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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
This was our second time cruising with Azamara and it was just as wonderful as the first time. The Journey is a beautiful ship and has been well maintained since the dry dock last year. We love the decor with it's serene color ... Read More
This was our second time cruising with Azamara and it was just as wonderful as the first time. The Journey is a beautiful ship and has been well maintained since the dry dock last year. We love the decor with it's serene color palate with comfortable furniture throughout. Many of the repeat guests have expressed missing the old decor and dislike the new design. We think that ship has totally opened up and the light colors make the cabins and public spaces appear larger. Constant care is shown all over the ship with even slightly worn carpet being replaced in certain areas. The Living Room is a beautiful space with a great bar and dance floor. The talented guitarist was a wonderful backdrop for evening cocktail hour. There are different appetizers available each night with a favorite being a gazpacho shot topped with a lobster nugget. We really enjoyed the excellent cocktail service provided by Jacques and Pavlo and the perfect martinis poured by Juliana. Azamara offers inclusive cocktails, specialty coffees, and select beer and wine in the cruise fare. You may choose to upgrade to a package that includes more brand liquor choices for a daily fee but we found that the complimentary choices included were sufficient for our needs. I will say that the wines poured each day were not of the highest quality but they were mostly drinkable. The cabin was just as beautiful as we remembered and the dreamy bed was a delight to fall asleep in each and every night. There is an abundance of storage space with a large closet containing slippers and two wonderfully plush robes. The bathroom may be small but was fine for our needs. Top this off with the excellent cabin service from Alfie and his assistant Jane, who could ask for anything more? Onto the food. Delicious choices in almost every venue with a couple of additional specials offered for dinner in Discoveries every night. This is rare, but If you should have a problem with a dish they will be happy to rectify the problem. We had a package for the specialty restaurants which included 2 dinners in Aqualina and 2 in Prime C which was later altered to 1 dinner in each because we loved the choices in Discoveries so much. The specialty restaurants are great but didn't warrant more than 1 visit to each especially because there was a problem with a filet steak in Prime C and the filet we had in Discoveries was perfect without an extra charge. That said, the appetizers, soups, salads, sides and deserts were excellent in both fee restaurants. The Dover Sole and Limoncello Souffle in Aqualina are divine. The menu in Discoveries is easily accessed on the cabin television so you can arrive at the dining room ready to enjoy the mouth watering food. How could a gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream sauce or a simple spinach and ricotta ravioli be so divine on the high seas? Both tasted home made and were scrumptious. Not every dish was a home run but the hits far outweighed the few misses. The buffet afforded bountiful choices at breakfast, lunch and dinner which every night hosted a different themed buffet like Greek, Indian, Spanish or French. We would try to have a drink at the outside Sunset Bar most nights and share a small plate of various tapas before heading to dinner. Gotta love cruising! The mostly mild weather allowed us to watch a beautiful sunset and enjoy a lovely martini poured by Jason. I must add that the specialty salads served at lunch everyday were varied and outstanding. There are other venues for food like the excellent outside Grill, which cooks food to order, or The Mosaic coffee bar where you can enjoy a specialty beverage and nosh on mini sandwiches and sweets. Room service is available as well. We found the entertainment portion of the cruise to be varied, with productions shows and featured entertainers performing most every night. The standouts in the production shows were Eric the Cruise Director and the two Russian dancers. We really enjoyed the performances of the female flautist and the male tenor, both extremely talented individuals. Unfortunately, we missed the pianist and featured female singer. There were also 2 lecturers that fell flat for us. Both of them mostly read from the slide screen not adding much more information. We did not attend the Le Club Voyage party or the Captains toast but you can't do everything. Also, the Azamazing Evening was a concert held at the Grieg Concert Hall in Bergen. The White Party was the final event to be held on the pool deck the day before the final sea day. The beautiful weather guaranteed a great evening for all in attendance. We made an appearance to look at the buffet and say hello to some recently made friends and then headed to Discoveries for an absolutely sumptuous meal. I popped up to the party after dinner and everyone seemed to be enjoying and dancing to the high energy stage performance lead by Eric. Service was wonderful all over the ship! We seem to have a problem with the host in the main restaurant on almost every cruise, but usually they seem to get nicer as the cruise progresses... that was the case yet again. Can't say enough about how much we appreciated our great cabin steward team of Alfie and Jane. They were azamazing! This was a 14 night cruise to the Norwegian fjords starting in Hamburg and ending in Copenhagen. We had a forward facing balcony which was the perfect vantage point for cruising into and out of the fjords. Our itinerary