Stateroom # 6042
We're in route to Newark Airport after a 7:30 flight departure from Denver. Expecting to arrive at 1:15, we touch down for an early landing at 1:00. Despite the early arrival (or maybe because of it) there is no Continental ground personal to "guide us in" as the captain anounces. After an additional short delay with the jet-way we deplane. The good news is that we don't have to wait for luggage - our delayed deplaning has given our bags plenty of time to arrive on the carousel.
At the taxi stand, we're told that Cape Liberty is a $46 ride, plus $2 for our two pieces of luggage. By comparison, the Azamara Cruise Line transfer is $25.00 per person, so basically the same cost for two people. On return to Cape Liberty, we decide that we'll take the ship's transfer eliminating the possibility of having to wait for a taxi at the pier. The ride out to the pier is standard "industrial dock" scenery - railroad tracks, warehouses and graffiti littered piers - nothing very impressive. And, with the low clouds and fog, the skyline of lower Manhattan that should be visible across the river is mostly hidden.
Arriving at the Azamara check-in area, we quickly deposit our luggage with the porters and join the short line at the check-in desk. Checking our passports and taking a credit card imprint took about 5 seconds, and we were quickly issued our sea pass cards. Through one more check in station that activated our sea pass cards by adding our pictures to the card, we exited the check-in building to board the short shuttle ride down the pier to Azamara Journey.
Up the walk way, though the metal detectors and sea pass card scanner and we're greeted by the staff of the Azamara Journey. In all, we've probably been on the pier a total of 10 minutes - so far I'm loving this small ship cruising! (the Journey carries 700 passengers as compared with larger ships of 1,200 to 2,000 passengers)
Our stateroom is #6042 - which we have been told is an "obstructed view" stateroom. This means that we'll have the typical window; however it is most likely partially covered by a life boat or emergency equipment of some kind. Upon entering the stateroom, we find that it is indeed obstructed - and in fact the entire stateroom is oriented along the hallway - wider then deep - as opposed to most stateroom configurations that are narrow and long. The typical ocean view stateroom has the closets and bathroom/shower just inside the door, followed by the bed, a desk and perhaps a small table and couch. This stateroom has the entry door in the center, with the closet, bathroom and desk on one side and the bed on the other side. The standard sized square window is next to the bed, and looks directly out to a lifeboat hanging above the promenade on deck #5. There's not much view, but at least it lets light in - so still an advantage over an interior stateroom.
Other than the "sideways" layout, the room is very standard. During the $19 million refurbishment of the Azamara Journey, all soft-goods were upgraded. The bed linens are very upscale with a total of 8 pillows on the queen size bed configuration. These beds, as typical, can be configured as singles or a combined queen. In the small but adequate bathroom, the linens are also upgraded - fluffy soft towels with a tan border. There are two hand towels, two face cloths and two large bath towels. A single sink is centered in the bathroom, with a shower (with cloth shower curtain) on the right and the toilet on the left. Adequate storage exists in a small corner cabinet just left of the sink and additional glass corner shelves to the far left.
Storage for the stateroom is tucked into every corner and nearly every piece of furniture. There's a large closet arrangement on the wall to the far right of the entry door. This 3-door closet had full ceiling to floor hanging space behind two of the doors. Behind the 3rd door is a shorter hanging space (good for shirt sized garments) and 4 drawers below. In the desk there are narrow drawers perfect for smaller items. Above and below the corner mounted flat screen TV there are large, deep storage shelves. At some point in the near future, the lower portion of this space will be replaced with an in-room refrigerator. These refrigerators have been a constant aggravation to guests and Azamara management. Originally an "R" ship, this vessel had refrigerators custom fitted into these corner cabinets. When Celebrity took delivery of this ship, the refrigerators had "somehow" disappeared. New custom units were delivered, only to be found that they were delivered assembled for the incorrect voltage. Temporary refrigerator units are in place, taking up a bit of the floor space next to the desk. Additional storage (which we didn't use) can be found in the two small bedside tables. Overall there is plenty of storage for a 7 day journey - however it might take a bit more organization for trips of 12 days or longer. There is also plenty of space under the beds to store luggage and larger items.
After dropping off our carry-on luggage in the stateroom, we begin exploring the Azamara Journey. Overall this ship has almost a "back home" feel, since it's very similar to the Oceania Insignia, another "R" sister ship which we sailed on last year in the Baltic. Celebrity/Azamara is still in the process of the of the final product upgrades. While they invested millions of dollars in new staterooms, they are still taking delivery of upgraded products. I've already mentioned the refrigerators that will be delivered. After speaking with some of the ship's management, we find that we're the first guests to enjoy new menus and meals created especially for Azamara. The cruise line has contracted with prestigious food & dining consultant, Elizabeth Blau & Associates. Based in Las Vegas, Elizabeth Blau and her team have created some of the best dining experiences in the world including restaurants at the Mirage and Bellagio in Las Vegas and the Ritz Carlton, Palm Springs. Not only are the menus and meals new, so is all of the ship's china. 16 pallets of the new china was loaded a week ago, and 16 pallets of the old "X" china were unloaded while in port this past weekend. The upside to this changeover, we get to experience a completely new menu - the downside is that there may be some "challenges" in the galleys and dining venues. We'll report on more details of these new menus as we enjoy our cruise.
After wandering around the ship exploring a bit, we return to our room to don our life jackets for the mandatory lifeboat drill 30 minutes before sail-away. On this small ship, there are only 2 muster stations and 6 lifeboats. Our muster station is in the main dining room - the other station is in the theatre. Following the usual life jacket demonstration, we're escorted to a position under our lifeboat on the promenade deck. The short drill is made more comfortable by the cool weather in the New York City area and very soon we're up on the pool deck watching the passing scenery of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. We pass under the Verrazano-Narrows bridge and out into the open ocean. We'll sail all day tomorrow before arriving at our first destination of St. George, Bermuda on Monday morning.
We'll be having dinner in the main dining room "Discoveries" this evening, meeting those of our group for the first time. Breaking with tradition, Azamara Cruises has opted for a completely open seating plan. On this particular evening, the dining room opens at 6pm and offers open seating, basically "show up and be seated" dining until 10pm. The first night rush of guests, combined with new menus and new china take a toll on this evening's operation of the dining room. We find ourselves still waiting for our entrees nearly 2 hours into the dinner "event". The table next to us waited nearly 3 hours for the entrees to be served - overall great food, but a very discouraging service performance. We'll keep our fingers crossed that this is not typical on this week's cruise - more later!