We have just completed a month on Azamara Quest, Nice to Athens via Istanbul and the Black Sea. Having been on Azamara Journey previously we knew what was offered and the itinerary appealed. Once again the genuine friendly and helpful staff and crew was a major component of our relaxing, enjoyable cruise which was as we expected and hoped it would be.
In choosing a cruise, you need to know what you want from your experience and match it with what the cruise company and ship offers. Azamara, appeals to us is largely for what it doesn’t offer, as much as what it does! If glitz, glamour, parties, climbing walls, water slides, formal nights with tuxedoes and evening gowns, big screen poolside movies, culinary courses and discos etc are for you Azamara isn’t! The ship is small with only 700 passengers meaning it can visit ports and places the big ships can't. Yes the bathrooms, particularly the shower alcove, are small and some of the decor “dated” but so what. The casino is small, bingo is there if you want it (we didn’t) as is a spa, IT facility, small gym and jogging/walking track, library, specialty shops and the like but all generally small, understated and available and not crowded or “in your face”.
The two specialty restaurants offer great food and outstanding service. The Windows buffet offers better choices, service and quality than we have experienced on other (bigger) ships. Tea, coffee, wine and other drinks are offered and brought to your table unlike some others where you have to stand in line and serve yourself (HAL take note!) Our main dining room experiences were, while somewhat rushed, good without being outstanding.
I’m not sure why Azamara has joined and bothers with Park West to provide art auctions. Same old, same old and very little to interest. The three I attended each attracted less than ten people and not one bid was forthcoming in any of them.
There are the usual comments about “Land Discoveries” excursions being over priced (they are) and very limited options in some ports but usually you can find something of interest and generally were worthwhile. Now having been disappointed twice, a word of caution here though. If in the description of a supposed wild life tour says something like “While we expect to see some wild life this cannot be guaranteed” generally means that you won’t! Our Danube Delta wild life tour was a case in point. Despite it being touted as being home for hundreds of species of birds we had to be content with our guide wetting himself about seeing two swans about 300m away from the boat and a flight of seven pelicans equally distant.
A wonderful and innovative concept, the Azamara Amazing evenings provided can be special, our 1001 column cistern chamber orchestra concert in Istanbul was, very good such as The Three Tenors concert in Livorno or chancy – rain forcing the outdoor floodlit concert at Ephesus to be moved into an uninspiring hall (not quite the same as a 2000 year old Odeon amphitheatre).
We don't necessarily look for or expect much from the entertainment component of a cruise. As such we know that Azamara does not look to (and in fact hasn't the facilities) to match what is offered on larger cruise ships. That being said, having experienced the flamboyance of the multi talented Eric de Gray as cruise director on the Azamara Journey this was an area which was a little below par on the Quest.
Overall we knew what we were looking for and Azamara delivered (again). A major negative Azamara has no control over. During our month on board the Quest we got to know our waiters, drink stewards, food servers, tender staff and particularly our room stewards firstly as people and then as friends who were doing their absolute best to ensure that we as guests had a wonderful time. They couldn’t do enough for us and it angered and saddened us to see how some of the passengers treated them; rude, demanding, arrogant, loud and never a “please” or” thank you”. These were usually the same people who put their feet on chairs and tables in the Mosaic Cafe, walked past the hand sanitisers in the eating places without using them, when on tour didn’t listen to directions, asked the most stupid questions and arrived back at the bus past the appointed meeting time. Oh well, perhaps next time they might take a cruise that offers parties, climbing walls, water slides.........