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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2017
This cruise was part of a package put together by ecruising.com. starting with an 8 day land component in India commencing first in Delhi, then Agra then Jaipur and flying into Mumbai for 3 days before boarding Azamara Journey From the ... Read More
This cruise was part of a package put together by ecruising.com. starting with an 8 day land component in India commencing first in Delhi, then Agra then Jaipur and flying into Mumbai for 3 days before boarding Azamara Journey From the ease of embarkation right through to our departure in Athens 17 nights later every moment was filled with fun, relaxation, comfort, laughter and inspiring sightseeing My balcony cabin was serviced morning and night to an exceptional standard All food outlets were a standout and the food and service also exceptional eg juice bar at breakfast, ten different homemade gelato and sorbets every day, huge variety of specialty breads and rolls, endless selection of beautifully prepared fruits, salads, cheeses, deserts and really tender and delicious beef, pork, chicken and fish etc. Yum! I'm a really fussy eater and have to say best cruise food I've ever experienced Drinks were plentiful and cocktails delicious and incredibly generous! The entertainment was really enjoyable and in particular the outstanding 7 piece orchestra Lots and lots of great things programmed for every day. Endless variety. Service everywhere just couldn't be improved and one felt very spoilt and indulged always Shore excursions may seem expensive but our ports of call in the middle eastern countries of Oman, Jordan, Egypt and Israel all came with great itineries, very knowledgeable enthusiastic guides, 1 or 2 crew members and most importantly they made safety a priority in these countries so felt it important to only use the excursions organised by Azamara Journey. Coming through the Suez Canal to Cyprus was spectacular and the ship made it another fun filled event. I cannot emphasise the cleanliness right throughout the ship. Another thing that normally doesn't reach my standards. The only reason I gave fitness and recreation 4 stars instead of 5 is because the pool is very small. I usually like to swim every day but there was so much else to do it didn't really bother me. There were 635 passengers on board and 400 crew - great ratio for total indulgence. This ship is great for older couples (or singles) whose kids have flown the coop. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
I have broken this review into segments rather than a day by day account. Conclusion Azamara is back on track with one of the best cruises we have had Azamara transport and travel arrangements Caught flight ex NCL to spend some ... Read More
I have broken this review into segments rather than a day by day account. Conclusion Azamara is back on track with one of the best cruises we have had Azamara transport and travel arrangements Caught flight ex NCL to spend some time in Concorde room at LHR before boarding 9.25 pm flight to Mumbai. Service on board excellent and the flat bed was conducive to a good night’s sleep after a few more glasses of champagne after the few pink ones in CCR. We had heard horror stories re Indian immigration but we were met at aircraft door with electric buggy and whisked to separate immigration desks and after picking up luggage were escorted to private taxi for the hell that is Mumbai traffic. Anybody in a Tuctuc must have a death wish. I presume anybody learning to drive only learns to turn left as turning right is a nightmare. Arrived at Taj for overnight stay which was great and met a few Azamaraites who were equally bamboozled by letter from Azamara promising “a plague of locusts” or similar if we arrived at port before 12.30 pm, We then got a note saying coaches were available at 11.00am. Usual Indian chaos to get on bus but have to say boarding experience was as good as anywhere else in the world. Return journey was equally pain free although watching Indian staff unloading suitcases one by one down a ramped passenger gangway was painful. Luggage was then loaded onto airport 2 suitcase size trolleys for other day labourers to put into shed. I understand from Azamara staff that ALL supplies for this 20 day voyage were also loaded case by case up this similar gangway. I dread to think how many cases were carried up this gangway for this cruise. Why they do not invest in a fork lift truck and some grocery cages I do not know. Met at bus and directed to far left of terminal where First class passengers are processed. Usual Indian security where I was convinced soldier was reading our TA documentation upside down until baggage handler suggested he look at a separate list for our names. Taken to seating area with settees etc where staff come to you and process you. HOW VERY CIVILISED. Went to GVK lounge where snacks were available. My wife had foot massage and I also had a complimentary back massage. I am convinced that at some period he was actually walking on my back so hard was the pressure. Usual long walk to gates where the final bit of Indian idiocracy waited. To get to plane using the lifts you have to press arrivals button!!! Onboard usual First service with a good meal and some decent wines. Watched I ,Daniel Blake and Hacksaw Ridge. Both amazing films in their own way. Landed in UK and spent some time in CCRoom before the final indignity of BA flight to NCL and a Bl ... y Awful experience. Had priority boarding but my wife’s pass would not work in self boarding gates. Told by staff to wait until ALL the other passengers were boarded before they could/would do anything about it. Bad idea to say that to my wife but as I was on other side of barrier could not help but got it sorted. Got on plane to find passengers seats double booked which took some time to sort out on a full plane. 20 mins taxiing and then take off. Staff were completely disorganised . As we were in row 2 we could see discussion/chaos for ourselves. Started serving CE meals to discover they only had cutlery for 2 people!! Eventually found some plastic cutlery but doubt if they actually got to serve everybody as trolleys were only put away minutes before landing. Ship Experience Dining As we have sailed before we knew the score and booked our restaurants straightaway with Daniel and Alex. We only ate once in MDR as early dining prior to private LCV entertainment so cannot comment meaningfully. We did use Patio cafe at night on several occasions as it undoubtedly serves freshest food on ship. After all it is cooked to order. Prime C as good as ever and was able to get personalised dishes given notice. I.e. Goats cheese soufflé and halibut when I fancied a change from fillet steak. Crab cakes and Onion soup good also but I wonder how many people actually order the pheasant confit. Good to see cheese trolley on display but still a pity that it is not brought to the table with a few specialist cheeses rather than merely the standard ships cheeses. Windows buffet was fine for breakfasts in the outside area before it got too hot during the day Good to see Marmite as well as Vegemite although I was not convinced by the Indian Marmite look alike with red label. English sausages at breakfast were some of the best I have tasted on ship and the German sausages were also very good. I realise I might sound like a UKIP loving Brexitting little Englander. Brexiter certainly. Not convinced that any premium ship should be serving Shepherd’s pie even on an English themed buffet night and I understand that the Indian night dishes were not a great success speaking to some other guests. Lunch buffet was good with some really good soups (crazy in a hot climate but good nevertheless) We were able to get our preferred Riesling at all venues and meals via a discreet request. Best of Best dinner was a standout meal by Iwan which included one item covered in gold leaf. Rather a shame to think where that gold leaf was in 2 days time. I gave toast on behalf of the guests to the Fabulous 5 Captain Magnus Iwan Thomas Heike Angello Guests Finally got to identify Excited of Harpenden and Riocca but missed Uktog A great mixture of nationalities that seemed to gel together except for one couple who were famous within a couple of days for their complaints. I understand from talking to staff and other guests that this was ther first ever cruise. Why you would choose the longest cruise in the book to start with I do not know? We thought the anecdotes we heard were exaggerated until we met them dining in the Patio Cafe one night. They changed tables 5 times and complained to the chef and his supervisor for approx 7 minutes about the quality of the food. I do not intend to repeat what was said but it was unacceptable to abuse anybody in that way and they left the chef in tears. We spoke to him as well as Heike (Hotel Manage)r and Thomas (Food and Beverage Manager) to ensure that if any complaint was made then we would support the chef as the behaviour was completely unacceptable. We noticed later that Azamara seemed to have nominated Guest relations staff to sit with them at meals etc. to check their behaviour. Entertainment Usual great show from Eric as well as 2 great female singers. Firstly an American lady and finally i.e. 2 days only an English singer. White night party was good with a great conga line around the decks as normal. Eric of course finished a great cruise with his trademark skating. Amazing evening Well organised transport with snacks etc. available. Fortune tellers etc. Ports of Call etc. I am probably too old for third world countries and Dubai is probably as far as we will travel future. I cannot believe that India has 100 nuclear weapons but allows their population to live and work in such squalor!!! Firstly unless you go to a hotel or take tours there is nothing to do at most calls. We did one private tour on the Cochin backwaters and it seemed a long way to go to sit in a boat to watch people bashing their clothes in the river. Had raging row with taxi driver in Sri Lanka after agreeing $60 fare for three hours with fixer as well as driver. We were the confronted with demand for $200 to be paid via ATM in Ceylon currency. In UK it is alleged that ther is a thriving Srilankan crime syndicate which specialise in ATM Pin code stealing. It was only when we demanded to be dropped off at police station that demands were dropped. A bad taste to an interesting day. Immigration This was usually a farce. At one port we happened to be first in line to be processed after the leaving crew. It was like Lilliput Big Enders vs. Little Enders. The 6 personnel had a 5 minute discussion which appeared to revolve about whether they stamped your card or signed it first . or did it simultaneously Eventually the man with the biggest moustache got his way. I recognise they are entitled to be on the ship all day but I do not see why their wives and children should be allowed on board stuffing the buffet and blocking stairs for photographs. I guess it is part of the way things get done in these countries Standouts I do not normally try to pick individuals as ALL staff contribute to the experience but here are 2 1: Angello Housekeeping Manager. We met him an Owners suite private reception and my wife made a throw away comment about it being a pity there were no magnifying mirrors in the bathroom. On return to room after reception there were 3 different magnification mirrors for my wife to try. Followed up 2 days later with a call to see which she preferred. 