Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Goldring Travel Experiences Azamara Club Cruises in Asia - Is it Amazing? Part IX - Reflections

Azamara Quest
Having spent 16 nights on the Azamara Quest, I have some general impressions and some specific comment on the Azamara Club Cruises product.  My opinions are based upon the Azamara Club Cruises’ delivery of what it intends its product to be…at least from the perspective of staying in a Club Continent (Standard) Suite or better. (Note:  There is a significant difference in the product should you stay in a veranda stateroom or lower and I really do not discuss that in this article or the other eight related ones.)

Dolphins off the Coast of Japan
Short Answer:  Azamara Club Cruises provides a solid upscale experience with strong itineraries and good value (especially with standard wine, beer and spirits, Specialty Dining and Gratuities included throughout your cruise).  Staff, inclusiveness and itineraries are its strongest points. While I would not say it is "amazing" I can say it is well worth a look; especially for itineraries after the Azamara Quest's major refit in September 2015.  I plan on sailing on Azamara Club Cruises again!

Azamara Club Cruises is a premium cruise product that tries to focus more on premium experiential travel and does not market itself as luxury product, as I have noted on particular line does.  In that regard, Azamara Club Cruises is an "honest" product.  Azamara Club focuses on more overnights in port and excellent itineraries including some more of the exotic and/or lesser known ports. On my February 2015 cruise I visited various ports in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Japan ranging from fairly primitive and undeveloped to those of modern cities.  It was, to my mind, the perfect cruise to understand the Azamara Club Cruises' product.

Again, please remember that Azamara Club Cruises does not attempt to compare itself to, say, Seabourn, and you should not either.  Throughout this article I will make some points of comparison with other cruise lines so that you can properly differentiate between the levels of cuisine and service.

The Software
The People

I always say that the software matters more than the hardware and on Azamara Club Cruises the staff portion of the software is, without question, some of the happiest, most engaged, you will find at sea.  From Captain Carl (no last name please!) to Hotel Director Phillip to the bartenders, waitstaff, butlers, tour and activities staff, they are out and about, approachable, friendly and genuinely care.  (“Fist bumps” abound should you wish to personally engage in the enthusiasm.) 

Azamara Club Cruises truly excels in this area and I saw some very specific instances where the officer's caring for the staff shined through.  I was impressed.

Do all staff have the polish or communication level to the same standard as Seabourn? No, but it is not a critical flaw and, in this day and age, with European/Australian/South African staffing being the exception, you probably would find the English language skills it akin to the staff and crew on Silversea, Crystal, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas.

As an example, while the wait staff in the specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, provide a high level of service, you will find that the wait staff in the main restaurant, Discoveries, are more deliverers of your meal than waiters who are familiar with, and can fluently explain, each dish.  In fact, unlike say Seabourn they do not have meetings where they taste the food prior to each service, so you are pretty much on your own with the menu.

The Cuisine

Dinners in Prime C and Aqualina were uniformly excellent…and if you are in a suite you may dine there every evening at no additional cost.  (Rumor has it an Asian restaurant will be added during the Azamara Quest's September refit.)  On Oceania– a more directly comparable cruise line – you are provided one or two nights of complimentary access rather than the entire voyage and while overall Oceania  has a higher quality of cuisine, it lacks the overall happiness of staff.  (That said, I would rather be surrounded by happy crew and cuisine with some misses than better cuisine and crew that is not as happy.)

While most people I spoke to (few of which were American) found the Main Dining Room’s food quite good, I found it to be “adequate” and portion control extremely obvious.  (To me this is a case of the quality meeting the expectations of the lower category passengers rather than the mission statement of the cruise line.)  That said, I did not have a bad meal in the main dining room; just not a single memorable one.

Azamara Quest Discoveries Main Restaurant
And, to be sure, I did everything necessary to avoid the Buffet, as it was a truly mass market experience with literally elbows out to get to their chosen food; most of which were just unappetizing to me.   There was a carving station with good quality meats and poultry and standard sushi and sashimi offerings as well.   Salads and cold cuts were uninspiring as were most hot dishes.  (That said, many of the passengers liked the buffet though none of those who I saw were to my knowledge suite guests.)  A simple solution:  No self-service.  Have the staff serve everything...as is done on many upscale and premium cruise ships; including sister line Celebrity.  

