Our thoughts on the different elements of this vacation

After two cruises on Celebrity Cruises we made a switch for this trip to Azamara - which, incidentally, is still part of the huge Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. We certainly experienced a much different cruise experience on this trip - but how did it stack up against the others? Well, we figured it would be good to continue to use the formula we have established at the end of those first two cruise vacations.

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  • 1.   Cruise Consultant

    There was no question in our mind that we’d make contact with Elisabeth Anniehs at Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Brampton once we had decided on another cruise vacation. Our previous two experiences with Elisabeth were both very positive, so it was an easy choice to go back to her for this third cruise. With her getting to know us and our preferences better, it was also terrific how quickly Elisabeth came up with hotel options for us to consider in Copenhagen for both before and after the cruise. We can say now after this cruise that our experience with her this time was equally as good and we greatly appreciated her attention to detail and the sense of good service that we received with Elisabeth.

    One interesting thing: for the first time dealing with Elisabeth we actually didn’t meet in person with her. All communication this time was either by email or telephone.

  • 2.   The Air Arrangements

    Similar to our last cruise, we had Elisabeth arrange the air travel independent of the cruise booking. This gave us the ability to book Air Canada flights directly to and from Copenhagen. At the time of booking our flights were both direct, but a change in the Air Canada schedule made it such that we had to amend our return flight with a short flight from Copenhagen to London and then a flight from London to Toronto. Air Canada was no longer flying the direct flight that we had booked from Copenhagen to Toronto. It was unfortunate that we didn’t know about this change when we first booked the trip - we might have made slightly different plans - such as trying to book the same return flight as Gary’s cousin Nicola and possibly making a short stopover in London before heading back home to Canada. Oh well.

  • 3.   Copenhagen, Denmark

    With the particular cruise we had selected starting and finishing in Copenhagen, it gave us the opportunity to spend a little extra time in the city and provided us the chance to meet up with Gary’s cousin Nicola who lives in London and was able to meet us in Copenhagen at the end of the cruise. We very much enjoyed our days in Copenhagen and felt we made the most of the time we had available. Any future trips to Copenhagen would likely be more based on the myriad of excellent restaurants that the city has to offer...and certainly would include a well in advance made reservation at Noma - the restaurant selected now two years in a row as the world’s best. Was cruel to see Noma from our hotel window - knowing we couldn’t get in there on this trip. Sigh.

  • 4.   Cruise Itinerary
    Baltic 2010 Criuse Itinerary

    The ports of call on this 12-night cruise were:

    Copenhagen, Denmark; Warnemunde, Germany (two days); Helsinki, Finland; St Petersburg, Russia (three days); Tallinn, Estonia; Stockholm, Sweden (two days); Copenhagen, Denmark.

    The big draw for this particular itinerary was the three days in St Petersburg, but the whole itinerary was appealing to us when we first started looking at what was our first non-Mediterranean cruise.

    What is fascinating (to us, at least) post-cruise is that the two ports of call that true highlights of the trip were Helsinki and Tallinn - the two locations that we didn’t think of as highly as the rest of the locations at the time of booking the cruise. For us these were two hidden gems on our trip.

    The sailing on the Baltic Sea was extremely smooth - at times almost glass-like. We’ll always remember the white nights on this vacation - that was fun. We also enjoyed walking and sailing the history of this region, and the art that we saw throughout our touring. Very cool. Lastly, being able to start and finish the cruise in Copenhagen was a big plus as you have no doubt already picked up if you have read the previous item.

  • 5.   Azamara Journey

    We knew after our last cruise that we definitely wanted to try a smaller ship than that cruise - so for this cruise we got our first experience at a ship with the passenger capacity of 694 - less than one quarter of the capacity of Celebrity Solstice. The ratio on the gross tonnages of the two ship mirrors the passenger capacity. The trade off is that with a smaller ship there is less space for the amenities of the big ones. Where this came to light was on the at sea days - there are less things to do on the smaller ship, but for us that was truly a minor issue - the ship was well enough appointed as far as we were concerned. The main dining room concept was vastly superior to either of our two previous cruises and while there was only two specialty restaurants they were both excellent.

    The big plus for the smaller ships is the ability to dock in ports that the larger ship are unable to fit. That was really evident in St Petersburg - the larger ships were so far away from the city while Azamara Journey was docked on the Neva River with a view of the city. We really enjoyed the smaller ship cruise experience and think it is unlikely that we’ll return to large ship cruises. As far as the age and condition of the ship, we were pleased. We knew the ship wasn’t “new” - having originally built in 2000 for Renaissance Cruises - one of eight ships built for a cruise line that subsequently went bankrupt. It was one of two ships purchased by Azamara and then refurbished in 2007. The ship is in good condition and is well maintained.

  • 6.   Cruise Service

    This is an element of the cruise experience that we saw a stepped improvement over the previous cruises. The staff on board were personal, approachable and professional. It certainly seemed that those working on board we enjoying their jobs and enjoyed providing good service. It impressed us how many people addressed us by name throughout the cruise. The main dining room service was so much better for us, so that was probably one of the more significant pluses for this trip. We certainly enjoyed the style of service offered by Azamara and the people on board Azamara Journey. Well done, indeed.

  • 7.   Cruise Entertainment

    If there was one area that Azamara could do with some improvement, it would be the entertainment. It was billed as more lounge entertainment rather than the larger theatre-style entertainment of the previous two Celebrity cruises - but a lot of it just wasn’t very good. We did enjoy some of the entertainment on board, but on balance we opted to forego whatever act was performing. The acts that we most often performing around the ship just didn’t interest us - we had a sense that we clearly weren’t the target for the style of entertainment. To be clear, this wasn’t/isn’t a big deterrent - just an element of the cruise that we didn’t take much advantage of this time. The exception to that sentiment would be the Azamara Journey band with leader Dan Redner - the band and Redner by himself were excellent.

  • 8.   Shore Excursions

    We’d say we had a good mixture of shore excursions on this trip - and like previous cruises had a range in the calibre of guides. It was good after the first day in St Petersburg that our bad guide was replaced by one that turned out to be excellent for the remaining two days. With more time in some of the ports of call we had time to mix guided tours with doing our own thing - which was good. The downer on the excursions was the cancellation of an evening event planned while we were in St Petersburg. We should have arranged for visas ahead of time so we could have done more on our own while in Russia - a lesson learned.

Wrapping Up . . .

You must have recognized by now that we thoroughly enjoyed this vacation - both the time in Copenhagen and the Baltic cruise. Not only would we cruise again, but we’d cruise Azamara again - and likely limit the size of ship to something around the size of Azamara Journey if we selected something other than Azamara.

Okay, so by the time we actually got around to finishing this part of the website we have already taken another cruise - and with that making a return to cruising on Azamara Journey. Slow at putting this stuff online, huh? Oh, well...it at least makes it here eventually. You should be able to read about cruise number four soon if not already...but maybe we should be giving some thought to number five? Yes. Indeed.

About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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