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32 Nice to Europe - Western Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

Chose the mini cruise to test out Azamara, and ideal for active elderly mother-in-law to see Balearics,Embarkation pretty good(except port assistant &computer said 93year old was not born yet) Windows self service very busy on arrival ... Read More
Chose the mini cruise to test out Azamara, and ideal for active elderly mother-in-law to see Balearics,Embarkation pretty good(except port assistant &computer said 93year old was not born yet) Windows self service very busy on arrival but staff quick to get drinks and food was tasty and plentiful. All staff on board brilliant,couldn't fault anyone. All facilities well maintained and ship clean.Didn't even notice them cleaning public areas. Spa staff all good and excellent equipment.Beauty treatments well carried out with attentive staff. Announcements minimal but helpful. Discoveries Cafe-coffees and treats great.Restaurant food -good choice,relaxed friendly service.PrimeC was worth extra with great views and a Lobster Thermidor to die for. Entertainment although minimalist was ideal for setting and all singers did not have a bum note between them.Some songs on Broadway night weren't ones I recognized White Night gave us a chance to thank staff, enjoy good food , music and dancing. Passengers-An interesting mix of ages and from many different countries -mainly English speaking. Cabin adequate for 3 of us and bed chair was very comfortable.Shore excursions were Ok but not too exciting(the ones we picked) And we have booked another longer Azamara Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
SHORT VERSION: I greatly enjoyed the outstanding food, service, and classical music on this luxury small ship cruise and plan to return soon. Details: I am an American who did this two-week luxury small ship cruise solo from Nice ... Read More
SHORT VERSION: I greatly enjoyed the outstanding food, service, and classical music on this luxury small ship cruise and plan to return soon. Details: I am an American who did this two-week luxury small ship cruise solo from Nice to Bilbao. I chose it primarily for the intimate classical music experience it offered with its Ocean Sun Festival. To compare, I have done various other mostly small ship luxury cruises with cruise lines solo, with my husband, and with a friend. The cruise was outstanding, the best luxury ship experience overall, by far, despite the oddity of being an American woman traveling solo (probably the only one) on a ship where the official on board language is German. EMBARKATION in NICE : There was no actual embarkation terminal in Nice at the Quay de Commerce, so waiting to board was slightly uncomfortable, no fault of HL. The port authority did not allow HL to serve any beverages in the warm outdoor waiting area before 4PM, when crew started serving Duval-Leroy champagne. Embarkation commenced precisely on time at 16:00, as all HL cruises do, and between starting boarding and getting to my suite only 15 minutes passed. Unlike on my three prior HL cruises, I did not see any hors d’oeuvres offered in the atrium reception area, though the next evening canapés were offered at a captain’s gala. I was still full from my decadent truffle pasta lunch in Nice so it did not matter. After a very short check-in period during which my picture was taken and passport confiscated (room keys were distributed before the cruise) a crew member escorted me to my suite, where a half bottle of champagne and 4 chocolate-covered large strawberries waited for me. My cases appeared 1-2 hours later (2 cases, separately). MUSTER: orientation was on the pool deck at my actual muster station, with pax required to wear their new-fangled style life jackets. Then pax moved on to more safety lecturing in the Europa Lounge. A separate English muster was available. Muster took longer than expected, about 40 minutes, with a lot of time spent on exactly what to do when someone goes overboard (bottomline: yell, throw things, and point). ATMOSPHERE: This is a contemporary-styled ship with cool, calm colors. It is fresh, well-maintained, uncrowded and comfortable, with an atmosphere of quiet luxury and elegance in the decor and amongst most crew and pax. There are plenty of deck chairs in various locations so there is no need for pushiness or lines. It is a very German-oriented ship, with almost all pax affluent, very affluent, or relatively affluent seniors and their family and friends from German speaking countries. There were only a few, mostly invisible, children. The only official on-board language was German, though frontline crew spoke basic English with the few people on board who do not speak much, or any, German (e.g., primarily some entertainers) . If there were any other Americans or Brits on board, I never heard them. Many of the Filipino crew spoke better English than German. However, this ship did offer many luxury international menu options daily, (definitely not just wienerschnitzel and sausages, though they had those available too). There was also quite a bit of English language popular music in venues as an alternative to the festival classical music presentations. The MS Europa is more formal than its sister ship Europa 2, which caters to a somewhat younger and more casual crowd and which is officially German and English, and markets to international audiences (though very few non-German speakers travel on her) and has both German and English are on-board languages. Here on the MS Europa, HL has made a deliberate choice to only have German as the language on board (which should satisfy the few older Germans who, per comments overheard and read on the internet, previously resented having what rare announcements there were translated into English, and also saves the line translator money). HL can fill the ship just with German speakers well in advance. Getting a booking on any desirable itinerary HL cruise is a competitive process requiring advance planning if you are not retired and very flexible, so they do not really need to market to English speakers to fill their ships. Announcements (other than safety-related), menus, and daily printed guides and tours were only in German, as warned, but announcements were very rare (twice a day a brief captain report about speed, latitude and longitude and perhaps a highlight of a key performance). Even the couple excursions I went on that were billed to be conducted in English by local guides landed up being given in German, e.g., with a museum guide or accompanying crew member talking in the local language to our German-speaking guide instead of English who then translated into German because half the people on the excursions could not understand English. I received essential pre-cruise vital information and a ship guide through my travel agent printed in English, and then while on board used the opportunity to refresh my German by looking up a few menu items and other things I did not know on my iPhone translation app or on the internnet. Average age was around 70, with quite a few pax over 80. Pax were mostly quite mobile. There were a few other solo pax on board (mostly elderly German women) and I heard from the ship’s doctor, and nephrologist brought on, that there were two dialysis patients. We had 344 total pax on board plus a few dozen entertainers and speakers came and went, to fill the ship’s cabins to 400 or so. As is the older German style, whether solo or not, German or not, pax and on board entertainers mostly stuck to themselves and their known groups and made few attempts to socialize with strangers other than about very simple things, or (usually after alcohol) to talk about their local and international politics, e.g., rants about a well-known American political figure. There was also an (expected) style of lack of curiosity about strangers with most pax, and, unlike most luxury world cruising Americans, pax appeared to be of the attitude that other people’s lives and histories are mostly none of their business and asking personal details without special permission is considered prying. Gratuitous smiling (except by crew) is frowned upon by pax, as is too much jewelry. Mostly I was just ignored by other pax, as if I was not there at all (other than getting a few obviously disapproving and a couple envious glances relating to a little personal fan I carried), and was left alone, neither socially engaged nor negatively bothered. There were, however, a couple solo travelers' get-togethers announced that were not convenient for me to go to this trip (on my prior trip when I went 2 years ago, even there people were still very closed and stiff), and I also had an invitation to go join the cruise director and other "women only" for a Lido dinner which I also skipped as I had a small dining venue reservation the same day. I was fine with this “leave you alone” attitude of German pax, and expected it, (I cruised this ship before and know Germans from before, and have German friends, so I understand the roots of the reservedness. I was here primarily for the classical music festival, and secondarily for the pampered dining and peace and quiet rather than to acquire new BFF (if interested, see my previous MS Europe review from 2016 where I comment on older German personality styles). Many would not be, or would feel lonely without others to talk to in their home language for two weeks, (crew are not supposed to waste too much time chit-chatting long periods with pax, German or English, though a little is ok, as that distracts them from their jobs to serve everyone), but I did not. Much as I love traveling with my DH and would enjoy sharing experiences with him, I often enjoy the enhanced powers of observation and concentration solo traveling offers. Just in case, I had an iPad and iPhone (on mute) and ear buds with me for reading books or listening to music if there were longer periods of waiting involved anywhere, e.g., on bus excursions when guides were not talking. The DRESS CODE for days and evenings was casual elegant, and people really complied with it. Many people wore understated designer clothing, and what jewelry they wore was not garish. After 6 PM, the code was for men to wear jackets in all dining venues other than the indoor/outdoor buffet Lido. Ties were not required at dinner, but many men wore them anyway. There were also two formal nights (ballgown optional but not required or common, tux or dark suit and tie required for men, and something a little dressy or shiny for women seemed adequate, as on other luxury lines on formal night. As has been popular a couple years in Europe now, several men wore crisp brightly colored expensive trousers, e.g., red, bright green, or blue, both during the day (without a jacket) or in the evening (with a jacket), which is considered casual elegant. White trousers in the evening were also popular on men and women with varying tops (jackets on men in most venues) and these came in handy on the pool party night, when the suggestion was made for people to dress in white out on deck. No one I saw challenged the dress code by showing up with hoodies or untucked T shirts with logos, and I saw no blue jeans (not even the stylish pre-torn ones) at night on the MDR and entertainment deck 4. I did see an elderly balding gent with a red-orange blazer with black suede elbow patches, black capris, and no sox, with his bared feet slipped into very expensive black suede loafers, and similar other displays of Euro-chic that were great fun to see. As on my 2016 trip, one thing I did not like is that most of the venues ran ambient temperatures that were subjectively too warm for me (though most of the pax liked it that way, as Germans generally greatly fear cold air and drafts and often say “es zieht"). I had my suite temperature on maximum cooling most of this Mediterranean trip and would have liked it to be even cooler during the day (temp was not indicated but it felt like around 73 in the suite on hot days with AC on max and at least 75 in the restaurants, so I was glad I had brought loose and linen clothing). However, I am very sensitive to heat due to some of my medication and anticipated this, so came equipped with assorted unobtrusive cooling tools that worked well for me. FOOD AND BEVERAGE: This cruise I had an assigned dinner table to myself in the MDR (per my advance request) as opposed to an assignment with others like I had last time (though I had requested a solo table then, my prior assigned dining companions had worked out ok for me ). I could have requested to be seated at a communal table assignment for dinner in MDR but did not want to risk getting stuck with a couple old and cranky married German couples who might have felt uncomfortable with me as a fifth and foreign wheel (there are some people like that). Dinner starts at your table anytime you like between 7 and 9:30, it is yours the whole evening. Breakfast and lunch are open seating everywhere (breakfast 7-9 in the MDR, 7-10:30 in the Lido indoor/outdoor venue, and there is also a 9-12 option for late risers in Dieter Mueller, plus there is 12:30-2 for lunch in MDR, Lido, and Venezia). Poolside waffles are 3-5. An elegant afternoon tea with cakes etc. (real whipped cream, “Sahne”, optional) was served 4-5PM, accompanied by soothing piano music, with pax who were thankfully respectful and not rowdy. Restaurants were uncrowded, and as I had a guaranteed table in the MDR at dinner, there was no need to line up anywhere for food except for the day of the popular Lido Bavarian lunch, “Bayrischer Fruehschoppen”, which offered traditional rich German food, spirits and beer, and a whole roasted suckling pig. Some regular MDR menu items appeared daily as “classics", and then there were daily specials which did not repeat for the whole 2-week cruise. There were four different “international” vegetarian main courses each day, changed weekly (a green bean dish was particular tasty). The buffet had both daily specials and grill options for steak, fish, and sausages, and pasta. Lobster and shellfish were abundant in various presentations, and I had caviar and steak tatar in different forms 4 times each. Reservations were only needed for dinner for the small venue gourmet Dieter Mueller dining experience and Venezia, the small Italian venue, (no extra charges) and for the Lido in the evening, though there is usually room in the latter even without reservation. There is 24-hour room service of certain items (including steak tatar) which I only used for a few breakfasts. Reservations should be made right on boarding to secure your choice, as should spa reservations ( no option for advance booking). 