My sister and I chose the Journey for two reasons: first, some new ports of call; and, second, we had sailed on Quest in '08 on a fourteen day western Med cruise and loved the ship's size - much more intimate than any ships we had previously sailed.
We were not disappointed on either point. We thoroughly enjoyed most of the seven ports visited with perhaps one exception: Martinique (although it did have its good points, like the local market, the library and the shorefront. We both had previously visited the island and were looking forward to taking the ferry across the bay to the hotel area for some beaching. (Like I said, this was to be a relaxing vacation.) Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate.
Journey did not disappoint us in any way. We love the feel of the smaller ship, the fact that at each turn there is a familiar, friendly face in the passengers and ship's officers. On the larger ships one can go an entire cruise without meeting the same people twice, so being in a position to actually make friends with fellow pax is a plus.
Also so very helpful on both Azamara ships is the fact that they have on-board at each port an actual resident of the island du jour armed with maps, info and a head full of answers for whatever questions asked. Very helpful for those islands which were new to us!
But, back to the beginning: Embarcation was a BREEZE! We had filled out all our info on-line, so it was a simple case of handing over the paperwork and our passports for confirmation, then board the ship, have our photo taken for the ships pass, grab a glass of bubbly and wander the familiar surroundings till lunch time at Windows. After the mandatory boat drill - sans life vests - we met our fellow Cruise Critics at the bar aft of Windows/Breezas for an intro, matching faces now with screen names. What a wonderful, diverse group we were! Since we were a group of almost 50 pax, the ship hosted a cocktail party for us, which was most gracious of them. Senior officers were in attendance, so you get to meet them on a more personal level than at the Captain's Club cocktail party.
Our cabin was adequate. We had booked the SA category this year, knowing how small they are. The balcony just fits a small table and two chairs. The stateroom proper is smaller than most balcony staterooms we have booked on larger ships, as is the bathroom, but we went into it with our eyes open having taken a tour of the Journey while she was in port two years ago. It took a while to get used to the smaller area, but we adjusted. Last year on Oosterdam we were in a deluxe veranda at 580 sq. ft. and a balcony to die for. Even hosted the Cruise Critic party there which OO set up for us and our 40 guests. On Quest, we had booked a Sky suite which was quite comfortable. But as I said, we knew what we were getting, so not disappointed on that account - just spoiled from past accommodations! Our butler, Rosalie, and her assistant, Juan, were happy to serve us for the duration of the trip, although Rosalie at times seemed quite harried - "meetings" going on. Probably about the transition for the next cruise when things would change. We did request extra pillows which were promptly delivered, as well as bed boards for the saggy springs supporting the mattresses. That is something which Azamara must invest in - some good beds! And simply replacing the mattress won't hack it, since they are supported by the old fashioned springs attached to the bed frame. No box spring at all. Perhaps platform beds would do the trick???
We ate at all of the venues, from the pool grille to the specialty restaurants and everywhere in between, including our stateroom where we could order from the main dining room menu. The food was consistently very good, some excellent, and with a good variety. My only complaint was an over-done tough rib steak in the Prime C. And the funny thing was my sister ordered the same and hers was under-done. Guess that was because her steak was about twice the thickness of mine. Talk about consistence here..... And need a quick snack mid-day? Stop by Cova Cafe for a small sandwich or a piece of cake. I recommend the sandwich on the ciabatta bread - the one with pesto and brie on it is to die for!
As stated earlier, this was a 'vacation', not 'travel', so we did not do ship's excursions, and only did private excursions on two islands we had not been to before. I highly recommend Challenger Taxi on Bequia (think its email@example.com) They gave us a wonderful tour of the island for less than half that offered on the ship and more inclusive. They even took some of us to the beach after dropping off the fellow pax at the port, and picked us up for the same price. Can't beat that deal with a stick! A fellow passenger, CC name Elaynek, had arranged a tour on St Barths which was also great. Don't know who the provider was, but look up postings by Elaynek on the March 20, 2010 cruise and you can pick up the info there.
On Dominica, we took a cab to the black sand beach which was recommended by the port representative. We told him we wanted a beach where we could rent lounge chairs, and that was the one he recommended. Our taxi driver was a charming man who was very proud of his island home and kept up quite the chatter during our 20 minute ride to the beach, where he waited for us for two hours (which we had arranged for in advance) for a reasonable rate.
In St Barths, we went to Shell Beach, an easy walk from the pier. On inquiring about lounge rentals, were told they did not rent them; however if we bought lunch, we could use them free. Go figure, but that is exactly what we did.
On Virgin Gorda, again asking the port rep about renting lounges, he suggested taking a taxi to Fischers Hotel and Beach Club. Leaving the ship, we stopped at the taxi kiosk and asked for one to take us there. The gentleman was truly that: he told us there was no need to waste our moneey on a taxi since the hotel was only about five minutes from where we stood! How often do you think that would happen??? It was a first for me, I'll tell you.
Was this cruise worth the money? Yes, it certainly was! Would it be at the projected cost increases for AZ Club Cruises? I doubt it.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the ship, the crew, the food, the ambiance, the ports of call, the friendly people we met on the islands, and last but certainly not least, our fellow passengers and new friends. I'd certainly give Azamara Journey a 5 star rating for this cruise.