We can't say enough about how very much we enjoyed this cruise. This was our second voyage on the Azamara Journey and we were able to renew friendships with many of the officers and crew that we had met on our previous cruise. The outstanding staff and crew go out of their way to do anything and everything possible to make the cruise a wonderful experience and they are truly the strength of Azamara. The top leadership including Hotel Director Heike, Concierge German, Cruise Director Eric, and all the Maitre D's are outstanding and set a great example. Everyone truly knows what to do, and they go about doing it well with professionalism, teamwork and warmth. The atmosphere on a small ship is special. People are very friendly, and we made some terrific new friends.
Embarkation and Disembarkation: Embarkation was fairly smooth although a lot depended on what time you arrived. Disembarkation was a breeze.
Staterooms: We had a nice balcony stateroom. The beds and the bedding were very comfortable. The bathrooms and especially the shower are very small but adequate.
Dining: We generally ate breakfast and lunch at the buffets in Windows Cafe. There was a lot to choose from and the food was very good. We rotated eating dinner between the main dining room Discoveries and the two specialty restaurants Aqualina and Prime C. All were wonderful experiences. The food, the presentation, and the service were excellent. The soufflEs in Aqualina were a 10+. The complimentary wines at lunch and dinner were a nice addition.
Entertainment: The entertainment was mediocre and inconsistent. Eric the cruise director performed twice and he was superb. All Inclusive Policy: We really liked the new all inclusive policy. The free shuttles at the ports were great and we hardly ever had to wait. We enjoyed the complimentary wine, soft drinks, coffee and water, and it was nice to have the gratuities included.
Ports: The itinerary was great, and we enjoyed all the ports. We did private tours with SPB in both Berlin and St. Petersburg and our guides were outstanding. We explored Warnemunde, Helsinki and Tallinn on our own. In Stockholm, we did the ship's excursion Stockholm on Land and Sea the first day which was fine and gave us a good overview. The second day we went out on our own. We used Rick Steves' Scandinavia guide book a lot and found his self guided walking tours especially helpful. We are looking forward to our next cruise on Azamara.