleaned. Dining Our dining experiences on this second cruise broadly reflected what had happened on the first trip. However, we spent much less time in the speciality restaurants. As there were only 320 guests on board the restaurants were opening on alternative nights. Our first visit to Aqualina was not their best, however our final evening there it had returned to the standard we know and love. The reaction to our feedback from the Hotel Director and Restaurant manager was absolutely first class and demonstrated beyond doubt this is a line that cares about customer service. We did not get a chance to visit Prime C but spent the rest of our evenings dining in Discoveries where the food was absolutely excellent and on the evidence of this cruise, there is only a cigar paper now between the quality of food and service between the regular and speciality restaurants. Lunch time buffets are also excellent, this trip the choices were scaled back a little, again because of the reduced number of guests, but it was never an issue, in fact in some ways it was easier to make our choices this time! Two evening buffets were planned but the weather gods had other ideas. On both occasions, the buffet still happened, on the first there was no outdoor dining and on the second there was some tables set up for dining outdoors but no entertainment, which was a shame because in the end the forecast rain did not come though it really threatened to and had been around earlier in the day. We went to the second buffet and it was absolutely superb, gorgeous steaks, escargot, fish, you name it, it was there . One night, I casually asked if my much loved cinnamon icecream would be on the menu as it had not yet appeared on either cruise -- it was only a casual question whilst applauding a new found love, the apple honey icecream -- next evening as my desert was being served a lovely portion of cinnamon ice cream was brought to me -- really nice touch. Entertainment It is quite challenging for many people to get visas for Brazil -- and it is even more difficult for the entertainers who are on the move and cannot give their passports away for any length of time. Therefore, we had the same entertainers on as our previous cruise, Eliot Finkel ( pianist), Bob Trunell (magician) and Bruce Parker (singer). Each of these performers do two nights and as we had not seen both their shows on trip one it worked really well and we enjoyed all the shows. We also had to see Eric de Gray's show again and his input to the Broadway show -- amazing. Staff and Service What more can I say other than this is an excellent well run team. We had switched to Captain Johannes this cruise and he is exactly as a Captain should be -- he gives leadership to his team and encourages them to go the extra mile for the guest. What is also clear is that every member of staff we came across loved working for him. Heike as hotel director is so much in control of the hotel operations and has such high standards and yet is always looking for new ways to raise the bar even higher. Pravin, Hilda and Andrei continued to keep our room in tip top shape, when I read elsewhere about butlers not giving service, all I can say is they have not been trained by the same people or have the same mindset as Pravin. Excursions We booked on several shore excursions for this trip taking advantage of the 50% off offer. Parati was a repeat visit for us and this time we did a trip to beaches organised through the ship. The beaches were lovely and the guide was very enthusiastic, adding in an additional stop and hike to a further beach. Just be aware of this in South America, all our shore excursions overran by at least an hour, no issue the ship leaving without us, most were morning trips anyway, but it did impact on our afternoon plans each day. It would be as well to build in some flex to any plans you make just in case. Ilhabella is a lovely little port, there is not a lot to do there and whilst the locals are clearly making efforts to cater for the tourists, the infrastructure is limited. We did hear of some guests who had set off on a taxi and then had trouble getting back from the beach and another couple who got on a bus only to find the return was not until the next day. Both were mighty relieved we had a 2300 sailaway! Our excursion was a cruise to a nearby beach where you then had to transfer to pontoons to get ashore, be careful if you choose this trip and have more limited mobility as it was not clear such a complex move was required. Trip was pleasant, mother nature did not however give her best display that day Punta del Este -- another repeat for us and one we chose to do on our own. We walked around and found the beach visited more my locals than tourists (Playa El Emir) about 15 minutes gentle stroll from the ship. Enjoyed a very pleasant time sitting here before making our way back to the ship stopping off to view the sealions en route. Montevideo -- our original choice of excursion to a winery was cancelled due to lack of participation which was disappointing so we opted instead for a morning city tour. This was actually very good and we had a few interesting photostops en route (more than were advertised in the excursion guide). We