Boarding Azamara Journey in Barcelona was quick and easy – there was 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. The reception area is a bit ordinary when you finally make it onboard, but a glass of champagne makes up for any disappointment. Before discussing this boutique line, I should explain that Journey is one of eight R-class ships originally launched by Renaissance Cruises between the late 90s and the early 2000s.
Sure, they have been renovated several 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 – 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 are spectacular. More on the room later, but I was instantly impressed to see two USB slots on either side of the bed.
There was some 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 also emerged when we tried to hook up our free internet deal. Seems we had not been appropriately registered 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 tour booklet was also missing.
Azamara PursuitWhen our steward Puta arrived, he apologised and explained that the butler would fix all. Oscar finally rolled up, and the bottle was on the ice when we returned that evening after departure. That was the 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 wearing a lifejacket on deck are over – they 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 when 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 is more enjoyable than sitting on the open deck at the back of the restaurant enjoying breakfast with the morning sun warming your back. Last night, the menu celebrated French specialities – a great selection of delicious smorgasbord-style food. Afterwards, we explored deck 5 – the main restaurant is at one end, and the theatre is at the other. In between, guests enjoy a spacious piano bar and shopping areas. Removing the casinos and creating a popular piano bar was a brilliant idea.
Azamara was a Royal Caribbean brand until 2021, 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.
Written by: Ian McIntosh