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10 Mumbai (Bombay) to Middle East Cruise Reviews

We just returned from a fantastic Middle East cruise on the Sojourn. The cruise could not have been better despite an ominous start due to a late change in the itinerary which left out all Egyptian ports and substituted them with a second ... Read More
We just returned from a fantastic Middle East cruise on the Sojourn. The cruise could not have been better despite an ominous start due to a late change in the itinerary which left out all Egyptian ports and substituted them with a second day in Israel, a day in Kusadasi and a day in Mykonos (something we managed to solve by organizing a pre-cruise short trip to Cairo and Luxor). This was our third cruise on Seabourn (Odyssey in 2009 and Spirit in 2012) and the best one yet. In fact, we saw significant improvements, particularly in the service and in the attention paid to the small details; something we truly appreciate and which makes us much more likely to cruise with Seabourn going forward rather than return to Crystal, our line of choice for the past seven years. There were approximately 360 pax on the 18 night cruise from Mumbai to Athens. There were as many sea days (mostly at the beginning) as there were port days, which we like, as cruising is our way to see the world but also to recharge our batteries from full-time working lives. Service - attentive, genuine. From our stewardess Nikolett who was prompt and thoughtful and did many little things to make our experience even nicer, to baristas Monika and Reesi serving lattes at the Square with big smiles on their faces, Maria Paula, Paulo, Eugenio and many others from dining services who were calling us by name and remembering our preferences from day one. Handre, our cruise director, is a gem; always there, always helpful and happy. The officers, including the captain, were all very approachable and congenial. Our stewardess was at our cabin within minutes of us embarking and had a chilled bottle of champagne, a fresh appy and the selection of soaps. I told her I really enjoyed taking baths and she immediately brought extra Molton Brown suds for me. Cabin - perfect. We had a V6 midship (had booked a V1 guarantee) which proved to be in an excellent location for accessing all areas of the ship. The cabin was spotless, spacious and we particularly enjoyed the walk-in closet which kept all of our clothes and shoes organized and out of the way, and the bathroom with its soaker tub which we really appreciated when we were battling a nasty cold or after a long day in port. Food. Generally very good, a few excellent meals and a couple of not so good ones. We really enjoyed the Colonnade for breakfast and lunch almost every day; sometimes from the buffet and sometimes ordering a la carte from the set menu. The Restaurant food is mostly very good but is missing something; a bit more creativity in the selections and presentation perhaps? We did not go to Restaurant 2 as the week during which the menu seemed to our liking was also the busiest with lots of long days in port. This is perhaps the only area where we felt there is quite a bit of room for improvement the recent announcement regarding the partnership with Thomas Keller should solve these issues. Outdoor areas – great and varied. Our very favourite is the whirlpool at the front of deck 6 from where we enjoyed many sunsets with a cold cocktail in hand. There are cold drinks, chilled towels and sunscreen regularly brought about. It is always easy to find a nice spot to lounge with a good book, particularly the areas on aft decks 5 and 7. We (and many others) made good use of the jogging track (deck 5) as the weather was very good throughout. The Ship – in great condition. Did not see any significant wear and tear, minor maintenance being done all the time. The ship is due in dry-dock in May and I understand they will be mostly adding the “Spa Suites” which the other two ships now have and some fixes to the fitness centre which has poor ventilation/air conditioning and repairing/replacing some of the fitness equipment. Not sure what else is scheduled to be done. I must add that I found the size of the ship just about perfect, nothing more than a couple of minutes away and plenty of venues for everything. Seabourn Square – handy and pleasant. Great place for an early morning coffee and pastry, reading the news or working on my blog in the comfy recliners at the back. Also the go-to place for anything and everything. Lost my reading glasses? no problem, here is a loaner pair for the rest of the cruise. Music and Dancing – plenty and good. No shortage of venues and opportunities for dancing or simply listening to the guitar (Eli) or piano player (Wayne). Entertainment – commensurate with the size of the ship. The shows were enjoyable although not high caliber. The entertainers were talented and pleasant but not extraordinary. Two of the three lecturers on board were very good (one not