These are the highlights of our recent cruise (January 2011) in Asia with Azamara Quest. My wife and I are experienced cruisers, but this is the first time we have sailed on a smaller vessel, and I suspect that our experiences reflect this, at least to a certain degree.
We met the ship in Hong Kong. Seeing as we arrived at 9:30PM local time, we just took a car to the shopping mall where the pier is located. Three minutes after arriving at the pier we were checking in at Guest Relations, and three minutes later were in our cabin. Ordered room service, which was very prompt and very good. Note - because of the visa paperwork in the countries this tour visits, Azamara retains your passport until the last sea day. This didn't bother us, as this used to be a common practice in Europe, but it might make some travelers uncomfortable. You needn't be - it's painless, and you don't need your passport for anything until you are actually set to leave the ship for good.
Our stateroom, 7044 was had a balcony and, while quite small was comfortable. Located on deck 7, the location was perfect - two floors down to dining, two floor up to Windows cafe. (Note: Avoid Cabin 7076 and threafbouts - it's right across from the self-service laundry!) The bathroom is absolutely tiny, and requires a certain amount of agility in order to not whack youself against things while using it. The shower is absolutely miniscule - I'm 5'8, 165 lbs and found I could just turn around in it. Takes some getting used to, but it's fine. The rest of the cabin - desk, sofa, table and bed are standars and very comfortable. The in-room TV is a waste of space, since programming is abysmal - Fox, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN and a 'movie' channel which shows movies that even the straight-to-DVD people spurmed. Unlike all the other cruises we've been on, there are no movies showed on the ship itself. Closet space is adequate, particularly since Azamara has no formal nights. You needn't pack suits or long dresses, etc., freeing up a lot of closet space.
As in most cruises, there are several options: The main dining room (Discoveries), cafeteria (Windows), and 2 speciality ($30 per peson extra) restaurants, Cc and Aqualina. We didn't try Cc, which is a steakhouse experience, although we heard it qas quite good. Aqualina was fine, the dEcor underwhelming and the service a little pretentious. The food was also good, but probably not worth the additional $30.
Discoveries main dining room was very good. It has open seating, which we liked a lot. After a couple of tries we found a waiter we really liked and arranged to sit at one of his tables for the rest of the cruise. The wait staff in general was quite stiff, overly formal without much friendliness (one of the reasons we stayed with one we liked). The food choices were overall quite good and in a couple of instances exceptional. The house wine, free with lunch and dinner was fine with us, although we're certainly not wine experts.
Windows cafe was, in a word, bad. In general the choices were limited, insipid, unappealing and unattractive. We took to having breakfast through Room Service which worked out much better except on shore excursion days. Lunch offerings at Windows were odd combinations of things that often seemed to have appeared the night before at dinner, and many dishes (even those where you would never expect it) were highly seasoned with hot spices. Everything always seemed to look better than it tasted. The wait staff is totally disorganized and it can take forever to get your beverage served. There are no trays, and waiters don't help passengers who are struggling with a couple of plates when the ship is moving. In fact the only efficiency from the wait staff we saw was in removing used plates - guard your plate with your life if you're close to finishing because if not, a waiter will swoop down out of nowhere and whisk it away before you know what's happening. Must be some kind of management fixation.
We found the personnel in Guest Services to be the friendliest and most efficient of any cruise line we've used. Our cabin staff were totally unobtrusive, efficient and always had the room made up when requested. Waiters (as previously mentioned) are somewhat aloof but generally efficient. Ships officers, to the small degree we had contact with them seemed very eager to make a good impression for Azamara.
Azamara shone in this department. I can say without hesitation that the ships tours offered by Azamara, at least on this cruise were by far and away the best of those offered by any line we've cruised on, including HAL, Celebrity, Princess and Cunard, both in terms of cost and in terms of completeness. We saw and did virtually everything that there was to see and do in the ports of call (with the exception of Singapore where, due to a scheduling error/unavailability of berth we only arrived at 5:00 PM with our flight out the next day at 8:00 AM. We can't say enough about the shore excursions Azamara put together.
Hopefully, this will give those of you considering this trip a little taste of Quest. We're confident you will have a wonderful cruise.