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13 Athens (Piraeus) to Asia Cruise Reviews

The cruise had a fabulous itinerary and we chose it for that. We were not disappointed. The cruise was amazing and the ports were phenomenal. Everything was interesting and easily explored. Sometimes we had to travel a distance from port ... Read More
The cruise had a fabulous itinerary and we chose it for that. We were not disappointed. The cruise was amazing and the ports were phenomenal. Everything was interesting and easily explored. Sometimes we had to travel a distance from port to the points of interest but that is often to be expected with a cruise. We could not have been more pleased with the choice of ports. We arranged for private shore excursions and were so happy we did. In 2 ports we took ship tours because there were no private tours available. In Limassol, Cyprus, the tour was OK - not great, but interesting. In Salalah, Oman, the tour was absolutely terrible. The ship should have given everyone a refund of the money they charged. The tour was to be 4 hours and it ended up being 2 1/2 hours because of immigration problems. However, the tour was terrible, uninteresting and not worth even $25. Just horrible. We complained, as did many other people. My recommendation is to stay away from ship tours if at all possible. The ship was lovely and it was kept very clean. We had a problem, however, with service in the Grand Dining Room and in Waves Grill. Both seemed to be short-staffed. Many times there were tables that needed to be bussed at Waves. Since this is an outdoor venue and the weather was lovely, many people wanted to sit outside but we had to bus our own tables sometimes. The staff just couldn't keep up with it. The service in the GDR was excruciatingly slow most nights. We didn't find the wait staff overly friendly - certainly not as it had been on other Oceania sailings. Something was off on this sailing and it was noticeable to many. The menu in the GDR was unspectacular and often plain boring. Several nights there was nothing that any of us wanted. The Jaques Pepin menu never changed and was very tired by the end of the cruise. The specialty restaurants were much better, with better service and food. We found Toscana a bit more to our liking than Polo Grill because the wait staff was better. The food was more inconsistent in Polo Grill, too, but both were FAR better than the GDR. We were able to eat 6 times in the specialty restaurants and we were very glad we could b/c the GDR was just not up to Oceania's normal standards. Add poor service to that on some nights - a 15 minute wait for a waiter to even come to the table!! - and it was a recipe for dissatisfaction. We always went to Happy Hour in Horizons and had one server who was outstanding, Beverly. She was attentive, knew our drink selections after the 2nd day and was always cheerful. If we didn't sit in her section, she would come to us and ask us why we weren't sitting in her section. She really cared about us and proved that good service is still possible on Oceania. She made our evenings so very enjoyable. Our cabin was always kept clean, however, when we first arrived, we did not see our cabin steward until the next day! This is unheard of. We knew the name of our attendant but we never saw him. I called for extra hangers and they took forever to arrive. Poor service there on the first day. When we finally saw our cabin steward the next morning, we found out it was not the one who had been assigned to us. The steward originally assigned to us had left the ship in the embarkation port. We figured that there had been some personnel problems b/c surely they would not have assigned him to our cabins had they known he was leaving. Still, no word of explanation nor was there an apology for the replacement. And we still would not have met our new steward if it hadn't been for the fact that he was in the hall when we left the cabin the next morning. Another "off" thing about this sailing. The Cruise Director, Julie James, is a bit tired and long in the tooth. She was our Cruise Director once before and we didn't think she was all that great. She is friendly and bubbly but that's about it. She doesn't expend a lot of energy getting to know her crowd. We have had CDs who are much more engaged with the passengers. The production entertainment staff was engaging and the kids worked really hard but they were not all that good. They were as cute as they could be but they didn't seem to be that skilled. Sometimes off key in the singing. The dancers were very good and far more skilled. The hired entertainers (magician, musician, flautist) were excellent. They could not have been better and we enjoyed them tremendously. The professional lecturers were outstanding and we enjoyed their presentations. Since we were seeing so many foreign ports, their input and information was extremely valuable and helpful. All in all, we have loved Oceania and are willing to give this cruise experience in the cabin and dining room areas a pass. Perhaps something was going on that we were not aware of as passengers. Certainly, we have experienced a much better Oceania in the past. We hope that this is not becoming the standard because if it is, we will be turning our allegiance elsewhere. An outstanding itinerary cannot make up for some of the issues we found. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Seabourn customers feel a strong sense of brand ownership and so are generally not amenable to change. Having cruised 4 times previously on Sojourn we boarded Encore with an open mind. The ship has a lot to live up to, Seabourn set the bar ... Read More
