Come sail away!
MY WIFE Anna and I have written about several great places around the world that we have visited while working on board cruise ships. Now, for a change, I thought it would be nice to show you the ship itself—our floating home away from home that takes us around the globe.
The ship during our last contract is called the Azamara Quest, a luxury ship that at full capacity carries 650 guests and a crew of 400. It’s quite small for international cruise ship standards, but that small size comes with some big benefits. For one, a smaller ship can go to places that big ships can’t.
For example, when we visited Bangkok, this ship made its way up the river to where we were just a 20-minute bus ride from the city center. For larger ships, they must dock nearly two hours away and they waste so much time just traveling to and from the city, making the time in the city so rushed. The same is true in Tokyo, where our ship docked only 15 minutes from downtown Ginza district.
Other ships can only get to the port of Yokohama, which is over an hour away by train. Another selling point of Azamara is that they stay late and even stay overnight in many of the ports, which allows the passengers to really immerse in the local culture. Most of the larger ships will arrive in the port around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. and then leave by 5 p.m. to make it to the next port. It becomes more of a vacation factory on larger ships than a true look into the places.
Anna and I both started on mega ships, so we can appreciate the benefits of a smaller ship. My first ship in 2008 was the Liberty of the Seas, which at the time was the largest cruise ship in the world.
With larger ships, they usually do the same ports, without much variety. While I enjoyed not shoveling the snow in the wintertime as I would have if I stayed in Ohio, I did the same itinerary every two weeks year round.
After a year I could hardly take the monotony of the same six or seven cities over and over. With smaller ships, we do more of a world cruise format, where we visit different places throughout the year.
During our last eight-month contract alone, we visited around 60 countries on three continents and traveling over 46,000 Nautical miles (85,000 kilometers). Our itinerary was a mix of famous places such as Hong Kong, Barcelona, Dubai, and Stockholm, along with some lesser-visited places like Sri Lanka, Iceland, Brunei, and Honningsvag, the northern-most tip of Norway.
A little background on our cruise line: It is owned by parent company Royal Caribbean International, based in Miami, Florida, and is one of the largest in the world with 36 ships in operation with several currently being built in shipyards across three different brands: Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Azamara.
Our cruise line Azamara consists of two ships, the Quest and the Journey, which have exactly the same layout. They were once a part of Renaissance Cruiseline, but when they went bankrupt they sold off their ships to other cruiselines. Anna and I have worked on both the Quest and the Journey. They are over 30,000 tonnes over 11 decks tall, are 180 meters long, and have a top cruising speed of 18.5 knots (almost 35 kph).
In 2015 alone the two ships visited a combined 70 countries on all seven continents. They also have a focus on scheduling to hit many of the largest events in the world such as Carnival in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, The Open golf championship at St. Andrews in Scotland, and the Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco.
Anna and I both have a history with working on the Azamara Quest. In 2012, before we were married, we worked there together. She was a part of a “take-out” cast, meaning the original cast of singers and dancers, while I was the resident drummer on board. In March 2012, the ship visited Manila for two days and then the following day the ship caught fire while at sea in the middle of the ocean between Mindanao and the island of Borneo.
The result was losing power for 24 hours and going to Singapore for emergency repairs. It was really scary at the time since the flames engulfed the engine room and we hurriedly made our way to take care of passengers in our emergency stations. Luckily they were able to put out the fire before we had to jump into the lifeboats and abandon the ship. Now it is something we look back on as a kind of badge of honor, making it through the traumatic event.
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