Live Voyage Review: Azamara Quest, South America 2013 – Part 3
Today was another brilliant day onboard the Azamara Quest as we were docked in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, and our evening just concluded with a delicious meal and a clever production show. As per a great reader suggestion, I’ve even included images of tonight’s menu below.
The seared tuna appetizer and swordfish entree were standouts for certain. I’ve never before had such an expertly prepared piece of seafood. Swordfish is ordinarily very dry by the time it reaches your table, but this one was succulent and dressed in a lovely light cream sauce. My compliments to the chef!
Also, tonight’s performance showed just how well Azamara takes a smaller venue and maximizes its potential. The aptly named Voices was an entirely acapella show. It was a daring decision to forego the band entirely, but it definitely paid off. A prerecorded background track of vocal beds and playback of those performances on the video wall backdrop were perfect accompaniment to the excellent live singers and dancers.
Salvador de Bahia
Per our intent to feature a different ship venue with each of our Live Voyage Review parts, today we will focus on our onboard stateroom. But before we get to that, let me catch you up on the port of Salvador de Bahia.
Like in Rio, Carnaval festivities are a significant annual event here, and the large amount of setup and tear down required was apparent to us today as we encountered the dismantling of several stages and bleachers. Many decorations were still in place as you can see in the photos.
The tours we have purchased via Azamara have been very good thus far, and much of our praise comes thanks to our excellent guides. Our excursion today included bus transportation to and from the main center of town but was otherwise a welcome walking tour. It was nice to get out and about among the sights as opposed to just seeing them through a motor coach window.
We started with a panoramic view from above the beautiful blue bay where we also looked down upon early colonial buildings built by the Portuguese. They have since been abandoned and have decayed quite a bit, but the UNESCO protected site was fascinating to me as I eat up the mysterious appearance of abandoned places.
Perched above was a government building somewhat akin to the U.S. White House that was an architectural gem, and down the street from there began our journey through some of the magnificent local churches. The first one was the main church of the area if only because it’s the most sought out for wedding ceremonies – so much so that the space behind the altar was draped off to avoid any damage from the accumulation of inadvertent flash photos over time.
Overall, the church was grand in scale but light on decoration. The sacristy off the side of the church was actually more elaborate with a fancifully designed ceiling pattern, and the courtyard outside still included many reminders of Carnaval. It was the next San Francisco Church, opposite the courtyard, that featured decorations and then some.
This religious complex also included a monastery with beautiful ceramic tile mosaics illustrating educational lessons such as philosophy. This was all rather modest until we entered the church itself which made you feel as though you had stepped inside the belly of an enormous Faberge egg.
It was gilded in gold beyond belief as installed by slave labor. In fact, Salvador de Bahia was at the heart of the slave trade to such a degree that 86% of the current population is of African descent, and their cultural influences are seen throughout. In many ways, Salvador reminded me a lot of Jamaica architecturally. To see even more photos, navigate through the slideshow above.
This first experience of ours onboard Azamara has already been outstanding. The line has done a fine job of taking existing ships and making them its own, which is no small task.
It’s true that by today’s standards the bulk of the staterooms onboard are smaller than average, but they are by no means lacking in function. In fact, the addition of multi-pronged coat hooks are most useful, and storage space is sufficient for two people. Thirds, however, might struggle with finding space for their things.
The decor is generally in keeping with the rest of the ship. Darker woods and rich Victorian furniture and lamps are offset by peach-colored paneling, although the geometric couch fabric doesn’t quite follow the theme. Two large mirrors – one full length and the other behind the desk area – open up the space visually and make getting ready for the day that much easier.
Samsung flat panel TVs add a dash of modernity, and in-room safes and refrigerators complete the comforts of home. Complimentary soft drinks – including sodas and bottled water – ship-wide come in handy here as the excellent room stewards are quick to replenish your drinks of choice daily. And in lieu of the usual turndown chocolates, Azamara ups the ante again with nightly petit fours.
The only significant shortcoming is the cabin bathroom which leaves you scratching your head a bit, wondering exactly what the original designers were thinking. The space is not laid out as efficiently as it could have been. The toilet is set at such an angle that sitting on it squarely is a challenge, and the tiny shower is clipped at angles – due to the position of the entry door – reducing its size even further.
Mind you, however, that these are not faults of Azamara but the original Renaissance ship designers. It’s just unfortunate that not much can be done now to solve these nuisances. Thankfully, the floors have been freshly resurfaced and the abundance of coat hooks is found here too.
What’s more, the balcony is nicely configured with wicker chairs and a sizable table, making full veranda breakfasts – or any meal served via 24-hour room service – an enticing option for guests.
Next up is Recife, Brazil. Stay tuned…