Management and leadership usually make the difference.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, as it was known at the time, transferred two ships to its new subsidiary Azamara Cruises in 2008. One of these was renamed the Journey.
In December 2009, we took what I believe was the Journey’s first transatlantic sailing from Barcelona to Miami. I believe it was the first time because the cruise was incredibly inexpensive. I’m not sure one could find a similar bargain today even as cruise lines struggle to rebuild their businesses.
We will never forget that trip simply because of the amazing crew. We are lucky to have had other great cruises, but that trip was unique.
The Journey had 634 passengers with 405 crew, so we saw the same people frequently.
Almost all cruise-line crew are friendly, but on that trip, the friendliness seemed so genuine.
Although not a formal part of the schedule, two of the small entertainment cast volunteered to give those who wanted an “acting/improvisation” class. Alie wasn’t bad; nothing shall be said about me.
Since it was a small ship without many professional entertainers, they had a crew talent show; we were surprised by some remarkable performances by non-professionals.
The head chef came by our table, but we did not have a brief “how was everything; it was great” conversation. She stayed a full fifteen minutes, and we had a good conversation about both the food and her career.
When we boarded, Alie was experiencing a bad arthritis flare and could not walk; I pushed her everywhere in a wheelchair, but she told everyone she planned to be walking before we reached Miami. She improved enough late in the cruise to be able to walk into the dining room. When she did, the three men sharing the position of maitre d’ serenaded her.
Several times we have sailed on a ship more than once and found the level of service and attention detail was not the same each time. We decided the captain and hotel director, the person who manages the part of the crew that deals most often with customers, make the difference.
The Journey’s Captain Georgios Theodorou, was the most accessible we ever encountered. He was often seen around the ship. A former Greek Olympic athlete, he walked the upper deck track every morning; he was in shape and worked to stay that way even in middle age.
When we took at tour of the bridge, Captain Theodorou gave us a very interesting lecture on the history of navigation from reliance on stars to the sextant to modern global positioning equipment and electronic mapping. He told us he served on an international committee which he hoped would give captains almost instantaneous notice of hazards at sea. For example, if a container fell from a cargo ship [which evidently is not that uncommon], other ships in the area would see it marked on their electronic charts.
Later, he and the cruise director gave anyone who wanted to participate, an hour-long class in Greek dancing. I can’t say I learned how to do it, but it was fun. Even more fun was when the two gave a demonstration and the Captain did a flip and danced on his hands – his somewhat prominent belly then became a massive “chest.”
Click on photos to enlarge.
Dates of our travel: 4-18 December 2009