With a full breakfast being available for delivery to your suite and breakfast (and lunch on sea days) being served in the main restaurant, for suite guests there really is no reason to venture into the buffet.  One downside to this is that al fresco dining overlooking the stern of the ship is eliminated as a option if you do not brave the buffet; though dining on your veranda is a good alternative (though the room service menu other than for breakfast is quite limited).

Azamara Quest's Al Fresco Dining off the Buffet
On the other hand, the extra cost Chef’s Tables (held on various nights, dependent on demand, with French, Italian and Californian themes) did provide me with two nice dining experiences with paired wines.  Each course was well prepared, the wines were nice (none truly outstanding) and properly paired and the experience was good.  Again, Oceania does a better job as “the show” was not great and there was a very real Celebrity Cruise pitch for different shaped Riedel crystal glassware that seemed incongruous with the experience. 

Azamara Quest's Chef's Table
Food & Wine Parings with Italian, French and California Menus
A truly excellent evening is The Best of the Best Dinner where the top ten suites (and any VIPs) dine with the Captain and Officers in the Drawing Room.  Wonderful food, excellent wines and great conversation in a beautiful setting.  This evening really allows Azamara Club Cruises the opportunity to show off its officers and its appreciation for its top suite guests. 

The Pool Grill (which is scheduled for a major upgrade during the September refit) presently has both self-service and waiter service and is also used as a venue to have more interaction with the Officers and Staff.  While the food was acceptable (though the self-service chaffing dishes really were below par and should go) and the regular menu is limited, there were a number of special events that made the venue inviting and energized.  It was, to be sure, fun to have the Hotel Manager make you tacos, the Cruise Director a Caesar Salad and the Guest Relations Manager ribs.  Ice cream sundaes were also events.  (Note:  Hidden in the back of the area is a self-serve soft ice cream machine.  I am glad I didn't find it until later in my cruise!)

Finally, Room Service is available 24 hours a day, but it has a rather limited menu.  Afternoon tea service is also provided.  Served by your butler, it was top notch on my veranda and in my suite.

Interestingly, the hamburgers served at the Pool Grill are frozen, but those provided through room service are fresh…and there is a significant taste difference.  (Note:  The room service pizza should be avoided at all costs!)

Garnishes really need to be improved
in the Main Dining Room, Pool Grill and Room Service.
Tomato, lettuce and onions matter!
The Beverage Service

Azamara Club Cruises includes a limited selection of standard brands of beer, wine and spirits and has packages available if you wish to upgrade.  Clearly, Azamara Club Cruises provides a more upscale bar and beverage experience then say Oceania, which charges dearly for every beverage ($11.00 for a gin and tonic plus and 18.5% gratuity).  By way of comparison, just for having the option of beer and wine during lunches and dinners Oceania charges about $1,500 for couple for a similar length cruise.  (Note:  Frank Del Rio has just announced that Oceania will be increases its beverage prices.) 

The bar service was excellent throughout the ship. Thus, when the bartender sees me coming and begins to pour my Glenfiddich before I even sit down, and then provides me with a tray of snacks after I do without my asking, it is a bit of much appreciated intuitive service.

Azamara Quest's Mikey
He loves his job and it shows...as with all of the crew.

That said, there is a dizzying number of beverage packages: Premium, Top Shelf, Ultimate, Beer, Wine, Bottled Water (By the glass or the liter)…This is simply overly complicated and, to my mind, the confusion probably reduces rather than increases the sale of these packages.  For example, the Premium costs $12.95 per day, the Top Shelf costs $15.95 per day and the Ultimate costs $18.95 per day.  Why not just make it a single $15.95 upgrade and be done with it.  (Also, there is some curious pricing.  For example, Budweiser and Bud Light are included, but Miller Light is extra cost.) Regardless, even with these confused offerings it is far superior to what Oceania offers as its premium beverage package which would run almost $2,000 for couple on a similar cruise.

