The Discoveries Dining Room on Deck 5 is the main dining room, which serves breakfast and dinner every day and lunch and afternoon tea on sea days. It's always open seating, and passengers can choose to dine alone or join others at larger tables. There are plenty of two-tops; however, there's hardly any space between adjacent tables, meaning you have very little privacy from the diners on either side. Don't forget to check out the ceiling frescoes -- you'll either think they're a nice decorative touch or a bit too much kitsch, depending on your taste.
Breakfast hours change, depending on arrival time in each port, but are roughly from 7 to 9 a.m. on port days and 8 to 9:30 a.m. on sea days. Menu items include eggs made to order, Scottish kippers, pancakes and French toast, fruit, cereals and pastries. Lunch is served from noon to 1:30 p.m. on sea days, but as many passengers prefer to dine more casually, Discoveries is pretty quiet at this time. I quite enjoyed my two-course lunch of feta-and-vegetable salad and pesto pasta. Afternoon tea on sea days (on port days, tea snacks can be found upstairs in the Windows Cafe) is not quite as elegant as on some other lines, but each table offers a three-tiered tray of cookies, petit fours and finger sandwiches, and waiters come around to serve tea and scones with jam and clotted cream. A harp provides musical accompaniment, which is a nice touch.
Discoveries is most popular at dinner, served between 6 and 9:30 p.m. Dinner service tends to be leisurely and takes longer if you're sitting at a mixed table, rather than with just your party. The menu is quite extensive, offering appetizers, salads, soups, pasta, special dinner salad, healthy choice options, entrees and vegetarian options. In addition, 10 to 15 items are always on offer, including Caesar salad, grilled chicken breast, New York strip steak and sauteed filet of salmon. A separate dessert menu also contains a wide selection of items, including ice cream, sugar-free options and after-dinner drinks.
The best dishes are the meats (a flank steak dinner salad received two thumbs up) and pastas (including a fabulous ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes appetizer), and salads are usually good (with the exception of the iceberg salad, which consisted of bland iceberg lettuce dumped on a plate with a handful of veggies). The fish dishes are very hit-or-miss, as are the vegetarian entrees. The chilled fruit soups are, by far, the worst dishes on the menu every night; either the flavors are bad, or they just don't taste like soup. (My chilled strawberry soup should have been a sauce spooned lightly on a chocolate torte, rather than a stand-alone dish.)
For casual dining, the Windows Cafe (for some reason, the name officially changes to Windows Breeza during dinner) is a cut above the typical cruise-ship buffet venue. It's open nearly all day long for early-riser breakfast, regular breakfast and late continental breakfast running from 6 to 11 a.m., lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m., afternoon delights (on port days) from 4 to 5 p.m., and dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. Coffee, tea and juice are available around the clock. Although the buffet is technically self-service, dining staff are always around to help serve you, and waiter service is available for juice, tea, water and other beverages. Most of the seating is indoors, but you can also choose to dine al fresco on the aft deck.
In the morning, Windows offers a selection of hot breakfast items, cold and hot cereals, pastries, decadent cinnamon rolls, fruit and yogurt. In addition, you can get made-to-order omelets, waffles, pancakes or French toast. The "Health Nut Bar" serves up freshly squeezed orange juice or fruit smoothies to order. Lunchtime features a huge salad bar, as well as premade salads (like bean, pasta or seafood salads), sandwich meats and cheeses, fresh-baked bread (Azamara Quest's bakery selections are absolutely fantastic at every meal and in every dining venue), hot items and several kinds of pizza. Dinner highlights include a carving station, freshly made sushi and made-to-order Asian-style stir-fry. (The chef actually ransacked the galley to cook me up some tofu with my stir-fry.) Occasionally, there's a theme night -- on our cruise, we had Turkish and Indian theme dinners -- but the standard options are always available for those less interested in ethnic cuisine.
Lunch and dinner always seemed to have an inordinate number of desserts, including an ice cream freezer with multiple flavors (including sorbets and sugar-free ice cream). On sea days, afternoon tea is set out buffet-style, but you can still choose from finger sandwiches, cookies and scones -- just without the fancy presentation of tea in Discoveries.
