I won’t lie: I have mixed feelings about cruising.
I can understand why people love it. Unpacking your bag once yet the scenery changing each day, taking you to exciting new places where you can wander solo or enjoy curated day trips to get the most out of your time while in port; onboard a full card of social events is waiting, new friends of all ages, good food, and – of course – plenty of time to relax poolside!
Perhaps for my first cruise experience, I chose the wrong cruise. There are so many different types there’s bound to be one for almost every type of traveller. Hearing that the Azamara ships were a more boutique feeling cruise than my past cruising experience I was excited to hop on board for a lunch and tour the Azamara Journey during her first trip to Melbourne.
Who are Azamara Club Cruises?
Part of the Royal Caribbean family, Azamara Club Cruises are known for their boutique luxury cruises.
Boutique in size and premium in their offering; Azamara Club Cruises are unlike your standard Royal Caribbean cruise because many of the amenities are included in the cost of the cruise, including bottled water, drinks, tea and coffee, and selected beers, wines and spirits.
If you choose to stay in a suite, you’ll also be welcomed with full butler service, complimentary Internet minutes, free laundry each week, afternoon tea service in-suit, and complimentary dining in speciality restaurants. Even more amenities and perks are included in higher room categories.
Best yet, due to her smaller size (the Azamara Journey ship is around the same length as the Spirit of Tasmania) around 50% of the ports the Azamara docks in are smaller ports. For cities like Bangkok (Thailand), St Petersburg (Russia) and Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) you dock with the city on your doorstep rather than making the long journey from the larger cruise terminal on the cities edges. This is all part of the “stay longer, experience more” program which Azamara pride themselves on. Late departures and more overnight port stops means more time for guests to explore the cities to their full potential.
I got onboard to eat though!
Dining onboard at Aqualina Restaurant
Onboard the Azamara Journey is two speciality restaurants: an American-style steakhouse called Prime C and refined Italian cuisine at Aqualina. You can also dine on a 5-course menu paired with wines at the Chef’s Table.
Unlike the other restaurants onboard which are included in your cruise package, there is a $30 per person cover charge (I believe the Chef’s table may be a little higher) and reservations are recommended or can be incorporated into a dining package.
Aqualina gives off a contemporary yet refined Venetian feel where the onus is on space and the food, while seated in plush velvet chairs. International beer, wine and spirits, along with soft drinks accompany the meal.
We were some of the only people dining as most people were poolside or exploring Melbourne, but regardless service was exceptional and attentive.
From my seat, as we were docked in Port Melbourne, I couldn’t help but continually drift off watching the Melbourne skyline; though I could imagine it equally enthralling watching land moving further away as the ship set out on its next adventure.
Antipasti – Pomodoro e Mozzarella
Seasonal tomatoes, buffalo Mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil
Insalata – Insalata di Rucola e Radicchio
Arugula, radicchio, pancetta chips, boiled eggs, toasted pine nuts, blue cheese, caramelized red onions, drizzled with Cabernet vinaigrette
Secondi – Roulade di Melanzane
Breaded eggplant, Percorino Romano-piked ricotta cheese, rustic pomodoro sauce, linguini
Dolci – Berrymisu
Chef’s tiramisu, berries & Barcardi
A Quick Tour of the Azamara Journey
Having spent far too much time enjoying the food, company and gorgeous Melbourne skyline; we headed off on a quick tour of the ship before a few guests have to return to shore and back to work, myself included.
A well-stocked library is available for guest use and a baby grand piano under a hand-painted ceiling in the Drawing Room.
Plush leather seats surround the Chef’s Table as it awaits guests for a 5-course menu paired with wine.
Sink into the seats of Mosaic Cafe and order a cup of coffee or treat.
The main dining area is at Discoveries Restaurant where Destination Immersion dinner buffets and menus are served offering a local flavour onboard.
Sunbathe, swim or enjoy the jacuzzi while onboard. There’s also an onboard gym to help you get ship-shape, the Sanctum Spa, salon and even acupuncture!
Of course, you can always watch the city skyline change in each port you dock in.
There are plenty of activities onboard. From culinary demonstrations to wine tastings, nightly performances in the Cabaret Lounge and computer classes; try your hand at the casino to taking part in an enrichment program, or even see if you can beat the crew in a game of darts!
I spotted this little gem in the reception area of the ship, part of Azamara’s ‘cruise global, bike local’ program’. Onboard are 15 bikes which guests can hire and take for a spin in their port of choice. If biking isn’t your thing, there’s also walking tour guides and even themed cruises (there are 6 golf cruises in 2017, Cannes Film Festival, Soccer World Cup, and more!)
When you cruise to Melbourne, you’ll be docking in Port Melbourne. While not quite as iconic looking as Sydney Harbour, it offers a modest view of the cityscape and a beautiful view of the bay.
You’re also likely to be docking up next to the famed Spirit of Tasmania, the ship which takes passengers from Melbourne to Davenport in Tasmania’s north.
For more information about the ship and cruises, check out the Azamara Club Cruises website.
I was invited onboard the Azamara Journey for a Media lunch.
While no content was asked of me, I had a really good time onboard and wanted to share my experience.
All thoughts, opinions, and weight gained from the delicious food were, as always, my own.