My last days of my Azamara Club Cruises’ 16 day cruise on
the Azamara Quest were spent at sea and then in Osaka. It was a great time to sit back and really
formulate some conclusions about my time aboard, but also to explore a bit of
Osaka and Kyoto.
I must admit that one of the weaknesses of Azamara Club
Cruises has been the port information. It
has been pretty non-existent and, at times, downright inaccurate. For example, the head of the Shore Excursion
Department (Land Discoveries) has a very heavy accent and, fighting through it,
makes statements that are (apparently when translated into English) wrong.
For example, he advised where the ship would dock and then
noted that if you keep walking you will reach the famous Dotonbori Street in
Osaka. Well that might “eventually” be true, as they
say in New Hampshire, but the reality is that it is about a US$30
taxi ride. And getting local maps of the
port in relation to areas of interest in advance of arrival is quite difficult (as happened in Manila).
Related to that, the
cost of the shore excursions has really gotten under my skin. They are, frankly, offensive. I do not begrudge a cruise line a profit
(hey, they have to pay me somehow!), but there is a difference between a fair price and price gouging. I find this unacceptable and if there was one
big grumble on ship that I heard, that was it. That is especially true when you are visiting ports that you only have the option of a tour or not much of anything else; as we had earlier in this cruise.
That said, after we docked in Osaka at 5:00 p.m. (and will
be spending the next two days there) I shared a taxi with a couple and went on
a culinary adventure. While there is no
doubt the Dotonbori area is touristic, there are many Japanese there and there
I much to be enjoyed. A bit of rain
added color and energy.
|Dotonbori Street, Osaka, Japan|
I tried the famous takoyaki, balls of batter with an octopus
center. There is a real art making them
and to eating them, and they are to be eaten very hot. Basically there is a semi-circular pan that
the batter is poured into, the octopus is placed in the center, and then
through a series of well-timed turns with chopsticks round balls with a
semi-liquid center are formed…and then eaten.
(Note: Soy and/or mayonnaise are
served on just about everything.)
|Making Takoyaki is a real art|
|Takoyaki…and just about everything else…|
is served with dry fish flakes
It was then time to try a barbecued scallop.
|Barbecued Scallops on Donatbori Street, Osaka, Japan|
After that it was time to sit down in a restaurant which had
a “magic wand”. You touch the wand to
the item you want, then touch the number of orders you want and repeat.
|Creo-Ru on Dontobori Street, Osaka |
has a “magic wand” menu for ordering
I decided on fried noodles. These noodles are more like warmed in a wok
rather than deep fried. And they, as
they almost always are, have a covering layer of fish flakes; made from dried
fish. (When you plate is served the heat
from the dish makes them dance.)
|Fried Noodles with Seafood and Pork|
There is definitely a learning curve and the two people I
was with were nice, but more of the “speak louder and faster” rather than the slow it
down, point and be gentle sort, so it was a bit frustrating, but I got
there. (Another interesting ordering
technique: a ticket machine with
pictures. You put your money in, push on the picture of the food you want, a
ticket is printed and you give it to the man by the door. You food is served shortly thereafter.)
A woman was selling sweet red bean cakes. I walked by, but had to turn around and try
one. I am so glad I did. It was one of the best things I ate on the
|Woman selling Sweet Red Bean Cakes|
And then a bit of culture clash: I stumbled upon a “cowgirl bar”. Japanese girls dressed up like Daisy Duke
(from the Dukes of Hazzard) with cowboy hats.
Your options: 1,000 Yen for one
drink, 3,000 yen for all you can drink in an hour and 4,500 yen for all you can
drink in two hours. Not a bad deal. Of course I had to go in and try
something. I opted for one drink: kurokirisima (sweet potato vodka…I think).
|OK, it was a dive bar (nothing wrong with that) and|
you just cannot turn down Japanese bartenders
dressed as Daisy Duke in a cowboy hat!
It was then back to the Azamara Quest rather early as I had
a full day private tour the next day…only to be greeted by the heat in my suite
being “on” for the first time since who knows when and no way to turn it
off. I had to sleep with my balcony door
partially open. Not the end of the
world, but with my sinuses all dried out I wound up with a cold for my last two
days of the cruise.