Azamara Club Cruises – Azamara Journey Asian Adventure – Part IV
(The Culinary Experience)
With my Asian Adventure on the Azamara Club Cruises Azamara Journey being a repositioning cruise there have been far more opportunities to experience its culinary offerings than I probably should have taken advantage of. I have found the cuisine to be much improved over my past experience, especially as to presentation and diversity.
To be honest, with Azamara Club Cruises being an upper premium, not luxury cruise experience, presentation and garnish is not to the level of say, Seabourn…nor should one expect same. But the “main event”, such as Chateaubriand, Dover sole and freshly made pasta, consistently hit the mark.
|Azamara Journey’s Prime C’s Chateaubriand|
Properly prepared and cooked to perfection
The primary dining venues are the main restaurant (Discoveries), the buffet (Windows Café), the pool grill (The Patio), and two specialty restaurants (Prime C for steaks and Aqualina for Italian). In addition there are always pastries at the coffee bar (Mosaic Café) and warm finger foods in the Living Room lounge.
|Azamara Journey Discoveries Middle Eastern Breakfast|
Surprisingly available and delicious
Lunch offerings are available at Windows Café, The Patio Grill and Discoveries (but not on port days). In Discoveries there is, again, a diverse menu and, usually, an action station which changes daily including pasta, sushi, stir-fry, etc. Windows Café has a wide variety of offerings that changes every day with ethnic dishes being emphasized as well as a carving station with a different daily roast and a panini station. Both are OK, but not inspiring. The daily rotating roasts, however, are quite good and the ethnic offerings hint at the local flavors, but are most definitely toned down.
|Truly barbecued saugages (two types) on crusty rolls|
with grilled chicken and steak fries
|Creativity and authenticity of cuisine is definitely|
part of an Azamara Club cruise
There is a seriously good and fresh salad bar, as well as hot sandwiches (such as spicy tuna), hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. Probably my favorite is the grouper sandwich.
|Azamara Journey Patio Grill’s Grouper Sandwich|
with Black Bean Sauce. Yum!
This is also where I undertook my Hamburger and Hot Dog test, but because of the variety of offerings I had to try the Azamara Burger, the Greek Burger and a plain hamburger. The result: The plain burgers – which have been somewhat pre-cooked – have good texture, but very little flavor (weird). But the “fancy” burgers were outstanding from bun-to-bun! I do wish the presentation of garnish was better, but the french fries are excellent (and on some days they have even have steak fries).
|Azamara Journey’s Greek Burger|
with feta cheese and tsatsiki
The hot dogs also threw me for a loop. They are a curious, sort of orange, color which made me ready for a disaster. Nope! They are properly grilled and actually quite tasty, if not with the “pop” when one bites into it. It clearly is not a Nathan’s or Hebrew National hot dog, but “it’ll do”. This is especially so because Azamara Club Cruises provided fresh sautéed onions, sauerkraut, and sauteed mushrooms in addition to the standard toppings. One quibble: Only yellow, not Dijon or spicy, mustard is offered.
Azamara most certainly took this previous after-thought venue and turned it into one of my favorites. Improvements such as this make a world of difference when seeking an upscale cruise experience.
Thus, and consistently, there is a reason suite guests have unlimited access to the two speciality restaurants and I suggest that is where the upscale guest wants to dine each evening (if not at the Patio Grill) where the cuisine and quiet, polished, atmosphere is far superior.
|Azamara Journey Prime C’s 16 oz. Ribeye|
Curiously a thin cut, but excellently prepared
Because of its more diverse menu Aqualina has more opportunity shine. From excellent soups, including a minestrone that could be the best I have ever tasted with its fresh tomato, just crunchy enough vegetables and perfectly melted hint of parmesan cheese, to freshly made pastas and gnocchi, and Dover or Lemon Sole properly prepared it is definitely more to my liking overall.
|Azamara Journey Aqualina’s Minestrone Soup|
Souffle fans: Not to worry. There is a different souffle offered each night in both Prime C and Aqualina.
For me, however, where Azamara shines is its efforts to immerse in local cuisine in a variety of ways other than theme nights in the Windows Cafe.
The AzaMazing Evening in Yangon offered over two dozen different local dishes, including a few spicy and hot as the locals enjoy.
The Asian Buffet on deck was excellent.
And, without limitation, the Rijsttafel (Indonesian Rice Table) is worthwhile. This is a special dinner limited to twelve guests (costing $25 per person) that is normally served in the traditional family style (but on our cruise due to the health issues was not) offering fifteen (15) courses plus four (4) desserts. Each of the well-prepared dishes are explained by two very proud Indonesian staff.
The one complaint: The table is near the beverage dispensers so there was constant background noise.
Azamara Club Cruises also offers six themed Chef’s Tables with different ones presented on each cruise. It is a three starter, sorbet, choice of main and two dessert with paired wines affair for up to twelve people costing $95 per person. The wines are definitely of a much higher quality. This can be a nice evening to share with a number of people. I enjoyed a couple of this on my previous Azamara Club cruise, and found them fine, but not a true chef’s table.
|Amazara Journey’s Prime C’s Bar and Chef’s Table|
And one cannot talk about cuisine without talking about wines. The complimentary wines are acceptable, but not inspiring. What I have also found is that the majority of the published complimentary pours – 19 in all – are not regularly available. In fact, on this cruise I have not seen one of the wines on the published complimentary list and probably only a total of eight complimentary wines overall. Not good…at all.
With the Ultimate Beverage Package, which I will discuss, in another article you do have the choice of about eight more wines, but most are not inspiring at all. No true champagne is offered even with the package. Domaine Chandon Brut is as good as it gets. Also, not good.
In short, unless you purchase wine by the bottle -especially difficult if dining alone – makes pairing food and wine a bit challenging. Fortunately, the sommeliers are aware of this fault and do their best to, ‘er um, “beef up” the complimentary wine offerings.
My overall impression is this: Azamara Club Cruises has definitely upped its game when it comes to cuisine. Quality is generally quite good, specially if you dine in the Patio Grill, Prime C and Aqualina. It is not the quality you would encounter on a Seabourn cruise, but based upon my August 2017 experience on Regent Seven Seas, Azamara Club Cruises cuisine is superior. I have also heard a number of guests comment that it is better than Oceania Cruises (at least on the similar former R ships) as well.
Because of Azamara Club Cruises culinary improvements and the opportunities for more local immersion, I would say the cuisine is better than what you would encounter on, say, a Celebrity or even a Regent Seven Seas cruise, but not being a luxury cruise line; understandingly not at the level of Crystal Cruises or Seabourn. In short: Unless a true dining “experience” is critical to your selection of a cruise, Azamara Club Cruises delivers…Now for it to just to get the wines in order.