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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
It is inexplicable why Azamara, when they drydocked the new to them Pursuit, did not add a pool heater. Although the pools on all the Old Renaissance ships are small and oddly shaped with their two whirlpools “pinching” the pool in the ... Read More
It is inexplicable why Azamara, when they drydocked the new to them Pursuit, did not add a pool heater. Although the pools on all the Old Renaissance ships are small and oddly shaped with their two whirlpools “pinching” the pool in the middle, Oceania made sure to add pool heaters, Azamara apparently cheaper out leaving the pool only functional for most when it is in the tropics. When we were quite surprised and commented to the in service staff we got shrugs and told that is how all the Azamara ships are. So if swimming is important to you as it is to us, beware you probably should choose a different cruise line Having said this, the staff are generally good, the staff/guest ratio and cabins fine (although like all R class ships on the small side. ,. Although I have heard from others that the food on Oceania ships are better, having been on both, I would rate them about the same with the exception of the smaller specialty restaurants on Oceania are free whereas the specialty restaurants on Azamara cost $30 each.3 for $70. On the other hand they have one free outing on shore which Oceania lacks....so on balance....unless you are a swimmer, or like the more frequent activities scheduled regularly on Oceania cruises or simply want to stretch out in a properly heated pool I would rate the two lines about the same...at least in their R class ships...with an edge to Oceania’s slightly larger Marina/Riviera and an edge to them if you are on a longer voyage as the costs of specialty dining in Azamara would more than offset one night’s activity. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
The first thing to say is that we had a great cruise and would recommend Azamara Journey. The staff members were all friendly helpful and efficient and it seems a very happy ship. It is worth noting that some staff members had been on ... Read More
The first thing to say is that we had a great cruise and would recommend Azamara Journey. The staff members were all friendly helpful and efficient and it seems a very happy ship. It is worth noting that some staff members had been on board for many years and seem loyal to the brand. The ship in general, with the exception of the Discoveries Restaurant at Dinner time, did not seem too crowded. Discoveries could be noisy but the food and service remained excellent. The food in general was a high standard in all restaurants but we found that the ambiance of the Specialty Restaurants along with the high quality of gourmet food and service gave us a refuge and a quiet place to dine. Both Prime C and Aqalina had their own menu which remained the same throughout the cruise but were supplemented by Chefs Specials each evening. Suite guests were invited to a special ‘Best of the Best’ dinner which was an exceptional evening The complementary wines were a reasonable standard, particularly the white wines and there was an adequate selection of included drinks at the bars. The internet is well below the standard expected of Azamara in that when and if you can connect it is slow and tends to drop out. The Suites are given 235 minutes but the package otherwise is expensive and difficult to justify. Our impression was that the decor was dull throughout most of the ship, the exception being the Drawing Room/Library which is very colourful & a very pleasant place to sit. The Forward lounge was another excellent space to relax and enjoy friendly waiter service. We booked private tours of Havana, Vinales, Cienfuegos and Trinidad but decided to use the ships shore excursion for Santiago de Cuba as the ship was due to sail at 15.00. Sadly the latter, a Panoramic tour in Santiago was very poor and a huge disappointment. This was one of the worst tours we have ever taken; firstly we could not hear the guide, Lucia above the traffic in town and she did not have a microphone to help her. Secondly we were not aware that the bus would not stop to see the Revolution Square etc - we drove slowly past the places of interest rather than being allowed time to see them close up. If this is the intention then it should be made clear in the tour description. Finally, we signed up for a tour without a lunch stop (who needs lunch when you are fed so well on board ship) but were in any case taken to a poor quality lunch despite protests from most of the group. We felt this was a waste of time that might otherwise have been enjoyed at the monuments. More importantly, it turned out to be a waste of food as most of the group did not eat much and lots of food was returned untouched. When there is a shortage of food in Cuba and the locals endure rationing, this was also embarrassing for us and our companions. A very comfortable way to see Cuba on Azamara Journey. Worth Knowing: Immigration: Be very careful filling out the Cuban visa which costs US$ 75 and is issued as you embark. The check in agent said any mistakes would mean you having to buy another visa as a cost of US$ 75. The Visa is good for all ports in Cuba. The first time ashore in Havana the Immigration line was long & generally slow. On subsequent days off the ship, it was a quick wave through after a very casual look at the passport. Local Currency You need to change your foreign currency at the cruise terminal in Havana or at a bank in the square outside the terminal. The exchange rate is fixed and common to all banks. If you use US $ you are surcharged 10% making a total of 13% commission. We were advised to use GB pounds and were charged the 3% commission only. This is common to Euros and Canadian $ also. The tourist currency is the CUC which is worth 25 Cuban Pesos, the money used by locals. Rest Rooms Cuba has a strong health service which is free to Cubans but the health care does not apparently extend to public health as is obvious in the state of toilets in restaurants and bars. You should also have some small change for the person manning the toilets. Apparently it is not necessary but fully expected and in return you will be given a hand full of toilet paper. Take some tissue with you in any case. Read Less
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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
We just completed two back-to-back cruises, the Chilean Fjords and Carnival in Rio, from San Antonio to Buenos Aires. We are an aged couple, in our seventies (and lots of similar cruisers on both journeys) and my wife has a mobility ... Read More
