I was concerned at the start of this cruise that, unlike all my past cruises, there were no days at sea and it would be a series of tedious touristy ports where trinkets are sold along side of Rolexes. It has turned out to be the most interesting and rewarding fun-filled ten days my wife and I have ever spent on a cruise ship.
This was our first cruise on a 'luxury' ship, as well as a ship with less than 2000 passengers. We traveled with 5 others. We had a suite, others in our party had verandahs, and one couple had an interior cabin, and no one had any complaints about their cabins. This cruise costs about $350 per day per person for a suite. On cruises on other lines we averaged 200-250$ per day for a superior verandah. If you do not drink a lot of hard drinks during the day, you can save $50-100$ a day on soft drinks, wine (lunch and dinner), coffees and all the pastries, grill food, snacks and savories that are free on this ship, but not on others. Other than bar bills, we had no other charges.
What a perfectly-sized ship. We were dwarfed by the other MCS/Carnival and especially one of those 6000 passenger 'ghetto of the seas' that passed by (we looked like a tug boat next to it.) When you get lost on this ship it is a short walk to your destination.
All of us left New York City on November 1 on what would be the first flights out for the airlines after Hurricane Sandy hit the region. We were all very lucky. Everything went well on the travel front (once we got to the airport) and all connections were made.
We were more than fortunate that the weather was just incredible -- cool and clear most of the time. So much for the naysayers about traveling in this region in November.
We spent three days in Venice staying two nights at an interesting B&B, the Palazzeto Pisani in Venice on the Grand Canal. The water taxi from the airport to the hotel was a great introduction to Venice. The weather was in Venice was really excellent -- cool and clear -- we had just missed a rainy spell of alta acqua which had flooded the downstairs of the hotel. And then we missed the weather that followed -- the worst in history.
Embarkation onto Journey was very easy for all and everyone's cabins were to their liking. We had a suite which was much better appointed than similar sized verandas on other ships. First impressions were that this ship was better fitted, more beautiful and more intimate than anything we had experienced before (HOL/RCL/Carnival/Princess and QM2). Definitely up-class and well worth it.
This cruise was a port intensive itinerary, which is good (keeps you busy) and bad (none of those lazy days at sea). We did meet some folks who mostly stayed on the ship. Many of the ports visited could only accommodate a ship this small, therefore the destinations were not heavily visited and you get to see lots of what's there without crowds. So different than what there to see in the Caribbean tourist stops.
We did not take advantage of any of the ships tour's and had a great time exploring on our own. Those that did were pleased. Next time we shall.
Venice --We lucked out on the weather. Venice is intensely touristy in the extreme, but is still a beautiful city just to be in, but many areas were packed with tourists....hard to believe that it can be worse in the summer. Fortunately, the area near the hotel (Campo Santo Stefano) was more residential and calm.
Trieste -- Bright and sunny day, very residential/urban look to it with many fine clothing shops; otherwise, not much to see and not touristy at all; we felt like we were just passing through. Spent more time on the boat. Some good walks through the Romanesque ruins.
Ravenna -- Bright and sunny day, again, a less touristy, but worth the bus ride to town. A good walking city. We ate lunch in a fabulous restaurant in a beautiful old building in the heart of the old town -- the Ca' de' Ven Ravenna -- you should try to fit this bistro in.
Split -- Bright and sunny day. This wonderful town is a short walk from the ship and is made up of largely of an old Roman Palace which is well worth the visit. Great outdoor markets. We stopped at one the many outside cafes on the main waterfront promenade for a terrific lunch of local seafood and savories. Split was a great port for smaller ships like the Journey.
Dubrovnik -- Bright and sunny day. I guess one could spend days exploring this place. We walked the walls -- a strenuous exercise for some of us -- and had a pleasant seafood lunch on the pier. This port accommodates the largest of the cruise ships and there were three in port ahead of us, which filled the major tourist sites. Fortunately for us, most of them were gone by 1:00 leaving the Old Town for us for a few hours.
Kotor, Montenegro -- Bright and sunny day. This city is at the end of a long fjord, which took 90 minutes to travel and that was half the fun of this port. Incredibly picturesque and again, only ships this small can maneuver here. Again, more old Romanesque walls and churches with a few shops and plenty of good cafes. Can only handle ships this size.
Brindisi, Italy -- Mixed overcast but pleasant day -- Brindisi is not the most picturesque place in Italy but it did have some interesting ruins, history and pastries. We all took the tour train. Good day to spend more time back on board on the sun deck.
Corfu -- Clear skies and a bit warmer -- Another charming little city with several attractions one could walk to.
Katakalon -- Bright sunny day -- this place was really special -- a true sleepy Greek island community of 600 folks; had some interesting local museums and several waterside cafes. This place really felt like a tropical vacation beach spot.
The trip to Athens - we left Katakalon at 1:00 and it was a gloriously sunny day that felt like an 'at sea' day on a Caribbean cruise. We spent the afternoon on our up until then little used verandahs. What a great way to end this trip.
Some really nice things/Pros:
- All the cappuccino, BBQ, pastries, cookies, ice cream, endless carts of savories, and wine and soda were all free.
- Alcohol in your cabin was allowed and free in the suites
- Professional and friendly service everywhere
- Superior buffet food
- Breakfast on the Cafe deck
- Free laundry
- Room service that always delivered hot toast.
- Although the weather was too cool for the pool, the hot tubs were just what we needed and were never crowded
- Very happy older crowd (60+) -- seemed mostly English; on a ship this size it is easy to meet folks and get close to them.
- Great room appointments and toys including bathrobes that were too thick to fit into your suitcase.
- Great deck chairs with wool blankets.
- The best DIY cappuccino machine ever invented.
- Our butler was fabulous.
Some minor cons:
- There were some ventilation issues (they acknowledged) with the center suites on deck eight and we had to be moved from 8058 (really bad) to 8061 (OK) due to cooking smells leaking into the AC ducts.
- One of our guest's cabins was under the cabaret (noisy) and they were moved to an aft cabin. Interesting that they had extra cabins to address these issues.
- Being a party of 7 proved problematic in the main dining room (they use open dining type of plan) unless you wanted to dine at 6:30 or 8:30 -- we arrived at 7:30 three times and twice weren't seated till after 8:00 and were the last to leave at 10:30. Also a tricky in the buffet rooms. Apparently, unlike the bigger ships, they cannot dynamically merge tables. There was no problem in the specialty restaurants and outdoors.
- Overall much better than our other cruises. Great room service if you like that.
- Breakfast buffet -- excellent and suited both English and American tastes.
- Lunch buffet -- very good but we ate ashore most of the time
- Teatime -- excellent service with free pastries, cookies, sandwiches, and savories. Fabulous scones.
- Dinner -- main dining room -- a bit better than HAL, but similar menus
- All soups were delicious.
- Great selection of desserts.
- Prime -- a beautiful room with a good meat menu...but my rib eye was disappointing. Other courses were excellent. Loved the lamb and NY strips
- Aqualina -- Another beautiful room with excellent service and seafood. When ordering lobster, stay with simpler preparations.
We hope to book another Azamara cruise next year.