had planned to wander back to town in the afternoon (no idea why actually but it is close and there was a free shuttle running) however, when we returned from the trip the mercury was already well over 90 so we went for a lazy afternoon by the pool (actually is went over 100 that day so we were glad we did not try too much more) Buenos Aires -- we were here two nights and as we had already done city tours prior to our first cruise we were able to go further afield on this trip. Both shore excursions were ones I think would have been tricky to try on our own. We did hear a lot of guests had problems with the local taxis with drivers not using meters, deliberately getting lost on the way back to the port and generally pulling out all the scams from the book. Speaking to a friend who lives in BA this, unfortunately, is par for the course there these days. We actually ran into a scam on disembarkation (more on the other aspects of that later) -- we were pushing our trolley towards the taxi rank as our driver was waiting near there, no issue until we passed the end of the line of taxi drivers, one of them ran up and yanked our trolley from us and said 50 pesos ($9) pointing to the trolley. Other drivers surrounded us and the issue was they were trying to charge us for using the trolley as we were not taking a taxi from them. Our private driver saw what was happening, came over, used a few well chosen words, and the "scammers" all just walked away shrugging their shoulders trying to look innocent (not!). So you know, there are NO charges for using trolleys at Buenos Aires port. Estancia -- This trip to Santa Susanah estancia was really good value, included (though not advertised) was a short ride on the horses, as well as the usual display of horsemanship by the gauchos, some entertainment and an absolutely excellent buffet/barbecue. All I would say is do not plan to eat much on the evening you do this trip, which is a pleasant one hour drive out of BA. Tigre Delta is a fascinating area about 45 minutes from BA, think Venice but no pavements. The one hour cruise around was very pleasant on a lovely modern boat with a good commentary from our guide. The only issue with this trip was the bus driver got very lost on the way home (the guide tried to pretend they did not but we could here the conversations at the front of the coach!). We were so late back there were no lunch options available, even though the Shore Excursions rep who was on the trip with us assured us there would be and she would phone ahead. When we got back on board, it was clear she had not --minor black mark there but the excellent Martina (Chief housekeeper) looked after us so well on our return when she heard what had happened. Disembarkation We arranged for disembarkation in the last group to go off as our driver was not coming until 0915. Again, all the arrangements by Azamara were excellent and as we were on bus shuttles within the port area, each bus was effectively a colour tag group. Standing waving off every bus was Heike, Liesl (Guest Relations Manager), Fred (F and B Manager) and Eric de Gray. Everyone on our bus commented how lovely, we do not want to go home and there were some teary eyes --that says it all Thank you Azamara, we will be back! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
This review was long in coming since I have been massively busy and unable to find the time to do a thorough job in reviewing the ship. The beginning of the trip was to say the least, hideous! This was possible because my ... Read More
This review was long in coming since I have been massively busy and unable to find the time to do a thorough job in reviewing the ship. The beginning of the trip was to say the least, hideous! This was possible because my expectations were so high having cruised with Azamara twice before and was blown away by both embarkation procedures. Sadly, the Port in Rio was a disaster for all who happened to be embarking that day. 6 ships were in port. We arrived late to avoid the crowds and see just a little more of Rio - too long at the Hippie Market I think!! I will not go into minutiae but will say that it was out of the control of the Azamara team for the most part, however, there was no Azamara team presence when we arrived but the ever lovely Leisl came just as we boarded the bus from hell. LOL Suffice it to say it is my understanding that things have improved and the same hoary situation was diffused before we got to Buenos Aires. As usual, Azamara's recovery from the issue was very good. Enough said. The embarkation debacle ended, I was glad to be welcomed home with the usual champagne - even though the lifeboat drill was in progress. Luggage and drink in hand (I travel with ONLY a carry-on) - I made my way to my lovely cabin and proceeded to unpack and calm down. 4 bottles of Johnnie Walker Black sitting on my counter beckoned to me ---- "Come, sit, take a load off and feel the warmth of the evening South American sun!!" I did as I was told. :-) My Butler peeks in to check on me - don't you JUST LOVE IT! MY Butler :-) Yes I share him with a few others but it doesn't feel like there is anyone but me in his life. A sentiment I NEVER felt with either of my TWO ex-husbands. Which