Catch up on Part 8: Barbados, White Night and Montserrat…
Virgin Gorda, BVI
Yesterday was our last port of call on a cruise that is quickly drawing to a close, and Virgin Gorda – one of the British Virgin Islands – was an appropriate sendoff. Our half day excursion was a visit to the famous baths where giant granite boulders have speckled the beach, creating micro-bays and tidal pools.
We boarded converted pickup trucks with padded benches sans lap restraint, a fact that proved both amusing and disquieting as we rapidly passed by street signs emphasizing the presence of speed bumps and the need to fasten seat belts. Thankfully, the trip to the baths lasted only about 10 minutes.
After getting off said adventure carts, we were given complimentary rum punch coupons – with a non-alcoholic option – and hiked down the desert-like trail towards the beachfront. Upon, arrival, the quiet area was prime for solitude, but two other larger cruise ships were slated to also deposit their passengers here as the day went on.
Upon first reaching the ocean, you have the option to go to the left and traverse through a physically challenging cave leading to Devil’s Bay – an option I would have considered if we were more prepared with water shoes. Choosing to go right as we did, however, rewarded you with another tranquil beach surrounded by grandiose granite.
We went even further beyond the collection of boulders to find a sort of tide pool cove. What surprised us was just how few people decided to explore as far as we had because we had the area almost entirely to ourselves for about two hours. The experience was very relaxing, and I even dared venture into the splash zone, very cautiously I might add, with my camera to snap some choice images.
It was enjoyable to dip into the refreshing water, mindful of the undertow, and gaze upon the many sailboats that frequent the horizon. Our elegant ship, the Azamara Quest, was even within view from certain angles. After our time was up, we climbed back up the bluff to the drop-off point where a grill, bar, freshwater pool and shops resided. Here is where we enjoyed our rum punch for a spell prior to heading back to the ship.
Prime C and Buffets
Our Live Voyage Reviews would not be complete without one last discussion of Azamara’s exquisite onboard dining. Several days ago we had the good fortune to enjoy Prime C, the ship’s other specialty restaurant besides Aqualina. This dining venues is focused on fine cuts of meat, and we actually found the overall experience to be superior to Aqualina, although both were surely fine.
I started out with a lobster salad dressed in a citrus-pear dressing that just exploded with flavor. Then, I followed that up with a wonderful beef carpaccio to prepare myself for the hearty entree that was to come. My filet mignon arrived medium-rare and perfectly as ordered with an accompaniment of giant shrimp and a la carte sides of mashed potatoes and onion rings.
At Aqualina, I also had a filet that was just alright and a lobster thermidor that was out of this world, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this steak, but boy was I surprised to find it the best filet I’ve ever enjoyed. In fact, exaggerations are often made, claiming a steak can be cut with a fork, but this one really could be. And the shrimp was a marvelous addition.
Dessert was a special for the evening: a warm lava cake that was akin to a souffle in a deliciously edible pot. I must say the desserts onboard, in every restaurant from the specialty ones to the buffet, have just been superb; as has all the food really. In fact, this is one ship where I find the food to be just as enjoyable in the main dining room as I do in the specialty restaurants.
The diverse buffets have also been very enjoyable. Breakfast and lunch in Windows Cafe offer international favorites while dinners here are reserved for ethnic themes with one night featuring Mexican cuisine and yet another German, and so forth and so on. Plus, extensive brunches are featured in the main dining room from time to time as are terrific officer-served pool deck buffets. And don’t forget about the extraordinary White Night.
As a bit of a tip, we enjoy taking our lunches in the dining room on sea days since most passengers congregate around the pool grill – another standout for excellent burgers and sandwiches – and the lido buffet. Lunch downstairs in the main dining room is conversely more relaxed and quiet, and the meals offered on Azamara for lunch are just as creative and plentiful as those for dinner.
Navigational Bridge and Engine Control Room
As a bit of a bonus, I’d like to share with you our opportunity to tour the navigational bridge and engine control room onboard Azamara Quest. I had already been enormously impressed by the safety protocols adopted by Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited corporately (as evidenced at Cruise Shipping Miami last year) that extend to all their brands – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises – but I’m even more impressed with each passing tour and interaction with the excellent officers onboard the ships themselves.
Captain Stig Nilsen, for instance, is so matter of fact that he knows no other way than to call a spade a spade, and this extends to his mastery of the Azamara Quest as well as his delightful dry wit. I won’t get him in to any trouble by repeating exactly what he had to say about a certain captain responsible for a recent capsized cruise ship, but let’s just say he didn’t hold back from embracing the general public sentiment.
The bottom line, as he put it, is that nothing like that would ever happen on a Royal Caribbean-owned ship because the mutual accountability of all navigational officers as well as the diligence given to course planning are of paramount importance. I absolutely laud Royal Caribbean for taking this attitude and implementing this philosophy.
Thank You for Joining Us!
We have two remaining sea days prior to disembarking in Miami, Florida, and I’m currently updating you all from the beauty of my veranda “office.” The next two days will be spent editing our video review of the Azamara Quest, so this will mark our last Live Voyage Review for the cruise prior to publishing the video and our final Post Voyage Review, both to come in the next few days. Thanks so much for joining us this far!