This cruise combined the best...departing from our home port (no airports!) and being once again on the Quest.
Embarkation was easy...hardly any wait time before we received our seapass card and were welcomed on board by staff handing out glasses of bubbly. Since we arrived a bit early, we headed straight to Windows for lunch. Unfortunately, lots of people had the same idea and they ran out of tables! We were prepared to eat on the loungers by the pool, but the ever efficient staff realized the problem and began bring out more tables and chairs, so we were quite happy. Our first (included) glass of wine with lunch made it perfect.
By 1:30 the announcement was made that cabins were available, so we headed to Deck 7. We like this deck, sandwiched between two cabin floors and thus very quiet. Our veranda cabin was in good condition. Yes, it's small and the bathroom very very tiny, but there is plenty of well organized storage space and the beds are very comfy. We immediately met our attendants, Alvin and Osvy...they were excellent and Osvy especially always had a smile and a pleasant comment or two whenever he saw us.
Before we knew it, we were called for muster drill (very easy) and then we got ready for the Meet and Mingle and dinner. There were lots of Cruise Critic members on this cruise and unfortunately, we had to leave the meeting early to meet our dinner companions. I really don't like having the Meet and Mingle on sailaway day....it's just too inconvenient, IMO.
We took this cruise not for the sightseeing but to relax...and right off the bat we had two sea days! Perfect. When we arrived at Mazatlan (our first port) we were ready to go. We took a ship excursion...Concordia and Copola. It was quite good and we enjoyed a nice lunch in Concordia. The highlight was visiting a local artist in Copola (of course we had to buy something...very unique and we saw nothing like it in any other port.) La Paz was disappointing...on our ship excursion we just drove past the malecon (would have liked to walk along) and spent most of our time in the natural history museum and in a small weaving shop (didn't buy a thing) and then drove through what appeared to be the seediest part of town. Not an excursion I'd recommend. Next Topolobampo. Many of those on board took the very very long trip out to Copper Canyon. We didn't. Instead we went on a small boat to the mangroves and met the resident dolphin Pechocho...a wild dolphin who lives in a solitary state in the mangroves but who over the years has become quite tame and loves to swim up to the small boats for a belly and fin scratch. Then to a sandy beach where a tent with refreshments was set up for us. A very nice excursion. Next port Guaymas where we went ashore and walked the tiny town by ourselves. Not much to see but the townspeople had set up a little market and entertainment along the waterfront and we had fun watching and browsing the merchandise. The next stop, our favorite by far, was Loreto. We overnighted there (more on that later) and the first day went on an excursion to Coronados Island. On the way, our small panga (which held three couples and the operator) diverted to see hundreds of dolphins just a few feet from our boat. Then, just a few yards away an enormous Blue Whale surfaced. Wow! Absolutely awe inspiring and a bit scary, given the difference in size between the whale and our tiny boat! After that we went to the island itself and had a nature walk and snack and those brave souls (the water was still pretty cold at this time of year) who wanted to snorkeled. I waded into the water by some rocks and looked down and saw plenty of fish! The water was crystalline. We thoroughly enjoyed this excursion. On the second day in Loreto we met some friends who have retired there and they showed us around town and we ate at a local restaurant. Loreto is a delightful place and one I'd love to visit again. Our last port was Cabo San Lucas. Very pretty but very very commercialized and street vendors stop you every few feet hawking souvenirs and excursions. After the hustle and bustle of Cabo, we were glad to have two more sea days on the way home to Los Angeles. Disembarkation was just as easy as embarkation, but not as much fun!
