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Sail Date: December 2008
My first cruise on a ship with more than 40 passengers was a 16-day affair on Azamara Journey from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. We had stops in Aruba; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua; and in Huatulco, ... Read More
My first cruise on a ship with more than 40 passengers was a 16-day affair on Azamara Journey from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. We had stops in Aruba; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua; and in Huatulco, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas , all in Mexico. We arranged our own airfares and hotel in Miami in order to use air miles points. Aeroplan hammered us for 200,000 points for the flights alone and we reserved weeks in advance. Aeroplan loves to rob its customers. I was told that Azamara was a small, luxury ship with great service—a 2:1 ratio passengers to staff—-fine food and excellent entertainment. One out of three isn't bad, I suppose, it is a small ship. And speaking of small, the sole swimming pool in minuscule, but that's OK I guess. I did expect more. We arrived at the docks on time and the boarding process was relatively smooth although I got in to Russia without showing my passport as many times as I did boarding Azamara Journey in Miami. Once aboard, we found our stateroom (#6077) with a private balcony to be cozy and well appointed. The toiletries supplied by Azamara were very good. The bed linens were excellent as was the mattress. The towels were over-sized, thick and absorbent and the robes splendid but heavy. No slippers were to be found, nor binoculars! Our stateroom attendant, Alexis, was the best; hardworking, pleasant and courteous. He often ran ahead of my wife just to open the door for her. Other staff was largely attentive and smiled a lot, but too many of them were hopeless at their jobs. Their English was often lacking and many were untrained in the service industry. It must be said, though, that some were excellent, Roxanna in the Discoveries dining room, Maria a wine server with a constant smile who never stopped moving, and a couple of young women in the Aqualina dining room were exceptional including Ludmillia (spelled somewhat differently)and her wine steward. The entertainment crew, Eric Brouman, Ron Hollywood,and Geny Alie, were worth the price of admission both while working and while just mingling with the passengers. The harpist, Mary Amanda, was wonderful to listen to and charismatic to boot. The male piano player, Dan, in the Cova Cafe was a great entertainer. Otherwise, the entertainment was sub-standard. One performer, a woman with a ventriloquist's dummy whose mouth moved less than hers, was beyond description, I fear. A female piano player and a violinist were hardly from the entertainment A list The food was OK, but not up to the descriptions by Azamara. If salt is what you like in huge doses, you'd love this stuff. My biggest complaint, however, was that the kitchen had no idea how to do a steak. While my rib eye was done properly, four filet mignons were unbelievably under- or over-cooked. Christmas dinner was dreadful. It was advertised as mid-western turkey with seasonal vegetables. I'll bet the meat had never seen the mid-west, or even a turkey, for that matter. It was, I'm sure, processed meat. The main seasonal vegetable was asparagus—a spring veggie where I come from. Over-all it was hopeless. But New Year's Eve dinner topped it. We had a table for 10 and were led to the captain's table—minus the captain, which is fine with me—by the head man in the food section. A fine young fellow named Scott. That was the end of the good stuff. We waited 20 minutes without so much as a glass of water and nary a suggestion that a server was assigned to our table. I was able to locate an assistant manager of Discoveries to ask what was going on. Unbelievably, he said the waiter who looked after our table was off sick. That was it. I asked him whether we should wait until the waiter recovered or would someone be assigned to us. He said he'd serve us. About five minutes later the menus were distributed and the waiter vanished for a further five minutes. When he came back, we got some water and one of our fellow diners ordered wine that was available in an upstairs dining room, but not in Discoveries. No problem, said the waiter, I will see to it—perhaps the $65 price tag, plus the 18 per cent gratuity helped. Alas, 10 minutes later, Maria, the wine lady, showed up and asked for our wine order. Told that the waiter had said he'd look after the special order, she said he had just passed it on to her. I then ordered a bottle that was on Discoveries' list—also $65 plus the ubiquitous 18 per cent. They arrived together another 10 minutes hence, although the bottle from upstairs was the wrong one. We kept it because by now the hour was getting late and we were thirsty and hungry. Then the ordering started. When asked what came with the veal, the waiter said he didn't know. And he didn't offer to find out. And so it went. No apologies. Nothing. Had that happened in a good dining room there would have been hell to pay. However, despite reporting our displeasure to a higher-up, we heard nothing. The fitness and recreation facilities were fine. My wife enjoyed the stretching classes, the yoga sessions, especially when they gathered on deck, and occasionally pilates. She thought the instructor Dicky, a Dutch girl, was very good. The fitness facilities, too were adequate and well maintained. We didn't go on any organized excursions, which we thought were a little pricey and we didn't travel all that way to spend hours on a bus. We did manage to travel around in hired vehicles with local guides. So what did we think of the cruise over-all? We had a great time because of the people we met on board. Thanks to the ship's small size, we met a good number of people, 90 per cent of them terrific company. The other 10 per cent? They probably didn't like me any more than I liked them. It was Hanukkah and some Jewish people invited us to the candle-lighting ceremony. We had a brilliant time. We socialized with Brits, Americans, South Africans and Canadians. Would I cruise again? I'm not sure because I can't imagine meeting such a great group of people again. If we did go on another cruiseand I suppose it's likelyit would be on a small ship. Cruise Beginner13 Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
First things first, we loved this cruise! We are frequent sailors with Celebrity so some of the comparisons will be with our previous experiences. We began our journey with a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Hate flying and ... Read More
First things first, we loved this cruise! We are frequent sailors with Celebrity so some of the comparisons will be with our previous experiences. We began our journey with a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Hate flying and our flight didn't change that view. Everything was OK though as the flight was on time. It was a $22 flat rate taxi ride from the airport to the cruise dock. We arrived early for boarding (around 11 am) and found registration to be quite easy with no waiting what so ever. Unfortunately, not within the cruise lines responsibility, we could not board immediately. The ship was undergoing inspections by both the Coast Guard and Immigration so we were asked to take a seat and wait for official clearance. Less than an hour later they were cleared and we could board. Again, an easy process and quite quick. We had our photo taken for the Sea Pass and were given a glass of Rose Champagne. The rooms were not ready but that was to be expected since we boarded two hours before the suggested time. It gave us time to explore the ship and it's common areas. We had never sailed with Azamara and this was also our first small ship adventure. My first impression upon entering the ship was the ceilings were standard eight foot heights. If you love the soaring atriums and massive open spaces, a small ship like this is not for you. I quickly acclimated though and grew to love the smallness. One of our first visits was to Michael's Club which is on the tenth deck aft. On Celebrity, Michael's Club is a very nice bar with live entertainment. On the Journey Michael's Club is a very nice library but no bar. There was a grand piano which was occasionally used by passengers and as practice by one of the performers. This room was simply lovely with seating in club chairs and sofas and tables upon which you could play games. The book selection was great and the books were filed alphabetically by author. Best selection and best organization I have ever encountered on a ship. There was always a good selection of books available. Very impressive! Michael's Club was also used for various meetings like the Cruise Critic party, the Officer's Cocktail party, some religious gatherings (it was Christmas), and a meeting place for the Connoisseur Dinners (more on those functions later). Windows Cafe is the name of the buffet area located on deck nine aft. It was open for open for lunch and had the only operating bar at that time. We took a break, had a light lunch and a glass of wine while we waited for our room to be ready. The buffet is small but very adequate for a small ship. No trays, simply stacks of plates which you loaded from various stations. It worked on the scramble system where you pick the food station you desire. For the entire trip there were never more than three people in front of me. The food selection was fairly broad and I thought the quality was quite good. There was always a salad station, a cheese station, a dessert station, and a carving station. At breakfast there was cereal, fruits, eggs, a toasting station, an omelet station, and a waffle/french toast station. Full breakfast service lasted until 10 am and a Continental breakfast continued until 11. One of the great things was their coffee machines. There were four of them all located on deck nine. You could choose from regular or decaf coffee, double coffee (cafe american), or expresso from six different buttons. We always had the regular double coffee and it was excellent. The coffee machine also had a spigot for hot water for preparing tea with a selection of bagged teas with milk and lemon available. Next to the coffee machine was another machine with ice and water. And a third machine which had four spigots dispensing iced tea, orange juice, lemonade, apple juice, fruit punch and a tropical blend fruit drink. Only four spigots, so the choices varied with iced tea the only one which was always available. All these machines were available 24 hours a day. By the time we finished lunch, an announcement was made that cabins were now ready. Azamara follows the good policy of very few announcements. Once a day (at noon) was the Captain's report followed by the Cruise Director reporting on the days activities. Our cabin was on the seventh deck forward very near the forward elevators. We were worried about noise from people gathering at the elevators but were never bothered. The cabin was 172 sq ft with a 42 sq ft balcony which is a pretty standard size. It was well furnished and comfortable. The bathroom was quite small with limited counter space but with enough cabinet space to hold our various necessities. There were bottles of Elemis shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion for our use. I have had small verandahs before but this one was made smaller because the furniture took up most of the floor space. There were two chairs and a 2' x 3' table which was just too large for the space. To stand at the railing you had to move a chair to make room. The furniture would have been perfect had the verandah been twice the size. Azamara advertises every room comes with a butler. After a while, ours came by to introduce himself and cover some information on our ship. We found the service to be excellent but the butler concept is really just a cabin steward in a better uniform. He was easy to reach via his cell phone and any time we needed something it was quick and easy to call. Our luggage was delivered in stages over several hours. There was more than enough storage space for our needs. The closets come with removable hangers and there was drawer storage in one closet and also in the desk. Azamara runs their dining room on open seating, no reservations required, and country club attire. We were tired after our red eye flight so we skipped the dining room and went to one of their speciality restaurants for a glass of wine and an appetizer. We didn't have a reservation but they gave us a seat at an upright table which worked perfectly. The speciality restaurants are side by side on the tenth deck aft. Prime C is a steakhouse; Aqualina is Mediterranean. The food in both was excellent and we had several meals there throughout the cruise. Because the ship is small, it is easy to get around. The ship's lounges were also miniature versions of the Cova Cafe and the Martini Bar but perfectly adequate for the smaller number of passengers. The Cova Cafe always had snacks available when open. The Martini Bar was an evening operation only. Both had live entertainment at various hours via a guitarist, a harpist, and a pianist who rotated between venues. The ship's main showroom was called the Cabaret and it too was small but nicely furnished and comfortable. It was basically one level with a show floor that doubled as a dance floor. Entertainers were good but limited by the size with no sets or costume changes for the performers. All together the entertainment was just good not being any where near the variety or extravaganza of the larger ships. So if you desire high level entertainment, the Journey is not for you. We were happy because we more enjoy the entertainment in the small lounges where you can converse over beverages. The main dining room is a single story, prettily furnished room which is supposed to hold the entire passenger load in a single seating. I thought the food and service was anywhere from good to excellent. But the room just seemed to be too busy and not conducive to relaxed dining. The food variety was quite good but I felt they needed more wine servers. Being open seating, you walk up to the maitre de and tell him the type of table you want, i.e., a single, table for six, etc. There was never more than a ten minute wait and that was only once at the popular 8 pm. The Martini Bar was at the entrance to the dining room and was a good spot to either wait for a table or for dining partners. As Elite members of the Captain's Club we received a schedule of events in our room. I was impressed as we attended the Captain's reception, the Officer's cocktail party, the Cruise Critic party, and the Captain's Club reception that each event had waiters with trays of hors'douevers and servers with cocktails and an open bar. Very nice. Plus the hors'douevers were excellent. Also excellent were the daily savories provided by our butler. We had this service previously on Celebrity and were totally unimpressed. So we delayed ordering thinking it would be the same. Big mistake. The savories were actually small servings of appetizers from the speciality restaurants and included things like tiger prawns, foie gras, grilled salmon, pate, and even slices of lobster. We will order every day next time. There were ten sea days on this cruise and each sea day there were two events we loved. Each sea day at 10 am there was a cooking demonstration and at 1:30 there was a wine tasting. The cooking demonstration was done in the Cabaret show lounge by the head chef from the speciality restaurants and mainly featured items from those menus. Delicious samples were served at the end. The wine tasting was done by the cellar master and consisted of five tastes from a specific region. We covered France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Pacific Northwest, and other regions. An excellent idea well presented and informative. In conclusion we loved the ship and the cruise. It was an upscale cruise for the food, wine, and a very nice group of passengers. We will certainly be looking for more sailing opportunities with Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
Journey was practically identical to Regatta except it looked a little tired and in need of care. The wonderful lounge and Piano Bar on Regatta had a whole extension from the Casino in its place on Journey.This left their midships ... Read More
Journey was practically identical to Regatta except it looked a little tired and in need of care. The wonderful lounge and Piano Bar on Regatta had a whole extension from the Casino in its place on Journey.This left their midships 'Shopping Mall' as the locale for Trivia, Piano Sing along etc, not enough seats, no bar and limited service. They took away tables that were in place on Regatta on the outdoor area at the stern at the 9th deck buffet and installed a bar on Journey. The bar was rarely open, the seats were chipped and in need of stain and varnish. At night they had a barman but no waiters. The service level EXCEPT in Discoveries was poor, not enough wait staff in any of the Bar areas. In the Buffet (Windows) they had specialty cooking station but only one chef leading to long line ups for specialized fish, Asian, Indian Entrees. Your dirty plates could sit around for quite a while as there was no help to move them. Water or drinks were your own responsibility. The same criteria applied at the Grill on Deck 9 Poolside, one cook doing custom work. Discoveries was impeccable with a MAitre'D who remembered your name after DAy 1, great service, great selection and perfect cuisine. If Journey could apply the principles of Discoveries to the rest of the ships management they may catch up with Oceania. CAbin Service was poor. The much touted Butler Service was just a Housekeeper with a Bow Tie. we got Fresh Flowers Day 1 and they were never replaced. The Fresh Fruit was only replacing as and when they felt like it. If you like attention, towel figures and all that forget it. We never saw the Butler after Day 1. When our door lock failed neither they or Customer Relations helped, I had to seek out the Engineering Officer (SAfety) who fixed it for us. Just a lack of commitment and organization. Always polite but it was largely superficial. The Entertainment Staff were Bizarre. Events on Board were carried out by a very energetic DJ/Trivia King Ron 'Hollywood' a very hard working energetic individual with help from Eric Brohman a would be magician and trivia host. Both friendly and fun. Whenever you asked a question though the answer was "We don't know what we are doing any day until late the evening before" Hence a Presentation was cancelled as they had not done a dry run on their computer. This happened several times with AV equipment, no rehearsal apparent, flying by the seat of their pants! The Pianist, Dan, was brilliant, talented and should have been Cruise Director as he was also so people oriented, the lady harpist was talented and great fun. Both of them said many times that they hadn't a clue what was expected from them on a day to day basis. Seemed a little 'devil may care' despite their great talent. The 'Events Organizer' Kelsey was hard working and very pleasant but was always being overshadowed by her boss. The Cruise Director Sue Denning was the most incredible example of square peg in a round hole. On most cruises the Cruise Director is thew 'Passengers Friend, Organizer, liaison etc. This lady had an ego the size of the ship itself but without the managerial abilities to match. Sue had talent, belted out a good song and was quite the Comedienne but didn't know when to switch it off. She was very much a 'Legend in her own mind' and contributed little to events on the cruise.She was aloof, lacking eye contact, running hother and yon but never getting directly involved in anything. All questions were answered with "Sorry, Luv, I'm too busy" Consensus of many I spoke to was she was not really sophisticated for her role but may be good on a lesser class of ship as one of the Acts. Her lack of Motivational skills showed up in the attitudes and planning of the staff reporting to her. The ship was nice but not as nice as Regatta, the Crew nice but impersonal. To be told to tip an extra $5 for Service in Prime C after already being told to pay a staff gratuity was a bit cheap. The debarkation started early on the 15th , for the 18th arrival!! First we got our customs forms and instructions 15th, lecture next day by Sue in 'Bossy Boots' mode . The fruit went from the room on the 17th as well as the slippers we were supposed to keep. On the 18th , following Instructions we breakfasted at 6 am, waited till 7.40 for our time for Customs and Immigration. That started at 8 am and it was a free for all, no organizing at all. We then dutifully waited for our 8.50 call for our luggage tag only to get Sue shouting to the crowd in the SHopping Mall area "I know you are in a hurry to get off, try and observe the sequence but if you don't want to just don't shove your way out" Once again another free for all. Eventually we worked our way through a chaotic baggage claim to waiting buses that sat forever it seemed , organized by no one from Azamara. The driver left about 10-15 for the Airport, the driver , Lovell, making a pitch for tips on the intercom. It was a nice cruise BUT if I have the choice its still Oceania for me. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
