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Azamara Journey Athens Venice Sept 2013

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Well I resisted the temptation in the title to say Azamazing Journey on Journey so here it is.

Hopefully a review of our cruise will help others to enjoy the experience.

Flew down from Newcastle and spent some quality time in BA lounge at T5.

Good to see that the bacon sandwiches are as good as ever as a 6.30am from NCL is not conducive to breakfast before our flights.

Good journey to Athens in Club Europe apart from the usual ridiculous sizes of hand baggage.

Some were too physically thick to actually go into rthe overhead lockers and plane was delayed whilst some were sent into the hold.

It really is time BA started to refuse some of the ridiculoiusly oversized bags.

Not a bad chicken meal on board with 3 drinks included..

Arrived at Athens and met by Azamara rep and paparazzi as well.

It appeared that a minor politician was on our flight so we had to run gauntlet of photographers on exiting customs,

 

 

About 20 guests on 50-seater coach to Athens Hilton and on arrival at hotel baggage taken from kerbside to room straight away.

Good room with view of Acropolis which was illuminated at night (especially for us!!!??)

Good breakfast buffet but no wonder Greece has problems with productivity.

On arrival at dining room we were passed from Maître D to 2 other suited gentleman who passed us on to two waitresses one of whom took us to a table.

 

 

We had arranged private transfer to port to avoid the inevitable waiting for a bus to fill up.

Boarding started at 11.30 and then the holiday really started.

Greeted on gangway on boarding by Heike Berdos (hotel director) who provided the customary glasses of sparkling wine.

How do they remember /know peoples names or are we so notorious?

Buffet was available in Windows café so up there to remeet Adel (restaurants manager and Alix Prime C manager) so arranged our speciality dining dates (included in owners suite package).

Had a few snacks with a very acceptable Chilean Riesling from their daily wine offering which makes an acceptable spritzer for my wife also.

(Tip if you particularly like a daily wine then a quiet word with section manager can usually arrange for it to be provided each day).

Down to suite to meet Manish our butler who was as always always available although apart from the odd room service early breakfast we did not need to bother him much.

3 bottles of champagne including one from Miami H Office (perhaps for my constant comments about out of date UK website) as well as the customary 4 bottles of complementary spirits.

Went to CC meeting in which I think we were outnumbered by the officers although it was good to meet “Sarasota Cruiser “ who became friends (Thanks Mary Beth and Dave) and we dined with them in Prime C as well as Gosport 11 and Bill C who was on his 4 th of 5 B2Bs

 

 

I will split review into sep sections.

 

 

Cabin

Owners suite 7114 is all it says it is

As in planes cars and houses you are paying for space and that you have in abundance.

Outside

A full 4 seater table on completely private balcony(you could even sunbathe nude with nobody to see but the birds) as well as 2 full length loungers.

Inside

Second guest bathroom with sink and toilet.

Room for another 4/6 seater dining table as well as 2 armchairs and sofa, then into screened off bedroom with second TV with enough space for all my wifes clothes with 6 full-length robes and drawer space.

Bathroom with jacuzzi bath with 2 showers one low down and one for standing.

The bath was not the easiest to get out of but obviously I managed it.

Unfortunately they also provided a set of scales which was my incentive to walk 3 miles a day around the deck.

 

 

Dining

 

 

Breakfast

We used Windows café for breakfast and lunches and as relatively early risers were able to get outdoor table each day although always sharing with others if they requested to join us.

We never saw any couples refuse a request to share a 4 top as there are actually no 2 tops outside although you could sit at the bar if you wanted to be together..

It is fabulous to have your own smoothies made with your choice of fruits and to watch the machine actually squeezing your glass of orange juice.

Great selection of cereals etc. and your choice of eggs etc. including boiled and poached as well as the fabulous crispy bacon etc. as well as roast meat for Americans who could also get this as room service.

There was Marmite and Vegemite for those who love those options.

