While searching for cruise-related information on the internet, I noticed an offer from Azamara for a last-minute deal on a cruise to Cypress, Israel, and Egypt. The price was excellent--less than I had just paid for a Princess cruise of the same length 2 months earlier. When I first saw the ship from the outside, I was taken aback as it appeared to be a much older-looking ship than I imagined. However, the inside had the feeling of a much newer ship and everything was in excellent condition. The colors and designs on the ship were the best we have ever seen. Most ships today seem to have a lot of gawdy designs and decorations. The Journey was very tastefully decorated--very impressive without being over-the-top. There were around 550 passengers and approximately the same number of crew. Azamara bent over backwards to make the embarkation and debarkation processes as smooth as possible. Leaving from Athens, however, was not easy due to the port authorities and screening people that generated unnecessarily long lines by not having enough staff present. The ports of call and excursions were outstanding. Cypress was much more interesting than I imagined. Visiting Isreal and spending five days there was a life-long dream come true for my wife and I. Visiting the pyramids outside of Cairo was a somewhat disappointing experience due to the large numbers of pushy vendors who kept trying to get us to take camel rides and buy trinkets. I wish Egypt would ban solicitors from its sites of national interest.
The food throughout the cruise was good, but we ate mostly in the buffet because it took at least 2 hours to eat in the dining hall. Our cabin was pleasant and comfortable except for the "thermostat" in the cabin, which would not allow us to lower the temperature in our cabin at night. Thus, my wife and I had to keep the balcony door open during the night and also use a small fan to stir up air in the room so we could try to sleep. I did not sleep well the entire cruise due to the temperature even though the bed was comfortable. It would be wise to bring your own blanket as the comforter on the bed is extremely warm so I found myself having to fight being chilly because I was using only the top sheet or sweating underneath the comforter. There were no other blankets so nights were long and not restful. Our cabin steward was mostly invisible and only did the amount of work that housekeeping does in any average hotel. Room service was excellent; we waited very little before the elevators arrived, and the smaller ship meant that everything was within your reach with a short walk.
I rank Azamara second to my cruise with Cunard in their Junior Queen suites and slightly above Oceania, which had a newer ship, but their food overall was not as good as Azamara's. Wait time at bars was usually short although as a non-alcohol drinker, I wish I could have gotten my own soft drinks instead of having to go to a bar every time. The ship's entertainment was pretty good overall, but there were limited options mostly, I suppose, because the cruise was very destination intensive. Passengers in general were ages 60 and up with only perhaps 3 couples younger than 60. Only one or two children were on board.