Black Sea Cruise
September 2014

Monday 1st September 2014

Another really early start!

We'd ordered a taxi for 4am and he arrived 15 minutes early, which threw us a bit. He then drove us to Heathrow 'like a bat out of Hell', driving at nearly twice the speed limit and leaving both Gill and I feeling really queasy. In fact, we were so early at Heathrow that the bag drop desks weren't yet open and we had to hang around. Still, after a light breakfast snack we felt a lot lot better.

The BA flight to Istanbul took less than three and a half hours, and a taxi was waiting to take us to the ship. The only problem was that there were SO many cabbies holding signs with their clients' name on them that it took us a while to find ours.

The journey to the ship took about 45 minutes because of the heavy traffic. 'Welcome to Istanbul', said our cabbie, with grim humour. However, it was our good fortune that Gill had booked independent transport, because we got to the ship ahead of the coaches that were picking up lots of other passengers. At check-in we went straight to a desk and were then on the ship, with glasses of bubbly, very quickly indeed!
Settling in to our cabin
Looking towards European Istanbul
Passing under the Bosphorus Bridge
We're on the 'Azamara Quest', a ship that we've sailed on twice before. We've also been on her sister ship, 'Azamara Journey', and additionally on the 'Oceania Regatta' which was built to the identical design, so it feel as if we've 'come home'. But what has surprised us is that after having sailed on the 'Celebrity Silhouette' last month and the 'Celebrity Solstice' last November when we went to New Zealand the Quest seems really tiny. Well, at 680 passengers it certainly is a lot smaller than the 2,800-capacity Celebrity ships!

The first thing to do when you get aboard is to have lunch, and the buffet was pleasingly quiet. We sat on the open deck at the stern of the ship, admiring the view of Istanbul and regretting the fact that the skies were overcast. After lunch we booked an excursion for Nessebar in Bulgaria, where we're calling in tomorrow, and another for our return to Istanbul next Monday that will also take us to the airport.

After the usual, tedious lifeboat drill we went to an 'enrichment talk' about Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. The presenter was dreadful, as Gill said, firing out disconnected information in machine-gun style, and probably neither informing nor entertaining his audience. At least we know to avoid him in future!

On our way through the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea
'Looking Glass' lounge
The Pool Deck
We went to the 'Looking Glass' lounge high up at the front of the ship and admired the view as we sailed through the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea, drinking our cocktails. Rather than go to the main restaurant for dinner we went to the buffet where a 'seafood supper' was advertised. The food was nice, but even nicer was the quiet environment, with most other guests elsewhere.

The evening show in the Cabaret Lounge was a 'taster' for the various acts that we'll see during the rest of the cruise. It's the usual fare with a seven piece 'orchestra', singers, dancers and a comedy magician, with the Cruise Director compering. The show was mercifully short, on the basis that passengers would have travelled long distances to Istanbul and would appreciate an early night we certainly did!

The make-up of passenger nationalities is interesting. There are many nations represented, including Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Australia and the USA. But of the 680 people on board 250 are British!

[Nessebar] [Constanta] [Batumi] [ Trabzon] [Sea Day and Istanbul]