We returned last week after a wonderful 15 day cruise from Barcelona to Miami, with stops in Alicante and Almeria, Spain, and four Canary Islands. On both cruises, we had the best food and the friendliest service we've had over the ... Read More
We returned last week after a wonderful 15 day cruise from Barcelona to Miami, with stops in Alicante and Almeria, Spain, and four Canary Islands. On both cruises, we had the best food and the friendliest service we've had over the past 30 years of cruising. Embarkation - both in Sao Paolo and Barcelona, embarkation was a breeze; on-board in less than five minutes, with plenty of staff to assist. A welcome glass of bubbly, a full lunch in the Windows buffet, and into our stateroom by shortly after 1 PM, although we had arrived before the designated time twice. On the most recent cruise, our luggage was in the room quickly and we were fully unpacked and into cocktails before the 4:15 lifeboat drill. Stateroom - we had a Sky Suite both cruises, which is a delight if available and affordable (we were upgraded for free the first cruise). Plenty of room, storage, good (but not great) in-room TV, excellent wireless internet access (for a fee), and fine service. I was surprised to read the review by Keefy, who had limited butler contact or amenities. We saw our butler at least daily (Pras), he was quick to respond to requests for extra ice, TV problems, laundry service, as were Ravin, the assistant butler and Michael, the assistant. Our flowers and fruit were changed periodically, as appropriate. Be certain to order the daily "savories," a beautiful and tasty array of four appetizers, available daily in the late afternoon. They were a highlight of both cruises. And room service breakfast has a menu surpassing most restaurants in selections, presentation, and quality. Don't miss it! Bathroom was adequate; we'd have liked a medicine cabinet but plenty of room under the sink. The rubber mat in the tub slips and slides if you don't push down to set the vacuum cups, but improves safety when you do. Toilet tissue was very thin; next trip we would bring a couple of rolls. The Elemis toiletries were excellent. Dining - Discoveries had a menu and presentation as good as the specialty restaurants on most lines. We especially enjoyed the crab cocktail, Caesar salad, combined broiled and thermidor lobster, and cherries jubilee, but there were excellent choices every meal. Service was exceptional, with friendly, patient, cheerful and helpful wait staff no matter where we sat. The Maitre d' knew us by name, always took us to a table for two when requested, and checked on our happiness regularly (Garan from Macedonia). Probably due to a change in chefs between our two voyages, Aqualina was the better specialty restaurant last spring, and Prime C this time, but both would have been $100+ a couple ashore for the quantity and quality of the food. Friends traveling with us ate in them most nights, but we enjoyed Discoveries so much that we limited ourselves to the three "free" nights in the specialty restaurants. Windows, the buffet site, has more choices than on other cruise lines, although the variety seemed a little less this time than last spring. Entertainment - fair to good. A magician, Alan someone, was average at best. The best shows were the three with the very talented and energetic five singers/dancers who comprise the onboard troupe. Don't miss the "Twisted TV" review which pokes wonderful fun at TV viewing. The last show, "Swing", was the weakest of the three production shows. Don at the piano nightly near the Cova Cafe was wonderful - excellent musician, fine conversationalist, and always entertaining. The harpist was very good, but harp music is not my favorite. We didn't go to the nightclub for dancing, but others seemed to enjoy it. The orchestra was exceptionally talented for a ship this size. Cruise staff - Contrary to Keefy's impression, we found Sue Denning, the Cruise Director, pleasant, available, and entertaining. She always had a "hello" even when in a hurry. Her daily TV introduction to activities is worth watching, although Kelsey, the Activities Director, tends to be too cutesy and interrupts too much. The entire staff of Journey are the friendliest, most cheerful, and respectful of any cruise we've been on; always stop what they're doing to smile and say hello. Spa - we thought the spa was good if not excellent. My wife had a facial and a pedicure and I had a deep massage. Prices were high but not outrageous, and staff was pleasant and capable. The gym/exercise room was very good for a ship this size. Shopping - limited, a little high-priced, but pleasant helpful staff. Casino - Ellen and I enjoy low wager gambling, and this was the best. As a small ship, it has only five blackjack dealers, and we got to know each of them and they us, asking after the spouse when only one of us showed up. Cheers to Madeline from Glasgow, Nina from Minsk, Jack from Capetown, Margaret from Australia, and Svetlana from Alberta (originally from Ukraine). Ports - Barcelona deserves a page of its own. Don't miss it. Best way to see it with limited time is to take the tourist buses which run on three intersecting lines with unlimited on and off. Alicante was pleasant but not outstanding, ditto for Almeria. We particularly enjoyed the free museum in the latter which houses the comical, realistic papier mache figures from their annual festival. The Canary Islands are outstanding. We worried about stopping at four of them, but each island is so individual in geography, views, and highlights that we would have enjoyed even more. Disembarkation - not as smooth as embarkation, but not bad. They should have signage to indicate where each color of baggage (matching the tags we applied the night before) were located, but we had our bags within five minutes. Unfortunately, porters didn't arrive until a few minutes after we dragged our carry-ons and four large bags through the line. Friends traveling with us have sailed Oceania a couple of times and thought Azamara equal, but with better service. We hope to find another itinerary on Azamara which appeals to us for a return. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
We drove down to West Palm Beach from Jacksonville, the day before, and stayed with friends we met on a prior cruise. We drove into Miami the morning of the cruise and parked our car near the airport, so it would be there when we flew back ... Read More
We drove down to West Palm Beach from Jacksonville, the day before, and stayed with friends we met on a prior cruise. We drove into Miami the morning of the cruise and parked our car near the airport, so it would be there when we flew back at the end of our trip. Although we had transfers from Azamara,(because we had their air for the return portion) we opted for a cab from the car park place. Only $23.00, and much less of a hassle, and we didn't have to wait for a bus on their time schedule, transfer luggage twice, etc, etc. Worth every penny extra. Check in was quick and flawless, and we were drinking champagne in no time. Yay! We were already familiar with this small ship, and snuck off to our room before it was supposed to be ready. We were immediately told it was NOT ready. OK, we knew that.(even though it was) Then off to lunch. Luggage came fairly quickly, unpacked, did life boat drill and then went to looking glass, where the online cruise critics were supposed to be. I didn't see a group, and never could identify anyone as such, so after a drink we went back to the room. The first night, there was a long line to enter the main DR, and my DH was not happy about standing in it, but after a few nights, people got their times organized, and the line was never really very long after that. Not a problem for me. The first night we had "Daniel" for our waiter, and every night we ate in that DR, we asked for him, and usually were able to have him. Sometimes, the Maitre'd, even put us at a table next to his area if he was full, and let him wait on us. Very nice. No request was ever a problem, and service was excellent. If I had any complaint at all, sometimes it was TOO quick. We like to dine at a relaxed pace, and didn't ever care about rushing off to a show. We NEVER had a bad dinner in the main DR. Food was always good to excellent, and usually the latter. WE LOVED Aqualina, and ate there several times. Service was a little more polished that Daniel, but just barely. We ate in Prime C once- had another reservation and canceled it. Not our cup of tea, so to speak, and the least good service and food of all 3 Dining Rooms. Not bad-just not us. Same usual games-trivia, bingo etc, which I enjoy, and played, though not every day. Sometimes we slept till 10 or 11am, as we kept losing an hour 5 or 6 times till we got to Barcelona. We didn't book any cruiseline tours, and mainly wandered around the ports ourselves, doing the hop on hop off bus, wherever possible. Nice little, typical, Spanish towns. Except for Lisbon, which was big and bustling. We tried to find the bus there, but the ship didn't give us good directions, and we walked for almost 2 hours, gave up, took a city bus, and then saw the Hop on thingy, and jumped on. Well, we need the exercise! All the crew was VERY friendly, and they did a very nice CC get together, with alcohol and food( not just cookies, like some ships) The shows we went to were nice. We're not really "show" people, but we enjoyed the comedian, very much. We didn't stay in Barcelona, as we had been there before, and we were taking the train to Madrid for a 4 night stay. Azamara let us switch our transfers from the airport to the train station, on board. Saved us a couple of bucks, and I thought it was a thoughtful touch. Would we cruise Azamara again? In a heartbeat. We had a great cruise. But then, I'm not sure I've ever really had a BAD one. Some are just better than others! Helaine Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
Crossing the Atlantic with six days at sea had an appeal but also a certain dread about it.  My brother, with whom I traveled, had done the same crossing on Oceania two years ago so I was somewhat prepared for the kind of cruise it would ... Read More
Crossing the Atlantic with six days at sea had an appeal but also a certain dread about it.  My brother, with whom I traveled, had done the same crossing on Oceania two years ago so I was somewhat prepared for the kind of cruise it would be.   I had cruised earlier in the decade on the R2 and was acquainted with the smaller ship...actually little had changed from that ship to the Journey.  Previously, the R2 was my favorite ship and so I was curious to see what Azamara could do to improve on it.   My reaction, from check-in to departure, was totally positive!  From the moment we embarked the crew extended itself with outstanding service.  The dining was superb, albeit a bit longer in the main dining room than might have been necessary.  If one wants to spend a lot of time in the dining room, then I would recommend sitting at the tables for eight.  I found the service much more efficient at smaller table arrangements.  But, what the heck.  Where does one have to go in a hurry anyway?   The quality of the food throughout the ship was top-notch.  I am not normally impressed by the buffet room (Breeza), but the Journey delivered marvelously with broad and varied selection as well as little specials like fresh juices squeezed while you wait.  Never disappointed.   Main dining room (Discoveries) menus provided great variety throughout the cruise and my selections always tasted great.  The specialty restaurants seemed to have less consistency in quality and service than the main room.  Food was well prepared, but I didn't feel that it was much better than the fare in the main dining room.  Actually, I had a better prime rib in the main room than I did in Prime C which is the ship's 'steak house'.  Aqualina with its Mediterranean menu was a treat particularly with its choice of lobster.   Cabin service was excellent with Julio our butler and his assistant always available.  We didn't want for anything.  On one occasion, we returned from dinner to find our cabin TV was not working.  Within ten minutes, after a call to Julio, a technician was in our stateroom and the TV was fixed.  Amenities above standard.   The activities aboard were plentiful and varied.  Evening entertainment, for a smaller ship, was excellent.  One could say that the entertainers were more like a Vegas lounge act than the main room in a Vegas hotel.  I was surprised by the caliber of talent particularly a concert pianist who performed twice.   Was I happy I took the 16 day crossing?  Yes.  Was I satisfied with the service from ALL staff?  Yes.  Would I do it again?  Yes.  Would I do it on Azamara?  YES!   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
It may sound like a clichE but we really did not want to leave the Azamara Quest after 24 days onboard. We have never had such a wonderful, relaxing holiday and home seemed a world away. Let me start with some information to put the ... Read More
It may sound like a clichE but we really did not want to leave the Azamara Quest after 24 days onboard. We have never had such a wonderful, relaxing holiday and home seemed a world away. Let me start with some information to put the cruise and this review into perspective. I am 54 and my husband 64. This was our fourth cruise and we have previously sailed on Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Constellation and Norwegian Sun. I understand that there were 650 passengers onboard with 130 British. We met a number of lone travellers but did not come across any groups of three or four in a stateroom. Obviously with a cruise of this length, the average age was probably fairly high but there were many people younger than me aboard. The range of nationalities was higher than we have met before on a cruise. There were a large number of North Americans, Australians and New Zealanders. Most western European nationalities seemed to be represented with a large number of Germans. There was a German film channel on the television and destination talks were given in French. There were also Japanese and South American passengers. A surprisingly large number of passengers were made up of couples of different nationalities or people otherwise living as expats. We had prepared ourselves for the cruise by staying at Singapore Raffles for three nights, never moving out of the hotel. This was a treat we had promised ourselves since our first visit to Singapore 17 years before when Raffles was being renovated and, if you can afford it, we would highly recommend the experience. We took the hotel classic Daimler to the cruise terminal where embarkation was really smooth with absolutely no queues. After choosing to eat in Prime C that evening, we went straight to our suite. Having studied as many photographs of the suites and ship on the Internet, there were few surprises. One pleasant surprise was noticing immediately that a number of minor problems noted on the Cruise Critic boards had been rectified: there was a new, analogue alarm clock; the slippers now had non-slip soles; and there were proper doormats in front of the balcony door to stop the soot being walked in onto the carpet. This was the first indication of how seriously the officers onboard received, and acted upon, any feedback. Our luggage was delivered within a few hours, during the lifeboat drill after which we met up with everyone from our Roll Call. Despite having four large cases of luggage, there was no shortage of storage space in our suite and, unusually, we did not have to request more hangers. Whilst unpacking, we requested Eyup, our head butler to come to see us and we explained our preferences - especially that I need to eat a large amount of fruit and drink a great deal of water each day. From this point onward, Eyup worked hard to exceed all of our expectations [and we were astounded to learn, on our last day, that he was only a temporary, acting head butler]. We really enjoyed dinner in Prime C on our first evening. The food and service were excellent and we decided, there and then, to book two evenings a week at Prime C. After our meal, we popped next door and did the same at Aqualina. No cruise ship can be perfect for everyone and one of the things we did not enjoy on Quest was the Discoveries main restaurant. We ate there on our second evening and really did not enjoy the experience. We requested a table for two and found the tables small and crowded. We may have had a better experience on a larger table. I, personally, found the menu not to my taste [and on the other the occasions that I checked, found the menu weird and I am an adventurous eater]. The service was rushed and imperfect. I request no Brussels sprouts with my main course but they were on the plate. When I request that they were removed, it took 15 minutes to return my meal to me. My husband ordered a coffee with his desert but it had still not arrived 10 minutes after we had finished eating and left. We truly believe that you should not judge a restaurant on one experience but decided that it was our holiday and we would rather not risk a similar experience on another evening. I know that many people enjoyed eating in Discoveries most evenings. We went immediately up to the 10th floor and booked a further evening a week each at Prime C and Aqualina. We left Wednesdays clear because we had long tours on two of those days. We never regretted this decision and had some wonderful meals in both Prime C and Aqualina. Over 24 nights, the menus could have been limited but both restaurants are more than happy to serve anything for which they have the ingredients onboard. During the cruise we had a wonderful "British meal" [really good smoked salmon, roast beef and the lightest ever bread and butter pudding]; a great curry meal [chicken and beef curries with all the trimmings] and a fantastic beef and mushroom pie [there was no kidney