was filled with interesting ports of call. It all began with Bergen, where despite the rain we had a fun day. The day was capped off by an Azamazing evening at the Grieg Concert Hall starting with champagne, followed by a concert for Azamara passengers by members of the Bergen symphony including a pianist, violinist and a soprano, performing works by Norway's most famous and Bergen local composer Edvard Grieg. A wonderful event. Next on the itinerary was our trip to Flam. We took the excursion to the Stegastein outlook above pretty Aurlandsvagen with an incredible view over the Aurlandsfjorden, including a stop for a waffle and coffee. Next stop was our cruise down Geirangerfjord, past the seven sisters and opposing suitor waterfalls, where our captain spent at least a half hour doing two full rotations so that every passenger could get a complete view of the falls for picture taking. After tendering in to Geiranger town, we took the tour to the top of Mt. Dalsnibba, hoping for a clear look down to the fjord and the 3 ships anchored there. But alas a single cloud rolled over and we only caught a brief glimpse of the fjord; better than the last time we went up when we were encased in fog. On this day some were able to get a clear view, others none at all. We will try again another time! Other than that it was a clear sunny day. Next stop was Svolvaer in the Lofoten Islands, above the arctic circle. Although we were scheduled to tender here, our captain Johannes was able to achieve access to the pier in town and we were anchored all day. Very nice! We had a beautiful day here, capped by a race to cruise into the narrow and stunning Trollfjord, ahead of another ship that was in Svolvaer at the same time, but had to tender. Svolvaer was a surprisingly beautiful small town, easy to navigate on foot. Next stop was Tromso, where we had another sparkling clear day. We decided to walk across the bridge to the Arctic cathedral for photos, and then to take the tram to the top of the mountain for the most incredible views. After walking back to town for a closer look we stopped by Mack's brewery and pub for a local beer. A fun way to end a beautiful day, before heading back to the ship. Next stop Honningsvag, the top of Norway and Europe; again a beautiful sunny day greeted us. We took the tour to North Cape which included a stop at a Sammi reindeer farm, and the scenic fishing village of Komyvaer, where we were engaged by a local guy who said you have to be tough to live there. We have no doubt about that; but on this beautiful summer day it is hard to imagine what the winters are like. We were told on many occasions by our guide just how brutal the winters are. Lots of snow, road closures. Anyway, after spending an hour and a half at the north cape and getting a slew of photos we were taken back to town where we stopped by the local King Crab House for a hearty bowl of king crab soup and of course a local beer before heading back to the Azamara Journey. Another remarkable day. Next stop Olden for a ride on Lake Olden and the great views of the glacier edging down the surrounding mountains. The final stop was Stavanger where we docked right in town! We took the excursion down the fjord to pulpit rock. A great ride with spectacular scenery including a stop for a Norwegian waffle and coffee. We got great photos of the pulpit rock and also the waterfall that boat got almost right under! After the excursion we were able to walk through old town and get even more wonderful photos. This trip was memorable for many reasons, but first because the captain kept the ship in the inland waterways as much as possible, meaning the scenery was incredible, and the time in the open sea was minimal. He also stopped at 3 small towns along the way to personally go ashore for fresh ling cod, fresh local goat cheese and fresh sweet Norwegian strawberries which were served dipped in chocolate and left on the bed one night. And also the weather was incredibly good, making for excellent photos everywhere we went. Kudos to the captain Johannes and his crew for an unforgettable cruise. They really went the extra mile to make our cruise interesting and innovative. If you can't tell, we love Azamara! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
This was my 4th sailing with Azamara and by far the best cruise I have ever taken. Azamara does a great job designing unique itineraries, and due to the ship's size, often calls on smaller ports not available to bigger ships. ... Read More
This was my 4th sailing with Azamara and by far the best cruise I have ever taken. Azamara does a great job designing unique itineraries, and due to the ship's size, often calls on smaller ports not available to bigger ships. Cruising the Norwegian Fjords was simply spectacular and add in the special Azamara touches, this made for a fabulous cruise. We were able to enter some very small fjords - one in particular was barely big enough for our ship to turn around. Then we stopped by some unbelievable water falls. (I am still in awe of the spectacular scenery - I have recently cruised to both Alaska and the Chilean Fjords and Norway has much more breath taking views - and Azamara gets you so close you can almost reach out and touch the beauty!). Another time the Captain stopped the ship while cruising and sent crew ashore for fresh strawberries, served the following night at turndown. Another time the Captain sent a lifeboat out to catch fresh fish which was served that night in the specialty restaurants. Then there was the AzAmazing Evening where the entire ship attended a private Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra Recital at Bergen's famed Grieg Hall. We even departed with many photos of the ship in spectacular fjords - some taken by people on shore and