Seabourn customers feel a strong sense of brand ownership and so are generally not amenable to change. Having cruised 4 times previously on Sojourn we boarded Encore with an open mind. The ship has a lot to live up to, Seabourn set the bar pretty high. First impressions are of timber, textured fabrics, leather and stone. I immediately thought of boat shows and premium British motorboat manufacturers. There are lots of great spaces and some clever detailing, the area above the Observation lounge bar, the wood cladding to the central staircase, the panelling inside the lifts (elevators), even the public toilets. Passenger numbers are up from Sojourn, 600 as against 450 but we were still greeted by name throughout the day by the ship's crew. Ultimately it is these men & women who make or break a cruise and they were all focussed on ensuring our happiness. We never felt the public spaces were over crowded either. There are now 2 shows a night, 8.30pm and 10.00pm, more dining venues, extended deck spaces and the whole ship manages potential extra capacity well. Embarkation was the usual silky smooth experience. Hearing staff offer Flemish to Belgian clients next to us rather than the expected French or German demonstrates how far Seabourn are willing to go. Speaking of dining the highlight of any cruise must surely be the food. As well as the main dining room where we ate very well and the Colonnade which ran a series of speciality nights including a very popular Indian night there were 2 new options, the Thomas Keller Grill and Sushi. The TK grill has generated many column inches of debate on Cruise Critic. Having eaten there 5 times during our 34 night cruise I can say that for us it was a total success. The Rib Eye steak is almost too good - how can I ever eat steak again. The prawn cocktail starter featured prawns bigger than my fingers. The service was friendly with some nice table side theatre. The TK Grill Bar was a hit amongst every cruiser we spoke to. Bobby behind the bar and Katy on piano / vocals were a dream team. Sushi was also a great alternative to more traditional dinner options. The girls working in Sushi are super friendly and offer a guiding hand through what might be unfamiliar territory. The food was gorgeous with very talented specialist chefs. Lunchtime they offered Bento boxes with chicken or salmon. We never managed to eat in the Patio Grill at night but enjoyed several lunches there. The fries are still the crispiest on the high seas and the hot dogs just as I remember them. Entertainment wise Seabourn can never compete directly with mainstream lines such as Royal Caribbean with their multi million pound stages and expansive casts but they punch well above their weight. The 4 crew cast shows were a notch up on previous Seabourn productions and offered a broad appeal. We were lucky in having a very strong line up of singers and dancers who not only entertained on stage but also added immense value around the ship at social events. Hanré the cruise director and Jacqueline the assistant CD went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the happiness and well being of their flock. There were a number of guest entertainers who offered a diverse range of acts from classical musicians, magicians, comedians, even a Beatles tribute act. Something for everyone. Not everything was my particular cup of tea but more often I was pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed. I managed to make small inroads into learning the game of bridge. I'm probably 20 years too young and far to cheerful to be any good but under the tutelage of Katherine and her friend Veronica there were times when we cried with laughter as we learnt in our small beginners class. A real bonus to an already excellent cruise. Ports of call were OK but at times not spectacular particularly Mangalore, but we already knew that when we booked. Essentially this was a re-positioning and shakedown cruise. On the latter I was pleasantly surprised at the readiness of the vessel. Odd bits here and there gave a window to some hard work behind the scenes but no more disruption than routine maintenance on a ship that's been in service for a while. Our cabin was standard Seabourn fare which is to say class leading. Deck 6 around 300 square feet, separate bath and shower, his & hers wash basins, walk in wardrobe, seating / dining area, decent balcony, full service flat screen TV with free on demand movies. We also paid $400 for unlimited internet throughout our 34 days which worked as well as might be expected for a ship. Some of the spaces on Encore have been more controversial than others. The Retreat angers many who feel it creates a 2 tier community. I'm a bit more relaxed, there has always been a pay to play space on Sojourn above the Spa. I had a look round the retreat and it's lovely but never found enough