I sailed on a 12-day cruise to the eastern Caribbean on the Azamara Journey, and loved the ship, itinerary, and ports of call. We had two sea days at the beginning of the cruise, two sea days at the end, and visited seven island ports: St. John, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Barts, St. Kitts, Tortola, and St. Thomas. It was a wonderful cruise and I loved the size of the ship, its food and cuisine, and the exceptional service delivered by its officers and staff. Join me on a cruise to the eastern Caribbean on the Azamara Journey.
Day 1 - Azamara Journey - Embarkation in Miami
It's always amazing to me how you can fly for just an hour or so and go from very cold weather to the tropics. By mid-February, I think most of us are very sick and tired of winter weather. One of the best cures for the winter blahs is spending 12 days in the Caribbean.
We browsed the buffet at the Windows Cafe, made a few choices, and went outside to enjoy the weather and our lunch. Our cabin, which was one of the ten Azamara Journey Owner's Suites, was ready at 1:30. We lounged on the huge suite balcony while waiting on our bags, which arrived just in time for the lifeboat drill.
After the lifeboat drill, we unpacked. Needless to say, the suite had way more closet and drawer space than we needed! Mom and I were both exhausted from getting up so early (before 5 am), so we just went to dinner at the Windows Cafe buffet, which was exceptional. They had excellent Asian stir fry--you picked the meat, veggies, and sauces, and the guy cooked it in a wok for you. After dinner, we went to the casino, where I put $20 in the slot machine, played for about 15 minutes, and left with $18.75--such a big spender! We then went to the show, which was a preview of the week's entertainment ahead.
Exhausted, we moved the clocks ahead an hour to be on Caribbean time, and were asleep by 11:30 midnight.
Day 2 - At Sea on the Azamara Journey
Returning to the cabin about 9 am, I joined my mom at the buffet since I needed to replenish those calories. She was happy that they had crispy bacon, her cruise breakfast favorite. The blueberries/strawberries had been frozen, but were okay for mixing with yogurt (my breakfast favorite). After breakfast, I took a quick shower and we went to the first culinary demonstration, where two chefs made some fish/shrimp ceviche, salmon tartar, and several types of sushi.
The Azamara Journey has a crew of 60 chefs, but none of them are female except the executive chef, who is from Chicago. Interesting that the Azamara Journey has a female executive chef, when there are so few of them on ships. Even more amazing is that she's American. We loved watching the chefs work--they are so talented with those knives. Mom and I had been to a sushi demo before and quickly decided it was way too hard just to even get the rice done right. Anyway, after they made the 3 dishes, we had a chance to try them. They were all excellent, and a German girl and I stood there and ate the sushi as the guy made it. Very yummy, especially the spicy tuna roll.
After the demo, we returned to the cabin for a while before going to our tour of the navigational bridge. The young Romanian officer who did the tour was very serious and went over all the equipment in detail. Thankfully, his English was excellent and his information was interesting. We learned that on a very clear day you can see about 20 miles ahead to the horizon from the bridge. We were following the Carnival Miracle, and could see it on the radar as well as with our eyes, and it was 13 miles ahead of us!
After the bridge tour, we went to lunch. I had salad and roast turkey from the carvery, which was delicious. Topped off the light lunch (remember I had eaten all that raw fish) with one scoop of pistachio and one scoop of chocolate chip gelato. Mom had fish for lunch and salad and fried rice. Since the wine is included, we both had a glass of wine. Guess it wasn't surprising that we took a nap after lunch. I read my book and worked on the computer.
We had a galley tour at 4 pm. It was interesting to meet some of the chefs and see them at work preparing the delicious food served on the ship.
We returned to the cabin right at 5 pm just in time to meet our butler with two bowls of nuts and an order of shrimp cocktail. Delicious. We ate out on the balcony and went to dinner about 7:30 at Discoveries, the main restaurant on the Azamara Journey.
I had salad, halibut, and lemon sorbet; mom had salad, lamb, and raspberry sorbet. Neither of us was hungry since we had eaten all day. Went to the 9:30 show, where Captain Tysse introduced the senior officers. The Captain is Norwegian, but speaks perfect English. He is very witty and is always out and around the ship, greeting the guests.
The show followed the Captain's introductions. It was the five cabaret singers. Mom and I loved their songs (from Hollywood movies). Back to the room at 11 pm and time for bed.
Day 3 - At Sea on the Azamara Journey
We enjoyed the cooking demo the day before, so at 10:30, mom and I were back in the main dining room for the second class--this one on cooking seared scallops on a small corn pancake topped with a chorizo sausage/pepper garnish and with a sauce on the side. My husband loves scallops, so I was sure to pick up a copy of the recipe. The chef said all the scallops on the ship are frozen, and they thaw them out (and all the meats) by moving to the fridge 72 hours before they are needed. He also used only a very small amount of hot oil, and cooked the large scallops for 1 minute on each side. The dipping sauce was made with mayo, honey, and Harissa paste, which is made with peppers, tomatoes, and a gazillion spices, and is very hot/spicy.
