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Photo Review- 1st Timer on Journey: Questions Were Asked, Answers Were Learned!

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FEB 7 2016 JOURNEY MIAMI TO CALDERA; FULL PANAMA CANAL TRANSIT

 

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(Journey transiting the Panama Canal at the bridge of the Americas)

 

 

 

 

"Before you leave town, do you have any bread I can put in this pipe"?

 

No, FamilyGoBoston has not lost (more) of her mind. This was actually said by a plumber 48 hours before we left town.

 

Maybe I should back up a bit.

 

Every year our town requires us to have a valve inspected to make sure that the antifreeze in our fire sprinkler system doesn't back flow into the town water systems. (this is a Panama Canal Cruise, folks, expect a lot water works talk!) Every year this should cost $60 bucks and 15 minutes of my time between 9-4:30, however, it usually never works that way. Every year they seem to schedule this check within minutes of my leaving the house in the care of the house sitter for a trip (DH would say this is because I plan so many trips, but no that's not it!) Every year, the inspector either finds "something" or occasionally breaks "something " for which it is then our responsibility to fix and pay for. This years inspection was spectacularly successful because not only did they "find something" ; it was something that they were required to fix themselves (but we had to pay $500 for) AND the added bonus of the guy who "fixed" that broke another thing, which I learned when he emerged from the bowels of my house with the dreaded words "can I show you something?" That broken thing required the Fully Certified (add to hourly rate) Fully Insured (add more to the hourly rate) and Highly Specialized Fire Suppression Plumber ($ ka-ching) to come to fix it. He's the guy that needed the bread (never knew Wonder bread was a Fully Certified, Fully Insured, Highly Specialized Fire Suppression system tool- but he's the professional) Of course in our modern world where gluten is poison, we do not in fact have Wonder Bread, and I had to substitute a whole grain English muffin (which may be part of our problem, or not, because I'm not a Fully Certified, Fully Insured, Highly Specialized Fire Suppression System plumber...and I didn't want to ask him because when it costs $1000 just for them to pull into your driveway, you keep questions and small talk to a minimum.

 

Incredibly, with the bread, a daily bucket brigade, 3 call backs and several hundred dollars later, (which thankfully, our town will take full financial responsibility for) our problem was repaired more or less to the point where We could leave and give the house sitter instructions "to check the bucket every other day or so" . And we are off on another adventure!

 

All of us were very happy about that (especially the fully certified, fully insured, highly specialized fire suppression system plumber!)...except for one of "us" who was not...

 

 

 

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(genuine Maine black dog can't ask questions, but she knows EXACTLY what all those packed bags mean!)

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FamilyGoBoston and GoSeeIttravel exist to share travel joy (and occasional woe) and photos! There's no commerce involved (yet?) we share photos and our passion for travel. We do that in our own way (all my way, really), with lots of narrative, opinion, analysis, attempts at humor, details (parenthetical comments) and lots and lots of photos (all hubby's really, unless they are "bad" photos, which are most certainly ones I took or insisted he take over his strenuous objections about light, and composition blah, blah, blah)! We will have tales about pre and post cruise, because (spoiler alert) a lot of travelers take pre and post trips as part of their cruises and might find the info helpful even though its not "technically" part of the cruise!

 

My opinions are from my experience, and I try to express them as in "my experience", because I am only an expert in my own experience. Hubby and I travel a lot, and cruise a bit, so we are generalists, not specialists, our experiences good or bad might not be representative of the experience someone else might have.

 

I understand this approach is not for everyone! It will take me nearly as long as the cruise (10 days or so) to complete the review. Some people use this as their daily "cruise" fix and feel like they have taken a little teeny tiny coffee break cruise by the end of the week. (I AM one of those people) I love comments and commentary (so please jump in! I'd love to hear from you, especially all the new friends we made on board!)..this makes the review many pages long. (If you are an editor, you will cry) If this style is not for you, in a week or so you could check back, scroll through and just enjoy DH's photos (ignoring my bad ones). You can also subscribe to our twitter feed or have a look at our blog...I will be posting there too, usually photo essays with less narrative, more freedom to post links and recommendations and obviously there are comments only at the end. Pick your poison, but I do hope you are willing to be poisoned! :p (did I mention the emoticons? I am in a 12 step program to stop using them, but...)

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I'm looking forward to this review. And I'm sorry about the inspection problems - sounds horrendous!

