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Sail Date: October 2007
Background Information I book this first sailing of the Azamara Quest for one purpose only, to see if I have been smart in choosing to book a two week cruise on it through SE Asia in Jan. 2009. So let me start out by saying I really had ... Read More
Background Information I book this first sailing of the Azamara Quest for one purpose only, to see if I have been smart in choosing to book a two week cruise on it through SE Asia in Jan. 2009. So let me start out by saying I really had no interest in where this cruise was heading and in fact never got off the ship in the Bahamas. Also I flew into Miami the day of the cruise, and friends met me at the airport (I lived in Miami for 11 years), we had lunch at a wonderful lunch at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Brickell Key---if you go the Grilled Rainbow Trout or the Moroccan Lamb are both unbelievably wonderful. At first I told my friends that I wanted a light lunch but in retrospect I am very glad they insisted on a big three course lunch as it was to be the last really good food I was the have until I disembarked. Ship Info The ship is beautiful, everything is fresh and spotless. I would say that there every public room was charming, in the best of taste, and not only varied from one another but from what one finds on newer ships these days. The quest was like a step back in time, very gracious in every way EXCEPT the main dining room at dinner. See below for more. The pool deck was more than adequate for this size ship and the number of alternative venues to have a cocktail, dine or simply get lost in a book as the world rolled by were surprisingly numerous for a ship of this size. Unfortunately you have to get the space from somewhere and that somewhere were the cabins. (Again see below) Activities There seemed to be a good number of choices on this VERY short trip (in truth really one full day plus the evening of departure as I never count disembarkation day to be part of the cruise but rather the end). However I was with friends and we occupied ourselves and were just to happy being together to give much thought to the onboard or shore excursions so you'll need to read the opinions of others on all this. The spa was well staff and they were helpful Service This ship so desperately needs to bring a manager of hotel services from outside of Celebrity and its parent company. The staff REALLY WANTED TO PLEASE but no one had given them the right education to succeed. This was painfully apparent in the dining room. You cannot give a bunch of men titles like Captain, Waiter, Back-waiter, and Busboy and expect them to know how to share responsibilities to make the dining experience smooth and efficient. These guys were all running around doing whatever was the next task or crisis. I knew we were in trouble when the wait for a table was 45 minutes. This is not the fault of OPEN SEATING as some of you have written . Regent has open seating in the main dining room and the longest I ever waited was not at all UNLESS I wanted a seat with a view by the window or to be seated within a specific station having a reference for some staff over others.. BUT AS EVERYONE WRITES...On Quest you wait and wait and then wait some more. I think it's because the service is so erratic that people are obliged to sit up to 90 minutes for their main course backing everyone else up. But I also believe the alternative dining room so are too small (I never got a reservation) and so the main dining room has too many to accommodate. AND THE TABLE FOR TWO are lined up side by side very much like a mess hall at college. Not attractive or conducive to elegant dining. I also knew we were in trouble when seated and each place seating had not less than 11 pieces of flatware. That tipped me right there that they had no idea what luxury dining was all about. Only a hostess at her own private home may set the table in such a manner because she knows the menu and knows whether a soup spoon, shrimp fork or fish knife will be called for during the meal. BUT YOU CAN NEVER DO THIS IS A RESTAURANT...you bring the right silver once the order is placed. So here we are with a lot of silverware and classes but no one to take order and not a wine steward in site (there are none!) So there was no one who could recommend a wine from the stock on hand. And when 45 minutes had passed after waiting 35 minutes for a table), I finally got hold of a busboy and asked if we might have some bread while we waited. He smiles, said yes, I suppose elated because here was something he could accomplish. He returned very quickly with a basket of bread which was served to me like a course I had ordered. When I said I wanted the bread for the table, he then asked if he should bring three more orders, having no idea that bread when ordered is generally for the table. Shore Excursions There seemed to be a wide choice of beach activities. We did not participate but rather spent the day on the pool deck and working out at the gym. Travel To Port of Embarkation By car from airport Stateroom Others have written enough. I agree the bed is very comfortable, the cabin very small (taking a sky suite when in China for that reason) and the bathrooms impossible---its so small that the new plush towels don't even fit on the tail rack. As for the rest of the cabin, shelving over the desk would be nice instead of blank wall or a blah mirror and a desk chair instead of a lady's makeup bench would be a much better way to go. Dining The food is lousy in the main dining room for dinner. Meat arrived overcook and tougher than shoe leather while fish was not even half cooked and was ice cold in the middle.. Lunch on the pool deck was lovely and both the burger grill and buffet lunch were well above average with a wide range of choices. Breakfast I took in my cabin and it arrived hot, with nothing missing, acceptable tasteful and very promptly. Children's Clubs None Entertainment The jazz pianist who floated about in various venues was quite good. Other than him, however I did not bother to go to any of the provided entertainment Disembarkation WHAT A MESS. Everyone had to clear immigration but the ship failed to inform back to back passengers of that , nor was staff willing to go get the missing passengers from their cabins so we could disembark. It took an extra 90 minutes of passengers yelling for staff to go get them out of bed and down to the immigration officers Summary The Quest is a lovely ship, but you are not on a luxury line or even a deluxe line when aboard. You are on something like a mini-Celebrity ship, except there is no seasoned staff and there is no management that is experienced in operating a luxury line. I suppose if you are use to cruising on Carnival or Princess or Royal Caribbean, this seems to be a step about, but it is a big step down from SilverSea, Regent, Grill Class on Cunard, Crystal or even Oceania (which I find a little creaky when it comes to how it operates). However for the price, I don't feel it's a rip-off . Its cheap compared with others and you get what you pay for. And at this price point you get decent value for your money but don't be fooled by the marketing, you are not buying a luxury cruise...just a smaller one that gives more attention to your well-being than the average mass market ship. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
Azamara Quest Inaugural Review We were two of the lucky people chosen by Azamara to go on their inaugural cruise to no-where on 10/22-10/24. We have no idea what criteria were used to select passengers, we were just happy to be included. ... Read More
Azamara Quest Inaugural Review We were two of the lucky people chosen by Azamara to go on their inaugural cruise to no-where on 10/22-10/24. We have no idea what criteria were used to select passengers, we were just happy to be included. We met several employees and executives of Azamara and Celebrity as they were also on the ship. There was nothing special asked of us during the trip. All passengers were given a single piece of paper with a list of public rooms and half a dozen cabin room numbers. During the trip we were asked to view each area and give a one word description of our impression of the room. We also filled out a standard cruise evaluation that everybody fills out on every cruise. Upon our return from the trip we received an e-mail from one of the Azamara/Celebrity executives that we met. The e-mail was from the Director of Customer Insights & Relationship Marketing. He thanked us for sailing on the Quest and asked us to "post an open and honest review of your Quest experience on the Cruise Critic website." We made many comments both pro and con on our cruise evaluation and we were planning on writing a review, so we are happy to honor this request. So, here goes - the good, the bad and the ugly. We can't comment on certain things as it was not a totally traditional cruise experience. We carried our own luggage on board so we can't tell you how quickly our luggage would have been delivered. We were assigned a stateroom with a veranda. The room was functional. To be perfectly honest, we usually stay in suites, so to us the room was small, but it did have everything you need. It had a loveseat with a small table in front of it. It also had a small desk. Storage seemed adequate and the bathroom was efficient. We liked the room; our only thought was about a large mirror mounted on the wall at the foot of the bed. It was very large and we were not sure that the first thing you want to see in the morning is your own face staring back at you as you sit up in bed. We also found that no matter how low we turned the air on in the room, it never got cool enough. So even on the lowest setting the room seemed too warm. The other rooms we saw were similar. The suites were very nice, but were, for the most part at the very front of the ship and with the ship being a smaller one we could not help but wonder if there would be a lot of motion from the waves. The suites were bright and decorated traditionally. There was lots of space but the rooms are smaller than the corresponding type of room on a millennium class ship. Overall, people will be very happy in any of the suites. The verandas were generous in size and had some phenomenal views. The ship itself was beautiful. We can't say enough about the pool area. The lounge chairs were very heavy and made of wood. The cushions were thick and so comfortable. There was lots of room between each chair. There were approximately 175-200 chairs around the pool. We did comment that we thought that there was no way people would be moving these chairs all over the pool deck. The pool grill area was very nice too, the tables and chairs were incredibly comfortable. The entire pool area was great. The pool itself was a salt water one and was a good size. Our only complaint about the pool is actually a safety one. There is an ankle or so deep area as you first enter the pool before you go down the ladder into the pool. This area has no handrail and several people were commenting that it was very slippery to get from the pool deck to the ladder to enter the pool. There were two whirlpools as well. There were good size, but they did not seem to be very powerful, and again there are no handrails to assist getting in and out of the whirlpool. The overall look of the entire area was great and one of the nicest we have ever seen on a ship. Many of the public rooms can best be described as having old-world charm. From the iron handrails to the dark wood in the dining room and in Prime C (one of the specialty restaurants), the ship was very attractive and traditional. Aqualina, the other specialty restaurant, had a more bright and airy look and feel. It too was very beautiful. The fitness center and spa seemed well appointed and quite spacious. In general, the ship is smaller; therefore each of the public rooms is smaller too. The showroom is called Cabaret and is about the size of the Crystal Room on a millennium class ship. The casino is smaller too and has about half a dozen tables and we counted 54 slot machines. This was the very first sailing so there were bound to be some glitches with a whole new crew working together for the first time. Amazingly, things were pretty smooth. We had lunch at the buffet upon our arrival on the ship. The food was ready and waiting. They were serving chicken, potatoes, lasagna, various salads, lots of desserts and ice cream as well. We liked the lasagna but found some of the food was not very hot and there was some confusion as to whether the food was being served or if you were suppose to help yourself. Most of these things will probably work themselves out over time. In general we preferred the pool grill for lunch. It had the usual hamburgers and hotdogs, fries and onion rings. The food was great but there was a bit of a wait as they were trying to cook only as people wanted food. But, as usual the grill food was great. There were also serving tacos and nachos there as well. There was even a portable buffet that had lettuce and some salads as well. In the same area there was a soft ice cream machine that had lots of toppings available as well. Please be aware though that the pepper shakers on the ship have large e holes and the pepper flows really fast. You have been warned so be prepared. For breakfast we also ate at the buffet. The breakfast was good. There was an omelet station that always had a long line, but the omelet was worth the wait. They were excellent. We also enjoyed the blintzes and the pancakes. The first night we had dinner in the dining room. We have never really used anytime dining so we went to dinner and sat with just the two of us. We did try to get reservations at one of the specialty restaurants that night but there was only a waiting list you could get on. There were no reservations available. Dinner was excellent. There was a very good variety and the waiter was very nice and friendly, yet professional. The dining room is on one level and is quite attractive. We did not notice it being very loud; in fact the dining room was not all that full. Service was good, although we did have quite a delay between the salad and the entrEe. The second night we had the good fortune to be invited to the Prime C specialty restaurant. We were selected along with several other Captains Club members to dine together in the restaurant that is a steakhouse. We ate with two other couples. The meal was wonderful with lots of cuts of meat available. There are other dishes available as well. The meal was great; it is served at a very leisurely pace. Dessert had several interesting options including chocolate fondue, molten lava cake, and warm donuts served with chocolate sauce. They were very generous in size and definitely delicious. We are glad that the people we were seated with were very nice and conversation flowed freely, otherwise it would have been a long, awkward dinner. The restaurant itself is not that large. The ship is laid out with Prime C on one side and Aqualina on the other and a shared kitchen in the middle. There is a larger area as you first go in, but then tables are all set against the outer walls. There are not more than 20 tables in each of the specialty restaurants. Based on the three and a half hours we spent there, each table can really only be used once during a dinner service. Because of this, restaurant reservations will be very hard to get, so book early and don't be disappointed if you can't get in. One thing we do want to make mention of and that is the speed of the response from the crew when a safety issue needed to be addressed. On the upper pool deck there is a set of stairs to being you to the actual pool deck. These stairs are outside and at the top there was a little step-up before you actually began descending the stairs. This little step-up was marked but people all seemed to be tripping on it. On the first (and only) day at sea, it was pointed out to Azamara staff and by the end of the day crew had fashioned a custom made little ramp to cover the step- up. Now that is addressing issues quickly. Also, kudos to the Captain or to the person who decided that since we were going no-where specific we should go up the coast of Florida and watch the space shuttle Discovery blast off. It was the most incredible sight to see from the ocean as the shuttle passed right over the ship. It was breathtaking and a once in a lifetime experience to be sure. A very nice touch was a picture of the blast off waiting on our bed when we arrived back in our stateroom that evening. A gift from Azamara. There were a few things that we found unusual or did not think made much sense. Azamara advertises butlers for all rooms. Because we usually travel in suites, we do know what services a butler traditionally provides or at least offers to provide. We did not find their butlers to be butlers. In this case, we found that they were merely stateroom attendants who had been given a glorified title. A title does not a butler make. Perhaps with more time and an opportunity to acclimate to the ship and their responsibilities the butlers will be able to provide services that Azamara guests have come to expect as they had on Celebrity ships. Lastly, we were surprised that Azamara did not take advantage of the "captive" guests that they had in Captains Club members. We did have the Captains Club party while on board. There were about 25 people at the party and several executives made the rounds and introduced themselves to each of us. It was very nice to meet them, but we thought that they would take the opportunity to say something to the whole room. There was no welcome, no introduction to the line, not even a mini-commercial. It was a nice little party, but in this room you have people who cruise quite a bit, people who are in the demographic you are trying to market to, people who you have invited for a free two-day cruise and you don't take the opportunity to pick their brains. We would have welcomed the opportunity to have a small focus group offer opinions on Azamara, Celebrity and the Captains Club as a whole. We got a free cruise, and we certainly would not have resented giving an hour or so of our time to become part of the process that might improve the Captains Club for us all. We all have ideas and things that we would like to see and while ideas and suggestions might or might not be taken, we would have been happy to give those opinions and were frankly surprised that they were not solicited. Overall, it was a wonderful, although quick trip. Azamara is a fine cruiseline with a lot of potential. The intimate setting is going to be refreshing for many cruisers and the ports that the smaller ships can go to will be a great draw. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and can honestly and openly say, nice job, and we will be watching the itineraries for an opportunity to travel with Azamara again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
We returned from our 5-night Quest cruise last Thursday (sailing date was 10/26/07), however, between laundry, shopping, etc., this is the first opportunity I have had to post our "review". Please note, that this explains OUR ... Read More
We returned from our 5-night Quest cruise last Thursday (sailing date was 10/26/07), however, between laundry, shopping, etc., this is the first opportunity I have had to post our "review". Please note, that this explains OUR thoughts, OUR experiences, etc., and may not (and probably WILL not) conform to what anyone else may say. EMBARKATION Our 13th cruise and this was by far the easiest (and quickest) embarkation we have ever had. The crew did a wonderful job of welcoming us aboard no more than 10 minutes from the time we got off the hotel shuttle bus. EXPLORATION OF THE SHIP We explored the ship (easily done on a small ship). It is absolutely beautiful and so elegant and classy. My DH says she is "a classy Lady". POOL ,Deck 9 As stated by an earlier poster, it is a small pool with two hot tubs surrounded by lots of lovely wooden chaise lounges with thick blue padded cushions and towels. There are several seating areas. The seating areas are very similar to sitting on someone's back patio or in their sun room. Relaxing, and the chairs and tables are very tasteful. My one "negative" comment on the pool is that I wish there were a part of it slightly shallower (only by a few inches). Standing on my tiptoes I could barely keep my chin above water. (Okay, not their fault I'm only about 5'5"). We do water exercise at home and I had hoped to do some on board by couldn't manage it without setting my feet down. And if that is my only complaint, you can tell I'm NOT worried about it. INTERNET ROOM ,Deck 9 We visited the internet room three times, and failed to find it operating successfully on any occasion. We do not have a laptop to take aboard with us (though I've heard others say they had better luck that way). Plus we were told that "if" the connection (which they had earlier in the evening) did get made, it would take approximately 8 minutes to "connect" ... 8 minutes being charged to you. Picky me - I objected to being charged approximately $5 IF we obtained a connection, before accessing anything. SPA ,Deck 9 fwd Just past the internet room, is the small spa. We did not use the spa on the 5-night sailing, however we did use the spa pool area in front of the spa (accessible through the locker rooms in the spa), at a charge (it is available without charge to passengers making use of the spa treatments). Very relaxing. SHOPPING, Decks 5 and 4 Two small shops on Deck 5. Typical shops on a ship, no particular bargains. MOSAIC CAFE, Deck 5 This replaces the COVA cafe on Celebrity ships. Pastries, specialty coffees and small sandwiches are available. There are small tables set with tablecloths and arrangements of roses on the tables. A guitarist, and a very good harpist who also sang performed at the Mosaic Cafe. We spent time at the Mosaic every evening for a Cafe Mocha (very good) and had the opportunity to talk to various officers and crew while there. CASINO LUXE, Deck 5 A small Casino - probably very adequate in most respects, however the lack of a crap table saved a few of us a lot of money. IMHO they would be better off getting rid of the video poker table (rarely occupied when I walked through) and putting in a crap table. DINING Windows on Deck 10 is the casual buffet. The food was good. Yes, I've read the various postings about not having sanitizers available, but in all honesty, we travel with our own, and that did not effect us. The specialty restaurants were WONDERFUL. Yes, the service was somewhat slow (as another poster stated), but when dining in a top quality restaurant, who hurries?? They allowed us to eat at our own pace, without feeling rushed. The food was beyond fantastic. Prime C - the Kobe beef was "melt in your mouth" wonderful. Aqualina - we all (there were 4 of us) enjoyed our meal there and they make a chocolate soufflE (you can also request it in Prime C) that is really fantastic. Service in the Discoveries restaurant was extremely slow, more than 2-1/2 hours. It seemed that the waiters had been assigned too many tables to try and keep track of. Something that can be corrected easily. The food was good, not great. I ordered a chocolate martini as "dessert" when others at our table ordered their dessert and it did not arrive until after everyone else (table of 8) had received their desserts, eaten them, and left. Breeza (evening in Windows) was very good casual dining. We sat on the deck and enjoyed a wonderful dinner there. Sushi, pasta bar, stir fry, salad bar, and various other choices. The hamburger grill did a great job of fixing the burgers, hot dogs, nachos, fries, etc. The omelet station (as well as the pancake/waffle station) was great. My eggs were fixed exactly as ordered every time. I cannot comment on the juice bar as I never ordered anything from it. I will the next time. STATEROOM/ SERVICE We did not expect perfection, but (as stated by another poster) we did expect more than we received. All minor matters, easily corrected. First, the thermostat was broken and our cabin (and everyone else we spoke with from the 8th level) was ice cold (okay, not "ice" but seriously, the thermometer on my travel clock showed it was 61 degrees). They did get that fixed in our cabin while we were on board. Our 'butler' was a sweetheart, but stayed constantly busy. The rose in the bathroom was beautiful when we arrived. Unfortunately it was dead by the next day. Evidently the 'butler' or her assistant did not realize you are supposed to put water in the vase. It was not replaced (I did not expect it to be on a 5-night cruise, however, it would have been a nice 'touch'). The balcony was adequate and the table and chairs of better quality than usually seen. The bed is very comfortable (pillow top). The pillows will be great for those who like soft pillows. Unfortunately for us, we prefer firm pillows, and none of the type offered were actually firm. They do offer a choice. The towels and washcloths are great. Very luxurious. The bath towel (bath sheet?) is absolutely huge! Will it come as a surprise that the shower stall is a bit ... small? But it works, and that is what counts. The shampoo and conditioner are nice. On a 5-night cruise I did not require replacement bottles, but I'm assuming that if we do, they will be provided. SHORE EXCURSIONS This is an area I sincerely hope Azamara will improve. First, the excursions on the 5-night, and somewhat on the upcoming 14-night do not seem to be the 'step above' they advertise they are going to have. And they are very expensive. I have spoken with a number of people who did, or are planning to, book private tour companies because they can get more and pay less. CREW Having cruised on Celebrity a number of times, and also having cruised with RCCL, HAL, NCL and MSC, I must say that the crew was some of the friendliest we have yet to meet. Even when seeing the crew members in town they were stopping to inquire how we were, what we were doing or if we needed anything. They were always smiling, always friendly. DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation was smooth and fast, with only one problem. My DH had signed the necessary papers authorizing me to sign on his card, which has never given either of us a problem in the past. As we put our ship cards in the slot to show we were leaving the Quest, my card alerted a red light and I was told I would have to go to the Customer Relations desk. What?? My DH waited outside that area for me while I went back in, stood in line (with a number of other passengers who had the same experience) to learn that I (not DH) had failed to pay my bill! (All $63 of it). I explained that DH had signed the necessary paperwork (etc). They told me that for those of us signing the paperwork at the dock, there had been a "glitch" in the system at the dock when we boarded. Fortunately I had my credit card (same number) with me and did not have to get my husband back on board to bail me out! (Hmmmm. Would they have let me stay on board, do you think? Would I have had to wash a LOT of dishes?? Or would DH have bailed me out??) Yes, we did have to disembark in Tampa, due to Tropical Storm Noel, but ... on a small cruise ship in bad weather, better safe than sorry. There were a lot of "rumblings" from passengers about the change, but those same passengers would have been equally upset if Azamara had insisted on taking us through the bad weather and high waves and someone had been injured (especially if it was them). Azamara allowed many people to use the ship to shore phones to make alternate flight or travel plans or advise those picking them up of the change. If Azamara had made the original air arrangements, they handled the change for the passengers. The bus ride to Miami was an event, in that our bus was 'getting' a flat tire (it wasn't flat ... yet ... but there was a definite "burn" smell, and the cords were showing through) and we exited the highway and pulled into a Walmart parking lot a block or so off the highway. Another bus stopped and picked up some of those on our bus who had the most need to arrive faster. A second bus was on the highway, empty, in case of trouble, and that bus arrived within 20 or so minutes and we were loaded up for the last leg of the trip. Putting a better spin on it ... it was a new bus with better seats. (Okay, I'm making lemonade). Do we believe Azamara needs to make a few changes? Yes. Did we have a good time anyway? Yes. Will we cruise with Azamara again? Definitely yes. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
My partner and I cruised on the Quest from 10/31-11/12/2007. For reference, we are in our late 40s and have previously cruised on Celebrity (X) and Holland America (HAL). Embarkation: Ours experience is not the norm. We were scheduled to ... Read More
