Nice in Nice

It’s holiday time again folks – this time a four-day mini-cruise around the French and Italian Riviera, ultimately finishing up at Monaco for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. 🙂

We set off at 4.00am to drive to Newcastle Airport for our flight down to Heathrow, then subsequently to Nice on the Côte d’Azur, the “millionaires’ playground”. Two days ago (and early yesterday morning) Newcastle Airport was closed due to the large ash cloud caused by an erupting volcano in Iceland! So we didn’t know whether we would have to drive down to London, get the train down, fly down or whether we’d even get there at all!

That’s one of the things you have to consider when booking a cruise; unlike a hotel, which will still be there if you arrive late, a ship won’t be! If you missed the sail-away you would have to get to the next port of call and join the ship there. But a bit of a problem if you’re doing a transatlantic! 😦

However, as from yesterday afternoon all the flights seemed to be more or less back to normal going in and out of NCL. Therefore we decided just to take our chance and go for the flight BA1321, departing 06:55.

We checked in and made our way to the executive lounge to await our call to board. It was 05:10 and there was a small queue outside the double doors leading into the Cheviot Lounge, as it doesn’t open until 5.15am. We didn’t know that as we had never been there that early before!

We got ourselves settled and had a couple of large vodkas to liven up our breakfast orange juice. The early morning sun was streaming through the large plate glass windows; the VIP lounge at Newcastle is very pleasant and airy and we had a good hour or so to while away in there.

Our flight was on time, so off we went for the one-hour flight to Heathrow. We arrived and walked through security, customs etc. at LHR without any problems at all to await our connecting flight to Nice. We even had time to have another drink in the “Crown Rivers”, the Wetherspoon’s pub in Terminal 5. 🙂

Once we were on the aircraft and airborne, we could relax and look forward to getting there. I could not get the Stranglers’ Nice in Nice song out of my head. 🙂  Just look at that girl, she owns the ground that she walks on, and she’ll walk all over you…”

We touched down in Nice airport around 12.15pm to blue skies and the Mediterranean sea sparkling in the distance.  We were already in the holiday mood and couldn’t wait to join our ship, the Azamara Journey.

It was just a 20-minute coach ride along the spectacular Côte d’Azur coastline to the embarkation quay, where we could see the Journey moored up and waiting for us.  Once we’d been issued with our boarding cards we embarked the ship and received a chilled glass of pink champagne, before making our way to stateroom 4047 which was on the same deck.

Azamara Journey moored up in Nice, France

Whilst not a balcony stateroom this time, 4047 was nonetheless spacious and airy, with a nice big window and king-size bed.  There were lots of mirrors so this served to make the room a lot bigger than it was.  There was a bowl of fresh fruit, a fridge with complimentary soft drinks, and a mini-bar.  It all looked lovely and the room was beautifully furnished and decorated.  There was also a selection of Elemis toiletries in the bathroom; full sized ones as well, not just the mini sample-sized ones.

Stateroom 4047

Azamara Club Cruises offers cruising to the “upper end” of the cruise market, and our first impressions of the Journey certainly agreed with that.  A small ship at just over 30,000 tons, she holds only 694 passengers so the cubic metres per passenger are fairly generous.

As ever, we did what we always do when we first join a ship and went in search of a cold beer, so we could sit up on deck in the sunshine and enjoy it.  We went to the pool deck where they had a salad bar and a burger/hotdog stand, and got something to eat and a big glass of cold Heineken.  Afterwards we sat at the edge of the pool; the sunshine was very hot.  A combination of the beer and the heat was very soporific, and as we’d been up since 3.00am BST we decided to go back to our cabin and have a nap before lifeboat drill at 4.30pm.

The pool deck on board the Azamara Quest

Once lifeboat drill was over, we returned to 4047 to find our single suitcase had arrived.  As this was only a four-day cruise we only needed the one case between us, instead of the two large cases we usually bring for a fortnight or more.  It therefore didn’t take us long to hang up our clothes and get washed and changed in time to watch the sail-away.

Another thing that was different about this cruise was that there was no set dining time, or set table.  Usually we like to dine fairly early, between 6.00 and 6.30pm, so that our dinner has time to go down a bit before bed time.  But on the Azamara Journey it was “freedom dining” so you basically just went into the dining room whenever you liked.  We were therefore able to watch the Journey glide away from the quayside and into the shimmering blue waters of the Mediterranean.  Then it was off to the Discoveries dining room at 7.00pm for our dinner.

We were soon to discover that the house red and white wine is free with lunch and dinner on the Journey!  This was good news as we usually buy a bottle of wine between us to consume with our dinner.  There was a great choice of food on the menu; lots of appetisers, salads, soups, main courses and desserts.  It was difficult to know what to have, and it was all plentiful and tasty.

After dinner it was strange to be going along to the show lounge for the Captain’s “cocktail party” at 9.30pm.  When we arrived, we were handed a glass of ‘champagne’ and took our seats; the captain was already half-way through his speech, introducing his officers.  It was a far cry from the very formal pre-dinner cocktails, canapés and dancing that they have on Cunard ships.  A bit of a damp squib, really.

Then the cabaret act started for the evening – an impressionist.  Oh dear; he was dire.  Half the time you couldn’t tell who he was supposed to be impersonating and he’d probably be buzzed off if he was on Britain’s Got Talent.  😦

Afterwards it was off to bed in 4047 on our first night aboard the Azamara Journey.

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