Azamara Journey Entertainment
Daytime activities include the usual gamut of cruise staff-organized trivia games, bingo and the like, conducted competently and enthusiastically. There are art auctions, but only on sea days; they are not over-hyped as they are on some ships. Enrichment offerings are excellent and varied.
As on many ships, every sailing has lectures by a "destination specialist," and there are other experts included in the mix to give more in-depth presentations on cultural, historical or natural aspects of the destinations. (For example, on our sailing to South America for Carnaval in Rio, the daily enrichment programs included lectures and Powerpoint presentations on the history and customs of Carnaval, and the history of the country and of its wildlife. One lecturer, along with his spouse, even gave samba lessons.) Another aspect of Azamara's enrichment program that we liked was how it made use of crew and staff members to conduct lectures, demonstrations or seminars in their areas of expertise -- such as the ship's chief photographer conducting a seminar in digital photography, or the Internet cafe manager teaching a class in tips and little-known tricks for Microsoft Windows.
The main venue for nightly entertainment is the Celebrity Cabaret, a lovely, intimate little show lounge. The room has excellent sightlines, because due to its small size, no support columns are required. Seating is in unanchored, comfortable chairs with small cocktail tables for drinks. Headliner offerings are typical, including solo vocalists, and instrumentalists -- both pop and classical, with a heavier emphasis on classical than on many ships we've reviewed. Azamara -- at least on our sailing -- has shied away from the more "Vaudevillian" entertainment acts (jugglers, comedians and magicians).
Of note was a resident "nameless" quintet of young, and very skilled, singers who performed three excellent reviews using little blocking (stage movement). One show paid homage to Hollywood film music; the second was a satirical skewering of television; and the third paid tribute to the age of "Swing." The writing was as good as the performance, especially "Twisted TV," which was written by one of the authors of the hugely successful Off-Broadway revue, "Forbidden Broadway." Other musical offerings in the lounges were largely unremarkable, and mainly created a background for conversation or the occasional ballroom dancers. We were disappointed by the absence of a piano bar, often one of the most successful lounge formats for stimulating passenger interaction.
The shore excursion department is a mixed bag. On one hand, the number of shorex personnel was huge relative to the number of passengers. In addition, they were, by and large, extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and fluent in the languages of the countries we visited. One member of the department, or designated crewmember, accompanied every tour that left the ship.
On the downside, the list of available excursions was thin and unremarkable. We were astounded that on a port call of four full days in Rio de Janeiro, there were only four daytime excursions offered, and all but one of those were standard bus tours. Though Azamara asserts that one attribute of "Deluxe Category" cruising is "personalized ... immersive" shore excursions, we noted that for the same port of call, big ship lines actually offered more options. Costa Cruises featured twice the number of choices, and Holland America offered 24 Rio shore excursion options.
Azamara Journey Public Rooms
Journey's public rooms are well situated, and the ambiance and decor of each was nicely tailored to the room's intended use. The Martini Bar is tucked into the niche between the central open area of the ship and the Discoveries Restaurant, making it a cozy and comfortable spot to gather for pre-dinner libations. Occupying the central area at the top of the grand staircase is the signature "Mosaic Cafe," which serves specialty coffees and teas. There is a charge for espresso-based drinks (lattes, cappuccinos, machiatos, etc.), but not for the accompanying snacks, which include cookies, biscotti, pastries, sandwiches and antipasti, depending on the time of day.
On the top deck (Deck 10), all the way forward, sits the Looking Glass Lounge, a perfectly outfitted and comfortable observation lounge. Glass is the theme, and it's carried out through colorful glass art counterpoints hanging on the rich, dark mahogany walls. Azamara has taken advantage of the R-Series signature large library space to combine library functions with the social functions of Celebrity's popular Michael's Club (and this Michael's club is a smoke-free environment). One deck down the "eConnections" Internet cafe has 16 guest-accessible PC's networked to a laser printer. Internet usage rates start at $0.65 per minute and go down, depending on Internet package purchased. A $69 per day unlimited Internet plan also is available. Connections were fast and dependable. Guests with their own laptops can access the ship's Wi-Fi services from stem to stern.
As one might expect from a small, intimate ship, casino operations are limited; there is one roulette table, a few blackjack tables, one three-card poker table, a fair number of slot machines, and an automated Texas Hold 'Em table, which robotically deals virtual cards to individual terminals around the regulation size green felt table, while the common cards and betting info are displayed on a larger central screen in the middle of the table. The virtual chips won at the table can be traded for real money at the casino cashier's cage. Curiously, there is no dice table, which would have occupied about the same amount of space. Presumably, since a dice table requires four casino workers and the virtual Texas Hold 'Em table requires none, this is a more lucrative choice for Azamara.
Azamara Journey Spa & Fitness
You'll find an ample two-deck sunning area and plenty of comfortable, well-padded lounges on Azamara Journey, both around the pool and twin heated spas, and on the deck above (which also holds the jogging track -- 13 circuits to one nautical mile/or 11.5 to the statute mile).
Azamara, like parent Celebrity Cruises, features an Elemis-run spa, with full complex of massage, beauty and wellness programs, including acupuncture. The fitness facility is quite spacious for a ship of this size and includes a full complement of popular machines (steppers, cross-trainers, treadmills, bikes, etc.), and a dedicated aerobics area. There are organized classes/activities, but they are thinly advertised in the daily schedule.
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