I have just returned from a 7-night cruise on the Azamara Quest -- originating in Lisbon and ending in Southampton with ports of call in Bilbao, Spain, St. Jean de Luz, France, St. Malo, France and St. Peterport/Guernsey in the UK.
This was my 2nd cruise on Azamara (sailed on the Journey to the Baltic in 2011) and I have nothing but raves for them.
Embarkation in Lisbon went very smoothly. We had spent a few nights in Lisbon and made our own transportation arrangements to Santa Apalonia. As we exited our shuttle, porters were there to meet us right away, take our bags from us and to show us where to check in. We spent a few minutes on land signing in and then got our room keys from the staff on board in the Cabaret Lounge. By 2 pm, our staterooms were available.
About the staterooms... yes, they are small, and yes - in particular, the bathroom is small. But as a solo traveler, I was very comfortable in the room (maybe I would feel differently if I were sharing). The staterooms are beautifully appointed (I probably could do without the big mirror opposite the bed, but otherwise, the decor was lovely.) And the room is very well thought-out. Plenty of room for storage -- even in the bathroom... there were all sorts of nooks, shelves, cabinets, etc. to put items away. And I had a ton of hangers, which was nice... no need to ask the stateroom attendants for more.
Self-service laundry facilities are mid-ship on Deck 7. Detergent is provided and there are separate washers and dryers -- unlike other ships I've been on. All self-serve laundry is free. Having been on the road for 10 days prior to the start of the cruise, it was nice to use the first day (pre-muster drill) to get my laundry done. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one with that idea, so be forewarned that the laundry room was crowded on sail-away day.
As a side note, the sail out of Lisbon is just spectacular. Great to be up on deck for it.
We ate in Discoveries (main dining room) and each of the specialty restaurants. While they were all very good, we especially loved Aqualina. (Loved it so much that we ate there on consecutive nights). If you go there or to Prime C, do not miss the cinnamon donut holes for desert. The caramel dipping sauce is ridiculously good (and here's a secret -- if you ask specially and have already eaten in Prime C - they'll bring you that dessert in Aqualina!). The Windows Cafe was constantly replenished and the food was very fresh. Discoveries menu was quite diverse.
I know there is a bit of controversy of the "all-inclusiveness" of the beverage package. I don't drink much and found the free drinks all fit into what I drink, so I never paid any surcharge. The one thing that I didn't love is the fact that right away at embarkation, they were hitting you with a sales pitch for the upgraded beverage packages. That felt more to me like Celebrity cruises I'd been on. I don't like sales pitches. But all in all, a very minor complaint in such a superb week.
Entertainment on the ship was fine -- better than average for a cruise ship. The Cruise Director, Russ Thomas Grieves, was omnipresent. He was everywhere on the ship and was quite charming. The Broadway review was campy and fun. They also brought a pianist/magician (strange combination) on board and he was very good in a Vegas lounge act sort of a way.
A special mention has to be made of the morning TV show between Russ and Activities Manager, Helene (who I'd remembered from sailing on the Journey). Those two have tremendous chemistry and I concluded that they should really be the new hosts of the Today Show or something like that. They're fabulous.
All in all, for a really great week or two sailing the open seas, I find it hard to top Azamara.