When you’re on a cruise you feel like you’re in your own little bubble, but due to the popularity of cruising there are times when your ship comes in at the same time as someone else’s.
It’s a situation I found myself in when I woke up in Ajaccio on Azamara Quest and looked out to see we had company in port. Very big company in the shape of a large ship that dwarfed our mid size one, and I wondered how their cruise was going, and whether they were wondering how ours compared as well.
Turns out I didn’t have to wait long for the answer. After doing a tour of the town I found a cafe to have a snack and a coffee in while I did a little social media and email check in on the WiFi. I soon realised the people at the table next to me were doing the same and were from our big neighbour, and we soon started swapping tales.
They were from England and really weren’t happy. They liked the places they were stopping, but not the cruise itself. They complained about how crowded it was, how there was never any room beside the pool, that it was hard to find a table at the buffet and how expensive their trip was becoming as the only drink they didn’t have to pay for in the afternoon or evening was water, and that even a soft drink cost three pounds.
“I’m not sure you really want to know what my cruise is like…” I warned them. But then of course I shared.
I told them how Azamara Club Cruises has been compared to a boutique hotel on the water and how I was finding that to be true. I showed them a picture of our pool, with a whole row of empty sun lounges with fresh towels laid out on them. I told them how I’d always been able to find a seat, and how attendants came around with fresh fruit, cold towels, offered to gently mist you with water and took your drink orders.
Then I broke the news that not only were our soft drinks free at all times, so were the cocktails. And the beer. And the wine. Apart from some premium products, the alcohol was all included so there was no bill shock waiting for you after putting a few rounds on your cruise card.
It may have been a little cruel of me to show the woman the photo I had in my phone of the complimentary cocktail list, with 30 suggestions from Appletini to Zentini and to tell her that they also took requests and were very good at doing a mango version, or another fruit twist on your favourite.
As they asked me the name of the cruise I was on again and wrote it in their phones they said their goodbyes. They had to get going as their ship sailed at 4pm. Ours wasn’t leaving until 11pm, but telling them how Azamara prides itself on spending more time in port including some overnights felt like I’d really be rubbing it in.
After parting ways I spent some time exploring the town, and when I saw both of our ships in the distance I was oh so happy about which one I was calling home for the week.
It was the first time I’d experienced the Azamara Club Cruises way of doing things and I was impressed. There are only two ships in the fleet, Azamara Quest, which I was on, and her sister ship Azamara Journey.
Azamara Quest holds 694 guests, which may sound like a lot but is much smaller than so many cruise ships these days. She doesn’t have an ice rink or a series of water slides, but instead she has a more intimate and relaxed feel.
While I’ve been on ships before where you meet someone on the first day of a cruise and never see them again, here I got to know people easily as we crossed paths throughout the days, from fellow travellers to great members of staff including Azamara Quest cruise director Russ Thomas Grieve.
I was travelling solo and while I’m happy to spend days pottering by myself, especially when those days are in some of the most glamorous ports in the Med, it was nice to see friendly faces back on the ship and in some of the towns.
Over dinner or drinks we could swap tales about how we’d spent our days in Monaco, St Tropez, Ajaccio, Porto Vecchio, Olbia, Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi, and Positano.
Unfortunately our overnight on Capri wasn’t to be, and I was amongst those who were disappointed to find a note in our cabins telling us we’d be staying in Sorrento instead. I had been looking forward to an evening on the island as I had only been there by day before, but I managed a mini Capri fix before making sure I beat the last hydrofoil back by 6pm.
Apart from that hiccup, it was an itinerary I loved, and would love to do again. With a week on Capri at the end next time so I can really make that travel dream come true.
But back to the dinner and drinks. The food on board Azamara Quest deserves a mention, and a round of applause. While some buffets can be hit and miss, I could happily have eaten at the Azamara Quest one all week.
But then I’d have missed out on the meals in the dining room. They were also delicious, and for those of us trying to control our cruise curves they had healthy options meals which didn’t make me feel like I was missing out at dinner time.
When the healthy choice is “Bronzed scallops and pan fried sole fillet with wilted spinach, crispy potato cake, celery root, mushroom and truffle dressing” I’m more than okay.
And for diners who want to take it up another notch, Azamara Quest also has two specialty restaurants. Prime C, which is all about great steak, and their seafood restaurant, Aqualina. It was here that I enjoyed a chilled seafood platter with champagne-ginger vinaigrette, lobster bisque, and a grilled seafood platter with scallops, calamari, tiger shrimp and half lobster, followed by a fluffy and divine Grand Marnier souffle. Both restaurants have a $25 surcharge.
As a solo traveller in the dining room I had the option of sitting by myself or joining a table, and when I was feeling social I was rewarded with good company. Including some unusual honeymooners.
After chatting to a couple about their lives and travels, they shared that they had been going out since 1972 and had gotten married the Friday before the cruise. “It’s never too late!” she laughed before telling me how her grandchildren took part in the ceremony.
I still smile when I think about that couple, and about some of the other lovely people I met as we cruised around the Med. I hope the week got better for the people on that other ship, and that I see them on another Azamara cruise one day. I have a feeling that will call for a few complimentary cocktails by the pool
Amanda Woods travelled as a guest of Azamara Club Cruises but all opinions remain her own.
Love cruising? You may want to check out my reviews of Holland America Line’s MS Oosterdam, chasing the Northern Lights in Norway on a Hurtigruten Cruise, a farewell to Celebrity Century cruise ship, and a river cruise with a difference on the River Countess in Venice.