emailed to the Captain who then made them available to the passengers - the photos are unique in that the ship was cruising or passing under bridges, a view not normally available when you are on board. This Captain was Johannes Tysse. Along with Cruise Director Eric and Hotel Manager Heike, they all worked together to provide an exceptional (and fun) cruise experience. There service was very good in all areas; the food was good (not excellent, but very enjoyable). The entertainment was excellent. The ship has been well maintained. It seems they continually replace any worn assets. This cruise we noticed many areas of carpeting being replaced after hours. The ship looked great. The cabins are on the small side, but well maintained. Azamara does not nickel and dime you to death so alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and specialty coffee are all included, even from the cabin mini bar. This cruise had wonderful shore excursions - on the expensive side in Norway but well worth it. And when you do sail with Azamara, be sure to take the Insider Tour - a behind the scene look at the inner workings of the ship. You get to meet many senior officers in their work areas. We got to spend alot of time with the Chief Engineer who was very interesting. The tours ends on the bridge with a glass of champagne. it is well worth the $79 price. Hats off to Azamara for doing what they do so well...providing a unique, fun and entertaining cruise experience. If you are tired of cookie cutter cruising, try Azamara. We were so pleased we booked Azamara's Norway cruise for July 2019 while on board. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Went with others who chose this boat. After going aboard, we understood their dysfunctional website better. No attention to detail. On a cruise whose principal attraction is the scenery, the windows in the common areas were dirty. The ... Read More
Went with others who chose this boat. After going aboard, we understood their dysfunctional website better. No attention to detail. On a cruise whose principal attraction is the scenery, the windows in the common areas were dirty. The scrolling info TV channel that has a view out the front of the ship was dirty. Smallest stateroom we've ever had. Mediocre food. Couple of exercise machines were in bad repair. 5 nights out and have had to call maintenance to clear the toilet 3 times. Both sink and shower pan did not drain. Maintenance call. Entire ship was invited to a symphony concert. The paper offering pictured an orchestra. The pianist and violinist were nice. The rest of the orchestra went missing. As with every cruise we've been on, the staff was great. They just work like dogs and manage a pleasant greeting. The fjords were wonderful . . . . take another ship. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2015
Lets start by mentioning the massive dry dock list of redecoration and improvements this young company are planning for both ships in 2016, when comfort and style will greatly improve. We had a most relaxing trip up the coast of Norway ... Read More
Lets start by mentioning the massive dry dock list of redecoration and improvements this young company are planning for both ships in 2016, when comfort and style will greatly improve. We had a most relaxing trip up the coast of Norway into the Arctic Circle even. At the moment cabins are drab and we hated the huge mirror facing us at the bottom of the bed.The fitted cabin furniture is poor and will be replaced but we had good storage space. TV news was good. Cases go under the bed. The shower size will never change so lets hope they can smarten them up with the best curtains and shower products, at the moment it is only caravan quality despite good storage,ventilation and good towels. From the Captain down the crew are very friendly and atmosphere excellent, the smart little ship is hugely popular with repeat customers mainly retired North Americans, there were very few young passengers. Food service was mainly good, despite simple white crockery and cutlery. Breakfast finished early for us and room service is never quite the same.Lunch buffet food always looked cheap compared to the MDR menu (which felt as if it improved night by night) ending very well indeed. We paid to use "Aqualina" once and felt it was ordinary and only offered a quieter space.My only comment about the food was that expensive meat and fish does not appear enough.While bread baskets were excellent, I did not like the cake/dessert baking. The so called "complimentary" wines and cocktails were just good enough and we did not pay for more. Entertainment was also good enough for a small ship. I thought the "Art Sales" intrusive and spoiled the look of the ship. As usual I did not see the Gym, but the pool and 2 hot tubs on deck were very clean and warm. We did not purchase tours. The Captain and I thought being a small vessel we would always score a central dock space, but in fact these days priority is often given to ships with larger passenger numbers, however the Quest tender boats were excellent. Boarding at Edinburgh was rather cramped and lack luster, but departure in Copenhagen was perfect with excellent baggage and coach to the airport. We had a very good cruise BUT, either the price has to fall or the catering (and inclusive drinks) have to improve if we are to sail Azamara again, there will always be more spacious small ship cabins out there. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
Azamara Quest Norway Cruise – July 18 to August 1, 2015. Why this cruise? I had been told by a friend that the Norway cruise was a good one. This particular trip started with the chance to see the last day of the Open at St. ... Read More