We just completed two back-to-back cruises, the Chilean Fjords and Carnival in Rio, from San Antonio to Buenos Aires. We are an aged couple, in our seventies (and lots of similar cruisers on both journeys) and my wife has a mobility problem (not many similar couples on the second journey). We’re veteran cruisers and we’ve been on the Azamara Quest six times. But this was the first time on the Pursuit. First some words on the itinerary. The Chilean fjords are spectacular, and especially El Brujo glacier – better, I find, than equivalent sights in New Zealand or Alaska but we’ve not done Norway yet. The Carnival in Rio (where the ship had a double overnight during the carnival season) is a singular event: the Sambadrome parade experience fantastic, so full of colour, unique sights, amazing floats and costumes, interesting bodies, much excitement and pleasure. Both journeys were troubled by bad weather – wind, rain, storms – that even led to port cancellations but the captain Carl Smith and Azamara compensated with other ports (unlike our recent experience on Oceania which cancelled two ports and offered nothing else). This is a crucial difference between the two similar cruise brands. The Pursuit is much like the Quest, not surprising of course because they both originated as “R” ships, commissioned for Renaissance, a line that went bankrupt after 9/11. (In fact we were on an “R” ship a week before the company’s demise.) The Pursuit is stylish and tasteful – I relish the marvelous ceiling (an original from Renaissance days) in the Drawing Room (really the library) and the Dali replicas and art work scattered about. The ship is well-maintained, clean and the staff work hard to keep public areas organized and pleasing. The Pursuit is small, under 800 passengers (and it wasn’t full for the second journey). We used a mobile wheelchair to navigate the ship. Distances are short. Elevators (two banks) work well, rarely delayed or overcrowded as on the bigger ships. But people in a similar situation ought to realize there are difficulties. Corridors are narrow and can occasionally be blocked by cleaning equipment. The joints between segments of the ship result in a number of raised metal ridges in the corridors that don’t like a transport chair. The doors to the outside are not automatic (unlike on say the newer Oceania Riviera) and the surface is raised – getting in and out requires effort and produces bumps. Likewise getting off or on the ship is a chore: the gangway is never an easy travel and can be steep or long. That said, staff are very helpful and always assisted when available and necessary. I should add that other passengers were also ready to help, and understanding. We had two different staterooms on the trip. On the first leg, that was a restricted ocean-view cabin – we looked out on a lifeboat. The cabin was small, dark, well-organized, with a tiny but adequate bathroom. Space was tight, in the room, on the toilet, in the shower – bed was big though. The second journey we had an accessible ocean-view: much larger, spacious bathroom, more light, a full view, nicely furnished, the same comfortable bed. Clearly the second room was far superior, and especially for anyone with mobility difficulties. Wi-Fi in both rooms was excellent. We had unlimited packages. I found the service much better than on Oceania Riviera or various Princess ships. Indeed the Pursuit had the best and fastest internet I’ve enjoyed on any cruise (including my previous trips on the Quest). One of the cardinal virtues of the Azamara experience is the ambience of their cruise ships, the Quest and for us now the Pursuit. Staff are polite, pleasant, helpful, and efficient. There's very little upselling, little promotion, the bane of the mega-ships, and what there is generally tasteful and avoidable. Captain Smith was always engaging in his assorted announcements. Ryszard Gusmann (hotel director) and German Castro (guest relations manager) were especially helpful – both of these individuals we knew from the Quest. Tony Markey (cruise director) was congenial in person and on the tv, though I did tire of his daily update of events already listed in the newsletter. (In fact if you stay in your stateroom announcements are usually not intrusive, unless you tune in to the local tv channel). Housekeeping staff were conscientious and efficient and obliging. One shore excursion individual, rushing to do her job, nonetheless took the time to explain patiently and carefully how we could find the transport we needed to reach the Sambadrome. Waiters in the restaurant were attentive (by contrast on Oceania Riviera you could go dry – no wine – waiting for the wine tyrant to resolve your plight). In fact service in all of the restaurants was superb. Only once did I come across an angry soul, and he was unhappy with Azamara, not its passengers: even he served me well. In short the Pursuit, like the Quest, is a friendly and gracious place where the staff at all levels seek to make the passengers comfortable and happy. Personally I find Azamara excels here, better than Crystal Symphony where service is also superb. Enrichment and entertainment (with a few significant exceptions) is not impressive however, and certainly not by comparison with Holland America (great lecturers) and Princess (usually quality production shows). I attended a first few lectures of the speakers but found the topics uninteresting and so too their presentations. I was particularly struck by the absence of a series of lectures on the past and present of carnival (though one was announced in the newsletter but never delivered!), since that was the theme of the second journey. We missed the various singers because, well, we’ve been too often bored by second-rate talent before. There was an excellent performance by a troupe of folkloric dancers of Chilean styles on the first journey: I’ve always found Azamara does bring first-rate local talent, authentic and engaging, on its voyages. We made the mistake of going to one comedy-magician show, Phil and Philippa Cass: found it awful, banal and vulgar - though, to be fair, the audience appeared to enjoy the performance. Standout acts we did enjoy were Nestor Santurino, guitar master, and dancers Dima & Sasha on the first journey, and the superb Tango Cervila on the second, as good tango as I’ve seen on the streets, cafes, and stages of Buenos Aires. The AzAmazing evenings, both in Montevideo, both the same carnival theme and the same performers but different venues, these were as usual amazing indeed, a captivating display of talent, full of imagination and colour and song, drums, and dance – plus the whole exercise of transferring and organizing the mass excursion of passengers was so well-done. We missed the white night parties (always lively), however, because these are no longer suitable for a couple like us – we can’t dance any more so why bother? – but we did secure some of the justly famous crepes offered at that event. Which brings me to the question of food. The cuisine on the Pursuit was as varied and excellent (with a few exceptions) as on the Quest. Only the Windows café, the evening themed buffets, I thought less appealing: the Quest offered fabulous seafood dishes, prepared as requested, and such didn’t exist on the Pursuit. Nor did I find the buffet offerings very enticing, though certainly varied and popular with other guests. I was especially struck by the extent of the menu and the quality of the offerings of the main dining room: tasty escargot and most appetizers, delicious soups (seafood, pea, gaspacho, etc.), a fine caesar salad, tasty steaks and seafood, a very good cheesecake (unusual in cruise fare). Fish dishes were not always so great, taste too mild, but still decent. I did miss the lack of pasta on the menu though. The Patio had fine burgers and dogs for lunch and good steaks for supper. Prime C, the specialty steakhouse, offered a superb ribeye (indeed all the steak dishes were very good) and a super swordfish steak. Aqualina, the other speciality restaurant, I found less compelling – the dover sole on offer was no match to that available on Oceania Riviera's French restaurant. And there’s no equivalent to Oceania's or Crystal's fabulous speciality Asian restaurants. But there was so much good food available (including through room service which was especially appealing for breakfast) that any gourmet – or glutton – could find the requisite quality and abundance. Always we were served wine we liked, either sparkling or Chilean, as part of the standard package: indeed the Chilean cabernet sauvignon on offer was exceptionally fine. Finally as to shore excursions. They are much too expensive, compared to Princess or Holland America, and lack the variety of those cruise lines. One scheduled excursion we booked on the Falklands was cancelled because weather cancelled the port. Another, viewing sea lions off Punta del Este, was too short and the playful beasts too far away. By contrast the excursion to the Sambadrome, if super-expensive (we booked the box seats), was worthwhile. First of all, it was very well-organized, and under chaotic conditions. The tour staff Azamara used were especially solicitous to the needs of clients, and in particular looked after my wife and I – they ensured she had an excellent view of that extraordinary parade of colour and excitement. So the price was exorbitant but the experience was one of those life memorable events cruise lines like to hype. Still, overall, Azamara needs to look again at its offers and pricing which can’t compare to what, say, other cruise lines supply, never mind non-cruise commercial tour vendors. Still, altogether another wonderful experience. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
Chose Azarmara because we did not want to be on a giant cruise ship with thousands of our closest friends. We chose this particular cruise because we wanted to experience Cuba and not just stop one place for a few hours. Service was ... Read More
Chose Azarmara because we did not want to be on a giant cruise ship with thousands of our closest friends. We chose this particular cruise because we wanted to experience Cuba and not just stop one place for a few hours. Service was stellar everywhere we went. After a couple of days in Windows Cafe, the server called me Diet Coke with a smile because it was a small enough ship to get to know people. Themed food night in some of the restaurants were well appreciated. The white night party on the deck was a fun evening. Lots of dancing! There seemed to be ample seating almost always in the pool area and plenty of activities for those who wanted to participate. The ship put up a big screen for the Superbowl and served Superbowl party foods for dinner which was a great touch. Getting on and getting off the boat at ports was a breeze.The ship was small enough to dock at all three ports so we didn't have wait to transfer to start our vacation. We chose to do private shore excursions, but did do the Tropicana & Santiago de Cuba though the boat, which were both well organized and interesting. Highly recommend the El Cobre tour which included an outstanding steel drum band who played music you would never expect from a steel drum. Our private tours were with Blexie - Havana & Caribbean Pearl Tours which were personalized based on our interests. They were both outstanding. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
We picked Azamara because of the itinerary: three ports in Cuba. The price was high, but it was billed as a "premium line" so we thought the cost would be worth the experience. We loved Cuba; I had arranged private guides through ... Read More
We picked Azamara because of the itinerary: three ports in Cuba. The price was high, but it was billed as a "premium line" so we thought the cost would be worth the experience. We loved Cuba; I had arranged private guides through FerTours (hats off to Alex!) in Havana and Cienfuegos and through Out of the Box tours in Santiago (Lisandra did an excellent job). In all three cities we traveled in early 1950's cars and the cost was far lower than the bus tours offered on Journey. Our cabin was drab and it was hard to believe the ship had been renovated. The bed was comfortable and the storage was ample. The bathroom was tiny and the shower had been designed for elves. The food on the ship was always available, but the only good meals we had were in the extra cost restaurants. We ate at Prime C twice and Aqualina (delicious Dover sole) once. The service in Discovery, the main dining room, was very slow and the meats (beef and veal) were beyond tough. We discovered that sticking with fish and seafood gave us the best chance for an edible dinner. The food at the White Night buffet was good, but the crowds made getting near your choices very hard. The brunch that was held once was also good. The service on the ship was excellent. Doug Cameron, a fabulous jazz violinist, entertained twice; we could have seen him every night. We will definitely see him if he ever comes to our town. Our trip was successful because we loved seeing Cuba, but we are still wondering why Azamara is a premium line. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
This was our 1st cruise in 14 years, and we have been intrigued by Cuba for even longer. As new empty nesters and not yet retired, costs still are kind of a thing. Some of our choices reflect some effort at economy, which we found is ... Read More
This was our 1st cruise in 14 years, and we have been intrigued by Cuba for even longer. As new empty nesters and not yet retired, costs still are kind of a thing. Some of our choices reflect some effort at economy, which we found is achievable even on Azamara. Our past cruise experience had been on 2,000+ passenger behemoths; part of this review relates to the (first for us) small ship experience. For economy, we flew to Miami early on departure morning (a decision we'd like to have back as we were gambling with winter weather up north). Our Deck 6 midships cabin had an obstructed view through the window. We felt little ship motion, no vibraiton and we were well-insulated from public space noise by other cabins. The obstructed view meant a savings, but we could see well enough for us. We love the (little) R ships and we felt seeing the same staff and passengers lent a sense of collegiality and hominess. Sometimes some passangers might feel the activity selection was insufficient for their tastes - whether this is a legit concern really needs to be weighed in terms of cruise demographics. Our school-year sailing to Cuba meant that the average passenger age was about 66, with a pretty tight standard deviation. In our mid and late 50s, we were