My Asian Adventure on the Azamara Club Cruises Azamara Journey started out as an example as to why I always recommend you fly into your departure port at least one day ahead of schedule…but, never fear, as a “highly trained professional” I made it to Singapore on time. But let me not get ahead of myself!
I am revisiting Azamara Club Cruises, which is focused on a small ship experience with unique itineraries and a focus local immersion. It is the premium, soon to be three ship, cruise line owned by Royal Caribbean; which, to my mind, places it in a category above its sister-company, Celebrity…but not with Celebrity’s brand new, much larger, hardware or flash. The Azamara Journey is a 684 guest ship which combines suites, veranda, oceanview and inside staterooms and has a noted international guest demographic.
Why am I “re”visiting Azamara? Because back in 2015, before its ships were renovated there were a number of mostly little things that were sufficient enough misses to frustrate me…while it delivered what I believe to this day to be the best, most exotic, itinerary of any traditional (non-expedition) cruise line. The local aspects were great…and in some cases almost expedition-esque. It was some onboard delivery that needed tweaking. And I have been assured all tweaks have been attended to along with the major refitting of the ships.
Our itinerary takes us from Singapore to Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India and Dubai. Sri Lanka and India are new destinations for me and with five ports and a wide variety of experiences planned, including Azamara’s Azamazing Evening in Yangon, Myanmar, if there ever was a cruise that was tailor-made to make Azamara Club Cruises shine, this is it.
So with that: Let’s get to it!
Right before my departure the weather at home in Lake Tahoe, California was spectacular with sun shining and no rain in sight. And then the evening before my departure what is called an “Atmospheric River” set in dumping huge amounts of rain on San Francisco (the fourth most rain in a day in San Francisco history) and up and over the Sierra Nevada mountains; causing numerous flight cancellations into and out of San Francisco. Hence, I awoke to emails and texts from United warning me of delays and cancellations. I immediately decided to change my flight from Reno to San Francisco from 5:30 pm to 12:45 pm…just before United had cancelled my later flight. Whew.
I quickly got everything together (we shall see how well I did my last minute packing as this trip unfolds!) and headed to Reno and waited to board my flight. As we were supposed to be boarding I noticed two things: No flight crew and no urgency from the gate agent. Hummm??? Well, in typical United fashion, while its app said a 15 minute delay, the gate agent announces, “Folks, no rush here. The earliest time for ‘wheels up’ is 6:16 pm.” With my flight to Singapore scheduled for 10:45 pm and no way to get there if the flight was further delayed, and after inquiry with both the United folks in Reno and the Premier Desk, the unanimous opinion was I should drive the 4.5 hours to San Francisco because my delayed flight might not ever leave with the weather being so bad.
Long story short, my 4.0 hour drive became over 5.5 hours…and just as I parked my car I received a text that the flight from Reno just left the gate. Of course! But I did make it to San Francisco and actually was a bit relieved I had 5.5 hours of quiet time in my car as the airport lounges (both United Clubs and American Express Centurion) were filled to capacity with people whose flights were cancelled or delayed. So, not being of faint heart, I was somewhat relieved (though not happy about the larger parking bill and having the long drive back to Tahoe after my trip).
For my 17 hour flight to Singapore I had a bulkhead aisle Seat 16C on a 787 Dreamliner, which I highly recommend. Fortunately for me, due to the weather, a number of people missed the flight so the middle seat of this previously overbooked flight was open and I could have a bit more space. As for the flight, well, it was United. It got me to Singapore. With the improved air quality, I slept almost 10 of the hours and felt quite refreshed upon landing.
Upon arrival, one of the reasons to love Singapore happened: Our wheels touched down at 7:00 am and by 7:15 am I had disembarked, cleared Immigration and retrieved my luggage. Amazing! But with all that efficiency, what exactly is it I could do on an early Sunday morning in Singapore? Well, I thought I would try out The Haven by Jet Quay
, a landside lounge with nap rooms and showers, in Terminal 3 of Singapore’s Changi Airport; only a short walk from Terminal 2 where I arrived.
|The Haven – Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3|
It is a small, and somewhat curious, lounge which you can access – sans nap room – with a Priority Pass membership (complimentary with American Express Platinum cards) or pay a fee. Other than coffee and soft drinks all beverages are not included. But I was offered sort of a modified English Breakfast (eggs, tater tots, baked beans and an English sausage) which was OK. I then took advantage of my 3 hour nap room booking (made in advance) for S$100 Singapore (about US$75). It is a room about the size of two twin beds, but with only one bed and a wall-mounted television.
|The Haven Nap Room: Basic but it works. |
The bathroom is separate, down the hall, as is are shower rooms (though it also has a toilet). Logistics are “interesting”, but doable. Amenities? Curiously NONE other than shower gel and shampoo. (Not even a toothbrush or second towel, so be forewarned.)
After my nap and shower I was offered two lunches because I had my nap room and my Priority Pass. Of course I took them up and got a legitimate and tasty Singapore welcome: Spicy Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup and Spicy Jasmine Chicken. They do food right in Singapore….even in the airport.
|Spicy Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup|
|Jasmine Chicken with Chilis|
It was then time to head off to the Azamara Journey! My twenty minute Uber ride was about US$15 and was promptly told it would be my last Uber ride in Singapore as it is being shut down at the end of the week as the business was sold to Grab. Equally efficient to my airline arrival, from arriving at the pier to boarding the ship was only 10 minutes. As I timed it properly, I was able to head right to my newly (2016) renovated suite, which is bright, airy and comfortable; though it seems that the left and right sides of the room were designed by different people.
