Cruised with a friend of mine on the recent 7/29 12 day Baltics cruise, including 3 days in St. Petersburg. Itinerary was awesome, including what we thought would be a really boring day down the Kiel Canal...ended up being a had a great day watching the locals waving enthusiastically as we made our way down the canal.
Food was great; especially the Signature Chef’s Table ...first Chef’s Table either of us had attended...my best friend and her husband who were on a France-Intensive Cruise recently (at my recommendation...they had never been on Azamara and her husband hated cruises) highly recommended doing this. We met some wonderful people including our next door cabin neighbors; who we continued to speak with throughout the cruise. Iwan, the chef, was great; it was a wonderful meal and we were proud to be a part of the first Signature Chefs Table! But, the best part of the meal was meeting our table host, the Journey’s Safety Officer..the first time he had ever hosted a table. He was an absolutely charming host....funny, sharp and self-effacing at the same time...and obviously so proud to be on the Azamara team. After a few rounds of wine which we all enjoyed, he invited us all to attend a private bridge tour, and to our surprise, a few days later, an invitation appeared in our cabin. What a great guy and the bridge tour was so interesting! Captain Johannes was there and everyone answered all questions so patiently and of course, we have the obligatory photos of each of us steering the ship with huge smiles!
And, to come to how valuable a knowledgeable and caring crew is—-my roommate had her passport (and credit cards and money) stolen our last day in St Petersburg. For those of you who have been there, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE RUSSIA and board the ship.... She discovered it at lunchtime; we called the emergency numbers at the US Embassy in Washington DC and the US Embassy in Moscow; got voicemail at both. We called the emergency number on my ship keycard (since hers was stolen); Azamara told her they would send someone to meet her at Immigration at 4:30pm before the ship was due to leave Russia.
I’ll cut to the chase...she was told by the ships officers who met her at Immigration she was stuck in Russia and would need to head to Moscow that night ( a 8hr drive) to be at the US Embassy the next morning to apply for a new passport. Separately, when I went through security to get back in the ship (I thought I was just packing an overnight bag in case she needed it...haha) I was instantly summoned into a meeting with the chief officers of the Journey, who reintegrated the need to make sure my friend had a secure and safe passage to Russia (via taxi, since you had to have a passport for the train!), a safe hotel for several days, etc. and that I needed to go pack her bags since she would not be able to rejoin the ship...it would take several days to get the new passport!
And, kudos here to TJ Travel, our St Petersburg tour company, and the wonderful fellow people from our cruise in our tour group...everyone helped in trying to help out with cash for her to take to Moscow since she had no credit cards/money.. I.was in tears at the generousity of you all!
And, the story had a happy ending after all! If any of you who were on the cruise you already know how it ended ( we were a pretty infamous at this point!) Jan was in a car on the way to Moscow (she never got upset; I think she was in shock!), and I was in the cabin luxuriating in a room by myself (haha) —-it was about 10 minutes before we were leaving port. The cabin phone rang and it was one of the officers saying the Hermitage Museum had found her passport in the trash (whoever stole it just dumped it and kept the cc/cash) and there was someone on the way to the museum to retrieve it and they had called the car to Moscow and it was turning around....and, no matter what, THE SHIP WOULD WAIT FOR HER.
So, she made it back to the ship. Our officers were absolutely wonderful; our fellow ship passengers awesome....we both made so many friends! Special thanks to: Fred, the Hotel Manager, Tiago, Guest Relations; Danny, the Cruise Director (what a sweetheart!), our Safely Director (can’t remember how to spell his name, sorry!), the Port Security guy (I know he has a title; he was great!), the Security folks at the scanning stations when you reboard the ship who had to relive me getting on and off the ship with my roommates’s bags (damn, she had a lot of crap!) and the Head Bartender who actually brought a glass of wine down to the gangway upon hearing the situation!
So, what could have been a disastrous ending to a great trip ended up being a great travel story! It was SO great meeting so many new caring, fun friends and hope to see you all soon!!!! And, I think this whole “adventure” shows how you can’t recreate the camaraderie and caring from the crew and fellow passengers that you see on an Azamara Cruise!
And, apologies for the long post!! Thought it was important to call out the crew and all the friends we made for all the caring and fun!!