decidedly among the youngest on board. Now and then, all of the programmed activities were for an older age group. We were happy enough on our own, but not everyone would be. Azamara pays attention to the details. Embarkation and debarkation were a breeze and the food was outstanding. We did not do the upgraded restaurant or drink options; we are foodies and still do not feel it necessary as the food in the main dining room was great. Here is an interesting and important observation about food during dinners too: portions are modest and gluttons will be disappointed. To us that was fine, but might not be for everyone. There always is the buffet option, with rotating regional specialities each day. All you can eat there, but it lacks the ambience of the main dining room. Along this same vein, there only was a midnight buffet one light with late-ending nighttime shore excursions. Otherwise, no. Fine with us too. Another nice thing about the dining room was this: no assigned seats or times. You come when you want. If you like your waiter and remember his/her name, you can ask for that section but need not. The tables are close enough to strike up conversations with neighbors if you want, but one need not. We have recollections of assigned seats on other cruises with incompatible table-mates; we like Azamara's solution. Room service was included and perfect every time we used it (for coffee in the mornings). Tips are included in your fare; we tipped our room stewards and waiter anyway. Service from absolutely everyone was top-notch. We did the shore excursions sponsored by the cruise line and generally were very satisfied. Mind you, Cuba is new to tourism and Azamara is new to Cuba. Some growing pains were inevitable and showed. Overall, we feel we really learned a lot about the Cuban people and culture, which is why we went. There was one child on the boat, under the age of 20. She was two years old. This is not a cruise for young families or children. The boat simply is not equipped. We knew that and were happy. We definitely would go again on Azamara, on an R-ship (we love the smallness) but might do something a bit more tourism-experienced than Cuba next tme. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Three ports in Cuba, three days in Havana. . .all were enticing! Our first cruise on Azamara, a little pricey, but we were determined to make the trip. As others have said, we, too, were led to believe that you needed to participate in the ... Read More
Three ports in Cuba, three days in Havana. . .all were enticing! Our first cruise on Azamara, a little pricey, but we were determined to make the trip. As others have said, we, too, were led to believe that you needed to participate in the high-priced Azamara excursions every day in order to comply with both U.S. and Cuban rules for U.S. visitors. Not true. Although we did three tours because we wanted to, on other days we sought to comply with the people-to-people commitment on our own. Basically, the Cubans care about what you bring into Cuba, but generally not what you do while there. U.S. government cares what you are doing while in Cuba, but were really lax when we returned with no one even asking what we had to declare. Go figure. A couple of months before the trip, the number of days in Havana was reduced to 2 days--disappointing--but apparently beyond control of Azamara. Same for need to be tendered, not docked, into Santiago de Cuba. Tendering took 20 minutes from ship to dock, and was well handled by the crew. For us, Labadee, Haiti--the private resort owned by Azamara's owner, Royal Caribbean--was wasted on us. Azamara passengers appear to average age 72, and I cannot imagine they took advantage of all the outdoor activities offered--again at high prices--or even just lie on the beach for a full day. There was even a charge for a nature walk around the resort. Really?! Lunch BBQ was great--avoid the food set out in the sun--but saddened by watching the under-nourished and water-denied dogs wandering about. Come on, Royal Caribbean. . .even if these animals are owned by locals, put out food & water, and perhaps have them spayed. Since this ship is the original, but refurbished, R6 (now-defunct Renaissance Cruises), we felt very comfortable having traveled on the R1. The Club Veranda Stateroom was very nice. A few minor negatives: smallish bathroom, poor quality of TV set image, magnifying bathroom mirror was fine if passenger is over 5'7". Large comfortable bed, ample storage space, a zillion hangers in a lighted closet, incredible steward service, free self-service laundry (on level 7). Public areas were comfortable and always clean. Discoveries dining room (main) is large and can be noisy--come early or late to avoid this. Service is wonderful, and the food is good quality. Because of size, however, the occasional buffet there can get a little chaotic. The more casual dining option, Windows Cafe, is always buffet, but better passenger flow. Food is tasty but some items can be more cafeteria-like. Once we saw the additional cost for the two specialty restaurants, we decided to stick with the dining that was included in fare. We're used to not being charged extra on Oceania and Celebrity. Oh, Internet was also extra--not so on Celebrity, Viking, or Oceania. Having been on small cruise ships, we do not expect Broadway shows or big entertainment events. The few singers were very good, although music selections were a little dated. The Azamara Orchestra is really a 4-man band. . .and they were excellent. The 24-year old leader plays piano and delivers witty repartee. The White Nights was much more to our liking with music and dancing from the 70s. Think most of the 600+ passengers turned out for this on-deck activity. There was one enrichment speaker for the whole trip: four presentations in ten days. He knew the material, but his delivery was deadly. I was not the only one who nodded off to sleep while the professor droned on. We will price Azamara voyages in future, but we might find better value for the same trip on Azamara's sister Celebrity ships. Yes, they are larger, but not one of the "Leviathan of the Seas" class ships! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Thought this would be a journey of a lifetime Positives Cabin Good cabin staff Harold & Joycelen excellent room sevice good Guest entertainers Good Guest Lecturer Dr. Ron Orenstein excellent The Patio service ... Read More
Thought this would be a journey of a lifetime Positives Cabin Good cabin staff Harold & Joycelen excellent room sevice good Guest entertainers Good Guest Lecturer Dr. Ron Orenstein excellent The Patio service excellent Waiter in cabaret lounge Armadeo excellent Negatives Check in not very good. Azamara badly damaged suitcase in transit Food and service in discoveries not very good most of menu same for 21 days you areassigned a different table each night. Problem with ships evaporators shortage of waterfor engines, reduced speed miss a port. Norovirus on ship a few days. Pianist left shipweek to replace. Karioke machine packed up. Top & swirl machine not working 10 days Destinations lecturer very poor in fact removed from ship next lectures not much better. Misinformation given several times by cruise director. White night outside cancelledbecause to cold. Cancelled Falklands said because of high seas & winds. White nightevent outside cancelled because to cold. Azamazing evening in Montevideo auditoriumunsuitable floor flat sitting on wooden folding chairs made it extremely difficult to seeentertainers the crew had the best view standing in the aisles and on raised area at back Azamara said they do not now give out customer feedback forms they will E.mail you Still waiting Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
