Embarkation went very smoothly. We arrived at the Azamara pier around 11:30 a.m. and parked in the garage across the street. At the pier, we exchanged our 'Express Pass' for a 'Sea Pass' and then boarded the Journey, where we were welcomed with a glass of pink champagne and allowed to make dinner reservations in Prime C for that evening. We enjoyed a buffet lunch in Windows Cafe, and were told our stateroom was ready about 1:30 p.m.
Penthouse Suite 8088 is a spacious, tastefully decorated suite located portside aft, with a sitting room, separate bedroom/bath and a wrap around veranda with 2 lounge chairs and a table and chair set. The sitting room has a sofa and two chairs, dining area for 4, huge buffet with complimentary liquor, water and soft drinks, a separate (paid) mini-bar refrigerator, large flat screened TV and separate powder room. The adjacent bedroom contains a bed which can be two twins or combined into a queen bed, an entire wall of storage with closets and cubbies and TV, as well as a mirrored, seated vanity area, and computer desk. The bathroom has a large sink/vanity area with 2 side cabinets, a WC with self-closing lid (no joke), and a whirlpool tub/shower combo.
We were surprised at the amount of space in the suite, and the view from the veranda was amazing, stretching aft to the horizon and around the port side. Our butler and his assistant were always polite, personable and considerate. He saw that we had fresh flowers and fruit daily, was consistently available and often went out of his way to accommodate our requests. The room was always cleaned while we were at breakfast, and the bed was turned down, lights dimmed, chocolate dipped strawberries or other bedtime treat awaiting us when we returned from dinner.
Unfortunately, we experienced high seas and winds during our first two days at sea and diesel smoke was blown down the back of the ship, making our balcony unusable and at times seeping into the suite (I am more sensitive to odors than my husband). We also experienced significant motion and engine noise because of the weather. However, the Captain chose a course through the Old Bahamas Channel and once we entered the Caribbean Sea, the cruising went very smoothly and we were able to use our veranda.
Of note: 1) Suite 8088 is located under Windows/Breeza Cafe and the few times we were in the suite in the late afternoon we experienced noise when staff moved tables and chairs around in preparation for dinner. 2) The mattresses were a bit tired and sway-backed, and while my bad back noticed this we slept well. 3) The whirlpool tub/shower is set into an alcove and sits a bit high off the floor. I had to grab the handle bar at the side opening and stretch to reach the towel bar on the far side of the tub in order to climb in. Getting out of the tub was almost as tricky - in hind sight, I should have asked for a step stool. However, the shower always had consistently warm water with a strong flow, the toiletries provided were high end, and the towels were oversized but very heavy. 4) When we were unable to unlock our door due to failure of the lock battery, it was opened and fixed within 5 minutes courtesy of the Security and Maintenance staffs. 5) I love to read in the Patio Area on the pool deck as it is usually quiet and relaxing. However, on the Journey, the furniture was so oversized it must have been made for the Jolly Green Giant. It was extremely uncomfortable and impossible to sit in. I would definitely recommend replacement with smaller, more comfortable, people-sized furniture. 6) The pool area is a sore spot with us. Like every large hotel or ship I've been to, people rush up in the early a.m., throw personal items on deck chairs to reserve them, and then disappear, leaving empty but obviously 'in use' chairs. Perhaps Azamara staff could patrol usage and remove items from chairs after a certain amount of time - Oceania seems to have this problem well under control.
Discoveries Restaurant and the two specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, were a delicious surprise. Sample menus offered on line were frankly uninspiring. However, we found that a variety of dishes were offered and we enjoyed everything we selected. The food and its presentation were outstanding, as was the friendly and attentive service. The wine list was extensive and offered a wide variety from which to choose. It must be noted that when serving hundreds of meals occasional glitches happen - and the staff quickly and apologetically exchanged an overcooked steak or lamb chop for the medium rare ordered. We particularly enjoyed the carvings, salads and desserts offered in Windows luncheon buffet. If we have a complaint, it is that we felt rushed on several occasions when dining in Discoveries Restaurant.
We were very impressed with the evening entertainment which was cabaret style and exceptionally well performed by a variety of talents. Tony Markey, the Social Director, did a marvelous job and deserves a round of applause! Azamara definitely surpasses Oceania in this area.
We took three ship-sponsored excursions and opted for exploring the other ports on our own We particularly enjoyed the 'Best of St. Kitts' tour which visited Brimstone Hill, Caribelle Batik, etc. Our van driver was very knowledgeable and well spoken. In St. Barts, we boarded the yellow submarine for undersea views and then window shopped along the main street - Hermes, Louis Vuitton. . . . On St, Martin, a substitution for the original port of Martinique which was having civil unrest, we took the St. Martin Island Tour which featured an hour stop for shopping the local market, definitely not our thing. On our own, we went snorkeling on St. Croix and St. John, and rented a car to explore Virgin Gorda stopping for lunch at the top of the Baths.
On the last night, the flowers and fruit disappeared from our room and room service was to be discontinued at 2 a.m. However, no one answered the Room Service phone after 10 p.m. There were a lot of grumpy, coffee-less passengers the next morning. (Breakfast was available at the restaurants.) Disembarkation was well organized and went smoothly in Miami.
We wish to thank Captain Mitropoulos for his warm welcome, and the Officers and Staff of the Journey who were always visible, approachable, friendly and helpful. We had a great time and met many wonderful people! We will definitely cruise with Azamara again.