Azamara Journey 11-30-19
We booked the Azamara Journey 12 days before embarkation as our planned Galapagos adventure on the Celebrity Xpedition was canceled by the cruise line. This back to back cruise, the “9-Night Caribbean Highlights Voyage” followed by the “7-Night Caribbean Breezes Voyage” was available at a terrific price and with nice booking incentives. As we had always wanted to try Azamara, this seemed like the best “Plan B” to use our planned vacation time.
This review picks up in San Juan PR as we return to the Journey for this segment of our B2B cruise.
The Uber driver returned us to the Journey and other than maybe a ten minute wait to get through security we were soon back on board. Lunch was enjoyed on the patio and we returned to our cabin to store the rest of our things. We had our complementary laundry bag ready for our room steward to pick up and took our laundry bag of “Special items” (mostly lightweight Columbia wear) to the laundry room to do ourselves. We were surprised to find we were not the only back to back cruisers who had this idea that this was a great time to do laundry, but we had no problem getting two washers and then a single dryer to clean everything.
This was the first time ever that we were excused from the muster drill. Walking around the ship we just keep telling crew members 'In transit guests' and they smiled and waved us on. The cruise critic meet and greet was set for 6:30 PM. We attended and met the roll call members we will be touring with on a few of the islands. One couple asked if they could join us for dinner so we headed to the dining room and were able to get a four-top in Shaad's area.
Arriving late (at 7:00) on a very busy dining room night and with our needed special orders, it took nearly three hours to complete dinner. We did not intend to attend Eric's welcome in the showroom of the show of “Come sail away” which we saw last week, so at this point we wandered past the shops and called it a night.
Sunday, December 1 - At Sea
A truly beautiful day as sea sums up this Sunday. We slept in until after 7:30. DW took the time to do her PT exercises, and I went to get some tea. There is a dining room brunch today so we waited on breakfast. Eric hosted a non-denominational church service in the Drawing Room. About 20 attended and Eric had some really good stories to tell. We also learned that his father was a Presbyterian minister. Following the service we enjoyed brunch and were able to sit in Shaad's area.
We then went up to the pool area and I was only able to find one lounger in the shade. I took that one as DW wanted to look over the shops (nothing new) and sign up for the complimentary afternoon “Ladies Pamper Party” hosted by the spa. Shortly after DW came up the pool deck the couple next to me relinquished their loungers so DW took the one next to me. We stayed there reading and listening to the sounds of Vibz. We had a light lunch at the Patio and also moved lounger seats to stay in the shade.
The couple we had dinner with last night told us that the price for the internet package is based on the number of days, and therefore it goes down each day. By tomorrow, if we haven't used our complimentary minutes, those minutes would pay for the package the rest of the cruise. We will certainly check that out! DW attended the 3:00 Ladies Pamper Party and really enjoyed the complimentary mini-facial. I returned to the cabin to clean up and get ready for the evening. I brought my log up to date.
We visited the Living Room for the start of the Starlight Trio's set and then went to Discoveries at 6:00 for dinner. Guest Entertainer David Knight, a hypnotist, gave a really good show. Getting audience volunteers took him a while, and then about half the volunteers tested out, but it was a good & 'clean' show.
After the show we visited the Living Room and listened to Vibz a while. We also danced. Then it was time to call it a night as we have a full day tomorrow!
Monday, December 2 – Bridgetown, Barbados
Our tour today booked through the ship is a photography tour with a local professional photographer, but it does not meet until 1:00. So despite at least three previous visits to Barbados, we never went downtown to Bridgetown, so we made that our morning excursion.
We began the day with breakfast in Discoveries. About 8:45 or so we made our way outside, walked to and through the cruise terminal (which you have to walk all the way around so as to pass all the vendors who have paid for space there), and out the distant “Independent” doorway.
