This was a celebration of our 30th Anniversary and our 1st cruise in 9 years. We last sailed on Celebrity's Millennium, before that we were on RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas and before that NCL's Dreamward - before she was stretched. The Dreamward was only slightly larger than the Journey and we looked forward to returning to the intimacy of a smaller ship. We've always booked a veranda cabin in the past around mid-ships, but opted to splurge a bit and we went with the Penthouse Suite on deck 6 aft. I have to admit, I scoured the Cruise Critic site for months before this trip - and this truly is a fantastic resource!
Pre-Cruise: We flew from NC to San Diego a day prior and booked a room in the Holiday Inn by the Bay - directly across from the pier. We'd asked for a bay-facing room up high so we could view the bay and we weren't disappointed. The Oosterdam was in port when we arrived and it was a nice treat to watch her depart with the setting sun in the background.
Embarkation: The hotel was so close to the pier that were able to easily tote all our bags to the pier with no trouble. As others have alluded to - Azamara makes it so simple to get all your pre-boarding paperwork taken care of ahead of time -so embarkation was a breeze and we were on the ship in no time. Since it had been a while since we'd been on a cruise, we were impressed with the level of attention to sanitization. I'm sure the news reports of norovirus outbreaks over the last few years have prompted it - but there were sanitation gel stations in all the public rooms throughout the entire cruise - and from what I could see, they were well-used. We were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine, and in our cabin in no time at all. We met our butler, Marlon - who was an absolute gem. He made dinner arrangements for us, brought us 'savories' every afternoon and infected us with his contagious smile every time he came into the room. Our cabin stewards "Alvin" and "Russell" kept our room spotless and always had a surprise 'critter' for us - made from folded towels. And on our first night Marlon and the Asst Chief Housekeeper 'Xavier' surprised us with balloons all over the cabin and a 'Happy Anniversary' placard we kept up the entire cruise. It was a special welcoming and a prelude to the special level of service and attention we experienced the entire 16 days.