As backgound we are both mid 60's, started cruising in 1988 and currently cruise about 6 to 8 times a year which equates to 2 to 3 months every year. We have therefore quite a degree of experience of cruising, the varoius shipping lines and their ships. Some we adore and some we would not board even if they gave us a free cruise. On Celebrity/Azamara we are Elite status and RCCL Diamond status which gives a great indication of who we think does it well.
We also have moved past the "island every day" type of cruising that at first glance appears attractive. In fact, if the ship never stopped during the whole cruise this would be fine for us as it is the ship and the cruising that we really like. This view is shared by many other experienced cruisers and for this reason it is why the Transtlantics are so appealing...those six days at sea are simply great!
In a world where the sales hype of "biggest is best" abounds from cruise lines and agents alike we most definitely do not subscribe to this way of thinking. In fact we will do anything to avoid such ships as the sheer thought of the logistics of being aboard with up to 5,000 other passengers simply fills us with horror.
My wife and I embarked the "Journey" in Miami for our 20th or so Transatlantic crossing. The check-in could not have been more pleasant and speedier...in fact we were on the ship in literally a few minutes. Once aboard we were met with total warmth and friendliness by members of the crew and straight away the same from fellow guests. We quickly realised that the passengers on this ship were a bit "special" and this was most certainly proved to be the case throughout this wonderful cruise. We found that most passengers were very experienced cruisers who like ourselves had "honed" down what they really wanted from a cruise. They were prediminately from the USA with a sprinkling of other nationalities including a sprinkling of us Brits and were to prove to be the friendliest and nicest fellow passengers we have ever experienced. It was a pleasure to be aboard with them.
Our first thoughts of the ship were mixed. The narrow staircases and relative smallness compared to her big sisters took some getting used to but within just a few days we started to really appreciate the ship. Be the end of the cruise we did not want to get off which is the reason we are now booked on her again for a 14 day cruise in August/Septemebr 2009.
The "Journey" is a very well found ship quite capable of dealing with anything a Transatlantic crossing can throw at her and the cruise itself was superb . The balcony cabin, whilst not being overly spacious, was perfectly adequate for our needs and how we appreciated a "proper" table and chairs on the balcony, particularly appreciated for sitting at when eating our traditional cooked breakfast.
The food we found to be superb on all occasions and is one of the important factors why we cannot wait to be aboard her again. We were a tad apprehensive about the anytime dining as this is certainly not our preferred option. However, because of the friendliness which abounded throughout the ship we made so many friends that this was never a problem. The other point I would make is that no matter what table we were at we were always served and treated in a friendly,courteous and efficient manner by all of the waiting staff. Full marks to all of them.
The speciality restaurants we liked very much especially the "Prime C" restaurant. Hosted by a superb Maitre' D we ate there on a number of occasions and we would say that for the nominal $5 service charge it represented a superb alternative to the main dining restuarant. However, that is not to take anything away from this main restaurant which is itself superb.
My only gripe about the whole cruise is the deplorable lack of red table wine at the "right price". When we are on Celebrity we always have a bottle of the house Celebrity wine every night as it is superb wine at a realistic price. On this ship, although it is in fact Celebrity, they have no such house wine. This resulted in them running out of all of the "value" wines (not really value when compared to the Celebrity housewine) . The result......we simply didn't order any which saved us a fortune and cost Azamara a lot. Short sighted on their part and easily resolved by them ensuring that they have plenty of value for money wine on board. By doing so they will make more money from one of their biggest money spinners and their passengers will be happier.
Having said that I must compliment Azamara on their afternoon 2 for 1 drinks "Happy Hour" on the lovely aft deck Sunset Bar. A great place to meet people and enjoy a bargain in the process whilst being entertained by the superb resident band. Well done!
The professional entertainers were most enjoyable and acceptable but we also enjoyed the cruise staff events. I have to say that the passengers talent show was simply the very best we have ever seen. Professionally organised and a joy to watch. A great deal of the accolades for this must go to Tony Markey and his hard working staff.
As I have mentioned previously our fellow cruisers were in the main a great people to be with. They were generally a more sophisticated, mature bunch (not necessarily mature in age but definitely in style) who fully appreciated that the point of a cruise is to enjoy it....and what was there not to enjoy about this cruise. Thankyou to every fellow passenger who made this cruise so exceptional and wonderful to have made so many genuine friends in the process. In fact we are cruising with two lovely people from Chicago on a December Transtalantic back to the States who I just know will be lifelong buddies....all thanks to this cruise.
From the Captain, permeating down through all the officers, to the general crew they are the friendliest crew that we have EVER experienced on any of our vast amount of previous cruises. I feel sure that as a direct result of this it was very much a happy, "fun" ship and a pleasure to be a part of. A special mention must go to Philip Herbert the Hotel Director whose truly exceptional caring and efficiency, coupled with his genuinely affable and cultured manner, produces an officer of outstanding talent. Azamara, take good care of this man....you really don't want to loose him.
Another special mention must go to Tony Markey the Cruise Director...we simply do not know where he gets his energy from! The obvious problem of mentioning certain people is that it precludes all of the others so let me just say a genuine "THANKYOU" to each and every one of them.
The disembarkation in Barcelona was on par with the embarkation in Miami....effortless, flawless and superb. Well, as superb as it ever can be when you have to depart a ship you simply do not want to leave!
My score for this cruise is a resounding 10 out of 10. Congratulations Azamara ....you have got the product "spot on".
We can't wait for the 30th November cruise....counting the days!