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DH and I have cruised a lot of Royal Caribbean Cruises, (and others) mainly as our annual winter Caribbean get away. Over the many (many, many!:eek:) ensuing years, we managed to attain loyalty status of Diamond that entitled us to a few reciprocal benefits on Azamara, (free laundry and some internet minutes) but that was only a small consideration. Usually, if we are going to unique destinations we look for trips that best explore that destination whether its a cruise or a land tour. We had always wanted to do a full transit of the Panama Canal. (which pretty much needs to be a cruise!)

 

We booked on a RC Jewel re-positioning cruise, but we cancelled when the Roll Call seemed to be all about the on board activities and not the destination. it felt like too many sea days (all the way to LA) and not a good match for us. We looked into the newly acquired Windstar yachts, and PG's Tere Moana which run similar itineraries. While we liked the number of passengers, I didn't love that the outdoor space did not seem like enough on Windstar for a cruise when everyone will be at the rail for a whole day transiting the canal. And while we loved PG in french Polynesia, TM has no non suite balconies (we don't sail in suites) and having a balcony with a few sea days is a must for us.

 

DH is an engineer (and avid amateur photog) and he really wanted to have the best situation with number of passengers, and space to take photos and see the transit. In the end, the AZ Journey seemed to offer exactly what we needed, and with our kids grown and off, we had the flexibility to take longer trips at the time of year they were offered by AZ. In 2017 we have a big wedding anniversary, and we booked an AZ Quest Adriatic cruise Venice to Rome to celebrate. We wanted to take a smaller trip on AZ first to answer our questions about whether we would "fit" on Azamara and make sure we liked the experience before committing to our big anniversary trip!

 

In one of our most recent reviews DH and I have identified ourselves as "no longer late mid to late forties" it's a gentle description that makes us feel better but it seems disingenuous to keep using that description (those of you who follow our reviews know we are nothing if not "genious".) So in an effort to be completely forthcoming, I must use a new age description for ourselves, and we think "enjoying the early part of our second half century" sounds pleasing (if wordy) and allows us to continue to be delusional with ourselves about our actual age vs the one in our hearts and minds while being (almost) completely forthcoming with you! One of our questions was would we feel that Azamara was too sedate, "clubby" "old" or negative for us? We had sailed during some Royal Caribbean "Diamonds in December" promo cruises and were horrified by some of the cliquey, rude and negative long time loyal passengers on board. We didn't enjoy endless Roll Call discussions about what's appropriate to wear to dinner.

 

I'm not saying that the demographic on the Azamara is old- but hand to God, this actually happened. One night while passing the photographer, we overheard a lady sitting for her portrait saying this would make a great obituary picture. :eek: So ok, she was elderly and she was also completely joking. And that represents how I would sum up the demographic on Azamara- very good humored, friendly folks enjoying their second half century (a few early, many mid and a few late) who are active, engaged in other people, and the destinations where the ship travels) There were fewer scooters and canes and more laughing than other cruises we've taken.

 

People look each other in the eyes and say "good morning, please you first" and "no, you go, I insist". I think in a small community folks cannot cut each other off and then flip them the bird (this, I'm ashamed to admit, happens quite frequently in Boston, if you've been a victim, I apologize on behalf all my fellow Bostonites, but sadly, cannot guarantee it will not happen again:o) Folks in a small community know if you do a thing like that on your way to say school, or a doctors appointment or shopping, you will find yourself (red) facing the teacher, doctor or clerk you just treated so rudely on the road. And this is how it is on Azamara; a small community of neighbors who behave politely (partly because they really are very polite people) because the ship is a small community, not a large one full of anonymous strangers in your way.

 

Like a small community there are many longtime residents and we found them all to be, without exception welcoming. While no one baked us muffins, we were invited to lunch on embarkation day by a couple with 15 Azamara cruises under their belts, (thank you Marinaro!) We were included in an excursion by a pair of couples who met on an Azamara cruise and have cruised together since several times, and we were never made to feel like a third wheel. (Thanks Burning 29, CRZRR!) If we puzzled over a direction, someone immediately stopped to point out the way. If you entered a room, someone waved and patted a chair next to them. Rather than being haughty and snotty, to a person, our fellow passengers were friendly and helpful. (Azamara has a very high repeat clientele, on our cruise captain said 51 percent were returning guests, and our new pals who have cruised with Azamara frequently said this was low for typical Azamara cruises. Meaning there were more folks like us on this Caribbean//canal cruise "giving it a go" for the first time.)

