I recently had the opportunity to join Azamara in Southampton for a tour of one of their ships; the Azamara Journey. So today I’d like to share my experience with you.
Azamara are a boutique-style premium cruise line with just two ships, and are a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises – one of the largest cruise operators in the world. As part of a multi-million dollar upgrade to enhance the guest experience; both the Azamara Journey and it’s sister ship, Azamara Quest; underwent a major refurbishment programme in 2016. Despite the ships being about 14-years old (they were part of the now defunct Renaissance Cruises) the Azamara Journey appeared to be in a very good condition.
Azamara pride themselves on offering an immersive experience with longer stays, overnight calls and to learn much more about the destination than you would do with another cruise line.. Not only that, but Azamara are known as being more-inclusive than other operators with selected alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages included within the cruise fare; amongst many other amenities too.
One considerable differentiator between Azamara and their competitors has to be their unique AzAmazing Evenings offering. In short, an AzAmazing Evening is a complimentary evening shore-excursion offered on almost every voyage (transatlantic and those under seven days are excluded). Guests are whisked away for an evening of entertainment which celebrates the local culture. It could be a private beach party at Playa Mia in Cozumel or a trip to enjoy “Riverdance” in a beautiful theatre in Dublin; variety is certainly the order when it comes to these excursions.
Welcoming just 686 passengers, it’s certainly a vast contrast from Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas; which accommodates more than 5,400. In short, that translates to a more personalised cruising experience in an atmosphere that I’d probably describe as a quintessential country club; a nice balance between the formality and relaxed-approach taken by other cruise operators.
During my visit in Southampton, I was able to take a explore a number of the public areas on board. It is certainly the smallest cruise ship I have set foot on, but it still felt big to me!
In terms of staterooms, there is everything from a standard interior to an outside, balcony and of course luxury suites. The Spa Suites happened to be my favourite. I wonder why…
All staterooms look very modern and feature flat-screen televisions and plush amenities. The beds are extremely comfortable too.
From the carpets to television screens; a number of areas across the ship had been refreshed – which is a good thing to see. In a day where the cruise industry is as competitive as ever, Azamara have shown they are passionate about their guests and the enhancements really do make a difference.
In terms of dining, the Azamara Journey boasts a main dining room named “Discoveries” which offers an open seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is also the Windows Cafe (buffet), The Patio (alfresco grill), and two speciality restaurants: Aqualina (Italian) and Prime C (Steakhouse). There is a cover charge of $30 per guest for Aqualina and Prime C, however if you are residing in a suite this is complimentary. Advanced reservations are highly recommended.
The Library is also a great area where you’ll find a plethora of books to read. I simply love this decor too. As I mentioned near the beginning of this post, the ships in the Azamara fleet used to be part of Renaissance Cruises. Renaissance commissioned eight identical “R”class ships all of which featured a beautifully-designed libraries with a faux fireplace. Despite Renaissance being no more, all eight ships are still in operation with different owners but have each left the libraries more or less intact and a nod to the past. For your interest Azamara’s fleet is made up of R6 = Azamara Journey and R7 = Azamara Quest.
If you had to ask me for my favourite area onboard; it would probably be The Living Room – which is located at the top of the very front of the ship; with floor to ceiling windows looking towards the horizon and beyond. I was told it is “the place to be” each evening with live music, a wine and tapas bar, comfortable seating and there’s even a couple of interactive tables. Yes, that’s right – tables where you can surf the world wide web, browse future voyages and even send an electronic post-card back home for free! I can assure you that the tech geek within me was very impressed.
Oh, The Living Room also features these amazing chairs. I wanted to take one home with me.
After my tour, I had the opportunity to enjoy a three-course meal in the Discoveries main dining room. Unlike other cruise operators, Azamara offer open seating dining which allows guests to dine at their leisure and not be subject to dining at the same time each evening. As cruising becomes more popular, I can see this becoming the norm with many more cruise lines in the future.
This was the Flourless Chocolate Cake which I enjoyed. Divine!
Entertainment-wise, the Azamara Journey boasts multiple bars, a casino, cabaret lounge and plenty of places to sit back and relax. You’ll also find two boutiques located just beyond the grand foyer area.
Azamara also put on a famous “White Night” party which forms as a highlight of every voyage. It’s a poolside buffet and party where you’ll find colourful decor, linen-covered tables and live music as you can dance away under the stars. As the name suggests, everyone tends to wear white. I was told that some guests who couldn’t find anything would show up in their bathrobes, but please don’t do that. Pretty please!
Just incase you felt the need to whilst you are on holiday. Both the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest do feature a Spa and Fitness Centre which is open from around 07:00 until 22:00. Of course you could always take the stairs whilst you wander around the ship, that makes having that extra slice of Flourless Chocolate Cake ok right?
As someone who has only sailed with larger operators on quite a few occasions, I really enjoyed stepping aboard a much smaller ship to see what the cruising experience would be like. I’d say Azamara is aimed at travellers whom are seeking a destination-intensive type of cruise on small ships with inclusive amenities. Could I see myself cruising with Azamara in the future? Quite possibly.
Thanks to the team at Azamara in the UK for a lovely day in Southampton.