My partner and I cruised on the Quest from 10/31-11/12/2007. For reference, we are in our late 40s and have previously cruised on Celebrity (X) and Holland America (HAL). Embarkation: Ours experience is not the norm. We were scheduled to board in Miami, but because of Noel storm, the ship was diverted to Tampa for embarkation. The morning that we arrived at the Miami pier, in a pouring rain and swelling seas, we were told of the change, given a boxed lunch and bottled water and were board on a bus for the 4.5 drive to Tampa. The embarkation at Tampa was smooth and quick. I do not blame Azamara at all for the change in embarkation point. One negative, at 9:45 a.m. on the embarkation morning, I called Azamara customer service to see if the cruise was on schedule due to the Noel situation. The rep said everything was a go. Therefore, we waited until 11: 30 to go to the Miami pier. If Customer Service had told us of the trip to Tampa, we would have proceeded directly to the pier at 9:45. Smoking Policy: Positive-Only two smoking areas on the ship. Great to have cabins, balconies and public rooms, like the casino, to be smoke free. Wish other lines would adopt this policy. Dress Code: Positive-The resort casual attire was great, made the evening comfortable and packing much easier. Overall Ship Observations: Positive-Every public room looked new and great. The ship had a classy atmosphere and limited public announcements. Negatives-People rave about 'smaller ships', but I did not get the benefit of the "smallness". The lunch and breakfast buffet area was crowded. The outside deck areas seemed crowded too. I think the space ratio on the Westerdam and Zuiderdam (HAL) and Millie and Summit (X) are much greater than the Quest, therefore, in my experience even though HAL and X ships have more passengers, the experience was much roomer and spacious. Cabin: Had Sky Suite 8068. Positives-Spacious for two persons, the windows /door to balcony is floor-to-ceiling and the entire width of the cabin (absolutely stunning view), a 32 inch wall mounted flat screen TV (web sites says 23 inch in the Sky Suite, but it was 32), and a DVD player. Negatives-Narrow four-foot balcony, mesh balcony chairs (HAL had more spacious balconies and teak chairs with cushions), the TV was configured so that one cannot hook up an I-Pod for viewing, the in-cabin DVD list was extensive but not available on this cruise (supposedly the DVD were on the dock in Miami), but Guest Relations did have abut 40 DVDs for free check-out, including recent hits like Knocked Up. Spa/Fitness Area: Positives-Three skier machines, three bikes and six treadmills and six weight machines meant little if any waiting for a machine due the number of passengers (694). The men's sauna and showers, including the 7-shower head tropical shower were always the right temperatures. The staff was friendly and helpful. Negatives-On the bow of ship is the Spa Deck attached to the fitness center. The deck contained very comfy cushioned chairs, recliners and ottomans. The centerpiece of the Spa Deck was a large, 8-person hot tub. We took a tour the first day, and were told that the area was ONLY for spa treatment clients and persons who purchased a pass to the Spa Deck. We bought cruise package for $116 each. Turns out that they do not systemically control access to the Spa Deck and no signage is posted saying it is a restricted area, so many non-paying cruisers were using the area. I felt ripped off paying $116 while others were using it for free. Also the hot tub is only heated by the sun, not mechanically heated. Therefore, it was chilly in the morning, and if in direct sun for many hours could be unbearable hot (but overall it was very comfortable). Casino: Positive-Non-smoking, friendly staff (they even gave us private blackjack lessons), and had plenty of slots and black table for the number of gamblers. Also had a computerized Texas hold-em table, very interesting to watch. Shore Excursions: Negative-This is one of the major faults of our cruise. Very limited excursion (for example going to Panama, but the only way to see the Canal was on a 10.5 hour tour of Panama City). X and HAL offer many more excursions in both Panama and other ports; I was very surprised and disappointed at the Quest selections. Unless you are comfortable going independent touring, I would not recommend this line for shore excursions. Also the pricing was very high. At one port, the ship offered a two hour island tour by taxi for $71 per person. We walked to the end of the pier, and got the exact same tour for $21 per person. Again, if you rely on the ship's shore excursion, you will have limited selections at high prices. Food: Negative- This is the second major fault of our cruise. The food, in general, was no better a cafeteria. No dishes in the dining room were memorable. The lunch buffet was bland and warmed over. The specialty restaurants were better, but still had the mass-produced effect. Oddly I found the food on the larger HAL and X ships to be far superior. For example, the pizzas on HAL were diverse, like blue cheese and BBQ chicken, and any type could be requested. On the Quest, everyday the offered pizza was room temperature and either pepperoni or veggie. The hamburger grill on X and HAL were cooked to order and (I think) fresh patties. On Quest, either the burgers were pulled already cooked from under foil or you got frozen patties. On X and HAL, the grill, pizza, ice cream, and pasta areas were open (if I remember right) from noon-6. On the Quest, everything but the hamburger area shut down around 2:30. Again, I was very disappointed in the food, and thought that X and HAL were much better in quality and selection. Drinks: Positive-Contrary to other reports, the wine pours seemed good. Negatives-Alcohol and wine prices are high, for example, $12 for a normal-sized martini. Also, beware of the advertised 'special drinks of the day'. We were informed that 'special' does not mean special prices; the martini for example was still $12 even though it was advertised as the special of the day. Other Passengers: Positives-Good spectrum of ages. All well behaved, no loud, drunken behavior. Zero children among the 694 passengers. Gay perspective: Positive-FOD gatherings listed everyday in the daily newsletter. Gay passengers were treated the same as straights by both crew and straight passengers. Would I go on the Quest again ? No, because of the limited shore excursions, the disappointing food and the lack of spaciousness I have experience on the other ships, I would prefer to sail on the HAL and X ships in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
I was invited to attend the Azamara Quest inaugural cruise and I have to say that it changed my perceptions of cruising. My previous experiences have been mostly positive, but there were always some things I didn't enjoy that took ... Read More
I was invited to attend the Azamara Quest inaugural cruise and I have to say that it changed my perceptions of cruising. My previous experiences have been mostly positive, but there were always some things I didn't enjoy that took away from the experience - long lines, excessive amounts of average food, and no sense of community among the passengers. Sailing on the smaller and more intimate Quest provided me with everything I love about cruising but delivered in a more upscale, intimate and personal way. Even though this was only a two-night cruise to nowhere, I fell in love with the ship and its crew and am already looking into booking a South American cruise over the holidays on the other Azamara ship Journey. The highlight of my experience was the food. It was AMAZING. I'm a big foodie and it was great to see freshness and quality (placed over quantity), outstanding menu options, and wonderful presentation at all meals. Of particular note was my dinner last night in the specialty restaurant and steakhouse Prime C. Everything was outstanding from the appetizers to the entrees and the sides. I ordered the lobster bisque it was probably the best I've ever had, and I order it a lot. I'd say my Prime C dinner was better than anything I've had in Miami recently...including a recent dinner at Prime 112 in South Beach. There were also some unexpected food surprises including fresh smoothies for breakfast and a fantastic coffee bar with wonderful (and strong) espresso called Mosaic. Lunch was served buffet-style but included wonderful choices like grilled trout and a selection of cheeses. The wine selections pared with the meals were also thoughtful and exceptional. In terms of dEcor Quest looks great. The pool deck and aft dining area have beautiful comfortable teak flooring and lounge chairs, and the interior rooms were well appointed but not too stuffy. I felt like I was in a state of pure luxury and indulgence. I didn't have the opportunity to use the spa or gym, but visited and found both to be spacious, warm and inviting for a small ship. I thought the treatment prices were a little high, but some of my fellow passengers indulged and had wonderful things to say. Our stateroom was appointed with fresh flowers and other small touches that were welcoming and while the space was not large, I never felt confined. The bed was very comfortable and I slept really well (although that might have been more from the excellent food). The balcony was the perfect place to watch a brilliant sunset as we left Miami. The bathroom seemed fairly standard, but included some nice touches like a fresh rose and some wonderful Elemis shampoos, crèmes and conditioner. The service was warm and friendly, and we had our own butler assigned to our stateroom, although it was fairly clearly that he was new and familiarizing himself with the ship. He made up for this with friendliness but I felt he may have been trying a little too hard. The last thing I want to point out that's great about Quest is her size. Having only several hundred guests and crew onboard made for much easier socializing and I immediately got to know several guests who soon became fast friends. The atmosphere was friendly and approachable, and everyone I met was nice. In the end, I definitely plan to recommend Azamara it to all my friends and business contacts. Even my fellow cruisers (and now best friends) couldn't stop raving about it. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
Celebrity promoted Azamara as an upscale experience, more opulent than the premium cruise lines of Princess, Holland-America, Royal Caribbean and competing for the same market as Oceania has targeted. After having sailed on the ... Read More
Celebrity promoted Azamara as an upscale experience, more opulent than the premium cruise lines of Princess, Holland-America, Royal Caribbean and competing for the same market as Oceania has targeted. After having sailed on the "maiden voyage" of the Azamara Quest, I can say that at this point in time Oceania really doesn't have to worry about this new source of competition. The experience is in some ways better than the regular experience on premium cruise lines, but it doesn't quite meet the standard of an upscale experience. Azamara ships are identical in structure to the Oceania ships (Regatta, Insignia and Nautica) and two other Princess ships, however the Quest was not as well appointed as the Oceania ships. A beautiful piano bar was removed from the Quest to make room for the casino. The art consists mainly of photographic. The delightful sitting area, where the concierge on Oceania ships sits, has been converted to a retail area on Azamara. There is no concierge on board Azamara ships. You'll meet some wonderful staff, people with great heart and who really care about the quality of service you get. Sometimes the systems get in the way of what the staff are supposed to do for you. First of all, the idea of a butler to provide for all of your needs isn't quite realistic. When we first boarded the ship (Saturday), we requested a dinner reservation for the following Thursday. The butler said he would take care of it. It finally took two visits to the Purser's Desk, two phone calls and finally a visit to Domenic, the manager of the specialty restaurants, before we finally managed to secure this reservation. For those that are counting it took five days to secure the reservation. While dining in the specialty restaurant, we noticed half the tables were empty and it was pretty obvious that they just weren't organized to handle their offer of one dinner in the specialty restaurant for every stateroom and two reservations for concierge level. Since we were "42" on a waitlist, it's evident that some people were disappointed Unlike Oceania, Azamara grants you one complimentary visit to one of their specialty restaurants. That's assuming you can even get a reservation into the restaurant. The cover charge for Prime C (the steakhouse) and Aqualina (Italian) ranges from $20 to $25, but for us, the food was not noticeably better than the dining experience in the Discoveries main dining room. The breakfasts in the Windows Cafe on Azamara are superb. They have a wide variety of fresh fruits, an extensive assortment of choices, excellent ham, assorted smoked fish, great waffles and a wonderful selection of cheeses. Lunch and Dinner in our view was comparable to most cruise lines, certainly not better, in fact the cut of meats tended to be inferior to what we have had on Oceania. The biggest disappointment for my coffee-holic wife was the lack of cream. Even in the specialty restaurants they only served milk with the coffee. Also be prepared to pay an $8 surcharge if you want Kobe beef. Caviar is available in the main dining room at a cost of $66 to $71, depending on whether you choose beluga or not. For an upscale experience, neither lobster nor king crab was ever served in any of the dining rooms. One request for a baked potato in the specialty restaurant was met with, "It comes with...." For the fit group they have an excellent smoothie bar along with freshly squeezed orange juice. For lunch and dinner Azamara has an open sitting policy rather than scheduled dining with regular tablemates. This hasn't worked effectively as yet, since the wait for a table during the hours of 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ranged from 25 to 35 minutes. The fitness centre is superb with the latest equipment available. Bring your own headphones, if you like to watch the individual screens on the machine. They didn't have any on board on the first voyage. Mathew, the fitness consultant was excellent. Another pleasant surprise, was an assistant waiter named, Inga, (pronounced in-gee) from Turkey. She was one of those special people you meet on board. A former teacher, it was evident from the start that she was extremely homesick and through the later part of the voyage seasick. Unfortunately, she left the ship in Tampa. It's too bad for Azamara. For those of you old enough to remember those great "Welcome Aboard" cocktail parties of many years ago, Azamara has taken these to a new low. It is now the "Captain's Toast." You are greeted, given a single glass of champagne, the Captain makes the quick obligatory speech introducing the staff and you're out of there in record time! On a positive note, Azamara did a superb job of handling a minor crisis. Tropical Storm Noel was heading towards Miami. The captain wisely decided to change our disembarkation port to Tampa, which left hundreds of people scrambling to change their flight plans since Tampa was a five hour bus ride from Miami and most everyone who flew would miss their return flights. Everyone lined up in an orderly fashion using the ships four phone lines to try to change their flights. The staff was excellent and helped with connections. All phone costs were covered, as well as a reimbursement for any change fees up to $100 per person. Our change fees totaled $379, so it will be interesting to see how Azamara reacts to this. If they react as they did on board the ship, there should be no problem. On this voyage, the flat screen televisions (a nice touch) didn't work properly. The sound and picture were not synchronized so there was a few seconds delay between the lip movement and the sound. Since most of the material they show on the room televisions are older TV shows, they are not converted to high definition so the picture could be quite blurry and misshapen, somewhat disconcerting, but not a big deal. The bedding on this ship is superb and the beds extremely comfortable. Our butler was a pleasant fellow, but his service was comparable to any other cruise line's room steward. We had no "privacy please" or "please make up the stateroom" cards, so on a few occasions he walked into the room on us. Again this was not his fault, but a system error. Smokers should be aware that there are only two areas on the ship where smoking is permitted. You can't smoke on your balcony. Ports of call on this voyage were Playa Del Carmen, Key West and Cozumel. Since the ships are relatively small, (approximately 30 000 tons and 700 passengers, you would expect them to visit more exotic ports of call. In Cozumel the ship docked five miles south of the main town, while the huge Carnival ship docked at the main pier in town. There were a number of berths available at the main town dock since the Carnival ship was the only ship in town at the same time. I assume that's it's cheaper to dock outside town. To summarize, the experience on Azamara is a pleasant one. It's a beautiful ship. The gym is superbly equipped with the latest equipment. It's laid back. The staff is good, and although they can't always take care of your requests (ie cream for coffee), you can excuse their inability to provide something that is not their fault. If you think the butler will take care of your every whim, think again. Entertainment on this ship was according to one passenger better than Oceania, but since we only went to one show, I can't comment on that. The food needs to be improved, especially in the specialty restaurants where even the menu doesn't appeal. Staff was always mannerly. You didn't get what you wanted (ie two days to repair a bedside lamp), but they were pleasant and apologetic, and you had a sense it wasn't their fault. It's difficult to describe the difference in level of service between Azamara and Oceania. On Oceania everything ran very smoothly, and a reasonable request would be taken care of immediately. One final example: We have a samsonite hard shelled suitcase that is too thick to fit under a bed. On numerous previous sailings, on different cruise lines, (we've had this thing for ten years) we always asked that it be stored for us. Not a problem. On Azamara the suitcase sat outside in the hallway after the request for 6 hours. While we were at dinner the first evening, it was placed back in the room, between the bedside table and the couch where it remained for the rest of the sailing. We will be on the Azamara Journey in a few weeks and hope that since this ship has been in service for a longer period of time, they have worked out some of the bugs so that it turns out to be the experience promoted. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
We were on both the 10/24/07 2 day and the 10/26/07 5 day of the Azamara Quest. My past cruising experience has been several Celebrity cruises, a couple Royal Caribbean (both mid size and mega ships) Princess and Disney. In addition to ... Read More
We were on both the 10/24/07 2 day and the 10/26/07 5 day of the Azamara Quest. My past cruising experience has been several Celebrity cruises, a couple Royal Caribbean (both mid size and mega ships) Princess and Disney. In addition to that I stay in hotels about 75 nights per year for work. My accommodations when traveling for business range anywhere from LaQuintas to Ritz Carltons. Additionally my husband and I take 3-4 major vacations per year, typically Caribbean resorts or European land vacations. We cruise when we are looking for a change of pace from our normal vacation experiences. I booked this cruise knowing it was an "inaugural" cruise and went into the experience expecting things to be somewhat rocky but still expecting to get a little bit of what has been promised by Azamara in regards to service level, food and overall vacation experience. I hope you find this review helpful and objective. Embarkation - This is one area where the Quest did an excellent job. We arrived at the pier in Miami around 1:00 p.m. There were no lines and we were on the ship within about 4 minutes. The only problem we had was I had checked in online and provided 2 different credit card numbers for 2 different passengers in our cabin, and was informed that they were unable to process 2 credit cards for one cabin and we would need to go to Guest Relations. Not a big deal...I'm on vacation! When we got onto the ship we were given a glass of champagne and escorted to our cabin. The cabin was ready and we received our luggage shortly before the lifeboat drill at 4:15pm. Ship Layout/Look and Feel - The ship layout is very easy to navigate and makes sense. The maps provided are easy to read and there is a digital display in the elevator that when the elevator arrives at a floor informs you if people are getting on or if they are getting off and also lists the different venues on that particular floor. The ship is gorgeous. Dark woods, tasteful colors, beautiful furniture pieces, nice decorating touches and I loved the artwork, particularly the large black and white photos. This ship, however, is not very wheelchair friendly. I know this not because I was with someone in wheelchair, rather I was wheeling a stroller around. The transfers across doorways are brutal. The "ramp" to go over a door threshold requires you to first go over a rather large lift from the floor to the ramp. With a stroller you at least have the ability to physically lift the stroller up, or do a "wheely", I can't imagine how difficult it would be with an adult in a wheelchair...and an electric wheelchair due to the weight of it would be exceptionally difficult. Another area that is not very wheelchair friendly is when you are getting off the elevator the "landing" area between the elevator door and the stairs is quite small (a byproduct of a smaller ship and everything being just a little bit more condensed). Under normal circumstances getting off elevators with a stroller or wheelchair can be difficult since for some reason people can't grasp the concept to let the people OFF the elevator before trying to get ON the elevator, and with less room in front of the elevator it made the "elevator doorway dance" that much more difficult. I didn't know if I would like a smaller ship however I didn't find myself missing any amenities of the larger ships. The Quest pretty much had everything you could possibly want. I can see how on a longer 14 day cruise the smaller number of venues might get a little bit monotonous. Cabin - We were in a different cabin for the two day cruise (6020) than we were for the 5 day cruise (6048). Both of them standard verandah cabins. The cabin didn't seem much smaller to me than most we have had and the space is very well utilized. There are nooks and cranny's everywhere for storage. There is a decent sized closet for "long hang" clothes and another for "short hang" clothes. That closet has 4 midsized drawers underneath it. In addition there is a place for folded clothes in the corner cabinet where the refrigerator is (small fridge...holds about 8 cans of soda) The top of the corner cabinet also has a large storage space. The middle shelf of our corner cabinet in both cabins housed the TV. My impression from other reviews on the Journey is that the TV is typically wall mounted, so I don't know if this is the TV's permanent location or not. If not....this will provide another large storage space. The desk has 4 drawers on one side and the other side has two shelves. Each nightstand has 2 shelves as well. The verandah had 2 upright chairs and a good sized table. (the largest table we've had on a ship's balcony) Our second cabin (6048) is the cabin right next to the life boats. The balcony in this cabin due to its location had about 18 extra inches to its length which doesn't sound like much but it made all the difference in regards to being able to have 2 chairs with people actually in them comfortably sitting at the table. I loved the linens and the loveseat was actually one of the more comfortable cruise ship couches I've experienced. One issue that arose with the cabins, my stepchildren had 3 people booked in their cabin. When the "butler" went to do turn down service on the first night he discovered that the loveseat in that cabin was not a convertible loveseat. He told us we needed to go down to Guest Relations ourselves (more later on the lack of "butler" service). Guest relations pulled out a deck map of the ship and showed me that the cabin was not designated as one that could accommodate 3 people. My logical argument that whatever the deck map states is irrelevant since the reservations people booked 3 people in that particular cabin. Finally she came around to the logic of the situation (for awhile I was wondering if she was expecting one of them to sleep on a massage table in the spa) and they arranged to move the loveseat out and exchange it with one that converts to a bed. This is one example where I expected there to be problems due to the newness of the ship, but I judge a cruiseline or a hotel or any other service venue for that matter by how they actually handle the problems when the occur not whether there actually are any problems. In this case the problem was resolved and the end result was satisfactory, but I shouldn't have had to spend 45 minutes of my vacation dealing with something that I should never have even been made aware was a problem in the first place. A "deluxe" line would have had the loveseats swapped by the time we even got back to the cabin for the evening; not waited until we got back to the cabin to tell us we needed to go down to Guest Relations and take care of it ourselves. A "deluxe" cruiseline would have apologized to me when I brought it to their attention, told me I didn't need to worry about it and would have taken care of it; not argued with me about deck plans. The other problem we had was when we booked the cruise (directly with Azamara) they took our request for a crib, so I didn't bring our portable crib. When we inquired with our stateroom attendant, we were informed the ship had no cribs. Had I known I would have brought the portable and as a result our 1 year old slept between us on the bed each night. Neither my husband nor I slept very soundly as we were paranoid about rolling over on top of him. Dining - We ate breakfast and lunch each day in Windows Buffet and dinner each night in Discoveries. The buffet was standard cruise fare; no better or worse than any other cruise we have been on. The layout of the buffet area is a little bit unorganized and confusing. A simple change of having separate stations for each different type of food (salads, desserts,etc) would take care of the problem of long slow lines moving through the entire buffet with other people bopping in and out to grab something quickly. The waffles were excellent. The fresh fruit was amazing, I have never seen raspberries as large as these, but the ice cream was disappointing. It was icy....like it had melted and then was refrozen. We tried it several times before giving up. Three days into the cruise we discovered the soft serve machine by the pool grill. The hamburgers at the pool grill were excellent and the nachos were pretty good as well. What is it about freakishly bright orange processed cheese that is so delicious? Discoveries dining room on the first night was a nightmare. We arrived early; 6:30 and were seated immediately. It was here that we discovered that there was not a single highchair on the ship, and only one booster seat which those of us with children were all vying for...my son spent the whole cruise eating out of his stroller which meant he had to be hand fed instead of able to feed himself. Dinner on the first night took 3 hours and the waiter kept mixing up the orders, water was never refilled even after begging for more. I didn't personally experience this because after being there for an hour and not even having our first course, I took my son back to the room, ordered room service and left the 4 other people in our party to deal with the dining room. This story does have a happy ending however. The second night by fortuitous chance we were seated at table 33, in the back corner of the dining room. Our waiter (I'm sorry I can't remember his name) and our assistant waiter Harry were excellent. The service was professional, prompt, friendly and considerate. After dinner we approached the Maitre D, complimented the waitstaff and asked to be seated at that table each evening. (since it was in the corner there was more space between the tables and we could easily get the stroller in, plus the very prevalent vibration that you can feel in this part of the dining room worked to our advantage as it often times lulled my son to sleep). We were told this was the Staff Captains table but he very rarely used it and as long as we got down to the dining room early he would reserve it for us. He kept his word and we sat at the table every night thereafter except one (a port day where we didn't get down to the dining room until 8:30) We continued to have excellent service. My sons glass of milk was brought to us within seconds of sitting down, they accommodated special requests for him (he was going through a fruit and tomato phase while we were on the cruise), and the one night we were not able to sit at table 33 they both sought us out in the dining room to say hi, and the waiter (oh I wish I could remember his name!) told me that he told his boss not to give that table away anymore because he wanted to see the "little guy" every night. One side note on that. I know that not everyone on the ship was probably thrilled to see the 3 kids that were on our sailing, since Azamara does not exactly encourage families to cruise with them (as evidenced by the lack of highchairs and cribs) however we were well received by the majority of the passengers and ALL of the crew. It was hard for us to travel around the ship because crew members kept stopping us, wanting to play with or hold our son. Knowing that many of them probably had children of their own at home whom they haven't seen for many months we always obliged. It was particularly heartbreaking when one of the crew would be holding him, with their eyes closed and you knew that they were imagining for just a moment they were holding their own child. Because we were on the 2 day and then the 5 day, the menu in Discoveries was the same for the first two days of the 5 day cruise as it was for the 2 day cruise, which was a little repetitive. I was surprised with the number of back to back travelers that they wouldn't have thought ahead and run the menus like a 7 day cruise so that there wouldn't be repetition, but again not a big deal, just more of a minor annoyance. The quality of the food I would say was not as good as we have had on Celebrity. I was a little disappointed in this. It wasn't so much the preparation as the actual quality. The first two sailings were priced rather inexpensively, and I hope for the sake of the future cruisers who are paying normal Azamara fares that this improves. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, there just wasn't anything that made me go "WOW" (except of course the raspberries but I'm not going to give the chef credit for that one!) My disappointment may be a result of expectation vs reality based on marketing. I expected at least as good as Celebrity (which I love) and when it fell short of that (food quality was more in line with what we had on Royal Caribbean Grandeur) I was disappointed. There were shining spots here and there (loved the soups, coffee and blue cheese dressing) but overall I would say they have a little ground to make up to earn the deluxe distinction. My husband and I and mother-in law went to tea 2 of the afternoons. Tea was in Aqualina which is a beautiful dining room. The sandwiches and desserts were different each time we went and were very tasty. The emphasis seemed to be more on the food than the tea, since getting an additional pot of hot water proved to be rather difficult. The staff needs more training on the art of French serving, as it was rather painful to watch them try to pick up small pieces of cake using one hand and two utensils, but this of course will come with practice. It was an experience we thoroughly enjoyed and on the second day dragged my 21 year old step son along to give him some "culture". We told him it would come in handy some day when he is looking for a wife. Room Service - A little known fact but it is in the fine print of the room service menu is that during the hours that the dining room is open you can order off the Discoveries menu for room service. The Discoveries menu on the left hand side lists some things that are available each evening as staples. One of these is shrimp cocktail. So when the dining room opened we would order a couple shrimp cocktail to go along with our wine while we were getting ready for dinner. It is one of those wonderful luxuries of cruising that makes me feel pampered. The first day my step kids filled out the breakfast request form but never did get their food. We always ordered directly on the phone in the morning (since we were never given an order form) and it never took more than 20 minutes to arrive. A call when it was on its way would have been nice as is the practice on Celebrity and a nice touch. We utilized room service in many different capacities; breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack...you get the point, and it was always delivered very quickly, hot food was hot, cold food was cold and I LOVED the room service coffee, even better than the coffee from the espresso/cappuccino machine in Windows Cafe....hhhhmmmm maybe because the latte/cappuccino setting was not working during our cruise. The room service coffee is strong which is just the way I like it. If you don't like strong coffee you may want to order it with cream even if you normally drink it black. That Coffee Place - I KNEW I waited too long to write this review, I can't remember the name of the coffee place, I keep wanting to call it Cova Cafe but I know that's the Celebrity ships name for it. Anyway, we utilized this space many times and enjoyed it as a nice relaxing place to just sit and talk. Service was a little slow here, but I'm sure once the waitress and the barrista get some mo jo going it will improve. They have a great coffee and tea menu and the little cakes and sandwiches are a nice touch. A side note on the display case with the food. Later at night (I think after 9:00) they replace the sandwiches with tapas...wonderful tapas. It was fun to just point at the different "savories" and say "that one and that one and that one". The chicken curry and the sun dried tomato tart were particularly good. The harp player was very nice to listen to. We avoided this area when the piano player was there as he had the volume on his amp turned up too high to have a comfortable level of conversation. Pool area and Spa - LOVED the comfortable cushioned lounge chairs and was relieved to see that they were there for the first sailing and we didn't have to put up with the plastic slatted ones like the first passengers on the Journey did. I did not lay out at the pool as much as I usually do due to the one year old I had in tow. Normally I am camped out at the pool every minute of sunshine, but since the one year old couldn't go in the pool we didn't even attempt to sit out there with him, as just walking by with him in the stroller produced grunting and pointing (the kid is a fish). I brought a 3 food diameter blow up pool which we kept filled on our balcony and he was happy with that as long as we kept the "big pool" out of sight. So I was only able to lay out there a couple times but it was extremely comfortable and enjoyable and there didn't seem to be as much chair saving as on other cruise lines. Don't get me wrong; there were still people with their books and towels on the chairs 5 hours before they were ready to utilize them, but there were less people doing it. I never had a problem getting a chair on the pool deck even on the days I wouldn't get out there until 1 or 2p.m. The pool itself, while small as you would expect on a smaller ship, was never crowded and the temperature was perfect. The "secret...not so secret" hot tub T Pool or whatever it is at the front of the ship that you can only get to by going through the spa was under utilized for most of the cruise. Perhaps it is because it is uncomfortable to sit in. One third of it you are sitting on metal rods, one third doesn't have any seating at all and the other third had the standard tile shelf to sit on. I don't get it The water was a nice hot temperature, and the lounge chairs around there was very comfortable. Even though you go through the spa to get here it is NOT part of the spa and therefore is not a hush hush quiet area. At times it got a little rowdy there with several groups of partiers. And one night we stumbled upon two people doing something that should have been done in their cabin. Yes Azamara cruisers, I hate to disappoint you but even on a "deluxe" cruiseline these things can and will happen. On the last day of the cruise I had a massage in the morning. It wasn't anything spectacular and when you are paying cruise ship spa prices you at least want to feel all mushy when you're done. In all fairness my massage was during the period when we were experiencing some very rough seas due to the impending tropical storm Noel so I spent part of the massage concentrating on not getting sick, but my husband who doesn't get seasick said the same thing about his massage. It was just OK. Due to the "everything being more condensed on a smaller ship" there really are no treatment rooms that are out of the main traffic pattern since the spa is quite small so noise is also an issue. My treatment room was right off of where they cut/style hair so during my entire massage I could hear every word of a conversation between one of the male stylists and one of the women at the front desk. Apparently a fun time was had by all who partied down in the crew bar the previous night and they were all required to take the sea sickness pills the night before so that they wouldn't miss work. Seriously, at $150 for a 50 minute massage...I DON'T CARE, and had I been feeling better I probably would have asked my massage therapist to ask them to tone it down. However as the massage therapist she probably should have done that without my requesting it as she could clearly hear it as well. "Butler" - EEEK I left this subject toward the end as it is probably the area that we had the most problems with. I won't go into every single issue we had but I will highlight a few to give you an idea of the service problems. First of all I had read enough of the Journey reviews that I went into this cruise not expecting Butler service, I was expecting cabin attendant type service. We had a different Butler on the 2 day cruise than we did on the 5 day due to the cabin change. Our butler on the 5 day cruise was much better than on the 2 day but still not up to the level that I would expect. At least the second Butler seemed to actually care and while he didn't necessarily do anything extra for us, he did at least keep our cabin clean (somewhat.....both cabins were very dusty). Our first Butler did not provide a way for us to contact him, so we had to keep peeking our head out of the cabin hoping to catch him in the vicinity. Our first request was the first evening of the cruise and we asked for ice. It took 3 hours to get the ice and when it was delivered he told us that he had 20 cabins to take care of which was why it took so long....3 hours? I was actually impressed that he remembered after 3 hours. The afternoon "savories" were pretty much nonexistent even though we requested them as the little card in our room stated we must. Since they weren't very good we didn't push the issue. We did receive the nightly sweets during turn down service, but they were never put on a plate...one night it was chocolate chip cookies that were just left on top of our dusty night stands. Again, not a big deal, we just didn't eat our dust coated cookies, but you would expect at least a plate from a "deluxe" cruiseline. The most amazing lack of service was when we were changing cabins on the changeover day from the 2 night cruise to the start of the 5 night cruise. We were dragging our various pieces of luggage down the hall making 3 trips in all, and on each trip we passed our cabin attendant who politely stepped out of our way so that we could get past him. When a polite inquiry was made for help it was met with a comment that he was too busy. Azamara needs to do more training in this area and stop marketing the cabin attendants as Butlers. Guest Services and Internet - Our cruise was affected by tropical storm Noel. As a result our port of debarkation was changed from Miami to Tampa. The cruiseline handled this beautifully by opening up the internet for free access and opened up the phone lines and provided 4 phones with which we could call our airline to make alternate arrangements. We had a laptop with us and were able to change 3 of our 5 airline tickets from our room using a pppaaaiiinnnfffuuullllyyyy slow internet connection. I had to use the phone for the other 2 tickets. The cruise staff were great in assisting guests with the phones and in some cases speaking to the airlines themselves when the guests weren't getting anywhere. I was told by other passengers of two disturbing incidences of conduct by other passengers. One couple used the phones to call their friends in Miami to let them know of the port change (the couple was from Miami). What should have been a 2 minute call to tell them not to pick them up at the pier turned into a 15 minute chat about how their vacation was going and what they did and what they ate. The other was in the computer room. When they opened up the internet access the line in the computer room was monstrous. One passenger took the free internet opportunity to check his myspace page, email his girlfriend and surf the internet. In both cases there were long lines of passengers all vying for limited airplane seats on flights out of Tampa. What also amazes me is that in either case staff or passengers just watched it happen and didn't do anything. Sometimes I think we are too polite as a society. The problems with the credit card on our account that originated from check in persisted, and after giving my credit card information to Guest Services 3 different times I was still pulled out of line while debarking and had to supply it one more time. The charges still haven't hit my credit card...with the track record on this, they may never get charged. The one horrendous lapse of service was our repeated requests for an infant life jacket. We never did receive it, which in my opinion is irresponsible and inexcusable. I had exhausted all avenues of different people I could request it from. Perhaps the infant life jackets were locked up in the same room with the cribs, highchairs and booster seats. A side comment on that. While Azamara may be gearing more towards adults with their longer itineraries and price point, the fact of the matter is that if they are going to take bookings for children, then it is their responsibility to ensure that those customers of theirs (and they are paying customers) have a place to sleep and a place to eat and don't drown if the ship goes down. Sorry this is so long but I had an entire flight from East Coast to West Coast to kill. Overall despite the problems, we had a great cruise and didn't let the little things get to us. Azamara has a long way to go as far as service performance to earn their "deluxe" distinction. The ship is beautiful, the staff overall is friendly. From our experience, the "deluxe" distinction is in marketing only. The analogy that kept coming to mind is that a VW Passat is basically the same car as an Audi A6, yet people are willing to pay 15K more for the A6, because the perception is that the Audi is a more upscale product than a VW. I love the A6 but in good financial responsibility conscience can't bring myself to pay 15K for an image. And until the A6 adds some of the features available on the Mercedes, I'll either buy the Passat or pay more for and get the features of the Mercedes. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
We were invited guests on the Quest. The experience was wonderful. As you enter the ship the feeling that one gets is as if you were at a wonderful European hotel. What a pleasure not being on a mega ship. We also have never cruised on a ... Read More
We were invited guests on the Quest. The experience was wonderful. As you enter the ship the feeling that one gets is as if you were at a wonderful European hotel. What a pleasure not being on a mega ship. We also have never cruised on a smaller ship and can not wait to do it again. The cabin size was adequate, but the bathroom was minute. Wonderful bathrobes, slippers and the best bath towels were provided. Fresh flowers were in the bathroom and bedroom. A lovely touch. We saw our butler only twice. We did not see any menus for room service. They are still getting the kinks out. The staff and crew were the best. Everyone looked you in the eyes and acknowledged your presence. How refreshing. I asked fro cappuccino during lunch and they went out of there way to go to the fourth floor to accommodate me (which was not necessary, but greatly appreciated). The food was the best that we have had. The dining room is beautiful. The service impeccable. Our waitress could describe every dish. I had the best sea bass ever. What a delight not to have formal nights and be able to eat when you want to. The second night we ate at the Prime. We were seated with other guests and had lots of fun. The food was delicious. The service was a 10. We enjoy the casino, which is small but adequate. The staff is quite friendly and inviting. The pool area is quite comfortable. I do suggest that signs are posted for the depth of the water and that the area is quite slippery. The restrooms are always clean. I was amazed for the size of the ship that the fitness center was quite large with most of the equipment needed for a good workout. There to, they are still getting everything in order. The exercise balls and yoga mats were not in yet. This ship has everything and more and can not wait to sail again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
My wife and I were very pleased when we came home one evening and found a voice mail from Celebrity's Captain Club inviting us on the two night inaugural cruise of Azamara Quest. We are frequent cruisers on Celebrity and Royal ... Read More
My wife and I were very pleased when we came home one evening and found a voice mail from Celebrity's Captain Club inviting us on the two night inaugural cruise of Azamara Quest. We are frequent cruisers on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, and looked forward to trying out a smaller ship, with a more upscale reputation. We were not in the least bit disappointed. The Quest is indeed a beautiful ship, decorated tastefully and impressively. All the public rooms and facilities are more intimate than those you will find on larger ships, and have a deluxe feel to them that is both comfortable and appealing. The service throughout was excellent, with a staff very eager to please, very much consistent with what we have found cruising on Celebrity. We were able to board the ship early. By 11 am, we were sitting by the plush pool area, each lounge chair with a thick pad that more resembles a bed mattress than a pool chair. The pool area was surprisingly spacious given that Quest is smaller than the typical cruise ship we have sailed on. The specialty restaurants are very impressive; we dined one night in Prime C, and both the food and service were memorable. Plush with wood paneling, and deluxe decorations, the restaurant is a must. The food in the main dining room, which is open seating, was excellent as well. The captain gave the passengers probably the best treat we have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Quest sailed from Miami, up the Florida coast. The shuttle Discovery was scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral at 11:38 am. We sailed to that area, stopping offshore as close as the coast guard would allow. We had the thrill of watching from the deck of Quest the shuttle Discovery blast off into space, streaking what looked like just over the ship. Truly an amazing experience that we will never forget. The ship has in intimate feel that made us feel as if we were on a private yacht rather than a ship with several hundred passengers. At no time did you feel as if you were in a crowd. Rather, we felt that we had the ship to ourselves at times. The cabin was well set up, giving a more spacious feel than one would expect given the size. While we had plenty of storage space for a 2 night cruise, it seemed as one would need more space for clothes on a much longer cruise. The entertainment on board was excellent as well, performed in a cabaret style theater. Breakfast and lunch were served either in the main dining room or in the buffet area. The food preparation for the buffet was more what you would expect from a good quality restaurant rather than a kitchen cooking for hundreds of people. All in all a wonderful experience on Azamara Quest, and we look forward to sailing again on one of the lovely Azamara ships. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2007
As a long time customer of Celebrity Cruise Line, we decided to try their new line and booked the inaugural two-day cruise to Coco Cay, Bahamas on the Azamara Quest from Miami. It was not the best cruise we have experienced. It is ... Read More
As a long time customer of Celebrity Cruise Line, we decided to try their new line and booked the inaugural two-day cruise to Coco Cay, Bahamas on the Azamara Quest from Miami. It was not the best cruise we have experienced. It is obvious Azamara still has a lot of work to do in training their staff in the Celebrity customer service program. From the Customer Service representative who told me repeatedly it was my fault that my card key would not open the door to our cabin and then would not allow me to charge a drink. Only after five trips to the Customer Service desk was the problem corrected. There were several Celebrity crewmembers onboard that had been brought in to get the ship off the ground, they were exceptional. Those who were new to the cruise ship were questionable. From the crew members who ignored our request on the pool deck, to the sorbet server in the buffet line who argued with a passenger about the flavor of the sorbet and then stuck a spoon in the sorbet and tasted it himself before agreeing the customer was right. The truest quote we heard during the cruise came from a Celebrity crewmember who said, "They need to learn to take it seriously," referring to the new crewmembers. On a positive note, the ship is beautiful and Celebrity did a good job refurbishing it for the Azamara line. The food both in the buffet area and in the dining room was outstanding, although they need to label the food in the buffet area. Watching passengers smelling the salad dressings was embarrassing for the company. I can hope that the problems were because this was the first official cruise for the ship. As the ship gets broken in, and the crew gets more experience, the passenger experience should improve. We should have waited a few months before trying this new company out. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
THE CRUISE OF A LIFETIME We are select members with Celebrity Cruise lines, and Azamara Cruises is their new approach to cruising from a more mature aspect. We sailed aboard the Azamara Quest's 12 night Western Caribbean including ... Read More
THE CRUISE OF A LIFETIME We are select members with Celebrity Cruise lines, and Azamara Cruises is their new approach to cruising from a more mature aspect. We sailed aboard the Azamara Quest's 12 night Western Caribbean including Panama, Costa Rica and Columbia. Azamara Quest and Journey are smaller ships with around 700 passengers, cater to a 50' and up,experienced, yet, laid back travelers. We met everyone from artists to doctors to stock brokers. Our voyage did not originate in Miami as planned. Captain Apostolos Bouzakis had reported seas of 20-25 feet heading for Miami with Tropical Storm Noel, so he was rather astute in caring for our comfort, and turned his ship towards Tampa. Even though most of us had to board a bus in Miami from the port for the ride to Tampa, in the end it was well worth it for we had smooth sailing leaving the Gulf side of Florida. Captain Apostolos Bouzakis made a smart decision. Our boarding once reaching Tampa was over the top!!! The welcome check-in took just a few minutes, and we walked up the covered gangplank where we were greeted by photograghers and port staff, making sure we were all ok after the bus ride. We were immediately greeting by the hotel director and other staff officials. My husband, Al, and I were handed a nice glass of cold champagne and asked for our stateroom number. Immediately a cabin attendant took our bags and led us to our rooms (that was a first in my cruising career)! I didn't want to go, because my mouth was wide open, looking at the beautiful woodwork, and wrought iron fillagre on the banisters. The carpets spotless, the artwork gorgeous! Maybe it was the interior of the Titanic??? Beautiful! THE ROOMS We had a balcony room mid ship. At first the room appeared small, and we didn't think everything would fit, but drawers and cubby holes kept popping up and before you knew it we unloaded 6 suitcases and still had room under the shelf in the bathroom. Put your empty suitcases under the bed. We brought some wine with us too, so we had extra to drink if we needed it. OUr cabin #7063 has a butler,(Vazio was wonderful)& cabin attendant. Also free shoe shines which Al loved. The beds are fabulous! You will love them, they are all brand new and so cushy! The robes are soft and cuddly, and always the butler leaves a small treat in the evening for you. We toured the ship, about 1/2 the size of the Century, met our Events Coordinator & Captains Club coordinator:Melanie Mowat. She is helping us plan our WEDDING on board the ship. We had 28 cruise critics planning on attending our renewal:We were the grand prize winners of Celebrity's Newlywed not so Newlywed game. Our prize included a vow renewal package which was TO DIE FOR!!!Huge bakery heart shaped cake, champagne, Andreas, cruise director, had the most beautiful vows I have ever heard in my life, even the captain came to watch. The kleenex box was passed around freely! We were the first couple for the ship since becoming Azamara Quest.All the cruise critics came, and Melanie put it all together. Everything was perfect. Thank you Melanie!!She was on Galaxy last year 12/06 T.A. PORTS WE VISITED Georgetown,Grand Cayman: Tiny port town.Had lunch at Breezes,good conch chowder and fried calamari, and the MOJITOS were to die for! You only needed one! Guy Harvey, the artist was at his shop, and I got his autograph upstairs. Too rough for snorkeling. Cabs are readily available to take you on a number of fun trips if you haven't booked a shore excursion. Beautiful aqua water. Santa Marta, Columbia: Too primitive a town for my taste. The van driver took us on a 5 hour tour, but it really wasn't set up for visitors. Visited Simon Boliver's retreat. The best part was the Folklorico Show on the port tarmack, as our ship docked. Not not well kept. Cartagena, Columbia: Awesome,can't say enough, and wish we wouldn't have stayed for 2 days at this port. Beautifully painted buildings with flowers and ferns, tropical hidden 5 star hotels, Emerals? They were everywhere! We took a taxi city tour with another couple for &80.00. We were gone all day. Our driver stayed with us as we shopped, and we felt safe. Very friendly people, taxi driver explained history of city. Colon,Panama: Booked the Gamboa Aerial Tram, drove through 1/2 of Panama Canal, saw toucans, butterfly's and east and west ship crossing at the same time, a rare sight! Limon, Costa Rica: Did the Zip-lining through the tree tops! Best excitement since Tower of Terror! Loved it! Lush landscape! Bought local crafts close to ship. San Andre's Island, Columbia. Took a cab downtown and bought our EMERALD at half the price in Cartagena!! Playa del Carmen: Good shopping, great tequila shops, nice resort area north of time. Food on Board: Excellent, more today's cooking. Chef's gave gourmet cooking demonstrations, we had food and wine pairings,excellent service, a chardonnay blending. Cellar Master very knowledgeable. Sat next to the captain for dinner one night! He spoke perfect English. So refreshing to be able to communicate with him and all the staff in English!! All Pax received 1 free speciality dining credit. We enjoyed the open dining arrangement. Please don't wear shorts to dinner. I missed the elegance of dressing for dinner, which many said they missed, but liked the open seating to go when you wanted. Enrichment series: Fabulous lectures. Cruise Director: Andrea Olivieri is so smart. We had a geometry lecture and an astronomy lecture followed by 2 evening star gazing classes. Lazer light pointed at the stars. Captains Club events included chardonnay Blending, Casino, captains cocktail Party and Senior Officer's cocktail Party. I took a peak at the galley and the bridge, but they don't give tours normally. All and all we came home relaxed and raving about going again on the Azamara fleet. Thanks especially to Captain Apstolos Bouzakis, Melanie Mowat:Event Coordinator, Andrea Olivieri:Cruise Director, George (head waiter),and Vazio our Butler in #7063. It was a dream trip I will never forget. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
We returned from our 14-night Quest cruise last Tuesday (sailing date was 11/24/07), however, between staying a few extra days in Miami, laundry, shopping, etc., this is the first opportunity to post our "review". Please note, ... Read More
