Our journey begins…we board the Azamara Quest

ABOARD THE AZAMARA QUEST —About 15 years ago my husband and I sailed on a Renaissance ship through the Baltic regions. We loved the ship, its size and décor and the comfortable English country house feel noticeable the second you enter the vessel.

Lovely pool deck aboard the Azamara Quest

Flash forward to Tuesday, December 18, 2012.

Our embarkation of Azamara Quest worked like clockwork and our stateroom, all the way aft, was ready within an hour of boarding. The cabin, 7121, is long and narrow, and adjacent to the owner’s suite – which is not long and narrow! The best thing about our cabin is its totally private terrace, verandah, patio (pick one,) which offers an amazing view of the ship’s wake. It really is lovely, but plans to breakfast there this morning had to be scratched when soot dotted our charming table and chairs.

Service aboard Azamara Quest is excellent. Not only are crew members welcoming and friendly, they are ready to take the extra step to make each guest feel important.

Extra towels? No problem (and this after our stay at Sofitel Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro where we were allotted one bath towel each the first night, finally got hand towels and two face cloths the second night and were told on the last day that the hotel has no face cloths!).

Azamara has a new inclusive drink program which offers unlimited wine and liquor a day. Prices are $29.95, $39.95, and $49.95 a day, depending on brands. Specialty coffees, sodas and bottled water are complimentary. (Personal note: I spent this morning in the pool and on deck. I finished two bottles of water and totally appreciated their availability!)

White and red wines are also complimentary with lunch and dinner.

Service in the Windows Dining Room last night was wonderful. The complimentary merlot was excellent, my sole fillet marvelous and my friend’s steak remarkable. My massage in the Elemis Spa was superb and again, gracious staff makes everything better.

A self-service laundry is busy already, the second day of the cruise. Obviously the fact that gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff are included in the cruise price make for happy crews and happy crews inspire happy passengers.

Today the ship was in Buzios, a beach town made famous by Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s. Because the ship was tendering passengers into town, the pool area was practically empty and I loved it.

A look back at Rio, and beyond

Brazil is an interesting and beautiful country, with mountains and beaches. The national history is fairly bloody and combines European, Indian and African cultures – symbolic on the walkway paralleling Copacabana Beach.

Getting ready for World Cup Soccer in 2014 and the summer Olympics in 2016 is a full time job. The cranes are ubiquitous ( and rehab projects are scattered around town. There’s a lot of work to do and Brazilians are well aware of the challenge.

Some final thoughts on visiting Rio – and make no mistake, Rio is a red hot cruise port. I’ve seen ships from many different lines (and price points) and talked with passengers from the UK, from Australia, other South American countries, Belarus, China, Canada and the U.S. The hot summer weather (it is summer in this hemisphere) is conducive to fun and Rio appears to be the place to do it all.

Some final cautions:

Stay on the beaten path; don’t explore territories that are marginal.

Know what you are getting when you book a tour. If you book a private guide, work out a day price rather than an hour rate, if possible.

Restaurants are expensive. Many offer signage indicating portions are large and can be shared. Don’t be embarrassed to do so.

December 19, 2012

Photos by Marcia Levin

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