19 August 2018

Azamara Journey interiors, 17 August 2018

As some of you are perhaps aware, I have been a long-time admirer of the R-Class ships, eight of which were delivered between 1998 and 2001 to the long-defunct Renaissance Cruises. But shockingly, I had never been onboard one until Friday when, thanks to the fine people at the Finnish cruise retailer Risteilykeskus, I had a chance to go onboard the Azamara Journey when she was in Helsinki. So, now I invite all of you to go on a little journey through the Azamara Journey with me, complete with some thoughts on what the ships I have long waited to actually go onboard were actually like.

Azamara Journey

IMO 9200940
Name history: R Six, Blue Dream, Azamara Journey
Built 2000, Chantiers de l'Atlantique St. Nazaire, France
Tonnage 30 277 GT
Length 181,00 m
Width 25,46 m
Draugth 5,80 m
690 passengers (lower berths)
826 passengers (maximum)
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 13 500 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 18 knots

For a brief history of the ship, feel free to take a look at my earlier entry on it. And now to the tour:

Deck 11 has sun decks forward, around the radar mast. The outer deck areas aft, around the funnel, are not passenger accessible, somewhat to my surprise.

Deck 10 has The Living Room observation lounge and the Card Room forward, followed by open decks, then aft there's The Drawing Room (actually a library) and the two extra-cost dining options, Aqualina and Prime C.

The Living Room has nice forward views thanks to the location.
The decor isn't bad either. I like the fact that Azamara have not been afraid to use some colour, of wood, in their interiors, whereas many lines towards the luxury end tend to go with grey with grey on grey these days.
In the aft bit around the funnel, we first have The Drawing Room, a library with views overlooking the pool.
Which also retains a lot of the Titanic-inspired original decor of the ship (bear in mid that these ships arrived just after James Cameron's film had made the famous ship very hip again).
Touches of the Titanic can also be seen in the stairwells.
Next, we have the italian-style Aqualina speciality restaurant on the port side.
For some reason, the aftmost bit of Aqualina had entirely different kind of seats.
Mirroring Aqualina on the starboard side is the other extra-cost restaurant, Prime C, which served steaks and seafood.
In both restaurants the layout was slightly strange, feeling almost like a corridor with some tables put in. It maximises the outside views, but the overall effect was not as pleasant as it could, and maybe should, have been.
Deck 9 has the very traditional pool deck layout, with the spa and gym forward, followed by the pool and an al fresco restaurant amidships, and the buffet aft around the funnel casing. There is also another open-air bar right aft.

Forward, there is an extra-cost spa terrace...
...followed by The Sanctum Spa. Here is one of the treatment rooms.
If you're showing Finns a cruise ship, you'd better also show them the sauna. And be prepared for complaints if it isn't a proper (i.e. Finnish) one. This one was Turkish. Okay, this is a actually the dressing room, since I figured you're not interested in pictures of mist.
I wouldn't mind having a chance to just lay there on the deck chairs reading a book for a day or two to be honest.
The pool looked mighty inviting, too!
Sheltered sitting area on the port side. The grey is mighty strong with this one!
The Patio outdoors restaurant on the starboard side.
The buffet restaurant Windows Café is next aft. Here, the layout and table placements again gave a bit of a corridor-like feeling to me for some reason.
Aft, accessible only though the buffet, is the Sunset Bar.
Decks 8, 7 and 6 are all given exclusively over to cabins, and as the ship was fully booked we didn't get to see any, alas.

Deck 5 is another public room deck, with the Cabaret Lounge forward, Casino, Spirits sports bar and shops amidships, Mosaic Café at the atrium, and the Discoveries main dining room, with its own aperitive bar, aft.

The Cabaret Lounge is obviously not a full-blown theatre like you find on many larger ships...
...not that this would be nescessarily a bad thing.
More Titanic-esque edwardiana: the access corridor to the Cabaret Lounge.
Spirits sports bar. I didn't photograph the Casino - if you've seen one Las Vegasian cruise ship casino, you've seen all of them (the same also goes for the ones drawing from Monaco).
The Atrium takes the Titanic theme quite far. Mosaic Café in the background.
Discoveries Bar. As the ship operates open seating, this place obviously has the function of giving a nice place to wait for a table to free is you come in on a busy time.
Discoveries restaurant, with the captain's table on the right.
As a wee bit of criticism, I must say that "Discoveries" isn't the most original name for a restaurant. In this bit the decor is also quite boring luxury grey again.
Deck 4 is the lowest passenger-accessible deck, with guest relations, excursions, etc desks grouped around the lower level of the atrium.

The Atrium as seen from the lower level.
From the setting you'd think this is a nice café, but it's actually just the shore excursions desk and some nice seating.
Closing remarks

So, what was the long-awaited first encounter with the R-Class like? In some ways, it was exactly as I expected, especially the Titanic-inspired Edwardian details – though I must say I really like the way they've added contemporary decor around the edwardiana, which makes the ship look like it's doing its own thing, rather than being the pastiche I understand it originally was.

The thing that I didn't expect was how small the ship feels. Sure, it is small by today's cruise ship standards, but in terms of gross tonnage the Azamara Journey is just a tad smaller than, say, Viking Line's Gabriella. Yet the Gabriella, despite carrying four times the number of passengers, doesn't feel as small. The constricted dimentions of the stairwells, the layouts of some of the public spaces etc make the Azamara Journey feel smaller than she is. Maybe this was intended is order to give her a more intimate feel, but I can't help thinking the people who designed the original interior layout should maybe have consulted someone on how to make the spaces feel less constricted.

One thing that I also maybe found slightly disappointing was the nomenclature of the public rooms. A lot of the names came across as being very uninspired and run-of-the-mill: Discoveries, Journey Shop, The Sanctum, The Patio, Windows Café, Prime C... these are not adventurous, expressive names that would fit the destination-intensive product Azamara offers, they are just bland. And while I would like to love The Living Room as a name, Stena Line also use the exact same name for a lounge on their ships, so the association isn't the refined informality Azamara were looking for. Also, calling the library The Drawing Room is nearly as bad as Crystal Cruises calling a café The Bistro.

But the big question of course is, would I sail on the Azamara Journey? Yes. In fact, I'm quite eagerly awaiting the special offer Risteilykeskus promised me on cruises with Azamara...

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