My husband and I have cruised 25 weeks primarily on windjammer tall sailing ships. We love the adventure and ability to get to know the other passengers and crew that a tall ship allows. We also have enjoyed cruises on small OAT ships and Grand Circle river boats. We started hearing about Azamara and all reports we read were positive so we decided to give try it thinking that it was a onetime thing as the ship that large would be too big for our taste. Boy, were we ever wrong -- we enjoyed every aspect of our Azamara Journey cruise.
We purchased a package that had us flying into Barbados on the day of embarkation. All travel went smoothly including the transfer to the ship. Embarkation was a breeze. The only thing that was a bit disappointing in the whole 14 days was that we were not escorted to our cabin, or even to the elevator. But we had no trouble finding our way.
Our veranda cabin was small but very comfortable with a love seat, desk and 2 chairs & a small table on the veranda. The bathroom was tight but had adequate shelf space for us to put all our toiletries.
The ship can have close to 700 passengers but on this trip there were only 167 passengers on the 1st part of the trip. Journey was large enough to have all the amenities such as fine dining, pool, theatre, casino, piano bar that anyone could want yet it still had a small ship feel.
The food and service in all of the restaurants was spectacular and we enjoyed the included boutique wines. We ate in both Prime C and Aqualina and had wonderful meals but honestly the food was just as good in the main Discoveries restaurant. There is a dress code mostly enforced in Discoveries and definitely enforced in Prime C and Aqualina. Most days we ate breakfast and lunch in the more casual Windows CafÃ© and the food was very good there also, just not much change day to day in the options.
We had 7 sea days and had been concerned that we would get bored. Not a problem! We enjoyed relaxing by the pool, exercising in the fitness center or walking on the top deck jogging path. We played trivia and even bingo and had lots of fun doing both. And we enjoyed sitting on our veranda and reading. One day I went to the spa for a scalp massage that was wonderful.
It is impossible to say enough good things about the staff and service. Everyone was friendly, helpful and professional. I asked our cabin steward on the 2nd day if I could have our ice refreshed around 3 in the afternoon and each day after that promptly at 3pm we had fresh ice. Our cabin was spotless. The service in all of the restaurants was exceptional. The activities staff all knew us and called us by name by the middle of the trip. On a couple of occasions the captain asked me if I was enjoying the trip. The shore excursions staff was also extremely helpful and friendly.
We attended the shows every night. Some were the ship entertainers and others were guest entertainers including a comic, a magician and a pianist. It wasn't Broadway but it was fun and definitely entertaining. The ship's band was very good and on several occasions we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink in Looking Glass while listening to them.
In Belem we did a 4 hour river trip in the Amazon delta that included a walk in the rain forest. The river part of the excursion was interesting seeing the houses on stilts but the rain forest was a little disappointing in spite of the excellent naturalist that lead our group. We never got far enough away to be out of range of a radio that was playing loudly in a small village. Still, I'm glad we did this tour.
In Fortaleza we walked around on our own from the shuttle drop off point. It was a shopping day and so the market area where we were was very crowed and dirty. It was difficult to get across the street and the cathedral we wanted to visit was closed. It was not especially enjoyable. Friends who did the city tour I think had a more interesting day.
We did the dune buggy tour in Natal. It was ridiculously expensive but it was so much fun that it was one of the highlights of our trip. The giant sand dunes go for miles. We stopped along the way to do a zip line into a lake and ended up swimming at the beach. I recommend the trip but do think the cost at $269 is way too high.
In Recife we did a city tour that was very enjoyable.
We walked around on our own in Salvador de Bahia. From where the ship was docked it was eazy to get to the elevator to the Upper City. As it was a rainy day our walk was brief. If you do this on your own know that you must have Brazilian money to use the elevator.
Buzios is a small very upscale seaside town. It was fun to just walk along the sea wall and people watch. Be prepared to spend lots of money if you do buy anything in Buzios. We stopped at a seaside restaurant and had 1 glass of wine, 1 beer and an appetizer and it was $60. Still, it was such a beautiful setting I'm glad we did it. We were tendered in Burzios and there were big swells and some difficulty getting the tenders to & from the shore.
In Rio do Janeiro we joined 3 other people for a private tour that started with pick up at the port at 9am and had drop off at the airport at 7pm for our 10pm flight to Miami. It was a perfect way to end the trip.
We disembarked in Rio de Janeiro and it was very busy as there were several large ships also disembarking at the same time. In spite of that it was a very easy process because there was a crew member to assist at every step of the way including guiding us around congestion points and lines we did not have to go through. It was an amazingly easy and organized disembarkation.
Everything about our trip was exceptional but the real star is the crew. Each and every crew member from the captain to our cabins stewards were friendly, engaging and honestly seemed to want to do whatever they could to help us have a wonderful vacation. We are already planning our next Azamara cruise.