We have just returned from a roundtrip cruise from Singapore down to the Indonesian Islands on the recently refurbished Azamara Journey. This was our sixth cruise with Azamara and as usual it lived up to our expectations. We booked the cruise as a package with flights and pre-cruise hotel stay in Singapore at the lovely Conrad Centennial hotel. Due to the Journey spending an extra day in dry dock, we were fortunate to spend two nights here which was a perfect start to the holiday. The hotel was fabulous with amazing views from our room on the 25th floor, excellent buffet breakfast, extremely comfortable beds and free wifi. Our extra day gave us time to visit the Gardens at Marina Bay by day and night, take a lift up to the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel for the magnificent views, visit Raffles Hotel and Sentosa Island.
Embarkation was efficient and quick and we were soon on board enjoying a glass of sparkling wine. There was a 'mix up' in that we had been sent an email saying that no lunch would be served on embarkation day as boarding did not start until 3pm but this was incorrect as the Windows buffet was indeed open for lunch until 5pm. Azamara's admin is the one area that could do with improvement!
The refurbishment has certainly brightened up the ship. The new tiling around the pool is modern and stylish and the new sun loungers a great improvement. We had misgivings about them replacing the old wooden ones which were very comfortable but the new ones are equally comfortable, much easier to move around and look very smart with their big new mushroom coloured towels. The new soft furnishings and carpets in the restaurants and Mosaic Cafe have also given these rooms a new lease of life and the new balcony furniture is more comfortable, our only reservation being that the new square table is quite large, especially on a standard balcony cabin verandah which is very small and does not leave much room to move around.
We found the food on board up to standard -- we ate once in Aquilina, one of the speciality restaurants, four times in Discoveries, the main restaurant, and the rest of the time we ate out on the Windows buffet deck enjoying the themed buffets in the warm evening air.
The crew were as usual attentive, friendly and helpful and the officers often to be seen about the ship and happy to chat. Being Le Club Voyage members, we attended several social events where cocktails and canapes were generously handed out and these were good opportunities to meet fellow passengers. There was a very friendly atmosphere on board from both guests and crew and it was easy to feel 'at home' -- something for which is Azamara is renowned.
We enjoyed all the ports of call where we mainly took ship's excursions.
At Semarang the coaches had a police escort simply to get them through the high volume of traffic including hundreds of motorbikes -- through red lights and on the wrong side of the road! Here we went on a steam train ride which was fun (although the loos at the station left a bit to be desired!), then on to Borobudur Temple followed by lunch. A great day.
At Lombok we did an excursion to a waterfall involving a long climb down about 300 steps (with a refreshing spray from the waterfall at the bottom) and back up again. Quite strenuous but then followed by lunch in an open air restaurant. On the way we stopped at a traditional village where we strolled around to get a flavour of local village life and watched a stick fighting display.
One of the highlights was our visit to Komodo where we had a good view of the dragons. What an experience! The tender process here, as at all the tender ports of call, was easy and efficient.
At Benoa we did the Elephant Safari excursion which we really enjoyed. This was at a lovely resort where we had an elephant ride through some pretty jungly gardens, had a fabulous lunch and then watched a small show afterwards. The elephants really seemed happy and well cared for.
Celukan Bawang on the north coast of Bali was our last port of call and also the first time the Azamara Journey had visited here. There was a lovely ceremony where Captain Johannes and Heike, the Hotel Manager, were presented with a plaque from local dignitaries and a red 'carpet' was laid all the way from the ship right along the pier. As we disembarked we were greeted by a local band playing and had petals thrown over us by pretty Balinese girls as we walked along the carpet. A lovely welcome and then an excursion to a beautiful temple followed by a visit to the hot springs where we bathed before returning to the ship.
Evening entertainment in the Cabaret Lounge was good -- we particularly enjoyed the comedian/magician Mel Mellers and the show by Tony Markey, the Cruise Director.
The White Nights party was great too. We were all given a sarong to wear -- thanks very much to our room steward, Agus from Bali who helped dress us in them! Great fun and a lovely meal and dancing on deck.
We also had a day room post cruise at the Conrad Centennial which was as good as our first visit. This enabled us to do a bit more sightseeing and then relax by the pool before being taken to the airport at 8pm ready for our flight at 11pm. This was a huge bonus as we did not have to hang about for hours waiting for our flight, which we have experienced on previous cruises. Thank you Azamara for making our last day so relaxing!
We are already looking forward to our next cruise on the Journey at the end of August!