90% of my lunch and dinner dishes were outstanding, 10% were ok but I would not order again (e.g., a cauliflower soup that fell flat, as did the snails, there was a so-so fish course in Dieter Mueller and the “Boston clam chowder” was an odd greenish substance) . Breads were crisp and fresh (there were no rubbery rolls so many cruise ships, even luxury ones, seem to be specializing in lately), with rye and pumpernickel bread options. Fresh fruits and veggies were plentiful. I did not see a single brown lettuce leaf. My wine pourer at dinner knew wines well enough to make intelligent suggestions (several hundred different wines are on board to choose from, many in 0.1 liter or 0.250 liter portions, with only a handful from U.S.). I enjoyed trying different kinds I do not get at home near wine country in California. Unlike on other luxury lines, my morning room service tray, when I got it, always had what I had ordered, not once did they forget any item, and they customized as I requested. After the first day or two, staff addressed me by my name almost everywhere on board. The colorful Swiss bartender in the Gatsby’s lounge (who also spoke English) already knew who I was and what I would likely want to drink without my saying anything after the first night. The food was so good and comfort level so high that I preferred dining on board to dining in port (which I cannot say for other luxury cruise lines including my favorite SB). Minor negatives were that morning room service coffee was not strong enough for me, but still always arrived hot and at the requested time (espresso and cappuccino were available in the dining rooms). . Unlike on the sister ship Europa 2, there was no in-room coffee in the base suite. Note that beverages in dining rooms other than coffees, milk, teas and juices are subject to fees unless at special events (which are frequent) around the pool, or on return to the ship, including bottled water (other than that distributed on excursions), so technically the ship is not “all inclusive”. But the plus is you can pick exactly the wine you want, and what size, with a very fair mark-up, and there is no fussing about getting stuck with bad “included” wines. I never had to produce my room card, and only signed for beverages in the two smaller venues at the end of the meal, no service charge, though I added paper tips there anyway. I just verbally gave my suite #, on an honor system (they know who you are). SERVICE: in short, outstanding. If anyone was in training, with one exception, I could not tell (compared and contrasted with my cruise on Seabourn in spring 2017). The Do Not Disturb sign was thankfully very strictly respected, always. Laundry fees were cheap (e.g., 1 Euro for underwear) and results terrific, usually same-day even without extra charge. All service is officially included in the cruise fare, but unlike on English language luxury lines, the tipping policy is that none are required or expected, but are welcomed so a few pax quietly gave envelopes with tips to certain crew at the end of the cruise, in addition to contributing to the crew auction and end of cruise tip pot. No hands were ever extended expecting tips. Crew did not appear exhausted or overworked, (only one appeared cynical and resentful of his job), and at least conveyed a pleasant and relaxed unstressed manner. There were no service comedies and no activities I dreaded due to anticipation of service problems, as it seems is increasingly the case even on luxury cruises. I did not have to be an important person, be pushy, or have an “in” to get luxury service, as is often the case on other luxury ships. With very rare exceptions, the crew were smart, polite, helpful, attentive, bilingual, and eager to help, and ran a finely tuned service machine. In the MDR they worked in efficient coordinated teams, with one key person assigned to beverages, another assigned to food, and a couple lower level staff hovered to offer more bread and whisk away dirty plates and be alert if you were waving for any need. Service personnel at my table were always the same and anticipated my needs. My wine glass was readily refilled without having to fight for it like I did on SB last year, and oddly also on the Europa 2 last fall (not sure why there is such a difference for the same cruise line now). Dining room staff were there when you needed them without being intrusive and there was no premature snatching of plates. Waiters checked to make sure your meals were satisfactory shortly after you started eating. There were no awkward delays or irritating mess-ups that can sour a luxury experience. There were only a couple minor service glitches (e.g., once the waiter did not send the rest of my wine to my suite as I had requested but instead saved it for the next day; once a waitress got confused on my wine order, e.g., thought I had drunk a whole Karaffe where I had only had a glass, yet charged me for the whole; once crew showed up with the wrong appetizer, promptly rectified, and a pair of sox was lost after sending to the laundry, but then was found; and on the final gala night I waited all of ten minutes for a wine refill -- once, usually I never waited). The only minor service disappointment I had was that the crew member in charge of individual itineraries was not proactive in following up on my request to secure ship to airport transportation for my flight to Munich, and seemed a bit cavalier about its importance to me ( I had the last connection to the U.S. that day booked and missing my first flight was to be avoided at all costs), so I had to keep reminding him every day for almost a week to keep me posted, until resolution. But it all worked out fine anyway just as he said it would so I was needlessly anxious. PORTS NICE — anyone reading this review has probably already been to sunny and luxurious Nice. It was Formula One weekend in nearby Monaco, so the place was hopping, and even more expensive than usual. I sought dining refuge in a little side street restaurant near the opera, Le Frog, and at a pleasant drink, snack and people-watching place called Balthazar on the main drag, which had surprisingly good service and comfortable chairs despite catering to tourists. I also ate at truffle specialty restaurant. As noted above, it did not have a cruise terminal building where we embarked. BASTIA (northeast Corsica). This was a pleasant walkable little old town, easy to do on your own. BONAFACIO (southern Corsica), tender. Tender crew were mostly skilled and experienced Filipinos. I did an excursion involving a combination of a boat ride to a grotto and a town walkabout, though it could easily be done individually. ALGHERO (Sardinia), tender. A typical, walkable seaside town in the Med. Shoreside, MS Europa had a station set up with cold drinks and shade to wait for tenders, or just to rehydrate while touring the town independently on foot. MAHAN (Minorca) — formerly under British influence, a gin haven, and home of Cardinal Richelieu’s original “mayonnaise" discovery! A side trip to Ciutadella, a cute seaside market town 30 miles away by road, with a sheep mascot, was worthwhile. BARCELONA, overnight — the Catalonian center many cruises start and end at; this was my fourth time to this wonderful city, where many banners favoring independence were still visible. There are many well-known things to see and do here centered around Gaudi, see other abundant CC reviews for that. I did something more unusual this time, i.e., journied to the beautiful Palau de la Musica with its fantastic organ, and former Hospital de la Santa Pau (now a museum), with absolutely stunning architecture (not Gaudi, but Lluis Domenech i Montaner). The ship also organized a brilliant, private classical Spanish music land concert for us with the Cadaques Orchestra and assorted classical soloists, and I had an awesome front row seat, was immersed in the orchestra. VALENCIA I went on an interesting walking tour of the opera house and the very expensive (and over budget crazy modern architecture in the city. This is worth doing at least once, tours are available in English. MALAGA I did not spend time in town, but went on a trip to the old, walkable town of Mijas about 40 minutes away, with a wine and tapas tasting excursion. The captain’s pleasant wife (a former East German of a privileged class) co-hosted. This could realistically be done with a private tour. CADIZ (substituted for Portimaio, due to an anticipated port strike). Cadiz is a couple hours from Seville, but is a nice port for tourists in its own right. I did a city walking tour in the rain, and hiked up 156 steps on a tower with a Camera Obscura. LISBON, overnight, something for everyone here, a wonderful tourist city, there are many reviews. I did a spontaneous private tour with a colorful old native who showed me nooks and alleyways and told interesting stories, and one to the Gulbenkian museum, which has some fantastic collections from antiquity to 20th century, and some gardens. There was a sea day half way through the cruise, and just before the end, with music and talks and of course more eating and exercise options to keep you busy. No trivia in any language. ENTERTAINMENT As noted above, the main reason for my doing this cruise was the classical music Ocean Sun Festival, which I had been very impressed with in 2017, and it was equally exquisite this year. World-class artists were brought on board, and/or we were brought to them in Barcelona for a private evening concert. We had harpist soloist Xavier de Maistre and the Cadaques Orchestra; soprano Sara Blanch; tenor Marc Sala; senior lady castagnettist Lucero Tena (a crowd favorite, as she was in top form despite her age, thus giving us all hope); the Munich Philharmonic String Quartet which did a stirring rendition of the Felix Mendelssohn string quartet in F minor; brilliant young Australian violinist Ray Chen; pianist Ohad Ben-Ari; clarinetist David Orlowsky; a string quartet from Vienna; and pianist brothers Lucas and Arthur Jussen. Additional performers included the Spanish tango and flamenco dancers group Ispacion (this was my third time seeing them, their beauty and drama never gets old, plus they are also easy on the eyes in between performances); vintage English/German descent pop singer Ireen Sheer (not my style but some liked her); an electrical engineer turned magician Dr. Alexander Mabros (a bit long-winded, German only), a cabaret comedian (in German only) Robert Griess, ocean lounge pianist Wolfgang Kick, and a very talented on-board 9 man Austrian band called “Impulse" that played oldies, jazz and dance music in English and German. It was also great fun watching German grey-haired grandmas well into their 70’s doing the twist, a couple wearing their orthopedic shoes, along with the few usual regular pax dancers in elegant clothing going through taught ballroom dancing moves with few smiles. An enrichment speaker (about architecture and art) named Stephan Boerries was also on board (he was knowledgable but a bit arrogant, e.g., constantly corrected the Valencia opera guide’s German grammar, and he made a few elitist politically snide remarks). Last but not least, a clergyman was on board to take care of any souls that might be feeling lost at sea, and was available for regular sessions at tea time and as needed. There was a bilingual personal trainer on board, there were various exercise classes offered I did not attend, there was a good-sized uncrowded pool heated to 28 degrees C for laps, one jacuzzi near the pool that was unfortunately only warm but not hot, and there was a pool party with a dance floor and international pop thumping music, (where I spent most of my time watching the off-duty colorful Ispacion dancers improvise to the music — a free unofficial performance!). I did not ask for it, but the NYT international version appeared in my cabin each day, (it got tossed) as did a bowl of fresh fruit (mostly eaten). There was a fun parade of chefs (a surprising number of Filipinos were in charge of various food creations, under the direction of young main gourmet chef Tillman Fischer) farewell performance followed by distribution of little marzipan men. On the last gala night, crew sang sea classics, including the captain, Olaf Hartmann, who has an excellent voice. INTERNET One free hour per day was included and you could buy more data at reasonable prices. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, i.e., a typical cruise experience. I thus maximized use of my cellular service and hot-spots. SMOKING Most of the indoor areas on the ship were non-smoking and there was a designated smoking area indoors, Havana Club. Smoking is allowed on balconies and in outdoor areas in most places (only designated areas in the Lido). However, even though few pax smoked, as it was allowed at the indoor piano bar near the atrium, even a couple smoking Spanish dancers could fill that room with whiffs of smoke. Asthmatics or militant smokophobics would be unhappy there. On the gala evening when sailors’ songs were sung in the atrium by a few dozen pax, the smoke from a few lit cigarettes accumulating was too much even for me so I retreated after 15 minutes, and usually I do not care. DISEMBARKATION: no problems, no lines, you could stay in cabin until 9, had to be off ship by 10, luggage retrieval in Bilbao was easy, and the concierge had indeed arranged a taxi for me as requested. Suggestions for improvement (minor): 1. Earlier boarding would be a nice, the way other luxury lines allow boarding around noon with pax then eating lunch in the Lido type area while waiting for suites to be readied. Then one could come straight from hotel checkout with luggage to the ship. 2. It would be good to either have the Touristik/excursion office open in the afternoon, when many pax have down time, or have reception take messages to pass on to them, rather than just the limited morning and evening hours they currently have (which are often unclear or not posted). A Seabourn Square type arrangement would improve ease of communication. 3. Walking excursion tours had too many people to be ideal for me (typically mid 20’s) but were cheap and an easy lazy way to be safely and reliably taken to the sites. 4. Raise the jacuzzi temperature to above body temperature, so it would be a true "hot tub" 5. The atrium should be a no smoking zone. OVERALL, this was an outstanding ship, crew, and cruise. It provided the best overall food, service, and comfort I have had on well over a dozen luxury cruises, and the close-up music and dance were fantastic. However, you would have to be a bit adventuresome to travel on this ship if you are not from a German-speaking country or with someone who can read and understand at least basic German. I am not German, (parents were born in Eastern Europe), but for various reasons I can speak quite a bit and understand even more if people speak high German instead of dialects, so that was helpful for eavesdropping in conversations or hearing off the cuff jokes crew and pax told and for listening to enrichment speakers and comedians. But I do not think it would be essential to speak any German at all to enjoy the food and service and music on this ship (see my previous MS Europa review from September 2016, wherein I commented about some British pax who spoke no German at all but who preferred cruising here for many years). Just a little planning and accommodation and perhaps an iPhone app and polite requests would do the trick (e.g., pre-reviewing MDR menus and port info on TV or with English-speaking crew when they have time). But if you are someone who feels uncomfortable having crew translate daily menus for you even if the menus are short and it only takes a few minutes, (the “classics" on the menu can be pre-translated after boarding) this is not for you. Also, if you need to have large varying English-speaking social circles on board, old or new, and thus must have open seating in the MDR at dinner, the Europa is also not for you. If you crave attention from other pax, you would be unhappy here, as you will likely just be ignored and treated as an invisible foreigner, though politely, by fellow pax, some of whom will tolerate you but frankly would prefer you not be there as they are old enough to have memories of growing up after World War 2, when Germany was in rubbles from allied bombing. You would still be given full and friendly luxury attention by mostly young and professional crew. There were also occasional whiffs of smoke here and there could also make a few people very unhappy if they are sensitive. An English-only couple who is neutral or favorable to smoking whiffs and that puts a priority on excellent food and seamless service, usually dines alone anyway, does not need to socialize with other pax to have a good time, and organizes its own tours, would do fine, especially if the pax work with their TA to secure an advance "table for two" assignment in the MDR. Also, note all of this wonderful high end music, food and service comes at a higher per diem cost, all in, than other luxury lines, but despite the cost, bookings are hard to get. I hope to post pictures soon after I have sorted them, either here or on the CC subforum of "special interest travel", "luxury cruising", as HL does not have its own subforum. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Grand Prix experience for a special birthday. Very friendly and helpful crew, with the exception of the Guest Relations desk and the Concierge, who could not or would not sort out a problem with thick black sooty particles all over our ... Read More
Grand Prix experience for a special birthday. Very friendly and helpful crew, with the exception of the Guest Relations desk and the Concierge, who could not or would not sort out a problem with thick black sooty particles all over our balcony for which we had paid an extra fare. This problem was not limited to us alone, the Owner's Suite which was next to ours also had a similar problem, which was admitted by the Cruise Director as being a difficulty experienced before in certain weather conditions. Interestingly, they were offered a substantial discount on their fare! Our only recompense was a possible move of accommodation, but not at the same standard, which we declined. So no breakfasts on the balcony. The food in the standard dining room was of a very high standard, though the standard wines offered were not too good, mostly they were not from France or Italy, the area in which we were sailing! Unfortunately we were not able to book reasonable times to eat in either of the speciality restaurants, either very early or very late. We also prefer to cruise with a line that includes all standard of drink. Having to pay a supplement, and prove it with a card for every drink, was somehow demeaning. Almost felt as though you were trying to cheat the system. Being a smaller ship, we didn't expect too much from the entertainment. They tried, but sadly not wonderfully well. However the pianist in the lounge before evening meal was good but sadly not on later after dinner. Staterooms are not really that big but with plenty of storage, especially good for cases under the bed. But the bathroom was tiny, not much bigger than in a motorhome. We didn't go on any excursions, they seemed to be very expensive. If You want excursions go with a line that includes them, ie Regent. In a nutshell, it's unlikely we would use Azamara again, better to pay extra and get the full treatment. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
First cruise on Azamara, after a lot of cruises on Cunard, and one cruise on Celebrity. I enjoyed this cruise very much. Pros : - Nice ship, with an elegant, but relaxed and friendly atmosphere. - Excellent crew, always smiling ... Read More
First cruise on Azamara, after a lot of cruises on Cunard, and one cruise on Celebrity. I enjoyed this cruise very much. Pros : - Nice ship, with an elegant, but relaxed and friendly atmosphere. - Excellent crew, always smiling and doing everything to make your cruise a total pleasure : I felt chilly during the italian buffet in Sorrento and suddenly, without asking anything, a warm blanket was delicately wrapped around my shoulders : divine! - The cruiseline is "solo-friendly" (yes, it still exists!) low single supplement on some cruises, meetings, dinners..... - Good food, with different venues, specialities buffets..... can't understand how it could be possible not to find some food to your taste. The restaurant managed my food allergies very well (thanks to Lailana, the best waitress I ever met) - Good music, not too loud. Some people are complaining about entertainment on .Azamara : yes, the cabaret is small and you won't see there spectaculars shows, but, personally, I really enjoyed the variety of entertainment : italian tenor in Sorrento, excellent Glenn Miller evening, originals shows from the ship's dancers and singers. Cons : - A change in the ittinerary because of a snap election in Malta (????) was a great disappointment for some of us, but, finally, Palma de Mallorca was more interesting than expected. - The toiletries brand (yes, I know, it's ridiculous, but to elegant ship, elegant toiletries brand!). Very low key, with a quite nauseing "sugarly" scent : as my grandmother said "A good perfume or no perfume at all". Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We chose this cruise because because with live in Antibes and it departed and returned to Nice (no flights). This was our second Azamara Quest cruise so we either like being abused or it was pretty good (the latter) All ... Read More
We chose this cruise because because with live in Antibes and it departed and returned to Nice (no flights). This was our second Azamara Quest cruise so we either like being abused or it was pretty good (the latter) All 'inclusive' which means you get standard wine and some cocktails "free" (without extra charge) No sparkling wine unless you pay extra. Not bad but not the best (Seabourn Sojourn is a step up). The food is generally good with buffet style for lunch and breakfast although you can have breakfast in the main dining room. Waiters are mainly male and Asian and are generally efficient and friendly. Some suffer from "goldfish syndrome". They take your order... go away... come back and ask you again. The two speciality restaurants Aqualina and Prime C are excellent. Actually better than those offered by Seabourn or Silversea. Both restaurants need to be booked and cost $25 per person. (club suites "free"). Prime C mainly steaks and beef. Aqualina mainly Italian (Dover sole is excellent). Service impeccable. Balcony cabins are small but adequate. The bed is comfortable. The shower room seems have been designed by a cheap caravan designer. Tiny shower with a plastic curtain. I should imagine larger passengers are continually getting stuck in the shower and ringing for help. The proverbial "no room to swing a cat" comes to mind (we actually like cats). Wardrobes are adequate for a 11 day cruise. (just) Club suites (deck 8) are larger but can suffer from noise from the pool deck above when they bring out the equipment for the poolside events. Worse when they take it down late at night. One of the reasons we booked an ordinary balcony suite on deck 7 after suffering a Club suite on deck 8. We of course had "Mr. Jolly Japes" entertainments director (or whatever you call him). doing the Hi de Hi! holiday camp routine which could be aggravating. \Ne never took any of the tours as they are too expensive and not good value (goes for all cruise lines). We always take the "Little Train" at each destination or do our own thing. Deck 5 cafe rather reminded us of an old persons home with a row of high backed chairs filled with the "walking wounded". Quite a number of our fellow passengers were over weight and/or physically handicapped. We are not show goers so really cannot comment on this aspect. As far as the onboard other entertainment goes there were two musicians and a disco. The Spirits Bar piano player was good but the Living Room artist Papa T was excruciating (some liked him though). Every time he started we had to leave LOL. The disco guy seemed to be in a world of his own and never seemed to take notice of who or how many people were dancing. In fact the cruise line could save money here and just have the disco music on a digital recording. Overall the Azamara experience is not bad for an "all inclusive" cruise and we would go again (if the price was right). One strange thing is their internet policy. In a balcony suite you have to pay BUT you either pay for the complete cruise (expensive) or you can buy a 24 hour period. How stupid is that? You would have thought you could buy 24 hours to be used over the 11 day cruise but you can't. You only have that one 24 hour period for just that one day. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
