On my previous Azamara cruises, I was amazed. Unfortunately, this cruise was not amazing. I booked directly with Azamara in October. At that time I was told that if I booked my excursions on line at least 4 days prior to sailing, I would get a 25% discount. After I paid my final payment, I was told that the discount had been withdrawn without notice. I was upset. I wrote and called Azamara expressing my thoughts about the change hoping that somebody at Azamara might realize that changing the terms was an error. That did not happen. On the ship, I met several people who had the same experience. Some folks had been promised a 50% discount which did not happen. Not booking tours from Azamara was actually a good thing. I did a lot of research before sailing. I booked some private tours and found my way independently. I enjoyed the ports and had a great time doing my own thing.
We booked our plane tickets from choice air because they were offering a $1000 discount per cabin if we used their service. Even though the fares were a bit higher than booking directly with the airline, the $1000 discount was too good to pass up. Our air arrangements were good. We had no problems with the air. We did meet people on the ship who did have problems. Choice Air emergency people helped them. I would use Choice Air again. We flew into LHR 4 days before the cruise. I booked a transport from Simply Airports which I have used previously to take us into the city. The fare was good compared to a black taxi. I Paid £37. However, their price to get to Southampton at £160 was high. We took the National Express Coach from Victoria Station to Southampton. Fare was £13 for both of us. I took a taxi on both ends because we had luggage. Total cost from hotel in London City to the ship was £37. It was easy.
Embarkation was quick. Cabins were available at 1:30 pm. Our cabin was on deck 7 slightly forward. This was the 3rd time on the Journey staying on deck 7. Deck 7 is between 2 decks of cabins. Best place to be to avoid noise. Our cabin was nice and tidy. Furniture, carpeting, etc. has not been changed since my first time on the ship in 2009. It is showing signs of wear and tear. Cabins need a facelift. Bed was hard. Pillows were thin. After the first night, we had our steward put a foam pad on the bed and change the pillows. Our cabin service was excellent.
The entertainment was fair. Richard Rubin was a crowd pleaser. His cabaret piano entertainment was good. Nathan the guitar player was awful. The production numbers were very good. We enjoyed the flutist, hypnotist, and magician. The white night party was fun. The Amazing Evening was not amazing. We missed the harpist and music on the pool deck. The enrichment speakers were okay if you were into British history. I would have expected more wine educated speakers on a wine cruise. There was no wine tasting event. The only tasting on the ship was the included wines for lunch and dinner. Some good, many fair, and some were awful. Often the bottles were screw tops. Since this was a wine cruise, I had expected local wines being served. That did happen on the ship. The Amazing Evening did serve local wine from Bordeaux. In general, the cruise needed more entertainment.
The food was not nearly as good as our previous cruises. We often sent food back that was undercooked or cold. The MDR service was usually good. The best server was Victoria. We asked every night for a table for 2 by the window. In 14 nights, that never happened. I wanted to enjoy the view. Just one night? No!!!!! On our last afternoon in Lisbon, we ate lunch in the MDR at a window.
Mosaic Cafe had Nespresso Coffee for an additional charge. Their regular coffee was okay. The trolley with pastry and small sandwiches was nice. The tea was the same as the regular dining service. No premium teas were offfered.
The Windows Cafe was the usual buffet with a variety of choices. It was open for 3 meals a day. Dinner theme changed each evening. Nothing special
We often went up there after dinner for dessert and coffee on the outdoor deck.
Included drinks were okay. There is a sheet of complimentary beverages. Not sure why or why not some things were on or off the sheet. i tried a few cocktails. I usually stuck to Sprite Zero or bitter lemon with and without gin. Some people had a good time trying everything on the list. The included liquor was not an attraction for me. I prefer ice tea or sprite. Bottled water was provided with no limit. I enjoyed the bottled water and soft drinks in the fridge in the cabin. Once the cabin knew my preferences, he stocked the fridge with them.
Laundry for us included 2 free bags as Discover level cruisers. You can stuff a lot into the bag. The clothes are returned ironed on hangers. The self service laundry room was very nice. However, the crowds were there all the time. Most people were good about waiting. I did see a fight between 2 people over a washer. They need more washers and dryers. There were 2 opportunities to fill a bag of wash for $30....decent price if we stuff the bag. With the discontinuation of the complimentary laundry from LCV, there will be more people trying to use the machines. Discontinuing the free laundry perk for Discoverer is not a good thing.
Shuttles were used in many ports. They were usually on a 30 minute schedule. They did not run late. The drop off locations were okay. We tendered in Guernsey and St. Jean de Luz. The only convenient dock location was in Bordeaux near the Maritime Bourse( not the stock exchange bourse). Often we docked at industrial locations making you ride to where you wanted to be.
What did we do?
In Guersey we rode the public round the island bus. Cost is 1£. Fantastic value for a great ride. We also bought some stuff. Great shopping in a lovely town.
In Nantes, we visited the Chateaux and Jardin. Both were excellent. The chateaux des Dukes has 2 museums. The jardin was gorgeous. We also saw the small Leger exhibit at the Oratory Chapelle.
Bordeaux was my favorite port. Visited the Muse des Beaux arts, the jardins, the monuments, and walked the pedestrian zones. Trams and bus service is great. Took a private tour to St, Emillion and visited wineries.
Shopping was very good. Bordeaux is beautiful.
Missed St Jean because of high seas. Some people tendered. Some got hurt. After that, they discontinued tender service. Ship moved to Bayonne. Bayonne was a nice small town. Rode the free Navette getting on and off. The Basque Muse was wonderful. Bayonne is not a touristy town. It was a pleasure to visit.
Bilbao. Took the ship shuttle which left us off close to the Guggenheim museum. Visiting was better than expected. The exhibits were good. The Richard Serra room is spectacular. The Goerge Braque exhibit was excellent. The Yoko Ono exhibit was strange. Ate a tapas lunch at the museum. 3 tapas and a drink for 9€ was an excellent value. We also walked to the muse des Beaux des Fine Arts which was a block away. The asian exhibit was outstanding.
In Porto, we took the red hop on hop off bus. Did the 2 hour ride. Nice trip for 10€.
in Lisbon, we had a few hours. Took the shuttle, walked around and went back to the ship.
Azamara says that You Will Love Where We Take You. I loved the ports. I got tired having to take shuttles to get to where I really wanted to be. Bordeaux was the only port where we docked at a convenient location.
I enjoyed my trip. Mostly because of the places we visited. I was not thrilled with cruise. It was too expensive for what you got. I expected a cruise as good as my previous cruises on the Journey. It fell short on many levels. The worst was the food. I lost weight. I can overlook minor details....a bad water, a poor excursion, a stained tablecloth, etc. i cannot excuse bad food. I will not be sailing on Azamara soon.
There are many choices in cruising that offer a better experience. Azamara lost me.
Nice location near forward elevators. Quiet.