Live Voyage Review: Azamara Quest, South America 2013 – Part 8
…Catch up on Part 7: Azamara Entertainment
Ahoy mateys! As Azamara Quest sails away from Virgin Gorda, BVI this afternoon, let me catch you up on our visit to Bridgetown, Barbados and sail-by of Montserrat.
Upon first hearing the affected English accent of the locals, it’s immediately clear that we’ve left South America well behind and we’re now in the beautiful Caribbean. In fact, Azamara Quest was moored alongside her corporate cousin – the Celebrity Summit – (as seen above) while in Barbados. Our primary tour for the day was an exploration of Harrison’s Cave, but my dad and I took a taxi in the morning to get a brief overview of the island ahead of time.
We are by no means professional, nor even proficient golfers, but we do enjoy the game as well as the sight of a pristine course. So, we headed out to Sandy Lane – where a number of A-list celebrities keep a luxury residence – to check out the club house and links. With green fees set at $240, we opted out from playing a round, but taking a few minutes to scan the course and purchase a sleeve of logo balls was a treat for sure.
Shortly thereafter, we headed out for our cave tour. Harrison’s Cave is a natural wonder on an island formed not by volcanic activity but the raising of the ocean floor and its marine biological remains to the surface. This upward push was caused by tectonic plate subduction with the Atlantic plate tucking below and uplifting the Caribbean plate. The result is a raised mineral-rich cave that now sits hundreds of feet above sea level.
The geologic forces at play are astounding, but the natural features themselves are even more striking. Stalactites and stalagmites – teardrop-shaped mineral formations hanging from the cave’s ceiling and reaching up from the floor respectively – fill the alien-like underground world. Some surfaces are jagged and others are silky, and water rushes through the cave, ending at several waterfalls and pools.
It’s worth pointing out that the entire cave is visited via tram. The multi-segmented vehicle resembles a trackless ride system from Epcot at Walt Disney World, in fact. Minimal lighting illuminates the cave as the tram passes by, making photo capture difficult but not impossible if your camera can handle low-light situations well. You even have the chance to disembark the vehicle twice along the concrete path to stretch and take a photo with less chance of motion blur.
The overall time spent in the cave is about 45 minutes, and it’s quite a satisfying experience. The facility outside resembles something out of Jurassic Park with lush foliage surrounding a terraced visitor’s center that loosely matches the architecture seen in the film. The attraction is truly world class. On our way back to the ship we made a comfort stop at the top of the island to sample some excellent rum punch and get the best view of the surrounding area.
Our extended evening in Barbados included Azamara’s White Night, a deck party and buffet dinner with a surprisingly extensive spread around the pool where everyone is encouraged to where white. The crew tirelessly emptied the observation lounge, lido and stern terrace of nearly all their tables and chairs and relocated them temporarily outdoors around the pool and on the jogging track above.
White flags were placed about the railings, an arch of white balloons stretched across the pool and white cushions were placed on the teak benches flanking the pool. Add in a scrumptious buffet dinner with grilled specialties and crepes for dessert, and the stage was set for a great evening.
Entertainment consisted of local musicians and dancers from Barbados as well as a 2-hour set from the extraordinary live orchestra with alternating singers and dancers including the genuinely talented cruise director. I say genuinely because cruise directors can often be talented only in their own minds. Guests really got in on the energy and danced along in front of the bandstand and in a conga line around the pool.
Even though the following day was a sea day, our ship passed safely nearby the volcano-ravaged island of Montserrat – clearly different from the one in Spain but just as fascinating in its own way.
Apparently, this was once a port of call for Caribbean cruises prior to a devastating eruption that required two-thirds of the population to flee in 1995. And sure enough, a former cruise ship dock sits right at the end of a pyroclastic flow that took out several established valleys on the southwestern side of the island.
Now the entire downtown area of Plymouth sits under volcanic ash and lava rock with ghostly structures emerging from the debris, burnt and desolate. Even from afar, the area still smells of sulfur and had a smoky cloud above it as the volcano remains active to this day, last erupting in 2010. The island is still populated but only on the northern third.
Continue on to Part 9: Virgin Gorda, Prime C and Buffets…