AZAMARA JOURNEY To The Sea Of Cortez, Part One

Azamara Club Cruises

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

San Diego Amtrak station.

My home town of Moorpark may not have much but it does boast a train station, where the twice daily Amtrak Pacific Surfliner serves downtown San Diego via a four and a half hour cascade through San Fernando, the still very Raymond Chandleresque eastern terrain of Los Angeles, inland Orange County and, ultimately, the blue Pacific coast. Were it not for the sugar-engorged offspring of a woman donning a faux leopard skin coat and pink pajamas, it would have been a very enjoyable way to get to our cruise.

Gonna take an AZAMARA JOURNEY....

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2011 unless otherwise noted. Please click on image for larger version.

Upon arrival, we rolled our luggage from the historic Santa Fe train station three blocks to the San Diego waterfront where Azamara Club Cruises fetching AZAMARA JOURNEY basked in the early afternoon light.

The JOURNEY was built in 2000 as the R SIX, the sixth of eight handsome, identical 702 passenger, 30,277 gt vessels for the late Renaissance Cruises. The cash-strapped company collapsed in October of 2001 in the wake of 9-11 and the ship was arrested at Gibraltar. She was laid up at Marseilles until 2003 when she operated briefly for Spanish-based Pullmantur Cruises as the BLUE STAR, then BLUE DREAM.

In May of 2007, she was transferred to Celebrity Cruises for their new upscale Azamara Cruises division and renamed AZAMARA JOURNEY. In October of 2007, she was followed by identical sister R SEVEN, which became the AZAMARA QUEST. Since its inception, Azamara (a double-faceted name derived from “az” — the root for “blue” — and “mar” for the sea and/or the star Acamar) was at times dismissed as a “light” version of highly-rated competitor, Oceania Cruises, which was founded three years prior with a fleet of three other former R ships.

Funnel globe.

Azamara Cruises underwent a major transformation in 2009 with the appointment of cruise industry veteran CEO Larry Pimentel, who refashioned the company with a new name, logo and executive infrastructure that would reposition the company as an entirely unique entity. Now called Azamara Club Cruises, the line’s emphasis is on “up market” value, featuring: included-in-the-fare boutique wines, specialty coffees, bottled water; port-intensive scheduling with more frequent overnight stays and off-the-beaten-track itineraries that visit less traveled places; included-in-the-fare gratuities; free local shuttle bus services in port and an amped up culinary, service and enrichment program.

MV AZAMARA JOURNEY at San Diego's new Broadway Pier.

The JOURNEY was berthed at San Diego’s new Broadway Pier, a facility built atop the open platform of the old Broadway Pier. I first visited the old structure way back in 1975 to greet a very late SS ROTTERDAM, which was making a maiden call during her annual world cruise. The rebuilt terminal now boasts two enclosed levels, an elevator and a snaking, glass-enclosed gangway.

Entrance lobby ceiling.

In addition to their “perfect” 30,000 gt size, the former “R” ships were noteworthy for their Edwardian-inspired decor — reminiscent of the interior of the TITANIC, which coincidentally reignited worldwide interest via the 1998 blockbuster film that opened the same year the R ONE was introduced. Nicely proportioned rooms with dark wood veneers, elegant frescoes, ornate wainscotting and molding, plush soft fittings and the occasional wrought iron or brass railing defined their interior style.

AZAMARA JOURNEY Reception stairs, facing aft.

We entered from just aft of the Deck 5 “TITANIC staircase”, a favorite backdrop for passenger portraits and group photos. Although the ship largely retains her original decor, in the years since the collapse of Renaissance, subsequent owners have added their own touches, helping distinguish the JOURNEY from her fellow octuplets.

Suite 8046, facing port.

Our accommodation for the next eight nights was S1 category Club Continent Suite 8046 on port Deck 8. The stateroom is 246 square feet plus a 60 square foot balcony. It features a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door, sitting area with sofa bed, flat screen television, DVD/CD player, refrigerator with mini bar, thermostat-controlled air conditioning, direct dial phone, bathrobes, slippers, large closets and vanity, desk, complimentary bottle of Dewar’s Scotch, complimentary bottle of Absolut Vodka and in-room safe as well as a queen bed that converts to two twins. The beds are draped in Egyptian cotton duvets (that are far less incinerating than the usual goose down found on most upscale ships) and accompanied by a plethora of pillows of varying size.

