Azamara Cruises has come a long way since its hasty debut in 2007, and early reviews no longer reflect the current state of Azamara Quest. The specialty restaurants have changed fees and menus, Celebrity Cruises traditions like Michael's Club and the Cova Cafe have been transformed into uniquely Azamara venues, such as the Drawing Room and Mosaic Cafe, and the ship has really focused on creating a clear and distinct identity. (In Fact, the line, which was previously operated by Celebrity's management team, recently named former SeaDream president Larry Pimentel to helm it.) Azamara Quest has also greatly improved its food quality and evening entertainment options.
The ship is still working out some of its kinks -- such as the much-touted butlers that, in reality, are cabin stewards with extra assignments. Still, it now feels more like the hybrid it was meant to be. Azamara, like its near-competitor Oceania Cruises, is a "luxury lite" line, a term for cruise lines that offer luxe-oriented service and food and unusual itineraries at a value price point. On the luxury end, I appreciated the intimately sized ship with its tasteful decor, minimal queuing and across-the-board friendly and helpful staff. Prime C and the Windows Cafe were standouts -- a cut above typical cruise-ship fare.
The biggest draws for passengers are the fabulous itineraries, jam-packed with marquee ports and exotic destinations. Our 16-night exotic Mediterranean cruise, featuring Turkey, Israel and Egypt, had only 4.5 sea days, with sailaway scheduled as late as 9 or 11 p.m. on several days and an overnight call in Istanbul. The combination of enticing destinations, a comfortable home base and a price point slightly lower than its competitors is encouraging cruisers to check out this new line, and Azamara is already gathering quite a crowd of repeat passengers.
The ship does show its more mainstream pedigree, however. The photo gallery and art auction desk are prominently located along the main Deck 5 thoroughfare, and at every port, a costumed crewmember is waiting to pose with you for pictures (which you can then purchase at marked-up rates). Although the fee for specialty dining has come down, it's not free like on many luxury ships. Cabins run a bit small and have tiny bathrooms, unless you splurge on one of the suites.
Ultimately, the question is: How does Azamara compare with Oceania, its only true competitor? Having sailed on both lines, I'd say that Oceania runs slightly more toward the luxury side (no fees for dining, a smaller casino, no tacky photo ops). Oceania excels with food and its uber-comfy Tranquility Beds, but Azamara has it beat when it comes to friendly and engaging staff and entertainment. And, while both offer cheaper cruise fares than the true luxury lines, Azamara has been selling at rates lower than Oceania's for nearly the same experience.
Overall, Azamara Quest was a fabulous home base for a port-intensive itinerary. After over-stimulating days in port, the ship's calm and cozy atmosphere was the perfect place to unwind. It was lovely to be greeted with smiles and hellos, just as if you were returning home. And though I'd ideally wish to have every meal rate a delectable 10 and to be entertained until the wee hours of the morning, turning in at a reasonable hour without a stomachache from over-eating was probably a blessing in disguise -- especially when my alarm clock was set to wake me up in time for that early morning tour.
Azamara Quest Fellow Passengers
Passengers onboard were quite the international mix, though the largest nation represented was the U.S., followed closely by Canada and the U.K. Other Europeans made up the rest -- mostly French, Spanish, German and Dutch speakers. Azamara says a growing percentage of its passengers are Asian, but we did not encounter anyone from that part of the world on our cruise. Azamara Quest's daily program is printed up in one or two additional languages, depending on the passenger makeup, and an international hostess is onboard to meet with non-English speakers and translate the program if necessary.
Although a large fraction of passengers are seniors, there was a greater percentage of 20- to 40-somethings and families with children (including babies, kids and teens) onboard than I had anticipated. Azamara says the average age is 55 and older, and onboard entertainment -- from trivia topics to musical choices -- is clearly intended for Baby Boomers and their elders.
Azamara Quest Dress Code
Azamara Quest's evening dress code is always resort casual, which means slacks and a nice shirt (button down or two-button) for men, and sundresses, dressy slacks or skirts for ladies. Dressing to the nines is the exception rather than the rule; we saw some stunning dresses in the specialty restaurants and Discoveries, as well as a handful of guys in suits, but mostly passengers dressed nicely but not necessarily fancily.
Azamara Quest Gratuity
Tips are included in the cruise fare, but additional tipping is at the passengers' discretion. Spa gratuities are not included in the voyage fare. And 18 percent gratuity will be added to passengers' onboard folio for spa services.
This is a review of the transatlantic segment of our trip. Late in 2011, we took our first cruise on Azamara, two back to backs in Asia. It was a wonderful 4 weeks.
Since then, we have been on the Quest to Sicily and in March of this year we ...continue
My first solo holiday since being widowed and I wanted an easy time. My first cruise and I chose a transatlantic crossing not realising that was a little ambitious. We had wonderful weather so it turned out to be a great choice but no one I had ...continue
Our last Transatlantic cruise was in 2008 when we sailed from Miami to Barcelona, but this cruise on the Quest was far superior in quality.
The embarkation in Miami was trouble free, if a little lengthy, simply because so many guests arrived at ...continue