Twelve days of heaven sums up our experience of the Azamara Journey cruise from Rome to Athens via Turkey.
I write this report as someone who has previously cruised with MSC, P&O and Cunard.
It cost about £500 more for the 2 of us than a comparable 12 day Cunard cruise. It was well worth the extra money.
The two low points were the flights provided by British Airways at either end of the cruise. Seats are not bookable so you have to take pot luck on whether you can sit together. Food on the outward morning flight, where breakfast would have been nice, was a cheese roll. Food on the return flight was a hot meal - but not if you are vegetarian and don't book a special meal at least 24 hours before the flight. So we both went hungry. We are yet to establish whether this is a problem with Azamara or BA.
From the minute we were met at the airport and our luggage was loaded onto trucks directly from the carousel, to the time we left the ship, nothing was too much trouble for the staff and our every need was catered for.
We are both vegetarians and found the food in all the venues to be very good . On the one occasion when I did not fancy the vegetarian selection in the main dining room I was offered a number of alternatives. The two speciality restaurants ($15 cover charge) were excellent and the head chef in Aquilina prepared a full vegetarian off menu meal especially for us.
The on board activities were varied and included a number of enrichment lectures.
The entertainment was varied and good and it was easy to make the main show at 9.45 if you ate around 8.00. The evening show was always followed by live music and a themed disco.
The itinerary was very good with long stops in all the ports and overnight stops in Istanbul and Athens. We were in Istanbul on a special national holiday and the captain arranged to stay an extra 4 hours so that we could enjoy a firework display which took place in front of the ship - indeed a highlight of the cruise.
The Azamara excursions appeared to be interesting and well planned but, as usual, were expensive and we planned all our excursions independently with an American couple we met on the cruise forum. In total, our excursions cost us about the same as those organised by Azamara but they lasted longer, visited more places and we had our own independent guide. To summarise our outings, In Amalfi (Italy) we took a scenic tour of the area and a guided tour of Pompeii; In Souda (Crete) we organised ourselves and visited some of the local museums; in Bodrum (Turkey) we took a jeep safari high into the hills with an excellent driver and guide; In Istanbul we had a 7 hour guided walking tour (in pouring rain) on the first day and on the second day the same guide took us by taxi to the some of the more distant sights; in Ephesus (Turkey) we had a 7 hour guided tour of the ancient town and the surrounding sights; in Santorini we took a half-day guided tour of the Island including visits to 2 wineries (with abundant tastings) and finished by enjoying the sunset; In Athens we did a 3 hour guided food tasting walk around the city on the first day and a half day taxi tour of the sights on the second day. All our excursions were booked before left, using the internet and recommendations from the various cruise forums. If anyone is interested in knowing which companies we used I would be pleased to provide the information.
I have refrained from describing the ship in detail because it is everything that it says in the Azamara brochure, plus a bit more.
Azamara cruises include complimentary wines at all meals, all speciality coffees and shuttles and allows you to take alcohol on board for stateroom consumption. This helps to keep the on-board costs down. Our total bill for the 12 days was just $180 and we didn't go short of anything.
Would we travel with Azamara again? A definite and positive YES, but unless the arrangements for flights are improved we will book the flights independently.