I went on this cruise with my parents, and we really loved it. Embarkation was a breeze, we took a taxi from the airport to the port in Nice, France, and about ten minutes after getting out of the taxi we were on the ship. MUCH better than ... Read More
I went on this cruise with my parents, and we really loved it. Embarkation was a breeze, we took a taxi from the airport to the port in Nice, France, and about ten minutes after getting out of the taxi we were on the ship. MUCH better than the bigger cruise lines where you have to wait for hours in line to board and there are hundreds of people everywhere. Disembarkation was similarly extremely quick and painless. One thing we did not like, however, was that we left Nice at 8am the following day. We had two long connecting flight to get to Nice and were not really up for exploring that evening, and had expected to have some time in the morning to do so. Unfortunately this was not the case (we explored on disembarkation, however, and Nice was wonderful). The Ship: We loved the ship. The inside was beautiful, clean, and we loved all the public room and dining room decor. The ship itself is small by modern standards, especially compared with the huge new ships Royal Caribbean and Princess are coming out with. As a loyal Princess customer I was at first hesitant to go on a small ship, however I grew to love the size of the Quest; when you're inside it does not feel too small and everything is very accessible and easy to get to. The small number of guests on the ship means you see familiar faces around often, which made us feel more comfortable and helped to form nice friendships. Dining: As we were in a suite, we got complimentary specialty dining, which was wonderful. I am not going to do a detailed review about menus and such, but I'll give an opinion about the restaurants/food options. Prime C: None of us enjoyed Prime C, though the meat was wonderful in all restaurants, the sides here were just not very good, and we did not return. Aqualina: Our favorite dining venue. We had Javier as our waiter each night we went, and he was absolutely amazing. The food was delicious, and we are still talking about wanting to go back. Discoveries (Main Dining Room): We enjoyed discoveries when we went. It was definitely more crowded than the specialty restaurants (obviously), which we did not like as much, but the food was good. I got the NY strip each time we went to discoveries it was delicious. Windows (Buffet): We loved the buffet, especially for breakfast it was really delicious. For lunch/dinner options it was hit or miss, but there were some really great hits. For example, one day they had a stir fry station which was SO good, and another day they had an endless supply of fresh mussels which my parents thoroughly enjoyed. Mosaic Cafe: The drinks at Mosaic were nice, the pastries/food were not very good, however the staff that worked there were wonderful, especially the woman who did the afternoon/evening shift. My dad and I enjoyed chatting with her late in the evenings as I sipped my tea and he drank a macchiato. A failing for me with the dining, that many others probably wouldn't care about, was that there was no afternoon tea service that is done so well on ships like Princess. I would've enjoyed some scones in the buffet at least more than on the one sea day. Entertainment and Activities: Entertainment was fine, we enjoyed the shows put on by the Quest cast but not the special performances as much. I thought the magician Mandy Mudden was hilarious, but not for everyone as my parents couldn't stand her, haha. Activities were seriously lacking. There were often scheduling problems where an activity would be scheduled somewhere and no one would show up from the crew because it was printed wrong in all the guest daily schedules, or for some other reason. This happened on multiple occasions, and was disappointing. We attended many trivias. They were fun when Jordyn (who also did extremely well in all the Quest cast performances) was running them, and the guy from Ukraine was nice. However Meg and Marcio both seemed like they did not want to be there (especially Meg, as she always looked bored and like she would rather be anywhere but there). Service: Service was good in general. In Windows the first few days it was really attentive, but as the days passed it got to the point where we would be sitting eating at a table for half an hour and no crew member would come by. Service in Discoveries and the specialty restaurants was excellent. Like I said, our waiter Javier in Aqualina truly stood out. Housekeeping in general was wonderful. We did not, however, really think our butler did a great job as we never really saw him except when he brought afternoon nibbles. Ports and shore excursions: Nice: was wonderful, we walked around disembarkation day and really enjoyed it. Monte Carlo: we could have done without. Kind of boring and nothing to do there. Livorno: We did not really like Livorno itself, but we went on a wonderful shore excursion called Lucca and Family Villa where we toured around Lucca (we would have liked a little more time there, though) and then toured a Tuscan family villa and had lunch there. Civitavecchia (Rome): My dad and I went to Rome on the Glories of the Gladiators tour, which was a wonderful taste of the Eternal City. We did not like the guide, however, as she was not very excited about Rome and in fact started talking at the end of the tour about how she prefers Barcelona so much more to Rome which was strange. We also were supposed to enter the Coloseum through the door the gladiators used so we could see the special elevator, ramp, etc. at the bottom of the colosseum but instead we waited outside for over half an hour while she yelled at someone in Italian and eventually we all went through the main gate. For this port, if you do not want to go to Rome, there are no other shore excursion options. My mom went on her own to Tarquinia (as she has previously spent two weeks in Rome), and would have liked at least one other option besides Rome. Sorrento: We loved Sorrento, it was probably our favorite port not only because sorrento was amazing but because we also went to Pompei and the Amalfi Coast with a private driver (which saved us over 1200 dollars by not doing the cruise shore excursion). Naxos, Sicily, Italy: We went up the mountain to Taormina, which was very crowded but the old greek theater was great. Don't bother paying for the shore excursion to go to Taormina, just take a taxi it is regulated, and we paid 25 euros for the three of us for the trip up and another 25 euros down back to port. Palma de Mallorca: We just walked around, which was enjoyable. We had the Azamazing evening here, which was really wonderful. We attended an evening concert in the famous cathedral there. I wish the concert itself had been a little longer; in comparison with the time it took to get there and the dancing, etc. beforehand, it was too short. Barcelona: The first day, we took a shore excursion that was a city tour, which was a good way to get a feel for the city as we had never been there before. At night, around 10pm, we went out again and walked around which was fun. The next day we walked around again, and enjoyed ourselves. Port Vendres: We took the little train for 8 euros a person up to get to Collioure, which was stunning and we loved walking around there. Take the little train, it is absolutely worth the 8 euros (if not more) as on the way back you get a panoramic view that includes tours of the vineyards and also a stop at an old fort to take pictures both of the fort and of the amazing view. We did not travel with young children, though there was a baby on the ship and maybe 5 total under 21 on the ship including myself. Just a few shootouts to crew members (as my dad stole my Azamara link to do the after cruise comment card): Dimple (security officer) was always cheerful and great to see each day when we left or returned to the ship. Jasmine the concierge was wonderful, very thoughtful, kind, and helpful. Veronika at the shore excursions was also very nice, and sent us a bottle of champagne to apologize for the bad experience we had with Dennis, one of the shore excursions crew members. Our housekeeping crew members were outstanding, Vitaly and Rinto. We will definitely be cruising with Azamara again, are already looking at itineraries for 2018. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
From the moment we embark, it's like we 're home. The staff recognize us and it's like reuniting with family after having been away for awhile. Everything luxury is included. There's no out our pocket expenses ... Read More
From the moment we embark, it's like we 're home. The staff recognize us and it's like reuniting with family after having been away for awhile. Everything luxury is included. There's no out our pocket expenses except for shore excurisons or the gift shop.. My husband has a military handcap of being 100% hearing loss, and the shore excurision staff take special care of him. The staff knows us by name and I'd love to have their memory ability. The dining room staff from the casual dining areas to the spediality restaurants watch over us and make sure everything is as we wish. The room stewards are highly trained and again do everything possible to make our voyage memorable. It's great knowing beverages are included as well coffee delights. We love the variety of foods served. As past passengers, we're treated to wonderful special events. We love the captains who mingle among us and share their love of Azamara with us. We look forward to the awesome Azamara special evening gala on each voyage. Truly awesome! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
It was a smaller ship and the destinations in the French and Italian Rivieras. The service was great and the staff made a point of remembering your name. At the end of the cruise, the entire senior staff was on the pier and thanked ... Read More
It was a smaller ship and the destinations in the French and Italian Rivieras. The service was great and the staff made a point of remembering your name. At the end of the cruise, the entire senior staff was on the pier and thanked everyone for coming. The side trips on shore were very good too. Some of the destinations were better seen by boat: Portofina, Monte Carlo, Cinque Terre, for example. In Monte Carlo, we were able to dock in the inner harbor, which worked out better for the special event at the Casino in the evening. It was a dessert/champagne reception which was on an open rooftop. As the evening progressed the sun set and the town was illuminated with lights. We enjoyed the food but what really made the cruise memorable was the kind and dedicated staff in all parts of the ship. There was no formal dinner on the last night but they did a BBQ dinner on the deck by the pool--lobsters, beef, lamb, suckling pig, ribs, salads, dessert bar--plus music and staff line dancing. Very fun! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This was the Monaco Grand Prix cruise. We were planning to take SilverSea but their cruise was too long. The Quest was billed as a 5 star ship, so we had high, unfulfilled expectations. Not withstanding an alleged recent rehab, the ... Read More
This was the Monaco Grand Prix cruise. We were planning to take SilverSea but their cruise was too long. The Quest was billed as a 5 star ship, so we had high, unfulfilled expectations. Not withstanding an alleged recent rehab, the ship looked old and run down. Our displeasure began with boarding when we were moved from pilar to post around the ship in Nice for health forms at one station, passports at another, and finance and keycard at yet a third. The cabin, a balcony suite, was small with the "flatscreen" tv on the wall opposite the bed making the ability for two people to pass impossible, but the kicker was the phone booth sized bathroom, with the door that did not open fully, the shower so small that you bash elbows when hair washing, and the distance between the toilet and the door that men have to approach it from the side to urinate. Food was good, cabin service was also fine, but the real disappointment was the Shore excursion to the Grand Prix. We were given 1 program per room, despite the $1,200 per person fee, cheap caps commemorating Azamara, not the event, a thin cheap plastic poncho, a nylon string backpack, and a pair of okay binoculars. The "escort" to the venue was at 8:30 only although the Grand Prix began at 2:00, with not consideration that it was pouring. The only "escort" back was immediately after the race, notwithstanding a midnight sailing. No box lunch or any other comfort consideration was provided. We found our way to and from the venue on our own. Other cruise lines and tour companies had reps at all major intersections throughout Monte Carlo, Azamara did not. This was a total failure and disappointment. Similarly, at Livorno, we were told by Azamara staff that the railroad station was a 20 minute walk, it turned out to be nearly 3 kilometers from the dock. Where other cruise lines provided a shuttle to the City and the Station, Azamara did not. Bottom line, they cheaped out. Never Again! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
My wife and I were part of a private event that took over the whole ship for 5 days/4 nights. We have experienced great service before, but this was our first cruise. Though we live in a cruise-port, big ships turn us off big time. This ... Read More
My wife and I were part of a private event that took over the whole ship for 5 days/4 nights. We have experienced great service before, but this was our first cruise. Though we live in a cruise-port, big ships turn us off big time. This cruise, from embarkation in Nice until the final port of Monaco, was stunning on many levels: My wife and I loved the yacht-like experience from the first moment on board (around 15:00), which began with a poolside buffet to tie us over until dinner. Any crew member we had contact with demonstrated an outstanding service mentality; not demure or fake-friendly but truly engaging and baffling in their capability to anticipate passenger's wishes. Both F&B service and -quality was excellent, and staying with the standard level of wines (included in fare) proved to be completely sufficient, thanks to a great sommelier (Ferenç) who enjoyed wine-talk. However I can imagine that passengers in need of constant entertainment and stimulation will be much happier on a large ship, surrounded by 4,500 of their best new friends. We on the other hand are already plotting when and where we will able to catch a ride on this ship or its sister. Highly recommended! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Hidden Treasures of the Mediterranean cruise with Azamara Journey from Nice to Venice called into ports that we had never been to before, e.g. St Tropez, Cassis, Palamos, Ibiza, Propriano, Trapani, Hydra, Limassol & many more. I had ... Read More
Hidden Treasures of the Mediterranean cruise with Azamara Journey from Nice to Venice called into ports that we had never been to before, e.g. St Tropez, Cassis, Palamos, Ibiza, Propriano, Trapani, Hydra, Limassol & many more. I had looked at this cruise 12 months out from sail date, but decided it was just too expensive & we were unsure about sailing on a smaller ship in comparison to what we were used to. This was a charter cruise by Cruiseco. About 3 or 4 months out from sail date, Cruisco offered the 2nd passenger at half price so we decided to take up the offer. Some passengers were lucky enough to get 2 for 1 pricing!! The cruise was fantastic The Captain, Johannes & staff were fantastic The food left a lot to be desired, except for Aqualina, which was excellent We thought the selection of wines offered which was included in our fares was not very good. Others on board suggested that because it was a charter cruise the quality was not up to scratch. The activities on board were almost non existent - mahjong, cards, bingo, table tennis occasionally. However, the lecturer on board with his history lectures about the various ports & countries we were visiting, was excellent. Never missed one of his talks. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
I was nervous boarding as I had read a recent review that stated the ship was tired and in need of a overhaul. I disagree. The ship is an older one but had charm. Our cabin was well appointed and clean and there was nothing to want for. ... Read More
I was nervous boarding as I had read a recent review that stated the ship was tired and in need of a overhaul. I disagree. The ship is an older one but had charm. Our cabin was well appointed and clean and there was nothing to want for. Our butler was amaizing and always available to assit and deliver. The crew went out of their way for us on our special anniversay day which was totally unexpected. We have been on 2 larger cruise lines Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. The boarding for a smaller ship is like nothing you will experience. In under 10 mins our bags were scanned we were checked in and given our cards and escorted onboard to be greated with a glass of bubbly. Once the financial formalities were taken care of we were taken to our cabin and met our butler. Our luggage was already there and he enquired if we required him to unpact for us. He went through some other points of interest and then organized a bottle of proseco for us in the cabin. That is how the whole cruise was. Total spoilation, easy no fuss no lines. The only reason I did not give the cruise the full 5 stars was in the food area. It was good but we were expecting better. Being foodies we felt that apart from the specialty dinning room the other resturants lacked that little something extra to make it pop. One of the features we liked of dinning on Silversea is that you can opt to dine with others or by yourselves. We took the option to dine with others a couple times and had a great time meeting new intersting people. For single people I think this would be great. All of the inclusive wines and spirits were excellent. Couldn't complain in that area at all. There is also premium wines and cognacs, single malts and brandy that are extra if you wish. The service was fabulous from our butler to the many wait staff in the assorted lounges and outdoor seating areas, which we found quite charming We did 2 excursions from the ship. One we thought we would have the opportunity to cook a meal and drink the wine from the region, but it turned out to be just a wine tasting. Not sure where I got my wires crossed, but we enjoyed it all the same. Night time entertainment is sorley lacking. The nightly shows are geared towards the 70-80 age group with average talent and there isn't much else offered apart from the casino. For us it was not a problem as we were happy to sit and chat by ourselves or another couple if we met them in one of the bars. I would definitely do another cruise with Silversea. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Silversea apparently had difficulties selling this cruise - the boat wasn't full. With our various discounts it came out at $ 400 total per night for my wife and I. But it wasn't worth even the discounted price. The ship is ... Read More
Silversea apparently had difficulties selling this cruise - the boat wasn't full. With our various discounts it came out at $ 400 total per night for my wife and I. But it wasn't worth even the discounted price. The ship is from 1995 so of course it is worn and dated and the decor very old fashioned. That is to be expected. But what the cruise line puts into the "hardware" - service, cuisine, entertainment etc. could and should be in line with what they advertise in their brochures. It's not. The service is inconsistent and uneven. It tends to be better at the buffet place (for breakfast and lunch) than at dinner at the restaurant where the rythm of the meal depends very much on which station is serving your table. The cuisine is sub par especially at the restaurant where - unfortunately - we dined most nights. All told we had to send out ten dishes - eight that weren't prepared right or where the meat was unchewable and two that simply weren't fit for human consumption: Two cold salads of foul tasting, decomposed Maine Lobster that probably had reached that sad state by too many trips in and out of the freezer. (Ironically that dish was advertised with great pride as a signature dish of their new ship the Silver Muse.) We asked for the Maitre d' to point out the health hazard that the foul shellfish presented but he didn't have the time nor the inclination to face the music until two days later where he and the Executive Chef summoned me to tell me there was absolutely nothing wrong with the dish. Had the Chef tasted it? No. Why? Because he doesn't like lobster...... The Maitre d' was there to explain why he had not come to our table as we had requested: His long and hard earned experience told him that his presence would only have made matters worse.....Well, anyway you very rarely see Senior Officers, the Hotel Director or the Maitre d' on the decks at risk of encountering the guests. PS: The live music played by "The Quartet" mainly consists of Polka and Cha-Cha-Cha so the evenings end early when cruising with Silversea. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We're not particularly regular cruisers, however we have sailed with Cunard in the Grills in the past. This cruise came up and seemed like good value for money so we thought we'd give Azamara a spin. Check - in and ... Read More
We're not particularly regular cruisers, however we have sailed with Cunard in the Grills in the past. This cruise came up and seemed like good value for money so we thought we'd give Azamara a spin. Check - in and embarkation was speedy - very little waiting around; tea, coffee and pastries available in the terminal. All staff were friendly and helpful. We arrived around 1pm, were on board by 1.30 and our cabin available by 2.30pm. The ship is a great size and well laid out. All public rooms are well decorated and spotless. The décor is, in places slightly dated, however the ship has a warm, homely feel. Service at the bars is courteous and the staff all make you feel really welcome. Complimentary alcohol is included and there is a respectable range to choose from. Our balcony cabin was good - my only complaint would be the small shower room, however, lets face it, this really is a minor grumble given the amount of time we spent in there!. Food was great. Discoveries restaurant is respectable; staff are courteous and the food great. Complimentary wines are good too. Our only observation was that a times service was a little slow, but this is no big issue. Prime C was OK, but I would say a little over-rated. I would not pay to eat here again. Entertainment was good too - we did not see a show, however live music and DJ in the Looking Glass were good and White Night was fun. Fellow passengers - great mix of ages and nationalities made for a fun cruise. Experienced cruisers who seem to return to Azamara time and time again - this must say something about the line and the loyalty of it's passengers. Would we come back - yes, without a doubt. We enjoyed the small ship experience and found everything to be of a great quality. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
We booked this cruise mainly as it was stopping at Monaco for the F1 Grand Prix. Check in seemed a bit chaotic, but once we had got that out the way & got our cabin key, everything was great. We had booked an inside cabin but on ... Read More
We booked this cruise mainly as it was stopping at Monaco for the F1 Grand Prix. Check in seemed a bit chaotic, but once we had got that out the way & got our cabin key, everything was great. We had booked an inside cabin but on arrival were upgraded to a window cabin, which was great. We liked the ship & there were plenty of sunbeds available throughout the cruise. We just ate in the inclusive restaurants, but enjoyed the food in both the Windows buffet & the Discoveries restaurant. We usually had breakfast in Windows & evening meal in Discoveries. We had no problem getting a table for two every evening - we are unsociable & like to sit on our own :0) Evening entertainment was ok, but nothing outstanding. The ship anchored offshore at most ports & we were tendered in. This all went smoothly & we had no long waits. With the Monaco F1 looming, the atmosphere on board was great. We purchased hospitality tickets to watch the Grand Prix (which cost nearly as much as the week's cruise!). The general admission tickets that are included with the cruise are for 'La Rocher', which means sitting on a packed hilly grassy area, with not a brilliant view. I think most people would want to purchase seat in one of the stands, or hospitality - so this needs factoring into your costs, as it is not cheap. All in all, great ship & great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
My experience was a few years ago so things may have changed since that time, but I'm a new member so thought that I would reflect back on my experience aboard the Voyager. I did a week long cruise on the Variety Voyager which ... Read More
