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Sail Date: January 2011
Having cruised on Azamara Journey before, we had high hopes of a great experience in the less explored waters of the Sea of Cortez. This time Azamara exceeded all expectations. Embarkation was an unhurried, well organised process, and ... Read More
Having cruised on Azamara Journey before, we had high hopes of a great experience in the less explored waters of the Sea of Cortez. This time Azamara exceeded all expectations. Embarkation was an unhurried, well organised process, and our cosy balcony cabin was traditionally elegant and comfortable, with water,sodas, fruit and quality toiletries replaced daily. A supremely comfortable bed had lovely Frette linens, and plush robes and slippers were provided. Dining, whether casual, gourmet, or in the lovely standard restaurant, were innovative, delightful experiences, with efficient, friendly service, accompanied by a daily choice of excellent included wines. If room service was chosen, it was delivered, freshly prepared, promptly and invariably delicious. The on board staff, all well trained, friendly and highly professional were clearly happy in their chosen professions, resulting in a very happy relaxed on-board atmosphere. Daily activities were well organised, efficiently run and varied, enabling passengers to socialise easily and make friends. The Baja and Sea of Cortez ports were all delightfully charming, with the opportunity to visit pretty, unspoilt , welcoming small towns, and the abundant wildlife we were able to see made this a truly memorable cruise. Azamara is a cruise line offering so much to discerning passengers who do not feel the need to have the razzmatazz that the big resort ships now offer. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Yes, our Azamara Journey cruise 30th January- 15th February has set a new benchmark for cruising and the whole team at Azamara should be proud of this achievement. Our reasons we hope come clear in this review. Our previous cruise ... Read More
Yes, our Azamara Journey cruise 30th January- 15th February has set a new benchmark for cruising and the whole team at Azamara should be proud of this achievement. Our reasons we hope come clear in this review. Our previous cruise experience is 12+ on Celebrity and 2 previous trips on Azamara Quest, both before the launch of the Le Club Voyage concept. Our last cruise was on the Eclipse in August when we had a Royal Suite. We had enjoyed our previous Azamara trips and having read a lot of positive (and some negative) reviews on Cruise critic we had anticipation tempered with some reservations. Pre cruise/embarkation The most stressful part of the pre cruise process was driving from Los Angeles Airport to San Diego but remember we were having to drive on the right (aka wrong for us) side of the road. We had made our own arrangements and stayed at the Omni San Diego which was a very good find, very good customer service - just as we remembered it on a cruise ship we thought. Embarkation at San Diego was a breeze we were on board within 20 minutes and we loved the fact that we could check our carryons in once we boarded and these were taken direct to our room and we could enjoy lunch unencumbered. Food and Drink First day, as it was every lunch time, we enjoyed an excellent buffet, yes items did repeat over the 16 days but that was great because we could either enjoy a favourite again or could try the dish that lost out in our original decision. Question to those saying "they had that on last week" do you go 16 nights at home without repeating a dish? At every meal the drinks service was frequent and prompt - water, wine, cola, coffee, tea or cocktails you paid for, whatever you wanted was brought and regular refills offered. You never saw a line of guests at the tea/coffee machines as you do on Celebrity ships. And the coffee - we were told the brand was called Seven - was really drinkable, as black coffee drinkers, we are quite discerning in our coffee tastes and we enjoyed all our coffees on board. Before the cruise, we wondered if the wine would be limited, quite the opposite, you had to watch to make sure you did not miscount how many times your wine had been topped up which could lead to some more wobbly walks back to your sunlounger/room than the sea conditions might justify. When wine is first served to you at each meal, the servers take the time to tell you its name and source and have a reasonable basic knowledge of the wine and were happy to let you look at the bottle and find out more. All waiters have to take part in a wine test each cruise to ensure their knowledge is up to date and this attention showed. All the wines were good bar one and that was a matter of personal taste, it just crossed the line of being too sweet for us. We had a suite and as such we could eat in Prime C/Aqualina each night. Initially they lost the list we made planning out which nights we wanted but it was not a problem as we were able to recreate the list and get all the bookings we asked for. Towards the end of the cruise, when we had planned a night in Discoveries, we were able to switch to Prime C during the morning - we do eat at 2000 or later, I think it might have been harder to get an early table. Each time we went, the food was extremely good, we enjoyed every single dish served and particularly loved the Valentines Menu that was created. On that night every lady on ship received a red rose - a nice touch, such a shame we all had to leave them behind as we disembarked next dat, but nicer that Azamara had not used this as a reason not to issue the roses. We ate in Discoveries twice - both meals were good, food on a par with that on Celebrity, service was a little spotty. It was no big deal, I am sure if we had settled with a regular waiter we would have been fine and on both occasions the issue was the waiter was having to look after other larger tables who were perhaps being over demanding of the servers time, wanting to chat to the server and get extras brought and the server did not quite have the confidence to break off from them - a minor issue. The biggest surprise on the food front was the evening buffets. We are not fans of buffets but were converted on this cruise and went 3 times. On one night, there was a shrimp buffet - cooked in garlic and wine to order the shrimps having been brought on board that day from the local market in Costa Rica. We went to the Chinese New Year buffet and also the deck party buffet (more on that later). We did not go to the lobster buffet night but heard it was excellent. My husband has a food allergy and for the first time ever, we found buffet staff who understood the importance of knowing what was in food and changing pans for the stir fries to be on the safe side. My husband was referred to as Mr No Nuts by one young server which does not translate overly well but was nice to show recognition of the issue! Accommodation Our room was in good nick - we have stayed in this standard of cabin (a club continental suite) before. The only bug that we had was a design feature specific to Journey- you can only access the power sockets by crawling under the desk. We gather this is being looked at during the refit. We had excellent service from Nicoletta (who was leaving at the end of the cruise) and her assistant Louis and our butler Pravin was first class. This was an area where we did see the impact of the new training, Pravin was much more attuned to spotting what we liked and did not like than previous Azamara butlers. I will include in this section comments on the Spa deck. It did not work, there is less service there than on the ordinary pool deck (a jug of water is laid out periodically but no