My partner and I are cruise addicts !We have travelled with most of the major cruise lines,this was our 1st sailing with AZAMARA and we cannot wait to revisit ! We have travelled with their parent company, Celebrity, but in our experience, this was world's apart !
It was also our first cruise on a smaller ship, having been a fan of larger ships before.
So how did it all compare ?
We made our own travel plans from the UK to San Juan , we flew from Gatwick to Tampa, overnighted at the Marriott hotel within the airport ( excellent ) , the following morning ,we took a flight from Tampa to San Juan, on arrival we jumped into a taxi and 15 mins later we were checking in for the cruise .
Check in was efficient and friendly, two thing we were surprised at, firstly, as we passed the check in desk , we were approached by a waiter , who told us there was a seafood buffet available that evening, we said we would prefer the main restaurant, we were told , 'this will be very busy sir, you come at 6.30 or 6.45 pm please?' we politely said we would take our chances and dine later !
We went to the main restaurant , Discoveries , at 8pm , and it was almost empty !!!!!
The other surprise was, as we boarded the ship......the dreaded ship photo, complete with static background and ship superimposed !!! On the big 'holiday' ships you kind of accept and expect it, we didn't with this style of cruise.
It was no big deal though, just we were surprised !
We boarded the AZAMARA JOURNEY, the lobby as you enter strikes you as being very smart, comfortable, and the thing that hit us was, it was so peaceful ! Ordinarily, when you board a ship, its hectic, noisy, people running around, this was the opposite.....wonderful !!!
We were advised our staterooms were not available until 1.30pm, our carry on luggage was taken from us and placed directly in the staterooms for us , so we could go and enjoy lunch in the buffet restaurant.
We made our way to deck 9 for lunch, the buffet was superb , as it was throughout the cruise.
Ordinarily, we avoid buffets like the plague, not because we don't like the food, but because its all so hectic, difficult to find somewhere to sit, having to wait for the waiters to clear the previous occupants remnants etc.
This was completely different !
Again , it was calm, plenty of tables, all prepared for you, waiters would offer to carry your plate for you, if you so wished !
The food choice was excellent , plenty of lovely fresh salads, soups, a carvery,hot dishes, wonderful breads, stir frys;s and heavenly desserts and ice creams !
All this , together with copious amounts of wine, a choice of red or white, which changes daily.
Following a wonderful lunch, we made our way to our stateroom, Deck 8 , a balcony cabin.
The cabin was beautifully appointed, fresh flowers, mini bar stocked with water and soft drinks ( all included) , flat screen TV plenty of drawer and hanging space.
It has to be said , the cabin was actually quite alot smaller than others we have experienced, but with the extra space on deck etc, we found we were actually in this cabin alot less than normal !
The cabin was spotless, no dust anywhere, and beds were fantastic.
The showeroom was small, and when I say small, I mean small !!
You generally had a fight with the shower curtain in the shower, it would wrap round you and generally it won !
Has to be said though, again it was spotless and plenty of hot water day and night, so you could not really complain !
The main restaurant was excellent, we had some truly memorable meals, and no matter where we sat, we had fantastic waiters every meal, this includes the Buffet restaurant too !
Wine flowed freely and was always superb ! Mineral water and soft drinks , as well as speciality coffees ( lattes , espressos etc ) all available.
The menu choice was extensive, with a choice of 'always available ' items such as prawn cocktail , caesar salad, steaks etc.
The maitre d , made them selves known EVERY meal time, unlike the big ships, where you generally met the MAITRE d on 'tip night ' !
The deck space on this ship is wonderful, always plenty of lovely squashy sun beds, lovely thick mattresses and towel covers.
The pool , although smallish was a perfect temperature , 2 whirl pools available .
The gym was superb, plenty of hi tech equipment, and a very personable gym Instructor , a chap from Ireland, who was very friendly and approachable .
Entertainment on board, was low key, a couple of shows from the singers and 1 by the cruise director, but the main entertainment for us was the dining experince.
The thing that really stands out about Azamara, is the ships staff. EVERY single crew member you encounter , acknowledges you, with a cheery smile and a greeting.
This went from Officers down to engineers, every single one was friendly.
On this line tips are included, we still tipped a few who really stood out from the rest, this was hard to do, as I say, all the staff were outstanding !
We had a really fantastic experience and I hope AZAMARA is the success it deserves !