 

 

Lunches

Windows again and we usually just had a sandwich or something light.

I particularly liked the Chicken Brie and Avocado Tortilla which was a special early on in cruise and was able to get that made on request daily together with my Riesling.

There was always a daily roast freshly carved for you as well as 5 other choices of mains.

 

 

Snacks

There was a pool grill which seemed to do a roaring trade with usual burgers hot dogs etc. with a speciality sausage like bratwurst each day also.

 

 

Evening Dining

We dined in speciality each night but all the people we talked to had enjoyed either the Windows buffer options of seafood /Indian/ Italian /French/Turkish /Tex Mex etc. which were available from 6.30 pm. or the Discovery dining which is freestyle in that you can turn up at any time and make your choice of table size for companions.

We had a fabulous time in both speciality dining with one exception (see below) and if there is anything that you want making specially then Fabio the executive chef will discuss with you and make it for you.

There is always a daily special which was usually fish and we had brill /turbot and halibut on occasions all of which were great.

The signature courses are Goats cheeses soufflé /French cheese and onion soup, rack of lamb and Grand Marnier soufflé as well as their fillet steak.

We ordered a $58 bottle of Riesling (theme here) a 2005 Hugel but was not available? /sold out but the replacement Gewürztraminer whilst nice was not $58 better than the daily wine.

The dining is now really popular with one night more than 152 people dining.

This is beginning to spoil the experience as although the food and service are as good as ever it is not fun to see the waiters practically running between diners/kitchens and on one night there were 3 maître D’s having to help to clean tables with a finish after midnight from a 5.30 pm start without a break.

They should utilise the old bus boy position to pour water/lay new cutlery /remove old plates etc. rather than have the waiter do this unskilled task.

On tackling management about this sadly the answer is cost /profitability although the extra $3800 dollars from that one night would cover a lot of extra staff.

Do the bean counters not realise that EMPLOYING extra staff would actually boost productivity by approx.50% by reducing waiters workload as it would enable waiters to actually serve more customers thereby satisfying customers and Azamara H Office.

I notice that since our last cruise on Quest in November the cheese trolley has been abolished and you are simply served triangles etc.

 

 

The final Captains dinner set up in the Library is always an opportunity for Fabio to show his skills to a smaller audience and once again Fabio did us proud with all course and well chosen wines to match.

He finished off with a spectacular ice-cream served in a spun sugar base on a 8 prong sugar base. (How that is made I do not know?) but it was a fabulous end to the dinner.

 

 

Entertainment

We did not do all the shows but Tony Markey the entertainment director was around all the time and his “Blues Brothers “ and “Hairspray” routines as well as his performance at the White Night were all great

This had to be held in the cabaret lounge because of the weather forecast.

Although this was a shame it probably made for a better night as the dance floor is bigger and the crowd is more concentrated rather than spread across 2 decks.

It even got me up bopping trying to keep up with the few (approx 8) but lively youngsters on board.

The comedian Rich Ceissler wax very good and his routine was not too “Americanised”

 

 

We did not go on Cretan Amazing evening on the sea front as folk dancing and fake Cretan weddings are not our scene but it appeared well organised with plenty of food and drink (as one had been held earlier in the year then any teething problems had obviously been sorted) although some people thought it was a bit too long at 3 hours.

 

 

 

 

Ports

No organised excursions taken at any ports as we prefer our own thing.

We would have enjoyed Kotor more if it had not rained ALL morning and the sail in was spectacular and a great point to watch from was the sanctuary where you get a clear view rather than through glass.

Dubrovnik and Split we would certainly visit again but sadly we were disappointed with both Santorini and Venice as they were just FAR too overcrowded to enjoy pushing through crowds to see anything

There were 12 cruise ships in Venice on the days we were there and it was just a pushfest.

In addition because of high tide St Marks square was beginning to flood and they had the wading boards reading for use so adding to the overcrowding..