is why I love to spoil myself in CC Suite!! LOL I make arrangements with him for sailaway parties every evening - and inform him that a few folks will be coming down after lifeboat drill that evening! He is unfazed and within moments I have bar set-up, wine, champagne and lovely canapes set up. He is a dream come true. I am a Princess and I am able to simply enjoy meeting all my new Cruise Critic friends. The embarkation fiasco is forgotten. I made arrangements to have dinner with my friends in Aqualina that night. Picture perfect. It always blows me away on the first night that everything is completely as it should be when cruising with Azamara! Usually the first night you can expect a few hiccups....I expect them, but none come. The mark of excellence. The adventure begins...... Each port was lovely. Different than my past few cruises in Europe and Asia. More laid back. A leisurely breakfast on the balcony each morning and a meeting in the lobby for tender to each port. There was never a wait for the tenders. No long lines. No need for my priority status. I planned the excursions on Cruise Critic and we had fabulous adventures each day. Small intimate groups - freestyle tours -- less than half the cost of the cruise line excursions. The weather was not co-operative in Buzios but we boarded the Trolley (turned into a small van because of the weather) and toured the lovely island and saw some amazing things in the fog and mist. Different. The cachaca factory was a "heartwarming" experience...LOL After that we all had a very good time regardless of anything!!! :-) Paraty and the Gold Trail hike was magnificent. Tiring. I was too worn out to EVEN SHOP!!!! Dinner in my room for the first time EVER --- each course served separately on the balcony, each course as good as it was in the dining room...hot, delicious. Love the roast lamb on Azamara. Punta del Este a standout - lovely island - did the self walk that you get a brochure for on the pier. Fabulous. Must go to the Gottex bathing suit factory - $300 suits for $100 and 2 floors packed full of the Israeli treasures. Fireworks display at midnight fantastic. Ship stayed in port to see it. Amazing!!! A little breezy and a hot drink outside would have been most welcome. Oh well. Next time perhaps. Montevideo is a treat.....did a walking tour with a British expat. She was great. Don't miss the market by the pier for lunch - MEAT MEAT AND MORE MEAT! Traditional bbq! YUMMMMMM The entertainment is so-so. Not a big draw for me. Love the late dinners with friends. We became a little rowdy a few times. Nothing we had to walk the plank over though!!! ;-) Shops are nicely stocked - small but interesting selection. Highlights were Christmas Day Brunch in the MDR. Lovely music, great choice of food. Christmas carolling. Hannukah parties every night with all the traditional food. I don't discriminate....I enjoy taking advantage of any celebration offered. I am all inclusive Atheist - I believe in anything that is FUN and celebrates life! No blessing refused....equal opportunity enjoyer. Now for the good stuff! The food. Great in all venues for sure. I ate mostly in the Specialty dining rooms. Loved the Aqualina menu. The seafood platter and the lobster is to die for. Every night favourite dessert - Souffle...but the waiters always insisted that we try one of everything. We did not refuse. Every desire we verbalized was met without question. Two tails and a steak - no problem. I do not eat red meat but will treat myself to lamb on occasion. Yummy - No food was ever sent back, no food not to taste. I have, however, cut way back on my salt intake and I found some things a little salty. Not a huge issue. The soups were a standout. In Aqualina they are all unbelievably good. I wanted to make a meal of all soup and bread one night!!! The food onboard is very consistent. It is good across all venues. This sailing was the best of my three. Deck parties were exceptionally good. The Pool Grill was an issue at the beginning. It is always a long proposition there. At first, they tried to expedite the service by putting on a waiter and an assistant, however there was a large South American family that made them an offer they couldn't refuse (so to speak) - needless to say, no one else in the area got any service. It was very interesting how this ended up being handled. I blogged about it when I was on board. We did complain because the service level was so abysmal. For US, that is!! It took over an hour for me to get a turkey burger .... Heike had asked me about the embarkation and the pool bar and she actually was able to review the video tapes from security to verify my story. The next day the process was cleaned up, service was changed and a team went to work making sure that everyone had wonderful poolside service. Another save for Azamara. Mark of excellence. In an overview, the attention to detail and the overall graciousness of the staff and crew make Azamara a unique experience. You feel welcomed and honoured by the sincerity of all the employees. It feels like coming home to good friends. The ambiance of the ship is truly exceptional. You want to relax, enjoy, smile and be yourself when you are on board. No judgement, no worries - you feel like you belong there. I do anyway!!! Thanks you to all on board....Lisle, Heike, OMG - everyone!!!! I have just booked for June 2013 - a Baltic journey on the Quest and I plan on taking along a few friends.....I will make a few new ones on CC and I will take them from past CC friends. What a joy - how truly blessed are we all to be able to enjoy such adventures with folks from all over the world. Azamara is conducive to such joyous celebrations of life. As much as I adore my children and grandkids (especially the grandkids)- the inheritance is being drained.....you will have to fend for yourselves. My next adventure is taking my grandson to Disneyland in June. After that - MAYBE SEE YOU ON THE QUEST IN JUNE 2013?????? :-) Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
We just returned from a wonderful cruise on the Azamara Journey today after a 12 day cruise and 2 day precruise package. We embarked on the cruise on Dec 11. We started in Santos (Sao Paulo port) and ended in Buenos Aires. We had a ... Read More
We just returned from a wonderful cruise on the Azamara Journey today after a 12 day cruise and 2 day precruise package. We embarked on the cruise on Dec 11. We started in Santos (Sao Paulo port) and ended in Buenos Aires. We had a fabulous time. I sometimes wondered if I was on the same ship mentioned in some other reviews. For back ground I am 59 years old and my husband is 61. We have sailed 9 times on Princess, once on Celebrity, once on Carnival and once on Renaissance (now out of business). We are both still working. We have sailed on the very same ship when it was the R6 (Renaissance) and a similar ship with Princess (Tahitian Princess). The average age on guests appeared to be around 60 and there were less than a dozen children aboard. There are very few children's activities. We arrived 2 days early booking our own air and transfers to the hotel (we prefer to do this as we have had several bad experiences with cruise air on other lines in the past. We booked the 2 day pre cruise package at the Hyatt which was beautiful and very well priced (far below booking on our own). It included wonderful breakfasts and ships transfers. The only problem was the transfers to the ship were very poorly handled by the company contracting with Azamara. The liaison did not speak English or Spanish and really was not even sure what ship we were boarding. Azamara needs to have one of their own staff members supervising at the hotel. The ship is beautiful. It is a small intimate ship and unlike the larger floating hotels. They have done a fabulous job restoring and upgrading. The rooms are small but well laid out and we had a private balcony were we had breakfast many mornings (excellent). The bedding is new and very comfortable. We slept very well. The Elemis amenities were very high quality. There were flowers and fruit in our room upon arrival and replenished as the ship went on. The flat screen TV was lovely but I would like more programming/channels. There was on CNN sports, CNN (for ships?) TNT and TMC. There was also the ability to do pay per view films. The only negative is that I would also like shower/bath gel. It is mainly a non smoking ship and we never smell smoke anywhere. The pool is small with 2 jacuzzis tubs but never crowded. The lounge chairs are wood with very comfy pads. My biggest beef is that the jacuzzis closed at 8:00 PM. There is another Jacuzzi (thallastherapy spa?) at the front of the shipthat was open until 10 with more deck chairs, but the ship charged an additional $100 per person to use this during the cruise. I never saw anyone using it and I think this is rather tacky. On a premium line charge a few dollars more and include these things. The gym is very nice and well equipped. It was well used but not crowded. The Steiner spa treatments are good but expensive (the same as all other cruise ships). The crew was (with a few exceptions) helpful and very friendly and approachable. The Captain is British, young and interacted easily with the guests. They are constantly striving to make this a premium line and are receptive to comments and make changes very quickly. The cabin steward (butler?) and his assistant did a great job. I never ordered tea or canapEs in my room so I do not know the quality. The guest relations staff was extremely helpful. The dining is open seating, which we prefer. We never, ever waited more than 5 minutes for a table. Sometimes we ate alone and sometimes with new friends. When we cam in with 8-10 people it took a few minutes, when we were alone we were seated immediately. Some waiters were faster than others, if you found one you like you could ask to be seated at one of their tables. I liked the food, my husband not as much. The ingredients are all high quality. An attempt is made to make the food more "Nouvelle Cuisine" style. The food was somewhat bland, but considering the demographics of the passengers I can understand. The food is not over salted. The plates are unusually shaped and often glass 3 part "tasting dishes" were used. The desserts were excellent.. The salads a bit unimaginative. The food in the specialty restaurants is different but no better than the regular dining room. The buffet