My husband and I just returned from a 7-day September 22nd Bermuda cruise roundtrip Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey on the Azamara Journey. We are frequent cruisers, and found the Journey to be a beautiful, small vessel providing a very good experience with excellent food and solid service throughout the week.
The 700-passenger Azamara Journey is new to Celebrity as of this Spring, having finished a stint with Pullmantours in Spain after beginning life as a Renaissance vessel. She retains the physical beauty of the Renaissance design, with the black and gold iron staircases and trompe d'oil paintings on several ceilings creating a unique setting for sailing within this new cruise niche of 'premium plus' or deluxe category. The cabins are very comfortable, with soft hues and up-to-date bedding; the public spaces feature pleasant reds, golds and blues.
We were in a Sky Suite, which was very spacious and well-appointed. Complimentary amenities in the suite included a bon voyage bottle of champagne, sodas and two Specialty Restaurant meals. The butler service was attentive overall - we especially enjoyed afternoon tea service brought to the cabin (with a plate of cookies left behind if we were absent).
The ship's staff was very friendly throughout the vessel, and always offered warm greetings. Our only disappointment was with the Activities Staff, which was a bit disorganized and hard to hear when running events such as Team Trivia - it was impossible to tell what was going on from the audience. We were delighted with the Catholic priest onboard, who also offered daily Mass - Azamara's website notes that this feature will go away once the ship leaves the Bermuda itinerary, which would be very unfortunate - passenger attendance was high at every Mass.
The waitstaff service onboard Azamara Journey was excellent in the main Dining Room as well as the Windows Cafe. The Specialty Dining experience in both the Aqualina and Prime C restaurants was superb - with the clubby atmosphere a terrific backdrop to Prime C. My advice to future passengers on Journey would be to make the alternative dining reservations onboard immediately after embarkation as space filled up quickly in both venues. There was also a nice array of bars available onboard - there was never a sense of being crowded on this ship, even during sea days.
Entertainment was an eclectic mix which worked well for this small ship. The 5-person song and dance troupe was very good at presenting a new 'stripped down' themed medley concept unique to Azamara. It worked both due to the same-level/small stage in the lounge as well as the intimate, cabaret-like experience they conveyed. A traditional production show simply wouldn't have fit this ship. Other acts were more typical of cruise ships - i.e., magician and comedian, which were fine on the small stage. We took a car service to and from the Port of Bayonne. While embarkation was seamless, disembarkation proved more chaotic. There appeared to be a dearth of US Customs & Immigration personnel at the pier, which made for a long line. The main problem, however, was the 'dead zone' for cell phone signals at the terminal entrance. Since cars can't wait in front and there are no public phones, we endured a frantic time period of trying to dial our car service before finding a spot where the signal was successful. Royal Caribbean / Celebrity should offer a Passenger Service Desk at the terminal's main door which would include a staffer with a working cell phone for this purpose - it would be greatly appreciated by older passengers and those who have difficulty walking.
As Azamara Journey (and the new sister ship Azamara Quest) will feature more exotic itineraries of longer length, the crowd on future sailings is likely to be slightly older cruisers who have traveled frequently and are looking for a smaller, low-key ship with interesting ports of call. This audience will be delighted with the Azamara Journey.