Just outside Windows is the Pool Grill, open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., which offers the typical burgers and dogs, as well as veggie burgers, chili dogs, brochettes of meat and veggies, ribs and salmon. French fries, onion rings and tortilla chips are also available. If you're not ordering a cheeseburger, wait times can be long, as your meal is grilled to order. Easy to miss is the soft-serve ice cream machine hidden in the corner by the beverage station. We didn't notice it until a few days into the cruise.
For nearly round-the-clock dining, the Mosaic Cafe on Deck 5 is open daily from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. It's the extra-fee specialty coffee and tea kiosk, but munchies like finger sandwiches, cookies and small desserts are always free. Grab a snack to go, or take one of the seats in the open atrium area by the shops and art auction desk.
Azamara Quest has two specialty restaurants -- Prime C and Aqualina -- located side by side on Deck 10. Reservations are required (though on a slow night, you might be able to walk in) for these dinner-only venues, open from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Suite passengers can eat in these restaurants as often as they like, at no charge, while everybody else pays $15 a head. Reservations will be first come, first served.
Prime C is the classic steakhouse and, in my mind, is the better of the two restaurants. It's decorated like so many onboard steakhouses with dark woods, sedate colors and black-and-white photos of old-time celebrities like Elvis, Judy Garland and Humphrey Bogart. Tables are spaced well enough apart, and nearly everyone has a sea view. The four-part menu is divided into soups/salads, appetizers, entrees and desserts. The wild mushroom and three onion soups are not only the best starters, but possibly the best dishes on the entire ship. The entrees -- including the tender filet mignon, the enormous bone-in rib eye steak and the juicy salmon -- were fabulous. All the desserts got high marks, but the best choices, by far, were the chocolate fondue and the cinnamon donuts; dip the donuts into the caramel sauce and then into the chocolate fondue, and savor the fact that you're on vacation!
Service at Prime C is absolutely outstanding. I have never felt so well taken care of at a restaurant. Our waiter, Ahmet, was solicitous and polite -- answering our questions with thorough and accurate explanations, applauding our menu selections and always returning promptly, never leaving us to scan the restaurant looking for him -- but he never hovered over us in an overbearing way.
Aqualina serves up American cuisine with a Mediterranean flair. Where Prime C is dark, Aqualina is light with cream-colored walls, blue chairs, white tablecloths and wispy, sheer curtains surrounding the maitre d' stand. Each table is lit with a single candle -- an unusual touch for a cruise ship.
The menu has the same four-part structure as Prime C: soups/salads (endive salad with caramelized apples and berries or lobster bisque), appetizers (including a perfectly melty brie in phyllo dough and beautifully presented scallops on corn pancakes), entrees (lobster thermidor, rack of lamb and pan-seared red snapper) and desserts (grand marnier or chocolate souffles). My dinner companion and I were in the mood for fish -- usually a smart move in a Mediterranean restaurant -- but our waiter warned us not to make those selections. We ended up with three fish dishes (one of each) for the two of us, and we were disappointed in all three of them, but the delicious appetizers and salads made up for the mediocre mains.
Service at Aqualina was a tad more distant than at Prime C -- just matter-of-fact order taking and food delivery without the warmth and personal touch of its sister restaurant. Perhaps we were put off by the waiter completely rejecting our dinner choices, but the restaurant's staff simply did not interact with us in the personal way we were treated in Prime C.
Editor's Note: Azamara's literature claims that each passenger is entitled to two meals at specialty restaurants (three for suite passengers), but in reality, this statement is practically meaningless. There's no guarantee you will get a reservation at a specialty restaurant, and Cruise Critic members have complained of trying to get a spot and failing, while others claim to have dined in either Aqualina or Prime C most nights. Book your reservations as early as you can to have the best chance of getting in. Captain's Club members can make one reservation in advance of the cruise.
Finally, room service is available is 24/7. The breakfast menu is more extensive than other ships, which offer only a simple continental repast. Aside from fruit, bagels, cereals and breakfast meats, you can also order omelets, pancakes, waffles, steak and eggs, and a "Healthy Choice" breakfast (egg white omelet, wheat toast, fruit, cottage cheese with granola and orange juice), among other hot items.
During a restaurant's open hours, passengers may order room service from its menu, which butlers can provide daily. Finally, a selection of options available 24 hours a day includes chicken noodle soup, Caesar salad, steak, grilled chicken sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, and assorted alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The all-day room service menu actually has quite a number of vegetarian items -- a "Healthy Salad," veggie burger, vegetable lasagna, avocado-tomato quesadillas and cheese pizza.