Live Voyage Review: Azamara Quest, South America 2013 – Part 1
A Tale of Two Visas
Huzzah! My dad and I have made it onboard the Azamara Quest from Azamara Club Cruises docked pierside in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and what a journey it has been to get here. For awhile, we weren’t certain we would even make it, but here we are happy but exhausted after a long day of travel that included a unique flight experience – the feeling of a Boeing 777 as a personal jet, thanks to a nearly empty aircraft on our United Airlines continuation from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. Just look at that cavernous photo above. Remarkable!
But before I get too ahead of myself…
For my first 50 cruises, I never needed a visa to reach a ship. However, this time, we needed one to fly into the country of Brazil – a fact we perhaps should have been aware of but alluded us nonetheless. We were informed all of a week and a half before our voyage was to begin that such a document would be required.
And then the whirlwind process began with plenty of questions. How would we get a visa in time? Was there a local Brazilian consulate in San Diego – our homeport – that would be able to assist us? After a lot of late night research online, we discovered that our closest consulate that could help us in these matters was in Los Angeles, and that was available by appointment only with the earliest opening in over a week. Add 10 days worth of processing time, and it appeared that we were decidedly out of luck.
Thankfully we discovered expedite services online that would broker the visa procurement. Many were overpriced and could not process our request in time. We also make a point of dealing with companies associated with the Better Business Bureau, and we were lucky enough to find one that was. It’s Easy charged a reasonable $149 each plus the cost of the visa itself, a $180 service fee assessed by the Brazilian government. Mind you, this is the fee only for 5-day express service. Ordinarily, their brokerage fee is a nominal $49.
We gathered all of the materials requested by It’s Easy last Thursday – passports, application, etcetera; mailed them all via FedEx overnight with AM delivery and then waited anxiously as the process began. The original target return delivery was set for Friday with an AM arrival but was pushed to Saturday. I imagine the proximity to Brazil’s Carnival festivities delayed the process by a day. The only problem here is that It’s Easy is located in New York and the winter blizzard – known amusingly to this Pixar fan as Nemo – had grounded planes at JFK that day. It was looking very unlikely that we would be receiving our Saturday morning delivery which would then push us into Monday morning, just hours before our flight.
FedEx customer service was excellent when we called to check on the status of our package and wise about managing our expectations by giving us realistic updates. After much worrying, we were blessed as they came through by still flying our documents out through New Jersey on Friday evening. And lo and behold, we received everything on Saturday after all. What a relief! Everything was extraordinarily tight to make this happen. We highly recommend It’s Easy for their outstanding customer service as well. To say we were nervous during the process would be an understatement, but the ability to speak to a representative on the phone 24/7 was calming as we felt compelled to check in from time to time, if only for our own peace of mind to verify all was in order. Major kudos to both It’s Easy and FedEx!
Suffice it to say we are happy to be onboard now but exhausted from the preparation to arrive. Rest and relaxation are the name of the game now before our touring of Rio de Janeiro begins tomorrow. Stay tuned for our full report on the experience and our initial impressions of Azamara Quest coming up next.