Review of Azamara Journey Cruise - October 11-25, 2009 - Southern Mediterranean This was the trip of a lifetime. The ports coupled with the exceptional cruise experience will make it a vacation that's hard to top. We had previously sailed with Royal Caribbean and others, most recently on the Liberty and Freedom of the Seas. Everything good we heard about Azamara was true. We loved the small ship experience that the Journey provided - few lines, usually easy to get a lounger by the pool, etc. The food was exceptional. I never thought that I could be tired of jumbo shrimp and scallops, but by the end of this cruise, I was!
The attitude of staff on the ship was amazing. Generally, staff really take pride in their ship and the service they provided. This was most evident when commented on the mid-cruise survey that the service in the Breezes cafe (buffet restaurant) was inconsistent -- there were lots of waiters around, but they weren't helpful in getting drinks or anything else we needed after we got our food. Within 1 day of that comment, the food and beverage manager approached us directly to thank us for our feedback. We saw immediate, though short-lived improvement. A couple of nights later we were dining with a couple that ordered some wine at the start of dinner. They finished their dinner and the wine still hadn't come. Not impressive, especially considering it didn't seem passengers (in general) were drinking very much and liquor sales are a major source of revenue. The service in the main and specialty restaurants was exceptional. We witnessed the bread basket (that we didn't finish) being recycled to someone else's table!
Our room was switched at time of embarkation to 4018. Unfortunately this was directly above the gangway, and we received an early wake up call from all of the noise each day the ship was docked or tendered (12 out of 14 days). The noise and duration made it next to impossible to sleep through. I would highly recommend that you avoid this room if sleeping past 6 a.m. is important. We had a lot of excursions for the first week of the cruise, so we were getting up anyway, but by the second week when we were taking things easier, we decided to comment to Guest Relations. They suggested we could move rooms, but at this point to pack and unpack felt like a lot of work. The creative solution was to offer us another room to sleep in. Ideally, we wouldn't have had to go through any of this, but the solution that was offered was creative. (I don't know what they would have done if the ship had been full....)
As I mentioned earlier, the food was exceptional in all restaurants. The homemade ice creams were incredible. I really appreciated the healthy choices that were always available. The "If there's anything you would like, even if it's not on the menu" was a delight!
Previous reviews have commented on the entertainment. It is what it is. The Staff Captain said that they recognize it's not the best and it's a deliberate choice in order to keep the prices of the cruises less than Oceania.
We had dinner with the Staff Captain one night. It was refreshing to hear him speak so candidly about the ship and the cruise industry in general.
Towards the end of our cruise the president of Azamara and several Celebrity executives came on board. In the days leading up to this, we saw a tremendous about of painting and polishing being done! On the day the boarded the ship, a fresh red carpet was on the gangway! It felt like Royalty was arriving! Talking with some of the Journey's management following their meetings with the executives, they indicated that Azamara's prices will be going up, as well as they will be looking for additional ways in increase on-board revenue. My hope is that Azamara retains the quality and value that they provided on our cruise.