The Journey is a lovely ship and we were pleased with the roominess of our interior stateroom. Our cabin stewards were wonderful and without them keeping us supplied with complimentary sodas and water we probably would have been totally dehydrated. We found it took so long to get drink service in the buffet dining room that we took our own sodas to meals with us and my husband would get our own water. Otherwise we were usually finished eating before we would get a beverage from the servers.
We ate mainly in the buffet dining room because we only once saw something on the menu in the main dining room that we wanted to try. We did eat dinner in the main dining room two times. The desserts were beautifully presented and the ones I tried were very good. The vegetables were so overcooked that they were inedible. The food in the buffet was not very appealing and at breakfast was usually cold. We usually resorted to having the stir fry for dinner and omelets for breakfast, but there were problems with the hot plates on both sides where only one seemed to be working properly so it took awhile to get food even there. On the first day at sea we where unable to find a seat either in the dining room or on deck and had to sit on the edge of the pool to eat. There were clearly not enough seats to accommodate everyone on board. This was the first cruise I've been on where I lost weight.
The evening entertainment was uninspired and the venue could not accommodate everyone. There is only one show a night. One night's entertainment was a small screen showing of "The Ten Commandments." It's a 3-1/2 hour movie that they started at 8:30 p.m. There were about six people in attendance and no drink service or snacks.
The port information was sketchy and not terribly helpful. You should consider yourself to be totally on your own as to what you'll need to do to get around while you are in a particular port. For example, in Sorrento the staff said to have 1.4-1.5 euros to pay the bus driver to get to the train station. In fact you cannot pay a bus driver in Italy, you must purchase a ticket before you ever get on the bus and it was 2.5 euros. I found it interesting that when I asked one of the cruise director's staff a question about transportation in Sorrento she responded that she preferred to sit and have a nice meal and a drink instead of rushing around a port. That gives you an idea of the food on the ship as well as the staffs interest in seeing the world and becoming knowledgeable about their jobs. As far as Azamara's claim that they provide free transportation in port, I never heard anything about it.
I only did one excursion through Azamara, the rest I did with private groups. I did the Journey to Lindos tour which was fine, although it was the only tour I did where the guide did not accompany us up the steps to Lindos. Instead she told us about it and sent us up to look around on our own for an hour or so.
Bottom line: Azamara has a great itinerary with its Holy Land cruise. If you're looking for transportation and don't want to unpack every few days it's a great opportunity to visit some very historical places. With their current pricing I don't consider Azamara a good value for the money, given the quality of food, entertainment and knowledgeability of the cruise director's staff. I will go back to cruising with Holland America whom I consider to be the gold standard of cruise lines.
Ashdod - Very interesting, but if you've been to other Holocaust museums I would skip the one here. There is so much to see in Jerusalem that I wish we had skipped the museum and spent more time in the walled city
You will need shekels, they don't take dollars and the credit card machines are frequently broken. ATM's are few and far between and your bank card may not work. Our card was the only one that worked out of three tried; one from the US and one from the UK did not work.