chilled towels, face mists and iced cucumbers brought round as happens on the main deck) and this was the only area of the ship where guests were never recognised. Rules were suddenly introduced such that we had to spend a silly time on the Panama day handing in our sea passes at the Spa reception when we walked through then lining up to get them back when we left which delayed us being able to quickly get photos at the back of the ship - I understand most passengers rebelled on this one by mid morning! We believe though some changes are going to be made regarding service on the deck and given the over crowding now, it may not be available as an additional purchase for others. This was the only area in the ship that we gave a lower rating to in our guest feedback. Entertainment This is a very personal matter but we enjoyed the entertainment overall. The shows in the evening were well timed for us - better than we found on our previous Azamara trips when we could not get to a show if we ate at 2000. There was only one show - a comedian - that did not work for us but again that is probably a taste thing. It was good to see Doug Cameron back on board and the Azamara Orchestra, who had perhaps not fully gelled in the earlier shows, really came into their own under his spell and were very good indeed thereafter. One show was given by the Cruise Director Tony Markey and he also played a major part in the final show by the Azamara Singers and Dancers who were finishing their contract on that show. Tony is a very talented and personable individual and those around him seemed to respond well to the fact that he too was a skilled performer. The weak spot was, as we had highlighted in our ramblings, the duo Ray and Carla and unfortunately they did not improve. It was great though to see the responsiveness of the ever present and totally on the ball Hotel Director Heike when other cruise critics gave feedback that their wailings were really spoiling any attempts to have conversations at the Le Club events - she immediately changed these to background music only for the rest of the trip and conversation was so much easier. There was a range of daily activities onboard and many, particularly the trivia, seemed well attended. The music trivia in the late afternoons in Mosaic were particularly well attended and would often involve some of the on board entertainers such as Carl Avalon (evening piano entertainer in the Mosaic) and Steve Dockery (guitarist most often found in Windows). This spirit of sharing the entertainment was most evident on the night we enjoyed an on deck buffet and party whilst we were docked in Cartagena. We had had a timetable change, the Captain having brought forward our visit a day to avoid problems that had been identified with 4 ships in port, our berth being out of town and the local taxi union blocking the running of ships shuttles. Generally, though not universally, this was seen as a very good move. What a brilliant happy night is was! We had a massive tuna fish bought in Costa Rica being barbecued on deck (we still salivate at the freshness of that fish and the perfect execution of the cooking), various food stations set up to prepare items a la minute - escargot in vermouth, stir fries, hot duck you name it!, wine flowed freely and the Journey Orchestra, augmented by Steve Dockery as an additional guitarist, the Singers, with Tony Markey came together to sing all the music that encourages those of us on the north side of 50 to get up and dance. We had previously been at a disastrous pool party on Eclipse spoiled by alcohol excesses - here we had free wine flowing, with a group of passengers who were there to have a nice enjoyable night under the stars, dancing with officers and fellow guests. The memory will always be turning round and seeing the security team dancing to the music up on Deck 10 and some couples happily dancing way up on Deck 11. Yes, there were sore limbs next day as some realised their energetic activities had had an impact but, being directly below the pool deck, we had not had a sleepless night from noise and also no evidence of hangovers as happened on Eclipse. What we kept meeting all day were people saying, "Wasn't that a great night last night" Two enrichment lecturers were on board and Bill Fall in particular, who did the onboard narrative during the canal transit was excellent Le Club Voyage Again, a new concept for us, but with our previous Azamara and Celebrity cruises we had reached Discoverer level and had the full range of perks available to us and these were very good. The internet time was very welcome and the events put on were very enjoyable. We had three no cost happy hours and three 50% cost happy hours, a senior officers event and the Club event for all passengers. All were well attended by officers and we were told by Nathalia the representative - a delightful young lady - that 25% of the passengers were repeat cruisers which is a high number for such a young line. Nathalia is another delightful member of the team and we were delighted to be able to go and see her and make another reservation on board - a testament to how good the cruise was, she was a very busy lady the final few days and broke booking records. If you want to avoid waiting a la The Doctors Room to see her last few days, book as soon as you know what you want after you get on board A couple of points, more to manage expectations than to split hairs on the benefits, firstly we were on a 16 night trip, however we only had 2 laundry vouchers between us whereas the website says per week so we were initially expecting 4. We checked with Natalia and she said she was told it was per cruise - she did offer us additional vouchers if we needed them, we actually did not so this was not an issue for us but if might be for others. The Brunch with a Senior officer was a beautiful event, again magnificent catering, and we had a nice time with one of the officers but it is not a champagne brunch - if you order champagne or a mimosa you are charged. Again small point but perhaps the wording on the website should be changed. So what made this cruise? 1. Undoubtedly the staff, from Captain Johannes down - all accessible and all wanting you to tell them if something is not right so they can address things. No we did not officially dine with the captain but we interacted with him on a personal level every day; yes, we did have to point some very minor things out to a Maitre D/maintenance and every time immediate adjustments were made. Everyone is looking for ways to enhance your enjoyment whilst not intrude - even the photographers are so low key you have to search them out if you want pictures 2. The itinerary - so happy we were able to stop in all the ports in Mexico and Huatulco in particular was a gem. 3. The fellow guests - This was a happy ship (I contrast this with Eclipse in August where there were some fellow countryfolk who had taken an overdose of moaning pills in Southampton). We only once in 16 days heard someone "having a moan", our visits to Guest Relations to pick up things and get smaller notes change did not involve lining up behind moaners (actually it never involved lining up even on the last morning) and on the last morning everyone at breakfast, in the lifts and in the disembarkation lounges were all saying the same thing - "Wasn't that a fantastic cruise" We heartily agree - but now worry about making the adjustment back to Eclipse in August!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
This was a celebration of our 30th Anniversary and our 1st cruise in 9 years. We last sailed on Celebrity's Millennium, before that we were on RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas and before that NCL's Dreamward - before she was ... Read More
