Azamara Journey Cruise Review by JohnDoe44: Journey is a great ship
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Journey is a great ship
Overall I'd give Azamara a solid A for this performance. The ship itself is compact. No feeling of hiking half way across a shopping mall to get from the food areas to activity areas. At 30,000 tons/700 passengers/400 crew the experience is fairly intimate with an individual service feel. The crew had a genuinely happy attitude; not just pasted on smiles. The head of the hotel staff (Phillip?) was very interested in feedback and very easy to talk to. His subordinate on cabins (a very tall lady from Latvia IIRC) was also a top notch officer. Very helpful and cheery personality. Our cabin butlers and cleaner were attentive to our needs without being intrusive. I expect they'd have done a lot more for us had we asked, but none of us were in to meals in the room or room service in general. Once they figured out our favorite soft drinks, we had a large supply replentished frequently.
We especially liked the country More club casual dress code. No more lugging suits and extra shoes for formal nights. Some of our fellow passengers pushed the envelope in a negative way but not to the point where we felt like we were at a Dennys. The crowd was older. Of the 575 guests, I'd guess 125-150 were over 75-80. There were very very few people under 50. This made for a well behaved easy crowd. The weather once we left the Med was excellent, but still colder than most for sun bathing. The pool area was rarely heavily used.
Food was good to great. We especially enjoyed Aqualina. Excellent rack of lamb, fish dishes etc. The relaxed pace and excellent service made for fine dining. The only niggle is eating here while under way, we felt more shudder from the engines/props than in the main dining room. Service in the main dining room was also excellent. Open seating means you don't establish a relationship with wait staff, but that's the price you pay for near instant seating on any size table you prefer. Most of the meals were excellent. A few were near misses but perhaps that's a reflection of trying new things more than poor prep.
Buffet dining for breakfast and lunch were good. The choices are not as wide as on a 2000 passenger ship, but we always found many healthy, tasty choices. This cruise only had about 575 passengers. We never had much problem finding seating or with feeling crowded in the buffet area. We didn't want a sit down breakfast or lunch so didn't use the main dining room for either of these. The only niggle in the buffet was a shortage of water hot enough to make tea at times and no obvious source of extra silverware. The servers/bussers were quick/efficient/helpful.
Activities were adequate. Personally I'd rather read a book than do trivia/bingo/crafts but there was enough of the later to keep my wife/MIL happy. The entertainment varied from great (Tian Jiang) to adequate (house singers). Not my cup of tea either but most seemed happy with the entertainment though there was rarely a fight for seats.
All in all I'd rate Azamara highly. I only had one negative experience which unfortunately was as we disembarked which left a bit of a bad taste. Our cruise director had been reading some notes re the scenery in the Kiel canal. Clearly he'd had little prep and pronounced "draught" (as in water depth, depth of ship in the water) as it's spelled about 25 times rather than "draft". It got to the point that people were snickering up in the forward lounge each time. As we left the ship the next day, I mentioned this to him thinking I was doing a good deed. No one else was around or I wouldn't have said anything. Got my head bit off as his smarmy "dear guests" demeanor dropped away and a haughty prig emerged. After a few seconds I just let it go and waited nearby for the rest of my party. He kept on dragging it back up for the next few couple getting off the ship to share how he was "being taught how to say draft". To my amusement, one of the men said "I'd been meaning to mention that to you". Went right over his head. Not a deal breaker and perhaps "dear John" was just having a bad day, but I would avoid him in the future.
I didn't find St. Malo in the list so I'll put in some info here. It's a lovely small seaside town circled by huge fortified walls. Lovely place to spend a few hours wandering about. Not a typical cruise ship port but very much geared toward tourism as the nearby Mont St. Michel is a big draw as is the Normandy/Brittany coast. Good shopping, pastries, moules etc.
Rouen is an industrial city 125 KM up the Seine from the sea. The cruise up the river was a highlight. The town itself is typical Europe. The Medieval center is scenic with a very modern church dedicated to Joan D'Arc who was burned at the stake here. The old town was worth a wander and the market was fabulous.
Most just blasted off for Paris but as we'd been there a number of times, taking a 1 hr train each way or a 2 hr bus ride didn't seem worth it just to have 5-6 hrs in Paris. We'd also been to Monet's house (Giverny) before but that's also worth a visit.
Transportation was poor. The ships shuttle left a lot to be desired according to those that used it. We easily got a cab to town but couldn't find one to return and had a bit of a walk. Fine for the healthy, but rough on the old folks. The riverside walk is very nice though 45 min to town at a slow pace.
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Port and Shore Excursions
The canal tour is a great way to see the city. Anne Frank's Museum is very moving and worth the time spent. The floating flower market was lovely and it's pretty humorous to see marijuana plants/seed for sale. Gotta love the Dutch permissiveness.
We boarded here. Nice terminal very close to the city. The HOHO bus hit most of the high spots and had we had 3-4 days we could have seen the sights in depth. An afternoon is nowhere near enough to do this large city justice.
CPH is similar to Amsterdam - canals, restaurants, lovely squares etc. Worth a couple of days at the beginning/end of a trip. Stockholm is prettier and only 5 hrs away by fast train though the train isn't cheap.
Otherwise, GIB has little to offer beyond shopping better done in bigger cities. We did see some nice ceramic work but the rest of the high street was nothing special.
The highlight was entering the harbor just after daybreak. We could clearly see Morocco in the distance.
The only downside to having 18 hours in London, is you only have 18 hours and that only if you don't sleep.
Tendering was not terribly efficient. The ships crew did a better job at the other tender port. Greenwich now has good links into the city via DLR and the river boats. The location makes for easy access to the main sights in the West End.
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