We flew into Athens the day before sailing, had a day to sightsee in Athens before boarding the ship in Pireaus. Checking in was very easy and smooth and we were on the ship in no time at all.
Upon entering the 4th deck of Azamara Journey, we were immmediately welcomed by sparkling wine and lots of helpful crew. Our rooms were not ready till 2pm, so we left our hand baggage with the concierge and went for a wander. Our previous cruises have been with very large ships (4,500 on Independence) with at least 3,000 passengers on board. The Journey had 469 passengers on this sailing which was not full capacity. With just over 400 crew, we were certainly in for a treat!
Our room was ready before 2pm and we ventured into it. Our luggage didn't take long to arrive after that. We had 2 stateroom attendents = one more senior. They were both extremely efficient, smiles all the time and very polite.
The Journey was a very pleasnt surprise. All the crew in every area were smiling, obviously happy, and so willing to do anything for you. We never had to stand in line for anything. Drinks were brought to our poolside chair, my burger and fries were delivered to me there too! Wine (and really good bottles) was served freely at lunch and dinner. They brought us cappucinnos, teas, sodas, anything you wanted! Service was just exquisite.
The production shows were just amazing too. There were 4 in total and the group of 4 singers and 4 dancers were really good. We had dancing lessons with Slava and Alina every sea day (of which we had 10) and they were the best ballroom teachers we've ever had on land and sea! Everyone just looked so happy in their job (unlike other ships where the crew looked tired and want to go home, even though they did their job very well). The guest entertainers were also top class (we had a magician, pianist, violinist, and soprano.
Fellow passengers were very friendly. Majority were from the UK on this sailing, with Americans, Canadians and others. We made so many friends, had great conversations in the pool, in the dining room and everywhere we met them. On our previous larger capacity cruises, we hardly ever met the same person twice!
Our destinations were a by product in the end. The Journey was so much fun that it didn't matter where we went! We were quite happy to stay on board! Having said that, we did dock in Rhodes, Oman (free shuttle though we were on tour), Fujairah (also free shuttle though we took a tour to Dubai), and ended up in Mumbai overnight till we disembarked the next morning. The Suez Canal transit was interesting, and it took a whole day to go through it.
The facilities on the ship were adequate for us. The gym was tired but the ship is going into dry dock soon and I'm sure all will be better. Chris was the fitness instructor there and he did a good job holding all sorts of classes (spinning, boot camp, circuits, yoga, pilates) which were free to all passengers (unlike other ships which charge a fee). There were 2 shops which sold a few things that weren't very interesting to us, and there was certainly no pressure selling all round from the shops, no art auctions, no pressure to dine in speciality restaurants.
One unexpected incident did occur - encountering pirates and having to adopt "safe haven" after we left Fujairah. Captain Jason and his team were excellent in handling this and within 15 mins, we were back on deck, lunch still hot!
This was altogether an excellent cruise, so relaxing, so pampered, with everyone saying they would definitely sail with Azamara again. We would definitely sail with them again.