hours in the day to make sense of using it. We also like meeting people around the ship. The bar in the Club came under a bit of flack because the bar staff had to keep retreating behind closed doors in the kitchen to mix drinks due to the design of the bar area. We never went thirsty and as ever the staff did their utmost to overcome the challenge. A bit of tweaking required but we still managed to strike up new friendships and in my case make a sorry excuse for dancing ! There were 2 house bands looking after us in the club. We didn't use the shore excursion team. I find the tours expensive and they start too early in the morning even when the ship doesn't leave until late at night. A taxi can generally be had for less than the cost of a single ticket from the excursion team. For that reason I haven't marked them. Overall a great cruise and it was with a heavy heart that we disembarked in Singapore. It would have been easy to stay longer ! My abiding memory would have to be the hard working and caring crew who constantly went above and beyond to make sure we had a great time. [youtube]HYAqTzEeOzE[/youtube] Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
This was our second Azamara Cruise, so we knew what to expect. We had a night in Athens before joining the ship. We stayed at the Athens Diamond Plus Hotel which was very well located - about 5 minutes walk from Syntagma Square and 10 ... Read More
This was our second Azamara Cruise, so we knew what to expect. We had a night in Athens before joining the ship. We stayed at the Athens Diamond Plus Hotel which was very well located - about 5 minutes walk from Syntagma Square and 10 minutes walk from the Plaka and was very good value. We got a taxi to Pireus at 11:15. Embarkation was a dream - there was no queue and we were on-board by 12:00 with the usual glass of sparkling wine in hand. Our previous cruise had been on the Journey, and the Quest is identical. We had a wander round the ship, admiring the new sun-beds on the top deck and then went for lunch at the Pool Grill - our favourite spot for lunch. Our cabin was ready by 1:30, so we got unpacked straight away. We had a deal that included $1000 OBC so we checked through the list of Land Discovery Tours and completed the booking form. The cruise was as good as we expected. We had a pre-dinner drink in the Discovery lounge every night, where Aldin does a brilliant job as barman. We ate dinner every night in the Discovery restaurant, choosing to share our table. That was great because we met and talked to a lot of different, lovely people. The food was as good as ever. Two particularly memorable dishes were Rack of Lamb and Venison Loin, both immaculately cooked, exactly as we had asked (rare for both of us). One night we were invited to a 'Grand Officers Dinner' where there were about 8 tables, each hosted by a Senior Officer. Our table was hosted by Edwin Gonsalves, Head Housekeeper. He was charming and very entertaining. We enjoyed the Land Discovery tours we did. In Safaga we went on a desert safari to a Bedouin village. We drove across the dessert, saw the Bedouin ladies cooking flat bread over a fire, watched weaving and had the chance to ride a camel. We had the lovely Adrianna from Land Discoveries in our safari van - what a super lady. The Azamazing evening was aboard the ship in Safaga. It was an Egyptian evening with Henna hand painting, snakes, fortune telling and whirling dervishes. The White Night was the night after the Azamazing evening, which was a shame. It didn't have much atmosphere by comparison, and 200+ people had been on a very long and tiring tour to Luxor that day. In Muscat we saw the Mosque (unfortunately we couldn't go in as it was a Friday), old Muscat, the sultans Palace, a museum, then had free time in the Souk, which was fascinating. In Mumbai we had took a tour of Mumbai which included a ride on a local railway, a look at the Dhobi Wallahs (washermen - 5000 of them in one area), a walk around Crawford Market, lunch at the Taj Mahal Hotel, a walk around an urban village of lovely little old wooden houses and a visit to the Mahatma Ghandi museum, which we found very moving. On the last few days of the cruise we were able to take a tour of the Galley and the Bridge, both very interesting. We were hoping to do an Engine Room tour too, but that was cancelled. Overall the cruise was as good as we expected - terrific food and drink, wonderful service and happy, smiling staff. However things went awry at the end. All Passports had been collected before Muscat as we were told we would not need them when leaving the ship at these ports. On the first day in Mumbai we were told to go to the cabaret room for Indian Immigration procedures. As we were due on our tour, we queued outside the Cabret room from the earliest time mentioned in the information left in our cabin. Queues formed at both sides of the ship. Eventually the doors at only one side were opened, so those of us who had queued at the other side lost out. When we got into the Cabaret room there were 6 immigration officers. However before we saw one of them we had to retrieve our passports and complete an immigration form. Three Azamara staff were trying to find Passports from 3 drawers and give us them. There were