Azamara Club Cruises’ luxury ship Azamara Quest is currently saiing her first ex-Dublin itinerary to Hamburg via Belfast, Glasgow, Invergordon and Edinburgh. ITTN’s News & Features Editor Neil Steedman continues his reports from onboard.
Having gone to sleep as we sailed from Belfast on Monday evening, I woke up yesterday in Greenock when most guests had already gone ashore on their choice of four excursions to Glasgow, including Pollok House, Culzean Castle and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Acupuncture and Spa
I, however, chose to join five other guests for an acupuncture demonstration in the Astral Remedy Suite given by Lisbon-born Tania Matos. The first acupuncture session costs $150 and the disposable steel needles are inserted for 20 to 30 minutes maximum.
Tania told me: “The main reason for guests availing of acupuncture is pain, followed by sinus problems (often from the climate changes on a cruise), weight loss, seasickness and, in some cases, an addiction such as smoking.
“This is my third year working under contract on cruise ships – I joined the Azamara Quest last March and I will finish on 7th August in Hamburg at the end of the ship’s next itinerary. I studied acupuncture, massage and Chinese herbs in Portugal and then took a four-month hospital internship in China, which was most interesting and educational.”
The Astral Spa offers a wide range of hair, beauty (including teeth whitening at $149) and massage treatments, which range from $119 for a 50-minute reflexology or Swedish massage up to $265 for the 100-minute toe-to-head Absolute Spa Ritual.
There are four main dining venues onboard: the Windows Café and Discoveries Restaurant on deck 5, where the choices are wide and the quality and service are very good, and the Aqualina and Prime C Restaurants for speciality dining on deck 10, where a $25 cover charge applies (but complimentary for suite guests). There is also a Caviar & Champagne Bar on deck 10, where this morning a Caviar and Champagne Brunch hosted by ship’s officers was on offer at $195.
Caviar and champagne are not high on my list of F&B favourites and I was more than happy to avail of a hot dog, turkey burger and pina coladas on two visits to the Pool Bar on deck 9!
I had great company for dinner in Discoveries, where I joined Cruise Director Russ Grieve, Activity Manager Helene Teboul and six other single and solo travellers – three from the USA (two Chicago, one Florida), and one each from Scotland, England and Norway. Two already knew each other, and also many of the crew, as they frequently take Azamara cruises. “Why?” I asked. “The food is good and the staff are always so friendly and helpful, and many remember your name from years before,” said one.
Being in Scotland, the evening’s entertainment just had to include the Music Scotland Show. Even though my father was proudly Scottish (from Kirkcaldy, near Edinburgh), Scottish sword dancing and Robert Burns songs are not usually my cup of tea, but the show was professional and well presented, with the finale having the ‘wow’ factor of the Meehan Pipe Band, comprising Russell Meehan and two daughters on bagpipes and a third daughter on drums.
It’s hard to describe comedian Mel Mellers’ act, but suffice to say that his continuous stream of jokes and audience banter while performing conjuring tricks had everyone laughing.
There is also the Casino Luze, complete with bar lounge, 41 slot machines and four gaming tables. Today’s ‘Pursuits’ newsletter informs me that since leaving Dublin the slot machines have paid out $5,778.85. It does not, of course, tell me how much was paid in. However, one roulette-playing guest told me that he was $100 up to date, so someone is winning!