Azamara Journey Cruise Review by jdbirch: We really like the Azamara Journey
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We really like the Azamara Journey
Day 1: check in and departure
Pretty much walked through the checkin, pausing briefly - this was by far the quickest we had ever experienced. Glass of champagne / wine to welcome us, and several officers to say 'hello' and introduce themselves. No photographer - what the heck? We soon learned that if you wanted a picture taken, you had to go find the photographer - never was badgered ONCE!
Cruise Critic meet/greet at 6:00, with appetizers/ wine/ more champagne (actually liked this brand), and we got to meet mostly new friends. This is nice, because the Journey is small enough that you keep running into each other. Then we were advised to attend the Sail Away Buffet on the upper deck - the first of several buffets. This one was pretty ordinary and served as an introduction to the Windows Cafe. I was surprised to find an excellent sushi bar, with a chef in attendance to make up a nice plate of good stuff. Other amenities include a pasta chef to make up some Italian, a More wok chef to whip up some Asian mixes, and a good sized dessert selection. The Journey has a chef that is really proud of his macaroons, and you always get some of those (I myself, don't like macaroons....) There is homemade ice cream every night. Ignore the Van/Choc/Strawberry and look over the special of the day - the Mango Sorbet, Papaya Sorbet, Coconut, Butter Pecan.... this guy knows his stuff! Someplace in the middle of all this, the last pallets are finally loaded and we leave a hour late; this is really nice for the couple we saw racing on board only a half hour late. We had flown in to Fort Lauderdale a day early to save the bag fees via Southwest and taken a shuttle down.
Day 2: at sea
Breakfast on balcony proved to be windy and not a very good idea with all the papers blowing around. Kept busy with the daily Sudoku/Crossword, various trivia and other contests, a lecture, and the usual "bingo the owner's suite", which we lost again. Lunch in the Windows Cafe had carved roast beef with horseradish and mashed potatoes/gravy. Lunch always featured some kind of carved meat. We had dinner there, too (I wanted more sushi)
Day 3: at sea
Lunch today had the ship's officers dishing up some BBQ, with a couple of suckling pigs and a fresh fruit chef. Fresh papaya was available, but I went for the star fruit (proved not to be ripe enough, but neither was the papaya). Cole Slaw vastly oversalted, inedible. Toured the bridge with the third officer, then the engine control room with one of the engineering officers. Both were great experiences, and just ask at Guest Relations if you want a tour - I think they do this automatically for CC members?
Finally had dinner in the dining room: surf/turf, oyster soup, prawns with lime/avocado, crème brulee - all pretty good. They messed up on dining mate Linda's entree and atoned by bring her a desired chocolate fondue from the Prime C upstairs!
Day 4: St John, USVI
Smoked past St Thomas at 6 AM, seeing a Princess ship in port. Have my favorite breakfast: bagel/lox. Have I mentioned the fresh-squeezed OJ yet? 2 glasses every morning! Tour at 8:30, surprised by the stack of breakfast goodies in the showroom in case you missed breakfast, even more by the free water on your departure. Tour of island good, roads "interesting" (so close your eyes in the worst parts). Beach at Trunk Bay great and we get a half hour of leisure time to enjoy it. Cold towel to soothe our fevered brows and sunburned necks when we get back to the ship.
Dinner: had strip steak when the waiter returned and said the grouper "wasn't up to the chef's standards, so he wasn't serving it..." Nancy gets strip, had ordered tenderloin sampler.... Pumpkin bisque excells, beet salad had 4 little bitty cubes of beet in it, cheese raviolis excell, mango ice cream for dessert (excell)
Day 5: Marigot, St Martin
Breakfast in DR, poached egg on toast (overcooked like always). Just did the town - tried negotiating a mild change in the offered tour, but the Excursions Desk had shot me down on liability issues. I could have been dishonest and done it anyway (I didn't want to take the hike, just sit around and wait for everyone else to finish), but that's not my style. We hike to fort (go around the church to the left and up the hill), then check the native craft vendors - pretty much all the same and unappealing. Back to ship for lunch, then Nancy spends the afternoon reading and I return onshore to do some birding near the marina and lagoon to the west of the landing. This is where the expensive shops are, it turns out. I go along the back of the town (finding out that the area is a lot poorer then the front of the town, but still safe). Have a couple Carib beers onshore at 2 bucks apiece to quench my thirst, then return to the ship.
Dinner at Aqualina: Scallops (ex), goat cheese souffle(ex) salad(g), bouillabaise(g), lobster thermidor (with mashed potatoes?), ahi with risotto (both ex, but dish poorly put together with wasabi sauce under the risotta and a balsamic drizzle that conflicted with the ahi). Chocolate Beignier (ex) with expresso mousse(ex) and vanilla ice cream (not congenial). House white tonight was a French Chardonnay that went particularly well with the scallops and a complimentary chicken curry.
Then we went upstairs to look at the Caribbean Buffet on the pool deck. Grilled lamb chops, jerk chicken, big line for the scallops. Entertainment was a most excellent steel drum band, and that free wine was getting to the crowd, with a couple hundred dancing.
Day 6: St Kitts
Ease off and have cereal and juice for breakfast. Tour today is the sugar train (ok, but lasts too long at two hours) with the Brimstone Fortress added on(good, always like forts and my favorite is Ft Henry in Kingston, Ontario). Stop a couple places to look around and back to Besseterre. Lunch onshore at the BallyHoo - overlooking the main plaza (with large clock) in town. Fresh Mahi-mahi, fish cakes, Conch in garlic butter. All outstanding, and comes with an interesting carrot-coconut slaw. Soak the mahi in the conch butter and it's really good. Couple of cheap shoreside beers and back to the ship.