I am in a Club Continent Suite (8062) which is located portside aft near, but not at, the aft elevators and stairs. As all the dining venues are aft so getting to the two specialty restaurants (Prime C –steakhouse and Aqualina –Italian), the Patio (poolside grill) and Windows Café (buffet) are extremely easy and no more than two decks away. By the way, suite guests may dine in the specialty restaurants as much as they want. Stateroom guests may do so once and then pay $30 per person per night.
|Azamara Journey Club Continent Suite sleeping/sitting area|
The bed-side of my suite is beautiful, with a cream leather headboard a variety of bedside lighting with a USB port on each side, two occasional chairs (including a large wingback chair where I will be doing my reading!) and table. The cabinet side seems more mid-range hotel with low white laminate built-ins (including three huge drawers for clothes) and a large desk with two large drawers. (Note: There are two 110v and 220v outlets hidden on the side of the desk, but your plugs may block the veranda sliding door from fully opening.) The top of large chest seems to where one would keep a suitcase for an overnight hotel stay. Also present is a cupboard for hanging clothes (far too many wooden hangers are supplied) and four deep shelves alongside.
|Azamara Journey Club Continent Suite|
Desk and Storage Locker Area
There is also a minibar. Azamara Club Cruises provides each suite with a complimentary assortment of 375ml bottles of liquor (Bombay Sapphire, Stolichnaya, Johnny Walker Red and Bacardi Gold). No matter the length of your cruise, there is no complimentary replenishment. All soft drinks in the mini-fridge are included, but the beer, wine and sparking water is not. Bottle water is provided and is complimentary, as is a welcome bottle of Domain St. Michelle Brut sparkling wine.
|Azamara Journey Club Continent Suite Closet and Minibar|
The veranda is a bit narrow but handles three large, comfortable, all-weather wicker chairs and a large table which one can dine on in comfort and style.
|Azamara Club Cruises Club Continent Suite Veranda|
But, for me, the highlight of the suite is the bathroom. It is sleek and sexy!! I have a huge shower with a fantastic mounted showerhead and separate handheld one. (Note: There are a limited number of Club Continental suites with bathtubs, if you prefer one.) While there is only one large sink, there are three very large shelves that will easily hold whatever the most amenity-laden person might bring. There is a great use of backlighting and, while the room initially seems a bit dark, it actually has excellent light right where you need it; including surrounding the mirror over the sink. A makeup mirror is also mounted nearby. Bravo!
|Azamara Club Continent Bathroom:|
Compact with Extremely Well Designed
(No there is no mirror in the shower, it is a reflection)
|Azamara Club Continent Bathroom:|
Great shelf space almost makes up for
only one sink
To complete my setting up for this 18 night cruise I need to discuss some more mundane issues.
– Internet: As a suite guest you are provided 235 complimentary minutes. As a past guest with significant status, I am provided an additional 120 minutes. Interestingly, these amounts do not vary with the length of your cruise. (Even for 18 nights, that is plenty for most guests. But for me, it is only enough internet for an afternoon.) Unlimited Internet costs $19.95 per day (or $360 for this cruise), but with a $150 credit for my above minutes, it comes out to about $210. And, so far, the internet is quite fast. I was able to talk with my daughter for 15 minutes with excellent quality.
– Beverages: I struggle with this, as there are a dizzying array of wine and liquor packages if you want to upgrade from the complimentary liquors. I won’t try to explain it all, but to me it is far too complicated, as I felt last time. Without upgrading my whiskey is limited to Cutty Sark, Seagram’s Seven and Jim Beam and my beer is limited to Bud, Bud Light and Beck’s. So depending on your preferences, the Premium upgrade is $15.95 a day and the Ultimate is $21.95 a day. (A loyalty discount applies. For me 20%.) There are also Wine Packages and Coffee packages. Suffice it to say, budget for the Ultimate and you will avoid the “What, that isn’t included? Why?” conversation and enjoy a wide variety of premium beverages. Note: The complimentary wine selections (red and white) rotate daily. Rose and sparkingly wines are offered, but do not rotate.
– Movies: This is a real annoyance for me; especially with seven full days at sea and traveling alone. Other than two movies a day shown at specific hours, movies cost on outrageous $11.98 per movie and there is no package. I can find no excuse for this.
– Art Sales: You will see significant efforts to lull you into purchases of “art” with television programing, alleged art walks about the ship, etc. It is easy enough to ignore, but it definitely reminds you not everyone on this cruise is expecting a upper premium or luxury experience.
– Dining Packages: There are a number of Chef’s Table Dinners throughout the cruise; each with a different culinary theme and paired with solid quality (though not really impressive) wines. The cost is $95 per evening or $250 for three evenings. Having done them in the past, I am not sure I will again on this cruise. We shall see.
I do want to mention that the staff and crew seriously go out of their way to acknowledge, say hello and smile. And when you are wanting a drink they are generous with their suggestions as to the rotating complimentary wines and with their offering you another cocktail. With no profit motive, clearly the crew’s focus on assuring you are happy. It matters!
So with my very comfortable suite organized, my beverages and internet addressed, and the Azamara Journey sailing for two and half days before reaching Myanmar, I am very much ready and looking forward to this cruise and seeing how Azamara Club Cruises makes my Asian Adventure amazing!
Interested in experiencing Azamara Club Cruises or want to ask me a question? Give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!
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