Our journey onboard the Azamara Quest continues today with a beautiful afternoon at sea. For a smaller ship, she rides rather well actually. I had anticipated a great deal of listing, but in fact, she stands perfectly upright with only a bit of a shimmy and a moderate acoustic vibrato above the engine room that all add to the charm of this lovely ship.
I must admit, when I first boarded, I immediately recognized how small the vessel is – she’s the smallest cruise ship I’ve ever sailed on – but like my time onboard river cruises, I truly enjoy the intimate experience. It’s a return to a simpler form of cruising hearkening back to vintage ocean liners, and that’s another thing I like about this ship: she is very reminiscent of said liners in her stylized Victorian interior design.
Rather than tour the ship in its entirety in a single part of our Live Voyage Review, I would instead like to focus on individual venues per report to dedicate appropriate time to each. In today’s review we focus on the Discoveries Restaurant as one of the highlights of our time onboard has already been the excellent service and food.
The main dining room is spacious, and although it sports dark-toned wood paneling, the cream leather chairs, white ceiling and crackled mirrors visually broaden the venue. Golden sconces sparkle while sinuous patterns add movement to glass panels, all setting the stage for attentive service and exquisite cuisine.
So far, we have only enjoyed lunches in the main restaurant, and already the experience has been extraordinary. A hallmark of Azamara Club Cruises is the inclusion of complimentary wines at lunch and dinner, and the available pairings have been fantastic. It’s so nice to be able to order a soft drink – always available for free – or glass of wine without worrying about an accompanying transaction.
What’s more, the selection of food offered onboard has been extensive, and the creative lunch dishes themselves have been comparable to the portions and plating of those usually reserved exclusively for dinners. As you can see in the photos, the courses are lovely, and I assure you, the taste is every bit as impressive.
The service is also a standout with friendly waiters and servers that are great at anticipating drink refills and taking the time to smell the roses as it were. Unlike other cruise lines, my father and I have found the staff to be more personable and less rushed with fewer passengers to accommodate. And the effect on guests is marvelous.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Of course, I could not leave you without a taste of Rio de Janeiro as well. Ports of embarkation are rarely given their due as they are often just transition points between the airport and your cruise ship but not with Azamara. Here we spent an additional day beyond that of our boarding, affording the relished opportunity to tour the city on the second day.
I can best describe Rio as a sort of hybrid between Baja California, Mexico and Hawaii. It’s an eclectic city architecturally that’s a bit worn down amidst lush vegetation, but the abundance of construction projects around town in preparation for hosting the Olympics is sure to help polish the rough edges.
The city is culturally vibrant with its annual Carnival celebration, which was in its last days when we arrived, and geologically stunning. Once at the heart of Pangea before the supercontinent split apart, Rio is now a coastal city with dramatic mountainous terrain including the famous Sugar Loaf that resembles the end of a massive baguette emerging from the land below.
Here a two-segment tramway allows visitors to reach the heights of the mountain to gaze upon the city below. The engineering marvel – showcased during an epic fight sequence in the James Bond movie Moonraker – is currently celebrating its 100th year of operation.
In fact, on display at the midpoint of the cable journey is a display of the two previous generations of tramcar – one used through the 70s that looks like a mini school bus and the other a futuristic egg-like design used more recently until 2008. Of course, the payoff is the view at the top, and while the vistas were quite hazy, they still impressed.
The famous beaches of Rio vary from the diminutive to the enormous – read Copacabana – and are all speckled with colorful umbrellas and hordes of sunbathers. And overlooking it all is the well known art deco Christ the Redeemer statue which we saw from afar but would love to see up close during a future visit.
Also, the history of the city is both interesting and amusing, amusing because the French attempted three times to conquer Rio by targeting what they thought was the palace but was, in fact, the highly ornamented armory that sent them packing. The actual palace was more dignified and was home to a royal king and kooky self-centered queen. Then came fascist rule before Rio’s current democracy which requires each citizen to vote.
In short, Rio is a diverse city with loads of character and one that I hope to visit again more in depth. If nothing else, the world’s eyes will surely be set on Rio when the Olympics and World Cup come marching in to town.