2: Russian waiter Kuril who noticed our struggles to get a working salt cellar. From then on at every meal he saw us he provided a condiment pot with loose salt without prompting. Niggles. 1:As above salt and pepper shakers of either variety china or metal are simply not fit for purpose You either spend time with toothpick or take bottom off and get rice with salt. At first I thought it was restricted to outdoor area but same in MDR. They should invest in Perspex grinders so that they can work and you can see if they need filling. 2: They ran out of glass bottled free sparkling water fairly soon and I do not consider Soda water or sparkling flavoured water (label states No fruit content) as acceptable alternatives. Fortunately we had a good supply in suite. 3: I understand that standard serving protocol for serving tea is to provide a separate saucer for disposal of dunked teabag rather than have drips etc. on cup saucer but this was rarely implemented. Also I believe it would be better to have teabag dry when presented so that the individual can decide on strength of tea. First world problem I know!!! Final Conclusion Azamara is back to its best and we look forward to using our free nights soon. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
I was very happy with our recent Azamara cruise. I am a regular cruiser..usually two long cruises a year. I liked the size of the ship 680 pax...very easy to get around. The balcony cabin 6027 was well appointed, I particularly liked ... Read More
I was very happy with our recent Azamara cruise. I am a regular cruiser..usually two long cruises a year. I liked the size of the ship 680 pax...very easy to get around. The balcony cabin 6027 was well appointed, I particularly liked having a decent sized table out on the balcony...perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea. Service was excellent throughout the ship, no gratuities, free alcohol all very good. We bought a package for four nights in the speciality restaurants for $80 USD...excellent food but honestly the food in the dining was so good could hardly tell the difference. The entertainment was excellent..but get there early the sight lines in the small theatre lounge are not good. Cruise director Eric de Grey is a fantastic entertainer in his own right. I have never cruised with such an energetic captain he was everywhere, saying goodbye as we left on the tours, walking around the ship, eating in the restaurants. An outbreak of GI after our departure from Mumbai was handled very professionally, immediate steps were taken to make sure it did not spread. The long transit across the Gulf under pirate conditions was fine. The complimentary azamazing evening in Cyprus was a little underwhelming...Patmos was a tender port which made the evening very long for a half an hour program...we had to wait more than an hour in the cold to get back on board. Organisation for tours could be a little better managed, long transits for the tours could not be helped...but I found 12 hours just too long. The ship offered water as we left but none was available on the long bus rides..tours in 45degree heat really needs water to be available. No charge for shuttles was a pleasant surprise. Overall a very pleasant cruise...I have purchased an open passage..I'll be back..soon. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
Report on 17-night (April 15 to May 2, 2014) Azamara Journey transit from Mumbai to Athens with stops in Fujairah, UAE (Dubai), Eilat, Israel (overnight), Aqaba, Jordon (overnight), transit to the Suez Canal and Paphos Cyprus. ... Read More
Report on 17-night (April 15 to May 2, 2014) Azamara Journey transit from Mumbai to Athens with stops in Fujairah, UAE (Dubai), Eilat, Israel (overnight), Aqaba, Jordon (overnight), transit to the Suez Canal and Paphos Cyprus. Independently my husband and I arranged a six-night land tour in India through "Magic Tours". I cannot say enough nice things about this group. We were picked up at the Delhi airport driven to the hotel, and an additional four days of tours (to Agra and Jaipur) with the same driver, and three different local guides in each city. Then we flew Indigo Airline to Mumbai, and were again met with the Magic Tours driver and a guide who looked after us until they dropped us at the ship. The entrance into the ship terminal in Mumbai was CRAZY. Our driver and guide helped us navigate the madness of getting port passes and taking our luggage through the required security screen. Interesting the ONLY thing I was questioned about by the "security" force was my jewelry in a small suitcase that I intended to carry on board the ship. They made me open my small jewelry bag and describe where each piece was from (Italy, my mother, my husband etc.). I had three pairs of gold earrings, a bracelet, two necklaces and a bracelet I bought in India. There is some new customs limit on gold being brought into the country by residents especially from the Gulf States, but tourists are allowed their personal jewelry. I guess I gave the correct answers, but the interrogation was rather scary. Once we boarded the ship things calmed down. Our luggage arrived promptly. Because this was a long trip (17 nights) we upgraded to a Continental Suite (which is about 1.5 times larger than the regular veranda cabins). I am very happy with our decision. We would have been trampling all over each other for the 17 nights. The other amenities: dinner in the premium restaurants (we ate 7 times), Thalassotherapy pool (multiple times), extra room service menu (one time), afternoon tea (multiple times) and the nicer pre-dinner savories were nice, but the extra space is the primary advantage. PORTS: Fujairah, UAE. We took the ship tour to "At the top". I general I avoid ship tours but booked this one due to the logistics and cost of getting tickets. The lines getting into the elevators to go up and then to go down were too much; we were in line for almost two hours. The views were amazing, although it was an overcast day. I am glad I did it, but do not need to repeat the experience. The rest of the tour was lunch and a drive around the city. No need to see Dubai again. That night there was a Bar-B-Q and a belly dancer for entertainment on the pool deck. Overnight in Eilat, Israel: After six sea days we arrived in Eilat, unfortunately an hour late due to port traffic. About three weeks prior to departure, Safaga, Egypt (Luxor) was dropped from the itinerary and Eilat Israel (with tours to Jerusalem and Masada/Dead Sea) was added. This itinerary change was handled poorly. I believe that Azamara should have emailed the passengers, but instead relied upon travel agents, who in my case had moved to another agency and the message was never conveyed. Thank goodness for "Cruise Critic"! I quickly arranged for a private tour (Ron Harari) for 6 persons and enlisted two other couples and we had a much better experience than the ship tour. Not only did we see much more of Jerusalem, have a nice local lunch, and got a swim in the Dead Sea (amazing), we arrived back at the ship over an hour ahead of the ship tours. It was a very long day with a delayed start. Overnight in Aqaba Jordan: The next day we did the 2-mile transit to Jordan! We arrived around noon. I had arranged for another private tour with "Red Rock Tours" to Wadi Rum on the first day in Aqaba. I like to believe we had a more "authentic" experience. I never did see the tour busses, so I don't know exactly where the tour groups went, but our little group drove into Rum Village and boarded a jeep with benches and pads and drove off into the desert. It was very fun! We saw Lawrence Spring and Khazali Canyon with really cool rock carvings. We also visited a large dune area, where you could climb to the top for a nice view if you wished. That overnight in Jordan was the "White Night Party". Originally we had been scheduled to depart Aqaba at 5 PM on the second day, so I had again opted for a ship tour and kept with that even after the departure was moved to 9PM. MISTAKE. We boarded the first excursion bus for Petra, but waited an hour until all the buses were loaded, so we could all leave together and then all pile up at the souvenir/ rest stop together where we wasted another hour, so we arrived at Petra at 11:30 and it was HOT. Also there is a lot of walking, down hill in the morning and all up hill in the afternoon, and did I mention it was HOT. It is over a mile from where the bus drops you off to the entrance to the Siq, another 1.2 miles through the Siq to the treasury, and then you could walk another 2 to 4 miles to fully explore the ruins. I figured I walked over 8 miles and I was wiped, as were most people. If you want to see Petra and you cannot walk -take the buggy. Don't bother with the "free horse rides" they don't go very far (only 700 m) and end up costing at least $15 in tips each way. Better take the buggy and negotiate the price and pick up time. People who took the buggy said it was very bumpy, but it saves almost 4 miles of walking! When you are at the Treasury you could take donkeys or camels to see more of Petra. I arrived back at the hotel for lunch at 3:00PM and it took about 20 minutes to cool down enough to eat. Everyone was tired. I ordered room service dinner, breakfast and lunch the next day! Paphos Cyprus: After two more sea days and the transit of the Suez Canal, we arrived in Cyprus. We were on a early tender and took a taxi (15 euro) to the old market in the upper town, did some shopping had a delicious grilled squid lunch and then took the public bus back to the beach (1.5 Euro). From there I went to visit the archeological park (4.5 Euro). I highly recommend this. The mosaics were the best I had ever seen. Overall: I love the size of the ship and the friendliness of the staff. The only negative about the cruise was the presence of Noro virus. Strict sanitation procedures were in place to combat the spread, but it was hard to beat after the large number of passengers had just toured India. Each time I put on my shoes, I made sure to wash my hands, just remembering some of the stuff I must have walked through. After a few days my hands were so dry from the continued washing. After the increased sanitation order was removed, about three days before the end of the cruise, I realized how much I missed all the little things, like silver ware and water glasses on the tables at the Window Cafe, the bread basket, salt and pepper shakers, meals with the officers etc. etc.   Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
