We'd been quietly monitoring Voyager of the Seas Singapore to Tokyo (Yokohama) for some time, but with all the rising political tensions at that time, we thought again. We'd also seen 'Voyager' at the OPT in Sydney during November (2013) and she did look rather large to us, given we are generally smaller ship people.
So when I then noticed that Az Journey was doing Singapore to Hong Kong via Thailand (Koh Samui & 2 nights BKK, Klong Toey Port), and Vietnam (Overnight in HCMC, Da Nang & yet another overnight in Halong Bay) it was simply a matter of finding and booking a still vacant cabin.
We prefer O'view cabins and had to settle for an obstructed view cabin, but as it turned out we were fortunate in being able to look straight though the tender windows, so we still hahd a view of sorts.
I wll admit to being slightly anxious about whether 14 nts on Az Journey would ever be as good as 7nts on Az Quest last June? Put simply, it was. This is a classy, yet unpretentious cruise line, with a strong emphasis on Customer service excellence, that is found in all departments, all the way through their ships.
We stayed at The Fairmont in Singapore, and took one of their Limo's to the older Singapore (Harbourfront) Cruise Center. Once there, porters were waiting with trolleys to take our cases to the luggage drop off point. It must have been all of 30 seconds, before we were then directed to escalators up to the check-in desks. Again it wasn't that busy and we were directed to a check in agent within 2 minutes. We'd completed all formalites so it was very simple indeed. Passports were checked, pre-printed Immigation forms for Thailand were signed, Mug shots were taken for the cruise card, and away we went next to Immigration, and finally onto the security check. End to end, it was almost a walk through experience. Having decided just before boarding the ship that we wouldn't need to go ashore again before departure, we surrendered our passports in return for a receipt. We didnt see our passports again until we debarked 2 weeks later. The cruise card sufficed throughout, but we always carried photo ID in the shape of our driving licences and photocopies of our passport face pages too.
So onto the ship itself, to a waiting glass of Fizz, the first of many such glasses amongst other drinks to be offered at receptions and parties, I hasten to add. We'd left the hotel at 12.30 and were on the ship by 13.20, it was all that quick.
We made our way up to the Windows Cafe, where lunch was still being served, and it was clear that many people had checked in much earlier, but we eventually found a couple of spare seats that quickly became the many, as the 'cabins are ready' announcement was made.
Having later found our (deck 6) cabin 6040, we were quite happy with it, small and compact, yet it had everything we needed, enough storage (we dont travel light!) and the obstructed view from the big picture wasnt too bad at all. Some days it was very good when the tenders were down, or the crew were on safety drills.
After the safety muster exercise, it was swiftly along to the Meet n Mingle in Looking Glass, hosted by Criuse Director Tony Markey and Hotel Director Riszard Gussman.
Let's just say, Azamara certainly know how to put on a good party, and there were 66 people there, 10% of the ships pasengers, that how important Azamara think that Cruise critic is to them, as Tony pointed out!
We also made bookings for Prime C and Aqualina on the first day, as we wanted to secure a booking for Valentines Day.
We booked 3 tours for Vietnam online before we left home. We considered then all good value, despite the cold weather, and considering the additional discount we received for booking online. The quality of the spoken English of all 3 guides was excellent.
I could go on at length about this cruise, the food, the receptions, the outstanding service, the Azamazing evening, and the shows, it was all so very well and graciously done. From Captain Jason, HD Riszard, and CD Tony down, everything was possible and nothing was ever too much trouble.
On many cruises, meeting the Captain or any of the senior officers is reserved for special occasions, on Azamara, I've found it to be almost a daily, and sometimes a multi-daily experience.
IMO both Tony and Riszard are top of industry performers, never too busy to say hello or chat, whilst always leading by example to the rest of their departments.
Special mentions too for Star Performer; violin virtuoso Craig Halliday, (totally brilliant, go see him somewhere, even if not on a cruise ship!) and also Az Journey's lead vocalists Amanda Poulson and Andrew Perry. Both had their own shows and also a show together.
Footnote: We picked up our passports in the cabaret lounge on the morning of departure. Once again Riszard was there, handing out passports, shaking hands with everyone and wishing us and everyone else a good journey home and a speedy return. On leaving the ship once logged out for the final time, out on the deck waiting to say goodbye was Capt Jason and CD Tony, so yet more handshakes and fond farewells.
Some people snipe at the fact that these ships are no longer new ships. I've even seen them referred to as 'bath tubs' by some.
All I can say is that I hope Azamara take any opportunity they can to acquire more of these wonderful 'bathtubs' as possible, and I sincerely trust those that dont like bathtubs are quite content to go along with the rest of the shower.