Last year, Celebrity bombarded us with mailings promoting their new cruise line Azamara and after awhile we became intrigued and decided to do some research. We are frequent cruisers and have been on the Celebrity Galaxy several times and knew that Celebrity does a good job on a medium priced cruise. We called Celebrity's hot line about Azamara's South American sailings and they happened to be running a special that was too good to pass up. We gave a minimum deposit on the 18 day Chilean Fjord cruise over New Years and Xmas.
The cruise started in Buenos Aires on 12/23 and ended in Santiago on 1/10. Although most of the ports were unfamiliar to us, the idea of cruising the tip of South America and through Cape Horn was very appealing. We booked our own pre and post tour arrangements, staying at Starwood's Park Tower in Buenos Aires and the Marriott in Santiago. We had been in Buenos Aires 8 years ago on another cruise and had stayed in the same hotel and loved it -- butler and all. The Marriott turned out to be somewhat off the beaten path but we enjoyed the suburbs and had no trouble taking a cab into the main city.
Embarkation was somewhat confusing and took longer than usual with lots of desks to check into but we were in high spirits and soon we were checking out our cabin and the ship. The stateroom and bathroom were small but we are used to this on cruise ships but the closets and the drawer space were adequate for our three suitcases full of stuff. The staff introduced themselves but when we needed to call no one was manning the desks and we had trouble finding our steward/butler. The butler aspect is a nice gimmick but she was mainly a steward and nothing different from other cruises. The bedding was lovely and we enjoyed crawling into our fresh linens every night with a different cookie or chocolate on the bedside table.
We loved the open seating and casual dress code aboard ship. The main dining room offered a comprehensive menu and the food was delicious. We found ourselves requesting the same table as we enjoyed our wait staff a great deal and wanted to sit with the same nice people every night. The specialty restaurants left much to be desired. We liked the minimum charge but the food was not all that special and the service was very slow. Lobster was not an option every night as it usually is on other ships.
The ship offered a wide variety of activities but we would have liked more specialty lectures about world affairs, etc. We were never quite sure where the band would be playing for pre-dinner dancing. The entertainment was sorely lacking and the band was terrible, although our cruise director Andreas was wonderful. He was truly a jack of all trades, with his informative lectures and late night astronomy sightings. However, we would have liked more comedy shows as the last one was quite good. Also, the show times were either too early or too late and need to be adjusted.
We only took two shore excursions and preferred to book our own independent travel. On previous ships, the crew would offer more assistance if you wanted to go on your own. On the Journey, the staff would only explain their own cruises. The ship's excursions were terribly overpriced which needs to be adjusted.
Disembarkation went very well and we were off the ship in no time. All in all, we had a wonderful time. Our 18 days went by in a flash. We would definitely cruise on the Azamara line again.