The entire Azamara Quest staff were welcoming, friendly and helpful in a way that immediately made us feel we were at home with family.
Here are reasons we LOVED our first Azamara cruise:
1. Gratuities are included in the cruise fare.
2. House-selected wines, beers, soft drinks and bottled water are included in cruise fare (and the wines were very good!) Fresh-squeezed orange juice and cappuccinos are also included.
3. No formal attire was required. We're from Seattle where "casual" is a way of life. We were pleased to leave gowns, tuxedo and formal shoes at home. This allowed us to pack very lightly. Our travel arrangements to and from the cruise ship became easier and more convenient.
4. Free self-service laundry is available.
5. Free shuttle bus service into most ports was provided. We enjoyed the independent tour option on days when we did not purchase a shore excursion through the ship.
6. No compulsory assigned dinner seating schedule. Similar to dining in a restaurant, we were able to go to the dining room when we were ready to eat. We never experienced a wait.
7. There were ample number of tables for two. Although it is nice to meet fellow travelers, sometimes after a day of touring, it was nice to share a relaxing or romantic dinner at a table for just the two of us. Never a problem on Azamara Quest.
8. Free gelato! We have been on other cruises that either charge for ice cream or make it available only during limited times. Unfortunately, we probably enjoyed the gelato more than we should have.
9. Large selection of TV news channels including MSNBC, CNBC and BBC.
10. Our cruise included a special evening excursion to a local winery near Barcelona with wine-tasting, tapas and a flamenco dance performance. Ole!
11. We heard in advance that Russ Grieve was an incredible cruise director. He was charismatic, talented, engaging and personable. We enjoyed his show performance(s) better than some of the extravagant stage shows we have seen on large ships. Captain Carl Smith was very professional, competent and had a good sense of humor. Importantly, all ship officers and staff took their duties seriously.
12. The ship was clean and well-maintained. The cabin staff were efficient and respectful of our individual schedule.
13. The food was divine in the Discoveries Restaurant. The taste and variety and quality of food was excellent and the presentation was superior. (I will never forget the warm apple tartan with caramel sauce served with gelato.) The service was superior. I was always offered a replacement black napkin to prevent my black slacks/skirt from picking up lint from the white table napkins. Plate service to our table was choreographed by two waiters so that our entrees were presented to us simultaneously.
Finally, we enjoyed the small ship feel, the comfortable atmosphere, and the amenities offered on the Quest. A 7-day cruise was not enough. We will definitely cruise Azamara again!