One area of disappointment was the complimentary pour of wines.  This was because (and it was obvious) a container did not meet the ship in Bali.  I fully understand “just in time” inventory, but there needs to be a reserve in case something like a missed container happens…especially when you are in a relatively remote area of the world.  (A missed container should not so significantly impact my cruise.)   As a result we were offered some "emergency" off-brand Balinese wine (red and white) that were marginally acceptable for a number of repetitive days. But the worst was near the end of the cruise when we were served Paul Masson wine, which was famous in the 1970's for coming in its own carafe (no cork), and to my shock it still is...for a little as $2.99 a bottle.  There was not a single complimentary pour that was better than OK.

The Shore Excursions

Azamara Club Cruises needs to significantly improve in the area of Shore Excursions.  especially since it focuses its marketing on immersive travel.  There needs to be more emphasis explaining that when experiencing emerging ports, rather than say Rome, things are not going to be perfect or polished; and that they need to appreciate/tolerate that they are on the "cutting edge".

Also, many of the tours were very expensive for what they were and some were not of a premium quality.  Getting information about upcoming ports (even local maps) was difficult and the head of the department was, many times, very difficult to understand.  

That said, there was one standout, Beatriz, who was a shining star with a can do attitude and a charming smile that made sure things happened and the passengers were happy.

Beatriz is as good as shore excursion staff gets.
Also, on each cruise there is an AzAmazing Evening, which is a rather difficult feat to put together when you are dealing with 600+ guests. (This is something Seabourn started years ago and clearly was "borrowed",though doing something for 200 guests is not quite as difficult as for 600.)  Our event in Manila was a really nice evening which I have already reported on.

Azamara Club Cruises' AzaMazing Evening in Manila, Phillipines
The Hardware

I have given a fairly detailed description of the ship and her spaces in some of my prior articles so I will not repeat them here.  Also, the ship is about to undergo a huge...and I mean huge...refit in September 2015 so many of my observations may well not be relevant to your cruise.

Overall, the  Azamara Quest was very well maintained…regardless of her age.  I was impressed and I don’t get impressed easily.  I found it interesting that of the many people I spoke to on the ship that had also been on Oceania’s R ships, they were emphatic how much better the Azamara Quest has been maintained…and that is right before she goes into that extended drydock in September!

Azamara Quest Club Continent Suite
What I will say from the Suite Perspective is that, as I detailed in an earlier article, my  suite was quite comfortable – though the soon to be announced improvements will be welcomed.  The bed and linens are quite good, the seating comfortable and the bathrooms (with the full tub) function well enough.  Some little issues: 

  • While standard wines, beer and spirits are included about the ship, and complimentary 375 ml bottles of liquor are provided in your suite, the wine splits, beer and Perrier provided in your suite are charged for. 
  • The bath amenities are merely acceptable (though they should be brand named in the suites) and the labels are frustratingly similar…especially if you wear glasses.
  • The video system needs a significant upgrade with only part-time non-news programming and even though there is a limited complimentary DVD library, pay-per-view movies are just inappropriate; especially in the suites where a number of the movies are on the DVD list.
Both of the specialty restaurants, Prime C (steakhouse) and Aqualina (Mediterranean), are beautiful venues and, as I mentioned, have excellent service and cuisine.  They are dine by reservation, but I found that on most nights there was no problem getting a table if you were a bit flexible.

The Thalasotherapy Pool area overlooking the bow is a wonderful escape and while available to non-suite guests for an extra charge and those with spa appointments for an hour or so after same, the space is really underutilized...which is wonderful!  

Overall Experience

My enjoyed my time on the Azamara Quest and as a premium product it is, to my mind, "almost there" and I can recommend it; especially knowing some of the things coming in the near future.

There are definitely some tweaks unrelated to the refit that would make significant improvement to the overall suite experience such as luxury bath amenities, no menu for beverages in your suite, a simplified beverage package menu, waiter service in the al fresco dining area and elimination of self-service in buffet.

There is a bit of a clash between the experience the Suite guest is expecting and those who in lower categories who are onboard because they got a good deal.  Those folks tend to compromise a number of aspects of one's upscale cruise experience because they tend to jeopardize more of the ship's services and staff, consume more alcohol, create more waste of food and complain more about things not really worth complaining about.

Honestly, I think Azamara Club Cruises needs to reevaluate its pricing strategy as the Royal Caribbean concept of "butts in beds generate onboard revenue" doesn't work on an inclusive product like Azamara and undercuts what it wants to be with bargain hunters adversely affecting the product. Ten dollar watch tables just shouldn't be onboard.

