This past November my husband and I joined 596 other guests on a voyage along the western coast of India, from Dubai to Singapore. About half way through the voyage, we arrived in a somewhat unknown coastal town called Kochi, India. It was the eve of Diwali, a national holiday also known as the Festival of Lights. Upon disembarking the Azamara Quest, my husband and I, along with new friends, Robert & Savita, decided to hail a cab to see the old part of Kochi, known as Fort Cochin, on our own. Our selected driver/guide knew the route by heart but did not speak English. Luckily, our companions for the day spoke enough of their ancestral language to communicate with him!
After much sightseeing and shopping, we asked to be taken to a traditional vegetarian restaurant for lunch. Not much was open due to preparing for the national holiday. Our driver recommended a hole-in-the-wall where it seemed even the tuk-tuk drivers ate lunch. The vegetarian curry was delicious, and while my husband was very happy with the authentic experience, I was befuddled by the lack of eating utensils. Like the locals around us, we scooped the curry and rice up with the naan bread. And that’s what I love about traveling: it pushes me beyond my normal boundaries of comfort.
As a point of comparison, later that same day, we attended a truly AzAmazing Evening. In Azamara’s quest to bring authentic travel experiences to guests through Destination Immersion® experiences, almost every voyage will offer an evening event focusing on local culture. These AzAmazing Evenings are complimentary and often surprising. AzAmazing Evenings vary greatly from destination to destination. In many cases, and specifically the two I’ve experienced first-hand, they are an elaborate event showcasing the local music. I’d call them a “production” when you consider what is involved in planning and bringing each to fruition.
If you’ve ever planned an outdoor evening wedding for 600+ invitees, complete with themed décor, formally dressed wait staff serving local foods and drink, a host of local activities, and of course, appropriate local entertainment, then you have an idea of what is involved with producing an AzAmazing Evening.
Ours was held on the grounds of the ultra gorgeous Le Meridian Hotel in Kochi, India. The name of the evening was “The Culture and Traditions of Kerala”. Our locally contracted tour buses were met by two bejeweled elephants and their handlers. Musicians led us along a garden path to a beautiful private garden the size of a football field.
The setting was lush and gorgeous. Here we were offered a variety of local food and drink. We could mingle and watch food being prepared, or sit and welcome waiters roaming the grounds with trays of food and drink. Along one side of the garden, locals demonstrated the art of working clay pots and conducted palm readings, and artists drew Mehandi (henna designs) on the hands or feet of willing guests.
Later, there was a professional performance of traditional Kerala music, dance, and ancient martial arts. The evening ended with a half-hour-long fireworks display. It was so much more than a mere shore excursion and it certainly was AzAmazing!
As I reflect back on our day in Kochi I am struck by all we experienced in one day…from touring Old Town and eating with the locals, to celebrating the eve of Diwali in a beautiful setting complete with bejeweled elephants and authentic food and drink. I’d say this is what is meant by Destination Immersion® experiences!
Feeling inspired? This 15 Night Spices, Teas & Rubber Trees Voyage in November 2017 offers a very similar itinerary.