My experience was a few years ago so things may have changed since that time, but I'm a new member so thought that I would reflect back on my experience aboard the Voyager. I did a week long cruise on the Variety Voyager which included St Tropez, Monaco, Corsica, Elba and the Cinque Terra. I rushed into Nice after an incredibly rushed ten days in Europe on business and it was such a relief to know that I would only be unpacking once for the week. I'm a strong believer in choosing the right style of travel for the destination. In the past few years, I have backpacked through South East Asia, taken an expedition ship across rough seas to Antarctica, and enjoyed French luxury aboard a Ponant ship . For me, I look at the destination first before the style of travel. So a 50 passenger Antarctic icebreaker expedition ship was the perfect way for me to spend a month in Antarctica, but to really relax and enjoy the Med I knew that a small luxury yacht was what I was after. It really did feel like the right way to travel as we pulled up next to gigantic super yachts, and even spotted Joan Collins partying on a yacht. Southern Europe at that time of year is bananas and it was so nice to not have to deal with any traffic and to be delivered by a short zodiac to the centre of town. Quite often I explored independently, but I also joined a couple of tours to a winery in Corsica and a museum. I liked that we would often travel at night, so we could make the most of our destination, exploring piazzas and the shoreline in the evening before returning to the yacht. For me the ship was luxurious enough but not ostentatious. The informal style suited me. I can imagine though that if you are used to larger cruise liners it may be quite a difference. My cabin was clean and well fitted out. The yacht was well equipped, the only thing that would have been great would have been a spa pool or plunge pool. We didn't swim that whole week (although there was talk of it) so that was a little disappointing in summer. The food was good, and plentiful, but I also enjoyed dining out on shore. In terms of the activities, I found them sufficient but as I said I often did my own thing. I can imagine that if you were wanting a more structured plan or more interpretation, it could have been disappointing. I would have liked to have a historian onboard, context was given by local guides, but I think it would have been fascinating to learn more about the culture and history, especially regarding Napoleon's exile in Corsica, as one example. All in all though, it was right for me and for what I was looking for. I hope that this is useful! Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
My husband and I have been on dozens of cruises from Carnival to Crystal. We had always wanted to go on Seabourn, so for our tenth anniversary we went with friends on a Seabourn cruise from Nice to Barcelona. Because of the price we paid ... Read More
My husband and I have been on dozens of cruises from Carnival to Crystal. We had always wanted to go on Seabourn, so for our tenth anniversary we went with friends on a Seabourn cruise from Nice to Barcelona. Because of the price we paid our expectations were that the quality of food, service and attention to details would be worth the money. Sadly, for us, those levels ran below Carnival experiences we had in the Med. For example, the beef we had tasted wasn't that great and we asked the chef if it was prime. He said that he had never heard of 'prime' beef before. For a cruise of this caliber, for the head chef not to know this was stunning. He told us the name of their U.S. purveyor. When we looked them up, they don't sell prime beef. When we were on the Carnival Cruise we could eat in the ship's steakhouse and have amazing prime beef- just like you were eating at Morton's. Our friend has food sensitivities and went through great pains to let Seabourn know. Our first night he was served a tomato bisque and verified there was no dairy. He asked three times. He took one bite and after having been completely off dairy for 4 years could taste the butter in the soup. We called over the maître de and then found out the soup was indeed made from butter. If this only happened once it would have been forgiven and understandable, but it happened night after night. This was our friend's first cruise and we pledged that a line of this caliber would completely take care of his every food need. We felt responsible for leading him into a very uncomfortable situation that happened so many times on the trip it became laughable. The small ports were beautiful and our quarters were spacious but they were not worth the price that we paid. I felt ripped off, discouraged, frustrated and taken advantage of. It was almost an "Emporer's New Clothes" experience. Everyone acts like Seabourn is amazing! To have a Carnival ship outdo them was crazy. I, too, have food sensitivities and when we were on the last Carnival Med cruise the chefs were AMAZING at making beautiful creations for me every night and they never made a mistake. It almost brought me to tears to be so cared for on that Carnival ship which was a fraction of the cost of Seabourn. Here's the kicker. My husband took notes on all of the service highs and lows and sent them to Seabourn. They sent us a letter offering us a class upgrade the next time we sailed with them and a $500 ship credit per person if we booked within a certain time. It's fascinating to me that their resolution is that we give them another $10,000 (plus purchase our airfare) and risk another disappointing experience. They're thinking that I would send good money after bad. I'm not at Vegas at the roulette wheel hoping to make up for a prior bet that already went south. I already bet on them big and lost big. It seemss to me that they had a highly successful luxury brand that they are cashing out by charging the same high price but delivering a discounted experience...using Seabourn as a cash cow. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Where do I start, Villa Franche I lovely little hamelet to begin our alternative cruise from , however as the day of embarkation was in the mid thirtys I thought that the Port authorities may have allowed passengers to use the shelter to ... Read More
Where do I start, Villa Franche I lovely little hamelet to begin our alternative cruise from , however as the day of embarkation was in the mid thirtys I thought that the Port authorities may have allowed passengers to use the shelter to save themselves from the UV rays but no we had to wait 6hrs to board so we waited slowly baking in the sun . Finally boarded and found our cabin which was very very nice along with the whole of the ship simply beautiful were my wife's words ,we made our way up to the pool deck to find a seat to sit and have a welcome aboard drink and finally found an attendant and placed a order only to wait 20plus minutes for him to return with a beer and soda ,it was strange to see so many senior officers around the pool area for great lengths of time not socializing just looking and looking and smoking and drinking coffee everyday the same one's were there ,while the rank and file were running around unhappy in their own special way having fingers clicked to bring senior staff their coffee's treated poorly and was obvious thru out the ship, We ate mostly in the buffet and found the choice limited and layout confussing as doors closed some times and open the next only to be redirected to the opposite side after entering, the food was plentiful thank goodness as the amount of waste by other cruisers was shocking and the lack of manners by both senior personel (those in white uniforms ) was discusting to say the leastenough about the food .we thought the shows were the highlight of this cruise and really enjoyed the variety , we would go to the casino after the shows and try our luck but we were lucky to find a seat as many children were at the machines and when confronting staff I was told the as a gent was blind his grandson was helping him gamble lol. Finally we were overlooking the pool area and watched at least 12 youths about 16/18 years old being pains throwing others in and jumping in in groups ,I said to an onlooking officer is he going to wait for an accident to happen before taking action , he replied I asked them to stop but they no listen to me , I will not use this company again and not recommend to anybody the majority of staff were just plian rude and were dilligafs. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
I have been looking forward to the Windstar Cruises "Treasures of Southern France" cruise for about half a year. The minute I saw the photo of the lavender fields on the brochure page of this cruise I knew I just had to go. And ... Read More
I have been looking forward to the Windstar Cruises "Treasures of Southern France" cruise for about half a year. The minute I saw the photo of the lavender fields on the brochure page of this cruise I knew I just had to go. And so we booked the cruise departing Nice on July 13. My husband and I arrived to Nice a day early and spent the first night at a hotel which was great. We then took a cab to the point of embarkation. Windstar tends to select smaller, commercial ports so we were lucky that our taxi driver knew where to drop us. The moment I got on board, Gonzalo, the Destination Manager, welcomed us. I told him I was so excited to be seeing those lavender fields that they had in the brochure. I then asked which tour I could take to see those fields and he told me "they are everywhere! Take any tour." He then tried to sell me on the $1,499 private car and driver which I thought was a ridiculous price and so I signed up for an excursion to Aix en Provence on Tuesday and later the French Impressionists tour that Thursday. When Tuesday morning came around, we were up, dressed, and had breakfast well before 8 a.m. as our departure was at 8:15 for this tour. Gonzalo saw me in the hallway, pulled me aside, and then told me that he checked in with an associate, and the lavender fields are not in bloom now and that I will not see any. He then told me that I could get my money back if I wanted for the tour. Incredibly disappointed, I took the tour anyway as we were already up and ready. It was a really bad tour. The guide had a hard time with English and just "ummed" the entire time. When we got to Aix en Provence, we were dropped off by a flea market and once the guide starting talking about the exterior of some such building, my husband and I just took off on our own. We didn't really like this area at all. It was VERY commercial and touristy and not at all what I had imagined the medieval little towns of Provence to be. Even the waiters in the cafes were surly. The town was so overcrowded, we couldn't wait to get back on the bus. We had heard that the ship was renovated and were surprised when we got on board and our cabin steward took us to our stateroom and proceeded to tell us that they were probably renovating the cabins later this year or early next year. Sure, they had put in some new carpeting (which was already quite dirty) and had new linens, but the room still looked worn. The furniture was the same and our bathroom had rust around the door frame. The cabin steward kept the room very clean and we thought the laundry package was a great deal. But they had this rough, woolen blanket on the bed which I thought was very out of place and not at all luxury. Breakfast on the ship became somewhat of a joke. Every day you had a choice of a different Eggs Benedict. They had a waffle or pancake for good measure and always the same display of meats (many of which were discolored) and fruits. Lunches were also quite horrific. The menu showed hot dogs and hamburgers, perhaps a burrito, they had a greasy Gyro one day. And here we are in the South of France? What about the fresh veggies and fish we saw in the markets each day? We ended up dining ashore for lunch most days. Dinners, while tasty, were the same dinners Windstar serves no matter where in the world you happen to cruise. Here we are in the South of France and there wasn't even a French wine on the wine list! Hungarian Goulash, Turkey and Stuffing? Really? They had one appetizer and one entree that said "local specialty" as a choice each evening and while the food was tasty and the service was excellent, once again, you weren't dining on the specialties you could find ashore. These towns had fabulous markets and when you saw the quality of the foods there, it was disappointing to see what you got on board. Also, Windstar tendered for the first few days into Cannes and Sanary Sur Mer, but then we docked in a horrible area of Marseilles that didn't seem safe (our ship was behind barbed wire with uniformed guards) and other commercial ports so while you were trying to enjoy a relaxing breakfast on deck, all that you heard were jackhammers and construction vehicles. Tendering would have been so much better. The ship also only sailed each evening starting at 10 p.m. and you were usually docked by 7 or 8 a.m. so you hardly got any opportunity to experiencing cruising which is why we were there wasn't it? The rest of the time we were docked at these ugly commercial noisy ports. Windstar always positions itself as a luxury cruise line and that its journeys are 180 degrees from ordinary, but after having completed by third cruise with them and my husband's fourth cruise, they have gone downhill. The type of passenger has gone downhill, and what they try to get away with is incredible. They are not a luxury cruise line anymore. Luxury isn't having hot dogs and hamburgers on the menu. Or no European wines (everything was from the Napa Valley). If you want something really unique and luxurious and you are a foodie, go to a Seabourn or more upscale line. They just don't really care about delivering what they promise. And when you complain, they offer to give you a limited discount on your next cruise! Like why would you cruise with them again?! Most disappointing was that they position this as a cruise to the South of France where you will see the lavender fields they show on the website and in the brochure. Yet the destination manager on board is clueless about the destination (he's from Mexico) and can't even direct you properly to see what they supposedly sell about the destination. This was a very disappointing experience and not at all luxury if you are a true five-star hotel traveler who enjoys luxury and good food and wine. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
