Sail Date: December 2018
We are a British couple in our sixties. This was our second Azamara cruise. Embarkation at Miami took the best part of an hour, complicated by queuing to get and complete the Guest Travel Certification form for Cuba before proceeding to ... Read More
We are a British couple in our sixties. This was our second Azamara cruise. Embarkation at Miami took the best part of an hour, complicated by queuing to get and complete the Guest Travel Certification form for Cuba before proceeding to another queue for check-in. It would have been nice if those of us who had downloaded and completed the form prior to arrival could have been fast-tracked. Journey was being given a thorough clean because of some guests suffering gastro-intestinal illness on the previous cruise. As a result no cabins or suites were available until mid to late afternoon. This also meant no self-service at buffets for the first couple of days. The same thing happened near the end of the cruise, after a handful of guests reported gastro-intestinal illness. I guess this happened pretty regularly. It was a minor inconvenience and a very understandable precaution. The ship was nicely decorated with Christmas trees, poinsettias and lots of other seasonal decorations. On boarding we purchased three meals in the specialty restaurants. We had to decide there and then which three dates we wanted. We particularly enjoyed our two meals in Prime C. In Aqualina the food was fine, but it was almost empty with no atmosphere and each new course arrived immediately after our plates were cleared from the previous course. They said they had had lots of late cancellations. The food in the main dining room was reasonable. We like to share a table for six or eight to meet new people. This didn’t seem as well organised as on our previous Azamara cruise. A few times our table was only partially filled. On Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve they insisted on timed reservations because of expected high demand, but in the event there were lots of empty tables. A couple of evenings when nothing on the main dining room menu tempted us we ate at The Patio. We enjoyed the food there, but the service was patchy. We had no problem finding included wines that we liked. We were a bit disappointed with the lack of variety of activities and entertainment. There were no comedians, magicians or acrobats; only singers and dancers. The Azamazing evening in Cartagena was rubbish. A lengthy coach trip to a lovely theatre for a terrible performance by a very pretentious pianist. Most of the music was pre-recorded. As with our previous Azamara cruise, the friendliness of the staff was a big positive. The sole exception was one of the shore excursions staff who my wife and I on separate occasions found to be rude. Our overall experience of the Azamara shore excursions was not good. A couple of snorkelling trips I wanted to take were cancelled. Two other excursions were just about OK but not as advertised. In Cuba we had arranged independent tours and they were great. Getting on and off the ship in Cuban ports was as quick and easy as everywhere else. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. We had picked it because of the itinerary and because we liked the idea of going somewhere warm for Christmas or New Year. In both respects it was a success. We loved Cuba and enjoyed being on a cruise in a warm climate over Christmas so much we have booked another for next year (Pursuit – New Year in Rio). Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Having not sailed Azamara in close to 8 years, after close to 20 cruises we chose to revisit Azamara based on their unique itinerary. We were able to see Cuba, and the three ABC islands to fill in gaps in our trips through the Caribbean. ... Read More
Having not sailed Azamara in close to 8 years, after close to 20 cruises we chose to revisit Azamara based on their unique itinerary. We were able to see Cuba, and the three ABC islands to fill in gaps in our trips through the Caribbean. After 8 years Azamara is no longer the line it once was. In some ways it’s better than it used to be, and in other ways not as good as it used to be. Let’s all agree most lines have cut corners in recent years. However the cost cutting and lack of attention to details on Azamara’s Journey are showing. I won’t go into all of them as there were many. In the grand scheme of things service was fine, no better or worse than sister line Celebrity. The food was decidedly average, not bad, not great and not luxury level. Where things start to fail Azamara is when it comes to the ship itself and it’s amenities. Despite the ship being a charming size at close to 20 years old and overhauled only 2 years ago, it’s clearly a tired and aged ship. I wonder what the future for Azamara would look like with this trio of aging ships, and no replacements publicly on the horizon. The other points of deficiency are entertainment and shore excursions. Despite cruise director Alicia’s bubbly personality and reassurance that they had greatly improved the nightly show offerings, they were flat at best. On an itinerary based around numerous days in Cuba, parent company Royal Caribbean, clearly has not learned how to handle Cuba, or deal with the complicated nature of doing business with the Cubans. Specifically Azamara’s AzAmazing evening was embarrassing for all involved, for them for offering it, for us for having to sit through a performance of a pianist who wasn’t even playing live, but rather playing poorly and un-miked to a pre recorded over produced cheesy soundtrack. Secondly Azamara sent tour group(s) out on a Hemingway tour revolving around a visit to the Hemingway house which was not possible as the house is closed on Mondays (our tour day). The bus group was not happy, the local tour guide was in a tough place trying to Ad lib and fill in, with a group that had largely covered most other highlights the previous day. Upon returning to the ship many complained to the Shorex desk, many days later they left message saying they were refunding 40% of the tour cost, in their option generously to the whole bus, despite the claim that only 5 guests complained. I know in fact many more did. Royal Caribbean should have known, had it done it’s home correctly, that they couldn’t offer that tour when on port on Mondays, instead they did, and took our money and only offered a meagre refund after being badgered by guests. Had most guests known the central feature of the tour would be unavailable, likely they would have chosen a different tour. Over to you Azamara rep who monitors these reviews. In conclusion it seems to me the future of Azamara is cloudy, and clearly seems to be losing ground to its competitors like Viking Ocean, Oceania, and perhaps even its own sister line Celebrity. Nothing short of a spectacular itinerary would inspire us to return to Azamara anytime soon. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Supposed to have a pull out couch instead got a recliner chair. Service is terrible. Staff had horrible attitudes. They charge double for the shore expeditions then if you just walk off the ship. Food is terrible. The meats are super dry. ... Read More
Supposed to have a pull out couch instead got a recliner chair. Service is terrible. Staff had horrible attitudes. They charge double for the shore expeditions then if you just walk off the ship. Food is terrible. The meats are super dry. Some if hardly considered food. Missed a port because of “high seas” their solution is waste another day on the boat. The boat itself is as boring as it gets. No real casino. They have a few games but they are all computer and no dealers. You have to pay $12 for any movies even old ones. The spa services are a total waste. We got massages and they were over 200 bucks. We would have paid them 100 to not touch us. All they do is pour oil over you then sit there and talk and try and sell you spa products. Complete waste of time. Currently am writing to our insurance to seek refund and would not recommend this cruise line to anyone. Read Less
BBMacLaird, CBO - Azamara Club Cruises has responded
I am so sorry you were so unhappy with your cruise with us. From our ratings your opinions stated are what I'd call outliers...far far from the 4-and 5-star reviews we typically receive post-cruise. I do hope you communicated your dissatisfaction with our Hotel Director during your cruise? I know she would have gone out of her way to rectify your complaints. But all this is now water under the bridge. Please accept our apologies.