Overall, Azamara Club Cruises provides a very good value for a suite guest by combining a fairly inclusive product with top notch (and happy) staff, strong cuisine in the specialty restaurants and unique itineraries.

Interested in an Azamara Club Cruise?  Give me a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Sunday, March 22, 2015

SAVE OVER $4,000 & Exclusive Events! Goldring Travel's 2015 Food & Wine Cruise - Seabourn's June 13, 2015 Norway/Arctic Cruise

2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise
Norwegian Fjords & Arctic Circle Seabourn Quest - June 13, 2015

It's true!  

You can save over $4,000 per suite from Seabourn's published fares...No smoke.  No mirrors.  Just honest to goodness special pricing!  Goldring Travel has special pricing that makes this cruise far more affordable and it is a Bucket List/Once In A Lifetime voyage to the Midnight Sun and incredibly beauty and tranquility. 

And I am announcing some INSIDE INFORMATION!
  • Seabourn is going to have its Antarctic naturalists onboard, including Robin West,  for Zodiac exploration and more.  (Sail with me and you get to join us on some private explorations of this incredible part of the world!)
  • National Geographic's official photographer is scheduled to be onboard beginning his venture with Seabourn traveling the world to photograph its wonders.  He will be out and about and available to help you improve your photography!
So what does the 2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise have in store?  As you know, Goldring Travel is always looking for the next unique culinary and cultural experience that goes above and beyond while avoiding the duplication of itineraries.  We have traveled through the Mediterranean,  the Aegean Sea, the Bay of Biscayne, the Danube, Rhine and Main Rivers, and even the Southern Atlantic visiting such countries as Greece, France, Malta, England, Ireland, Brazil, Uruguay, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and more.  

This time we will travel to through the breathtaking Fjords of Norway and the Arctic Circle to the northernmost point of Europe.  But there is more to the 2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise than an event or two!  I will be holding a number of  Complimentary Goldring Travel Food & Wine Events on shore plus the always incredible Private Food & Wine Tasting with the Seabourn Chef. (Since Norway is not known for its wines, this is where some unique and extraordinary wines will be paired with Norwegian delicacies!)  


The itinerary is both comprehensive and relaxing, so there will be plenty of time to explore, enjoy the scenery and wildlife, and just sit back with a nice glass (or two) of wine.  Filled with breathtaking beauty, incredible experiences from strolling through quaint towns to fishing and crabbing to kayaking, hiking, kayaking and, of course, enjoying a wonderful slow pace in a region that has no reason to rush anything.  You also will experience the true Land of the Midnight Sun.  

June 13 Copenhagen, Denmark    
June 14 At Sea     
June 15 Flam, Norway  TR   
June 16 Scenic Cruising Sognefjord    
             Alesund, Norway   
June 17 At Sea     
June 18 Svolvaer (Lofoten), Norway     
             Scenic Cruising Trollfjord
June 19 Tromso, Norway   
June 20 Honningsvag, Norway     
              Scenic Cruising North Cape     
June 21 At Sea     
June 22 At Sea     
June 23 Olden, Norway  TR   
              Scenic Cruising Nordfjord
June 24 Scenic cruising Hjelterfjord  
              Bergen, Norway   
June 25  Stavanger, Norway  
June 26 Cruising the Skagerrak Strait  
June 27 Copenhagen, Denmark

So what does Goldring Travel have in store for the 2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise?

  • A truly Norwegian Culinary Experience with stockfish (salt cod), Artic char, lamb and goat cheese...with cloudberries, of course, in an historic, fishing village;
  • A visit to an Ice Bar where we will enjoy Aquavit and Norwegian wines and cocktails (and with your complimentary Goldring Travel jacket you will be warm and toasty!)
  • A Viking Meal (updated to 2015, of course) including smoked reindeer and goat (as well as lobster and lamb...so those not so adventurous will be well taken care of!) which will be paired with five locally brewed Norwegian beers.
  • A Surprise Event!
  • An Ensemble Experience Shore Excursion in Tromso visiting the Polar Museum, a brewery and then the world's northernmost beer hall. 
  • A Private Shopping with the Chef
  • A Private Food & Wine Tasting Onboard the Seabourn Quest.