breakfast was very always very good. The lunch buffet was good but the ice cream bar was wonderful. I never ate at the pool side grill. Tea in Michaels was elegant and the snacks in Cova Cafe were very nice. Breakfast room service was great. I ordered room service pizza one night and that was terrible (good service awful microwave pizza). The wine and drinks were a little pricey. The ships excursions were a mixed bag. Some were very good, some were ok and some were bad. This is no different than our experience on other cruise lines. They were not cheap but this is the same on all ships we have been on. We particularly enjoyed the Tango show tour in Buenos Aires, the Jewish Heritage tour in Montevideo. The Blumenau tour was not very good. We did not take the 2 day Iguaza Falls tour ($1400 per person) and thought this should be offered as a pre or post cruise tour rather than spending 2 nights in Itajai while 38 people took the tour. The entertainment was nice but weak (Princess does a better job of the same size chip). The dancers and singers and band were very good We found Celebrity's entertainment to be weaker than other lines also. Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and quick. However people who flew in the same day had trouble getting their transfers at the airport and it was a 2 and ½ hour drive in traffic. The ship took a day room at a local quality hotel for use by guests while waiting for their planes. Overall we had a great time and will most likely book another cruise with Azamara. We like the smaller, upscale ships with open seating. We find the atmosphere friendlier. We do not miss formal nights and midnight buffets. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
INTRODUCTIONI have cruised a total of 55 times on almost all lines save acouple of the ultra luxury ones. In 2007 the wife and I sailed on a 15day Oceania Insignia crossing. Later in 2007 RCL Ltd launched theAzamara line by acquiring and ... Read More
INTRODUCTIONI have cruised a total of 55 times on almost all lines save acouple of the ultra luxury ones. In 2007 the wife and I sailed on a 15day Oceania Insignia crossing. Later in 2007 RCL Ltd launched theAzamara line by acquiring and refitting two "R" class ships ostensiblyto compete with the three virtually identical ships currently operatedby Oceania. There has been enormous interest, particularly on the partof Oceania aficionados, in how the Azamara experience shapes usagainst Oceania. Having now sailed both I was able to draw somecomparisons.EMBARKATIONWife and I hopped on an overnight bus in Rio de Janeiro where wereside for the 6 hour ride to the embarkation port of Santos. Giventhe normally heavy traffic it can sometimes take more than 2 hoursjust to travel the 60 miles by bus from Sao Paulo's Guarulhos airportto the pier in Santos. We figured we could save time and hassle if wetook the bus to Santos directly and avoided airport check in, taxisand transfers, etc.At the Santos bus terminal we hailed a cab for the 15 minuteride to the pier. As we arrived at 7:00 a.m we opted to drop off ourluggage and continue in the taxi for a tour of the area, principallythe neighboring beach town of Guaruja. In contrast to Santos, Guarujais a charming, upscale resort popular with well to do Paulistas. Nexttime we arrive way early for a Santos embarkation we will spend timeon the beaches of nearby Guaruja. You may want to consider that too.After the usual hassle with the cab driver over the agreed fareit was back to the ship's terminal where we had to wait almost 2 hoursto board despite having been promised by Azamara reps that boardingwould start an hour sooner. Though I am normally impatient I havelived in Brazil long enough to know that getting things done here canoften take longer than anticipated, especially since this was thefirst time Azamara was embarking in Santos. We browsed the fewterminal shops until the embarkation desk opened. We were among thefirst to check in so there were no lines. William, manager of thePrime C specialty restaurant, had set up a separate desk where all paxwere required to make a dining room reservation for the first night, awell meaning effort to avoid an unmanageable crunch at any of thedining venues on night one. In point of fact, perhaps because we tendto dine after 8:30, we never had to wait more than a minute or two tobe seated in Discoveries, the main dining room, or either of thespecialty restaurants. That the ship was sailing with less than 500pax, (70% capacity) no doubt also facilitated seating.CABIN AND BUTLERWe made our way to our aft SSV cabin without benefit ofchampagne cocktail or assistance, neither of which matter to us thoughit might to some. This was our first time in an aft veranda which wechose because of the oversized balcony, its only distinguishingfeature. We weren't much concerned with excessive movement while atsea because on this itinerary the Journey would be hugging the shoreand sailing up river in Buenos Aires. After several hefty markdownsfrom the original price at which I booked, the cabin finally wound upcosting us $3240 which I consider a real bargain; however, I don'tthink the extra size of the SSV balcony justifies a significant pricepremium primarily because