Sadly Carly Simon had it right

 

 

“We paved over Paradise and made it a parking lot”

 

 

 

 

Guests

A great mix of various nationalities with Brits /US /Canadians in majority but a good contingent of Australians /New Zealanders as well as other European nationalities.

Age range mostly 50+ but no wheelchairs or Zimmer users that I saw although perhaps the port intensive itinerary may have put off the less mobile.

Dress code was as always smart casual although we did see suits/jackets occasionally at fine dining as well as at Captains dinner.

 

 

Staff

This is where Azamara REALLY shine and because of their loyalty to their ship you continue to see the same faces cruise after cruise.

Obviously Heike /Tony /Fabio /Adel and Alix lead the teams but there are so many others to name who both remember your name/preferences to mention all but Jose from Prime C ,Ibrahim from Windows as well as Grandpappy Dale the Jamaican bar manager who is retiring this year after 30 years on ships.

We will see him again in October and will be wishing him well.

Room staff Manish Lyric and helpers almost had the room cleaned before you left and obviously we ensured that all these people were rewarded personally as well as by the inclusive tipping policy.

 

 

Niggles

 

 

1: On night of Cretan evening there was a water cut to decks 6 to 10 i.e. nearly all main facilities.

Obviously this was a logical time to have this maintenance as approx 600 of 644 guests would be onshore by then but there was no prior advice of this.

A call to Manish confirmed this was a wide scale problem but a room was found on deck 4 for us to shower in and bottled water provide for teeth and emergency toilet flushing.

We received a note with daily bulletin that night at 10.00pm advising us of cut from 6.00pm

Heike the hotel director was mortified when she heard of this and personally apologised to us.

I would not have liked to have been at the meeting to discuss the lack of communication the next morning

We heard of one American lady who is trying to claim for cost of cruise due to emotional stress of not being able to shower for 4 hours. Perhaps the tale had improved in the telling although staff had confirmed that they had had “a very difficult passenger”

She was lot luckier than a Norwegian trio in an owners suite who had no effective sewage functions for 5 days and who had to traverse one third of ship and go down 2 floors to use toilet facilities at night.

We also witnessed poor treatment of a waiter in Aqualina in front of us.

 

 

2: Now to my Mr Grouch mode.

Why do they take 8 waiters from their duties to sing “Happy Birthday” to somebody they do not know merely to satisfy the ego of some individual .

The quicker this ritual is confined to Happy meal celebrations at McDonalds the better.

If people wish to celebrate their birthday then by all means get a cake but sing themselves.

 

 

3: Finally although this is not strictly Azamara responsibility I believe their communication was poor and to merely have a tourist lady with maps is not the best way to ensure 600+ people get a good and safe start on their visit to Venice..

Most people in Venice will off course wish to visit St Marks Square and of course to go by water boat.

To do this honestly you have to buy a ticket at a shop approx. 200 yards from the boat stop and if you were caught without one the fine would be horrendous.

It would not be impossible to explain clearly on a A4 page the requirements and logistics as people were running backwards and forwards to this little shop.

Equally I do not see why the Authorities could not offer ticket facilities at exit to port.

 

 

 

 

Niggles over.

Would we do Azamara again.

Of course and we are off again in 5 weeks from Athens to Dubai.

 

 

 

 

POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENTS

On nice nights keep Windows cafe outdoor area and Pool Bar open later as these close at 10.00pm currently.

Not suggesting 2.00am close but certainly 11.00pm should be doable

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Thanks for an excellent review.

 

I thought our on-board experience on Journey was better than that on Quest. The Journey food was much better.

 

We enjoyed the meeting of the ships in Kotor Bay, horn blowing and all.

 

Sorry about your rain in Kotor - it had also rained for the previous four days, making the usually warm seas quite cold. We took a boat trip and swam twice.

 

My report should come soon.

