We booked this cruise due to itinerary, price and bonuses...prepaid gratuities, on board credit etc. Our travel included airfare and transfers through the cruiseline.
Flights were on LAN PERU and were fine...only problem was in Peru, where we were told we didn't disembark the plane -- we did. After a 8 hr flight they asked us for our previous ticket stubs. That was a bit alarming as one does not assume they are needed after the plane takes off. Information given to travelers was varied at the check in desk...most were told coming and going that no change of plane was necessary. On return flight, we were told we would disembark plane but reboard 20 mins. later. Turned out to be 1 hour 20 mins. Oh well....as a frequent traveler I am used to "going with the flow". I wish more people were this way....there is simply no need to rant and rave...
Nevertheless, once on ground in Sao Paulo, we (eventually) found the Azamara greeters and after about a 30 min. wait were taken to the bus for transfer to Santos. No complaints here...they were VERY EFFICIENT in baggage handling etc. Embarkation was also VERY smooth and efficient.
Had a quick meeting following the muster drill (also handled very efficiently) with fellow CruiseCritic.com members. We had arranged a private tour w/other cc members for Rio beforehand via cc. This was amazing...our guide was Marcos - great experience! We were also very lucky to have beautiful weather; not only for Rio but for the whole cruise! Following the first day tour, a few of us went to the Rio Scenarium nightclub for a taste of local night life. It is in a 3 story very old, historical building...former antique store that owner has built nightclub around. AWESOME - and very reasonable evening!! (We hired driver who stayed with us for entire evening...about 5 hours total and cost was approx. $30pp plus drinks...I DRANK...my tab with entrance fee was only USD $22.00. Very reasonably priced evening and no touristy "samba show" just real Brazilian nitelife. WOW - the local dancers are INCREDIBLE!
Parati - Not much to see or do here. Alot of shops did not accept USD.
Itapaji - See above. We over-nighted here - apparently only because it was the stop for the (PRICEY) excursion to the falls. Not much to see or do. I did hear that on Sat. some took a private tour to the beach w/ cable car. This seems to be the only saving grace for this port..the trip to the "German town" was a bust.
Montevideo, Uruguay and B.A. Argentina were our favorite ports after Rio. (None of which did we use Azamara excursions. (They were very much over-priced and very limited. I'm never seen such poor choices before!) I have recently been told that Azamara will not be returning to South America for some time so I will now divert to speaking only of our "on-board" experience.
We were led to believe we should expect "over the top" service and it wasn't even as good as we are accustomed to. We are very easy to please and certainly not "high maintenance" type folks. Had we not cruised many times on different cruiselines we would think we had very good service. AND>>>it wasn't bad per se...just not near what we have experienced on RCL and Princess. So for the extra $$ in tips per day..we didn't see the extra value. For example; we had to request things several times before they materialized..ice, dinner menu, etc. On most cruises our cabin steward introduces him/herself and remembers us by name. They will also rush to open our door for us when we see them in the hall. This cruise, none of the above was present. Maybe because we were in a lower cabin category (OV deck 6)...however on previous cruises in a inside cabin we were given much more customer service.
The worst customer service was the front desk. "Albert P." (helped?) me for the first FOUR days of the cruise as our on-board credits had not showed up on our account. Each day he assured me he would take care of it and phone me with the results. NEVER ONCE did he call our cabin! Not even to say he was still working on it etc. Finally, on the FOURTH day, I asked him if he remembered me. He replied affirmative and even knew my name! He gave no explanation as to why he hadn't gotten back to me and even had a surely attitude. On this occasion, he started out telling me we had a total of $300 credit, then corrected himself and said it was $500...another few minutes passed and he had "found" more credit. I had told him 4 days in a row (and even produced written proof) that we were due $800 in credit. He ended up "finding" a total of $920 in credit at which point I told him to print it out.
When my mom ended up with credit on her account at the end of the cruise she asked Alfred to transfer it to my account. He assured her he would..this was the last night of the cruise. The next morning, our final statement did not reflect this transfer. Once again, we had to call and request it be handled. "Alfred" was the poorest example of customer service representatives I have ever dealt with on a cruise ship. I cannot believe they have him at the Cust. Relations desk.
Okay...on to the good things.
The ship layout was great...we fell in love with this style/size ship. Our room was outstanding. Terrific layout and plenty of storage space w/o feeling crowded.
Open seating and no charge speciality restaurants - WONDERFUL. Also used room service several times and it was OUTSTANDING, both the service and the variety available.
Beds & Linen were OUTSTANDING! NO need for an egg-crate here...perfect!
Less than Great -
Television offerings - worst of any ship we've been on. They don't even offer videos of previous entertainment as they do on most ships.
Entertainment - nothing really enticed me to attend. My mom attended some and described it as "so-so"...note..she is very easy to please.
Casino - if you can call it that. Two BJ tables and slow if not nonexistent bar service.
Whirlpools & pool - shut down at 8pm if not earlier.
Age Demographics for this cruise -
Although most cruisers were older than myself (40's) I found that the vast majority were very active if not older passengers. There weren't many wheelchairs or walkers..most everyone was very ambulatory and active.
All in all, I would sail the Journey again given a great itinerary and price but would not pay premium prices for the pleasure as I didn't see the added value they advertise.