both adjoining verandas are completelypartitioned by metal walls which together with the prominent overhangtends to create a boxed-in sensation. The regular verandas on my deckappeared sufficiently spacious to comfortably accommodate a diningtable and two chairs for those who want to dine on their veranda.Shortly after freshening up we toured the ship. As expected thelayout is virtually identical to the Oceania Insignia and similarlywell appointed. We returned to our cabin to find our bags had arrived.While we were unpacking our butler, Natasha, neatly attired in atuxedo like uniform, entered to welcome us and explain her function.This was our first butlered cabin so I was eager to hear thedescription of her duties. Aside from shining shoes, makingreservations in the specialty restaurants and delivering afternoonsavories to the cabin, I could not distinguish her duties from thoseof the typical cabin steward. We are ordinarily low maintenancepassengers so any services supplementing the usual cabin stewardservices are superfluous for us. As it turned out I assigned Natashaseveral extra chores which she cheerfully undertook with only the mostfleeting of quizzical glances at me. Natasha (and her assistant)performed all routine and not so routine tasks well and always with anengaging sense of humor.The cabin itself held no surprises. The bed, e.g., firm paddedmattress, high thread count sheets, and feathered/down pillows wereall first rate and super comfy just like those on the Insignia. Thebathroom shower was a bit small and the water pressure a bit low, butneither to the point of inconvenience. The robes and towels wereplush. We appreciated the binoculars, umbrella and especially the handheld hairdryer in the vanity desk. The table and chairs on the verandawere more comfortable than expected. There was one significantproblem, a malfunctioning air conditioning unit. The wall thermostatdid not properly regulate the temperature and, worse yet, the ceilingunit occasionally made a loud noise that lasted several minutes. Idelegated oversight of the repair to Natasha. After the ElectricalDept failed to fix it in a couple of tries, at my urging I think shefinally invoked the aid of the Chief Engineer. Anyway, it got repairedafter a few days.SERVICEThe outstanding feature of the on board experience was thewonderful attitude of all staff and crew. While they may not havealways hit the mark, every single person I encountered sincerelyendeavored to please as much as possible. This excellent attitudefacilitated acceptance of the occasional shortcomings in food, tableor room service, guest relations service, etc. The eagerness to pleaseand to improve so permeates the ship that one can easily foresee theoverall Azamara cruise experience getting even better in thenear future.In fact, many managers were new arrivals. I was informed that theHotel Mgr had boarded less than a week before we sailed. He was anextremely affable and apparently very capable guy. The home officeExec Chef, Tomas Symanski, was also newly aboard to revise the menuswhich are, in deed, in need of revision particularly in the specialtyrestaurants. I think the Cruise Director, Andrea Oliveti, was alsorecently transferred from the Azamara Quest. They and the F&B andDining Room Mgrs were all very intent on upgrading the food andservice. All of these senior officers hosted a group of CCers at whichmany issues were discussed and considered. I think the opinion of themajority of those present was that our expectations were beingexceeded, perhaps because expectations had been tempered by widespreadnegative criticism at the inception of the company's operations.DININGUnlike Oceania, Azamara charged a $20 and $25 cover for extravisits to specialty restaurants, Aqualina and Prime C respectively(penthouse occupants got two freebies, all others got one). Azamarahas announced that this surcharge is soon to be eliminated and eachpax will be entitled to one additional specialty restaurant meal.With the exception of the Windows Cafe buffet on deck 9 (wow,what a breakfast!) I did not think the food was as good as what I hadexperienced on Oceania's Insignia, but certain dishes at each of thedining venues were very good, a few excellent. The roasted sea basswhich I ordered in Discoveries on the first night was up there withthe best fish dishes I have ever tasted and had me thinking the foodwas going to rival that of the Insignia, a notion which got dispelledas time wore on. In Aqualina a seafood bouillabaisse was to die for.On the negative side the lobster newburg was the only lobster dish oneither specialty restaurant menu (actually it's only on Aqualina's,but as they share the same kitchen you can order off either menu). Itwas tasty, but I would have preferred to have had a choice of asimpler lobster preparation. Large scallops were delicious onenight, but on another in a different venue their delicate flavor wastotally obscured when presented on a bed of bacon. The duck breast inDiscoveries was as bad as the stuffed quails were good.Having lived in Buenos Aires for a couple of years and writtenan article on steakhouses for the local English language daily Iconsider myself something of a steak connoisseur. I did not think