Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Review of the Azamara Journey

Below are pictures and my review of the brand new Azamara Journey. Enjoy!

This past Friday I was one of the privileged travel agents to be allowed the first viewing of the Azamara Journey. In case you haven’t already heard, Celebrity Cruises announced a new deluxe cruise brand entitled “Azamara Cruises”. And, guess what? The Journey is now the first ship from the Azamara fleet. The second ship will be the Azamara Quest, which will enter service this October. If you would like more information on this new ultra luxury brand, please see my previous blog posting.

Now, back to my review of the Journey. As I pulled up to the Cape Liberty (Bayonne), NJ pier, I noticed two ships were docked. Royal Caribbean was also in the process of introducing their newest member of their fleet, the Liberty of the Seas. The Liberty of the Seas is the sister ship to the Freedom of the Seas, which is currently the largest cruise ship in the industry. The Liberty is approximately 160,000 gross tons. Right next to the Liberty was the 30,000-ton Journey. It was quite a funny site comparing the size difference of these two ships. But, really these two ships should never be compared. They are in completely different leagues and are meant to attract a completely opposite type of clientele. If you were looking for the family-fun cruise ship with endless onboard activities, then the Liberty would be your perfect choice. However, if you are looking for a unique, luxury cruise experience, then you may want to consider the Journey. The reason I say “unique” is because of the exotic destinations and onboard service amenities the Journey offers. The size of the Journey allows this ship to travel to new cruise ports such as Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Panama Canal, Mediterranean and even South America. In addition to great destinations, the Journey immediately differentiates itself from the mass-market cruise lines by offering butler service in every stateroom.

After marveling over the size differences of these ships, I focused my attention on the Journey. Celebrity Cruises had the travel agents and press wait outside in a nicely decorated tent before we could board the ship. I quickly noticed the logo was conveniently concealed on this ship. Before this past Friday, I was still under the impression that the Journey would be part of the Celebrity Cruise Fleet. However, I was advised that Celebrity would be making a big announcement onboard the Journey. Once I saw the concealment of the logo, I had a pretty good idea what that surprise might be.

Anyway, back to the exciting stuff. Soon after, we were quickly ushered onboard the ship. I believe the first room we entered was on deck 5 and it was their entertainment lounge. We were quickly greeted with waiters and waitresses serving finger food and champagne. As we settled in, Richard Fain (Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited) and Dan Hanrahan (President of Celebrity Cruises) quickly announced the Celebrity Journey will be the 1st ship of the new Azamara fleet. After the announcement we received a small sample of the onboard entertainment. It was a 5-piece singing and dancing group that was absolutely phenomenal. I’ve come to expect great entertainment from Celebrity Cruises, but this show was different. Since we were in an intimate lounge, the entertainers were right up-close to us. There was no elaborate stage settings or sound equipment. The show was based purely on talent. And, wow was this was quite a talented act. You couldn’t help but be drawn into the show and appreciate how tight they sounded together. I was truly impressed. I am not quite sure if Azamara plans on using this lounge for all of their entertainment, but I thought it was truly a unique and intimate show.

Now to my favorite part; the food of-course. Those of you who don’t know me, I am an average size man who just loves to eat all the time. Probably the number # 1 thing I look forward to on a cruise is the food. My wife and I took the Celebrity Constellation for our honeymoon and every day I woke up excited to see the lunch and dinner menus. I guess I’m just strange that way. The Azamara Journey has three different restaurants onboard. The “Discoveries” is the ship’s main dining room and has open seating. I personally think this is a huge positive for this ship. For a cruise that visits such unique destinations, it would be ashamed if you always found yourself rushing back to the ship to make your dinner arrangements. In addition to “Discoveries”, the two specialty restaurants onboard are “Prime C” and “Aqualina”. Prime C serves steak and seafood dishes. Aqualina serves Mediterranean styled dishes that are inspired and based purely on the ports of call you visit. All three restaurants do not require formal attire.

