We returned from our 14-night Quest cruise last Tuesday (sailing date was 11/24/07), however, between staying a few extra days in Miami, laundry, shopping, etc., this is the first opportunity 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.
PRE-CRUISE Some of the Cruise Critic members met for dinner the night before the cruise. We had chosen Versailles, for it's wonderful Cuban food. Approximately 15 of us met and enjoyed a good meal, meeting new friends, and relaxing. What a wonderful way to start a cruise.
EMBARKATION Our 14th cruise and the embarkation was easy and quick. We arrived early (I think we were the first or second couple there) and did have to wait, but that was because we chose to arrive early, and we expected the wait. The crew did a wonderful job of welcoming us aboard no more than 10 minutes from the time we started through the embarkation procedure.
To avoid the main dining room (Discoveries) being totally overwhelmed the first night they were offering to let us dine in a specialty restaurant (our choice) without it being counted as one of our "free" nights.
CABIN We had booked an oceanview stateroom with veranda on the 5-night cruise (10/26/07), but chose to book the Sky Suite for the 14-night cruise. We are convinced that after 5 days the cabins start to shrink. When we first boarded the cabins were not yet available, however, we were allowed to drop off our carry on luggage before proceeding to the Windows Café for lunch. As we sat on the deck eating we met more Cruise Critic members.
POOL ,Deck 9 As stated in an earlier post, it is a small pool with two hot tubs surrounded by lots of lovely wooden chaise lounges with thick blue padded cushions covered by thick white towel coverings. 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. The hot tubs are NOT covered (which would have been a plus). If you plan on using them you may want to wear a hat or sun visor.
Each afternoon waiters made the rounds offering small cups of a refreshing sherbet type "ices". They changed daily but we were offered lemon ice, apple ice, etc.
INTERNET ROOM ,Deck 9 After our experiences on the 5-night cruise, we elected to not use the eConnections room, and used a couple of internet cafes we ran into on the islands. Less expensive and more reliable.
SPA ,Deck 9 fwd Just past the internet room, is the small spa. We did have massages, and they were wonderful, but, typical for a cruise, very pricey. In the front of the spa is a small area with the small thallosotherapy pool area in front of the spa (accessible through the locker rooms in the spa), with nice deck chairs available without charge to passengers making use of the spa treatments). Others not having spa treatments can purchase the right to use this area. Very relaxing.
SHOPPING, Decks 5 and 4 Two small shops on Deck 5. Typical shops on a ship, no particular bargains, other than some of the evening specials.
MOSAIC CAFE, Deck 5 This replaces the COVA cafe on Celebrity ships. Pastries, specialty coffees and small sandwiches are available. We spent time at the Mosaic every evening for a Café Mocha (very good) and had the opportunity to talk to various officers and crew while there. The staff working the Café are absolutely delightful. Many thanks to (and apologies for any misspelled names) Gabriella, Gargana and David.
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 definitely need to put in a crap table. My husband was probably thankful they had not, since I'm the crap player of the family.
DINING AND BARS Windows on Deck 10 is the casual buffet. The food is very good, with a good selection to choose from. The floor can be slippery for some reason (they say it has to do with the humidity, but I'm not sure) and they have been adding mats to walk on. Between the juice bar, the omelet station, the waffles and pancakes, and all the other food selections, breakfast became an important part of my day! Lunch included a fantastic salad bar, along with a sandwich area and other good food.
The specialty restaurants were WONDERFUL. 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". My filet mignon was so tender I could cut it with a fork! And it was cooked to perfection. And the "3 cheese" onion soup is fantastic! (I've heard the same for the lobster bisque but did not have any).
Aqualina - We did not eat in Aqualina on our 14 night cruise, but we had on the 5 night. We all (there were 4 of us) enjoyed our meal there and they make a chocolate soufflé (you can also request it in Prime C but they aren't thrilled when you do) that is "to die for".
Discoveries - service in the restaurant was extremely slow, more than 2-1/2 hours at times. It seemed that the waiters had been assigned too many tables to try and keep track of. And they have a shortage for waiters. They do not seem to have a working concept of "open seating" at this time. Something that can be easily corrected. The food selection, IMHO, left a lot to be desired. While the food was okay, it was not great. Not up to normal Celebrity food standards.
Breeza (evening in Windows) was very good casual dining. In our opinion, Breeza is the best kept secret on Azamara. (No longer a secret!) We sat on the deck and enjoyed a wonderful dinner there many evenings. Sushi, pasta bar, stir fry, salad bar, carving station, and various other choices. Yes, you do have to serve yourself, but I'll serve myself, eat at my own pace, enjoy the casual atmosphere and great food, anytime over a long, stressful meal in Discoveries.
