Written by on Thursday September 3, 2015
We chose this cruise for two reasons: one that it was port intensive – the itinerary offered (almost) a new destination every day. And two, because Azamara Journey is a mid-size ship that carries only 600 guests. Our previous cruise was on the giant Anthem of the Seas, and we were keen to see how the Azamara experience would compare.
The initial benefit of sailing on a smaller ship was felt at check-in. There was no queue at all, so a mere 20 minutes after arriving at Piraeus Port we were on board.
We were welcomed aboard by Richard – the hotel Director no less. Who also sorted out a couple of excursions and our “3 Table Tour” speciality dine around package, all within the space of 10 minutes.
In fact, this is a running theme on the Azamara Journey – all senior crew, including the captain, are very visible and go out of their way to speak to as many guests as possible.
There are 4 main restaurants on board, so even on a short cruise like ours was, we were able to try them all. And each one was excellent in their own way.
Discoveries is the main, table service dining restaurant on the ship, and the largest. You can’t make a reservation but we always got a table whenever we wanted one. Food here is a bit more formal and served up in some style.
Windows Cafe offers a high quality international buffet, and is the most casual dining experience on offer. A nice touch is that they always incorporate some “local” dishes according to where you are in the world.
There are two speciality restaurants, Prime C which is a fantastic steakhouse but also serves up some wonderful seafood., and Aqualina which has an Italian/Mediterranean theme. If you lucky enough to be staying in a suite you can eat every night in the speciality restaurants, otherwise you can pay a cover charge of $25 per person.
Unlike most other cruise lines, with Azamara, most alcoholic and soft drinks are included in the cruise fare. There are up-grade packages available to purchase on board, but we found that the already included range of spirits, cocktails, wines and beers was extensive enough to keep us happy for the duration of our cruise!
During the day, life on board is fairly laid back with very little organised entertainment. Most passengers are off the ship exploring the port of call. The benefit of this is that the pool area is very quiet and we enjoyed many mornings lounging around the pool before heading off ashore in the afternoon to explore.
On this cruise we arrived into ports very early in the morning and often didn’t depart until 11pm. This meant that you had all day in port with plenty of time to explore. So you could really take things at your own pace.
We also appreciated the fact that a smaller ship like Journey can dock at ports where some of the bigger ships can’t. We were originally scheduled to be anchored off Mykonos, but due to some very strong winds, the Captain decided to dock instead. This was because the sea swell was too great for the tender boats to be launched. (We found out later a that a couple of larger ships had also been scheduled to anchor off Mykonos that day but had to abandon their visit as they were too large to dock at the port).
There was always plenty of things going on in the evenings to keep us entertained. Although everything is fairly low key compared to what you can get on some of the bigger ships. But the emphasis here was on quality rather than quantity, and the ship’s entertainers worked tirelessly to keep us amused.
Highlight for us was the “White Night” a regular event on Azamara cruises. As the name suggests everyone – well almost everyone - dresses in white, and the Captain and senior Officers help to serve guests from a vast buffet set up on deck. After much dancing, (and drinking) the evening culminates in a huge conga snaking around almost the entire ship!
A feature of Azamara Cruises is that they arrange at least one “AzAmazing Evening Event”, on each cruise. These events are free, but guests must book their place in advance. The “AzAmazing Evening” on our cruise was a private trip at dusk to what remains of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus. Once there we took our seats in the ancient Odeon to be entertained by a 12 piece chamber orchestra playing a selection of classical music. Prior to Azamara organising these events music hadn’t been heard in the Odeon at Ephesus for thousands of years.
Overall we loved this cruise and this ship. For us, what really stood out was the fantastic service we got from all of the crew on board from the Captain down. Nothing was ever too much trouble.
There may be larger, flashier ships around with waterslides, surf simulators even robot barmen! But for us, Azamara achieved a perfect balance of classic cruising coupled with American standard levels of service. On these more intimate ships, life is less frenetic and it is easier to get to know your fellow passengers.
We are already looking forward to our next cruise with Azamara.
Brian Wright, Marketing Director