so much) and had really interesting and well-presented lectures or “conversations”. Fellow passengers – pleasant and friendly. A nice mix with the majority in their 60s and 70s, a small number in their 50s and almost none below that. Generally lively and active, lots of folks in the gym regularly. Shore excursions – well done. We did a number of them on this itinerary and found them well organized, every tour guide was knowledgeable and spoke very good English. There was cold water available all the time and the group sizes varied between 15 and 25 or so. Although the ship excursions are more expensive than if done independently, we felt we got value for our money knowing that we were in a region where unexpected events happen (for example the horrible the attack on tourists at the museum in Cyprus the week before we left) and wanted to make sure we would never be left behind if returning late to the ship or get any assistance we could need on shore, for example. Signature event – Beautiful evening concert at Ephesus. This is a very nice complimentary event put on by Seabourn. Approximately 350 pax attended as the Aegean Chamber Orchestra played a lovely program with the Amphitheatre in the background. Wine was served continuously and small spreads of olives and nuts waited at nicely decorated tables for four. As night falls the monuments are illuminated and the character of the site changes completely from that during daytime. When the concert was over we were loaded onto buses for the half hour ride back to Kusadasi. There was a big “Welcome Home” party waiting on the dock with the band playing, hot chocolate and baileys in Champaign flutes handed out. It was really very nice. Embarkation - weird. This is the first time we've ever experienced embarkation in Mumbai. Contrary to every other port we've been to, the entire process seemed to be in the hands of the Indian military and not Seabourn personnel. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either. Disembarkation - painless. Got off the ship quickly and just as quickly retrieved our luggage. We had purchased the transfer to the Athens airport (cheaper than hiring a taxi) and it was very smooth. To summarize, was everything perfect? Of course not, nothing ever is. There was a missed port (Crete) due to losing an entire day waiting to transit the Suez Canal (weather on the Mediterranean was holding up the south-bound convoy). The captain (and other officers) handled the entire thing very well giving timely information and proper explanations when asked. My fish was overcooked one time, every other time it was cooked to perfection. One night I didn’t care for the white wine offered so I asked for another one; no problem. Everyone’s experience is different however, including a couple who had a horrible start to the cruise when the ship left Mumbai without them two hours earlier than scheduled (they had been delayed arriving from Katmandu but could have made it to the ship had it departed at the scheduled time). They were ultimately satisfied with Seabourn’s handling of the situation and the efforts made to compensate them (they were only able to embark in Oman four days later) and I don’t know how I would have reacted in their circumstances. A big negative, smoking on board. Even though it did not personally affect us overly much, the smoking policy needs to change; there are still many areas of the ship (including cabin verandas) where smoking is permitted and this often has an impact on non-smokers’ enjoyment of the cruise. We are looking forward to our next cruise on Seabourn and excited about their upcoming new ships. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We chose Voyages to Antiquity for several reasons: small ship, great itinerary, superb excursions and lecturers, playing bridge on board, and fantastic value. We were not disappointed. We started with 5 days in India: Delhi, Agra (and the ... Read More
We chose Voyages to Antiquity for several reasons: small ship, great itinerary, superb excursions and lecturers, playing bridge on board, and fantastic value. We were not disappointed. We started with 5 days in India: Delhi, Agra (and the first highlight, the Taj Mahal), Jaipur, and Mumbai. Next we cruised up the coast to Porbandar, a real gem away from the tourist mainstream, then across the Arabian Sea to Muscat and Salalah in Oman. The next part involved several days at sea, as political problems meant we couldn't go ashore in Egypt. However, we didn't mind, as the Mr Bridge organisation provided seminars and organised duplicate sessions, all expertly done. We cruised up the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, to visit the second highlight of the holiday, Petra in Jordan. Then off through the Suez Canal into the med, with stops in Cyprus, Turkey, and the Greek Islands of Rhodes, Mykonos, Delos, and Santorini. The main emphasis of the cruise was to visit archaeological sites, and this was supported by excellent lecturers who really knew their stuff and how to put it across. On board entertainment was fair, but we were disappointed that there was little opportunity to do ballroom dancing - tiny dance floor and unsuitable music. Service was superb - the staff were enthusiastic and friendly. The food was good: we preferred the open buffet to the more formal restaurant. The value was outstanding: wine was complimentary with lunch and dinner, and almost all the shore excursions were included at no extra cost, including the entrance to the various sites, museums, etc. The excursions were well organised, with local guides, most of whom were excellent. Overall, hard to beat. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We picked the ship up in Mumbai, as part of the Grand Asia Adventure, to sail back to Southampton for 23 nights stopping off at various ports along the way. Firstly getting on the ship in Mumbai - is an experience in itself. Be prepared ... Read More
We picked the ship up in Mumbai, as part of the Grand Asia Adventure, to sail back to Southampton for 23 nights stopping off at various ports along the way. Firstly getting on the ship in Mumbai - is an experience in itself. Be prepared if you are thinking about doing this. For us on a private tour of India through Audley Travel, we sailed through the luggage inspection and cleared all port checks in 7 minutes, thank goodness we were travelling with Audley travel and not P&O. But those on a pre cruise India tour with P&O waited two hours just to get their luggage checked at the port entrance. Luggage was also stolen while on this tour, including someone's medication. No one was present at the port entrance from P&O and it appeared to be complete mayhem. There were no toilet facilities to use after they were locked once the women passengers started to use them and the men just stood up against the railings, no refreshments to be had and it was very hot at 30c plus. One couple used the printed off luggage tags on their luggage and once sailed discovered their luggage had been put off the ship because these printed off tags were not on their three pieces of luggage. (Supposedly). This is in spite asking several times at the reception desk about the whereabouts of their luggage prior to sailing. The head purser was very rude, unhelpful and patronising and I was stunned listening to this story unfold over the course of the cruise. This couple had to borrow clothes from other passengers and P&O told them to claim from their travel insurance as that is what it is for and although a member of P&O staff had said he had put their luggage off prior to sailing P&O wanted nothing to do with it and accepted no responsibility whatsoever. No apology, nothing - very poor show. This couple did eventually get P&O to fly their luggage from Mumbai to Cairo and get the luggage from Cairo to the Suez Canal where the luggage eventually made it on board with the pilot - however for 8 days they had no luggage etc and this really spoiled their cruise. P&O's offered a small amount of money to spend in the ships shop. A moral to this story persist and keep asking where your luggage is and check the luggage tags and your luggage are present before you get on the ship. As others have said the ship itself is tired (see cabin review A071) and really in need of a complete refurb / refit. Adonia when next to a Thompson ship looked like the poor relation from the outside, very rusty and uncared for. P&O / Carnival really do need to put in a capital expenditure to update her or sell her on. They charge top dollar to go on this ship and the ship itself is not top dollar. A real shame. Most of the inside and outside public areas were cleaned well, but improvements could be made in the conservatory and to some of the carpet cleaning in general as stains could be seen. Our cabin steward was one of the best we have ever had in 30+ cruises. Generally the staff seemed happy and smiling. We had been on Adonia last year on part of the South America Grand Adventure and many of the staff were still on the ship.Our waiter and his assistant were great, very personable and accommodating. Some of the food did need to be sent back, but in general it was hot, tasty and enjoyable. I think it depends where your table is in relation to the kitchens too. Lots of curries daily in the conservatory, the food wasn't always the best in here. Soups and deserts were good as was the horlicks late at night. Some of the entertainment was really good, but others were mediocre. different types of quizzes seemed to be on at the same time of night therefore in conflict with the other. We didn't bother with the shows as last year the dancers and singers were awful. On long trips like this passengers tend to use the laundry a lot and there are not enough dryers to use or sometimes enough working irons / ironing boards. And needless to say there are often arguments in the laundry. We went on this cruise as we could sail back to Southampton and overall enjoyed it. We generally pick cruises for the ports of call that are on offer. We would go on Adonia again, at least we are aware of some of her short falls. Read Less
