Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Tour of the Azamara Journey

Last Wednesday the Azamara Journey pulled into New York City for an overnight stay, before heading out for a transatlantic voyage. A small group of travel agents, myself included, were invited aboard for a ship tour followed by dinner in one of the specialty restaurants. What follows is a review of our visit, with pictures courtesy of my co-worker, Leslie.

I cruise often, always on large contemporary vessels that resemble floating cities. Walking onto the Azamara Journey was a totally different experience. Dubbed as a boutique cruise line, the Journey carries 694 guests and is a mere 30,277 tons. There was no multi-storied atrium, no wide sweeping staircase, and no mega-sized chandelier tossing the light off it's crystal facets from above. Instead, I immediately felt embraced by her cozy ambience, much like an intimate European hotel.  Warm and welcoming, I was charmed by her relaxed atmosphere.

The public rooms are all decorated in a chic but conservative style, and you could say the décor is a bit of a throwback to ship decor of the ocean liners of the 1920s and ’30s. I boarded the ship at the entrance of the Mosaic Café, a quaint spot serving coffee or alcoholic beverages depending on the time of day. My eyes were immediately drawn to the glass jars of cookies on the bar and the large, multi-tiered cart filled with small ""tapas""-style plates of delicious savory and sweet items. A piano player was performing in the corner.  I could envision myself sitting at one of the small tables enjoying a pastry, while checking email on my iPad (I should mention the ship is fully wi-fi), before heading out for the day. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

I passed by two small shops (one featuring beautiful MCM handbags) on the way to Casino Luxe. Although small by cruise line standards, it makes the most of its space offering blackjack tables, roulette, poker, and slot machines. Beyond the casino is the Cabaret Lounge, the Azamara Journey's main show room. The lounge had a very “clubby” feeling to it, with a stage fronted by a small dance floor surrounded by plush a chairs and cocktail tables. A bar resides in the rear. Although not meant to showcase Las Vegas-style extravaganzas, as the name implies, it is perfect for cabaret-style entertainment such as song, dance, comedy, magic and theatre.
The Looking Glass, forward on deck 10, is beautiful with its floor-to-ceiling windows, comfortable leather sofas, and a bar featuring exquisite Murano glass sculptures. It would be a great place for pre-dinner drinks at sunset or dancing the night away. During the day it’s a perfect gathering spot for board games, reading or watching the world glide by.

My favorite spot on the ship was the lovely library (called the Drawing Room). It had a fireplace, a high, domed, trompe l’oeil ceiling, comfortable wingback chairs with footstools, and sofas perfect for curling up with a good book. Leather banquettes situated beneath the windows ran along the sides of the room and shelves of books lined the walls. There was an impressive collection by Assouline, exquisite books on art, design, and many things art and design related. A piano sat in the middle of the room, as the space can be used for social events and private parties.

Discoveries is the main dining room on the Journey. There are large ocean-view windows on three sides, and lots of tables for small groups of two or four, perfect for accommodating the open-seating dining concept. A lounge/bar at the entrance into Discoveries is an ideal spot for guests to meet for a pre-dinner drink.

Windows Café serves casual meals throughout the day. For those who prefer to dine al fresco, Windows Café offers a substantial covered patio dining area. The live music was a nice touch. There are two alternative restaurants on board; Aqualina, with a Mediterranean inspired menu and Prime C, a traditional steakhouse.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely delicious meal I enjoyed at Aqualina that night. It began with a grilled artichoke and potato stack appetizer followed by rich and creamy lobster bisque. I chose the salmon with saffron rice as an entrée and it was moist and flavorful. However, the chocolate hazelnut dessert was to die for and was the pièce de résistance of the entire evening!

The gym was well appointed and I like the fact that there were complimentary water bottles to help guests get through their workout. The spa next door was not ostentatious, but the luxurious treatments available held the promise to soothe body, mind and soul. An acupuncture room and a hair salon were in the same area. A thalassotherapy pool and sunbathing area forward on deck 9 was reserved for suite guests, although a limited amount of day passes are for sale.

The interior, ocean view and balcony cabins were pretty standard fare on their own, but cabin amenities make them exceptional. Robes, cut flowers, fresh fruit, complimentary bottled water, tote bag and refrigerator with mini bar are touches that discreetly make you aware that this is not your ordinary cruise line. The Club World Owner’s Suite was spectacular, as were the additional amenities it includes, such as English butler service, complimentary specialty dining and one bottle of vodka and Scotch whisky just to name just a few.

Up on deck 9, the swimming pool is quite small, however, there is plenty of good sunbathing space with teak furnishings covered with thick comfy cushions. When I mention the size of the pool, my guide reminds I that Azamara Club Cruises is more about the destinations…wonderful exotic itineraries!  Azamara ships stay in port late into the evening and many of their itineraries include overnights in port allowing for a more in depth cultural experience.  After all, you don’t want to just “see” a city; you want to “experience” it. The ship, lovely as she is, takes a back seat to incredible voyages she takes you on. Yes, I get that now, and am so ready to be whisked away to somewhere wonderful on this exceptional ship!

Note: The following amenities are included at no additional charge on all Azamara Club Cruises:

Note: The following amenities are included at no additional charge on all Azamara Club Cruises:

Boutique red and white wines at lunch and dinner;
Gratuities for housekeeping, dining, and bar staff;
Bottled water, soft drinks, and specialty coffees;
Self-service laundry;
Shuttle service to/from port communities, where available;
English Butler service for suite guests"

No comments:

Post a Comment