Life at sea has changed for the better. Innovations and longer stays in port cities have drawn the attention of long time skeptics. Case in point: cruises traditionally left ports before sundown. Now, we have the option to cruise with boutique ships such as Azamara Club Cruises that allow more time for passengers to take in the cities rather than rush through them.
I had the pleasure of cruising with Azamara on their Asian Cities & Waters Voyage and what I loved most was the extended dock stays and night tourism. This is especially great for cities in Asia because the night markets are so incredible!
But what about wifi? I know what you’re thinking, living in a world as connected as it is today, how could I possibly be disconnected for 2 whole weeks?! Well what if I told you that I was sailing in the middle of the South China Sea and was connected the entire time? Days at sea flew by because the Azamara Quest was fully equipped with wifi in addition to the many activities available onboard.
The Quest is currently in drydock and the wifi signal will get even stronger once they remodel the ship. This is a huge perk for someone such as myself who works remotely. It’s safe to say that I got a lot of work done, especially in their Mosaic Cafe where my dear friends Budi and Jeston made sure that I was fully caffeinated and hydrated at all times 🙂
The Azamara Quest is beautifully designed with spaces for every person. From formal restaurants, spas, lounge-y libraries to a gorgeous gym with floor to ceiling windows. I cannot wait to see what it will look like once it’s out of drydock!
Another perk to traveling with Azamara is the fact that since the ship is smaller than most cruises (occupancy around 700 vs. thousands on larger ships), it can sail to ports that are hard for larger ships to get to allowing for more unique itineraries.
The ship has two restaurants, a cafe and a grill which are all open seating. Discoveries, which is the main dining room servers breakfast and dinner and is reserved for special buffets. For casual dining, Windows is the place to be. I especially loved the various international cuisine themed nights with everything from Greek to Mediterranean to Indian! They had it all and did it well. The 24 hour room service with no extra fee was a huge plus and the food was always consistent and great.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize Easter was falling on this itinerary until after it was booked. Since Easter is a very special day to me, I was quite bummed. However, Azamara made me feel right at home with a beautiful mass on Sunday morning and an amazing Easter brunch buffet fully equipped with my FAVORITE hollow chocolate Easter bunnies!
Azamara is a destination immersive cruise line for travelers who seek more time in ports over being on a ship and for travelers who like to immerse themselves in culture. Their Land Discoveries service offers great sightseeing tours and experiences that allow for total immersion in the local experience.
On our Asian Cities & Waters Voyage, we visited Osaka/Kyoto, Hiroshima, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Osaka/Kyoto: By local train
My friend Hana and I decided to see what it would be like to travel to Kyoto from Osaka by local train. We absolutely loved the experience! Japan is the perfect place to travel by local train because the train experience itself is fascinating.
The trains and train stations are immaculate and most of the attendants both in the train stations and on the trains speak English and are always willing to help!
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
We headed to Kyoto from the Osaka Station which took less than an hour and arrived at the Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) shrine. I discovered this shrine on Instagram and it was high on my bucket list. It is as incredible in person as it is in photos and is perhaps one of the most important and impressive shrines in Kyoto. Admission is free and it’s just a short 5 minute walk from the train station.
We then took a train to the outskirts of Kyoto to the small town of Arashiyama. This area is incredibly peaceful and home to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove park. Tip: this sight can get extremely crowded so it’s wise to get there as early as you can. There is no entrance fee and you are free to roam for as long as you wish.
Hiroshima: Floating Shrine of Miyajima
Hiroshima was the next stop on the voyage.
This was an emotional part of our trip where we learned about the sufferings and resiliency of the Japanese people as a result of the nuclear attacks.
We chose to go on the Floating Shrine of Miyajima excursion with Land Discoveries. The bus ride took about an hour and upon arrival, we took a ferry boat to the small island of Miyajima which translates to “The Island of the Gods”.
The place is incredibly peaceful and the dense fog and light rain just added to its magic.
The shrine is built to rest on the water and if you’re in luck to catch it during high tide, it literally looks like it is floating. The town itself is charming and offers many foodie and shopping experiences. Be sure to reserve some time to explore the quiet street as the local life is beautiful and peaceful.