After the cooking class, we went to the barbecue lunch. The Journey's officers functioned as food servers at the buffet, which is a fun touch. The ribs were yummy. Mom and I ate lunch with a couple from Toronto, who said there were about 150 Canadians on the ship. After lunch, it was time for line dancing, which was quite a riot since we were rolling so much. The class only lasted about 35 minutes. Mom and I think the instructor cut it short because she was afraid someone would fall.
We hung around the Looking Glass observation lounge for a while to watch the rumba class. The ship was rolling so much that only 2 couples showed up. Back to the cabin before 3 pm--time for a nap!
Worked on the computer, and soon it was time to get ready for dinner. We went at 6:30 to Discoveries and had a good table of 8. I had the Thai tenderloin beef salad, gazpacho soup, tomato and blue cheese salad, and surf and turf. All were very good. Mom had a shrimp appetizer and tuna steak.
After dinner, we went to a comedian's show in the Cabaret Lounge. His name is Bruce Smirnoff and he is a 54 year old Jewish bachelor from Miami. He was hilarious and had us all rolling in the aisles. Back to the cabin about 10:45 and time for bed.
We would be in St. John, USVI, the next morning.
Day 4 - A Day in St. John, USVI, from the Azamara Journey
I did my gym routine--45 minutes on the treadmill, followed by the 30 minute stretch class. When I got back to the cabin about 8:45, mom was gone to the Mosaic Cafe coffee bar to get her morning coffee/pastry. By the time I showered, she was back and sitting on the deck in her chaise lounge. Ate a nice breakfast, including a yummy smoothie. It's nice to be on a ship where smoothies and specialty coffees are included in the fare.
After breakfast, we took the tender into Cruz Bay at St. John, USVI, our first port of call. Since we were anchored on the south side of the island, we had little wind and no waves. Mom and I walked around for an hour or so, just checking out the shops. I bought a pair of cheap earrings, but that was all (trying to do my part to help the economy). As we were walking back to the ship, we got caught in a downpour of rain, so we took shelter at a covered bar along with a couple from the UK who were also returning to the ship. The rain finally let up, and we walked to the pier. Soon after getting on the tender, the "bottom fell out", and we could barely see the ship for the rain.
We enjoyed a late lunch at the buffet, followed by an on/off rainy afternoon. They have a delicious citrus vinaigrette salad dressing that I've grown very fond of. Our balcony lounges were soaked from the earlier rain, so we stretched out on the beds, and didn't wake up until the butler brought our afternoon shrimp cocktail. By then, the rain had stopped (although there were still many clouds scattered around), and we were treated to a lovely rainbow.
We sailed from St. John on the way to Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, about 6:00 pm.
Dinner was in the main dining room at about 7:00 pm. Mom had vichyssoise and salmon. I had ahi tuna, salad, grilled swordfish, and a kiwi/strawberry/meringue dessert.
Although the Azamara Journey had a singer in the Cabaret lounge, followed by live music in the Mosaic Cafe and the Looking Glass lounge, we decided to skip the shows and go back to the room and read for a while. The next day we would be in St. Maarten.
Day 5 - A Day in St. Maarten/St. Martin from the Azamara Journey
I woke up early and walked for an hour around the deck. It was not as windy as it had been, and the full moon was still shining as the sun came up. Wonderful. I skipped the exercise stretching class since I was done with my walk 45 minutes before it started, and mom and I had an island tour/shore excursion at 9:30.
I had a berry smoothie and scrambled eggs and grits for breakfast--very good. The smoothies are free on this ship, and I love yogurt and fruit ones. The tour was on a small bus of only 10 people with a guide named Victor. We circled the island, stopping for photo ops a couple of times. Mom and I bought very cute $15 purses made from coconut shells at one stop. We crossed into the French side of St. Maarten/St. Martin without even having to stop. The traffic was very heavy, and the island seemed very dry. Saw goats, horses, cows, iguanas, and sheep (with no wool), along with every tropical tree/plant imaginable. Victor pointed out them all.
We stopped in Marigot, the capital of French St. Martin, for about an hour. It was market day and quite busy. Mom and I walked through the street market, but didn't buy anything. Then, we sat and listened to a singer/trumpet player in a small bar.
We made it back to the bus and returned to Phillipsburg. Mom and I went on back to the ship, but some folks stayed in town and would either walk (20 minutes), take a taxi ($3 pp) or take a water taxi ($4 pp) back to the ship.
