This is a review of the Azamara Quest 9 day Christmas cruise from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires.
A little background -- This was our first Azamara Club Cruise and we booked an inside category 12 cabin. We have been on 10+ cruises across various larger ships/companies all in the Caribbean. We have previously cruised with Celebrity. We are from the US and in our 40's.
This Quest sailing only had 400 guests (capacity is ~600) so keep that in mind with my feedback. The average sailing demographic was 65-80 years old. The majority of passengers were from the US followed by Canadians, UK and then South Americans.
We had a great time and I would choose Azamara again if the itinerary and price was right.
For my review I will try to offer some information that will help a first time Azamara cruiser make their decision.
Here are some of the differences we found with the Quest and the larger/mainstream cruises. I list them as differences and not pros or cons. Depending on your interest some may be pros and some cons. I offer this to help others determine if Azamara is right for them.
1. The lines at the tender stops to return to the ship were non-existent. The Quest passengers were able to board as soon as the tender was there. Not much waiting. This difference became apparent at a few stops where Quest and larger ships shared the tender dock. The larger ships had a much longer queue.
2. The ship is very quiet and not a "party" atmosphere. For example, there is no live music at the pool. There is no "sail away" celebration when departing a port. On the larger ships there is a band near the pool, drinks flowing and a party atmosphere upon departure from a port.
3. Unless you are ordering an alcoholic drink, you never need to take out your card and charge your room. You definitely do not feel "nickeled and dimed." Keep in mind you paid for it in the overall fare.
4. At all venues, there are no cocktail servers constantly circling to "sell" you drinks. This is true at the pool and where the shows happen. On the other hand, when at the pool or headed to a show, I had to get my own drink because there are rarely servers.
5. As the ship is small, some of the rooms share multiple purposes. For example, the Looking Glass Lounge on the 10 deck forward has a great view of where the ship is headed. It also doubles as the game room. So at a set evening time they turn off the lights in the game room corner to create a more night club atmosphere rendering the game tables unusable. A few nights, my husband and I (and a few others) were playing games and they turned down the lights because it was time to transition to evening. There was no one in the Looking Glass lounge but there were people playing games. When asked to turn up the lights in the game room corner, we were told it is not possible as that is the way the lights are programed. Larger ships typically have dedicated game room space.
6. Not much interest in Bingo. One of the Bingo games was actually cancelled due to lack of interest. This is much different that my experience on the larger ships.
7. We had a snorkeling excursion cancelled due to lack of sign up. As this was a Brazilian BEACH cruise I was surprised. Unfortunately we were not informed until the night before so we couldn't make independent arrangements. They did offer us the pre-booking 50% off shore excursions discount on other available Azamara shore excursions but none were beach/swimming related.
8. The buffet is not open 24 hours. This is ok it just caught me off guard. (Yes, I know the service hours are listed in the daily program.) At our first stop we headed to the beach and returned around 3pm expecting to get a late lunch. The buffet closed at 2pm. We were able to grab a burger at the pool grill.
9. The Quest is a smaller ship and is very easy to get around. I frequently would forget something and need to return to our cabin. It is easy and quick to get around the ship. On some of the very large ships you basically need to plan like you are going out for the night as it may take a long time to get back to your cabin.
10. Food -- I enjoyed the food. We ate most of our meals in the Main Dining Room and the Windows buffet. I enjoyed sushi every day for lunch at the buffet. (This is a BIG difference from the larger ships.) The complementary wine at lunch and dinner was appreciated. We did eat at the specialty restaurant Prime C one night with friends and enjoyed it. The cover charge is $25 per person unless this dining room is included in your fare.
11. Entertainment -- The entertainment was what I expected. There was 1 comedian, a duet music group, piano man, guitar player, and "broadway" type performers. Russ the cruise director was very friendly and accessible. He has an awesome singing voice and he clearly goes out of his way to provide an enjoyable time for the guests.
My general conclusions:
1. My enjoyed our Azamara Quest South American Christmas cruise very much. We are glad we made this choice.
2. I did not experience the "service" that everyone raves about. Then again, I didn't have many requests. It was fine to me but nothing stood out.
3. I did feel a big difference in the smaller passenger load. Moving 400 people around a ship is easy. On the larger ships they have to move 2,000 -- 3,000 people around the ship. The difference in people volume was, to me, the BIGGEST difference with Azamara. You did not need to arrive at your activity location early due to a high volume of people.
4. If you require a lot of service, don't like lines, or have mobility issues, Azamara is a good choice for you. I watched the staff have the time and patience to provide extra help to some of the passengers who had some mobility issues.
5. I would sail with Azamara again based on an appealing itinerary and cost effectiveness. For example, due to the Azamara higher price point, I would not go with Azamara to the mainstream ports that many of the ships go to. I would choose Azamara if they sail to unique ports and/or the smaller ports that the larger ships cannot stop.
I hope you find this review helpful!