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose this ship for the itinerary and do not regret the decision. The ship was small (680) so we felt many of the rocking and rolling. Veranda cabin was smaller than Aqua Class on Celebrity and the bathroom almost laughable. The shower ... Read More
We chose this ship for the itinerary and do not regret the decision. The ship was small (680) so we felt many of the rocking and rolling. Veranda cabin was smaller than Aqua Class on Celebrity and the bathroom almost laughable. The shower was tiny with a shower curtain that randomly wrapped around your body! Service was very good, especially stateroom and dining room. We booked shore excursions through the ship mostly as the literature from Azamara made it seem the only way. Not so! Very disappointed in the shore excursions and with the shore excursions desk staff. The spa was excellent albeit pricey. The specialty restaurants were good and offered a pleasant break from the main dining room at competitive prices. The included beverages of wine and beer was nice. Especially liked mosaic cafe for daily cappuccino. Embarkation was smooth with rooms ready by 1:30. Luggage arrived shortly thereafter. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
Azamara We sailed on the 24th November 2018 10 day Intensive Cuba cruise on the Azamara Journey and wanted to share a few long overdue thoughts about the trip. As a bit of background information, we are a quiet couple in our ... Read More
Azamara We sailed on the 24th November 2018 10 day Intensive Cuba cruise on the Azamara Journey and wanted to share a few long overdue thoughts about the trip. As a bit of background information, we are a quiet couple in our 50’s and 60’s, pretty low key and happy to entertain ourselves. We are originally from the UK but have lived in the USA for 30 years.We cruise for the food and destinations, rather than the entertainment, and for the past 20 years have primarily cruised on Celebrity. However we have found todays Celebrity isn’t what it once was and have been trying a few other cruiselines, (Cunard, Oceania) to see if we can find a “better fit” for us. This time we gave Azamara a whirl as this 10 day Cuba Intensive itinerary (including 3 days in Havana, a day in Cienfuegos and an overnight in Santiago de Cuba), was too good to miss. As a bonus our Elite Plus status on Celebrity was recognised by Azamara so we received Discover Plus benefits with them. We flew down to Miami the day before on American from Reagan National. The flight was uneventful, taking off and landing on time. We spent the night at the Doubletree Biscayne Bay Hotel in Miami. I am allergic to feathers and it is usually quite a palaver to get a feather free bedding request taken seriously in hotels. As soon as I checked in at the Doubletree the receptionist said “…and your room has been made feather free”. Excellent! The Doubletree turned out to be part of a large entertainment and shopping complex and we ate onsite at Casablanca on the Bay and had a very pleasant dinner overlooking the marina. I would definitely recommend this as a pre-cruise hotel. Saturday morning, cruise embarkation / disembarkation day was manic at the hotel, and although they did offer us a shuttle to the port, we thought it would be quicker and easier to take a taxi as the shuttle was dropping people at many different ships. We arrived relatively early and dropped our bags at the kerb. Inside the terminal we were asked to fill out a Cuba visa application, told that $75 per person would be charged to our online account, and we were strongly urged to check the box saying we would be doing Azamara excursions. We were doing a mix of private and cruiseline tours, but as our first tour was private, we checked the “support of the Cuban people box”. When I handed the application back I was again asked to check a different box. I replied that I had checked the box that applied to me. The agent shrugged and handed me two blank visa forms and said we would be shown how to fill them out on board. We finished checking in and were asked to sit down for a while as they weren’t yet ready for boarding. After a few minutes they started boarding by cruise status, so we were among the first to board, and get a glass of fizz. As we took the stairs instead of having to wait for the elevator we were the first people in the buffet for lunch. I thought there was a good selection of food, and was happy to get a table in the aft outdoor seating area. There were plenty of bar waiters and they were very keen to pour the red or white wine of the day or rose or sparkling wine. We had a verandah cabin it seemed quite comfortable with ample storage space. The bathroom, particularly the shower was a totally different experience. I had heard that it was small, but assumed that being petite I wouldn’t have any issues. I was wrong, and boy did that shower curtain like to cling!!! Our cabin attendants were excellent and when we first met said that they had removed everything with feathers from our cabin. I was impressed. They kept the place scrupulously clean, and our bathroom was always well stocked with clean towels. A lot has been said about Azamara and Oceania offering a similar small ship product, but with the emphasis on food being Oceania’s strength and the emphasis on the destination being Azamara’s forte. I have to say that the food on Azamara gave Oceania a run for it’s money. We really enjoyed all the food in the dining room for lunch and dinner, so much so that we didn’t bother trying the speciality restaurants. We ate in the buffet the night it was Indian food and we were very impressed by it. The only disappointment with Azamara was the croissants. They always seemed dry and stale, whereas the ones on Oceania were exquisite. It was nice to have drinks anytime included in the cruise fare, and as a wine drinker I never felt the need to upgrade to a higher package to get better wines. I really enjoyed the french rose that was always available and the sparkling wine. My husband got used to drinking Becks, the included beer. What did surprise me was that sparkling water like Perrier or San Pellegrino wasn’t included in the basic drink package. The first couple of days they offered what looked like sparkling water in unlabelled bottles that had very little sparkle in them. I imagined they were perhaps making it themselves with a sodastream machine! In the end we bit the bullet and paid for Perrier. I can’t comment on the shows as they aren’t our thing so we didn’t go to any. We do like live music and listened to the “Sparkle Trio” in the Living Room most evenings. They were from Ukraine and comprised a young female singer and young male guitarist and an older keyboard player who scowled the entire time. We weren’t sure if he was their dad or their minder but he did not seem happy to be there! The other “entertainment” option was a female pianist who sang lyrics we knew to tunes we didn’t, and she seemed incapable of playing and singing at the same time. It was quite bizarre, but she did have a following in the Martini Bar! I really missed a string quartet playing classic music or a singer/guitarist. A lot has been said about Cuba, the Cuban visa, disembarkation in Cuba, exchanging money and private versus Azamara tours. Here is our experience. We checked the “support of the cuban people” box on the visa application, and were given blank visas which we filled out in the cabin. I’m not sure if there ever was help to fill out the visa on board but it was pretty self explanatory, and just required you to copy information from your passport onto it. An FYI, ANYONE arriving in Cuba on a ship that has sailed from the USA, MUST get the visa, even if you are from a country that would not require you to purchase a visa if you flew to Cuba, for example if you were Canadian. As we had a private tour booked at 11am, and as Azamara asked that passengers on Azamara tours be allowed to disembark first, we got off around 10:15am and took about 30 minutes to get through immigration. The official checked the passport and visa, took a photo and waved us through. This was the only time they seemed to really check passports and no one ever asked us if we were on a tour of any kind be it private or cruiseline operated. We changed money at the currency booths in the terminal. There is a 3% fee to change money plus an additional 10% fee if you are changing US dollars. We found some leftover Canadian currency at home and used that! We were out of the terminal by 11am, so ship to street took approximately 45 minutes. We downloaded the app maps.me before the trip and found it very useful to find our way around without having to use wi-fi. We booked a 2 day tour with I Love Cuba Photo Tours in Havana. We booked the tour via email from a recommendation we found on Cruisecritic. The tour was led by Yosel, an ex college professor who is now a professional photographer. His english was excellent. He showed us all the main tourist spots around Havana, and some off the beaten track spots where we got a real insight into the every day life of the locals. We had a car at our disposal and on the second day he rented a huge purple convertible that looked like a spaceship for us for 2 hours! The nice thing about doing this photo tour was that we provided our own SD card and Yosel took photos for us and of us on his camera and also showed us the perfect spots to take some of the Iconic Havana photos from. It was really nice to have his photos of us as a souvenir.