just not enough Azamara staff to keep up, so often immigration officers were sat with no-one to see - it was chaotic. Passports could have been given out, along with immigration forms, which would have speeded things up immensely. Our tour was an hour late setting off, so we missed seeing the 'Tiffin Wallahs' at Church Gate station. It also meant we did not get back to the ship until after 7:30pm, when we had to finish our packing and get some dinner - all a bit of a rush on the last night of our cruise. Worse was to come. We had booked a transfer to the airport with Guest Relations. Our plane was at 13:45. The transfer was due to leave at 10:15 and we were assured that the airport transfer would take only 45 minutes, plenty of time. In the event this proved not to be the case. Firstly the bus had to queue at the dock gates - as far as we could tell all luggage was being taken off each bus for security scrutiny, taking about 15 minutes per bus. After some time my husband, and another passenger, remonstrated with the driver, then the security staff telling them we would miss our flight. Eventually they moved us to the front of the queue and we got through the Dock Gates by 11:00. The 45 minute estimate for the journey was totally wrong - it took an hour and a half from that point. We told the driver's mate to ring BA and tell them that 12 or so of us were on our way. We arrived at the airport after check-in had officially closed - there was a BA member of staff to meet us. Nevertheless it was a very stressful journey and we were sitting on the bus for 2 and a half hours without anything to drink or any toilet facilities. We feel Azamara let us down in not knowing how long the journey would take, not knowing about security procedures at the Dock Gates and not looking after us until we got to the airport. This was definitely NOT a good end to our holiday.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Four of us flew Emirates to Athens, stayed 2 nights and boarded Azamara Quest to Mumbai. The accomodation in Athens at the Divani Caravel was very comfortable. Our visits to Greek Tavernas were memorable, the food & service was superb ... Read More
Four of us flew Emirates to Athens, stayed 2 nights and boarded Azamara Quest to Mumbai. The accomodation in Athens at the Divani Caravel was very comfortable. Our visits to Greek Tavernas were memorable, the food & service was superb & the Raki finished the night in good spirits. We embarked on the Quest on 10th Nov. and the whole experience escalated from there. The Captain on the ship was competent and friendly. He came and joined us for lunch one day and we had an interesting conversation. The ship was clean and well maintained. The crew were so helpful and gave us top service.The food was to a high standard and varied with different THEME NIGHTS every night. The entertainment was also first class and the ships singers & dancers gave very good performances. We visited Rhodes and had a great day. Then we went through the Suez Canal in convoy. We stopped at Safaga overnight and spent a long day visiting the Valley Of The Kings and Luxor Then we had a few nice sea days till we got to Muscat Oman and the day after we visited Fujairah. Both interesting places.A few more sea days and we arrived at Mumbai where we stayed overnight before disembarking to fly home. It was such an exciting cruise and one we will not forget. Azamara did us proud and we will definitley go somewhere with them again. The only bad experience we had was when booking the cruise with CRUISE1st. They gave us so many problems and would not return our messages,faxes or e-mails.that we will never use them again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even ... Read More
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even for 2, even with the ship full. You can bring your own wine and champagne on board! ($18 corcage fee if served in a restaurant). Beautiful flower arrangements. Wonderful live classical music daily. Reasonable coffee prices. Good selection of movies in Wajang Theatre, often relevant to the destinations visited. Negatives: Way too many announcements over the PA system, in english and dutch, obtrusive. Insufficient variety in food. Taste of food varying. Melons and watermelons often near to rotten, quality of cut fruits low. Only alibi-sushi (must try the sweet potato fries though!). Few production shows (but fairly good). Many guest entertainers of varying quality, practically all british or irish. And as always on cruise ships: Way too expensive shore excursions, no information about cost of individual transportation, internet rates and speed unacceptable ($0.75/min). It's a small cabin, however with ample drawer space. But I knew this ship, so knew what to expect.  Just want to point out that in the cabin 3387 we experienced noises every night because the galley is just above. Apparently heavy objects are being moved around and bumped on the ground. This must be a permanent situation.In addition, at some point a different type of noise occurred, which turned out to be a malfunction of the steam system (whatever that is). So eventually we had to be given another, inside cabin to sleep for 3 nights, before we were moved to another outside cabin.Our neighbors at cabin 3387 told me they heard these noises as well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