We returned from our 14-night Quest cruise last Tuesday (sailing date was 11/24/07), however, between staying a few extra days in Miami, laundry, shopping, etc., this is the first opportunity to post our "review". Please note, that this explains OUR thoughts, OUR experiences, etc., and may not (and probably WILL not) conform to what anyone else may say. PRE-CRUISE Some of the Cruise Critic members met for dinner the night before the cruise. We had chosen Versailles, for it's wonderful Cuban food. Approximately 15 of us met and enjoyed a good meal, meeting new friends, and relaxing. What a wonderful way to start a cruise. EMBARKATION Our 14th cruise and the embarkation was easy and quick. We arrived early (I think we were the first or second couple there) and did have to wait, but that was because we chose to arrive early, and we expected the wait. The crew did a wonderful job of welcoming us aboard no more than 10 minutes from the time we started through the embarkation procedure. To avoid the main dining room (Discoveries) being totally overwhelmed the first night they were offering to let us dine in a specialty restaurant (our choice) without it being counted as one of our "free" nights. CABIN We had booked an oceanview stateroom with veranda on the 5-night cruise (10/26/07), but chose to book the Sky Suite for the 14-night cruise. We are convinced that after 5 days the cabins start to shrink. When we first boarded the cabins were not yet available, however, we were allowed to drop off our carry on luggage before proceeding to the Windows Cafe for lunch. As we sat on the deck eating we met more Cruise Critic members. POOL ,Deck 9 As stated in an earlier post, it is a small pool with two hot tubs surrounded by lots of lovely wooden chaise lounges with thick blue padded cushions covered by thick white towel coverings. There are several seating areas. The seating areas are very similar to sitting on someone's back patio or in their sun room. Relaxing, and the chairs and tables are very tasteful. The hot tubs are NOT covered (which would have been a plus). If you plan on using them you may want to wear a hat or sun visor. Each afternoon waiters made the rounds offering small cups of a refreshing sherbet type "ices". They changed daily but we were offered lemon ice, apple ice, etc. INTERNET ROOM ,Deck 9 After our experiences on the 5-night cruise, we elected to not use the eConnections room, and used a couple of internet cafes we ran into on the islands. Less expensive and more reliable. SPA ,Deck 9 fwd Just past the internet room, is the small spa. We did have massages, and they were wonderful, but, typical for a cruise, very pricey. In the front of the spa is a small area with the small thallosotherapy pool area in front of the spa (accessible through the locker rooms in the spa), with nice deck chairs available without charge to passengers making use of the spa treatments). Others not having spa treatments can purchase the right to use this area. Very relaxing. SHOPPING, Decks 5 and 4 Two small shops on Deck 5. Typical shops on a ship, no particular bargains, other than some of the evening specials. MOSAIC CAFE, Deck 5 This replaces the COVA cafe on Celebrity ships. Pastries, specialty coffees and small sandwiches are available. We spent time at the Mosaic every evening for a Cafe Mocha (very good) and had the opportunity to talk to various officers and crew while there. The staff working the Cafe are absolutely delightful. Many thanks to (and apologies for any misspelled names) Gabriella, Gargana and David. CASINO LUXE, Deck 5 A small Casino - probably very adequate in most respects, however the lack of a crap table saved a few of us a lot of money. IMHO they definitely need to put in a crap table. My husband was probably thankful they had not, since I'm the crap player of the family. DINING AND BARS Windows on Deck 10 is the casual buffet. The food is very good, with a good selection to choose from. The floor can be slippery for some reason (they say it has to do with the humidity, but I'm not sure) and they have been adding mats to walk on. Between the juice bar, the omelet station, the waffles and pancakes, and all the other food selections, breakfast became an important part of my day! Lunch included a fantastic salad bar, along with a sandwich area and other good food. The specialty restaurants were WONDERFUL. They allowed us to eat at our own pace, without feeling rushed. The food was beyond fantastic. Prime C - the Kobe beef was "melt in your mouth". My filet mignon was so tender I could cut it with a fork! And it was cooked to perfection. And the "3 cheese" onion soup is fantastic! (I've heard the same for the lobster bisque but did not have any). Aqualina - We did not eat in Aqualina on our 14 night cruise, but we had on the 5 night. We all (there were 4 of us) enjoyed our meal there and they make a chocolate soufflE (you can also request it in Prime C but they aren't thrilled when you do) that is "to die for". Discoveries - service in the restaurant was extremely slow, more than 2-1/2 hours at times. It seemed that the waiters had been assigned too many tables to try and keep track of. And they have a shortage for waiters. They do not seem to have a working concept of "open seating" at this time. Something that can be easily corrected. The food selection, IMHO, left a lot to be desired. While the food was okay, it was not great. Not up to normal Celebrity food standards. Breeza (evening in Windows) was very good casual dining. In our opinion, Breeza is the best kept secret on Azamara. (No longer a secret!) We sat on the deck and enjoyed a wonderful dinner there many evenings. Sushi, pasta bar, stir fry, salad bar, carving station, and various other choices. Yes, you do have to serve yourself, but I'll serve myself, eat at my own pace, enjoy the casual atmosphere and great food, anytime over a long, stressful meal in Discoveries. The pool grill did a great job of fixing the burgers, hot dogs, nachos, and their fries were really good (nice and crisp), etc. The gentlemen taking the orders were friendly and did a great job. There are 9 bars on board, and only 9 bartenders. They have NO relief bartenders if one is sick, or in the case of something special, like the Martini Tasting where 3 bartenders gave up personal time to assist with the tasting. The bars are definitely understaffed. STATEROOM/ SERVICE We did not expect perfection, but (as stated by another poster) we did expect more than we received. Our 'butler' was rarely seen, though his assistant seemed to be around a little more often. We asked for little from butlers or attendants, but did request ice in a fold up ice chest we kept in our room and they generally remembered to do so. The rose in the bathroom was beautiful and a very nice touch. The balcony was nice sized and the table and chairs of better quality than seen on many cruise ships. The bed is very comfortable (pillow top). The pillows will be great for those who like soft pillows. Unfortunately for us, we prefer firm pillows, and none of the type offered were actually firm. Though they do offer a choice, we still prefer firmer pillows than offered, so we traveled on board with our own pillows this time. The towels and washcloths are great. Very luxurious. The bath towel (bath sheet?) is absolutely huge! Almost TOO big to handle (or perhaps that just me - I have a bad shoulder and it was difficult to handle to big towel). The Sky Suite does have a bathtub/shower combo. The water pressure was definitely lacking (thankfully I don't still have the long hair I used to travel with, to be washed and rinsed out, but I felt sorry for those who might have that problem). The Elemis shampoo and conditioner are a nice touch. SHORE EXCURSIONS This is an area I sincerely hope Azamara will improve. The shore excursions were over-priced, and the selection was not that good. For a line who says they will have tours "with truly immersive excursions", they are sadly missing the mark. Many people were booking their tours independently and had a wonderful time, seeing things not offered, and at less cost. We booked through Azamara and were very disappointed with a couple of the tours. One, in particular, in Dominica where anyone stepping off the ship could go up to the Fort (entrance immediately by the terminal building) for $2.00, however, those of us booking the tour to the Fort (not realizing it was so close) were charged $53, and given a drink (non-alcoholic) at the end of the "tour". A very expensive drink. Additionally, the tour guides responded to most questions with "I don't know". Not exactly an answer. CREW Having cruised on Celebrity a number of times, and also having cruised with RCCL, HAL, NCL and MSC, I must say that the crew was some of the friendliest we have yet to meet. Coming back 24 days later from the 5-day to the 14-day, many of the staff and crew recognized us, and some remembered our names. That is an inexpensive way for any cruise line to make their passengers feel special, and something that can only be achieved by a great staff and crew. ON BOARD ACTIVITIES There were numerous on-board activities of various types, to appeal to many people. I had asked if they were going to have a Martini tasting and was told a flat "no". After asking other individuals I was told that "if" I could sign up a minimum of 20 people they would have the martini tasting. Two days later, with 59 people signed up, we all received nice invitations to the tasting. Of those 59, 48 individuals showed up for the martini tasting and had a wonderful time. My thanks to Harry Francis who made it all possible, and to Matt Roberts (CruiserBoy) who also encouraged the tasting! The tasting was done with absolute class! Special thanks also to Roland and Angelo in the Martini Bar for their excellent service and friendly responses. Especially to those of us (ME!) who want their drinks made a certain way. Also special thanks to Sandy in the Sunset Bar (I heard she was moving to the Martini Bar after our cruise) for her great service and friendly smile. ENTERTAINMENT - CABARET LOUNGE The group of 5 young people who are the on-board entertainment are good, but they have to almost scream out their songs to be heard over the 7 piece band/orchestra. The band was convinced that they were playing in a VERY large room, and thought they needed to be heard a long distance. The Cabaret Lounge is small, and does NOT need a band playing that loudly! Once they started to play, you could not carry on a conversation with even the person next to you without yelling in their ear. One evening someone yelled out to "turn down the volume", and received a round of enthusiastic applause. It didn't help. I guess the band thinks they know better what people want. The comedian/magician was great. A regular comedian who performed another night was absolutely fantastic and had us laughing so hard I was absolutely choking. He was wonderful. The ventriloquist/comedian was another great evening of entertainment. The pianist was exceptional!! DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation was smooth and fast. No problems there, at all. Do we believe Azamara needs to make a few changes? Yes. Did we have a good time anyway? Yes. Will we cruise with Azamara again? Possibly. IF they get their various problems corrected and if they bring their prices down a bit. There are currently over-priced for a supposed "deluxe" cruise line. Maybe in a few months or a year (??) they will achieve that status. Their ports are still a big draw for us (and many others). Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
Azamara Quest 11/24 - 12/08, 2007 We drove to Miami on the 23 and checked into our hotel......Ran into Marti and Tom at the elevators....The four of us went to the Versailles Restaurant (Cuban) and waited for the others...Finally, all 17 ... Read More
Azamara Quest 11/24 - 12/08, 2007 We drove to Miami on the 23 and checked into our hotel......Ran into Marti and Tom at the elevators....The four of us went to the Versailles Restaurant (Cuban) and waited for the others...Finally, all 17 of us were getting acquainted and enjoying the food, service and even the live music.......What a start!!!!! Wearing our Mardi Gras beads, we embarked..A first.......after over 20+ cruises we were UPGRADED from an oceanview to a balcony..,YEAH!!!..the boarding procedure was smooth except for the fact that we waited (forever) for a wheelchair (my injured foot was acting up and it would have been a very long walk)......We were escorted to the cabin...We dropped off our carryons and headed for Deck 9....Windows (buffet area) for a light lunch....The Adventure begins.....Others have said how very pretty the Quest is and I have to agree. It quietly shouts elegance.from the artwork to the sheen of polished wood everywhere. I am not going into detail about the entire 14 days...but a couple highlights about our CC gang.....First memory, Fran's look when she saw Ken's whole fish at the restaurant...It was priceless..........Janie's retelling her adventure on the beach with the machoman and his thong. and then there was Francesca....from Spain with a British accent (She and Andrew are from England but now live in Spain)...We surely corrupted her with Southern Speak....... we (including the couple from San Antonio) taught her.............. .Jeet Yet??????? answer: No...Jew??? A precious memory. The staff and crew couldn't be any nicer......They were friendly, courteous, and willing to do their best to accommodate any and all requests....The Captain even said, "we never say we can't....we will always try.......and if they try and still can't call me at cabin XXXX" The non-smoking ship was wonderful ... my lungs really appreciated it...especially in the casino. The cabin was lovely, no garish colors...well laid out.....The bed was a dream..made up with four pillows, two large shams and two small "embroidered" Azamara toss pillows.....The bathroom, though quite small was adequate. It had all the necessities including the shampoos etc., the luxurious towels and wash cloths and the fresh roses. We never used the fridge but the safe was in a handy place.......Our TV screen had our names right on the screen with a message indicator.......nice touch. (didn't like the BBC - TV.....CNN and soccer) The lounges and marble tables around the pool area were very comfortable... The Open Seating in the Discoveries, Deck 5, was a plus sometimes and a minus at others...Some of the waiters need further training......some were a delight.....The Maitre'D managed to seat our group together with second table nearby..Our group ranged from four to sixteen so it wasn't easy for him........The food was much too gourmet-ish for my taste....There was a wide variety to choose from.....Each night, Pasta, Chicken, Beef, Fish and Special (Venison, Duck, Veal etc) Desserts were just OK......the cakes were on the dry side...The food in general, is not as good as on the Celebrity Ships (especially the Zenith)...They need to 'un-fancy' it a bit. Many in our group ate the evening meal on Deck 9 , Breezas (Windows by day)...That was buffet style....with sushi, stir fry and special pastas nightly.....Tables were outside under the stars.....with live music part of the time.... One very nice touch was the service in Windows Buffet......The waiters would get your juice, coffee, tea etc.....They bussed the tables and kept the area spotless. We ate one time in the Prime C restaurant and the food (and service) were very good...We did not eat in Aqualina but those who did said they preferred Prime C. Entertainment was good for such a small ship...The magician and the ventriloquist were very good and the pianist drew raves from those in attendance.... We enjoyed visiting all the smaller ports and had no problem getting local taxis to take us around.....The tender service was very good and run efficiently...Especially enjoyed Rico...who stuck his head into each tender and said "Welcome to my Island".....(He was Security for the Azamara Quest)........When we reach Puerto Rico, hubby said to him.."Welcome to MY island"...People seemed to enjoy the Salsa Band and the Free DonQ rum drinks... Disembarking was a 15........We went to Deck 9 and had breakfast...they started calling luggage tag colors...........When the color before ours was called, we headed for Deck 5...took the elevator and it was empty.....reached Deck 5 just in time to disembark.....off we went. the best ever. On a Scale from 0 - 10 I rate the Azamara Quest as follows: Embarkation and Debarkation: 10 Accessibility of places on the Ship: 10 Prices in Gift Shops: 00 way too high!!!!! Photo Shop 00 $24.95 for an embarkation photo where you look awful!! Comfort and service in Cabin: 10 Amenities: flowers, toiletries, fresh fruit, hors d'oeuvres 10 Food in all restaurants: 7 Service in all restaurants 7 Coffee in all restaurants 3 Room Service 10 Entertainment: 6 Casino: 9 Tenders 10 Ports 10 Staff and Crew: 10+ No Photos every time you turned around, no midnight buffets, no presentation of desserts, no trays in buffet area, no crowded elevators, no long lines anywhere. There were: cool cloths when returning to ship, a sweet (sometimes a chocolate dipped strawberry) at bedtime, A long stemmed red rose on the bed (mid-trip) was a nice touch. Would we recommend to others: Yes, Yes, Yes Message to ALL Cruise Lines: Build SMALLER ships....There are plenty of us who love them......... Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
We set sail the day after Thanksgiving from the Port of Miami. I traveled with my Dad age 65 and sisters age 39 and myself age 42. My father is a veteran cruiser has taken about 18 and goes at least once or twice a year. My sisters are ... Read More
We set sail the day after Thanksgiving from the Port of Miami. I traveled with my Dad age 65 and sisters age 39 and myself age 42. My father is a veteran cruiser has taken about 18 and goes at least once or twice a year. My sisters are also veteran cruisers. All have traveled Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and NCL. I will give a highlights and more details where other reviews did not touch on. To start we all were coming from long distances, Denver, Guadalajara, Chicago, and Portland. We had stayed at the Conrad Hotel which is fairly close the port. It is about 15 dollar cab fare there. It is also close to the light rail so we were able to do some shopping at Bayside and at the local Publix and Walgreens in the morning prior to embarkation. With the new restrictions on liquids we needed to stock up on shampoo, sun screen, bug spray etc. There was no insect repellant for purchase on board. My sister brought some towelettes she got from REI which contained Deet. Some excursions repellant is desired. The gift shop on board does not have a lot to offer and what it does is pricey. The crew is nice enough to replace lotions shampoos etc if you ask them. The shampoo they offered was drying for my hair but dad thought it was fine. Embarkation- we went early and they were accommodating and we got on really without waiting in line. We had requested a state room with twin beds. Upon arrival our bed was made as a queen. Our cabin "butler" really a cabin steward did make the adjustments after we asked him. I agree with others that they are more stewards not butlers. We stayed on the 4th floor the lowest on the ship. But close to the 5th floor which the Mosaic and Gambling, and Front desk and main Discoveries Dining are located. I was surprised to see as many folks with physical challenges such as wheel chairs, scooters, walkers etc. I was told by one travel agent leading a group there are several suites which are handicapped equipped. Two doors down from us a fellow passenger had a scooter in the hallway which was sometimes a challenge to navigate. The cabins are small but appointed. I would agree with other reviews if you are a larger person - more than 250lbs the showers/bathrooms are small. The cabins have 2 small closets, a mini bar, a safe a flat panel t.v. dark wood. The beds were comfortable, the linens were nice and down comforters great. The towels swallow you up and were great. If you desire they are for purchase. Laundry service is steep. We had gotten a coupon because my dad is a captains club member. When we went the straight pay per item rate it was pricey. The coupon was fill the bag and have it done for 20. But the problem it came back all wadded up in the bag severely wrinkled. Dad had to take this up with the housekeeping manager. They offered to iron but this would be for another day. The laundry facilities are on the 8th floor and open from 8 to 7 daily. The cost was 2.50 for wash and 2.50 for a dry. Also an ironing board. It was often busy with crew also using the facilities. I guess we were told there was another laundry room for guests but it was not open for this sailing. There are about 4 washers and 4 dryers and one ironing board. As for the restaurants we ate at the Discoveries Dining room, the Windows buffet cafe and the specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurants were nice, quiet, the souffles in the Aqualina and chocolate fondue in the Prime C were to die for. Afternoon Tea was in the Aqualina with harpist Jacqueline- she was wonderful. There is also a pool side grill with burger and salad fare. We often did the cafe in the morning we usually got there at 7 when it opens and when we went later there was no place to sit. We at one point took our plates from the Windows cafe down to the Discoveries Dining room to have a place to sit. The dining room is on 5th floor. The service was fairly good. We asked for Vincent most of the time and tried to get a table near the Captains Table which has more room to navigate. The food was good. I wouldn't say fantastic but good and really good. The entertainment was o.k to fine. The review shows I did not care for. One entertainer was probably offensive to the mostly 75 and above crowd. The magician was fun and Hyperion Knight was spectacular. WE used the fitness center daily. It is up on the 10 th floor so we often took the stairs as a warm up. The equipment is fine a few treadmills, and ellipticals, and mostly upper body weights and free weights. You have a nice view. I do have to say on one day with 13 foot swells to be on the tread mills added to many getting sea sick. We avoided the Spa it is pricey but prices came down for combo services- i.e 20 facial 20 massage for 69- as the cruise went on. The one hour massage was I believe 198 and from what I heard from others mostly average. They occasionally offer classes on weight loss etc which are mostly infomercials for supplements or selling personal training. My sisters signed up with trainer who they enjoyed but for 85 an hour pricey. There is a private deck with the whirlpool which you have to pay a 100 a week pass price. I noticed from my time in the fitness room many folks would put a book and towel out and expect no one else to use "their" chaise. Lets move on to the pool. Very small and all the same depth. There are a couple of whirlpools. One woman slipped as did many due to the slippery surface not to the drinks. She ended up having broken her collar bone. The deck has many chaises but often fill up quickly especially on sea days. There is a smoking section on the pool deck and up in the Looking Glass lounge otherwise the ship is smoke free. As for the drinks- pricey. The drink specials don't mean special prices. They ran about 12 dollars for the coladas etc. Many bought alcohol in port as to avoid the steep prices but often when going through security getting back on the ship it was taken and kept until passengers would disembark. Some unhappy campers there. As for the excursions. On Virgin Gorda we took the island excursion with stop at the baths. It was supposed to include going to little dix bay but this was essentially a tour of the hotel's parking lot. The Baths were nice but crowded mostly with our ship. One man in his 90's got hurt and they were ready with a first aid kit. On Dominica we went down the river in inner tubes and visited the emerald falls. Beautiful!! Grand Turk was the place to snorkel Dominican Republic was NOT! We took the land tours at Tobago and St. Vincent which were nice. But not too many potty stops. We generally stopped drinking fluids at least 2 hours before leaving the ship. The Dominican Republic was not safe to go ashore to the main island we were at the Cay which was a resort but the water was dirty we stayed on the ship that day. Many ports you have to tender in so those with physical challenges oftenwere not on excursions. St Barts we went to shell beach on our own. Did not buy much due to the euro being high against the dollar. Some folks used the internet to plan their own excursions. WE loved St.John and went to Caneel Bay Trunk Bay is also nice. The best shopping was on St. Thomas for those that took the ferry over. And I have to say the people of Ponce Puerto Rico were the most prepared with taxis to town. We took the local tour for 2.50 per person. There is also a mall with typical Gap, JC Penney etc. My sister did have to visit the Dr. She had to pay for the visit 85 dollars and 40 Gratuity. I would expect those in professional positions i.e Captain, Hotel Manager, not to be tipped and thus not the Dr. Many of our fellow passengers complained about varying aspects of the cruise. I needed to do a reality check with my dad. It was fine and on par with Princess. They do have some fine tuning to do. I guess I realized you can't make all the people happy when on more than one occasion passengers were at the front desk trying to see if they could get out of paying their tips. The drink waiters get paid 50 dollars a month and they as other staff rely on tips. I just found it upsetting to see people who can drop several grand on a cabin but can't pony up a few hundred dollars for the service. I would go again. But please this cruise ship is NOT kid friendly. They will be bored. There are no kid friendly spaces like on Carnival or Royal Caribbean. When we went there was one infant and one toddler who was the son of one of the officers. The crew was nice and hard working. The ship is beautiful and the drawing room has many books for lending. Happy Sailing Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
We sailed from Miami Nov. 12, 2007 only the third public sailing as the Quest. She is a former Renaissance ship, with 3 sister ships sailing under the Princess line, 3 under Oceania line and the Azamara Journey. Embarkation was the best ... Read More
We sailed from Miami Nov. 12, 2007 only the third public sailing as the Quest. She is a former Renaissance ship, with 3 sister ships sailing under the Princess line, 3 under Oceania line and the Azamara Journey. Embarkation was the best we had ever undertaken. The first day was at sea and we spent time (though it took very little) getting to know her layout (she is only 30,277 tons; cap. 694 passengers). She retains the luxury feel from the Renaissance days with lots of wood (mostly teak). Our cabin was daily refreshed with fresh fruit, live flowers (small vase), and afternoon canapes. Our butler strived to meet our small requests promptly & was rewarded by us in tips at the end. Although he was Asian, he spoke good English. Additional room amenities include for the oceanview room we had included Elemis bath products, one night complimentary specialty dining (since upgraded to 2 nights), complimentary use of binoculars, umbrellas, robes & slippers (to take home). We're still using ours. Our first port was Grand Turk & the shore excursion we took was excellent the personal mini-boat & snorkel adventure. Our guide even took passenger photos (on their individual mini-boat in front of the Quest at the of the excursion). We then continued for 7 more consecutive days at the following ports: Samana, Dominican Republic; Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; St. John, USVI; Gustavia, St. Barts; Cabrits, Dominica; Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe; Virgin Gorda; BVI; followed by 2 days at sea before returning to Miami. In Samana, we enjoyed a "beach day" with private bar-b-que cookout & use of lounge chairs. The Quest was the first cruise ship to dock to Mayaguez and we therefore received special treatment from the local people. They had already decorated for Christmas with numerous large light displays in the main square. The Quest tendered us in to St. John, USVI where we we embarked on a sailing & snorkeling expedition on the Calypso for snorkeling between Conga Cay & Lavonga Cay some of the best snorkeling we have done. We had been to St. John previously but took the Panoramic St. John tour to see Annaberg Sugar mill & numerous stops to view USVI & BVI nearby islands finishing up at Trunk Bay for a short swim. At St Barths, we were tendered in & were disappointed few shops were open as we arrived on Sun., 11/18. The Quest staff should have informed us that this would be the case. We believe that basically all our ports were the first visits to these Caribbean islands for Azamara (& Celebrity parent company), there were a lot of unknowns as far as excursions & the local customs were concerned as we saw the Quest's Captain tendering in to the ports which we found unusual). The port of Cabrits was the second port we had been to in Dominica & our shore excursion was excellently conducted by a local guide of the Syndicate Nature Trail & Indian River, the former being through the rainforest. We visited the Cousteau Reserve in Guadeloupe & the Rhum de Bologne Distillery. We were on a glass-bottom boat at the Reserve & were also able to snorkel. We walked around the town of Basse-Terre & found we were easily distinguished as Americans as this was the first visit by a cruise ship there also. The natives were quite helpful even though they spoke only French. We enjoyed our "Caribbean night" on board that night; however, we were a little disappointed that they do not have a buffet by the pool as larger ships do. It was mostly an outdoor dance party but the Captain's staff participated and a good time was had by all. We highly recommend the Bath & Spring Bay Exploration at Virgin Gorda which was 4.5 hours where we again saw many different views of the Virgin Islands (both U.S. & British). There were multiple informative lectures on board, wine tasting events, cooking events conducted by the Head Chef, trivia games & the like. The ship caters to a senior group as I believe we only saw 2 or 3 families with young children. Everything is more "laid back" and relaxing. Even the tenders were boarded & disembarked easily with refreshments provided prior to reboarded the Quest along with cool towels for refreshing oneself. The cruise line can best be described as Luxury class between Celebrity's upscale class & that of for example Regent Seven Seas at very reasonable prices. Although the Butler is not a true one, but a glorified room steward, we still had above average service. Dining was excellent food; however, service was erratic we believe due to the fact that the kitchen had not timed its anticipated dinner orders yet as it was only the third sailing. Our best meal was at the specialty restaurant Prime C, the best meal we had ever had cruising. We did not sample the other specialty restaurant (Aqualina). Overall, due to the small size of the ship, there were limited activities compared to larger ships. We did participate in dance lessons, played shuffleboard, & attended lectures. The small size and easygoing ambiance suit us fine & we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We are planning a trip next Jan. on the Journey & are booked in the same cabin. In short, we rate Azamara 5 stars & highly recommend it for those not bringing families who want to go to unusual ports and want excellent service, food and accommodations. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
