We have just returned from a 10 night Cruise on Azamara Quest from Venice to Athens with a pre cruise overnight at the Antony Hotel.
We have previously sailed on Fred Olsen, Ocean Village, RCI, Cunard, Princess, and P&O and were looking forward to 5*+ "Boutique Style " Cruising.
Air Arrangements - KLM via Amsterdam - great service from KLM and would fly with them again. However, the non direct and timing of flights arranged by Azamara added unnecessary frustration and travelling time - on disembarkation we left the ship at 9 am with a flight time out of Athens of 16.55 and eventually arrived in Manchester at 9.30 local time - 14 1/2 hours after leaving the ship. Such travel arrangements would probably be a deal breaker in the future.
Due to the late flight and as we did not want to participate in the Athens excursions available through Azamara we took the opportunity to book a room at the Airport Sofital at a cost of 96 Euros, checking out at 2.30pm. Comfortable room and facilities including a pool and nice lunch in the bar.
Pre Cruise hotel stay - Antony Hotel - Venice - 10 minutes from the Airport and 10 minutes from the Port.
Good location to get the the Port the following day. Friendly staff, comfortable lounge. Basic but clean room. Dinner expensive and the lamb chops inedible.
Embarkation. Left hotel by coach 12 noon and arrived at the Port 10/15 minutes later. As we had been fortunate to have been upgraded to a suite we were able to take advantage of immediate priority check in. However, embarkation was chaotic with no order, reminiscent of a rugby scrum with no regard to health and safety. Embarkation was a little delayed as the Ship had been subject to a deep clean due to Norovirus being on board.
Once on board we were directed to Windows Cafe for Lunch and our cabins became available around 2pm and luggage promptly delivered.
Norovirus - a small number of cases were reported during our cruise but probably no more than one would expect to see in the general population. However, the situation was well managed with food served from the buffet rather than self service until about 2 days before disembarking. I personally preferred being served and once self service was reintroduced I felt that Windows Cafe became more chaotic.
Due to the Norovirus no table menus were available in the bars or coffee shop. We had a daily update from the Captain with regard to the status of "GI" - it would have been preferable for the update not to have been received during dining hours!
Cabin - Club Continent Suite - Deck 8 - spacious and clean with a bathroom with a bathtub. Lots of wardrobes and storage and a balcony.
Whilst Butler service was available we are not particularly demanding people and did not take advantage of Suite delivered afternoon tea, evening savouries or suite dining other than for some breakfasts. I did enjoy the complimentary Brandy and Gin which we had exchanged from the normal Whisky and Vodka. Whilst we did enjoy the spaciousness of the Suite we probably would not book one over a Veranda Cabin due to the differential in cost.
Food - all excellent albeit we did not eat in Discoveries, preferring the more relaxed atmosphere of Windows Cafe. We ate in Aqualina twice and Prime C once - food and service all excellent.
Entertainment - limited day time entertainment other than a number of trivias and a limited number of craft sessions. Whilst Azamara Cruises are destination orientated it would have been nice to have seen more ship board activities. Evening entertainment was ok but not as good as other lines we have been on.
Bar/Lounge Facilities - all excellent in an evening but again in the day time lacking with no inside active bar where you could just sit and relax until 5pm. Lunch and Dinner complimentary wine - excellent and free flowing. Beer package excellent value.
We particularly enjoyed the "Looking Glass" Observatory bar with live music.
Excursions - we didn't participate, preferring to do our own thing.
Ports - all excellent and would have looked much better in kinder weather. Particularly enjoyed Venice, Dubrovnik and Corfu. Complimentary shuttle services when required.
Spa/Gym - nice facilities with small outside area including heated pool specifically reserved for Suite Guests.
Gratuities - Dining. Bar and Housekeeping - included in Cruise Fare. Spa Gratuities extra.
Value for money - this trip - excellent. Regular pricing quoted on a trip for next year (Veranda Stateroom - Greek Islands - August) we feel expensive at almost 'Â£3000 each for 11 nights and would not be prepared to pay.
Overall Experience - Enjoyable trip with like-minded people. Mix of Nationalities - British, American, Canadian, Australian, Chinese.
Excellent value for money. Excellent food and service. Nice relaxed feel to ship. 5*+ experience? Having considered our overall experience on a similar trip on Queen Victoria last year including direct flights we feel that Cunard have the edge. However, we have signed up for the "Open Package" giving future discounts and we will be back subject to itinerary and costing.