This was a celebration of our 30th Anniversary and our 1st cruise in 9 years. We last sailed on Celebrity's Millennium, before that we were on RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas and before that NCL's Dreamward - before she was stretched. The Dreamward was only slightly larger than the Journey and we looked forward to returning to the intimacy of a smaller ship. We've always booked a veranda cabin in the past around mid-ships, but opted to splurge a bit and we went with the Penthouse Suite on deck 6 aft. I have to admit, I scoured the Cruise Critic site for months before this trip - and this truly is a fantastic resource! Pre-Cruise: We flew from NC to San Diego a day prior and booked a room in the Holiday Inn by the Bay - directly across from the pier. We'd asked for a bay-facing room up high so we could view the bay and we weren't disappointed. The Oosterdam was in port when we arrived and it was a nice treat to watch her depart with the setting sun in the background. Embarkation: The hotel was so close to the pier that were able to easily tote all our bags to the pier with no trouble. As others have alluded to - Azamara makes it so simple to get all your pre-boarding paperwork taken care of ahead of time -so embarkation was a breeze and we were on the ship in no time. Since it had been a while since we'd been on a cruise, we were impressed with the level of attention to sanitization. I'm sure the news reports of norovirus outbreaks over the last few years have prompted it - but there were sanitation gel stations in all the public rooms throughout the entire cruise - and from what I could see, they were well-used. We were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine, and in our cabin in no time at all. We met our butler, Marlon - who was an absolute gem. He made dinner arrangements for us, brought us 'savories' every afternoon and infected us with his contagious smile every time he came into the room. Our cabin stewards "Alvin" and "Russell" kept our room spotless and always had a surprise 'critter' for us - made from folded towels. And on our first night Marlon and the Asst Chief Housekeeper 'Xavier' surprised us with balloons all over the cabin and a 'Happy Anniversary' placard we kept up the entire cruise. It was a special welcoming and a prelude to the special level of service and attention we experienced the entire 16 days. Cabin: We booked the Penthouse Suite on deck 6 - and it was everything we envisioned. I will say - I've seen examples of high-end suites that struck me as 'gaudy' - with more room than you could use, or amenities that you would never make use of --- this cabin was perfect - it was spacious enough to be comfortable, yet not so big as to feel you could get lost. It included a spacious 'living area' with a sofa and several formal chairs as well as a small dining table with chairs, and a bar area with a wide-screen TV mounted on the wall. There was a small powder room adjacent to the living area as well. The bedroom had a 'large' queen bed ( we swore it was actually a king-sized bed), a small writing table, and a bank of floor-to ceiling closets - with a smaller flat screen TV in the wall. There was also a dressing area adjacent to the master bath - that had a full vanity and Jacuzzi-bath-shower. But the hallmark of the cabin was the veranda - large enough for two chaise lounge chairs as well as a small table with 4 chairs for dining. The living area and the bedroom each had floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors - so the view from anywhere in the cabin was spectacular. Much has been written about a problem with 'soot' in the morning in the aft cabins - it was never a problem. Occasionally there would be some soot on the deck in the morning if the wind blew the exhaust directly off the stern, but there were floor mats present to wipe your feet. We even took a few naps out there at night and never noticed any issues with the exhaust. Another issue discussed on the boards is engine vibration in the aft cabins. "Vibration" is somewhat of a personal definition. When we were on the Enchantment of the Seas, our cabin was directly above the starboard stabilizer - and when it deployed, there was a constant, loud 'rattle' that would literally keep us awake. On the Journey, the engines create a 'rumble' - that is not bothersome at all - in fact we found it helped put us to sleep at night. You will experience the 'clanging' of the wenches below deck when the ship prepares to dock - but that's a good signal that it's time to get up anyway! Ship: I won't reiterate what others on this cruise have posted in their reviews - suffice it to say that the Journey is the perfect sized ship for those who enjoy being on a ship. You learn your way around in less than a day. There were never any lines for anything - even tendering - and she was as clean a ship as we can remember. And there was always a quiet place to sit - be it around the pool, the sundeck or in the public areas. We used the Spa deck (Thallasotherapy Pool) the first day at sea as it was a bit chilly, but didn't go back after that. We used the gym regularly and found the staff to be very friendly and the mix of cardio equipment, weight machines and free weights a great way to build credit for the day's meals! I have to say there is something special about using a cross-trainer while watching dolphins frolic all around the ship - through the floor-to-ceiling windows that line the gym wall. Food: Again - food tastes are a matter of preference - and we thoroughly enjoyed every meal we had on the Journey - be it the breakfast or lunch buffets in the Windows Cafe, the main Dining Room Discoveries or the two Specialty dining rooms - Prime C and Aqualina. We ate three times in each of the two specialty dining rooms - because the atmosphere in each is quieter, slower-paced and more intimate than in Discoveries - but the food is outstanding in all three and the service was impeccable in all three as well. Crew and Staff: We've read the other reviews about this cruise and we have to say it again --- We have never experienced a level of attention, friendliness and sincerity as was shown by the crew and staff of the Journey. It starts with Capt Tysee - who is the most affable ship's captain you will ever meet. He makes it a point to travel around the ship and converse with the passengers - and his approachability, calm demeanor, quiet confidence and wry sense of humor filters down to every other crew member on the ship - from the security personnel who learned our names on the first day - to the bartenders and deckhands. Our Cruise Director - Tony Markey was a true gem as well. For those looking for a cruise director who emcees belly flop contests or decktop horse races, you will be disappointed. Tony is a true entertainer who has a perpetual 'on' switch. He can go from singing a rendition of 'Danny Boy' that will bring tears to your eyes and then sit down with you and converse about his experience as Cruise Director on the Seabourn Spirit that was attacked by Pirates in 2005. The on-screen antics between Tony and Activity Director Chris on their daily televised 'highlights' review showed the great chemistry they have - especially when you realize it was mainly ad-libbed. And what can be added about Heike that hasn't been said many times before. This crew is truly a great combination of talent, chemistry and shared vision. Azamara found the right equation - and other cruise lines would be wise to take notice. Ports of Call: I don't want to spend too much time on the ports. We had some reservations about Mazatlan and Acapulco due to the recent violence reported - but we never felt uneasy in either place. We