thesteaks were of sufficiently high quality in Prime C though I didn'ttry the so-called Kobe beef available for an $8 surcharge. Roast primerib was not on the menu and should be in a good steakhouse.Desserts were generally uninspiring throughout except at theWindows buffet where early in the cruise I came across a fantastic,dark chocolate mousse which, alas, I was never to see again. I'm surethe kitchen would have accommodated a request for more, but my wifereminded me of my promise not to overindulge in desserts so I left itto chance and as fate would have it I never saw that mousse again.Next time I am requesting it.I expect the Exec Chef will be working to achieve greaterculinary excellence throughout the ship. Hopefully, the company canpurchase better steaks and add more lobster to the menus in thespecialty restaurants. Timing in the kitchens and table service needsto be ratcheted up as well.  I had fabulous service 3 of the 4 timeswe dined in the specialty restaurants as well as most nights inDiscoveries, but suffered mediocre service once in each place.By way of example how hard the company is trying to please theywere quite generous in offering "comps.". For instance, when inresponse to a query by our waiter in Prime C, we mentioned our mildcriticism of a steak, William, the manager, soon appeared and compedus for a return visit. Another time when our Discoveries waiterneglected to advise us in advance of the $25 corkage fee, a publicizedfee that I knew existed, the exuberant Dining Room Manager, Chaika,came over at the end of the meal and removed the charge on the groundswe were not expressly advised in advance - I didn't have the heart toundermine his generosity by mentioning I knew about the fee. Finally,as a gesture of thanks for a small favor wife and I did, providingsome info on Rio, we were comped at Aqualina by the F&B Mgr. It'sdifficult not to enjoy yourself when those kinds of thingscontinuously occur.For breakfast we ordered light, continental style breakfasts viaroom service all but one day. In my experience room service is theweakest link in the food service chain on board, but the Journey roomservice crew did way better than most. They always arrived with almosteverything at the appointed time. Once late in the cruise they optedto come at 7:00 am instead of our customary 8:30 when I neglected tojot down the time we wanted our breakfast served. I assume the blamefor that although 7:00 was a bit curious in light of our known custom.Okay, I'm nitpicking.The weather forced us up to the deck 9 breakfast buffet once andI was amazed at the selection of nicely prepared items available, notthe least of which was a juice bar from which you could order almostany fruit/veggie concoction imaginable. Given that sumptuous breakfastbuffet I'm glad I avoided temptation by opting for the continentalbreakfast on our veranda.For lunch we either ate at the deck 9 buffet which was absolutelyfirst rate or indulged in a hamburger with fries or salad at thepoolside grill. I didn't like the franks, but the burgers were prettygood even though well done is mandatory. Cheese, bacon and sauteed mushroomscan compensate for the lack of rareness. I would also have preferrednot to have had to cope with those tiny plastic bags of ketchup,relish, mustard, etc. My dexterity isn't what it used to be and it'sdarn annoying trying to tear open a whole bunch of those bags to squeeze outtheir minuscule contents. I neglected to write that on my comment card.Maybe someone who agrees with me can do so in the near future. I wasdisappointed with the pizza, but I'm always disappointed with pizza atsea having grown up in New Jersey and NYC's little Italy. I think ithas to do with the lack of crispiness in the pre-baked dough and theblandness of the tomato "gravy."  Lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch andcoffee were always available from dispensers located in the buffet andnear the poolside grill.ENTERTAINMENT AND SHIPBOARD ACTIVITIESThe Journey's showroom/ theater is, like the other R ships,without a raised stage. Consequently, it's more intimate than thetypical large ship showroom and well suited to the cabaret showsperformed by the Journey cast of five singers and dancers. Theypresented three very entertaining shows during the 12 night cruise. Iwas impressed with the quality of the talent although I thought theshows' production values (staging, lighting and costumes) could havebeen better. I didn't catch much of the other showroom entertainmentthough my Brazilian wife told me the young group of Brazilian dancersthat performed when we were ported in Itajai were very good. Theorchestra was one of the better ones I have heard on ships although Iwould have liked more pre-dinner dance opportunities. The talentedband that played poolside made a lot of music for a trio.Andrea Oliveti was a capable, good natured cruise director. Hisequally good natured staff conducted numerous activities throughouteach day maintaining a cheerful enthusiasm even whenattendance was less than SRO. I was taken back when only 4 peopleshowed up for a mid-morning trivia session. Boy, what a bunch of couchpotatoes. Unfortunately, there was little in the way of enrichmentlecture. Wife and I even briefly