Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 1 - Cruise to Southern Caribbean

Vinnie the Cruise Dog was heartbroken. He had developed a slight eye infection and wasn’t going to be able to go with his people Rich and Linda on their Azamara Journey cruise to the Caribbean.(He couldn’t have gone anyway, but please don’t tell him that.) But, before they left he asked them to send him a daily blog so he could vicariously go on their cruise.
Rich and Linda’s Southern Caribbean Cruise
It was a long plane ride from Seattle to Miami but Alaska Airlines did manage to get us in about 20 minutes earlier than scheduled. I had arranged for a night at the Miami Airport Summerfield Suites and our two-bedroom suite was very nice. The only problem was we ordered a small pizza and salad from a recommended local Italian restaurant and what arrived 40 minutes later was the wrong order and it was truly awful. Do not patronize Momma Caruso’s in Miami unless you want bad food, bad service and a bad attitude.
On Monday embarkation on the Journey was a breeze. No lines, a seamless system and good facilities made getting onboard a snap. Very nice touch was the warm greeting and glass of sparkling wine and beautiful music from the harpist greeting you as you entered the ship. Early boarding policy allowed us to come on board by 12:00 and wait onboard for the stateroom to be readied. Lunch in the Windows Café made the waiting very pleasant.
It was ironic that the Journey was docked, literally 200 yards from the corporate headquarters of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara Club Cruises. Oh, it was about 75 degrees in Miami, just about perfect weather.
The Azamara Journey had been one of the nine Renaissance Cruise vessels before that cruise line went bankrupt—partly because they felt they could bypass the travel agent community—a terrible and wrong strategy. We had previously sailed on the Pacific Princess, another of the former ”R”-ships, but Azamara had done a much better job in bringing the vessel up to a higher quality than it had originally been. New beds, great new deck furniture (mostly teak) and other refurbishments made the Journey seem much more like an upscale cruise product than the Pacific Princess.
We had a balcony stateroom on deck 6 and it was compact, but very nice. The bathrooms and balconies are very small, but that was the original design for the ship, and not much could be done about the size. Adding Elemis toiletries, great new mattresses, flat screen TV and the biggest bath towels ever seen at sea, Azamara had done a nice job tweaking the product to make it feel like a premium plus cruise line.
What also was impressive is the attitude and service style of the crew. Obviously well trained and well motivated the service levels are excellent throughout the vessel. Also noticeably absent was the onboard hawking of drink cards, giant bing0 games and other obtrusive onboard revenue producers now found on most of the big cruise lines.
The other major difference so far has been the quality of the food. We ate in the Aqualine restaurant last night and it was outstanding! Linda had Chilean Sea Bass and I had Osso Bucco and the food was terrific! This restaurant is the equivalent of a fine shores-side bistro and a great way to start on a new cruise adventure. One of the cruise counselors for Cruise Holidays of Woodinville had recommended I try the cold seafood platter for an appetizer, and boy was she right! Prawns, clams, oysters and a nice little lobster tail made this a superior starter. And, because no sugar free desserts were on the menu, the waiter came with a blueberry/apple crepe that was magnificent. All in all one of the best meals we’ve had in our twenty plus years of cruising.
Tomorrow is another sea day and we’ll take a look at onboard activities and facilities. I think Vinnie would give this cruise two paws up for its excellent beginning.
P.S. From Linda – Love to all our family and friends, we miss you and wish you could be with us on this amazing adventure!

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