The entire Azamara Quest staff were welcoming, friendly and helpful in a way that immediately made us feel we were at home with family. Here are reasons we LOVED our first Azamara cruise: 1. Gratuities are included in the cruise fare. ... Read More
The entire Azamara Quest staff were welcoming, friendly and helpful in a way that immediately made us feel we were at home with family. Here are reasons we LOVED our first Azamara cruise: 1. Gratuities are included in the cruise fare. 2. House-selected wines, beers, soft drinks and bottled water are included in cruise fare (and the wines were very good!) Fresh-squeezed orange juice and cappuccinos are also included. 3. No formal attire was required. We're from Seattle where "casual" is a way of life. We were pleased to leave gowns, tuxedo and formal shoes at home. This allowed us to pack very lightly. Our travel arrangements to and from the cruise ship became easier and more convenient. 4. Free self-service laundry is available. 5. Free shuttle bus service into most ports was provided. We enjoyed the independent tour option on days when we did not purchase a shore excursion through the ship. 6. No compulsory assigned dinner seating schedule. Similar to dining in a restaurant, we were able to go to the dining room when we were ready to eat. We never experienced a wait. 7. There were ample number of tables for two. Although it is nice to meet fellow travelers, sometimes after a day of touring, it was nice to share a relaxing or romantic dinner at a table for just the two of us. Never a problem on Azamara Quest. 8. Free gelato! We have been on other cruises that either charge for ice cream or make it available only during limited times. Unfortunately, we probably enjoyed the gelato more than we should have. 9. Large selection of TV news channels including MSNBC, CNBC and BBC. 10. Our cruise included a special evening excursion to a local winery near Barcelona with wine-tasting, tapas and a flamenco dance performance. Ole! 11. We heard in advance that Russ Grieve was an incredible cruise director. He was charismatic, talented, engaging and personable. We enjoyed his show performance(s) better than some of the extravagant stage shows we have seen on large ships. Captain Carl Smith was very professional, competent and had a good sense of humor. Importantly, all ship officers and staff took their duties seriously. 12. The ship was clean and well-maintained. The cabin staff were efficient and respectful of our individual schedule. 13. The food was divine in the Discoveries Restaurant. The taste and variety and quality of food was excellent and the presentation was superior. (I will never forget the warm apple tartan with caramel sauce served with gelato.) The service was superior. I was always offered a replacement black napkin to prevent my black slacks/skirt from picking up lint from the white table napkins. Plate service to our table was choreographed by two waiters so that our entrees were presented to us simultaneously. Finally, we enjoyed the small ship feel, the comfortable atmosphere, and the amenities offered on the Quest. A 7-day cruise was not enough. We will definitely cruise Azamara again! Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Our first ever cruise was with MSC four years ago, and we haven't sailed with them since. We were therefore aware of the language problem etc. We'd already cruised twice this year, but when a great deal came up with them for ... Read More
Our first ever cruise was with MSC four years ago, and we haven't sailed with them since. We were therefore aware of the language problem etc. We'd already cruised twice this year, but when a great deal came up with them for October, we thought we'd give them another try. We have to say at the outset that we had a fab time - we were both stressed from work and really needed some down time - and we got that. Embarkation at Villefranche (not Nice as stated above) was very simple and easy. We stayed overnight in the Welcome Hotel in Villefranche and simply walked the 50 yards to the cruise 'terminal' (those who've embarked at Villefranch will know that it can hardly be called a terminal). We were tendered onto the ship and were aboard by 10.00 a.m. Our cabin was ready for us, and although it was a bit on the small side compared with Cunard and Princess, it was perfectly adequate, and very nicely decorated. The ship itself is beautiful, and our only criticism is that they seem to have traded public areas for cabin space so that they can pack more people on board. At times it was a real fight to get through the atrium/shopping area, and the tables were very close together in the restaurant. There's also no forward facing lounge/bar, which we really missed. The food was perfectly edible, and certainly not powdered or 'all cooked from frozen' as some people have said. However, you could tell that it was, for cruise food, a bit on the cheap side. Certainly not a patch on Cunard or Princess - if Cunard is an 8, MSC would struggle to get a 5. Hubby was very disappointed that there was no lobster on Gala night! We always managed to get sun loungers when we wanted them, despite the cruise being completely full at one point (3,200 passengers). Our biggest complaint was the noise volume of the Italians on board - having sailed with MSC once before, we knew what to expect, but the ones on this cruise (particularly those taken on in Livorno and Naples) were incredibly loud. Groups of 8 or 10 (or more) would literally be shouting all at once - and there would be 20 or 30 groups all doing the same. We never stayed in the atrium area, or the poolside, for long, as the noise was just too much for us. We always managed to find a quiet area either at the back of the ship, or in one of the inside lounges, but sometimes a group came to sit next to us and started smoking and shouting, and we'd have to move again. The shows were, considering the variety of nationalities on board, very good indeed. We had lovely waiters, fab cabin stewards, and without exception found all the staff to be friendly and willing to help. Every effort was made to speak English by all the crew, and you have to ask yourself whether such effort is made in reverse on English-speaking ships! So, on balance, we think we'll probably stick with English-speaking ships in future, but would certainly consider MSC for a second or third cruise of the year if the price was right. If you're short-tempered and expect to be spoken to in Queen's English, don't go on MSC, but if you can make allowances for the (sometimes rude, and always) loud Italians, and appreciate that you've not paid a lot for it, then give them a try. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
We recently enjoyed a 10-day, western Mediterranean cruise on Azamara's "Journey." I won't reiterate here what has been stated many times before except to add my voice to the chorus of very pleased Azamra guests. ... Read More
We recently enjoyed a 10-day, western Mediterranean cruise on Azamara's "Journey." I won't reiterate here what has been stated many times before except to add my voice to the chorus of very pleased Azamra guests. Nothing in life--including cruises--is perfect. That said, however, our Azamra cruise absolutely lived up to our expectations and in some respects exceeded them. Rather than going through the laundry list of cruise details, let me comment on some specific aspects of the cruise that may be of particular interest to prospective passengers. Also, since we're as idiocyncratic as any other passenger please keep in mind this is completely subjective! Moreover, since we were not traveling with children or with those with mobility issues, we didn't use the casino nor see any of the shows, and we didn't celebrate any milestone events nor make any special requests, I cannot comment on those things. CONDITION OF THE VESSEL: The Journey and the Quest are not new ships, and some have wondered as to their condition after a decade of service. We found the Journey to be in beautiful shape (except for the often-remarked-on condition of the tile in and around the pool--yes, that does need replacing). All ships we've ever sailed on have constant maintenance, especially on port days. Journey crew were busy painting, varnishing, vacuuming with the best of them. No surprises there. However one evening I noticed a tear along the seam of a back cushion on one of the upholstered chairs in the Mosaics Cafe. "Well, there's a sign of an older ship," I thought. I'd seen (what I thought was a reasonable amount of ) wear and tear on some older Holland America and Princess ships: a carpet stain that had been cleaned up not eradicated, a torn and mended lampshade, etc. So I was sorry to see the torn cushion, but not surprised. However, the next morning, when I stumbled down to Mosaics for a morning cup of coffee, the torn cushion was gone. Either it had been repaired overnight, or replaced. During the rest of the cruise, I would see an occasional burnt out light, only to note the next time I passed by, the light had been replaced. There is a fair amount of bric-a-brac in the public areas of the ship. (Think a cross between a Ralph Lauren boutique and one of those PBS crunchy gravel English manor houses.) Some reviewers have speculated that the Azamara ships' decor may have been influenced by the movie "Titanic," which came out about the time the Azamara ships were built. Regardless of the motive, I can verify that all the decorative details are intact, clean, and looking like the day the ship left the builder. Not a broken fillial or scuffed wall sconce in sight. That is the attention to detail in terms of upkeep on this ship. FOOD: Since this is likely the most subjective, and passionate, area of all, it seems pointless to evaulate whether the food aboard Azamara is as good as the "finest restaurants" ashore or not. Is "the finest restaurant" a high end steak house, or is it a temple of micro gastronomy? Do you yearn for a 30 ounce aged steak or a 30 course tasting menu? What I can report is that the provisions served on our cruise were of high quality, well prepared and expertly served. The quality was apparent both in the types of foodstuffs: venison, veal, foie gras, etc; as well as the quality and freshness. In fact for us--and here is the subjective part so feel free to ignore it!--the specialty restaurants and main dining room menus were close enough in quality that we didn't feel an urge to eat in either specialty restaurant more than once, especially since the menus there do not change. I recall out of the seven or so evenings we ate in the main dining room, only one meal was "ordinary" and even at that, it wasn't bad at all. After a few days, we had fallen into a group of new friends (more on that later), and so found ourselves requesting tables for eight. Since Journey and Quest were not built so as to hold the entire ship's passengers at a single time, we did have some waits for an available table. However, we amiably passed the time in the nearby cocktail lounge and didn't mind the delay. From our perspective could Azamara improve the main dining room? Well they cannot rebuild the ships to seat everyone simultaneously (and we sailed on a full ship), and I know some have wished dinner could be served more quickly. However, for us, it would be nice to have a separate soup and salad course, and have the salad served after the main course. I'm not talking about an elaborate salad, just something simple with a vinagarette. By the same token, some cheese then dessert would be nice. Put all that together and you would have a four-hour dinner! Also I suspect I could have asked for those things and gotten them. One of the amazing things one gets used to quickly is that it is difficult to get a crew member to say "No" to anything! Lastly, when ordering fish, one gets a proper fish fork and knife! To me, that's always been a sign a restaurant takes preparing and serving fish seriously. DRESS: Of the cruises we have been on, this one was the closest to adhering to the official descriptions. It really was "resort casual." No dinner jackets or long dresses, but no track suits or tee shirts either. These were 692 of the best dressed "casual" fellow passengers we've ever sailed with. Which brings me to the people aboard ship. PEOPLE: What you've read about Azamara and its on-board staff, officers and crew is true. They have the most incredible people afloat. I don't know if it is that their attitude and personality rubs off on the passengers, or Azamara passengers "self select," but we have never enjoyed interacting with the crew and fellow passengers so much as we did on this cruise. After we disembarked in Rome, we both commented that when we were on a Caribbean cruise this past winter we were on a ship more than three times the size of the Journey. Yet on that winter cruise we talked to, and got to know, perhaps a third of the people we met and enjoyed getting to know on this cruise. That's a nine-fold improvement, if my math is correct. The Azamara passenger ethos came home to me when I bit the bullet and went to the self-serve laundry on deck seven. Yes, I know the smart thing to do is to go first thing in the morning and not wait until mid afternoon when everyone is going to try to use the facilities. I also knew full well one never goes on a sea day, especially on a 10-day cruise with only one day at sea. I did both. But not only did I wind up with clean clothes, I had a great afternoon! At one point, I went back to the cabin to retrieve a couple of forgotten polo shirts. When I got to the elevators, I could hear all the laughing and conviviality from the laundry room all the way from the deck below. Our interactions with ship's officers were equally unparalleled. While we did not meet or speak with the Captain (Which was our fault. We are at the Explorer level on Le Club Voyage, but managed to miss each and every event we were invited to!), the Staff Captain (the number two officer) saw us one morning having coffee. He stopped and talked to us for a good 5-10 minutes. We hadn't had that kind of interaction since a Windstar cruise 20 years ago (and that on a ship with only 183 passengers). Would we travel on Azamara again? Absolutely. Azamara is now our favorite cruiseline. We may not be aboard for for a year or two as work makes extended travel a more tricky proposition than it does for our retired friends. We also enjoy renting a house and car, so we typically vacation on land more than we do on the sea. But cruising takes you places and introduces you to people you'd likely never see or know otherwise. So when the ship's whistle sounds and we're once again aboard, our intention is for it to be on the Journey or Quest. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I returned from a 7 night Azamara cruise on Journey on September the 24th and wanted to write a review based upon my experience on the ship and compare it in part to Celebrity with whom I've cruised with a number of times. Just a word ... Read More