 

We also found folks to be very interesting and well traveled. It was a very international crowd, with Brits and Aussies, along with a smattering of other Europeans, making up just about 1/2 the ship population and North Americans rounding out the rest. Discussions based around home "where are you from" family, and prior travels. While it's clearly a well funded bunch; the casual, active atmosphere attracts folks who care more about where they are going and who they are with rather than what they have.

 

Lastly, no matter the age, nearly every passenger we met was actively engaged in the destination, while some had to contend with their personal physical limitations, nearly every person we met and did excursions which were far more active than "typical" for their age. Even the "obituary picture" lady hopped up onto a high stool, had her photo taken then hopped off and dashed off to dinner! One wonderful new friend in his late 70s (I'm looking at you, Saltaire!) kept pace with those of us 20 years younger and would not so much as accept a hand from the guide on a rocky path during a hike...I was in awe!

 

Actually, if you like to read parenthetical comments of no relation to our topic, you'd be interested to know that we have, in fact, discovered the fountain of youth! It's very simple. We just keep taking cruises on which we are among the youngest people! It's amazing! (Even Azamazing) When we were actual young people, we generally cruised Royal Carribean (from early 20s to "no longer late mid to late forties") for most of that time, we felt very youthful and active, biking around St Kitts, or stunning people at dinner with our ability to conquer not one, but two excursions in a day. But since we've started River cruising and took this Azamara cruise, we look around and notice that we are again among the youngest folks on the ship. So now when we cruise and only take one excursion and a nap, we can look around and feel smug, and confident that like Peter Pan, we never grow old! It's an incredible confidence booster!

 

In general, I make it my policy not to be ageist, I've cruised with less active folks in their 30s, so I prefer to define people by their activity and attitude rather than their age. We may have been on the young side of the demographic, but this demographic fit our needs perfectly (casual, active, engaged, good humored and well traveled) and now it feels aspirational- I hope to be as good humored and active as the 70 year olds I met on board when I get there (but I worry I'll be doing no excursions and two naps!)

 

(ok, thats just too much blah, blah, blah! We picked Journey, we loved our fellow travelers- onto the photos!)

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I'm looking forward to this review. And I'm sorry about the inspection problems - sounds horrendous!

 

Thanks Lisia! It's a lot of hyperbole...everyone was really super helpful getting it done and taking responsibility before we left! (Hubby is worried they might shut our water off in spite if Im not nice:eek:)

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FEB 6: South Beach, Miami

 

Why is everyone drinking from a swimming pool of booze with a fire hose straw?

 

The day before we left Boston, we had one of the few snowstorms we had this winter.

 

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(weather dog says "snow")

 

 

 

 

 

I was busy, packing and planning and I may have missed my haircut appointment. As soon as they called and the the number came up on call ID I knew..."Oh, No! I'm late for my appointment, and I'm going to get a revenge cut!" Luckily, my hair dresser is a saint (who likes getting my travel advice) so she fit me in. Did I get a revenge cut? I don't know, what do you think? This is what it looked like at dawn when we left for the airport.

 

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We flew JetBlue with "Even More Space"...this allowed us to board a bit earlier, on the way home I had "Even More Speed" which sounds like it should allow me to board a bit earlier, but no. I'm pretty sure I had the "Even More Confusion" ticket.

 

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(Even More Space! Actually, when you die, you get a coffin, and they give you more space than the average airline seat! I'm pretty sure it's even more space than Even More Space.)

 

 

 

 

We "Even Arrived" in Fort Lauderdale on time at 1:30 pm. We took an Uber to Miami which cost us $42, no tipping. (compare this to nearly $90 for cab with the tip) We checked into Blue Moon, a Marriott Brand Autograph Collection hotel on 944 Collins Ave where we had stayed with our daughters before our trip to Cuba in June. In June, we got two rooms for the price of one in mid February...so we used our Marriott points.

 

For more on our Cuba trip: http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/?category=Cuba

 

 

For more on Miami:http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/?category=Miami

 

We enjoyed a drink by the pool, changed to swim suits walked along South Beach, and saw the Celebrity Eclipse leave the port of Miami.

 

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After a shower, we took a walk to Ocean Ave. We decided to have dinner at Sea Cafe on Ocean Ave. Ocean Ave is the main drag alongside the beach. What the restaurants here lack in food quality, they make up in superb people watching. In June, things had been quiet, and HOT! Mid season, South Beach is hoping with all kinds of characters who appear to be drinking swimming pools full of booze with fire hose straws. We ordered what we thought was a "regular drink" and were also served a baby pool of fruit juicy booze with a colorful fire hose straw! Now we had our answer why everyone is drinking these...these are what they call "drinks" on Ocean Ave! It shouldn't be a shocker that I barely skimmed the top of this drink! There are classier places to eat on SoBe, but boy, it was fun!