Lunch was up at the buffet, and then did a load of laundry in the guest laundry on deck 7. We watched people on the HAL Veendam, Carnival Victory, and Star Clipper sailing ship come and go during the day.
I went to the complimentary Pilates class at 5pm, which focused mostly on core and breathing exercises. Would have liked a little more stretching.
Back to the cabin, I got ready for dinner at Aqualina, the Mediterranean restaurant. Mom and I stopped at the bar for a green apple martini and cosmopolitan before dinner. The dinner was excellent, and we had great views of the city/town and the Star Clipper, which was also staying late in port. We had a goat cheese amuse, and mom had pan seared scallops, a salad, rack of lamb, and Grand Marnier souffle. I had a crab/avocado/grapefruit appetizer, followed by salad with berries/frisee/lettuce/citrus dressing salad, sea bass, and chocolate souffle. Both the souffles were delicious, and we practically licked the souffle cups, despite being full.
Since we didn't want to go to bed at 8:30, we went to the pool and sat outside and listened to the entertainment. It was all set up for the outdoor Caribbean buffet and looked terrific, with ice carvings, candlelit (fake candles) tables, and nice decorations. Another lovely evening in the Caribbean.
The next day the Azamara Journey was in Antigua.
Day 6 - A Day in Antigua from the Azamara Journey
Mom and I had a good breakfast on the Azamara Journey, and I was off on my zip line canopy tour at 9:00 am. The tour had about 20 participants from our ship, along with a bunch of folks from the Emerald Princess, which was docked next to us. Ten were in our taxi, and we had a nice drive across the island and up into the mountains. I met two women whose husbands weren't interested in going on the zip line, so the three of us teamed up for the day. This was Linda's first zip line, Lynn's tenth, and my second. Lynn did her first zip line in Costa Rica and is now addicted. She said if there is one offered on the tour list, she always goes.
Anyway, the experience was about the same as I had in Mazatlan, which means it was great fun. We did 12 "zips" rather than the 9 in Mazatlan. Linda and all the other newbies in our group were justifiably nervous, and I was too since I had only been once before. However, like riding a bicycle, the technique came back quickly, and it was exciting and fun. The group was very large since we had the Princess people with us, so we had to wait a while at each zip, allowing plenty of time for chatting and watching others perfect their technique (or not). We had quite a few steps between each zip station, and had to walk up about 150 steps at the end out of the ravine where the zip lines were, so we got plenty of exercise.
Returning to the ship about 1:45, mom and I joined Linda and her husband for lunch. She loved zip lining and was anxious to share her experience with him. After lunch, mom and I walked into town for a little bit and explored the shops before getting cleaned up for dinner.
Mom and I went to the small bar at Prime C on deck 10 and had a drink before our 7 pm dinner. We were invited to a very special "best of the best - chef's table" dinner in the gorgeous drawing room/library of the ship. Each cruise, the exec chef and her team prepare a special meal for the guests in the 10 Owner's suites. So, we had 24 seated around one very gorgeous table--20 guests and the 4 highest ranking officers of the ship--the captain, staff captain, chief engineer, and hotel director. It was quite a meal--one of the best I've ever had.
Everyone seemed to be very impressed with the meal and wines, and I assume that (like us) these frequent travelers have had some great dinners.
By the time dinner was over at about 10 pm, we were both too tired to go to the show, so it was back to the cabin and to bed. All in all, a great day.
Day 7 - A Day in St. Barts from the Azamara Journey
According to our guide, St. Barts doesn't have any income taxes, so they have a high sales/use tax on everything, including utilities and other services. Gasoline is about $7.50 per gallon. You can get a "nice" house for about $1 million. The only famous person's house identified by our guide was ballet dancer's Rudolph Nureyev's. It still has a sign out front that says "Maison Nureyev", despite the fact that he's been dead for years and the oceanfront home is now owned by a French couple. They were doing lots of road construction, and we found it funny that at one spot there were 5 guys sitting around while 2 were working, just like at road construction sites at home.
After the tour, mom and I walked around the capital of Gustavia, but the prices were way out of our range. Saw t-shirts for 115 euros and we heard stories back on the ship of blue jeans for 860 euros and lunch prices approaching $200. Every European designer seemed to have a small shop. Fun to window shop and the harbor area is quite lovely.
We returned to the Azamara Journey in time for a late lunch. Mom and I had a quiet afternoon and were really lazy. The Captain sailed away from St. Barts just before dinner. We went for before-dinner drinks at Prime C, followed by dinner at Discoveries. It was a very fun dinner with two ladies from Philadelphia and a married couple from Dublin, Ireland. I love meeting people from all over the world when I cruise! Mom and I had the salmon tartar/potato salad appetizer and the cold avocado/watermelon soup. Both were delicious. Mom had the lamb chops and I had the red snapper as our main course. I had the chocolate volcano cake (hot and melted in the middle) for dessert. Another "light" dinner!
