We just returned from a wonderful cruise on the Azamara Journey today after a 12 day cruise and 2 day precruise package. We embarked on the cruise on Dec 11. We started in Santos (Sao Paulo port) and ended in Buenos Aires. We had a fabulous time. I sometimes wondered if I was on the same ship mentioned in some other reviews. For back ground I am 59 years old and my husband is 61. We have sailed 9 times on Princess, once on Celebrity, once on Carnival and once on Renaissance (now out of business). We are both still working. We have sailed on the very same ship when it was the R6 (Renaissance) and a similar ship with Princess (Tahitian Princess). The average age on guests appeared to be around 60 and there were less than a dozen children aboard. There are very few children's activities.
We arrived 2 days early booking our own air and transfers to the hotel (we prefer to do this as we have had several bad experiences with cruise air on other lines in the past. We booked the 2 day pre cruise package at the Hyatt which was beautiful and very well priced (far below booking on our own). It included wonderful breakfasts and ships transfers. The only problem was the transfers to the ship were very poorly handled by the company contracting with Azamara. The liaison did not speak English or Spanish and really was not even sure what ship we were boarding. Azamara needs to have one of their own staff members supervising at the hotel.
The ship is beautiful. It is a small intimate ship and unlike the larger floating hotels. They have done a fabulous job restoring and upgrading. The rooms are small but well laid out and we had a private balcony were we had breakfast many mornings (excellent). The bedding is new and very comfortable. We slept very well. The Elemis amenities were very high quality. There were flowers and fruit in our room upon arrival and replenished as the ship went on. The flat screen TV was lovely but I would like more programming/channels. There was on CNN sports, CNN (for ships?) TNT and TMC. There was also the ability to do pay per view films. The only negative is that I would also like shower/bath gel. It is mainly a non smoking ship and we never smell smoke anywhere.
The pool is small with 2 jacuzzis tubs but never crowded. The lounge chairs are wood with very comfy pads. My biggest beef is that the jacuzzis closed at 8:00 PM. There is another Jacuzzi (thallastherapy spa?) at the front of the shipthat was open until 10 with more deck chairs, but the ship charged an additional $100 per person to use this during the cruise. I never saw anyone using it and I think this is rather tacky. On a premium line charge a few dollars more and include these things.
The gym is very nice and well equipped. It was well used but not crowded. The Steiner spa treatments are good but expensive (the same as all other cruise ships).
The crew was (with a few exceptions) helpful and very friendly and approachable. The Captain is British, young and interacted easily with the guests. They are constantly striving to make this a premium line and are receptive to comments and make changes very quickly. The cabin steward (butler?) and his assistant did a great job. I never ordered tea or canapés in my room so I do not know the quality. The guest relations staff was extremely helpful.
The dining is open seating, which we prefer. We never, ever waited more than 5 minutes for a table. Sometimes we ate alone and sometimes with new friends. When we cam in with 8-10 people it took a few minutes, when we were alone we were seated immediately. Some waiters were faster than others, if you found one you like you could ask to be seated at one of their tables. I liked the food, my husband not as much. The ingredients are all high quality. An attempt is made to make the food more "Nouvelle Cuisine" style. The food was somewhat bland, but considering the demographics of the passengers I can understand. The food is not over salted. The plates are unusually shaped and often glass 3 part "tasting dishes" were used. The desserts were excellent.. The salads a bit unimaginative. The food in the specialty restaurants is different but no better than the regular dining room. The buffet breakfast was very always very good. The lunch buffet was good but the ice cream bar was wonderful. I never ate at the pool side grill. Tea in Michaels was elegant and the snacks in Cova Cafe were very nice. Breakfast room service was great. I ordered room service pizza one night and that was terrible (good service awful microwave pizza). The wine and drinks were a little pricey.
The ships excursions were a mixed bag. Some were very good, some were ok and some were bad. This is no different than our experience on other cruise lines. They were not cheap but this is the same on all ships we have been on. We particularly enjoyed the Tango show tour in Buenos Aires, the Jewish Heritage tour in Montevideo. The Blumenau tour was not very good. We did not take the 2 day Iguaza Falls tour ($1400 per person) and thought this should be offered as a pre or post cruise tour rather than spending 2 nights in Itajai while 38 people took the tour. The entertainment was nice but weak (Princess does a better job of the same size chip). The dancers and singers and band were very good We found Celebrity's entertainment to be weaker than other lines also.
Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and quick. However people who flew in the same day had trouble getting their transfers at the airport and it was a 2 and ½ hour drive in traffic. The ship took a day room at a local quality hotel for use by guests while waiting for their planes.
Overall we had a great time and will most likely book another cruise with Azamara. We like the smaller, upscale ships with open seating. We find the atmosphere friendlier. We do not miss formal nights and midnight buffets.