booked a tour with Mazatlan Frank - who we would recommend to anyone without reservation. He is a true gentleman and his love for Mazatlan is apparent with the enthusiasm he conveys. In Acapulco we took the ship-sponsored excursion to the Fairmont Pierre Marquis hotel - which was a nice relaxing day away from the 'touristy' areas. Huatulco was a highlight - one of the most memorable days for its quiet little beach adjacent to the pier. It's unfortunate that Azamara will not be visiting Mexico next year - hopefully that's a temporary decision. We took a sailing tour through Pelican Eyes resort in San Juan del Sur - and we highly recommend that to anyone visiting that port. And in Puntarenas we had a tour with Charlie Soto's 'OkeyDokey Tours' --- and our tour guide Ricardo was outstanding. He took us to the La Suenas Canopy tour zip lines - an experience we won't soon forget and he had an uncanny way of avoiding the crowds while still visiting all the attractions. The highlight of the trip was the transit through the Panama Canal - an engineering feat of such magnitude that it's hard to fathom it was built 100 years ago and operates today exactly as they envisioned it then. Having Bill Fall describe the nuances of the Canal over the ship's intercom as we traversed it provided the most interactive learning experience you could ever have! Cartagena, Columbia was a disappointment. We booked the Horse-drawn carriage tour through the ship and would not do it again. We envisioned a quaint carriage ride through the old town - in reality we were in a caravan of horse-drawn carriages traversing a gauntlet of peddlers with police guiding the way (one fellow dressed up like a mime even hopped on the carriage to charge for taking his picture and there was no effort to prevent it...) . While peddlers are part of the deal in the Mexican ports, 'No Gracias' didn't seem to work in Cartagena - as eventually they would stop trying to sell you something and just flat out ask if they could have a dollar. If we were to ever visit this port again - we'd book a private tour as they do a good job of avoiding the 'gauntlets'. Fellow Passengers: As others have said in other reviews of this cruise --- this was a very friendly passenger population. We even commented that we never heard anyone complain about anything for the entire two weeks. I have to be honest - there was nothing to complain about. Someone asked about the age range of the passengers on the Journey. We are in our mid-50s and were on the younger side for this trip - and we loved it. We met the friendliest, most outgoing, unpretentious people on this trip - and tried as we did to stay up and hit the dance floor for the midnight hour, the days were so full and we were so tired that we just couldn't do it! Debarkation: Getting off the ship was as easy as getting on. Capt Tysee and all the 1st officers were on deck to say goodbye and within 15 mins we had our luggage, had gotten through customs and waited in our shuttle to the airport. If I have one criticism - and it's not a criticism of the cruise - and not even of Azamara - it's for RCI, the parent company. When we disembarked from the Enchantment of the Seas, we were shuttled to the airport on a bus driven by a fellow who made it very clear he expected a tip when we got to the airport. The same thing happened with the RCI-sponsored shuttle we took after this cruise. We've just come off a 2 week cruise where people went out of their way to be helpful and attentive --- in many cases without any expectation of a gratuity - and the last impression you get before going home is a bus driver with his hand out. It's a small thing, but it stays with you and seeing how the same thing happened to us a decade ago, I think it's something Royal Caribbean should think about. Overall: We've been spoiled. From now on - any other vacation we take - no matter what it is - will always be compared to this one. At his 'disembarkation' presentation, Capt Tysee encouraged all of us to tell our friends about Azamara - and someone in the audience said "..NO!" --- and I know what she meant --- it's like uncovering a hidden gem that you don't want the rest of the world to find out about and ruin. Our expectations were met and far exceeded - in ways we hadn't even considered. Azamara has the right formula going - the size of the ship, the personality of the staff and the value you get for the dollars you spend. We can't wait to come back get spoiled all over again! Good Job Azamara! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
If you ever have a chance to sail on Azamara, take it!!! It was wonderful. The embarkation/debarkation was smooth, fast and painless. The fact that this is a small ship with approximately 700 passengers helps with this process. We ... Read More
If you ever have a chance to sail on Azamara, take it!!! It was wonderful. The embarkation/debarkation was smooth, fast and painless. The fact that this is a small ship with approximately 700 passengers helps with this process. We drove down from northern California so unable to advise on any air arrangements. The staff and crew are very helpful and friendly. They always greeted you with a smile and was ready to help you with anything you needed. We were assigned outside cabin 6037 but the window was obstructed with a life boat and there was no sitting area so when we went to guest relations to see if anything else was available they were extremely helpful and offered us outside cabin 4037, which was perfect. The cabin had plenty of storage space, fresh fruit daily, robes and slippers to use, mini frig. with free soda and waters, 2 hair dryers (1 in bathroom and 1 at desk area) and of course a safe. Captain Johannes Tysse is by far the best captain we have ever sailed with. He was so approachable and what a sense of humor. We looked forward to his noon talks and having him talk at the special gatherings. The cruise director, Eric De Gray, is the most talented cruise director we have encountered. He sings, dances, skates and has some great grandfather jokes. He and Captain Tysse worked so well together they could have their own stand up comedy routine. We were fortunate to have lunch with Chief Officer Korona and he to was wonderful and easy to talk to. We loved that there was no early or late sittings for dinner. Discoveries Restaurant served dinner from 5:45 to 9:30 each evening. You checked in and let them know if you wanted to sit with a group or dine alone. The wait was never very long and the food was excellent. If you didn't feel like the dinning room you could eat at Windows Cafe, which had great buffet's. There were also 2 specialty restaurants, Aqualina and Prime C. Reservations were needed and the people we met that ate there thought they were very good. We were very impressed with the variety at the Pool Grill. There was the usual hamburgers and hot dogs but also sausage, lamb, port, taco's, chili, onion rings, chicken wings, french fries, salad, etc. There were 2 wonderful poolside dinners which offered anything you could possibly want. There was never a shortage of food. The ship also offered free special red or white wine at lunch and dinner and soda was always free. We have to mention the Mosaic Cafe that was open all day that had specialty coffee's, hot chocolate and finger sandwiches, cookies and other goodies. There was quite a variety of tours to take but we only did one. We took the very long trip to the Copper Canyon out of Topolobampo. We left the ship in the dark and returned in the dark. This was a 17.5 hour trip. Traveled by bus and train and then took the tram (extra cost) over a portion of the canyon. Upon our return to the ship (about 11:pm) we were greeted by cruise officers, staff and Eric. The Windows Cafe was open for those who were hungry and in our cabin was a large tray of chocolate covered strawberries and other goodies with "Welcome Back" written in chocolate. We stayed on the ship in Mazatlan (been there many times) and walked through town in the rest of the ports. Found them to be clean and friendly. Would love to visit La Paz and Loreto again. We don't have anything negative to say about the ship. There were enough activities to keep you occupied and we found it to be very clean and well kept. Sometimes it was difficult to find seating in the Windows Cafe and the Cabaret Lounge but you can have that problem on the larger ships too. The entertainment was good, the staff was great (french activity manager Helena was always having a good time). We look forward to sailing with Azamara again. Loved it! Loved it! Loved it! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2011
