This was our first cruise on Azamara and only our second cruise having done a Windstar cruise in the Caribbean a year ago on the Windsurf. My concerns about crowds, lines and impersonal treatment on the much larger Azamara Journey were quickly laid to rest by the friendly and efficient Azamara crew. Our stateroom attendant, Wayan, had our names down pat on the first day of the cruise. We never had any problem finding a seat in the restaurants or a place to stretch out and relax on deck.
We were traveling in a group of 8. We arrived in Athens a couple of days before our embarkation date in order to have time to do some exploring in Athens. Our hotel, the O&B arranged for our transfers from the Athens Airport to the hotel and from the hotel to Piraeus. This is an excellent small hotel and I would highly recommend it. I have reviewed the hotel on Trip Advisor.
The embarkation in Piraeus was handled smoothly and efficiently with only a short wait in line. We got on board early enough to spend some time exploring the ship.
Our first stop was in Santorini. We chose to go on the shore excursion to Akrotiri. This was a fascinating site to visit which was made all the better by our well-informed professional tour guide. This was also supplemented by an excellent, on-board lecture given by Dr. Patrick Goodness the following day. We attended all of his lectures which tied in nicely with our shore excursions. It was great to know what the tour guides were talking about.
Our next stop was Malta. We chose the Valletta City of the Knights shore excursion. This was primarily a walking tour that visited St. Pauls Co Cathedral and the military museum. Again our tour guide was an expert and well informed on the history of Malta. I personally found the military museum very interesting.
The AzAmazing Evening in Malta was a bit of a letdown. The facility that the evening was held in was like a tunnel. It became very crowded and noisy. We ended up standing the entire time as there weren't enough seats to go around. The entertainment was good but it was next to impossible to move through the hall. We found out later from our friends that there had been a sword swallower but they missed seeing the balancing act that we managed to watch.
The next stop was Taormina Sicily. We chose the Mt. Etna shore excursion. This was a long bus ride up the side of the mountain but our guide, also very knowledgeable, pointed out things along the way. We did get an opportunity to hike around once we got to the lodge on the side of the mountain. We also sampled some of the local food and drink.
The unscheduled evening stop to watch Stromboli erupting was a lot of fun. It was great that the Captain had the flexibility that he could do things like this.
Our next stop was Sorrento for two days. My wife and I set out on our own to visit Pompeii. With the help of some other Azamara passengers we were able to figure out the local train system and successfully make the round trip. Pompeii was amazing and too big to see in one day. We may have to come back.
It also happened that this was our wedding anniversary. On returning to our stateroom, we found our bed decorated with flower petals and kissing swans done in folded towels. Nice touch Wayan!
Our second day in Sorrento was spent wandering around and exploring this beautiful city.
Our disembarkation in Rome was handled as smoothly as the Embarkation. We were told that hiring a taxi or a van to take us from the port to our hotel in the Barberini District in Rome would be very expensive and that the availability of taxis at Civitaveccia would be very limited. In fact, this was not the case. We founds many vans for hire and they competed with each other for your business. We hired a van that was able to accommodate our entire group of 8 plus luggage for a price of 20 euros per person. This was about what we were expecting to pay to take the train and right to the front door of our hotel. (Actually a monastery)
Overall, my impression of the Azamara Journey was very good. Good food, fun on-board entertainment, and a beautiful ship. We are already working on planning our next cruise.