My husband (a first-timer) and I cruised the Western Mediterranean on the Azamara Quest and it was a wonderful experience. We took advantage of the Azamara Quest® Destination Voyage Overview video on the Azamara website. It helped us plan our trip and decide on the excursions ahead of time.
We enjoyed the mix of people - in addition to US passengers others were from Belgium, Australia, and Great Britain. The ports were wonderful. Can't say enough about the staff and how attentive they were. Their interest in our well-being seemed sincere. Appreciated the fact that there was little emphasis on hawking Bingo, the casino (a small one at that) and things for sale. There was a large, well-visited library full of natural light.
We especially enjoyed the fact that the ship stayed late in ports. The itinerary was interesting.
Our cabin was well-appointed and, unlike other cruises, had enough hangers. We appreciated the laundry facilities with provided detergent. One afternoon the laundry was filled with 4 men - two watching sports on the tv, one ironing while sipping white wine and one waiting for the dryer to finish while sipping a beer. Now that is the way to do laundry!
Food was great and varied. We were able to have time to dine on shore if desired.
For a small ship the entertainment provided by the dancers and singers was outstanding. We also appreciated the local entertainment brought on board.
Safety and health seemed to be given high priority, for which we were appreciative.
Our captain circulated among the passengers and was very personable. It appeared that he was respected by the staff and maintained high standards. He kept us very informed about the technicalities entering or leaving a port.
Additional ports of call were Portovenere, Civitavecchia, Calvi (Corsica), Palamos (Spain) and Livorno. Portovenere is an interesting port on its own. Many of the passengers used it as means of traveling to Cinque Terre, either on excursions or on their own, which is what we did. We bought a round-trip ferry ticket at portside. We intended to walk the path connecting the cities, but learned that we needed to take the train because the path had eroded during the spring storms. The ferries were convenient and as enjoyable as the village visits. During our overnight stop in Livorno we had access to Florence and Pisa, by train or on excursion. Wish we had thought of staying in Florence as did one couple. They notified the ship and went ashore. They knew they wanted to maximize their visit in Florence, thus saved the travel time.
In Civitavecchia we were close to Rome and did a wonderful tour with Rome in Limo and Stefano as our driver. In doing so we were able to maximize our very short time in Rome. For first-time visitors who wanted to see the highlights it was the perfect solution. It gave us an overview and whetted our appetite for a return visit that would be more leisurely.
Calvi, Corsica, (France) was a beautiful port with interesting shops. We took a ship excursion and enjoyed seeing more villages on the island and learning about the history and how the island came to be French. We saw the Corsican flag displayed everywhere with pride. We learned a little about the rich agricultural heritage (olives, almonds, lemons, honey).
An unusual port of call was Palamós, where many of us chose a ship-arranged excursion to Figueres and the Dali Museum. Our guide was very capable of negotiating the crowds and giving a sense of Dali and features of the museum. Although he was multi-lingual many tour participants had trouble understanding and hearing him. It would have been a perfect situation for individual earphones as there were a number of school groups and the museum was noisy. We saw our guide the next day at Sagrada Familia in Barcelona guiding a group of German tourists. Although it was a hurried stop it was well worth taking the ship tour to see the countryside. The port town itself was very interesting and would have warranted a stop in itself.