My cruise on the Nov. 12, 2007 Azamara Quest sailing was my 35th overall and first on either Azamara or Celebrity. After spending the night on Miami Beach, I arrived at the port at 11:00 AM and was having a beer on the pool deck by ... Read More
My cruise on the Nov. 12, 2007 Azamara Quest sailing was my 35th overall and first on either Azamara or Celebrity. After spending the night on Miami Beach, I arrived at the port at 11:00 AM and was having a beer on the pool deck by 11:10. It was the smoothest ever! Kudos to the check in staff. (The reverse is true of disembarkation - more on that later.) After a quick tour of the ship I went to my cabin, 7000 Sunset Verandah forward. My initial reaction was surprise at the small size and especially the tiny balcony with two plastic chairs and table not much better. I was disappointed there was no chaise lounge. However, it is facing the bow and that proved to be a wonderful experience. The bathroom was tiny. I am of medium build and found it uncomfortable because of its compactness. The shower is claustrophobic. While seated on the toilet your left knee would hit the toilet roll dispenser. The fixtures were fine and water pressure adequate. The linens were terrific and the bath sheet would swallow anyone up. The appointments in the cabin were, besides the bed, a small couch and table. There was a small area I used for a desk with a small padded stool to sit on. The wall furnishings were Spartan by my standards. A large mirror in front of the bed was placed there to give the illusion of being in a larger room. The paintings were simple. The TV was a nice flat screen but the broadcast were limited and quality poor. The interactive part was cumbersome and the portfolio review never worked. In fact there was someone else listed in my cabin and I mentioned this several times and no one could figure out how to remove him. The ships itself is well laid out, nicely appointed and very very clean. The layout is easy to navigate with most features being on deck nine or deck five. As I am a smoker, I found the limited smoking areas too few. However, I knew this before boarding and thusly have no basis for complaint. The fact you couldn't smoke on your balcony was disconcerting and violated by many. Some passengers smoked in their cabins as well. I never noticed the "Smoke Police" so I presume Azamara turned their head the other way. One great upshot of the limited smoking sections is I now have many new great friends from meeting many times a day at the pool smoking area. The ship has four eateries. The main dining room (Discoveries) has open seating which I have never liked and didn't like it on the Quest. I do not understand why an upscale line would use this method. If you arrived near 8:00 PM there would be a thirty minute line. The service was hit and misses as I felt the dining room was understaffed considering the rush of passengers arriving at one time. I finally had enough of that and the fourth night I went to the Assistant Maitre'd and requested a table for two at 6:00 PM. I had a great waiter and assistant waiter at the same table for the remainder of the cruise. However, I was reminded nightly that this ship has Open Seating and that the Assistant Maitre'd was really doing me a big favor. The menu selections were somewhat limited, but most of the entrees were very good. Windows Cafe on deck nine was the buffet style dining area. I thought it neither better nor worse than most lines I have been on. The Windows Cafe was a very pleasant place to enjoy your meal. One thing of note, no one on the staff ever offered me a drink, tea or coffee. Also they were quick to remove your plate if you left your table to get more tea or another drink. Specialty Restaurants: There are two and I dined in each once. The first is the Prime C. It is a beautiful room on the aft end of deck ten. It is primarily a steak house but has other specialties as well. I had the Kobe (style) steak. I was never so disappointed. It was served beautifully and as I cut into it I knew I was in trouble. I've had top sirloin that was much tender. I ate a few bites and then finished the other items on my plate. No one asked why I wasn't finishing it and the staff carried on as my behavior was normal. Since I was with a large group, I declined to make an issue of the problem. Everything else was great including the dessert. The next day I saw the manager and he apologized and emphasized that it was Kobe style beef and not authentic Kobe. Anyway, he Gave me credit for the add on and later called and gave me credit for the entire meal. This left me one gratis specialty meal so another group and I went to Aquilina on Thanksgiving night. It is located adjacent to Prime C on the same deck. I had a beautiful tenderloin served with appropriate side dishes. It was one of the best I've ever had. The service was impeccable and all was good with the world until the end of the meal. I was asked to sign for the add on since this was my second tenure in their Specialty Restaurants. I explained my experience in the Prime C and conversations there after. He insisted that I was mistaken until I mentioned the phone call, and then I was asked when the call was made. I explained that, and then the Aquilina Manager went to get the Prime C Manager and is was becoming quite embarrassing. The time of the call to me was very critical apparently and luckily I remembered the day and time. Finally they acquiesced, but only after a hassle. It was not handled very professionally in my opinion. Butler Service: To me this was a severe and flagrant use of the term "Butler". I saw mine three times and two of those were in the hall. The only time he was in the cabin was the first day where upon he showed me the TV, balcony, and telephone. Wow! My cabin steward was unobtrusive and very good. The cabin stayed spotless throughout the cruise and with that I was most pleased. Others had similar comments while others said their butler was ever present. Go figure! Internet: The ship is equipped with Wifi and that works very well. However the baud rate is painfully slow and a 2 megabyte file would take ten minutes to download. The manager in the E Connections room was very helpful and knowledgeable. The internet was available most days with some drops in service due to conditions. Room Service: I used it daily for breakfast on my verandah. I asked the server on his first visit if I could have the same thing at the same time everyday and I did. He was prompt and most friendly. Ports of Call: They were Grand Turk WI, Samana Dominican Republic, Mayaguez Puerto Rico, St. John US Virgin Islands, Gustavia St. Barts, Cabrits Dominica, Basse-Terre Guadeloupe, and Virgin Gorda BVI. I liked the itinerary and enjoyed each port. Some were better than others, but these things are a personal choice. I particularly enjoyed the town of Portsmouth on Dominica. It is untouched, very poor, and very rudimentary in regards to tourists. That was it's beauty to me. I met the Port Manager and he was very helpful in explaining the customs, history and various landmarks. In time I'd say the developers will discover the island and ruin another beautiful place. Spa: I did not use the Spa, but the gym was well equipped and people that used the services provided loved it. There is a whirlpool on the bow section that is very nice. Entertainment: I attended some of the shows and thought they were OK, but not great. The Cabaret Lounge is small but adequate for the size of the ship. There was one exception. A pianist named Hung was very good. He played classical and at the same time very entertaining. Disembarkation: If Azamara had tried they could not have done a poorer job. Of all the cruises I have been on this was the absolute worst. I asked for Express Disembarkation which means that if you carry off your own luggage, you can be near the first to disembark. I was told to be near the gang way by 8:30. I had an 11:15 AM flight and figured there shouldn't be a problem. Wrong! There were seven other ships in port and we were the last to dock. This occurred at 7:15 AM. I knew then that all was not well. Usually ships are docked by 6:00 AM and clear customs by no later than 8:00 AM. I finally got off the ship at 10:05 AM and barely made it to the airport on time. In fact I had to bribe a porter $ 50.00 and a cabbie the same to make it. The only explanation that was made by Azamara was there was a problem getting all the luggage off and no one could leave until that occurred. A great many people missed their flights and I'm sure The Azamara Home Office will catch hell for it. There is no excuse for that in my opinion. I think they were trying to conserve fuel so the ship was slowed down to save a few dollars. My GPS indicated they were making about 17 miles per hour the last twelve hours. Grrrrrrrrr! Overall: The Azamara Quest is a lovely vessel. He accoutrements are beautiful and the basic idea is perfection. However if they are trying to be identified as a superior brand such as Silverseas or Oceania, they have a long way to go. I had they feeling they don't know quite who they want to be yet. I had a wonderful time and am glad I had the experience. I doubt if I would sail Azamara again and only will sail Celebrity again because of coaxing from my travel agent. If anyone would like further information I can be reached at peterc6@bellsouth.net. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
We arrived in Miami on Friday around 1:45 p.m. and after getting our luggage, grabbed a cab and headed to the Holiday Inn Downtown Miami. (If you have a lot of luggage, be prepared to wait for a minivan, which were in short supply and high ... Read More
We arrived in Miami on Friday around 1:45 p.m. and after getting our luggage, grabbed a cab and headed to the Holiday Inn Downtown Miami. (If you have a lot of luggage, be prepared to wait for a minivan, which were in short supply and high demand.) The taxi ride cost $27. We were able to check into the hotel and were given a port view room on the 9th floor. We've stayed at this Holiday Inn before and it's clean and convenient, but not quiet as the street noises can be heard clearly through the windows. Having a port view was terrific, though, as we could watch the ships sail out of port at 5:15 p.m. The main reason we stay at the Holiday Inn is its location directly across from the Bayside Marketplace, which contains several chain restaurants and many shops. It is also located directly across the street from the bridge to the port, making it a quick ride to get to our ship. After unloading our luggage in the room and getting settled in, we headed across the street to Bubba Gump's for a late lunch/early dinner and then walked about four blocks to Walgreen's to pick up some water to take onboard. (I later learned there is a supermarket in the vicinity that offers a wider selection of water.) We stopped in a liquor store to check out the offerings, since our cruise documents indicated we could bring two bottles of wine onboard for consumption in our stateroom (if we brought it to a dining room there would be a $25 corkage fee), but we didn't find anything of interest. After an hour or so spent wandering around Bayside looking in the shops and stands and listening to a local band, we hit the sack to make sure we were well prepared for embarkation day. Saturday, Nov. 24: At 7 a.m., we looked out the window to see Liberty of the Seas docked at the port. Already docked were two Carnival ships (with a third coming in). To the left of Liberty, where the ships turn around before docking, was Azamara Quest! It was lovely to see her, although we were a little concerned about her arrival time. She was, of course, dwarfed by Liberty and we spent some time considering the fact that the passenger capacity of Liberty is about seven times that of Quest. After breakfast at Bayside, we called for a porter and hailed a minivan taxi over to the port. We got stuck in a huge traffic jam, which our taxi driver told us was caused by seven ships unloading passengers simultaneously. He advised that we should wait until noon next time, and after our continued experience, I would agree. Be prepared when traveling to the port: NO ONE KNOWS AZAMARA. The taxi driver asked me twice for the name of the ship and I finally told him just to look for the small one tucked in between Carnival and NCL. He asked a security guard at the port, who sent us to the wrong terminal (Azamara was using terminal C). Once we arrived at terminal C, it was chaos. Quest was still offloading passengers at 10:30 and they were mixed in with the NCL passengers. There was no place to put the luggage and we stood around guarding it for 15 minutes until a porter who knew the ship came along and started stacking the arriving luggage in one area and assigned another porter to keep an eye on it. We headed into the terminal to wait as the ship was not yet ready. At 11:30 we headed through security. The check in process was quick, but the dinner assignment was a bit screwy. Our rep sent us over to see the maitre d' to get our dinner assignment (for the first night only), but the maitre d' asked me if I had received a card with our assignment on it from the rep. After a bit of back and forth, we received a card for a 6 p.m. seating. We headed up the escalator, had our photos taken for our Sea Pass cards and boarded the ship. We were handed a glass of champagne containing a sliced strawberry and someone offered to take our carry ons. One of the butlers informed us that the cabins wouldn't be ready until 1 p.m., but we could leave our bags inside, which we did. After looking around the cabin, we headed up to the Windows Cafe for a bite. We sat out on the back of the cafe and eventually ran into two other Cruise Critic couples. DH checked out the buffet and was disappointed in the lack of variety, but the pork chop and chicken were good (the other entrEe offerings were beef and salmon). After a glass of wine (for me) and a lemonade (for him), we decided to tour the ship and shoot our video of it before it became too crowded. The ship itself is lovely. We haven't sailed a ship decorated with so much dark wood before, and it gives it an elegant look. The fabrics are beautiful and the small touches, like the fresh flowers in the public rooms, is an elegant touch. We stopped by at Aqualina to make a reservation for dinner and ran into Dominique, who we knew from his days on Infinity. He convinced us to try the restaurant that night, so we made a 6:30 reservation. When we arrived that evening, we were seated in what I would call the hallway section, which is located between the larger main area and the aft section of the restaurant. After ordering a bottle of wine, DH had white bean soup, brie in phyllo, osso bucco, and crème brulee for dessert. I had an arugula, bacon and gorgonzola salad, the brie, rack of lamb, and a Gran Marnier souffle. The food was good, but if you go expecting the type of food or service found at the M-class specialty restaurants, you may be disappointed. If you prefer a more relaxed, less elegant dining experience, it's worth a try. We listened to the talented orchestra for a little while in the Cabaret lounge and then headed to bed. Sunday, Nov. 25: This morning we had breakfast in Discoveries and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at a table for two. DH had the ham and cheese omelet and I had oatmeal (boring, I know, but I need to save my calories for desserts!). After we spent some time relaxing, we headed to our informal CC get together, which we held in the Looking Glass Lounge on deck 10 forward. We had a good turnout (32 out of the 40 who "RSVP'd"), and Matt Roberts, the very personable cruise director, stopped by to let us know he would arrange a more formal get together for us on Dec. 1. The laundry room exists and works! We met a couple coming out of the laundry room carrying freshly washed and pressed clothing, despite the fact that is only the second day of the cruise. Remember to bring quarters as the machines are $2 each and only accept quarters. Warning: It rained around noon and the floor in the buffet area became wet. Some rugs were put down, but the tiles are EXTREMELY slippery. I don't know whether it's just from the water or from some cleaning solution, but be very careful when walking through this area. When we went in to check out the desserts, a man slipped and fell. This area definitely needs attention ASAP. After a lunch at the buffet (where we sat at the bar outside and ate because every table was taken), we headed to eConnections to sign up for our internet package and took a quick look through the shops. At 2:45, I attended the wine seminar. This seemed like the same seminar I've attended on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, and I would have thought they would have used this opportunity to introduce us to more interesting wines than the usual chardonnays and merlots, but the presentation was well done. DH likes the gym but says playing ping pong is a challenge since the table is located out by the pool! Dinner at Prime C involved excellent wait staff once again, this time in the form of David, and we did well with the exception of one appetizer and our rib eye steaks. The shrimp in the shrimp cocktail was overcooked and tough. While we had ordered one steak to be medium rare and one medium, one came out medium well and one medium. We split the medium while another steak was prepared. It came out quickly, but it hadn't been seasoned as the others had, so it was completely flavorless. The rest of the meal was delicious though: the appetizer du jour was a salmon fritter with sweet and sour sauce), lobster bisque, crab cakes, bananarama cheesecake and chocolate fondue. We tried to see the show, which featured singers, but the Cabaret lounge was packed so we left after a few minutes. Monday, Nov. 26 The seas were rough last night, and it was the first time I was actually nervous to be at sea. The swells combined with the strong winds hitting the side of the ship caused quite a bit of rolling. However, since we are completely aft and our bed runs starboard to port rather than bow to stern, we were shaken up and down in the bed rather than rocked side to side. Consequently, every time there was a big shudder and roll, I would wake up. Not a good night's sleep. This morning we enjoyed another good breakfast in Discoveries. The service in the dining room at breakfast is the best of any cruise. The coffee is very good - strong, just the way I like it, and served hot. (Because of passenger complaints, the coffee was very much weakened by the end of the cruise.) Our Cruise Critic group was having its cabin crawl this morning. More than 30 of us visited six cabin categories (inside, oceanview, 1A, sunset veranda, sky suite and penthouse) and were able to peek in members' bathrooms and out on their balconies. Following a delicious lunch in Discoveries (an arugula salad, steak quesadilla, crab and shrimp gratin, penne pasta with shrimp and two orders of chocolate bread pudding), we attended the napkin folding class with the restaurant manager. Having met several restaurant managers on past cruises, I must admit that I could picture few of them teaching this class and enjoying it as much as this manager did. Tonight we had our first dinner in Discoveries and we watched the waiters as they worked. I haven't figured out the arrangements yet, but it doesn't seem that every waiter has an assistant. Our waiter, Aldwin, spent most of the first hour on his own, serving wine, filling water glasses, taking orders, picking up the food from the kitchen and serving, clearing plates and returning them to the kitchen, etc. Occasionally, another waiter would stop by to refill water glasses or take the tray back to the kitchen, but he seemed to be responsible for everything most of the time. At one point, almost every seat in his station was full and he was serving 15 guests at various stages of their meals. Potentially, he could have 18 guests to serve simultaneously. I'm not certain this set up is fair to either the diners or the crew, but we'll watch to see how things shake out over the course of the next 11 nights. We ended the evening by watching the comedy/magic show in the Cabaret Lounge. The performer (Bob) was funny and we enjoyed watching one of our CC members participate. Tuesday, Nov. 27 We are so happy to see land and to no longer be moving (although we are still floating around since we are at anchor). Virgin Gorda looks green and lovely, and we can't wait to get off the ship and onto the beach. We had our first in-stateroom breakfast this morning, and everything we ordered arrived on time and at the proper temperature. That's a rare occurrence in our experience. Kudos to the room service staff for getting that right. It was so peaceful sitting on the veranda. We had forgotten how quiet it is when the ship is at anchor, especially after all the noise of the ship hitting the waves and rocking and rolling for the past 48 hours. We debarked at 9:15. By that time, it was open tendering and we hopped directly onto a tender. In 10 minutes or so we were onshore and it felt wonderful to be back on terra firma after two days and nights of bouncing on the seas. We jumped into an open air jeep and $12 later ($6 for the ride, $6 for entrance) we were at The Baths. The water is fairly rough and while I did some snorkeling, DH didn't even go in the water. We relaxed on the beach and chatted with other Quest passengers for a few hours and then headed back to the ship for lunch. Lunch today was cheeseburgers and fries from the Pool Grill. The burgers were boring but the fries were terrific - hot and crunchy. After some ice cream to cool us off, we headed for the pool and despite a quickly passing rain shower, it was a pleasure to sit on those cushy chairs and enjoy the sun. Dinner in Discoveries was good once again. We both had the gnocchi appetizer, the spinach salad, and the veal palliard, and our service was excellent. We watched the variety show, which consisted of two of the ship singers and a return of the comic/magician, and the show room was packed. Not too many passengers seem to be purchasing drinks, however, so I'm not certain how the bar revenue will be this cruise. Wednesday, Nov. 28 We ate breakfast at Windows Cafe this morning and had waffles, which were very good. We spent the morning doing laundry. After lunch in the buffet, we hung out by the pool for the rest of the day. Those of you looking for Caribbean music from the band will be disappointed, as it seems "relaxing" music is what they have been told to play. We tried Prime C again and had much better luck with our filet mignons than we did with the rib eye. The Caesar salad was okay, the caprese salad was good once again and the beef carpaccio was delicious. Thursday, Nov. 29 This morning we had breakfast in the Windows Cafe. The waffles were wonderful, as were the fresh berries. St. Vincent is a beautiful island and we had a fabulous day with Captain Wayne. There were 24 CC members onboard his tri-powered speed boat, and we stopped at a lava bed, at the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie set for lunch, and a black sand beach for snorkeling. While many of us were in the water or on the boat, a 7.4 earthquake hit around Dominica and Captain Wayne could feel it while he was sitting on land. One member who was laying on the beach could actually feel the earth rolling underneath her. Thankfully, no one was hurt and we finished our day by searching for dolphins and whales. After several attempts, we finally spotted two dolphins and then, about five minutes later, some pilot whales. It was a terrific ending to a terrific day. After a quick, refreshing shower, we met CC friends for a drink and then went to Discoveries for dinner. While the chicken and the shrimp and pasta dishes were delicious, the cajun ribeye was apparently terrible. That dish was sent back through the restaurant manager, who brought a new one out, but no one was willing to try it. We have sworn off ribeyes for the duration of this trip. Friday, Nov. 30 After another delicious breakfast in Windows Cafe, we headed off to meet the group sailing Island Girl for the day. We were bussed to another part the island and then were sent out via dinghy to the catamaran. The group of about 16 CC members were joined by some other Azamara guests as well as four locals, and we all had a great time. We stopped in a beautiful area for snorkeling and swimming while the crew fixed lunch, and then, after petting a local stingray, we headed to the next the snorkeling spot, which was fabulous. We returned to the ship around 4 p.m., hot, tired, and very pleased with our day. The outdoor section of Windows Cafe becomes Breeza at night and tonight we tried it for the first time. The food was terrific and the stir fry and pasta is cooked to order. I feel like I've been eating way too much food, so I had sushi and a salad while DH had a huge plate of stir fry. We both left room for dessert, of course. Afterward, we sat for an hour or so with some folks from the Island Girl excursion and relaxed. Activities for Nov. 30 - Tobago: General Knowledge Trivia, Card Players Meet, Shuffleboard, Tri-Bond Trivia, Ping Pong, Bridge Players Meet, Matinee Movie, Name That Tune, Geographical Trivia, Darts, Charades, Spanish class, Art, Wine and Cheese Party, Friends of Bill W., Friends of Dorothy, Texas Hold 'Em Tournament, Showtime, Bingo. Saturday, Dec. 1 I'm very surprised by how much the senior staff mingle with the guests. They seem to be interested in getting feedback and improving this vacation experience. Even though there's work yet to be done, we give them kudos for their efforts. After breakfast on the back deck of Windows Cafe this morning, watching the Pitons of St. Lucia as we sailed by, we headed up to the "official" Cruise Critic party. Matt, the cruise director, was kind enough to arrange this for us. We gathered in the Drawing Room and had a terrific turnout. Matt arrived first to "open" the gathering, and eventually the food and beverage manager, the front office manager, the restaurant manager, the hotel director, and even the captain stopped by to speak with us. We are very appreciative of all of their time and interest in our Azamara experience. After lunch, we headed out to the pool. We must note that the chairs by the pool with their thick pads and towels are wonderful and it was very easy to find chairs in the sun in the early afternoon despite the number of passengers out on deck. We missed the band, who only played from 12:30 to 2:00. Tonight we are headed back to Breeza for dinner and then we may finally visit the "disco" for 50s and 60s dance night. Activities - at sea: Excel Spreadsheets class, shore excursion presentation, Cook Off with Chef Frederick, bingo, Digital Camera and Underwater Camera presentation, art auction, swing dance class, birthstone seminar, afternoon tea, Powerpoint class, Name That Tune, ballroom dancing, Cabaret Lounge showtime, and the aforementioned 50s and 60s Dance Party. The quality of the entertainment is mixed. The piano player in the Mosaic Cafe and the guitar player in Breeza play well but neither can sing. The pianist last night was very good, but the entertainer the previous night was not well received. The pool band is good but all they play are blues, jazz and "relaxing" music. In my opinion, a pool band should play some peppier music in the Caribbean. Sunday, Dec. 2 Most of the shops are closed on St. Bart's on Sunday and since the currency is the euro, it's quite expensive, so we are staying onboard. After breakfast in Windows Cafe, I used up our internet minutes at a rapid (and expensive) rate while DH did a final load of laundry. The weather is lovely, although the Captain told us yesterday to expect partly cloudy skies. Many of the passengers we spoke with said St. Bart's is a beautiful island, but it is very expensive. Many of the shops were closed, although some opened just for the passengers. One couple enjoyed lunch at a French restaurant they considered delicious and reasonably priced, while another had a slice of lasagna served on a paper plate and a Coke and paid 30 euros. I suppose I would recommend at least going into town. We had dinner at Breeza once again and I had the pasta again. It's fun to meet up with our CC friends, push some