 

We received no Champagne, so it must be you>:)

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Hi Procter, really enjoyed reading this comprehensive review. Every word, as in your previous posts, seemed well considered. I guess this was not your first visit to Venice. There were photos in the news about a large number of protesters actually swimming in the Guidecca canal to protest about the cruise ship procession on several days recently. I think up to 13 ships in one day.

 

Hate to pick you up but I think you mean Joni Mitchell. I was a fan of Carly Simon fan and doubtless she would have also covered Big Yellow Taxi since they were contempories and both great singer songwriters.

 

We were in Santorini in June and it was busy but not horrendous. We walked the path from Imerovigli to Fira and saw only a few people but wonderful views.

We got the bus back from Oia to Imerovigli to visit the hotel that my son is honeymooning in in early October. The walk was downhill and took about 40 minutes at a slow pace. We were also so fortunate that there were no other cruises in that day apart from a small Greek ship for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Perhaps you may be able to give this wonderful place another try.

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Thanks to all for your kind comments especially Mrs Miggins who corrected my 60s pop knowledge.

Well it was a long time ago and I have trouble remembering what I went into a room for!!!

There is always something you forget to put in your review.A theme there again.

My wife saw a nice pair of earrings in the shop and asked how much they were.

Told 54 and they were nice whether in £ $ or euros.

She was allowed to try them on and liked them still.

On starting to wrap them the assistant said that will be $5,400.

Needless to say they were put back.

Slightly sharp practice I think and on talking to other shop staff it was apparent that this "mistake /deception" had occurred before.

After all if you put it on your sep c card as it is a franchise it might be 6 weeks before you get your bill and you are long gone from the ship with no chance of a refund.

After all 5,400 could be mistaken for $54.00 especially for older eyes.

Lesson learnt but not Azamara fault.

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Thank you for your review

I wonder if Fabio will be on board in November? That will require me to step up a gear on the pre cruise diet. We have had great service from Jose, both in the specialities and during lunch service if we are talking about the same guy, always addresses you by name wherever he sees you. I hope we see him and Grandpappy in Nov

Thanks again for your nice clear review

Edited by uktog

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Re the protesters, I saw a picture on FB of lots of protesters swimming in the shipping lanes - they must be mad, the water looks yuk! This must have happened on Saturday, when the two ships were moored beside each other. We went to Verona for the day, so missing the excitement.

 

Ref Santorini, we were there on the same day as Mrs M, using our OBC for an excursion. There was only our ship there that day, so it was relatively quiet.

 

Spoke to several guests who were in Owner's Suites, two of whom were upgraded from Verandas. One couple paid around $5000 for a veranda room. We paid considerably less and others paid around £999, so enormous price differentials.

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I always enjoy reading your trip reports and this was no exception. Thanks so much for writing it. My mouth was watering over your food section!

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Thanks Procter for your review. I was saddened and happy to hear that Dale (the best bartender on the high seas) was retiring. Thrilled for him that he gets to retire and spend time with his family, sad for us that we won't get to see him again. We had the pleasure of sitting at his bar many, many nights (maybe I shouldn't admit to that!). He is fabulous and we've missed him as our last few cruises were on the Quest due to itinerary. When you see him in October please tell him that Darren and Sue wish him well! It will be a sad day on the Journey when he leaves!

 

Sue

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Great review, very thorough. Just wanted to make a point about Venice. Yes if you only look at St Mark's Square and the Rialto bridge and the points in between it is very crowded. However if you go away from these two areas, for example into the old Jewish quarter, you can find some quiet and picturesque old streets and canals and see some wonderful little shops and restaurants. We stayed in Venice for 5 days last year. We did see St Marks and the Rialto, but we enjoyed the time we spent away from those areas the most. We also did a brilliant 'secret' tour of the Doges Palace which we booked online before we went. It was terrific, we saw bits of the palace that visitors don't usually see, including the cell where Casanova was imprisoned, and got to walk across the Bridge of Sighs to the prison. I would definitely recommend that tour.

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