onboard]. My husband and I unfortunately had to spend two days in quarantine because he was unwell and the two assistant maitres d' of Prime C and Aqualina, Marias and Cristof, really looked after us, telephoning me 6 times to ensure that there was nothing I needed and providing room service meals [despite not being geared up to provide room service]. We had breakfast each morning in our suite. The poached eggs were excellent and I really enjoyed them combined with the corned beef hash until I realised that I was eating far too much! Other than the breakfast menu, I thought that the ship's room service menu was extremely limited and uninspiring if you did not want the menu from Discoveries so for lunch we usually had filled-to-order mini baguettes from the buffet until we discovered the really tasty cheese and ham rolls in the Mosaic Cafe. The roast beef from the buffet was excellent. After three meals a day, we really did not need the afternoon tea and evening snacks delivered each day to our suite but did give into temptation on a number of occasions. The snacks were really tasty and a huge improvement to the canapEs served on Celebrity ships. So, other than eating, what did we do onboard? To be honest, very little! Believe me, I am the sort of person who is normally incapable of doing nothing but the great thing about this cruise was that I could fill my day doing nothing. It was just so relaxing. We have never been to a show onboard or taken part in bingo or quizzes so cannot comment on these. There were a reasonable number of free video programmes as well as a large selection of pay-per-view films on the TV. Otherwise, we were obviously at the mercy of satellite zones for television channels and there were complaints when CNN was not available but we found it sufficient despite the length of the cruise. I went to the gym most sea-days and found that there was a treadmill free whenever I arrived although I found it difficult to predict when the gym would be busy. I also attended a few of the destinations lectures. I found them quite lightweight but they passed a little time pleasantly. I understand that the two other lecturers were better but I did not attend any of their lectures. My husband really enjoyed the cooking demonstrations and I found the jewelry talks more informative than on Celebrity ships. However, most of the time was spent simply relaxing. We usually had a chocolate or coffee each morning in the Mosaic Cafe whilst listening to the quizzes with friend we met onboard. Before this, we may have been to the TPool and lounged for a while in the shade. After lunch, we would lay and read in the shade on our balcony. I burn easily but we could usually find shade in one of the other location and, therefore, never used the Pool Deck. Our balcony had two loungers, two tables and four chairs with plenty of space to move around. Leaning on the rail and watching the wake was truly therapeutic. For a 24 night cruise with 15 seadays [including the Suez canal passage] we never once regretted splashing out on the Penthouse Suite. A proper dining table is important to us as we enjoy eating breakfast in our room. On such a long cruise, a separate bedroom [although a solid door would have been better], the extra space, the guest bathroom, the dressing area and the storage space were all worthwhile. The shopping onboard was disappointing. There was very little other than high-end merchandise [a US$130 tote bag, for example]. I appreciate that stock is often a problem on repositioning cruises and this was compounded by the expected delivery in Singapore being cancelled. I do not expect stock relating to ports only visited twice a year but there was limited Azamara branded stock. There were no Christmas tree decorations or postcards of the ship for sale and my husband was disappointed that he could not buy an Azamara thermal mug. It is the first time he has ever complained that there was nothing to buy. Others were disappointed that there was no gifts for children. There was very limited stock of the ever popular Bijoux Terner items. I feel that Azamara are missing a huge opportunity to part people from their money! Probably the best part of the overall experience was the officers and crew. It is they who can make or break a cruise, and the people on the Quest were excellent. You would never have known what a bad winter the ship had experienced: illness, bad weather, abnormal currents and obstructive authorities [all as reported extensively on cruise Critic]. We had anticipated a crew with poor morale but found everyone to be friendly, cheerful and happy. They smiled with their eyes and not only their mouths. Oliver and Melvin, our butler and room attendant, were wonderful as were everyone else we came into contact with. Officers and crew seemed intent on making our cruise the best. We have never spoken to so many officers nor spoken to any officer as often as on Quest. They all seemed genuinely interested in our opinions and we had numerous interesting discussions about plans for the future of both Azamara and Celebrity. As well as the problems over the winter, in the lead up to this cruise there had been pirates in the Gulf of Aden, terrorism in Mumbai and riots in Athens. For much of the time we had wondered if the itinerary would remain intact. In the event, the cruise went without incident. In Cochin and Mumbai, there was high security with armed guards on the ship but it is a sign of the times that this was reassuring rather than threatening. We also had an armed security guard on our tour in Egypt. We were kept well informed about the precautions taken in "Pirate Alley" and clear instructions were given in case of attack. This was not a port intensive cruise but many of those we did call at were highlights. We only took on ship's excursion, to the pyramids in Egypt. This was well planned and organized enabling us to cover a great deal of ground in just one day. Our guide briefed us well on how to avoid problems with the touts at the tourist sights. My husband was disappointed that our felucca did not actually cruise along the Nile over lunch but we still found it a pleasant interlude. There was the obligatory shopping stop at a high-end complex but there was little pressure to buy and, except for the silver and jewelry, the prices were reasonable. In India, we took private tours with Mumbai Magic and Kerala Voyages - both can be highly recommended. We found Malaysia disappointing and did not think that an overnight stay in Dubai was necessary. An extra day in Alexandria would have been more welcome. Disembarkation was smoother than our arrival onboard. We were off the ship in minutes and our prearranged taxi was waiting [despite us being early]. As it was a public holiday in Athens, we were at our hotel by 08:30. The Electra Palace is also to be recommended especially if you can stretch to a suite with superb views of the Acropolis. Two nights here softened the blow of having to leave Quest.At the end of the cruise we would have eagerly turned the ship around and made the return journey - and so would the others we spoke to in the last few days. We both had a tear in our eye as we shook hands with, and said goodbye to, Leif Karlsson, the captain, and Niyazi Korkmaz, the hotel director, as we left the ship. Our future cruises have a lot to live up to. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Introduction and Background of Newbie Passengers. I am almost retires; we have traveled extensively throughout most of the world (as top elite member of many hotel and airline frequent flyer programs). I would think this is the profile of ... Read More
Introduction and Background of Newbie Passengers. I am almost retires; we have traveled extensively throughout most of the world (as top elite member of many hotel and airline frequent flyer programs). I would think this is the profile of potential cruisers that may be attractive to a cruise company. This was out first significant cruise. We researched many cruise lines and options using Cruise Critic and other web sites. We selected Azamara and Oceania as the best fit of us based on 1) limited onboard smoking policies and 2) not formal dress requirements (and for Oceania only, advertised luxury hotel quality beds). After this research and studying both the positive and negative comments of Both Azamara and Oceania, we decided to book one cruise on each line on our personal journey [pun intended] to make this comparison for ourselves. We were looking to see if either or both cruise lines could meet or exceed our cruise expectations. We will post our own comparison results (your mileage may vary) after completing both cruises. We had cancelled a previously booked Celebrity cuisse. Booked Own Air to BCN. Would book own air in an instant, but I have booked my own international air for many years. AMERICAN Airlines coach (ugh) Las Vegas to JFK, then JFK to Barcelona. The seat gods were with us (with a little help from Seat Guru and AA online. We had an empty middle seat between us on both flights. At $5 and 30,000 AA miles per person total cost one way Las Vegas to Barcelona this was a great deal! Frequent flyer one way awards are available on AA for half the mileage of a round trip award (maybe some day United will catch up). Pre-Cruise BCN Hotel. BCN free shuttle to the Airport Renaissance Hotel. This hotel was fine for one night airport location (both positive and negative comments on CC for this hotel). The 10 Euro per person ship transfers were very convenient and easy (but convenient and easy ended once you get to the pier). As a Marriott Platinum, class greeting and free lounge access for breakfast (typical, OK) and evening tapas (poor). For a one night airport stay, we would return. N Having been to Barcelona many times, we did not need to spend extra days in the city. Ugly 1 - The Smoking Cabin. Azamara does not enforce their advertised policy of not smoking in the cabins! After we boarded in Barcelona and cabins were announced as available, we encountered a smoke filled cabin. After reporting this to three people and after way too much elapsed time, we were moved to another cabin (same category, less desirable location). I have uncounted this situation a few times with hotels around the world, but they usually have us moved within five minutes. As we were waiting for any action by Azamara, we were already planning our immediate cruise cancellation, departure from the ship and our Barcelona hotel before returning home. When a new cabin was finally offered, I asked what if the replacement cabin had also been smoked in on the previous cruise. This question was just brushed aside as they did not understand how this could even be remotely possible. This has also happened to me in a hotel (but again, promptly corrected), so I considered it a very valid question. Way too much time was wastedoffer9ing to deep clean the assigned cabin and convert it back a non-smoking cabin (this was not an acceptable solution to us, Azamara said they had done it before and it would work). In retrospect, housekeeping had to know that the previous occupants were smoking in this cabin. We later ran into another couple on the journey that had encountered the same problem and had also changed cabins. How did this happen? The excuse was that the butler in this area smoked and did not know that the previous occupants were smoking in the cabin. I find this totally unacceptable; Azamara advertises that it does not allow smoking in the cabins. If they choose to not enforce this, then this is false advertising. If they choose to not enforce this, then we choose to cruise elsewhere. Big deal? To us, yes! This incident was handled on board to our satisfaction, but just barely. Ugly 2 - The Aquilina Restaurant; From Great to Ugly on the Third Try. After less than expectation meeting experiences in the MDR and the buffet, we enjoyed a truly great dinner in the Aquilina. Great service, great food and greeted by same (as should be). We enjoyed the experie4nce so much, that we booked a second time (after a negative attempted booking experience with Prime C), and enjoyed another great dinner. On our third (should have quit while we were ahead, but the other choices weren't that good) dining experience in Aquilina, my wife chewed on and swallowed glass that was present in the Raspberry sorbet. We immediately reported this to the table side staff and provided them piece of the glass. The glass actually cut my wife's tongue. My wife reported this to the medical office, but she was promptly brushed aside in a very condescending manner that if she swallowed glass it would pass naturally. We did not return to the Aquilina after this experience. Digression - I left an above minimum suggested tip on all three Aquilina dining occasions. Only a couple of other times on the cruise from specific bar servers was I inclined to do so. Azamara - look as the additional tips by server - these are your stars. This incident was not handled to our satisfaction either on board or after the cruise. Bad 1 - The Barcelona Boarding Process Not Very Friendly. We checked in reasonably early, around 11:30am. We asked for a second holder for the Sea Pass cards, two cards issued, one holder issued. The curt response was that this must be obtained from Guest Relations when onboard. OK, but why? How simple is this? How tacky? We were later informed that additional holders had been supplied to the pier prior to boarding. We were also "required" to present a valid credit card on the pier prior to boarding. This even though we had a $500 on board credit balance. I was not prepared to do this. I think that this is an unreasonable request. Next time (if there is a next time) I will just say I am a cash customer (I wonder how much cash they will then want to collect on the pier). Bad 2 - The MDR First Night. The first night MDR service was not very good; food OK, service OK, order not correct. Bad first impression. Not acceptable for a land restaurant, such that we would have never returned if this were a land restaurant. The French Onion soup had an "off" taste to it - would never order again. The New York Steak did not come with the ordered sauce (it was on the menu). As it was, it took many days for us to again retry the MDR (thank goodness for the buffet). This was our first example of many of lack of attention to detail by the staff throughout the voyage. Bad 3 - The Beds. Very well used mattresses provided little or no support. Fortunately, our butler was able to make this satisfactory with additional foam padding for my wife and a board to make mine firmer. Bad 4 - Bingo. How can you mess up bingo? The bingo buy in included a "free "bingo card to be used at any future bingo game. The only other bingo game was cancelled for lack of cash customers, so there was no opportunity to use the free bingo card. Maybe if the cash buy in was not so high it would attract more players. We were very surprised by the lack of bingo on a trans-Atlantic crossing. Bad 5 - Outrageous Internet Access Prices. Knowing this in advance, I did not bring a laptop. At a more reasonable price, I would have been willing to purchase the service. I choose to not even check email at these prices (and I am a computer guy who lives online). Bad 6 - On Board Future Cruise Sales. A real lost opportunity. A totally non-responsive, non-customer oriented person staffed the future cruise sales desk. I could not believe this. This person was not sales or customer relations oriented. Criminal for a company that wants to sell cruises (my assumption, I may be wrong). A thirty second conservation with this person has cost Azamara the cancellation on one of two future cruises we had already booked before this cruise. She just quoted the Azamara rule book - end of conversation. Before sailing, we had booked two additional Azamara Cruises due to the pending Azamara Club announcement with the knowledge that we could cancel if we were not satisfied with our first Azamara cruise or the new Azamara Club announcement. This person declined the opportunity to offer (or request Miami to offer) us any onboard booking incentives to further confirm or even save these bookings. I was totally taken aback by the total lack of responsiveness. Now after the cruise with Azamara Club pricing announced, Azamara should just eliminate this onboard function. Bad 7 - Clean the Chairs. The tops of the chairs in the buffet were all sticky, probably from various foods. These chair tops need cleaning. Bad - Buffet Organization. No attention to detail here. The pitchers of milk and skim milk are placed in trays with cartons of milk and skim milk. The cartons are easy to read to see which is which, the small labels on top of the pitchers are not - one would think that the pitcher in the tray of skim milk cartons would also be the pitcher of skim milk - not always. Not consistent, you have to get your glasses out to read the small label on top of the pitchers (or just use/waste the more expensive milk cartons). One pass through the toaster oven does not toast an English muffin. After first experience of being offered a one pass toasted English muffin, I had to ask most of the time for a second pass through the toaster. Ask? Bad 9 - Computer Clocks. Have the computers in the lab pick up the current date/time from a time server? How hard is this? Bad 10 - Hosted Cruise Critic Meeting. Thank you for the opportunity to meet some of the Azamara staff. This was in fact how we got invited to the bridge, engine control room and galley tours. At the CC reception, I declined the offered wine/sparkling wine and went to the bar and ordered a drink and presented my Sea Pass. The nearby waitress comped the drink. Later, my wife asked a different waitress for a drink, only to be abruptly told that it would be billable. I was perfectly willing to pay for both drinks; the attitude and inconsistency were not desired and turned me off. Bad 11 - Additional Specialty Restaurant Reservations. Another bas experience here. On boarding, we booked one evening each in Aquilina and Prime C. We had to cancel the Prime C on the day of the reservation due to my wife's illness. When cancelling, I asked for an alternate date - only to be curtly told that only 9pm was available on all the remaining days. There was absolutely no effort made to offer a standby list if others cancelled or any other option. Needless to say, we never went to the Prime C (but our butler had no problem booking us in the Aquilina for another night, I bet he could have even booked the Prime C). Bad 12 - Interactive TV Menus Do Not Match MDR Menus. On two occasions we noticed that the in room interactive TV menus displayed did not match what was actually on the MDR menu and being served that night. The first time was just the type of pasta used in the nightly pasta dish. By the way, never order pasta in the MDR - it was always starchy. A later night (lobster night) the complete wrong menu was posted. So you look at the TV menu during the day and decide if you want to go to the MDR that night, but then you get there and it's not the right menu and no lobsters. So you leave, go to the buffet, and try again another night. No attention to detail. There are people that would love to be employed to update the TV menus - this could be done from an where in the world. OK 1 - Bar Costs. After other CC reviews, we were concerned about the hi9gh cost of drinks on board. From experience, one can of Coke $2. Glass of Wente Sauvignon Blanc $6. Glass of Benedictine $6. Specialty martini $10. All plus 18%. Tom us, this was on the high end of reasonable, but not unreasonable. We were OK with these prices only because we do not drink many soft drinks. OK 2 - Room Numbers. Almost the entire crew referred to cabins or staterooms by room number. I thought on a ship rooms were called cabins or staterooms. Hotels offer rooms. Good 1 - New Friends. We met many passengers and made friends from people from several countries. Most of the passengers we met were not aware of Cruise Critic. Good2 - Calling on Gibraltar on Sunday. On Sunday, the UK high street shops were all closed. This saved me a lot of money! Although I was looking forward to some British shopping. Good 2A - Calling on Funchal on a local holiday when most shops were closed. Again, saved me some more money. Good 3 - Minimal Public Address Announcements. The daily captain update was good. Also better was the absence of PA announcements selling the ships offerings. This was appreciated. Good 4 - Shipboard Medical Service. Unfortunately, both my wife and I has to use this service. We both found the medical care highly professional. Good 5 - Virtual Games. These were fun. Great 1 - Butler Experience. Although we did not know our butler's name for the first three days (due to the stress and trauma of boarding, not his fault), Apostolos and Jose provided outstanding cabin services. I( had very low expectations of this from reading CC, but I can say that this is the only one area that our expectations wet met on the entire cruise. Great 2 - The Ship Size. We loved the size of the ship, and meeting new friends from around the world. Suggestions to Azamara (and other lines) to improve the Cruise Experience. Here is our list from this cruise experience. 