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Home > Virtual Cruises > Exotic Mediterranean on Azamara Quest
Exotic Mediterranean on Azamara Quest
Day 1: Trip Planning, Arrival in Istanbul
Day 2: Kusadasi/Ephesus
Day 3: At Sea
Day 4: Cairo, Egypt
Day 5: Jerusalem
Day 6: Haifa
Day 7: Limassol, Cyprus
Day 8: At Sea
Day 9: Sorrento
Day 10: Debarkation in Rome
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Day 7: Tuesday, Limassol, Cyprus
Limassol, CyprusTwo days in Egypt. Two days in Israel. By the following morning, we couldn't remember which century it was, let alone where we were. Perhaps Azamara's itinerary planners had an inkling we'd feel that way, so for our fifth port in a row, they scheduled a very quick 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. stop in Limassol, Cyprus.

Cyprus is the third-largest island in the Mediterranean and is newly independent after a long history of rule by a variety of greater powers -- including the British, who still have military bases on the island. After gaining independence in 1960, tension grew between the island's Orthodox Christian Greek and Muslim Turkish populations, and in 1964 the Turkish army invaded and partitioned the country. The capital, Nicosia, is now divided (not unlike Berlin until the Wall fell) -- Greek-Cypriots in the southern region of the country and Turkish-Cypriots in the north. Despite these divisions, the island remains a popular beach destination (especially for Brits on package holidays) and contains some well-preserved ancient ruins. Cruise ships call in the south, or Greek, side of the island -- if you visit Nicosia and want to cross over to the Turkish side, you'll need your passport.

I definitely appreciated a morning to sleep in, but the dilemma was what to do in port. The town of Limassol didn't seem to have a lot going on -- we knew from reading guidebooks and Cruise Critic reports that a castle, some cafes and shops are among the limited options. We didn't have enough time to go up into the Troodos Mountains, and with limited time in port, we didn't want to bother renting a car and figuring out how to drive British-style on the left. Limassol, then, seemed like the perfect place to try out a ship-sponsored shore excursion.

We chose a five-hour tour to Pafos to see the Tomb of the Kings and Roman mosaics. Pafos is about a 45-minute drive from the port, and although our guide had lots of information to give us, I admit I was asleep within minutes of the bus' departure. We made two stops before reaching Pafos -- the first was an overlook above the sea, where the guide pointed out the site of the Greek goddess Aphrodite's supposed birth out of sea foam. One look at the turquoise, Caribbean-colored waters, and I realized what we should have been doing that day -- we should have gone to the beach!

Unfortunately, that wasn't part of the tour. Our next stop was at the Agia Paraskevi church, a five-domed, yet diminutive, structure that has been continuously functioning as a church since the 10th century. Inside are very well-preserved frescoes from two different eras, depicting scenes from the life of Christ. It was almost surreal to see scenes from the Stations of the Cross when, only days earlier, we stood in the spot where those events took place. On the way back to the bus, we ducked into a Turkish Delight store, where Rachel bought a box. (Yes, we bought Turkish candy on the Greek side of Cyprus.) It was a smart move in hindsight, since we didn't get another chance to go shopping in Cyprus.

I'm sure the guide told us a lot of history about the 3rd century B.C. Tomb of the Kings, but I was too distracted by the beautiful sea out in the distance to pay much attention. It was fun to scramble around in the tombs, which consisted of open courtyards, surrounded by burial niches and chambers. But, at some point, I realized that between climbing inside the Pyramid of Chefren and clambering around these ruins, I really spent an inordinate amount of time on the trip playing in people's graves.

The third-century A.D. House of Dionysus, also visited on this tour, was much less eerie. The home is named for the theme of one of the main floor mosaics and was probably the villa of a wealthy nobleman. The mosaics are very well-preserved and show many themes, including hunting scenes of a variety of animals and representations of the seasons. The mosaics really do look like floor rugs turned into stone, and we joked around as if we were Turkish rug salesmen selling the mosaic floors. ("For you, I make discount! Two thousand gold coins and I throw in another tiger mosaic!")

