Azamara Journey - 7-21-11
I've been on many cruises before but this was my first cruise on Azamara and it certainly won't be my last. It was wonderful. As many have said before there were so many excellent features from the size of the ship to the service, the food, and the complimentary wines with lunch and dinner along with free water, soft drinks and specialty coffees.
I traveled with my brother and his wife from NY/JFK on a DL non-stop. Arrived the same day to board the ship. They previously sailed on the Quest in 2010 on a Mediterranean cruise and raved about it. I agree with all of their assessments.
We shared a veranda stateroom, which was a little tight at times but we managed fine. Plenty of closets and drawers to store all of our belongings. Also more hangers than I have ever seen on a ship or in a hotel. I slept on the pullout couch and I have to admit it was quite comfortable. The main beds had the new mattresses and they said they were extremely comfortable. My only complaint would be the shower curtain in the bathroom. No matter what you did it always tried to stick to you. They really need to try and put in a door of some sort or at least a curved shower curtain rod.
Loved Mosaic Cafe for the coffee, ended up having a light breakfast here several mornings. Went twice to the buffet for breakfast but it was usually too crowded for us. The dining room was lovely for breakfast with excellent service.
We only ate lunch twice at the outdoor grill which was very nice and had some wonderful selections to choose from. Wine was poured freely there also.
We loved that you can bring bottles onto the ship for consumption in your stateroom. Most nights we would order a snack along with mixers and limes to be brought to our room where we would have a cocktail hour (or 2) on our veranda. We also enjoyed the martini bar where "MA" would play her harp most nights.
We ate in main dining room 5 nights, 1 night at Prime C and 1 night at Aqualina.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at both specialty restaurants, I thought the food in the main dining room was actually better and/or more interesting choices. Some of my faves; raw tuna appetizers, salmon tartar, most of the soups, quail and red snapper. I normally don't order steak on a cruise because I like it extremely rare and it usually comes way overcooked. I have to say that they cooked it perfectly for me. I was disappointed with a few of my choices in Aqualina but overall everyone else thought it was tops.
I thought the size of the ship would feel very small but I actually thought the size was perfect. We had smooth seas throughout the voyage, so don't know how the ship would feel in rougher waters. I loved the greetings you received when you returned to the ship and were "welcomed home" by the crew and officers with cool facecloths and beverages. Once we were even presented with sorbet.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this cruise to almost all(not really good for children of which there were very few on board). I hope to sail again with them soon.
I have visited Stockholm previously and been to the Vasa museum and City Hall.
The day we arrived it was raining quite hard so we decided to just stay on the ship and unpack (we couldn't get into our room until 2pm anyway) and relax. We explored the ship, had a drink, then dinner then bed.
The next morning we all woke up refreshed and took the shuttle into the city. From there we just walked around the Gamla Stan and did some shopping. We then walked to city hall but when we arrived, we discovered the next tour was not for another hour and we would miss the last shuttle back to the ship.
We enjoyed the cruise out of Stockholm through the archipelago while drinking champagne on our veranda.
I've been to Helsinki before and remembered that there is not a lot to do here. That still seems to be the case. We walked into town and through the market which was mostly fruits and vegetables, not very interesting.
We visited the Uspenski and Helsinki Cathedrals then walked into town to look for a liquor store. We were directed to go to Stockman's department store.
Wow, what a store, it had everything you could imagine! Clothes, food, plants, appliances, liquor, beer, wine, restaurants, gourmet foods, housewares, cosmetics, etc. I thought it was probably the most interesting thing in Helsinki.
St. Petersburg, Russia
This was my first time in St. Petersburg. WOW! Unbelievable! So much to see, thank goodness we were in port for 3 full days because I don't know what I would have dropped from our schedule.
We signed up for the ship's 3 day tour. I thoroughly researched a number of other companies and either they did not visit everything that this tour did or they were more expensive (albeit they did have smaller groups but I did not mine the larger one). We ended up with 30 on our bus and we had Vikoria as our guide for the duration. She was extremely knowledgeable and fun. We had the headsets so we could wander a bit during our tours.
In addition to viewing most of city's major buildings and monuments we had visits to the following: Catherine Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress, Winter Palace & Hermitage Museum, Canal cruise, Palace square & Alexander Column, Church of the Spilled Blood, Uppenski Palace, Peterhof Palace & Lower Fountain gardens plus full lunch on the first 2 days. All were truly Magnificent!
My favorites were the Church of the Spilled Blood, unbelievable both inside and out. Also the fountain gardens at the Peterhof were fantastic.
The only downside was a visit to a souvenir shop that was ridiculously expensive. Wait to buy until you get to the Peterhof, there are numerous vendors on the property with very fair prices and they will haggle a bit on prices. As an example, at the store I was admiring a replica Faberge jeweled egg which would have cost about $80. I found the exact same thing for $21 at the market.
The other downside was we had a heatwave (90F/30C) during our visit and nothing is air-conditioned (except the bus). While the palaces were spectacular I almost passed out at times it was so hot in most of them. The worst was the Hermitage mostly because of the crowds. The other palaces were not so crowded together, it would be just our group together throughout.
I had been to Tallin once before about 8 years ago.
We took the free shuttle into town.
Although it was 10X more crowded this time than the last time I visited, it has not lost any of it's charm. The old town is a wonderful area to visit. The town square had a array of vendors selling many interesting handmade items at fair prices (however much more expensive than the last time I visited especially since now they are on the euro).
If you are looking for any amber jewelry, this is the place to buy it. I was not interested until I saw the green amber which I thought was exquisite! I purchased a beautiful pendant and matching earrings at a shop in the upper town.
We ate lunch a pretty cafe just below the church and had a nice lunch of delicious pizza. Overall, a thoroughly delightful visit.