1. Add a more extensive list of liqueurs to the bars (Chartreuse si vous plait). 2. Add a flexible mirror in the cabin bathrooms. Ladies like top be able to see the back of their hair in a mirror without having to hand hold a mirror (deluxe hotel room configuration 101). 3. Configure all of the computers in the computer lab for guests the same. Only one or two had MS Word, where I was able to compose the original version of this document long ago sent to Azamara. Even an old copy of MS Office. Or even Open Office would be fine. Seems they would be easier to maintain if they were all the same. I have since the cruise purchased a netbook for leisure travel cruising (I have not needed this for leisure travel in hotels as most provide free internet and computer usage to their elite customers). For business travel, I have lugged laptops around the world. 4. Please dump the photographers overboard. He had just enough pressure to be annoying. 5. Please dump the art auction overboard - what a waste of precious ship space. 6. Please dump, Alicante as a port of call (with apologies to those we me that lived there). I suggest Malaga, Valencia, Seville, Palma d Majorca or even Marseille (I know, wrong direction) as better/more interesting/places-we would-like-to-see ports of call. 7. Pleas dump Coco Cay as a port of call. We will NOT sail on another cruise that wastes a day at this "port". A total waste. 8. Have your own mystery shopper dine in the MDR and the buffet and listen to the cruisers conversations about the ship - we heard many. If you really want to get the pulse of the ship, have someone do laundry and listen to the conservations in the laundry room. You get more information (or misinformation) there than from any of the crew. 9. Open the specialty restaurants earlier at 5pm or 5:320pm nightly. This is an early crowd on this ship - evidence by th3e fact that 9pm reservations always seemed to be available. Close earlier. After the Cruise. We have cancelled one of our two future Azamara cruise bookings (at pre-Azamara Club prices). We are looking forward to cruising Oceania and will report here on CC that experience. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Azamara Journey Transatlantic December 4 - 18, 2009 Air: We were fortunate enough to be able to use employee passes to travel from Los Angeles to Houston to Amsterdam. The "non-rev" gods were with us and both flights were ... Read More
Azamara Journey Transatlantic December 4 - 18, 2009 Air: We were fortunate enough to be able to use employee passes to travel from Los Angeles to Houston to Amsterdam. The "non-rev" gods were with us and both flights were made in the forward cabin. Nearly 40 years of seniority does have its rewards. We spent two great days in Amsterdam (NH Amsterdam Centre Hotel) before again flying on passes on KLM to BCN. On board with had excellent service in the economy cabin on an immaculate airplane. Sandwiches and complimentary wine were served. We were were lucky enough to have a seat mate who lives in Sitges but who had worked for HP in the Bay Area for years. He gave us lots of advice on things to see and do in Barcelona. We hope to follow his tips for exploration beyond the city next time. Barcelona: Upon arrival at the stunning new terminal at BCN we fairly quickly picked up our checked bags and took the Aerobus into the city. Fare was 5 euros pp payable in cash to the driver. The busses are new and the service is fast and dependable. We got off at Placa Catalunya and had an easy two and a half block walk to our hotel. We had booked rooms online at Hotel Onix Ramblas. This hotel is a jewel located a couple of blocks above Placa Catalunya. It is a small property (perhaps 40 rooms) but the rooms are large and comfortable. A full buffet breakfast was included in the 80 euro per day rate (for a "Shhh" room located on the back of the hotel overlooking the terrace.). Breakfast included scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, pastries, yogurt, cerals, fruit, coffee/tea/cocoa. There was also free internet access in the room but no wi-fi. We used the red "Hop On/Hop Off" busses to get acquainted with the city. The blue busses run similar routes but the hotel had coupons that basically gave us a second day free on the red. We also booked a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter through the tourist service at Placa Catalunya. Our four days in this incredible city went far too quickly. We ate well, drank well, and saw as much as we could in the limited time we had. We will be back! Boarding: Our time in Barcelona came to an end far too soon but we were ready to head to the ship. Two friends joined us for what turned out to be a 45 euro cab ride to the port. That included asking for a mini-van, luggage charges, port charges and a tip. It was worth it! (As a bonus I finally got to speak some Spanish. I found that people in Barcelona either wanted to speak English or Catalan.) We arrived at the port at about 11:30AM and there was virtually nobody in the boarding area. Checking our bags (even without preprinted tags) took less than five minutes and the actual process of getting our Sea Pass cards took another ten. (Another reviewer had a problem with only getting one leather card holder. We had the nicer soft leather ones from Celebrity so were not bothered by this. We also were not bothered by being asked for a credit card to cover onboard charges. This is pretty much standard procedure with cruise lines or hotels world wide and is spelled out in the pre-boarding documents.) We were greeted by two ships officers and champagne. We were also directed to a desk where we were able to leave our carryons. They were delivered to our cabins later. We did a quick walk around the ship and were impressed by the maintenance and decor. This was our first time on a smaller ship and it felt much like we would imagine being on some wealthy person's private yacht. They were in the process of putting up Holiday decorations with two Christmas trees in the main foyer and a Menorah. We had a light lunch at the buffet and Bloody Marys and headed to our cabin when they were announced as being ready at 1:30PM. Cabin: We were in Stateroom 7020, a category 2A balcony on the port side just forward of the forward elevators/stairs. This was very convenient and we used the stairs more than we would on a larger ship and seldom had a very long wait for the elevator. We were usually alone in the elevators. That doesn't happen much on larger ships. We had been forewarned by friends who had sailed on Journey and by postings on Cruise Critic that the cabins might seem small. While they are smaller than what you might be used to they are laid out very well. We made a few small adjustments (put the balcony table crosswise and it works much better!) and were quickly settled in. The beds were comfortable, the service from our "Butler", Derrick, was unobtrusive, and we generally were as pleased as we have been in any cabin on any ship. There was a nice gift of a tote bag waiting for us and two bottles of Champagne. Neither had cards but we think we sorted it out. Main Dining Room: We had no trouble getting a nice table for four for dinner when we arrived at the Main Dining Room. There were a few glitches (Menus were not correct. The "Everyday" side was for the wrong day on two of the menus. This only affects the featured wines and this caused a problem with an inexperienced wine server.) The food that night and on subsequent nights was very good to excellent. We tended to end up with the same servers on many nights and they quickly knew what our tastes were. One of the sommeliers, "Mac" should be especially recognized. She not only knows wine and people but has a great sense of humor! We did note that there didn't seem to be a lot of coordination of service. On several occasions we had two different people ask us what drinks we wanted. The service areas didn't seem to be very well defined. (Inconsistency was a problem in other areas as well. At the CC gathering some people were able to get complimentary cocktails and others weren't . The "Loyalty Ambassador" didn't seem to have a clear understanding of what was expected at these events. You could ask two different people the same question and get two different answers. Perhaps there were staff that were new to the ship and the company?) A hint: We never had to wait long for a table in the MDR. The secret, we think, is to go at an off time, e.g., 7:15PM as opposed to 7:00PM or 7:30PM. And it doesn't hurt to establish a relationship with the folks at the front desk early on. Buffet: The Buffet at dinner (we tried it twice) was generally a disappointment. It seems to be a training ground. The staff was anxious to please but really didn't have a great deal of knowledge of food or service. Choices were limited with some being left over from lunch. It seemed to us that the only way to get good fresh green vegetables was to go to the stir fry station. There were, however, a couple of good wines offered as nightly specials at $5.00 a glass. We especially enjoyed the Portuguese Red. Lunch was usually good to very good. By combining choices from the Pool Grill and the buffet we never felt that we missed a good meal! Room Service: We used Room Service mostly for breakfast. The food quality was usually quite good but there was a real problem with getting the orders right. Much of the problem seems to be with ordering anything outside the "tick the box" menu. Each morning we ordered virtually the same thing. "Two orders of two poached eggs on wheat toast". Some days we got six eggs, some three, some days on toast, some days not. When we mentioned this we got an immediate call from the manager of room service and an offer of a bottle of sparkling wine in our cabin or at dinner. (We demurred but ended up with both!) We enjoyed sharing the wine but the eggs never were right.. Perhaps they need to go to an extended menu with places to check what your want as Celebrity does in Concierge Class. On two occasions we used the Interactive menu on the TV to order lunch/mid-day snacks. The service was very slow on one day (45 minutes to be delivered) but quick (20 minutes) the next. The food quality was excellent. We never used the interactive menu to order from the Main Dining Room menu and were not aware that that was an option. We did speak with one person who asked their butler to get them a copy of the main dining room menu and they ordered from that by phone. Specialty Restaurants: We ate in Aqualina once. it was a very good meal. Service was a bit confused but that didn't detract from the experience. We ate in Prime C four times and each time was outstanding. The food is wonderful and the service impeccable. The Bartender is from the "Old School". He knows his liquor and he knows what service and hospitality are. He also did a great job of keeping us happy during the morning cooking demonstrations. We never had difficulty getting into Prime C. One night we ate, by choice, at one of the bar tables. Spa: When we did a tour of the Spa area before sailaway my partner bought a package that was to allow access to the Spa, one of the 29 private lounges and use of a private whirlpool tub. It quickly became obvious that the tub was not working properly. Only one of the jets was working and it was never really hot. After speaking to three different staff members in the Spa an agreement was reached where they refunded the unused days (9). We spoke with at least one other person who had the same problem and was, finally, able to resolve it in the same manner. The Sauna was never turned on or hot until well after the Spa opened in the morning. Activities: We were, much like a previous reviewer, disappointed in BINGO. We ONLY play on ships! We played only one game on this cruise after we discovered that it would be $20.00 for a single game and that the prize would only be paid if a full black out was completed in 42 numbers or less. When I asked if all the games would be that way the only answer I got was "That's how we do it here". They need to see how things are done at RCL or Celebrity. More games and a few simple prizes bring in large crowds (and more revenue). We had a lot of fun playing Trivia on the sea days. There were, predictably, a few people who took it way too seriously. The staff, though, made it lots of fun and we made some good friends as we played. We also participated in several other games and enjoyed them. This was the first time we encountered the system of having an activity card signed to get prizes at the end of the cruise. Why not just give a few simple prizes (caps, key chains, pens, tee shirts) as other cruise lines do? I misplaced my card early on so don't really know what the prizes were. Entertainment: This is not a big ship so you really can't expect "spectacular" entertainment. There was some very good music and several good variety acts. Think "Cabaret". A real highlight was the staff talent show. Internet: We brought our laptop and used it to receive e-mail and then to send messages composed off line. We had no trouble at all using it in the cabin. The shipwide wi-fi worked well for us. We did not use the full amount of time we purchased. We did hear some people who were unhappy with the "free" minutes offered to Elite members requiring a purchase of time. My understanding is that this was waived on an individual basis. Ports: All of the ports, except Gibraltar, were new to us. We enjoyed each in its own way. We did a mix of independent tours and ship's tours. Probably the highlight was the ship's tour of Gibraltar which included a wonderfully gifted guide. She made the history and life of this "bit of England" come alive for us as we wandered through the tunnels and paths of "The Rock". Shopping is not high on our list of activities but we found places that were open in each port. The exception was probably Gibraltar where we were picked up at the entrance to the dock and returned there and really didn't have much time in the town itself. It was nice to have Coco Cay to ourselves. When the weather took a turn for the worse we were very impressed by the ability of the Captain and crew getting us all safely back on board early. Disembarkation: This was probably the smoothest we have ever seen. We were off the ship early and had our bags in hand in about fifteen minutes. Sadly, a serious weather front was moving over Miami and we, like many others, had substantial delays getting out of town. Over All Impression: This was a very good cruise and we want to thank the Officers and crew of Journey for being so visible and available. You made 14 days pass very quickly. Philip Herbert, the Hotel Director, is a true professional. Captain Theo is a Captain I would go anywhere with. Lisa and the galley staff do an incredible job of feeding some very demanding people. Richard, the Food and Beverage Manager is a remarkable young man. The size of this ship is probably its strongest point. It took us a couple of days to change our usual habit of leaving ten to fifteen minutes early for activities, dinner, etc. Nothing was very far from any location on board. The Specialty Restaurants which, at this time, were complimentary were especially enjoyed. We always doubled the suggested tip. That said, however, there really wasn't a tremendous difference in the service levels from what we have experienced on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland-America. It will be interesting to see what the new, "improved" Azamara Club Cruises is like. We would miss the complimentary specialty restaurants. The complimentary house wine at dinner and lunch will be a function of how good a selection there is. We are also interested in how the new "Club Voyage" (The name seems a tad pretentious.) compares with Captains Club. Will we still enjoy Elite Status? Will the onboard ammenities be raised to match those on Celebrity and the Diamond level at Royal Caribbean? Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Contrasts between getting there and getting back via the Airline Industry and the cruise experience on Azamara were marked. British Airways from Toronto to Barcelona via Heathrow were their abysmal worst. Aged 767 with non operative ... Read More
