We had been on the Quest in 2012 and thought nothing would be able to beat that experience, but we were wrong. The Journey also provided us a wonderful cruising experience and the crew from the Captain down should be commended for making everyone feel so at home and comfortable on the ship.
We flew into Hong Kong via Singapore from Adelaide, Australia arriving late at night and took the wonderful airport train to Kowloon station,then a taxi to our hotel Novotel HK Nathan Road. We had an Executive Club room, the most compact club room we have ever been in with a very difficult to use lighting system. Breakfast next day was excellent in the dining room downstairs.
We spent the morning before boarding visiting the HK History Museum a very interesting and spacious musem and a lovely walk from our hotel.
We took a Taxi to Ocean Terminal a 5 minute ride and boarded at 1pm and because we were in a Club Continent Suite had priority boarding so were onboard in about 15 minutes. There was a long line for non suites, but lots of checkin in staff to handle this.
We were in 8047 starboard side and our Butler, Crooxie, and Room Attendants, Kadek and Esmail looked after our cabin and us wonderfully well throughout our cruise. Our suite came with 2 bottles of house Champagne from the Captain and the Hotel Manager and 4 bottles of included liquor, which we exchanged for 3 bottles of Bombay Sapphire and one of dark Rum, which we found difficult to get through with all the wonderful included cocktails now on offer. We also had a fruit basket and fresh canapes from cheese plates to prawn plates and various other lovely treats throughout our trip each day. We could also have afternoon tea in our suite which was tea/coffee with scones, jam and cream and various cakes and biscuits, but believe me we didnt partake of this too often as it was just too much food.
The suite had new carpet and curtains and was well maintained and the bathroom although it had a shower curtain was not clingy as we had a bath as well, which helped with that problem.
Life boat drill was at 5.30pm after boarding and we had dinner the first night at Windows Cafe with some of the others from our Roll Call who we were doing private tours with. It was Seafood night and there was a huge array of seafood including bbqd prawns, scallops, and squid and then of course the Light and Sound show and sailaway up on deck made a fitting and lovely end to our day.
Next day, a sea day, we had our CC Roll Call get together at 10.30 am provided by Azamara and there was a large number of us,around 50 and we were given tea/coffee and cake/biscuits and welcomed by Captain Johannes Tysse and Cruise Director, Eric de Grey, Hotel Director, Heike Berdos and Future Cruise Director and CC Host Dina Stuehler, (who is about to go to the Quest full time).
Eric asked everyone to introduce themselves by name and CC roll name and give information about where we were from and how many times we had been on Azamara we then met up with our fellow private tour members and chatted to several others, before heading to the pool deck where the menu special was a grilled chicken club sandwich which we enjoyed with the best fries at sea and a Pina Colada and Tropical Lemonade, all delicious. You leave your order and they will find you whereever you sit.
We then went and booked another cruise with Dina to get the onboard cruise credit and had a look at the World Owners Suite aft, which they were giving to whoever won bingo that afternoon.
A rest and then smoked salmon, prawns and other canapes with a G and T and Rum and Coke on our balcony before dinner, which we enjoyed in Prime C.
The show that night was the Azamara Singers and Dancers performing numbers from various movies and was excellent.
Next day was our overnighter in Halong Bay. We had organised a private boat with 12 other CC members and were picked up by our guide Zoom from Vietnam Package Tours at 8am. This was a wonderful way of seeing Halong Bay, even though it was overcast and misty all day. We disembarked at Surprise Cave (Hang Dau Go) walking up steep steps to access it and then walking through the huge cave complex beautifully lit. Walking back down to the junk we passed many local traders on their boats selling seafod, fish, fuit and vegetables and souvenirs, all very colourful. We then had a seafood lunch on board cooked prawns, stuffed crab, pippies, fish, and squid, breaded pork steamed cabbage and rice. All delicious. We visited Tip Top Island before heading back to the ship. US$89 pp paid by paypal in advance, very easy and good value.
That night was Dinner under the Stars which was a real hit as there was an Asian buffet with noodles, fried rice, chicken legs, satay pork, spring rolls and lots more, including a stir fry station and bbq. The entertainment that night was also great. Amanda Poulsen singing Epics under the Stars (Memories, Ive got you under my Skin, Nesan Dorma and some other operatic favourites) Then we had a salute to Michael Buble with Alex Mac who had a great voice and was backed by the Azamara Orchestra and people were up dancing in no time. A great night was had by all.
