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87 Azamara Senior Cruise Reviews

Our sailing aboard the Azamara Journey was one of the best we have ever taken out of our 72 cruises. We sailed as dance instructors on this trip - our category is that of guest enrichment. As such we enjoy full passenger status in exchange ... Read More
Our sailing aboard the Azamara Journey was one of the best we have ever taken out of our 72 cruises. We sailed as dance instructors on this trip - our category is that of guest enrichment. As such we enjoy full passenger status in exchange for our teaching ballroom dancing. It could not have been a better trip. We were treated exactly the same as any other passenger and enjoyed all of the benefits and amenities as well. Not always the case on other cruise lines we have sailed. We were assigned an outside obstructed cabin. You probably have read that the cabins on these ships are somewhat small and ours was although beautifully laid out and majestically furnished. The bathroom is small but adequate as long as you don't mind making friends with your shower curtain. The linens are very superior to all other ships we have sailed on. The view - not much - but still bright! Robes, slippers, umbrella, binoculars, and superior bathroom amenities are all provided - equivalent to a suite on other lines. A couple of nights out we received a beautiful passport wallet, very nice heavy duty carry bag, and a gorgeous metal picture frame along with a Holiday card personally signed by the Captain and all senior officers. Journey does not have the glitz and glamor of the large mega ships. Capacity is 690, but we sailed with only 340. It was more like a floating country club than a cruise ship. The Captain was always around - one fellow passenger described him as a Social Butterfly! But so was the Hotel Manager and other senior officers. This resulted in service far superior to any received on other cruise lines (and we are Princess elite). The staff could not do enough for you. Azamara has also gone to an all inclusive policy. Our bill after 16 nights was $333. And of that about 1/2 was for internet!! Another $100 was for jewelry in the shop. Bar bill ??? $8 - With free flowing wine at lunch and dinner there is no need to bring or buy any! Also, there is no effort made to sell anything - a very refreshing change from past cruises. The photo shop is hidden away and depending on your route, you might not even see it. There was a shore excursion sheet the first day, but never again. There are no recommended shopping info sheets, but rather truly interesting print outs for the various ports. The cruise director, Eric De Gray was the most talented individual we have ever sailed with. His talents defy description and could take an entire review! There is not much cruise staff and not a lot of activities, but yet still plenty to do for those interested. We had a top notch duo in the Looking Glass - a beautiful lounge overlooking the front of the ship - think Crow's Nest on HAL. The showroom is small and sight lines are not very good, but there are no production shows so this is not really a problem. There was a variety of guest entertainers and some amazing performances by Eric and the ship's staff. We go to dance, not eat. The food was very good. Most of the time we ate in Windows (the buffet) and it was great most of the time. Not so much on Indian night as EVERYTHING was Indian. Need to offer some alternatives! The dining room is a beautiful room. Two meals there. First typical of about 2 hours. Second was very bad with nearly 45 min without wine and over an hour before first course! We saw many supervisors in Windows, but apparently none in Discoveries. We ate in the two alternative restaurants and both were absolutely marvelous and well worth the $15. Left a $10 tip each time, but otherwise all tips are included. This was not necessary, but well deserved. If you like wine, you will love this ship. Wine is free flowing at lunch and dinner. You can take it with you and even drop in Windows to get a glass to go. There does not seem to be any restrictions! The wine changes every day and was always excellent. There is also an interesting 1/2 price deal on bottles of wine that also changes every day. One day Rosemont Merlot was $14 a bottle (Costco price is about $10). Although an amazing deal, we did not see anyone buying wine as the wine being poured was always great! Embarkation and Disembarkation were unbelievable. We arrived in early afternoon and thought we were the only ones boarding! In San Diego, we were in Windows when our color was called, went to our cabin for our carry on and down one floor to leave and we were the only ones leaving! Reminded us of the Delta Queen!! Could not have been easier. While there is always room for improvement, Azamara tries harder than any other cruise line we have been on to accommodate passenger wishes. They have an interesting niche market to exploit. On paper they compare with Crystal, Seaborne etc. While we have not sailed on those top lines, we can say that they are far superior to the product on the major cruise lines and comparison might better be made to the best accommodations and highest past passenger amenities provided on those lines. There are no accommodations made for children so it is not a family cruise line choice. We are not leaving any Port reviews as we rarely get off the ship. We were amazed at how Cabo San Lucas has changed since we were last there 6-8 years ago. It was delightful. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Day 1: check in and departure Pretty much walked through the checkin, pausing briefly - this was by far the quickest we had ever experienced. Glass of champagne / wine to welcome us, and several officers to say 'hello' and ... Read More
Day 1: check in and departure Pretty much walked through the checkin, pausing briefly - this was by far the quickest we had ever experienced. Glass of champagne / wine to welcome us, and several officers to say 'hello' and introduce themselves. No photographer - what the heck? We soon learned that if you wanted a picture taken, you had to go find the photographer - never was badgered ONCE! Cruise Critic meet/greet at 6:00, with appetizers/ wine/ more champagne (actually liked this brand), and we got to meet mostly new friends. This is nice, because the Journey is small enough that you keep running into each other. Then we were advised to attend the Sail Away Buffet on the upper deck - the first of several buffets. This one was pretty ordinary and served as an introduction to the Windows Cafe. I was surprised to find an excellent sushi bar, with a chef in attendance to make up a nice plate of good stuff. Other amenities include a pasta chef to make up some Italian, a wok chef to whip up some Asian mixes, and a good sized dessert selection. The Journey has a chef that is really proud of his macaroons, and you always get some of those (I myself, don't like macaroons....) There is homemade ice cream every night. Ignore the Van/Choc/Strawberry and look over the special of the day - the Mango Sorbet, Papaya Sorbet, Coconut, Butter Pecan.... this guy knows his stuff! Someplace in the middle of all this, the last pallets are finally loaded and we leave a hour late; this is really nice for the couple we saw racing on board only a half hour late. We had flown in to Fort Lauderdale a day early to save the bag fees via Southwest and taken a shuttle down. Day 2: at sea Breakfast on balcony proved to be windy and not a very good idea with all the papers blowing around. Kept busy with the daily Sudoku/Crossword, various trivia and other contests, a lecture, and the usual "bingo the owner's suite", which we lost again. Lunch in the Windows Cafe had carved roast beef with horseradish and mashed potatoes/gravy. Lunch always featured some kind of carved meat. We had dinner there, too (I wanted more sushi) Day 3: at sea Lunch today had the ship's officers dishing up some BBQ, with a couple of suckling pigs and a fresh fruit chef. Fresh papaya was available, but I went for the star fruit (proved not to be ripe enough, but neither was the papaya). Cole Slaw vastly oversalted, inedible. Toured the bridge with the third officer, then the engine control room with one of the engineering officers. Both were great experiences, and just ask at Guest Relations if you want a tour - I think they do this automatically for CC members? Finally had dinner in the dining room: surf/turf, oyster soup, prawns with lime/avocado, crème brulee - all pretty good. They messed up on dining mate Linda's entree and atoned by bring her a desired chocolate fondue from the Prime C upstairs! Day 4: St John, USVI Smoked past St Thomas at 6 AM, seeing a Princess ship in port. Have my favorite breakfast: bagel/lox. Have I mentioned the fresh-squeezed OJ yet? 2 glasses every morning! Tour at 8:30, surprised by the stack of breakfast goodies in the showroom in case you missed breakfast, even more by the free water on your departure. Tour of island good, roads "interesting" (so close your eyes in the worst parts). Beach at Trunk Bay great and we get a half hour of leisure time to enjoy it. Cold towel to soothe our fevered brows and sunburned necks when we get back to the ship. Dinner: had strip steak when the waiter returned and said the grouper "wasn't up to the chef's standards, so he wasn't serving it..." Nancy gets strip, had ordered tenderloin sampler.... Pumpkin bisque excells, beet salad had 4 little bitty cubes of beet in it, cheese raviolis excell, mango ice cream for dessert (excell) Day 5: Marigot, St Martin Breakfast in DR, poached egg on toast (overcooked like always). Just did the town - tried negotiating a mild change in the offered tour, but the Excursions Desk had shot me down on liability issues. I could have been dishonest and done it anyway (I didn't want to take the hike, just sit around and wait for everyone else to finish), but that's not my style. We hike to fort (go around the church to the left and up the hill), then check the native craft vendors - pretty much all the same and unappealing. Back to ship for lunch, then Nancy spends the afternoon reading and I return onshore to do some birding near the marina and lagoon to the west of the landing. This is where the expensive shops are, it turns out. I go along the back of the town (finding out that the area is a lot poorer then the front of the town, but still safe). Have a couple Carib beers onshore at 2 bucks apiece to quench my thirst, then return to the ship. Dinner at Aqualina: Scallops (ex), goat cheese souffle(ex) salad(g), bouillabaise(g), lobster thermidor (with mashed potatoes?), ahi with risotto (both ex, but dish poorly put together with wasabi sauce under the risotta and a balsamic drizzle that conflicted with the ahi). Chocolate Beignier (ex) with expresso mousse(ex) and vanilla ice cream (not congenial). House white tonight was a French Chardonnay that went particularly well with the scallops and a complimentary chicken curry. Then we went upstairs to look at the Caribbean Buffet on the pool deck. Grilled lamb chops, jerk chicken, big line for the scallops. Entertainment was a most excellent steel drum band, and that free wine was getting to the crowd, with a couple hundred dancing. Day 6: St Kitts Ease off and have cereal and juice for breakfast. Tour today is the sugar train (ok, but lasts too long at two hours) with the Brimstone Fortress added on(good, always like forts and my favorite is Ft Henry in Kingston, Ontario). Stop a couple places to look around and back to Besseterre. Lunch onshore at the BallyHoo - overlooking the main plaza (with large clock) in town. Fresh Mahi-mahi, fish cakes, Conch in garlic butter. All outstanding, and comes with an interesting carrot-coconut slaw. Soak the mahi in the conch butter and it's really good. Couple of cheap shoreside beers and back to the ship. Dinner in the DR was crab cake(ex), red pepper soup(g) beef stroganoff(g) with dill pickles(?) in it. Becoming a fan of the butter dish - that hommous in it is really good and I always get a double batch. Day 7: Antigua No tour offered of any consequence, so just walk around the touristy area. You don't get a shopping brochure on Azamara, so was surprised to be walking past a Diamonds International! (Big whoop...) Nancy goes back to ship, I go birding to the south (separate writeup of the birds is in the EcoCruising boards on CC) Lunch: carved meat is pork loin with fried apples today. Don't attend the high tea because I resent having to wear long pants, so we have tea on our balcony today, then attend trivia in the Mosaic Cafe to get a dish of those marinated olives. Dinner in the DR: nearly inedible roast strip (tough), lava cake (g), coconut sorbet (no flavor). Day 8: St Bart's Breakfast today had carved ham. Tour the island - narrow steep roads, airfield has a hill at one end and the sea at the other end of the runway. Wonder how many people that land here refuse to take off again? Not much to see on the island, scenery wise, mostly just passing trees and resorts. Return to town, walk to Shell Beach. Directions to Shell Beach - walk to the south along the boat harbor, far end is a park across from the Anglican Church. Go to