Azamara Journey Cruise Review by UnitedJon
- Sail Date: July 2012
- Destination: Baltic Sea
- Cabin Type: Club Continent Suite
Embarkation -- 1 out of 5 stars
We embarked on Azamara Journey on July 6, 2012 in Copenhagen Denmark. The overall embarkation process and setup was, to be blunt, terrible. We arrived to a rundown pier with no permanent infrastructure but rather a white event tent. We took a private transfer from the airport and were greeted car side by about 5 port agents. While the agents were quick to take our bags, they were stumbling over each other, and frantically tried to get us to fill out new bag tags as they did not think we had our bags tagged (turns out they were unfamiliar with Azamara's tags). After our bags were swept away, we were left on our own. No agents directed us into the event tent and it was our driver who tracked down an agent and gave us directions. Inside, security was setup alongside the entryway. Fortunately for us, we did not arrive in a large group and were able to enter the building without a problem but others were forced to wait outside in blustery and wet conditions in order to clear security. The actual documentation process was terrible. The girl checking us in had no clue what she was doing and did not take our health forms or our passports. This turned out to be a problem when trying to board the ship as we showed up as not checked in. It took another 45minutes at the front desk for the matter to be fully resolved.
Room -- 3 out of 5 stars
We booked a Club Oceanview during a promotion for a free upgrade to Verandah. Unfortunately there were no verandahs available for the upgrade that could accommodate three guests. During our check-in debacle I asked the front desk agent about an upgrade and we were able to get upgraded to a Suite for a nominal fee. The room was much larger than a normal stateroom but approximately 2/3's the size of a suite onboard Holland America, one of our favorite lines. With the suite you get complimentary butler service, spa admission, upgraded amenities and free liquor in-suite. While we did not utilize many of the rooms features we made good use of the spa and appreciated the larger quarters. Some issues we had with our room included the fact that the sofa bed was completely broken and it took multiple attempts and hours to get to a solution which ended up being a rollaway bed. While this was a fine solution, it took up a significant portion of our walking space and inhibited our ability to access the balcony. While this was no problem at night, after turndown, it was unacceptable during the day. It took another two days before housekeeping, our butler and my party were all on the same page about how to set the room up which was to breakdown the rollaway daily but not remove it from the room, just place it against the wall and move the couch back to allow for balcony access. The housekeeping staff were thrilled we did not want the bed taken in and out daily but struggled with the fact that we wanted to sheets changed daily given the bed would be on the floor. This seemed to be a common theme onboard, having to ask for things that were somewhat commonsense. The last few days of our cruise, our butler was taken out of service which was completely unannounced. This proved to be challenging because, in our case, we did not get a replacement butler, our room rather went unserviced until I continually inquired with the front desk. One last point about the room, when upgrading I asked about the rooms location being below the Window's Cafe. I was told this was not an issue and that complaints regarding noise were seldom. Well, the room was louder than normal and while foot traffic was not noticeable, you got a constant flushing noise from the beverage service section and dragging chairs. We have stayed in aft cabins before and while increased noise is to be expected not quite to this degree. On a positive note, the room was clean and kept tidy excluding the last few days.
Spa -- 3 out of 5 stars
The spa onboard the Azamara Journey was quite comprehensive for a ship of this size. Upon touring the spa on day one we were pleased by the look and feel of the spa. Unfortunately, the staff overall were quite rude and were more interested in their personal conversations, books and cell phones rather than the guests. For example, upon exiting one day, I handed in my locker key and was handed back a key card that was not mine. When I asked for mine, it had been given to another guest. The reception staff had no sense of urgency, now that someone could be charging items to my account or better yet accessing my room, but rather asked if I knew who the person from the key card she had given me so I could track it down. After another drawn out situation my card was located and given back to me. Another item about the spa was that on each visit we had to call to ask for towels in either the locker room or by the therapy pool. Furthermore, the lockeroom had a "used" and questionably dirty look on a good portion of the days. One day, when visiting the therapy pool the ship hit a bit of a storm and the weather went from glorious to quite rough. While this is par the course for a cruise, no staff came out to assist or help us out of the pool. Rather, staff came running out to cover the patio furniture but left us to fend for ourselves in 20+MPH winds and beating rain. In fact, an elderly woman fell back into the pool and onto the lap of my travel companion who then banged her head and broke her sunglasses that were on top of her head.
