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Destination: Jamaica

23 Aug

Due to bad weather we were unable to dock in Chios Greece.  Today was our first full sea day, as the ship crosses the Mediterranean from Greece to Turkey.   In my opinion, Azamara Quest is the perfect size for an action-packed itinerary like this one. The 694-passenger vessel has only 10 decks, and from our ocean view cabin on Deck 7, we can get anywhere on the ship by going up and down only a few flights of stairs. The ship is small enough that you constantly run into other guests you’ve met previously and never get lost in a maze of public areas, but it’s big enough to have most of the amenities you’d want, such as a spa and fitness center, two specialty restaurants, a casino, a disco, a show lounge and a handful of boutiques.

Our cabin is not huge, but it’s tastefully decorated in blues and beiges. Even for a two-week cruise, we have ample closet space. There’s a desk and a love seat that we essentially use as a storage facility for our stuff — the couch’s seating capacity improved dramatically once we asked for the four throw pillows to be removed. Actually, Azamara goes a little overboard with pillows — there are four on each bed!

The bathrooms, however, are quite small. The showers are not at all roomy, and they have those shower curtains that everyone loves to complain about. The toilets are oddly situated at an angle. I got really tired of whacking my elbows against the shower walls and doing contortions to shave my legs; Instead I took went upstairs to the spa for hair washing and shaving as they provide all the necessary toiletries. Use of the locker rooms is free, and inside are a steam room and two huge showers — each with an overhead jet and six side jets. I use it after a morning or evening workout.

And as a matter of fact, I started my first sea day at the gym, which has state-of-the-art machines with cool video interfaces. I attended the 8 a.m. yoga class, which was surprisingly authentic for a cruise ship; instead of a basic stretching class entitled “yoga,” the session consisted of actual sun salutations and standing pose series. An additional nice touch was that each participant received a lavender-scented tissue to breathe into during the final resting pose, as lavender is a smell that is supposed to be calming. The fitness center also offers Pilates, spinning, aerobics and body-conditioning, and classes are free of charge, unlike on other cruise lines.

After breakfast in the Windows Cafe, I checked the Pursuits daily program to see what was on tap for the rest of the day. I was pleased to see that the program had noticeably more activities listed on it than on previous days, with one to two new offerings each half hour from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On the roster: six different versions of trivia, two dance classes, two wine tastings, various sports and casino game tournaments and several enrichment programs.

The Deck 10 Looking Glass lounge was a bustling place all day with a country line-dancing class, jewelry-making, Flags of Europe trivia and a bridge tournament — all taking place at the same time. I skipped them all for a quick go at Nintendo Wii Golf. Yes, even deluxe cruise lines are getting into the video game craze, and Azamara guests can try their virtual golf or bowling skills onboard.

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The onboard Wii is just one indication of Azamara’s demographic. I expected mostly retirees but was surprised to find a handful of younger guests (30’s and 40’s) onboard.

There were no families with children and unfortunately I was one of the two black people onboard — certainly much less than I had anticipated finding on a multi-week cruise to exotic destinations during a reasonable priced cruise. I was happy to find out that Azamara offers no programming for children, which was perfect for me as I was looking for an opportunity to be away from children and the younger cruisers.

There was also a range of nationalities onboard. The ship was mostly American with a hefty number of Canadians and British. Spanish-, German- and Italian-speakers make up the remainder. The cruise line caters to non-English speakers by offering international hostesses, who can translate the or answer questions for foreign travelers.  I also noticed the ‘Pursuit’ daily programs was printed in multi languages.

Another nice touch on sea days is High Tea Time in the Aqualina restaurant, accompanied by a harpist Katherine. Tables are outfitted with tiered trays of finger sandwiches, cookies and pastries, while waiters offer a selection of teas and scones with cream and jam. The tea is a mix of Twinings and Bigelow — if you want a fancier brand, you can pay $3 for a cuppa at the open-all-day Mosaic Cafe, where pastries and sandwiches are free, but specialty coffees and teas cost extra (Harney & Sons). Afternoon tea is also served on port days, but it’s served buffet-style in the Windows Cafe.

The official Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle was held in the Looking Glass lounge later in the afternoon. About 40 members were in attendance, as well as most of the ship’s senior officers, including the captains. We enjoyed wine and Champagne and chatted with fellow members. Not only did the crew put together a lovely party for us.

I finished up a pleasant day at sea with dinner in the Discoveries main restaurant where I met Jackie & Lu Fraser, aJamaican couple now living in Florida.  After a lovely dinner we ran off to a late show.

Over the entertainment, the ship picked up speed.  So, as the ship sped toward Istanbul (in order to arrive a few hours earlier), I too was speeding off to bed to prepare for our early-morning start in Turkey.

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