 

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(Now, I'd like to take a minute to demonstrate "good" and "bad" pictures. One of these things is not like the others...these are all my photos iphone...except for the Celebrity sail out photo, that is DH's... Fear not...most of the rest of our photos are DH's "good" ones!)

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Pre Cruise South Beach Miami

 

"Good" Photos from SoBe! (ie. DH took them all!)

 

The new pier- this is a great place to watch the ships sail out on Saturdays. Walk the beach all the way past 1st Ave, you'll see the new pier next to the old breakwater.

 

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Celebrity leaving the Port Of Miami

 

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A photographer shooting a model on the break water

 

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And a gratuitous SOBE selfie!

 

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Thank you so much for the time and effort you have obviously spent on this.

Looking forward to further installments with eager anticipation!

 

Thanks "working"...It's fun to do, but it is time consuming, which is why I devote a little time each day, and it takes so long! I promise next post we board the ship !! Yeah!!:D

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This is going to be so much fun! Thank you!

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FEB 7: MIAMI EMBARKATION

 

Is there going to be a Chippendales Show on this cruise?

 

We woke and had breakfast at the Blue Moon, it was too cool (mid 60's) to sit outside. We packed up and got an uber to Port of Miami.

 

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(Port of Miami)

 

 

 

Our uber driver found it befuddling that our ship was tucked away from all the larger ships at the port of Miami. Azamara Journey which doesn't get to Miami all that often, was parked outside the Royal Caribbean home office like the family station wagon! We finally found a line outside the terminal forming with a lot of strapping young men wearing tool belts.

 

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It seemed like a younger clientele than advertised, but we got in the line. Then I started to get excited...maybe there was going to be a Chippendales show on board! I noticed each man had a large suitcase or duffle, and a tool box (most had the soft sided sort, but a few carried the metal kind and a few others those makita drill boxes) The men in line generously gestured us to the front of the line which was far more civil than passengers on other cruises. They didn't seem terribly joyous for a bunch attractive fellows headed on a cruise. After a few minutes it occurred to us that they were headed to work! We had happened upon the line for work men embarking to finish up the dry dock work. (I am assuming that anyone reading the Azamara board is well aware that Azamara underwent her dry dock and extensive interior renovations just one cruise and 10 days before we boarded.) My hopes for a Chippendales show were dashed... but then we found the line for the actual passengers at 11 AM, just as they started letting folks pass security. And we were embarking on a cruise...who could be sad!?

 

At 5 past 11, we had moved through the check point to security, and by 11:30 we had passed security, been checked in, had our sea pass card in hand and were waiting in chairs for embarkation. At 11:35 we were welcomed on board.

 

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(The Newly Reimagined Journey)

 

 

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(champagne offered on deck as we enter)

 

 

 

Our first stop was the Discoveries lounge to make specialty reservations, then guest services to fill out paper work for early debarkation. (Due to transportation logistics, for our onward trip to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica it was easier for us to disembark in the second to last stop, the night before the regular disembarkation day) We met Marinaro who has cruised with AZ at least 15 times in line at Discoveries Lounge, she gave us great advice about booking dining and she invited us to join her and her husband for lunch at the Windows Cafe, on the Sunset Verandah.

 

We felt immediately welcomed!

 

We took lots of photos around the ship and headed to our cabin at 2 to post some early photos while we still had cell service in Miami. Lots of folks on the Cruise Critic Azamara Boards were anxious to see the changes to Journey. Lots of folks from the home office and their marketing partners were breezing around doing previews and checking things out too. It seemed to make it particularly hectic for the crew. There seemed to be a lot of logistics to finish up the dry dock work while in port of Miami too. After muster our bags arrived, we met Rosalie our cabin attendant and lamented the lack of waste baskets in the baths, she had a good laugh and explained that someone was out shopping for more, because the old ones got tossed out unexpectedly during the dry dock! After dinner we noticed these in the hallway.

 

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(Clearly, someone had run out to Ikea!)

 

 

 

 

 

We relaxed on the pool deck for about an hour, snuggled up in towels to stay warm and then attended mister drill.

 

After unpacking, we made our way to the "Cruise Critics" meeting at the Living Room run by Eric Du Gray. It was fun to put names to faces.

 

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(CD Eric DU Gray held court over the "Cruise Critics" gathering- but no one was particularly critical...after round the room introductions, and a warm welcome, we all mingled and confirmed independent tour plans. This is a bad picture- I took it!)

