This was my husband's third and possibly final cruise. We had tried a trans-Pacific cruise on Celebritiy's Millenium and then a Pacific Coast/Sea of Cortez cruise with Holland America. My DH informed me that if this cruise was not any better than the previous two, he was not going to cruise anymore. I am happy to say that the Azamara Journey was a terrific experience (I knew it would be since I had cruised on this ship twice before) but was thrilled that my husband agreed with me.
FOOD; The most important part of the cruise for my DH is the food, and the Journey did not disappoint. We tried all the options: Prime C, Aqualina, Main Dining Room, Windows Cafe, the Pool Grill, and room service. Great quality and selection is available in the Main Dining Room, and the specialty restaurants are top quality. The chilled seafood platter and seared foie gras in Aqualina are fabulous, and the lava cake in Prime C is its signature dessert. Because we were in a Continental Suite, our butler Pravin also served us hors d'oeuvres and shrimp every afternoon. We took advantage of the complimentary dining in specialty restaurants for suite guests, but the $15.00 per person service charge for non -suite guests is well worth it. The Journey also offers Connoisseur Dinners a few times each cruise, and we also took advantage of this. Chef Singh made a wonderful dinner for 10 of us (using Prime C large back table for location) and Boris, the sommelier made some great wine pairings to accompany each course. The charge for the Connoisseur Dinner is $60.00 per person. One new feature of the Azamara Club Cruises is the addition of complimentary wine with lunch and dinner. I was afraid that the wines would be of poor quality, but I was pleasantly surprised. We had everything from French Chardonnays to Oregon Pinots and Chilean Malbecs. In addition, each night the ship offers an additonal bottle of a red wine and a white wine that you can purchase for half-price. We did this some nights and were very pleased with the choices offered.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Because we were in a Continental Suite, we had ample space for everything. There is lots of storage in the cabin, two closets, and an extra-large bathroom, including tub, not shower. The Elemis products are great, especially the bath and shower gel. I don;'t think a suite is necessary to be comfortable on the ship, but it's nice if you have it. The extra-large balcony with table, two chairs AND lounger was especially nice to enjoy beautiful views.
LECTURES: We had great lectures for all tastes. For the adventurous, there was Nigel, an outdoors enthusiast who shared videos of his most dangerous moments in the wild, as well as some footage of pandas. For the gardeners, we had the President of the American Horticultural Society who showed beautiful slides of plants and gardens. For the seacruisers, we had a few presentations by (sorry can[t remember his name) an expert who gave the history of the sea trade and some famous women pirates.
ENTERTAINMENT: We went to one of the two shows presented by the five-member Cabaret Cast entitled :"Sing It and Swing It". It was ably performed,but we thought the best entertainment was provided at the Cova Cafe by Dan Daly and his great voice singing the classics and by the Kristin Lee trio up in the Looking Glass. Her voice is a dead-ringer for Pasty Cline and she is versatile enough to sing country, the Louis Armstrong classic "It's a Wonderful World", and pop.
SERVICE: The Hotel Director Heike appeared to be everywhere at all times. She runs a tight ship and the results are spectacular service delivered with a smile and grace. Our butler Pravin was amazing and seemed to appear whenever we needed anything. He was assisted by Alvin and Juan who kept our cabin spotless, Wherever you are on the ship, the staff is friendly and helpful without being phony. It certainly adds to the whole experience.
SHIP: The ship can have as many as 700 passengers, but on our trans-Atlantic cruise there were 600. We enjoyed the spaciousness and lack of "cattleherding" mentality. The main areas used by passengers are the Cabaret Theatre (for evening shows and lectures), the Looking Glass (for wonderful viewing and some activities), the Cova Cafe (specialty coffees and teas, in addition to the evening piano playing by the talented Dan Daly), and the Pool area with Outdoor Walking Track. The ship is in very good condition, and while we were in port we noticed painters painting the exterior and workers revarnishing the wood rails and loungers (some of the most comfortable we have ever experienced). It is a clean and inviting environment.
PORTS OF CALL: Normally a trans-Atlantic offers relaxing days at sea with ports of call that are minor distractions, but this itinerary offered some great ones. Our first stop was in the Azores and Punta Delgata, then on to Gibraltar, Cartagena, and La Palma, Mallorca, before reaching our final destination of Barcelona. We enjoyed all of the ports of call, and the ship's tours were reasonably priced and significantly lower than the ones from previous cruises I have taken with Azamara.
ACTIVITIES: We took advantage of the many activities offered during the cruise including the Team Trivia contests, the Musical Challenges, and the Battle of the Sexes. In addition, there were craft classes, bridge games, and yoga classes. There was so much planned everyday that we had a hard time deciding what to do.
OVERALL: I would unhesitatingly reccommend the Azamara Journey for anyone who wants a lovey cruise experience with personal service, good food and wine, and a smaller ship. The average age of the passengers was 60 - 70 years of age (though there were some younger couples), and there were no children on our cruise.