We booked this cruise from Mumbai to Athens as a complete package, which included a pre-cruise land tour of the “Golden Triangle” of India - with visits to New Delhi to Agra (for the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur. More than ... Read More
We booked this cruise from Mumbai to Athens as a complete package, which included a pre-cruise land tour of the “Golden Triangle” of India - with visits to New Delhi to Agra (for the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur. More than 120 passengers from the United Kingdom and Australia chose this tour - and we travelled in five, air-conditioned coaches. There was so much to see, so this review is very lengthy. Consequently, I have divided it into the following sections. Please skip any parts you find uninteresting. Section 1 - The itinerary (brief outline) Section 2 - Our accommodation in India Section 3 - Aboard Azamara Journey Section 4 - Our land tour in India Section 5 - Our itinerary and ports of call Section 1. The itinerary (brief outline): April 9th Overnight flight from London to New Delhi. April 10th & 11th Two nights at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, with guided tours of New and Old Delhi. April 12th Transfer by road to Agra. Overnight at the Radisson Blu Hotel. In Agra. Guided tours included the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal. April 13th & 14th Transfer by road to Jaipur. Two nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Jaipur. Guided tours included Amber Fort and the “Pink City” April 15th Flight from Jaipur to Mumbai, where we boarded Azamara Journey. April 16th & 17th Two days at sea April 18th Fujairah, United Arab Emirates April 19th to 24th Six days at sea April 25th & 26th (am) Eilat, Israel April 26th (pm) & 27th Aqaba, Jordan April 28th At sea April 29th Transit Suez Canal April 30th Paphos, Cyprus May 1st At sea May 2nd Disembarked Azamara Journey at Piraeus. Transfer by road to Athens Airport. Flight from Athens to London. Section 2. Hotel accommodation in India: All of our hotels were advertised as 5-star establishments. Our guide met us at New Delhi International Airport and we transferred to the Taj Palace Hotel at New Delhi, which really is a luxury hotel. Facilities included beautiful landscaped gardens, a nine-hole putting green, an outdoor swimming pool and a well-equipped fitness center. The hotel offered an excellent range of snacks and meals from four different restaurants, which were not outrageously expensive by Western standards (with the possible exception of the “Orient Express” cordon bleu restaurant). We were tired and jet-lagged after our overnight flight from London, so we opted for light meals on our first evening in the hotel. Both dishes were beautifully cooked. The extensive buffet breakfasts were also excellent. On our second evening, we travelled by taxi to the nearby Moti Mahal restaurant, which was recommended by the hotel concierge and is listed in the DK Eyewitness Top 10 guide book. Our meal of soup and a house specialty (butter chicken) was first class. The total cost for two people including water, G&Ts and beers and was only 3,600 rupees (approximately 36 GBP or US$58). We paid an additional 300 rupees (approximately 3 GBP or US$5) for the round trip by taxi, including waiting time and a tip. Facilities, food, comfort and attentive service at the Taj Palace were faultless - and we would happily return to this lovely hotel. It might be difficult for other establishments to match the standards of the Taj Palace but even so, the Radisson Blu hotels at Agra and Jaipur were unacceptable. Although our rooms were comfortable and well equipped, the meals and service were sub-standard. Our buffet dinner in the Radisson Blu at Agra, which included various local dishes, cost 800 rupees. Unfortunately, most of the food was tepid and my serving of mutton rogan josh was mainly bones with very little meat. Coffee, which had been stewing for ages, was undrinkable. Some of the “waiters” were inexperienced trainees and appeared to be unsupervised. The buffet breakfast was unexceptional. The Radisson Blu hotel at Jaipur is close to the airport, so it is a long way from the city center. Our bedroom overlooked a shanty town, occupied by roaming beggars and feral urchins. The occupants of the shanty town were burning garbage and the resulting smoke was most unpleasant. Following our arrival at the Radisson Blu, we learned that the hotel restaurant had been reserved for another group. So if we wanted to eat at the hotel, we would have to order from room service. That was unacceptable, so eight of us walked to a nearby restaurant, Barbeque Nation. Each table had built-in charcoal grills, where we cooked meat, fish and vegetable kebabs. Barbeque Nation was spotlessly clean and the restaurant was very busy. We were able to grill our own kebabs, so we had no concerns about hygiene and were able to ensure everything was thoroughly cooked. For our second evening in Jaipur, our tour guide took the entire group to the Spice Court, which displays a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence. Our Times of India guidebook described the restaurant as “a supreme multi-cuisine restaurant which offers the best in hospitality, ambience and entertainment”. Elaine must adhere to a gluten-free diet, so we opted for a buffet meal. However, our tables were situated on a terrace in the open-air, with no sign of any self-service buffet. Waiters emerged sporadically from the kitchen to deliver tepid bits and pieces - including pasta, which is not gluten-free. Other passengers, who ordered from the a la carte menu were happier with their meals. However, there was a brief thunderstorm, so we had to move indoors. After our meal, we returned to the terrace to watch an Indian dancer. However, our evening at Spice Court was not a great success. The following morning, the Radisson Blu hotel provided a cold buffet breakfast. Then, we transferred to the airport for an early morning flight to Mumbai, where we boarded Azamara Journey. Shortly after boarding the ship, some passengers from our group succumbed to gastro-intestinal illnesses. The ship’s medical team collated details of their previous movements, which suggested that all of the victims had consumed contaminated food or drink in India. However, it was impossible to identify the precise source of the infection - and not everyone had dined at Spice Court. Section 3. Aboard Azamara Journey Eight “R Class” ships, which were commissioned by the former Renaissance cruise line, are still in service. Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest (Azamara Club Cruises), Pacific Princess and Ocean Princess (Princess Cruises), Adonia (P&O Cruises), Insignia, Nautica and Regatta (Oceania Cruises) are virtually identical - and can accommodate around 700 passengers. We love these little ships and this was our third Azamara cruise. We have also cruised many times on Pacific and Ocean Princess and on P&O’s Adonia. . Azamara occupies a niche market and advertises cruises as “More Inclusive”. Principal differences from the major cruise lines include: Superior service The officers adopt a very high profile. Unusual itineraries, with late departures or overnight stays at many ports Complimentary wines from boutique wineries in all restaurants and bars Complimentary alcoholic drinks from a selected range Bottled water and most non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary Relaxed dress code with no formal or black tie evenings. Shuttle buses between ship and town are usually free of charge Gratuities are included in the cruise fare Less “hard sell” than other cruise lines “R Class” ships do not have a conventional theatre, so most of the entertainment is delivered in the Cabaret Lounge. Production shows relied upon a small cast of singers and dancers, accompanied by live music from the orchestra. Some cruise lines rely upon pre-recorded music and have reduced the numbers of live musicians. Azamara Journey employed a seven-piece orchestra. The shows included dazzling displays by the professional dance instructors, Sasha Antonova and Dima Levita. We were impressed by the standard of their dancing, which was as good as anything we have seen on TV (“Strictly Come Dancing” or “Dancing with the Stars”). Guest performers included: Ricki Jay - an English comedian with a brash style and a quick wit, which seemed to appeal to many of the Australian and British passengers. Paul Fredericks - a “big man with voice and personality to match” Ryan Rubek - a singer from New York A belly dance show at Fujairah (on the ship’s pool deck) Naomi Edemariam - a concert pianist who delivered two superb piano recitals from her wide repertoire, ranging from Gershwin to Chopin, Liszt and Mozart Kaitlyn Carr - a talented Scottish musician. Kaitlyn sang and played a selection of haunting “Celtic Sounds” on penny whistle, flute and Celtic fiddle. Mel Mellers - an English magician and illusionist, who combined his “magic” with very funny dialogue. And last but not least, Cruise Director Eric de Gray, who is a human dynamo and arguably, one of Azamara’s greatest assets. His one-man show ran for over one hour, and earned a standing