tables together and enjoy a long, relaxing, laughter filled couple of hours outside in the warm Caribbean air each night. Activities - St. Bart's: general knowledge trivia, darts, tri-bond challenge, spelling bee, name that tune, movie, shuffleboard, sports trivia, ping pong, acupuncture seminar, bingo, Friends of Bill W and Friends of Dorothy, Rotary, Lions and other club members meeting, super trivia, Cabaret Showtime featuring the (outstanding) sax player, love and marriage game show. Monday, Dec. 3 This morning we jumped into an open air taxi and went to Trunk Bay, where we have not been before ($6/person each way). Admission to Trunk Bay is usually $4/person, but no one was there when we arrived so we entered for free. Our friends picked an out-of-the-way spot down the beach and we relaxed, chatted, laughed and snorkeled the day away. We ate at the snack bar ($30 for two chicken sandwiches, one cheeseburger, two fries and two Cokes) and picked up a t-shirt despite its high price. If you like to snorkel, I recommend following the self-guided underwater trail, but watch out for other snorkelers as you go along. I saw a lot of fish and coral and really enjoyed giving my new underwater camera housing a good workout. At 2:30 we took a cab back into town and went to the Texas Coast Bar and Grill near the ferry dock, where we were soon joined by other CC members and Matt, the cruise director. I highly recommend the kiwi coladas, and DH thought the margaritas were quite good. Five drinks were $30, much cheaper and much better than what's being served onboard. We've suggested to the bar manager that all the bottom shelf liquor be removed from this ship. After two terrible frozen drinks at the pool bar made with cheap rum, we've given up. I'd pay a little more if I knew I didn't have to tell the bartender exactly which rum to use (or not to use) in my drinks. After a long shower to get rid of all that sand, we headed back up to Breeza for dinner. It started pouring as we left St. John (80 minutes late) so seating was very tight out back, but we managed to get three tables together and enjoyed another fun filled dinner. The guitar player continues to play wonderful background music from 6:30 to 7:30, but once he starts singing in his second set at 8:30, we all usually leave. Unfortunately, every song he sings sounds like an Elvis impersonation, and he simply is not a talented singer. At 10 p.m., what was billed as Dancing Under the Stars morphed into Dancing in the Looking Glass Lounge. With the Captain and three CC members serving as judges, passengers were matched with staff and judged as they attempted four different dances. The staff members I remember were the food and beverage manager, the restaurant manager, the hotel director, the front office manager, two members of the shore excursions desk, one or two members of the cruise director staff, and three others whose functions escape me. Several CC members participated in this activity including yours truly, who was paired with the restaurant manager. In the end, the shore excursion director and a CC member's wife won, but I think we all had a blast. I must admit that I am no dancer, but that was one of the most memorable experiences of any cruise I've taken and certainly the funniest. Afterward there was more dancing and we watched as the Captain did the twist and danced to Greek music, while the restaurant manager did a Russian dance. The disco hasn't seen this much activity or attendance by the passengers this entire cruise! Activities - St. John: Veterans meet, general knowledge trivia (every day), card and bridge players meet (every day), secrets to skin perfection, ping pong, name that tune, darts, around the world trivia, movie, shuffleboard, country line dance class, pre-dinner Texas Hold 'Em tournament, and the aforementioned dancing followed by Dance Around the World Tuesday, Dec. 4 We docked in Ponce around 6 a.m. and once we arrived at Windows Cafe for breakfast around 7:30, passengers were out in full force. We stayed until 10 chatting with various CC members, and then we walked a mile around the jogging track, followed by a game of ping pong. I did take a peek in the Spa area. There are two decent sized tropical showers and a steam room in each of the locker rooms. I stuck my head out into the T-pool area and realized it was larger than I thought. I would estimate there is seating for about 16 in various chairs and loungers separated by the T-pool. There were approximately five passengers out there while I looked. After speaking with CC members who went into Ponce, apparently we missed a wonderful city. Several members visited the museum and walked the city, and said it was extremely clean and the people were the friendliest they had met on any island thus far. Ponce is apparently interested in drawing cruise ships, thus all the construction at the pier, and are very happy to see cruise passengers visit their side of the island. We also learned that there was a free rum tasting on the pier and a few passengers took full advantage. A CC couple told us there is a boardwalk about 10 minutes walking time from the pier that features many restaurants and outdoor bars. Look for the marina and follow that around to the boardwalk. We shared dinner once again with a CC couple and tonight I finally tried the stir fry. Delicious and made to order. I barely had room for dessert! Activities - Ponce: Combat Bloating seminar, darts, speed drawing, Gilligan's Island Trivia, Country Name That Tune, movie, ping pong, Tri-Bond Trivia, Shuffleboard, Spelling Bee, Super Trivia, Friends of Bill W. and Friends of Dorothy (every day), big band dancing, pianist performance (one show only), nightclub Wednesday, Dec. 5 After breakfast we headed on the tender to Cayo Levantado. Originally we were scheduled to tender to Samana, but a few weeks before our sailing the port was changed, and our morning was spent on this small island just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Our favorite bar server from the Sunset Bar was out there early and brought us two delicious pina coladas ($6 each). After that we learned about the local bars offering pineapple pina coladas made with and in fresh pineapples with fresh coconut juice and with or without rum. We enjoyed one of those (with rum) for $5. The beer was inexpensive as well. If you go there, be sure to bring cash with you if you want to sample some of the local drinks. The ship provided sandwiches on the beach, but they severely underestimated the crowd. By 1 p.m., they had run out of sandwiches, water and juice (the latter two from urns, not bottled), and were waiting for more to be delivered from the ship. There were plenty of loungers, all of them in good shape as far as we could tell (not like the broken ones on the beach in Huatulco that we experienced on our last cruise), and local men would come over and move them to wherever you wanted them positioned and clean them off. DH tipped the man who helped us. The only thing that surprised me was how green the water was. As one CC member described it, it was like standing in limeade. I was quite happy to take my shower when I returned to the ship, since it was so hot I had to cool off a bit in the water. Activities - Cayo Levantado: Part 4 of the forensics lecture series by forensic dentist Dr. Norman Flaxman, spanish lesson 4, Irish music sing-along (there was no singing along), and all the other activities I've listed on other port days Thursday, Dec. 6 After a buffet breakfast, we gathered our items and grabbed a taxi to Bohio Dive Resort at Pillory Beach ($7/person each way). {The cab fares are divided into zones so you need not wonder what the fare will be. Just check the map located by the taxi stand outside the shopping area.) We checked in at the dive center and paid $10 each for two chairs and set up our stuff on the beach. When we arrived just after 9:00 a.m., there were four other Quest passengers there. Otherwise, the beach was empty. The waves were rolling in, which Ruben in the dive center said was very unusual. Apparently, Grand Turk is known for its calm seas. Unfortunately, the waves kicked up the sand and the seaweed and it was impossible to see anything while snorkeling. Instead, we walked the beach in both directions and found a few lovely shells, including a large conch shell (empty, thankfully) and a sand dollar. As we were walking along the beach we saw the Carnival Triumph sail by on its way to the pier. Matt had told us that a Carnival ship would be arriving a few hours after we docked, and by the time we finished our beach walk, Carnival passengers began to arrive at the resort. By the time we finished lunch and packed up to leave, there were at least 15 more people there. If we thought that beach was getting crowded, however, nothing prepared us for the scene at the pier. When we left the ship, there were about six people on the beach right next to the pier. By the time we returned, you could barely see the beach for all the people on it. The pier area also contains a Margaritaville and it was mobbed, along with a free pool with a swim up pool bar, which was also mobbed. There is also a large shopping area, but we found the prices to be high compared to the shopping areas we had visited on other islands, such as St. John. One of the shop workers told us the government charges a 33% duty on anything imported from the U.S., which resulted in higher prices. We went up to the pool to relax. Eventually the pool band arrived, and the strangest event occurred. This band, which had been playing jazz and blues (background music) or anything that could be turned into cha-cha music, started off by playing a Beatles medley. When they finished that first tune, the Carnival passengers who were out on their balconies clapped and whooped for the band, and unbelievably, the trio began playing lively music. There was a couple on the Carnival ship dancing along on their balcony, and each time the band finished a tune, the Carnival passengers would applaud. This went on for about six songs or so, and then the trio apparently ran out of all the lively tunes in their repertoire and went back to their usual cha-cha music. If I hadn't heard it myself, I wouldn't have believed they had it in them. Maybe that experience will encourage them to learn some more danceable music and liven up the pool experience for future Quest cruisers. Thursday was lobster night in Discoveries, but we chose Breeza once again. There's nothing like eating out under the stars with a warm breeze blowing, especially when you know you won't be doing that again for quite some time! Afterward we headed down to the Cabaret Lounge to see Don Bryan, the ventriloquist, and he was quite good. Activities - Grand Turk: in addition to the usual: Advanced Excel spreadsheet class, Who Am I?, Arts & Crafts: Jewelry Making, Engine Room presentation, Liars Club Starring You! Friday, Dec. 7 It's our final full day onboard and after breakfast I headed down to the Cabaret Lounge for the disembarkation presentation. Having been on more than 10 cruises now, I didn't think I would learn anything new, but since this is a new ship to us and a smaller one to boot, I thought it might be a good idea to attend. The only thing I learned was that we were going to be docked at the same terminal as the one we sailed out of - terminal C, right in the midst of all the large ships. We were hoping to be at Quest's usual terminal J, but as it turned out, the Crystal ship was back in that dock on Saturday. Since we are Elite members and Continental had changed our flight time from 1 p.m. to 10:55 a.m., we received white 1 luggage tags so we would be in the first group to depart the ship on Saturday. The final at sea day finally brought the chair hogs out. When I went by the pool on the way to eConnections at 7 a.m., there were already books and bags on chairs. When DH went out to find two chairs at 10:15, he saw at least 20 chairs with books and bags on them and no people (they were probably all at the presentation). The assistant bar manager saw DH watching chairs and called over two pool workers, who after 15 minutes began removing the books and making the chairs available. I guess that's as far as they went, however, since someone told me she watched two chairs on deck 11 with books on them sit unused for 3½ hours before anyone showed up to use them. We also learned that some people reserved one chair in the shade and one in the sun, even though you can only use one at a time. That's fine during port days when a lot of passengers are off the ship, but hardly fair on at sea days when many people are trying to sit out on deck. I think the crew need to practice a bit more vigilance on sea days. After lunch, we took a two hour nap and then started packing. After dinner with 10 other CC members in Breeza, we headed down to the show, which was a variety show featuring the saxophonist, the ventriloquist, and one of the singers. I lasted through the first two and then I needed to get back to finish packing and get to sleep. Activities - at sea: in addition to the usual Windows XP tips and tricks class, GoSmile Teeth Whitening seminar, Chinese Herb Medicine lecture, Detox for Health and Weight Loss, Mixology (daiquiris), line dance class, black jack tournament, jewelry making, Spanish class #5, That's Entertainment, Forensic lecture #5, martini tasting (suggested by a CC member, who also compiled the list of interested participants, and organized by the assistant bar manager) Saturday, Dec. 8 Despite being docked in Miami by 4 a.m., the ship didn't begin offloading passengers until 8:20. During breakfast, we watched in disbelief as the Carnival Freedom, which had docked around 6:15 a.m., began offloading passengers around 7:15 a.m. How could a ship with so many passengers offload its luggage, clear customs, and start the disembarkation process within an hour when Quest couldn't do it for 4 hours? Thankfully, and despite the fact that there was no system for checking tag colors so a huge number of passengers were getting off in the first group, we made it off the ship, through immigration, grabbed a porter, our luggage, and a cab, and made it to the airport by 9 a.m. I had printed our boarding passes so we checked in curbside, and there was about a 10 minute wait at security. While sitting in the waiting area, we started chatting with a couple who sailed Quest with us whom we hadn't met and compared notes. They confirmed that they had a reserved table every night in Discoveries and were told by the maitre d' not to tell anyone else about it. They felt as we did that it was a good cruise, but Quest is not yet offering a deluxe sailing experience. We had an uneventful flight home. A few general comments: 1. Matt is now back to being the Activities Director, despite the terrific job he did as cruise director. He has a wonderful personality and has been very good to Cruise Critic onboard. After we met him the first night to tell him about our unofficial get together, he was very enthusiastic about the group, came up to meet some of us that morning, and then offered to organize a meeting on December 1. He arranged for all the beverages and snacks and for the senior staff, as well as the Captain, to stop by. I think he deserves a huge pat on the back, and I know all the CC members join me in thanking him for all his hard work, kindness and generosity. I would be pleased to sail with him again one day. 2. The Captain is leaving on holiday following the end of this cruise. We heard he is not returning to Quest. We've seen him quite a bit around the ship, and even though he didn't vote for me to be in the top three in the dance competition, he does a fabulous job running the ship and sincerely wants our experience to be the best at sea. 3. None of the CC members I've spoken with believe open seating will work out without a major overhaul. The dining room crew and staff work very hard to make the dining experience in Discoveries enjoyable, but the kitchen cannot seem to get the food out in a timely fashion. As has been reported on previous sailing, dining times of almost three hours is not unheard of, especially at larger tables. The maitre d' and restaurant manager must stop the practice of "secret" reservations and make open seating truly open seating. 4. I believe this ship is understaffed in all areas - the kitchen, the servers, the bar attendants, and the butlers and cabin stewards. The shortage is most apparent in the kitchen, as mentioned above, but it seems silly to me that there is only one bar attendant servicing the entire Breeza area at dinner time. As that area has grown in popularity for dinner, she is running around constantly. Plus, she is helping to clear tables because there is not enough staff to keep up. 5. The entertainment is very inconsistent. The orchestra is terrific, the pool band is okay, the singers were good but I've heard better on Celebrity, the featured entertainers were generally good, but the guitar player and piano player need to be replaced or told not to sing. 6. Azamara has to stop nickle diming its passengers if it wants to be considered a deluxe line. The speciality restaurants are not worthy of the cover charges. An 18% gratuity added to every bar bill from a $2 can of soda to a $85 bottle of wine is an outrage (include the charge in the cost if you must cover your expenses). Four dollars for a small latte (plus the 18% gratuity), $24.95 for the embarkation photos (this was the first cruise on which we didn't purchase a single photo), and $0.38/minute as the lowest internet cost (and 260 minutes as the largest package you could purchase) add up to a continual annoyance to passengers. 7. And finally, please stop referring to the cabin steward as a butler. Every cabin, suite or not, only has two attendants, which means the butler not only has to help clean the cabin, but has to provide all the services of a butler as well, including serving in-cabin meals in suites, serving afternoon tea if desired, offering packing and unpacking services, etc. Our team was fabulous (thank you Antonio and Maria) but they are clearly overworked with about 18 cabins to take care of. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise, but that was mainly due to the people - the wonderful CC members we have met and spent every day with, and the dedicated and hard-working crew and staff onboard this ship. The ship is a good size with no crowds anywhere (except for the chair hogs on the last sea day), the food in the buffet has been good (although the food in the specialty restaurants and Discoveries is inconsistent both in quality and preparation), and the tipping process is a problem as many passengers did not think they were getting the service they deserved and were promised by Azamara. This is definitely not a deluxe cruising experience, although it might be six to 12 months down the line. The service and food on the three Celebrity sailings we've taken have far exceeded those found on this ship. But they are trying. Finally, I must mention the outstanding crew and staff from this sailing: Heiki, the hotel director; Matt, the cruise director; Antonio and Maria, our cabin attendants; bar servers Bernie and Sandy; waiter Aldwin, and assistant waiter Jorge. Lorenzo, the restaurant manager, has a heart of gold and is a very fun dance partner, but he needs to seize control of Discoveries before there is mutiny from the passengers and crew. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
Azamara Quest bills itself as a deluxe cruise ship, but is really a "work in progress" and is therefore a mixed bag. Our inside stateroom was spacious and kept very clean. The food onboard is quite excellent, and the production ... Read More
Azamara Quest bills itself as a deluxe cruise ship, but is really a "work in progress" and is therefore a mixed bag. Our inside stateroom was spacious and kept very clean. The food onboard is quite excellent, and the production show performers were exceptional. But, after that, the ship's visible operations fall short of expectations, and at times were not even at the level of RCCL's Royal Caribbean brand ships. Example: Dining room service is very, very slow. It appears to be understaffed. Example: The noise level in the main dining room is the loudest of any cruise ship we have encountered. This may be caused by a ceiling with little sound absorbing capability - a major design flaw. Example: Pool deck maintenance is poor. After a rain, a quarter-inch of water covered it and was allowed to stand for too long. Even deeper water aft of the "Windows" buffet was allowed to stand too long. This was dangerous to passengers. Example: We were surprised that a deluxe cruise ship would charge for soft drinks and non-alcoholic beverages such as specialty coffee. Quite out of character. Example: When we first entered our stateroom we found a nice bottle of wine on the desk. We thought it was part of the for-purchase bar supply, so it remained unopened. It wasn't until day six that our room steward informed us that the wine was a gift from our travel agent. There was no note or card left with the bottle. And there was only one wine glass, so we had to ask for another. And there was no corkscrew, so we had to ask for one. And the in-room refrigerator won't accommodate a standard 750ml bottle of wine. Example: The cruise line makes a big deal of placing fresh flowers in staterooms. But ours were allowed to wilt with no replacement. Example: Shore excursions are very ordinary. There is no attempt to upgrade beyond standard RCCL fare. And for the very first time in our 17-cruises, we asked for a refund for a very bad excursion experience. All my wife and I each received was a ten-dollar refund. A truly deluxe cruise ship wouldn't have insulted us this way. Finally, the consensus among our dinner partners, many of whom had run their own businesses, was that it was a bad corporate decision to make ship guests "guinea pigs" in a training exercise. Though we appreciated the Azamara business model, we were nevertheless dismayed at the execution. Azamara has entered the deluxe cruise ship market prematurely and is not ready for prime time. I suggest giving this particular vessel until next winter before one books passage. Perhaps by then it will be able to deliver the promise of deluxe service. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
Azamara Quest 11/12-11/24 · Background Information This is my 21st cruise, but my first cruise under the RCI umbrella. My husband & I (ages 62 &55) have visited many ports in the Caribbean but not the ones on this cruise. That is ... Read More
Azamara Quest 11/12-11/24 · Background Information This is my 21st cruise, but my first cruise under the RCI umbrella. My husband & I (ages 62 &55) have visited many ports in the Caribbean but not the ones on this cruise. That is why we chose this cruise. The other reason is because we are starting a tradition of cruising over Thanksgiving. We cruise with our family as well but not this time. Travel to Port of Embarkation We were traveling from Central Florida, so we drove. We used www.unitedparking.com. We found out later that we could have parked at the port for nothing because of my husband's handicap placard. But that is ok, we will know better next time. Once at the port we breezed right through and were in our room by 2pm. Stateroom We stayed in a sky suite and it was very nice. We had a stateroom attendant and a butler. We received 2 complimentary dinners in the specialty restaurants. We only booked one at Prime C. My husband wasn't interested in Aqualina. Ship Info The ship was very nice and we enjoyed the small size. We have cruised before on small ships (NCL Majesty before she was stretched) and enjoy the fact that you are not part of a herd. Unfortunately this small ship did not handle the swells on the first day at sea and we spent the whole time in the stateroom sick. I was also a little ill on the last sea day. Dining The dining was not a positive one for us. We are pretty down to basics eaters and all of the added things done to the entrees were not necessarily good in our eyes. Also, my husband doesn't eat seafood, mushrooms, or veal. This limited him to steak & chicken. You can only eat roasted chicken so often. The other options always included one of the items he didn't like. When he ordered a steak medium well it came out medium rare. So, we spent a lot of time in the buffet, which met our basic needs. Our one experience in Prime C was a disappointment to me. I did enjoy the appetizer & soup, but this time I ordered surf & turf with the steak being medium well and got medium rare. Luckily I was so full after the soup & appetizer that just the shrimp part of the surf & turf was enough for me and that was very good. I loved the grill with hamburgers, nachos, & tacos along with the soft serve ice cream. We had room service for breakfast most mornings and I did go to the buffet a few times too. We were happy with that. Activities/Entertainment I went to bingo a few times which wasn't much. I participated in a few trivia games. We enjoyed the liars club. The 3 shows that I went to were good. The casino was too small. They should have left the lounge area out and put in more tables or slots. The slots were pretty old and not that much fun. Whoever chose them should be canned. The idea of the casino lounge was good, but all they needed was the bar. Move the sports club to another area. The lounge acts were all very enjoyable. Service The service was wonderful most of the time. Some of the waiters were still getting their sea legs but I am sure they will master it. Other waiters, especially Santos from Honduras in the main dining room worked like clockwork. We enjoyed him and asked to be seated in his area a few times. Our stateroom was always done wonderfully. Our butler was extremely attentive and helped us whenever we needed him too. Shore Excursions We participated in 5 shore excursions. The only one I didn't like was the Jeep Safari in Samana, Dominican Republic. The roads were bumpy and the stops not that good. There was an armed guard on our tour and the presence of guards on Cayo Levantado was prominent. The other 4: The Grand Turk Experience, Seafari Adventure in St. Barths (which I will put in my all time favorite excursion list), the Historical Plantation Ruins in St. John, & the 3 in 1 island adventure on Virgin Gorda. We toured Dominica, Mayaquez, & Guadeloupe on our own. I have never before received so many free gifts on island stops than I did on this cross. We got t-shirts in Grand Turk, a whale's tail necklace in DR, hats, backpacks, rice & beans, sea salt, pens, local rum, & some other type of drink Gasolina in Mayaguez and the Governor of Puerto Rico came to welcome us and gave our Captain the key to the city, very beautiful plates in St. Barth's, shot glasses in St. John. They really appreciate this cruise line coming to their ports. Disembarkation Not good. They didn't start disembarkation until after 10am, but once it started we were out very quickly. Unfortunately I always have too many bags and depend on porters and there weren't any. There were 5 other ships in port and they all got there around the same time. We did not dock at the same pier we left at which wasn't a good thing. There we would have been the only ship, but a Crystal Ship was there. Summary We had a wonderful time and are sure that the Azamara Quest will get better and better. We met a lot of wonderful people from all over the world. We will cherish this experience. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
We made our own travel arrangements since we could travel non-stop to Miami for less money than the ships arrangements. The transfer from the port was easily done with very pleasant personnel. We arrived at the ship at approximately 1 p.m. ... Read More
We made our own travel arrangements since we could travel non-stop to Miami for less money than the ships arrangements. The transfer from the port was easily done with very pleasant personnel. We arrived at the ship at approximately 1 p.m. and were able to board immediately and get into our cabin. Suite passengers were given a complimentary dinner at a specialty restaurant for the first night and that was arranged at check-in. A very nice perk! However, the luggage did not arrive for another 5 or 6 hours and that was very stressful. The cabin was lovely - very roomy and comfortable. The set-up was not what we requested but that was corrected by bedtime. Our butler was there immediately to introduce himself and to explain the amenities of the cabin to us. The ship is really beautiful. It is decorated beautifully and everything was top-notch. We had traveled on a R ship before so we were familiar with where everything was. We had some breakfasts in our room and sometimes our orders were not correct. We ate one breakfast in the Discoveries Dining Room and that was very nice but most breakfasts and all lunches were at the buffet and the food there was fine. There was a lot to choose from, the wait was not long and the food was mostly delicious. We ate twice at Prime C and once at Aqualina and those meals were superb! Our other dinners were in Discoveries and with the exception on one steak that was not cooked to our order, those meals were also exceptional. One night everyone in the restaurant got the same dessert - Chocolate 5 ways - that I wish I had taken a picture of! The wait staff at all the dining venues was friendly, helpful and very pleasant! We went to most of the evening entertainment. The group of singers and dancers were very good, the magician was terrific, the ventriloquist was OK (as was the violinist) and the stand-up comedian was terrible! We thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Frank Peel's lectures and wished there were more of that type of activity offered. The activities staff did all they could to make things exciting. I was particularly impressed with the fact that they provided Hanukkah celebrations for the Jewish passengers during the holiday nights - that was very touching. We arranged for several of the ships' trips before we left. The City Tour of Santa Marta, Columbia was terrible - the guide was poor and there wasn't that much to see in the city. However, we liked the tour of Cartagena harbor. We enjoyed the Blue Train Ride and Tortuga Canal trip. We went into Puntaranas on our own and that was an awful stop. Nothing there to see or do. We took a private tour of Granada and Lake Nicaragua—it was much less expensive than the ships' tour and was quite nice. We enjoyed Huatalco, Mexico very much. I would hope that the ship could stop at better venues. The disembarkment in Acapulco was handled very well. In all I would say that this was a wonderful trip and although Azamara Quest is a work in progress, they are learning more every day. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2007
My travel agent booked my wife and me on the above voyage representing that this would be a five star experience, appropriate for the celebration of my wife's sixtieth birthday and consistent with our usual "birthday" ... Read More
My travel agent booked my wife and me on the above voyage representing that this would be a five star experience, appropriate for the celebration of my wife's sixtieth birthday and consistent with our usual "birthday" cruising choices (Crystal, Regent, Oceania, Holland America, etc.) I regret to say that we were greatly disappointed with Azamara. CABIN: Besides the diminutive shower, the lack of storage for toiletries is unacceptable. The toilet itself is problematic in that anyone less than six feet tall is left with dangling feet. While the size of the stateroom is small, it would be acceptable if some thought would have been given to its furniture. For example, the night tables with 12"x15" tops were useless in that a lamp was fixed in their center and occupied most of the surface, further, they lacked a drawer. The one shelf in the night tables was impossibly difficult to reach and the minuscule size of their space only emphasized the absurdity of their design. MAIN DINING ROOM: it was glaringly obvious that the facility was grossly understaffed resulting in slow service, exacerbated by the open seating style. The menu was anything but good, nutritious food befitting a five star operation. For example, sea bass was served to my wife with both a baked potato and mashed potatoes, but no vegetables. In fact no fish was served with a vegetable (unless specifically requested!). I was served lamb chops which were fit for resoling shoes, not for human consumption. Soft shell crabs could not be cut with a hacksaw. Filet mignon was served with tomato sauce on top. In fact most dishes were served with an assortment of nondescript sauces which did not enhance their taste. The one time that lobster was on the menu, a tail overcooked beyond belief was served. The chef's attempt to prepare escargots in a butter sauce was laughable, in a sad way - by the time they came to the table the butter had congealed into an inedible mess. Of course recourse to "something else" may be had, but by then one looses ones appetite waiting and waiting and waiting. What was utterly lacking was just simple plain palatable food unspoiled by incompetence in the kitchen. WINDOWS CAFÉ: The tile flooring of the cafe becomes as slippery as an ice rink due to condensation. A meager attempt of the staff to cope with the situation by laying down mats in strategic places is foiled by the simple fact that there are not enough mats to do the job! People were slipping and sliding repeatedly and it is pure chance if no serious accident occurred. Again the problems of understaffing and food choices are blatant. The cooked foods were drowned in creamy, or tomato based sauces, or swimming in grease. A "healthy" alternative just was not there. POOL GRILL: It would have been helpful if there had been a posted menu of what was available. The turkey burgers were good, but they were not discovered until late in the trip. Incidentally, the stateroom information book only listed frankfurters, hamburgers and garnishments (coleslaw etc.) which were generally bad. POOL DECK: So many chairs that there is no room to move! Is it understaffing or incompetence when food leftovers noted at 4PM are still littering the same tables on the pool deck well after midnight? And what about the unwillingness of the deck staff to prevent adults taking infants with/ without diapers into the pool (we found out that in at least one instance, the infant who was taken into the pool was the child of an officer of the ship). This was called to the attention of the Guest Relations Manager, the Hotel Manager and Security personnel, by us as well as a number of other passengers, to no avail. Only after the matter was called to the attention of the medical officer was action taken and the pool drained. In fact the pool had to be subsequently drained several more times due to infant's being taken into the pool and the inevitable poo floating in the pool. SHIP MANAGEMENT: The unwillingness of the Guest Relations Manager to make herself available to discuss anything was a classic. She was on her break and wanted us to wait until after her break to see her. The Hotel Manager was equally unresponsive. As I eventually told the Captain, in her presence, her arrogance is exceeded only by her incompetence. PRIME C RESTAURANT:. The meal was memorialized by my having a slab of fat instead of a veal chop, replaced by a section of inedible tendon. It was not a good experience and convinced us that this specialty restaurant was not worth a subsequent visit. EXCURSION PROGRAMS: We spent over six hundred dollars on shore excursions. Compared with our experience on other voyages, at least two of the excursions were a total waste of money. The Santa Marta City tour gave us little to see or learn, the 'significant' historical events amounted to Simon Bolivar having slept there for eleven nights before dying. The special folkloric show was a sham performance by four couples in native costume. "La Crucecita" and scenic drive tour in Huatulco, Mexico, can be summarized as one continuous sales pitch for condominiums and to attract future tourism to the local hotels. FITNESS CENTER: The fitness center has a reasonable number of cardio machines for the passenger complement. However, not all machines could be used simultaneously because of obsolete electrical capabilities SPA FACILITIES: The men's shower stalls did not have shampoo and at first use no shampoo could be located. When this was called to the attention of the spa attendant I was told that a half gallon bottle of shampoo was available to be shared by all. The second time I was there , there was indeed a bottle of shampoo to be shared, however, the next time it was nowhere to be found. When I inquired, I was told that "it must have been stolen by a passenger" and I was advised in the future to bring the shampoo from my room. This would of course defeat the entire purpose of my using the spa facilities which was to free up our stateroom's shower for my wife's use. She too needs shampoo. Any attempt to shave in the spa facility turned into a "comedic act" because there is no mirror over the one and only sink, nor is there a sink under the one and only mirror (unless the sink and mirror in the toilet stall is used thereby precluding anyone else from using the toilet). MISCELLANEOUS: There was a production crew including actors for the purpose of developing an ad for AZAMARA. It would have been good to know prior to the cruise that we might be inconvenienced by such filming instead of being confronted with it once at sea. In addition, when we were in Huatulco, a large number of "visitors" who I believe were being given a tour of the ship once again interfered with the passenger "space" on the ship. Our overall experience on AZAMARA left us feeling like "guinea pigs" on an experimental cruise, for which we paid.. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Since several of our roll call members for our 12/08 Azamara Quest Panama Canal Cruise have been asking where my review was, I shall attempt to put down what my (our) impressions were. To start it off I've read a couple of the reviews ... Read More
Since several of our roll call members for our 12/08 Azamara Quest Panama Canal Cruise have been asking where my review was, I shall attempt to put down what my (our) impressions were. To start it off I've read a couple of the reviews to see how others felt the trip was..My ideas are not always in agreement but all things are always subjective are they not?? Starting out: we were met by a very helpful lady at the Ft Lauderdale Airport, and we in a bus 20 min later with about 3 other couples (but a full coach bus!) Promptly delivered through Miami (with running commentary from driver) to terminal "J", "This is your ship..." looking up at the three HUGE floating hotels berthed there, I said "I don't think so..."(having been on Renn ships before) as did all the others . He checked at his home base, and took us to I believe "C" (Perhaps I've got the terminals mixed, sorry) Anyway there she was nestled in amongst more huge hotels on water...barely visible from the road....It was like coming home!!! (WE love these Renn. ships!) Our check in was very fast and well handled, no lines, perhaps because we came with so few people ? On board the free champagne ... by now it was 1pm and we asked if we could drop carry-ons (after Oceania losing mine (with all my meds) from the dock to room, we carry ours the whole way) in room, we were told yes...it was essentially ready, lunch was in Windows, and so our adventure started. First off we contacted Guest relations, to set up the C Critic party for the 39 of us that signed up on our Rollcall...she said she felt the 2nd "at sea" day in the library, and took my list of room numbers...and said she'd handle it all. Well in the long run Becky did the work I believe (I again apologize to Mary for having the wrong room so she never got her invite). When the time came, we were hoping for Becky to attend, but as they walked in we had ALL SORTS of white uniforms to address us...You better believe WE HAVE POWER!!! as a group...We ended up with Hotel, Guest relations, Dining, waitstaff, Cruise director Becky (all the HEADS of Departments).. answering our queries, however silly some were! Then wonder of wonders...in walked the best looking guy I ever saw (had seen him the day before tho) and introduced himself to those not at the" Welcome Toast" the day before...Capt. Emmanuoil... (Won't even try the last name) from Athens. Don't know who was running the ship??? Stayed at least 15 min.answering questions. YES they are listening to what we have to say (note the news about the Specialty Rest.!) Several things were changed because of this meeting! Laura (Not Chopped Liver) and I were pleased our attempts to do this worked out so well! We also requested Christmas caroling, which Becky brought off with a great flair, in the Coffee shop, with the whole ship invited. As you know we missed Jamaica,( a huge disappointment as we had a great tour set up) but I 100% agree with the choice not to tender..it would NOT have been safe! The seas were at least 15',(caused we discovered later by a tropical storm approaching from the east) High enough that Mike (my DH) was feeling "not well" and we never get seasick! We also discovered what it was like to be a pin ball in a game, bouncing from wall to wall (Let me say tho sleeping was fine, I still miss being rocked to sleep each night, and beds are wonderful!) Being on the top cabin deck (8) we were bounced abit more than we were used to....So we had 3 at sea days in a row. We couldn't wait to get off at St Marta....well...the least said about the ships tour we took there the better. We took the "Quebrada etc etc. Eco tour". Believe me you get far more eco than you want to...fording a river 4 times each way in your shoes, and without being warned about it. I decided to leave the tour less than 1/2 way, as I use a cane it was way longer and harder a trip than advertised. NO NO it was not the best trip, but the part we did see was fascinating. We also got NO free coffee as was previously reported, just people pushing it to sell to us! (did get a free bracelet)Taxis were the way to go I guess from others.Our guide was great the TOUR was awful! Next day Cartagena..(Please "Cart-a-hay-nyah!") Had a great private tour of the major sites with "Encarnacion" of Tessor tours. Vendors a little pushy but still polite with it, (still sorry I didn't buy a tablecloth there) It's a beautiful old city and tour was well worth the time. Our guide was a native and gave us a lot of history, when we bothered to listen. About time I addressed what seems to be everyones overwhelming concern,(except the Butler question no ours wasn't and didn't pretend to be, he quickly realized we wouldn't want afternoon tea "nap time" or 5pm Canapes but they did a wonderful job of cleaning etc., without "being there" when we were, thanks Mario, as he said "Butlers don't change beds etc." and he had to! ) On to the FOOD. We had a very mixed bag of food and service, none of it really BAD but some better than others, first night the Sea Bass in Discoveries was fabulous, so were many other meals there, but the Lobster night fell really flat (I was spoiled by a family member who'd bring live lobster from Maine,) and this wasn't tho was supposed to be...it was spotted shells and tails...(Maine Lobster turns bright red when cooked). And what they did with it was supposed to be great...wasn't, and Mike had the prime rib, previously great, and it ...wasn't..! Those desserts some were very good, others...NOT. The cone like (1 1/2")serving..."bowls??"... look really cool, can't eat out of them though, unless you use the handle of your spoon 50% of dessert in unreachable. Mostly though the food was very good both upstairs at Windows and Discoveries, and yes Gustave sang to us too, (and anybody who asked,) very nice voice. Was fun .The waitstaff circulate from Venue to venue, the guy being Maitre D' in Aquilina was working the breakfast buffet the next day.(Promised to send us Kadota Figs from his home in Turkey ....) Some were very inept...those 2 guys from Croatia doing Windows..looking like KGB muscle delivering OJ and not much else. Above all, the enthusiasm and drive to please was very strong. The next to last morning the fab. HUGE blackberries had run out...and the ones they had were still red...unripe and sour so I didn't eat them...the very young waiter was worried that I didn't like them...so I explained. He went inside...(We were on the back terrace) Mike said "you'd better go check on him" (we were done and leaving) and there he was at the bowl of berries fishing out the few ripe ones he could find for me with his boss behind him chuckling!! All the staff had this attitude if you approached them with the right attitude! We never asked for "Special treatment, or special treats" we are firm believers in the midwestern ideal all truly ARE created equal and nobody is better than me, conversely I am not better than the others. I did ask for 2 desserts once though! To tours: We had a very GOOD tour from Oscar Brown in Limon which I set up not somebody else, to Zipline. His sister was our guide and made it a very fun day. Consensus has it that the dual tour we took of Ziplining and the Canal tour was perhaps too much, and the road repairs that made it hard to do all we wanted, but we did make it back in time. We saw few animals on the afternoon Canal tour, would suggest that to be in the morning, but it was interesting. Our guide played games and gave prizes to those who won, and gave us history in a fun way also (but she gets seasick so didn't ride boat on canal, I missed her wit!) next to the St Marta tour it was great! Limon is a poor area, and we discovered from our guide in Caldera that the people from Limon are different from most of Costa Rica, who are indian and spanish ethnically, as the Limon people are from slaves escaped from Jamaica, and are mostly African blood. So both ports are worth visits. Next we did the Canal...the whole day was very interesting, no tours for us, thought people should have found the Canal enough, plus the fact that it rained half of the day (When in the Locks naturally) would have made tours unpleasant. After at sea day we were in Caldera, this time we'd set a ships' tour "Costa Rican Traditions". It was probably the best tour of the trip, a very comfortable bus... with the most delightful guide, who explained the traditions and people of Costa Rica, answered all questions, with excellent english. She was an Engineering student about 30, and very pretty, and very intelligent. People were worried about the long ride each way to reach the Doka Coffee estate, but the countryside is volcano mountains, so green, verdant, and covered with coffee trees. The plantation is beautiful, and set up to explain coffee growing and processing. Afterward we had an authentic Costa Rican lunch (included) at a Hacienda owned by the bus provider, who's wife runs this for passengers on tours. Very good (surprisingly not spicy) food. Nap time on way back, as we traveled the famous Pan-American Highway. MY only complaint is the bus took 2 different ways, and somehow coming & going I ended up looking at the 2000' drop offs next to the road!!! Which terrify me! Ah Yes On to San Juan Del La Sur Nicaragua: What can one say about the road from there to Grenada...or anyplace else I guess. We didn't understand why the trip should take 2+ hrs...until.. "THE ROAD" ...a kind term frankly. We alternately named it (NOT affectionately) the minefield and/or the "worst thing we'd ever driven over!!", for the 1st 30 mi., then a nice road (the Pan Amer. again) then into Grenada . The cars, buses even semi's did what I thought of as the "Nicaraguan Minuet", swerving from side to side to avoid the 6' wide (maybe that deep too)potholes that covered the road...at least half was potholes. The strange thing was the cars from the left swerved to the right while those on the right swerved left...all over the road...if it was good enough for them to drive on why are we on their side???where they won't drive??? And again looking at (mere 20') drop off as they drive within inches of edge to avoid those blessed potholes! Once we got to Grenada we had a wonderful tour, with horse drawn carriages and boat ride to the Isletas, to see the homes that take up the whole small Island, and the Monkey Island.(One is for sale..20th Century only 1/2 mil.) This was a private tour again which cost only 65$pp (ships tour...234$) lunch was included at a wonderful Hotel/Rest. a very nice meal.Tierra Tours. Next port was Huatulco, we were so tired we finally decided to not do anything but a little siteseeing and shopping (grand-daughters gifts were still missing). All else thought it was a beautiful port and enjoyed their tours. Acapulco was just rushing to get to airport, only to wait...others have had comments about that...we only had to sit and wait forever. Mexico City however...we changed planes had a layover that had shrunk because of late planes in Aca. They suggested a wheelchair for me...am I glad they did. That place is HUGE and not much real Idea about where to go and where our flight was out of. As we traveled Mexican Air...we landed at a domestic terminal, not realizing that Mexico City airport is just as huge as O'Hare and no shuttles to get you around! My "Pusher" must compete in the olympic event for pushing. HE RAN the whole way and the whole way was like going from International Ter. in O'Hare to the domestic terminals, (which you use a shuttle for) but being pushed high speed through MANY many people, with poor Mike carrying our carry-ons running to keep up. If he'd lost sight of us he had NO idea how to get where ever it was we were going!. As I'm NOT a small person the poor guy was panting (as was Mike) when we finally got to...the wrong place...luckily was still in near vicinity of proper desk. When we went to tip...Mike had only 50$ or 7$ small bills...well guess what the guy got...and was NOT happy! Finally getting on our plane we taxied (late) to the takeoff place only to have announcement of trouble (No water in restrooms or kitchen)..next thing we knew we're going back for Maintenance to look at it...and again taxiing far enough to reach O'Hare on ground...we fixed our problem (A valve turned off!). Then the plane proceeded to back up (no not with help of those little trucks) at least 2 blocks around other aircraft and around corners, to reach taxiway again. We were only 2 hrs late to O'Hare but were greeted with freezing downpour.....What a day!!! In closing: We had a great trip, the ship is beautiful, had NO problems with staff, water was fine, though the tossing of the ship ruptured a pipe on deck 4 and was needed to shut off water (After a swift "duck" tape job), but we were well warned beforehand by a couple hrs. The Azamara lines are trying to be what they advertise with everyone as a big team, The staff for us was friendly, helpful and always there for us, but our expectations were "to be treated well, not as royalty (tho some say they actually were)and have great meals with many different people and staff"...all of which we did do. Several people will always be in our minds, Mary the 83 yr old lady we spent much time with and didn't get to say goodbye to...she was so special. Carol and Bob, Laura & Marv , Don and wife (sorry the Badgers didn't win but WE thought they played well) and many other Cruise Critic folks, as well as others we met along the way. All in all it was a wonderful, tiring vacation and we enjoyed almost every min. of it .(Sorry St. Marta. we just took the wrong tour, if we'd realized the Atocha treasure was there we'd have done a city tour) Napi was glad to have us home too! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Overall We have cruised with Celebrity in the past and we endorse the quality and service of the line. We had three bookings to the Panama Canal (two on Summit) and decided to give Azamara a try based on the marketing information we ... Read More
Overall We have cruised with Celebrity in the past and we endorse the quality and service of the line. We had three bookings to the Panama Canal (two on Summit) and decided to give Azamara a try based on the marketing information we reviewed. Azamara claimed to be a "deluxe cruise experience" with "service unparalleled on the high seas". We knew that this was not going to be Celebrity because of the size of the ship and the upscale yet casual approach. As the sailing date neared, we read the Cruise Critic threads and began to worry about our decision to go with Azamara. This review mentions a number of concerns but we want the readers to know that we say these things to help Azamara improve. We believe that Azamara has the potential to fulfill the expectations they promise to "discerning travelers". This cruise was incredibly relaxing. The Quest is lovely, intimate, and friendly. We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, the dining, the staff, and the experience. It was a good value and we would cruise Azamara again for the right price, level of service, and itinerary. Being back in Philly (we're teased that we're just a suburb of New York) is just a temporary exile! The people we met, the friends we made, and the laughs we shared will long be remembered. We send our warmest wishes to Howard & Cheryl, Pete (Pierre) & Carol, Isabelle & Mike, Ron, Sang, & Richard, Steve & Kate, Ken & Kathy, Denny & Cheryl. Embarkation Smooth overall. At the pier, we had to pick a seating time for the first night in the dining room, which surprised us since open seating was the only option for all other nights. When we arrived on the ship, we were greeted with champagne but no one offered to escort us to our cabin or carry our carry-on bags. When we went to the Windows Cafe for the lunch buffet, it was ungodly hot inside the restaurant. No air conditioning for some unknown reason? Guest Relations said it was a repetitive problem in Miami. Why does the location matter? Butler We liked our butler (Vazio) but he's really a cabin steward in disguise. He offered no special services although he did deliver raspberries every day upon our initial request. He had 18 cabins to take care of with an assistant on hand. We suggest that Azamara lose the butler title and assign him less cabins. Split the responsibility between him and his assistant. Vazio was very kind to offer us his own personal DVD player and movies when we found out we had none in our cabin. Guest Relations said that suites have DVD's but none were available for any other cabins. Cabin Our room was clean. The towels were large and soft. The mini-fridge did not keep items cold enough and there was no room to add our own items inside it. The TV had a blurry picture and the screen was scratched up due to cleaning chemicals (so said the butler). We thought the programming was limited and repetitive. Free movie and TV show selections were redundant day after day. We actually watched a 3:00 PM movie that was cut off (before it actually ended) at 5:00 PM for another movie to begin as scheduled. The TV audio and video were frequently out-of-sync. We called Guest Relations multiple times a day to fix it. Kudos to one of the tech guys who stayed past his nighttime shift to try to help us out. The tech support has been aware of this problem on Deck 7 & 8 for a while but they don't know how to fix it. We would have liked to see more of the ship's entertainment, lectures, and port information sessions broadcasted on TV. Viewing our account online only happened after we made it known to the Cruise Director that it was not working. Guest Relations They were not professional or experienced. They were not prepared for the first day crush. There was not enough staffing at the desk and they handed off issues between them due to a lack of knowledge. They didn't always answer the phone when you called from the cabin. The tipping policy onboard differed from what the Azamara Guest Vacation Specialist and Azamara Customer Service Reps told us prior to sailing. They said we could adjust the automatic charge up, down, or remove it to allow us to pay with cash (the traditional way). Once onboard we were told that this was not the case. We had to elevate the issue to get it resolved. Take note - Who is the mystery Assistant Housekeeping Manager that is tipped at $1/day per person? We never met him/her. Excursions We were very disappointed in the ship's excursions. We noticed that the online excursion offerings, prior to sailing, changed without explanation. We inquired with Azamara customer service and they were not aware of the online changes. The value for the money is not there. If Azamara advertises the excitement of travel to exotic locations, then they need to research and offer exciting excursions to match. We really could have used a map at each port like other cruise ships provide. We were fortunate to save money by touring with other Cruise Critic passengers who hired private tour guides. We went with Oscar Brown in Costa Rica based on postings but he provided mediocre services. Some passengers took a hit or miss approach by hiring taxi drivers right at the port. Remember that you take a risk getting back to the ship on time (for example, friends onboard experienced a sudden weather change in Costa Rica that caused difficult driving conditions on dirt roads). Itinerary First stop was scheduled to be Port Antonio, Jamaica. The ship's captain alerted us that a sub-tropical storm was preventing us from docking. He tried to enter at Ocho Rios instead but there was no room at the pier and tendering was not possible due to the rough seas. We weren't disappointed that he opted to keep us safe but we would have liked earlier communication about the conditions and potential problem. Next stops were Santa Marta and Cartagena, Columbia. It was very difficult to enjoy the local scene in both places due to street selling. The relentless swarm of vendors selling junk distracted from touring. On to Limon, Costa Rica. We enjoyed the beautiful countryside. We went ziplining with our new-found friends. It was exhilarating. We highly recommend it at any age. Leave your camera behind since your hands are busy. If you go to the Tortuga Canal ride, go early in the morning to potentially see wildlife (sloths, monkeys) rather than just birds and iguanas like we saw in the mid-afternoon. The highlight was the Panama Canal. The public address system was used for the narration of the crossing but it wasn't working in the Looking Glass and it was not broadcast into the cabins since it began at 6:30 AM. We thought we could be on our verandah but without the narration we moved up on deck. Technical testing of the public announcement system should have been done ahead of time. It would have been convenient to have the narration broadcast through the TV so passengers can opt to listen or not in their cabin or verandah. The Looking Glass lounge had coffee