This was our first cruise with Azamara and it will be very difficult to cruise with any other line from now on. From the easiest embarkation process to the personable captain and senior crew members, we felt at home from the moment we stepped on board.
We were on the ship within 10 minutes of stepping out of the taxi and from there on in, it was smile after smile. The attitude of the crew is very important to us, and there really is none better than what we experienced. Where else will you find the captain and senior crew members mingling with the passengers on a daily basis and even serving gelato at the pool grill? Having a profession in the management field, I feel that this is the only way to run a business. Happy and personable administration means happy and motivated staff and ultimately happy and returning passengers. The staff was extremely complimentary about the Azamara Brand and that was all we needed to hear.
The room attendants, servers, bartenders, and even the cleaning crew were so friendly and helpful. The casino staff was beyond compare! We truly left the ship with new friends from every department and sincerely hope to cruise with them again.
We stayed in both a veranda stateroom and(hubby won the upgrade at Bingo, would you believe it?) in a continental suite. Both were very well maintained and IMHO, well decorated. Except for the extra walking space, larger balcony and bath, there really was no difference for us in the overall comfort and care of the rooms. Bed too hard? Just ask for a mattress pad for extra cushion and it will be there before your next sleep. The suite does have a few extra benefits such as the conveniences of a butler, more dining opportunities at the specialty restaurants, and DVDs, but to tell you the truth, we aren't butler-type people, the food was great in the regular dining, and we never had time for the DVDs. To each his own, as they say.
We found the public areas quite nice. The size of the ship does make for less room, but we like that while cruising as it feels more intimate. I had read complaints about the artwork and furnishings being outdated, but we did not even realize that. They were definitely eclectic in taste, and who looks at them more than once anyway? The Internet cafe was staffed by the most patient and soft-spoken man I have ever met. Internet service was best in the cafe and very sporadic as wireless service. If you are a return passenger (Club Member), you receive free minutes, making the somewhat expensive Internet time quite reasonable!
The fitness center was quite large with nice equipment. They offered many classes but we didn't opt for those. The walking track is 13 times around for a mile, but was expected. The Looking Glass Lounge was the game room and disco-type area at night. We felt it was large enough because the dance floor wasn't that crowded, although a couple of times there was dancing in the aisles (all in good fun!). The Cabaret Lounge was the theater area for music and shows and never seemed over crowded. We felt the pool area was well maintained although the chair situation is a bit tight. We sometimes had trouble getting four loungers together since we had two couples traveling together, but that was minor and hardly a complaint. There really isn't too much walking space between the loungers, but if you want more chairs, something has got to give.
We found the food to be delicious wherever we ate. The pool grill had a surprisingly large selection of items made fresh to order and a great salad bar. Our only complaint here was that there was only one person to man the grill and although he never worked up a sweat, sometimes seemed a bit overloaded when there were too many people milling about. It is probably a space issue but some people were needlessly impatient. The breakfast and lunch offerings at the Windows Cafe were fantastic with plenty of options, although there could have been a few more coffee machines around. Mosaic's Cafe was a real treat with coffees, teas, liquors and pastries all day long.
Dinner dining at Windows Cafe was excellent with great sushi, seafood, a stir fry station and pasta station with plenty of offerings. Their idea of shrimp on the special shrimp night were actually large prawns! And quite delicious! Discoveries main dining was very good, also. Again there were many choices and they would easily make changes to the dish with no hassle. The brunch at Discoveries that they had on one day was the best we had ever experienced. The specialty restaurants were superb. We dined at Aqualina first and fell in love with the souffles, both the Grand Marnier and the Chocolate-to die for! The Red Snapper was the best fish we had the entire cruise. Prime C was our favorite and we dined there for the Connoisseur's Wine Pairing Dinner. Wow! Every course was superb and the fillet was absolutely perfect. Of course, service was splendid everywhere we ate, taking into account the number of diners, time of day, and meal selections. The boutique wines were quite good at lunch and dinner and we were quite pleased with all the beverages. Our kuddos to the great chef Lisa and the sommeliers. My husband and our friend were the first and only two to purchase the new Beverage package offered. While they enjoyed it on this cruise, their opinion was that if the on-board credit hadn't paid for it, they would have been just as happy with the boutique wines and an occasional beer or specialty drink since the prices weren't that prohibitive.
There were two specialty dinner outdoor buffets by the pool. The food was great, some prepared on a BBQ grill. Selections were varied but my favorite was all the seafood. They added tables to the walking track and it became romantic candlelight dining under the stars, in spite of the crowd around you. They had great entertainment, especially the steel drum band on the Caribbean Night.
Entertainment overall was quite good. Cruise Director Tony Markey is a wonderful showman and we had the good fortune of having his lovely wife, Christine on board while we cruised. She is an absolute delight, and we tried to follow her wherever she was singing at the time. Dan Redner and the Journey Orchestra are absolutely wonderful. The Journey singers are okay, some better than others, but the sound system unfortunately made it worse sometimes. Again, a problem with space and acoustics that can't be helped. Carlos Avalon, on the piano, is a wonderful performer and a very nice man. We enjoyed listening to him in Mosaic's lounge. Guest performers were very good: a magician,a funny comedian, a wonderful vocalist, Jamila. The harpist in the Discoveries Lounge is also very good, and was a joy to listen to before dinner.
I could go on yet for paragraphs about how much we enjoyed our journey on Journey. We really had no complaints and can't wait to set sail on Azamara again soon! (We are hoping that Miami becomes more available as a port option!)