ovation. Eric is a modest gentleman, but he describes himself as a singing sensation. You can view extracts from a typical performance at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtWtPssjlfs. Guest speakers included thought provoking presentations by Dr. Richard Farkas (Professor of Political Science at DePaul University, Chicago) and a series of excellent enrichment lectures by Destination Lecturer, Michael Hick. However, Michael’s commentary, as we transited through the Suez Canal was monotonous and less inspiring. Other activities included the usual trivia quizzes etc., which were too numerous to mention. So what were the best aspects of our cruise on Azamara Journey? Azamara Journey emerged from dry dock in January 2013, following a comprehensive re-fit. Although most cabins on R Class ships are smaller than on major cruise lines, everything is furnished to a very high standard. The new beds in the cabins - and sun-loungers around the pool are exceptionally comfortable. We particularly liked the delicately perfumed “About Rose” range of toiletries on Azamara (top quality products, which have replaced the previous Elemis range). Captain Johannes Tysse (Norway) and his senior officers, Heike Berdos (Hotel Director), Tomasz Jadczyk (Food and Beverage Manager) and Eric De Gray (Cruise Director) adopted a very high profile and walked around the ship frequently, talking and listening to passengers. Service standards were outstanding. Our cabin attendants worked in pairs and nothing was too much trouble. The complimentary shoe shine service was very useful, after dusty days ashore. And unlike on our recent cruise with P&O, the attendants replenished our fruit bowl every day and replaced the flowers, when they began to wilt. After the first evening, the bartenders in the Discoveries Lounge remembered our preferences. So every time we visited the bar, two gins and tonics (without a lot of ice and not too strong) appeared as if by magic. Waiters in the restaurants greeted us by name. The Fitness Centre was well equipped and Simon, the instructor, was excellent. The ship offered a good program of fitness classes and the absence of “nominal” charges (as imposed by many other cruise lines) was a welcome feature. Meals and snacks in the Windows Cafe were excellent. Cooked and continental breakfasts were outstanding and the buffet menu always included English back bacon, two other types of bacon and two types of sausage. The omelet station cooked omelets and other egg dishes to order. Every morning, the juice bar offered a wide range of fruit smoothies (prepared to order) and the orange juice was always freshly pressed. Lunch and dinner options in the Windows Cafe were equally good. Unlike many cruise lines, Azamara makes no charge for specialty teas and coffees in the restaurants and in the Mosaic coffee bar. We were very impressed by the quality of the wide range of complimentary wines. Our particular favorite was the 2012 Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. There are no fixed sittings or table allocations on Azamara ships, and we never had to wait for a table in the Discoveries Restaurant (the main dining room). Azamara handle this aspect so efficiently that we do not understand why Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises can only offer conventional fixed sittings on their small ships. Many passengers who toured India prior to boarding the ship at Mumbai suffered gastro-intestinal illnesses. Azamara implemented stringent hygiene precautions and the medical team worked tirelessly to provided treatment and medication. Victims were instructed to remain in their cabins and to telephone the Medical Centre immediately, irrespective of the time of day or night. Patients were invited to order meals from room service and Azamara waived the usual charges for in-room videos. Medical Centers on some cruise lines charge fees for diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal problems. That policy deters passengers from seeking assistance and can conceal the extent of a norovirus or food poisoning outbreak. Treatment was free of charge on Azamara - and you could not fault the prompt and efficient way the Medical Centre handled the problem. Even so, it took almost two weeks to bring the outbreak under control. Azamara’s loyalty program, Le Club Voyage, has the same structure as the Captain’s Club on Celebrity Cruises - so a voyage on Azamara qualifies for points with Celebrity and vice versa. However, rewards on Azamara are more generous than on Celebrity. For instance, the second (Explorer) tier offers a bottle of sparkling wine per cabin, two cocktail parties, 150 minutes of free Internet per person, and one bag of free laundry (wash and press) per cabin per week. Free laundry is a very useful benefit. So what was not so good on Azamara? Elaine must adhere to a gluten-free diet because as a coeliac, she must avoid anything that contains wheat, rye and barley. She was disappointed to discover that although the restaurants could provide pre-packed gluten-free sliced bread, there were no special pizzas, biscuits or cakes, etc. (items that are always available on Holland America, Princess and P&O). On the rare occasions that a standard sauce or gravy contains wheat flour, other cruise lines always offer a gluten-free alternative. Azamara attempted to serve meat dishes without any sauce or gravy, until my wife protested. Fried potatoes from the pool grill were pre-packed and had a crisp coating, which was unsuitable for a gluten-free diet. Azamara Journey did not cater for medical diets as well as other “R Class” ships, operated by Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises. The choice of desserts in the MDR was far too limited, with very few gluten-free options. Princess Cruises are happy to prepare special desserts to order. For instance, Elaine has enjoyed some lovely GF souffles on Princess ships. That option was not available on Azamara. On many evenings, the only suitable dessert options were creme brulee (from the always available list), or sorbets and ice cream. Dessert choices in the Windows Cafe, which usually included several clearly labelled gluten-free options, were more comprehensive. Some of the dinner menus in the Discoveries Restaurant (the main dining room) were disappointing. Menu planning lacked balance and flair and although we did enjoy some wonderful meals, choices on other days were far too rich and intricate. Two main courses went back to the kitchen virtually untouched, including pan fried lemon sole - which was billed as the “healthy option”, but was greasy and inedible. Very often, vegetable accompaniments were sauteed or stir-fried. Steamed vegetables would have been more attractive. One main course was accompanied by “stewed savoy cabbage with bacon”, which was revolting. We always prefer waiter service at dinner time but on two evenings, we chose to dine in the Windows Cafe, because we did not fancy anything from the main restaurant menu. We had heard mixed reports about the quality of the food in the specialty restaurants so on this cruise, we decided not to pay extra to dine in Aqualina or Prime C. Meals and menu choices in the MDR were not as good as on our two previous Azamara cruises. Furthermore (and I never thought I would say this), dinner menus and food quality during recent voyages on P&O Ventura and on Pacific Princess were better than on Azamara Journey. We were also surprised that unlike Princess Cruises, Azamara Journey did not set aside a separate lounge with refreshments on disembarkation day, for members of their loyalty program. However, those were our only disappointments and overall, this was still an excellent cruise. Section 4 - The land tour in India Our land tour involved an exhausting itinerary, with visits to countless tourist destinations. Consequently, this is an abbreviated description of the main highlights. Otherwise, this review would be even longer. Day 1. - Following our arrival in New Delhi, we paid an afternoon visit to the Qutub Minar, which is an early Islamic monument. The 100 meter tower was built between 1192 and 1368 AD, using red sandstone and marble. The complex includes the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. Day 2. - Our tour started with a visit to an area of New Delhi, India, which is named after the leading British architect Edwin Lutyens. We viewed the exterior of the President’s Residence and Parliament House and our bus passed the India Gate War Memorial. Then, we continued to Old Delhi, where we visited the Jama Masjid Mosque, which was commissioned by Shah Jahan (the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal) and is the largest mosque in India. The Mosque also offered views over the Chandni Chowk market. This was followed by one of the highlights of our tour, a ride by cycle rickshaw through streets of Old Delhi. The bustling streets, lined with shops, were too narrow for motor vehicles. The entire area was fascinating and the overhead electrical wiring defies description. Following the rickshaw ride, we were taken to a carpet showroom. The sales pitch was interesting and the showroom served a snack lunch, washed down with cups of tea. Then we drove out of the city to Raj Ghat, the memorial and cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. Our final stop on this exhausting day was a visit to the magnificent mausoleum and tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, set in gardens which included several other tombs and the Isa Khan Mosque. We passed the Lodhi Gardens, on our way back to the hotel. However, our tour did not include the Red Fort in Delhi, because our guide told us that the Red Fort at Agra was more impressive. Day 3. - After an early start, we drove to Agra, a dilapidated city with chaotic traffic, crumbling buildings, cattle roaming the streets and monkeys climbing the ruins. Our first stop in Agra was the Red Fort, a 16th-century Mughal monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast sandstone city, which was founded in 1565 by Emperor Akbar the Great, was the imperial walled city of the Mughal rulers. It includes audience halls, two beautiful mosques and several palaces, built by Shah Jahan. With time to spare, our guide arranged an extra visit to the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, also known as the “Baby Taj”. The complex comprises a small mausoleum, set in gardens on the bank of river