On entering the Journey for the first time, it became clear very quickly that this ship is indeed identical to the Quest. This was an advantage as I already knew where everything was located. My partner hadn't been on a cruise before, but had read the many mixed reviews and took some of the negative points with a large pinch of salt, prepared to make up his own mind. We both liked the size of the ship, allowing for easy access to all the public areas. The Sky Suite, although not really a suite, was a good size. Having the bath was a bonus as it increased the size of the shower area. We had a look at one of the other staterooms and the bathroom area and noted that it was an adequate space, considering the amount of time spent in the shower. However, for us, the extra space and the larger room and balcony was what we preferred. I had stayed in a penthouse suite on the Quest last year and it was a fantastic space, however, considering we spent most of the time away from the room, I felt it wasn't worth the extra expense this year. The stateroom staff (butlers and head butler) kept our suite well stocked and immaculate. They were prompt and efficient in fulfilling any requests we had, such as extra bottles of water, ice bucket refills, toiletries etc and were never intrusive. The ship was well maintained. The public areas were kept very clean, inside and out, with regular paint refreshing and stair banister polishing. All impressive! The staff around the Pool area were suitably attentive, asking if they could bring drinks and clearing away empty glasses to keep the area tidy. They were always polite and friendly, which added to the general relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The dining experiences were generally excellent. We only ate in the main dining area (Discoveries) once as we tended to prefer the variety of the buffet or the fine dining in Prime C and Aqualina. Once again, the staff were attentive, friendly and very helpful. The only danger was the 24 hour eating options available on the ship...clearly only a danger if you had the capacity to eat for 24 hours a day.
There was always variety and plenty to chose from. The entertainment was as expected on a smaller ship but adequate, depending on what you wanted to see/do. We enjoyed taking part in the daily quizzes and chatting with others who took part on a daily basis. Evening entertainment was generally different musicians performing, or a great Comedienne, Diane Cousins, who was funny and a decent singer. The entertainment staff were enthusiastic and good at what they did. We enjoyed their company as well as some of the activities they provided. The ports on this cruise were generally very good.
The only disappointing stop for us was Tunis. The rain didn't help, but it wasn't our cup of tea. The Tenders were well operated as were the shuttle buses when we were docked. In general, getting onshore was well managed. Our organised excursion to Pisa was cancelled last minute which was initially disappointing, however, it turned out to be a blessing, as the heavens opened and Pisa was a bit of a wash out. We opted to share a taxi with 3 others to see the leaning tower. We took our pictures, in the rain then went back to the ship to get dry.
Our one sea day was quite rough at sea. We were lucky enough not to suffer with seasickness. The pool became a natural wave pool with the motion of the ship on the sea. It provided a lot of fun for those in the water and was soon very busy with lots of laughter as the water created wave after wave. That was the busiest day in the pool. The pool, in general was enjoyable and very clean. The temperature tended to vary from very cold to tepid. It was, however, very refreshing and welcome after sunbathing and becoming very hot! the ships information channel ran pretty much all day every day and was updated with useful information about the days excursions and daily activities. This, along with the daily itinerary, delivered the evening before, provided everything you needed to know. We used the spa deck a few times to enjoy the tranquility when we wanted to sunbathe away from the main pool deck. The thalassotherapy pool was enjoyable to a point, but on the very hot days, the hot water in the whirlpool made the experience a little uncomfortable. I doubt we'd pay for the use of the spa deck in future. It was $175 for a couple for the 2 weeks. The laundry service was excellent. The clothes returned were so clean and so well pressed it was a shame to wear them again, but also a pleasure. Well worth the money and saves having to pack a different outfit for every day of the cruise. Left room for taking gifts home.
All in all, we found the Azamara experience very relaxing, friendly, satisfying and worthy of the 5 stars. I would say that if you want a relaxing cruise with the chance to see some of the Mediterranean ports that larger ships can't access, then Azamara is for you. If you want lots of entertainment options and activities, expecially in the evenings and that is important to you, then perhaps Azamara isn't for you. For us, the smaller ship with the more attentive, friendly staff, opportunity to see different ports in the Med and not feel rushed, pushed, overrun by children or waiting in long queues at food stations, was ideal.