Background: We are a family of 3. Parents are in their 50s and I'm in my 20s. We have done cruises with Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America & Celebrity. Among them all, we prefer the qualities of both Celebrity and Holland America. But we never had a bad cruise, just some experiences are better than others.
I am trying to be as objective as possible, as there were a few harsh reviews in the recent past that made me feel that the reviewer had chosen Azamara for the wrong reasons. Everybody deserves a wonderful vacation, but a good choice can only be made when there is enough objective information.
Ship: Having refurbished recently, the condition of Quest is excellent. Keeping in mind that she's not brand-new, I did occasionally see some minor wear and tear -- some elevator buttons are cracked, cigarette burnt marks on bathroom sink (most probably from the Pullmantur days?). Overall the ship is beautiful. The decor is a harmonious mix of old and new. The colors are pleasing. The furnishings are stylish.
Size of this 30,000 tons ship makes it super easy to navigate around. There is virtually no dead ends, and we never needed to go up or down one floor to get to a particular place, unlike some other ships. However the small size does make the ship movement more noticeable, even in calm seas. We saw mostly experienced cruisers there, nobody seemed to have problem with the motion. And we loved it.
Stateroom: We have an Oceanview Triple on deck 4. The room comes with a convertible sofa bed that is about the size of a single bed and is reasonably comfortable. The regular beds are very comfortable, similar to those of Holland America's. Sheets are very soft and nice as well. There are a lot of pillows and cushions in the room, more than what we can possibly use. On top of that, there is also a pillow menu that you can request your butler to bring (body pillow, isotonic pillow....) With every room, they provide a tote bag (with only a small tag having their brand name imprinted), leather card holders, slippers, a big Evian bottled water, and sheets of letter paper with your name and room number printed on. All are complimentary. There are also beach towels & bathrobes provided for use during the cruise.
Our Captain's Club coupon books were provided when we entered the room on the first day. The Onboard Credits were later added to our account with a "Bon Voyage Gift" note placed on the desk.
Bathroom is small but functional. There are several shelves for toiletries including those in the mirror cabinet. Elemis soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower cap, Q tips and cotton balls are provided and replenished automatically. Shower stall is rather small, though not as small as that on the Caribbean Princess (OV Stateroom). The floor just outside the stall's threshold has a small trough that collects excess water to the drain. They also provide a very absorbent floor mat, so it is not a big problem even if you splash water out during shower.
The mounting height of the toilet seemed high to the North American standard. But many toilets in European hotels are the like that. Unless you are over 6' tall, do expect to tip toe when using it. It is Ok since nobody spends that long using it anyway, if so... there is salad available.
The LCD TV is mounted in the cabinet just above the vanity. It is viewable from the beds as well as the sofa. The blue power-on light is on only when the TV is on, never a disturbance. Programming has CNN, Discovery, ESPN, movies, Spanish... In the 14 days, we never saw any picture and sound went out of sync. The interactive TV also can be used to check account balance, order room service, order pay per views... Etc.
Storage space is enough for the 3 of us, though we did not pack too much (smart casual throughout, no formal nights). There are 2 full length wardrobes and 1 half length with 4 drawers in the bottom half. The cupboard under the TV has a combination safe, further down is the cupboard housing the small fridge. At the vanity, there are 2 cupboards on the sides. 1 has 2 shelves, the other has 4 drawers. The nightstands have 2 shelves in them, one has a Holy Bible.
Stateroom Services: On top of all the services you would normally get on Celebrity and Holland America, Azamara provides a butler in every room. He would help with packing and unpacking (we didn't ask him to), reserving restaurants (we did ask and was great), and anything that we needed in the room. We were provided with fresh flowers and they were replaced halfway during the trip. At 4pm everyday, our butler would deliver canapes that range from cookies and pastries to sandwiches and some other snacks. They all taste Ok to very good. At the evening turn down service, butler will bring cookies, pastries, truffles or a stem of rose. We find that our Butler was very attentive and down to details. For example, the fruits in the fruit baskets were provided based on what we like to eat most; we love cookies, and he would deliver extra plates of them without being asked! Our stateroom attendant is very thorough as well - just say our room is always neat and clean, and we never had to ask for more toiletries, towels... etc.
Dining: We are foodies for sure. There is nothing we absolutely don't eat. Having traveled to many parts of the world, we opened our minds and palates to many different cuisines. Afterall, we think culinary arts is about what the chef wants to present us with the ingredients - taste and appearance. It might not match with our personal preferences, but it could still be a wonderfully prepared dish.
Discoveries is the main dining venue on Quest. Ingredients are overall of excellent quality. Shrimps and scallops are jumbo sized and fresh. Most meats are flavorful on their own, even with minimal seasoning/sauce. Fish is fresh in both texture and taste. Menu was seldom repeated and not all revolved around the strong flavors. For example, the Peruvian Fish ceviche, beef and tuna carpaccio. They were all very good and the flavors were subtle. Soups were consistently excellent and not overly salty. We are not fans of desserts, so can't make the best comments on them. Presentation of dishes were very appealing in general and they all came in appropriate temperatures. Overall we were very satisfied.
Service in Discoveries: Mixed is the word. We never encountered bad service in anywhere around the ship, but there is certainly room for improvements in Discoveries. Of the 14 nights, we had 12 dinners and 2 lunches in the main dining room. We always be there at 6pm when dinner time starts and there always be a little line up even before 6pm (which is normal on every cruise). But once they started taking customers in, the line moved along quickly and we never waited for more than 5 mins. Many times, we were seated close to the entrance and observed that most people who chose to dine between 6pm to 7:30 (when we left) never had to wait for more than a few mins.
We did have a few nights of slower service. But most nights we were in and out within 1:15. A closer observation found out that, in those slower service nights, our waiters were being asked by the manager to seat guests after giving us the menus. Once the errand was done, service to our table resumed and was fine. Over the whole trip, we were seated in various tables of 3 and noted that some waiters and their assistants are more efficient than the others. Not a problem, we still able to leave the restaurant within 1:45 anyway and made it to the show.
Some consistency and sophistication would make the dining experience better. For example, we often order multiple (different) appetizers. Some waiters would provide a new set of cutlery before serving the next appetizer; some would set aside the used set on the bread plate then serve; some would take away the used cutlery set, and forgot about it, then serve the next appetizer, so we had to use the set for the entree. By the time our entree is served they realized that all the forks were gone. Another example is tea service at the end of each meal. They generally were served by the assistants. Most would provide me with a small teapot with teabag steeping inside, and served the tea before they went away. Some left a teapot of hot water, a teabag and went away. One time an assistant gave me a teabag, and while he was serving coffee to others, he knocked the teabag onto the floor. Immediately he picked the unopened package up and placed it on the teacup plate again. Later he came back with some hot water, asked me "Open the teabag please" and poured the hot water into my cup. Well, it's not a big big deal to me. But it's an immediate failure to any upscale restaurant, when they say their service is unparalleled. Interestingly, one time I was ordering a burger at McDonald's. The guy accidentally dropped the nicely wrapped burger onto the floor in front of me. Without any hesitance he threw it into the garbage and made me a new one.
Prime C: Just like any specialty restaurants, we expect outstanding food and service. Prime C did not disappoint. Service was very attentive and quick. Food was excellent, especially their steaks (that taste even better than the same at Pinnacle Grill of Holland America).
Aqualina: Same as Prime C - Excellent in both service and food. The Fois Gras appetizer and the Rock Lobster entree were our favorite.
Overall, we find that the food quality of Discoveries was as superior as the specialty restaurants. We were delighted by the choices of the menu every night, and were more than satisfied of our selections.