Now a few things about the Quest. The new captain, Jose, is incredible. So personable and seemed to be everywhere at once! His noon time comments were fun and he even rescued one of the passengers on a snorkeling excursion. We heard that the water was cold and there was a strong current and the gentleman was having some difficulty swimming back to the boat...so Capt. Jose, who had gone on the excursion, swam over and helped the passenger back. We very much hope to cruise with this captain again...he was the best! All the rest of the staff were wonderful, as usual. Russ was his usual exuberant self and Phillip, the hotel director, as always friendly and helpful. Max Difaz, the pianist, was in great form and we enjoyed getting to know him a little better on this cruise. We were very lucky to find the perfect waiters in Discoveries on our first night and we made sure we ate with them every night after that (except for the White Night and one night in Aqualina)...kudos to Robert and Newman...charming, fun, and very attentive. On our night in Aqualina (the food was every bit as good as we remembered) we asked to be seated in John's station...we had met him on our first Quest cruise and he is terrific. My only "complaint" was that he kept bring us extra food...he wanted us to try everything...we were completely over stuffed by the time the dinner was finished.
Food across the venues, Discoveries, Windows, the Pool Grill, and Aqualina (we didn't eat in Prime C this time) was very very good. The chef has a wonderful way with fish and I had the "healthy choice" almost every evening. My husband loves pasta and these too were excellent. Usually at the pool grill, we'll eat burgers, but this cruise I decided to try the blackened fish Panini....sooooo good.
We had a couple of special nights on this cruise. Super Bowl Sunday was celebrated in the Cabaret. Staff had decorated with team color balloons (Seattle on one side and Denver on the other)...there were themed ice and watermelon carvings, and so much food. Sliders, hot dogs, bbq ribs, chicken fingers, side salads, and a huge bowl of popcorn. Russ was making ice cream sundaes too! We ate so much we didn't need to go to dinner that night. (And did I mention drinks? Beer, wine, cocktails, etc.) The only downside was that we were getting ESPN feed and so we didn't see the commercials...also, the satellite went out right at half time so we didn't get to see most of the halftime show!
The second special night was the White Night which was held on our overnight in Loreto. Local dancers came on board and performed...there was an excellent pool side bbq (Phillip was making crepes suzette...soooo yummy)...lots of cocktails and wine...and then dancing! Lots of fun.
The third special night was the Azamazing evening held in Cabo. Unfortunately, not so amazing. The original venue (Wirikuta Gardens) was changed at the last minute which was disappointing. The logistics of getting us all off the ship and to the venue was handled efficiently but felt like a cattle drive! The show itself was, IMO, very mediocre and cheesy. However the fireworks at the end were spectacular. Food consisted of sweets and cookies which, while nice, weren't the "local delicacies" promised. A few vendors had set up tables to one side but a quick look and we were done...the prices were astronomical compared to what we'd seen in town. As soon as the show was over, we were herded back to the ship. Azamara really needs to reconsider the entire Azamazing Evening promotion. In some ports and with some entertainment it could be lovely but some ports just don't lend themselves to this and it's especially disappointing when it is hyped so much and then doesn't live up to folks' expectations.
Now to on board entertainment. I have to say this cruise was the worst of the ones we've done on Azamara. The quality of singers and dancers was not as good as on past cruises. We had a violin duo one night and after listening for a few minutes, I walked out. There was a pianist/magician (strange combo) who was just okay...Max was much better! They did bring on a comedian our last night on board who was very funny...the best show. But that was it for entertainment. Disappointing.
On the other hand, there were two enrichment lecturers who were outstanding. One, Jay Christofferson, was a professor in marine biology. He gave four lectures which were absolutely terrific. Another lecturer was a cultural anthropologist...we made it to one of his lectures and it was very well done.
Now, a note about the new "more inclusive" policy on beverages. We had been quite happy on past cruises with the included wine at lunch and dinner. But we did take advantage of the new policy and had cocktails out by the pool and before dinner. Very enjoyable. The wines were uniformly good and our waiters were quick to find a special favorite we'd had the previous night and bring it out to us again.
On this cruise we used the jogging track every morning and it was nice to be up early and walking. Nice touch having orange and grapefruit ice water available (and towels too) A couple of mornings, though, we were diverted by whales spouting and breeching...easy to see from Deck 10. I also went for a spa treatment (they were running specials all the time) and had a very relaxing massage and facial. A bit of a sales pitch for the products but not too bad and the spa itself was very nice and Chloe, the therapist, excellent.
In summary, another wonderful cruise on Azamara. Can't wait to be back on board again.