Azamara Pursuit

Friday 7th June 2019
We picked up Jane at 5.30am and drove to Gatwick. The whole check-in and security routine was as smooth as ever, and we had a leisurely Pret A Manger breakfast as we waited for our flight.

We were an hour late leaving Gatwick, but had still arrived in Venice by midday. We were met by Azamara staff and shepherded to a transfer bus. At the Venice cruise terminal we had one of the quickest, simplest check-ins ever and were on-board Azamara Pursuit by 1.30pm, champagne glass in hand.

Jane's cabin has a restricted view view, i.e. there's a lifeboat outside her window. It's very similar to the cabin that we had on Oceania Regatta when we sailed from Tahiti, but, on the newly-re-launched Pursuit, it's a beautifully welcoming, cosy room.

Our 'suite' is just breathtaking. It's HUGE compared to what we're used to on these ships, maybe half as big again, and the bathroom and shower are really spacious. There's a table and two chairs on the balcony, so it'll be perfect for sharing with Jane at sailaway. It's a shame we're only on-board for three nights!

After finding our cabins we went straight to lunch in the buffet and our glasses of complimentary wine. The buffet was pleasingly uncrowded and we could relax a little for the first time today.
Our suite
Large bathroom!
Toasting our arrival on board!
Ready for sailaway
Given that this was a three night mini-cruise it wouldn't have been worth anyone travelling huge distances to join it, so there were very few Americans on board. Indeed, most people seemed to be English, which is an unusual experience for us! One fellow passenger was a long term cast member of Coronation Street who is still in the current cast. Gill and Jane recognised her immediately at Gatwick as she joined the same flight as us, and they kept noticing her on board Pursuit as well!

At 3pm we joined a tour of the ship, mainly for Jane's benefit, and got ourselves oriented, and at 5pm came the obligatory safety briefing. After this, we nipped back to our cabin with Jane and opened our complimentary bottle of Champagne as we departed Venice via the Giudecca. We all sat on our port side veranda and enjoyed the views of Venice and St. Mark's Square as we sailed away. This just has to be one of the greatest views that you can ever have from a cruise ship, towering over what could almost be a scale model of one of the world's most beautiful cities.

Moored opposite from us had been the MSC Opera, the ship that last week had collided with a pleasure boat and the pier as it had careered out of control along the Giudecca. Its damaged starboard side was turned away from general view, but a couple of large, painted-over dents were visible on the starboard side as well. It has spurred renewed calls in Venice for access for the larger ships to be restricted, with all but the smaller ships re-routed away from the Giudecca to a terminal on the  mainland.
MSC Opera
Sailing down the Giudecca
Sailing down the Giudecca
St. Mark's Square
We all had a breather in our own cabins before heading to the main restaurant at 7.30pm and more complementary wine! Our table was right next to the stern windows, and we enjoyed a glorious sunset as we cruised south-eastwards down the Adriatic.

After dinner we had complimentary cocktails and then went to the theatre for the Captain's Welcome. Azamara seems to prioritise the appointment of captains with above average communications skills and excellent English. Captain Antonio Toledo has both, with an engaging sense of humour.

There followed the evening's entertainment - a group of two women and two men singing songs originally sung by groups of four, e.g. The Bangles, The Beatles, Abba, Coldplay, U2. Unusually, I found it thoroughly enjoyable, mainly because of the 'play list', but also because of the enthusiasm of the singers. The show concluded our very enjoyable day.
Dinner at sunset
Captain's Welcome
Evening show in the Lounge
Azamara Pursuit
Saturday 8th June 2019
Opatija, Croatia

Knowing that we'd be up early tomorrow for an excursion we had a leisurely breakfast today. It was 10.30am before we took the tender ashore, with the sun already quite hot. For the next two hours we strolled along Opatija's long, winding promenade, with all of us saying at some point or other, "What a lovely place!"

Gill had been here with Liz about 15 years ago, and whilst certain parts were familiar she felt that the town had since been made more attractive, with more appeal for tourists. There were no sandy beaches along the seafront but several smart concrete piers, some attached to hotels, from which bathers could step down into the sea. The water was clean and clear, with lots of fish, from tiddlers to meal size, swimming lazily around and fascinating small children.

The heat of the sun was steadily rising, and by later in the day it rose to 27 degrees. Returning to Azamara's gazebo on the pier after a couple of hours gave us welcome access to ice cold water and a refreshingly cold, wet towel.

Lovely Opatija
Pursuit in the distance
Back on the ship we went straight to lunch in the buffet and opted for Rosť - last night we chose white wine and stressed, "Not Chardonnay", but we think that the waiter misunderstood because that's what he brought us! The afternoon was spent reading and dozing in the shadiest port of the pool deck before we all retreated to our suite and ordered tea and cakes.

At 7pm we went for an early dinner because tonight one of Azamara's 'White Nights' events was scheduled for 8pm onwards. The pool deck is converted into an al fresco restaurant and the band and the singers later let loose with disco hits that get people up and dancing as night falls. They're really very impressive events, and most people dress in white as part of the fun. We hadn't expected a White Night on such a short cruise, so hadn't packed appropriately, but this really didn't matter.