the right to LeBistro Restaurant. Take the street across from the LeBistro up the hill, turn right at the second corner (green shingled house) and go to the end at the school. Now turn left and continue a couple blocks to the beach. Overpriced chairs and umbrellas, use all your bargaining skills to get the price down from the usual 20 Euros. Start by saying "I'm eating lunch in your seedy bar..." and buying a couple of drinks.... Return to ship for lunch (pork medallions today and carved top round) then Nancy stays to read and I return to land to go birding near Shell Beach. Captain moves ship closer to land, since the Windstar had gotten in first and nicked our close spot. Dinner in Prime C tonight: mushroom soup (ex, needed a bit of salt), prawns (cocktail sauce a little bland), popcorn shrimp (portion too large) and I had to request some more heat in this cocktail sauce and I got a little bowl of Chinese chili sauce that did it), Rib steak (g, cognac sauce g and I make better peppercorn sauce than this), veal chop (massive size). Chocolate fondue: request dark choc, hold the pineapple and double the bananas. The house wines weren't good enough for any of this when tasted, but the wine list was fine, with a Macon and a Cotes du Rhone. Upstairs on the poor deck, they're having an International Buffet, most good stuff with Cherries Jubilee for dessert. Unfortunately, its sprinkling a bit. Day 9: St Bart's #2 Tender #6 blew an engine on the final approach to the pier, so we got pushed in by the next tender - a rough business, but the crew handled it pretty well, in my opinion. It returned immediately to the ship for repair and they lowered another to replace it. We had spotted the yellow submarine next to the landing yesterday, and I had talked to the gal that pilots it (one of the couple that owns it). Leaves at 11, so we go ashore and buy a couple of tickets (ship price $74, shore price 40 Euros). We prove to be the only ones going so we get a private narration and tour. Excellent value, and one of the better bottoms in the Caribbean. Shipwreck, a terrific 3 foot Remora, half dozen sharks, large batch of reef fish, then off to the dozen turtles feeding on the bottom. Take this if you get a chance. We asked the owners for a restaurant recommendation, and Le Entracte was recommended as "good value for the price" (St Barts is pricey, with a lot of talk back on the ship about the 300 Euro T-shirts). It's a small white building about 1 ½ blocks to the south. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but great shrimp in cream sauce, salad with great goat cheese in pastry, crummy escargot, glasses of French wine, and a free after lunch shot of homemade punch for 102 bucks US. Stop at a liquor store on the way back to the ship for some island punch.... Dinner in the DR: shrimp cocktail (fair sauce), bermuda fish chowder (g) Chilean Sea Bass (one piece good, one skunky), and that excellent butter pecan ice cream. Day 10: Virgin Gorda Now they've found the waffle iron for breakfast, with strawberry sauce, etc for toppings. Baked ham again. Nancy has had it with tendering, and stays on the ship "catching up". I wander ashore, join up with a couple of people wandering around, and we negotiate a tour of the island (opening offer: $100 for five, final settling on $80) In true American / British cruising tradition, everyone hands him a 20 at the end! Another tour of steep roads and sharp turns, but these roads are wider then St Barts and there are a lot fewer houses, since most of the island is national park. We wind up at the Baths, which to me a just a pile of rocks with an interesting geological history (none of which they mention) where a couple people leave to take in the sights. I'm back to the town, wander around birding a bit, then back to the ship for lunch. Finally hit the pool side grill for some of the weisswurst sausages. Skip the onion rings, they are all breading and overcooked to boot. Lousy dill pickles, great peperoncini and olives - go figure. At this point with the 2 days left at sea, I quit taking notes. I remember dinners of Osso Bucco and Lamb Shank, both great. There was a tomato tartare dish that had an outstanding TOMATO sorbet that Baskin-Robbins could sell. I'm sorry I do a bit more about the meals, but I think this is part of cruising! I like to have a restaurant "night out" quality meal, which I define as "better than I can make myself" I think the Journey missed on several occasions. The ice cream was excellent, the sushi chef was vastly appreciated (but it was a little monotonous). The little snacks in the cabin every night were great, but never seen at the dessert table. The truffles in the cabin on two occasions were REALLY great, but never seen again. There was some Italian sausage at breakfast that would have really hit the spot in the Windows pasta, but not to be. I was tempted to take a bowl full and show up that night and get them included, but I was chicken. The Thai/Asian dishes coming out of the kitchen were excellent on all occasions. There is no information on entertainment aboard, this smaller ship has only one show at 9:45 and we are the "read before sleeping" types. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Review of the Azamara Journey This is the first cruise we have taken non any Azamara ship, which was part of the old Reinannance Cruise Lines that numbered their ships R-1, etc . This ship has been renovated in 2007 and is considered an ... Read More
Review of the Azamara Journey This is the first cruise we have taken non any Azamara ship, which was part of the old Reinannance Cruise Lines that numbered their ships R-1, etc . This ship has been renovated in 2007 and is considered an intimate, 694 passenger ship with an elegant and relaxed atmosphere. According to an announcement on board as we sailed there were 531 passengers, thus the cruise was indeed relaxed. This cruise was 14 night transatlantic voyage that left Rome on November 15, 2010 and schddueld to arrive in Miami on 11/29/2010.PS---this is a "no tip" cruise ship with staff tips included in the fare. BOARDING---The boarding took place at the Civitavecchia terminal located about 40 miles from Rome. The cruise line had all cruise check in counters opened when we arrived about 12:30PM. The process was smooth and orderly. One of the best check ins we have ever experienced for any cruise. We presented our "e-ticket" which we had previously printed and we were walking up the gangplank steps within minutes. We were met at the top of the steps by several Amazara staff members, one which was holding a glass of champagne. They advised our cabin would not be ready until 1:30PM and ask us to join them at a pre-cruise lunch on the 9th deck. On the first cruise night we were assigned a time for dinner however after the first night all dining was open seating. CABIN----Perhaps we were a little greedy when we saw the balcony cabins all listed for the same discounted price as we went for a "sunset balcony" on the aft of the ship. After the first night of rough seas we begin to think we had made a mistake by not purchasing a cabin more in the center of the ship. This is a small ship and some tossing is expected however we actually got more than we bargained for. The seas were rough, some rain and wind made using the outside balcony next to impossible. And we call ourselves seasoned cruisers. The cabin was very nice with decorations in shades of tan, green and brown with dark woods. The bath is small however more than adequate. There is a fully stocked refrigerator with soft drinks and bottled water being complimentary. Fresh flowers and a fruit basket were also in the cabin. A 24 inch flat screen TV offered numerous programs in English. The TV offers several news channels as well as movies. An alarm clock was in the cabin, along with plush robes and outside balcony seat covers. The TV set welcomes you by name. Ice was delivered to the cabin twice daily and more if you request it. The room is not overly large however more than adequate. The beds, as on many cruise ships are actually twin beds and if one ask they can be put together to form one large bed. In our cabin the mattresses were soft and were uncomfortable for us. The door on the left side of the desk rattled all night long for the first three nights. It was not until day four that I found the door was actually warped and did not fit well. By leaving the door open, the rattling noise stopped. On another cruise we found the sliding glass door did not fasten well and it too produced a rattling sound throughout the day and night. Sometimes if one looks for the problem the issue can easily be resolved without having to call engineering. Air conditioning worked great. Our cabin and balcony was thoroughly cleaned each day with the result being some of the best service we have ever received. There are fresh flowers in the room each day. You can also have your shoes shined for free by leaving them with your cabin steward. And I should not fail to mention that the bathroom amenities are by ELEMIS. Now if you are really in need of additional service the cabin attendant will assist you in unpacking your suitcases as well as packing. Each evening there are d'oeuvres left in the cabin. TIP---Are you aware you can select your own cabin anywhere on the ship? Well maybe not 100% of the time, however there are several internet sites that will show you where unsold cabins are located. Your travel agent should be able to do that for you however you should be armed with that information ahead of time so you can discuss with him or her. There are dozens of great cabins aboard the new ships so don't settled for an outside obstructed view cabin unless you are getting a great deal. TIP---Some travel agents and travel companies have additional items they can offer with the cabin you select. Just don't forget to ask for those extras such as ship board credit or a bottle of welcome champagne and frankly anything ease that comes to mind. Just take a look at several travel sites for the cruise you have in mind and see what everyone if offering, then negotiate. Once you are satisfied you have made the best deal for the exact cruise you want then go for it. DINING-----On deck 9 is the Windows Cafe and outside the Windows Cafe Outside. The serving areas are well spaced and staggered throughout the area thus there were never long longs to get any particular type of food. For example there were areas on two sides where one could get omelets or eggs cooked to order. Service is extra-ordinary as waiters seem to be everywhere and each asking if they can help you. This is the most helpful and friendliest ship crew we have ever met. If you coffee cup was a little low they seemed to know and would offer to go get a refill for you. Ask for an English muffin and away they went. The food was as good as the service. Lunch time was the same. During the evening there was a theme such as Italian on the first night. What a great change from the crowded long lines on some other cruise ships we have been on. Lunch is served as is dinner. Dinner will include white table clothes and excellent choices for entrees. Once again service is outstanding. Fret wine is served. There is the main dining room, Discoveries, with open seating, where you can also take your meals. The service is outstanding and the food is excellent. Some, if not the best we have had on any cruise and we just came off a Cunard cruise ship a few days before boarding this ship. TIP—we noticed several guest would arrive at 6PM and wait for the restaurant to open. Then there would be a lull in activity with 6:15PM and 6:45PM being the times for almost instant seating. The line then would build up again for those desiring seating around 8PM. Remember this is open seating restaurant with no predetermined time for guest. For a small cover charge of $15 you can make reservations and dine in the steak house named Prime C on deck 10 or Aqualina (also Deck 10) which serves Contemporary American Cuisine with a Mediterranean flair. If you participate in the dinner with a variety of wines for each course there will be an additional charge. Reservations are needed for each of these restaurants. The food is excellent and there is a more intimate setting for each when compared with the main dining room. Friendly and helpful waiters all over the place. The wine list contains reasonable prices and the ship serves complimentary wines with meals. However if you would prefer a more expensive wine we were surprised when on the first night the wine steward brought us a list of wines that could be purchased for 50% off the regular prices (three bottle minimum). The prices were great and the quoted prices included gratuity. They keep track of your wines purchased by your cabin number and you can dine in any restaurant and still receive your wine.. There is a pool grill located on deck 9 however due to inclement weather the area had limited openings. On good weather days the area will be crowded. Several theme food items were alternated with eon day being a pool side bar-b-q served by the ship's officers. It was excellent. There is always available hamburger, cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Complimentary wine along with