Azamara Journey – Christmas cruising

The Azamara Journey is one of two ships as part of Azamara Club Cruises – a subset brand of better known Royal Caribbean cruises.  This boutique cruise liner provides a premium experience.

Best for: Couples, mature singles

Azamara Journey at a glance

Azamara Club Cruises offer an exclusive-style experience at a more affordable price.  Their selling points are smaller ships that allow docking in ports where larger ships won’t fit, more time in-port, and standard all-inclusive packages which includes gratuities.

Azamara are proud of their ‘family’ of returning passengers.  They do not create showy, tiered packages for groups of customers on different budgets like other lines.  Drinks and spa upgrade packages are available, but those travelling in more luxury or on a budget do so discretely.  The 2:1 passenger to staff ratio means service is very attentive. It’s clear to see how they have built a strong returning customer base.

Our itinerary was Temples and Dragons at Christmas: Singapore, around the major ports of Indonesia and back again, with scenic cruising around Krakatoa on Christmas day.

Azamara Journey accommodation

Many comfort options are available within the standard two categories: stateroom (with interior, ocean view and veranda) and suite (continent, ocean and spa).  Suites offer an abundance of extra living and bathroom space, with minimal other incentives for upgrading (small laundry service once a week, free excursion, speciality restaurant dining).  Staterooms are very small.  Beds in all rooms were recently upgraded to allow suitcase storage underneath, at the request of customers.

All passengers receive complimentary bottled water daily, beach tote, toiletries and vanity kits, Egyptian cotton robes and slippers.  Turndown treats (handmade chocolates) are left in the rooms each evening.  Umbrella and binoculars are also available in the rooms for use in ports.

Azamara Journey food and drink

Journey offers three distinctive complimentary eating areas, each offering informal dining in elegant and polished environments.

Discoveries Restaurant is a 350 flexible-seating brasserie, meaning passengers can enjoy dinner at whatever time they please during opening hours, can sit in any part of the restaurant, and dine alone or with other guests.

The menu offers classic favourites continuously (French onion soup, steak, cheesecake), with daily specials as part of the ‘world cuisine immersion’ experience.

Discoveries Restaurant is open for breakfasts and dinner, with special jazz brunches on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Windows Café is the self-service buffet restaurant on the near-top deck, walled with windows. Each evening offers a different world-cuisine theme.

Unlike some other cruise lines, the quality offered in this self-service restaurant is a good as though it was created to-order, with everything prepared fresh including the pestos, hummus and croutons.

The Patio offers polished poolside dining for sunny days at sea. A selections of burgers from standard beef to healthier options such as salmon and turkey is cooked to order with a variety of toppings and sides. A frozen yogurt station is also available for afters. The patio is also transformed once or twice per cruise for special events (weather permitting) such as the Captain’s Barbeque, white night (where the whole pool deck is converted to an eating space and draped with white linens), and the New Year’s Eve party.

Alternative dining options

Tapas, snacks and afternoon teas are available between main dining hours from the Mosaic Café and Living Room.

Speciality dining in Aqualina (Italian) and Prime C (steak) is also available at $30 per person (complimentary for suite guests).

Entertainment on the Azamara Journey

Entertainment on board the Azamara Journey centres around fitness, mind exercise and shows.

A small gym is equipped with the latest cardio equipment (cross trainers and treadmills)with a small space for daily activity classes such as yoga and pilates, and seminars for the older passengers on ‘walking in comfort’ – really a sales pitch for an ‘innovative’ shoe insole.

For the less active, daily trivia contests and music quizzes offer a distraction on sea days, along with lectures from destination experts on the next ports of call, or something completely different, such as ‘film ethics’ on our itinerary, from a Professor of Film Studies on board ship.

Nightly and twice nightly shows are held in the Cabaret Lounge from guest performers and an occasional show from the on-board entertainers. As a Christmas special, a very British and original pantomime was staged – much to the confusion of other nationalities on board, but great fun. Special bell-ringing New Year’s Eve and crossing the equator ceremonies were also planned.

Service on the Azamara Journey

Complimentary room service is available to all staterooms, with upgrade suites offering full butler service.

Owing to the smaller size of this ship, an on-board HR officer and skilled staff with their own responsibilities, service standards were very high. The close staff-to-passenger ratio meant good rapport could be built with housekeepers, waiters and bar tenders.

Excursions with Azamara

Shore excursions, or, Azamara’s term ‘Land Discoveries’ are sold as different to many other liners as being new and exciting tours yet to be discovered. Taking into account Azamara’s other promise of more time in port, the excursions were a let-down and over-priced.

Many tours to key places of interest (such as Borobudur Buddhist Temple in Central Java) offered very little flexibility for passengers to have their own time for exploration.  Itineraries were rigid, yet often returned to ship in the early afternoon.  Excursion brochures were either badly researched or intentionally mis-sold destinations, such as Kuta Beach in Bali – more of an untidy, commercialised party resort than tranquil beach surroundings, priced at $60 per person for a three mile journey drop-off (no tour).

This article was written in January 2017. My target media style was Telegraph Travel’s Expert Cruise Reviews.