Dining -- 5 out of 5 stars
Dining onboard the Journey is truly great. Room service is delivered quickly and everything is fresh and warm. The main dining room has a variety of options and provided an overall great experience. Aqualina was always a fantastic dining experience and our server Monico provided 5-star service. The maitre-d's at both Aqualina and the main dining room were FANTASTIC and accommodating. Our first experience at Prime C on the otherhand was terrible with the server being rude and rushing us. Furthermore, the maitre d walked by our table multiple times and did not greet us once. He was upset that we insisted on a 9PM reservation as opposed to the 8:30PM reservation we had originally reserved but had to change when our excursions departure time was changed. To make a long story short, our food came out at different times, items were never brought and we were told by that waiter that he knew we were hungry and would not waste time explaining the menu even though we had mentioned never being to Prime C before. After talking with our butler and the front desk after this incident we returned to Prime C and were thrilled with the meal and service provided by a new waiter (Ariel). Mosaics and the pool grill also provided a positive experience throughout our sailing. I do wish that Mosaics had been better staffed during peak times but otherwise it was always a good experience with extremely pleasant staff. Overall, the dining staff were the best we encountered onboard and truly delivered a five star experience.
Front desk -- 4 out of 5 stars
As aforementioned, what I would have considered to be obvious items frequently needed follow-up. For example, we upgraded our room upon embarkation. It took until day 3 for us to finally be recognized as our party versus the guest that had cancelled her cruise thus allowing the cabin to be available. While I understand it would take time for everything to be updated, I do not think it should have taken three days nor should it have needed our party to follow-up to get the problem rectified. Nonetheless, the front desk was very responsive for the most part. Roxy and Lizel (pardon my spelling) were fantastic to deal with and face their challenging jobs with a smile. One item to mention is that it took 4 times before our onboard account was accounted for properly and ultimately I returned home to have an error with my credit card charge (more in disembarkation).
Public rooms -- 5 out of 5 stars
The public rooms onboard the Journey are beautiful and well appointed. The colors and furniture give a warm and initimate feeling. Furthermore, the staff keep everything clean and were quick to freshen up the spaces throughout the sailing.
Shore excursions -- 1 out of 5 stars
Prior to boarding we took advantage of the Journey's 50% off excursion promotion and booked 7 excursions. Overall the excursions were disappointing. To start, upon boarding our excursion tickets were never delivered. When we asked the desk about the status we were told that we needed to handle the issue with our stateroom attendant. Well, to make a long story short, the tickets were never delivered and when I went to speak with the manager she found them in a pile on the shore excursions desk in a pile listed as "to be delivered". Upon review of our tickets, I noticed that 3 out of the 7 excursions had departure times that differed from 30 minutes to 1 hours from the booked time. While this created no issue for us it did create an issue with our dinner reservations at Prime C which turned out to be a horrible experience. From a tour experience, in Brugge, for example, our guide did not meet us pierside but rather met us in town. When we were directed to him by another guide we quickly found out that he was hard to understand and was clearly in a rush. He did not allow us to stop for pictures nor did he keep us together in a group but rather we would be looking for the tour sign in a sea of people and commonly found the group to be separated by upwards of 30feet. Part of our excursion was a canal cruise followed by free time for shopping. Upon ending the canal cruise, our guide was nowhere in sight. Turns out he never came back and our group wandered the city until we found another ship guide who directed us to the meeting spot to return to the ship. To make matters worse, yes worse than being abandoned by your paid guide, two members of our tour group were pick pocketed and lost travel documents and large sums of cash. Once back onboard the ship we mentioned our experience to the shore excursions desk and were told that "sometimes the guides are luck of the draw." When I responded that this was unacceptable and that when I book a ships tour I expect to safely go from point a to point b and back we were issued a $20 credit. Our second, almost unexplainable shore excursion encounter found us on another tour where we were delayed on our return to the ship as we were missing one person - the person turned out to be the shore excursion staff member from the ship. The bus driver ended up locating the individual; he was shopping for "more comfortable shoes". Back onboard, we cancelled the remainder of our tours with the exception of our day of departure tour that would take us to the Anne Frank House and then airport. This proved to be another frustrating experience, check the disembarkation review for details.
