I suppose I should not have thought twice about embarkation being anything other than a breeze. After all, Azamara Club Cruises is a member of the Royal Caribbean family, the same people who turn over 6000 people in one day off giant Oasis and Allure of the Seas. Still, this was easy from the moment our flight touched down until we were on board Azamara Journey.
Admittedly, it was a long travel day to get here but a funny thing happened on the way to this forum for destination-focused travelers. I met Linda, another passenger who hails from Kissimmee, Florida a mere stones throw away from our home in the Orlando suburb of Apopka. At the airport, on the same flights as I was on which was odd enough in and of itself, but that sort of thing happens from time to time when we travel. Interesting about this happenstance meeting, once past exchanging pleasantries and commenting on the oddity of the chance meeting, Linda goes immediately into her reasons for wanting to be on this ship, on this itinerary, at this time of year. Point: the destination focus is way way way way more than a selling point/marketing ploy with this cruise line.
It was a theme repeated throughout the day as I met other passengers too. Brent and Faye from Canada who happened to be sitting across the aisle from Linda on our Air Canada flight, had been to Istanbul before. When I brought up the topic of iconic Istanbul landmark Hagia Sophia, both rattled off facts, figures and their impressions of the UNESCO World Heritage site like history professors…but with the sense of accomplishment in their voices that direct contact travel brings.
Jim and Marion joined all of us for a casual lunch and extolled the virtues of coming in a day early so they too could experience more of Istanbul, the starting and finishing line of what looks to be an epic event at sea. They too were totally into the architecture, religious and social significance of this place and it’s historical and geographic significance.
Pointing out to me that “right across that bridge is Asia”, I chose to walk off the ship and along shore with Azamara Journey parked closeby, overlooking the scene; the scene you see in the photos accompanying this post. As kids played, young lovers walked hand in hand, and shoreside restaurants vied for their business, I walked along considering the area as well. Young and old locals fished, sat in the shade, got some sun, painted or sketched ocean scenes and more while they enjoyed the sunny day and ocean breeze along with the aroma of Turkish coffee mixed with cotton candy and fire roasted meats drowned out cigarettes and I’m-not-sure-what-it-was in giant Turkish hookahs. In an Instagram post earlier this day I aptly noted “We’re not in Florida anymore”, even though the hot and humid day felt just like home. Or maybe it was something else.
Well before sunset I walked back to Azamara Journey for the ship’s safety drill then walked the decks, unable to come back inside really as an unusually interesting sun went down, changing the complexion of the area entirely every few minutes, or so it seemed. Perhaps it was jet lag but I doubt it. Maybe it was the normal anticipation of what is yet to come on any cruise vacation, but notion does not seem to fit well here. Its more than that, this part of the world and the way Azamara has integrated itself into it.
Taking in the scene in the ship’s lobby area, passengers came and went, stopping to ask directions or advice on where to go. Not booking excursions, just wanting some tips on what was closeby and what to see within walking distance. Behind the counter were either very well trained crew members or captured locals who had lived in the area their entire lives, providing in-depth, personal recommendations for those who asked…the well-traveled passengers I am seeing on board this ship; people not afraid or too timid to let formalities stand in the way of a stellar travel experience. Totally unexpected, I suspect that will be a recurring theme on this voyage. Come along with me and find out won’t you?
The Last 24 Hours
Looking back on the last 24 hours or so, little sleep, a long flight, embarkation and getting settled in on the ship? Meaningless in comparison to the solid destination connection made here today, enabled by Azamara.
All of the above is a continuation of our ongoing story, pinned to the front page of this blog, A Sailing With Azamara Club Cruises- Click here to read the story in it’s entirety. Check there every day for the latest on A Sailing With Azamara Club Cruises in journal form. No jump. No Pop-ups. No Ads.
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