I returned from a 7 night Azamara cruise on Journey on September the 24th and wanted to write a review based upon my experience on the ship and compare it in part to Celebrity with whom I've cruised with a number of times. Just a word of warning. If you are reading for port/excursion ideas or views on the entertainment then skip over as this was more walking off the ship in the morning and having a stroll r & r time and I haven't been to a show in years! I booked the cruise direct with Azamara's office in the UK from which I have always had great service. The package included flights and hotel accommodation in Nice the day before and the overall experience including transfers was very good. Nice hotel and seamless transfers to the ship. I've done Celebrity transfers before, but because of fewer passengers this was better. Azamara Journey doesn't perhaps have the "wow" factor of the Celebrity ships, especially the S-Class. Rather they are very smart smaller boutique hotel in style as compared to a larger resort. This was immediately evident when boarding. No atriums. No large deck spaces. No Lawn Club. You could look down the stateroom corridor and see from one end of the ship to the other. What a novelty! I really liked the feel. I had a balcony cabin, 7096. Toward the aft of the ship it was in a very handy spot for the aft staircase and being middle deck it was two flights down to the dining room and two flights up for the Windows Cafe. If you are planning on getting exercise walking off the food (which I'll talk about later) you won't get much on Journey! Everything is very accessible and I liked that very much. The cabin itself was nicely appointed and whilst smaller than an equivalent balcony room on the S-Class or CC cabin on the M-Class it was fine. The shower is smaller because in fitting it in the space it tapers a little, rather than being oblong as it is on Celebrity. It was all very well set out though. Friend Helen's parents had a Sky Suite Cat N1 and that was spacious with a good sized tub. Public areas are nicely furnished. The loungers are more comfortable than they are on Celebrity and are nicely padded with a towel cover fitted over each one. I fell asleep for two hours on the Promenade Deck one afternoon and I have never done that on a Celebrity lounger. There are also some very comfy seats under cover on the pool deck and the wicker chairs outside at the aft cafe area work well too. I did miss the Lawn Club. It is so nice to sit up there overlooking the grass, having a putt or a game of bocce. I also missed the larger Sunset Bar from the M-Class, but more especially the S-Class where there is more cover and sofa seating. On Journey you had to keep your eyes peeled more readily for a seat outside, but we always seemed to manage it going to lunch at 1pm. OK, the food. I wasn't sure what to expect here and went with an open mind. I have to say that I found it quite a step up from Celebrity. The buffet wasn't as extensive in its offerings, but then with the space it couldn't be. It was however none the worse for it and there was always a good variety of delicious food there. The main dining room food was on par with the Specialty Restaurants on Celebrity, but of course with a daily change in menu there was more variety. The waiters had much more time to converse and it wasn't as frenetic as it is on the larger ships. There were some really delicious menu items in the MDR. I went to Aqualina twice and Prime C once. They are the Specialty Restaurants on Azamara and didn't disappoint. We had memorable meals in all of them, particularly Prime C and Aqualina on the second visit. Not a lot better than the Specialty Restaurants on Celebrity, but they had the edge. Service everywhere was excellent and the staff seemed very happy. There are just too many to mention all here, but our waiter Carmo and assistant Gomer who served us a couple of times in the main dining room were outstanding. Monico in Aqualina is a character and very good at his job. Mehmet in the aft bar looked after us very well. Farieda who boasts the longest title on the ship that I can't remember, but includes helping book future cruises and Le Club Voyage Hostess was ever present, friendly and helpful. The officers were also visible, including Scott Daniels, the Hotel Director for this cruise and of course Captain Johannes although I didn't get a chance to speak to him. Tony Markey was the CD. I was fortunate to be invited to dine at the Staff Captain Thomas Roth's table one evening along with Guest Relations Manager Nikki Denyer and six other guests and we were treated very well all had a very enjoyable evening with good conversation. You get the impression that all the officers make an effort to ensure you are having a great time and this filters right the way through all of the crew on the ship. A happy ship and because of that, happy passengers. I am going to put down a few bullet points and comparisons whilst I remember them: - I was concerned the ship not being of the more modern "pod" design would be noisy and vibrate a bit. It was very smooth, even in the cabin I was in which was toward the aft. The ship has bow thrusters, but no stern thrusters. It just uses rudder and propeller at the aft. I didn't feel a thing when we docked. - We hit some rough weather between Nice and Corsica that had us on a changed itinerary and even though the seas were up to 15 feet Journey handled things very well I thought. We pitched, rolled and yawed which felt a bit like a washing machine for a bit, but was never uncomfortable. - I preferred the Looking Glass room to the equivalent observation lounges on Celebrity. They are smaller of course, but more intimate with a single deck ceiling and comfy club style chairs. I always find those spaces on Celebrity are a bit barn like and don't go there much. We went to Looking Glass a few times. - The included wine with lunch and dinner was poured generously. I learned my lesson the hard way one afternoon and took better notice after two paracetamol were required at 5 in the afternoon. - I liked the fact we tendered or docked so close to everything and Portofino, Calvi and Sanary sur Mer are all beautiful places and not spoiled by lots of visitors. I was really quite happy just strolling around off the dock or tender and soaking in the atmosphere. - The music was much mellower on Azamara and quieter too. The harpist in the Martini Bar was a nice touch and harked back to the Specialties on Celebrity when I first started cruising. I loved this cruise much more than I thought I would. The ship is beautiful and the staff and food first class. It can't compete on the variety of activities that there are on the larger ships, but if you are looking for something where you can comfortably sit and read or rest up and entertainment and shows aren't your number one priority then perhaps you should take a look. Then of course it does go to some less accessible places that are interesting to visit and there are only 700 other passengers onboard. As I said this was an r & r trip for me and was perfect. I missed some of the venues from the larger ships and the cabin and balcony weren't as big as I'm used to, but that was really about it. In summary and this might be controversial, but in an attempt to put my finger on it I felt Azamara was trying less hard and achieved more than Celebrity, both in terms of service and food. They have a really great product. It sounds like I am on a downer about Celebrity and I'm not. They are just different. Celebrity offer many things I like. I'll continue to do both, but will look at Azamara in a different light from now on. Onboard I booked Quest for November from Venice down the Adriatic to Athens. That's a pretty good endorsement. I told you Farieda was good at her job. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Having heard so many positive things about Azamara we were anticipating nothing but the best when we embarked for our first cruise. We have never considered a cruise before and have always made our own holidays with flights, ... Read More
Having heard so many positive things about Azamara we were anticipating nothing but the best when we embarked for our first cruise. We have never considered a cruise before and have always made our own holidays with flights, hotels/apartments and rental cars. This year one of our trips were cancelled and suddenly we found our self with 2 weeks of spare time to use at "anything". By pure coincidence we stumbled upon a cruise with Azamara and within a few days everything was arranged thru a TA in Oslo. We were going on our first cruise. We read many reviews before we decided and in line with some recommendations we opted for the interior cabin. It's true what they said. We never spent much time there and the money saved could be used on the beverage package,- among other things. Next time we might go for a balcony, but for the first cruise it was quite OK to just do the interior cabin. We got a great reception embarking in Nice and the Meet and Mingle Party was held later the same evening. A fine opportunity to meet some fellow cruisers that you only had some contact with via cruise critic. First port of call was Saint-Tropez. We had plans for lunch at Plage L'Esquinade and had a great day in port. The Saint-Tropez Sailing Week was in progress and it was fantastic to watch all the yachts and large sail boats passing by the Journey as we were tendered close to the port. Sanary Sur Mer was next port and it was really a quaint little village with a beautiful port. The only negative side to it was that they practice siesta and basically that meant that almost all the shops were closed from 12-3p.m. If you don't have a port excursion in a place like Sanary Sur Mer is a bit too quiet. IMHO they should do a bit more when they get cruise ships,- I rather feel a bit stranded in a beautiful town when everything is closed. If they don't want tourists I can suggest many places that would be better options, Saintes Maries de la Mer for example. Barcelona was fantastic- so were the other ports, not going into details, but the excursions we had was very nicely performed by Azamara and their agents. Very professional and surprisingly efficient. We would recommend excursions if you find them interesting because Azamara really make an effort to give you a supreme product. On board the Azamara Journey everything was pure excellence. The crew, from the maintenance staff to the officers, really seemed to enjoy working for Azamara. That was the first thing that struck me,- these people actually enjoy what they are doing. The restaurants were very good. we dined in all of them and can say that all the options are well worth a visit. The main dining room, Discoveries, was a bit more noisy than the speciality restaurants, but nothing to be bothered with. The food was equally as good, and that is what's important. We found the on board entertainment to be very good. Some very nice performances by artists flown in for a few days only and some performances from the Azamara artists. They all were high level performers and could easily work in the West End or on Broadway. We had a fabulous time on the Azamara Journey and will definately go again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011

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