Last night was a beautiful sunset and this morning it is heavy cloud and looks like rain, something we have seen very little of on this cruise. It’s hard to believe that my time on the beautiful Azamara Journey is at and end. It seems but yesterday, arriving in Lisbon for the start of an 11-day cruise of commemorating D-Day and World War II. Looking out at sea there are many ships, freighters, oil tankers, containers all pushing their way through a choppy sea to the destinations of the world. It shows what a busy shipping lane the North Sea is. At about noon the show lounge is packed to capacity, they have come to listen to Henry, our onboard veteran be interviewed by Eric the Cruise Director. It is fascinating and will be a separate review by me. It concluded with Henry complete with guitar singing country and western songs, not bad for a gentleman who is 92 years young. We are due into Hamburg at about 2.30pm. As we sail up the River Elbe to our final destination the wind picks resulting in two tugs having to help us berth. The Captain tells us that the wind was gusting 35mph. Some of the passengers are leaving the ship here to begin in some cases long journeys home to the USA, Canada and beyond. Tonight is my final dinner on board followed by an early night as I have to leave the ship soon after 8am tomorrow morning.
The cruise has been outstanding. Firstly, the ship with its dark blue hull and white superstructure has it standing out from the rest. The crew keep it in magnificent condition, no worn furniture, carpets or curtains. No blown window panels and certainly no rust. The lacquered rails around the ship shine in the sunshine. The venues, ‘The Drawing Room’ with its piano, bookshelves, settees and chairs and Discoveries Lounge with a white marble fireplace, the place to enjoy a pre- or post-dinner drink. Mosaic Café, a great meeting place to share that special coffee over a chat with new made friends. On the subject of drink, an all-inclusive system is used, with only a few premium spirits or beers being chargeable. This has the advantage that you do not have waiters trying to sell drinks all the time and no large bar bill at the end of the cruise. The measures given are as big as the smiles on the faces of the crew, and that is big. The senior officers are always walking about the ship and are very approachable. My invite to the captain’s table was memorable. Thank you, Captain Johannes.
The entertainment has been extremely good. Brooks Aehron is a first class act not just as a concert pianist but his repertoire that has people laughing and applauding. Eric de Gray the Cruise Director who can sing anything from the musicals to rock and roll, what quality. Most talented cruise director I have ever met. Mandy Muden with her own special comedy and magic. All the acts have been brilliant, but these were my personal favourites.
Food, an always important factor on any cruise, has been most enjoyable. The themed evenings in the Buffet Restaurant are worthy of special mention. Good enough on 3 occasions to have me eating there rather than the main dining room. The Curry Night, Asian Night and Italian Night were in my opinion brilliant.
The staff has that can do attitude. My cabin was kept immaculate, the wine waiters were always hovering to fill your glass, guest relations always having an answer to any question you might have.
Now for the itinerary. This was a cruise put together by the cruise line President, Larry Pimentel. It was titled Memories of a World War II Voyage, and it was just that. A visit to those places that most people associate with D-Day and the war. The first port of call was Guernsey, one of the beautiful Channel Islands that suffered under the German occupation, as I reported in an earlier article. Then onto Cherbourg for the 70th Anniversary of the landings on the 6th June. Most of the roads were closed due to security, which was no surprise looking at the heads of state who were in the area for the various services and celebrations. That night was the Azamazing Evening where the whole cruise terminal was taken back 70 years with the costumes of the day, a dance band in G.I. uniform, a dance troop from Paris all in the 1940s French costume and much, much more. The next day saw us in Honfleur one of the prettiest ports I have ever been to in Europe. Flowers everywhere, a café society around the quayside of the small harbour. Buildings that have stood the test of time but have been painstakingly cared for. The church where I discovered the priest who sang like a ballad singer. It was from here visits were made to the beaches of Gold, Juno, Sword and Omaha all of which have their own story to tell. How different they looked today in the sunshine with families relaxing and children playing on them from what they must have been like 70 years ago as soldiers landed from amphibious craft and were killed or wounded there by German soldiers. The American Legion Band from Holland, Michigan, USA were playing, and they really were magnificent. There followed a visit to the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. Lines of white crosses, some with names, some just ‘Known but to God’. An emotional experience that will remain with me until I die. This was followed by the ports of Dover, Amsterdam and finally Hamburg.
On this cruise I have met many people from all walks of life and made new friends from across ‘The Pond’. They all have their story to tell and their reasons for choosing this cruise. Henry, our onboard veteran who parachuted in on the 6th June 1944 with the 101st Airborne and had not been back since.
Numerous men wearing baseball caps indicating them as veterans of the Pacific conflict and Vietnam. The vast majority are those who had relatives involved and like me wanted to see where their relatives came 70 years ago as well as try to understand what it was like. Did we see and understand? Yes, I think we did.
A wonderful cruise and a big thank you to Azamara Club Cruises and all their staff who made it possible.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Azamara.