Ten Days of Seafaring Bliss in the Mediterranean - Journey Sept. 3rd cruise review

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#1
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
It was a good cruise. A very, very, good cruise: the kind that brings one of the those goofy smiles to your face when you think about it after, the kind upon which you measure all others against. I don't know how it happened, really. You'd think that one would pretty well be the same as the other when you're sailing with a cruise line that has only two ships and both of them are practically mirror images of the other. This was our third Azamara cruise--we'd gone on the Quest for eight days over Christmas and a week on the Journey mid-May. And now this one, ten days which began in Lisbon and ended in Barcelona. My husband and I have now seen three different captains, three different cruise directors, three different executive chefs, and three different hotel directors. Hmmm, hardly any wonder we enjoyed three unique cruise experiences...and enjoy them all we did, though these ten days on the Journey we enjoyed the best. Let me tell you about it.

First, the itinerary, which is as follows.

Wednesday, 3rd of September in Lisbon departing at 4 pm
Thursday, 4th of September in Cadiz from 10 am to 10 pm
Friday, 5th of September in Gibraltar from 8 am to 10 pm
Saturday, 6th of September it's a day at sea
Sunday, 7th of September in Valencia overnight, arriving at 7 am
Monday, 8th of September in Valencia until 4:00 pm
Tuesday, 9th of September in Mahon, Menorca from 9 am to 5 pm
Wednesday, 10th of September in Port-Vendres from 8 am to 11 pm
Thursday, 11th of September in Palamos from 7:30 am to 2 pm, sailing to Barcelona and arriving there at 8 pm
Friday, 12th of September in Barcelona
Saturday, 13th of September Barcelona debarkation

There are a lot of factors which figure into choosing a cruise even after you've settled upon the ship. Time of year. Weather. Length of cruise. Price and/or Promotion. Ease of getting to embarkation and departure ports. And so on and so forth. All practical reasons for booking. And then there's one
irresistible driving force that compels you to book THE cruise, forsaking all others. For me, it was Carcassonne. If we went on this cruise, "Alcazar to Gaudi," we'd be docking in Port Vendres, and I'd see the fabled castle, the castle to end all castles. There! This was the cruise for me and my agreeable husband said Yes, Book It. And that was it. The funny thing is that it turned out not to be exactly the treasure I believed it to be after years of girlish dreams of knights in shining armor and all that, but it's okay; we found plenty of other unexpected delights in this charming itinerary.

One thing about itineraries--if you see one with a port you particularly want to see, and you want to sail Azamara, don't be lulled into thinking that if you pass it up one month or year that you can catch it another, because you might not. I debated on whether or to talk about the ports we visited or just stick to the ship experience. To that end I went on Azamara's website to see if there were any other voyages to our ports, in which case it would be worthwhile to devote a line or two to describing our excursions and what not just in case it piqued anyone's interest and they too wanted to sail there. This is what I came up with: Lisbon (one sailing in '15 and one in '16), Cadiz, Port Vendres, and Palamos (none in '14, '15, or '16), Gibraltar (plenty of opportunity), Valencia (one sailing in '14 and one in '15m, but none in '16), Mahon (one sailing in '14, two in '15, but none in '16), Barcelona (eleven sailings upcoming but only one in '16). So there you go. Get it while it's hot or you might not get it at all.

More to come though it will most likely come in spits and spurts as time allows (though I will try not to drag things out ).
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Deirdre
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Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#3
Kent, England
377 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Thank you for the start of your review - so pleased to hear you enjoyed your cruise after all the recent 'bad press' about the Journey. We actually had lunch on the ship when it was in Southampton on the 20th August - the day that started the cruise which has been the subject of so many complaints on Cruise Critic. We enjoyed our day and lunch so much, as well as meeting up with several crew members who greeted us like old friends, that we decided after that visit to book another Azamara cruise on the Quest next January. We already have future cruises booked on Oceania, Seabourn and Celebrity but didn't like the thought of a year going by without 'going home' to Azamara.

Yes, we were very disappointed indeed when the new 'benefits' were announced on the 1st September and our anticipation of our January cruise has been dampened by all the recent comments about Azamara going downhill. We just hope we love it as much as usual when we are onboard.