Yamuna. More monkeys were playing in the grounds. As dusk approached, we visited the Mehtab Bagh gardens for a long distance view of the Taj Mahal (from the opposite bank of the river). We arrived eventually at the Radisson Blu hotel, after the sun had set. Day 4. - This involved a very early start from the hotel. We travelled by bus to the nearby Taj Mahal Visitor Centre and transferred to electric vehicles for the final 2 km to the Fatehbad Gate of the Taj Mahal. We waited in line until the security checkpoint opened at around 6:30 am - and walked through the grounds to the Taj Mahal. Then, we covered our shoes with fabric covers and entered the interior of the mausoleum and its surrounding terraces. The colors of the white marble building changed, as the sun rose. I have not attempted to describe the Taj Mahal, because so much detailed information is readily available in guidebooks and on the Internet. However, early morning is probably one of the best times to arrange a visit. We returned to our hotel for breakfast. Then, we were driven to Jaipur in Rajasthan, stopping en route at the ancient fortified city of Fatehpur Sikri - capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585. As we approached Jaipur, our guide, who originated from Rajasthan, proudly advised us that his province is mainly mountains and desert. As if to emphasize this aspect, we passed herds of camels. We arrived at the Radisson Blu hotel in Jaipur at around 6:00 pm Day 5. - After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we travelled through the Pink City of Jaipur. Our driver attempted to avoid road closures and political rallies (for the impending Indian general election). Bands and other performers in colorful uniforms were waiting to greet the visiting politicians. We continued to Amber and upon arrival, we queued to ride up the hill on elephants. The Palace and Fort dates from the 16th century and is part of a magnificent hilltop area with a series of gates and cobbled paths within massive ramparts. It is far too extensive to describe in detail. Suffice to say, the Amber Palace and Fort is a vast complex with many gates, courtyards and elegant palaces - and lovely views over the Maota Lake. Our visit was marred to some extent by armies of hawkers selling “tourist tat”, who refused to take no for an answer. Teams of photographers also lined the route, taking photographs of us on the elephants. Having explored the fort, we descended in a jeep with bald tires, chased by a photographer, who had failed to persuade us to purchase photographs at a reduced price. Following our return to the Pink City, we were taken to a jewelry factory and showroom. From a personal viewpoint, this was a waste of time (although several members of our party seemed to enjoy the complimentary drinks). Then, we visited the former Palace of the Maharaja, which includes the City Museum. The museum displays handcrafted products, uniforms of the rulers and other historical relics relating to the heritage of the Royal Palace. Our tour continued to the open-air Observatory, which was constructed in the 18th Century and comprises fourteen devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking planet locations, etc. The instruments, which were constructed from stone with bronze tablets, are said to be remarkably accurate. Finally, we walked through nearby streets, with local shops and markets. Indian drivers sounded their horns, whenever traffic came to a halt. The incessant noise and fumes were unbearable, so we were pleased to escape to our bus and return to the hotel. We enjoyed our visits to Delhi and the Golden Triangle but with hindsight, the intensive tour was far too brief and exhausting. If we return to India, we will arrange a longer tailor-made tour, interspersed by rest days. India is not a suitable country for a DIY tour - so unless you are super-confident, the services of a professional guide are essential. Our guide, Mahendra Singh Johal (from SITA Tours) was excellent. He also protected us from the worst aspects of the beggars and hawkers - and attended to tipping and gratuities on our behalf. He also negotiated the prices of evening meals with the hotels and restaurants. It is sensible for foreign visitors to India to stay in the very best luxury hotels they can afford. Even that precaution does not guarantee a trouble-free visit, because up to 60% of visitors from the West suffer from travelers’ diarrhea, usually within the first week of arrival. Consequently, visitors should adopt the following guidelines: Avoid street food or places that appear dirty Drink bottled or boiled drinks only Use bottled water, even when you clean your teeth Only eat fruit you can peel yourself Avoid shellfish and salads Ice cream and ice cubes may be contaminated Be careful about hand washing It is prudent to pack medication, just in case you suffer traveler’s diarrhea. Suitable drugs might include an anti-diarrheal (Loperamide); anti-sickness tablets (such as Avomine); rehydration salts and an antibiotic (such as Azithromycin or Ciprofloxacin). Seek professional advice and make sure your vaccinations are up to date. And if your itinerary includes areas where Malaria is endemic, take appropriate precautions and anti-malarial medication. Section 5 - Our itinerary and ports of call The published itinerary included a visit to Safaga, Egypt. In view of safety concerns in Egypt, Azamara decided to divert to Eilat, Israel. Consequently, our revised itinerary became: Mumbai, India (embarkation) Fujairah, United Arab Emirates Eilat, Israel (overnight stay) Aqaba, Jordan (overnight stay) Paphos, Cyprus Piraeus, Greece (disembarkation) Prior to our arrival in Fujairah, Azamara Journey sailed across the Indian Ocean and around the Horn of Africa, passing the coasts of Somalia, Eritrea and the Yemen. There is still a threat of piracy in this area, so Captain Johannes provided special safety briefings to all passengers. Specialist security personnel boarded Azamara Journey in the Indian Ocean. All curtains remained closed every evening and the ship’s exterior lights were extinguished during the hours of darkness. The outside decks remained out of bounds to passengers at night, until we had passed the danger area. The security personnel disembarked, somewhere in the Red Sea. In port, we usually arrange private shore excursions or explore independently. However, Azamara had advertised a 25% discount on excursions purchased prior to the first week of January 2014. In view of the nature of the itinerary, we felt it would be safer to book ship’s tours at Fujairah and Aqaba. Fujairah - The ship offered three different shore excursions, which included a morning at a beach resort, a full-day visit to Dubai (9.5 hours), or a 5-hour tour of the East Coast. We had previously stayed in Dubai and in any case, we did not relish the two-hour drive. Consequently, we opted for the East Coast tour with views of the mountains, a photo stop at a desert oasis and a visit to the “Friday Market” (which operates every day). We also stopped at the tiny Bidya Mosque, which was built with clay and is the oldest mosque in the UAE. The cost of this enjoyable excursion was not excessive. Incidentally, most inhabitants of the UAE are expatriates, who travel there to work. Our Australian tour guide had moved to Dubai to accompany her husband. Eilat, Israel. - Eilat is strategically important, because the port provides the only access from Israel to the Red Sea and ultimately, to the Indian Ocean. Eilat is also a seaside resort, with plush hotels and beaches. Azamara offered full-day tours to Jerusalem or to Bethlehem. Both excursions would have involved a road journey of 4:30 hours each way. Other options included a trip to Masada and the Dead Sea (a 3 hour drive each way), or a bus tour to the Timna Valley or a 4x4 Desert Tour. Having visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea previously, we decided to make our own arrangements locally. Azamara offered a free shuttle bus to the center, so we spent the morning in the downtown area. The local Tourist Office offered free, high-speed Wi-Fi Internet access. The Tourist Office also advised us that in addition to the beaches, there are several snorkeling and diving schools. Having travelled thousands of miles, we did not intend to spend too much of our valuable time in a fairly ordinary beach resort. Consequently, we returned to the ship for lunch and made two purchases from the duty-free shop in the cruise terminal. Then, we joined a four hour sunset tour to the Timna Valley and Eilat Mountains, arranged by another passenger from our ship. Our party travelled in a convoy of three canvas-topped 4x4 vehicles, each of which carried eight to ten passengers. The area was described by the operators (Desert Eco Tours) as “the last untouched wilderness”. The jeeps drove up the Israeli side of the frontier with Jordan, passing salt lakes with flocks of pink flamingos and other wildlife. Then, our journey to Timna Valley took us over dirt tracks through the Arava Valley and the canyons of the Southern Negev desert. Timna Valley is a UNESCO site of historical importance and its former copper mines date back 6,000 years. The tour paused briefly at an artificial oasis, where we filled glass bottles with colored sand from the desert - followed by a visit to Solomon’s Pillars, where many of us clambered through the rocks. Then, we returned at high speed along the main highway to Eilat and the ship. Desert Eco Tours, who also provided Azamara’s morning excursion, have received excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. We had a superb tour, even though the jeeps were rather cramped and not particularly comfortable. Suffice to say, the evening tour, which we booked direct with the operator, visited the same places in the same vehicles and cost much less than the ship’s shore excursion. Aqaba, Jordan - Aqaba, on the opposite side of the Gulf from Eilat, was only a few miles away. It is a duty-free port, which provides the only access from Jordan to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is also a beach resort. I cannot comment upon the city or the resort, because we booked ship’s excursions for both of our days in Aqaba. However, the tour buses passed through the city, which appeared to be fairly smart. On Day 1, our afternoon tour took us to Wadi Rum, a desolate area of rocks and desert, which formed the backdrop to the “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Red Planet” movies. We travelled by motor coach to the Visitor Centre, with a brief stop at Wadi Rum Railway Station, where saw a replica steam locomotive and wagons, based upon rolling stock from the Lawrence of Arabia era. At the Visitor Centre, we transferred to 4x4 vehicles for a drive through the desert, stopping at several Bedouin encampments for hot tea, dates and other refreshments. During our second stop, the weather changed and we experienced a short heavy shower of rain, followed by a sandstorm. We returned to the ship by coach. The scenery was magnificent and although the Bedouin visits were stage-managed, this was an enjoyable excursion. For our second day at Aqaba, Azamara offered two excursions - visits to the Dead Sea or Petra. We opted for Petra. Readers should consult guide books and the Internet for detailed information about this ancient city. Our bus did not depart from the port until 09:00 am and we made a compulsory stop en route at a souvenir shop with restrooms. Consequently, our group did not reach Petra until midday. Then, we had to undertake the 2 mile walk down the “Siq”, a deep and narrow gorge that leads from the modern city to the Treasury (which features in all of the guidebooks). Anyone unable to complete the walk could hire a horse-drawn carriage for 20 dinars each way (approximately GBP 20 or US$30). That seemed very expensive. Furthermore, the carriages travel up and down the Siq at breakneck speed and looked rather comfortable. We decided that it would be better to walk, despite the heat. Mad dogs and Englishmen !! Following our visit to the ancient city, our tour operator had arranged a buffet lunch in a local hotel. Then, we returned to Aqaba (with yet another stop at the souvenir shop). This was a long and exhausting excursion and the climb back to modern Petra was a real slog. With hindsight, our buses should have departed from the ship at the crack of dawn and proceeded directly to Petra, to avoid the heat of the midday sun. An even better option would have been an overnight stay in one of the first-class hotels in the modern part of Petra, followed by a morning visit to the ancient city. Even so, an excursion to Petra is an absolute “must”, if you are on a ship that calls at Aqaba. The Suez Canal. Although we did not call at any Egyptian ports, Azamara Journey transited the Suez Canal from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. There are no locks on the Suez Canal and the terrain is mostly desert on both sides of the canal (unlike the Panama). There are several passing places, so ships must travel in convoy. The transit was interesting - but there was not a great deal to see. Paphos, Cyprus. Azamara Journey did not reach Paphos until 10:00 am - and the ship offered several shore excursions to the city and its surrounding area. They also offered one shore excursion to Limassol. We had previously enjoyed two land-based holidays in Paphos so this time, we wanted to visit Limassol. Consequently, we decided to travel on a local bus to the main bus station, to catch the Inter-City bus to Limassol. Timetables are available at www.intercity-buses.com. The Tourist Information Office in Limassol provided maps and a lot of useful information and we really enjoyed exploring the old city, including its back streets, the medieval castle and museum, and the former Carob Mill, which includes the Evagoras Lanitis Center. Tip: In Cyprus, senior citizens aged 65+ can request reduced price admission tickets to museums, etc. Furthermore citizens of other EU countries aged 65+ are entitled to a 50% discount on intercity buses, upon production of evidence of age and citizenship. Azamara advertise that every cruise itinerary includes a complimentary “Azamazing Evening”. The special evening for our cruise should have occurred at Safaga, Egypt. However, the ship’s visit to Safaga was cancelled, so Azamara arranged a replacement event at Paphos, comprising “an enchanting medley of music and poetry, performed by a musical quartet, baritone and soprano - with pretty music set to the poetry of Sappho and others with a climactic contest between the lyre, kiniri and flute”. The timetable for this event included 15 minutes for a welcome speech, followed by 30 minutes for the actual performance. Paphos was a tender port, so Azamara arranged an early buffet dinner from 5:00 pm, to enable passengers to go ashore from 6:45 pm. Tenders would return to the ship between 8:00 pm and 8:30 pm. The early start clashed with our visit to Limassol and we were not attracted by the description of the Azamazing Evening. Consequently, we opted out of this complimentary event and enjoyed a leisurely dinner in the virtually deserted Discoveries Restaurant. Athens - Following the ship’s arrival at Piraeus, we disembarked at 09:00 am and transferred to Athens Airport for our flight to London. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
This was our first small ship cruise and will not be our last. We selected this cruise because the itinerary appealed to us. We were most interested in visiting the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and Petra/Wadi Rum in Jordan. Dubai was a ... Read More
This was our first small ship cruise and will not be our last. We selected this cruise because the itinerary appealed to us. We were most interested in visiting the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and Petra/Wadi Rum in Jordan. Dubai was a bonus. The food was good, the service was excellent, the ship was clean and comfortable. The smaller ship provided easy access to all amenities. Shopping was bare boned compared to the larger ships but provided the basic necessities. Public areas were good except perhaps the theater could have had tiered seating to provide better views. Other benefits of the smaller ship were readily available deck chairs and quick, smooth and easy departures on land tours. We were impressed when we were always greeted by senior ship officers when we returned from land tours. State rooms were consistent with other cruises except there were lots of hangers for a change. The mini bar should have been stocked with drinks that were included in the price rather than pay for drinks. The balcony was okay but often not usable due to blackouts for the transit through pirate alley. The additional armed security brought on for the passage though pirate alley did give us a warm and comfortable feeling. What could they improve: The spa treatments that were included in our membership level were a real disappointment. I must admit, they seemed rather petty in this regard. The future cruise officer was aloof and didn't appear interested in our business so we didn't book a future cruise on board. Our biggest disappointment was the cancellation of the stop in Egypt. We really wanted to get the Valley of the Kings. Some passengers openly speculated that Azamera knew long in advance that they were not going to Egypt but kept to them selves until after the cancellation date. Perhaps this is true because we would have cancelled. What did they do right: everything else. The Norovirus was a pain in the butt, however the crew made every effort to minimize the spread. After all, we just came from India. In conclusion, this was probably the best cruise we have yet enjoyed and we would like to travel Azamara again. Great staff, relatively good food, okay land tours and interesting people. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
We loved the Azamara Journey the first time we cruised on it, so when this cruise became available at such a great price, we jumped in. While I know the possibility of pirates caused many not to go on this cruise, we felt that the ... Read More
We loved the Azamara Journey the first time we cruised on it, so when this cruise became available at such a great price, we jumped in. While I know the possibility of pirates caused many not to go on this cruise, we felt that the precautions Azamara had put into place were more than enough to ensure our safety. We had not been on a repositioning cruise before, so we were a little leary that the entertainment choices might grow stale on such a small ship as the time progressed. We were pleasantly surprized. Every show was very good. As always, the food was great. We no longer bother with the specialty restaurants on board this ship. I have food allergies and they are very careful with the foods they prepared for me, and made special desserts such that I could have them, which I greatly appreciated. Loved my waiter Paul for looking out for my allergies along with the Head Waiter, Daniel. I want to say that I had the dreaded norovirus, which I (and several others) contracted in India before coming onto the ship. Our symptoms came on shortly after boarding. Both the ship's nurse & doctor came to see me (at no charge) and called to check on me several times, offering anti-nausea drugs/shots when needed (again at no charge.) In addition to the attentive care, the cruise line offered me a discounted fare for a future cruise in consideration of my on-board illness. They were exceptionally vigilant in cracking down on the spread of the virus, and soon no one on board had it. We were pleased with the ports, although they were few, since it was a repositioning cruise. We took the cruise excursions since they were half price if booked before the cruise. We were pleased with all. We found the commentary going through the Suez Canal very interesting and enlighting. We found it much more interesting than the Panana Canal. Finally, I want to say what makes or breaks many cruises is the crew. Their crew and staff of the Journey are exceptional. They seemed to bend over backwards to accommodate any and all requests or concerns that anyone voiced on the trip. (We had both a cruise critic meeting at the beginning and end of the cruise.) Obviously, we will sail with them again. May even do this re-positioning cruise with them so I can see Dubai, which I missed due to my illness. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
I had high hopes of the cruise on the Azamara Journey from Mumbai to Athens, and my overnight British Airways flight from Heathrow, and stay the following night in the Vivanta by Taj President hotel in Mumbai, were excellent. Unfortunately ... Read More