This was my fourth cruise with Azamara and the third on the Quest. I love Azamara because the ships are small, no children allowed and we are treated like one of the family. There is little music played on deck - thank goodness. Staff ... Read More
This was my fourth cruise with Azamara and the third on the Quest. I love Azamara because the ships are small, no children allowed and we are treated like one of the family. There is little music played on deck - thank goodness. Staff quickly get to know you and you get a welcome when you return. Boarding is well organised and painless. We had to wait a long time for our luggage to arrive and we started sailaway before we finally got ours. First night was busy as always and we all followed the usual hygiene rules of being served rather than self service for 24 hours. The strict rules about sanitizing work and we have never been unwell on this ship. Although there are over 600 passengers on board it is possible to find peace and quiet for much of the time and I have a number of photographs that make it look like a solo trip! The pool area was good as always, the pool clean. For some reason on our last sea day they decided to do maintenance and were pressure washing the decks at 10.30 in the morning when people were wanting to sit on the sunbeds. After complaints from a number of passengers they replaced everything and left. The Azamazing evening was brilliant. There were no delays getting to the venue and seating was comfortable and well laid out. As always there were those who felt they had to stand up in front of other people to get the best photographs and this selfish act is very irritating. It would be helpful if the host were to ask people to remain seated to take photos. White Night was lovely and we were lucky with the weather as there had been some storms around. We chose to sit up on Deck 10 as we have always found that once again people will go and stand across the front of the stage area totally blocking the view for anyone sitting down. We did speak to the cruise director about this and he admitted it was a problem but did not say anything on the night. In the past there has been a display of somekind but this time there was only dancing and singing from the guests and crew. We eat in Windows because we like the self service. As a vegetarian I would like to see more choice in the main course. Most nights there are vegetables, rice and potatoes but something a little more interesting would be good. One night there was a pasty and I asked what was in it. The person behind the counter had no idea and had to go and ask. On a couple of occassions they were rather grumpy and there was an atmosphere. Something we have not experienced before. The waiter service in Windows was on the whole very poor. In the past it had always been pretty good. However there appeared to be a number of new staff who were clueless. On two occasions we were actually ignored when signalled that we would like some water. They have a habit of looking at you and turning away. Several times we had to wait for a good ten minutes before anyone asked if we wanted water or wine. Likewise with coffee in the mornings. At times there were no waiters to be seen, others a huddle of them down by the coffee machine. They have a habit of walking around but not doing and definitely not seeing. The manager spent most of his time staring at his computer and when he did wander round did not appear to do anything. This is so different to what it used to be like and very disappointing. Waiters in the Living Room and Caberet and Mosaic were good as were the ones on pool deck. We were on deck 8 in a balcony room. It was clean and comfortable. Our two stewards were attentive and cheerful. We had a problem with the aircon switch not working and this was promptly repaired with two very smiley guys. the excursions were good, small groups in very good coaches with knowledgeable guides all of whom had a sense of humour. Disembarking each time was well organised and quick. In Koh Samui the sea was turbulent and the authorities could not use their tenders but Capt Jose was not phased and the ships tenders were lowered and expertly crewed and we were taken safely ashore. It was a great cruise as always and my only real criticism is the staff in Windows. They are the one thing that stood out in the whole of the trip. I have booked to go to Alaska next June on the Quest and do so hope that by then some serious staff training will have taken place. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Azamara Journey Cruise November 10 thru November 20, 2018 Cuba Intensive Miami, Santiago de Cuba (12-13), Grand Cayman (14), Cienfuegos (15-16) and Havana (17-19) We recently completed our first cruise on Azamara on the Journey. It ... Read More
Azamara Journey Cruise November 10 thru November 20, 2018 Cuba Intensive Miami, Santiago de Cuba (12-13), Grand Cayman (14), Cienfuegos (15-16) and Havana (17-19) We recently completed our first cruise on Azamara on the Journey. It was a 10 day Cuba intensive cruise from Miami going to Santiago de Cuba, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos and Havana and then back to Miami. The cruise stayed overnight in each of the Cuban ports including 2 nights in Havana. We had booked one of their continental suites, 8068, on deck 8 , which meant we got a variety of included benefits in addition to the regular Azamara benefits. This included unlimited dining in the two specialty restaurants and a 4 bottle bar setup in our room including vodka, rum, gin and scotch. All bottled water is included in your cruise fare which considering Darlene only drinks bottled water on cruises is a really good benefit for us. We flew in a day early to Ft Lauderdale because of the lack of direct flights from St Louis to Miami. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale Airport North Cruise Port. We have stayed numerous times when leaving Florida on cruises. The hotel has a small shopping center next to it so you can pick up any forgotten or just needed articles for the cruise and has always had a clean room and decent breakfast for us to use. This is a good place for people looking for a place to stay either before or after a cruise. If you stay in the area, there is a good Greek restaurant, Mini Pita, in the shopping plaza right next store. They serve wine as well and the food is excellent. We ate a late dinner there the night we flew in so I know they are open until midnight. This meant we had to arrange transportation from the Hampton Inn to Miami the morning of November 10th. I used Wall Street Transportation & Limousine World Wide Company. They sent a Cadillac SUV and driver who arrived on time at 11:15 AM and drove us to the RCL docks in Miami where our ship was. The limo was clean and the driver friendly and I can recommend this company for transportation needs in Miami. After arriving at the port, the process of signing in and getting on the ship was excellent. One we got on the ship, we went to the buffet restaurant on deck 9 for some lunch while the rooms were being made ready. At around 1:30 PM as we were finishing our lunch which included a selection of 2 white and 2 red wines each day, they announced the cabins were ready for occupancy. Generally the wines offered were very good and during the whole cruise we only purchased one extra cost bottle of wine and instead drank the free wine for lunches and dinners. While I don't consider either my wife or I wine experts or wine snobs I do feel the house wines offered both red and white were perfectly acceptable. We did have one red that we tried that we ended up not drinking but it could have just been a bad bottle. Our continental suite, 8068, was a pleasant surprise. There was plenty of space for 2 of us and the bathroom had a nice walk-in shower. Darlene felt it was a little small but it was perfectly functional and we managed to make it with a single sink for the 10 days we were on the ship. The bed was comfortable but came with 2 feather pillows which we should have exchanged as Darlene is allergic to feathers and dusk, But instead I used those 2 pillows and she used the other two. Our suitcases arrived early enough we got them unpacked and put away before the ship sailed at 5 PM. There was enough space to get everything either hung up, put onto shelves or into drawers and still have some extra drawer space for cameras and other items. We went up to the bar at the stern of the ship for sail away from Miami and got a few pictures of the skyline of Miami as the sun set. Then we attended the meet and greet for cruise critic members who had signed up followed by a cocktail party for frequent cruisers. We are Elite on Celebrity and Diamond of RCL so we were given Discoverer status on Azamara and were invited to the Discover welcome back cocktail party. We had made reservations for several nights of specialty restaurant dining when we first got on the ship as I had read on CC that sometimes they can be hard to get later during the cruise. So we ate dinner the first night in Prime C, the Journey's steakhouse restaurant. We ate at around 8:30 and had a really nice meal. This was the only night we ordered a bottle of wine rather than just drinking the “free” wines and although it was a decent red, it really wasn't much better than the daily offerings. We ended up taking the bottle back to our cabin and drinking it there over the next day or so. The next day was a sea day so we slept in a little late and got breakfast in the 9th deck buffet. It was surprisingly not crowded and offered eggs cooked to order as well as a number of items immediately available including fried or scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, etc. They also had fruit and cereals. The coffee in the buffet was better than on most ship's buffets and the orange juice was freshly squeezed. To be honest the day passed quickly. We went to the sit down dining room for lunch and were not really particularly happy with the selection or the service. Since it was only open during sea days for lunch, most of the rest of time we went to the buffet restaurant for lunch and breakfasts. For evening dinner we decided to try the regular dining room and were seated at a table for 8. The service and the food was a mixed bag. Sometimes it seemed the waiters were being asked to service too many tables and when the main courses arrived they were warm rather than hot. Again the offered wines were good and although you had to occasionally remind the server when you needed a refill, there was plenty for everyone. The next morning we would be arriving in our first Cuban port of Santiago de Cuba so we wanted to try to turn in a little early which we did. We had ordered room service for our breakfast so we would be ready for our ship's tour at beginning at 9:30 AM. We decided to eat on the balcony as the table looked like it was bigger than the one in the cabin. Our butler, Ronald, called at 8 AM to let us know our breakfast was on the way and he arrived with it about 5 minutes later. I had ordered the steak and eggs which arrived hot and cooked correctly. Darlene had an omelet with veggies and cheese. But she ended up getting some of my steak as I couldn't eat it all. We also had berry bowls and a fruit plate we shared and lots of hot coffee. We had decided on doing ship's tours in Santiago and in Cienfuergos in order to use up the $700 in cruise credit we had gotten for booking the suite on Azamara. Another reason was that about 2 weeks before the cruise we were notified that instead of docking at Santiago as was originally scheduled we would be tendering in that port. Evidently their cruise port had been damaged by a storm or hurricane a few months before and had not yet been re-certified for use by cruise ships carrying US passengers. By doing a ship's tour we would be among the first passengers being tendered into the port and would get an early jump on the day's activities. We went to our tour meeting place in the theater at around 9:25 but evidently people must have started arriving much earlier and we were in the fourth bus going on the fort and city tour we had selected. They had rolls, doughnuts, juice, coffee and tea there for people who had skipped breakfast, which was a nice touch. After a short wait we were led down to the tender deck and boarded our tender for what turned out to be a 20-25 minute tender ride to get to shore. I'm not quite sure why the Captain had been ordered to anchor the ship out as far from shore as he did but it made for a long tender ride. After arriving on shore we had to go through Cuban passport control and then stop to exchange US dollars for Cuban CUC currency. Officially the exchange rate is 1 US to 1 Cuban CUC but they charge an extra 12% fee to exchange US dollars. They only do this will US dollars not other currencies so if you are traveling to Cuba you might want to get a few hundred dollars of Canadian money before going and use it to exchange. We exchanged $350 dollars US and got 308 CUC. They rejected one of our 50 dollar bills because it had a mark on the back side so check any bills you are looking to exchange before planning on using them. Once we had some Cuban currency we then proceeded to our assigned bus. The buses were a pleasant surprise in that they were relatively nice Chinese vehicles with good AC and relatively comfortable seats. The tour we had booked was called "Colonial Santiago" and was a full day tour that included a tour of downtown Santiago, a stop at San Juan hill where Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders fought a battle, a visit to colonial era fort, lunch, and a musical dance program by Cuban