Live From Azamara Quest: 5 Reasons Why This Is the Best Cruise Ship in the World

January 11, 2012 | By | 18 Comments

Onboard Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Quest in Bangkok, all it took was 15 minutes onboard to remind me why this – and seven nearly identical other vessels – is absolutely the world’s best cruise ship. You might think that’s a pretty bold statement, especially since over the past year or two I’ve traveled on splendid, ultra-contemporary ships like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, Seabourn Sojourn, Norwegian Epic, Uniworld’s S.S. Antoinette and Celebrity Eclipse. And particularly when you consider that Quest’s design is almost 15 years old.
The back story: Quest (and fleet sibling Journey) was part of the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, which began launching a series of eight ships – all at 30,277 tons and carrying 694 passengers. Renaissance was revolutionary for the era: It pioneered a more casual onboard ambience, did away with rigid dining restrictions and instituted a daring no-smoking policy. And at a time when cruise lines were prostrating themselves to attract families, this one said it doesn’t particularly care for kids (there are still no child-oriented facilities on any of them), and its ships continue to be unabashedly marketed to adults.
Even more significantly, this cruise line was the first to recognize that balconies were necessities, not luxuries, and outfitted a vast majority of its cabins with private, yet affordable verandahs.
Renaissance Cruises failed soon after 9/11, but its ships (unimaginatively dubbed R-1, R-2 and so forth) have lived on as other lines have scooped them up. Beyond Azamara’s pair, R-series ships are also cruising for Oceania (Nautica, Insignia and Regatta); P&O (Adonia); and Princess (Pacific Princess, Ocean Princess).
Over the years, I’ve spent more time onboard R-series ships than any other, and here’s my take on why they’re the best in the world (a huge tip of the hat to Oceania Cruises’ Frank del Rio, who was responsible for the invention of these ships when he was Renaissance president):
5. Their not-too-big-not-too-small size is just right, with enough space to offer variety onboard, along with key extras like a spa, fitness facility, Internet café and the like, along with four restaurants, the most gorgeous library at sea and a variety of convivial bars.
4. These are, for the most part, pathfinder ships; they cruise more exotic itineraries some of the time, but even when sailing in well-trafficked waters like the Mediterranean and Caribbean, they can maneuver into smaller ports that the big ships can’t manage. As I write, we’re docked at Bangkok’s Klong Toey, just a stone’s throw from the city center. Last time I cruised out of Bangkok, on Princess Cruises’ massive Sapphire Princess, we had to dock at Laem Chabang, an industrial port some two hours by car from town.
3. The crew has always been a cut above in terms of personal service and genuine warmth. Of course, you must also credit the cruise lines – particularly Oceania and Azamara, which excel in this area. But the ship’s size and casual ambience create a special harmony.
2. Dining is superb. Who really needs a separate establishment offering cuisines from the likes of Johnny Rockets, a pub, tapas bar, French boite or sushi joint? Onboard Azamara Quest, just one example, there are four restaurants (most lines operating R-series ships offer an Italian or Mediterranean specialty eatery along with a steakhouse in addition to the more formal dining room and more casual grill and buffet), and the range of choices is perfect. Here in Bangkok, those of us who came back onboard for lunch today could dine at the Windows buffet on Thai-influenced cuisine, enjoy a grilled burger or hot dog from the Grill, or sample sushi. There was also home food – freshly carved pork tenderloin and Lyonnais potatoes, and for the health-oriented, lots of soup and salad bar options. And that was just lunch! Tonight’s buffet theme: French (delicious escargot, coq au vin and beef stew).
And the top reason why I love these ships so much?
1. They still feel like ships. From the Titanic-inspired staircase that leads into the atrium to a promenade deck lined with deck chairs (alas, it does not wind all the way around), and from the delightful Sunset Bar (you half expect to bump into “An Affair to Remember’s” Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr sipping pink Champagne) to the aforementioned library and its fireplace, this is a ship-lovers ship. It’s the most beautiful blend of traditional and contemporary cruising that I’ve seen. And when you consider that the ships don’t feel remotely dated today … wow.
To be fair, there are some drawbacks. When I heard last night that Azamara Journey, Quest’s identical sister, was in South America preparing for a short venture into the oft-turbulent waters of Antarctica, I shuddered. These ships don’t have the more state-of-the-art stabilizing technology that newer vessels have (I’m rather prone to seasickness). And cabins, though updated and refurbished (again, I’m speaking particularly of Azamara and Oceania, which invest millions to modernize their R-series ships), are smaller than you’d find on newer vessels. At 160 to 170 square feet for insides, outsides and standard balcony staterooms, it’s a good idea to opt for more spacious mini-suites on up if your budget permits.
Mind you, I’m aware that my fondness for Renaissance’s R-series models may not be universally agreeable. In fact, in my own family it’s been a topic of debate. My husband — who’s now on his second R-series cruise — says he likes the ships well enough, but he’s a member of the fan club that deems Oasis and Allure of the Seas as the world’s best. He’s a bit incredulous over my choice.
Different strokes, I say.
Ready for your own spin on an R-series ship? See what readers have to say about Azamara Quest.
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    Comments

    18 Responses to “Live From Azamara Quest: 5 Reasons Why This Is the Best Cruise Ship in the World”

    1. Besttoursinegypt.com
      January 11th, 2012 @ 11:17 am

      yes,it is really amazing ship

    2. Myrna Barron
      January 11th, 2012 @ 11:34 am

      Just got back from a cruise on Oceania Regatta, and the ship and ambiance is exactly what you described. I was really impressed. Many people are hooked on travel on these smaller ships. I loved it, too, but won’t forgo cruising on a larger ship again, if the itinerary is right.

    3. Jim
      January 11th, 2012 @ 11:35 am

      No thanks – the Oasis and Allure wind’s, hands down.

    4. Taloola
      January 11th, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

      I have sailed on Oceania …all ships four times, Azamara and our travel friends were on the Renaissance fleet. Everything said in this blog is true. We have been to Albania, anchored at Sorrento and this year we will overnight in Ibiza. Pathfinder is a great way to put it. We have found average age is 50ish as the trips are port heavy..many of oceanias 12-14 day cruises have just one day at sea. Almost everyone leaves the ship on private or shore excursions. The ships are fabulous as is the staff, but these are trips for travelers. Thanks!

    5. Larry
      January 11th, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

      My wife and I were booked on Renaissance soon after 9/11/2001. After an 8 hour flight from the states we arrived in Rome only to find that that was THE day that Renaissance went bankrupt. Never saw the ship but spent a wonderful 5 days exploring Rome. I still owe my wife a Meditteranean cruise.

    6. Lynne Coppoletta
      January 11th, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

      Eight cruises on Oceania and three more booked. You are so right. I can’t say enough about the ship, crew, food, cleanliness, ambiance, library, and the very friendly people who cruise on her. Although I do wish they would definitely change the library on the Marina and new ship Riveria. Plus enlarge the so friendly bar!!

    7. Valleri
      January 11th, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

      I have sailed on its sister ship, Journey. LOVED EVERY SINGLE SECOND. We like smaller ships, but also desire a bit more luxury and unusual ports. Our butler and the dining experiences stand out in our memories. Had a great time and will go again.

    8. Larry
      January 11th, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

      I am instriqued by your description, particularly the adult orientation. Don’t get me wrong, I love and raised my kids, and love my grandkids, but I also like a calm, quiet environment! But having sailed on the OASIS of the Seas, I am hooked. Big enough for kids to hide, and elegant enough for me. Central Park in the evening is almost unbelievable for a cruise ship!

    9. fran
      January 11th, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

      I found Azamara to be average. Upper premium for a ship with inside cabins?. Then food is simply ok, for a ship her category. Crew was not that good. Simple on the average. I would call Azamara as something which tries to be perfect, but moves always in the middle. Not impressed.

    10. Mindy
      January 11th, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

      We love smaller ships as well, but a cabin of 170 sq ft is now too small for us. The big draw for us for Azamara over Oceania is their itineraries. Oceania, Regent and Seabourne tend to be VERY port intensive. If you are in the Caribbean, that’s fine, but 10 hours for Rome or Athens, and then rushing to another port the next day, is really shameful.

    11. Jason
      January 11th, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

      Nah. Having sailed on one virtually identical to this (Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner) I much preferred the grandeur and wow of Oasis, and at the other end – the sleek and stylish and superb (in every respect!) new Seabourn ships. Had a great cruise on the Mariner though getting back on board always felt rather akin to getting in to an Austin Maxi.

    12. Martha
      January 11th, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

      Sailed on Renaissance ships several times before they died, and twice on Princess ships that used to be R ships. Then we found Oceania Marina. I like the larger – but still small with 1360 passengers – and newer ship with bigger cabins and wonderful service. We can’t wait until their sister ship goes into the water in April!

    13. Cori
      January 11th, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

      Just back from a 14 day cruise on the Azamara Journey and I can’t say enough about the Azamara experience. The ship, the staff, the time spent in ports….. all went to making us feel that Azamara is the cruise line that is at the top of their industry!

    14. Carolyn
      January 12th, 2012 @ 3:09 am

      Larry, loved your comment about being intrigued by adult-only (or on this cruise anyway mostly-adults as there are a handful of kids aboard) and hey, I had a great time on Oasis. Especially when we were hanging out in Central Park. I think you can enjoy a range of ships that suit different moods and travel companions.

      Carolyn

    15. Carolyn
      January 12th, 2012 @ 3:10 am

      to the “other” Larry (#5) it might just be time to take your wife on that cruise!

      Carolyn

    16. Jan
      January 16th, 2012 @ 9:01 am

      Distinctly average although they certainly love themselves! Cabin soundproofing a major problem in some cabins. These should be sold at lower price. Ruined my intended R&R.

    17. http://2travelegypt.com
      March 8th, 2012 @ 9:36 am

      A mazing cruise ship with shore excursions in Egypt

    18. Egypt Shore Excursions
      October 2nd, 2012 @ 7:38 am

      It is differently a wonderful experience touring the world on such cruise ship.

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