As I stepped aboard the Azamara Journey, a grand staircase greeted me, as did a most welcome glass of champagne. I’d been invited to join a short leg of a Mediterranean cruise to check out this beautiful, recently refitted ship and from what I had heard, over the next few days, I was going to be in for a treat.
Azamara Club Cruises
With a capacity of 686 guests each, Azamara Journey, together with her sister ship Azamara Quest, can be described as medium-sized cruise ships, not so big that you never see the same face twice but not too small either (just in case there’s anyone you’d rather avoid). Both recently refurbished, these majestic ships visit some of the most exciting destinations throughout Europe, Asia, South America, West Indies, as well as Central and North America. And they are small enough to dock in many ports that the larger boats simply can’t visit and new destinations are continually added to their journey. Repeat customers, and there are a very many of them, need never return to the same port twice. Onboard there really is a club-like feeling and I found everyone from the staff and crew, as well as my fellow passengers, extremely friendly.
Reimagining Azamara Journey
“There is no area on the ship that has not been touched,” says Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises. “Known for our land programmes to provide our guests with the most personalised Destination Immersion experiences in the industry, Azamara needed to take our onboard product to the next level. Cruise ships are like fine hotels, after wear and tear, upgrades need to be made. It’s gorgeous and provides all the modern services and amenities that today’s traveller needs and demands. I think we have exceeded expectations.”
Several of the world’s leading design consultants for the hospitality and leisure industry, helped Azamara transform its ships into modern, boutique hotels at sea. On the Azamara Journey all stateroom and suites have had facelifts – they offer extremely comfortable accommodation with an understated elegance and serene natural tones. The refurbishments and upgrades reached every quarter of the ships and include all the modern services, amenities and technology you could hope to find.
above: Club Continent Suite
The Sanctum Spa
I was staying in a Club Continent Suite (pictured above) which, as well as an English butler service with afternoon tea served in-suite, included complimentary use of the Sanctum Spa. I particularly enjoyed the stylish outside terrace over the bridge of the ship. It’s a fabulous area to relax in with a bubbling salt water plunge pool with powerful massage jets. I had the terrace all to myself one morning and lounged in the pool admiring the ocean view, before I was treated to an excellent hot stone massage. Initially I had booked a Swedish Massage but having discussed my needs with my therapist she recommended this as an alternative and more appropriate therapy for me. I was happy to take her advice. I’ve had many a massage around the world but rarely have I come across such attention to detail. While not cheap I can highly recommend the Sanctum Spa as second to none and they get ten out of ten from me.
Above: Salt water pool on the Sanctum Terrace, credit Kathryn Burrington
Azamara Club Cruises are well-known for offering a richer travel experience for the discerning traveller with an emphasis on the destinations. From the cuisine and wines served onboard to their longer stays in port, including some overnight stops, guests have the opportunity to gain a better appreciation of the places they visit. The variety of shore excursions have also seen an upgrade with the inclusion of the new Insider Access tours featuring private visits to the ancestral homes, workshops or places of business of a local insider and Nights and Cool Places which allows guests to discover a destination after dark, from visiting Malaga’s Picasso Museum after hours to an evening Gondola Serenade in Venice.
Above: Alicante, credit Kathryn Burrington
Nights in Private Places
In the evening the terrace can be transformed into your own secret hideaway just for the two of you, whether you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary or simply life. Your personal butler will bring you champagne and canopies before serving you a sumptuous meal by candlelight. When you are ready for bed you can slip beneath the covers of your outdoor bed and sleep beneath the stars, a magical experience I’m sure. These exclusive evenings, known as Nights in Private Places, can only be booked onboard and are obviously limited to one couple per evening.
Above: Sleep under the stars on the Sanctum Terrace, credit Kathryn Burrington
Dining on the Azamara Journey
Public areas, restaurants and bars have also received a makeover, much approved of by Azamara’s loyal guests. As a company Azamara take great care to listen to their clients and their comments and feedback played an important role in the direction that the renovations took. I had the opportunity to dine in a number of different restaurants on board and each meal was superb with excellent wines to compliment each dish.
The range of dining styles and menus really is second to none and will surely satisfy even the fussiest of eaters and, of course, diet choices and needs can also be well catered for.
Azamara Club Cruising, how cruising should be
As I found out for myself guests receive exceptional, personal service and come back year after year to Azamara Club Cruises. In fact, everyone I spoke to during my stay was a repeat customer, some having travelled with Azamara more than a dozen times. It’s the staff, I’m told, that really make Azamara stand out and as Neil, one of their many wonderful chefs explained to me, he loves that while there is always work to be done, he still has plenty of time to stop and chat to guests. With the new upgrades Azamara have certainly raised the bar even further.
Azamara Club Cruises, a boutique style of cruising and just how I think cruising should be.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Azamara Club Cruises for this complimentary short cruise on the Azamara Journey
Photography courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises unless otherwise stated