complimentary soft drinks are available in this area for lunch. There is soft ice cream on this deck close to the grill. In good weather this would be a great place to grab a quick snack. COFFEE BAR---They call it the Mosaic Cafe and it's one of the nicest little coffee bars you can find and the coffee is complimentary. There is a charge for specialty coffees containing liquors. There were always lots of cookies, sweets and snacks which are kept fresh throughout the day. This is a great place to enjoy a cappuccino at the bar of in the small intimate location. Very nice place to meet and talk. Remember I wrote, it's complimentary for lattes, cappuccino or you name the coffee. We found this location open at 8AM and closing late. This was a good location to listen to gossip for the day before and to witness unusual request. The opposite side the area is used for "trivia" games often in the day thus sit there only if you want to play trivial. Many of these passengers apparently felt they could treat thee staff people almost as servants. One man asked that the water be removed from his water bottle, heated and return so he could add a "solution" to the bottle. He proceeded to drink a few ounces from the bottle so the remainder could be heated. Eventually the bar tender did provide some warm water to the passenger however not in his bottle. The bar tender explained he could not do that. It was obvious such an act could contaminate the on board equipment. ELEGANT TEA---Found at the Looking Glass on Deck 10 each day form 3:30 to 4:30. Don't miss it. Would set you back $35 to $40 at Neimans in Dallas. Tea can also be served in your cabin if you give advance notice. BARS----Although this is a small ship there are no less than 9 locations aboard the ship where one can obtain a drink. The Aqualina Bar Deck 10, Casino Luxe Bar Deck 5 are just two expels. Expect great service and reasonably priced drinks. The staff just seems to love to have you visit with them. WHAT IS THERE TO DO ABOARD A SMALL SHIP?------First don't let the smallness of this ship be a negative. After being on some of the mega ships this was a most refreshing experience. There are plenty of activities. Bingo, ping pong, lectures, poker tournaments, etc. Then on a repositioning cruise such as this one there is plenty of time to take it easy, relax and read a book. LIBRARY----You won't believe this. There is a complimentary library. Just take the book of your choice, read it and return the book. No cards, no fingerprinting just plain honesty. On top of this there is a good collection of books available and the area itself is very nice. We found this location to be a nice quite area in which to read your book. WEATHER----I write this on day 2 as we continue on course for Cartagena, Spain. The seas were rough last night and they continue as such for today. The Captain has advised he hopes the weather will change by nightfall. There have been gale force winds up to 60 miles per hours and choppy seas up to nine feet. Dishes and glasses have slipped from the table sin the dining rooms and staff is assisting passengers with their food. Thus far we have not encountered any falls. The forward elevators have been closed as a softy measure thus only two elevators are currently available. This does not appear to be a problem as many passengers remain in their cabins as we note on our deck as about a third of the cabins have a "do not disturb" sign posted on their doors. PASSENGERS---We have not received a listing of countries where the passengers originate however we were advised there are 531 passengers and this ship has a capacity of almost 700 thus we are about 75% of capacity. This certainly tends to make public areas less crowded. There are several from the United Sates as well as Great Britain with a scattering of several other countries. We note the passengers tend to me primarily seniors and we have yet to see any children. Some of the passengers we have met advise they are repeat passengers aboard an Azamara Cruise. One common thread we have noticed in talking with those people is their belief this is a no tipping cruise with tips built into the fare. While that is basically true, tips are still expected for many services aboard the ship such as the spa, hair dressers, nail salon, bar service, etc. In addition the crew is like most other cruise lines as they certainly will not refuse extra tipping on the part of the passengers. CASINO----Very small with one roulette table, three or four card tables and a limited number of slot machines. There is an electronic Texas Holdum Poker table. The staff is courteous and congenial, some of the best we have seen on the seas. You still lose though however this is entertainment. There are a couple of ATM machines at the back of the casino in the event you run out of ready cash. We never found the casino over run with passengers. Slots start at one cent. There are a limited number of Texas Holdum, slot , blackjack and roulette tournaments held throughout the cruise. Just check the daily newspaper for time. BINGO----We witnesses one of the best prizes ever given away on a cruise bingo. The cover all winner received an immediate upgraded to the Captain's Penthouse, a prize worth several thousand dollars. The couple who won was amazed. To top this off only about 30 couples showed up for the bingo session. Thus one's odds were rather good. LAUNDRY & DRY CLEANING----There is a self service laundry on deck 7. It is complimentary. There are 4 washers and dryers, an iron and free soap. TIP---The laundry has limited hours it is open so get there early and don't wait until the last days of your cruise otherwise you will not have access to a machine. The ship also has laundry and dry cleaning service available trough pick up in your cabin by your cabin steward. The prices are high but not out of sight. Clothes are returned the flowing day after pickup or you can pay 50% extra and get same day service. The cleaning and washing were both very good. INTERNET----One of my favorite complaints about cruise internet service is the high price and the poor service. The prices for package plans about this ship were less than any ship we have sailed in the past five years and the service was very good. The internet room is located on deck 9 however your laptop will work wireless in your cabin. Before using your laptop you must go to the internet room to establish an account. This is the first on board internet service I have used where once you click on the "log off" button; the system actually immediately logs you off, saving you untold minutes of usage time. This is great. There was some free computer classes held in the computer room however I found them extremely basic and they not be worthwhile if you have been using the computer for some time. They also offered for a fee classes of one hour on Adobe Photo however there were no take home handouts as we have received on other cruises. I frankly forget more than half of what I learned and find the hand out a necessity. You can get a bigger bang for your dollar if you will check with a local community college upon return home and learn more about Adobe Photo more in depth. TIP-- Internet usage -----If you have your own laptop and it is loaded with some type of "word" software, try tying you e-mails using that software, copy and send on the ship's internet service e. You will save a bundle of time by not hooking up to the ship's internet system and doing all your typing on the web. SHOPPING & SHIP'S STORES------If you have gotten on board to shop you are going to be in bad shape. There are three small shops with a very limited number of items for sale. If you need basis such as toothpaste or sea sickness pills, buy them on shore at your first port. Jewelry was high priced as was clothing. We either bring from home or purchase on shore. People in the shops are very nice. We noticed that many watches reflected only a 10% discount off suggested retail prices. You can more than likely do a lot better back home. BEAUTY SHOP & SPA-----Located on deck 9 in the forward section. Prices are basically in line with other cruise ships offering such services. Acupuncture is available and a gym is located in the area for those looking for a physical workout center. Expect to tip in this area. PHOTOS----OK you have been on enough cruises to know that photos are big business for cruise chips as each always has several photographers. I only caution that such photos are actually snap shots and not portrait quality prints. This cruise had a special of $195.00 for all the photos taken. Except for day one when we boarded the ship we have not seen a picture taken anywhere on the ship. One must remember there are no formal nights thus the taking of formal photos on this ship just does take place. Photos can be viewed on deck 5 close to the casino. While we are writing about photos there is a common practice developing at numerous tour stops. Photos are being taken by someone at the tour stops in hopes that the passenger will purchase at an inflated price. At one restaurant/mansion stop in the Canary Island a 5 X 7 was priced at 6 Euros which is almost $8 US. Only one person in our group made a purchase. At Ephesus there were dozens of photos taken of our group and we saw a great many photos being sold to the passengers. The cost was much more reasonable at $2.50 to $3.00 US dollar. Take your own photos with you digital camera and make prints back home at a fraction of the cost. PHOTO TIP---Can't remember all your stops when you get back home? Take a photo of the port, town or city name the minute you go on that tour. Digital cameras will even pick up the article in your daily news about the port you are visiting. Also take names of buildings, churches, street signs, etc.---anything that will help jog your memory on where you have been. PHOTO TIP—While it may be tempting to listen to the sales clerk telling you to carry only one large memory chip when you travel, I personally find it's a lot better to carry several small memory chips. Having half dozen 2G memory chips I find is much better than a single 16G chip. First the pictures are easier to find and if I lose one small chip it's not losing everything I shot on vacation. Also the cost of smaller chips is very inexpensive when compared with very large chips. PHOTO TIP---Did a mistake of some sort cause many of your photos to "disappear". That happened to me when on a cruise to Greenland. There are many services available on the internet (some free) where you can download software that may possibly recover those lost photos. It's worth giving a try. ENTERTAINMENT---Not a lot to write about as the word "entertainment" is somewhat limited on this small ship. The signer act singer we say the other night saw many passengers leaving during his performance. SHORE TOURS------The cost of shore tours is among the most reasonable we have seen on cruise ships; however the selection of tours available is somewhat limited and that is most likely due to the fact this is a repositioning or transatlantic crossing. There is a tour desk located on deck 4. Also on that deck is a small medical center and an office where future cruises can be reserved. TIP---if you have already booked your cruise make your tour reservations on the internet and your tickets will be delivered to you cabin upon arrival. The tour into Gibraltar included several stops with the most notable ones being the Barbary Apes, the cave, the airport and the sea coast area. These were all worth the small price paid for this tour. The tour at Cartagena was not as good except for the church we saw at Murcia. The inside is one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. In the Canary Islands we had a nice tour until the tour group let us off at a place loaded with souvenirs and of all things a ½ Euro pay toilet. That's 65 bents US and everyone refused to pay, It's bad enough when you get "dumped" at a souvenir stand and really bad when you have to pay to use their rest room. If anyone purchases anything we did not see them do so. Such tour companies need to be taken off the ship's tour contract. We will be writing them asking that action be taken. PURSERS OFFICE (Called Guest Relations on this cruise) ----Always open and staffed with courteous and professional staff. A pleasure to deal with. TIP---although we were advised postage stamps were available at the Purser's Desk that was found not to be the case. In Gibraltar we were told be could purchase at the cruise terminal office and the ship's crew would mail the cards for us. We proceeded off the ship and made stamp purchase at the cruise terminal and they directed us to a close by box where we mailed the cards ourselves. The Purser's Office made available a copy of our charges during the first part of the cruise and the listing was 100% accurate. MOVIE THEATER-----Actually there is no formal movie theater however movies are shown at set times on a large screen TV set adjacent to the casino. There is a movie channel on your cabin TV with shows and times listed in your daily guide. DAILY PURSUITS-----The "Pursuit" Is the daily guide for the ship. It is nicely printed and is delivered to your cabin each day plus copies can also be