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
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 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
Sail Date April 2014
After botched (complimentary) transfer (we were in an owner's suite) and dreadful embarkation experience (computers down again (that's three times in the last three cruises)) we boarded after an hour's wait. Yes, the ... Read More
After botched (complimentary) transfer (we were in an owner's suite) and dreadful embarkation experience (computers down again (that's three times in the last three cruises)) we boarded after an hour's wait. Yes, the kid's took our luggage and walked us to the elevator to the dining room - not to the restaurant and no-- not to your room - the old, well loved boarding tradition is long, long gone. Stuck with the dreadful buffet, then sitting in Seabourn Square tip 2:00 when the rooms were ready. (Okay, they eject you from your room at 8:00 am at end of cruise - why does it take 6 hours to make up rooms?) Short form: Odyssey = worn out. No maintenance done since our January 2014 cruise. Going into dry dock at end of cruise - but lots and lots of deferred maintenance. Does that include stained carpet?, stains on sofa? worn out chair upholstery? Rust everywhere outside, Felt like a 3 star cruise line ( we were in an Owner's Suite)... Everything worn out. Let's move on -- After being told that there would be a safety drill at 5:00 - 20 of us (all experienced cruisers) went down five minutes early -- as we have done for the last, let's just say more than 20 cruises and were verbally assaulted by the SENVO who said "Don't you Listen" - this we got hurled at us for going down "early", instead of returning to our stateroom when the alert began and then going down to the dining room (the "lifeboat assembly station"). We had never been treated that badly by anyone on any cruise line. So - when the alarm did ring - 20 minutes later, they actually started the drill narrative . So we are verbally assaulted for being 5 minutes early to an even that was 20 minutes late? If Seabourn and their SENVO were really concerned re. safety - why did they start the drill with 20% of the passengers filing in, all talking at the top of their lungs - you missed 20% of the drill instruction! Food - dreadful. Room service dreadful. Guest Services dreadful. Shore excursions - the absolute WORST - avoid them at any cost. Advice to the wise.....Book your own! Shore excursions are EXACTLY the same as Holland America -nothing special for the luxury cruiser - and overpriced. The accompanying staff member has never been on the excursion ... and can answer no questions.... and as far as we could tell.... added nothing to the experience... and were certainly not advocating for the travelers. It's a perk for the crew - nothing in it for the guest. Disembarkation - the worst experience ever. We were given a completely WRONG set of disembarkation instructions. And waited 30 minutes until someone figured out what to do with our Luggage Forward bags (our complimentary "van" waited ) - of course we had to walk 400 yards to the van. We have three more cruises planned with Seabourn (cancelled the July Odyssey cruise after a day on board). Such a bad experience we're off cruising at all. If this is 5 star and "intuitive" service - we'll fly coach -- that's what the Seabourn experience is down too. 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
We were on a land tour to begin with through India and the company VOA chose to lead the tour was very good. There were enough people that we had 3 bus loads visiting Agra, Jaipur and New Delhi. Our guide was a bit difficult to understand ... Read More
We were on a land tour to begin with through India and the company VOA chose to lead the tour was very good. There were enough people that we had 3 bus loads visiting Agra, Jaipur and New Delhi. Our guide was a bit difficult to understand and I would say that was the only negative. Accomodations on the pre tour were outstanding. We rode a train from New Delhi which was an experience, visited many sites,rode in a tuk tuk had wonderful food as all meals pre trip were provided. Our eyes were opened when we saw what we saw in the countryside of India. What we saw in the golden triangle contrasted sharply with what we saw in Mumbai and Porbandor. We embarked the ship in Mumbai with great ease. The first part of the cruise from Mumbai to Safaga had only 155 passengers, mainly Australians, a few Brits, Canadians and 19 Americans. Having the ship to ourselves was a spoiling experience. We celebrated Easter on board with an extravagant lunch in the Terrace complete with many decorated tables decked out with Easter chocolates. Food was lamb, beef and fish. Both Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Bible readings were read. The evening