Azamara Journey Sea of Cortez January 19, 2011 I am a first-time Azamara cruiser with a long history of cruising on Celebrity, RCCL and Regent. The following is a review of our recent Sea of Cortez trip. Embarkation ... Read More
Azamara Journey Sea of Cortez January 19, 2011 I am a first-time Azamara cruiser with a long history of cruising on Celebrity, RCCL and Regent. The following is a review of our recent Sea of Cortez trip. Embarkation We embarked Journey in San Diego and the process couldn't have been easier. We flew in the day before, rented a car from the airport at Avis and stayed in Orange County the night before embarkation. While the airport is close, I did some research and found an Avis facility about a 5 block walk from the pier so we made arrangements to return the car to this location. Drove to the pier first to drop off our luggage and were surprised to be able to drive right onto the pier to off load our bags. Took all of 5 minutes. We drove the car back to Avis, they offered to drive us back to the pier but we chose to walk. When we got to the pier, it was about 11, we were checked in and on the ship by 11:10. Rooms weren't available until 1, so we explored the ship a bit and had lunch in Windows Cafe. Staff We were most impressed with the Journey staff. Definitely a step up from our previous experiences - even on Regent. Lots of contact with senior officers, all crew were extremely friendly and helpful. Little touches made all the difference. For example, after we returned from a very long excursion to the Copper Canyon (16 hours), several officers were waiting at the gangway to welcome us "home" and remind us of the special dinner buffet they were serving just for those of us returning to the ship late (10:30 pm). We were always greeted by the Cruise Director by name and he would inquire how we were doing. With anytime dining, there is no guarantee of having the same waiter and assistant for dinner, however the maitre' d definitely makes an effort to seat you at a table so you have the same staff. Of the nights we ate in the MDR, only once did we not have our "usual" waiter and assistant. We appreciated that since it's nice when your drink preferences are known, etc. Food Very good, always hot, decent portions, didn't feel as mass produced as on other lines. Good variety in the MDR. Selection got a little repetitive in the Windows Cafe for lunch. Great burger bar by the pool and one of the times you appreciate being on a smaller ship - no lines whatsoever for a freshly grilled burger. We were impressed with the variety of selection, however, for dinner. Indian, Mexican, Italian, Seafood theme nights were all done well. We were not as impressed with the outdoor buffets but the All-American BBQ is just not really our thing. Ports With the exception of Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, our ports were smaller and more intimate. We didn't know quite what to expect having read comments on Cruise Critic about the ports and with information provided by Azamara. We were very pleasantly surprised to find each port of interest and to provide great opportunity to experience a Mexico different from the larger ports. I can't comment on Topolobampo since we were gone the entire day on an excursion. But we thoroughly enjoyed La Paz, Guaymas and Loreto. Each was charming in its own right but we enjoyed Loreto with its more unique shops and atmosphere. Mazatlan was quite enjoyable, we hiked on our own to the El Faro lighthouse - a short walk from the ship. Interestingly, Azarama chose to stop at Mazatlan even though a passenger from a previous cruise was a victim of local violence (according to USA Today). We, however, never felt uncomfortable. Cabo was fine but felt crowded with three ships in port. Entertainment We were very impressed with the entertainment. I am very critical of cruise ship entertainment and rarely have positive remarks. Kudos to Azamara for the entertainment offerings. Activities were managed by our excellent cruise director, Eric de Gray, a consummate showman who had his own show one evening and sung in a Broadway review with the ship's singers another evening. My personal opinion is that Eric is the reason the entertainment was as good as it was. The guest singer and pianist were also quite good. The comedian was not to our liking but there were many people laughing hysterically. We very much liked the intimate atmosphere of the Cabaret lounge. It was never crowded and you could always stroll in 5 minutes before the show and have your choice of seats (how refreshing). Stateroom We were in stateroom #7116 a Club Deluxe Veranda Stateroom (formerly Sunset Veranda). An adequate cabin with a slightly oversized balcony (could accommodate two loungers and a small table and chairs). Lovely views of the ship's wake. We love aft cabins and have had the pleasure of sailing on Millenium class ships in the family ocean view staterooms several times. The room dEcor was fine if a little tired. The duvet was lumpy and not of good quality, the bathroom very small, furnishings worn. Plenty of closet space and room under the bed to store luggage. Interestingly, we received a note that work was to be done on our balcony (it did need some painting and the railing could have used a new coat of varnish) but no work was ever performed. Ship Here is where we were truly let down. I realize the ship is 10 years old but, in my opinion, is in need of some serious refurbishment. The tile around the pool is horribly outdated and moldy. Ditto for tile around the bar areas and in Windows Cafe. Furnishings in general look tired. Lots of rust in many areas. We appreciate the opportunity to have breakfast, lunch and dinner outside but also noted many times when seating quantity was not adequate in Windows Cafe. I did not anticipate this. People complain all the time about crowds on Royal Caribbean ships in Windjammer, this was no different just on a smaller scale. It's certainly not what I expected having been on ships of similar age and given the lines positioning in the marketplace. It doesn't appear much updating has been done by Azamara since these ships were originally put into service by Renaissance. Overall A great cruise made special by the ship's staff. Many times we appreciated the smaller ship with far fewer lines, more intimate entertainment and more personal service. We will, however, not be returning to Azamara until the ships have been dry docked or a new ship is launched (which our Captain indicated is in the works). Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Regular readers will know I have a bias against writing anecdotal reviews, even though I love reading them when others write them. So, here is the A to Z of our AZamara Journey cruise on the Sea of Cortez itinerary. A is for a five star ... Read More
