I'm not going to repeat everything that is said over and over in the reviews about the amenities, facilities, cabins, etc. We liked the Journey for our Med cruise and we liked the Journey as a ship this time around as well, just not so much for the Caribbean. Plus I feel that a few things have changed since our cruise in Fall 09.
Have never had a meal in the main dining room; ate in both Prime C and Aqualina and enjoyed the service and food quite a bit. Other than that, we much prefer the buffet for all meals as we prefer to try a variety of items and don't like lingering over a meal. As before, salad bar items for lunch and dinner always fresh. Fruit trays at all three meals - always fresh. Smoothie bar still there and excellent. They have changed the waffle/pancake station to only as ordered as people aren't typically willing to eat anything but a waffle right off the grill. So, just place your order and go get your fruit, etc., while the 2-3 minutes go by for the waffles to cook. Stir fry station still there and delicious. The other food is okay to good, IMO. However, the breads/rolls seemed to always be stale. I love breads/rolls and no matter what I tried - all seemed leftover. Maybe it is just because they sit there for hours uncovered. The desserts are as bad as they were before. I put this on my mid-cruise comment card and the chef called me and asked what was wrong. I couldn't actually put it into words, but they just all look and taste like thawed Sara Lee, but even Mrs. Smith's frozen pies have fruit in them. Cherry pie on Journey is really some type of thick cherry solid substance - YUCK. He did ask what he could do to make the rest of the trip better and I said "cheesecake." And, even though it wasn't the best cheesecake in the world, cheesecake was put out for just every meal from that point on. I appreciated that effort. Final comment on this - if you are looking to avoid carbs - go to the buffet - it won't be hard to resist the breads/desserts. I am a healthy eater, but on vacation, I like to eat everything that I normally don't eat, so I was disappointed.
I noticed a definite switch to selling things this time around. Examples: the first day I went to the fitness center to exercise. I was the only one there and the fitness director immediately came over and introduced himself, asked about me, and what I was planning to do (I was in the free weight area). However, within a few minutes he managed to turn it into a mini lecture on detox as a way to lose weight (I weigh 125 lbs at 5'6"; really no weight to lose here). I didn't want to be rude, but I wanted to say "leave me alone; I'm not going to buy into the detox program." After about 10 minutes, he got the point that I wasn't going to be a customer and he left and never acknowledged my existence again. The spa was offering free 15-minute treatments of your choice one evening. I had the scalp massage and when it was over was shown the product used and given a sales pitch - $48 for a bottle of something - no thanks. (Of course, the woman before me did buy a bottle, so it probably is a successful marketing strategy). I scheduled The Perfect Day, just as I had on our previous cruise, and when that was done, the person started to pull out all of these products to sell to me. As soon as one bottle was opened, I told her that I wouldn't be buying anything so not to take her time. She even seemed a little embarrassed. I think it would be much better to just ask if a person is interested in any products used and they will show them to you and let it be more customer driven. Of course, that isn't a very effective sales approach, I suppose. On the Med cruise, no mention of buying any products was made after my treatment - but maybe that was just an oversight.
During the Med cruise, the shore excursion director scheduled the usual port talks; I attended all of them. They were great sessions of useful information about taxis, where to go or not to go, what to look out for, lots of pictures, etc. The ship excursions were also shown, but there was just as much attention shown to the places themselves in pictures and information. This time around the sessions were Shore Excursion talks (a different person). I again attended all of them (even though they can be viewed on TV). I was really disappointed. Just about zero information was given about each port - very few helpful hints - very few extra pictures. (Just one example: I knew from my research that just about nothing would be open in Marigot as we were to be in port on a Sunday. He specifically said that shops would be open - so I thought maybe I was mistaken. People that we met went in to shop/walk around and were disappointed that nothing was open. He should have known about that. We had to catch a taxi to a dive shop for our snorkel trip, and no taxis to be found for over 25 minutes - no matter how much I begged the taxi dispatcher person to call one for me. When someone finally drove up and asked us if we needed a taxi, he told us that no one had notified the taxi drivers that a ship was to be in port [not that this is the excursion dept's fault, but someone should be on top of this]. While he was driving us, he called taxi drivers that he knew and told them a ship was in and to get to the port.) The majority of his presentation time was just talking about the ship's shore excursions. He did give very honest assessments of some of the excursions - like crowded small buses, hard to walk, etc., but from what I saw many people took excursions that lasted half a day and then wanted to just go on shore and check things out. I know from all the time I have spent in the islands on land vacations, that there isn't usually much to check out at the ports, but people weren't even told that. It was very disappointing and just seemed like more selling of ship products. I had booked private snorkeling trips in all the ports except for St. Barts, where we took a ship excursion. The snorkeling was fine, but the person running the catamaran was rude beyond belief. During his briefing of the rules, someone raised his hand to ask a question and the "captain" was really nasty to him. Near the end of the excursion, a woman asked to use the bathroom. This same "captain" said that people should wait until they get back on shore. It was pointed out to him that the shore excursion info stated bathroom facilities on the boat. He mumbled something about "yes, they were on the ship" but not to be used. When two other women started complaining and said that they were going to report this to the ship, all of the sudden the woman was allowed to use the bathroom. I almost laughed when they put out the tip jar at the end.
