This will be a rather short initial review of the Azamara Quest voyage we took on or about 10/9/11. Many of you are probably raising an eyebrow at my "Great Kids Environment" comment.
While I've seen most all comments re. children on the negative side on Azamara, it was not our experience. In fact, the shortage of children on this cruise worked to our advantage. I do believe our son and daughter (10 & 13) were on a first name basis with most of the crew members by the end of the seven day cruise. That's an advantage on a small ship, and the fact that many of the crew have children of their own at home made us quite popular. I fear it may have put the childless couples at a disadvantage. The staff is wonderfully friendly, so it was a good experience all around.
I imagine we could count the children on this cruise on, at most, two hands. Our children were actually sought out by the staff, which was comforting to us as parents. We did not experience any travel problems at all with the spawn of our loins (of course they are both well mannered sorts, so that didn't hurt). Don't hesitate to take your children on Azamara. Just be prepared to spend your time with them, which is a continual privilege for us (as it should be). All too soon the opportunity will come to an end. :-(
The free laundry is very under rated until you have the chance to use it.
Otherwise, the small ship never left us with the feeling of cruising in a crowded environment. In fact, by comparison to the larger vessels we've travelled upon (14+), we often felt that we had the whole ship to ourselves. The itinerary was great out of Rome through Sicily, Turkey and Greece.
One special note regarding our visit to Ephesus. You really can't live with yourselves if you miss this experience. It is possibly one of the best preserved set of Roman ruins on the face of the planet. The digs, and the exposed architecture is worth the airfare from the States. While others might not have the same experience, it does give one a really spooky feeling to have stood in the same Great Theater that Paul spoke in. Yes, that Paul.
Do not leave this world without going to Ephesus.
Shuttle bus transportation was mostly included in the cost of the cruise at the various ports of call, which was a lot nicer than I expected. It's great to be able to hop off at each stop any time we wanted (we sleep in).
The food was good, and the informal dress code fit our definition of what a vacation is all about. Again, a relaxed environment like this needs to be experienced to be appreciated as we've not enjoyed the opportunity before. Big ships are ok, but they're really really crowded at feeding time.
We were even invited to one of the theme restaurants. While the food was excellent, the same could be said for the general dining experience and the buffet. Wine is included with the meal (as well as tips), so that's another nicety that was unique in our experience.
I'm not sure why passengers have such a fascination with the Captains on these boats. Ours was chatty on his PA's, and after you got used to his sense of humor, we started to pay a lot more attention to his informative ramblings. We first thought he was a Brit, but later found he was from the Isle of Mann (and proud of it!). Though I used to do the Captain gig on other equipment, I was never as artful in my monologues as this guy. He was even nice enough to chat with me a bit in the hallway, though I missed the bridge tour. Pity.
Would I do it again? My wife tells me that we will. Oh yes, and the kids now insist upon it. I guess I'll have to watch the Azamara offerings for our next trip. I hear Azamara visits Asia. Better brush up on my Mandarin.