The Azamara Journey is set to sail from Singapore in November after a major refit. Sue Bryant was among of the first to step aboard the “reimagined” Azamara Journey and discovers a sleek ship that belies its 16 years.
Azamara Journey has just emerged from a two-week, multi-million dollar facelift with “no space untouched”, as chief executive Larry Pimentel puts it. There’s no question, the “reimagined” 686-passenger Journey is like a whole new ship, sleek, contemporary and cool.
Azamara’s ships are two of a series of eight originally built in 2000 for Renaissance Cruises (the other sisters sail for Oceania, Carnival’s new Fathom brand and Princess). They’re 16 years old now, although you wouldn’t know it with Journey’s new look. But the point is, people love these ships because of their size; not too big, not too small, plenty of dining areas, gorgeous pool space and a decent number of balcony cabins. On my cruise to Panama, the things people talked about most, new decor aside, were the friendly crew and the perfect size of the ship.
I loved the new look, although you do need to appreciate neutrals. Gone are the dark interiors, the oranges and browns, with a whole new palette of stone, cream, pale gold and soft grey. The cabins have been completely revamped, with new gold-and-white Frette linens, a cream, leather-effect chair and oatmeal sofa, as well as silvery, textured walls and cream leather headboards. Two new spa suites have been created where the internet cafe used to be, with glass-enclosed bathtubs and more soothing, neutral shades.
The Living Room at the top of the ship, formerly the underused Looking Glass lounge, is now all light and space, with some fun touches, not least a couple of enormous, burgundy high-backed chairs that you can just sink into. Tapas is on offer here every night and wine tastings are arranged a couple of times per cruise (for a fee) at a beautiful wooden table seating 10.
The Windows Café, the casual buffet area, has more tables for two and a tastefully done outdoor area aft with big, taupe sun umbrellas and a textured granite and marble bar. What used to be a basic pool grill is now The Patio, offering fine line in burgers and brochettes at lunchtime and romantic outdoor dining with tablecloths and candles after dark. All the decking around the pool has been replaced, with a soothing, grey wood-effect and big, padded loungers (including several doubles) and swinging rattan chairs.
The Sanctum Spa is brand new, with lots of marble and swishy, gold mesh curtains, as well as a refurbished private deck for suite passengers, with a new thalassotherapy plunge pool. We paid US$395 for a Nights in Private Places experience on The Sanctum Terrace, which was just spectacular. You have the whole deck to yourself, lit by hundreds of candles. A butler cooks on a hot-stone grill and pours the drinks and you sleep under the stars on a comfortable bed made up on a big, double lounger.
On decks Four and Five, there are more big changes. Discoveries Bar, which leads into the main dining room, has a smart new look with cream and black sofas, while the restaurant has new decor, lighting and table linen, as well as more tables for two. The Mosaic Café, a popular spot for coffee and cake, has a new, marble-topped bar and a gold, off-white and grey colour scheme.
There’s no question, the Azamara Journey now genuinely matches the experiences it offers; the long nights in port, the adventurous itineraries, the connection with nature. A White Nights deck party when we were docked in sultry Panama was the perfect evening, with everybody dressed up, a live band and dancing under the stars. Cruising has just got cooler.
CRUISE LINE: Azamara Club Cruises
VESSEL: Azamara Journey
STAR RATING: 4
PASSENGER CAPACITY: 686
TOTAL CREW: Crew: 407
PASSENGER DECKS: 9
ENTERED SERVICE: 2000 (2007 for Azamara)
FACILITIES: Six places to eat, library, seven bars, casino, gym, spa, pool, hot tubs, thalassotherapy pool, ship-wide Wi-Fi, self-service launderette, theatre, medical facility.
BOOKINGS: A three-night cruise on Azamara Journey starts at $864 per person twin share. See azamaraclubcruises.com
Highs: Beautiful new, contemporary decor. Superb food and top-notch service.
Lows: None, but if you’re looking for bright colour and wild nightlife, try another ship.
Would suit: Anybody looking for a sophisticated but casual cruise, good food, adventurous itineraries and an international mix of passengers (mainly North Americans, Brits, Australians and Germans).
For more details; www.azamaraclubcruises.com/asia