Hiroshima is also Japan’s No. 1 oyster producing region. So if you’re an oyster lover, you will be in heaven. I also couldn’t get enough of their green tea ice cream.
Hong Kong is split into two sections by the Victoria Harbour – Hong Kong Island (Central) and Kowloon. The majority of the action is on HK Island in Central. Regardless of where you go, Hong Kong is incredibly safe.
There are some great hiking trails up to Victoria Peak, or you can take the tram if hiking isn’t your thing. The Hong Kong Island side is the newer, more modern side. Kowloon has a lot of character and is more worn in.
Day 1: Hop On Hop Off Tour:
We booked the Hop On Hop Off tour bus through Land Discoveries to explore the Kowloon area until we discovered how walkable the district is. We ended up spending the entire afternoon hopping from market to market and walking down the famous Nathan Road, which is the equivalent to Times Square in NYC. Though, the bus is great to have because it transfers you to the major sites all over the island and includes ferry boat tickets to get from Hong Kong to Kowloon and tickets to go up to the Sky100 Observation deck which offers 360° stunning views of Hong Kong.
My favorite sights of Kowloon are Temple Street (even better at night) and the Mongkok Flower Market where you will find blocks and blocks of flower shops.
Day 2: Highlights of the City with Chinese Dim Sum Lunch & Victoria Peak
Our first stop on the tour was Hong Kong Man Mo Temple which is said to be the oldest temple in Hong Kong. Here you will find a very peaceful place where worshippers burn lots of incense.
Next was Victoria’s Peak. We boarded the tram that rides up to the scenic outlook, 1805 feet above sea level. The viewpoint has panoramic views of the island, harbor and Kowloon Peninsula and it’s a magnificent place to marvel at the concrete jungle.
Lunch at Jumbo, the largest floating restaurant in Asia. Although the food was mediocre, the experience was unique! We were taken on a little boat ride around the dock until we arrived at the restaurant for lunch.
Stanley Market was the best way to end the day. The free standing shops line the coast where there is a beach and tons of restaurants and bars.
Our last stop on the Azamara Quest voyage was Singapore. We opted for the Singapore Sojourn tour which gave us a quick overview tour of the city along with a stop at the Singapore Botanical Gardens. This tour killed two birds with one stone with a transfer to our hotel (or airport)! The weather in Singapore is unpredictably rainy and extremely humid so bring an umbrella and stay hydrated.
Singapore’s Chinatown is home to tons of shops, local restaurants and the gorgeous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple 💮
Gardens by the Bay
One of the most incredible green spaces I’ve ever seen, Gardens by the Bay is set right in the heart of the city and will take you straight into the future. Be sure to reserve at least a half a day to get lost in this space because it offers two observatories and a skyway perched high above the Supergrove Trees!
Hotels We Love: Fullerton Bay Hotel
We had the wonderful opportunity to stay at the Fullerton Bay Hotel in partnership with Preferred Hotels. I did tons of research before choosing a hotel to find one with incredible views. It’s safe to say that Fullerton Bay Hotel did not disappoint.
Just a 30 minute cab ride outside of the airport, this breathtakingly chic hotel is situated in the best area of Singapore right on the marina with stunning views of iconic architecture. Each room has a private balcony with views of the Marina Bay waterfront and Singapore city.
Opened in 2010, it is fresh, modern and gorgeously designed.
It’s also closely located to arts and museums and the business district. The coolest part? It’s built on water! Within walking distance, you’ll find the Customs House, Fullerton Waterboat House, Esplanade, and more.
The hotel has an incredible rooftop pool and Lantern, the rooftop bar. Lantern has a speakeasy feel to it and is the perfect place for drinks or a nightcap.
With 4 eateries, the hotel caters to all tastes. We had the pleasure of dining at La Brasserie which was a spectacular experience. High ceilings, beautiful views, incredible French cuisine and impeccable service. The bistro is home to a wine library with over 800 bottles of fine wine. We ordered the Steak and frites with truffle oil and the Signature duck confit.
With floor to ceiling windows providing lots of natural light, a complimentary smart phone, private balconies, Egyptian cotton sheets, a bathtub complete with a TV and a pillow menu and more, staying at the Fullerton Bay Hotel will have you feeling like royalty.
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I was invited as a guest to experience by Azamara Club Cruises. All opinions are my own.