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Old October 20th, 2011, 06:09 PM
eroller eroller is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
Posts: 87
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Dining:
AZAMARA QUEST offers a great selection of dining options for such a small ship. There is the main restaurant called Discoveries, a lido buffet called Windows, a Pool Grill which served made to order burgers and sandwiches, and two speciality restaurants. Aqualina specializes in seafood and Mediterranean fare, while Prime C is a steakhouse. Since we were residing in a suite, there was no charge to dine in either of the speciality restaurants. We ended up dining in each specialty restaurant twice, and three times in Discoveries, the main dining room. In each venue I would say the food and service were excellent. In fact I think it was some of the best food and service I've experienced on any ship. It was that good! So good in fact that I gained six pounds during the cruise, even with working out an hour each day. Probably my favorite item was the Chocolate Souffle offered in Aqualina. It was to die for!


Ship's Amenities and Tour:
I really enjoyed the AZAMARA QUEST. The facilities were much nicer than I expected as was the décor. The QUEST reminded me of a small, upscale, boutique hotel. I found the size to be just right, not too large and not too small. Starting topside, there is a nice open deck on Deck 11 for lounging. Azamara uses very expensive wood deck loungers with extra thick padding, then the padding is covered with a white terry Azamara fitted cover. These loungers were as comfortable as any bed I've slept in! On Deck 10 you will find the Looking Glass Lounge, which is essentially an observation lounge turned nightclub in the evening. In one corner is a nice area set up with various games and card tables. Aft on the same deck is The Drawing Room which is a pretty extensive library for a small ship, and farther aft are the two specialty dining restaurants. Down on Deck 9 is the pool located midship. It's salt water and surrounded by two jacuzzis. There were only two areas for improvement I found on the QUEST, and one was that the pool tiles need replacing. Hopefully this will happen during an upcoming refit. Aft of the pool is the Pool Grill and Windows buffet. All the way aft is a lovely open deck and the Sunset Bar. This was a perfect place to enjoy a cocktail while enjoying the sunset and listening to the solo guitarist. Forward on Deck 9 is the Astral Spa and Fitness Center as well as the Connections internet center. The Astral Spa is fairly extensive for a small ship, and like most shipboard spas is operated by Steiner. I enjoyed a 50 minute facial one afternoon that was quite good. The Astral Spa also includes a private sun deck forward complete with Thalassotherapy Pool. There are men's and women's changing rooms including lockers, showers, and a steam room. There are no saunas on the QUEST. The fitness Center is extensive and offers just about anything you might be looking for. It's manned by a very capable Fitness Instructor that offered a variety of daily classes including spinning. I loved the embroidered Azamara work out towels as well as the cold bottled water. Nice touch! I do wish there were more elliptical machines as there were only three and often there was a wait. This was my second area for improvement. Decks 8, 7, and 6 are all cabins except for a self-service laundry midship on Deck 7. I used the laundry one day and it's completely free, including the automated detergent. Deck 5 is the center of activity, and includes the Cabaret Lounge & Bar forward, followed aft by the Photo Shop and Casino Luxe and Bar. The casino was a bit large for a ship this size, and Azamara might want to consider making the bar a more intimate area like is done on Oceania Cruises. Moving aft are two shops, one mainly jewelry and other a variety of clothes, sundries, and souvenirs. Next is the Mosaic Cafe, which encompasses the top portion of the small atrium. This was one of my favorite areas on the ship, and it served the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted! Besides coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, the Mosaic Cafe had a nice selection of cookies, pastries, and even small sandwiches. At the very aft of Deck 5 is Discoveries Lounge, probably the most popular bar on the ship and the Discoveries Dining Room. Deck 4 includes cabins and the main lobby of the ship containing Guest Relations, Shore Excursions, the Concierge Desk, the Future Cruise Consultant, and La Boutique, an upscale jewelry boutique. The lowest passenger deck is Deck 3, which contains some outside cabins and most often the gangway when docked in port or tendering.


Entertainment:
For a small ship I was surprised at the variety of entertainment. Although there were no large production shows, there was a group of singers called the Quest Singers and several headline acts. The first night the Quest Singers performed a show called “Thats Hollywood”. Some of the headliners included Chris Watkins, an excellent violinist whom I've seen perform on other cruises. Caroline Dennis a singer. Robyn Sears another singer. Cruise Director Russ Grieve also had a show one evening, and he is a pretty good singer. It was nice to see the Cruise Director perform, and it reminded me of the way cruising used to be way back when! The Quest Singers performed an additional show called “Sing It and Swing It”. In addition to to the shows, every night there was a DJ in the Looking Glass and some nights it got pretty packed. There was plenty of music as well, from the solo guitarist to the Quest Band, a Harpist and Jim Badger the piano player each night in the Mosaic Cafe. There were some theme nights as well, with the most elaborate being the White Night Deck Party. This took place the night we were docked in Mykonos. Besides a great buffet on deck, there was dancing to the band and singers, the DJ, and even a fun performance by one of the bartenders. It was a great night and the pool deck looked spectacular with the lights of Mykonos in the background. Magical!


