We boarded Azamara Journey after queuing for about 30 minutes, and after a quick snack on deck we found that our cabin ready for occupancy. The cabin was not as big as I thought it would be, with two beds and a settee, a flat screen TV on the wall which I kept banging my shoulder on when squeezing between it and the bed end, a large table on the balcony accentuated the narrowness of the balcony and cabin, the wardrobes were adequate for what clothes we had brought for a freestyle cruise, and drawer space was ok, but two of the drawers were broken and would not slide freely in or out, and there must have been 7yrs accumulation of muck and fluff heaped under the bottom drawer.
After putting away our clothes a knock on the door produced the (butler?)in trousers that were 4 inches to long, and his help, introduced themselves. The cabin staff were cheerful and polite and worked well, but no better or worse than cabin staff on other ships we have traveled on.
A day later as we were leaving for dinner a fitter came to repair the broken drawers that had been reported by the cabin staff, the drawers were repaired but I'm not sure if the muck was vacuumed up, as the drawers would not lift out after the repair.
The bathroom was very small and the shower cubicle in this cabin was miniscule, and due to cost cutting there is no shower gel in the shower (not much luxury there) and when showering the shower curtain sucks itself in and sticks itself to you, and whatever you do: do not drop the soap for if you bend over you will hit your head on the taps/faucet handles. Later in the cruise I had to lift the bed settee to find some tweezers that had fallen through, I don't think this settee had been lifted for years as we found from amongst the mass of accumulated muck and fluff, a pencil and a pair of ladies jogging pants.
Once at sea the ship seemed to have a funny motion and a shake that could be mostly felt when lying down in bed, perhaps its because it is a narrow beamed ship and gives me the impression that this ship is lively on anything but a very calm sea. As our cruise progressed it became apparent that the crew ratio was not 2 to 1, as multi tasking was evident in certain areas and the towel boy went behind the bar to serve me drinks on one occasion, also the waiter service in the Pool Grill dinning area was sporadic at best, it was much quicker to go into the adjacent Windows Cafe buffet and give your request to a table waiter than wait for the very occasional waiter patrol, food service and the food quality in the pool grill was excellent and the Prime ribs were divine. Juices coffee and iced tea were freely available, although on sea days glasses and cups were sometimes hard to find as many were on left out on deck. Bar waiter service on the Sun Deck was poor and very occasional, and staff only came around occasionally to pick up those empties which were within arms length, indeed glasses and cups amassed not far from my sun bed were still there the day after when I used the same sun bed, and they were still there when we left at 16:10pm.
The breakfast buffet at the Windows Cafe and Breeza was also excellent with plenty of choice including porridge cereal yoghurt and fresh fruit Continental breakfast, pancakes and waffles, to several hot dishes including a hot ham carving joint, but the very popular smoothie bar which was only open at breakfast, was painfully slow and with just one waiter serving, was in my view extremely understaffed.
Inside, the ship is tastefully appointed, using rich dark woods with browns bronzes and other materials to match. Dinner in the Discoveries restaurant was always a pleasant affair as we were asked on entering by the Maitre'D if we would like to be seated on our own, or with others, and we met some very nice people each evening. The food in the restaurant was very good, although I have had food equally as good on many other ships, what I have not had as good, on "any" other ship was meat as good as this, the meat on Journey was in a class of its own, and it was truly excellent. Wine was expensive starting around $50 dollars a bottle, and I think hit the hundreds, not being a wine buff I only glanced at the list. Aqualina restaurant was as nice as you would expect, the food again was excellent and nicely presented, the Prime C Restaurant was just as pleasant, and the food as you would expect equally as good.
Towels were put out on the big wooden sun beds in the morning by the crew, and when it rained they were left out in the rain so that when passengers went out to sun bathe after the rain the mattresses were like a wet sponge, and the towels were being dried out down below, although eventually everybody received dry towels, there was never any attendant help on the sun deck to help with the normal type of plastic sun beds, and passengers had to help each other in lifting sun beds from the stack, and bar waiter service on the sun deck was also very occasional at best. Entertainment on the ship was reasonable although being a small ship the Celebrity Cabaret theatre was on the level with just one step up for the back half dozen rows, viewing was adequate rather than good, and as the ships orchestra took up most of the stage there was no room for dancers, so all entertainment was of the single performance type, (singers, instrumentalists, and a so called comedian ???) the ships singers a troupe of two boys and three girls who I enjoyed, only sang three times during in the 18 nights cruise.
Tenders ashore when standing off were regular and efficient, although other than the daily navigational position report, little or no information was offered over the tannoy, indeed we only found out about the shuttle bus into Bridge Town at Barbados when the local traffic marshal informed us of it.
The timing and placing of the entertainment seems a little out, for after the 2nd Cabaret show we went to the Looking Glass lounge for more entertainment, where within 10 minutes the Latin American Band had finished its last spot, and a dance instruction class was started, Why?? In the evening the Cova Cafe was the liveliest place on the ship, an excellent pianist played there nightly, but alas it was not the place to drink, sing, and be merry, as it is in a narrow, and very busy thoroughfare with very limited seating between the Celebrity restaurant and the shops where every man and his dog passed through thrice nightly. Michael's Club also gives the impression that it is a Gents club and bar, but it is not, it is a library
The ship did not have much atmosphere and was usually very quiet by 23:30 and even the casino was quiet by midnight, the expensive drink prices topped with an added 18% gratuity (which we were told is going up to 20% in the Med) and the $12.50 pp per day added gratuities make sure that most passengers are tucked up by midnight. For photographers this is not a good ship to take photos from, the highest point the sun deck is surrounded by tinted glass and there is no other vantage point above it to take photos from looking forward, and to take photos astern the only vantage point is to squeeze through the tables in the Breeza cafe on deck 9 aft.
After nine or ten days most of the more popular English canned beers ran out, and in the last few days some juices were also missing from the drinks machine.
So to sum up, Azamara Journey is not a luxury cruise ship, and falls down in many areas, the butler is just a gimmick, and most cabins and bathrooms are to small for a luxury ship, poor service in some areas (possibly due to a shortage of staff) expensive bar prices, and the inflated and enforced gratuities which some people were told by staff at the front desk (that on orders from head office) they could not adjust do not make Azamara Journey a luxury cruise ship. I just can not understand what market owners Royal Caribbean and Azamara are aiming at, the more affluent customers will not put up with the shortcomings of this ship, or its indifferent service, the ship I am told was very heavily discounted in America, and it looks to me like the company are trying to make back profit on the high bar prices etc. The good points are the good food and excellent meat, and Captain Leif Carlson who was high profile and mixed with his customers most nights, and as a very nice gesture the Captain was also at the gangplank in Miami to say goodbyes to all his passengers that were leaving the ship.