In preparation for an upcoming charter we took a short 5 night cruise on the Journey back in December from San Juan to Miami. This short cruise did not have several of Azamara’s signature features such overnight ports of call or their AzAmazing shore event for the entire ship. However it was a really enjoyable cruise as it went to two of our favorite islands, St Barts and Tortola.
I must say I am very partial to smaller ships and Azamara’s size of only 700 passengers fits the bill perfectly. Large enough to have most of the features of a big ship and small enough to have public spaces to get away from “crowd”. Yet you still get to know your fellow passengers if you wish. As this cruise was before Christmas and the ship was fully decked out along with a Christmas Carol night, the passengers really were in a great spirits.
Azamara has 3 ex Renaissance ships, that over the years have been thoroughly up dated and totally refurbished. It is a very comfortable ship with a bit of a “clubby” feel because of her size and décor. The Living Room is the largest public room/lounge but really is the social heart of the ship. With full bar service and snacks served all day long you will find yourself in this lounge frequently as it offers a great view at the top of the ship in the bow. With live music and late night dancing this is a great place.
The Cabaret Lounge and Bar is the Theater on Journey. This is a nice small intimate lounge that doesn’t have a bad seat. On draw back for charter purposes it only holds about half the ship. For small ship the Journey offers a real choice for dining; Wine and Tapas in the Living room, Themed buffet dinners, The patio deck BBQ, Discoveries is the main restaurant which only holds half the ship, Prime C is the mandatory Steak House, Caviar and Champagne Bar and Aqualina is nice
Dining is really a highlight on every Azamara cruise. The food is really first rate and with top quality ingredients. Menus are nicely varied with good choices in each venue. On Days at Sea you might find Brunch being offered in Discoveries instead of the standard lunch menu. One highlight of each cruise is the White Night. This is a deck dinner buffet style that is really top class with live music. For this event they can handle around 500 all at once but with staggered timing like on a normal cruise it can handle the entire ship. One last comment, we had one of the best Chateaubriands ever in Prime C. Some of these restaurants carry additional charges except for suite holders.
Other public rooms are a Sports Bar, Mosaic Bar (your coffee shop), Pool Bar and Sunset bar which is part of the buffet restaurant and very popular, the Prime C Bar is really a nice separate bar like any good steak house. The spa and fitness areas are a good size for this ship. Of course there is a gift shop. The ship currently has a casino but we understand that the casinos are being removed from all Azamara ships.
Most of the staterooms have verandas that are of a nice size however your standard veranda cabin is a bit small by today’s standards. With smoke and mirrors and a really good interior decorator they seem bigger than they actually are. The bathrooms on the other hand are SMALL and a one man or woman operation.
The price point on the ship is very attractive, nowhere near as much on a luxury ship, but higher than sister brand Celebrity. Her rates include gratuities and open bar and wines, however the standard open bar doesn’t give you the top brands or much of a selection of wine but certainly is passable. Normally an event for the entire ship is provided off the ship one night (AzAmazing), but not for charters. While this cruise didn’t include this event due to the length of the cruise, on other groups we have operated these nights turn out to be a highlight of the cruise.
Azamara is just right for the group that wants affordable luxury in a relaxed setting. I would highly recommend this for your groups moving up the ladder.