Now that the bags are unpacked and the tan fading, thought we would share details of our recent sailing aboard the Azamara Journey (February 12, 2009)
At 600+ passengers, the Journey was the largest "small ship" we had yet experienced...with our previous sailings having been on the yachts of SeaDream, Windstar and Royal Clipper lines. Because of this, we had some reservations prior to booking, as to whether we would enjoy the same intimacy with passengers and crew. The answer is no, but this may be the only shortcoming of Azamara.
Having booked with an on-line cruise specialist, we were pleased to discover that we were eligible for one or more credits the cruise line was offering, having the effect of significantly reducing our cruise fare. Because of this, we opted to upgrade to a Sky Suite category, for a little more than the outside cabin with balcony we had reserved. While the room and balcony were indeed larger, it might not have been worth paying extra without the incentives. Check on these when booking.
On arrival dockside in Miami, we presented the boarding passes printed on our computer at home. This expedited the boarding process, and we were deck side in less than 5 minutes, greeted by crew and a flute of champagne. Always a nice touch!
Though our stateroom was not yet ready for occupancy, we spent about an hour getting acclimated with the ship...its restaurants, lounges, casino, show rooms, shops, etc. We also took the occasion to reserve space in Spa's Thalassotherapy Pool area. Restricted to about thirty passengers, it affords a quiet respite from the general pool area and some shade. Think it was well worth the investment. The main pool area is always in bright sunshine and very crowded, though the chaises are most comfortable.
The ship has two specialty restaurants, a main dining room and aft open-air buffet, all open for dinner. Prime C is the steak speciality venue, while Aqualina, fish. The menus in these dining rooms do not vary during your cruise, while the main dining room and buffet change daily. Passengers (depending on room category) have limited access to the specialty restaurants and all unlimited to the main dining room and buffet. It is suggested you book your reservations in the specialty restaurants early after embarkation. Food and decor in each of these rooms is above par, though after a couple of nights you may find yourselves gravitating to the buffet, and simpler fare.
While the ship offers various shore excursions, for the adventurous you are better off exploring on your own, the various beaches and local restaurants. Taxis are readily available and the total costs are far less than the organized excursions. You can save here!
After dinner, you can enjoy a cocktail under the stars or one of the cabaret shows nightly in the lounge. We had an enthusiastic group of five singers who entertained us with songs from Broadway and television. Shows run about an hour and the last ends around 11PM.
For breakfast, we generally had our wonderful butler bring us cappuccino and croissants on our balcony before going deck side for breakfast. Lovely sitting outside in the early morning sun, enjoying your eggs prepared to order.
All in all, we believe Azamara lived up to its hype and we certainly would not hesitate another cruise soon. For those of you contemplating booking, we think you will be satisfied at the end of your journey. Good Sailing!