A new guest writer, Gerry Barker, begins his Caribbean cruise on the Azamara Quest

Harp music is part of the boarding experience

Harp music is part of the boarding experience

By Gerry Barker

ABOARD AZAMARA QUEST, DAY ONE – It’s the first day of our 12-night “Virgin Islands and Frenchmen Voyage” to the West Indies on Azamara Quest, departing from the Port of Miami. This voyage is our first on Azamara, and my wife and I have been eagerly anticipating cruising on a scale that is both smaller and “up.”

The Quest and her sister ship, Journey, comprise the whole Azamara fleet, part of the Royal Caribbean family. Less than 600 feet long, her nine decks accommodate almost 700 passengers and over 400 crew. On this ship, it’s all about the experience, which the cruise line says is built around four tenets: Destination immersion, extraordinary service, cuisine and wine, and wellness and vitality. Add to that the cost of the cruise includes gratuities, house wines at lunch and dinner, sodas and bottled water and it does start to fit the bill of “all-inclusive.”

The boarding process, which can sometimes jangle the nerves, was actually very pleasant, mostly due to the enthusiasm of the return guests who shared our line. One couple from Miami told us this was the fifth cruise on Azamara, saying it was their favorite line by far. “It had been a year from the last time we cruised,” one woman told us, “and our stateroom staff greeted us by name. We couldn’t believe it.”

We say goodbye to the Port of Miami

We say goodbye to the Port of Miami

We heard the same things from others once on the ship. Everyone, crew included, was uniformly cheery, friendly and welcoming. Some guests and crew hugged at seeing each other again, set against a background of soothing harp music and welcoming glasses of champagne. It was starting to feel like a family reunion.

Our stateroom was on deck six, forward. It is average-sized, with a veranda, but with some nice touches, like Egyptian cotton linens and dark wood closets. The bath was small but functional, with a shower curtain in lieu of a door – which we prefer for the extra room to move around.

The only hiccup was our stateroom AC. It was working, but hot air only. It took a little while to get someone to check it out, but they were able to get it back to working order.

So we are on our way to our first stop: St. John in the Virgin Islands. It holds a special place for us because that was where we honeymooned. Hopefully it will be warmer there than Miami, where an unusually cold wind is blowing. In fact, time to wrap this up. It’s getting dark here on the terrace and I am going to search for something warm, preferably in a cocktail shaker.

March 2, 2013

 

 

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