I had high hopes of the cruise on the Azamara Journey from Mumbai to Athens, and my overnight British Airways flight from Heathrow, and stay the following night in the Vivanta by Taj President hotel in Mumbai, were excellent. Unfortunately it went rapidly downhill from there. The boarding at the passenger terminal was shambolic, and when I finally got to my Balcony Stateroom I found a letter from the Captain, Johannes Thysse, informing me that I would be unable to use my balcony or the open decks after sundown for the majority of the cruise. This was part of the security arrangements, and it was clear that Azamara had made these arrangements months previously but had not told any of the passengers before boarding. Since many cruisers, like myself, enjoy being at sea because it gives us a chance to watch the stars, free from the light and noise pollution of cities, I can only conclude that Azamara deliberately did not inform us because they knew we would not book the cruise if they did. I paid a considerable sum for the cruise and I expected full disclosure on the part of the cruise company; there was no disclosure of any kind. The cabin was pleasant, with a decent sized balcony, but the bathroom, and the shower in particular, was very cramped; it was impossible to take a shower without ending up with the shower curtain sticking to me and water all over the floor. There was a ceiling to floor mirror opposite the bed which made the room look rather tacky; it's probably just as well that I didn't know about the 'Swingers Cruise' until I read about it today on Cruise Critic! The first port was Fujairah, and I took the half day excursion up the East Coast to Dibba where three of the Emirates meet; Fujairah itself is the only mountainous part of the region with spectacular ranges of grey black rocks broiling under the sun. Some passengers took the very expensive trip to Dubai but I was uninterested; there are so many cheap holidays available in Dubai nowadays that it's certainly not worth a long coach drive. If I were going to buy an expensive land excursion I would have preferred a day wadi bashing but Azamara did not offer it. There followed the bulk of our sea days, and our claustrophobic sea nights; as we moved up the Red Sea the weather forecast worsened so the once-a-voyage White Night deck party was rescheduled from the Med to before the Canal transit. This was a great success for all the people I spoke to. My primary reason for booking the cruise was the Suez Canal transit; Azamara claims that it gives passengers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of the places it cruises to and through. Unfortunately the information provided about the Suez Canal transit was rather less than could be gleaned from 5 minutes on Wikipedia, and although the 'destination specialist' promised he would be providing detailed commentary from the bridge, this turned out to be intermittent and inaudible. And just as we moved into the Great Bitter Lake he disappeared entirely to give a talk on Santorini, notwithstanding the fact that there was another sea day before we reached the island when he could have done so. It is difficult to see any reason for doing this other than Azamara hoping to sell excursions on the island, whilst failing to provide the service it had promised. It was particularly disappointing for me because I was born at one of the many RAF bases which lined the Suez Canal, in my case Abyad which lay to the west of the Great Bitter Lake near to Mount Shubra. We were left with no information at all about the Great Bitter Lake, nor were we provided with any maps of the Canal until, following my complaints, some were downloaded from the Web and distributed after the transit was completed, along with our Certificates of Transit signed by the Captain. By the time we moved out into the Med the weather had noticeably worsened and by the time we reached Santorini there was even some rain. The excursion I had pre booked with Azamara was cancelled and I was not prepared to pay for the very expensive day tour they were pushing; instead I went in on the tender and took the cable car up to Fira, where I managed to get lost several times in the narrow winding streets looking for the various museums I was interested in. I was rescued each time by fellow passengers, and finally threw in the towel, returned to the ship and spent the rest of the day taking photographs from the ship! The transfer from the Port in Piraeus to Athens airport went well, and my flight back to Heathrow was well timed so I did not have to hang around waiting. In general the crew were exceedingly pleasant and hardworking, though somewhat unsophisticated; for example, the restaurant service was noticeably slower for tables which were mostly women than mostly men. That doesn't happen in central London, where I live. The food was mostly good, but not exceptional; I didn't try either of the special restaurants so I cannot comment on them. I would advise against ordering scrambled eggs or omelets since the chefs didn't know the difference between them. The spa staff who provided massages etc were pleasant and competent, but the prices were more expensive than in central London, which has some of the most expensive real estate prices in the world. The compulsory 18% service charge on spa services was ludicrous, given that the duty free prices were already more expensive than the non-duty free prices in central London. My fellow passengers were a delight; I met some wonderful people from quite a wide variety of backgrounds, which certainly made for interesting conversations. It seems to me that the problem lies with Azamara in that it is trying to position itself in the market without being prepared to do the things which will justify the hype; cultural immersion requires people who both understand and respect the cultures you are interacting with. For example, the monument built by the French commemorating the defence of the Canal during the Great War was simply ignored by the person who was supposed to be informing us of its history, yet without it Britain and it's allies would probably have lost the war. Egypt was defended primarily by Muslims in the Indian Infantry; the Turks had declared Jihad, hoping that both the Indian soldiers and the Muslim Egyptians would join them when they attacked. Instead they were thrown back with great gallantry and the course of history was changed. Instead of cultural immersion we had the ship's officers handing out ice-creams to passengers; not even the undoubted charisma of the cruise director, Eric de Grey, who did a magnificent job of leading from the front, can make up for all the other failures, which included failing to provide an itemised account of my on board spending. I waited for my credit card statement to arrive, and it looks vaguely right. I can't envisage sailing with Azamara again, and I would not recommend it to a friend. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
My husband, twins sons and I took a cruise from India, through the Souez Canal and on to Greece. India has long been a bucket list destination for me and when I saw this itinerary I told my husband "I am going on this. You can come ... Read More
My husband, twins sons and I took a cruise from India, through the Souez Canal and on to Greece. India has long been a bucket list destination for me and when I saw this itinerary I told my husband "I am going on this. You can come too if you want" haha. I had also been very much wanting to try out Azamara -- their casual luxury, personal service schtick was extremely appealing for me. We usually cruise on Celebrity, Princess, or RC but I had long been petitioning to upgrade the budget to a smaller, more intimate environment with less crowding. It was a dreadful experience, one that I will never, ever repeat, and I have spent since then telling everyone what a disappointing, dismal experience Azamara is. Hopefully I can save others from the same terrible experience. I won't detail all the disappointments -- just a few that still stick in my mind, 22 months later. First, embarkation was dreadful -- basically a metal shed (hey, at least not in the sun) and extremely disorganized. After the chaotic checkin we were shuttled by rickety bus to the ship side. I don't mind that the ship is older -- I much enjoy Grand Dame hotels, actually -- but this ship is extremely shabby. The furnishings, the bath fixtures, the dining room, the carpets, the tableware --- everything is faded, chipped, well worn (worn out) and the carpeting smells dirty throughout the ship. The entire ship smells dirty, actually. The public bathrooms smell particularly bad, although this may have just been our trip. Hopefully they aren't usually so "sewer-y" smelling and prone to overflowing. The cabin was very depressing. Our beds were metal cots, literally; they had no bedskirts so it looked like we were sleeping on Army cots. The seating was stained and icky -- I lay towels on top of any surface before sitting on it. When we checked into our suite we found a cache of cigarette butts and ashes next to the bed, which made me wonder if the room had even been at all vacuumed between the lasts guests and us. Both my teenage sons and my husband (and numerous other passengers) got Norovirus the first two days on the cruise. To me that speaks of a dirty ship improperly cleaned between sailings. The dining buffet was, for all intents and purposes, shut down for several days due to Norovirus. In other illness news, a week into the cruise my son and I were served rotten milk in the main dining room. By rotten I mean clotted and thick, chunky, like lumpy yogurt. How the kitchen/wait staff managed to pour not only one glass but two with the milk in that state is beyond me. My son took a huge drink of it without checking first (as only a teenage boy can glug liquids) and immediately began to gag. The wait staff was shooting HIM dirty looks for making a scene when they were the ones who gave him (us) rotten milk. When the clotted milk was shown to the dining room manager he did not apologise, rather just rolled his eyes and walked away. This would be unacceptable in a dive truck stop, much less a dining room in a so-called luxury ship. Turns out that the milk was past-date. I would think they would have checked the inventory more frequently and discard before serving old food, but obviously not. The staff, while mainly trying hard to do their jobs, were clearly unhappy. I had one wait staff tell me he hated his job so much that he was considering suicide (very jolly holiday