Looking forward to the next installment of your review and thanks again for restoring our faith in Azamara a little!
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Seabourn Odyssey - Greece, Italy & Croatia June 2018
Azamara Quest - Classic Grand Prix Cruise May 2018
Azamara Journey - Singapore round trip March 2018
Azamara Journey - Barcelona to Lisbon June 2017
Azamara Quest - Miami round trip March 2017
Azamara Journey - Croatia July 2016
Azamara Journey - Athens to Venice June 2016
Azamara Journey - Los Angeles to Miami February 2016
Celebrity Solstice - New Caledonian Islands Oct 2015
Azamara Journey - Athens round trip September 2015
Seabourn Sojourn - Monte Carlo to Rome June 2015
Azamara Journey - Grand Prix May 2015
Azamara Quest - Burma January 2015
Oceania Riviera - Istanbul to Athens October 2014
Azamara Quest - Venice and Croatia June 2014
Azamara Journey - Spice Route Cruise April 2014
Azamara Journey - Turquoise Coast/Greece August 2013
Azamara Journey - Indonesia January 2013
Azamara Quest - Malaga November 2012
Azamara Quest - Greek Isles July 2012
HAL Noordam - Southern Caribbean 2012
Azamara Journey - Monaco GP Cruise 2011
Azamara Journey - Caribbean 2011
Azamara Quest - Best of Italy 2009
Emerald Princess - Eastern Caribbean 2009
Sapphire Princess - Alaska 2008
Splendour of the Seas - Greek Isles 2007
P&O Arcadia - Norway 2006
Coral Princess - Panama Canal 2005

Upcoming Cruises:
Azamara Quest - Suez Canal October 2018
Seabourn Odyssey - Caribbean March 2019
Azamara Journey - Black Sea July 2020
#4
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
The cruise gods were with us right from the start because not only did we get a great itinerary, we got a very good promotion as well. Rob and I booked with the "veranda for the price of an inside + $1000 Choice Air credit" promo. It's the best ones Azamara has ever offered and I hope they repeat it again. We don't have the good fortune to live near a major airport hub such as Chicago and as a consequence we pay through the teeth to fly anywhere. Getting a break on the airfare was wonderful. Same thing with a balcony--we like the fresh air and for us, it's a balcony or bust.

Lisbon!!! It's one of our favorite cities and we were thrilled that our cruise fell over the Labor Day weekend. Rob got a bonus day of vacation because of it and we arrived three nights early. We chose a guesthouse with a view to the River Tagus and the bridge so I could keep an eye out for the Journey when she sailed in. We actually did catch a glimpse of her though it was when we were on the funicular, not when we were at the hotel (still pretty thrilling!). Lisbon is an easy airport in terms of reaching the city. It's not that far on the outskirts and there's taxi, bus, and subway service. We chose the latter since we travel fairly light but I won't recommend that unless you're masochists (as we apparently are). So many steps up and down in the subway! Lug the bags up the stairs. Lug the bags down. Repeat. Little did we know that this would be a preview of our vacation. We've never done inclines to the extent we did on this cruise, and Lisbon with all its hills paved the way.

I used to think, in the years before we started cruising, that people who went on cruises were lazy. Lazy because they didn't have to think about anything; the ship brought them where they wanted to go and loaded them up on pre-arranged excursions that demanded nothing of them. Wrong. There's a heck of a lot of planning that goes into cruise vacations, maybe even more than land vacations since there isn't the luxury of time to waste. We did a lot of planning for Lisbon and all the subsequent ports and brought with us a dossier of notes and directions on what to do and when.

You know how I mentioned the masochism of taking the subway from the airport when there were easier routes to take? Follow that up on arriving without having slept on the flight and taking what turned out to be a nearly FOUR hour walking tour up and down and around Lisbon. That very afternoon. Sensible people--not us--would have bought tickets for the hop-on/hop-off bus and left it at that. This is one case where I will emphatically say "do as I say, not as I do." Nonetheless Rob and I got a very thorough understanding of beautiful Lisbon in our hours of traipsing up and down and around, and if we ever have the choice of a cruise that brings us to Lisbon and one that doesn't, we're going to go for Lisbon. It's a great city. There's so much to see and do. We bought the Lisbon Card and had access to three days' worth of public transportation and many museums, all of which we attempted to see. Note I use the term "attempted" because what we managed to see was the tip of the iceberg. We must definitely get back to Lisbon again!

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Deirdre
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Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#5
Seattle, WA
1,773 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Loving this review so far! Can't wait for the rest!



