Shelley Heyman’s Delightful Havens and Vineyards of France, Spain and Portugal Cruise
As Shelley Heyman begins describing her “Delightful Havens and Vineyards of France, Spain and Portugal” voyage on the Azamara Quest, she breaks into a smile. “It was my first experience with Azamara Club Cruises and it was fabulous,” she said. “I have nothing negative to say. The accommodations, service, the food…everything was fabulous.”
“Azamara is nice because it is all inclusive, including alcohol and gratuities. You just get on the ship and don’t have to think about anything,” she said. “It’s a small ship with incredible service and staff.”
Especially memorable to Shelley onboard was the ship’s captain. “He was personable and knowledgable. His noon announcements were 15 minutes long and everyone stopped to listen because he was so interesting.”
Shelley also fondly remembers a wonderful dim sum brunch onboard and the special treatment she got with her daily coffee.
“I loved the coffee at the bistro,” she said. “We sat there a lot and everyone knew that was our spot. I wouldn’t even have to say anything! I’d walk up the steps or get off the elevator and the barista would be making my latte.”
Another unique Azamara event was its “White Evening,” where on one special night the top deck of the ship was transformed and decorated in white.
“They served a fabulous buffet and everybody participated,” she said.
Overnighting in ports so you have two days to explore was also a perk with Azamara. Shelley had a hard time narrowing down her top three favorite destinations. One was the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Shelley, a collector of dachshund-themed items that remind her of her two dogs, found a beautiful pottery dachshund bank in the gift shop.
Shelley’s favorite shore excursion was with the Signature Private Group Tour in Lisbon, Portugal, where she explored the towns of Sintra and Cascais.
“I think that day was the highlight of my trip,” she said. “In Sintra, we went to this amazing medieval palace, the National Palace of Sintra, and then we walked through the little town. Then we went to Caiscais and ate at this fabulous restaurant.”
From a wine tour in Bordeaux, France to the specialty restaurants onboard the ship, the regional food and wine was delightful, remembers Shelley. “I loved all the tapas,” she said.
Their “Azamazing Evening” in Gibraltar was also a trip highlight. The entire ship, at no additional charge, was taken to St. Michael’s Cave, a venue in the center of the Rock that has been adapted for concerts. There, in this fantastic natural setting, they heard the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band play with incredible acoustics as the group was served cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. “It truly was an amazing evening,” she said.
The ship embarked on Aug. 25, 2015 from Southampton, England and disembarked on Sept. 8 in Barcelona, Spain. “We did overnight the last night in Barcelona so we had a full day on the ship that we could be off exploring Barcelona and the ship was still our hotel so that was really nice,” she said.
Azamara, which Shelley feels handles luxury in a more understated way, is best suited for honeymooners and retirees. While not as formal, it’s also not as family oriented as other cruise lines, she said.
“One thing I especially liked about the trip was that I’d never been on Azamara and I’d never been to any of these destinations,” she said. “I spent every day off the ship and I experienced everything as my clients would experience it.”