Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Azamara Quest-2

As I write this second blog, our ship is heading back to Miami--and Ben and I are actually looking forward to eating salad and soup for a change and shaking some of these cruise pounds we've put on. Azamara chefs know how to cook. Food has been varied and interesting and, for the most part, excellent. Some buffet items missed the mark, as can usually be expected, but overall we give the ship high marks in the culinary department.

We usually ate dinner in the Discoveries Restaurant, the ship's main dining venue. However, we did try the specialty restaurant, Aqualina, which serves contemporary American cuisine with a Mediterranean flare. Thank goodness portions are small, because each course was delectable, all the way through my mini fondue dessert--which I could barely sample by then.

Our big splurge, however, was the Connoisseur's Dinner: a six-course meal paired with wines from all over the world, from an unusual vanilla poached Maine lobster on crab meat salad paired with a French Champagne to a stuffed poach pear and dark chocolate sorbet paired with a Washington State Riesling ice wine--with quail, Dover sole, beef and cheese courses in between. Definitely worth the price! Our hosts, two from the entertainment staff, and fellow dinner guests provided interesting conversation.

I briefly mentioned our itinerary previously, but changes were required en route due to rough seas initiating from weather systems in the Northeast. The Quest was to port overnight in St. Barts, but fearing a cancellation in St. Maarten and increasing chop in the St. Barts harbour, Captain Stig Nilsen opted to sail away late that afternoon and overnight in St. Maarten instead. As it turned out, we had good company: the Wind Surf (Windstar), Star Clipper, and the Silver Cloud (Silverseas) also lined the two piers, although all sailed away late that evening. It was pretty strange walking off ship for awhile that evening with all shops closed and no throngs of people around. The next morning brought two Seabourn ships and later a new Costa ship, Luminoso, but even then not all shops opened or stayed open long that Sunday. Made for a very pleasant day. The captain had it a little tougher. He said he broke an all-time record when six different mooring lines broke that day, which secured the ship to the pier--again because of the sea swells.

One more change awaited us, too, when Virgin Gorda closed to ship traffic due to those same high seas and the danger of operating tender services. So, our resourceful captain secured a berth in St. Thomas instead. We were disappointed in missing Virgin Gorda and a return visit to The Baths there, but it's always fun to see our friend Navin at Grand Jewellers and to browse the shops in Charlotte Amalie.

The first ports in our itinerary had proceeded as planned: St. John, U.S.V.I.; Iles Des Saintes, Guadeloupe;, Rosseau, Dominica; and Charlestown, Nevis. Rain cancelled some excursion plans in St. John (including our day at beautiful Trunk Bay). On Iles Des Saintes, a smaller, lesser know Guadeloupe island, Ben and I just chose to wander around a bit on our own. In Dominica, we enjoyed a Shore Excursion Group tour to the Emerald Pool and Trafalgar Falls with a special stop to a fruit stand; and on Nevis, we booked Azamara's catamaran snorkel tour to St. Kitts. Both proved lots of fun.

By the way, Azamara brought on another special entertainer in St. Maarten, Craig Halliday with his Swarovski Crystal electric violin. Wow.

We have been very pleased with this cruise line, primarily because of the value included. The price is higher than on contemporary lines, but more is included in the price, the ship remains in many ports longer than usual and sometimes overnight, and the ship's relatively small size makes for easy navigation. As with all cruise lines and ships, however, its important to ask the right questions in order to determine if this one is right for you. Let us know if we can assist with your decision!

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