We were nearing the three quarter point of our South East Asian cruise as we awoke on the eight day of our adventure. The Azamara Journey was chugging its way around the southernmost tip of Vietnam before beginning the steady journey northwest along the coast of Cambodia to our next port - Bangkok. It would take another 30 hours of steady sailing before we reached the capital of Thailand, so today was another sea day. Fortunately for us, we had left behind the unsettled weather of the past few days and, while there was still considerable cloud filling the blue skies, the rain had stopped.
This was the 3rd of 4 scheduled sea days on our 13 night South Asian cruise. One of the concerns that Kim and I had shared before booking this trip was whether there would be enough onboard activities that would interest us on the days that we were not in port. All of our previous cruises had been on much larger ships, including the mega ship Oasis of the Seas, where there are countless venues and activities to keep you occupied while you are sailing to your next port. With a passenger capacity of just over 600, the Azamara cruise ships are 1/4 the size of most standard cruising vessels and only 1/10 the size of the mega ships. What could there possibly be that would keep us occupied while we spent several days at sea?
Well, first of all, the whole Azamara experience is quite different than what the more traditional cruise lines offer. Azamara ships tend to spend more time in port than other cruise lines and have more overnight stays in port as well. Azamara also markets their ships as “Boutique hotels at sea” with a more intimate, cozy atmosphere than the larger cruisers combined with personalized and friendly service. More than halfway through our South East Asian itinerary we were enjoying the intimacy and quietude of our floating home.
If you have been following this blog series on our trip to South East Asia, you will have noted that our port days were chockablock with activities and sightseeing. We wanted to take advantage of the time we had in each port to absorb as much as we could about the culture, geography and people in each region that we visited. The sea days, by contrast, gave us an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate. There were just enough activities on the ship each day so that we didn’t get bored, but not so many that we felt exhausted or that we had missed something.
There were a variety of craft workshops that were scheduled in the morning or afternoon throughout the trip. On this particular sea day, Kim elected to go to an Origami workshop in the morning and then a Ladies Pamper Party at the spa in the afternoon. As on previous sea days, I attended the guest lecture. (Today’s topic was “Piracy in the South China Sea” which I found fascinating given that we had been sailing through it for the better part of a week. It was a bit disturbing to learn that nearly 30% of piracy worldwide occurs in this area). Every afternoon at 4:00 pm, the Living Room features daily music trivia followed by a tantalizing tapas tasting which we attended on the days we weren’t in port.
While there were many other events including art auctions, on-board shopping sprees, fitness and yoga classes which could keep one busy for the entire day, we chose to intersperse on-board activities with a measure of relaxing by the pool. This allowed us to recuperate from the hectic pace of the port excursions which we really enjoyed and looked forward to.
We also scheduled our specialty dining nights to coincide with sea days. This was done for two reasons: 1) specialty dining required prior reservations and we did not want to worry about having to return from an excursion early in order to make our reservation, and, 2) the dining experience in the specialty restaurants usually takes longer as each course is prepared individually.
As we have discussed in previous posts, the overall dining experience on the Azamara Journey was as good or better than we have had on other cruise lines. We actually debated whether or not to pay the additional charge for the specialty restaurants but eventually decided to give it a try. Azamara Journey has two specialty restaurants, Prime C, a traditional steakhouse, and Aqualina which features Italian and Mediterranean cuisine (read our previous posts for menus and reviews). Individually the surcharge per specialty restaurant is $30 US. There are also 5 Specialty Dining packages which are available that allow you try the restaurants at reduced prices. The dining packages are as follows:
1) The 3 Table Tour is $70 US per person and includes 1 night at Aqualina, 1 night at Prime C and 1 night at either Aqualina or Prime C.
2) The 4 Table Tour is $95 US per person and included 2 nights at Aqualina and 2 nights at Prime C.
3) Chef’s Table Plus 2 is $135 US per person and includes 1 night at Aqualina, 1 night a Prime C and 1 night at the Chef’s Table.
4) Chef’s Table Plus 4 is $180 US per person and included 2 nights at Aqualina, 2 nights at Prime C and 1 night at the Chef’s Table.
5) Chef’s Table Tour which includes 3 nights at the Chef’s Table.
We had opted for the dining package that included 1 night at each of the 2 specialty restaurants (which we had done on previous sea days) plus the Chef’s Table where we would be dining tonight. The Chef’s Table is a unique dining experience served at a special table within the Prime C restaurant that boasts a 5-course menu paired with selected wines and hosted by a senior officer or guest speaker. Each Chef’s Table consists of one of three regional themed menus - California, France and Italy. On this particular night, the featured region was California which meant that the chef and sommelier combined their talents to find the perfect pairing between the region's cuisine and its wines to please our palates.
Our menu included a first course of Lobster and Avocado Salad paired with a Napa Valley Honig Sauvignon Blanc followed by a Smoked Tomato Veloute paired with a Conundrum White Blend and a Surf and Turf appetizer paired with a Schug Pinot Noir. The choices for the main course were either New Potato Crusted California Sea Bass paired with Lincourt Courtney’s Chardonnay or Herb Roasted Prime Angus Centre Cut Strip Loin paired with a Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. The main course was followed by an International Selection of Cheese paired with a Simi Merlot from Sonoma County and then a dessert of Macadamia Nut Chocolate Mud Pie with White Chocolate Mousse paired with an Orange Muscat from Essensia Quady Winery in the San Joaquin Valley.
This dinner was a wonderfully prepared feast and easily the best dining experience I have had on a cruise ship. There was ample variety in the menu and the food/wine pairings enhanced the delicate flavours in each delicious bite. The chef and sommelier described each food and wine pairing as they were presented as well as the rational for the choices. The portion sizes were just right so that by the end of dessert we were feeling satiated but not stuffed. The Chef’s Table is limited to 12 people and, while intimate, allows for conversation among those sitting next to one another but not necessarily to everyone at the table. The total time from sitting down to wrapping up after dinner was just under 2 1/2 hours.
Following our lavish dinner we just managed to make it to the Cabaret Lounge in time for evening performance of Voices by the Azamara Singers and Dancers. This was an interesting performance that included back up singers that were projected on screens behind the live singers on stage. The concept was fresh, current and quite entertaining.
Below is a quick clip of one of their songs.
Adventures in South East Asia - Hong Kong Part 1 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Hong Kong Part 2 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Hong Kong Part 3 & Onboard Azamara Day 1 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 2 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 3 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 4 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 5 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 6 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 7 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 9 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 10 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 11 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.