The butler service: The cruise line advertises one butler shared between two cabins unless you are in a suite where you have your own butler. Our butler was excellent, but he was training room stewards so he was responsible for much more than just our cabin. He delivered fresh fruit twice to our cabin, fresh flowers once, 2 canapés on two different nights, and he oversaw the placement of towels, turndown, newsletters, etc. in our cabin. The idea of a butler is very appealing, but for all other purposes, it was difficult to see a difference between butler service and the service of a room steward or cabin attendant. The cruise staff: This is where the cruise line shines. They have gathered the brightest, most congenial group of cruise members that we have ever seen. Each person, from the cocktail server, casino workers, room stewards, line waiters, sommeliers, maitre’d, activities personnel, harpist, piano player…whomever we spoke with…they LOVED their jobs and it showed. What a great crew! Entertainment: A gracious and talented harpist played daily on the mezzanine level. Also, a pianist who covered everything from jazz to the ‘one hit wonders’ shared the same space or traveled to Michael’s Club on the 10th floor. He was a terrific talent. The ship had a small orchestra and a pool band, neither of which played often enough during the daytime. The Cabaret, where the main entertainment occurred, hosted a very funny comedian/magician who made $20 bills move from envelopes into grapefruits, and cards float through space, as he included the audience in participation and told clever jokes. Another night a low-key humorist enlivened the audience with home grown humor. Two nights held no show time entertainment. Two nights gave us the typical cruise ship shows with ‘That’s Hollywood” and “Swing” type songs and dance done by attractive 20-somethings. The final night was a conglomeration of all of the above, without the comedian/magician from the first night. Overall, the entertainment was good, but not great. Three nights offered two seatings but the remaining two nights offered only one seating. On board entertainment: This is probably the weakest area of the cruise. The old stand-bys of pool games such as pass the hula hoop or pass the orange under the chin, King of the Cruise, Bingo, and Trivia are just overdone. A truly upscale cruise should be able to come up with something a little more innovative and “status” appropriate. Excursions: BEST of the lot! Everything from carriage rides, motorized bikes, snorkeling, ‘snuba’-diving, walks, and taxi tours was included. Look over the offerings and make your plans accordingly as it seems that EVERYONE leaves the ship when in port. The beaches in Bermuda are excellent and it is easy to grab a cab in port and go to the beach.
Dining: The Prime C is billed as a steak restaurant and it does have excellent cuts of steak as well as great fish, veal, and pasta. Most folks seemed to think the Aqualina was a seafood restaurant but it has a strong French/Mediterranean influence. Service in both restaurants was impeccable! The menu changes so you can dine more than once, as we did, and get a good variety. Save room for the food, though…servings are ample and upscale, so you will truly want to ‘dine’ while in these venues. Desserts are to die for…and change frequently. The soufflés are well worth the experience.
The ship: This particular ship was commissioned in 2000 or 2001 as the former Renaissance Cruise line. The furnishings are completely new in the suites and most of the veranda rooms have new carpet, bedding, etc. Yet there is evidence of the age of the ship in many areas where rust can be seen at the joints of balconies, poles, and stairs as well as bubbles on the finish of the teak railings. The pool looks like an antique compared to the newer ships. The tile is aging and the grout is discolored. The surface is actually quite slippery as there were two ‘slip and falls’ that required surgical care during the week. Crossing the Gulf Stream, this ship had a lot of movement. Several voyagers were ill on the going over and the return due to movement. The waves did not reach over 9 feet, but it could be felt everywhere. Four crew members told us that this was the calmest crossing to date. Our air conditioning went out twice while we were in port for a total of about 15 hours. It was restored both times, but there was no comment made by the guest services. We had to initiate all of the questions and did not receive any explanations or apologies. The Azamara Journey is seeking to establish itself as a ‘cut above’ the rest of the line as an adult venue with class and taste that pampers its guests. The daily papers note that jeans or shorts are not permitted in the dining rooms, yet every day we saw evidence of many diners in jeans and shorts. When we asked the staff about this, no one seemed to be aware that we were being told that there was a dress code for dining. Customer service had called each person before boarding and informed us that there would not be a formal night, yet on the third or fourth night, we were encouraged to wear our ‘gowns and tuxedoes’ and “make it a night at the Ritz”. Azamara Journey has not yet found its niche, but it is making a lot of strides in the right direction by hiring brilliant staff. We look forward to seeing the improvements to be made to make this into a true ‘first class’ journey.