We returned from our 5-night Quest cruise last Thursday (sailing date was 10/26/07), however, between laundry, shopping, etc., this is the first opportunity I have had to post our "review". Please note, that this explains OUR thoughts, OUR experiences, etc., and may not (and probably WILL not) conform to what anyone else may say.
EMBARKATION Our 13th cruise and this was by far the easiest (and quickest) embarkation we have ever had. The crew did a wonderful job of welcoming us aboard no more than 10 minutes from the time we got off the hotel shuttle bus.
EXPLORATION OF THE SHIP We explored the ship (easily done on a small ship). It is absolutely beautiful and so elegant and classy. My DH says she is "a classy Lady".
POOL ,Deck 9 As stated by an earlier poster, it is a small pool with two hot tubs surrounded by lots of lovely wooden chaise lounges with thick blue padded cushions and towels. There are several seating areas. The seating areas are very similar to sitting on someone's back patio or in their sun room. Relaxing, and the chairs and tables are very tasteful. My one "negative" comment on the pool is that I wish there were a part of it slightly shallower (only by a few inches). Standing on my tiptoes I could barely keep my chin above water. (Okay, not their fault I'm only about 5'5"). We do water exercise at home and I had hoped to do some on board by couldn't manage it without setting my feet down. And if that is my only complaint, you can tell I'm NOT worried about it.
INTERNET ROOM ,Deck 9 We visited the internet room three times, and failed to find it operating successfully on any occasion. We do not have a laptop to take aboard with us (though I've heard others say they had better luck that way). Plus we were told that "if" the connection (which they had earlier in the evening) did get made, it would take approximately 8 minutes to "connect" ... 8 minutes being charged to you. Picky me - I objected to being charged approximately $5 IF we obtained a connection, before accessing anything.
SPA ,Deck 9 fwd Just past the internet room, is the small spa. We did not use the spa on the 5-night sailing, however we did use the spa pool area in front of the spa (accessible through the locker rooms in the spa), at a charge (it is available without charge to passengers making use of the spa treatments). Very relaxing.
SHOPPING, Decks 5 and 4 Two small shops on Deck 5. Typical shops on a ship, no particular bargains.
MOSAIC CAFE, Deck 5 This replaces the COVA cafe on Celebrity ships. Pastries, specialty coffees and small sandwiches are available. There are small tables set with tablecloths and arrangements of roses on the tables. A guitarist, and a very good harpist who also sang performed at the Mosaic Cafe. We spent time at the Mosaic every evening for a Cafe Mocha (very good) and had the opportunity to talk to various officers and crew while there.
CASINO LUXE, Deck 5 A small Casino - probably very adequate in most respects, however the lack of a crap table saved a few of us a lot of money. IMHO they would be better off getting rid of the video poker table (rarely occupied when I walked through) and putting in a crap table.
DINING Windows on Deck 10 is the casual buffet. The food was good. Yes, I've read the various postings about not having sanitizers available, but in all honesty, we travel with our own, and that did not effect us. The specialty restaurants were WONDERFUL. Yes, the service was somewhat slow (as another poster stated), but when dining in a top quality restaurant, who hurries?? They allowed us to eat at our own pace, without feeling rushed. The food was beyond fantastic. Prime C - the Kobe beef was "melt in your mouth" wonderful. Aqualina - we all (there were 4 of us) enjoyed our meal there and they make a chocolate soufflE (you can also request it in Prime C) that is really fantastic. Service in the Discoveries restaurant was extremely slow, more than 2-1/2 hours. It seemed that the waiters had been assigned too many tables to try and keep track of. Something that can be corrected easily. The food was good, not great. I ordered a chocolate martini as "dessert" when others at our table ordered their dessert and it did not arrive until after everyone else (table of 8) had received their desserts, eaten them, and left. Breeza (evening in Windows) was very good casual dining. We sat on the deck and enjoyed a wonderful dinner there. Sushi, pasta bar, stir fry, salad bar, and various other choices. The hamburger grill did a great job of fixing the burgers, hot dogs, nachos, fries, etc. The omelet station (as well as the pancake/waffle station) was great. My eggs were fixed exactly as ordered every time. I cannot comment on the juice bar as I never ordered anything from it. I will the next time.
