I joined the Azamara Quest in Venice for an 8 day cruise to Athens early in November 2010, opting to arrive in Venice a couple of days early in order to have a little time there before sailing. As they knew in advance I would be writing a review (for the online magazine, The Arbuturian) they had kindly upgraded me to a balcony cabin. This was a much-appreciated gesture, although the variable weather did not allow me to fling the door open on too many occasions.
The Azamara Quest is pitched directly at a middle-bracket, childless clientele and succeeds so spectacularly as they ‘up the ante’ at almost every point. So for example, although the standard food is very good, for a nominal cover charge of $15, you can reserve a table in their specialist restaurants, Prime and Aqualisa. This I would urge every future traveller to do, as my experience on he three occasions I did was outstanding. Wine is served freely (and free!) at both lunch and dinner and proved to be highly quaffable.
Staff were everywhere, at one’s slightest beck and command, and were all cordial and helpful, and chatty where appropriate. There were representatives from over fifty nations amongst the crew, so the mix was truly international and cosmopolitan.
The Cruise Director responsible for the entertainment on board was Tony Markey- he of the golden voice, used for both informative commentaries, and evening entertainment as well. The mix he chose was varied and excellent, the highlight for me being the classically-trained pianist, Brooks Aehron. Brooks gave two shows in the eight days I was on board, and I frankly wish he had been given a third slot as well. His first gig involved popularizing classics, but the last one on our penultimate night was worthy of the Wigmore Hall in London. He actually performed the incredibly hard final movement of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto with only a CD backing track to aid him, and he kept an audience, clearly not familiar with List and Chopin, enthralled. Incidentally Azamara cruises should be complemented not just for giving Brooks to us, but for actually playing good classical music in public areas rather than the usual muzak pap.
Guest relations, managed by the formidably talented Ngawhira Fleet (New Zealand) ably assisted by Louise Bissett (Scotland) were always there to smooth any wrinkles in the carpet before you. They made sure that you were looked after, and I noticed they gave additional time to the singles (like myself) who appreciated just that little bit extra attention.
Overall then a first class experience, on a really quite modest budget. Highly recommended indeed!