Without giving the Surprise Event away, let me tell you about some of the past Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise events:
  • A private tours and tastings at Chateaux Margaux and Chateaux Lynch Bages in Bordeaux, France; 
  • Dining on Caspian Sea sturgeon caviar eight ways...and then making caviar (with aquaculturally raised stock) in Montivideo, Uruguay; 
  • A private behind-the-scenes tour of the New England Aquarium and then an incredible totally sustainable seafood buffet with paired wines and a marine biologist; 
  • A tour, class and tasting at a world famous chef's organic farm and cookery school in Cork, Ireland; and the list goes on.
  • A tasting of extraordinary Tokaji wines in Budapest, Hungary and Rieslings in Rudesheim, Germany; and the list goes on
Because of the uniqueness of these events, Goldring Travel has to strictly limit the number of guests. So please do not wait.

Prices start at US$9,000 per person including all fees and taxes.*

Call (877) 2GO-LUXURY or +1 732-578-8585 or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Goldring Travel Experiences Azamara Club Cruises in Asia - Is it Amazing? Part VIII (Doing It On Your Own - Part B - Kyoto - Why You Can't Rely Only On Guidebooks or TripAdvisor!)

This article is dedicated to those (like you millennials and "I can do it cheaper" folks) who honestly believe by reading things on the internet you can do it all yourself.  You most certainly can do a decent job after countless hours of scouring obscure websites and getting conflicting and/or inaccurate information off of Cruise Critic, TripAdvisor and other message boards, but if you want to raise your experience to a higher, more enriching, more personal level...rather than using your trip to prove you can do it (whatever "it" is), read on!

I departed the Azamara Quest at 9:00 a.m. to meet my guide, Kenzo Sato for a tour of Kyoto.  He as a real gem.  His manner was reserved, but in control of everything.  His English was very good.  His knowledge was excellent…and he adeptly measured how much information he gave me based upon my level of interest.  And, most importantly, he understood what I wanted and delivered it exceptionally well.

Kenzo Sato - A guide who gets it! (Kyoto, Japan)
My requests were:  Meet me at the ship in Osaka.  No more than two temples.  Focus on food.  Show me what happens on the back streets and where the locals go.  Use public transportation and walk as much as possible.  Let's see how he did.

Kenzo arrived promptly at 9:00 a.m. We then immediately left the Azamara Quest and headed to the subway to Kyoto and after a change of trains (both of which were very, very, crowded - so much so that starting earlier would have been a real challenge), it was time to try out the bullet train (the Shinkansen).  

The Shinkansen Bullet Train at Osaka Station
And, per my desires, he didn’t purchase seats, but rather the less expensive standing room for our 15 minute ride. 

Note:  It is possible to manage the Japanese train systems, but it is not easy.  Yes, you can find some…that is “some”…English signs so you can figure out train stops (as the train is stopping as most trains do not have announcements in English and the onboard signage is not in English), but the local knowledge as to which level and track of which huge train station you need to be at, and then coordinate the times so you are being time-efficient, makes it less than the most attractive method of transportation (other than cost).   And when the trains get full, it gets a bit rough so if you have any frailties and plan on traveling during rush hours be careful.  It can be done, but how much of your valuable time will be lost figuring it out and more so if you make a mistake?

We arrive in Kyoto and grab a taxi to the first of my two temples:  Tofukuji.  I am not a big temple/church/mosque kinda guy, so I felt I was fulfilling my obligation, but I did really like the dragon painted on the ceiling!

Kenzo, rather than driving me here and there, had us walk through residential areas so I could get a better feel of day-to-day, if not upscale, Kyoto life.

A small Buddhist Temple for the neighborhood
It was then to a beautiful Zen rock garden/tea ceremony area

And then to the famous Shinto Shrine for business:  Fushimi Inari Taisha.  While the striking orange arches are everywhere (where Kenzo explained each is filled with advertising as this is a business shrine), the color actually becomes somewhat peaceful against all of the greenery.

This is where Kenzo Sato “got me” for the first time!  Off the path there is a small bamboo forest which was beautiful and peaceful.  As we walked the trees started to sway in the wind and you could hear the stems bump against each other.  But as we walked back the wind was very strong and the sounds of the leaves and the thumping of the bamboo stems was just enchanting!  Awesome.