Azamara Quest Norway Cruise – July 18 to August 1, 2015. Why this cruise? I had been told by a friend that the Norway cruise was a good one. This particular trip started with the chance to see the last day of the Open at St. Andrews Old Course, an event to be seized with all haste. In addition, we have heard good things about Azamara, and we very much like the small Renaissance ships. The idea of being in the cool North while getting away from July in Phoenix also had its appeal. Cruise pre-planning Azamara uses the “no formal nights – ‘smart-casual’ attire” rule used by Oceania, but we had some weather concerns. The forecasts were for days in the 60’s and nights a few degrees lower. We had booked several tours, including an all day trip to the North Cape, so warmth and rain protection was important. I therefore packed no shorts, and Edith included a good selection of pants suitable for both evening wear and providing warmth. We think we did pretty well. I brought my favorite blue blazer and one tie in addition to my favorite Zuni bolo tie. I also brought my Aran Island wool fisherman’s sweater, and a marvelous cashmere sweater purchased many years ago in Inverness, a nice Scots town at the north end of Loch Ness. They know how to keep you warm in Ireland and Scotland. Embarkation We flew non-stop to Heathrow and then to Edinburgh, staying in a hotel there for one night. So we showed up at the pier in Leith (about a $30.00 cab ride) at 11:30. Check-in was fast for us because we had booked a Continental Suite and had a priority line, but it seemed to move smoothly for everybody. Once on board we had to wait until 1:30 to get into our cabin, but used the time to get books from the lovely Deck 10 library, (called “The Drawing Room” on Azamara ships); and to have lunch in the Waves Café (buffet). Our stateroom! We chose a Continental suite because our prior experiences on these ships showed us that the standard veranda cabin is rather small, and the Continental Suite on Azamara, or Penthouse Suite on Oceania provided enough room. When we walked into our stateroom, No. 8061, our reaction was – Wow! We soon found out why we had this response. It seems that Azamara is planning on upgrades of at least its Continental Suites, and ours was the prototype, the only one on this ship. The first impression was the “light”. Everything seemed white and bright, in contrast to the browns used in most cabins. The closets to the left as one entered were actually light brown, but the most striking feature was the “bureau-desk” arrangement stretching from the mini bar next to the closets to the veranda. The bureau portion was about six feet long, 18 inches high and about the same depth or slightly more. It was all white with some form of composition material on top. There were three deep drawers. About two-thirds of the way to the veranda, the desk portion started. It therefore was above the last drawer of the bureau portion so there was a covered, but open storage area. The desk was only about six inches deep until the final two feet or so. It had two wide, shallow desk drawers. It was also white, but the top had a glass surface. At the very end there were some light switches and electrical sockets at the front. There was a very modern desk lamp. There we a high backed desk chair, a small side chair, a round coffee table and a comfortable wing back chair against the back wall. The bed had a round small side table on one side and a larger square table on the other side. The bed had panels above as headboards, covered with a leather-like material with a raised pattern. More on this will follow. Every surface in this living area was white and the veranda went almost the entire width of the cabin, so the “light” effect was remarkable and delightful. The bathroom was completely redone. Instead of the tub/shower of the regular Continental Suite there was a very roomy six foot long stall shower with beautiful marble walls, a well-directed main shower head plus a hand held shower. We were told that there had been a design error in that the shower floor was virtually flush with the bathroom floor with no lip to prevent water getting out, but we found that with a floor mat there was no real problem. We thought this to be the best shower ever on a ship. The single sink was a large square porcelain “vessel” sitting on a darker composition table, with a shelf underneath. There was a handy magnifying mirror on the wall and three long shelves to the side which had all the room needed for toiletries. The walls were marble, and the floor some kind of composition looking like grey wood. The same grey floor was present in the entrance to the cabin up to the “living” area, where there was a nice carpet with an attractive abstract design. The veranda had three wicker arm chairs and a table high enough to serve as a dining table, although a Norwegian cruise does not invite al fresco dining, even if we were room service types. The lighting system was excellent, and relatively easy to master. For example, there was an overhead light which was perfect for reading in the large arm chair. At the bedside there was a general area light, which actually emitted a small glow at night; and small “bullet” lamps that could be focused easily on a book for reading in bed at night, something we both do. The thermostat was adjustable, but the cabin never was very warm, and Edith’s feet were cold until she got back to the 110º of Phoenix. As usual, we had no problem storing all our clothing and other belongings. We had a few conversations with senior staff concerning this stateroom, especially since we were asked to vacate it for a short period of time on Sunday afternoon, while still docked in Leith, so that the President and CEO of Azamara could lead a tour of our cabin for the benefit of some cruise tour providers! I was at the Open, so Edith was the subject of this request. Afterwards, when we were visited by the Hotel Director to thank us, we mentioned that we thought the cabin should have had a mirror over the desk for the benefit of Madame putting on her makeup. He agreed and said this would probably be corrected along with the shower issue. What we did not mention was the fact that the coffee table in the cabin was much too small for any true room service usage. Since we never use room service this did not occur to us at that time. This may not be easy to cure given the three chairs in that area. Oh well, not our problem. What became our problem. The fifth night out I was snoozing away when, at 2:30 A.M. I was awakened suddenly with something falling on my head with a crash! I struggled up with this object in my hands and managed to turn on the light. I discovered that a quarter panel of our “headboard” had fallen off the wall. Examination showed that this headboard was in four sections, each about three feet wide and two plus feet high, made of pressed wood about a ½ inch thick and cover on one side with a leather like material with some raised pattern portions. This was a substantial object which came down, and I was very fortunate not to have been hit with an edge, which would have been extremely damaging. There were four of these panels, and this was the upper panel. When we looked at the upper panel over Edith’s side of the bed, and touched it, it seemed loose. We thought we should take it down and it required very little effort to pull it off the wall. The panels clearly had been attached with glue only, and obviously not enough. Since this was at 2:30 A.M., and we were safe and unharmed, and could not expect or need any help, we went back to bed. We called Guest Relations first thing in the morning, and they obviously did not understand what happened, probably because our stateroom was unique, and they sent up a carpenter with a hand drill to “fix” it. He took one look and sent for higher staff. The chief housekeeper showed up and was properly appalled. It was quickly determined that no attempt to reinstall would be made, so we spent the rest of the trip with missing upper panels, not something that interfered with our use or enjoyment of the room. I do have a picture of it however. The Hotel Manager, Philip, showed up again with profound apologies and the assurances that the home office had been fully informed. Guest relations offered to provide a tour, but we had made our own private tour arrangements as usual, so this was of no value. Later I asked for and received additional computer usage minutes, but, as I noted when asking for them, this did not cost Azamara anything. We have been off the ship more than a week now, and still have had nothing in writing from Azamara by way of compensation for this near disaster. This is not good public relations, and a poor reflection on their stated desire to make everything a joy for their “guests”. The ship As we noted, we love these Renaissance ships. This was number 8, so the newest of all. Their design is, food aft – entertainment forward, very handy. From the top aft, on Deck 10 there are the two specialty restaurants and the Drawing Room. Forward is the Looking Glass Lounge providing a marvelous viewing room, with a dance floor and bar for activities. Deck 9 holds the Waves Buffet aft, the pool area and the Spa and Gym area, along with the computer room forward. Decks 8, 7 and 6 are all staterooms except for the complimentary self-service laundry on 7. Deck 5 has the main dining room with adjacent cocktail lounge aft. Proceeding forward there is the Mosaic Café; the two stores; the piano bar/lounge and the photo gallery; the Casino and the Cabaret, which is the main entertainment venue. Deck 4 has the Guest Relations area amidships, with the shore excursion desk, future cruise sales and concierge. There are also additional cabins and the medical center. Deck 3 has only access to the tenders or gangway as needed, although there is also gangway access on Deck 4 from the Guest Relations area. Altogether it is a compact and efficient design, although the passageway along the photo gallery could get crowded when the audience from the Cabaret shows exited. The shipboard New York Times was delivered to our cabin as a suite perk, and we had 235 free internet minutes. The Times and international editions were available around the ship. The internet service was slow of course, but always available. Some TV stations were out of range at time, and generally the room television offerings were not much to entice long viewing. There were movies shown every day. Dining aboard This is where Azamara Quest really shines. We have always felt that Crystal Cruises offers the best overall dining experience, and we still do. We also have greatly enjoyed Oceania’s Marina with its four imaginative and wonderful complimentary specialty restaurants. But if Crystal rates a 98, and Marina a 96, then Quest gets a 95. It may seem strange, but two very ordinary, homely menu items reflect this – potatoes and soups. Potatoes were served in the buffet for breakfast and lunch (and probably dinner also) and always were fresh and flavorful. I am of Irish ancestry and care about my potatoes. These were really something to look forward to. When they showed up on the dining room menus for diner, they were just as fine. The same can be said of the soups. There were always two at the lunch buffet and three, including one cold soup, in the dining room at night. They were always rich, flavorful and hot. We talked to the buffet maître’d about this and he described how they were made with a long cooking process from rich stock to extract all the possible flavors and rich variety of taste. This is how soup should be crafted. Edith, a vegetarian, was generally delighted with the offerings in this category, especially the wide choice available for lunch at the buffet. The only mild disappointment I felt was, oddly, with the filet mignon served with the “turf and surf” choice in the main dining room. It was comparatively tasteless compared to the lobster accompanying it, and the other entrees experienced on the balance of the trip. The breakfasts were up to the high level of the better cruises with a good selection of fruits for me and a number of hot items like mushrooms, beans, and potatoes which Edith loved. The coffee unfortunately was not that good, but we have seldom found good coffee in the buffets on any ship. The evening dinners at the Waves Buffet usually had an ethnic food theme; everything from Vietnamese to Middle Eastern to French to Tex-Mex. We went to this last, and found it very good, with a decent selection of offerings. The officers and crew It should first be noted that the passenger to crew ratio is 1.9 to 1. Anything below 2 is very good and shows a commitment to serving the passengers. This was apparent in the very quick room makeup and the generally excellent service in all the dining areas. In addition, the overwhelming majority of the crew was very friendly and helpful. The Hotel Manager, Philip, set the tone with his presence all over the ship, friendliness and generally pleasant attitude. The ship’s master, Captain Jose, also put in frequent appearances, and was very approachable and willing to enter into conversations. When I expressed one concern to the Cruise Director, Russ, he dealt with it quickly. The ship’s overall appearance was excellent, with cleaning and maintenance an obvious priority. Entertainment We would cast ourselves as a tough audience when it comes to shipboard entertain-ment, but we felt that Azamara did a pretty fair job, given the space limitations of the Cabaret Lounge. The usual “singers and dancers” were six in number, with two being only dancers, and the other four largely confined to singing. Their skill level was fairly high, and we enjoyed the fact that they kept the sound level to barely tolerable as contrasted to intolerable on some cruise lines. The choice of songs was decent. They performed four shows on a fourteen night cruise, which is a lot. We did walk out of one of the early shows, a male pianist who seemed to believe pianist skill was best demonstrated by pounding the instrument into complete submission. A female solo singer was good, as were a song and dance team. A second pianist doing mostly Broadway show tunes was quite good. We had a magician for two nights, and since I am a sucker for a magician, I enjoyed him thoroughly. The Azamazing Evening was Sunday night in the port of Leith before sailaway. I did not attend as I was tired from attending the Open at St. Andrews. But Edith and all we talked to who attended it were delighted with a tour of a castle providing lots to see, plenty of bagpipe music and spectacular fireworks. I should note that Russ, the cruise director, had been a stage production singer for many years, and he joined the regular singers and dancers for two of their shows, with very pleasing results. On board activities With one exception, this was quite dismal. The destination lecturer, Charles Richardson, was very good, with informative presentations about Norway and geology. We did feel that scheduling two of his talks at 9:00 in the morning was not a good idea, since it meant getting up very early for breakfast on a sea day when that would not normally be required. He did mention needing the Cabaret Lounge for rehearsals, but some forethought could have come up with better timing. The rest of the activities were a waste of time as far as we were concerned. They consisted of mainly of trivia games, bingo and pitches for the spa and art auction. Azamara need serious work in this facet of shipboard offerings. Ports of Call and shore excursions Bergen. We had arranged for a local tour beginning with a boat trip to another town with a museum. Unfortunately, we were a little late in docking and could see no transportation available to get us to our debarkation point by 8:50, so this was a loss. My ability to walk any distance is limited, so Edith went ashore herself and walked around the area near the ship. She reported it as a pleasant town. Flåm. The main attraction in this town is the railway journey into the mountains. The tour offered by the ship filled quickly, as did one other tour run by a local company, and I thought we might be out of luck. But the Norwegian Railway reserves some tickets and they are not available until 90 days prior to the use date. So I went on the railroad’s web site 90 days prior and purchased 2 tickets with no problem. The on-line cost per person was $81.50, while the Azamara price was $169.75 per person, more than twice as much. It was a very pleasant trip providing a great introduction to Norwegian mountain scenery. The grade is very steep, and you go up over 2400 feet in a comparatively short distance. After our return we visited the small museum attached to the souvenir store and were impressed by how much work and time went into the construction. Geiranger The reason for this destination is the very spectacular fjord, quite deep and comparatively narrow, with the Seven Sisters waterfall along the way. We had bought very reasonable tickets on a local tour in a boat that holds about 200 people. It provided frequent stops which gave us a great many fine photo opportunities in a 90 minute circuit. This was a tender port, with a number of other ships visiting, but the tender trips were fast and easy since the fjords are very calm. Svolvaer-Lofoten Islands – Troll Fjord This is a small town, but we had rented a car and with another couple drove about 50-60 miles south on this island which has a fjord on one side and the North Sea on the other. The car rental, with gas, cost about $120.00 for two couples, so we got to see a lot for very little, since the trip down and back took about 5 hours. There were a number of spots providing wonderful views, and at the south end there was a small harbor with a Norwegian Coast Guard cutter docked. We managed to find a spot with coffee and pastry, and generally enjoyed being on land all day and seeing real Norwegian living. After departing Svolvaer the Captain took us into the Troll Fjord, about 2 hours away. This is a very narrow passage, and while we were not quite able to touch the sides of the mountain as hinted by the Cruise Director, we were within a few feet. This was quite entertaining. When we reached the end of the fjord the Captain did a 360º turn, within the ships length, by using the bow thrusters and stern thrusters in opposite directions. Since Quest is only 593 feet long, it could do this but I doubt that many other cruise ships would be able to accomplish such a maneuver. In fact, while we saw a number of other ships in several ports, they all seemed less than 75,000 gross tons – none of your massive floating hotels. It is not the depth of the fjords that limits ships, they are all quite deep; it is the narrow quarters. Tromsø Tromsø is a good sized city of more than 70,000 people, partly on an island and partly on the mainland with a bridge connection. It has a number of attractive buildings. I stayed on board, but Edith walked through the town up a hill to a pleasant lake surrounded by nice homes. The weather was very mild, and she said that this was one town she would like to visit for a few days. It has an airport capable of handling jet flights to Bergen and Oslo. Honningsvåg This is the gateway to the North Cape, the northernmost mainland point in Europe at 70º10” North. Six of us rented a car and first proceeded to the Bird Safari located on the west side of the peninsula. This provided a 90 minute sea tour through neighboring islands, in a boat holding about 60 people, for the purpose of seeing the nesting places of a wide variety of sea birds, and photographing them. They included cormorants, gannets, puffins and Norwegian eagles which is about the size of the bald eagle, with grey markings, and the classic raptor flight. We also saw seals, but they were difficult to photograph against the rock backgrounds. The boat provided complete waterproof coveralls, which kept us totally warm and dry, although the weather was basically good. This was a good trip, which cost us $80.00 per person on line; but $264.75 on a ship’s tour. We then drove up to the North Cape itself, about another 30 miles. There is a 225 NOK ($28.00) per person entrance fee which lets you into a modern building with a cinema room featuring a 20 minute film about the Cape, a small Thai museum commemorating the 1907 visit of the King of Siam to the cape, a small chapel, a large souvenir store and a buffet restaurant featuring reindeer stew. There was an outside area leading up the Cape itself. It was extremely windy, with some rain, and we felt that the high fence was necessary, but we could see the neighboring capes and get a sense that we really were at the top of Europe. We then drove back to the ship. The cape area has no trees, and is quite barren, but we passed several reindeer herds, and were thrilled when one herd, stags, does and fawns decided to cross immediately in front of us while we stopped to let them by and had a good look at these very attractive creatures. The fawns are dark brown, which makes them highly visible, while the adults are a soft dun color. Our stop in Honningsvåg was from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M, and we would have had a midnight sun if it had not been cloudy, but it still was light out at midnight. Our car rental was $26.00 apiece, so the total day was $132.00 per person. The ship’s tour of the North Cape was $179.75. per person. This meant a total of $444.50 compared to our cost, and we had the freedom to take as much time as we wanted, and travel in a nice small van while saving over $300.00 apiece - $600.00 per couple! Altogether, we were delighted with this adventure. Olden This did not work out well. I had booked a tour of one of the few attractions at this stop, the Briksdalen Glacier, for a five hour van tour. I was a little concerned when I received no response to my request for an e-mail telling us where we would make contact. The firm I dealt with was called “Porttrips International” which still has a website. I had paid for 8 people by credit card, and received checks from the three couples joining us. When we walked off the ship, there was no Porttrips vehicle in sight in the very small dock area. We walked into the small town (about four stores) and back, and contact with the locals told us no one had heard of this company. We had little choice but to take either a local bus up to the glacier for a quick round trip tour, or take a small ”train” trolley with two small open cars around a local lake for 150 NOK, about $18.00. We chose this option which took about 80 minutes and was quite pleasant. The good news is that my credit card company has issued me a full credit, and my fellow passengers have all been reimbursed. Disembarkation The passengers taking a ship provided bus directly to the airport seemed to do quite well; while those of us taking taxis had a wait, mostly spent on board with trips outside to check the line for cabs. There were seven cruise ships docked in Copenhagen, but Azamara seemed to have the pier closest to town, which was nice. When we got our taxi the fare to our hotel in central Copenhagen, near the Tivoli Gardens and main railroad station, was less than $10.00. Reflections and Miscellaneous Norway is a pleasant, very scenic country, with a population that by and large speaks excellent English. While it has the fourth highest standard of living in the world, there is no great display of wealth and little of poverty. There is a lot of graffiti, which surprised Edith. We were surprised by the fact that homes were scattered all along the fjords, seemingly far from anything. While some remote farms were abandoned, most of these homes were served by roads with regular auto and truck traffic. All the homes appeared to be in excellent condition, and the neighborhoods well cared for. Everyone we spoke to or dealt with was very pleasant and helpful. If one can deal with the dark, cold winters, it is a fine country to live in. Our fellow passengers were mostly American, with the usual leavening of our northern neighbors from Canada, and a fair representation of New Zealanders and Australians. There were few Germans, perhaps because it is easier for them to cruise on ships based on the continent. And the English travel on Fred Olsen and P&O cruise lines. Most passengers were in the retired age bracket, but there were others and three or four teen-agers. Final words Was this a worthwhile trip? I felt so although Edith was perhaps not as enthusiastic. There were times when it was a bit boring, and the fjords have a lot of similarity. But I felt it was so unique and beautiful that a bit of repetition was acceptable. I would recommend this cruise, and Azamara has a lot to offer; a neat small ship, really excellent food, great service and friendliness. If the activities are weak, and the standard veranda cabins on the small side, these defects can be tolerated. So my overall rating would be 4+. Bon Voyage! 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Sail Date: July 2015
My husband, Bill, and I live in Anderson and Charleston, SC. I'm 51; he's 54. We have four adult children. We love to travel on land or by sea. I'm retired; Bill still works (more than full time). This was our 4th Azamara ... Read More
My husband, Bill, and I live in Anderson and Charleston, SC. I'm 51; he's 54. We have four adult children. We love to travel on land or by sea. I'm retired; Bill still works (more than full time). This was our 4th Azamara cruise, and we're very loyal to Azamara and Celebrity. We flew Delta Business Elite into Amsterdam and stayed at the Amstel Intercontinental. It's one of our favorite cities and one of our favorite hotels; I highly recommend it. Then we flew Easy Jet to Edinburgh (tolerable). Check in was a little disorganized, but nothing really to complain about. Possibly a new company? Once on board, we were welcomed by familiar faces and familiar surroundings. This is one of the best things about Azamara; the ships are the same and the officers and staff rarely change. I think they are genuinely happy to see you. Both the Journey and the Quest are going to be refurbished in early 2016. Although the ship was very clean and well cared for, it's time for a facelift. We were lucky enough to see the "model" cabin, and it's lovely. I can't wait to see the entire ship. We stayed in room 7018, a balcony room. We've considered upgrading to a suite, but for us, at this point, it's not necessary. The room was just as we expected. Our stateroom attendant was acceptable, not outstanding which was a surprise. However, his assistant made up for it. Activities are customized to fit the guests. We love the lectures, trivia, ship tours, etc. There's always plenty to do. The service is always excellent; Philip, the hotel manger, is gracious and hospitable. If you have any concerns, questions or need something, he makes it happen. The Captain and the entire crew are committed to providing the best service and experience for their guests. For such a small ship, the entertainment is extraordinary; I really don't know how they do it. Russ, the Cruise Director, is to be commended. We're food and wine enthusiasts, so we always sign up for all the Chef's table dinners. We attended the French, Italian, California and Caviar dinner. We enjoyed meeting the other guests. The food, wine and service was as expected. Although, the sommelier and the chef were a little long winded for our taste, but I'm sure others appreciated the comprehensive explanations. There is an additional charge; we feel the cost is appropriate. Sign up as soon as you get on board to insure a seat, space is limited to 14. Other nights in the dining room met our expectations. The British Open shore excursion was a blast! Our tour guide was lovely and the drive to St. Andrews was very pleasant. Even with the wind, rain, and chill we had the best time and got to see all the players close up. The Lofoten Islands shore excursion was very good and just the right amount of time. All the ports are spectacular (Edinburgh, Bergan, Flam, Gudvengen, Geiranger, Svolvaer, Tromso, Honningsvag, and Olden) and trolling the Fjords was not to be missed. We did several excursions on our own: the Flam Railway, a drive to North Kapp and wondering with friends. Arriving in Coppenhagen was bittersweet. It's another of our favorite cities, but we hated to leave all our new friends and the ship. Disembarkation was seemless. Of course, everyone was there to say goodbye. Philip even helped load my bags into the taxi. For us, the reason we are so committed to Azamara is the quality of our fellow travelers. I would describe the typical Azamara customer as those who have "been there and done that". Typically, they're experienced travelers, semi-retired executives/professionals/academicians who are sophisticated but understated and are most interested in the destination. Read Less
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