musicians. Our guide was a Cuban woman who spoke good English and tried to answer any questions we had. The port we had been taken to seemed to be in a mainly commercial area and our first drive was to the main square in Santiago where their cathedral was. There is also a large public building where Castro gave one of his early speeches declaring his rebellion against Batista. Also off this square is one of the oldest surviving houses which was built in 1545. We also then walked through a shopping area used by the locals and the guide pointed the 2 types of stores, government owned and private owned. Next we boarded the bus for a trip to San Juan hill for a short visit. This was made famous by Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders during the Spanish American War or as the Cubans call it the second Cuban War of Independence. Here there were statues, cannons and a reconstructed blockhouse. We re-boarded the bus for the drive out to the fort which was on a peninsula on one side of the bay from where Santiago sits which took us about an hour or so. Let me mention here that it was hot the day we were there, above 90 degrees and although the bus's AC worked well most of the places we visited didn't have much shade or any AC which made the day one you needed to drink a lot of water. Arriving at the fort we had to walk up numerous levels of steps to get up to the main gate of the fort. The fort was placed at a narrow entry to the bay on which Santiago sits. Pirates had used the bay as a place to get fresh water from the streams that flow into it and also to restock their ships with other provisions prior to the Spanish building the fort here. Castillo del Morro San Pedro De La Roca was begun in 1619 and was continually expanded and worked on right up into the mid 1800's. The views from its battlements were really spectacular and it is hard to believe that the fort was taken by pirates several times given its position and how difficult it must have been. The interior of the fort contained a chapel where the guide told us of the legend of the white lady. Evidently the wife of one of the commanders of the fort is supposed to haunt the fort looking for her husband who never returned from an expedition to Florida. We didn't see her but we were not there at night or in the early morning when she is supposed to appear. There was a small museum with items found in the fort and weapons from the time the fort was used. But the fort required climbing up and down a lot of steps and most of it was in the direct sunshine so it was hot. Darlene decided with several other tour members to leave the fort early and go down to the restaurant where we would be having our lunch. When I arrived at the restaurant, she had saved me a seat and they served us Cuba Libre drinks, rum and coke basically. Then also gave us Cuban beer and bottled water. The food was served family style and was a variety of small portions of chicken, pork, fish, beans, rice and fried plantains as well as Cuban bread, This was followed by some cake and ice cream as well as Cuban coffee but no decafe coffee. The food was all right but not great and the restaurant was not air conditioned but even if it did have ceiling fans, it was still hot. There were a number of souvenir stands along the walkway back to the bus and we ended up buying a wood carving that according to the artist is a symbol of the male and female. I think we paid 20 CUC for it and the guy who sold it said it took him 4 days to carve. Our last stop was back in Santiago where we were to attend a Cuban dance presentation by a group of Cuban dancers and singers who have traveled around the world putting on their performances. It was interesting but might have been more so if I understood Spanish. We arrived back at the tender port around 4:00 PM and were able to board a tender relatively rapidly. The trip back to the ship was uneventful but just as long as the morning ride in had been. We had looked at a different excursion at this port which went to the city of Trinidad which is supposed to be a world heritage site. We decided on the tour we did because we worried about the length of the bus ride. Once back on the ship we talked with several couples who we had met the first couple of days on the cruise who did that tour and who were very critical of the length of the bus ride, they said it took almost 2 hours to get there and another 2 hours back with basically boring scenery the whole trip. They also said the lunch wasn't particularly good and that all in all it was a trip they would have just as soon not taken. The Journey stayed in the bay until around 6 AM in the morning and then sailed for the Caymans giving us what amounted to our second sea day. We decided to try the dining room for a sit down breakfast which we often do on sea days when on a cruise. The whole experience re-enforced our first impression of the main dining room. Again the service and the food was a mixed bag. We had arrived towards the end of the serving period and the restaurant was only partially occupied. We said at a table for two but it was arranged close to 2 other tables for 2 on either side both which were occupied when we arrived. One was just getting their coffee and the other looked like they were in the middle of their main breakfast meal. We got menus when we say down but it took a few minutes for someone to come back to ask about coffee and juice. We were surprised to find the menu here wasn't much different from the suite breakfast menu for room service. Darlene ordered the steak and eggs like I had the day before and I got waffles since that isn't something we fix at home. It took awhile for the food to arrive and when it did the steak was prepared correctly but was significantly smaller than the one I had gotten from room service. Getting coffee refills became a matter of watching for waiters and signaling them to come over rather than having them come by and offer to refill our cups. By the end of the meal we had decided to skip future breakfasts in the dining room and either do room service or the upstairs buffet. Grand Cayman is always a tender port and since I had left my extra batteries and charger for one of my cameras at home by mistake, I wanted to go to a camera store and get a charger and possibly an extra battery so around 11 or so we headed down to the tender deck and rode into Grand Cayman. This time the tender ride was only a few minutes as we were anchored much closer with the 3 or 4 other bigger ships there with us anchored out further. I found a tourist map which had one camera store listed “Cathy's Cameras” which was on the main road that runs along the shore. It was located in the lobby of the Sunset House Hotel. Assuming it couldn't be too far a walk we began walking down the sidewalk and just kept walking for what seemed to be forever. Had I known how far it was I would have gotten a taxi but once we were over half way there and in spite of the heat, there didn't seem to be anyway to get a taxi to take us the last half. To make things worse, I was looking for a battery and battery charger for a Canon camera. It turns out Cathy's Cameras doesn't