I am just off the Azamara Journey. We did the 9 night from Miami to San Juan.
Originally this sailing was going to Cuba and when the rules were changed they had to switch the itinerary. We jumped on board along with a few friends (12 total) as I had never been to most of these islands so it was a win/win.
Azamara is a smaller ship than the mass market huge ships but is run under the umbrella of Royal Caribbean. She was built in 2000 and sold to RCCL / Azamara in 2007. She’s 30, 277 tons with 347 cabins or 694 passengers based on double occupancy and just under 400 crew members. Now that we’re done with the statistics let’s talk details and impressions.
Overall we were very happy with our cruise from the ship to the itinerary to the crew. We only had a couple of minor complaints which I’ll get to later. While Azamara is somewhat inclusive it ins’t as inclusive as some of the luxury lines. Pricing includes basic drink package and gratuities. The only thing extra are excursions, wifi, upgraded drink package and if you want to eat in the speciality restaurants.
One thing that stood out to everyone in my group was the staff and how friendly they were! Almost every crew member we came in contact with seemed happy to be working. During the Captain’s Dinner we chatted with the Staff Captain about what his role was. He said basically he deals with the staff and they spend a lot of time making sure their staff is happy. I reiterated to him that the staff did indeed seem happy.
Staterooms: Generally speaking on the smaller ship the smaller the stateroom. I was able to see the verandah cabin, the club continental suite, the club spa suite, the club ocean suite (see video) and the club owner’s suite (my cabin, see video). If you want a little extra room I highly recommend the club continental suite as it is very similar to a verandah but is a tad wider and enough room to feel like you’re not tripping over each other.
My group are wine drinkers and knowing that we could bring wine on board, we did and we each brought a case. There is a $10 corkage fee only if you bring your bottle into the restaurants. The main reason for bringing our wine suitcases is that there is a large wine store on St. Barts that we wanted to visit so we had to drink our wine in order to make room for the refill. La Cave is the largest wine store in the Caribbean mainly focusing on French wines. Our main Sommelier was Sheldon Peirre and he was simply amazing. Note: always offer for your Somm to taste the wine you bring.
Food: Overall I thought the food was good. It wasn’t over the top fantastic and it was way better than mediocre. We dined in main dining, room service, the grille on deck, Aquafina and Prime. Honestly I can’t really complain about anything I ate and really liked many of the items. Nothing wowed me like the lasagne on my Regent cruise and there weren’t more upscale offerings like Foie Gras or lobster bisque but there were very tasty items and their ribeye in Prime was extremely good. A couple of people in our group had a bad experience at Prime and chose not to try it again. On the other hand, we ate there on several occasions and I never had a bad meal or bad service.
A few examples:
The general dress code on the ship is “resort casual” or “country club casual” and I honestly can’t say that I saw anyone who I thought was under dressed or over dressed. While there is no formal night, there is a “white night” and everyone I saw was dressed in white and I saw a LOT of people. Normally this party is held on the pool deck but with the threat of rain, they cancelled it so everyone rushed to main dining and they were overwhelmed. It was the only time the whole trip where the ship felt crowded. We were seated with a while to wait but the bar staff was prompt and brought drinks quickly.
Azamara generally has good reviews for their shuttles into town in cruise ports but I can’t comment on that as we were on an island itinerary and were pretty much dropped off in the thick of things. When we reached shore or arrived back at the ship after exploring we were always met with friendly staff, a cool wash cloth and a choice of cool beverages. Here is a photo of what greeted us on shore:
Comparison to other ships this size: Inevitably when sailing Regent, Azamara or Oceania we will compare the three as they are basically the same ships with different owners and marketing. I haven’t sailed Oceania yet so I can’t really comment on them but I have done a ship inspection and had lunch and the food was amazing. Oceania is known for their food so that is expected. I think that while the food was good on Azamara and I was very happy, the food in general on Regent was a tad better. Regent just offered things that Azamara didn’t offer or not in the restaurants I was in. The best lasagne I’ve ever had was on Regent. Their lasagne was so good that I had it three nights in a row. However, I found my fellow passengers on the Azamara Journey a tad less stuffy than on Regent.
A few items to quibble about
- The internet was awful. While you can check and post to facebook do not think about getting any real work done.
- The “butler” is more like a really really good concierge as there are some things that he just can’t do. Maybe we just didn’t ask enough of him because we’re pretty self sufficient. Still he was awesome and a nice addition to our cruise.
- Our cruise was a rearranged Cuba sailing and we did not have an “Azamazing Evening” which was very disappointing.
- Bring something white to wear for “White Night”
- Wait to buy wifi. The price goes down every day so the day you’re in port if you have wifi through your phone you can buy the next day. Or just don’t buy and vacation!
- Deck 6 forward suites overlook the bow and winches for the anchor so your view ins’t immediately the water.
- Make dinner reservations for specialty restaurants as soon as you get on board.
We had an excellent time on the Azamara Journey and I would not hesitate to go back on board any of the Azamara ships.