obtained in the dining rooms. The publication is printed nicely and properly laid out while being filled with information about the day's events. In addition a copy of USA Times plus other country "Times"were made available each day. The USA Times carried latest information including sports and stock info from the United Sates. The print was easy to read and the newspaper properly laid out. We just left a cruise on another cruise line that no doubt had some of the worst copy we. had ever tried to read. Not only was the documents poorly laid out they were equally as poorly printed. SWIMMING POOLS----A pool and Jacuzzi can be found on deck 9 however due to the weather it may be a challenge to use the pool at least that's what we experienced on this particular cruise. On really "choppy" days the pool was closed. A ping pong table at just forward of the pool on deck 9. LIFEBOAT DRILLS-----The drills were held inside on deck 5. They safety instructions were given by both the staff and the Captain however life preservers remained in the cabin. The drill was well planned and orderly. OBSERVATION DECK---The front of the ship on Deck 10 is the Looking Glass which is the location for numerous functions throughout the day. We never found a time though when it was so crowded that one could not find a seat and relax while reading a book except for trivia game time or an occasional lecture. Just check the daily newspaper to see if anything is happening in the Looking Glass. There is a bar where drinks can be purchased plus music during parts of the day. Very nice viewing area. If you would like to view the areas in front of the ship, there is provided at no cost in your stateroom a pair of binoculars. Be sure and return them, otherwise the cost will end up on your bill. TIP-----Cruising on a small ship can present a much difference experience than on many of the larger mega ships. You can explore this small ship in a very short period of time. There are no large theaters, no giant casinos and no long lines. Cruising on a small ship is not for everyone and one should give considerable thought before making such a reservation. There is virtually nothing that would be attractive for children or even teen agers. If you like unusual ports, loess tendering use, meeting new people and enjoying a few drinks, then the small ships might be your choice. PASSPORTS-----Many cruise ship retaining your passports at the time you first check in. It was a delight to learn that one's passport was not retained, thus you have in your passport in your procession enabling you to exchange money at any of the ports where you stop. Try exchanging money bat some locations without your passport. One such port money exchange offered to exchange if I would pay an extra fee since I did not have a passport. CAMERAS----You cannot imagine how many passengers we saw that were wishing they had a camera in order to capture some of the sites visited on the cruise. TIP----there are many nice small digital cameras available and some sellers will encourage you to purchase a camera with a screen on the back and lots of pixies. Don't fall for this type sale. Purchasing a camera with a reasonable number of pixies (for discussion let's say ten) will far more pixies than many of us will need. Are you really going back home and printing 500 photos on 16 X 20 inch sheets of photo paper? No you are not. More than likely you will include some as attachment to your e-mails sent to family and friends and you might print a few 4 X 6 inch prints. Second, forget the use of that screen on the back of the camera when you are in bright sunlight. You just can't see the image and many cameras of this type you may see almost nothing except gray. A better suggestion is to purchase a small camera with a view finder that you can look through and actually see what you are photographing. More expensive cameras such as Canon and Nikon will have viewfinders; however there are small pocket digital cameras that also have viewfinders. PORTS VISITED------This cruise is actually a repositioning cruise thus ports are not primarily a part of this cruise, but we did have four stops along the way as a means of getting to the "other side". The stop at Cartagena was very short and it was raining which we understand was rather unusual. We could have spent time in the city especially around the old town section. There just was no enough time to take in all the treasures one could find in an old port like this one. In Gibraltar we once again had only a few hours in the city and decided to take in one of the ship's tours in order to get the most out of the port stop. Gibraltar is a very small place and one could cover almost the entire city on foot and with short taxi rides. It is interesting though that one could also visit Spain which sits on the border. We just did not have time. The stop was too short to do a lot and way too short to try to get a rental car. I hear people all the time telling me they cannot visit this particular port because they are concerned for their safety. If one becomes so concerned about very port then more than likely you will spend your holiday at home. We have traveled the entire world and there are certainly spots I do not go, however that is true for certain places in my home town. Go and have a great cruise. WHERE IS THE BEST CABIN ON THE SHIP---Frankly I don't know since it's for you. I know the ones I think are best for my particular cruise and that may not match your choice. If I had lots of money I would opt for the Captain's Suite every time. Since that is not going to happen I look at price, location, and sometimes amenities promised me. PARKING FEES KILLING ME----Parking fees can run the prices of your cruise up by many dollars. One way we beat the high cost for close by departures is to rent a car for one way and drop it off with the rental car company taking up to the cruise terminal. Since we live in Dallas and have traveled out of Houston/Galveston this is always our mode of travel. In New Orleans we have used a hotel for pre cruise stays that will permit us to leave our car for a reasonable daily rate and we may stay there a night or two after the cruise. If hotel occupancy is low management will work with you and both you and the hotel come out winners. ENRICHMENT SERIES OF LECTURES----Some of these lectures well presented with knowledgeable lecturers. You can tell after the first five minutes if a particular lecture is for you. Held on the Cabaret Lounge. SUMMARY----This was an excellent cruise and we very much enjoyed the repositioning cruise and the ship. This is a very small ship and there is not nearly the activity one finds on the new larger ships, thus we think your preference should be the controlling factor. For us we really enjoyed the smallness, meeting the people and having limited distances to walk whether it was to the dining room of fitness center. If one is looking for all the glitz, Broadway lights, swimming pool slides and wall climbing events, then this ship will not fit for you. If you are looking for an upgraded slower pace with outstanding food and service then the Azamara Club should be tried. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
My wife and I could not have been more pleased with our Best of Italy cruise aboard the Azamara Quest. During this 14 day adventure the Quest visited Civitavecchia, Sorrento, Taromina, Ravenna, Trieste, Venice, Dubrovnik (Croatia), and ... Read More
My wife and I could not have been more pleased with our Best of Italy cruise aboard the Azamara Quest. During this 14 day adventure the Quest visited Civitavecchia, Sorrento, Taromina, Ravenna, Trieste, Venice, Dubrovnik (Croatia), and Florence(Livorno). The itinerary was what first attracted us to the trip. At several of the stops, Venice, for example, the ship stayed overnight so we were able to see more of the site. Let me start at the beginning, the embarkation process was very well organized and very welcoming and the champaign apon boarding was nice too! The staff throughout the trip was exceptional: friendly, helpful, just a delight! The entertainment was uniformly good. The 9:45pm show was always something to look forward to. Thanks Tony! The food was outstanding! The fish fry in Dubrovnik was something special. The fish we had for dinner had been swimming in the Adriatic a few hours before! Our comlpiments to the Chef!! The wine selections with lunch and dinner (included in the cost) were also very good. The shuttle buses at each port were really a bonus. The buses facilitated getting to the various cities from our dock. There were always enough buses and there was never any crowding. Just to give one example of how remarkable the cruise was: we sailed into Venice at 7:00am, the sun was just rising as we went by St. Marks Square and Tony, the Cruise Director, had Pavoroti playing over the loudspeakers in public spaces. Could not have been more perfect! Thanks also to Captain Carl for the volcano! The disembarkation and transer process was a very smooth operation. My wife and I will cruise again -- with Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We have recently returned from two 7-day back-to-back cruises on Azamara Quest. We had previously sailed twice on Azamara Quest and once on Azamara Journey but this was the first time since the Azamara Club Cruises changes were ... Read More
We have recently returned from two 7-day back-to-back cruises on Azamara Quest. We had previously sailed twice on Azamara Quest and once on Azamara Journey but this was the first time since the Azamara Club Cruises changes were implemented. We boarded in Civitavecchia in mid afternoon and this went very smoothly, as by this time most passengers had already embarked. Our stateroom, which we knew would be fairly small, with a very compact bathroom in need of updating, was by this time ready for us. Our stateroom attendant Ikadek and his assistant Bengie looked after us very well throughout the cruise and replenished water, fruit and toiletries as and when necessary. Captain Carl Smith was very personable and approachable and we enjoyed his informative commentary from the bridge prior to leaving each port. It was a great pleasure to find that the Hotel Director, Ryszard Gusman and the Cruise Director, Tony Markey were on board, both of whom we had previously met on Azamara Journey. The senior officers and indeed all the crew were very friendly. The second week of our cruise, which commenced in Barcelona, was the President's Voyage and we were pleased to meet the CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, Mr Larry Pimentel and his wife Sandi and to participate in some of the additional events arranged during that week. The recent Azamara Club Cruises changes which include pre-paid gratuities, good quality wines with both lunch and dinner, complimentary bottled water and self-service laundry give Azamara a definite competitive edge over their nearest rivals. We took breakfast in the Terrace Cafe, where there was a wide choice of both hot and cold dishes. The freshly squeezed orange juice was excellent, however it was a pity that the berries were frozen rather than fresh. Whilst it was good to see Marmite and Vegemite included on the buffet, it would have been better if the jars had been replaced by individual servings. We also took lunch in the Terrace Cafe, and were mostly fortunate to be able to eat outside when the weather and availability of seating permitted. As there was only one sea day during the two weeks, afternoon tea was mainly in the Terrace Cafe where there was a good choice of sandwiches and cakes; but the water in the urn for making tea needed to be much hotter. For dinner, we especially liked the Aqualina speciality restaurant although we heard that some fellow passengers did have difficulty in making reservations for both the Prime C and Aqualina restaurants. The service in the main dining room was, on occasions, somewhat slow. For a more casual evening meal we found that Breeza (Terrace Cafe) was a good alternative venue. We were very impressed by the effort that went into setting up and providing the two excellent evening deck buffets in Sorrento during the first week, and Monte Carlo the following week. Le Club Voyage benefits have been enhanced and are much appreciated. Although we were not expecting the glitzy Hollywood style shows put on by the larger ships, the evening entertainment was one the weaker points, despite there being some good individual performances. In summary this was an enjoyable and very good cruise on this mid size ship. The officers and crew worked very hard and did their best to ensure that the highest levels of service were provided at all times. We look forward to sailing with Azamara Club Cruises again in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
The cruise visited a total of 9 ports and there were 4 complete "at sea" days. We wanted a relaxing, luxurious cruise -- and that's what we received -- in spades ! Ports :- Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rouen, Bordeaux, ... Read More