We found a cab and for US$2 each caught a ride into Bridgetown. The driver offered to take those of us going to town to the 'far end' of town so we would walk back along the main shopping street. We did that, and actually found the 'far end' had more sights to see, including Independence Square and the parliament building. There is also a marina with several bridges crossing it, near the main bus station.
We enjoyed exploring the town for about 2 hours, having purchased one shirt. We caught a cab back to the port and looked around the outside vendors. At the first one (furthest from the actual terminal building) we found a shirt for me and a nice Caribbean dress for DW. These will make an appearance at tonight's Caribbean party.
We then went back to the Journey with just enough time for some lunch before heading out to our tour. There were 18 on the tour and gratefully this was in a bus built for 30 or more. Our guide was excellent and our tour took us far from the port to the rarely visited by cruisers area on the Northeastern coast of Barbados which they call the “Scotland” district. Everything here is very green and lush. We shot a great deal of photos of both man built and natural elements. The last stop of the tour was at the Atlantis hotel where we each enjoyed a superb Jamaican Rum Punch while watching the waves crash of the rocks.
We returned to the Journey at about 5:20 and rushed to get ready for the Caribbean party as we were to attend the 6:00 show. This performance was not as enjoyable as the one on the first leg of the cruise. It was totally different but the emphasis here was less our cup of tea. The final segment, featuring a man on stilts in the showroom, was certainly the best part of the show.
We had 8:00 reservations at Prime C. We went a little early and were seated all the way aft by the rear windows. Before 9:00 the skies opened up so that certainly showed that the staff made the right decision having the Caribbean event in the Cabaret. Dinner was very enjoyable but after this exhausting day it was a challenge to stay awake. We called it a night after dinner.
Tuesday, December 3, Castries, St. Lucia, also DW's birthday.
Early start to the day so we had a quick breakfast in the Windows Cafe. We saw our touring friends there and they actually were at our meeting spot before we were! I had already received an e-mail from our tour guide, Kurt of Island Man Taxi & Tours confirming our meeting spot, just outside the terminal building. Two other ships in port with us, the Queen Mary 2 (tendering – a long tender ride) and the Summit.
We met Kurt before 8:30 and walked a few blocks to his van, parked in the garage of a Massy supermarket. Off we went with Kurt. First stop was an overlook high up with a great view of Castries and the surrounding area. Next we headed south down the West coast road. Kurt explained that nearly the only sign one sees is the “Hairpin curve ahead” sign. He was sure right about this. Between the windiness and the condition of the road (not the greatest for sure) I believe the average speed was no more than 30 KPH. Kurt did seem to know where the many potholes were and missed 98% of them.
The next stop was a slow drive through one of the coastal villages. When climbing the hill on the far side, he stopped at an overlook where someone he obviously knew had a small shop. While there his friend, with a guitar, serenaded DW with a “Happy birthday” song. Back in the van, Kurt said that this fellow is the St. Lucian “Bob Marley” and knows just about any song one can imagine.
We continued on driving through the coastal rain forest and another coastal village. We stopped at an overlook of the city of Soulfriere. This was again another great view and was also our first really good view of the famous Pitons. From here we could also see the steam from volcanic hot springs a little inland from the Pitons. We drove through Soulfriere and Kurt pointed out the Hummingbird beach area we would visit later. We then drove up hill from the town to the entrance of the Tet Paul Nature Trail.
This trail took us past many native plants including both flowers and fruits. We saw pineapple growing, one per plant. Our guide explained that each plant produces one pineapple per year. There were great overlooks over country villages and we had unbelievable views of the Pitons and surrounding seas. The boats down on the sea looked so small from our vantage point. Just like the Piton trail, going back down was harder than going up. We need to take care on the high steps going down so it took a while. Reaching the ticket booth area we found many mini-buses parked and large groups just starting off, about a dozen per guide. We felt very blessed we were just a group of four!
Back in Kurt's van, he gave all of us a Rum Punch made with St. Lucian rum. We next drove to the Toraille waterfall, where the two men went bathing directly under the waterfall. This waterfall was easily 75 feet high, and when standing right under the main part, it really beat up on the skin it was so forceful. From there, we headed to a great restaurant in Soulfriere for a seafood lunch.