 

(up next: a ships tour and cabin photos...if you simply cant wait..we did post some photos of the ship on blog here:

http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2016/2/7/azamara-journey-post-dry-dock

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I'm loving your blog so far. Can't wait for the next installment.

Gill

 

This is going to be so much fun! Thank you!

 

Thanks! I enjoy doing them...glad folks are reading along!

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Hi Familygoboston,

 

I noticed your other post, and I'm glad you're sharing your blog with us. I plan to post a reply in the other thread.... but please do not hesitate to use the alert triangle, if you feel anything requires my immediate attention.

 

A couple of interesting tidbits : Did you know that Azamara Quest's name when she belonged to Pullmantur (prior to Azamara), was Blue Moon ?

 

Looking forward to your future installments !

Edited by Host Andy

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You have hooked me:)

Looking forward to your the rest of the installments and my cup of coffee.

 

Lovely writing style and great pictures.

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Thanks Andy! No problems to report!

FEB 6: South Beach, Miami

 

We enjoyed a drink by the pool, changed to swim suits walked along South Beach, and saw the Celebrity Eclipse leave the port of Miami.

 

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Oops,did I say Eclipse- I meant Reflection!

 

Also DH wanted me to tell you the Uber to the port from SoBe was $9.

 

Also if you are interested here is what he uses to shoot the photos:

 

Cruise photos Nikon D750 with 24-120 f/4 and 16-35 f/4 lenses.

In the Panama Canal and wildlife shots- he used that set up plus, Nikon D4s with 80-400 vr lens

 

Underwater he used an Olympus tg-4. My bad photos and funny little time lapse videos were done with the iPhone 5S. (Oh my, those time lapse videos are so fun!) There will be more in future reviews, we used our OBC to buy a GoPro, just cause it's cool and DH likes to support the photography dept and we didn't need an obituary picture (we hope!) :eek:

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I wandered over here when I saw your post on the RCI board. I always enjoy reading your reviews, and who knows, someday I may be in my early mid to late second half century and decide to try out Azamara for myself :D

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I found you, haven't seen you in months. What's next for you guys. Helen Hunt must be in school now?

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I wandered over here when I saw your post on the RCI board. I always enjoy reading your reviews, and who knows, someday I may be in my early mid to late second half century and decide to try out Azamara for myself :D

 

I found you, haven't seen you in months. What's next for you guys. Helen Hunt must be in school now?

 

Hey, some of my old friends!great to hear from you all! We did an Adventure of the Seas with "Helen" for her HS graduation last April (lol, people used to say I looked like her too! But yes, she's off to college and loving it! Home on break this week, which make it hard for me to get back to posting!) Then we took a trip to Cuba with both girls in June. In late fall, DH and I went to St Martin for a few days, so we just haven't been cruising for a while till this one!

 

What's next: late fall 2016 I surprised DH with a trip to Churchhill Manitoba to see the polar bears gather before the pack ice forms on Hudson Bay, then I have Rhapsody out of Tampa booked back to back in Spring of 2017, but depending on who I can get to go, may not do both legs. In Late 2017 DH and I celebrate a big anniversary and have Azamara Quest booked Venice to Rome. Oh and we might head to Europe this spring if I can get these college kids to ever figure out there summer schedules and we could visit some relatives and a few art museums! It's all good! :D

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Great reviews so far, particularly the photo/lens info as I have taken up photography in the last half of the first decade of my second half century😄.

Can't wait to see more.

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Love your review style - it's very engaging! I'm laughing out loud (yes, literally :p) and reading tidbits to my husband. The parts about photography & engineering seem particularly relevant to our relationship :-)

 

Like you - we will probably be among the younger on board our first Azamara cruise in the fall - but age is just a number and that's never bothered us at all.

 

(I do sometimes worry that Azamara is too friendly for an introvert like me - is it possible to be solo in public or will someone always invite you over to sit with them?? Or is that just a bias I'm reading into the reviews here on CC because so many people cruise with others they know?)

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(I do sometimes worry that Azamara is too friendly for an introvert like me - is it possible to be solo in public or will someone always invite you over to sit with them?? Or is that just a bias I'm reading into the reviews here on CC because so many people cruise with others they know?)

 

Honestly, you'll be fine. Just be yourself.

 

Phil

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Great review! Like Hoyaheel I was reading parts of it to my DH. We have less than 3 weeks so I'm exited to read about the Journey.

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