Editor's Note: Prior to its debut in New York on May 5, 2007 -- just a few weeks after our visit to the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport -- the foundling Celebrity Journey became part of the industry's newest cruise line: Azamara Cruises. The ship is now known as Azamara Journey.
Discoveries, the ship's main restaurant, is located on Deck 5 aft. It's a vast room, and though it looks like an upholstery shop at this point, this gives you an idea of how bright and airy the ambience is. Changes that will be made here include a new color scheme, freshly covered chairs, new table linens and the addition of more tables for two. There's a gorgeous mural in the dining room that extends back to the Renaissance era and that is left alone ... but a set of cozy booths will be built into the space underneath it; I'll bet these will be the most-in-demand tables in the restaurant! Discoveries will be open seating from 6 until 9:30 p.m. each night (and the restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch as well).
Windows, open for breakfast and lunch, is the ship's top-deck buffet venue; it stretches around the ship's stern (both port and starboard). If you're used to big-ship buffets you might be pleasantly surprised by the intimate, almost elegant, layout of this one. Beyond the usual there will be a sushi bar and a wok area. At night, Windows will be transformed into Breeza, a slightly more formal incarnation (linen tablecloths and such) that combines some buffet options with waiter service. The offerings here will vary, and will be culled from menus that night in Discoveries, along with wellness-inspired items.
While the changes to Windows are primarily cosmetic ones, a major project is taking place out on the adjacent aft deck. Carpenters are building a bar in the spot previously limited to outdoor dining. It'll be a place for gathering as well as eating.
As well, the back deck will become a more active place to hang out (similar to that found on the newly refurbished Celebrity Century -- which was just the perfect place to watch the ship pull out of port); there will be live music as well.
Every R-class ship comes with two stand-alone alternative restaurants (connected by a single kitchen). In this case, Celebrity's created new concepts. First? Aqualina, located on the port side; its menus will be themed around the Mediterranean.
Both Aqualina and the next door Prime C, are laid out in a sort of an L shape. The area of tables at the bottom of the L -- totally aft with floor-to-ceiling windows -- is the quietest and nicest part of each restaurant. At this point, little's been done other than to gut the area. Notice the old window treatments? They'll go.
Passengers who've traveled a lot on Celebrity will be pleased to see a couple of familiar faces. Shadi Sayadi (left) will be the restaurant manager, overseeing all of Journey's eateries. And Dominique Camba, who I last "cruised with" on Century, where he expertly presided over that ship's fantastic Murano restaurant, will be the maitre d'hotel. In addition to overseeing construction of the restaurants, they're also stove-deep in menu planning.
Dominique, who hails from France, has big ambitions for these restaurants.
Prime C will be Celebrity's first steakhouse. One interesting twist is that a la Mortons of Chicago, there will be a series of high-top tables; they will be sized for larger groups (10 to 16 people). Also, a wine cellar with a glass wall will be built onsite -- and offer a unique ambience.