Having read numerous forums regarding Azamara Journey cruises, I hadn't spotted any criticisms - everyone seemed to give glowing reports! We signed up for a CruiseCritics Meet and Mingle party and with more than 25 others doing the same the party was confirmed.
With flights and a pre cruise stay in Barbados arranged by Azamara, we had a late morning transfer to the ship. Despite there being 78 fellow travellers in the hotel, by transferring us in coaches for about 20 people, the registration procedure at the port was painless with only a short queue to contend with. By 11.45 we were sipping our welcoming glass of bubbly, and being advised that our rooms would be ready by 12.30 (which they were!)
A quick trip to the pool deck revealed a small pool with two jacuzzis. The loungers were all substantial teak ones, with thick cushions and white towelling covers, as well as towels - no need to sign them in and out as on other ships we have been on.
Our outside cabin was nicely presented with a good size comfortable bed. There was a bowl of fresh fruit and the mini bar stocked - soft drinks being complementary (as elsewhere in the ship). Plenty of hangers in the wardrobe together with two robes and slippers.
The shower room was a typical tight configuration but well laid out with a collection of toiletries.
The room attendant was quick to introduce himself and despite having no need for any dealings with him throughout our trip it was very impressive that he called us by name when we passed in the corridor!
The CruiseCritics Meet and Mingle reception was well attended by about 50 guests together with various senior officers. Drinks kept flowing and there was a lovely selection of nibbles (so don't forget to sign up for the reception!) Also, it seems that passengers registered for M&M are automatically given allocations to tours of the bridge, engine control room & galley, all of which are an interesting insight into the ship's operations.
Dining in the main Discoveries restaurant can be busy at times, and sometimes slow, but the quality of the food was excellent. Having commented in the mid cruise questionnaire about service, the attention to us when dining went up dramatically! Opting to share a table meant we did not have to queue for more than a minute or two. We noticed that with the restaurant being at the aft of the ship, there was some vibration and noise from the props. Not a particular problem in itself whilst dining, but it could mean that aft suites would suffer similar disruption, especially while trying to sleep when transiting overnight.
The house wines, which were all reasonable quality, flowed freely with dinner, though some prompting for a top up was required occasionally.
When service was slow, there was a risk of missing the evening show if we went in after 7pm.
The quality of the entertainment was mixed, and my personal feeling was that the routines did not reflect the quality, and bring out the best, of the individual performers.
Life around the pool was generally quiet, apart from sea days. There was no disturbance from taped music, though on sea days a duet played on stage for two hours.
One evening there was a Caribbean themed barbecue around the pool which was very popular and topped off with a show and dancing on deck. Many members of the crew, including the Captain, mingled whilst we dined. As ever, they were very pleasant to chat with.
On the final sea day there was a jazz brunch in the Discoveries restaurant - great selection of food (as ever), and live jazz music too.
Windows cafe is the self service restaurant used for breakfast, lunch and dinner (if you wanted). The evening meals were promoted as being themed. On the Greek evening we had a look in hoping to have our own mezes, only to find the only Greek food on offer was a salad area with some feta cheese to make a Greek salad, so we dined in the main restaurant. Very disappointing. We did not check other evenings to determine whether the promos were more appropriately delivered.
Having spoken to a few couples regarding their meals in the speciality restaurants, we were not convinced that the experience would be worth the cover charge. From reports, there was no doubt regarding the quality of food, or the more personal service, but it did not seem to warrant the recently increased fee of $50 per couple.
Having pre-booked various excursions with Azamara we benefited form the 50% discount which made them worthwhile and competitive, but in most ports there seemed to be an option to make personal arrangements with local taxis or operators if you so wished.
All in all, would any of our niggles make us think twice about booking with Azamara again? - No, we would love to join in the experience again! It's a great little ship, offering a high standard of service, and all the crew are very pleasant and working hard to ensure guests enjoy their cruise.