At this point, it was 2 p.m., and I could've eaten a mosaic or two. Unfortunately, the bus was leaving at 2:30, and the waterfront restaurants were all sit-down, waiter-service affairs. Where was a falafel stand when I needed one? I compromised on gelato (so healthy) to tide me over until we got back to the ship.

I realized that, with the long drive and so many sights to see, the tour simply did not have enough time to include lunch, but I thought it was poorly planned to get us back to the ship at 3:30 without a chance to buy any real food. Other than that scheduling conflict, I thought the tour was well-done -- we saw the highlights of that area of Cyprus in a relatively quick trip, and the guide was knowledgeable and interesting (at least when I was awake on the bus to listen to her).

Back on the ship, we realized it wasn't just our tour that had skipped lunch. The buffet restaurant (usually closed by 2:30 p.m.) and the pool grill were not only open but were packed when we got back onboard. I tried the grill for the first time -- it offers not only the typical burgers and dogs, but also brochettes of meat and veggies, as well as ribs and salmon.

After a mellow afternoon onboard, Rachel and I had dinner in Aqualina, the ship's second specialty restaurant, serving Mediterranean cuisine. Our reservations were at 8 p.m., but we were ready at 7:30 p.m., and it was no problem to seat us early. The waiting area is quite lovely, featuring gauzy white curtains separating it from the dining area and red, plush chairs. Our table had an aft-view, and we laughed about being put at the romantic corner table.

One surprise: Each table has a tall taper candle on it, encased in a hurricane glass. I very rarely see candles (or any flames, for that matter) onboard cruise ships, and I admit I was pretty nervous about having a real candle so close to the curtains on a moving ship. I actually pushed the candle to the far end of the table and hoped that the sea would remain calm while we dined. I'm sure it was safe, but fire is the biggest fear on a cruise ship, and I'd certainly sacrifice a little bit of atmosphere for peace of mind.

The appetizers were fabulous. Rachel and I both ordered the endive salad with apples and berries, which was a nice blend of bitter and sweet flavors. My brie in phyllo dough appetizer was warm and melty with toasted pecans on top. Rachel also raved about her scallop dish. Although the service was a tad more distant than at Prime C -- just matter-of-fact order taking and food delivery without the warmth and personal touch of its sister restaurant -- we were excited about another great meal.

I wish I could say that the entrees lived up to our expectations, but they did not. We both had been looking forward to fish -- an obvious choice at a Mediterranean restaurant -- but the waiter said he only recommended the sea bass (about which we'd heard horrible things from various guests at the Cruise Critic cocktail party) and that the tuna was mediocre and the snapper tough. After a somewhat confusing conversation about what, exactly, our dinner choices were, the waiter ultimately brought a plate of each of the three fish dishes to split between the two of us. Ultimately, we were not impressed by any of the fish entrees, but agreed that the sea bass was the worst of the dishes. It seems to me if there's a problem with the fish, especially at the end of a two-week cruise, then perhaps you should remove the items from the menu, rather than try to convince your guests to order something else. I heard from another guest that the lobster thermidor was actually quite good.

So, like many of our fellow cruisers, we were underwhelmed by Aqualina -- but planned to return to Prime C again on the last night of our cruise.

The evening's show was a cabaret act by the ship's five singers, who we hadn't seen the entire cruise. The tribute to swing had the peppiest, most up-tempo music we'd heard onboard yet. It was not a Broadway-quality production, but many of the singers had rich voices, and it was a fun way to spend the evening. It was heartening to see that Azamara continued to choose appropriate acts for the venue. Anything more involved would have been too much for the small stage. And, the audience seemed to enjoy the show, which is ultimately the only thing that matters.

All images appear courtesy of Erica Silverstein.
Day 6: Haifa red arrow Day 8: At Sea

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