meal was in the Marco Polo dining room for all since we were a cozy group. I believe everyone would say that Easter was very special. Our shore excursions were ran very efficiently and the quality was good. I heard no complaints whatsoever about these. We were kept on a quick pace. Since we traveled through some rough waters surrounding Yemen and Somalia, the captain informed us of safety preparations in the event of pirate activity. Those on deck could see some men who were special ops forces on the bridge looking out through binoculars. The majority of the ships passengers will tell stories of one day's travel when several fishing boats with big motors carrying 8 passengers all standing circled our ship, raising their hands. The ops men were on their walkie talkies discussing this. At no time did I feel uncomfortable. The ship had taken precautions to have the water hoses tied to the deck so they could spray and razor wire was on the back deck so no one could climb up. Food was wonderful, plentiful, and varied. Carlos, the restaurant manager made certain that fresh fish was purchased whenever possible. Fresh strawberries were purchased in Turkey and the next day we had strawberries, clotted cream, melted chocolate to dip. How decadent was that? There were some previous complaints about the ship looking shabby. I could not see how anyone could say that. On days at sea maintenance was busy sanding and varnishing railings, sanding decks etc. The public areas were spotless. Entertainment was light and the many days at sea traveling the Suez Canal were long but the library had many books and I feel the majority of people on this cruise could take care of themselves. TV had some rather interesting choices for movies mainly old movies. None of the main tv channels had offerings but during the last part of the cruise a young man came on and worked the wirings and we were able to get 24 France and CNBC channel. Our guest lecturers were quite good. Martin Bell and Sandy Gall known to all the Brits. An artist who ran a workshop and was interesting to watch while on shore excursions with him. Then a man who is seen on tv lecturing about the Crusades and finally an expert who came on with his young family and talked about antiquities. The second part of the cruise from Safaga to Istanbul saw more passengers and we were at 305 capacity. It did put a bigger strain on the wait staff and there were longer lines but I do not believe anyone suffered as there was no place to go anyway. Post cruise was in Istanbul and again hotels were fantastic with breakfast included, 3 tours were provided including the Bazaar. Overall I do not see how anyone could complain. If they did they would have to be very picky and have to look hard for it. Would I cruise with them again. Yes. I do not think I would ever go as long again but the ship was great, staff accomodating, every need taken care of and I feel it was a pretty good value. Would depend on the itinerary   Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We loved this cruise and tours of the Indian Triangle and Treasures of Egypt. I retired from work whilst on this cruise and my wife had her 60th birthday which was celebrated in Egypt. We had a fantastic 5 day tour of India were we ... Read More
We loved this cruise and tours of the Indian Triangle and Treasures of Egypt. I retired from work whilst on this cruise and my wife had her 60th birthday which was celebrated in Egypt. We had a fantastic 5 day tour of India were we visited the Delhi, Taj Mahal, Amber Fort, Red Fort and boarding the Aegean Odyssey in Mumbai As part of this tour we stayed in 4 star hotels with excellent food and service. Firstly we had an inside stateroom which was OK but my wife found her bed uncomfortable so I asked if we could get an upgrade as the boat was half empty. Mathew the Hotel Director gave use and outside suite for no extra cost. Wow were we happy. Suite No 521 was fantastic and outside cabin twice the size of our original cab in with a double bed and was very comfortable Augusto our cabin steward looked after us very well. Carlos and his team in the dinning room and Bistro was fantastic looking after our dinning needs very well and we were served wonderful 5 course meals with French and Italian wines as much as you wanted. There was coffee and tea available 24 hours. Internet WI Fi was available , excellent and cheap. Everything was perfect, the tours, the hotels, the ship, the cabin. the food and the service was first class in every respect. We attended the lectures which we enjoyed very much. This was a great cruise and a great adventure traveling through India was a wonderful experience and Egypt was amazing. The hotels, food and tours were incredible. The tour guides were very good and made the whole experience fantastic. We would very much recommend Voyage of Discovery to any one great value for money. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013

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