Dinner in the DR was crab cake(ex), red pepper soup(g) beef stroganoff(g) with dill pickles(?) in it. Becoming a fan of the butter dish - that hommous in it is really good and I always get a double batch.
Day 7: Antigua
No tour offered of any consequence, so just walk around the touristy area. You don't get a shopping brochure on Azamara, so was surprised to be walking past a Diamonds International! (Big whoop...) Nancy goes back to ship, I go birding to the south (separate writeup of the birds is in the EcoCruising boards on CC)
Lunch: carved meat is pork loin with fried apples today.
Don't attend the high tea because I resent having to wear long pants, so we have tea on our balcony today, then attend trivia in the Mosaic Cafe to get a dish of those marinated olives. Dinner in the DR: nearly inedible roast strip (tough), lava cake (g), coconut sorbet (no flavor).
Day 8: St Bart's
Breakfast today had carved ham. Tour the island - narrow steep roads, airfield has a hill at one end and the sea at the other end of the runway. Wonder how many people that land here refuse to take off again? Not much to see on the island, scenery wise, mostly just passing trees and resorts. Return to town, walk to Shell Beach.
Directions to Shell Beach - walk to the south along the boat harbor, far end is a park across from the Anglican Church. Go to the right to LeBistro Restaurant. Take the street across from the LeBistro up the hill, turn right at the second corner (green shingled house) and go to the end at the school. Now turn left and continue a couple blocks to the beach. Overpriced chairs and umbrellas, use all your bargaining skills to get the price down from the usual 20 Euros. Start by saying "I'm eating lunch in your seedy bar..." and buying a couple of drinks....
Return to ship for lunch (pork medallions today and carved top round) then Nancy stays to read and I return to land to go birding near Shell Beach. Captain moves ship closer to land, since the Windstar had gotten in first and nicked our close spot.
Dinner in Prime C tonight: mushroom soup (ex, needed a bit of salt), prawns (cocktail sauce a little bland), popcorn shrimp (portion too large) and I had to request some more heat in this cocktail sauce and I got a little bowl of Chinese chili sauce that did it), Rib steak (g, cognac sauce g and I make better peppercorn sauce than this), veal chop (massive size). Chocolate fondue: request dark choc, hold the pineapple and double the bananas. The house wines weren't good enough for any of this when tasted, but the wine list was fine, with a Macon and a Cotes du Rhone.
Upstairs on the poor deck, they're having an International Buffet, most good stuff with Cherries Jubilee for dessert. Unfortunately, its sprinkling a bit.
Day 9: St Bart's #2
Tender #6 blew an engine on the final approach to the pier, so we got pushed in by the next tender - a rough business, but the crew handled it pretty well, in my opinion. It returned immediately to the ship for repair and they lowered another to replace it.
We had spotted the yellow submarine next to the landing yesterday, and I had talked to the gal that pilots it (one of the couple that owns it). Leaves at 11, so we go ashore and buy a couple of tickets (ship price $74, shore price 40 Euros). We prove to be the only ones going so we get a private narration and tour. Excellent value, and one of the better bottoms in the Caribbean. Shipwreck, a terrific 3 foot Remora, half dozen sharks, large batch of reef fish, then off to the dozen turtles feeding on the bottom. Take this if you get a chance.
We asked the owners for a restaurant recommendation, and Le Entracte was recommended as "good value for the price" (St Barts is pricey, with a lot of talk back on the ship about the 300 Euro T-shirts). It's a small white building about 1 ½ blocks to the south. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but great shrimp in cream sauce, salad with great goat cheese in pastry, crummy escargot, glasses of French wine, and a free after lunch shot of homemade punch for 102 bucks US. Stop at a liquor store on the way back to the ship for some island punch....
Dinner in the DR: shrimp cocktail (fair sauce), bermuda fish chowder (g) Chilean Sea Bass (one piece good, one skunky), and that excellent butter pecan ice cream.
Day 10: Virgin Gorda
Now they've found the waffle iron for breakfast, with strawberry sauce, etc for toppings. Baked ham again. Nancy has had it with tendering, and stays on the ship "catching up". I wander ashore, join up with a couple of people wandering around, and we negotiate a tour of the island (opening offer: $100 for five, final settling on $80) In true American / British cruising tradition, everyone hands him a 20 at the end! Another tour of steep roads and sharp turns, but these roads are wider then St Barts and there are a lot fewer houses, since most of the island is national park. We wind up at the Baths, which to me a just a pile of rocks with an interesting geological history (none of which they mention) where a couple people leave to take in the sights. I'm back to the town, wander around birding a bit, then back to the ship for lunch. Finally hit the pool side grill for some of the weisswurst sausages. Skip the onion rings, they are all breading and overcooked to boot. Lousy dill pickles, great peperoncini and olives - go figure.
At this point with the 2 days left at sea, I quit taking notes. I remember dinners of Osso Bucco and Lamb Shank, both great. There was a tomato tartare dish that had an outstanding TOMATO sorbet that Baskin-Robbins could sell.
I'm sorry I do a bit more about the meals, but I think this is part of cruising! I like to have a restaurant "night out" quality meal, which I define as "better than I can make myself" I think the Journey missed on several occasions. The ice cream was excellent, the sushi chef was vastly appreciated (but it was a little monotonous). The little snacks in the cabin every night were great, but never seen at the dessert table. The truffles in the cabin on two occasions were REALLY great, but never seen again. There was some Italian sausage at breakfast that would have really hit the spot in the Windows pasta, but not to be. I was tempted to take a bowl full and show up that night and get them included, but I was chicken. The Thai/Asian dishes coming out of the kitchen were excellent on all occasions.
There is no information on entertainment aboard, this smaller ship has only one show at 9:45 and we are the "read before sleeping" types. Less
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