We booked a transfer from Heathrow to Southampton through Onward Travel Solutions, Ltd. When our reservation was confirmed, we received an e-mail with detailed instructions on how to meet our driver as we did choose, for a nominal amount, the meet and greet option and would book again with this company.
While in Southampton we spent an evening at Hunter's Lodge that we can recommend for what we consider a reasonable cost that is clean comfortable, in a quiet location and a 15 minute or so walk to the center of town. The included breakfast was quite good. We can also recommend a pub called Cowherds that is a short taxi ride from Hunter's. See both reviews on Trip Advisor.
I'll start by saying that we took a cruise on the Journey in October of 2007 and this cruise was as different as night and day. This cruise was a vast improvement.
I'll also tell you that so far this year this is our fourth cruise the others being on Princess, Seabourn and Silversea.
Embarkation was easy and fast.
Dining - Service was outstanding. The food was much better than Princess, but not quite as good as Seabourn or Silversea....especially the buffets.
We tried the additional charge ($25) Prime C and while the service was outstanding the filet mignon was not up to par. A medium rare steak looked off color, tasted OK, but was not like any filet mignon that we've ever had.
Now when it comes to the additional charge ($25) that is a different story. The service and seafood was outstanding! The seafood was fresh, fresh, fresh and tasty and well worth the extra cost.
Cabin 7093 was comfortable and nicely appointed, but the bathroom is tiny as compared to some other ships.
St. Peter Port, Channel Islands - On a prior cruise with another line when we stopped at this port, we toured Cornet Castle that was quite interesting and I'd recommend so this time took the Guernsey Island Drive that I'd rate as just OK. The scenery was nice. The surprise of this tour was the Little Chapel that is a true miniature and located down a short path. The bus driver/guide was good, but the bus itself had no air conditioning and it was rather hot.
Bordeaux Day 1- A Walking Tour of Bordeaux was only OK too as the guide was a bit difficult to understand. We would probably have been better off if we had chosen the longer tour that went out to Saint Emilion.
Bordeaux Day 2 - Margeaux Wine Tour - OK too. Perhaps the best part of this tour was the vineyards and the villas.
St. Jean de Luz,France - Biarritz Walking Tour with lunch. Wow! Such views! We've heard of Biarritz and now know why it is a playground for the rich and famous. The beach is fabulous and the surroundings just beautiful. Lunch that included wine in a hotel restaurant with views of the coast was good too. I'd consider this tour a highlight.
Pasajes, Spain - We took the complimentary shuttle bus out to San Sebastian. Once in San Sebastian, we walked around the old city, visited a 15th church and a basillica, and tour a guided double decker bus tour around the city. The beaches are pretty, the city clean and a gem.
Bilbao, Spain - We chose the Private Early Morning Guggenheim Museum visit & Panoramic Bilboa that I'd rate OK. Perhaps I don't appreciate art. :-)
Porto (Leixoes), Portugal - Splendors of Oporto - When you hear of a visit to a Chamber of Commerce, you might go what? The Palcio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange) was quite a surprise and a must see especially the Moorish Room. The gilded carved wood in the Gothic Sao Francisco Church is worth a look too.
Lisbon - Medieval Obidos - This was our second visit to Medieval Obidos and I'd gladly go again. The old walls, narrow streets, whitewashed buildings, shops, and the castle that is now a pousada are worth a visit. Be sure to try the chocolate with a cherry liqueur.
We visited Fatima, Sintra & Cascais on prior trips to Lisbon that you might want to cosider. Even the Royal Lisbon tour is interesting.
Disembarkation was organized and easy. We chose the ship's transfer by bus to the airport that was comfortable and very reasonably priced.
We like the size and casual dining of the Azamara ships and will book again with this line. On a scale of 1 - 10 with 10 being the best I'd give the following ratings:
Princess - 3 - Ships are too big and they nickel and dime
Seabourn - 10
Silversea - 9
Azamara - 8