The cruise visited a total of 9 ports and there were 4 complete "at sea" days. We wanted a relaxing, luxurious cruise -- and that's what we received -- in spades ! Ports :- Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rouen, Bordeaux, Gijon(N.Spain), La Caruna (N.Spain), Gibraltar, Mahon(Menorca), Barcelona. The outstanding features were :- *The high standard of food in the free dining areas -- Window's Cafe for self service buffet and Discovery restaurant for Waiter Service. We didn't try the 2 speciality restaurant ($15 cover charge), but we didn't feel we needed to. * Free house wine in dining areas. * Exceptional level of waiter service -- just ask for Eurich ! * Very friendly atmosphere, clearly a happy ship where, without exception, all of the crew were well trained and pleased to satisfy their guests. The captain gave his daily update from the bridge and he and his senior officers were easily approachable and often to be seen about. * A small ship with only about 370 guests on our voyage, so it was easy to make friends and get around. * Our regular ocean view stateroom was quite spacious and larger than I've experienced on other ships e.g. NCL Jewel. * High level of attendant service of Stateroom. Daily Fresh fruit, flowers and bottled water. Nothing too much trouble ! * Delightful lounges especially the "Looking Glass" which served "elegant" tea (i.e. High Tea if you're British) if you for some reason you still felt peckish. The Mosaic lounge offered snacks and drinks all the time and a harpist and a piano crooner some of the time. * No hassle or high pressure sales techniques in the bars and lounges. (Unlike our NCL experience). Because gratuities are included in the up-front price the staff don't need to be rooting for tips all the time *The cabaret lounge has a small stage but is all the more intimate for that. There were no big shows but there were at least three outstanding single entertainers who gave 50 minute shows each -- conjurer, classical pianist and "Nat King Cole" vocalist. For those that want it there is a casino and an art exhibition, but since I don't gamble and for the life of me I don't understand why you would go on a cruise to buy a painting, I didn't use these facilities. Overall, an excellent cruise and outstanding value for money. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
This was the 32nd cruise for these two Seniors, whose home port is Miami. We booked through an internet agency and quickly learned that this 12 day Southern Caribbean was to be the last cruise of the Azamara Journey, sister ship to Azamara ... Read More
This was the 32nd cruise for these two Seniors, whose home port is Miami. We booked through an internet agency and quickly learned that this 12 day Southern Caribbean was to be the last cruise of the Azamara Journey, sister ship to Azamara Quest, under the "old plan" which basically was: buy your own wine, sodas, pay for specific shuttle buses, and perhaps a few more oft encountered items. Prices are to be raised accordingly, a small percentsge, according to what staff announced at one of two CruiseCritic meetings. According to management, this is to bring fares in line with prevailing "luxury" companion lines and ships. We quickly learned what sets Azamara apart from other ships of a less Luxe Category which we have sailed on. Having checked our two large bags, and both having carryons after a flawless and rapid embarkation, up the stairway to the boarding area, we found a welcome desk where we inquired where we might get lunch. We mentioned we would like to go to our cabin first and rid ourselves of carryons and were told we could leave them at the desk and they would be taken to the cabin for us. This extra touch, followed by the usual complimentary glass of champagne, began to set the them of exemplary service. But, you ask, and properly so, "Doesn't everyone now offer a glass of champagne?" Well, yes, but this was PINK champagne. We found our (now lighter) way to the Windows buffet style dining area on Deck 9, and though both remarking that it was an area of small seating capacity, in nearly all instances were able to find a seat, the rare exception being times when scheduling or events combined with a closed sit down dining room (titled Discoveries) threw more people into Windows than usual capacity permitted. There is a large outdoor area of seating, which is proportionately larger than usual. While we're "in" Windows, why not comment on food quality? Usually much much better than we have encountered on other lines (We have never done the UltraLuxe brands, i.e., Silversea, Seabourne, Crystal or Regent) At times, it was exceptional, especially for buffet service. Usual breakfast fare is outstanding for a smaller ship, with the usual omelet and pancake/waffle stations, but more frequently than not, with sides or "originals" not seen before to us. Ex.: For bagel toppings, six selections of cream cheese, one original, five with additions such as chives, et al. Oatmeal, two kettles, one with plain Oatmeal, another with milk and sugar already added for your convenience. There is usually a special side, such as peaches or pears poached with spices, and a selection of fresh fruit better by far than we have ever experienced, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Spot on ripe papaya, kiwi, pineapple and orange slices, the papaya and kiwi being the sweetest the BW (For the uninitiated or single, Beautiful Wife) Carol and I agreed to be the best we have ever tasted. Also of note: A coffee machine making fresh coffee of your selection, from conventional to DeCaf espresso and latte. The decaf espresso, a favorite of mine, is served with attractively trimmed, color wise, demi cups and saucers and, I quote: "This is the best espresso I have ever tasted...mild, nutty tasting and outstanding." I deeply regret this did not last, nor did the regular coffee offerings, seemingly deteriorating a bit each day until nearly undrinkable. Why? I have no idea. Could it be lack of daily cleaning? A shame. Perhaps most notable was a complimentary smoothie bar, open during breakfast only, staffed by two amazingly efficient and speedy young men, with an extensive array of various blendable fruits, juices and milks. (Regular, soy, yogurt and the like) You name it, it will quickly appear, literally. Accompanying the whimsical coffee machine an hilarious (though we have serious doubts the manufacturer meant it to be so) water and ice dispenser, which holds a secret of its own, fathomable to few on first, second or even subsequent attempts. Count me admittedly among the group termed "subsequent". You must hold the glass under the outlet and place the other hand in a certain specific position which entails a sensor plate, though this was unclear until near the end of our particular voyage, when an explanatory instruction plate appeared and solved the problem of the adjacent floor having continually been an unwitting ice receptacle, as a result of failed attempts by the desperate and thirsty among us. This area and machine quickly became the object of a great deal of colorful language and hands thrust into the air in full and complete surrender. Lunch was usually a fish selection, a chicken dish, both with vegetables, and sides, with the usual carvery station, and an extensive salad selection, as well as stir fry to order. One lunch was so outstanding that I wrote a personal note both to the Captain and to the Executive Chef, Lisa. Apparently no one had ever bothered in the past to do anything but enjoy, as the first time BW Carol and I dined in one of the two (absolutely outstanding) alternative restaurants (more later) we were greeted with three separate tableside visits to thank us for our kind remarks, the first by someone we took to be the Ass't head chef, the second by the Chef of the restaurant itself, and, to our amazement and near overwhelment (yes, we made that word up, so there) when I said to BW, "Well, what's next, the Head Chef herself"?, she, Lisa, did indeed appear expressing gracious thanks. Her assistant had even offered his personal extension" "If there's anything I can do for you, do please call me..." We did share the not so obvious question: "You have to wonder what the other diners must think of this impromptu parade of the chefs!" The main dining room, Discoveries, is single story, spacious and well thought out. Food was generally excellent and at times, truly outstanding. Chef Lisa and staff truly do themselves proud and are caring and extremely inventive and creative, and do an outstanding job. A dairy allergy was always well allowed for and taken care of by staff; we regret not having his name as he most assuredly deserves mention. Dining by reservation and not assignment, we nevertheless had the same waiter (Slobodan) and Ass't (Dogan) who were outstanding and quickly took care of our personal foibles. While we are on the subject, quick comment: The two alternative restaurants, termed "Aqualina" and "Prime C" are available to all passengers on a reservation basis, one each per voyage so that no one is denied the opportunity. To say more than that the food and service are exemplary and perhaps the best we have ever experienced may be an all too quick summary. BW applauded the hot mini Cinnamon donuts, served with three dipping sauces, and hot chocolate lava cake with ice cream. Another special touch...Baked Alaska desserts in Discoveries were individually made and served, and pronounced as, and I quote; "Out of this world..." by BW. Several poolside buffets displayed highly creative and appealing food, unfortunately not receiving the attendance it was absolutely worthy of. In Windows, meat loaf, served as individual portions in small dishes, rather than the "loaf" and tasting of only pure beef, not the usual adulteration of bread crumbs or the like. The requisite Lifeboat drill was quick and easy, as on our last voyage we were not required to don lifejackets, only to assemble in a comfortable public room, hear a safety address, and then for familiarization proceed to the designated lifeboat station. *The safety talk consisted of the usual: Please do not throw overboard cigars, cigarettes or disagreeable companions. If you are, during a drill or actual emergency, separated from your children they will be brought to you. If you receive the wrong children and like them better, you may keep them for the duration of the voyage, but no longer, as we have received complaints from both the authorities and disturbed grandparents. We ask that, in extreme cases, you refrain from the old trick of placing a paper with the name of another ship in your children's belongings or pockets as this seldom works out well in the end to mutual satisfaction and tends to upset responsible staff." In the same vein, our cabin (4035) had two different peepholes, one at eye level as well as a second at knee (crouching) level.*Inquiries having eliminated the possibility that the cabin had been previously occupied by the road cast of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we learned from staff that it is placed so that wily parents may ascertain that the children are attempting to get back into the room and quickly extinguish the lights and lock themselves in the bathroom. A clever ploy indeed. * More on cabin, this was configured as a cabin for the disabled; we aren't but welcomed the extra bathroom spsce, even though it was an inside. Another luxe touch, each cabin has both a steward and butler (seldom used by us) available for a multitude of functions including a daily fruit tray of your choice, and fresh flowers as well. Butler will also serve afternoon treats if ordered and desired. Both Butler and Steward were exemplary and unobtrusive. Storage space was ample and well thought out and would be ample for the duration of any length voyage. Staff in general...outstanding and near impossible to get by without a smile and greeting. Even the Customer Relations desk, adjacent to our 4th floor cabin. NO one, and we mean No one, gets by without a cheery "Hello" being called out. Newspapers in several languages are posted here, as well as in the entrance to the Windows cafe. Another luxe touch, daily bulletins are printed in color, not the usual B&W. More staff comments? When a specific room situation was noted, during a CruiseCritic meeting, to Hotel Director Heike Berdos and manager Ngawhira Fleet, quickly stepped in and solved it to our more than complete satisfaction. A thank you note was written to both, and each responded personally. Surprise...another luxe touch, a daily sheet of all upcoming movies is delivered to your cabin. These may be shown either in your room, on a flat screen TV, or on a larger screen in an appropriate area of the 5th floor Cova Cafe. Cova also contains ongoing snacks of a high order, complimentary, though specialty coffee and teas are not. BW, a sweets devotee of the highest order, quickly pronounced the chocolate biscotti the best ever experienced, as well as another favorite, chocolate croissants. Cova was one of three venues, depending on scheduling and presentation requirements, for the veritable plethora of Trivia contests offered. Well and cheerfully presented by CD Assistants Katherine, Chris and Oleg, these were not heavily attended, even on sea days, but admittedly made for easier chances to win. Prizes are thankfully not given out each time, small trinkets as