When we decided to return to the Baltic, we knew we wanted a small casual ship with a lot of time in each port. The itinerary of the Azamara Journey was perfect. There were 2 days in Stockholm, 3 in St. Petersburg, and a whole day in Tallin.
We booked our own air and arrived 3 days early in Copenhagen. When we embarked (about noon), there were no crowds at all and the process was very smooth.
We had a deluxe oceanview stateroom on the 4th floor. It was nice,quiet, had plenty of drawers and closet space, the bed was good, and the linens were soft. We also liked having a refrigerator. We asked the butler to take out all the mini-bar stuff so we could use it as we liked. It was the only thing we ever asked of him. He was pleasant, but he was no better or worse than any other stateroom attendant we have had in the past.
There was a flat screen TV, but most of the time the in-house channel was not working. We brought our own travel clock and I'm glad we did. There was nothing in the room, and the TV didn't show the time.
The food was excellent. We never used room service, but we ate in the buffet, the outside grill, the dining room, and the specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurants were our only disappointment. The food was good, but didn't seem much different than in the dining room. We did have lobster though, and that was never served anywhere else. We did not make advance reservations, just went upstairs and asked when there was space available for our group of 4. Except for the first sea-day, they weren't full at all. Frankly, I enjoyed the dining room more.
On the topic of coffee: I am a daily coffee drinker and felt annoyed to have to pay extra for an expresso drink. For a cruise that advertises itself in an upscale niche, that seems pretty cheap. The only way I could swallow the stuff in the buffet was to dilute it 50%.
All the Baltic ports are very easily managed independently, so we didn't use the shore excursions. I did meet several cruisers who had a good time on their side-trips, but we usually did the exact same thing for much, much less. The exception was in St. Petersburg. We hired a private guide from a company that is often mentioned in the destination board, and had a fantastic time.
In several of the ports, Azamara chartered shuttle buses into the town center. It was never far, but the cost seemed pretty high and you were asked to pay each way. Another instance of a missed opportunity to make guests feel like this was a luxury cruise.
I liked having a self-serve laundry on board. there were 3 washers and dryers. I went down once in the morning and everyone else had the same idea. When I returned late in the afternoon, the place was empty.
The shows were OK, the casino was very small, and there was no movie theatre on board. It's a small ship, so it was about what I had expected. The cruise staff try very hard to be entertaining, but there are only so many times in the day a person can play trivia... I also found the cruise director to be loud and annoying, and if I turned on the TV to see our speed or position, she was always there.
I think the ship is wonderfully laid out. It's easy to get around and because of the small size, there are no crowds or waiting anywhere. It was well-maintained and clean. Apart from not having convenient restrooms near the top lookout bar, everything was easy to access.
Much has been written elsewhere about the library. It was not divided up on the Journey and there were books. Yes, there could have been much more, and I'm sure some avid readers were disappointed. I ended up with paperbacks that someone else had left, and contributed many of my own.
Any criticisms I have are very minor. The trip was enjoyable, the staff hard-working, and I would go on another Azamara cruise.