Regular readers will know I have a bias against writing anecdotal reviews, even though I love reading them when others write them. So, here is the A to Z of our AZamara Journey cruise on the Sea of Cortez itinerary. A is for a five star dinner in Aqualina one of two specialty restaurants which are a bargain for just $15pp. A is for the Appetizers in the main Discoveries Restaurant. They were often so tempting, perfect in size and presentation I ordered two. B is for the Benefits for Le Club Voyage Discoverer level. Have to love the internet minutes, the laundry voucher and the complimentary drinks at parties. B is for Bar Service [Sham, Sladjana, Metrizal, Michael, Cesar, Rea were all stars! - just to name a few]. B is for my Beef with Bottled water. Research has shown that this is less healthy and less environmentally sound than good tap water.... time to re-think this complimentary service and at least offer a choice in staterooms. C is for Cleanliness. Journey may just be the cleanest ship we have sailed upon so far. C is also for Complimentary wines and coffees; no complaints here. C is also for Cruise Critics roll call which led us to a privately operated Whale Watching cruise in Cabo. What a day; what pctures! D is for Dinner in Discoveries Restaurant where the new menus are delightful. D is for Doctor Elif, a wonderful friendly officer. D is for a very smooth Disembarkation; also for Daniel who was everywhere supervising restaurant service. E is for Early Embarkation; we arrived at 11.30 and were sipping wine with lunch at noon; stateroom ready announcement at 12.35; luggage by 1.30. E is for Eric. He is quite obviously the best Cruise Director yet [the queen outfit on rollerblades has to be seen to be believed - he is not paid enough!]. E is for Erwin who with Darwin provided super service in our stateroom; a "winning" team. F is for Free Shuttles in ports where needed. F is for Fifty per cent off wine choices each day and off drinks at Discoverer benefit Happy Hour. We thoroughly enjoyed spending a little more to match wine with food in Aqualina and Discoveries from time to time. G is for Guest Relations. The team was witty, patient, efficient at all times. G is for Guaymas camarones. Chef Lisa went shopping ashore and brought back the most gigantic shrimp of all time. They were pan fried in Windows Cafe that night and we just happened to dine there! H is for Heike the Hotel Manager with the mostest [with great support from F and B Scott and Chief Housekeeper Dace, this 'hotel' is five star]. H is for the High Five walk of the waiters around deck 10; an illustration of the happy bunch of servers who enjoy their work. I is for Ibrahim who along with Dogan provided exemplary service in Discoveries and anywhere else we met them. I is for Inaccurate sunset and sunrise times in the Daily which some days had this photographer on deck ready to take pictures .... at the wrong time. J is for Johannes Tysse; the drollest and wittiest Captain ever to steer a ship when we cruised. Those noon announcements should be available on CDs. J is for Jacqueline whose playing of the harp and singing were amongst our favourite events. J is for the Jolly dolphins who appeared on cue and played alongside [when Johannes said we were purposely 47km off course to find them]. K is for Kudos for the low Key sales approach on Journey. Much appreciated. Glad the art auction has gone. L is for Lisa. Imagine being the only female out of 60 working in the various galleys and being the boss of the other 59. Her shopping trips ashore for local seafood produced highlight dishes. L is for Laurentia, a sommelier with a smile and informative service. We feel so lucky to be two of the nine to participate in her Connoisseur dinner [six courses, five wines, $60] with Chef Hector presiding in the galley of Prime C. M is for Mexican entertainers who were invited on board to perform in the Cabaret and on the pool deck whenever we were in port long enough. Loved those 7 year old dancers and the Mariachi brass players. M is for Mario and his skill placing us in Discoveries for dinner. N is for Nathalia and her charming hosting of Le Club Voyage [and selling us our next Azamara cruise - tough to wait till 2012]. O is for Open Air buffets [and the buffet brunch too]. A well oiled machine of staff convert the pool area or a restaurant into an unrecognizable buffet area; tables and chairs even on the jogging track, with blankets provided too. And the decor and fruit and ice carvings provide the atmosphere. P is for the Poor lighting in Prime C which made it difficult to see the wines and food presentation during the Connoisseur dinner at the high tables by the cellar. Q is for Quintet; the group of the Journey Orchestra who played standards in the Mosaic Cafe one afternoon [come to think of it, any combination of these fine musicians was a delight to listen to at any time]. Q is for Quality of food offered. We had difficulty choosing between specialty restaurant, Discoveries and Windows Cafe for dinner. And those bites in Mosaic were moreish. R is for the Rotation of complimentary wines. The wines changed daily with at least 8 countries represented, then began repeating on day 8. Always pleasant, sometimes very good. The whites are served too cold for my taste, but my palm soon warmed the glass[es]. R is also for Re-unions with staff who were on Quest in Oct 2009 and other Celebrity ships, and with CCs who go further back than that to trans-Atlantic on Century and Alaska on Summit. S is for the Short promenade deck where my compulsive deck walking took place when the jogging track was too windy. Less than 100m long, but the view is great. T is for Typos. The Daily and the graphics on channel 14 need more careful proof-reading [overnight low of 1C? Jamilla is 'shinning'?]. T is also for Trays; of which there are none. That makes the line in Windows at meal times move more quickly [and perhaps reduces too much food being taken and then wasted]. U is for Ultra healthy. For a change we did not hear the too frequent coughing start on day 4 or 5 which happens on other ships; we did not need Immodium or Tums. The attention to cleanliness is very serious. U is for Unfortunately this is the last of the Sea of Cortez itineraries for 2011 and 2012. We could easily [and often?] repeat this cruise with its ideal length and varied ports. V is for Volume on the TV in the stateroom. The Variation from channel to channel means switching can result in a blast of noise. Really annoying when there is a channel surfer in the neighbouring stateroom . W is for Windows Cafe smoothies; which are complimentary on Journey. And W is for waiters who will take an order for one from me at the table and do the standing in line to wait for it to be made. W is also for weather on this itinerary at this time - outstanding. X is for the XL jacket my wife bought for me in the shop. It fits even though I am normally an M. I will proudly wear it with its discreet Azamara Journey embroidered on it. Y is for the Yellow Fin Tuna Chef Lisa bought ashore and served at the International Buffet! Z is for the Zingers that the Captain worked into his speeches and announcements. AAA map indeed; identical twin brother Eric.... and many more. I will leave it to the reader of this oddball review to decide whether we enjoyed our cruise. Weigh the compliments and criticisms and it should be obvious? Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Don't get me wrong. I still love Oceania BUT our cruise on the Azamara Journey was an unexpected great experience. First of all my wife and I felt at home. Of course that is partially because we are familiar with the R ships but that ... Read More