Michael
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#6
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Originally posted by Texed
Deirdre,

Thanks for posting.
Hi Ed! I'm glad you're reading along. I hope all is well with you and that Rob and I have the good luck to sail again with you and Jacquie!!! We can hardly pass by the waffle station in Windows without thinking of you and it's such a nice association.

Originally posted by mara01
Thank you for the start of your review - so pleased to hear you enjoyed your cruise after all the recent 'bad press' about the Journey. We actually had lunch on the ship when it was in Southampton on the 20th August - the day that started the cruise which has been the subject of so many complaints on Cruise Critic. We enjoyed our day and lunch so much, as well as meeting up with several crew members who greeted us like old friends, that we decided after that visit to book another Azamara cruise on the Quest next January. We already have future cruises booked on Oceania, Seabourn and Celebrity but didn't like the thought of a year going by without 'going home' to Azamara.

Yes, we were very disappointed indeed when the new 'benefits' were announced on the 1st September and our anticipation of our January cruise has been dampened by all the recent comments about Azamara going downhill. We just hope we love it as much as usual when we are onboard.

Looking forward to the next installment of your review and thanks again for restoring our faith in Azamara a little!
"...greeted us like old friends..." I finally know what you mean! When we boarded the Journey who should we see but Marcio and he looked at us and we looked at him and it was hugs all around. We spent a lot of time up in the lounge in May dancing our fool feet off and he got to know us well. It kind of set the tone off on exactly the right foot (okay, pun intended) that the first crew member we met on this sailing was one of our favorites. He's such a wonderful young man. He's an excellent DJ, an even better dancer, and an accomplished photographer as well. All on top of being a genuinely warm and welcoming person. Azamara's lucky to have him.
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Deirdre
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Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#7
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Originally posted by TxnAquarian
Loving this review so far! Can't wait for the rest!



Michael
Hi Michael! You have a lot to look forward to for your first Azamara cruise. Am I right in thinking you said you're in a suite? We went on a tour of the Club Ocean Suite and I'll be posting photos later on so stay tuned.
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Deirdre
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Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#8
Cincinnati, OH
5,780 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
Deirdre,

It is so lovely to read a positive thread. It has become so sad lately to follow the Azamara board.

Glad you enjoyed your cruise and looking forward to hearing more of your adventures.
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Pam

Contact Pam

Previous cruises: Marina Barcelona to Southampton (2017); Azamara Quest Norwegian Fjords RT Amsterdam (2016); Riviera Sands & Shores (2016); Riviera Mayan Mystique (2015); Riviera Istanbul to Barcelona (2014); Riviera Caribbean Hideaways (2014); Azamara Quest Adriatic Venice RT (2013); Azamara Quest Barcelona to Rome (2012), Marina Copenhagen to Stockholm (2011), Regatta Venice to Barcelona (2010), Nautica Athens to Rome (2009), Nautica Istanbul to Athens (2008)
#9
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Originally posted by CintiPam
Deirdre,

It is so lovely to read a positive thread. It has become so sad lately to follow the Azamara board.

Glad you enjoyed your cruise and looking forward to hearing more of your adventures.
Thank you Pam. I think it's one of the less flattering aspects of human nature that we positively revel in bad news. A hundred good deeds can be done with very little notice and one bad thing happens and we're all over it like white on rice. Same thing with cruises and Azamara with its hapless shoreside operations, particularly so. Take that and add a less-than-perfect cruise to the mix and you've got a perfect storm. I think that's why people are more harsh towards Azamara than other cruise lines. It doesn't always start out well and if it doesn't go well on board...well well well we know how that goes. It's like insult to injury so no wonder it gets ugly on this CC board. I firmly believe, though, that in its essence Azamara is a great product and I know that the sailing I'm writing about now will most definitely not be my last, not by a longshot!


