“Here’s What They’re Saying” – More Third Party Endorsements
When you’re the "decider" of what cruise line to select following your thorough due-diligence search of which option will best fit your collective vacation needs exceed your expectations, it makes sense to review what third-party sources have said about their impressions with a particular cruise line experience.
Below you will find a straight-forward and candid review of Azamara Club Cruises prepared by Lee Abbamonte who interestingly shared his experience from being a "cruise doubter" to really enjoying it and being a "believer!" He participated in a recent media trip aboard the Azamara Journey, October 1-8, 2013 and visited Tuscany, Monte-Carlo and the French Riviera.
Mr. Abbamonte has an interesting background as a travel writer. He positions himself as the youngest American to visit every country in the world. Lee writes for his own travel site, LeeAbbamonte.com, while contributing to HuffingtonPost.com and FOX News. In addition to FOX, he has also appeared on the Travel Channel, NBC, CBS, CNN, BBC and ESPN, among others. He has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Bloomberg, Discovery Channel and many more. Twitter: @LeeAbbamonte
So if you’re seeking more evidence about Azamara’s ability to deliver outstanding service and destination immersion with longer stays, more overnights and night touring please consider Lee’s perspective how well we delivered on our promise that “You’ll love where we take you” both literally as well as in your mind and spirit.
Chief Blogging Officer*
Azamara Club Cruises
(*CBO is an authorized and compensated representative of ACC)
Cruising on the Azamara Journey
October 21, 2013 by Lee Abbamonte
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about cruises. Many of those have been perpetuated by people like me who believed that cruises were just for old people or those without a sense of adventure. Azamara Club Cruises got in touch with me and asked me to try out a cruise on the Azamara Journey for a week. To say the least, I was apprehensive.
The Azamara Journey would be only my second ever cruise and let’s just say my first cruise back in 2008 didn’t go so well! At the time, I had never even heard of Azamara but I took a look at the itinerary and it hit some of my favorite ports in the Mediterranean and stopped at some new ports I hadn’t been to yet. So I agreed to go and I am really glad I did.
The Azamara Journey is one of two small cruise ships currently operated by Azamara Club Cruises; which is a small luxury arm of parent company, Royal Caribbean. I likely wouldn’t have gone if it were a bigger ship because of the bad experience in 2008, but the capacity of just under 700 people on the Azamara Journey made it seem manageable. Additionally, I liked that it was a luxury ship so the quality of people would be higher than that of my budget cruise years ago.
I boarded the Azamara Journey in port at Civitavecchia; which is about an hour outside of Rome in Italy. The ship has 10 levels including a pool and sundeck with a running track and gym. I was really glad about that because I figured I’d be eating a ton on the cruise ship. The gym was pretty nice and always provided a great view out the windows!
My stateroom was really nice. It had a large queen bed that was very comfortable and even a small couch. A small veranda made the room and was a great place to sit outside and have breakfast or just enjoy some fresh air at night as we cruised to the next port.
I highly recommend spending a little more and getting a larger room with a veranda. This makes a huge difference in my view. On my prior cruise I was in a small interior room with no windows and it was kind of miserable. My stateroom on the Azamara Journey was perfect and definitely enhanced the trip.
The other great thing about cruises and cruising on the Azamara Journey in particular is that you see a lot of places and can actually unpack. This may seem trite but to me it was a revelation. I am very used to seeing a lot of places but constantly moving around and never getting a chance to unpack. A week on a cruise ship makes that possible and easy!
The Azamara Journey had a main level with a delightful coffee shop where I would load up on cappuccinos each morning before heading out for the day. The main floor looked like something out of a Parisian hotel. It was really nice and welcoming.
The Azamara Journey has a small casino, an entertainment stage and several bars. It also has a nightclub that was pretty fun at night. It was apparently Abba tribute week when I was on board because Abba was definitely the band of choice for the DJ to play. Of course Abba is always fun.
There is a massive fancy dining room on board that requires dress slacks and collared shirts. I actually didn’t bring dress pants or shoes so I had to wear waiters’ pants and sneakers at dinners but that’s another story for another day! There is also a casual buffet style restaurant; which to be honest was my favorite eating spot on board-the Indian buffet night was easily the best meal I had on the Azamara Journey. Brick Lane would have been jealous!
Additionally there are two specialty restaurants on board. One specializes in fish and the other is a steakhouse. Both are excellent and the steakhouse I liked in particular.
All that aside, there were two main reasons I loved my week on board the Azamara Journey. First, the staff was fantastic. Everyone from bartenders, to the coffee makers to the people that serviced the rooms. They all made us feel welcome and part of the ship. It was really very endearing and to be honest-unexpected. Like I said, I had low expectations based on my prior experience but the staff of the Azamara Journey made me completely rethink what to expect and how things should be done.
The second thing that made my experience on the Azamara Journey worth remembering was the destinations. The itinerary was carefully crafted and included some stops at the obvious places in the area but also gave options for shore excursions to places that even I didn’t know about.
We docked for two days in Livorno; the port city for Tuscany. From Livorno, we were of course able to see Florence and Pisa but I was very pleased to visit a new place for me called Lucca. I will be honest in that I hadn’t heard of Lucca before the cruise and was thrilled at how nice a little town it was to visit.
The other awesome experience in Tuscany was something called an “Azamazing Evening”. When I first heard this term, I rolled my eyes thinking it was hokey and would likely be lame; especially when I found out it would be an evening at the opera. To say the least I am not an opera guy.
However, the way they did it was perfect. While I may not like opera, I respect the music and Azamara arranged for three tenors to come to a gorgeous and historic opera house in Livorno. We had balcony seats and the show only lasted for about an hour total. This was perfect because they sang the best and most popular songs so I actually knew most of them even if they were in Italian. I really enjoyed it and exposed me to something I wouldn’t have ever done normally. Azamara does these “Azamazing Evenings” on each cruise and it’s always different of course as they rarely repeat routes.
The other place I absolutely loved was a small hilltop town called St. Paul de Vence. It is located about 45 minutes or so from Nice and Monaco. I had never heard of it and I had been to the South of France numerous times. I was very pleasantly surprised and thrilled because it gave me my favorite photos from the trip!
Walking the maze of small streets, stopping in for a cappuccino or gelato or shopping was perfect. It is the small European walled town that you dream about. I highly recommend it and would definitely go back.
So all in all I really enjoyed my experience on the Azamara Journey. The ship has long in-port times; which allows you to stay out on excursions longer and minimizes time at sea. It is also very punctual; which I love!
My preconceived notions and apprehensions were pretty much for naught. It is true that the clientele is older of course but it is not like it’s a bunch of geriatrics rolling around in wheel chairs with respirators. The people who cruise regularly simply like the convenience a cruise offers and are generally very interesting and well-traveled people. People can and do stay on board the Azamara Journey for weeks as it never repeats stops. It is a great way to see a lot with minimal effort and maximum comfort.
Don’t get me wrong; luxury cruises are not for everyone and certainly not for budget travelers. Excursions costs can add up but they are so worth it. The only thing that I think needs improvement is the Wi-Fi situation and cost. It can be confusing on how to logoff to save time and accumulated costs can add up quickly so keep that in mind.
However, I truly did enjoy my time on the Azamara Journey and hope to go back on the Journey or perhaps the other ship, the Quest, at some point. They travel the whole world and hope to expand their fleet in the near future. I look forward to watching the progress of Azamara and after having the chance to meet and interact with the great people who lead it-I know they will do great things in the cruise industry and further break down these misconceptions about cruises.