I booked a cruise on Azamara Quest departing 13/11 Athens to Istanbul. This cruise turned out to be fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We were met at Athens airport and transferred to the port. Check in area looked small and crowded but we were through quickly and welcomed aboard with a glass of champagne. Assistance was available in getting to the cabin for those that required it.
I had registered for the mix and mingle but had received an e mail stating it was cancelled due to lack of numbers. Azamara take the mix and mingle very seriously and still held one. I was really impressed by this and we met several officers along with the cruise director. I though this was a special touch other lines wouldn't have bothered with and was much appreciated.
The ship carries about 650 pax and is easy to navigate. A popular place was the Mosaic Cafe serving coffee and snacks all day, there are a couple of shops, one for gifts, clothes and essentials you may have forgotten, and the other selling perfume and duty free items, Alcohol and tobacco are available but you must fill out a form and items are delivered to your cabin the night before disembarkation. There is a very well stocked library, the obligatory casino which was never very busy, an internet centre, spa, gym, cabaret lounge and disco. There is also a self service laundry.
The food on the ship is first class. There are 4 restaurants on board, Discoveries is the main dining room and I dined there on 3 occasions, Prime C and Aqualina are the speciality restaurants and I dined in both. Windows buffet where I went for the Indian buffet, and we also had an outdoor Turkish night. I always had breakfast and lunch in Windows. Breakfast was excellent with fresh orange juice and made to order smoothies available.
Coffee, tea, water and soft drinks were available 24/7 and I must say the coffee was top quality.
Entertainment is a difficult area as you cannot please everyone all the time but they got the balance right. It was low key which was appropriate on this sort of ship. There was a piano recital and a production by the cast which everyone seemed to enjoy. If you want glitzy entertainment and on board games and activities, then this is not the ship for you.
There were enough activities for those who wanted it and I went on a tour of the bridge held by First officer Mario which was most enjoyable.
The pool area was very pleasant with lots of sun beds available.
If you smoke take note it is very restricted. There was a small area on the pool deck and a small area in the Looking Glass disco. This turned out to be great as I met so many fabulous people in these areas.
The disco was nice but the choice of music could have been better. Not much point having an Abba or Wham night when you only have 3 records of each artist to play. Not sure about the smoking policy in the Looking Glass as the small smoking area in a corner was always busy with hardly anyone in the large non smoking area. I don´t want to start another smoking debate but why cater to those who go to bed early and don´t spend any money in the bar?
The staff were wonderful, so friendly and helpful. Although I don´t want to single anyone out as they were all great, Special mention must go to cabin attendants Jimmy and Imade, along with Ernesto and Benjamin in the bar and restaurant. There was only one member of staff I found a little off and she worked in the shop, maybe I caught her on a bad day.
The itinerary was interesting. Kusadasi meant I could go to Ephasus on an excursion organised by the ship, a little expensive but you get what you pay for and the trip was excellent.
Next stop was Chios which was ok but not too exciting. Volos was a nice place and worth a visit. Istanbul was wonderful although a public holiday so hordes of people everywhere. On the way to Istanbul there was much excitement as there was a change of course so we could all see Mount Athos in the morning. This was followed by continuous announcements during the morning pointing out unpronounceable places of interest (?). There was more excitement when a monk waved a flag at us from a hill! Most doubted a change of course was actually made and it was all planned, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
The passengers were mainly Brits or American with a few Germans and other nationalities. Most people were very friendly. I believe Azamara are increasing their presence in the British market and they cater to us and even had back bacon and bangers at breakfast! The only thing missing is English tea.
All in all, a fabulous cruise. Azamara is aiming upwards and is getting there. People compared them favourably to Seabourn but I think their main competitor is Oceana. I hope they keep things as they are and don´t get too expensive.