The first thing to say is that we had a great cruise and would recommend Azamara Journey. The staff members were all friendly helpful and efficient and it seems a very happy ship. It is worth noting that some staff members had been on board for many years and seem loyal to the brand. The ship in general, with the exception of the Discoveries Restaurant at Dinner time, did not seem too crowded. Discoveries could be noisy but the food and service remained excellent.
The food in general was a high standard in all restaurants but we found that the ambiance of the Specialty Restaurants along with the high quality of gourmet food and service gave us a refuge and a quiet place to dine. Both Prime C and Aqalina had their own menu which remained the same throughout the cruise but were supplemented by Chefs Specials each evening.
Suite guests were invited to a special ‘Best of the Best’ dinner which was an exceptional evening
The complementary wines were a reasonable standard, particularly the white wines and there was an adequate selection of included drinks at the bars.
The internet is well below the standard expected of Azamara in that when and if you can connect it is slow and tends to drop out. The Suites are given 235 minutes but the package otherwise is expensive and difficult to justify.
Our impression was that the decor was dull throughout most of the ship, the exception being the Drawing Room/Library which is very colourful & a very pleasant place to sit. The Forward lounge was another excellent space to relax and enjoy friendly waiter service.
We booked private tours of Havana, Vinales, Cienfuegos and Trinidad but decided to use the ships shore excursion for Santiago de Cuba as the ship was due to sail at 15.00. Sadly the latter, a Panoramic tour in Santiago was very poor and a huge disappointment. This was one of the worst tours we have ever taken; firstly we could not hear the guide, Lucia above the traffic in town and she did not have a microphone to help her.
Secondly we were not aware that the bus would not stop to see the Revolution Square etc - we drove slowly past the places of interest rather than being allowed time to see them close up. If this is the intention then it should be made clear in the tour description.
Finally, we signed up for a tour without a lunch stop (who needs lunch when you are fed so well on board ship) but were in any case taken to a poor quality lunch despite protests from most of the group. We felt this was a waste of time that might otherwise have been enjoyed at the monuments. More importantly, it turned out to be a waste of food as most of the group did not eat much and lots of food was returned untouched. When there is a shortage of food in Cuba and the locals endure rationing, this was also embarrassing for us and our companions.
A very comfortable way to see Cuba on Azamara Journey.
Be very careful filling out the Cuban visa which costs US$ 75 and is issued as you embark. The check in agent said any mistakes would mean you having to buy another visa as a cost of US$ 75. The Visa is good for all ports in Cuba.
The first time ashore in Havana the Immigration line was long & generally slow. On subsequent days off the ship, it was a quick wave through after a very casual look at the passport.
You need to change your foreign currency at the cruise terminal in Havana or at a bank in the square outside the terminal. The exchange rate is fixed and common to all banks. If you use US $ you are surcharged 10% making a total of 13% commission. We were advised to use GB pounds and were charged the 3% commission only. This is common to Euros and Canadian $ also. The tourist currency is the CUC which is worth 25 Cuban Pesos, the money used by locals.
Cuba has a strong health service which is free to Cubans but the health care does not apparently extend to public health as is obvious in the state of toilets in restaurants and bars. You should also have some small change for the person manning the toilets. Apparently it is not necessary but fully expected and in return you will be given a hand full of toilet paper. Take some tissue with you in any case.
We had a Club Ocean Suite, 7004 which had a forward facing balcony. The suite was a very good design with a decent bedroom and large lounge area together with a large bathroom with separate toilet. Most of the bathrooms on board the old Renaissance ships are very small but the Suites have a full size bathroom with a tub and a large shower enclosure. The shower had a glass door unlike the smaller bathrooms which only have a shower curtain.
We felt that the sun beds on the balcony were very good but too large for the space which made hosting sail away drinks on the balcony a little cramped.
There are a few things that Azamara should look into, the first is the bed in suite 7004 is not a (US standard) KING size as advertized being only 5 ft 6 inches wide and not the full 6 feet. There is room for a larger bed and one of the attractions of booking the suite was the promise of a King bed.
The sofa in the living room could be replaced with a sofa bed to accommodate a third guest. There is ample space and because the facility was not available on this ship, my twin sister had to pay a full 100% single supplement for a nearby cabin to accompany us. On other cruise ships she has shared our suite quite comfortably.
An extremely comfortable bed with fine linens, duvet & pillows.
Ample storage. The wardrobe had a low rail which did not accomodate long dresses.