People mention on some of the posts about the age of the passengers. We are 60 and 61 years old; I like to think on the young side of that (probably everyone says that about themselves LOL). But, I did feel like I was cruising with my aunts, uncles, and parents. They did seem to do a good job of gearing the entertainment to a much older crowd; nothing appealed to us that started before 9 p.m., so we didn't go to anything. They had ballroom dancing lessons - big band music, etc. So, they were meeting the desires of the older crowd. Regardless, I personally like cruising on a ship with an older demographic as it makes for a very quiet ship and would take that over a ship full of screaming kids, running teenagers, and drunks. As a matter of fact, there was not one child or teenager or probably anyone in his/her twenties on this ship. It was great. What confused me, was why did they have things like line dancing at 11 p.m.??? All other music that I might like to listen to never started before 9:30 p.m.??? I was in bed by that time in order to get up early for the next day's activities. Part of me wanted to stay up just one night to see if all of these older people stay up that long - I was intrigued - but never enough to find out. I did hear one of the entertainers say that it has taken her a while to get used to singing with just a handful of people listening, but whatever. They did have an enrichment lecturer on board and we went to her two pirate talks which were interesting. Later she gave a talk on the "History of Travel" which sounded so uninteresting; I couldn't even make myself go just to see what in the world she could talk about. The last one was on the history of Key West - didn't go to that one either. As usual, take the trivia out and the various seminars selling things, bingo and bridge and not much else left. I read a lot, took naps, and exercised. Very relaxing ship and a relaxing time, although my husband was bored out of his mind and ended up taking naps late each afternoon just out of sheer boredom.
This to me was the difference between this ship for a Med cruise and Carib cruise. In the Med, each stop is at a port where you are gone from early in the morning until just about time to sail. The next morning it starts all over again. I never cared what activities were offered during the day or even really at night as I was on shore or getting ready for the next busy day. Even the two sea days thrown in were okay as that was needed time to rest and regroup. In the Carib, we snorkeled at each port but that meant that we were usually back on board by 1. Most of the ship excursions are also 2-4 hours long. This means that people wanted to walk around the port. Now this is a generalization, I know, but all Caribbean port towns look pretty much the same - some in better shape than others - but still pretty much the same old stuff over and over and over. They begin to blend into one big blur. So, with not much to see or do it is back to the ship. Trivia fanatics have it made. I remember sailing on the Radiance through the Panama Canal with a lot of sea days and I if my memory serves me correctly, larger ship equaled a greater selection of activities - only makes sense - just something to honestly think about when selecting the ship and whether you are a sea day type of person who wants lots to chose from or just want to sit, read a book, and relax.
One last point about the ship - tendering. Four of the ports were tender ports. If this is because Azamara is doing the "boutique port" thing, I would rather dock in the larger ports on the islands (St. Martin and Antigua, as examples). Thankfully, lines/waits are very short or nonexistent on the Journey, but the tender rides are fairly long and we happened to have great weather but some rough seas for tendering. Plus, then people are getting off at these smaller ports with even less to do than at the larger ports. Another example is Virgin Gorda. Now, I have land vacationed on Virgin Gorda and know that other than the Baths, there isn't much there. After our snorkeling trip, we were wondering around the small port of Spanishtown and heard many people asking the shop owners where other shops were; of course, there aren't any. (The excursion person did actually say this in his presentation, to his credit on that one.)
Many people we talked to hated the beds. So, I went to actually look at my mattress and, yes, it was full of hills and valleys. However, both my DH and I slept great on the ship so I have no complaints there. We didn't try to get loungers at the pool, but it looked full every time I walked by either with people or the "chair holding" books and towels.
Ports: We arranged private snorkeling trips in each port except St. Barts. If any one would like information about who we used in a specific port and the pros/cons of that operator, you may email me at Judy9909@gmail.com I'm not going to post this on the Azamara board as I won't be checking that board since I'm not planning another cruise. I might, however, do some postings later on the snorkeling and some of the port boards.