manned an orientation desk to providetips on Rio a day before we ported there.The library (aka Michael's Club) had an honor system checkout andwas open all hours. I would have liked to have seen a better stockedlibrary - I could not find a single travel book. I believe tea wasserved there in the afternoon ( I never ventured to events featuringmore food). There is a piano in the room and I understand it was usedduring tea. In any event I wonder why tea service and the piano cannot be relocated to the large forward Looking Glass lounge (like it ison the Insignia) so that the library can be maintained as an oasis ofquiet.In addition to the piano player, there was a guitar playerperforming in the evenings near the casino entrance on deck 5 as wellas a harpist who performed near the Cova Cafe on deck 5 (a spot wherespecialty coffees and drinks were available for a charge). I confess Idid not catch their acts except in passing, but the guitarist wasBrazilian and sounded pretty accomplished. Each of the musicians hadtheir own small group of devotees.The internet connection aboard ship was so notoriously slow thatthe computer room was hardly ever occupied except for the occasionalfree class offered by the host. Pay TV programming was available inthe cabin. I am not a fan of pay TV movie programming, but if it helpsto hold down the base cruise price I guess I can suffer through thealternative non-pay movie programming that existed. A few almost firstrun movies and selected classics were rebroadcast several times everycouple of days and, of course, there was ESPN and the annoyinglyrepetitious CNN. The TV had an interactive service enabling one to reviewhis shipboard account, purchase excursions and check restaurantreservations, etc.The gym in the spa contained more than an adequate number ofelliptical machines, treadmills and stationary bikes in addition to abrand new assortment of cable machines and free weights for usbodybuilder types. I never had to wait to use a piece of equipment andI worked out 1.5 times per day. There were spinning classes andperhaps other classes, but I' m not a "class" guy so I wasn't fullyaware of schedules or cost, if any. Wife and I got haircuts,manicures, pedicures, etc. before leaving on the cruise and did notuse the spa so I can not opine on the quality of those and the otherservices offered. There was a room designated for acupuncture whichmight be of interest to some.The casino was appropriately (Insignia-sized) small. It containeda bunch of slots, a roulette and a couple of blackjack tables and alarge, hi-tech, automated Texas hold'em poker table that will soon bereplaced in view of its failure to attract players.PORTS AND EXCURSIONS The itinerary for this cruise consisted of Buenos Aires, Itajai,Paraty, Rio de Janeiro and the return to Santos. The ship departedSantos on Thursday, Nov 29 and made its first port of Buenos Aires onSunday, Dec 2. We sailed away from BA the same night. That was ascheduling error. Compounding that we also arrived in Rio de Janeiroon the following Sunday and departed Rio on Monday afternoon. Both BAand Rio are world class cities and arriving on a Sunday when so manyof the things to see and do are closed is unwise. Conversely, afterleaving Buenos Aires we overnighted in the small southern Braziliantown of Itajai apparently so that the ship could run an overnightexcursion to the falls of Iguazu for a small (30) group willing to payabout $1400 pp. This type of scheduling should be avoided on futureruns in these waters.I have not gone on a ship excursion for many years preferring tofend for myself. In Itajai, we paired up with another couple from theship and hired a taxi to take us to the German colonial town ofBlumenau located about an hour from port. Itajai has some prettybeaches close to the pier, but it rained the next day so we cancelledour outing to the beach. The Journey tendered passengers ashore inParaty, a picturesque colonial town located 140 miles from Rio. Tiedup at the pier where the passengers alighted were dozens of schoonerships of various capacity. For R$20 ($12) one could purchase a 5 hourschooner trip that included time for swimming and snorkeling among thenumerous islands that dot the Brazilian coast. Be sure to leave acouple of hours for shopping along the town's cobblestone streets.Paraty is an artsy, craftsy place.CONCLUSIONIn view of the spectacular effort by all staff and crew toplease, this cruise was delightful even if some things were notabsolutely perfect. The minor inconsistencies in service are sure tobe eliminated given the obvious concern by all senior officers toachieve excellence. It is hoped that the on board presenceof the line's Executive Chef portends a revision of the menus and animprovement in the quality of the food offerings particularly in thespecialty restaurants. When that happens the Journey will offer anoverall cruising experience very comparable to that which we enjoyedon the Oceania Insignia. Let's face it, because of a weak US dollar,the relative high cost of land travel throughout the world makescruising on a ship like the Journey a darn good value.   Read Less
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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