carry any Canon products at all and according to them no one in the Caymans carries Canon products. They did have a generic charger that looked like it would work with the battery in my camera so I spent $45 for it. Unfortunately when I got it back to the ship I got it to work once and then when I tried to use it the second time it failed to recharge my battery at all. So all and all the whole trip was a waster of time, money and energy. We were able to get a taxi back to town and then went shopping for some ribbon or shoe strings that Darlene could use to keep her hat from blowing off her head. We ended up finding some shoe laces in a drug store and decided to head back to the ship for a late lunch. We luckily caught a tender quickly and were back in time to do the buffet lunch upstairs. My plan in the afternoon had been to go to the Sanctuary where they had a hot tub and sauna but instead we decided to do some laundry in the free laundromat on deck 7. They give you the soap for free and the machines which looked relatively new were also for free. We ended up doing 2 loads which took up the rest of the afternoon. That night we went to the other specialty restaurant called Aqualina which is Italian influenced cusine. In Cienfuegas we booked the ship's "Nuestra Senora de Jagua" tour. Explore the history and culture of Cienfuegos on this journey to the Fortress of Nuestra Señora de Jagua, followed by a scenic drive and a walk down the Santa Isabel Boulevard. Your journey begins with a visit to the Fortress of Nuestra Señora de Jagua, located at the entrance to Cienfuegos's beautiful bay. Learn about the city's rich maritime traditions and the history of this fort, founded in 1745. Nuestra Señora de Jagua is the only Spanish military fortress constructed in the late eighteenth century Renaissance style. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a panoramic drive through the heart of Cienfuegos. Then, it's off to the Teatro Tomas Terry, a magnificent opera house and theatre that seats 950. Marvel at sumptuous Carrara marble and hand-carved Cuban hardwood decorations. Finally, explore the bustling Santa Isabel Boulevard before returning to the ship. We arranged for 2 days of tours with Fer 2 Havana tours originally and then had to alter our arrangements because Azamara changed their schedule and Fernando was very good at changing our 2 days to 3 days at the same price. We did an evening when the ship arrived and met our guide, Javier (Pepe), met us in the square directly across from the ship at 7 PM. He then changed plans as we had already eaten on the ship and we went to the Hotel National for a drink which has been in Havana forever and has been where all the famous and infamous people stayed. We had very good rum drinks there and enjoyed the ambiance before going on the cannon firing at the fort in a vintage 53 Pontiac hardtop with A/C and then to the Buena Vista Social Club.where we stayed for drinks and listening to the Cuban music. For the cover charge which I think was 30 CUC each we got 3 drinks each. I got Cuba Libre and Darlene had a beer and 2 bottled waters. The music was loud and we left after about an hour and 45 minutes. Our driver had waited for us and drove us back to the ship. The next morning at 10 AM we met Javier again in the square and we did a walking tour of the four main squares of old Havana for about 2 1/2 hours, Then we had lunch at a really private restaurant that was a little expensive 80 CUC for the 2 of us with one glass of wine each. We both got a seafood dish with lobster, shrimp, fish and rice and veggies. We also each got a desert. The restaurant was totally full but many of the people there were from either other Fer Tours or other guides. Javier then met us outside and we walked to where we met our driver for the rest of the day in his 1956 red Chevy convertible. The car wasn't his but the owner had gotten too old to drive so he hired him to take care of the car and drive it. We had the car for 3 hours and saw a lot of Havana with an informative driver. He left us off at the ship at 4:30. Finally the next morning, our ship was in Havana for 3 days, Javier again met us in the square at 9 AM and we got in another old Chevy hardtop with A/C and went to Hemmingway's house, followed by a visit to the town where he kept the Pilar and his favorite bar there. Then we came back to Havana and went to Fusterland. This is an area of Havana an artist began decorating with mosaics and painting and included a visit to his house. If you have been to Barcelona and see Guidi's village there this is similar but maybe more colorful and tropical. Our ship was sailing at 3 PM so Javier and the driver dropped us off at 2 PM by the ship. These were great tours with a great guide, Javier, who is a psychologist in real life. The cost for the 3 days was $480 US which was a fraction of what similar tours thru the ship would have cost. If you are going to Havana give Fer Tours a chance to give you a great time in Havana. The last night after finishing packing we went to a Chef's dinner in Prime C. It was labeled Cuban night and had a variety of Cuban influenced foods prepared by the chef each matched with good wines. There were 5 couples there including us. Several had gotten a free Chef's dinner in a promotion that some cruise agencies were running for people who booked suites. Unfortunately we paid for ours. The food and company was good. It was hosted by the ship's young environmental officer who was from Serbia or Croatia, I can't remember. But he spoke good English and was a personable young man. We only saw the Chef at the first of the meal. The wines and courses were announced by the head sommelier. All in all we enjoyed our cruise and especially getting a chance to visit Cuba. It is a friendly and welcoming country that unfortunately is badly in need of a lot of infrastructure repair. The long USA embargo and the loss of help from the USSR when it fell shows. The old cars in Havana especially were interesting and fun to see. It is amazing how they have managed to keep them running. Our tour guide in Havana, Javier (Pepe), did a great job and we left him with a good tip at the end of the last tour. I hope someday he gets to travel to the USA where he has a sister living in Florida. One of the things we learned from him is how most Cubans his age are still living with parents and in many cases grandparents all in one home. That was the case with him and with the driver of the convertible we were with for 3 hours. He said it was the most common and only way they could afford to live at all. The average wage for a Cuban worker is $30 a month with a few highly skilled doctors or higher governmental officials making more. Given there is no such thing as a home loan, if you can find a home for sale, you have to pay cash which few Cubans can possibly do. Well this is long enough for now. Azamara is a cruise line that we will be looking at for future cruises as we enjoyed the friendly and helpful crew and the ship's size as well as the complimentary wine and cocktails. Have a great next cruise. Read Less
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