We chose the itinerary, not the ship. We wanted to see the Norwegian fjords. We did NOT want a day in Stockholm, a day in Helsinki, or two days in St. Petersburg, because we think cities deserve--and reward--more time than that. This was the only itinerary focusing exclusively on the fjords. Thanks to Azamara for offering this superlative trip. We've cruised Alaska, have driven the coast of Iceland, and have been to Milford Sound, but nothing prepared us for the fascination and majesty of Norway's fjords. The only two sea days, the first day of the cruise and the last, serve well as times of transition. Otherwise, you cruise at night and are in port during the day--though "day" and "night" are not so different in this season, at this latitude.
The most fascinating ports of call are Geiranger and Flam, which sit at the heads of particularly long and gorgeous fjords. We were awed by the narrowness of the twisting waterways and the height of the cliffs--sometimes wooded, sometimes sheer rock, with frequent towering waterfalls. But the larger cities of Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Alesund also have much to offer, as do the towns of Eidfjord and Olden. Finally, the cruise begins and ends in Copenhagen, where we spent five nights before embarking. It's a grand city, excellent for walking, and a great complement to the cruise. The shore excursions were generally quite good. Special recommendations include the "Norwegian Explorers' Tour" in Oslo (three small museums of exploration), the hike to Briksdal Glacier in Olden, the hike to Storseter Waterfall in Geiranger, and the train ride from Flam to Myrdal and the walk back down. And the ship itself? Delightful. We've cruised on Seabourn and Silversea, and wondered how the half-star step-down would manifest itself. The "Journey" is a bit less spiffy, but absolutely clean. There's a fine observation lounge, the Looking Glass, where we spent hours enjoying the passage through the fjords, sometimes with harp music and a libation.
We opted for a Sky Suite and found it spacious--not a true suite, but a large room--with more storage than we needed and a big (for a ship) bathroom. Beautiful it wasn't, unlike our smaller accommodations on Seabourn and Silversea. But it was entirely comfortable and quiet, and had a wide balcony. There were THREE cabin attendants--a "butler," a regular attendant, and an assistant attendant, whose job it was to clean the bathroom. Service from all was excellent. When we first entered the cabin, the climate control and the sink drain both needed attention. We told the butler, and these matters were taken care of almost instantly. We were very impressed with the cuisine. The regular restaurant--where you have the option of dining alone or being seated with other passengers--has a fine menu, and Aqualina, one of the two "signature" restaurants, is among the best restaurants we've ever found. There are excellent breakfast and lunch buffets, too. In this respect, Azamara is easily the match of the six-star lines. We were gifted with fine weather and remarkably calm seas, and had further good fortune in Azamara's misfortune: the cruise was far from sold out. The ship was uncrowded and the crew showered us with attention. But all such chance effects aside, this is a marvelous itinerary and a great ship (as well as the only ship) on which to enjoy it.