The cruise visited a total of 9 ports and there were 4 complete "at sea" days. We wanted a relaxing, luxurious cruise -- and that's what we received -- in spades !
Ports :- Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rouen, Bordeaux, Gijon(N.Spain), La Caruna (N.Spain), Gibraltar, Mahon(Menorca), Barcelona.
The outstanding features were :- *The high standard of food in the free dining areas -- Window's Cafe for self service buffet and Discovery restaurant for Waiter Service. We didn't try the 2 speciality restaurant ($15 cover charge), but we didn't feel we needed to. * Free house wine in dining areas. * Exceptional level of waiter service -- just ask for Eurich ! * Very friendly atmosphere, clearly a happy ship where, without exception, all of the crew were well trained and pleased to satisfy their guests. The captain gave his daily update from the bridge and he and his senior officers were easily approachable and often to be seen about. * A small ship with only about 370 guests on our voyage, so it was easy to make friends and get around. * Our regular ocean view stateroom was quite spacious and larger than I've experienced on other ships e.g. NCL Jewel. * High level of attendant service of Stateroom. Daily Fresh fruit, flowers and bottled water. Nothing too much trouble ! * Delightful lounges especially the "Looking Glass" which served "elegant" tea (i.e. High Tea if you're British) if you for some reason you still felt peckish. The Mosaic lounge offered snacks and drinks all the time and a harpist and a piano crooner some of the time. * No hassle or high pressure sales techniques in the bars and lounges. (Unlike our NCL experience). Because gratuities are included in the up-front price the staff don't need to be rooting for tips all the time
We didn't see much of Copenhagen this time as we were transferred directly from the Airport to the ship.
Took an Azamara excursion which included a city bus tour followed by a cruise on the central canals in a glass topped boat.This lasted about 3 hours. A "must see" experience with plenty of photo opportunities. We returned to the ship for lunch and then explored by ourselves. A regular bus service operated from the cruise terminal to the city centre.As this was only 2 stops away the conductor gave us a free ride and told us to use our money to buy a coffee. You can't beat that for friendliness !. Headed for the large street flower market where my wife couldn't resist buying a load of "exotic" tulip bulbs she can't get at home.
We didn't take any Azamara excursions but did our own thing in Rouen. It's a very attractive city with many historical buildings and quaint thoroughfares.There was an Azamara city bus excursion on offer for about $69 per person but we took the local tourist mini-train for 6.50 Euros each, which has a pre-recorded guided commentary in English and lasted about 50 minutes. Found a creperie close to the cathedral, but off the main streets and enjoyed sampling their wares.Genuine French clientele and not a tourist in site -- except for us that is !
Bordeaux (Rating 5) ================= Very impressed with the architecture and cleanliness of this City. It doesn't appear to be on the itinerary of many cruises perhaps because it is only accessible to smaller ships -- one big advantage of the Azamara ships.
Gijon (Rating 2) ============== Least said the better
La Caruna (Rating 3) ==================== OK but nothing special to write home about
The most impressive things are of course the Rock and the Straits of Gibraltar. I wasn't so impressed with the town itself which is very small and has nothing much of architectural beauty. A day there was more than enough. All the locals spoke good english and sterling is the official currency although they will take US dollars and Euros.Not surprisingly a large number of the residents appeared to have Spanish as their mother tongue. The Mainland Spanish government still seems to be a bit touchy about Gibraltar still being a British colony but the fact that it's a tax free port suits the locals. A stream of Spaniards cross the border daily to buy cheap cigarettes and petrol.
Not really Melbourne but Mahon in Menorca. But Mahon isn't on the port selection list !!!
This is a delightful small island with Mahon being the second deepest natural harbour in the world -- after Pearl Harbor apparently ! It's only about 10 miles North to South and 25 miles East to West with Mahon, the present capital, in the East and Ciutadella, the old capital, in the West.
We took an Azamara bus excursion round the island which made about 6 stops for photo opportunities ranging from 10 minutes to 1.5 hour in Ciutadella. The guide was an English women who lives in Menorca all year round and she was very informative. Well worth the 37 Euros each.
Barcelona was the disembarkation port.Unfortunately we didn't have time to look around as we had to catch a flight back to London. Perhaps next time !