We have been on many cruises and this is the only one where the cruise line had food, activities and entertainment geared to the locations we were travelling to such as a bellydancing demo and lessons and cooking demos when we were in ... Read More
We have been on many cruises and this is the only one where the cruise line had food, activities and entertainment geared to the locations we were travelling to such as a bellydancing demo and lessons and cooking demos when we were in Oman, Indian Food buffets and a Bollywood show when we were in India and Indonesian Tea as we travelled there. Another thing new to us on Holland America was the on-location information talks that were very informative about the ports we would be visiting and were not geared to selling you anything, these information talks were separate from the shore excursion talks. Cabin 2516 was alright although you can hear and feel the bow thrusters as the ship is arriving in port in the morning. You would also be able to hear the achor chains if/when the ship was anchoring, which it was not during our sailing. Above our cabin was a section of the 3rd floor walking track and we could hear people walking. Our room was not too near the stairs or elevators or any storage areas so it was quiet in that way.  We were pleasantly surprised by the bathtub in the washroom in our cabin, whereas on most cruiselines the shower has barely enough room to turn around in. The food and entertainment were excellent,.There were several easy listening music venues throughout the ship for before or after dinner dancing or just listening while having a drink, although they all started to sound a bit too familiar after 25 days onboard. The HALcats group that accompanied all of the guest entertainers were very good and occasionally played during the daytime at various locations on the ship. Note: They were much more popular and appreciated at the brief outdoor deck sailaway parties than playing for two or three people at the inside venue on a beautiful sunny day. The ship's own group of singers and dancers were better than we have experienced on many other ships. We enjoyed meeting different people at the anytime dining and usually chose a table for 6.. Rotterdam ship is very nice. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This was our first cruise on Azamara and the best on-board cruise experience ever. The cruise went from Athens to Hong Kong, 6 weeks. We have cruised more than 30 times, mostly on HAL and Princess, but nothing compared to the service and ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Azamara and the best on-board cruise experience ever. The cruise went from Athens to Hong Kong, 6 weeks. We have cruised more than 30 times, mostly on HAL and Princess, but nothing compared to the service and ambiance we experienced on board the Journey. From the Captain down to the room steward, everything was perfect. We expected that on a 6 week cruise that we would eventually notice a "dip" in the experience, but that was absolutely not the case. Quite to the contrary, it kept getting better and better. Frankly, this experience has spoiled us for cruising on any other line. While the menu in the specialty restaurants did not change in the 6 weeks, we learned that they were not opposed to "adjusting" the menu to suit out wishes. The same went for the wine selection: if we wanted another wine, other than the "wine of the day", no problem at all. Nothing was too much. Both the Concierge and the Hotel Desk were friendly and ready to meet any challenge. We can't say too much about how wonderful the total on-board experience was. Admittedly, the price is not inexpensive, but we can say without reservation that you definitely get top value for your money. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Windstar knows how to treat their guests. From the transfer from the aiport to the transfer to our hotel, it was smooth sailing. The cabin was what we expected for an A category. It was well laid out, upscale and very comfortable. ... Read More
Windstar knows how to treat their guests. From the transfer from the aiport to the transfer to our hotel, it was smooth sailing. The cabin was what we expected for an A category. It was well laid out, upscale and very comfortable. There was plenty of closet/storage space. The restaurant/food choices were excellent at all meals. We particularly enjoyed the varied menu each evening in the main dining room. There was never a line for anything. There was always an available cushioned lounge chair. It was the most unhurried, pampered cruising we have done. We took advantage of the $99.00 unlimited laundry (which we read about before we arrived) and were able to pack half of what we normally would have. It left plenty of room for purchases and no worries about additional baggage fees. We only took one shore excursion and the guide was of the highest quality. The ports we visited from Athens to Istanbul were outstanding. We took advantage of checking out one of the complimentary Ipods and emjoyed the musical selections on the speakers that were also provided. Although it was only available at two ports, due to port regulations, we enjoyed the availability of the water sports platform. This is a truly unique attraction for a cruise. I would highly recommend the Windsurf to couples and families with older children. I look forward to cruising with them again in the not too distant future. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We have just returned home after a quite brilliant 25 night cruise on Azamara Quest. It has been, as the title suggests, a cruise of extremes. Extreme one: Normal cruises are action packed, a port a day, a head-long hurtling adventure ... Read More