key chains, luggage tags and the like, but are distributed by total number of winnings as stamped on an appropriate individual "score" sheet. This is given after the last contest of the day prior to docking and makes for a more worthwhile and useful selection of keepsakes. Gym and Spa? The gym is well equipped for the ship's size, with most machines available and well thought out. Oddly, the gym seemed very lightly attended compared to what might be expected. BW had a facial, won at one of several promotional drawings, and pronounced it a pleasing and professional experience. She noted that she had to actually inquire how to tip her young lady, a ready example of the lack of pressure for "ancillary" costs. There were never photographers making the rounds at dinner or other times. In fact, when we wanted a photograph other than at the staged settings, we spoke to the Photo Department head and were assigned a very able young man to meet us in a mutually chosen location. We were far more than pleased with his work. (In fact, the manager was also, apparently, as he asked if they might use the spread for display, and we willingly signed a release to that effect...look for us, ha) Never at any time was there continual and annoying pressure for extra paid services; very welcome and first class. Well done, Azamara. Entertainment? Azamara has, we understand, not having space for full production shows, adopted as policy having high class solo artists. This being true ( on one occasion we were so pleased we attended a (billed as: "High Energy Pianist") second show and bought a CD). We were surprised at the usually sparse attendance. We generally sat in a particular bench style row, for a combination of comfort, sight line and lighting) and on two occasions there was only one other couple (another joined later) in the entire row. This often occurred when, due to port scheduling, there was only one show, where logic dictates the presence of double the audience number at two shows... Our ports were, in order, after two sea days from Miami, St.Johns, U.S.V.I.,Gustavia,St.Barts, Fort de France, Martinique, Bequia, the Grenadines, Roseau, Dominica,Basseterre, St.Kitts,Virgin Gorda, B.V.I. In Martinique we did not ashore as it was raining; in Dominica as it was hotter than we wanted to deal with. We took no tours, having been to most ports before, and usually just debarked to walk around the adjacent shopping or to visit the Post Office to mail cards, a the ship did not provided mailings from all ports. FYI, we had previously taken the St.Kitts Train Tour and found it enjoyable snd worthwhile. -- Debarkation was, as embarkation, smooth and unruffled, though we were in the last off group and there could have been ample opportunity for any line bsckup. Final luxe touch? BW Carol and I were both encumbered with now multiple handsful we had not boarded with and found the exit very difficult. There were three courteous staff members at the stairway who offered to help us and each took a share of our burden and helped us to the baggage claim area. Again, well done and extremely impressive. BW and I, Dean, agree that Azamara has done an outstanding job with this line, and this ship. We would not hesitate to sail again on it and to recommend it whole-heartedly to our friends. Despite the (and they are few) limitations of a smaller ship (31K+ tons)the pluses far outweigh the negatives; the pluses are easy to find and the minuses near non-existent. Once again, Azamara, staff, Captain, and management, a hearty well done. (Note: the * = "Just kidding, they didn't really say that...) Best wishes, Dean and BW Carol 30 Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
I have waited to write this review, hoping that time would give some perspective. Maybe with the passing of time this cruise would not seem so perfect. Not so! This was our first cruise and it far exceeded our expectations. My husband said ... Read More
I have waited to write this review, hoping that time would give some perspective. Maybe with the passing of time this cruise would not seem so perfect. Not so! This was our first cruise and it far exceeded our expectations. My husband said it would be our last cruise, as he prefers independent travel. However we are booked on another cruise on Quest. That says it all. Background: We are retired teachers in our early 60s. We have travelled a fair bit, always independently in the past. With the recession I knew there could be some travel deals, so we decided 2009 was the time to try an organized tour. Various commitments dictated a late fall tour. It did not take much research for me to narrow down the possible places to the Eastern Mediterranean, and then to see that a cruise, because of price and ease of logistics, was the way to go. It was the itinerary for this Ancient Empires cruise and the excellent reviews for Azamara that sealed the deal. I knew we wanted a small ship with good food and no fancy dressing up. Quest: What a great little ship! Yes our room was small, but it functioned well. Next time I will have the crew remove many of the excess pillows. The bed was very comfortable, the towels were huge and thick. (Thank goodness they improved the bathroom door hooks during our cruise.) The fresh fruit, flowers and good night treat each day were welcome. The tote bag and bathrobe came in handy. There was more than enough cupboard and drawer space for our needs. One thing I wish they would improve is the bedside lighting. The lamps were too low. Wall lamps would be a huge improvement. We loved having the balcony. We did not eat there much as the weather was cool, but we sat out frequently and it was so great to be able to go out there when entering and leaving ports. The rest of the ship is tastefully appointed. There are lots of comfortable places to spend time. I enjoyed just walking around, and the ship is small enough that you can easily do that. Eating: The food was excellent. The variety was staggering. I don't see how you could not find something to your liking in all the locations. We did not eat at the grill by the pool, but some to the things looked great. We loved the buffet (under whatever name it goes!). We ate most breakfasts there because of the variety and the time saved. We were off the ship early most days. Lunch and supper there were also good. For lunch, there was always a roast or fresh fish of some kind. There were lots of salads and vegetable, breads, and desserts. I had to avoid the gelato freezer! We took in two special suppers, the fish night and the final picnic feast hosted by the captain and crew. They were wonderful with lots of variety. For breakfast there were omelettes, pancakes and waffles done to your order, hot and cold cereals, breads, yogurt, etc. etc. I nearly forgot the fresh squeezed orange juice and the smoothies . We loved the self serve coffee machine, the one that lets you choose decaf or regular and a variety of brews. Several times we got coffee there and went up to the jogging track above the pool to take in scenery. We had room service bring breakfast twice and it was great. Every morning we had room service bring hot coffee, hot milk and fresh squeezed orange juice. They phone just before arriving and always were on time, becoming a great back up alarm. What a great way to start each day! The Discoveries Dining Room is beautifully appointed and does not seem as large as it is. The food is excellent, and there is no end to the variety. However we did find a few problems here. There seemed to be organizational or logistical problems. Some of the crew seemed inexperienced. Orders got confused. Twice our first course arrived before the wine. The coffee was poor. Of course that is a matter of taste. To my husband and I it tasted over processed, either from being on a burner too long or perhaps from being perked instead of dripped. We quickly learned to order espresso which the servers fetched from their own dining room. This was excellent. Prime C and Aqualina, the specialty dining rooms were top notch. We love fine dining and ate there six times. The dEcor is great. I especially love the blue in Aqualina. The attention and service were perfect. And the food was ever better than Discoveries. Highlights I can remember: the shellfish appetiser on ice at Aqualina, the incredible and very different mushroom soup in Prime C and the Grand Marnier Mousse with the hot sauce. However, everything was great and the presentations were beautiful. One of our meals was a special wine tasting Connoisseur Dinner. I was lucky enough to read about these here on CC. I believe they were offered to suite guests, but we asked about them and easily made a booking. We wanted to go again, but our schedule did not allow. For this we paid $60 each and it was well worth it. We started in the library with an introduction to the sommelier, Amir and the executive chef, Anthony. We had a lovely champagne style wine. We then were led to the Captain's table in Prime C. Other courses included an appetizer with lobster and caviar, a wonderful foie gras mousse, ceviche, filet mignon, cheeses and special chocolate dessert. With each of these were wonderful wines. On board entertainment: We were too busy enjoying the great dining and getting up and out to the ports each day to take in any of the entertainment. Our friends who went with it enjoyed it very much. Other recreation: We had read that the pool is not heated and had not expected to be able to enjoy it in November. However the water was very warm and we enjoyed it on our at sea days. We did not play table tennis or use the gym. The walking jogging track is great. My main on board exercise was using the stairs and walking the halls to deliver notes to people taking private tours I had arranged. Between that and the hectic port schedule, I managed to lose weight while enjoying great food including dessert every day! I would love to have gone to a yoga session but could not fit it in. Maybe next time! Similarly we did not partake in any of the daytime activities, including lectures and trivia games, etc. Nor did we venture into the Casino except when on our way to somewhere else. The Crew: In a word - amazing. Here's a few more words: smiling, courteous, happy, helpful. We enjoyed talking with our butler, Edwin and his assistant Aaron. We had several chats with the cellar Master, Amir and several other workers. It was great to come back on the ship each day with the greeting: "Welcome Home," and that is what the Quest felt like in very little time. Embarking and Disembarking: These were very well organized. We were greeted at the port when we arrived and signs showed us where to leave our luggage. We were directed inside a terminal building and quickly filled out a health form. Then we went up to the counter (no line) and quickly were given our pass card. We were on the ship in less than ten minutes and happily sipping champagne. When we got to our stateroom one suitcase was already there and the other soon followed. For disembarking we asked for the earliest possible and got it (7am). Our suitcases were tagged with colour coded labels and when we were called to leave (7 am!) we walked down the gangplank, said a sad farewell to all the crew gathered there and easily found our suitcases. It could not have been easier or smoother! The ports: I spent seven months researching for this cruise. Because I had others coming with us, I arranged for all private or DIY tours. It was a lot of work, but it turned out to be well worth it. We got to go where we wanted and do it in more comfort and for less money. I will not go into too much detail here as I have posted information in answer to questions in the various Ports of Call threads on Cruise Critic. Rome: eight of us came in on the same flight from Nova Scotia and were picked up at the airport by Driver in Rome . We stayed three nights at a small B&B La Casa di Amy near the Termini Station. We had been to Rome before so had the opportunity to do some special things. We hired Driver in Rome to take us to Tivoli and the nearby Hadrian's Villa and Villa D'Este. This was an interesting day. The highlight was Villa D'Este with its amazing fountains. Four of us spent a wonderful day going to the Borghese Galleries in the morning (amazing sculptures!) and then going to the Pantheon, Piazza Navonna, Trevi Fountain area. Our last evening, I arranged for 18 of us going on the cruise (We met on the Roll Call) to meet in a restaurant, and then take a tour of Rome at night with Driver in Rome. Our driver/host was the owner, Remo and he was wonderful. Six of us were driven to the port with Driver in Rome, but my husband and I and another couple took the train. This was easy and the 4.5 Euro price cannot be beat. Sorrento: There are so many choices here and not enough time. I am glad Azamara will be doing overnights here in the future. We opted to go on a private tour with Marcello of See Sorrento. We first went to Herculaneum and had a quick tour to see its amazing mosaic tile floors and frescoes. Then we took a drive along the Amalfi Coast. We were lucky that it was a beautiful sunny day. The highlight of the day for me, and the reason I chose to go with Marcello, was the lunch in a wonderful (not to be posted