Contrasts between getting there and getting back via the Airline Industry and the cruise experience on Azamara were marked. British Airways from Toronto to Barcelona via Heathrow were their abysmal worst. Aged 767 with non operative Audio/Video and funny food (We were in World Traveller Plus- an upgrade) Once again we were not treated to a visit to the fabled Terminal 5 in Heathrow but, after 7 hours, bundled like upright cattle into a bumpy bus that took us from the plane to the vicinity of Terminal 5. We were then switched to another similar packed bus that drove us back , past our aircraft, to terminal 3. After cooling our heels in Terminal 3 and buying Tea and Scrambled Eggs for $30, we were taken by bus to our Barcelona Flight where we stood in the rain and boarded our plane up steep stairs. Once in Barcelona it improved, new Terminal, clean, modern,.efficient. Taxi to the Hotel Onix Ramblas through heavy heavy traffic, arrived at about 2 pm. Woke up at 9.30 pm with a need for food. Fortunately Barcelonians are night owls so that was no problem. Next day we took the hop-on/Hop off bus from Placa Catalonia round the city, time for 2 routes and then a visit for a coffee at the rooftop of Corte Ingles, wonderful. People so polite and civilized! Then a taxi to the Journey. I wrote last year that 'Azamara is great but its not Oceania', well I now eat my words. It was the most fabulous, relaxing experience ever, and we have done some cruising! The ubiquitous Philip Herbert, Hotel Director has improved the experience so much it ran flawlessly. The cabins were the same size, but towels were bigger, Fresh Fruit (spotty last year) was lovely, Fresh Flowers. The cabin staff helpful, pleasant and hard working, as were all the shipboard staff. Special mention to Bar Waitress 'Maria' from Columbia who instantly recognised us from last years cruise and was omnipresent day and night with her friendly, happy demeanour. What a lovely employee, so typical of the HR policy of Azamara!! The fo0od was exemplary whether in The Discoveries Dining Room, no fixed dining times, tables for 2 through 10 so you could sit as 2 for Breakfast and enjoy the company of others for Dinner. Absolutely no complaints about the waiters, Maitre D's and Sommelier, we never had anything but friendly respect and wonderful tasting, presented and timely meals. We dined at Windows on occasion also at the Prime C Steak House, service and cuisine extraordinaire, as good as the best on shore restaurants. We4 did not try Aquilina but hearsay said it was excellent. The ship was lovely, in good shape and kept in great order by the staff constantly cleaning. Our Ports of call were interesting. Alicante, we had visited before so stayed aboard and stay in the sun and read. Gibraltar, an odd mix of Spanish and the UK of 25 years ago, Marks and Spencer, British Home Stores and Fish and Chips plus some excellent Draught Guinness and Murphy's Stout. Madeira was wonderful as was a revisit to La Palma , Canaries. We did our own tours at all spots as the Azamara Tours are just not value for money in any way shape or form. I think that was the view of most passengers judging by the turnout for the tour buses. We did visit Coco Cay Bahamas. It looked lovely but as a company owned Island with catering from the ship and 'Made in China' artifacts on sale was not enticing enough for us. We stayed aboard. Fortuitous as a storm came over and the tenders returning to the ship emulated the most vomit inducing rides at an amusement park. The tender returning the catering supplies finally gave up trying to return supplies to the ship after some jettisoning of tomatoes and cutlery. I was astonished to see all the waiters etc leaping in very large swells, without lifejackets of any sort. The entertainment was, in my opinion, for a ship of Journeys size good. A wonderful Orchestra, Max on the Piano in the Cova,a talented Harpist and a solo guitarist gave you music 'wherever you went'. a special word has to go to the Entertainment Staff, Kevin Coyne, Oleg from the Ukraine,Craig from 'Yorkshire' and a lovely newcomer to Azamara Katie Foster who was dropped into her first cruise at the deep end putting up with us at our constant trivias and similar games. She was beautiful, talented and read 'The night before Christmas' at the Christmas concert in a manner reminiscent of a young Julie Andrews. We had 2 Cruise Critic Receptions, a Greek Dancing Lesson from the Captain, a Passenger Choir, A Crew talent night (They are very talented especially Shirley, a lovely singer from HR) a Passenger talent night, 2 magicians, a resident crew of singers/dancers. Great, great ,great. Disappointing was a female fiddler (Violinist would be a bit pretentious) she lacked stage presence or real personality and the programme was a bit awful. We weer warned by others after the first show, we went to the second and left as it was a bit painful. The cruise director, John Howell, was a bit insincere, forever praising the Captain and the Orchestra and droning on and on and on oozing insincerity. He liked the sound of his own voice and was obviously reading scripts of the company 'line' However he didn't interact too often with the passengers unless standing with a microphone telling us of how he was a star on Broadway incessantly. One complaint only- Azamara, your coffee is awful, often undrinkable. The rest was fab, fab fab. We will return, most, if not all I spoke to were of similar opinion. They did 'Launch' Azamara Club Cruises' on board- main opinion was "Why spoil a good thing' nothing is free, local wines complimentary etc makes prices go up. The suites get one thing, the rest get less, starts a class system that would shutdown the 'extended family atmosphere' . However it must be good as John Howell was extolling it to the rooftops every chance he had to lay his hand on a mike. We arrived in Miami in a rainstorm, debarkation was best organised9sed ever, however the storm was so bad Air Canadas incoming flight to Miami got diverted to Nassau, it finally arrived 8 hours late at 6 pm. The captain had exceeded his hours so they had to fly another crew down from Toronto. We finally got to Toronto at Midnight 15 hours after leaving the ship. Air Canada gave us a bag Of Potato Chips and 'Free' coffee. The bags all arrived however. What a wonderful cruise, if they don't increase their prices I may not return to Oceania!!! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Background info: We have been on more than 10 cruises on such cruise lines as HAL (5), Princess (2), NCL (1), Celebrity (2), Cruise West (1), etc. After recently doing a cruise on Celebrity, we decided to try Azamara. The price was less ... Read More
Background info: We have been on more than 10 cruises on such cruise lines as HAL (5), Princess (2), NCL (1), Celebrity (2), Cruise West (1), etc. After recently doing a cruise on Celebrity, we decided to try Azamara. The price was less than Oceania - who we had previously looked at and offered several categories of discounts, including military, resident and senior rates, which made the price even harder to resist! Travel to port of embarkation: Because this was a Transatlantic cruise, airfare was cheaper through the cruise line than by me doing it independently. With some trepidation, I took air and transfers through Azamara. Our connections were very good and we made it to BCN without any problems. Azamara was at the airport to meet us. Luggage was taken to a motorcoach when we arrived at 8 am. Since we couldn't be boarded until at least 11 am, we went on a tour of the city - which we were very happy about. We got a great tour of the city. Would you believe some people complained? They were tired and wanted to go directly to the ship. We were tired also, but the guide pointed out the terminal was cold and they would have to wait for hours so this was their alternative - a tour of the city! We were grateful for the tour since it was all we would get to see of the city. I had tried to work out air and hotel for a few days prior to the cruise, but Azamara said they had none available. We booked back in mid-August and at a discount fare. Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal at about 11 am. There were separate lines for suites - one other couple was ahead of us so we went through quite quickly. We were given our room keys. Pictures were taken as we boarded the ship. As we walked through the terminal, we were able to buy our 2 bottles of wine. Once onboard we were greeted with glasses of champagne and told the rooms were not ready. We made our way to the Windows Cafe for lunch. The rooms were ready about 1:30 PM. We actually snuck down a little earlier because we were desperate to lie down - after the long flight. Stateroom: Our stateroom was very well appointed. It was a sky suite. The carpet and upholstery looked fresh and clean. The bed came equipped with many pillows of various sizes. The bathroom had a toilet, tub with shower and one sink. Shortly upon arrival, the toilet would not flush - even after several flushes. This proved to be a problem several times and had to be reported to the front desk. Only after the mid-cruise comment card, did it get repaired to our satisfaction. The balcony had a good-sized table and two chairs. The cabin was near the aft, but did not have excessive noise or vibration. No noise from the deck above, either. The beds were exactly like the beds on Celebrity - a bit disappointing for us. We were hoping for better. We requested an egg crate mattress after the first night and this made things better. They are due for new beds - hopefully after the first quarter of 2010. Food: The food was excellent in the MDR and in Windows. We also tried both specialty restaurants. Prime C was more to our tastes than Aqualina. I had prebooked Prime C prior to travel through Captain's Club and booked the other two visits on the day of embarkation. The variety and freshness of the food (Particularly on a 14 day cruise) was impressive. The salads were so fresh! It was as if the greens had just been picked. How they accomplish this is beyond me! The beef - mainly had fillet mignon was excellent - both in MDR and Prime C. Loved the Smoothie Bar in Windows. We were always able to request a table for two in the MDR and receive it. We usually went to eat at 6 PM. Entertainment: The entertainment was surprisingly good and we usually don't attend shows, but we did on this cruise. We went to the special nights when they had guest entertainers: Jacqui Michaels, a vocalist; Brett Cave, a pianist; Claire (forgot last name, a violinist. We also had a crew talent show and a passenger talent show that were fun. The last night, all the entertainers put on a special Christmas Holiday show that was excellent! Crew: The crew on Azamara is excellent - especially the upper management. Comments made on the mid-cruise comment cards were addressed by senior management and every effort was made to try to fix problems. That was very much appreciated. Hotel Manager. Philip Herbert was excellent. The Captain, Georgios Theodorou, was the most personable Captain I have ever met! He was everywhere! He even gave a Greek dancing class that was a complete success with all the guests. If there are any problems on your cruise, my impression was that all you need to do is let them know, and they will try to improve any problems. That goes a long way to making us want to return! Spa: I did have 2 treatments - a pedicure and a facial. Both were well done. I also purchased an individual pass to the thallo spa area. I was disappointed with this after the first visit. It was a large thallo hot tub, but seats did not go all the way around. There was a drain in the middle that stuck up that you could catch you toes on and the jets were not all working. Since this was a TA, there were several days when this area was closed off due to the roughness of seas and then there was an electrical problem which put the thallo pool out of order for several days. I called the spa manager to look in to a partial refund and this was done, which was very fair. I don't think I will bother purchasing another pass, however. Public areas: The ship is the most elegant ship I have ever been on - just beautiful and well- maintained. The chairs around the pool area are teak and have pads that must be 5-6 inches thick! They are very comfortable. There are many areas to sit and read. The fitness area is small, but comfortable. There is one self-service laundry on deck 7 which takes coins. Alicante, Spain: Our first port was just beautiful! We did our own thing and took the free shuttle in to town and then boarded the Hop On /Hop Off bus. It cost just a few Euros and gave a great overview of the town. When we finished, we walked along the waterfront and looked at all the beautiful yachts along the waterfront. Very nice stop! Coco Cay: Nice stop after a long TA cruise. Had many shady spots to sit. Many, many chairs. Not as nice as HAL's Half Moon Cay, but nice. Comments about coffee situation......   One thing that needs improvement is the coffee.  I tried coffee in every venue it was offered at.....MDR, specialty restaurants, from all 3 machines in the Windows Cafe ....I even purchased coffee in the Cova Cafe and it was the worst of all!  I found the coffee to be undrinkable, as did many of my fellow cruisers.  Many mentioned it on their comment cards.  I hope Azamara does something soon to address the coffee issue! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
Our first cruise was with HAL nearly 20 years ago. Our experience was so positive that we remained exclusively loyal to them for many years & many cruises. We only strayed to take specialty cruises on expedition ships or traditional ... Read More
Our first cruise was with HAL nearly 20 years ago. Our experience was so positive that we remained exclusively loyal to them for many years & many cruises. We only strayed to take specialty cruises on expedition ships or traditional river cruises. About a year ago, we started to explore our cruising options beyond HAL. We were seeking an upper-premium product so we decided to try both Azamara & Oceania. We chose 14-nite transAtlantics on each - westbound Barcelona to Miami on Oceania Regatta (Nov/09) and eastbound Miami to Barcelona on Azamara Journey (April/10). This was our first experience with transAtlantics as we usually prefer port-intensive cruises. But our investment (or risk) would be minimal & we'd get an excellent impression with so many days at sea. I previously reviewed our Oceania cruise at http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=61359 so these comments will focus on our Azamara experience, although direct comparisons are inevitable. EMBARKATION We made independent air (FF) and hotel arrangements & stayed 1-nite pre-cruise at Sofitel Miami. We took a taxi to the cruise port about 12:30 pm & were efficiently processed by shoreside staff. We traded our passports for our Azamara Seapass, swiped our credit card & proceeded to board Journey. Once across the gangway, we were welcomed with a glass of sparkling rosE. Since staterooms weren't ready yet, we went to Windows to check out the embarkation buffet. We grabbed a slice of pizza & were barely seated when a server appeared with complimentary wine. Off to a good start! We soon learned that our sailing had only 491 pax (70% capacity) with 404 crew. Pretty similar to our reverse sailing last fall on Oceania Regatta which had 520 pax (76%) with 397 crew. STATEROOM We intentionally booked an identical verandah room in the identical location (swapping port for starboard) as we had on Oceania Regatta a few months ago. It was conveniently located on the 7th floor near the forward elevator. Other than the sounds of crashing waves, our room was very quiet. The room was configured much the same as Regatta with ample closet space, drawer storage and a large floor-to-ceiling mirror. Perhaps it was the dEcor, but the room was not as bright & airy as on Oceania. Our bed was in rather poor condition & nowhere near as comfy as those we've had on either Oceania or HAL. The mattress had obvious dips & depressions. Bed linens were luxurious & in excellent shape. We knew to expect a tiny bathroom so there was no surprise. It was functional & clean although the shower curtain showed signs of mildew along the bottom edge & the shower drain was sluggish. Some towels & facecloths were frayed & in dire need of replacement. Elemis soap & toiletries were replenished as we used them. The 40 sq ft verandah was noticeably smaller than on Regatta. Who knew what a difference 10 sq ft could make? Balcony furniture was 2 upright chairs & a glass table that seemed inappropriately large for the very tiny space. The privacy barrier between balconies was made of opaque glass that had gaps of about 6-8 inches at each edge. This was not sufficient for total privacy. It was impossible to sit outside & not be visible to our neighbors from some angle. But the weather on this crossing was so poor that we rarely had the opportunity to use the balcony. We had cool temps & overcast skies for most of the trip. The Captain did all he could to outrun back-to-back storms after leaving Miami but we still experienced angry seas with 15-22 ft swells for several consecutive days. DINING Food is an important aspect of cruising for us. While we don't cruise specifically for the food, we won't sail on a line that has mediocre food. After reading many reviews about food on Azamara, we set our expectations lower than Oceania but higher than HAL. This made sense since HAL caters more in the larger mass market while Oceania fancies itself as the cruise line for foodies. Even with lowered expectations, we were disappointed with the food on Azamara. Our dining experience on Journey ranks close to the bottom of our 27 cruises. Not only did Azamara fail to reach the level of Oceania, in our opinion they did not even come close to HAL. We were disappointed in the main dining venues: . ordinary menus with limited selections . obvious repetition of ingredients . indistinct flavors with many items tasting similar . heavy use of salt to enhance flavor . little evidence of fresh herbs, spices or seasonings . sauces & gravies (and some soups) had starchy consistency . poor execution of many items: overcooked or undercooked . hot food often served lukewarm . less choice cuts of meat & fish for principal entrees . no fresh berries, only soggy defrosted available . very limited cheese selections . homemade ice-creams & sherbets often contained ice chips. But there were bright spots: . Smoothie Bar in Windows . fresh squeezed OJ & mouth-puckering lemonade . tasty burgers & kabobs, albeit very greasy, at Pool Grill . special themed nites in Breeza (Spanish Tapas, Asian Stir-Fry & Indian Curry) . Cova Cafe is a little gem for specialty coffees & tasty tidbits . food presentation was consistently superb in MDR . complimentary wine with lunch & dinner. Bottom line, dining on Journey was hit-or-miss for us. Over time, we learned how to increase our odds of a better meal. Apparently the trick was to make the right selections! We did manage to have a few good meals but they were the exception. I realize that food is subjective & palates vary greatly. I also appreciate that food on any cruise line can vary from ship to ship & even from sailing to sailing on the same ship. Maybe the food we had on Journey was not representative of Azamara. Maybe there were provisioning problems on this transAtlantic. Maybe the food budget was reduced & lower quality items had to be substituted. Maybe the galley crew were exhausted or out-of-sync. And maybe it's unfair for us to make an assessment of Azamara food based on a single sailing, but we trust our own palates & instincts. YMMV. SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS We were entitled to 2 guaranteed reservations at each of the 2 specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, at a price of $15 pp per meal. Since we had no prior status with either Azamara or Celebrity, we were unable to make reservations on-line before the cruise. So we made it a priority upon boarding. We were surprised to learn that both restaurants were operating on a fixed schedule: early (6:00-6:30 pm) or late (8:00-8:30 pm). We tried several times to make a reservation at either restaurant for 7:30 pm. No can do. Nevertheless, we were eager to try them so we accepted the pre-set times. We enjoyed both specialty restaurants. Elegant atmosphere, attentive service, creative menus, flavorable food. We preferred Aqualina over Prime C. ON-BOARD ACTIVITIES Journey offered many games & activities for our 9 sea days. Golf putting, shuffleboard, ping pong, social bridge, bingo, team trivia, arts & crafts sessions, improv acting classes & ballroom dance lessons. Captain Theodorou even taught a jam-packed room of eager passengers to dance the Greek Korba. Opa! There were culinary demos, afternoon tea, wine & martini tastings ($), food & wine pairings ($), photo & computer workshops ($), wellness seminars & fitness classes. There were 3 enrichment lecturers on-board, making for diverse & interesting presentations. Recent movies were available on in-room TV but the rotation schedule made it virtually impossible to watch many during normal waking hours. Azamara still has an Art Director on board. He gave a few presentations & staged several silent auctions. On Azamara, loyalty has its privileges. Members of Le Club Voyage were invited to participate in a range of published & unpublished activities, including galley tours, bridge tours, engine room tours, Happy Hour, cocktail parties, connoisseur dinners, wine & specialty coffee tastings. Since this was our first Azamara cruise & we had no prior history on Celebrity or RCCL, we were excluded from these events. However, because of our involvement with Cruise Critic, we did receive invitations to the galley, bridge and engine room tours. Azamara arranged a couple of Meet & Mingle sessions for CC members. They trump both Oceania & HAL for hosting these events. Cruise Director Tony Markey announced that our group of 60+ was the largest they had on board this year. We enjoyed complimentary cocktails & hors d'oerves and met several senior officers. Hotel Manager Heike Berdos attended both CC parties. She's the real deal - very approachable & around the ship constantly. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in what CC members had to say. ENTERTAINMENT Who said a small ship can't deliver top-quality entertainment? Kudos to Azamara for providing excellent after-dinner shows in the Cabaret Lounge on Journey. There was a featured vocalist, pianist, violinist, guitarist, comedian as well as several performances by an Azamara 5-member resident cast. All superb. Pre and post-dinner music was provided by a harpist, guitarist, cabaret singer & musical trio. There was also pre-show ballroom dancing as well as an after-hours disco. SHORE EXCURSIONS We are independent travelers who tend to make our own shore arrangements. However, on this cruise we had a generous OBC so we chose to take a few ship excursions. Journey shorex team was among the best we have encountered on any ship. They were well informed, enthusiastic & helpful. And unlike many shorex staff who become harried on tour day & bark out orders to passengers, the Journey staff remained easy-going & helpful throughout. We took 2 shore excursions that were excellent. Interesting itineraries, informative tour guides, great value for money. PUBLIC ROOMS We thought Journey was clean, nicely appointed & well maintained. It has the underpinnings of a great ship. But it seemed to lack the warmth & vibrancy on either Oceania or HAL. Something intangible was missing. In our view, Journey needs a bit more love & careful attention to the little details. Journey has the same footprint as Oceania R class ships, yet there are noticeable differences in how the space is used. The casino on Azamara is larger & slot machines take up space that Oceania uses for its delightful Martinis Bar. Azamara does have a bar near the casino, but with a large screen TV & uncomfortable seating, it lacked the ambiance that Martinis exudes on Oceania. Cova Cafe is a lovely addition on Azamara. It is the perfect hang-out where we enjoyed many a specialty coffee & light meal. There is nothing similar on Oceania. The on-board shops are virtually identical on both lines, although the nod goes to Oceania for better product selection & merchandising. On Azamara, the Art Director had a desk on the 5th floor opposite the Cova Cafe. Art works were often displayed for sale around this area, as well as in the hallway outside the casino. The ship photographer & his photo gallery were also located here. This gave a slightly cluttered & commercial feel to the overall area. The Library was our favorite room on Oceania. On Azamara, it was still lovely but something was missing. It's as if nobody really cared about this space. Furniture was often scattered haphazardly about the room, seating was mismatched & lighting was poor. The "take a book, leave a book" section was usually in disarray, permanent books were often misfiled & there were no subscription magazines. The Library felt more like a forgotten rec room than the elegant space it can be. Looking Glass on Azamara is Horizons on Oceania. This is the spot where passengers gather to enjoy forward vistas thru the panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows. But on Journey, the centre views are somewhat obstructed by equipment for the on-board band. Nearly half of the windows were blocked by a grand piano, large speakers & synthesizers. But to their credit, Azamara hasn't converted outside public space on the top deck into revenue-producing private cabanas as Oceania has done. So the best forward vantage points are still available for all to enjoy. But neither Azamara nor Oceania can come close to the wide-open public spaces on HAL, its gorgeous wrap-around teak promenades and unrestricted bow access for scenic cruising. DISEMBARKATION We experienced a well organized disembarkation off Journey. As on Oceania, breakfast hours & menus were limited. We were instructed to vacate our room by 8:30 am & wait in a public lounge for disembarkation. This was in marked contrast to HAL where breakfast is not restricted & all passengers can remain in their rooms until they disembark. We arrived in Barcelona at 6:00 am & disembarkation began about 7:30 am. As independent travelers, we had the option of several timeframes to leave the ship. We chose 8:15 am. The Hotel Manager & Cruise Director were waiting on the exit ramp to bid farewell to departing passengers. Nice touch. We retrieved our luggage inside the terminal & grabbed a taxi to our onward destination in Barcelona. FINAL THOUGHTS We have mixed feelings about whether we would sail Azamara again. We like many of their future itineraries as well as their focus on destination enrichment. We're thrilled with the included amenities & we're now members of Le Club Voyage with all its rights & privileges. We love the small ships & have rarely sailed with a friendlier crew than on Journey. There is much to like about Azamara. Yet we hesitate, primarily because they failed to deliver on an important aspect of cruising for us. We can't ignore our disappointment with the food in virtually all dining venues on Journey. Maybe it would be better on another Azamara ship. So we'll continue to watch the future roll-out of Azamara & maybe we'll hop aboard again. Either way, we wish them success going forward. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
This was my husband's third and possibly final cruise. We had tried a trans-Pacific cruise on Celebritiy's Millenium and then a Pacific Coast/Sea of Cortez cruise with Holland America. My DH informed me that if this cruise was ... Read More
This was my husband's third and possibly final cruise. We had tried a trans-Pacific cruise on Celebritiy's Millenium and then a Pacific Coast/Sea of Cortez cruise with Holland America. My DH informed me that if this cruise was not any better than the previous two, he was not going to cruise anymore. I am happy to say that the Azamara Journey was a terrific experience (I knew it would be since I had cruised on this ship twice before) but was thrilled that my husband agreed with me. FOOD; The most important part of the cruise for my DH is the food, and the Journey did not disappoint. We tried all the options: Prime C, Aqualina, Main Dining Room, Windows Cafe, the Pool Grill, and room service. Great quality and selection is available in the Main Dining Room, and the specialty restaurants are top quality. The chilled seafood platter and seared foie gras in Aqualina are fabulous, and the lava cake in Prime C is its signature dessert. Because we were in a Continental Suite, our butler Pravin also served us hors d'oeuvres and shrimp every afternoon. We took advantage of the complimentary dining in specialty restaurants for suite guests, but the $15.00 per person service charge for non -suite guests is well worth it. The Journey also offers Connoisseur Dinners a few times each cruise, and we also took advantage of this. Chef Singh made a wonderful dinner for 10 of us (using Prime C large back table for location) and Boris, the sommelier made some great wine pairings to accompany each course. The charge for the Connoisseur Dinner is $60.00 per person. One new feature of the Azamara Club Cruises is the addition of complimentary wine with lunch and dinner. I was afraid that the wines would be of poor quality, but I was pleasantly surprised. We had everything from French Chardonnays to Oregon Pinots and Chilean Malbecs. In addition, each night the ship offers an additonal bottle of a red wine and a white wine that you can purchase for half-price. We did this some nights and were very pleased with the choices offered. ACCOMMODATIONS: Because we were in a Continental Suite, we had ample space for everything. There is lots of storage in the cabin, two closets, and an extra-large bathroom, including tub, not shower. The Elemis products are great, especially the bath and shower gel. I don;'t think a suite is necessary to be comfortable on the ship, but it's nice if you have it. The extra-large balcony with table, two chairs AND lounger was especially nice to enjoy beautiful views. LECTURES: We had great lectures for all tastes. For the adventurous, there was Nigel, an outdoors enthusiast who shared videos of his most dangerous moments in the wild, as well as some footage of pandas. For the gardeners, we had the President of the American Horticultural Society who showed beautiful slides of plants and gardens. For the seacruisers, we had a few presentations by (sorry can[t remember his name) an expert who gave the history of the sea trade and some famous women pirates. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to one of the two shows presented by the five-member Cabaret Cast entitled :"Sing It and Swing It". It was ably performed,but we thought the best entertainment was provided at the Cova Cafe by Dan Daly and his great voice singing the classics and by the Kristin Lee trio up in the Looking Glass. Her voice is a dead-ringer for Pasty Cline and she is versatile enough to sing country, the Louis Armstrong classic "It's a Wonderful World", and pop. SERVICE: The Hotel Director Heike appeared to be everywhere at all times. She runs a tight ship and the results are spectacular service delivered with a smile and grace. Our butler Pravin was amazing and seemed to appear whenever we needed anything. He was assisted by Alvin and Juan who kept our cabin spotless, Wherever you are on the ship, the staff is friendly and helpful without being phony. It certainly adds to the whole experience. SHIP: The ship can have as many as 700 passengers, but on our trans-Atlantic cruise there were 600. We enjoyed the spaciousness and lack of "cattleherding" mentality. The main areas used by passengers are the Cabaret Theatre (for evening shows and lectures), the Looking Glass (for wonderful viewing and some activities), the Cova Cafe (specialty coffees and teas, in addition to the evening piano playing by the talented Dan Daly), and the Pool area with Outdoor Walking Track. The ship is in very good condition, and while we were in port we noticed painters painting the exterior and workers revarnishing the wood rails and loungers (some of the most comfortable we have ever experienced). It is a clean and inviting environment. PORTS OF CALL: Normally a trans-Atlantic offers relaxing days at sea with ports of call that are minor distractions, but this itinerary offered some great ones. Our first stop was in the Azores and Punta Delgata, then on to Gibraltar, Cartagena, and La Palma, Mallorca, before reaching our final destination of Barcelona. We enjoyed all of the ports of call, and the ship's tours were reasonably priced and significantly lower than the ones from previous cruises I have taken with Azamara. ACTIVITIES: We took advantage of the many activities offered during the cruise including the Team Trivia contests, the Musical Challenges, and the Battle of the Sexes. In addition, there were craft classes, bridge games, and yoga classes. There was so much planned everyday that we had a hard time deciding what to do. OVERALL: I would unhesitatingly reccommend the Azamara Journey for anyone who wants a lovey cruise experience with personal service, good food and wine, and a smaller ship. The average age of the passengers was 60 - 70 years of age (though there were some younger couples), and there were no children on our cruise. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2010
This ship is not comfortable for a trans Atlantic crossing. Compared to last year's crossing on the Solstice this one required my wife to take to our room and was like a cork in the ocean and add this to the extra 2 days to get to the ... Read More
This ship is not comfortable for a trans Atlantic crossing. Compared to last year's crossing on the Solstice this one required my wife to take to our room and was like a cork in the ocean and add this to the extra 2 days to get to the Azores. Besides being slow, it is also old although well maintained. Beware the rear cabins because the engine vibrations will drive you crazy. Activities were sparse but they do have a beautiful library. In fairness there were about 500 people on board and 400 crew. The entertainment was good considering and I do enjoy the ubiquitous Ms. Hamilton and her West End Cabaret. The Harpist seemed tired throughout the 2 weeks and the comedy was passable. The Stateroom was dated and had the smallest balcony I have ever seen. The bathroom likewise. Selection of TV programming was very small and the TV didn't swivel to a right angle to the bed. Now lets get positive and why I have booked again but this time for the quieter waters around St. Barts and St. John. in February. The service is to die for. No problem they couldn't fix. Nikki at the purser's desk was the best at her job I've ever seen (30+ cruises). Steward was very attentive. The friendly wait staff always anticipated your wants and needs and were there just as you were about to ask but were not intrusive. Evening meals were very well done, one overdone salmon fillet in 14 dinners and creme brule every night if you wish--not a bad percentage. The two complimentary wines were from a different country each night for a week. Most were very nice but if you wanted something else then the price was about half of other ships. Breakfast and lunch was also well prepared in the main restaurant. Room service had a good selection and was promptly delivered. The buffet was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment in quality and selection although my wife loved the smoothies with breakfast. I've read about the poor coffee and they were right however I switched to lattes and was happy. No Children--no children's program. Shore excursions were like any other cruise. Both getting on and off the Journey was a breeze with only 500 people on board. The free air from Toronto to Miami and back from Barcelona made this an incredible good deal. Finally the thing that made this cruise so special was the other passengers. This was the most interesting, friendly group that we have ever sailed with and I would like to thank all those that I met. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
To criticise this cruise would be difficult. It was the third Azamara crossing and the sixth transatlantic. They really have it right, my only concern is that it is too much of a bargain to last at the prices we paid. The Journey, ... Read More
To criticise this cruise would be difficult. It was the third Azamara crossing and the sixth transatlantic. They really have it right, my only concern is that it is too much of a bargain to last at the prices we paid. The Journey, now an old friend, was as comfortable and friendly as ever, the cabin comfortable, the dining excellent and the ship well kept and cared for. The crew were, as usual, attentive, polite, caring and well mannered. The entertainment staff headed by Eric De Grey, an eccentric but phenomenal entertainer, organiser and all round really nice guy assisted by James, Mark and Jodi, put up with the passengers silliness at trivia etc. The activities were really well organised, lectures by Jesse Weir on opera were fascinating, well presented and attended as were others on local ports. Dining was exceptional whether at Discoveries, windows or the Prime C and Aquilina, absolutely no complaints at all. The touted free wine was of good quality and unrationed, many of us just couldn't believe the quality of wine and service. A nice touch was the freeing of charge for the Cova Cafe (Now renamed Mosaic) It became a meeting place for afternoon teas, morning coffee and just socialising, nice touch. In former years it was not so well patronized. The Officers were visible and friendly especially the Captains small son who endeared himself to the Grandparents on board. Jason (The Captain) was very approachable and friendly. Ports were Rome,Cartagena (Blah), Gibraltar, Tenerife and Nassau. Nassau was a bit of a disappointment, lots of pestering by locals when getting on shore, needed a good rainstorm to just wash it down. We don't take ships tours as they are not good value and move at the speed of the slowest passenger but we enjoyed looking around the ports, on a Transatlantic the sea days are the draw. Embarkation was an absolute breeze, Debarkation a bit chaotic, not due to Azamara but the ever arrogant Immigration officers of the USA. If Azamara could avoid Miami it would be great, an old grimy terminal with circular winding concrete steps to navigate to get to your bags, the usual dead slow stop customs officials showing their power.The chaos of non marked Taxi and Bus stands. After 2 weeks of politeness and 'niceness' being exposed to that lot was a come down to earth with a bang!(Dont get me started on TSA in Miami Airport) After so much leisure and relaxation to be dragged out of bed for a 6 am meeting with Homeland Security who then kept you waiting till 7 am was just a contrast between Azamara Club and USA Inc. My concern is that as I was paying about the same as in previous years for a superior service, free wine and coffees and a $500 OBC I hope that Azamara have done their costs right and will be profitable!! To those many many passengers I met and whose company I enjoyed, thank you. To the couple of miserable English Women who perpetually moaned and rudely berated the crew that it 'wasn't Seaborne' there was a reason you dined alone!! Happy Christmas. Thanks Azamara Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
We took Azamara Journey from Miami to Rome. This was our second trans-Atlantic. We enjoyed the first one so much last year (it was not on Azamara) that we were keen to do it again. Azamara lived up to and exceeded expectations. In this ... Read More
We took Azamara Journey from Miami to Rome. This was our second trans-Atlantic. We enjoyed the first one so much last year (it was not on Azamara) that we were keen to do it again. Azamara lived up to and exceeded expectations. In this case, the ship is the destination and it's all sea days. It keeps the cruise director and his staff busy and indeed, the program was so full that there could well be two events that you wished to attend which ran at the same time. There's lots of interaction with fellow passengers and you get to know them really well.The daily trivia contest was hotly contested and very well supported. Azamara DOES listen. Somebody suggested that if this was S**b**rn, there would be a barman on duty since we had over 100 people in the lounge. Next day there was. Another passenger suggestion was the old tradition of the 'noon gun'. From that point on, a name was drawn from the hat every day and a lucky passenger got to blow the ship's whistle at noon. Cute, eh? Thank you, Captain.Cruise Director Eric de Gray is one of the best at sea. He certainly must be the tallest. He is not only a talented entertainer, he can keep order with the loud-mouths during trivia and is lightning quick with creative and very funny one-liners in all situations.We normally have dinner in the main dining room on cruises but used it only three times on this occasion. We did Aqualina a couple of times and the gourmet dinner with wines in Prime C. Both superb. All the rest were in the Windows Cafe. There are white tablecloths in the evening and a good selection of buffet items. There was always a chef on duty to make the theme dish of the day for you - Indian, risotto, fish & chips, etc etc and he was excellent. It was nice to sit outside aft, look at the wake and watch the sun go down in the west behind you. Wherever you dined, the waiters would pass by with the wines of the day to top you up constantly. The wines are well chosen, not cheap and nasty, and we enjoyed them. Guitarist Steve entertained and would take requests.Dance instructors Sunny and Dave were superb, the best we have seen. It would have been nice to have more opportunities for ballroom dancing during the cruise. They were quite limited. The band was great, led by the personable and very talented Dan Redner. He also directed the Hi C's choir which was fun, for the participants at least.We were on Azamara Journey in the Baltic 18 months ago and it was nice to be recognized by some of the crew including our favourite barman at sea, Dale.We used the computer room every day and never had to wait for a machine. With very few exceptions the internet worked well.We made one stop in Gibraltar and took the ship's tour. It was an excellent day and turned out to be more interesting and enjoyable than we expected. Gib is so compact that after the tour we stopped on Main Street for a pint and fish & chips - old English tradition we are told but not old English prices - then walked back to the ship. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