On our 3rd day in Havana we did a private combined walking and food tour with “A Taste of Cuba” aka “Food Tours Havana”. We found the tour recommended on cruisecritic and were able to book and pay online in US dollars. Our guide Ana was brilliant, full of fun and again an excellent english speaker. She toured the central historic district of Havana with us and we visited 7 different establishments to sample food. The Azamazing Evening was the second evening in Havana. It had originally been scheduled for our overnight in Santiago de Cuba but was switched to Havana as there was an issue with the dock there and it became a tender port for us. My husband isn’t a fan of dance and didn’t want to go to the show, so we gave it a miss. From what we heard from other passengers, it seems the show was phenomenal and they really enjoyed it. I feel I should add that in Havana we found everyone to be very pleasant, and the city felt very safe At Cienfuegos we took a ship tour to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its colonial buildings. The buses were good for the 90 minute drive and our guide, an elementary english teacher, although pleasant, was at times harder to understand than the guides we had in Havana. Trinidad was very interesting and we looked around the museum and a local church and also did a walking tour. The cobbled streets were very uneven and the terrain was challenging to people with mobility issues. We had a buffet lunch at a european style 4 star hotel and while nice I would have preferred something a little more authentically cuban. Our guide was from Cienfuegos and very proud of her city and took us on an unplanned panoramic drive around it at the end of the tour which was an unexpected surprise. We dropped anchor early evening in Santiago de Cuba, and it was a 20 to 25 minute tender ride to the city. We had booked an Azamara evening excursion to a jazz club to hear “authentic Cuban Jazz.” Oh my. Not what we expected at all. I will leave it at that. After the jazz experience the night before it was with trepidation that we boarded our bus for the ship tour to El Cobre as it had a “meet the people” element with a visit to a community centre to hear a steel drum band. We couldn’t believe our ears. They were phenomenal with a repertoire that spanned Cuban music to classical to Michael Jackson and The Eagles! Again a 3 course lunch was included and although it was in an italian restaurant, we were served traditional Cuban food, including rice and beans, plantain, pork, ropa vieja, fish and shrimp. We were seated outside and it was very hot but the staff wouldn’t turn on the fans, and people were complaining that there were no lights in the loos. Eventually the owner very apologetically admitted that the power had gone out a few minutes before we arrived. I was really impressed that they were able to prepare and serve such a lovely meal under the circumstances. Just before we were served dessert the power came back on, the fans worked and we were treated to deafening karaoke versions of traditional italian songs by the proprietors friend. What an experience! The final part of the tour was a walking tour of the historic centre of Santiago de Cuba and this was the only time in Cuba when I felt unsafe as we were surrounded by people begging. The guide was very angry that we were being hassled and bothered, and despite him repeatedly asking them to leave us alone they didn’t. We had one other port, the cruiseline private island. We thought it would be nice to stay on board and have the ship to ourselves while everyone else enjoyed their beach day. It seemed half the ship had the same plan as us! I mentioned previously that we were Discoverer Plus. This level comes with a number of perks including social activities (which we were never organised enough to take advantage of!), and free laundry and a set number of free wifi minutes which we did use. I thought the ship wifi was really slow and very hard to log onto, compared to the speeds we had on Oceania even in the middle of the Atlantic. We really enjoyed this cruise. We thought the ship was elegant, the crew friendly, happy and very helpful. We liked that there isn’t a class system on board with certain areas unavailable to people who aren’t in suites. The cabin was nice. We loved the food, and enjoyed that the drinks we wanted were included. The cruise itinerary was wonderful. I’m not sure we have found our “forever cruise home” with Azamara, but I wouldn’t hesitate to sail with them again if the price and itinerary was right. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
I am a solo traveler who chose this cruise strictly because of the itinerary, a Cuba-intensive one. My previous cruising experiences have all been with Regent, Crystal, and Silversea. I did not expect the same level of service and ... Read More
I am a solo traveler who chose this cruise strictly because of the itinerary, a Cuba-intensive one. My previous cruising experiences have all been with Regent, Crystal, and Silversea. I did not expect the same level of service and amenities I have experienced with Crystal and Silversea, but I did not expect to be met with a stateroom (8025) that was frankly filthy and in need of deep cleaning as well as superficial cleaning. Photos posted show embedded dirt on telephone, remote, Bible, and binoculars. Also photographed are shower walls, melted ice from previous passenger, and 1 of 2 rags I used to wipe up grime before finally complaining. A caution about the stateroom design/construction: the verandah dividers are not opaque, and neighbors on either side can see into your stateroom, at least as far as the area with sofa and desk. To assure privacy, you need to close the drapes or turn off the lights. The AzAmazing Evening was very well done, excellent show in Havana (Lizt Alfonso), well organized transport of 700 passengers to and from show. The day in Labadee was also a pleasant surprise. I spent $175 for a Hilltop bungalow (bungalow #1), and it was money well spent, wonderful way to end a voyage. Bungalows have private beach, private barbecue, and private bar, also a personal butler who provides cooler of snacks and drinks. Floating beach mat also provided. Meals aboard ship were hit and miss. Too many buffets; even in main dining room, there was always a buffet at breakfast and several times at dinner. Ala carte service was available in the main dining room, but the buffet was "encouraged". Food at Prime C (dined there twice) was very good. Food at Aqualina (dined there twice) was worse than main dining room, but I had already paid for a 4-meal package. One meal was so salty it was inedible and had to be sent back to kitchen (by more passengers than myself). I did not have an extra hour to wait for a different entree to be prepared. Bar experience minimal but not impressive. I rarely drink wine or alcohol, but I do know how to make a decent mojito, and since we were traveling around Cuba, I thought I could get one on the ship, but neither the bartender at the pool deck nor at the private bar on Labadee knew how to make one without coaching. They used Rose's lime juice and/or a packaged mojito mix (rather than fresh limes and sugar), and Cuban rum was only available once that I saw, as a bar special for an extra $5. (I did not pay for a drink package.) I couldn't drink either drink. But I had a couple of great, authentic mojitos in Havana at local restaurants. Internet "service" was a joke, even though it cost $20/day. If connection was made, the speed was so slow that graphics in online newspapers, e.g., would not download and a photo could not be sent via email. Would I go again? To Havana, definitely; I loved Cuba and love the Cuban people, but I will fly or take a different cruise line. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Azamara Journey Cruise November 10 thru November 20, 2018 Cuba Intensive Miami, Santiago de Cuba (12-13), Grand Cayman (14), Cienfuegos (15-16) and Havana (17-19) We recently completed our first cruise on Azamara on the Journey. It ... Read More
Azamara Journey Cruise November 10 thru November 20, 2018 Cuba Intensive Miami, Santiago de Cuba (12-13), Grand Cayman (14), Cienfuegos (15-16) and Havana (17-19) We recently completed our first cruise on Azamara on the Journey. It was a 10 day Cuba intensive cruise from Miami going to Santiago de Cuba, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos and Havana and then back to Miami. The cruise stayed overnight in each of the Cuban ports including 2 nights in Havana. We had booked one of their continental suites, 8068, on deck 8 , which meant we got a variety of included benefits in addition to the regular Azamara benefits. This included unlimited dining in the two specialty restaurants and a 4 bottle bar setup in our room including vodka, rum, gin and scotch. All bottled water is included in your cruise fare which considering Darlene only drinks bottled water on cruises is a really good benefit for us. We flew in a day early to Ft Lauderdale because of the lack of direct flights from St Louis to Miami. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale Airport North Cruise Port. We have stayed numerous times when leaving Florida on cruises. The hotel has a small shopping center next to it so you can pick up any forgotten or just needed articles for the cruise and has always had a clean room and decent breakfast for us to use. This is a good place for people looking for a place to stay either before or after a cruise. If you stay in the area, there is a good Greek restaurant, Mini Pita, in the shopping plaza right next store. They serve wine as well and the food is excellent. We ate a late dinner there the night we flew in so I know they are open until midnight. This meant we had to arrange transportation from the Hampton Inn to Miami the morning of November 10th. I used Wall Street Transportation & Limousine World Wide Company. They sent a Cadillac SUV and driver who arrived on time at 11:15 AM and drove us to the RCL docks in Miami where our ship was. The limo was clean and the driver friendly and I can recommend this company for transportation needs in Miami. After arriving at the port, the process of signing in and getting on the ship was excellent. One we got on the ship, we went to the buffet restaurant on deck 9 for some lunch while the rooms were being made ready. At around 1:30 PM as we were finishing our lunch which included a selection of 2 white and 2 red wines each day, they announced the cabins were ready for occupancy. Generally the wines offered were very good and during the whole cruise we only purchased one extra cost bottle of wine and instead drank the free wine for lunches and dinners. While I don't consider either my wife or I wine experts or wine snobs I do feel the house wines offered both red and white were perfectly acceptable. We did have one red that we tried that we ended up not drinking but it could have just been a bad bottle. Our continental suite, 8068, was a pleasant surprise. There was plenty of space for 2 of us and the bathroom had a nice walk-in shower. Darlene felt it was a little small but it was perfectly functional and we managed to make it with a single sink for the 10 days we were on the ship. The bed was comfortable but came with 2 feather pillows which we should have exchanged as Darlene is allergic to feathers and dusk, But instead I used those 2 pillows and she used the other two. Our suitcases arrived early enough we got them unpacked and put away before the ship sailed at 5 PM. There was enough space to get everything either hung up, put onto shelves or into drawers and still have some extra drawer space for cameras and other items. We went up to the bar at the stern of the ship for sail away from Miami and got a few pictures of the skyline of Miami as the sun set. Then we attended the meet and greet for cruise critic members who had signed up followed by a cocktail party for frequent cruisers. We are Elite on Celebrity and Diamond of RCL so we were given Discoverer status on Azamara and were invited to the Discover welcome back cocktail party. We had made reservations for several nights of specialty restaurant dining when we first got on the ship as I had read on CC that sometimes they can be hard to get later during the cruise. So we ate dinner the first night in Prime C, the Journey's steakhouse restaurant. We ate at around 8:30 and had a really nice meal. This was the only night we ordered a bottle of wine rather than just drinking the “free” wines and although it was a decent red, it really wasn't much better than the daily offerings. We ended up taking the bottle back to our cabin and drinking it there over the next day or so. The next day was a sea day so we slept in a little late and got breakfast in the 9th deck buffet. It was surprisingly not crowded and offered eggs cooked to order as well as a number of items immediately available including fried or scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, etc. They also had fruit and cereals. The coffee in the buffet was better than on most ship's buffets and the orange juice was freshly squeezed. To be honest the day passed quickly. We went to the sit down dining room for lunch and were not really particularly happy with the selection or the service. Since it was only open during sea days for lunch, most of the rest of time we went to the buffet restaurant for lunch and breakfasts. For evening dinner we decided to try the regular dining room and were seated at a table for 8. The service and the food was a mixed bag. Sometimes it seemed the waiters were being asked to service too many tables and when the main courses arrived they were warm rather than hot. Again the offered wines were good and although you had to occasionally remind the server when you needed a refill, there was plenty for everyone. The next morning we would be arriving in our first Cuban port of Santiago de Cuba so we wanted to try to turn in a little early which we did. We had ordered room service for our breakfast so we would be ready for our ship's tour at beginning at 9:30 AM. We decided to eat on the balcony as the table looked like it was bigger than the one in the cabin. Our butler, Ronald, called at 8 AM to let us know our breakfast was on the way and he arrived with it about 5 minutes later. I had ordered the steak and eggs which arrived hot and cooked correctly. Darlene had an omelet with veggies and cheese. But she ended up getting some of my steak as I couldn't eat it all. We also had berry bowls and a fruit plate we shared and lots of hot coffee. We had decided on doing ship's tours in Santiago and in Cienfuergos in order to use up the $700 in cruise credit we had gotten for booking the suite on Azamara. Another reason was that about 2 weeks before the cruise we were notified that instead of docking at Santiago as was originally scheduled we would be tendering in that port. Evidently their cruise port had been damaged by a storm or hurricane a few months before and had not yet been re-certified for use by cruise ships carrying US passengers. By doing a ship's tour we would be among the first passengers being tendered into the port and would get an early jump on the day's activities. We went to our tour meeting place in the theater at around 9:25 but evidently people must have started arriving much earlier and we were in the fourth bus going on the fort and city tour we had selected. They had rolls, doughnuts, juice, coffee and tea there for people who had skipped breakfast, which was a nice touch. After a short wait we were led down to the tender deck and boarded our tender for what turned out to be a 20-25 minute tender ride to get to shore. I'm not quite sure why the Captain had been ordered to anchor the ship out as far from shore as he did but it made for a long tender ride. After arriving on shore we had to go through Cuban passport control and then stop to exchange US dollars for Cuban CUC currency. Officially the exchange rate is 1 US to 1 Cuban CUC but they charge an extra 12% fee to exchange US dollars. They only do this will US dollars not other currencies so if you are traveling to Cuba you might want to get a few hundred dollars of Canadian money before going and use it to exchange. We exchanged $350 dollars US and got 308 CUC. They rejected one of our 50 dollar bills because it had a mark on the back side so check any bills you are looking to exchange before planning on using them. Once we had some Cuban currency we then proceeded to our assigned bus. The buses were a pleasant surprise in that they were relatively nice Chinese vehicles with good AC and relatively comfortable seats. The tour we had booked was called "Colonial Santiago" and was a full day tour that included a tour of downtown Santiago, a stop at San Juan hill where Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders fought a battle, a visit to colonial era fort, lunch, and a musical dance program by Cuban musicians. Our guide was a Cuban woman who spoke good English and tried to answer any questions we had. The port we had been taken to seemed to be in a mainly commercial area and our first drive was to the main square in Santiago where their cathedral was. There is also a large public building where Castro gave one of his early speeches declaring his rebellion against Batista. Also off this square is one of the oldest surviving houses which was built in 1545. We also then walked through a shopping area used by the locals and the guide pointed the 2 types of stores, government owned and private owned. Next we boarded the bus for a trip to San Juan hill for a short visit. This was made famous by Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders during the Spanish American War or as the Cubans call it the second Cuban War of Independence. Here there were statues, cannons and a reconstructed blockhouse. We re-boarded the bus for the drive out to the fort which was on a peninsula on one side of the bay from where Santiago sits which took us about an hour or so. Let me mention here that it was hot the day we were there, above 90 degrees and although the bus's AC worked well most of the places we visited didn't have much shade or any AC which made the day one you needed to drink a lot of water. Arriving at the fort we had to walk up numerous levels of steps to get up to the main gate of the fort. The fort was placed at a narrow entry to the bay on which Santiago sits. Pirates had used the bay as a place to get fresh water from the streams that flow into it and also to restock their ships with other provisions prior to the Spanish building the fort here. Castillo del Morro San Pedro De La Roca was begun in 1619 and was continually expanded and worked on right up into the mid 1800's. The views from its battlements were really spectacular and it is hard to believe that the fort was taken by pirates several times given its position and how difficult it must have been. The interior of the fort contained a chapel where the guide told us of the legend of the white lady. Evidently the wife of one of the commanders of the fort is supposed to haunt the fort looking for her husband who never returned from an expedition to Florida. We didn't see her but we were not there at night or in the early morning when she is supposed to appear. There was a small museum with items found in the fort and weapons from the time the fort was used. But the fort required climbing up and down a lot of steps and most of it was in the direct sunshine so it was hot. Darlene decided with several other tour members to leave the fort early and go down to the restaurant where we would be having our lunch. When I arrived at the restaurant, she had saved me a seat and they served us Cuba Libre drinks, rum and coke basically. Then also gave us Cuban beer and bottled water. The food was served family style and was a variety of small portions of chicken, pork, fish, beans, rice and fried plantains as well as Cuban bread, This was followed by some cake and ice cream as well as Cuban coffee but no decafe coffee. The food was all right but not great and the restaurant was not air conditioned but even if it did have ceiling fans, it was still hot. There were a number of souvenir stands along the walkway back to the bus and we ended up buying a wood carving that according to the artist is a symbol of the male and female. I think we paid 20 CUC for it and the guy who sold it said it took him 4 days to carve. Our last stop was back in Santiago where we were to attend a Cuban dance presentation by a group of Cuban dancers and singers who have traveled around the world putting on their performances. It was interesting but might have been more so if I understood Spanish. We arrived back at the tender port around 4:00 PM and were able to board a tender relatively rapidly. The trip back to the ship was uneventful but just as long as the morning ride in had been. We had looked at a different excursion at this port which went to the city of Trinidad which is supposed to be a world heritage site. We decided on the tour we did because we worried about the length of the bus ride. Once back on the ship we talked with several couples who we had met the first couple of days on the cruise who did that tour and who were very critical of the length of the bus ride, they said it took almost 2 hours to get there and another 2 hours back with basically boring scenery the whole trip. They also said the lunch wasn't particularly good and that all in all it was a trip they would have just as soon not taken. The Journey stayed in the bay until around 6 AM in the morning and then sailed for the Caymans giving us what amounted to our second sea day. We decided to try the dining room for a sit down breakfast which we often do on sea days when on a cruise. The whole experience re-enforced our first impression of the main dining room. Again the service and the food was a mixed bag. We had arrived towards the end of the serving period and the restaurant was only partially occupied. We said at a table for two but it was arranged close to 2 other tables for 2 on either side both which were occupied when we arrived. One was just getting their coffee and the other looked like they were in the middle of their main breakfast meal. We got menus when we say down but it took a few minutes for someone to come back to ask about coffee and juice. We were surprised to find the menu here wasn't much different from the suite breakfast menu for room service. Darlene ordered the steak and eggs like I had the day before and I got waffles since that isn't something we fix at home. It took awhile for the food to arrive and when it did the steak was prepared correctly but was significantly smaller than the one I had gotten from room service. Getting coffee refills became a matter of watching for waiters and signaling them to come over rather than having them come by and offer to refill our cups. By the end of the meal we had decided to skip future breakfasts in the dining room and either do room service or the upstairs buffet. Grand Cayman is always a tender port and since I had left my extra batteries and charger for one of my cameras at home by mistake, I wanted to go to a camera store and get a charger and possibly an extra battery so around 11 or so we headed down to the tender deck and rode into Grand Cayman. This time the tender ride was only a few minutes as we were anchored much closer with the 3 or 4 other bigger ships there with us anchored out further. I found a tourist map which had one camera store listed “Cathy's Cameras” which was on the main road that runs along the shore. It was located in the lobby of the Sunset House Hotel. Assuming it couldn't be too far a walk we began walking down the sidewalk and just kept walking for what seemed to be forever. Had I known how far it was I would have gotten a taxi but once we were over half way there and in spite of the heat, there didn't seem to be anyway to get a taxi to take us the last half. To make things worse, I was looking for a battery and battery charger for a Canon camera. It turns out Cathy's Cameras doesn't carry any Canon products at all and according to them no one in the Caymans carries Canon products. They did have a generic charger that looked like it would work with the battery in my camera so I spent $45 for it. Unfortunately when I got it back to the ship I got it to work once and then when I tried to use it the second time it failed to recharge my battery at all. So all and all the whole trip was a waster of time, money and energy. We were able to get a taxi back to town and then went shopping for some ribbon or shoe strings that Darlene could use to keep her hat from blowing off her head. We ended up finding some shoe laces in a drug store and decided to head back to the ship for a late lunch. We luckily caught a tender quickly and were back in time to do the buffet lunch upstairs. My plan in the afternoon had been to go to the Sanctuary where they had a hot tub and sauna but instead we decided to do some laundry in the free laundromat on deck 7. They give you the soap for free and the machines which looked relatively new were also for free. We ended up doing 2 loads which took up the rest of the afternoon. That night we went to the other specialty restaurant called Aqualina which is Italian influenced cusine. In Cienfuegas we booked the ship's "Nuestra Senora de Jagua" tour. Explore the history and culture of Cienfuegos on this journey to the Fortress of Nuestra Señora de Jagua, followed by a scenic drive and a walk down the Santa Isabel Boulevard. Your journey begins with a visit to the Fortress of Nuestra Señora de Jagua, located at the entrance to Cienfuegos's beautiful bay. Learn about the city's rich maritime traditions and the history of this fort, founded in 1745. Nuestra Señora de Jagua is the only Spanish military fortress constructed in the late eighteenth century Renaissance style. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a panoramic drive through the heart of Cienfuegos. Then, it's off to the Teatro Tomas Terry, a magnificent opera house and theatre that seats 950. Marvel at sumptuous Carrara marble and hand-carved Cuban hardwood decorations. Finally, explore the bustling Santa Isabel Boulevard before returning to the ship. We arranged for 2 days of tours with Fer 2 Havana tours originally and then had to alter our arrangements because Azamara changed their schedule and Fernando was very good at changing our 2 days to 3 days at the same price. We did an evening when the ship arrived and met our guide, Javier (Pepe), met us in the square directly across from the ship at 7 PM. He then changed plans as we had already eaten on the ship and we went to the Hotel National for a drink which has been in Havana forever and has been where all the famous and infamous people stayed. We had very good rum drinks there and enjoyed the ambiance before going on the cannon firing at the fort in a vintage 53 Pontiac hardtop with A/C and then to the Buena Vista Social Club.where we stayed for drinks and listening to the Cuban music. For the cover charge which I think was 30 CUC each we got 3 drinks each. I got Cuba Libre and Darlene had a beer and 2 bottled waters. The music was loud and we left after about an hour and 45 minutes. Our driver had waited for us and drove us back to the ship. The next morning at 10 AM we met Javier again in the square and we did a walking tour of the four main squares of old Havana for about 2 1/2 hours, Then we had lunch at a really private restaurant that was a little expensive 80 CUC for the 2 of us with one glass of wine each. We both got a seafood dish with lobster, shrimp, fish and rice and veggies. We also each got a desert. The restaurant was totally full but many of the people there were from either other Fer Tours or other guides. Javier then met us outside and we walked to where we met our driver for the rest of the day in his 1956 red Chevy convertible. The car wasn't his but the owner had gotten too old to drive so he hired him to take care of the car and drive it. We had the car for 3 hours and saw a lot of Havana with an informative driver. He left us off at the ship at 4:30. Finally the next morning, our ship was in Havana for 3 days, Javier again met us in the square at 9 AM and we got in another old Chevy hardtop with A/C and went to Hemmingway's house, followed by a visit to the town where he kept the Pilar and his favorite bar there. Then we came back to Havana and went to Fusterland. This is an area of Havana an artist began decorating with mosaics and painting and included a visit to his house. If you have been to Barcelona and see Guidi's village there this is similar but maybe more colorful and tropical. Our ship was sailing at 3 PM so Javier and the driver dropped us off at 2 PM by the ship. These were great tours with a great guide, Javier, who is a psychologist in real life. The cost for the 3 days was $480 US which was a fraction of what similar tours thru the ship would have cost. If you are going to Havana give Fer Tours a chance to give you a great time in Havana. The last night after finishing packing we went to a Chef's dinner in Prime C. It was labeled Cuban night and had a variety of Cuban influenced foods