Azamara Quest Chinese New Year Cruise 20th January- 5th February 2011
We flew out to Singapore 2 days prior to joining the cruise. The flights were routed from Manchester to Singapore via Heathrow with BA. Delays at both ends meant it was a rush to catch our second flight but the flight itself was uneventful.
As we had booked flights via Azamara transfers and overnight hotel accommodation in Singapore were included. Transfers were well organised from the airport to the hotel and check in at the hotel went smoothly. Our hotel was the Carlton Centennial. Our room was well equipped and comfortable. We ate a light meal in the hotel lounge which was well presented and tasty and breakfast the following morning had a good selection of hot and cold choices.
The transfer to the ship was disorganised, although this was handled by Azamara’s port agent. This was raised at our cruise critic get together and Philip Herbert took note of all our comments.
Check in went smoothly and we were greeted with champagne when we boarded and welcomed back by name as old friends, this was our second cruise in 4 months on Quest. Our hand luggage was deposited with guest relations and we were free to wander the ship and enjoy lunch. Our cabin was ready just after lunch.
Prior to our departure we had been informed that we had been upgraded to a suite and this proved to be a real plus on this trip. Our cabin staff were excellent whilst I would not sing the praises of our butler that others have, we just had a different experience with him. We did enjoy breakfast in our suite on busy port days, this was always brought promptly, and the occasional afternoon tea and canapes. A real benefit of having a suite is that you can eat in the 2 speciality restaurants as often as you wished to free of charge. We also had a larger bathroom with a bath, well stocked with Elemis toiletries.
We ate mainly in the 2 speciality restaurants and enjoyed the food particularly in Aqualina. Food in the MDR was also good and service was friendly and efficient. We eat early so did not have delays in service, some have experienced. Staff were also aware we had a food allergy and made sure our food did not contain or had been prepared near anything harmful to us.
We ate some breakfasts and most lunches in Windows cafe and again enjoyed what was on offer. The only issue sometimes was finding a table.
The Mosaic Cafe which on our last cruise had not been discovered by everyone on the cruise proved this time to be very popular and again sometimes it was difficult to find a seat. At night Quest had introduced the concept of some solo shows by the Entertainment staff in the area around Mosaic which proved to be popular. The treats and coffees available in Mosaic are very good.
Captain Carl Smith returned from vacation the evening we joined the ship to captain our cruise and the Hotel Director was Philip Herbert who had been on vacation on our last cruise. Ryszard Gusmann was Food and Beverage Manager. All staff on this ship are excellent, they are one of Azamara’s key assets. Nothing is too much trouble and as has been stated before officers are very visible and approachable.
The Entertainment staff work hard and the Activities Manager (Alexander) and Cruise Director (Russ) were excellent. The shows are not exceptional but were different from our last cruise, apart from the Broadway style show, which we still enjoyed as the staff apart from Russ had changed. We did enjoy the solo shows in Mosaic where several of the Entertainments staff were given the opportunity to demonstrate their individual talents, these followed the main show. Mr Badger though is not to our taste.
On sea days there were plenty of activities available, I enjoyed the jewellery making sessions held in Mosaic.
In Bangkok, Vietnam and Hong Kong, Azamara brought on board local folkloric shows. Two held on deck and one in the show lounge.
As we had never been to South East Asia we had booked Azamara shore excursions.
Because of Azamara Quest’s size she is able to dock nearer to the heart of the areas we were visiting (with the exception of Hanoi). Apart from Hong Kong Azamara provide free shuttles at each port.
The sail up the river to Klong Toey was interesting, local life passing us by on the river. We spent 2 days in Bangkok and on one visited the Grand Palace & temples, and took a boat on the canals. As it was hot and humid tours started early as by mid day you were wilting, on this trip a Thai lunch was included and again our allergy was catered for.
We encountered rough season our sail to Vietnam (Saigon). The sail up the river to Saigon which Captain Carl called the Mekong slalom was lovely, as so much of local life passed you by, whether by fishing boat or by people cycling on the river paths to villages, sometimes 4 to a bike.
We enjoyed our visit to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) very much. Vietnam was preparing to celebrate TET and flowers were everywhere. Again our Azamara Shore Excursion was well organised and informative, Unification Hall, City Museum, Botanical Gardens, Post Office, Notre Dame Caherdral. The traffic is unbelievable. The people are lovely.
Our next port of call was Danang, and we encountered very rough seas a force 9 on our sail there. Although our excursion was enjoyable, the tour guide was poor and unhelpful. We visited a museum in Danang, then on to Hoi An and China Beach. Hoi An is lovely and the market was full of food and flowers for TET. We enjoyed strolling around here on our own. Lunch was included at a local riverfront restaurant and again our dietary needs were catered for. Local women were selling sea food fresh from the sea on China Beach.
TET falling during our visit had called for an itinerary revision for our visit to Halong Bay/Hanoi as Vietnam virtually closed down to celebrate their New Year. As we had decided not to take the 3.5 hour coach trip (each way) to Hanoi this did not affect us. For those wanting an overnight in Hanoi Azamara had taken them there with a flight from Danang.
We were up early to be on deck for the sail into Halong Bay, it was magical, misty and atmospheric.
Our trip was a boat excursion through Halong Bay to the Thien Cung Cave. We were on a converted fishing junk, boats would glide up to the junks windows and local people would proffer fruit for sale. Landing at the caves was treacherous as the only was up to the pier was via very narrow steps and re-embarkation was the same. The junk deck was so slippy my husband fell and at least one other person on another junk suffered a broken bone. It was a climb via steps up to the caves but once inside there were beautiful limestone formations artfully lit with different coloured lights.
At the end of the trip, Philip and Ryszard were waiting at the Quest to welcome us back on board with hot chocolate and rum (it was a cold, wet day).
For those returning at midnight from the long day tour to Hanoi they put on a hot and cold buffet in Mosaic. Just another thoughtful Azamara touch.
We were to be in Hong Kong when Chinese New Year was celebrated with a firework display in the harbour. We docked in Kowloon and were greeted on the quayside by a lion dance. We took the ferry to Hong Kong and wandered around on our own. That night we had a prime view of the fireworks from the Spa Deck and everyone was on deck to watch them. Afterwards we had a folkloric show including a lion dance in the show lounge.
We had upgraded our airport transfer to a tour and transfer which included Victoria Peak, Repulse Bay, Stanley Market, Aberdeen and a sampan cruise. Very enjoyable with a very informative guide. We were dropped off at the airport about 12.30 pm and as our plane was not leaving until 23.45pm we went to see if the day room Azamara had booked for us as part of the original transfer at the adjacent Regal Hotel was available. It was and we could retain it until 20.30pm this was a real benefit. This meant we could rest before our long overnight flight to Heathrow and our onward shuttle to Manchester. Thank you Azamara.
We thoroughly enjoyed our second cruise with Azamara and have just booked our third, on Journey this time.