April 08, 2023

Aboard Azamara in the Mediterranean

from Ian McIntosh aboard Azamara Journey with wife and author Fiona McIntosh

Boarding Azamara Journey in Barcelona was quick and easy - there were plenty of staff and with only a shade under 800 guests the terminal was never very crowded. It seems Covid fears have gone out of the window - we were asked if we were feeling ok - and that was it. When you finally make it on board the reception area is a bit ordinary but a glass of champagne made up for any disappointment. 

Before I start talking about this boutique line I should explain that Journey is one of eight R class ships originally launched by Renaissance Cruises between the late 90s to the early 2000s. Journey was number six off the production line. Sure they have been renovated a number of times but I did wonder how well these old veterans would compare to the new crop of luxury ships - Viking for instance. The balcony cabins are a little small by modern day standards including the toilet area - there are rumours around for instance about well-proportioned American bottoms all but getting stuck! We booked three cabins - two for our kids and a club spa suite for ourselves. Built abound 2015 these suites are on deck nine with easy access to the spa, gym, swimming pool and restaurants. The spacious glass spa soaking tub and separate rain shower enclosure really is spectacular. More on the room later but I was instantly impressed to see two USB slots either side of the bed.
There was some sort of glitch when security scanned our cards and we were asked to take them back to deck 4 for renewal “or you can get off at the next port but you won’t be able to get back onboard.” Problems emerged as well when we tried to hook up our free internet deal. Seems we had not been registered properly in the system. When we walked into the club spa room everyone was impressed with the size and pleasant decor and yes there was a bottle of champagne - but no ice bucket, just the bottle. The tours booklet was also missing. 

When our steward Puta arrived he apologised and explained that the butler would fix all. Oscar did finally roll up and the bottle was on ice when we returned that evening after departure. That was the one and only time we saw him - not that we wanted Oscar - or the phantom as he became known - unpacking bags. The lifeboat drill required everyone to attend in the theatre but the days of having to wear a lifejacket on deck are over - they just scan your boarding card. We did a four night dine in specialty restaurants deal as soon as we arrived - and headed to the steak house called Prime C for a first evening celebration. And that’s where I started to be impressed. The decor, food and service were outstanding. The good vibes rolled on. Each day we get to know the ship a little better - the Windows cafe is already a favourite on deck nine - nothing more enjoyable that sitting on the open deck at the back of the restaurant enjoying breakfast with the morning sun warming your back. The menu celebrated French specialities last night - a great selection of delicious food served smorgasbord style. Afterwards we explored deck 5 - the main restaurant is at one end, the theatre at the other. In between guests enjoy a spacious piano bar and shopping areas. It was a smart idea to remove the casinos and create the piano bar that is really popular.

Azamara was a Royal Caribbean brand until 2021 by the way when the business was sold to a private equity firm. There are now four ships in the fleet – Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey, Azamara Pursuit and Azamara Onward. Later today we head for Livorno where hopefully there will be a shuttle provided to the town and railway station - although i am not holding my breath which is a shame. Not everyone want to go on planned ship tours. There are regular train services to Florence.

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