We traveled on Azamara's Quest July of 2011 along the Dalmation Coast and Oceania Riviera June of 2012 Western Mediterranean, both with our college-aged children. We enjoyed both trips and would be happy to travel with either ship again in the future! The two lines appear to be competing for the same clientele, so we would recommend you go with the better deal and the ports that interests you most. Both lines seemed to appeal to worldly travelers, who appreciate good quality, with a casual atmosphere.
We did dress up some nights, but it was never required. Azamara Questseemed to have more people getting dressed up for dinner, but never stuffy! If you liked to get gussied up, you could on either.
We preferred the inclusive wine and cocktails on Azamara. We do not drink a great deal, but it is nice to not think about how much you are paying for each drink.
We preferred the dining seating on Azamara Quest, where we were sat in the same section every night, but different tables. We had the opportunity to have window seats some nights and then an elevated table with nice views, other nights. On Oceania Riviera, the main dining room is one level, with a large center part. With two college-aged kids, that seemed to dress nicer than most others, we were always sat in the center or next to a set-up station or the kitchen doors. They did not take names, but it sure seemed like they gave preferential seating to people in Suites. Azamara did a better job of sitting our family with people of similar interests when we had to sit with a group. In the specialty dining rooms on the Riviera, there were two levels of rooms above us that could have unlimited use of these rooms. Our rooms allowed us one night in each. There were very few tables for four, so we were grouped with two other people, completely randomly in advance of our arriving. It was quite embarrassing at the Italian restaurant when our family was seated and older couple to be seated with us put up a fuss about having to sit with kids and were then seated at a nice table for two, while we sat with two empty seats! On Azamara Quest, they waited until you arrived, searched the room, and seemed to find better matches for who we would sit with.
The Riviera was recently refurbished, so it is clean, elegant, and in perfect condition. The Azamara was beautiful, but it didn't seem as fresh and updated. Both are perfect sized for us-not too big, not too small. The layout on the Riviera seemed a little easier to navigate and not so crowded, but I don't think it was at full capacity.
We spent a few hours in Riviera getting mani-pedis, but didn't go in the spa no on the Azamara. The Oceania Riviera's work out area has gorgeous views, as does the manicure station. We enjoyed the sauna, misting showers, and quiet room. However, there is limited space in these areas. The front outdoor section with the jacuzzi was nice, but very breezy when cruising. It was often closed up. Also, people in Horizons can look down on this area, which I don't think some people knew, based on their actions! Spa treatments were ridiculously expensive, but that comes with the territory. I would skip this the next time. We went to the spa within hours of boarding and couldn't get our mani/pedis back to back. With so little time at sea, spots filled up quickly.
On the Oceania Riviera, the bed was very comfy. I am a very light sleeper and never heard anything of our neighbors, not even a toilet flushing or people talking in the hall, which is very rare on cruise ships. Nice feature to have a tub and separate shower. We enjoyed our veranda, but in many ports the view was of cranes and commercial docks. We were port side and our college-age kids were starboard. It seemed we had better views when arriving and leaving ports and in Monaco, we couldn't have had a more perfect view! We were category B-3 in room 7052 and didn't have a single complaint about the room size, storage, or amenities. I don't recall any complaints about our cabin on the Quest, but it seems like the Riviera's bathroom was larger and the room was quieter.
Both lines had excellent food. As I recall, there was an additional fee on the Azamara Quest for the specialty restaurants or for some other reason, we never chose to dine in them. We greatly appreciated the change in atmosphere and menu in the specialty restaurants on the Riviera. We thought the service was better and the menus more interesting, compared to the main dining room. We were especially surprised by the Ginger Room. Had an LA vibe and felt more "hip" than any other part of the ship. Make sure to make reservations in advance for either ship, as both were completely booked up.
Wow! Both were excellent! Not hovering, but always there. Felt there was more diversity in the countries where people came from on the Riviera, which made for interesting conversations. It seemed everyone on the Riviera had excellent English skills, but many were competent in speaking Italian or German too. I felt the staff on Azamara Quest was not as well trained and tended to come from Eastern block countries, however, they were still wonderful! Just felt Riviera's crew was a notch above! I thought our cabins were cleaned more promptly on Riviera, but we were not in our cabin as much, as on the Quest.
Both lines are known for going to some of the more unusual ports, which we loved! Our biggest complaint for Oceania Riviera was the astronomical cost of excursions, especially for a family of four. We ended up doing independent travel, with the exception of Florence and it was at least half the cost and I am sure just as memorable! In Florence, we booked the bus ride only, as we were so worried about missing the ship. Otherwise, we would have done this independent too! It took a great deal of timing coordinating private guides, bus tours with outside companies, and rental cars, but we refused to be ripped off! Additionally, there was no assistance, other than shopping, with planning prior to docking and having the local tourism company come on board. We booked both independent and ship excursions with Azamara and were happy with both. The difference in price was not as noticeable so we felt we had options. On Oceania, we knew we were going independent! Through Cruise Critic, we filled an entire bus with SpainDay Tours to get to the Alhambra! Oceania was good about alternating independent travelers with paid excursion travelers when disembarking. We were often the first off the ship, which we appreciated! Would have loved more lectures and port assistance on both lines.
I don't recall having any complaints about the music in common areas or dining rooms on the Azamara. I felt the music, especially the breakfast buffet, was way too loud and distracting. The music seemed to be all from the 70's, aimed at a group just a little bit older. I am not fond of elevator music, but all of those words blaring, it was to much! I would have preferred different music, but at least turn the volume down a bit! We did not go to the shows on either ship. We spent too much time enjoying the ports to enjoy the entertainment on board!
Fluke? When disembarking the Riviera in Civitavecchia (Rome), the local port authorities would not let anyone off the ship until all of the luggage was off. Our luggage was collected the night before and we had no idea why it wasn't off, as we docked very early in the morning! We had breakfast and planned to leave at 8:30, two hours after the first people could get off, and there was a horrendous line! People missed flights and invaluable time in Rome! I know Italian authorities really know how to mess things up, but it seemed the cruise line could have called an audible and given people numbers or had those with plane flights show their information so they could get off first. People were surprisingly disrespectful to each other in line and to the staff. They should have had contingency plans for this kind of situation!