We just got back from the 2nd July Rome to Nice cruise on Azamara Quest and had a fabulous time. We spent 4 days pre-cruise in the Hotel Lancelot in Rome, one day post-cruise at the Grand Aston in Nice and 4 days post cruise at the Hotel des Grands Hommes in Paris. It was our first vacation without children in 20 years and Azamara seemed like a grown-up cruiseline tailored to adults. Just what we were looking for!
We checked in around 11:45 and were the only people in the terminal. We were onboard within 10 minutes sipping pink champagne. What a great start to a cruise! As we were too early for our cabin, we were able to check our hand luggage, and have it delivered straight to our room, while we had a buffet lunch.
We had the lowest category of verandah stateroom and it was located on deck 7 forward. The cabin was very comfortable with lots of storage space, and was kept impeccably clean by our steward Melvin. The minibar was filled with complimentary sodas and with alcoholic beverages which needed to be paid for. Melvin was able to replace the pay items with extra sodas and water. The much maligned bathrooms and shower curtains were fine for us, but we are small thin people!!!! Bathroom was well equipped with nice elemnis toiletries and plush towels and robes.
We loved the fact that so many things were included on this cruise, be it wine with lunch and dinner (and pre-dinner while we had hors-d'ouevres listening to the guitarist) or specialist coffees and teas (and hot milks at bedtime!). It was so nice not having to sign for things all the time. We were grandfathered into Le Club Voyage at the Discoverer level as we are Celebrity Elite and enjoyed the perks of free internet ($99 worth each which lasted us the entire trip at about 30 minutes a day) and one free bag of laundry per cabin. The internet connection was pretty good and we could get the wi-fi with our ipads in our cabin and on the balcony.
The food in the main dining room has to be the best cruise ship food I have ever tasted. It was light and served in small portions so I was able to order 2 or 3 courses and still have room for dessert. We ate a lot of fish dishes and they were always cooked perfectly. We really liked the open seating in the dining room and never had a problem getting a table for 2. We had different waitstaff every night and they were all very competent. I don't really care for the buffet and the couple of lunches I had there were so so. The biggest problem I had was that the food had been hanging around and was a bit dry. They did have some very good curries which I discovered later in the cruise. We ate in Aqualina one night and had a very nice meal. Usually we find specialty restaurants to be way superior in terms of quality to the main dining room, in this case because the dining room food was so good, it was hard to improve on! We also loved the mosaic cafe and the little treats they had available at different times of day.
We were worried that we would be bored on such a small ship, but we found that we spent a lot of time off the ship, as Quest was in port every day until quite late in the evening, so we were quite happy to sit back and relax when we were on board.
As non-smokers, we loved the Azamara smoking policy with smoking limited to one small area on the pool deck. This area was nicely furnished and it almost seemed like a social club for smokers.
The crew were amazing. I never heard the words "Sorry that isn't possible". Nothing seemed to be too much trouble. Officers were very visible, always checking that everything was OK, wishing you a nice day in port as you left you back and welcoming you back on board ship, sometimes with a glass of champagne at the end of the day! I think the crew enjoy being on the Quest as they always seemed so happy and friendly. There didn't seem to be a Captains Table in the dining room, and on the last night I found out why. The Captain appeared on the outside portion of the deck behind the buffet with a tray full of food, approached the couple at the next table to us and asked if it would be OK for him to join them for dinner!
We booked excursions through Azamara for each port. Usually we book through an outside operator, but this time we booked through Azamara as they were running a
2-for-1 promotion when we booked which was good value for money. The excursions always left on time, never had more than 30 people per coach and were frequently accompanied by an Azamara Shore Excursions crewmember who dispensed purell wipes after every stop! The tours ran like clockwork and always used excellent english speaking local guides.
We didn't really take advantage of much of the entertainment although we often listened to the guitarist / singer and did watch the magician. We went to one of the enrichment lectures which was very interesting. I would have liked to have been to more of those but they often occurred when we were doing something else. We did take advantage of the spa and have hot stones massages which were really nice. I truly appreciated there being no mention of products or sales pitches after the treatment.
Of course no review would be complete without the "however" section. Just to show how good the cruise was, the only thing that I found a little bit irksome was the library and the haphazard way in which books just seemed to have been thrown onto the shelves, not just non-alphabetically but with total disregard to genre. I'm not sure that anyone else would have noticed this, but I work in a library and this really bothered me! Should Azamara like to offer me a weeklong position twice a year to organise their libraries, I would be very happy to oblige!
This was a great cruise and I can't wait to sail Azamara again.