Don't get me wrong. I still love Oceania BUT our cruise on the Azamara Journey was an unexpected great experience. First of all my wife and I felt at home. Of course that is partially because we are familiar with the R ships but that home feeling was enhanced by the incredible crew. We could not have asked for more service with a smile from the fellows down in the hold up to Capt. Johannes. What a pleasure it was to hear his voice and see him strolling around greeting passengers each and every day in all of the venues. Food...outstanding everywhere. When I asked for steak tartare in Prime C, it was there the next evening. When we asked for special preparation of lobster, it was there. The complimentary wine during lunch and dinner was a welcome addition although the word "complimentary" means nothing in reality because everything really costs in the long run. While we did not go often to the evening entertainment, what we saw was just fine. How would we rate the experience? Well Mr. Pimentel, you done good!!! You made our Five Star plus and we sure hope that RCL will continue to support you in making this the cruise ship to come home to. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Our sixteen-day Azamara Club Cruise from San Diego, through the Panama Canal, back up to Miami was as close to perfect as a cruise can be. We rented a car in Los Angeles and drove down to San Diego on the day of departure. We turned in the ... Read More
Our sixteen-day Azamara Club Cruise from San Diego, through the Panama Canal, back up to Miami was as close to perfect as a cruise can be. We rented a car in Los Angeles and drove down to San Diego on the day of departure. We turned in the car at the San Diego airport. Car rental companies provide a free shuttle service to the port which is five minutes away. Our bags were immediately taken to the ship and we checked in and were aboard in less than ten minutes happily drinking champagne. Our verandah stateroom on the sixth deck was spotless when we entered and was kept that way the entire trip by our stewards Derrick and Winston. I had asked for no down or feathers in the room due to allergies and that was already taken care of as were other requests such as a good reading light and chair at the desk so that I could work on the trip. There were flowers and fresh fruit every day. We requested papaya and every day, a fresh plate of papaya, mango, and lime appeared in our room. We never had to ask for anything twice. The service could not have been better. Gratuities are now included. Speaking of food, we particularly appreciated the wide variety of breakfast items available no matter what type of room you have—everything from pancakes and waffles to eggs and salmon. Every morning we were awakened to breakfast at our door at exactly the time we ordered it. And every morning we breakfasted on our verandah—a lovely treat in the middle of winter. For other meals, we tried all the restaurants on board and found the variety of offerings, presentation, and quality of the food good to outstanding. We enjoy the open seating policy and the poolside barbeque nights when huge, freshly-caught tuna, grouper, and mahi-mahi were grilled outside and offered with many salads, sides, live music and dancing. The now-included wines with lunch and dinner were usually outstanding. We particularly enjoyed the South African pinotage and the French rose. Due to the recent violence in Mexico, we took only ship excursions at every stop. Each was well-organized and offered as much or more than we could have arranged on our own. Although somewhat expensive, we did feel that the excursions on Azamara were less costly than on many other cruise lines. We enjoyed the entertainment on board. On sea days, there were games such as trivia all day long. We are not fans of big, glitzy shows, so the vocalists, magicians, and pianists were fine for us when we could make the shows which are offered twice a night so you don't feel rushed at dinner. We also were lucky to have many talented guests, so every night the mosaic lounge in mid-ship would be packed with Carlos Avalon playing piano and various guests singing. We also were treated to morning concerts by a world-famous pianist, who practiced every morning on the Steinway in the library. It was heavenly to drink coffee and start the day with Schubert, Chopin, and Grieg. We have never in our fifteen cruises have found a friendlier, more diverse group of guests (from more than 20 countries). There was a generosity of spirit throughout the ship and which started with the captain, staff, and crew who were always available, accessible, and friendly. The ship offers cruise critic get-togethers as well as cocktail parties for returning guests both of which offer additional opportunities to get to know others. In every way, this cruise exceeded our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
When I heard that Azamara had a new CEO and that he planned significant changes to an already superior product, I yawned. Heard that one before. Having just experienced the new product, however, all I can say is WOW! Azamara has, indeed, ... Read More
When I heard that Azamara had a new CEO and that he planned significant changes to an already superior product, I yawned. Heard that one before. Having just experienced the new product, however, all I can say is WOW! Azamara has, indeed, improved on it's product in many ways. No nickle and diming with the inclusive fares. Service of every sort better than superior. Food the best of any cruise line we have sailed with. In fact, we felt that the food and selection in the main dining room was so good that we cancelled our reservations for the specialty restaurants. Seemed to be no point in going to them. We did arrange to have a "pairings" dinner with specially matched wines and courses which proved to be an excellent evening hosted by the Cruise Director, Tony. Various officers, including the Captain, stopped by the table to see what we were eating. The house wines were very fine. So much about this cruise was memorable. In fact, I have difficulty finding new adjectives to describe Azamara so that I don't sound redundant. Well worth the price, I feel. And providing the backdrop for all this was the Journey, the ex-Renaissance "R Six". We love the size and intimacy of the "R" ships. The perfect size. So kudos to Mr. Pimental and to Captain Tysse. And to the Journey staff who served us so well, thank you. We especially thank Dumon, Luis and Melvin. You made the wonderful experience possible. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
Recently cruised on the Azamara Journey January 3, 2010 thru the Panama Canal. We mainly cruise with Celebrity and a few times on Royal Caribbean. Our last cruise was in May 2009 on Royal Caribbean's "Independence of the ... Read More