Buffet: Ingredients were of very good quality. But since they are on hot plates all the time, certain things would be over-cooked and dry over time. That is just the nature of a buffet. Selections were varied and plentiful. Smoked Fish and ham/cold cuts (many choices and fresh) were excellent during breakfast. As were the fresh squeezed orange juice, smoothies and fresh fruits (Papaya was great! We even asked the blender guy making smoothies to blend some papaya and milk together for us). Highlights of lunch includes various meats and seafood/fish, made to order sandwiches and salads. And don't forget those beautifully presented and delicious sorbets and ice cream (in waffle cone or bowl and with all the fixings).
Dinner buffet has a Sushi counter that provides different rolls and sushi. Their fish selection includes salmon, red tuna, hamachi and eel. All fresh and tasty. After our official dinner at Discoveries or the specialty restaurants, we usually went there to have a few pieces of those sushi.
There is a pasta station that cooks made to order pasta. Haven't tried. But the most busiest area is the Asian Stir Fry station. You have a choice of various meats, veggies, noodles, rice... etc. and they make it with either soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, chilli sauce or a combination of them. Parents tried that a couple times and were pleasantly surprised. They cleared the plates! (Remember we went there right AFTER our official dinner...)
At all times, the drink stations are open for use. There are ice, water (iced, room temp. and hot), various coffees (cappuccino and espresso are available) and numerous teabags. They also provide iced teas, lemonade, fruit punch and orange juice that are not watered down.
Service in Buffet: Not that the waiters were inattentive, but service is not as consistent/complete as that of Celebrity and Holland America. There is no guarantee that you would have someone come over to take the plates for you when you finished picking your food, even when you are juggling. Sometimes waiters come around and ask if they could bring you a drink or take away the used plates. Sometimes they will serve you at the buffet line, other times you have to reach in to grab the tongs. You also have to line up with the waiters to use the ice/water/coffee/juice machines. So I would say, if you happen to have someone to serve you, their service would be excellent. Most of the time, they were just busy doing other things or serving others.
Pool Grill: Never tried, but have to admit that smelled great.
Mosaic Cafe: They have cookies, pastries and finger sandwiches all the time. During evening hours, they also have tapas - roasted beets, prosciutto, cheeses, bite sized pizza... etc. They looked cute and tasted from okay to very good... similar to the canapes.
Entertainment: Finally there is no belly flop contests and loud music around the pool. Only soft and easy music were played on deck, and that simply made the area more relaxing... I saw and HEARD many fell asleep on those comfortable loungers all the time. If you fancy loud music and people screaming and cheering, you should go with other lines like Carnival or RCCL.
There is always live music playing somewhere starting from the pre-dinner hours. Mosaic Cafe has soft piano or harp music. Looking Glass lounge has themed music nights.
We were surprised by the quality of the evening shows, given the small venue. All the performers were highly talented. The piano players were great and one of them did another show in the afternoon with only classical music. The production shows were very good and the singers were not trying to drown out each other. The violin player was phenomenal. There were also a comedian and a ventriloquist, they were both hilarious.
All the shows were geared towards the more civilized/older bunch (which is also the demographics of Azamara's passengers). I am an amateur musician with a performance degree, I know it is nearly impossible to please everyone on a cruiseship when there are so many different cultures and backgrounds within the passengers. The most one can do is to play a bit of everything, which was what they have done on Azamara.
Enrichment: We have a naturalist onboard that gave lectures on numerous topics, e.g. sharks and stingrays, birds, stars... etc. He also held a couple of very interesting stargazing sessions at night with a high power laser pointer. We even saw a communication satellite flew by!
The activity staff also arranges some line dance classes, arts and craft classes etc. Some of those were not that well attended.
Bar and drinks: We don't drink at all.
Casino: We don't gamble at all.
Spa: We want to minimize the chances of being seen naked. :P We don't spa at all.
Demographics: Mainly the older population and they are mostly very well travelled. I am younger, and I did have a great time among other passengers. Everyone was very nice, very well mannered. They shared their little travel stories, we shared ours. At the end of each day, in the hallways or elevators, they were happy to know that we were all having a great time as they were.
I am not sure if I have missed anything, if there is anything that you would like to know please feel free to ask.
Hope this helps and everyone has a nice cruise!