The pool grill did a great job of fixing the burgers, hot dogs, nachos, and their fries were really good (nice and crisp), etc. The gentlemen taking the orders were friendly and did a great job.
There are 9 bars on board, and only 9 bartenders. They have NO relief bartenders if one is sick, or in the case of something special, like the Martini Tasting where 3 bartenders gave up personal time to assist with the tasting. The bars are definitely understaffed.
STATEROOM/ SERVICE We did not expect perfection, but (as stated by another poster) we did expect more than we received.
Our 'butler' was rarely seen, though his assistant seemed to be around a little more often. We asked for little from butlers or attendants, but did request ice in a fold up ice chest we kept in our room and they generally remembered to do so. The rose in the bathroom was beautiful and a very nice touch. The balcony was nice sized and the table and chairs of better quality than seen on many cruise ships.
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. Though they do offer a choice, we still prefer firmer pillows than offered, so we traveled on board with our own pillows this time. The towels and washcloths are great. Very luxurious. The bath towel (bath sheet?) is absolutely huge! Almost TOO big to handle (or perhaps that just me - I have a bad shoulder and it was difficult to handle to big towel). The Sky Suite does have a bathtub/shower combo. The water pressure was definitely lacking (thankfully I don't still have the long hair I used to travel with, to be washed and rinsed out, but I felt sorry for those who might have that problem). The Elemis shampoo and conditioner are a nice touch.
SHORE EXCURSIONS This is an area I sincerely hope Azamara will improve. The shore excursions were over-priced, and the selection was not that good. For a line who says they will have tours "with truly immersive excursions", they are sadly missing the mark. Many people were booking their tours independently and had a wonderful time, seeing things not offered, and at less cost. We booked through Azamara and were very disappointed with a couple of the tours. One, in particular, in Dominica where anyone stepping off the ship could go up to the Fort (entrance immediately by the terminal building) for $2.00, however, those of us booking the tour to the Fort (not realizing it was so close) were charged $53, and given a drink (non-alcoholic) at the end of the "tour". A very expensive drink. Additionally, the tour guides responded to most questions with "I don't know". Not exactly an answer.
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. Coming back 24 days later from the 5-day to the 14-day, many of the staff and crew recognized us, and some remembered our names. That is an inexpensive way for any cruise line to make their passengers feel special, and something that can only be achieved by a great staff and crew.
ON BOARD ACTIVITIES There were numerous on-board activities of various types, to appeal to many people. I had asked if they were going to have a Martini tasting and was told a flat "no". After asking other individuals I was told that "if" I could sign up a minimum of 20 people they would have the martini tasting. Two days later, with 59 people signed up, we all received nice invitations to the tasting. Of those 59, 48 individuals showed up for the martini tasting and had a wonderful time. My thanks to Harry Francis who made it all possible, and to Matt Roberts (CruiserBoy) who also encouraged the tasting! The tasting was done with absolute class!
Special thanks also to Roland and Angelo in the Martini Bar for their excellent service and friendly responses. Especially to those of us (ME!) who want their drinks made a certain way.
Also special thanks to Sandy in the Sunset Bar (I heard she was moving to the Martini Bar after our cruise) for her great service and friendly smile.
ENTERTAINMENT - CABARET LOUNGE The group of 5 young people who are the on-board entertainment are good, but they have to almost scream out their songs to be heard over the 7 piece band/orchestra. The band was convinced that they were playing in a VERY large room, and thought they needed to be heard a long distance. The Cabaret Lounge is small, and does NOT need a band playing that loudly! Once they started to play, you could not carry on a conversation with even the person next to you without yelling in their ear. One evening someone yelled out to "turn down the volume", and received a round of enthusiastic applause. It didn't help. I guess the band thinks they know better what people want. The comedian/magician was great. A regular comedian who performed another night was absolutely fantastic and had us laughing so hard I was absolutely choking. He was wonderful. The ventriloquist/comedian was another great evening of entertainment. The pianist was exceptional!!
DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation was smooth and fast. No problems there, at all.
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? Possibly. IF they get their various problems corrected and if they bring their prices down a bit. There are currently over-priced for a supposed "deluxe" cruise line. Maybe in a few months or a year (??) they will achieve that status. Their ports are still a big draw for us (and many others).