Sitting here in Singapore at the lovely Marina Mandarin Hotel, I have a view of the bizarre Marina Sands Hotel (looks like a futuristic skyscraper topped by a boat) in one direction, and the Merlion in the other. It’s steamy, overcast and may rain any minute, and my thoughts can’t help but drift back to our cruise in Azamara Quest, which ended on Saturday in Hong Kong.
Our last few days on board were magical, even if our three-hour-odd drive to Hanoi was somewhat hair raising! In Vietnam, bikes may rule many streets but in some parts the top spot undoubtedly goes to buses! We had a lovely if brief sortee to the Vietnamese capital, visited some landmarks, saw some of the local life and enjoyed a slap-up lunch at the fabulous InterContinental Hotel…..it was a long day but well worth it, even if the weather was cold, damp and utterly miserable.
From there we had a leisurely sea day before cruising into Hong Kong and more chilly unseasonable weather, but Honkers is always captivating and on our last night on board Azamara Quest, ahead of dinner at Prime C (our second visit), an ethereal sunset rolled out to give us some great final photo ops.
This was a fascinating if eye-opening cruise, producing many highs and many memories. The ship is lovely, rides the rough South China Sea well, and had enough space so it never felt crowded. The food onboard is top notch throughout the ship, and even the extra surcharge of $15 a head worth the money for the two specialty restaurants.
The ambiance is a lovely combination of casual elegance, our fellow passengers are generally an adventurous lot who enjoy a good time but know how to behave. The destinations didn’t disappoint, with Cambodia perhaps sparking the most contrast – poor, fascinating and with a lovely people. Also the overnight stays were a real bonus; Bangkok for three days/two nights for Christmas and a fabulous sail out, and a memorable overnight stay in Ho Chi Minh City to see in 2011 in style.
Number one on this cruise, however, was the crew – some of the best we’ve ever sailed with. Polite, courteous, funny, sweet, attentive … there aren’t enough words to describe them! Azamara has excelled hiring these great people from many countries in the world – Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines, India – who just can’t do enough for their guests, and do everything with a big smile.
We’re back home on Friday night, back to the real world where we will have to shop, cook, and wash up for ourselves and there won’t be a smiling Mevin to pick up our towels in the bathroom, make our bed, and arrange my sarong into the shape of a flower. As cruises go this is one of the best we’ve experienced, and if the rumours are true that Azamara is coming to Australia in the near future, we have no doubt how well it will be received by savvy cruise fans. Bon voyage until next week!