And you were going to find this little gem on your own?  Probably not!  (OK, now that I have posted this article, if you find it, you kind of know where it is...and now how long roaming the grounds will be spent trying to set foot in this forest?)

It was then time for another subway ride and we reappeared at the Kamagawa (Duck River) that cuts through Kyoto, then down some streets near where Kenzo lives and to one of the simplest but most wonderful meals I have ever had.  (I just wish I had someone to share it with!).

Down a little side street is Kamagawa Takashi which specializes in Ohmi beef (considered the Rolls Royce of Wagu and supposedly what was served to the Imperial family).  

Restaurant Kamagawa Takashi
I did not know what I had in store for me, but it was an incredible meal in every possible way prepared right in front of me by its owner, aptly named Takashi Kamagawa.

After ordering our three sake tasting

we started with a Savory Custard with Beef Shank, radish and ginger 

followed by a salad with onion sauce (I usually don't take pictures of salad, but it was so attractive).

And then Lightly Boiled Sliced Beef on Ice (which was incredible)

This was followed by very lightly Barbecued Beef with Grilled Sweet Potatoes, Squash, Onion and Cabbage

Then a Rice Ball, basted in a light, sweet, soy and filled with beef

Miso Soup  With a Beef Fat Broth was next (indescribably wonderful)…and, as I was told, miso soup is best served at the end of the meal to settle one’s stomach

Then a simple traditional dusted Apple Jelly 

The cost of this incredible meal was about $50 for the two of us.  In New York this would cost well over $200…if you could get a reservation! 

(And I have to mention this:  TripAdvisor has Kamagawa Takashi rated as the 1,008th best restaurant in Kyoto.  Seriously?  It should be rated as one of the best!  This is not the first time I have seen TripAdvisor just get it so wrong because it is not based upon what is really good, but by how many people say it is.  Trust me on this:  Forget TripAdvisor and go to this place!)

While lunch was over, Kenzo Sato’s day for me was just getting started! 

After lunch we took a walk to a local green tea shop; and this was not just some ordinary tea shop.  Here I had a brief lesson (in Japanese, of course, with translation) from a tea master who explained a lot about green tea like you don’t use hot water, but warm water and you don’t let the tea steep, but you pour it rather quickly, and you don’t just use the tea once, but high quality tea brewed in very small amounts can be used for up to eight times.  When I get home I am throwing out my supposed green tea!  (And I am not saying where this gem is located!  Ask me or Kenzo!)

Ancient soy sauce craftsman making some of the finest soy sauce?  Kenzo's next stop!

It was then off to a tiny, run down, tofu shop whose family has owned and operated the shop for eight generations.  Very cool, even if tofu isn’t my favorite thing.

Next up, my son wanted a pair of Japanese slippers.  The problem is that he is size 11 and you simply cannot find slippers that size in Japan nor the type he wanted in Kyoto or Osaka.  But Kenzo found them for me (albeit they are from the best hotel in Kyoto…so he better like them!)

It was then a culinary adventure in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market sampling lots of different things

Nishiki Market, Kyoto, Japan

Tofu Donuts with Caramel.  I'm giving up real donuts for these!
Those ubiquitous dried fish flakes
are made from a machine like this
and with Kenzo explaining what might otherwise seem unexplainable and getting me into the back of one of the fish stalls, patiently waiting as I try braised octopus with a cooked quail egg in its head, fish cakes (from the best stall) and more. 

And, of course, Kenzo knew exactly where for me to get a couple of pairs of really nice chopsticks for my children.

Was Kenzo done?  No way.  It was then off for a stroll by the river, tasting a rice flour ball filled with fresh strawberries

And then the mandatory (and touristic) “Spot the Geisha”…which I did (and Kenzo always does).

Geisha, Gion, Kyoto, Japan
Now was Kenzo done?  Nope.  I had mentioned my son wanted some unique Japanese candy…and he did one better.  It is an incredible green tea cookie surrounding fantastic white chocolate found in a high end shop at the Kyoto train station.  (Hope they make it home!)

Finally, it was time to head back to the bullet train, the subways and the Azamara Quest…to pack.  It was my last day of the cruise. 

And what a last day!

Don't want to do it all on your own?  Want to do part of it on your own?  Let me know how Goldring Travel can assist.  Drop me an email at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY