26 june we started a back-to-back cruise with the Azamara-Journey from Lisbon to Stockholm. This cruise was just great. Compared to other cruise-lines we travelled with, the officers and the rest of the crew are more friendly and always willing to help you and to answer questions.
Compared to Oceania.... well there we never saw the officers (we missed 1 meeting at the start of a cruise with Insignia)
HAL and Princess maybe cheaper, but these cruise-lines can't be compared.
They both use big words when talking about their quality, like "signature of exellence". Well that signature is a negative one. Just mediocre meals with little variety, little service and too many unfriendly crew-members. Oceania is not cheaper then Azamara, but also there the food is just fair, when compared to the much better Azamara. And alas at Oceania you are never sure what will be your next port. The officer(s) there are not honest about the reasons why they skip some ports. If you like to be betrayed, just sail Oceania. See my earlier review of the january-2011 Insignia-voyage: "Not to the Falklands".
About our Azamara Cruise:
From embarkng till the very end of the cruise all crew-members were really friendly and always willing to help you, when asked. Officers are frequently seen at the dining-rooms, the theatre and the gangway. Captain Johannes Tysse and cruise-director Eric de Gray form a nice duo with more humour then I ever saw before on a cruise-ship. Eric's performance as Dancing-Queen in a show is unforgettable! You have to book a cruise to see this!
Alas most of the shows are not much better then at the other cruise-lines.
Most singers don't know their limitations and sing louder then their capacities allow. The ever vibrating "opera"-singer was horrible for opera-lovers, but still got applaus. Only the Broadway-show and the Nat King Cole singer (forgot his name) were very good. But we are not Americans who seem to have a different taste here.
The Russian folk-group was great. The dancers/acobats and singers did their job very well and the Bass-singer was great. He must be a real opera-singer and a good one.
The captain and other officers make the sailing of the ship go as smooth as possible. The ship is docked almost before you realize and when tendering is needed, most of the time you dont have to wait very long. What a difference with Oceania's Insignia, where we waited hours.
The ship is well maintained and very clean. The cabin-stewards are also friendly and prompt. Joseph was really great!
Especially Saint Jean de Luz, Saint Malo, Rouen, Copenhagen, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallin and Stockholm were great itenaries. Guernsey was a bit disappointing. We made 3 excursions and they were good.
Azamara offered a nice excursion in our last port, ending at the airport.
We gladly accepted a special offer for a next cruise.