The show was a male singer who I thought was about as old as mom. He was very good, but nothing spectacular. We were back in the room about 11 pm, not long after the Captain anchored the Azamara Journey in the quiet harbor off the coast of St. Kitts for the night. I continued to be impressed with his ability to re-schedule our ports and timing to avoid the rolling seas.
Day 8 - Riding the Train in St. Kitts
Since I felt guilty about not exercising the day before, I went to the gym for what I thought was the stretching class, but turned out to be the "core" exercise class. I barely made it through the 30 minute class--way too many planks, leg lifts, crunches, etc.
Mom and I ate a late breakfast and hung around the ship for a while before going on our 12:30 tour. It was very fun--we rode the St. Kitts Train for 2 hours at it hugged the eastern coastline of the island, starting near the airport (they bused us there) and finishing at the far end of the island.
The train was a double-decker that was built in Seattle especially to be used on the old narrow gauge line that started as a route to carry sugar cane from the fields of St. Kitts to the port. The upper deck of the train was covered, but open on both sides, and the lower deck was air conditioned with tables/chairs and a small bathroom. Since it was a beautiful day (not too hot, but windy), we sat upstairs on the nice padded seats.
They had an excellent guide who provided info on St. Kitts and how it once was filled with sugar cane plantations and sugar mills. Like most of the Caribbean islands, tourism is now king (and much more profitable). The ride featured the ocean on one side and the fields and mountains on the other. We saw monkeys, donkeys, wild pigs, goats, cows, and sheep along the way. A small car was about 50 yards ahead of the train, and we decided its purpose was to keep livestock off the rails. The train crossed several high bridges over gulleys, and we saw some beautiful black sand beaches. They served us all sorts of drinks for free (rum punch, frozen pina coladas, diet cokes, etc.), along with some native St. Kitts sugar candy, which was way too sweet for me.
Day 8 - A Vist to Brimstone Hill on St. Kitts
The fort was very interesting, and we would have liked to stay longer. I was quite proud of mom that she walked up a very steep ramp up to the fort, and the views were worth the hike. The guides rushed us along and although we were supposed to stay 45 minutes, I think we were there about 20. Soon we were back on the vans and zipping through the small beach towns on the Caribbean side of the island on the way back to the ship. We were about 30 minutes late, but of course they held the ship for us. For the first (and hopefully the last) time in all the cruises I've done, I was the last passenger to re-board the ship before we sailed for Tortola.
Mom and I had dinner at the Prime C steakhouse on the ship. I had a salad with blue cheese dressing, beef carpaccio, and a filet. Mom had a beet salad, crab cakes, and lamb chops. All were delicious. Mom had the chocolate lava cake for dessert and I had hot donut holes rolled in cinnamon and sugar. They were fresh out of the grease, and very yummy. The donut holes were accompanied by three sauces--chocolate, caramel, and vanilla. I skipped the sauce since I am always on a diet, but did take the leftover donuts back to the suite to eat the next morning.
We were back to the room and ready for bed by 10 pm. The Captain had announced that the continuing winds were too strong for us to anchor and tender at Virgin Gorda, so we are going to anchor all day at Tortola. The shore excursion staff were scrambling to book new tours. I know they hate last minute changes, even if they are unavoidable.
Day 9 - A Day in Tortola from the Azamara Journey
The walk into town was about 20 minutes, so mom got her exercise. We completed both missions (stamps and magnet) and returned to the Azamara Journey in time for a late lunch. We've gotten into the habit of having a glass of wine with lunch, which then seems to lead to an afternoon nap. Nothing like being spoiled. Our balcony was in the afternoon shade, so we stretched out with our books for a couple of hours or so. What a life to lie in the shade, with a slight breeze blowing and the sounds of the sea all around.
The ship sailed for St. Thomas about 4:30, and we had a lovely sail down the Drake Channel, arriving at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas about 7:30. By then, mom and I and most of our shipmates were enjoying a delicious buffet outdoors by the pool. The chefs were grilling steaks and fresh fish of all types on real charcoal grills. The grouper was especially delicious, as were the lamb gyros. (It was an international buffet.) Other popular dishes were the shepherd's pie and the paella and other seafood dishes. They asked everyone to dress in white ("white night"), and it was a lot of fun. The evening views of St. Thomas were spectacular.
After the dinner, mom and I moved over to the comfortable lounge chairs where we could put our feet up and have a better view of the singers and all the couples dancing to the live orchestra. The evening could not have been more perfect temperature-wise, and we could see the twinkling lights of Charlotte Amalie across the harbor from where we were docked.
We stayed at the dock overnight and for the next day.