My partner and I cruised on the Quest from 10/31-11/12/2007. For reference, we are in our late 40s and have previously cruised on Celebrity (X) and Holland America (HAL).
Embarkation: Ours experience is not the norm. We were scheduled to board in Miami, but because of Noel storm, the ship was diverted to Tampa for embarkation. The morning that we arrived at the Miami pier, in a pouring rain and swelling seas, we were told of the change, given a boxed lunch and bottled water and were board on a bus for the 4.5 drive to Tampa. The embarkation at Tampa was smooth and quick. I do not blame Azamara at all for the change in embarkation point. One negative, at 9:45 a.m. on the embarkation morning, I called Azamara customer service to see if the cruise was on schedule due to the Noel situation. The rep said everything was a go. Therefore, we waited until 11: 30 to go to the Miami pier. If Customer Service had told us of the trip to Tampa, we would have proceeded directly to the pier More
Smoking Policy: Positive-Only two smoking areas on the ship. Great to have cabins, balconies and public rooms, like the casino, to be smoke free. Wish other lines would adopt this policy.
Dress Code: Positive-The resort casual attire was great, made the evening comfortable and packing much easier.
Overall Ship Observations: Positive-Every public room looked new and great. The ship had a classy atmosphere and limited public announcements. Negatives-People rave about 'smaller ships', but I did not get the benefit of the "smallness". The lunch and breakfast buffet area was crowded. The outside deck areas seemed crowded too. I think the space ratio on the Westerdam and Zuiderdam (HAL) and Millie and Summit (X) are much greater than the Quest, therefore, in my experience even though HAL and X ships have more passengers, the experience was much roomer and spacious.
Cabin: Had Sky Suite 8068. Positives-Spacious for two persons, the windows /door to balcony is floor-to-ceiling and the entire width of the cabin (absolutely stunning view), a 32 inch wall mounted flat screen TV (web sites says 23 inch in the Sky Suite, but it was 32), and a DVD player. Negatives-Narrow four-foot balcony, mesh balcony chairs (HAL had more spacious balconies and teak chairs with cushions), the TV was configured so that one cannot hook up an I-Pod for viewing, the in-cabin DVD list was extensive but not available on this cruise (supposedly the DVD were on the dock in Miami), but Guest Relations did have abut 40 DVDs for free check-out, including recent hits like Knocked Up.
Spa/Fitness Area: Positives-Three skier machines, three bikes and six treadmills and six weight machines meant little if any waiting for a machine due the number of passengers (694). The men's sauna and showers, including the 7-shower head tropical shower were always the right temperatures. The staff was friendly and helpful. Negatives-On the bow of ship is the Spa Deck attached to the fitness center. The deck contained very comfy cushioned chairs, recliners and ottomans. The centerpiece of the Spa Deck was a large, 8-person hot tub. We took a tour the first day, and were told that the area was ONLY for spa treatment clients and persons who purchased a pass to the Spa Deck. We bought cruise package for $116 each. Turns out that they do not systemically control access to the Spa Deck and no signage is posted saying it is a restricted area, so many non-paying cruisers were using the area. I felt ripped off paying $116 while others were using it for free. Also the hot tub is only heated by the sun, not mechanically heated. Therefore, it was chilly in the morning, and if in direct sun for many hours could be unbearable hot (but overall it was very comfortable).
Casino: Positive-Non-smoking, friendly staff (they even gave us private blackjack lessons), and had plenty of slots and black table for the number of gamblers. Also had a computerized Texas hold-em table, very interesting to watch.
Shore Excursions: Negative-This is one of the major faults of our cruise. Very limited excursion (for example going to Panama, but the only way to see the Canal was on a 10.5 hour tour of Panama City). X and HAL offer many more excursions in both Panama and other ports; I was very surprised and disappointed at the Quest selections. Unless you are comfortable going independent touring, I would not recommend this line for shore excursions. Also the pricing was very high. At one port, the ship offered a two hour island tour by taxi for $71 per person. We walked to the end of the pier, and got the exact same tour for $21 per person. Again, if you rely on the ship's shore excursion, you will have limited selections at high prices.
Food: Negative- This is the second major fault of our cruise. The food, in general, was no better a cafeteria. No dishes in the dining room were memorable. The lunch buffet was bland and warmed over. The specialty restaurants were better, but still had the mass-produced effect. Oddly I found the food on the larger HAL and X ships to be far superior. For example, the pizzas on HAL were diverse, like blue cheese and BBQ chicken, and any type could be requested. On the Quest, everyday the offered pizza was room temperature and either pepperoni or veggie. The hamburger grill on X and HAL were cooked to order and (I think) fresh patties. On Quest, either the burgers were pulled already cooked from under foil or you got frozen patties. On X and HAL, the grill, pizza, ice cream, and pasta areas were open (if I remember right) from noon-6. On the Quest, everything but the hamburger area shut down around 2:30. Again, I was very disappointed in the food, and thought that X and HAL were much better in quality and selection.
Drinks: Positive-Contrary to other reports, the wine pours seemed good. Negatives-Alcohol and wine prices are high, for example, $12 for a normal-sized martini. Also, beware of the advertised 'special drinks of the day'. We were informed that 'special' does not mean special prices; the martini for example was still $12 even though it was advertised as the special of the day.
Other Passengers: Positives-Good spectrum of ages. All well behaved, no loud, drunken behavior. Zero children among the 694 passengers.
Gay perspective: Positive-FOD gatherings listed everyday in the daily newsletter. Gay passengers were treated the same as straights by both crew and straight passengers.
Would I go on the Quest again ? No, because of the limited shore excursions, the disappointing food and the lack of spaciousness I have experience on the other ships, I would prefer to sail on the HAL and X ships in the future. Less