My husband and I were on the Azamara Journey for this 12 day Caribbean cruise. I will tell you some of my observations without repeating what others have posted.
Transportation: We started in Fort Lauderdale and had to find a way to get to Miami. SAS Transportation was not able to help us. I reserved Michael Rozenbaum, www.US1TransportationService.com. He showed up, on time, in an immaculately clean Lincoln Town Car. He was well dressed and helped us with the luggage. I will use him again.
After the cruise we used SAS Transportation, www.ridesas.com, to get from the ship in Miami to the airport in Fort Lauderdale. The driver, Tony, was waiting for us when we got off the ship. He picked us up and then picked up others from other ships. The trip went well and it was only $15 plus tip per person.
Arrival: We got to the ship around 11 AM and walked right on. We gave them our luggage, they gave us some champagne, and we gave ourselves a self tour of the ship. As others have described it in other posts I will just say it is very nice. We were allowed into our cabin, around 2 PM.
Cruise Critic: The Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle party was held on the first day at sea. All the officers were there to greet us, answer questions, and wish us a great cruise. The day before we left the ship there was another CC get together. This time they wanted to be sure we enjoyed the cruise and asked for input on how they could improve the Azamara cruise experience. We had very few ideas for improvements as the cruise was excellent.
The Cabin: When you walk in there is a very nice bag on the bed to use on your port days. They do not leave little pieces of chocolate on your pillow at night. Instead they leave a plate with truffles, petit fours, chocolate covered strawberries or other delights. There is an interesting vase with some green stems in it in the cabin. As time passes the green stems turn into flowers which are still in their prime when you have to go home. The fruit bowl is kept full with ready to eat fruit. You don't have to wait until it ripens.
Activities: Be sure to go to the raffles in the shops. You show up, they give you a raffle ticket, and then they pull a ticket. You may be a winner! Winners got jewelry and gift certificates.
They have an asterisk by some of the activities on the daily program. When you participate in these activities you get the presenter to sign a special paper. On the last full day of the cruise you take your paper up to the Looking Glass and get rewards. The categories for rewards start at ten points and go up by tens. You get different things depending on how many activities you attended. The rewards include Azamara book marks, mugs, and tee shirts.
The Experience: The best restaurant on the ship is the Aqualina. I had the best meal I have ever had there. You can go there more than once. They request a $5 gratuity per person.
The officers are everyplace. They show up at the shows and greet you as you enter the theater. They are there in the morning when you get off the ship to wish you a good day. They pass you in the buffet and greet you. I figure they must work at least 22 hours a day!
If you have any concerns they are addressed immediately. Part way through the cruise they asked for suggestions for improvement. I had a suggestion and the head of the relevant department called me to discuss it. This does not happen on the big ships. They make you feel like the passengers really matter to them.
The Ports: There were seven ports in seven days. We went on shore every day except one. The sixth day, at Antiqua, the seas were high, the tenders were bouncing, we were tired, and we had been there before so we stayed on board.
We had been to St. Martin recently so we just got off the ship and walked around for a while.
In St. Croix, St. Barts, and Virgin Gorda we got a driver and toured the island. Each time we waited a little beyond the gangway until we had four to six people who wanted to tour before we hired a driver. They charge by the vehicle and not by the person so we all benefited by going in a group. All tour drivers spoke English and did a great job of showing us their island. Most tours were about $15 per person.
In Dominica we found Oris Campbell, email@example.com. He took us around the island. He speaks English and did a good job of pointing out the highlights of the island.
For St. Lucia we booked Cosol Tours, www.cosol-tours.com, before we left home. It was absolutely the best day of the cruise. Cosol drove our van and another man drove a second van. He showed us the island, fed us island food, took us to a snorkeling/swimming spot and generally treated us like royalty. If you go to St. Lucia you want to contact Cosol. The charge is $65 per person for a 5 to 6 hour day. It was well worth it.
Conclusion: I have never seen a crew so eager to please the passengers. We really enjoyed our first Azamara cruise and look forward to going on another.