and Danish (nice touch) but the band equipment blocked the view. People got territorial for seating with a view. As expected in a tropical environment, the weather varies hour by hour. Passengers standing outside in the spa's Thalassotherapy Pool blocked the view from the Looking Glass with their umbrellas when it began to rain. On the Pacific side, we stopped at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica. We booked another tour with Oscar Brown to the Villa Lapas Sky Walk (suspension bridges). He really served as overpriced transportation. The walk was overpriced ($30 pp) as well. We merely hiked downhill on uneven, slippery, unstable terrain. We had no guide and we had to look down at our feet more often to secure our footing rather than enjoy the scenery. We were disappointed that we didn't see any wildlife on the walk. Next stop was San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The small town was better than we expected. It seems poor but they're trying to build up for future tourism. There are little bars on the shoreline to enjoy the view. We walked up and down the streets to take in the local culture. The people were not intrusive. We did not encounter many vendors but their goods were worth taking a look at. On to Huatulco, Mexico. It is a clean and friendly port. It is more developed for tourism and will certainly grow more popular. There are shops at the dock but take a taxi ride into town to find the best buys in silver. Bring along a savvy negotiator from the ship to strike a deal (Thanks to my friend Carol and my partner Pete). This visit was too short since the ship left port at 3:00 PM. Dining We used the Discoveries dining room whenever it was open. The food was generally very good. There were minor problems with tough meat and overcooked potatoes and fish. For example, we had to ask Cem, the Asst. Maitre d', to taste the fourth plate of hash browns to recognize that they needed to be fixed. Thanks to Cem and George (Asst. Maitre d's) for remedying the recipe. The food presentation was appealing except for the tin cups used for shrimp cocktails and ice cream. It was a little surprising to see the pastry server using tongs instead of the traditional fork and spoon. The coffee was better than most ships we've experienced but consistency varied from day to day. We also had to ask every day if the pitcher on the table contained half and half or milk. The answers we got varied and sometimes differed from the results we noticed once we poured it into our coffee. The space in the dining room was a little cramped. The waiters had to awkwardly maneuver around chairs to serve. Our wait staff, Aldwin and Jorge, worked hard to accommodate our table's special requests (e.g. raspberries and coffee ice cream every day, multiple entrees, no sauces). They do need some fine-tuning on team coordination. Aldwin was very busy doing it all when Jorge was sent on other tasks out of site in the kitchen. Aldwin was clearing dishes, setting tables, and taking care of beverages, dressings, fresh pepper, etc. Traditionally, the assistant waiter does these tasks allowing the waiter to focus on orders and serving courses. We established a good relationship with Jan and Cem (Asst. Maitre d's) to ask them for services when needed. Lorenzo, the dining room manager, was charming and warm but he needs to incorporate the suggestions we made while chatting with him onboard. We worked around the open seating policy and the long lines by getting our favorite table, favorite waiter, and favorite time each night for dinner. The dining room appears to be understaffed for each waiter and assistant to serve 18 people at a time at various stages of their meal. Maybe they need to perfect the efficiencies of the service as well. Meals were long (2 ½ to 3 hours) based on service and passenger interaction. The duration could have been trimmed by 20 to 30 minutes if the service was more efficient (e.g. promptly serving courses, clearing dishes, serving condiments, refilling beverages). It was disappointing that the dress code was not enforced as with many of the ships we have been on. Examples of violations include baseball hats, men's shirts without collars, jeans, men's sandals and sneakers at dinner. Azamara does not include these items in their description of the "sophisticated casual" dress code. On the last day, the Discoveries breakfast service was the worst of the trip. It seemed that the attention to detail waned since we were on our way out and new passengers were about to arrive. We did not use the Windows Cafe/Breezes for dinner but we used it for two breakfasts and a few lunches when the dining room was closed. We also enjoyed sushi as an appetizer before late dinners. The sushi preparer, Jo-El, created special items for us per our request. Improvements for Windows Cafe/Breezes are to offer to serve food and drinks more frequently, remedy the slippery floors (passengers and crew fell right in front of us), and fix the ventilation system on the starboard side (ceiling was sweating in the morning). When we saw Discoveries waiters we personally knew working in Windows Cafe/Breezes, we received better service (e.g. Jorge and Jujur). It was pleasing to see the cafe use full-size glasses (not small plastic tumblers) for drinks. The fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning was great. It was so good that we asked the Discoveries waiters to bring the fresh squeezed orange juice to the dining room as well. We went to Prime C once. We had booked a reservation via Captains Club customer service before the sailing. They told us that a table for two was limited to before 6:30 PM or after 9:00 PM. So, we went with 9:00. When we were seated at Prime C we found out that we could have reserved any time slot. There were only two other couples in the mostly empty restaurant on Day 3 of the trip. We enjoyed the meal but could not justify paying $20 per person for an additional visit since Discoveries was quite satisfactory. We're disappointed that Azamara did not initially implement two complimentary meals in the specialty restaurants on a 14-day voyage. This issue was brought up at the Cruise Critics meeting onboard with management. Since we've returned home, we noticed that Jancruz1 posted an announcement on 12/21 that starting with the Quest 12/23 sailing, stateroom categories, other than suites, will receive two evenings of complimentary specialty dining reservations. Someone on the Quest staff mostly likely knew that this announcement was about to be made while we were on our 12/8 to 12/22 sailing. Quest management never communicated this decision to the Cruise Critic members as a follow-up to the inquiry made at our meeting. Pool Grill The pool grill food was average. The burgers they used there were frozen even though fresh burgers were available for lunch in the dining room. One day, Jan (Asst. Maitre 'd) from Discoveries, accommodated our request to get fresh patties since the dining room was closed. They could have used the better cheeses, like provolone and cheddar, from the kitchen as well. The nachos were bland and the french fries were inconsistent and sometimes they were actually re-fried. You had to ask for special toppings or condiments like Tabasco and bacon, which required a wait. The grill cooks were generally not efficient since they only prepared one order at a time. Ship The ship is a nice size for meeting many of the passengers and crew. The public areas were clean. We really enjoyed the pool area. It was nice and quiet. Unlike other ships, there were no group activities, no pushing the "drink of the day", and no loud music. The deck chairs were very comfortable and we grabbed the double-wide chairs whenever they were available to share as couple. The only suggestion we want to make is to have more pool attendants on deck to serve non-bar drinks (e.g. ice tea), pick up used glasses, and change wet towels. There were a few times that the attendants did come around offering a cool treat like sorbet or champagne with water ice. The hot tubs were refreshing and not too crowded. The temperature was perfect but the jets did not seem to run regularly and the manual controls did not seem to work. We did get plenty of notices and announcements about the existence of the Norovirus onboard. The staff was diligent in following disinfecting procedures (e.g. not shaking hands, wiping down public areas, handing out Purell wipes). The buffet needed more consistency in serving passengers directly to prevent guests from handling the serving utensils. These procedures should be standard routine as a preventative measure. Entertainment The ship's singing troupe was talented. The entertainment was generally hokey (the troupe's TV goof had some cute satire). We felt that the entertainment was geared for older (60+ age) passengers. We would have liked to have an R-rated adult comedian perform. The late show needed to start at 10:00 PM (instead of 9:30 or 9:45) to accommodate late dining. The Cabaret temperature was cold. The guest lecturer onboard was Dr. Peel. We chose not to attend his lecture because he appeared arrogant in a TV appearance with Becky the Cruise Director. He proved us right when we encountered him on the ship. He often approached individuals and groups on the ship (e.g. at the pool or buffet), without invitation, to solicit attendees and disrupt conversations to merely talk about himself. Spa/Gym The gym equipment was generally available for use. The gym had a nice variety of exercise machines (elliptical, bike, treadmill). The equipment was modern. We liked the TV display built right into the treadmill's control panel. There were gym towels available during workouts. Having experienced the Thalassotherapy Pool for free on Celebrity Constellation in the past, we were disappointed that the Azamara spa charges for the Thalassotherapy Pool and that it is not heated on the Quest. General After a long, hot day ashore, we liked the ice cold towels the crew offered at the gangway. We had fun playing games with friends such as trivia, Scattegories, and the Battle of Sexes. We really appreciated the low-key approach to selling onboard items. Other ships, including Celebrity, push photos, "gold by the foot", cruiseline merchandise, watches, and booze, especially over public announcements and fliers in the cabin. We did use the lesser-known laundry room, across from 7076, thanks to Cruise Critic posts. Azamara should disclose the location of the laundry room on their deck plans to manage expectations for nearby cabins. People The passengers and crew were friendly. The staff made eye contact frequently and often said hello. We enjoyed our chats with the senior staff members who circulated onboard but where was Becky the Cruise Director during the day? We never saw her out and about onboard other than the events she hosted. She mentioned that she wanted to meet us for a drink but never followed up. The intimate ship allowed us to meet and get to know many people over the 14 days. We liked conversing with the experienced travelers onboard. Lively retirees were prevalent. They helped us realize that we need to focus on saving for retirement ($$$$) so we can cruise as often as they do. We are 37 and 44 years old but the age difference amongst the senior passengers was not a factor for us. We came on vacation looking forward to relaxation and went home with new friendships as a bonus. Debarkation Winner of worst experience in an airport is ...Acapulco! There was a total lack of communication that the check-in counters don't open until 12:30 PM or later even though hundreds of Quest passengers arrived between 10:00 AM and 11:30 AM (city tour folks arrived later than us). We stood in line for hours to then wait for a physical security check of each piece of luggage to be checked-in (no scanners at all). Then, another wonderful Mexican tradition, a $20 per person fee, for the pleasure of visiting Mexico, was imposed at the counter. We were told "No payment, no airline ticket". By the way, the cash we gave went right into the agent's shirt pocket. The ship passengers were notified the night before in the Quest newsletter that there would be a "$25 USD departure tax". How many people read the sidebars in the newsletter the night they're typically enjoying a last meal and packing? Why did we owe an additional fee when we paid our air, cruise, taxes, and fees directly to Azamara? Note: Passenger stories about the fee varied in amount ($0 - $25 pp), method of payment (cash only vs. credit card, receipts sometimes given), and collection by airline (Delta & Continental - yes, American - didn't seem to collect it). We've contacted Azamara Post-Sales Customer Service. They were unaware of the fee even though the ship newsletter mentions it. We're awaiting reply on the matter. Here are some final warnings about the crummy Acapulco airport - airport is totally outdated, bathrooms are scummy, they gladly accept USD but shortchange you in Pesos at stores/food counters, and be ready for the physical security check of each piece of carry-on luggage at the gate after going though scanned security at the terminal entrance! Remember...no scanners at check-in but scanners at the terminal...IT WAS AWFUL...we pledge to never go through this airport again! "Sir" Pete & Sue Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Report on Azamara Quest: 12/22/07-1/5/08 Acapulco-Panama Canal-Miami On board: Nice touches: great service, good food. Nice ambiance and very attractive smaller boat. Crew generally friendly and worked very hard to please. Stewards are ... Read More
Report on Azamara Quest: 12/22/07-1/5/08 Acapulco-Panama Canal-Miami On board: Nice touches: great service, good food. Nice ambiance and very attractive smaller boat. Crew generally friendly and worked very hard to please. Stewards are called butlers and while their service is excellent, they do no more than a good steward on a Celebrity or other similar cruise line. We experienced none of the service problems noted on Cruise Critic. The food was a step up from Celebrities usually very good, although most of the menus were created around a very similar continental cuisine - no specialty buffets; virtually no "ethnic" style food on the dining menus (unless you count the occasionally appetizer) - not even Italian. On a 14 day cruise, there really needs to be much more variety in the cuisine. The maitre d was especially helpful and accommodating. The waiters were efficient and anxious to please. The food in the buffet was generally better than average, although the hot dishes were allowed to dry in the serving trays, making them dry and less tasteful. The breakfast buffet was especially good with lots of choices. As with Celebrity, pastries are not this cruise line's strength. The smaller passenger count makes it much more pleasant and easier to navigate the buffet. The carving table had pork for most lunches (one carving item per day-not exactly a robust choice, especially given the bias toward one type of meat). One oddity - all of the salad dressings at lunch were exotic originals (e.g., pomegranate lime vs. the usual standards such a ranch and blue cheese). While sometimes that was a pleasant surprise, it would be reasonable to expect them to have the standard choices too. The specialty restaurants are very good - one a steak house, the other "American with a Mediterranean flavor." While their food is quite good, their menus largely mirror the cuisine in the main dining room so they really do not provide a break from every night faire. Wine list is adequate; some reasonably priced (but still higher and fewer than on Celebrity) but less selection than on larger ships. Breakfast buffets offer a lot of choice - smoked fishes, all types of meats, omelets, eggs, and all of the other standard faire. Nice spread served for 4 hours. Very limited room service menu. The brochure says you can order from the lunch and dinner menu, but there is no reference to that in the room service information provided. We did not inquirer. Our cruise agent was thoughtful enough to send us a bottle of wine and champagne (delivered 3 days before New Years). There was no identification of the sender (we confirmed it by email). Entertainment varied. The three shows by the staff entertainers were very well performed - significantly better than the average cruise singing "Broadway hopefuls." And all of their singing was live - no piped in voice-overs as is the usual practice. While the shows did not have the sets and glitz of the larger ships' spectacles, they were very well staged and the performers were engaging. Beyond their 3 shows (3 shows on a 14 day cruise is not exactly upgraded entertainment), the balance was very spotty. One night the featured entertainment was a movie that had played for one week in first run theatres 8 months ago. There was a pianist who wanted to make sure we knew that the piano is a percussion instrument and a Russian singer who sang "Mack the Knife" in French in a voice that was just this side of falsetto. There was a second night in which the pianist and the singer combined forces - we decided that would be cruel and unusual punishment. There was an excellent magician/comedian on New Years Eve (much funnier than the comedian who followed) and the staff put on a pretty energetic New Years musical celebration on the pool deck (combating high winds to make the occasion "an occasion"). In short, aside from the excellent cruise line singers (and a good back up band), the entertainment was no better (and probably no worse) than lesser lines. Very limited TV (but good reception). CNN, Discovery (with about 5-6 shows over the 14 days), ESPN. Very limited internal broadcasting - no repeats of lectures on TV, only the tape of New Year's eve and the disembarkation lecture were broadcast. Free guest movies appeared to have about 5 different films - no schedule is published so its hard to plan to see any of them. The daily program did not come out until late at night (usually around 11 p.m.) making advanced planning difficult. It needs to be proof read before it's published (lots of errors). Kids: The line suggests that it is not designed to be child friendly—and that was a factor in our choice of this cruise. But we had 147 kids on board (admittedly it was Christmas). Since the line is conceptualized as not being kid friendly, they had no designated facilities for children. They had hurriedly brought staff on to work with the kids, but since the pools and other facilities are already very limited, and no controls were placed on those facilities, children were dominating most of the facilities. Frankly, if I go on a children oriented line (e.g. RC), I expect some children-related disruption (families certainly deserve to be afforded access to cruise vacations). But on a 650 passenger ship with limited facilities, and on a line that has consciously marketed itself as adult oriented, this was a great disappointment. Internet: Probably the best service we have had on a cruise line. Pretty fast (in cruise ship terms). WiFi worked in rooms and throughout the ship. It's still ridiculously expensive. And be warned: On Celebrity, when you bought a package that lowered your rate, that rate continued after your package is used up. Not on Azamara. After your package expires you go back to the highest rate. Since that generally happens toward the end of the trip, it does not pay you to buy another package (I guess Azamara figured that out too). Amenities: While Azamara has been marketed as a step up from their Celebrity Concierge package, it's actually identical to the Concierge service (although the direct service staff - i.e., stewards -- seem to have more rooms to handle). There are robes and nice towels, 4 small hors devours at 4 p.m. Flowers changed once on the two weeks. The Thalosotherapy Pool and steam room is a "for-charge" facility (vs. included on Celebrity- definitely a plus for me). On Azamara, they sell passes to only 22 passengers (that's 22 out of 650!). If you are lucky, they let you pay $20/day to use those facilities --only on port days. I think the full cruise pass is $90, but you have to board the ship early on the sailing day to be one of the lucky 22 (since they say they do not sell those in advance of the cruise). After three paid trips at which there were only two people on the Thalosotherapy Pool deck, I asked whether I could buy a pass and was refused. The swimming pool is small and the two Jacuzzis have only 4 jets, making it more like a bath tub than a Jacuzzi (when you can get in with out 10 children). Itinerary and related services: From the Azamara Brochure: "On a voyage with Azamara Cruises you take part in life, immersing yourself deep into detail that more cursory travelers never get a chance to experience. Your immersion begins long before your ship arrives in port. A team of experts on each destination's hidden treasures creates a context for what you're about to experience, sharing both their knowledge and passion for their chosen subjects. Once you step ashore, you'll do so not as a tourist but as an enlightened traveler, ready to absorb both the large-scale splendor and small subtleties that surround you." Ports seemed to be picked with no reason and with little or no preplanning for guests. Crew, including Cruise Director and concierge had VERY limited knowledge of the "different" or untypical ports. E.g., at Puerto Chiapas, no knowledge of $5 r/t shuttle provided by port authority into Talachulpa. BTW - the locals are trying hard to attract tourists. They have a tour center at the docks and had live entertainment all day long. A very nice touch (again, the staff not aware of this). No knowledge at all of Baco del Toro, which turned out to be a one-street impoverished would-be resort with stagnant water everywhere. The ship did not arrive until 3 p.m. (scheduled for 7 a.m.) due to repairs at Panama Canal port (left Panama at 5 a.m.; scheduled for 8 p.m.). But that was OK since it was not possible to spend more than an hour in the city anyway. We were on the first tender and listened while the tender pilot radioed back and forth to the ship trying figure out what pier he was to use for docking. We signed up for a Panama excursion took us on 2 hr 40 min) ride each way back to bridge of Americas for a 30 minute ride through the canal and passages to see 5 monkeys. The ship had passed this point 1.5 hours prior to tendering in the Guton lake - the site of the tour (and two other scheduled tours) included tendering docks. Why they did not tender people at any of the docks in the area of the bridge is unknown - I thought this was the advantage of the smaller ship. Puerto Limon: again, why here. A broken down port city with virtually no attractions. Tour to Sloth reserve was quite interesting, but no port services except a tourist flee market. Staff had no knowledge of the port. San Andres. Very nice resort city. Lots of nice, pricey stores and other facilities that come with a resort. But to get there guests paid $20-25 each way. No shuttles offered by Cruise line and no information about the port available from the staff. Snorkeling tours sold out and staff could not guide guests to alternative activities. Puerto Caldera. Why here? Very run down city. Some guests reported interesting excursions that did not live up to expectations - again, no information available from the ship staff. These problems really made what might have been a great trip into a pleasant two weeks on-board a fairly well managed floating hotel with good (but fairly uniform) food. Programs The on-ship activities were exactly the same as on other mid-range cruise ships. Lots of group games, contests, dance events, etc. There were the usual pool side and lobby musicians. No entertainment in bars and lounges (except at night in the large lounge for the dance events). From the Azamara Brochure: "Your voyage promises to be both enlightening and entertaining, with enrichment programs designed to complement our wide-ranging itineraries and your interests....you can expand your knowledge on a favorite topic, or explore something new. There are seminars and lectures where experts give you a glimpse into their encyclopedic knowledge, as well as intimate discussion groups and classes." Lectures: A BIG disappointment. 4 lectures for the entire14 days. This is not acceptable given Azamara's marketing itself as an upscale, culture oriented line. The single lecturer was a retired high school science teacher (he grew up as an American "Zonie"). He put up a picture of Christopher Columbus and turned to the audience and said "So, who can tell me who this is?" (Teacher, can I get a hall pass to go the bathroom?). We traveled by or stopped at most of the culturally and historically rich countries of Central America. There was nothing on the history or cultures of these countries. Surely Azamara could have sprung for a college professor with expertise in central America. Since the staff had never visited these locales and the ports were less than enthralling, reasonable programming could have gone a long way to make the trip culturally engaging. Even the most commercial cruise lines provide regular lectures on the countries and ports at which they stop. This itinerary posed challenges since Azamara had picked some pretty unusual places to stop. But the cruise line did say their line "promises to be both enlightening and entertaining, with enrichment programs designed to complement our wide-ranging itineraries." That was the primary factor in my decision to take a risk, pay higher fee, and rely on Azamara's expertise. Conclusion The Quest provides a very nice on-board experience. Good service, good food (of limited variety). Much more reserved decoration of the ship - sort of like a boutique hotel. But, aside from the nice ambiance of a small ship and the less crowded atmosphere, it certainly offers nothing that cannot be gotten without its somewhat higher cost on Celebrity or even some of the other lines in Celebrity's class. The programming is a major disappointment. Before I booked on Azamara again, I would need to know a lot more about the ports and the services and programs available related to the ports. This is not a problem on a typical Mediterranean or other standard itinerary, but since Azamara is building its appeal on the access to lesser known ports, I would need to be assured (1) the port is worth visiting and (2) the cruise line is prepared to provide programs and service that make that port an engaging experience for the passengers. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
(See our detailed review on the message boards for Azamara Quest.) We had a wonderful time. The food was excellent, the service was very attentive, and the ship was beautifully decorated. Were there a few little mishaps - of course - but ... Read More
(See our detailed review on the message boards for Azamara Quest.) We had a wonderful time. The food was excellent, the service was very attentive, and the ship was beautifully decorated. Were there a few little mishaps - of course - but that's life. They were very minor and either we ignored them or made a request for correction - which usually happened immediately. Cabin (7119): The cabin layout is exactly as that pictured on the website. The cabin is truly beautiful. Everything looked new: lovely wood furniture, expansive closets, bedding is great, large bathroom (and even a small guest bathroom. Our favorite place was the balcony. It truly is large and we spent many hours on the balcony. It had two loungers, and two sets of a table with two chairs. In fact, the balcony is so large that we could walk back-and-forth. Butler: In the past, we have had 2 butlers on Celebrity and 1 butler on NCL America. Our butler on this cruise, Antonio, was the best of all! A frequent question on the boards is if the suites get 2 or 3 people to service the room. The answer is 2. On Celebrity, if you are in a suite, you have 3: a room attendant, assistant attendant, and a butler. The butler brings breakfast, afternoon tea, canapEs, and reservations. They do more if you ask. On Azamara, the assistant attendant does a lot of the cleaning. The butler does all butler service and also does some of the light cleaning. Food: Wow! OK, was every single meal the best we've had on a cruise - no. Was every single meal delicious - yes. Were some of the meals special and memorable - you bet. One that is truly special is the Veal Osso Buco in Aqualina. It is different than typical, and excellent! Overall, we rate the food equivalent to our three happy experiences previously on Celebrity. Discoveries is lovely (but somewhat loud depending upon where you sit). We never had to wait for a table. A few times there would be one group in front of us that needed to be seated before us, but that took no more than a minute. We always requested a table for two and our request was consistently satisfied. We ate dinner twice at Aqualina and once at Prime C. Both were excellent, but only a small notch up from Discoveries. I'm not discounting the food - it was really great - just trying to make a distinction. Overall: Fantastic cruise. Would we go on Azamara again? Already booked! Read Less
Azamara Quest Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.3
Dining 4.5 4.4
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.5 4.5
Fitness Recreation 3.5 4.1
Family N/A 4.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 3.0 3.8
Service 5.0 4.7
Value For Money 3.5 4.2
Rates N/A 4.3

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