I have always wanted to visit Bermuda and there is no doubt cruising is the most economical and (IMHO) the best way. We originally booked the Celebrity Zenith in a Category 11 Concierge room. A few months later I was informed of the switch to the Celebrity Journey and subsequently the Azamara Journey. I was very happy about this because now I was in a Sky Suite, about 60 sp feet bigger and a nice balcony which the Zenith did not have. Being touted as a step up from Celebrity and on par with the likes of Oceania I was really looking forward to this trip. I traveled with my wife along with my 21 yr old son and his roommate from college (they were in an inside cabin) After reading messages from cruisers on the first 3 sailings I was more amused then concerned since I have NEVER had a bad cruise so here goes:
EMBARKATION: In a word EASY. If you are in a suite you bypass the longer line and the photographers! It took us less than five minutes to get on the ship after arrival in the terminal. I also noticed (noon) that the other line was not too long. This is one advantage of a small ship! We also had an extremely smooth ride to Bermuda - smoothest ever out of NYC.
CABIN: I was in 8039, one of the new Sky Suites. For me it had plenty of space - the room itself, the closets and the bathroom. I am a big guy and loved the size of the bathroom. The were broken fixtures on the sink that I was told "we know". The bathtub is unnecessary and a little to high to climb in and if you are 6' tall your head will scrape the ceiling. The worst design flaw here is that there is no door or curtain - the floor gets VERY VERY WET ! I showed a couple of senior staff members and all they could do is shake their heads ! They claimed they had no idea. The "BUTLER" was nothing more than the cabin steward in a tux. We did receive fresh fruit a few days and some awful canapes every day but nothing special.
SHIP: I love this ship: this is the old R6 from Renaissance and last year I was on the Tahitian Princess which was the R4 so I already knew I would like it. I have to say though that I can't figure out where the $19 million went to refurbish it, a lot was the same as the Princess ship down to the same carpet, fixtures, some paintings and the awfully in need of a refurb pool. Very odd that the front of the ship was much colder than the rear - especially the Cabaret deck 5 forward - many complained it was too cold - I loved it.
SERVICE: Mostly excellent. Room service was spotty but is 24 hours, the dining room was mediocre as due to open seating there is no connecting with the same people and the waiters for the most part just go through the motions. There were a couple of exceptions to this. My cabin staff was also quite good.
FOOD: Mostly very good. Aqualina and Prime C were excellent, the dining room was very good to excellent (no better than any other cruise I have taken) for lunch and dinner but I found breakfast, both at the buffet and in the dining room to be VERY disappointing. The sushi bar on deck 9 was very good and, on a day that I found odd, on Lobster tail night the buffet had the best Beef Wellington I have EVER had - and no one knew !!! Yes - I did both that night.
CASINO: Small but very professional and the best manager I have ever dealt with. No blackjack or slot tourneys and the Texas Hold 'Em machine is a total rip-off.
SHOWS: The production shows were only singers and geared toward the over 65 crowd - not my thing. I was disappointed that there were no production shows; I know its a small "stage" but Princess did it really well. The instrumentalist and comic magician were TOP NOTCH. The magician ( Carl Andrews) best I have ever seen on a cruise !
SHORE EXCURSIONS: I did not do any but my son had one cancelled that he ended up doing on his own with the same person! He was told the person cancelled so he called on his own and the person did not even know it was cancelled and was really angry at the cruise line. I do not want to get more into detail but suffice it to say that the shore excursion desk was not truthful. There did seem to be a lot of excursions offered.
ART AUCTION: Yes I now the good and the bad but this is a guilty pleasure for my wife and I. I have never seen so little money spent on the auctions this trip. Azamara and Park West thought everyone on board was a millionaire. Ridiculous choices - there should have been much more under $500-1000
I do not want to ramble any further but I was surprised there were no port talks and discussion of how to get around Bermuda. Quite a few old folks in wheelchairs I saw going to Horseshoe Bay Beach(GREAT PLACE) but did not know of the really steep hill to get to it! No midnight buffets or decent food late either. The are some crappy sandwiches by the coffee bar though. Drinks were great but terribly overpriced. I am only trying to be honest. The cruise was excellent and we all had a great time. I think that Azamara will be a deluxe line one day, that day is not today. They need to deliver quickly what they have promised or their credibility will disintegrate quickly. For what they are charging now I would not sail with them again, for what I paid though, I definitely would.