We were invited to eat lunch in Aqualina. Now before I go any further, you may interpret this next sentence as a biased endorsement for Azamara Cruises, but I am purely just stating my opinion. THIS WAS THE BEST FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD ON A CRUISE SHIP. I think that gets my point across. I can’t express how good my meal was. I started off with a buffalo mozzarella salad that left me wanting seconds. Actually, I’m sure if we had more time they would have gladly offered me another serving. Next came a tuna wonton that I quickly devoured. As for the main course, I had a filet mignon served with popcorn shrimp and macaroni & cheese. While the macaroni & cheese may not sound very upscale, it really nicely complimented the whole meal. My only complaint with the main course was there was not enough of it. The steak was excellent, but a little too small for my liking. That may have actually been a good thing because desert was still coming. We were given a choice of Chocolate assortments or Chocolate Fondue. While I am not a big sweet person, I must say I did a nice job cleaning up my Chocolate Fondue. The desert was incredible and too good to resist. To top the whole meal off, the service was outstanding. Every meal was served precisely at the same time as all of my other dining companions. I really felt spoiled and a little undeserving of all this great treatment.

After lunch we had about 15 minutes to see the entire ship. Unfortunately because of various coast guard restrictions and the fact that the ship was still not finished, we were not able see the entire ship. Every corridor we turned, crews were feverishly running around to get the ship prepared for it’s first sailing to Bermuda. I quickly peeked my head into as many public rooms and staterooms as possible. Prime C featured dark rich woods with a beautiful glass enclosed wine cellar. The Discoveries restaurant had a nice bar / lounge waiting area before you prepare to dine. It was a nice touch that I have never seen done before on any cruise ship. The Windows CafĂ© (where Sushi is served during the evening) featured marble covered counters all around. I will admit that I am not a gambling man, but the Casino was a tad small. However, keep in mind this ship only occupies 700 passengers compared to the typical 2,000 passenger cruise ship.

I only had the opportunity to see two types of staterooms, which were a standard balcony and the Penthouse Suite. The balcony stateroom (1A or 2A) was quite spacious and nicely decorated. Everything looked and smelled so clean. I loved the flat screen televisions. The standard balcony staterooms are 215 square feet with a 38 square foot balcony. As for the other stateroom, my jaw dropped when I entered the Penthouse Suite.
This room featured a separate living room area with its own master bedroom and walk-in closets. The master bath featured a whirlpool tub and every counter was in a beautiful marble finish. I personally don’t like seeing these cabins on tours because it is one BIG tease. I am always jealous of the person staying in these cabins and wished it were me.

So how would I conclude my review of the Azamara Journey? Would I suggest the Azamara Journey to my clients, friends or family? The answer depends on what they are looking for in a cruise experience. I must stress this is really not a family-oriented cruise ship. This is a LUXURY ship that focuses on excellent food, impeccable service and unique cruise destinations. If you are the type of person that wants to be on the ship with the rock-climbing wall and ice-skating rink, then this ship is not for you. I will never knock those mega ships because they are quite possibly my favorite, but the Journey is just simply a different type of cruise experience all together. If you want to be completely pampered and take the road far less traveled, then I recommend the Azamara Journey.


  1. Anonymous11:54 PM

    How nice to see someone else with this name. How can I e-mail you?

  2. Anonymous12:09 AM

    I too am a great fan of Celebrity.

    I find it odd that you would classify Azamara as Luxury. As well as say giving a top rating on the basis of one lunch. I would like to know on what basis you compared this ship.

    I have sailed on Seabourn, Silver Seas, Regent, and Crystal. How you could put Azamara in a class with those true luxury lines is bewildering. A Premium plus maybe!

  3. Anonymous3:51 PM

    Please, yes, add some more comparison on what a "butler" provides or is this just a new name for cabin attendant.

    Luxury cruising usually includes all services in the price - and doesn't charge for onboard amenities, and there is no race for dining room seating or booking of specialty restaurants (all of these are true at present with Azamara per reports from travelers)

    And featured golf, wine, culinary, destination and culture lectures designed for discerning travelers is prime focus.

    I agree with Azamara could comfortably aspire to "Premium" cruise - Luxury I save for the real thing.

  4. Anonymous11:27 AM

    i have a question for you... a single passenger how many paid for a cruise at azamara jurney?
    i yet tring to book for me and they said that i have to paid 2800 us dollars but all my friends said that i must paid for two.... who have right the on line agency or my friends?