This was our 5th Azamara cruise, the first in a suite. We were used to the excellent crew, atmosphere. dining and entertainment. Journey did not let us down. Without port days the cruise experience was focused on the cruise itself. Cabin- ... Read More
This was our 5th Azamara cruise, the first in a suite. We were used to the excellent crew, atmosphere. dining and entertainment. Journey did not let us down. Without port days the cruise experience was focused on the cruise itself. Cabin- nice with real bathtub, more than adequate closet space. Wonderful service from our Butler and Room attendant, never obtrusive but very efficient. Food was Azamara, high quality and service. Whether in Discoveries or Windows , Pool Grill or the specialty Restaurants. Because there were only about 350 passengers Aqualina and Prime C alternated nights of opening. This caused no problem that I saw. The free wine option provided excellent 'Boutique Wines' in copious Quantity. The lectures were interesting 'Discovery' and Animal Planet presenter Nigel Marven gave several lectures on his experiences with various wildlife programmes and showed examples, fascinating. A US District Attorney gave background to famous trials and a great speaker taught us to appreciate the enormity of the Universe, complete with nightime event on Deck 11 spying stars in the sky. There was Ballroom dancing classes, Watercolour painting and even Portuguese lessons. The multi talented Entertainment staff headed by CD Eric de Gray with 'sidekick' Chris provided professional shows assisted by guest singers and a comedian. The talented Dan Daly hosted Piano time in the Mosaic cafe even though I sang a song with him as 'Ethel Merman', special mention to Marcio DJ and a great Yorkshire lass Sara-Lou who put up with a lot of good natured geriatric ribbing with great tolerance and humour. If you want a professional, luxury experience with out the stiff formalities of Tuxedos and enforced mealtimes and Table 'Mates' Choose Azamara. Downside, the Hotel Director was almost invisible, not the ever attentive visibility of Heike or Philip, never saw him never made himself known. No one was at the gangway to say Goodbye and as a multiple traveler never got invitations to Dinner with the Officers, Tours of the bridge etc that we enjoyed on previous cruises, but really 'no big deal'. The Hotel PreCruise, the Fenix was central clean and comfortable and good value however the Cruise Air travel booked by Azamara was an absolute disaster. Bad flight planning gave us a connection in London that was impossible to make.After 7 hours rom Canada we missed our connection along with some other passengers, having to sit in London for 5 hours for the next flight. Arriving in Lisbon our, and others, bags did not arrive, there was no one from Azamara to meet us or transfer us. We did get the bags about 30 hours later after doing all the tracing etc ourselves. People arriving on the same route the next 2 days had th same experience. Several cruised without their baggage, one gentleman lost his custom wheelchair. The bus to the ship was supposed to be at 12 Noon, they arrived at 1-15, the hotel had no one to contact. Not a good experience. Leaving at San Juan we were taken in School type buses to the Airport, no room for bags that were to follow in a van, fortunately they did, though we had to wait, unescorted outside the Airport for them to come. Great Cruise line, my advice, handle the transfers and hotels yourself and have a professional Travel Agent at least review any air arrangements before accepting and dont expect any shore representatives to turn up or assist with problems. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
We are grreat fans of TA cruises and, having attained Captain's Club top level on Celebrity, this was a natural for us. Check-in in N.Y.C. was an absolute breeze, we arrived at the pier, extremely conveniently located in mid-town ... Read More
We are grreat fans of TA cruises and, having attained Captain's Club top level on Celebrity, this was a natural for us. Check-in in N.Y.C. was an absolute breeze, we arrived at the pier, extremely conveniently located in mid-town Manhattan around 3:30, found noone ahead of us in line, and were aboard within ten minutes and were directed to the Windows Cafe, glass of Champagne in hand, for a late lunch. By the time we went to our cabin our luggage was waiting for us. Our cabin, 8040, although designated a suite, was not really that, as sleeping and living areas were not separated. But it was wider, by three feet or so, than a standard cabin, and the extra room made it much eas ier for the two of us to move around simultaneously. The balcony was also that much longer, which provided room for a lounger, two chairs and a table; unfortunately the weather was never quite mild enough for us to sit outside. The bathroom was of adequate size, had both a tub and a shower, and more than sufficiennt storage space. Storage space in the cabin was ample, our three suitcases all fitted under the bed. Our two cabin attendants were oustanding, giving the room thorough cleanings twice a day. After the first day they had learned our movements so that they were never in the way when we wanted to use the room. Our butler, Sanjiv, was absolutely first rate. He made our reservations in the specialty restaurants for us, brought us breakfast in the cabin on the minute on the days we had it there, and served it with considerable grace, kept our refrigerator stocked with the items we requested on the first day, and always had a snack waiting for us in the late afternoon when we'd return to the cabin. The food: We ate dinner in the Main Dining Room twice, found the choice of dished adequate, the food quite good but certainly nothing to rave about. The breakfasts there offered a wide choice but took rather too long to serve, so that we mostly breakfasted in the Windows cafe which offered a similar choice of dishes along with waiters to carry older passengers' (a category that included me) plates to their tables. The only problem was that, at peak hours (at lunch as well), there weren't enough tables to go around. Not really a problem as, without exception, seated guests were only too happy to share their tables when we asked if we might join them. The lunch buffet at Windows was hit and misss. The cold cuts were always inadequate, the hot dishes were mostly good, but not always, the offerings of the carvery varied in quality, the ice cream was very good indeed. We had the themed dinners at windows on two evenings, when the tables are covered with white linen. The Indian evevning was a big success, the French not so much. The pool lunches, on the occasions when we craved a simpler fare, were very good, with excellent hamburgers, fries and a choice of beef, lamb and chicken kebabs and nice, crisp fries. But by far the best food was to be had in the specialty restaurants where, as suite pessengers, we could eat as often as we liked at no additional charge. Prime C was excellent, with a superb fillet of beef, a lovely saddle of lamb and, since perfection is hard to achieve, a beautiful veal chop which was, however, a bit stringy and certainly badly oversalted. I can offer nothing but raves about Aqualina. Particularly memorable were two different pate de foie gras versions as starters, a splendid osso bucco and a marvelously tender broiled lobster. As for the free house wines (one had a choice of a different red or white each day both at lunch and at dinner at all the venues) they went from barely acceptable to pretty good. (Why, by the way, free wine and not free beer? And I would add that the same wines served in the bars at non-meal times were going for truly ridiculous prices, $11 for a glass of garden variety Pinot Grigio?)) In the specialty restaurants we chose to order from the wine list, it was possible to find good reds and whites for around $30, although only a few. I should mention that we were presented with four half bottles of assorted spirits (which we chose to exchange for four half bottles of a very good Scotch) in our suite, along with two bottles of bubbly and a bottle of wine. We were never in imminent danger of dying of thirst. The free specialty coffees and pastries, available at Mosaics Cafe at all hours, were excellent as well. As our Celebrity Elite Status translated into Le Club Voyage membership we enjoyed a number of additional percs. These included a more than generous free internet allotment a bag of laundry done free and one garment dry cleaned free. Additionally, there were four cocktail hours fo club members, with any drinks you wanted offered free a volonte, and two evenings of "happy hours" with drinks available at half price. The quality of the service throughout was extremely friendly and genuinely helpful. The one exception was a server who refused to honor our Club status at one of the happy hours and was overbearing and deliberately unhelpful in addition. After I reported the incident to the Customer Relations desk I was sought out by no less than three ship's officers who offered their profuse apologies and assured me that they would make it their personal responsibility to see to it that such an incident would not happen again. Apart from this very minor occurrence we had only the most pleasant of interchanges with the personnel aboard and found all the ship's officers, from the Captain on down, to be most friendly and approachable. On the one day that there were rough seas the captain changed course and reduced speed to minimize the discomfort caused to his passengers. The down side of this was that this cost him several hours and that he consequently missed the tide at Honfleur, causing the excursions from Rouen to be scrubbed, but from all I heard, most people were quite happy having been spared a day of utter misery, and from our perspective, it was a real bonus to be able to make the beautiful passage up the Seine in daylight rather than in the night. The quality of the entertainment, especially considering the size of the vessel, was excellent throughout. On the first evening a string quartet from the Julliard Music School, performed and this proved to be a special treat. Eliot Finkel was marvelous, both in his incarnation as presiding musician of the ship's orchestra and in his two classical piano recitals, both of which were truly delightful. How heartening that a cruise line can make the assumption that its guests are not necessarily musical illiterates, to be fobbed off with only the most glaring of schmaltz.The dance company proved to be very good indeed, we much enjoyed that evening. Nancy greatly enjoyed the dance lessons offered most days. Several passengers put together a series of question and answer sessions for the benefit of passengers not feeling entirely comfortable in the use of the French language once ashore and I had the impression that these were well received--they were certainly well attended. Azamara graciously not merely assigned a daily time in the observation lounge for this purpose but also publicized the sessions in the daily newspaper. Even though there were no port stops and that consequently this was not cruising in the generally understood meaning of the word, we were both delighted with our experience and enjoyed it as an extremely pleasant Atlantic crossing. In our opinion Azamara has come up with a most useful and pleasing formula. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
Embarkation We arrived by cab from JFK at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal and were on the ship within 10 minutes. It went very smoothly with the baggage handlers taking our luggage in front of the terminal, no line at security, and we ... Read More
Embarkation We arrived by cab from JFK at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal and were on the ship within 10 minutes. It went very smoothly with the baggage handlers taking our luggage in front of the terminal, no line at security, and we were at the ship's entrance. The welcome by staff was less than what I had expected based on others' reviews, but perhaps they had had a long day. They seemed more interested in talking to one another than dealing with us. The Ship She is a beautiful ship. The public spaces are tasteful and comfortable. The library is very attractive. The Looking Glass bar was one of our favorite spots on board. The chaises lounges by the pool and looking to the sea were covered with lots of padding and blankets. The cafe was also quite nice, although located in a busy spot between the shops and the main staircase to the purser's desk. We loved the ability to get lattes and espressos at any time for no charge. Cabin The cabin was excellent, with more storage space than we actually used. Not having to pack formal clothes helped! A flat-screen TV was a welcome sight after the clunky old TV on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 in 2010. The balcony was lovely and there were enough electrical outlets for our gadgets. We found it well designed. The Ports Azamara's practice of having the ship serve as the hotel the first night, with departure late on the following day is an excellent idea. We were able to enjoy company of friends in New York the evening we arrived and for most of the next day. Once arriving in Rouen, where once again the ship serves as a hotel the last night. It was nice to come home to after dinner and we had none of the usual horrible disembarkation experience we've had with other lines. Passengers The passengers trended older, mostly American with a few Europeans and a few more Canadians, but it was a varied group politically, if not ethnically/racially as much. A good number of passengers had been to university. With a maximum of 695 passengers, on this trip the Journey carried 635. Food and Wine I live in the "foodie" San Francisco Bay Area and I'd say that the food was very good. The wines included with the fare were absolutely acceptable and well chosen. The main dining room is classic and comfortable. There was a problem getting a table one evening at 8 pm and the adjacent bar was packed, so it seemed a little disorganized, but it was only that one time. Otherwise, you almost never had to wait for a table. The buffet area was almost always a challenge for finding seating. Had the weather not been chilly, the open air tables would have been fine, but given the wind and the temperature, sitting outside wasn't very comfortable so everyone tried to squeeze inside. The food in the buffet was surprisingly good. Due to Azamara's having raised the price for eating in Aqualina and Prime C, we didn't feel any incentive to dine outside the main dining room or at the buffet. We received a complimentary visit to Aqualina before the end of the crossing and we felt confirmed in our judgment about paying extra. There was nothing wrong with it, it just didn't justify the extra cost in our opinion. We aren't big steak eaters, so Prime C was less of a draw. Challenges of a Small Ship On such a small ship, the problems I observed were 1) finding places to sit in the informal buffet at lunch and 2) the problem posed to readers by the takeover of all (and I mean all) public spaces by amplified trivia contests. If you like reading books, which we do, especially on a crossing, we were often forced either to go to our room or to go to the Library; and frankly, some folks even mistook the library for a place to have loud conversations. That remains my biggest complaint. The fact that a bunch of mature adults can only entertain themselves with trivia for 11 days is mind-boggling to me. Can't Azamara encourage other types of less intrusive entertainment or at least not use microphones, and limit the use of public spaces for that purpose? It seems like one of those cheap choices for the company, probably dreamed up in the accounting department. Staff I did not have the experience others have reported of staff being especially welcoming and enthusiastic. We had one very good server in the restaurant from ?le Maurice. No one ever remembered our names or seemed particularly welcoming otherwise; not unfriendly at all, just not going out of their way to make us feel welcome in the way others have reported. I would make one exception: our cabin staff was very warm and friendly. It probably helps that both were Brazilian! Entertainment Apart from the issue I've already addressed regarding amplified trivia games, the entertainment staff were quite good. One evening there was a jazz concert in the cafe that I found extraordinarily good. The shows were fine--not fantastic--but fine. There was a passenger choir that I really enjoyed (and tried to become part of, but oh, my voice...). The company had done no programming that was specific to Rouen, Paris, or France. A lot of passengers were taking their first--and perhaps only--trip to Paris (given their age) and had booked four-day package tours. Unfortunately, we were arriving on a holiday weekend when many things are closed and one of the four days was Monday when many museums are closed. On top of that, it had been raining quite a bit. We proposed to do a little session on the French language that turned into a 150-person class on pronunciation, phrases, customs, stereotypes, typical misunderstandings, practical considerations given the holiday and the weather, and a bit about the history of the city. We called it a "people's class" and we just asked what folks wanted and roped a couple of Francophone passengers into the mix to help. We did five classes in all. A couple of kind travel agents on board told the cruise director that we should be compensated (and it was work). When asked what I would like, I asked for free Internet. That request was turned down a couple of days later. The CD reported that it wasn't in his authority and that the accountants in Miami had emailed a negative response. He was able to provide two $25 meals at Aqualina. In the end, he was also able to provide me with one days' worth of Internet after a bit of a hassle. I don't know the inside and outside of this issue with the Internet, but it was a modest request and I am still shocked at the company's unwillingness to do it. Captain Due to a rather large storm in the North Atlantic, the captain chose to navigate in a straight line from NYC to the NW tip of Spain, then make a sharp left turn at the Bay of Biscay up to the Channel and on to the Seine River. As he said when he told us, "Our first duty is the safety of our passengers, and frankly, the safety of the ship as well." I respect that kind of thinking! We hit a few large swells on the way and a couple of people fell, but no serious damage was done. The ship performed amazingly well I thought, for her size. His decision was not popular with many people because it meant that instead of arriving in Rouen around 10 am, we arrived just after 6 pm, so tours people had planned to Giverny or around Rouen were cancelled. I felt it was a shame but it still allowed us an evening in Rouen. We went to a medieval inn for dinner with another couple of passengers where Julia Child ate her first sole meunière, so we were content. Disembarkation Disembarkation (and embarkation) was much, much better than our last experience on Cunard's Queen Victoria at Los Angles during the 2011 Christmas holidays. Although we had to stand in line for a little while due to the narrow landing staircase, it wasn't too difficult. Captain and crew lined up to thank us and to say goodbye. Buses for those with packages were available. It was raining quite a bit. Luggage was inside a tent and cabs pulled up fairly regularly to pick up those headed for the train station. We noted that because many people didn't speak French and the cabbies didn't speak English, many folks remained standing in the rain in confusion. I would recommend to Azamara that they station a French- speaking staff person to handle instructions to the cabbies for the passengers, like any boutique hotel would do. It would have been a considerate touch. Since we speak French, we just popped on in the cab and went on our way but I felt bad for so many other passengers who weren't being helped. Other The captain said this NYC to Rouen trip was a one-off due to the ship's having been chartered for a trip out of Rouen. That's a real shame. Currently, virtually everyone goes to Spain, Britain, or Holland. For those of us who travel often to France and would prefer to do so by ship, it's frustrating. I hope Azamara or someone will do a regular non-stop to France at some point. We'd be their most regular passengers! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