online) small hilltop village with a view down to the sea. We ate on an outdoor terrace at a table laden with treats, from fresh whole wheat bread, grilled vegetables, pizza, pasta, cold cuts, salads and cheeses. Pitchers of red and white wine were never empty. With the four special cakes for dessert came three kinds of liqueur including limoncello. It was a meal to remember. Chios: What a great island and docking beside the main street in town was amazing. Two groups of us rented vans so see both the Nea Mona Monastery in the north and the Mastic villages in the south. We easily had time to see both areas and I would be hard pressed to choose between as the Azamara tours require you to do. We had time afterwards for the Intenet cafe, bars and souvenir shopping in the town. Istanbul: This overnight stop was the main reason we chose this itinerary. Istanbul was all we had heard and more. Sailing in was a memorable experience. We toured on our own thanks to CC and Rick Steves. In the two half days we had time to see the major sites. It is a clean, safe, friendly city and we plan to go back on our own for a much longer stay. The evening in port, 28 of us were taken by bus to the Sultanas Night Club for dinner and a show (mainly belly dancing). The dinner was mediocre, but the show was great. Later the bus took us for a quick trip back to the old city to see Istanbul at night. Magical! Kusadasi: A group of twelve of us took the deluxe tour to Ephesus and other places with Hello Ephesus. There is so much history there: We saw the Basilica of St. John, the House of the Virgin Mary, the Temple of Artemis, and the amazing Roman city of Ephesus with its library, two amphitheatres and the Terrace Houses. Their mosaics and frescoes were better than those in Herculaneum. We had a wonderful day capped by a late lunch in a garden and a demonstration of silk spinning and rug making at the government run school. There was no pressure to buy and no one did. We did some shopping later on in Kusadasi which has plenty of that in case you didn't get enough in Istanbul! Bodrum: This is a scenic resort town with a crusader castle containing an excellent museum of underwater archaeology. In season, this would be a boater's paradise. We took the shuttle boat from where we were docked across the bay to the castle area. We had lunch on the waterfront. Later after visiting the ruins of the Mausoleum of Helicarnasus and peeking at the ancient amphitheatre, we walked back along the harbour to the ship. We did a bit of shopping here too. Fethiye: Another beautiful resort town! We hired two vans to take us up into the hills to see the abandoned Greek town of Karakoy. This was very evocative. We had seen an abandoned Turkish village on the now Greek island of Chios. How quickly things deteriorate over time! Why can't people just get along with each other? On the way back we saw the 4th century BC Lycian Tombs carved into the rocks. How they were able to do this is beyond me. The waterfront in Fethiye is great for walking and there is lots of shopping here too. The number of boats for hire is amazing. Antalya: There is so much to see here that I had a difficult choice. I decided to forego the museum of antiquities and the shopping to continue with our exploration of ancient Roman ruins. We hired a bus for 15 of us to go to the ancient Roman ruins at Perge and the amazing theatre at Aspendos. The proscenium of this theatre is the best preserved Roman one anywhere. Perge reminded us of Ephesus, but the restoration is not so developed. Our tour included a wonderful lunch near Aspendos at a riverside restaurant. We enjoyed a buffet and fresh caught fish. Then we drove back to the city of Antalya and had time to do a bit of shopping or explore the old town, including Hadrian's Arch. We spent our last Turkish coins for two cups of tea and a great chat with our tour guide. Cyprus: we had only half a day but managed to see a lot. We hired two vans with drivers to take us to Paphos. On the way we stopped at Aphrodite's rock. At Paphos we toured more wonderful Roman archaeological sites. The mosaics were even better than in the Terrace Houses. On the way back we went to Kourion to see another Roman amphitheatre and more amazing mosaics. We had a quick peek at the outside of Kolossi Castle and then it was back to the shop. Alexandria: We hired Ramses Tours to take us for a long, full day to the Pyramids and the Museum in Cairo. The pyramids are amazing. So were the crowds and this was off season. We also toured the Solar boat Museum and had lunch in an Egyptian restaurant. Our guide took great care of us and was very knowledgeable. The Museum was amazing, but far too crowded to get the most from it. Each guide had to wear a mike and we had to wear earphones to hear him. We returned to the ship in plenty of time. Athens: After our easy disembarking and sad farewell to Quest, we took a taxi into Athens. We stayed at the very inexpensive, but satisfactory Hotel Attalos, at Monasteriki Square, a very central location. We spent three nights there and walked all around the main part of Athens. We were very pleasantly surprised by how clean it is and pollution free. We also rented a car and spent two days (and one night in Naphlion) exploring more ancient wonders (Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus) in the Peloponnesian Peninsula. Are we the kind of cruisers Azamara is hoping to attract with their new direction? We are older and retired and not at all wealthy. However we love port intensive tours and will enjoy the new house wine served with each meal. We are certainly looking forward to our cruise on Quest in Asia in 2011. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Azamara Journey - Southeastern Mediterranean (October 11, 2009 - October 25, 2009) "The Pursuit of Excellence" Reflecting on the voyage, I would characterize the ethos of the ship's officers, staff, and crew as ... Read More
Azamara Journey - Southeastern Mediterranean (October 11, 2009 - October 25, 2009) "The Pursuit of Excellence" Reflecting on the voyage, I would characterize the ethos of the ship's officers, staff, and crew as having a focus on this motivation by demonstrated behavior and actions. For the record, we are in no way connected to the cruise company or any travel business - we are experienced cruisers - on the Azamara Journey and mostly on Celebrity ships but also with Royal Caribbean and Holland America. Now, on to some specific observations and reflections: Azamara - The Product is Cruise Experiences - the Strength is its People After completing our second voyage on the Azamara Journey, our conclusion is that we had two outstanding cruise experiences due to the wonderful people who serve on this ship. This time, the top leadership setting a tone of excellence were Captain Georgios Theodorou, Staff Captain Manos Aposkitis, Hotel Director Heike Cramer, and Food and Beverage Manager Ryszard Gusmann, It can be said that all the crew and staff 'have got it' - they consistently provide great customer service with a smile and go out of their way to please and 'do what needs to be done and do it well'. It was especially heartwarming to renew the friendships with many of the staff whom we had met on previous voyages. Embarkation and Sailing The embarkation process at the port of Piraeus was terribly delayed by the Port's Government officer responsible for passport control. He took 'his sweet time' to get into his station, simply to demonstrate that 'all were beholden to him' - how frustrating for the ship's management who were ready to receive passengers on board but couldn't proceed with the embarkation. The Onboard Experience Eating/Dining Having dined at Three-Star Michelin restaurants in Europe and at other fine dining establishments, leads one to have certain perspectives and expectations with respect to dining out. On the other hand, it is important to keep situations and circumstances in perspective, when it comes to eating and dining at sea. Based on our experience on the Azamara Journey, execution in everyday details is guided and exemplified by great leadership - service with excellence is provided under the direction of Heike Cramer (Hotel Director), assisted by Food and Beverage Manager, Ryszard and his team. The leadership is constantly practicing MBWA—Management By Walking Around, checking and correcting and perfecting. It is indeed a great pleasure to eat and dine great food selections beautifully presented, in a variety of settings: 'Open Seating' main dining in Discoveries Dining Room, various daily buffet selections in Windows Cafe, and the upscale Specialty Dining Restaurants (Aqualina and Prime C). Some special features to be highlighted are the Sushi Bar, the fresh juice and smoothie bar, very good selections of appetizers, main course dishes, and a fabulous baking and dessert presentation. Evening dinners in the Dining Room were always a wonderful experience - being welcomed with a friendly greeting by Maitre'd Moustafa - having great food with great presentation served by several outstanding waiters, Mario, Darren, Philbert. Everyone, at every level, is tuned to providing excellent service with attention to details - the prevailing attitude is 'listening and following up' on any suggestions that are provided. Serving staff and all ship service personnel always greet cruisers in friendly ways and offer assistance at every turn. Stateroom and Service On the R-8 Class of ships, a long voyage is much more comfortable in one of the Sky Suites - more space in every sense - a large amount of storage space, a larger bathroom with a bathtub/shower, excellent products (Elemis) - really a nice way to 'clean up' and perform the 'beautification routines'. The towels are nice and thick and very absorbent and the bedding is great. How were we looked after by our stateroom attendants (butler and assistant)? Let's say it straight - "the team of Arvind, Alvin, and Kevin were terrific". We don't look to a butler to unpack or pack but we expect service with excellence and that is what it has been. These guys aimed to please in every way: extra champagne glasses and a cheese tray and a plate of prawns to host some guests were delivered; soiled shoes after visiting Egyptian cities were cleaned in short order; any small requests were looked after expeditiously - all in all, the stateroom service team performed very well and showed great disposition. Entertainment and Programming The efforts of Cruise Director Tony Markey are recognized. Although the stage entertainment was not always to our liking (obviously, a subjective assessment), we appreciated the high quality of classical and vocal talent being featured. Some of the social gathering areas like the Cova Cafe and the entrance area to the Main Dining Room, became very popular whenever the pianist and harpist performed. Other Amenities Thalassotherapy Pool at the front of the ship, accessed from the Spa area, is overpriced. The T-Pool is fine but not nearly as wonderful as in other Celebrity ships (disregarding the size aspect) - the seating rails are not a comfortable configuration. The Steam rooms (male and female rooms) are really good - marble benches and good space for six people of so. The ship's Internet Communication Service needs to be significantly improved - it works with one of the worst Login and Time-tracking scripts I have experienced on ships. Guest Relations is blessed with some wonderful people with great disposition and patience - Yasemin deserves special mention. Ports and Tours This southeastern Mediterranean cruise was a very port-intensive voyage with extensive tour packages offered. Orientations to ports and tours were provided by the Shore Excursions Director and the outstanding and highly stimulating onboard Destination Lecturer, Jon Fleming. Overall - this was an outstanding cruise experience - reassuring us, that Azamara is continuing its 'pursuit of perfection'. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Azamara was easy to book.  I booked direct because they promised to match any prices decreases. Booked our own air directly with USAirways.  We also booked our own hotels for our stays before and after the cruise.  We took taxis to/from ... Read More
