(12:36 p.m.) -- Azamara Journey, the flagship of brand-new line Azamara Cruises, is ready. The ship set sail from Cape Liberty Cruise Port on its inaugural Bermuda voyage just after 11 a.m. EST today after a one-day delay.
Celebrity spokeswoman Elizabeth Jakeway tells us that refurbishment work continued after the ship arrived at Cape Liberty (the ship had come straight from a four-week dry-dock in the Bahamas; check out our coverage of the renovation). Though there was speculation on Cruise Critic's Azamara forum that furniture was not onboard in time for the sailing, Jakeway tells us that was not the case -- rather, it was a matter of ensuring the ship was cleared of all the boxes and packaging materials (shipping containers on the pool deck, for example), which prompted the decision to change the departure date from May 5 to May 6.
"With the extensive changes and with everything that's on the line here," Cruise Critic member bepsf writes on our Azamara forum," one would have thought that Celebrity/Azamara would have scheduled a one- or two-day shakedown cruise to make sure that everything is ready for prime-time."
However, dizliz posts that the ship was worth the wait. "I just talked to Mary Jean [who is onboard the inaugural voyage and] she says the ship is beautiful! Cherry wood everywhere. Very classic and very, very beautiful ... Sounds as if the company is very proud of their new offering, and very much want their passengers to be happy."
Passengers booked on the shortened voyage were alerted on the pier yesterday by letter, and offered a full refund of the cruise fare paid as well as $100 to cover overnight expenses (this will be applied directly to guests' onboard accounts). Those who drove to the port will receive complimentary parking; guests who flew into the New York area for the cruise yesterday were put up in local hotels.
As a result of the delay, Azamara Journey will bypass a previously scheduled call at St. George's and sail directly to Hamilton. However, the line will be offering a free shuttle between Hamilton and St. George's.
Stay tuned for our exclusive photo -- and video -- essay of Azamara Journey, coming soon!
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor