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5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
This was our 4th Azamara cruise, first time on Quest. Journey and Quest are identical in looks but overall, we would say we slightly prefer Journey, mostly for the food. Not sure if the chefs move around from ship to ship, but we seemed to ... Read More
This was our 4th Azamara cruise, first time on Quest. Journey and Quest are identical in looks but overall, we would say we slightly prefer Journey, mostly for the food. Not sure if the chefs move around from ship to ship, but we seemed to have enjoyed our food immensely on Journey, particularly in the specialty restaurants, and would only rate the same restaurants average to good on Quest. Also, the staff on Journey seems to be a bit more organized. Many servers got our drink orders wrong with the exception of our dear friend, Mariano Costa, the best bartender at sea! He is a gem. Also, the cruise director and hotel director on Journey seem to be much more visible than the ones on Quest. Anyway, the ship was spotlessly clean, embarkation and debarkation were a breeze. Our ship was only 2/3 full so there was a ton of space and no waits for anything. The entertainment was pretty good, particularly, Teodor, the guitarist and the show staff who did a bang up job on all the nights. There were a lot more kids on this cruise which surprised us but it was nice to see them enjoying themselves. Just not sure why parents would choose this ship for little ones. Oh well, to each his own! We upgraded to a suite and enjoyed the extra amenities. Our butler, Xavier and our stewards Erwin and Mark were wonderful. It was great to have extra space, free internet, the 4 bottles of booze, afternoon tea and evening snacks and our laundry/ironing taken care of. They were very helpful and friendly, especially Erwin. The big issue we had was with LCV. We originally had $200 OBC and when we got on the ship, we had a letter stating we had $300 OBC. I assumed it was because we upgraded to the suite (at a cost of $398) so I decided to upgrade our over the water cabana on Labadee and to book a spa appointment to spend the OBCs. On the last day of the cruise, I noticed that we had a message on our phone. It was from the assistant purser telling us that they made an error and we only had $200 OBC. I sent my husband down to the front desk to discuss this but they refused to credit us, so I ended spending more than my allotted OBC. Mind you, they did leave a phone message, but the message light on the phone is tiny and they slipped all other notices under our door, so why not this one telling us about the error? I don't look at the phone that carefully on vacation! Anyway, I think they should have eaten the $100. There were a bunch of travel agents on the ship and when we told them about this, they all agreed that the LCV didn't do the right thing. It's little things like this that cause passengers to cease being loyal. The ports were OK. Tortola got swapped out for St. Kitts, due to the hurricanes. We had been to St. Kitts twice already but we spent the day at the Palms Court Gardens which was nice. St. Bart's was OK. Still a lot of stores closed in Gustavia. Shell Beach at sunset was nice. Labadee was great. We were the only ship in port so it was really uncrowded. We booked an over the water cabana at Barefoot Beach which was lovely. We had a cabana attendant who brought us lots of drinks. The ship sent us off with a lovely picnic basket loaded with food (probably could have fed 6 people and we were only 2!). The water was delightful. Everyone on the ship wished we could have stayed longer in Labadee! Overall, we had a great time. As usual, we met a lot of really nice people and relaxed. I'd like to try a Christmas/New Year's cruise next. We got a little taste of it with caroling, a Hanukkah celebration and saw the large gingerbread house that the chef made. Definitely got us in the holiday spirit! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2017
Terrific food, space, absence of crowding and lines, perfect maintenance, lovely spaces, and, most of all, Azamara's outstanding service were high points for me on Azamara Quest. Staffers' kindness and empathy on Azamara Quest ... Read More
Terrific food, space, absence of crowding and lines, perfect maintenance, lovely spaces, and, most of all, Azamara's outstanding service were high points for me on Azamara Quest. Staffers' kindness and empathy on Azamara Quest were memorable, and are what may bring me back. I chose Azamara for its reputation for terrific food, and I wasn't disappointed in the free dining. Caesar salad with anchovies on top (or not -- you have to request anchovies), escargot, English bacon...were offered every day, and I had lots of lovely dishes, such as duck confit. The really outstanding thing, that will bring me back, perhaps, for another happy, cosseted experience was the outstanding service. Azamara had almost 100% kind, simpatico, helpful staffers monitoring everyone to see how they could help. I went on my own but never felt lonely or alone. Azamara people just can't be beat--training? recruitment? high pay? I don't know how they do it, but it was even better than Princess and substantially better than NCL Sky. All three had terrific, helpful, thoughtful staffers, but Azamara's staffers were almost ALL outstanding. Downside was the drinks. My cheapo inclusive NCL Sky trip had better drinks. I think the Azamara free wine choices were just two reds and two whites each night, and as a student in many, many wine classes, I found almost all the red wines thin and acidic--not very well chosen. And I think the mixed drinks were far too sweet. But the food was great and the service was even better. I also didn't like having to vacate my cabin by 8 am. Cruel! I liked that having tips and drinks included in the price knocked $20-$65/day off the cost, making Azamara the best value among the deluxe lines--other high-end inclusives cost more. The Quest had many beautiful spaces for sea- and port-gazing that weren't at all crowded and that offered snacks and drinks. And there was plenty or time in the well-chosen ports. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
We have cruised on Azamara at least 5 time prior to this cruise so we had a level of expectation. It was not met in many respects. Since Azamara had a promotion on the air flights they booked our arrival to the San Juan airport for a ... Read More
We have cruised on Azamara at least 5 time prior to this cruise so we had a level of expectation. It was not met in many respects. Since Azamara had a promotion on the air flights they booked our arrival to the San Juan airport for a 5:49 PM arrival. By the time we got our bags and a taxi it was around 7 PM when we got to the ship which was scheduled to leave at 9 PM. At the doc there were no Azamara personnel and no porters to take our luggage. We dragged our luggage to and through a security check point. Then the problem really started. The gang way was not a ramp but about 50 steps straight up. NO HELP AVAILABLE! We our both in our 70's and in 85 degree humid weather had to schlep our bags up 50 steps. Upon entering the ship we got the normal BS welcome and an offer of a glass of wine. I told them instead of wine perhaps luggage help would had been nice. Blank looks was what I got. The next problem was that by arriving late I could get only lousy reservation at the extra cost restaurants. Other ships allow online bookings in advance. Azamara needs to adopt this. The next day, 12/28/16, we had booked to go to Saint Martin's Orient Beach which we had been to many times before this visit. More about this advance booking later. The trip left over an hour late and Azamara took us to the tender a back route through the ship and completely forgot there was no beach towels or water for us until I asked. They then treated me disrespectfully for asking. Eventually they hand carried them to us on the tender. On 12/29/16 we just shopped in St. Barts. It is very French and very expensive. I looked at my onboard account and noticed a charge for our trip to St. Martin that I had prepaid. I called Customer Relations and told them of the error. The young lady was very condescending and said if I didn't believe her that I had not prepaid to call my credit card company if I had a cell phone. I did not call figuring I will wait until I get home and check. On 12/30/16 we were at St. Kitts for the Azamazing Evening at the Gouverneur General's Home. It was a great event. Music, food and a police motorcade. On 12/31/16 in St. Kitts we had a shore trip that everyone thought was to the Marriott to use the pool and beach. What did we get? about 3 hours of sightseeing a then being told we had ONE HOUR at the Marriott. Who can enjoy the pool and beach in one hour. VERY DISSAPOINTING. The New Year's White Night Party was good until the ship did not leave on time at 9 PM because it was windy. The next morning we were told the ship did not leave until 6 am because the side thrusters were too weak to get the ship away from the dock. Since we were late leaving we would skip stopping at Tortola and have 3 days at sea instead of two days as we headed to our final destination of Miami. Upon getting home I saw that I had been double charged for the Saint Martin's trip and had to call and spend 30 minutes getting someone to refund my money. We have cruised on Crystal, HAL, RCCL, Celebrity, Princess, NCL. Azamara is our preferred line but they sure under performed on this trip! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
We wanted to get away over the New Year and this cruise was available. We have previously travelled with Royal Caribbean on bigger ships and wanted to see what a small ship would be like. After booking, we had visited the ship for a ... Read More
We wanted to get away over the New Year and this cruise was available. We have previously travelled with Royal Caribbean on bigger ships and wanted to see what a small ship would be like. After booking, we had visited the ship for a morning when it was berthed at Southampton. Our impressions were good and we looked forward to trying it for real. We flew out on Boxing day, with American airlines, changing planes at Philadelphia. This was not ideal as we had to fly from Heathrow, yet live 20 minuted from Gatwick. However, The flights were great-both left on time and were shorter than scheduled. Transfers and accommodation the Embassy Suites, was perfect and at midday we were taken to the ship. Quest is a lovely ship to be in-really delightful. Perhaps not a beauty from the outside-especially with the blue hull (a matter of taste). Everything was first class, in our opinion. We had a meal in the Windows Cafe-quite an exceptional buffet -and then left the ship to grab a taxi for a tour of San Juan. When we got back we toured the ship to get a feel of it and liked what we saw. Mostly understated quality. In the evening we had a meal under the stars, behind the Windows Cafe- really first class. Mind you, it then began to rain, but after we had finished. We ate in Discoveries for most of the other evening meals-and it is very good. The food was, to our palate, great-and the service, quiet and effective. What made it so good, was our fellow passengers would swap experiences with us over dinner-we were normally next to either American or Canadians-all lovely people. One couple waited until we had our wine and then toasted our health to introduce themselves. Mosaic Cafe is a lovely cafe, serving great snacks-not too big, but tasty. Coffe is good as well. Our cabin was a forward Verandah on deck 7. It was lovely-comfortable beds, looked great and the verandah was big enough for us to have breakfast in when we had a shore excursion. The shower is small and has a curtain-which does not bother me but I do understand it might irritate some people. My wife used the spa for daily work outs and praised the staff-I used the crosstrainer which was fine. I like the fact that the jogging deck is around the pool, so that one stays part of the ship.The swimming pool is small-no real swimming in it-but the loungers are comfortable and generally available. Turning to entertainment, this was something that we thought may be lacking when compared to larger ships. We were both right and somewhat wrong about it. Some of the shows were good-others not quite so good. Our Cruise Director is very good at his job and has a great manner. However, when he fronted a show, his songs were re-arranged to suit his vocal range. He would be better to support the singers rather than front. Dancing was terrific-there were superb and there were good-but enjoyable for all that. We enjoyed the music and dancing in the Living Room, on deck 10. This is a lovely open space that changes character throughout the day. The dance floor is good, and it hosts a DJ session every night (The Abba Night was particularly good, if crowded) As New Years eve was whilst we were aboard, it was combined with the White Party event-and, from our perspective, was the best New Year we have had. Food, music, dancing and a wonderful sense of fun-it had it all. The Azamazing Evening was on Antigua and, again, was a fantastic event. We had a police escort from the ship to the Governors Residence and some rally good local canapés and rum punches, plus the best Steel Band I have heard and a local singer and band that took our breath away. We enjoyed all the Islands-St Martin, St Barts, Antigua and St Kitts. Unfortunately, the tour we had booked on St Barts was cancelled and we had to miss our tour in Virgin Gorda as we could not leave the pier at St Kitts in time to reach the island, so had to miss it completely. The two tours we actually got, were on Antigua and St Kitts and both were fun, good value and showed us a side of the Islands we would not have seen. Wandering around St Martin and St Barts was equally enjoyable, but probably not so informative. Finally, the staff and service onboard could not have been better. Everyone was pleasant and we wanted for nothing. So, in short, Azamara will certainly be one of the cruise lines that we would happily use in the future. There are advantages in larger ships, but there are certainly advantages in travelling with Azamara. Our choices will be destination driven. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
694 people signed up for a cruise advertised as New Year's Eve in St. Barts!!!!!!! On every photo it said south beach to st. Barts New Year's Eve!!!! Why didn't they deliver what was promised???? Why don't the ... Read More
694 people signed up for a cruise advertised as New Year's Eve in St. Barts!!!!!!! On every photo it said south beach to st. Barts New Year's Eve!!!! Why didn't they deliver what was promised???? Why don't the passengers have any recourse????? All of us could have taken any cruise line!!!! We signed up because we were going to st barts. The captain knew that the harbor was going to be busy. He knew in advance that we were going to tender! Why weren't the proper provisions made???? My entire 8 day cruise was ruined as was everyone else's!!!! That is all anyone spoke about!!! People came from all over the world to go on this cruise!!! The food was awful, the service wasn't great, they had the casino closed for 3 nights! Who heard of a casino closed on New Year's Eve???? it was beyond boring!!! instead of being in st barts where the casino would of opened at 6pm we were docked in st Maarten where we were the previous day until 12 midnight!!!! We were there for the aza amazing evening!!! We were promised a 16 piece calypso band! I didn't know that we would be seeing 5 year old s playing the drums and women wearing inappropriate costumes dancing around!!!! We tendered in Nevis and virgin gorda where the water was rougher. Two men took your hand and put you in the tenders, no big deal!!! Supposedly in st barts, one or two tenders went out. The president of azamara was on our ship and you know that his wife was on one of those tenders!!!!! We had to wait for 5 hours while the people who had excursions came back!!! They let them go, because they made money on that , but the other people who wanted to explore on their own, were tole that the water was too choppy and couldn't get off!!!! How did the other 154 yachts get their passengers off and into st barts??????? The only nice thing about the cruise was the room was crisp and clean!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Having been on many cruises with various companies we decided to try Azamara Journey as the itinerary (which is usually how we choose a cruise)was a bit unusual.We had looked at some reviews and seen they were very good and we would ... Read More
Having been on many cruises with various companies we decided to try Azamara Journey as the itinerary (which is usually how we choose a cruise)was a bit unusual.We had looked at some reviews and seen they were very good and we would definitely agree. We booked the cruise through a very good cruise agent and booked our flights and pre-cruise hotel separately(which we have done quite a few times)and there was no problems,apart from the tiring journey to pick up the cruise in San Juan,which was no different than anybody else travelling from the uk.After a night in a hotel in the old town we took a cab to the ship. We had no wait at all at the cruise check in and were quickly on the lovely ship. The ship and our cabin was lovely and yes the bathroom is very small but it did not cause a problem at all.The balcony was small but again it was nice to have the extra space.As mentioned in other reviews the staff are very friendly and seem to be genuinely happy in their work.We had a great captain (Jason) and a great cruise director Tony who seemed to be loving every minute of his working day and he was not at all overbearing and false as others we have met.He was backed up by a great team(alex especially),who provided hours of trivia and games,and along with some good professional entertainment we were kept amused. The food was generally very good and both the windows cafe and the restaurant had good decor and ambiance(all under the control of the lovely Heike),and the free wine when eating went down well(my husband had a beer package but said he would not do it again as the wine was good).The mosaic cafe was a good place to relax and meet people,with great waiters.We loved our time aboard and also enjoyed the ports of call(we had booked a couple of ship excursions at half price before we left)and found them to be good.We did our own thing in St Thomas,Bermuda and New York and also enjoyed that. Disembarkation was easy and relatively quick and we caught a taxi to a bag drop place in New York and went shopping before catching the train to Newark for our flight home. We will definitely travel with Azamara again as they offer friendly ships with what seems to be happy staff,and as an extra we feel that we have met some new friend in some of our fellow passengers. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
We booked the Azamara package so our flights were organised for us. It was a long journey to San Juan from the UK, made worse by a 6 hour stop over in Atlanta. If we cruise from San Juan again, we would consider stopping over after the ... Read More
We booked the Azamara package so our flights were organised for us. It was a long journey to San Juan from the UK, made worse by a 6 hour stop over in Atlanta. If we cruise from San Juan again, we would consider stopping over after the first flight and taking the second flight the next day. The Conrad Hilton in San Juan was lovely - Azamara chose well and everything about it was excellent. Transfer to the ship and embarkation was also very well organised. Our room was ready quickly and was immaculate. It was kept this way throughout by Mannish and Ever. From the moment we joined the ship we felt relaxed. Senior Officers and all staff were very friendly and welcoming. We were very impressed with staff at every level - nothing was too much trouble. Louise on Guest Relations is also a credit to Azamara and was always very helpful. Food was excellent everywhere on the ship. Room service was the best we have ever experienced and so too was the buffet in Windows. All credit to Heike and her team. Captain Jason must feel proud to lead such a wonderful team. Entertainment was fun - lots to do for those who wanted to join in. Tony worked hard and it showed. We liked the banter between him and Activities Manager Chris on the daily TV reports. The itinerary was special and didn't disappoint. Virgin Gorda, Bermuda and New York were the highlights for us. We didn't do any organised excursions but still managed to see everything that we wanted. The other thing that struck us was how friendly other guests were. We enjoyed making new friends and meeting many lovely people. This was our 10th cruise and so far has been our favourite. We will definitely cruise with Azamara again - you really do feel like part of an extended family. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2012
Our cruise was to begin on the 30th of March. We, as always, traveled to Puerto Rico a few days earlier and spent three days at the St Regis resort in the Rio Grande area of PR. I wanted to play a few rounds of golf before the cruise. I ... Read More
Our cruise was to begin on the 30th of March. We, as always, traveled to Puerto Rico a few days earlier and spent three days at the St Regis resort in the Rio Grande area of PR. I wanted to play a few rounds of golf before the cruise. I was able to get in one round and then the skies opened up for 2 and 1/2 days. Very unusual for this time of year. Through the resort we had contracted with First Class Limo service. So we went shopping on the wet days. They also had taken us from the airport to the resort and from the resort to the ship. We had originally taken a Club Continent Suite. We were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to an Ocean Suite. It was a beautiful space with a lot of room. The bathroom had a Jacuzzi tub and shower. Plenty of storage space. Our butler was very helpful and made sure we wanted for nothing. We had a very functional veranda. A table with 4 chairs where we had breakfast each morning and canapes and drinks each afternoon. We also had two chaise lounges with thick padding, covered with clean towels each day. The living room had a 52" Samsung TV. Great for watching the Masters. You literally had to find a reason to leave the room. We ate in the specialty restaurants each night, except for two. One was special dinner with the captain and some of his staff in the drawing room one evening. The dinner was called the best of the best and it was. The other was one night we wanted to try Discoveries, the main restaurant. My wife and I very rarely eat in the main restaurants on ships, and this was the same. It was noisy and the food was okay, not special. We liked Prime C the best. We are partial to Steak Restaurants. The shows were okay. Typical for a ship, however Hal Frazier was the exception. What a voice. I am a cigar smoker and found the area near the pool adequate for smoking and having an afternoon cocktail. My wife and didn't do any tours, preferring to go on our own for lunch and shopping. I did arrange for golf in St Thomas and in Bermuda. The concierge was very helpful in Bermuda. My wife and I loved the special attention we received on the ship from everyone and I think we will be hard pressed to find another ship as warm and a crew as nice as the people on the Azamara.. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
My partner and I are cruise addicts !We have travelled with most of the major cruise lines,this was our 1st sailing with AZAMARA and we cannot wait to revisit ! We have travelled with their parent company, Celebrity, but in our experience, ... Read More
My partner and I are cruise addicts !We have travelled with most of the major cruise lines,this was our 1st sailing with AZAMARA and we cannot wait to revisit ! We have travelled with their parent company, Celebrity, but in our experience, this was world's apart ! It was also our first cruise on a smaller ship, having been a fan of larger ships before. So how did it all compare ? We made our own travel plans from the UK to San Juan , we flew from Gatwick to Tampa, overnighted at the Marriott hotel within the airport ( excellent ) , the following morning ,we took a flight from Tampa to San Juan, on arrival we jumped into a taxi and 15 mins later we were checking in for the cruise . Check in was efficient and friendly, two thing we were surprised at, firstly, as we passed the check in desk , we were approached by a waiter , who told us there was a seafood buffet available that evening, we said we would prefer the main restaurant, we were told , 'this will be very busy sir, you come at 6.30 or 6.45 pm please?' we politely said we would take our chances and dine later ! We went to the main restaurant , Discoveries , at 8pm , and it was almost empty !!!!! The other surprise was, as we boarded the ship......the dreaded ship photo, complete with static background and ship superimposed !!! On the big 'holiday' ships you kind of accept and expect it, we didn't with this style of cruise. It was no big deal though, just we were surprised ! We boarded the AZAMARA JOURNEY, the lobby as you enter strikes you as being very smart, comfortable, and the thing that hit us was, it was so peaceful ! Ordinarily, when you board a ship, its hectic, noisy, people running around, this was the opposite.....wonderful !!! We were advised our staterooms were not available until 1.30pm, our carry on luggage was taken from us and placed directly in the staterooms for us , so we could go and enjoy lunch in the buffet restaurant. We made our way to deck 9 for lunch, the buffet was superb , as it was throughout the cruise. Ordinarily, we avoid buffets like the plague, not because we don't like the food, but because its all so hectic, difficult to find somewhere to sit, having to wait for the waiters to clear the previous occupants remnants etc. This was completely different ! Again , it was calm, plenty of tables, all prepared for you, waiters would offer to carry your plate for you, if you so wished ! The food choice was excellent , plenty of lovely fresh salads, soups, a carvery,hot dishes, wonderful breads, stir frys;s and heavenly desserts and ice creams ! All this , together with copious amounts of wine, a choice of red or white, which changes daily. Following a wonderful lunch, we made our way to our stateroom, Deck 8 , a balcony cabin. The cabin was beautifully appointed, fresh flowers, mini bar stocked with water and soft drinks ( all included) , flat screen TV plenty of drawer and hanging space. It has to be said , the cabin was actually quite alot smaller than others we have experienced, but with the extra space on deck etc, we found we were actually in this cabin alot less than normal ! The cabin was spotless, no dust anywhere, and beds were fantastic. The showeroom was small, and when I say small, I mean small !! You generally had a fight with the shower curtain in the shower, it would wrap round you and generally it won ! Has to be said though, again it was spotless and plenty of hot water day and night, so you could not really complain ! The main restaurant was excellent, we had some truly memorable meals, and no matter where we sat, we had fantastic waiters every meal, this includes the Buffet restaurant too ! Wine flowed freely and was always superb ! Mineral water and soft drinks , as well as speciality coffees ( lattes , espressos etc ) all available. The menu choice was extensive, with a choice of 'always available ' items such as prawn cocktail , caesar salad, steaks etc. The maitre d , made them selves known EVERY meal time, unlike the big ships, where you generally met the MAITRE d on 'tip night ' ! The deck space on this ship is wonderful, always plenty of lovely squashy sun beds, lovely thick mattresses and towel covers. The pool , although smallish was a perfect temperature , 2 whirl pools available . The gym was superb, plenty of hi tech equipment, and a very personable gym Instructor , a chap from Ireland, who was very friendly and approachable . Entertainment on board, was low key, a couple of shows from the singers and 1 by the cruise director, but the main entertainment for us was the dining experince. The thing that really stands out about Azamara, is the ships staff. EVERY single crew member you encounter , acknowledges you, with a cheery smile and a greeting. This went from Officers down to engineers, every single one was friendly. On this line tips are included, we still tipped a few who really stood out from the rest, this was hard to do, as I say, all the staff were outstanding ! We had a really fantastic experience and I hope AZAMARA is the success it deserves ! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2011
I don't know about you, but when I see a review that says "5 star+" or uses words and phrases such as "Incomparable. Supreme. Best ever. Completely terrific in every way" I tend to ignore them because in my mind I ... Read More
I don't know about you, but when I see a review that says "5 star+" or uses words and phrases such as "Incomparable. Supreme. Best ever. Completely terrific in every way" I tend to ignore them because in my mind I have to doubt the critical faculties of the writer. Nothing is completely perfect. If you share my mind-set then log-off now, because our recent Amazon cruise on Azamara Journey requires the use of all the above superlatives. It was, in fact, azamazing ©. Not that it started well ashore. Azamara sent us from London to Puerto Rico via Miami on American Airlines whereas some other UK guests were given a direct flight with British Airways. I had asked about the direct Gatwick - San Juan flight but was told it would entail a substantial extra charge. Apparently not for the other guests who said they were given the flight gratis. Then two of the four pieces of luggage we handed over to the ship's agent at the hotel we were accommodated in pre-cruise by Azamara in San Juan - luggage which, according to the document we were given, should next have appeared in our stateroom, didn't. Stolen? Lost? I suspect the former as they contained (legal) alcohol. I'm still waiting to hear what Azamara UK is going to do about this as under our laws they are responsible for property entrusted to them. Pre-cruise problems seem to be the norm with all shipping lines. If I was a psychologist I would suspect they are down to shore-side people getting their own back on passengers and crew who are off to more exciting climes while they languish behind desks. But I'm not a psychologist. In fact I think the people shore-side think they are doing a good job, and my answer to this misunderstanding would be to send the butler we enjoyed on Journey, Pravin, to explain to them what makes life on an Azamara ship azamazing. He was the epitome of good service. Leaving the shore-side problems ashore, was anything on board annoying? Yes. In our cabin the electrical sockets were underneath the dressing table. Whoever was responsible for that piece of ergonomic eccentricity should be made to walk the plank. Having to get down on your knees several times a day to search in the dark for power outlets was a pain in the patellas. And I can guarantee that if the appliance in need of connection had a European plug I would only be able to find the US sockets, and vice-versa. Our cabin also boasted two hot water taps in the sink - the cold tap never ran cold, but fortunately Pravin kept us well supplied with ice and bottled water. As suites go this was probably the smallest we have ever inhabited at sea with a balcony that was little more than one chair in depth. Bedside tables provided minimal space for books, wine glasses, watches, mobile phones ... all the usual paraphernalia of bedtime. By now you are probably looking back at the introduction to this review and wondering why it seemed to promise praise aplenty when all I have done so far is carp and bitch? In case you haven't reprised my introduction let me remind you it said "Nothing is completely perfect". QED. But, setting aside the above minor irritations, Azamara Journey came close to perfection. Despite being quite small our cabin - N1 Club Continent 8039 - was well, if simply, appointed, the bed was very comfortable, it was quiet despite being below the pool deck and was kept impeccably clean by Wayan and Erlinda. We never ran out of refreshments and toiletries were regularly replenished, as were towels. Sadly the latter were never converted into the animals of the sort we have always previously enjoyed on other cruise lines. I know, simple things please simple minds. The aircon worked quietly and well; important when you remember the temperature and humidity of rain forest country! To remain cool it was essential to ensure the balcony door was closed. That precaution also kept the numerous creepy-crawlies (and large, beautiful moths) outside. At night it was wise to turn the balcony light off and close the curtains so as not to attract the flying wildlife. Some of the unnecessary external lights on the ship were extinguished for the same reason, though each morning we would still find a scattering of large moths and grasshoppers on the deck, clinging to walls or in the scuppers. Jumping ahead, when we finally moored in Manaus just ahead was another R type ship, Regatta. At dusk it was lit from bow to stern and I have to say that it made Journey look the poor relation. Mid afternoon Pravin would appear with tea and cakes. Two hours later he reappeared with savouries. As we both started to balloon my wife, Chris, banned his visits but he seemed to know when she was away from the cabin and would arrive and persuade me, against her better judgement, to partake of cake and cookies. Then I had to hide the empty plate and make sure no crumbs remained in evidence. Surprisingly Journey was only two thirds full, so it was always possible to get a table in Windows or the MDR. While sailing down through the Caribbean we regularly took breakfast and lunch (and dinner one night) on the stern terrace and enjoyed sunshine with a cooling breeze. Once we approached the Equator the daytime sun proved too strong and people sought shady tables on deck or air conditioned seating inside. Food selection in Windows was very good, though it became a little repetitive during the second week. However the staff maintained the maximum level of service at all times, never flagging and always smiling. Chris and I thought the main dining room, Discoveries, had wonderful ambience, beaten only by the Olympic Grill on Celebrity Millennium. Again service was superb with nearly everybody remembering our names. The menu was good; the cooking and presentation great. Sadly the dress sense of many men was below par. The ladies without exception shone in their attire but perhaps 50% of partners in the MDR let their companions down. I can't imagine any country club having them as members. Put your foot (or should that be feet?) down next cruise girls and tell your menfolk that if they don't dress to a reasonable standard - and I'm not talking formal here - they can eat in the buffet with their mates. As suite guests we could eat in Prime C or Aqualina without charge. We tried each once but never bothered going back. The food was OK but the rooms are L shaped corridors that lack atmosphere and we found the service slow. I buy quite a lot of wine when at home (somehow "buy" sounds better than "drink"), and I found most of the freebie reds acceptable and provided in copious quantities. My wife was not quite as happy as she is no lover of Chardonnay, which dominated the available whites. So we invested in a few bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio for her. Also some French Chablis, which she refused to believe is made from the Chardonnay grape! I had previously read that if you didn't like the free wine offerings then other choices were available at 50% off. Not on our cruise. My top meal in the MDR was a simple one, the officers' lunch time buffet. Why? Because it featured my most favourite of all foods, roast suckling pig. Entertainment is not the main reason why anybody would book a cruise on Journey. With the exception of Eric deGray, cruise director magnifique, it was ok. Just. To be completely fair the ship's band was more than competent. However Eric's one man show was better than first rate and later during the cruise his Broadway spectacular was ... azamazing. If you like to entertain yourself quietly then Journey's library is top notch. Very comfortable and well stocked. Wonder which cruise ship library will be the first to offer Kindle (other e-readers are available) downloads? Having talked about the ship I should move-on to our itinerary. In St Barts (or is it St. Barths?) we made the mistake of hiring a convertible Smart car. Fun: except for the narrow, precipitous and poorly maintained roads which are inhabited by locals travelling at crazy speeds. Lovely island. At least the part we visited was. Unfortunately the map we had and the roads we spent hours trying to find did not compute, as somebody once said, so our wanderings were limited. Dominica was very lush and very hilly. This time we played safe and had booked the "50% off" ship's excursion to swim in the gorge where Pirates of the Caribbean 453 was filmed and enjoy the hot pools that are fed from the numerous sulphur springs. After breakfast we discovered my swimming things had not been packed so we rushed off the ship and finally located some in a back street store. As I'm not a strong swimmer I decided to avoid the gorge, which turned out to be a mistake as everybody was supplied with life vests. Ah well, I enjoyed the thermal springs. Mayreau is a tiny island, just one and a half miles in length and with 200 residents but no facilities for tourism. It's really a gorgeous stopping point for sailing boats and luxury yachties who want to get away from it all. And that's how my wife and I last visited Mayreau 29 years previously on a Camper and Nicholson 42 footer. The island hadn't changed much, but it did when 400 cruisers landed from Journey by tender and attacked an enormous b-b-q and bar that had been set-up by the ship's hotel staff. It was a major undertaking but I felt the crew enjoyed it as much as the guests despite the hard work because they all had time-off during the afternoon to go swimming in the very blue Grenadine sea. Barbados, our final Caribbean call, was a shock after Meyreau. Big and full of hustle, bustle and traffic. Again we hired a car, this time a mini jeep, and toured much of the island. We were shocked to find that the famous Sam Lord's Castle resort - which we had also visited all those years previously - had been gutted by fire 12 months earlier. But every cloud has a silver lining as its beach was deserted! A few sea days followed and then we noticed the ocean take-on a brownish hue even though we were still perhaps 100 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. It was around midnight when we actually entered the river and I have to admit to being in bed. It wouldn't have made any difference if I had been on deck as there was nothing to see on either side, the river being wider than the English Channel at this point. Macapa. I can't tell you about Macapa. It should have been our first Amazon landfall. Unfortunately it wasn't. We anchored off-shore for six hours while officials came and "inspected" Journey. One of the groups - I think it was the one of lesser importance - certainly inspected Windows cafe offerings at some length. I think it was the week after the country's tourism minister resigned following allegations, from memory, of corruption. I doubt the two events were directly connected, but whoever was responsible in Azamara or Brazil for this debacle and denied us the unique opportunity of being able to straddle the Equator line with one foot in each hemisphere deserves a good telling-off! To add insult to injury the enrichment lecture showed us all the things we would not be able to enjoy ashore in Macapa. We