ABOARD THE AMAZARA QUEST — Remember that old film? I think it starred Harrison Ford. Or was it a book by Paul Theroux?
Our version, on Christmas Eve Day here along the end of the Brazilian coast before we sail into Uruguay, starred the 400+ passengers and officers and crew aboard Azamara Quest.
It began early this morning when we opened our sliding door onto the verandah. We were thrilled with a beautiful baby blue summer sky, wispy white clouds and a subtle breeze with relatively flat seas. It was a five-star Kodak moment.
And just a moment.
In very short order we discovered hundreds of tiny, flying mosquitoes buzzing about our stateroom and shortly Captain Stig’s voice came over the PA system requesting we keep all outside doors closed and stay off open decks. We had a mosquito infestation!
Merry Christmas, Azamara Quest.
Captain Stig and his all-star cast (one of the best, most personable and able crews I’ve seen at sea,) soon solved the problem, fumigating areas and staterooms. The holiday atmosphere aboard this ship really had a bite in it as the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus was moved indoors.
It turned out just fine as last-minute shoppers filled the onboard shops and the crew set up an extensive buffet, dubbed the Christmas Tree Trimmer Brunch, and ogling passengers aimed their cameras at the whole festive scene.
The buffet, with everything from Beef Wellington to waffles, from huge prawns to chocolate cake pops and from smoked salmon to fruit cake was impressive, beautifully presented and gracefully served. It was also delicious.
The ship recognizes that Hispanic and European celebrations of the holiday take place on Christmas Eve, while North Americans favor Christmas Day. So two unbelievable events are planned…what will they be?
Not home for the holidays
Christmas cruises have long been popular. There are those who have college-aged kids and use the time to get away as a family; those who are alone and want to share holidays with a boatload of people, and those who just don’t want to have the muss and fuss of holiday prep in their homes and opt to let a ship’s crew do the deed.
Although children don’t usually sail aboard Azamara ships, holidays are the exception.
Elizabeth Peraza and her husband Ruben Tijerina call Monterrey, Mexico, home. The family now lives in Austin, Texas, where 18-year-old Ruben, Jr. goes to college and Pedro, a 14-year-old center on his school’s football team, just wound up the season. Elizabeth says the family uses the trips to spend time together and “get into the kids minds a little bit.”
A Florida family with twin daughters in dental school opted to cruise over the holiday because the girls had a length of time off. A New York couple and their friends are enjoying being together aboard ship. Kids living in different parts of the country, one woman told me, make it difficult to decide where to go. The South Atlantic won out.
There are gay couples, retirees and single travelers. Everyone mingles, parties and meals often end with diners sitting and chatting way after the table has been cleared. Instantly, new friends.
Steering the ship
And through it all, Captain Stig Nilsen, master of the Azamara Quest, creates a sense of warm friendliness while he supervises a multi-national crew.
Captain Stig grew up in Bodo, Norway (recently named by National Geographic as one of the best places to visit), and envisioned a life as a commercial fisherman. He is a master fisherman. He spent six years serving aboard the iconic Norway cruise ship. He returned to fishing but came back to passenger ships, first working on the Wind Star and cargo ships before joining Royal Caribbean as first officer in 1994. He has served on all the Sovereign Class ships.
December 24, 2012
Photos by Marcia Levin