Lunch was very enjoyable and very reasonable at about $10/pp. From here, we went to the beach. We all went swimming and spent about an hour at the beach. Then it was time for the return to Castries, which took over 90 minutes of twisting and turning road. Kurt dropped us off at the terminal and handed DW a birthday gift, which was much appreciated and unexpected!
Back on board, as it was now 4:30, we needed to get ready as quickly as possible for the 5:00 Club Voyage party. Dinner followed in Discoveries and was again very good. The show was “Jump, Jive, and Swing.” Even though we saw this last cruise it was so good we again attended. The staff changed the show some from last week and those changes made it even better. After the show we listed to Vibz in the Living Room for a few songs and called it a night.
Oh, and the captain told us at the Club Voyage party (followed by a ship wide announcement) that tomorrow's call at Dominica had been canceled due to violent protests ahead of their Friday elections. We were headed to Martinique instead. I sent an e-mail to our tour guide in Dominica, Nature Isle Explorer Day Tours, asking for a refund of our tour deposit.
Wednesday December 4 – Fort-De-France, Martinique (re-routed from Roseau, Dominica)
All best laid plans sometimes need to change, and this is one of those days. We were not able to put together a literal 'last minute' tour so with some e-mail hints from our friends who were on last week's cruise, we walked the 3500 steps (each way) to the ferry boat landing. Fortunately we walked with the friends from our St. Lucia tour as my credit card would not work in the ticket machine and they didn't take debit/ATM cards.
Tickets purchased we took the ferry across the bay to Anse a l'Ane. In talking with locals they said the beach was normally very nice but recent storms had kicked up a lot of rocks. They assured us the water is tested and safe. Looking back we are not so certain. In any case, we paid $5 each for beach chairs (in the shade) and I did take a swim for about 30 minutes. There is a lot of leaves and stuff in the water until you get quite far out, where the water became more translucent.
After about 2 hours we decided to head back as the ship's wine and lunch were calling. Soon enough the ferry appeared, we rode across, and walked the 3500 steps back to the ship. Why so far? Being a last minute port, we were docked at the Tourelles Cruise Terminal rather than the one right downtown.
We certainly enjoyed lunch and found the pool looked rather crowded. We ended up retreating to our cabin for a bit of a rest as we want to stay up for Eric's show tonight.
We listened to the Starlight Trio a while before dinner. We dropped off the note to the couple we are renting a car with tomorrow, and enjoyed dinner in Discoveries. We opted to see the Piano entertainer, Peter Rossetti, in his main stage show “Rocket Man meets Piano Man.” The music is good but I had a hard time staying awake. I worked on my log between shows, and then Eric de Gray came on with his “Broadway Showstoppers” show. This is a terrific show and was just as good as the prior week. Better in fact as we had better seats this time. This is a 75 minute show and the time flies by – no problem staying awake either! After the show we called it a night.
Thursday, December 5, Charlestown, Nevis – St. Nicholas Day (Netherlands)
The Journey was right on time and tenders began at about 8:00 heading over to the small island of Nevis. We had arranged through cruise critic to share a rental car with another couple. The main road around Nevis is pretty good and can be driven in about one hour. We decided to drive it counter-clockwise so our first stop would be the Botanical Garden. It took quite some doing to reach the garden as the main route was blocked by road construction.
The gardens are very nice, with a decidedly Asian theme. In fact, the restaurant in the gardens is a Thai restaurant. We spent about two hours at the gardens, including about a 5 minute shower. From the gardens we continued on our drive trying to reach the rocky beachfront near the lime kiln we saw on the map. We could not reach it, but did spend about 10 minutes with some local children who seemed transfixed that we had happened on their road!