Marlon the butler.

As soon as we arrived, our butler Marlon came to introduce himself. Marlon would be on hand to make reservations at the specialty restaurants (included for no extra fee in the suite categories), assist with shore excursion bookings, bring breakfast and other meals upon request and deliver afternoon tea with canapés. Butlers also provide shoe cleaning, pressing and ironing services, although the JOURNEY does have her own self -service, free-of-charge laundry room on Deck 7.


Cabin stewardess Nicoletta would work with Marlon to refresh towels and linens and turn the suite over.

Suite 8046 balcony.

Our veranda was furnished with a two seat dining table, a deck chair and ottoman.

Suite 8046 WC.

The bathroom featured a built-in blow dryer, magnifying mirror, full tub and massage shower head.

Elemis on the shelf.

Elemis amenities include: shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath gel, soap, body buffs, shower caps, cotton balls and cotton tipped swabs.

Suite 8046 bonsai cactus.

There is even a bonsai-style cactus for added ambiance.

Windows Cafe, facing aft from port.

Our first stop was the Windows Cafe on aft Deck 9, where the welcome buffet included salads, a sandwich station, hot selections, cold cuts and freshly baked breads. We dined al fresco at the adjacent Sunset Bar with a view overlooking San Diego Bay. It was tempting to sample the boutique wines generously provided but there would be plenty of time for that later on.

Ice Cream in the Cafe.

An evolving assortment of ice creams are served atop sugar or waffle cones or in bowls.

High and dry SPLENDOR.

Meanwhile, over in the Southwest Marine dry dock, the high and dry CARNIVAL SPLENDOR did her best to blend into the scenery behind the swarm of fighter jets atop the USS MIDWAY. The SPLENDOR was the unwitting recipient of world-wide attention when she was disabled off Baja California by an engine room fire last November and will remain out of service through mid-February, awaiting the installation of new parts.

San Diego over bow.

At 5:00, with a small toot of her polite sounding horn, the AZAMARA JOURNEY made her way out of San Diego.

Gym, facing forward.

After unpacking, we dashed to the well-equipped gym for a romp on the ellipticals, then joined the media group for dinner in the main dining venue, Discoveries, on aft Deck 5.

Discoveries Restaurant, facing forward.
Incandescent Edwardiana discovered.

L-shaped, open seating Discoveries is surrounded by picture windows and boasts an elevated center section with a small circular dome and Renaissance-style frescoes amidst and atop Edwardian decorative details.

Discoveries cilantro butter. Photo by Rob Di Stefano.

Gorgeous breads started our four course feast (appetizer, soup/salad, entrée, dessert), accompanied by a trio of gorgeous cilantro pesto, butter and hummus. The accompanying red wine was a marvelous Stellenzicht Pinotage but there was also a well-received, free-flowing Stellenzicht Sauvignon Blanc.

Consommé in Discoveries.

I selected a soup from the “Classic Dinner Favorites” on the left side of the menu: Chicken Consommé With Chives and Sherry. It was followed by a buffalo mozzarella and spinach salad.

Discoveries shrimpetizer. Photo by Rob Di Stefano.

My companion Rob “delected” a Gin Fizzled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail With Marie Rose and American Cocktail Sauce.

Discoveries turkey entree.

Among the four main courses savored was a Pan Seared Turkey Tenderloin With Eggplant Parmigiana Cakes, Tomato Coulis and Wilted Spinach. Divine!

Discoveries dessert.

Strawberry shortcake with mint sorbet was the final stop on the first evening’s gastronomic “journey”.

Pool area at night.

As we tried to walk off a bit of the indulgence, a cool, damp wind blew across the JOURNEY’s midships pool area.

Moon over JOURNEY.

Even the crescent moon was fighting to maintain a vertical stance. We joined it in repose as the first day of our Azamara journey neared its end.

End of first post

Click Here For Part Two of AZAMARA JOURNEY To The Sea Of Cortez

Click Here for AZAMARA JOURNEY To The Sea Of Cortez, Part Three

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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