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Deirdre
___________________________
Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#10
413 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
Hi Deirdre!
Agree with Pam 100% (Hi Pam.. it's Claudia from last year's Adriatic cruise) that it was wonderful to read a happy and glowing review of Azamara especially since the tone of the board has changed recently. Everyone is certainly allowed to their opinion though so I can't fault any of the previous posters who were less than enthusiastic about their last Azamara experience. Hopefully like a pendulum the feelings will swing back and all will be well in Azamara-land.
Your cruise sounds amazing and I can't wait to enjoy every installment.
I laughed at your "lug the bags up and down and then repeat." and your not so wise choice of a 4 hour walking tour after an overnight flight.
We are sailing on the Journey from Monte Carlo in 3 weeks and I'm super excited!
Keep up the great review.. love to read it!
#12
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Originally posted by starfruitvj
Great review so far Deidre - I enjoyed hitting the dance floor with you back in May
-Vanessa
Hi Vanessa! Yes, we know why Marcio is "The Man." Dance on, sister!
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Deirdre
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Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#13
597 Posts
Joined Dec 2004
Hi Vanessa and Deirdre! I was on the Journey with you both in May! Dancing in the Looking Glass was great fun! And I agree, Azamara is lucky to have Marcio.
I am looking forward to the continuation of your review on the Journey! It looks like you had a marvelous time. I will be on the Journey again in November and hitting some of the same ports. Vanessa, are you booked again, yet?

Cheryl
#14
West Marin, CA
3,695 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
Hi Deirdre, I've enjoyed reading your first installments today as well. Thank you!
P.S. I thought Marcio was great as the iPad class instructor as well...he has such a natural and charismatic stage presence.
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Bonnie B. MacLaird
Chief Blogging Officer
Azamara Club Cruises

(*CBO is an authorized and compensated representative of Azamara Club Cruises)
#15
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Picture time has arrived. Here's the beautiful ship we're talking about as she sails into Lisbon. We were on the funicular on our way down to the river, looked up, and there was the Journey, larger than life.


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Deirdre
___________________________
Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#16
Boca Raton, FL
18,843 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
Hi Deidre,

I'm so happy to read that you had a great time on Journey. I'm looking forward to your upcoming installments. Welcome Home !
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#17
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Rob and I in Sintra, a fantastic little town less than a half hour train ride from Lisbon. We thought it would over crowded and over touristy like Taormina, which we had visited on our May Journey cruise, but it wasn't. There were plenty of tourist things in Sintra, of course, but there was the overall impression that this was a town that ordinary people lived in first, and that tourists visited, second. Taormina to our eyes was all about the tourist. As lovely a town as it was, it didn't seem to have any purpose but to exhibit itself to visitors. It was refreshing to visit Sintra which had such a nice balance of tourists and residents.

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Deirdre
___________________________
Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#18
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
This is the Monastery of Jeronimos in Belem, a neighborhood in Lisbon. It's a flabbergastingly beautiful building, especially if you admire architectural detail. There's so much artistry etched into the stone walls of the monastery. This photo looks out to the cloister which was begun in the early 1500s. It was a goosebump moment when a plane flew overhead. Just think of it, the juxtaposition of being in a space that is centuries old, still intact, still awe-inspiring, and above you flies a miracle of modern technology. Quite the thing.


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Deirdre
___________________________
Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#19
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Useful information for a summertime traveler. It's HOT HOT HOT in Lisbon and the Mediterranean. You can leave your hotel /cabin the morning with a nice cool water bottle and it's guaranteed to be empty before noon. What to do? The obvious choice is to go to a grocer and buy another bottle but you don't necessarily need to do that because there are fountains and the water is perfectly potable and cool. And free and handy. The general rule of thumb is that if the water spouts from a lion's head such as this one here, it's for drinking. Go ahead and fill 'er up.

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Deirdre
___________________________
Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328
#20
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Lisbon is a hilly place. Understatement of the year. There is one main requirement for Lisbon. Shoes. Flat comfortable walking shoes. Without them you will never see Lisbon as it should be seen. Lisbon rewards the walkers in so many ways. It's worth your while to stretch the old muscles and forge ahead. Truly! Yes, I know you're looking at this photo thinking that's one overwhelming stairway sidewalk. What's to love about that except a lot of calories burned at the expense of blisters and aching knees. I'll tell you why you want to climb those stairs: food and drink. You want to burn those calories! Lisbon is the city that has given the world Pasteis de Belem, those delectable and unduplicatable custard filled tarts. And Ginjinha, the sweet liqueur made from sour cherries. Heavenly gastronomic treats that you will not want to miss out on while you're in Lisbon and if you climb those stairs you can partake as often as you'd like.

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Deirdre
___________________________
Azamara Quest West Indies cruise report here -
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1966387
Azamara Journey Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2103294
Celebrity Solstice Mediterranean cruise report here-
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676328