Azamara was easy to book.  I booked direct because they promised to match any prices decreases. Booked our own air directly with USAirways.  We also booked our own hotels for our stays before and after the cruise.  We took taxis to/from the ship.  The cruise line charges for these services seemed too high for us.  For example, we stayed at Le Meridien in Barcelona for 179E including breakfast.  They even threw in museum passes and coupons for coffee. I got a great deal and I knew it.  I booked an guarantee cabin on the ship.  I got an assigned cabin about 2 months prior to sailing.  It did not include an upgrade.  I was a bit dissappointed that we did not get any upgrade.  Not even one cat.  Captains Club advanced standing got us nothing.  However, our balcony cabin was fine.  Certainly enough space for storage.  Our butler stored out larger luggage.  We put our carryons under the beds. The storage space was good.  The bathroom was a bit small, but okay.  We got used to taking showers sideways.  The shampoo/conditioner/soap were excellent quality.  Towels were big and heavy.Hairdryer was good. Bathrobes and slippers were provided.  Also, a cloth totebag, umbrella, binoculars, hairdryer were in the cabin. We brought a plastic waterbottle which we had our butler fill with ice and water.  It was great on excursions. Beds were okay. We really enjoyed the deck area  when we were able to use it.What we did in ports:  Gibraltar  ....took a shared taxi to town.  Took a taxi to top of the rock, went inside the caves, saw the  apes.    La Coruna...walked in the old town  St. Malo.....walked the ramparts, enjoyed the stores and quaint streets, ate lunch at a cafe  Rouen........took the express train to Paris (1 hr), ate lunch at Pompeii ( a nice cafe near Madeline which we had found a previous trip), took the metro to Muse D'Orsay, walked in the Tulleries gardens, metro to St. Lazarre train station where we went back to Rouen, ate dinner at a cafe in the old market square in Rouen  Antwerp..... took the ship excursion to Ghent for a canal ride and tour (very good tour)  London.......took the ship excursion London Panorama and Pub Lunch( very good tour)  Amsterdam.... tram to flower market, tram to Riijksmuseum, walked to the Van Loon House ( a find), walked through the antique district, tram to ship  Kiel Canal.....enjoyed watching the process of going through the locks.  The scenery along the canal was beautiful.  We wanted to sit on our balcony and enjoy.  However, on that day we were shocked to find 2 Azamara workers on our deck scraping, painting, etc.  We had not been told that this was to happen.  The smell was awful and we were not able to enjoy our balcony that day.  Be aware that the cabins balconies connect ..a key is needed to open them.  We were not happy.  Copenhagen...disembarkment was a breeze.  Taxis were easy to get.  Taxis took credit cards.  Stayed at Hilton.  It was an excellent hotel and a short walk to the airport.   I liked the open seating, the casual dress, no lines.  The food was good, but not gourmet.  The coffee was poor.  The choices could have been better. On a 14 night cruise, the desserts were repeated too often.  Most entrees were good, but portions were very large. Specialty restaurants were a nice option.  Liked Prime C better than Aquilina.  Service was excellent. I missed the therapy pools on Celebrity....the outdoor pool on the front deck of the spa wasn't very good. Would I cruise again on Azamara?  Most likely....if I like the intinery and the price was right.  The service was very good. Philip, the hotel director seems to really care.  John Howell makes the cruise fun.  Everyone smiles.  People are happy.  Sign up for the CruiseCritcs party.  We had 4 get togthers with our group.       Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Several priorities led us to select this particular cruise: 1. TIMING was to coincide with our 40th anniversary. 2. DURATION since we prefer cruises of ten or more days. 3. COST, or perhaps I should say value. 4. ITINERARY, which proved to ... Read More
Several priorities led us to select this particular cruise: 1. TIMING was to coincide with our 40th anniversary. 2. DURATION since we prefer cruises of ten or more days. 3. COST, or perhaps I should say value. 4. ITINERARY, which proved to be the bonus element for this cruise.  5. CLIMATE, we would be escaping summer heat and wanted moderate to cool weather.This particular sailing of AZAMARA Journey fulfilled all of our requirements in a spectacular fashion.  The only thing I would change about this entire trip would be to allow another day in Barcelona. Flying in from California only one day ahead was not really sufficient. We had to choose to either see Barcelona or catch up on sleep. Sadly, sleep won. After nearly falling off the top level of the hop on hop off bus, we gave in and returned to Hotel Colon for a "nap" that lasted until the next morning. If you want a hotel that puts you in the middle of the Cathedral square, adjacent to shopping and at the hub of the city, Hotel Colon will fit your criteria. Their strength is the premier location and the very nice breakfast that is included with your room. If you need the comfort of a plush room with high end bedding, you might want to look elsewhere, but we would choose this hotel again based entirely on location. Embarkation was a complete breeze. We waltzed through the whole process without lines or delay. The ship is lovely. Public rooms are comfortable and the veranda suite seemed very similar to the same category suite on the Celebrity ships we've used in the past. ***AFTER THE ROOM SWITCH... More storage than we could possibly fill. We started the cruise in a standard veranda suite, and moved on the second day to the sky suite. I would estimate that the sky suite provides approximately triple the closet space, drawers and cupboards, and there is no comparison of the counter space, both in the suite and in the bathroom. The shower over the bathtub provides a generous amount of space compared to the tiny stall shower (with its clinging shower curtain) of our original suite. Simply cannot say enough about the luxury of having such a large suite, especially for a cruise as long as this one. The Sky Suite provided space and storage comparable to the Marriott Hotel we used in Copenhagen and it was larger than the Hotel Colon, which we used in Barcelona for the night before embarkation. In the dining room on the first evening, we ordered a couple of bottles of wine; a white and a red. I'd read from previous reviews that the bottles would be stored and returned to our table on the following night. Since we had demonstrated an interest in the wine list, we were immediately introduced to Boris, the very capable sommelier. He mentioned a wine tasting event being planned on board the ship and inquired about our interest. We were enthusiastic about adding that to our agenda and Boris promised to let us know about the details. I have to tell you, attending that first wine tasting was to be one of our best, all time decisions! Subsequent to that first event, we were privileged to enjoy two entire wine dinners, with specialty dishes and individually paired wines served in an intimate setting for eight to ten guests and attended by ship's officers, Ryszard Gusmann, and Philip Herbert. These proved to be a highlight of the cruise. During the second dinner, which was held in a beautifully adorned Michaels Club, each course was prepared and presented with table side comments from Chef Kyle. We were absolutely treated like royalty at these dinners, and the friendships forged, plus the wonderful company of Ryszard and Philip, all enriched our whole experience. Specialty dining experiences were, as intended, superior to the dining room, though the dining room was quite good. We generally had excellent service and, as promised, any left over wine was promptly delivered to our table each night, regardless where we dined. We did notice that the main dining room seemed to consistently cook a little "to the done" so for you who prefer your beef or lamb on the rare side, don't hesitate to ask for RARE.Another note about the wine and corkage issue, we did take a couple of special birthday and anniversary bottles on board. We knew we would be charged $25. corkage but what we didn't know was how it would be received... The wine staff could not have been more accomodating. They were gracious about accepting our private bottles and even complimentary of our choices. No hint of a negative attitude from anyone. If you have special bottles you really want to take with you, something you care enough about to drag it half way around the world in your luggage, don't worry about being given the cold shoulder from the wine staff. Ports of call and stateroom details are covered separately, but if you are "big people" like we are, and you can afford the extra money, pay for the upgrade to the sky suite. Overall, this was a wonderful itinerary. We were blessed with fabulous weather at each port. Paris and London were both enjoying extraordinarily fine, sunny days during our visit. The alternating sea days and exhausting port excursions proved a perfect balance. The cities like La Coruna, or St Malo, which were meaningless to us before this trip, are now cherished memories with fun stories to accompany our photos. You are reading this review to make a determination of whether you would like to travel on this ship or this itinerary. If you have children traveling with you, you should probably select a different ship. The AZAMARA line does not pretend to cater to children, though there was one family with teenage children on our ship and they seemed to have a great time. If you are a fan of the great big stage shows, you should probably select a different ship. If you need a golf simulator or a climbing wall, this is obviously not your ship. But if you enjoy exceptional service, fine dining, comfortable accomodations and not being faced with standing in line for everything you want to do, by all means, book AZAMARA as soon as you can.As for itinerary, this trip served as a great introduction to Western Europe. We saw places we'd always dreamed of visiting and we also discovered places we'd never heard of before. Sort of a "box of assorted chocolates" approach to visiting Europe.We can't say enough good things about the staff on this ship. As mentioned before, the wait staff, Boris and the entire wine staff, and the chefs were all first rate. We were impressed with a tour of the kitchens and recognize the "unsung heros" who do all the prep work to keep those meals coming endlessly throughout the days and nights. Butler, Soobash, kept our ice bucket filled and learned our preferences. He also decorated for my birthday (without being tipped off by anyone). The tone of hospitality is set by Philip Herbert, Ryszard Gusmann and Boris. They went to great lengths to do anything and everything possible to enhance our experience. We will look forward to sailing with this ship again, partially to renew friendships with these wonderful men. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We had cruised Oceania twice and loved the experiences but was anxious to see if Azamara could raise the bar.  We definitely feel they did!  Although after reading several reviews on this site this past winter I was a little skeptical.  ... Read More
We had cruised Oceania twice and loved the experiences but was anxious to see if Azamara could raise the bar.  We definitely feel they did!  Although after reading several reviews on this site this past winter I was a little skeptical.  There were definitely some negative comments posted here that made me question booking the April 15 Sorrento Stopover but I am glad we did!  Azamara is definitely listening to their clientele and acting upon their comments.  We booked our cruise through Largray Travel (Mary Peptides) who I found online.  I did our own air through Orbitz as we are committed to Delta!  This was the only downer on the trip as Delta left Atlanta an hour late due to boarding a lot of standbys and finding their luggage.  We therefore missed our connection to Venice and because we are talking only a couple days past Easter the first 2 subsequent flights were sold out so we arrived in Venice 9 hours late.  Fortunately, Azamara picked up on our delay and had a private driver there to meet us.(even though their literature said transfers ended at 4 PM)  We left the airport at 5:35 pm and sped to the dock as we were informed the Port Authority closed at 6:00.  This was quite an experience as the Italians shouted at each other as to whether or not we could board as they were closedbut ultimately we did get on and everything went much smoother after that!Azamara hosted a meet and mingle for about 30 of us and did a good job of listening to everyone's comments.  It was the first time we have ever had a group large enough for one of these parties.  They had a least 5 senior officers there to listen to our comments.The itinerary of this cruise was awesome and our main reason for booking.  The dining experiences in all 4 venues were wonderful.  We even thought the Breeza experience much better than on Oceania.  I didn't have a bad meal the whole 10 days and even some very memorable ones.  One dessert (a Pavlovano, not chocolate) was outstandingtasty and very artistic!  I am only sorry I did not get a picture of it!The shore excursion staff did a nice job!  We only booked 3 excursions through them and chose to book others independently in Split and Kotor.  I felt the ones we did were a decent value for the money.Capri and Sorrento we did totally on our own.The crew was outstanding and very friendly.  Captain "Theo" was very approachable and seem to care very much about pleasing his quests. I loved the evening appetizers which were quite tasty and artistic and the night time pillow treats were awesome I always tried at least one before bedtime and stashed the rest in the minibar for later.  Who doesn't love a chocolate covered strawberry with their roomservice coffee in the morning!Azamara you did a fantastic job we will be back! Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
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