prepared by the chef each matched with good wines. There were 5 couples there including us. Several had gotten a free Chef's dinner in a promotion that some cruise agencies were running for people who booked suites. Unfortunately we paid for ours. The food and company was good. It was hosted by the ship's young environmental officer who was from Serbia or Croatia, I can't remember. But he spoke good English and was a personable young man. We only saw the Chef at the first of the meal. The wines and courses were announced by the head sommelier. All in all we enjoyed our cruise and especially getting a chance to visit Cuba. It is a friendly and welcoming country that unfortunately is badly in need of a lot of infrastructure repair. The long USA embargo and the loss of help from the USSR when it fell shows. The old cars in Havana especially were interesting and fun to see. It is amazing how they have managed to keep them running. Our tour guide in Havana, Javier (Pepe), did a great job and we left him with a good tip at the end of the last tour. I hope someday he gets to travel to the USA where he has a sister living in Florida. One of the things we learned from him is how most Cubans his age are still living with parents and in many cases grandparents all in one home. That was the case with him and with the driver of the convertible we were with for 3 hours. He said it was the most common and only way they could afford to live at all. The average wage for a Cuban worker is $30 a month with a few highly skilled doctors or higher governmental officials making more. Given there is no such thing as a home loan, if you can find a home for sale, you have to pay cash which few Cubans can possibly do. Well this is long enough for now. Azamara is a cruise line that we will be looking at for future cruises as we enjoyed the friendly and helpful crew and the ship's size as well as the complimentary wine and cocktails. Have a great next cruise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Well, always liked Azamara and realized they were doing Cuba with a lot of time ashore. We were led to believe that you had to do prebooked tours to meet Cuban government rules, etc... That wasn’t truly the case. Because we had a ... Read More
Well, always liked Azamara and realized they were doing Cuba with a lot of time ashore. We were led to believe that you had to do prebooked tours to meet Cuban government rules, etc... That wasn’t truly the case. Because we had a lot of on-board credits, we did some ships tours. They were very good. A bit long day one in Santiago de Cuba. Overall we wouldn’t have maybe seen some of the great musical talent we did, or experienced a unigue family restaurant if not on these tours. A good mixture of sea days too. They’ve been changing the itinerary as they go to eliminate an issue or two. The ‘ 50’s American cars were quite the attraction. The AzAmazing evening was just that of course. Weather great, if a bit hot. We did a wine tasting on board that was fun, and Marcio the DJ does great I-pad classes. Our favourite spot is always the back deck, the Sunset bar, although our balcony wasn’t bad either! We don’t get into much else, a cruise is good downtime. Been there done that with extra restaurants etc. Havana needs 2 days/ nights for sure. La Taberna, a great bar very near ship. Staff always helpful and friendly. A few newer staff on this one due to the Pursuit. We stayed in Bricknell prior, good choice. Read Less
BBMacLaird, CBO - Azamara Club Cruises has responded
Thank you for the cruise review Clipperplace. I've taken Marcio's ipad class twice and both times learned something new...e.g., how to take better pictures!
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
This was our first time on Azamara and we chose it because of the itinerary and because we wanted to try the brand. We are regular cruisers having done it many times on many different ships. Firstly the good bits. Our club continent ... Read More
This was our first time on Azamara and we chose it because of the itinerary and because we wanted to try the brand. We are regular cruisers having done it many times on many different ships. Firstly the good bits. Our club continent suite butler and the other room attendants were excellent. Very efficient, friendly and provided us with moments of great humour. We enjoyed having access to the spa area deck at the front of the ship as it was quieter though people were very guilty of booking loungers and especially the bed and this WASN'T policed at all. The down side was there was no shade other than the one double bed - which was always booked by towels at dawn! I won't say much about the voyage itself or Cuba as a previous reviewer has said most of what I would have said. Cuba is definitely worth a visit but do it by ship as they have no idea about prices and the two tier currency has resulted in way way over-charging for everything - they think tourists are stupid as well as rolling in money. Sadly, hardly anybody bought anything as the prices were simply extortionate which is a pity as we would have been happy to put money into the economy but NOT to be ripped off. If the Cuban government doesn't wake up and realise where they are going wrong tourism will dry up as nobody will go twice or if they do they won't stay there unless it's on a ship. I agree with other reviewers that the entertainment was very poor indeed. We saw only one show that we stayed for and the pianist in the lounge by the casino was entertaining but not sufficient to keep guests happy for a 10 day cruise. Of all the cruises we have been on this was the worst entertainment offering we've experienced. There was no variation in style, too much jazz, and no guest artistes until the last night - when we were all packing. Eric was talented and amusing but that was it!! The Sparkling Trio did not sparkle (though the singer had a good voice) - the keyboard player either looked like he was about to punch someone or lay down and cry. Back to Azamara Journey. I have some dietary needs. I wrote details of these to Azamara several months before we got on board. When we got on board there was a letter saying I would be met by the Restaurant Manager and Executive Chef at a specific time at a specific location. We turned up but they did not. We actually met with someone from the restaurant staff and handed over a further copy of the email I had pre-written to Azamara containing my dietary needs. They mentioned me having to order the previous night for the following day. This is not at all uncommon and I have had to do this on other ships but it DOES NOT work on Azamara. We have taken in excess of 15 cruises in the past 6 years alone. Firstly, other ships ensure you are served by the same servers or at the very least that you are looked after by one individual senior member of staff who ensures that, whatever restaurant you are eating in, you get the menus for the following day and talks through your choices. This only sort of worked c 50% of the time on Azamara and this was because there was NOBODY who took responsibility for it. Additionally, on every other ship the person looking after me has made suggestions for dishes so that what was on the menu could be adjusted or indeed they have made helpful suggestions and ensured that I could have something entirely different that was not on the menu. Azamara isn't even close when it comes to this. Further issues - I was ill several times on this ship due to cross contamination with gluten. The Patio and the Coffee Lounge - both have nothing, or next to nothing, that I could eat so I could not have the same range of choices to eat or even choice of venues to eat. If we got back too late for a main dining area I got nothing!! The buffet ahead of the Azamazing night had a huge range of foods BUT nothing that I could eat. I had to get someone to cook something quickly for me which turned out to be a dry piece of tough meat - THAT IS APPALLING! At the White Night party the only things available to me were lobster, steak and salad - NOTHING ELSE. We spoke to one officer serving at one table and said that it looked like everything had gluten in it and he actually laughed and said yes that's correct. We said it was no laughing matter and walked off. We had to leave the party to go and eat in the restaurant where I had no choices (only one thing suitable for me) because I hadn't had the chance to pre-book. We were invited to the cocktail party for Discovery Plus/Suite guests but AGAIN there was not ONE yes I repeat NOT ONE canape that I could eat. We asked and instead of fetching something for me (that happens on other ships) we just got a "no, we have nothing" response. The so called "Special Brunch" in the Discovery restaurant was a nightmare. Nothing had been labelled properly. I eventually asked to speak with the chef but when he came out his attitude was dreadful. He kicked off by saying "this is all gluten free and you can eat anything". When I asked did that include the muffins in the eggs benedict he said "no, not them" and I then queried whether any of the bread or pastries were gluten free and he again said "no - not these". I pointed out that all of the hot dishes - the chicken, the fish, the beef - all said they contained gluten and he said that was correct. He then turned on his heels and left! You couldn't make this up. The ship's crew knew they had at least 4 gluten free guests on board - I spoke to most of these other guests - but the staff didn't seem to care. I paid the same as other guests and more than many. Indeed we were Discovery Plus Suite Guests but were made to feel like 3rd class guests. I was left a slip of paper in our suite that contained a long list of gluten free options that were supposedly