conversation, that) and I spent the rest of the trip checking in on him and worried for him (In fact I still think of him and hope he lasted through his contract and got to go home with out feeling so trapped he did himself harm). Another server regaled me with a story about how she was so desperate that she tried to cause herself to abort her baby by throwing herself down the stairs while pregnant. Other staff showed the strain by being thoughtless and rude to the passengers. One of my sons visited a particular bar each night for a cup of hot cocoa before bed, mainly because he thought the bartender was interesting. Not so nice--- the bar tender caught me one afternoon and proceeded to tell me that my son ought not drink any more hot cocoa because he is already too fat and doesn't need the sugar, (the boy is 5'10", 165lbs and an athlete-- hardly obese.) Aside from the rotten milk, the food was uniformly pretty bad except the homemade ice cream, which was very good. The specialty restaurants were noting special -- more or less the same quality of food, just had an up charge. I lost 8 lbs on the cruise because I would often skip eating. The dancers were laughably terrible and the guest comic was a very foul mouthed middle-aged woman from NYC who told very crass stories which did not seem to amuse the mainly elderly British crowd (or me, either, and I am far from a prude). The main comedic entertainment was seeing the ridiculous suits the Cruise Director wore each night -- they were so awful and tacky (shiny, gray and greenish snakeskin-patterned high-water, stove pipe legged suit, anyone?) that I feel like he had to be deliberately dressing like that to amuse the guests. One nice thing was the mini-bar drinks being included. Our room steward kept that stocked and it was much appreciated. We did enjoy the ship excursion we took into Abu Dabi that included lunch in a hotel. The food at the hotel was outstanding, and while my family said it was only fantastic compared to the slop on board the ship, I disagree. A couple months later I retuned to Abu Dabi with my husband for an unrelated trip, ate at the same hotel and the food was equally as good. The other nice thing was the one and only nice conversation we had with any ship officers -- they weren't really officers, actually --they were contractors hired to defend us in case we were attacked by pirates. One night we had a cook-out outside on the deck and two of these 20-something young men came over and sat with us and talked to our sons about their jobs, working on the cruise ships, and generally were a delight. Other than seeing the engineering marvel that is the Suez Canal, they were quite the highlight of the trip for my boys. Far, far, FAR more personable than ANY of the ships officers, none of who could be bothered to interact with the passengers. All in all the cruise itself was a total bust and I never, but never will step foot on another Azamara Cruise. Ick. I have repeatedly asked the company to remove me from their mailing list but so far they insist on continuing to send me marketing materials, so I don't think their head office has it together very well, either. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2012
We chose to return to the Journey after a wonderful cruise in South America last Christmas, and selected this itinerary as a way of visiting India without dealing with luggage or other intra-country transportation issues. We thoroughly ... Read More
We chose to return to the Journey after a wonderful cruise in South America last Christmas, and selected this itinerary as a way of visiting India without dealing with luggage or other intra-country transportation issues. We thoroughly enjoyed the places we visited, and had a very relaxing time on board despite the full ship. It was fantastic to meet again some of the staff who made our first Azamara trip -- my mother's third -- so memorable. However, the ship needs to be refurbished -- both public and private quarters -- and we're not certain eight days in dry-dock will suffice. Before I comment on our visits to other ports of call, let me address Male in the Maldives. Over the summer, I asked fellow Cruise Critic board members about onshore excursions in Male since none were offered by Azamara. Regent, which was in Male the same day as our ship, was offering several onshore excursions (private beaches, submarine). One of the board members replied that the Azamara video for this cruise noted that there would be a "surprise" for guests as the Journey would stop at a "private" island, and that he hoped the ship would perhaps provide a barbecue on the beach. I had not watched the video of Claudius and Eddie sitting on an uncomfortable-looking couch because the videos for other itineraries were (and are) visually unappealing and not very informative (i.e., I love shopping). But hearing about the "surprise" at a "private" island made me dream about a barbecue on a pristine beach -- a precursor, perhaps, of the Azamazing special excursions for 2013. Alas, the surprise at the private island turned out to be merely a marketing ploy. The staff on-board did not know about the video -- they found out at the shore excursion presentation -- and Captain Idiakidis wisely decided against dropping off hundreds of passengers on an island without electricity or restroom facilities, and only 20 lounge chairs, from which the last passengers would board the tenders in the dark (after 5pm). Azamara Miami had not done their homework, so passengers were notified a day before we arrived to Male that there was no local outfitter up to Azamara's standards -- yet Regent had made arrangements for its passengers months in advance -- but there would be a tent at the dock where passengers could make private arrangements. We were further notified about the beach on Male Island -- one of the world's most densely populated places -- where women would have to bathe in t-shirts and shorts given that it was a Muslim beach. Sounded like fun!?! We ended up joining 20+ passengers on a beach day at Faru Club, an island resort 45 minutes from Male by boat. Beautiful white sandy beach that stretched forever, lots of fishes and even some baby sharks, regular bathing suits. No barbecue, however. Mumbai - we arrived a day early and took two private day tours with Mumbai Magic. Fabulous, and we saw more than we expected during our limited time at this city. Our second day's tour included the transfer to the ship; did not have to wait or walk in the heat. Would recommend this company to others. Goa - we took the churches of Goa shore excursion; it was very good. Well organized and run. On our second day, we took an excellent private tour with Goa Magic visiting old colonial houses, the Rachol Seminary and a market. The overnight stay definitely allowed us to do a lot. Cochi - we arranged an overnight houseboat backwaters tour with Wilson Tours, which included a quick visit to Fort Cochi and a cooking class on the second day. The visit to the backwaters was the highlight of our trip, so peaceful. Male - see above Colombo, Sri Lanka - we took one of the city tours, which was very good. During our visit to the Galle Face Hotel, we saw the wedding party and guests of a very fancy wedding. With the wedding party were the members of a dance troupe in beautiful local costumes. That evening, the ship offered a local dance show with a similar troupe on the pool deck, so it was great to unexpectedly get a preview of the costumes. As in Goa and Cochi, the ship docked in the middle of a huge industrial pier, so there were no shuttle buses or quick access to town. This was not Azamara's fault, but it was a challenge. Upon our return to the ship around noon, I asked a taxi driver who was standing next to the ship how much it would cost to go back in town. The price that he quoted went down considerably when I returned with a similar request two hours later, and we were able to "escape" the pier to visit a couple of places not included in the morning's tour. Galle, Sri Lanka - we took the tender to the ship's shuttle to this fort town and walked around. We also got on a tuk-tuk -- cleaner and in better shape than many we saw in India -- and had a blast. While Colombo is a large city, Galle is an easy stroll, with plenty of small shops. A relaxing day ashore. Chennai - we took the Mamalapuram tour with the ship; a magical, must-see place. The Mamalapuram complex has the most persistent trinket/postcard sellers we encountered during our trip. To say "no thank you" four times was often not enough. But since they could not enter the temple site areas, we got a respite. But you have been warned. Our transfer to the Chennai airport for our 430am flight was well coordinated by the ship's concierge staff. Regarding meals, I had never seen that many people at the main dining room. Wow! Meals were very good, and if few were memorable, it's more important to note that our special requests were honored with a smile despite the bi-zillion other diners. We ended up going to the buffet upstairs more than in previous trips, especially on special dining nights (Greek, Indian, etc.) and there was hardly anyone there. We found the pool grill improved from last year, and had plenty of meals at that venue. Regarding the pool area, we were all warned against hoarding beach chairs, but that was never an issue -- and we were in the pool every single day. We always found a pair of lounge chairs near the pool readily available. Regarding entertainment, the highlight for us was the Sri Lankan dance troupe. Slava and Alina were amazing, as was the rest of the dance crew. The guest performers did not appeal to us, but might have to others. I cannot count how many yummy skim lattes and cappuccinos I had at Mosaic Cafe -- fantastic service too. We participated in several ship activities, but these left us wondering where was everyone since the only place were one ever realized there were 700 passengers was early in the evenings in the main dining room. I lucked out during my two visits to the laundry room -- hardly a wait. In sum, the staff is the reason why many Azamara passengers return time and again. From the consummate professional Captain Idiakidis to the employees who cleaned the pool area each morning, the Journey's staff is positively wonderful. But the Miami staff has to perform as well as the on-board staff, and it definitely did not. Read Less
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