We're up at 6.45am tomorrow, ahead of our 8.30am excursion, so as soon as the open air music ended at 9.40pm we all went back to our cabins and set alarms.
Enjoying the pool!
White Night
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Actress from Corrie!
Sunday 9th June 2019
Koper, Slovenia

Today we had our only organised excursion of the cruise, paid for out of our on-board credit, so, in effect, free of charge! Many of our fellow passengers seemed to have used up all of their energy on last night's party, and consequently there were less than 20 people on this morning's tour.

This region of Slovenia is close to Italy, and there has been a substantial Italian minority here for long time. In fact, at primary school children learn both Italian and Slovenian, then also English and another foreign language in secondary school. By comparison, British provision of foreign language teaching is shamefully inadequate.
White Night
View down to Koper
There were three fish canning factories in Koper last century, but all have now closed, with the business focus of the town now on tourism. The tour took us high into the hills around Koper, with one stop for a scenic photo of the town below. Then it was on to a lovely little town called Piran, birthplace of the violinist, Tartini. Its streets are so narrow, rather like a Cornish fishing village, that road traffic isn't allowed access, so we were dropped at the edge of town and the coach had to go away and come back later to pick us up.
Piran town square, with statue
of Tartini
Looking for shade
Padna's market
Padna's market
There is a substantial local sea salt industry in the area, and later in the tour we saw the large salt pans close to the town, where sea water is allowed to evaporate leaving its salt behind. In Piran we visited a shop that specialises in this local product, and, like several of our fellow passengers, bought some of the local sodium chloride ;o)

After about an hour we re-joined our bus and headed inland to a hamlet named Padna. This part of the tour was billed as visiting, 'a farmers' market'. When we got there it seemed that everything had been laid on just for our tour. There were only half a dozen stalls, spread over two locations. Our guide gave each of us five tokens, nominal value one Euro, that we could 'spend' on little tasters of local produce such as sausage, olives, jam and fresh cherries. The idea was that we might then buy a larger quantity to take away.

After Padna it was back to the ship, in steadily rising early afternoon heat. After lunch went back to the pool deck to read and relax, but it was so very crowded that this wasn't as comfortable as it should have been. Eventually, we retreated to our cabin and the three of us enjoyed the rum punches that our butler delivered for us!

Early dinner in Aqualina
Chocolate Event!
Chocolate Event!
At 5pm there was a drinks reception in the Cabaret Lounge for guests like us who had travelled with Azamara before. There was mention of the number of times some of us had done so, and I wondered if we might be amongst their better customers with our half dozen or more previous cruises, and then they started to read out who the best customers really were! In third place was a couple with 25 previous cruises, topped by another couple with 27 under their belts, but the easy victors were a couple with 42!! They were given specially-engraved and personalised crystal glasses while the rest of us clapped and wondered how much their cruises had cost!

When we joined Pursuit on Friday we immediately tried to book ourselves into 'Aqualina', the Italian speciality restaurant on board. We were aiming for an 8pm booking on our final night, but so many people had got there first that the latest booking available was 6.30pm, so we took that. We deliberately avoided Afternoon Tea so that we could make the most of the experience! Afterwards  we went to the Cabaret Lounge for the last time. The show was pretty much the Cruise Director and his wife singing old non-pop/rock numbers and therefore not nearly as interesting as Friday night's show.

We went back to our respective cabins and put out our suitcases for collection, the cruise being almost over. Jane had been pleasantly surprised (and relieved!) at how little motion she had noticed when the ship was at sea and seemed to have enjoyed the whole cruise experience, as we'd been confident she would!
Chocolate Event!
Back in Venice
Rialto Bridge
Rialto Market
Monday 10th June 2019

We left the ship at 9.30am, which was a far more civilised time than we're used to, but far too early for our 10pm flight to Gatwick. The only problem was that we had to take a transfer bus back to Marco Polo Airport, put our luggage into storage, and then get a bus back into the city, which took an age, followed by a vaporetto trip down the Grand Canal to the Rialto Bridge.

Gill had booked a food walking tour for just the three of us, starting at midday, but our guide was delayed so we were half an hour late in getting going. At the end of the tour three hours later none of us were impressed with it. It had seemed like a route march, with no shared insights along the way, and too little food with too much alcohol on such a hot day. Of course, like typical English people, we didn't grumble until after the guide had departed ;o)

We took a vaporetto ride over to Murano, where Gill and Jane visited lots of shops, looking for genuine Murano glass jewellery. We finally succumbed to thirst and hunger, so we stopped for cold drinks and cicchetti before returning to Piazzale Roma, where we took the airport bus back to Marco Polo Airport.

Rialto Market
Gondola boatyard
Us with the Captain
We reclaimed our luggage and went through security to the departure lounge, where displays informed us that our flight would be delayed. In the evnt, we were 90 minutes late in taking off, which meant that it was after midnight UK time when we landed at Gatwick. Luckily, our bags were amongst the first to arrive in the Baggage Hall, and in no time we were in our car and heading for home.

We dropped Jane off first and then drove home, getting indoors after 2am, absolutely exhausted. We sneaked about quietly, so we wouldn't alert the cats to our return, and turned in as soon as we could.

We had had a wonderful time. This had been the first time that we had shared a cruise with anyone outside our immediate family, and we'd really enjoyed the experience!

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