Staff and Crew:
If there is one aspect of Azamara Club Cruises that stood out above and beyond all the rest, it's the Offices, Staff, and Crew. They were simply the best I've encountered on any cruise. They were universally friendly, sincere, and absolutely thrilled to be working for Azamara and on the QUEST. I did not encounter one rude or even indifferent crew member. I also detected this crew wasn't just putting on a good face, they were sincere in their interactions and often spoke about how well Azamara treats them and that it's the best line they have worked for. Many have worked on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, or even other lines but they all universally praised Azamara. To me this speaks volumes as I know it's difficult keeping morale up and a staff motivated in the service industry. No doubt the overall tone of the work environment is set by the Captain, and Captain Carl was one of the most friendly, chatty, and visible Captain's I've ever encountered. The Officer's and Staff did not hide on the QUEST as they do on some ships. They were out and about day and night, even providing such personal touches as the Hotel & Cruise Director on the gangway wishing you a great day as you went off to explore the various ports. Even the security staff was friendly, which is a rarity on cruise ships these days. As you returned to the ship, they would say “welcome home” which was a nice touch. I don't think I've ever experienced such a high level of personal service even on luxury lines like Silversea. Azamara should truly be commended for the amazing group of people they have working for them. Bravo!


Disembarkation:
Leaving the ship was just as easy and organized as embarking. Again no lines and we simply walked off at our designated time. We arranged a private car transfer for the ride to the airport and our driver was waiting for us just outside the terminal. All in all effortless.


Ports:
Sorrento, Italy
Just outside Naples, Sorrento is a beautiful seaside town. This is the only port where we booked an organized Azamara tour. We have always wanted to see Capri, so that is the tour we opted for. It was nicely organized and it was great not to have to think or plan anything. We took a ferry from Sorrento to Capri and toured the main town as well as Ana Capri, which is the highest village on the island. In Ana Capri we enjoyed the chair lift to an even higher vantage point and took in the amazing views. There was plenty of time to explore the main town of Capri, which is beautiful and quite scenic in it's own right. Plenty of shopping opportunities and a wonderful lunch at Villa Verde for authentic Napoli Pizza and the best Caprese Salad I've ever tasted! I wish I would have purchased their unique brand of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was awesome. A fun ending to the day was an E-Ticket ride on the ship's tender from Sorrento back to the QUEST. Talk about rock and roll!

Taormina, Sicily
Due to winds and high seas, Captain Carl opted to dock in Messina instead of tender to Taormina. This was unfortunate as it meant a 30-45 minute motorcoach ride into Taormina which Azamara provided at no cost. With the motorcoach ride in mind, we opted to stay onboard ship and enjoyed the pool and a leisurely lunch. I had been to Taormina years ago, and all that went mentioned how beautiful it was, similar to Capri.

After Messina we had a day at sea and encountered fairly rough seas on the way to Crete. During the day was not bad, but at night the ship was really moving. Items were falling off the dressers in the cabin, and our TV kept knocking into the wall (it's on a swivel bracket). It made sleeping a little difficult but I generally enjoy rough weather and this was no exception. My partner has a different opinion!

Chania, Crete, Greece
We docked in Chania instead of tendering, again because of the choppy seas. Azamara provided a complimentary motorcoach for the 20 minute ride into town. It's not the most scenic drive, and in fact while sitting on the bus we started wondering if we should have stayed on the ship again. I'm glad we didn't, because once we walked into the town and the waterfront area, it was quite charming and well worth the visit. Lots of shopping and eating opportunities.

Mykonos, Greece
For me Mykonos was the highlight port of the cruise. It's picture perfect and hasn't changed all that much from my last visit almost 20 years ago. We docked in the new port area which didn't even exist during my last visit. A short motorcoach ride into town was again offered by Azamara. From there it's easy to walk around the entire town, getting lost in the charming walkways loaded with shops and restaurants. It's only a short ride to the beaches like Paradise and Super Paradise. Most everything was open but it was the end of the season in Mykonos, so some restaurants and shops were closed, and the beaches were not crowded like they normally would be during the peak of Summer. We stayed docked in Mykonos until 11pm so it was easy to enjoy dinner in town and some drinks at one of the many waterfront bars and clubs.

Kusadasi, Turkey
We docked in Kusadasi, and most people headed over to Ephesus which is a must see. We had just been to Ephesus for a second time two years ago, so no need to return so soon. We just had a casual and relaxing day walking around the town and doing a little shopping. Kusadasi was a great opportunity to buy those last minute gifts we avoided earlier in the cruise.


Conclusion:
As you can probably tell, my expectations were certainly exceeded on this cruise. In fact I would vote it as one of my best. The combination of some lovely ports, interesting and charming fellow passengers, a beautiful boutique-like ship, some special Azamara touches, great food and service, and most of all the fantastic staff and crew truly made this cruise one for the memory books. I highly recommend Azamara for anyone interested in a fantastic experience at an exceptional value. I'm looking forward to another Azamara cruise, hopefully in Southeast Asia if I'm lucky! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I also hope you enjoy the pictures. I did my best to capture just about every area of the ship, and the link is located at the top of this review.

Ernie
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