After spending the night on Miami Beach, I arrived at the port at 11:00 AM and was having a beer on the pool deck by 11:10. It was the smoothest ever! Kudos to the check in staff. (The reverse is true of disembarkation - more on that later.)
After a quick tour of the ship I went to my cabin, 7000 Sunset Verandah forward. My initial reaction was surprise at the small size and especially the tiny balcony with two plastic chairs and table not much better. I was disappointed there was no chaise lounge. However, it is facing the bow and that proved to be a wonderful experience. The bathroom was tiny. I am of medium build and found it uncomfortable because of its compactness. The shower is claustrophobic. While seated on the toilet your left knee would hit the toilet roll dispenser. The fixtures were fine and water pressure adequate. The linens were terrific and the bath sheet would swallow anyone up. The appointments in the cabin were, besides the bed, a small couch and table. There was a small area I used for a desk with a small padded stool to sit on. The wall furnishings were Spartan by my standards. A large mirror in front of the bed was placed there to give the illusion of being in a larger room. The paintings were simple. The TV was a nice flat screen but the broadcast were limited and quality poor. The interactive part was cumbersome and the portfolio review never worked. In fact there was someone else listed in my cabin and I mentioned this several times and no one could figure out how to remove him.
The ships itself is well laid out, nicely appointed and very very clean. The layout is easy to navigate with most features being on deck nine or deck five. As I am a smoker, I found the limited smoking areas too few. However, I knew this before boarding and thusly have no basis for complaint. The fact you couldn't smoke on your balcony was disconcerting and violated by many. Some passengers smoked in their cabins as well. I never noticed the "Smoke Police" so I presume Azamara turned their head the other way. One great upshot of the limited smoking sections is I now have many new great friends from meeting many times a day at the pool smoking area.
The ship has four eateries. The main dining room (Discoveries) has open seating which I have never liked and didn't like it on the Quest. I do not understand why an upscale line would use this method. If you arrived near 8:00 PM there would be a thirty minute line. The service was hit and misses as I felt the dining room was understaffed considering the rush of passengers arriving at one time. I finally had enough of that and the fourth night I went to the Assistant Maitre'd and requested a table for two at 6:00 PM. I had a great waiter and assistant waiter at the same table for the remainder of the cruise. However, I was reminded nightly that this ship has Open Seating and that the Assistant Maitre'd was really doing me a big favor. The menu selections were somewhat limited, but most of the entrees were very good.
Windows Cafe on deck nine was the buffet style dining area. I thought it neither better nor worse than most lines I have been on. The Windows Cafe was a very pleasant place to enjoy your meal. One thing of note, no one on the staff ever offered me a drink, tea or coffee. Also they were quick to remove your plate if you left your table to get more tea or another drink.
Specialty Restaurants: There are two and I dined in each once. The first is the Prime C. It is a beautiful room on the aft end of deck ten. It is primarily a steak house but has other specialties as well. I had the Kobe (style) steak. I was never so disappointed. It was served beautifully and as I cut into it I knew I was in trouble. I've had top sirloin that was much tender. I ate a few bites and then finished the other items on my plate. No one asked why I wasn't finishing it and the staff carried on as my behavior was normal. Since I was with a large group, I declined to make an issue of the problem. Everything else was great including the dessert. The next day I saw the manager and he apologized and emphasized that it was Kobe style beef and not authentic Kobe. Anyway, he Gave me credit for the add on and later called and gave me credit for the entire meal. This left me one gratis specialty meal so another group and I went to Aquilina on Thanksgiving night. It is located adjacent to Prime C on the same deck. I had a beautiful tenderloin served with appropriate side dishes. It was one of the best I've ever had. The service was impeccable and all was good with the world until the end of the meal. I was asked to sign for the add on since this was my second tenure in their Specialty Restaurants. I explained my experience in the Prime C and conversations there after. He insisted that I was mistaken until I mentioned the phone call, and then I was asked when the call was made. I explained that, and then the Aquilina Manager went to get the Prime C Manager and is was becoming quite embarrassing. The time of the call to me was very critical apparently and luckily I remembered the day and time. Finally they acquiesced, but only after a hassle. It was not handled very professionally in my opinion.
Butler Service: To me this was a severe and flagrant use of the term "Butler". I saw mine three times and two of those were in the hall. The only time he was in the cabin was the first day where upon he showed me the TV, balcony, and telephone. Wow! My cabin steward was unobtrusive and very good. The cabin stayed spotless throughout the cruise and with that I was most pleased. Others had similar comments while others said their butler was ever present. Go figure!
Internet: The ship is equipped with Wifi and that works very well. However the baud rate is painfully slow and a 2 megabyte file would take ten minutes to download. The manager in the E Connections room was very helpful and knowledgeable. The internet was available most days with some drops in service due to conditions.
Room Service: I used it daily for breakfast on my verandah. I asked the server on his first visit if I could have the same thing at the same time everyday and I did. He was prompt and most friendly.
Ports of Call: They were Grand Turk WI, Samana Dominican Republic, Mayaguez Puerto Rico, St. John US Virgin Islands, Gustavia St. Barts, Cabrits Dominica, Basse-Terre Guadeloupe, and Virgin Gorda BVI. I liked the itinerary and enjoyed each port. Some were better than others, but these things are a personal choice. I particularly enjoyed the town of Portsmouth on Dominica. It is untouched, very poor, and very rudimentary in regards to tourists. That was it's beauty to me. I met the Port Manager and he was very helpful in explaining the customs, history and various landmarks. In time I'd say the developers will discover the island and ruin another beautiful place.
Spa: I did not use the Spa, but the gym was well equipped and people that used the services provided loved it. There is a whirlpool on the bow section that is very nice.
Entertainment: I attended some of the shows and thought they were OK, but not great. The Cabaret Lounge is small but adequate for the size of the ship. There was one exception. A pianist named Hung was very good. He played classical and at the same time very entertaining.
Disembarkation: If Azamara had tried they could not have done a poorer job. Of all the cruises I have been on this was the absolute worst. I asked for Express Disembarkation which means that if you carry off your own luggage, you can be near the first to disembark. I was told to be near the gang way by 8:30. I had an 11:15 AM flight and figured there shouldn't be a problem. Wrong! There were seven other ships in port and we were the last to dock. This occurred at 7:15 AM. I knew then that all was not well. Usually ships are docked by 6:00 AM and clear customs by no later than 8:00 AM. I finally got off the ship at 10:05 AM and barely made it to the airport on time. In fact I had to bribe a porter $ 50.00 and a cabbie the same to make it. The only explanation that was made by Azamara was there was a problem getting all the luggage off and no one could leave until that occurred. A great many people missed their flights and I'm sure The Azamara Home Office will catch hell for it. There is no excuse for that in my opinion. I think they were trying to conserve fuel so the ship was slowed down to save a few dollars. My GPS indicated they were making about 17 miles per hour the last twelve hours. Grrrrrrrrr!
Overall: The Azamara Quest is a lovely vessel. He accoutrements are beautiful and the basic idea is perfection. However if they are trying to be identified as a superior brand such as Silverseas or Oceania, they have a long way to go. I had they feeling they don't know quite who they want to be yet. I had a wonderful time and am glad I had the experience. I doubt if I would sail Azamara again and only will sail Celebrity again because of coaxing from my travel agent. If anyone would like further information I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.