My wife and I took our first "small" ship cruise on Azamara's Journey on 1/31/09. (Port reviews to follow) It was a great experience! The ship made us feel like we were on a scaled down version of one of the bigger ships. (The Journey being 30,000+ tons as compared to the 100,000 that we were used to)
The Journey, in our opinion, had an up-scale look to her; a lot of wood treatment with more expensive looking furniture. The cruise experience on this ship was one of our best in our nine cruises. (Celebrity, Princess, Holland, NCL) The crew and staff were definitely the best we've ever had. They were all over the place. Captain Theodoros Mitropoulos, Hotel Manager Niyazi Korkmaz, and staff Captain Emmanuil Aposkitis were continually walking the ship! (I know...who the heck was driving!!! LOL) They must have special training in public relations, because they not only were very friendly, but had great personalities!
Every working member of the ship must we trained to be overly nice to the passengers, because every time we turned around, there was someone saying "hi" to us. Their service was great!
The food and presentation in the main dinning room was good! Yes, there were a couple meals that did not meet expectations....but I have screwed up at home cooking for two!!! The meals in the two specialty restaurants were superb! Outstanding service, presentation and food!
The staterooms were typical cruise ship size, but again a lot of wood to make you feel very comfortable. Our butler, Kursaree, was outstanding. Even though we prepaid our "tips", we slipped him a twenty when we first arrived and for the next twelve days he was always around! Keep in mind, like we all have read on these boards, the butler on Azamara is a glorified room steward! No big deal. We didn't use him for anything special. He didn't make SR reservations, but he did make sure we had a new ice bucket everyday at 4PM!
The cruise director, Tony Markey was outstanding! What a nice man! I don't think he ever slept, because we saw him in every room at any time! I hear he had a very nice singing voice. We were at most of the shows, but never heard him. I guess he was at the Looking Glass in the late hours. The rest of the entertainment was very good. I was a little leery considering this was a small ship with no "big" stage! But the singers, magicians, comedians, etc., were great! Especially the piano player. (Can't remember his name)
We tendered in half of the seven ports. Outstanding!!! Not a minute did we have to wait! The best service we have ever had! Disembarkation....the hall ways were crowed at first, but it calmed down and we were off within ten minutes of our scheduled time.
No big deal for us, but there is less to do on sea days then bigger ships. (We all knew in advanced) In fact, I saved a lot of money because they didn't have many Bingo games. It was a little rough getting out of Miami, but the Captain graciously changed courses to please his guest. (A negative turned into a positive)
In closing, hopefully someone from Azamara reads this so I can thank then for a wonderful cruise, and also thank Cruise Critic for some new friends that we have met!