Our holiday began with a ten minute taxi ride to London City Airport, the approach to which was lined with dozens of police guarding the airport against Extinction Rebellion climate change protestors, one of whom had climbed on to the top of a plane the previous day. Once inside the airport all was calm and we enjoyed our flight to Nice. We caught a local train to Monte Carlo and stayed overnight at the Novotel Monte Carlo. This was a reasonably priced, modern and comfortable central hotel, situated within a three minute walk from the train station. In the evening we enjoyed dinner at Polpetta, a nearby Italian restaurant where the food was delicious, the limoncello was freely flowing and the atmosphere became increasingly lively. A great start to our holiday.
Next morning we took a taxi to the port and almost immediately boarded Azamara Pursuit. As we approached the ship we could clearly see the old P & O Adonia signage beneath the paintwork but inside the ship is almost identical to Quest and Journey. We were welcomed onboard with coffee/tea and pastries or a glass of sparkling wine. Lunch was being served in the Windows cafe and the spread offered was splendid. By 1.30pm our staterooms were ready. We were situated on Deck 4 in a midship oceanview room, similar to others where we had previously stayed on Quest and Journey. Our thoughts on this stateroom differed from those though, notably the dark grey walls which gave the room a permanently gloomy feel and required us to switch the lights on all the time. The aircon was particularly fierce and couldn't be turned off which resulted in us both suffering from sore, dry throats for the whole of the cruise. The fruit bowl which we had enjoyed in the past and which is still advertised in the 2020 brochure was missing, although when we asked our room steward for oranges these were provided. There are no longer any binoculars to borrow. Otherwise, the room, bedding, towels, toiletries and cleanliness were fine and the room was very quiet.
We immediately booked our speciality restaurant dinners – three for $70 – well worth it as the meals were spectacular, especially in Aqualina.
Sunday - First port of call was Porto Vecchio, Corsica. A free shuttle bus was provided and we walked around the old citadel, enjoyed the views and experienced local youngsters being confirmed at the church. It was a joyous occasion with the church bells ringing, the cross and the Madonna statue, covered with white carnations, being carried outside the church and all the ceremony surrounding the family celebrations.
Monday - Next day we arrived in Olbia, Sardinia. Another free shuttle bus to the tree lined promenade of this pretty town. Sadly, the archaeological museum, which we intended to visit, was closed. However, we enjoyed meandering around the town, visiting the basilica, another church with a brightly tiled roof and stopped for a drink in one of the many tree lined squares. Back on board, we loved the variety of the lunches served at the Patio Grill before relaxing on deck by the pool and in the hot tub. We enjoyed the inclusive beers, wines, cocktails and felt no need to upgrade to a different drinks package. Dinner this evening was in the main restaurant, Discoveries, and couldn't be faulted. As we ate around 8.30pm we missed the main shows in the cabaret lounge but enjoyed listening to Maryfer on the piano in the Den and Riviera Sounds in the Living Room.
Tuesday - On we sailed to Mahon, Menorca and really liked the atmosphere of the city. Lots of historical buildings, including an excellent museum, a magnificent cathedral with four organ keyboards and over 3,000 pipes. We were welcomed back on board with a glass of Spanish sangria – lovely touch! This evening an Indian buffet was provided in Windows Cafe and so, for a change, we ate there. Whilst the food was good, the place closed down at 9pm on the dot. Too rushed for us as we had to grab a dessert or miss out!
Wednesday - Palma, Majorca was our next port of call and as we had visited here previously decided to join friends from Cruise Critic for a whole day tour. This was one of the highlights of the holiday as there were ten of us in a minibus and we were first taken up the mountainous west coast to Valdemossa. This is the place where Chopin and Georges Sand stayed. The group split and did our own thing. My husband and I visited the Monastery and Palace, heard a Chopin piano recital and still had time to walk around Valdemossa before rejoining our friends. Back on the minibus we headed to the famous Caves of Drach, where we descended far below ground among the stalegmites and stalegtites to take our seats for a short classical concert performed on illuminated boats being rowed on an underground lake – quite surreal. We finished our day tour back in Palma. Fantastic value at around 70 euro each, including the 15 euro fee for the caves, almost half the cost that Azamara Shore Excursions were asking for a trip to the caves only. The White Night party was great fun that evening and the singers were just fantastic with the ship practically bouncing with most people up on the floor dancing and singing. That evening Azamara had thoughtfully provided a specialist Majorcan pastry in our staterooms. It's these touches that make the Azamara difference.
Thursday - On to Valencia and what a fabulous place! It's so astoundingly beautiful in all respects. The old and new in perfect harmony. So much to see – parks, markets, old and new shops, museums – magical. My favourite place of the cruise. In the evening all guests who wanted to attend were taken to Hemisferic in the City of Arts and Sciences, incredible feats of modern architecture, beautifully lit, where a breathtaking performance was given by acrobats, flamenco singers and dancers, sand artists and a virtuoso electric violin player/magician. The organisation was flawless – hats off to Azamara. As we were returned to the ship we were welcomed back on board with champagne and the cruise entertainment director, Amanda Poulson, singing hits from Phantom of the Opera from a balcony of the ship. Spine tingling! The only downside was that the time was now 9.50pm and the buffet closed at 10pm sharp. So, for us again it was grab something quickly. I suppose if we ate, like some guests, at 6pm we wouldn't have this problem.
Friday - Tarragona was to be our next stop but as there were violent protests occurring in Catalonia we were sensibly advised by the captain that it was not wise to call there. Whilst I was disappointed as I wanted to follow the Roman trail, I'd much rather be safe and we really enjoyed our day at sea when extra activities were organised throughout the ship. In fact, I would have loved a sea day at the beginning of the cruise to settle down and relax before hectic days exploring ports and will look out for a cruise that offers this option in future. Again Azamara came up trumps and credited all guests with on board credit as a gesture due to the missed port, which really wasn't their fault. We sailed to Barcelona and were advised by the captain that again, due to the civil unrest, we shouldn't leave the ship that evening as the protestors were marching towards the port and to debark as early as possible next morning to reach our onward destination before 9am.
Saturday – We left the ship at 7am, earlier than originally intended, and took a thankfully uneventful taxi ride to the airport for our short flight back to the UK.
Another wonderful cruise with Azamara who always seem to find little ways of surpassing one's expectations.
Clean, quiet, convenient midship location, very
comfortable bedding, plush towels, bathrobes and slippers. Fierce air con that couldn't be switched off, dark grey gloomy decor.