available. I discovered that this was a work of pure fiction. Many of the supposed choices were not available - even when specifically requested - and other comments were simply a lie. "Majority of soups and sauces do not contain gluten" - this is not true as I often had to have my meat, fish or other items served dry and the soup FREQUENTLY had gluten in it. When I asked for a gluten free version, giving a day's notice, it also turned out to be thin and flavourless - apparently many of your staff believe cream contains gluten! Can I please also respectfully suggest that at least one member of senior management actually tries to eat the current gluten free offerings - the bread, the croissant, the pastry, etc. With the exception of the coconut cookies the rest all taste like sawdust. The Aqualina and Prime C were much better than the other eating areas on the ship (both food and service) but had limited menus. The Patio Grill was unwelcoming and of no use as they said they couldn't keep things separate when cooking to ensure it was gluten free. They cater for Vegetarian and Vegan - because that's a trendy lifestyle choice - but not if the food can actually make you ill!! The main restaurant was poor. They are by far and away the worst offerings I have been served at sea for many years. Gluten free food has improved greatly but - it seems - not on Azamara. The above is the main reason why we would not want to sail with these ships again and why we could not in all conscience recommend them to our friends or family. Additional to the above, the drinks packages are crazy. We paid for the Ultimate drinks package because my husband's favourite tipple is Laphroaig whisky and we also like Perrier water and a decent Gin. I like Champagne, Grand Marnier and nice wine but drink very little. The ship had only one bottle of Laphroaig on the whole ship and this was in the sunset bar that wasn't open after dinner. Furthermore bar staff were mostly too busy (or unwilling) to go and get it so my husband had this only twice on the cruise. We feel decidedly cheated. One evening we asked if we could have a dessert wine. We were told that there were none in the package and only one port available. This is DESPITE the fact that all of the dessert wines and most of the ports cost less than the champagne that IS allowed in the package. This is truly nonsensical - and the staff agreed they found it hard to explain to guests. Most ships do a monetary limit which is clearer and more sensible. We asked what would happen if we wanted a glass of wine or other drink that was 1 or 2 dollars over the cost of the champagne or most expensive wine. We were told we would pay the full cost and not just pay the difference as other ships do. I did bring the problems we were having with getting decent gluten free food and our other queries to the attention of senior officers on more than one occasion but nothing changed. Indeed, we got very fed up with having to raise the problems - we were meant to be on holiday after all. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
We recently completed a 10 day cruise around Cuba on the Azamara Journey. This was our 4th cruise in total and our first on Azamara. We chose Azamara mostly because of the itinerary and that it's a small ship experience marketed as being ... Read More
We recently completed a 10 day cruise around Cuba on the Azamara Journey. This was our 4th cruise in total and our first on Azamara. We chose Azamara mostly because of the itinerary and that it's a small ship experience marketed as being more upscale and luxurious than the typical mega-ships. We have been wanting to visit Cuba since they opened it up to Americans and thought a cruise would be a great way to see more than just Havana. After some initial snafus with our reservation that was graciously resolved by Bonnie over on the CruiseCritic discussion boards, we boarded in Miami for our 10 circle trip around the Cuban island with stops in Santiago de Cuba, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos and Havana. The most appealing part of the itinerary was the promise of multi-day stays in port rather than the usual arrive-at-8am-leave-at-5pm schedules of other cruise lines. Which leads me to our first big gripe with Azamara: it was only after plotting the arrival/departure times on the calendar that we realized that the "extended" time in port was very misleading. On the itinerary, it listed only 1 day at sea but in actuality we ended up with almost 4 full sea days. For example, days 3 & 4 were listed as in port in Santiago, however, we arrived at 8am on Tuesday and left at 6am Wednesday. That's not 2 days - that's one day + one night. Wednesday turned out to be really a sea day but that's not how it was shown on the schedule. Same for Cienfuegos on Friday/Saturday. We arrived Friday morning but left the dock 8am on Sat and didn't arrive Havana until Sunday evening. That's almost a day and half at sea. We really only got 1 full day at each of these ports and just 2 days in Havana instead of 3. We talked to several others who felt that Azamara was very misleading in the marketing about the time in port. I know that ships can't magically teleport from one location to the next but it would have been less confusing if the itinerary matched reality so we knew what to expect and plan our excursions accordingly. Azamara highlights that they have more immersive itineraries by allowing more time in port but I don't think it counts when that time is spent sleeping. Second major disappointment was the overall lack of service throughout the ship. While the crew and waitstaff were generally good and always very courteous, it was decidedly less than what you'd expect from a "luxury" cruise line. Water glasses frequently went unfilled and you had to hunt around for someone to take your order or answer a question. The exception to that was for some reason the waitstaff was always there in a flash to whisk away your empty plate or glass - like there was a reprimand waiting for them if they left dirty dishes about but initial orders or refills were often slow to arrive. Other couples we met onboard talked about their past cruises on Regent or SilverSea and how the staff fell over themselves trying to serve you and worked hard to anticipate your needs rather than wait to be called upon. While service was not bad, per se...it just wasn't on par with other luxury brands or even some mainstream brands like Celebrity. This brings me to the third major criticism and that was the food. The buffet was really disappointing as was the grill out by the pool. The food looked very nice and there was always good selection but it was also exceptionally bland and lacking flavor. Almost like salt and spices are forbidden in the kitchen. Several times we were let down by something that looked amazing only to be utterly tasteless. For example, the prime rib was very drab. How a kitchen can make a staple dish like prime rib boring and totally lacking in flavor is beyond me. The main dining room was a bit better and we ate there most nights. Eventually we learned what things to avoid and how to ask for specific items we had had before. Most nights the menu followed a theme chosen by the chef. There were some rather odd choices some nights that really wasn't all that exciting, however you could always order a selection from the a la cart menu. The daily wine selections were usually pretty good and we never felt the need to buy the special bottles listed at considerable upsell prices. We had the Premium beverage package which was adequate for our needs but you could see there are some shennanigans going on with the way liquor selections are structured. It's all intended to get you to go with the Ultimate package instead at $22/day. For us it wasn't worth it and we just paid for the few top shelf drinks individually. The premium package includes all beers and most lower tier "well" spirits and mixed drinks which is fine for most people unless you have a specific liquor preference. Many specialty drinks like caipirinas, desert wines and top shelf liquors are excluded and require separate purchase at full price. It's a little confusing as to what drinks are part of which package and I believe this is intentional. We only got to try the specialty restaurant once and we really liked it in spite of the $30 per person cover. Had we known before that the buffet and main dining would be so lacking we would have made reservations at Prime C or Agualina every night. Reservations filled up quickly however - especially for the last night at sea. Another intentional method to get you to upsell over and above what's included. I booked a massage at the spa for the first sea day and it was very good. I was not expecting the sales pitch for their high priced lotions so just be aware that they'll try to sell you at the end. Also, spa services automatically include an 18% gratuity so don't feel pressured to add extra tip. Otherwise the spa is rather underwhelming and not worth the high prices. There's a special sun deck and hot tub just for spa patrons but I don't see how it's worth the extra price. The exercise room is just off the spa and while adequate for getting a workout in, there isn't much in the way of equipment. The usual treadmills, stationary bikes and nautilus-type weights. We booked a guaranteed outside cabin and the room was fine. A little small of course but perfectly adequate. I should have splurged for a veranda instead but ultimately it was fine for our needs. With the extra time at sea and most of our time in port dedicated to excursions, we didn't spend a huge amount of time in the cabin anyway. Our stewards were fantastic and were like ninjas - always slipping in to replace towels