We continued our circuit and stopped by the ruins of a sugar plantation. Much of the equipment was still in place and this is now a historic site. Great views were available from nearly every vantage point on the island. Further along we stopped at a beach immediately 'behind' the airport affording incredible views of nearby St. Kitts.
By this point we were getting pretty exhausted and sitting in the back seat bouncing around was taking it's toll. We asked our touring friends if they would mind dropping us back at the tender pier and they were most accommodating. We headed back to Journey and had a late lunch recovering from our circuit adventure of Nevis.
That evening was the White Night party. We had our dinner in Discoveries and then proceeded up to the pool deck. We sat with friends and nibbled a little before the entertainment began. This was essentially the same show we had seen on the previous cruise segment however the feeling was quite different being out on the open deck. We truly appreciate the amount of work the crew has to invest in changing over the entire pool deck to have this event! What an incredible time. One of the photographers took our photo dancing and that photo ending up becoming our Christmas card photo – appropriate as it is St. Nicholas day!
We called it a night after the party.
Friday, December 6 – St. Barts
The only repeat port on the two cruises was St. Barts. This time we took our time going over and brought our snorkeling gear. We walked to “Shell beach” and quickly discovered that the snorkeling there was best on the left side, by the rocks. I saw thousands of fish of many types and really enjoyed snorkeling there. After having more than our fill of the water, we cleaned the sand off everything and began walking back to the tenders.
We met a number of guests along the way just heading to the beach. We told them what we could to enhance their experience. We had a nice conversation with the crew member handling refreshments at the tender pier while waiting for the tender. Everyone onboard is so friendly. Back on board we found two shaded chairs and relaxed with some soft drinks and wine. We enjoyed a swim in the pool, being the only ones in the pool. We enjoyed a last lunch at the Patio, and relaxed a little more in our chairs.
Later that day we packed a good portion of our stuff for the return home the next day. The Discovers Club Voyage event was at the aft bar on deck 9 for sail-away. We had a very nice time at this event. The last dinner of the cruise in Discoveries was terrific, and the chocolate buffet had many items different from the prior cruise. We talked some with the pastry chef about his creations. This last night the entertainment team presented “Just Dance.” We missed this show on the first segment and greatly enjoyed everything about it. We then went back to the cabin to finalize the luggage and put it out for pick up.
Saturday, December 6 – Disembarkation and return home
We woke before the alarm went off. We left our cabin a little after 7:00 bringing our carry off bags with us to the Windows cafe so the cabin team could ready our room for the embarking guests. We had a nice breakfast with all the crew members thanking us for sailing with them. Shaad stopped by and wished us safe travels home.
At about 8:40 we headed out with our carry-off bags to find the captain, hotel manager, and Eric De Gray, along with a few other officers wishing everyone safe travels and come back again! With no rush of guests it was nice to stop and chat for a few moments. We found our luggage with no issue and had no wait at all at customs. So nice not to have a line, and the agent asked how our cruise was. We headed outside and dropped our luggage and got into the bus to transfer to the airport.
Our driver was entertaining but dropped us at the wrong spot, assuring us our luggage would arrive. After a few minutes DW noticed luggage down at the other end of the terminal and sure enough all the luggage for those in the van was down there.
We have cruised about 35 times. The majority of cruises are on Celebrity and Holland America, with a few other lines occasionally. Really enjoy the smaller ships. Favorite ship was HAL Prinsendam but it was sold. New favorite is the Journey.
A few years ago I wrote in a review “I guess the days of 5-star cruising are history.” Well, that is not true. I feel that Azamara gives a five star experience. When we can, if the price fits into the budget, we would happily cruise on Azamara again.
The food and service are great! Love the more inclusiveness of the fare. The thing that was very unexpected is the quality of the entertainment. It is hard to remember a cruise where we enjoyed every bit of the entertainment as much as we have on these two cruises. Some of the shows were repeated during the second segment. They are so good we went to see them a second time!
So 5 stars for the good ship Journey. May she and her outstanding crew have a long and happy life!
Great cabin! No issues.