We booked this cruise to get a comparison of our extensive experience with Viking. We’d lost our affinity for Viking due to a nasty situation regarding a cancelled cruise credit due us. So, we felt Azamara might be our next logical choice to try.
Embarkation: We landed at 7:00 am in London, waited in a crowded seating area for other passengers to board a bus to Southampton. That was okay, but upon arrival at Southampton we were given instructions to sit in a large waiting area. No estimated time of checkin, no information at all. The soon to become oft-vaunted suite passengers were invited to line up for security and checkin. The remaining dross like us were cattle called into a lengthy line for security, the somewhat shorter numbered lines for checkin. Checkin took three hours from arrival in Southampton. Had I known, I would have booked a private transfer after snoozing in the Virgin Revival lounge available to Delta One passengers.
We booked the near-lowest cabin class - an Oceanview Stateroom. Much has been said about the tiny bathrooms and it’s all true. What’s hilarious is you have to upgrade to a suite to get an adequate bathroom. I would have been livid to pay a veranda stateroom price for that same shower that cannot comfortably contain a size 8 woman. The finishes were fine and the toiletries on offer were equal to a two star hotel. We were in 4002 and had no problems with noise from the Caberet Lounge above. We did have some bow thruster noise, but overall, a quiet cabin. Bed quality was just fine.
Our stateroom was everything promised - in distant, low-res pictures. Upon closer examination, the noted “full refurbishment” of 2016 has had a hard life, based on our observations. The furniture in our cabin was nicked and worn. It was also mismatched. The carpet was worn and grimy to the point I wouldn’t walk on it without slipper or shoes. It was interesting to note our nightstands didn’t match. There was no clock available except on the standard def tv. This provided extra fun as I used my phone for an alarm in oft-changing time zones, depending on having an Internet connection to update my phone - no luck there, more later.
Storage was adequate, the bed was comfortable, it was easy to control the cabin temp in the cool Baltic weather, and the room cleaning was adequate if not terribly speedy (we’ve seen Viking staterooms cleaned in less than a half hour).
Wi-fi service was an expensive rip-off. I spent endless hours simply connecting to the network. I’d log on, move to a new location (once as short a move as two deck chairs) only to be dropped. We never had this issue on Viking except some intermittent issues at sea. All our problems with Azamara’s network took place both in port and at sea. Don’t buy it. Most ports on our cruise worked just fine. We logged onto a giant MS ship in port.
Food was generally excellent. Service in the restaurants ranged from ok to terrible. The specialty restaurants were a waste of money. They offered nothing superior to what we could get in the main restaurant and the Italian Aquafina served us the two worst meals we had.
Book your own excursions. Azamara’s were expensive and offered poor value. For the most part guides didn’t use the popular headphones/receivers and they had to have us crowd in to hear. One plus was plenty of room to spread out.
Azamara’s air booking is fabulous compared to Viking. You get to choose your preferred itinerary and price based on the buying power of Royal Caribbean.
Public areas on the Journey were uneven. The furniture in “The Living Room” was grimy and worn. Most windows had eroded finishes and uncared for brasses. Entertainment was okay and varied. I don’t cruise for the floor shows. Once again I think Viking takes this whole category - all finishes are crisp and new looking. The entertainment is geared more toward informational lectures applicable to ports visited.
I wish I could take the two lines and pick and choose the best of each to come up with a great value cruise line.
Mismatched furniture, wallpaper curling at the seams, grimy couch and carpet
Embarkation was less than good.