Entertainment -- 5 out of 5 stars
The onboard entertainment truly provided a great boutique experience. While the amount of entertainment onboard was limited what was offered was of a high caliber. This holds true from the shows to the music in some of the lounges. The photo staff onboard were also very friendly and provided a pleasant interactive experience. The casino was also well appointed and provided fun memories.
Ports -- 4 out of 5 stars
Azamara offers great itineraries and this was no exception. While our embarkation pier was terrible, the ship relocated late the first night to provide us with an ideal location for day two in Copenhagen. Other ports provided a great overview of Northern Europe and the timing of our visits couldn't have been better. One note is that our arrival to our last port of Amsterdam was significantly delayed due to a problem with the locks approaching Amsterdam. While some things are out of the control of the line, it was not until 15minutes prior to scheduled arrival that we were informed of our delay. With people having tours booked, both through the ship and independently, this truly was not the best example of effective communication. After all was said and done we arrived almost 3.5hours late into Amsterdam.
Disembarkation -- 2 out of 5 stars
Azamara does provide a number of disembarkation options including late departure. For our travel arrangements we booked an excursion with transfer to the airport as our flight left Amsterdam closer to 3PM. Our assigned departure time was 815AM which, while early, was not a problem. At approximately 750AM, I received a frantic call from the front desk that they did not have an authorization for my onboard charges. Well, we had given a credit card pierside and onboard during our check-in debacle. Furthermore, I gave another credit card for our upgrade. Well, to make a long story short, nothing was properly documented. It took another 30 minutes for everything to be sorted out properly, or to what I thought was properly. I returned home to have been charged incorrectly and am still trying to work through the incorrect amounts with the cruiseline after nearly 2 weeks. Our disembarkation excursion was overall very enjoyable outside of the fact that the cruiseline mishandled our baggage which yet again created a delay for my party. Azamara asks that all bags be placed outside of your stateroom by 11PM on the night before disembarkation. I had confirmed with both shore excursions and the front desk that my baggage would be traveling with us on the bus but upon disembarkation my bags were nowhere to be found. After going through 3 port agents we found an Azamara shore excursions attendant who told me that the bags had been mistakenly sent to the airport with the regular transfers guests. She was unable to provide information on where my bags would be or any other details given our arrival to the airport was not for another 5 hours. Once again it was Lizel to the rescue who came down and got the bus driver all of the contact information for someone who would be with my bags upon our arrival to the airport. Upon getting to the airport, it was nearly 20 minutes after the other guests had departed that we were finally reunited with our baggage.
Overall -- 3.5 out of 5 stars
Our cruise onboard Azamara Journey was a memorable experience. While the trip was riddled with issues and needed a great deal of follow-up we had an overall pleasant voyage. Being avid cruisers, I have been questioned by friends, my travel agent, family and colleagues as to whether we would return to Azamara? The answer is, perhaps. Azamara does provide a pleasant cruising experience however, I am under the impression that at times they have over promised and under delivered. Having sailed over 30nights just this calendar year, on a number of lines, we felt this voyage resembled an inaugural voyage in a number of ways. At the end of the day, I am fortunate to have had the experience to cruise Northern Europe onboard Azamara and look forward to the 4 upcoming cruises I have booked -- which to date are not on Azamara.