crossed the Equator near Macapa. Unfortunately King Neptune was busy but he and Queen what's-her-name accompanied by a bevy of scantily clad beauties made an appearance the following day, which was spent cruising up the river. Eric, of course, conducted the ceremony which revolved around the captain and a large number of passengers kissing a Dover sole. Wonder who later got it for dinner? Alter Do Chao was our first landfall in Brazil. It was a pleasant but quiet sort of place. Apparently it wakes-up at weekends when the rich folk arrive from nearby SantarEm. Santarem is the larger and more usual port of call for cruise ships on the Amazon. It is bordered by the Amazon and the Tapajós rivers. Both run along for many miles in the front of the city, side by side, without mixing. The Amazon's milky coloured water carries sediment from the Andes in the East, while the Tapajós's water is somewhat warmer and has a deep-blue tone. This phenomenon is called "The meeting of the waters". More on that phenomenon later. Boca de Valeria. I think this was perhaps the highlight of the cruise, though we went ashore with some trepidation. It is a typical Amazon village, stilted houses that are home for just 80 inhabitants. Should 400 outsiders be allowed to desecrate such an idyll? Well, before the tenders were even in the water three or four canoes carrying men, women, children, sloths and carved wooden fish were already circling Journey's anchorage. Ashore we were met at the tender station by an army of children who quickly but politely relieved passengers of the gifts we had been carrying - pens, crayons, notebooks and various knickknacks - and dolla' bills. Many had obviously arrived from nearby villages as it's a regular stop for cruise ships and they all knew the drill. Photo with sloth? One dolla' please. Photo with child in traditional dress? One dolla' please. And so on. There was a small church, lovely little school (with box for donations!) and to our great surprise a bar serving cold beer. River trips by canoe could be purchased for $5 per person and "local" handicrafts were available at reasonable prices. The village had rudimentary running water, electricity ... and satellite dishes. Otherwise it did appear to represent a different way of life and it left its mark on my psyche. Parintins was to be our second stop that day, so at lunch time the anchor was raised and we left the residents of Boca da Valeria to return to whatever they do on the 360 days each year when cruise ships aren't helping with the local economy. Journey made it to Parintins in just a few hours. This was a real town, but the reason we were there wasn't to simply explore the dusty streets but to attend a Boi Bumba. It's a sort of mini version of the Rio Carnival in which around 50 dancers don exotic costumes and fill a small stadium with colour, light and energy for an hour. Brilliant. Maybe this was the highlight of the cruise rather than Boca: so difficult to judge because the events were entirely different. Let's compromise and say this day was the highlight of the cruise. If you want to know more about the Boi Bumba try Google. And I feel really sorry for those passengers on Journey who missed the event. Manaus. After a much needed relaxing day "at sea" we finally arrived at the end of our Amazon odyssey. Journey was overnighting here and so on the first afternoon we took to a river boat to see - wait for it - another meeting (or not) of the waters. This time the inky black and well named Rio Negro and the light brown waters of the Rio Solimoes run side-by-side before joining the Amazon. We stopped on an island and wandered through the jungle seeing sloths and monkeys, large snails, giant water lillies and long columns of ants. Genuinely fascinating stuff. I asked our guide why there was a rope 30 feet up a tree? The answer: "if you were making this excursion during the rainy season that's where we would moor our boat!" The following morning we took an excursion around Manaus which we thought would allow us to see the famous opera house. It did, briefly, from the roadside. Major disappointment. Then it was off to the quite pleasant but badly organised airport. While we could check our bags on arrival we couldn't clear security until 60 minutes prior to departure of our Boeing 767. The long queue for the Miami flight (200 people mainly from the ship) just made it through passport control in time and the plane left only five minutes behind schedule. Miami. We stayed overnight at the Sheraton. Typical airport hotel, but the difference between hotel service levels and Azamara service levels came home to me in the bar. Having waited a while for service I finally caught the eye of a staff member. I got as far as "Could I have ...." before he responded "No. I'm not on duty here". Would never have happened on Journey. Despite some of the niggles I mentioned at the beginning of this review our cruise deserved five stars plus. The ship was fine; the food good; the itinerary interesting. But it was the staff who earned the +. Not just the cabin and wait staff but credit must also go the senior deck and hotel people who were always around, ever ready to chat. We probably saw the Captain, Jason, every day and while I am not certain he is totally comfortable in the role of public figure and the butt of Eric's jokes, he takes it in good part and exudes a degree of gravitas I have found worryingly lacking in some other skippers we have cruised with. Next spring we cruise with Seabourn again. They will have to pull-out all the stops to beat Azamara. We will certainly be back on Journey or Quest, by which time I hope they will have moved those damn electrical sockets. Read Less
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