The wonderful thing when one has not done a transatlantic crossing before is that there are no preconceived expectations. That doesn't mean I am not well traveled just not well cruised. From the minute I stepped on to the dock ... Read More
The wonderful thing when one has not done a transatlantic crossing before is that there are no preconceived expectations. That doesn't mean I am not well traveled just not well cruised. From the minute I stepped on to the dock Azamara went the extra mile. I am a single traveler by choice, and staff welcomed me to my cabin with fresh fruit and flowers in the room, encouraged me to call for anything 24/7. Yes, I now that's their job, but see if you get two people in a five star hotel asking if you want flowers and you choice of fruit in your room. The captain is a much respected and known entity on the ship, fondly thought of by past passengers. He enjoyed banter with the guests and always took time for photos and a small chat when asked by guests. Meals were excellent, if a dish was not up to expectation it was whisked away and apologies and new meal immediately forthcoming. If a wine was not to my liking one was offered from another night to replace. The bottle shown every fill of the glass to assure the change was made. I celebrated my birthday on ship. A table was specially arranged for our group with cake, happy and celebrating staff in attendance. My room decorated in full, how lovely. Azamara should be commended. Their staff training is second to none. I have no idea how anyone could be unhappy with this cruise line. For myself, the memories of this Atlantic crossing will remain a JOY. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
We wanted to see what a luxury cruise line was and what would be different than the wonderful cruises we have had on Celebrity. Best I can say is that nothing was as great as the experience we have had on Celebrity and it seemed like the ... Read More
We wanted to see what a luxury cruise line was and what would be different than the wonderful cruises we have had on Celebrity. Best I can say is that nothing was as great as the experience we have had on Celebrity and it seemed like the ones who loved it were phobic against large ships and loved the smaller ports these lines go to. On that basis, Azamara is ok but not GREAT. The finesse of Celebrity where everyone seemed to anticipate your needs was missing. On several calls to guest relations, the phone was answered by "I'll call you right back!" and no return call was made. I made an inquiry about terms of my package and was told that "They cannot answer these questions" and offered no desire to find out. On any cruise I was always told, we will get an answer and advise! Azamara is the ONLY cruise lines to flatly reject our desire to extend our stay and no explanation was ever offered. The "package" was set in concrete and there are no variations! We always ask for extension to enjoy the new location. One part of a day is never enough to search out the richness of a city. Crew was exception with the best Captain we have ever had and the entertainment (cruise director staff) were of the highest caliber we have ever enjoyed. Hotel staff and restaurant staff had some bright spots like YAN-YAN the waitress. However that "finesse" was missing-like serving a warm glass of Chardonnay and then - to correct - was about to pour the chilled bottle into the warm contents!In our questionnaire, we said that we would not enter any restaurant that had dirty windows. The windows on this ship were so dirty that when the sun was on the window, you could not see beyond the crud that had accumulated! The excuse was that they could not do this on a transatlantic, but the windows were dirty LONG before we got on board! The worst issue we have is that the cruise line arranged our stay at the Melia Sevilla Hotel. Put us on buses to the hotel, then had NO ROOM to check into until 3 PM! The buses dropped us at the hotel about 9 AM! When we went in with our baggage, the hotel staff said that they were not permitted to help us and that the cruise staff would help! The cruise staff was ONE WOMAN and ONE MAN and there were three bus loads of passengers and the baggage! The woman deferred to the man about everything so we guessed she was a trainee, and the man KNEW NOTHING. He recited the instructions that we are to fill out the registration forms and then leave the bags in the lobby to be delivered to the rooms! The problem was that he had no way of identifying who owned what bags. When my wife asked about this, he looked blankly and them went to the hotel manager who (FOR THE FIRST TIME) told him we needed to put claim checks on the bags. The man gave us 4 of the 8 tags given to him! We were then told to vacate until 3 PM and "go to something!" and did not offer ANY assistance as to what we could do. The Hotel manager simply pointed us to Taxi stand on the other side of the street who all quoted us 10 Euros to the Cathedral! This is much higher that the reviews have shown us since this was only a few blocks away! The anger was very bad as the majority were older people that could not stand for too long, etc. It was like cattle cars dumping us on to the hotel and having no plans to care for any of us until 6 hours later!!! We have no desire to book Azamara again. We saw no value to the expense, no value to the loyalty issue that have us highest level due to the Celebrity status we have. I had the driest Fillet I have ever eaten. No a jucy, tender beef, but a dry beef that would never qualify as such here in Texas! Food was middle of the road. Complimentary wines were ok, but not above the $6-8 a bottle class of wines. In short, this is a small ship middle of the road cruise that I see no value in the higher cost to be justified! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
Our last Transatlantic cruise was in 2008 when we sailed from Miami to Barcelona, but this cruise on the Quest was far superior in quality. The embarkation in Miami was trouble free, if a little lengthy, simply because so many guests ... Read More
Our last Transatlantic cruise was in 2008 when we sailed from Miami to Barcelona, but this cruise on the Quest was far superior in quality. The embarkation in Miami was trouble free, if a little lengthy, simply because so many guests arrived at the same time. Once on board we were welcomed with champagne and we sat in the lovely Mosaic cafe until our stateroom was available. We were in a Sunset Balcony stateroom which was the usual balcony cabin size but with a much bigger balcony overlooking the aft of the ship. Whilst the cabin size is quite compact and the bathroom small, the cabin was well appointed and immaculately attended to throughout our cruise. Felitiadad, our attendant, and her assistant, could not have been more obliging and friendly. They called us by name immediately and It was a pleasure to see them every day. We ate in Discoveries restaurant each evening and thoroughly enjoyed the food. On one occasion, my steak was only warm and rather tough. After mentioning this to the waiter, it was whipped away and I was served a hot, extremely tender replacement. The waiters in the dining room were exceptional. Nothing was too much trouble. They too, called us by name, quickly knew our tastes, and seemed genuinely interested in us. The Windows restaurant served a varied selection of dishes and , once again, staff were attentive and helpful. Wine with lunch and dinner was of good quality and plentiful. The Mosaic cafe served lattes, cappuccinos, iced coffees and a variety of teas. It was also a delightful spot to sit and 'watch the world go by'. We were exceptionally lucky with the weather and spent many hours on sea days sunning ourselves by the pool. The sun beds were the most comfortable I have ever used and towels were very large and plentiful. Waiters were constantly walking around offering iced drinks and sorbets. Entertainment during the day, was plentiful, and in the evening of extremely good quality for a small ship. The dancers and singers were delightful, and Tony, the Cruise Director, tireless in his involvement. My only criticisms of this cruise were that the itinerary, whilst limited, was somewhat thoughtless, as the two ports on route to Seville, (Bermuda and Tenerife) , both fell on Sundays, when most shops and facilities were closed. The journey down the Guadalquivir River was exciting, as it was quite a navigational feat for the Quest. However, it berthed almost in the centre of Seville. Unfortunately, if you had not booked an extra night in a hotel, you did not get to see the city at all, as disembarkation was early the next morning! There is no question that, God willing, we shall sail again on Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2015
My husband and I have travelled a lot. Approximately 30 cruises. 20 on Princess then decieded to give the other cruise lines a chance. This was our second Azamara cruise and we thouroughly enjoyed it. We ate at the speciality ... Read More
My husband and I have travelled a lot. Approximately 30 cruises. 20 on Princess then decieded to give the other cruise lines a chance. This was our second Azamara cruise and we thouroughly enjoyed it. We ate at the speciality restaurants and signed up for the new Asian dinner as well as the Chef"s Table. Food was delicious. Highly recommend it. We had a great time in the Disco most evenings getting to know the staff and fellow cruisers. We enjoyed the white night the most. Eric and the other performers were fantastic. Loved the music. Never did so much dancing. Relaxing by the pool during the day without many announcments was nice. Very relaxing. We have booked our 3,4 and 5 cruise with Azamara. I quess we are converted. Great staff, I cannot say enough on how the made you feel like family. See you in April 2016. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2015
This was our first cruise with Azamara having cruised around fifteen times with other companies. Embarkation was seamless with no queues at all - we arrived at the ship at 1230 for an 1800 sailing. Disembarkation was slower that seemed to ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Azamara having cruised around fifteen times with other companies. Embarkation was seamless with no queues at all - we arrived at the ship at 1230 for an 1800 sailing. Disembarkation was slower that seemed to be caused by USA immigration procedures. The cruise started in Barcelona with stops in Gibraltar, Huelva (Spain) then St Maarten, Virgin Gorda before reaching Miami. As a stop Huelva is somewhat limited and we decided to take a bus to Seville (journey about 70 mins one way), other stops were fine with lots more local opportunities to visit. I would say that as this was a small ship the facilities were limited for a cruise which included 8 consecutive sea days as well as 3 other sea days. That said and as stated above, overall the cruise exceeded expectations particularly with food and service. However, the entertainment was a great disappointment to us and it seemed that the company relied on the in-house team in the main with limited other 'acts' being provided in support (the ventriloquist was very good as was the male entertainer who played sax/clarinet and tap danced). This may have been sympatamatic of the number of sea days not allowing for a frequent change of performers. Whilst the in-house team were very enthsuiastic the production was far less impressive than all other cruises we have experienced and to a point the ever present and hard working cruise director in my view seemed rather overbearing to the rest of the entertainment team and in my view he was used too often. That said I think that my view will be in the minority given the euphoric reaction the CD received whenever he performed or even walked around the ship, particularly from the older Canadian and American guests. The captain was very approachable as did the remainder of the crew who often mingled with passengers in all areas of the ship. In summary we will definitely do another Azamara cruise but will choose one with not so many sea days which hopefully should allow for more variety with entertainment. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2015
We had a great time on this transatlantic crossing. IMO Azamara (AZ) does a fine job delivering to a special niche market that is neither mass-market nor luxury. As a result, most aspects of the crossing were very good, with a few things ... Read More
We had a great time on this transatlantic crossing. IMO Azamara (AZ) does a fine job delivering to a special niche market that is neither mass-market nor luxury. As a result, most aspects of the crossing were very good, with a few things exceptional and a few areas that need work. One exceptional area is the fact that the Captain, Cruise Director, Hotel Manager, and entertainment staff are out and about, greeting the passengers and responding to their concerns. If this is important to you, you will be pleased with AZ. Another outstanding aspect is the friendly attitude of the passengers. Passengers are very outgoing and open to conversations. Passengers seemed happy and enjoying themselves. There was little of the picky complaining that one sometimes finds on other lines. If you like meeting folks and get your energy from other people, then AZ is for you. But if you want to be alone and are looking for a private or secluded getaway, you will have a problem finding it on this somewhat crowded busy ship. The crossing was fairly smooth in lovely weather with only one day and night of memorable motion caused by high waves. There were only 4 ports in 16 days, so lots of sea days. The Journey is attractively designed like a boutique hotel. It's very clean and in good shape, although there is little about it that will take your breath away. It is due to be redone in early 2016, which will be welcome as there are some tattered pieces of furniture and a few worn areas. We paid for an upgrade to an owner's suite, which I will review below. Embarkation was a breeze, quick and easy. Disembarkation in Miami was problematic due to delays from US customs & immigration. The Cruise Director kept us fully informed of the causes of delay and AZ's strategy to deal with them. Getting on and off the ship in ports was also simple and painless. Since this was a crossing and the ports were not particularly intriguing, the AZ Land Discoveries program offered only a few excursions, all of which were fairly high-priced. One can find lower cost options on line. We took one Land Discoveries excursion to Sevilla that was good, but not exceptional. Opportunities for exercise are very important to me as I struggle to avoid gaining too much weight on a cruise ship. The Journey delivers well in this area as there are a full walking track and a very good fitness center. I was always able to find an available bike in the center during my late afternoon workout. Service was very good with only a few rough edges in Discoveries restaurant and the Windows buffet. Cabin attendants were amazingly cheerful and seemed to actually enjoy their jobs. Most food and beverage staff were equally cheerful, and some got to know us and our preferences. The beverage service was very good on this all-inclusive crossing. There are lots of places to go for hot and cold drinks, plus waiter service in many areas. We are wine drinkers and found the included wines to be good. Remember that you can request a wine served previously that you enjoyed, as it often continues to be available. Coffee drinks in the Mosaic Cafe and in the restaurants were excellent. Included alcohol met our demands. But note that the included beer selection is thin, and there is a limited variety of sodas on board. Now on to the very few areas that IMO need some improvement. As suite guests we were fortunate to have access to the Specialty Restaurants, which we enjoyed. However the few meals we had in Discoveries Restaurant (the MDR), were disappointing. On previous AZ trips were were wowed by Discoveries, but not this time, as the food quality fit the category of "average cruise ship," in other words nothing special. The menus were dull and the execution mediocre. I would have enjoyed some higher level of activities on board, especially since there were so many sea days. While there is a lot going on, most of it falls into the simple inexpensive category such as trivia (6 contests per day, everyday!) and ping pong tournaments. We went to one destination lecture and saw another on TV, and found them only superficial. AZ could improve the quality of its enrichment program. In the area of entertainment, I admit that we are oddballs, preferring stripped-down performances to the glitzy big shows. AZ's offerings were what one seems to find on all cruise ships, lots of reviews of bits and pieces of pop music. Performers were talented, but the material was often lacking. We most enjoyed the small shows with a single performer and there were a few of those, and they were of fairly good quality. I admit that this is an area where my tastes are probably very different than other AZ customers. Who we are: We are 2 retired gents from Northern California who love the explore the world, mostly in land-based travel. We use ships primarily as a means of transportation, but can be seduced by a good itinerary. This crossing was our 18th cruise taken on 9 different lines. We will be crossing again on the Journey in April as we like AZ very much and the itinerary fits our travel plans. Read Less
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