STATEROOM/ SERVICE We did not expect perfection, but (as stated by another poster) we did expect more than we received. All minor matters, easily corrected. First, the thermostat was broken and our cabin (and everyone else we spoke with from the 8th level) was ice cold (okay, not "ice" but seriously, the thermometer on my travel clock showed it was 61 degrees). They did get that fixed in our cabin while we were on board. Our 'butler' was a sweetheart, but stayed constantly busy. The rose in the bathroom was beautiful when we arrived. Unfortunately it was dead by the next day. Evidently the 'butler' or her assistant did not realize you are supposed to put water in the vase. It was not replaced (I did not expect it to be on a 5-night cruise, however, it would have been a nice 'touch'). The balcony was adequate and the table and chairs of better quality than usually seen. The bed is very comfortable (pillow top). The pillows will be great for those who like soft pillows. Unfortunately for us, we prefer firm pillows, and none of the type offered were actually firm. They do offer a choice. The towels and washcloths are great. Very luxurious. The bath towel (bath sheet?) is absolutely huge! Will it come as a surprise that the shower stall is a bit ... small? But it works, and that is what counts. The shampoo and conditioner are nice. On a 5-night cruise I did not require replacement bottles, but I'm assuming that if we do, they will be provided.
SHORE EXCURSIONS This is an area I sincerely hope Azamara will improve. First, the excursions on the 5-night, and somewhat on the upcoming 14-night do not seem to be the 'step above' they advertise they are going to have. And they are very expensive. I have spoken with a number of people who did, or are planning to, book private tour companies because they can get more and pay less.
CREW Having cruised on Celebrity a number of times, and also having cruised with RCCL, HAL, NCL and MSC, I must say that the crew was some of the friendliest we have yet to meet. Even when seeing the crew members in town they were stopping to inquire how we were, what we were doing or if we needed anything. They were always smiling, always friendly.
DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation was smooth and fast, with only one problem. My DH had signed the necessary papers authorizing me to sign on his card, which has never given either of us a problem in the past. As we put our ship cards in the slot to show we were leaving the Quest, my card alerted a red light and I was told I would have to go to the Customer Relations desk. What?? My DH waited outside that area for me while I went back in, stood in line (with a number of other passengers who had the same experience) to learn that I (not DH) had failed to pay my bill! (All $63 of it). I explained that DH had signed the necessary paperwork (etc). They told me that for those of us signing the paperwork at the dock, there had been a "glitch" in the system at the dock when we boarded. Fortunately I had my credit card (same number) with me and did not have to get my husband back on board to bail me out! (Hmmmm. Would they have let me stay on board, do you think? Would I have had to wash a LOT of dishes?? Or would DH have bailed me out??)
Yes, we did have to disembark in Tampa, due to Tropical Storm Noel, but ... on a small cruise ship in bad weather, better safe than sorry. There were a lot of "rumblings" from passengers about the change, but those same passengers would have been equally upset if Azamara had insisted on taking us through the bad weather and high waves and someone had been injured (especially if it was them). Azamara allowed many people to use the ship to shore phones to make alternate flight or travel plans or advise those picking them up of the change. If Azamara had made the original air arrangements, they handled the change for the passengers. The bus ride to Miami was an event, in that our bus was 'getting' a flat tire (it wasn't flat ... yet ... but there was a definite "burn" smell, and the cords were showing through) and we exited the highway and pulled into a Walmart parking lot a block or so off the highway. Another bus stopped and picked up some of those on our bus who had the most need to arrive faster. A second bus was on the highway, empty, in case of trouble, and that bus arrived within 20 or so minutes and we were loaded up for the last leg of the trip. Putting a better spin on it ... it was a new bus with better seats. (Okay, I'm making lemonade).
Do we believe Azamara needs to make a few changes? Yes. Did we have a good time anyway? Yes. Will we cruise with Azamara again? Definitely yes.