Hoi An was our next port of call. Hoi An is a 45 minute drive south of Danang port where we docked and for this instead of taking Azamaras Do It on Your Own at US$99 pp, we visited the Concierge and arranged a Minibus for 8 with driver for US$450 for 6 hours. Well worth the money and US$60 pp instead. Hoi An was a delightful town and well worth a visit. We were shown around the usual art factory and silk factory but they were all interesting. Then we had a guide from Hoi An take us around the main sights. This ended up at another factory which we declined to visit and spent the rest of our time exploring and then found a lovely local restaurant where we enjoyed the local beer and salad and satay.
Discoveries for dinner that night was very enjoyable, with clam chowder and roast lamb cutlet.
The show was Sioban Philips, who gave us a fabulous evening of song and comedy, a very funny night.
The lecturers on board were both very interesting. Dick Farkas gave insights into all the countries we were visiting in the way of politics and culture and economics, his topics included Hue, Culturally and Geographically half way between HCMC and HANOI:Can Communism survive Entrepreneurs and Dr Chris Whelan whose talks were more economically oriented and extremely interesting. His topics included United Nations on Trial-Mission Impossible;The Euro and the Dollar-A Race for Supremacy.
We thought the entertainment was fabulous on this cruise, a real step up from last years on Quest.
Our other ports were Saigon where we cruised right up the river and shuttles were provided for our short trip into the town, dropping us off at the Rex Hotel, where we had a wander admiring all the Xmas decorations and then an enjoyable and tasty lunch.
Bangkok was our next stop and my big birthday which we celebrated on shore at a beautiful Thai restaurant in the Sukothai Hotel. Fabulous and original Thai food with flavour and heat.
The next day we had organised a private tour with a group of 6 others from CC with Bangkok Private Guides and we were taken on a guided walk of old Bangkok including the Golden Buddha, China Town, the flower and silk markets and then a fabulous long tail boat ride along the Chao Phraya river then into the network of Klongs (canals) where we fed Koi fish at a temple with bread provided by the monks and admired the water scenery along the way, returning to the Chao Phraya by a lock after dark. It was a wonderful 6 hour trip and our guide Ms Aom was outstanding.
We were picked up next day and taken to the Maeklong Railway Market, a real sight for sore eyes and so interesting, then onto a coconut plantation to admire a beautiful old traditional teak house and try coconut milk and sweets. Then to the Damnern Saduak Flower Market. Ms Aom arranged two boats for the 8 of us so we had lots of room and other than the noise from the very noisy 2 stroke motors on the Long Tail boats, we were well paddled by two delightful "old" ladies, and once away from the main market area, we visited some of the smaller quieter canals, narrow enough for just one boat and where we could really appreciate this water life style and see how the locals lived. It was a wonderful experience.
We would thoroughly recommend this tour company as Ms Aom could not do enough for us, buying us treats to eat, drinks, stopping for a light meal the first day as we werent back till late, and on leaving us giving us each a tiny brass elephant for good luck. We were blessed in meeting her as she bought Bangkok alive for us all.
We then had a day at sea before arriving into Singapore at Harbour Front terminal.
We thought the meals in all the restaurants were very impressive and Windows cafe was also good and although its small, it serves up a good choice of foods. We mostly ate dinner in Aqualina or Prime C as these are included in the fare of a Suite and we met some delightful others to dine with, so had some very sociable nights here. Discoveries Restaurant, the main dining room, was also excellent. We think Azamara deck night Buffets were fantastic.
The included wines and cocktails more than met our needs, and we liked the fact you could ask for a previous days offering if you didnt like what was on offer that day. We would LOVE to see a Cava or Prosecco included onto the free list as thats something that is really missing, and everyone we spoke to said the same thing. Come on Azamara!!
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and had some wonderful experiences with new friends we met on board, and have two more booked for next year. We love the ambience and friendly casual feel of Azamara and think the crew and everyone on board do a remarkable job. Thank you to all the wonderful people we met and the crew who made this cruise for my 60th birthday very special.