Recently cruised on the Azamara Journey January 3, 2010 thru the Panama Canal. We mainly cruise with Celebrity and a few times on Royal Caribbean. Our last cruise was in May 2009 on Royal Caribbean's "Independence of the Sea", which at the time was the largest cruise ship afloat. We decided to try a small ship and RCI had the luxury line Azamara cruises under the Celebrity Brand. Embarkation was a breeze but things got a little strange after that. We tried to upgrade to a suite and were told only a Penthouse was available, so we inquired as to what the cost would be and we were told 6K for the upgrade, which was unbelievable and it turns out that on the 2nd night of the cruise they gave it away at the first Bingo game. We also found out that Azamara is now Azamara Club Cruises as of January 1st and no longer under Celebrity Cruises Brand. They no longer honored Captain Club and we only got a few coupons and invitations from the Captains Club. Azamara Club Cruises all-inclusive and upgrades to the ship will start April 10 so our cruise was in limbo. Our luggage did not arrive until 4PM which is the latest we ever had on a cruise with the life boat drill at 4:15 and our dinner at 5:45 things were a little tight. First night dinner was unorganized to say the least and the food ran the gamut of bad to very good depending on what you ordered and the wait staff service was poor. We chalked everything up to the 1st day but as my wife said, why should the 1st day be any different that the previous days they were doing this, so we decided to wait for judgment and by the 3rd day we had come to a conclusion that this so-called luxury cruise was actually not up to Celebrity's standards. The food, the service, the entertainment and the lack of was not what we expected at all from a LUXURY cruise. Cabin: Balcony cabin was, of course, small and definitely needed new bedding which was worn and uncomfortable. The eggshell that our cabin steward put on the bed the next night did help a little. Internet Service: Reception was poor at best. Discoveries, Main Dining room: breakfast and dinner: food ranged from bad to very good and the service was poor to good. Windows Buffet: breakfast, lunch and dinner ranged from bad to good Pool Grill for lunch was great Aqualina's and Prime C the specialty restaurants: food and service was excellent. Cova Cafe the Specialty coffee shop: okay The Martini Bar: very good Looking Glass Lounge: we never used Afternoon Savories were good to very good Luxe Casino is extremely small with limited gaming. Two shops Aqua Spa Service was excellent but the Thalasso pool deck was not worth the $175 per couple. Even though they said they limited membership, the chair hogs prevented you from really using the private deck, and the pool was actually nothing more than a large Jacuzzi. One secret, instead of purchasing the package just enter the pool area through the fitness center or walk directly thru the Spa, they never checked once. Entertainment was poor to good. This was not a cruise for us because of the size of the ship and the fact that we feel that Celebrity is a much superior brand than this overpriced luxury Azamara. I do believe that this would be a great cruise for anybody 70 and over which was 85% of the passengers. It's small, quiet, very little to do except eat, sleep, and read and not care about service and food quality. Did check what their new improvements are going to be as of April and we are not impressed with them and the 45% increase in price. We did 3 shore excursions and missed one other port because of bad weather. The shore excursions we experienced were okay but the variety of shore excursions were poor compared to what we are used to.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2010
We have been sailing the Celebrity Brand since 1990 and decided to try Azamara last year when it was still the high-end brand of Celebrity. We sailed on the Quest to Southeast and Northeast Asia last winter and were extremely pleased with ... Read More
We have been sailing the Celebrity Brand since 1990 and decided to try Azamara last year when it was still the high-end brand of Celebrity. We sailed on the Quest to Southeast and Northeast Asia last winter and were extremely pleased with all aspects of the two - 14 day back-to-back cruises. Thus we booked this 16 night cruise on the Journey while still on the Quest. Since the Journey and the Quest are essentially the same ships there are very little differences in their layouts. However, our veranda cabin on deck 7 on the Journey had a more convenient layout than the one on the Quest. On the Quest we had a cabin on deck 8 (8031) while this year we were on deck 7 (7075). The deck 8 cabin had the bed next to the veranda door while on deck 7 the love seat sofa is next to the veranda door. The deck 7 layout made it much easier to get into and out of bed for the person sleeping on the side facing the veranda door. They have installed a wall mounted flat screen TV's in the cabins which has the added benefit of freeing up additional storage space where the older CRT type TV monitor was situated. Our room butler and her assistant were outstanding and we rewarded them with an additional gratuity for their wonderful service. The ship's officers and service staff were friendly, courteous and responsive to any requests we had. Since Azamara Club Cruises only has two ships, it was not surprising to meet crew members from our previous cruise on the Quest. The Hotel Director, Philip Herbert, was on the Celebrity Galaxy when we sailed on it in the Mediterranean Sea in 2006. The hotel services (housekeeping and dining) crew's morale reflects his high devotion to the comfort and cruise experience of the guests and their well being. The food in all venues is better than Celebrity's and we consider the Celebrity food to be outstanding. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the cafe and then had dinner in either the Discoveries restaurant, cafe or one of the two specialty restaurants. Where we ate dinner depended on what was being served, for example on three different evenings there were theme buffets in the cafe. Of the two specialty restaurants our preference is Aquilina versus Prime C. Although the food is comparable in either restaurant, Steakhouse style dining is not one of our favorite venue since the meals tend to be too "heavy". Since the ship has less than 700 passengers, the embarkation and disembarkation process was very smooth in San Diego and Miami. Of note is that in Miami we docked at the pier adjacent to Royal Caribbean's headquarters and not at the Miami cruise ship terminal. Thus we avoided the congestion when multiple cruise ships are disembarking at the larger Miami terminal. This was our forth trans-Panama Canal cruise and what surprised us was the rough seas we experienced after leaving Hautulco, Mexico. A large storm, probably as a result of the El Nino in the Pacific hit the ship. Fortunately the captain and staff warned us to take precautions. The storm was so rough that its after effects prevented our tendering a day and one-half later at San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua and we had to continue on to our next port. Due to the inconvenience and disappointment in missing a port the ship offered during lunch an open bar at the pool and lookout lounge or free glasses of wine at lunch in the dining venues. A nice touch that was enjoyed by many happy guests. We had a wonderful time on the cruise and met many nice people. We enjoy the adult trivia games and thus had an opportunity to meet fellow passengers with the same interests. The cruise entertainment staff were very friendly and accommodating. The Meet and Mingle for Cruise Critic members was a well planned event and senior officers attended and welcomed us. They even had a end of cruise coffee gathering to say farewell to us. Although the ship is a nice size with an intimate setting, we still like the larger cruise ships. In particular we miss the Rendezvous Lounge on the Celebrity ships and their larger theaters. The show lounge on the Quest and Journey are too small especially if the event attracts a large audience. We would consider sailing again with Azamara, but we have previously sailed to all of the itineraries they have scheduled through April, 2011. They should take advantage of their ships' smaller size and find exotic warm weather ports for Northern Hemisphere guests to visit during the winter. The Journey sailing in the Caribbean during the winter months is not that attractive for us to pay a premium cruise fare. 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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