and straighten up while we were out. They greeted us by name each morning. We were assigned cabin 6004 which is an oversized outside stateroom at the very front of the ship on deck 6 port side. It is extra long which allows it much more space than usual - about the size of a typical hotel room. This is due to the space where the balcony is in the veranda staterooms is replaced with a large round picture window approx 4 feet in diameter. It creates a bit of a "fishbowl" experience but it was perfectly fine as we spent most of our time outside anyway. There is a small loveseat and coffee table in addition to the desk & chair. Plenty of room to move around and we were not bumping into each other except for in/out of the bathroom and around the bottom of the bed (which is the same layout for all other non-suite cabins). Being at the front of the ship you definitely feet the movement - both up & down and side to side rocking. Might be worse on really rough seas. We could hear/feel rumblings down below when the boat pitched upward that I suspect were the stabilizers kicking in. It's a smaller ship so this was very common throughout the boat even in the aft dining room. My wife is prone to seasickness and was initially worried about the location, however she did not have any problems. Other issue with the location was the noise from the anchor chains and vibration from the front thrusters when entering and leaving port. This was temporary however and we did not find it too bothersome except for it waking us up at 5am on the last day. As our cabin was directly above the Cabaret Lounge on deck 5, we could hear the bass and drums during band practice and evening performances. This might annoy some people but we didn't really have any problem with it as the shows are rather short anyway. There is a connecting door to the suite next door and we occasionally heard muffled voices thru the walls and from the hallway but somebody suggested putting a towel or bathrobe against the floor and this worked to block out both noise and light. Otherwise the cabin is very quiet, secluded and dark. Bathroom is tiny and takes some getting used to with regards to maneuvering - especially the shower. The shower curtain clings to you but we found if you put the bottom edge of the curtain outside the stall (there is a groove in the floor leading to a drain outside the shower) then it helps to create some additional space. Not a lot of space to spread out so you have to be creative with storage. This is true on any cruise ship however. Bed was super comfortable with nice linens and comforter. A/C was great and kept the temperature perfect. Closet organizer was efficient and adequate with plenty of storage. Mirrors and lighting was terrific. Note to others...do NOT attempt to bring onboard any kind of travel iron or clothes steamer. Ours was confiscated from my wife's luggage upon embarkation. There was no mention of portable steamers being prohibited in the boarding documentation but they said they can set off the fire detectors. The self service laundry on deck 7 has ironing boards and irons as well as laundry supplies. The machines are free but limited so you have to be diligent and strategic about timing in order to get a load or two done ahead of others. One other gripe...the onboard Internet was so slow it was almost completely useless. Thankfully we did not pay extra for this otherwise we would have been really upset. Eric, our cruise director was fabulous and very funny. His "grandpa" jokes were groaners but perfectly pitched for the audience. He and the captain even formed a bit of a comedic duo on the daily announcements. You can tell Eric has a definite flair for Broadway showtunes as the music was decidedly tilted towards that genre. Overall the performances by the singers and dancers were very good and entertaining with a good mix of contemporary and traditional music. I'm sure some of the older crowds didn't fully appreciate the ABBA night show. The lounge pianist was charming and the trio band was pleasant. They played upstairs in the Living Room at night and by the pool during the day and at sail aways. It added to the overall pleasantness of the cruise. Nothing was offensive or too wild - nor was it just Perry Como elevator music either. It was a good balance of entertainment for the crowd which definitely skewed a little higher on the age scale than the brochures allude to. The White Night party was held in port at Cienfuegos and it was the highlight of our trip. The food buffets were over the top and truly gluttonous. Lines were long - especially for the lobster tails but there was something for everyone. The music was fantastic and everyone's spirits were very high. Eric led an actual conga line around the pool area and had a very memorable duet with one of the passengers. It was really a great party and something to look forward to. We ended up booking a couple of Azamara sponsored excursions and a couple independent trips on our own. In Santiago, we found a local taxi driver who took us to a couple of places like Castro's grave and the memorial to Jose Marti. We saw the changing of the guard at the national cemetery and had lunch in a local paladar with our taxi driver. We got to sit down and chat with him about the country and his life which was very interesting since his English was as limited as our Spanish. In Cienfuegos, we opted for the excursion to the El Nicho waterfalls about an hour away. This involved a hike in the mountains over some pretty steep terrain although the views at the end were worth it. We also got to visit an artist commune and watched some interpretive dances which was strange to say the least. Grand Cayman - we had been there before on a different cruise and there's really nothing else to do but go to the beach. We decided to walk which was a mistake in 90+ degree heat and humidity. We caught a bus back to the dock for $5 bucks. We arrived in Havana Saturday night. We booked the show at the Cabaret Parisian rather than the Tropicana. From what we heard the Tropicana was probably a better choice but the shows are essentially the same. It was a late night however as the show didn't start until 10pm and we didn't get back to the ship until midnight. Sunday we had arranged for a private tour guide through HavanaTourCompany.com. Our guide was awesome and even managed to deal with including a couple we met onboard at the last minute. We had a fabulous lunch in Old Havana then took a walking tour and convertible ride through the city and to Fusterlandia outside of the city where we bought some original artwork. We saw all the main sights and learned about the history, finishing up that night with dinner and a show at La Taberna. It's definitely worth it to use an independent tour guide in Havana and not go with the overpriced tours offered by the cruise line. You get better pricing, a customized itinerary and the guides are little more open to talking about their lives than the "official" government approved Havanatur. Monday morning we did the coffee, rum and cigar factory tour. We visited the Partaga cigar factory (which makes 25 other brands like Cohiba and Montecristo). It was a literal sweat shop with 4 floors of un-air conditioned rooms and workers hand rolling cigars for pennies a day. We were then bussed around the city to several government shops to buy cigars and rum getting a bit of a guided tour along the way. Rum and cigars are the same price everywhere (state controlled) so don't feel pressured to buy them on the tours. We were warned not to buy cigars on the street however as there are no guarantees as to quality. It helps to know in advance what you're looking for in terms of brand, sizes and shape. Expect to pay approx 50% less than you can find authentic Cuban cigars elsewhere (Canada for example). Originally the AzAmazing Evening was scheduled for our evening in Santiago but was changed at the last minute to our arrival night in Havana. Since we had already booked a show we ended up passing on this event. We heard it was rather interesting - a special ballet performance at the Grand Theater. Overall, we were pleased with our first Azamara cruise and we even booked a second one to Alaska next July - this time with a balcony. We enjoyed our trip and would recommend it to others with the caveat that it all depends on your expectations going in. Some things were great compared to a typical cruise - most standard drinks are included as are tips. There are some areas where you still get nickle & dimed but it's not nearly as bad as the major lines. The smaller ship is a double edged sword - it's more intimate with much fewer passengers but it's also a rather boring ship with not a whole lot to do if you're the type that requires constant excitement. The demographics skew older with not a single child onboard. Most were in their 60's, 70's or 80's although there were a few younger gay couples as well. The marketing material would have you believe that Azamara is a luxury cruise line - on par with other luxury brands like Regent, SilverSea or Paul Gaugin. In the end, it's a bit like first class on Delta or United Airlines...yes, it is a much better experience than flying coach but it's also no comparison to foreign carriers like Singapore or Emirates. Go in with the proper expectations and you'll have a great time. Read Less
Azamara Journey Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 5.0 4.4
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 5.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.1
Family 1.0 4.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.8
Service 5.0 4.6
Value For Money 5.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 4.3

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