Amazing Azamara

Didn’t sleep very well at all last night.  At some point I woke up in the pitch darkness, feeling as if I’d been asleep for hours, to find it was only midnight.  From then on I was asleep and awake and asleep and awake, tossing and turning, and morning seemed an absolute age away.

Finally, at 5.00am, I got up and made myself a cup of coffee, and had a look outside on our balcony in the cool and quiet morning air; sunrise had occurred about 20 minutes previously.  I then returned to bed to drink my coffee and read my Kindle, after which I settled back down and slept until after eight o’clock; in fact the last couple of hours’ sleep was much better quality than the rest of the night.

We then got up and I enjoyed a long, refreshing shower and shampooed my hair before we packed up our stuff and went down to the hotel’s huge dining room for breakfast.  The weather looked quite cloudy outside and we hoped it would brighten up.  I enjoyed some cold meats and cheeses washed down with coffee and orange juice, then we were ready for whatever the day had in store.

Back in our room, we put the cases outside for collection, then decided to take a walk outside in the hotel gardens, as we had a couple of hours before the coaches were due to arrive to take us to the ship.

It was very pleasant in the gardens; there were lots of trees and flowers and little winding paths.  We were just that bit too late to see the famous cherry blossoms.

We saw pagodas and statues and came to a pond which contained a selection of carp.  Some of them were very large, about 15 inches long, and they were in a variety of colours; orange and white, orange and grey, white and grey or black, with patches, smudges or dots of contrasting colours.  They had all gathered down at our end of the pond, no doubt hoping for some titbits, despite the notices up advising visitors not to feed the fish.

Afterwards we returned to our room and had a cup of coffee, before picking up our cases (which we’d amusingly heard referred to as “ruggage” at the airport) and going downstairs to check out.

We then had about half an hour to await our bus to Yokohama, where we would pick up our ship, the Azamara Quest.

The bus arrived and we happily boarded and set off for the 45-minute ride to the port of Yokohama. The sun was shining and we passed beautifully-clean cities and parks with trees and lots of colourful flowers and roses.

Soon we pulled up at the International Port of Yokohama, and we caught our first glimpse of our home for the next 14 nights, the Azamara Quest.  We have not been on this ship before, although we’ve sailed on her sister ship, the Azamara Journey, when we went to the French Riviera and Monaco Grand Prix in 2011. She looked quite distinctive with her black hull and white funnel sporting the blue “A” logo, and we couldn’t wait to join her.

Just in front of the port we noticed crowds of people and saw signs proclaiming, in both Japanese and English, that this was a “Belgian Beer Festival”, and we decided that if he had the time later on, we’d come back here and explore.  😊

It was fairly quick and easy going through the embarkation process.  Because we’d already been allocated our cabin and had printed off the bar codes for our boarding passes, it was just a simple matter of showing our passports and USA ESTA documents and registering a credit card.  Then we happily went along the tunnel which took us onto the Azamara Quest.  On boarding, we were each handed a glass of chilled prosecco, and told that we could go straight to lunch as our staterooms would not be available until 1.30pm.

Up at the pool deck, we enjoyed a light lunch; Trevor had a club sandwich while I chose a plate of tasty nachos, washed down with another glass of prosecco each.  On Azamara cruises, wine is included with your lunch and dinner, as are other selected beers, spirits and soft drinks, or you could upgrade your drinks package to included premium brands and cocktails for an extra £12.75 a day, which is in fact what we did.

After lunch we wandered around the ship which was already very familiar due to our having been on the Azamara Journey and the Adonia (which was a P&O ship until last year, when she then joined the Azamara line as the third ship in the fleet, the Azamara Pursuit).

It was then time to try our stateroom; we’d already spotted our cases on deck so we knew they would be delivered soon.  We went up to deck 6 and found stateroom 6009, a superior balcony cabin of 175 square feet.  It was decorated in shades of beige and grey with lots of mirrors, and had a king-size bed with crisp cotton sheets, a settee and coffee table, a dressing table and chair and floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors leading out a to a large balcony that contained a table and two chairs.  It all looked very nice indeed, and we knew we were in for a comfortable two weeks.

Once we’d dumped our bags we decided to go ashore once again, as we were not due to sail until 5.00pm.  In any case, in was good to be able to stretch our legs a bit, and the weather was sunny and bright, but not too hot.

We walked the mile or so along the sea front, back around to the beer festival.  The route along the way contained lots of colourful flowers and beautiful roses, and many people were taking photographs.  Everyone seemed smiley and happy and it was a nice cheerful atmosphere.

When we got to the beer festival, there were many, many stalls sets up, as well as standing tables containing little clusters of people clutching beer glasses.  In the middle, a stage was set up with some live entertainment.  We were advised that we needed to purchase the beer glasses (which you could keep as a souvenir) as well as tokens which were exchanged for the beer of your choice.

We joined the queue for our glasses and tokens, doing a spot of people-watching while we were waiting.  A lot of the visitors had their dogs with them on leads and there also seemed to be many student-types.  We got our glasses and tokens, then had a stroll among the stalls before choosing a beer each; mine was a sort of strong lager of 7% while Trevor chose one that tasted of cherries.  We had 11 tokens to spend, which seemed a strange number until you realised that most of the beers costs three or four tokens, a sales ploy forcing people to go back and purchase more tokens.  We therefore just shared the last beer between us, which was just as well considering it was 10% ABV!

After we’d enjoyed our beers we then took a slow stroll back to the ship.  The lady was still at the top of the gang-plank dispensing the free proseccos, but she recognised us from earlier so we didn’t get another freebie.

On returning to our cabin, we saw our cases outside, so we brought them in and spent some time unpacking and hanging everything up neatly and folding things into drawers and cupboards.

On Azamara cruises there isn’t a set dining time or set table, so we weren’t in any hurry.  As we were feeling quite hungry, however, we took the time to get washed and changed and smartened up a bit, then made our way to the Discoveries restaurant, where we were asked if we wanted a table for two or if we were happy to share.  As the conversation and banter with table-mates is part of the pleasure of cruising, we agreed we’d prefer to share, so we were shown to a table for eight at which an American couple, who introduced themselves as Dale and Susie, were already seated.  Presently another two couples, Peter and Jane from Phoenix, Arizona and François and Marliese from Antwerp in Belgium joined us, and the conversation and anecdotes flowed.  Inevitably, when they found out that Trevor and I were from Britain, they asked us for our views on Brexit, and we (who voted to Remain) said it was an utter shambles.

I enjoyed a delicious meal of jumbo shrimp cocktail followed by Caesar salad, then New York style steak with baked potato, washed down with chilled rosé wine and finished off with coffee and amaretto.

Our table was one of the last to leave the restaurant, whereupon we made our way to the show lounge where there was an introduction, by way of musical numbers, to the Azamara Singers and Dancers, as well as a welcome by the cruise director who told us all the exciting things the entertainment team had in store for us on this 14-night voyage.

We finished this eventful day off with a visit to the very pleasant bar and lounge called The Den, and we perched on leather bar stools and enjoyed a cocktail each.  Another couple were sitting at the bar and, when they spoke, we recognised from their accent that they were from Liverpool.  We sat there for a couple of hours, drinking and chatting, until it was after midnight which was surprising in light of our jetlag.

We then returned to stateroom 6009 and settled down for our first night on the fabulous Azamara Quest.  The sea was very calm and we left the balcony door open slightly, in order to get some fresh sea air and listen to the hypnotic “shhhhhh shhhhhh” sounds of the sea.

We slept very well.

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