We have just returned home after a quite brilliant 25 night cruise on Azamara Quest. It has been, as the title suggests, a cruise of extremes. Extreme one: Normal cruises are action packed, a port a day, a head-long hurtling adventure which is over in a flash. This cruise was a long lazy repositioning cruise with so many sea days stretching before us and only a few, spasmodic interruptions when determined action was required. On top of that, life on Azamara ships is not demanding and the pace is one of almost complete relaxation with the most gruelling task being that of lifting the "Pursuits", the misnamed daily activities sheet, to mark one's probable rendezvous throughout the day. There are virtually no annoying announcements calling you to Bingo or the Art Auction and even the Captain's midday resume of position and weather barely breaks the surface of such halcyon calmness. Yes, you can follow my example of power walking nearly 4 kilometres with a smoothie for breakfast or you can indulge yourself with freshly squeezed orange juice, smorgasbord and all the typical breakfastian feasts imaginable and follow this with some strenuous page turning of an unputdownable paperback whilst bathing in gorgeous winter sunshine. The options are there and the choice is yours. Extreme two: Leaving Europe via the newest addition to the docking complex of Piraeus we found ourselves entering the chaotic and challenging port of Alexandria. Strangely though this time was far more peaceful than I have ever seen it as it was a national holiday and very quiet and traffic free compared to the normal hurley burley of downtown Alexandria. I will admit that newcomers to the city still found it hectic and the fact that the traffic, when it bothers to pick a side of the road to move on, is on the right and that can be very disconcerting to many of us whose normal side is the correct left-hand side. (for those antagonised by this remark it was intended as a little British humour) Many of the ship's passengers decided to torture themselves a little further by being driven at breakneck speed with seemingly suicidal steering techniques to the capital, Cairo, and to the iconic Pyramids. We preferred to do a pre-arranged sightseeing tour of Alexandria, a city which never fails to intrigue me even though I have done this and similar trips several times now. Lunch was in a super fish restaurant where, if you people watched, you could see the indecision of what to eat and drink gradually falling away and enjoyment taking over. Last time we were the only Europeans in the cafe and then, as this time, no one in the party suffered any discomfort or repercussions. By this time the streets were full of people and children. The festival was for the children and they really took it upon themselves to make the most of everything that was on offer and the excitement was infectious. We talked and laughed and joked with groups of them time after time until we were almost as elated as they were. The "Cairo" gangs returned to the ship later than we did and more stretched than we were, proclaiming to have enjoyed the historic remains but it was a long day for many and they needed to recuperate. We love all that the Nile has to offer from Abu Simbel down but it has taken us some time to see it with any hope of remembering a smidgeon of that which is offered. Extreme three: I will admit that it has been some time since I went down the Suez Canal and in that time the growth of buildings and agriculture has been outstanding and "Extreme three" is really one for me as I did not expect to see the development that now exists, yes it is ribbon development but quite a wide piece of ribbon if I tell the truth. Extreme four: Seldom are we aware that someone is taken seriously ill on ships as there is generally no need to alert passengers with the fact but on this occasion it was announced that we would be standing by a port in Oman whilst a passenger was taken ashore and to the hospital. There are some top rate hospitals here but unfortunately on this occasion they were unable to save the lady concerned and the vast majority were extremely sorry to hear that she hadn't made it. There were, unfortunately, grumbles from a very very small section that they had been delayed more than they should have. They received short shrift from the vast majority. Extreme five: Normally the only "pirates" that we come across on cruises are certain taxi drivers, vendors and scroungers on dry land. It therefore brings one down to earth with a bump when passengers are given the rules for behaviour and practice when travelling though certain areas which are considered to be actively searched by extremely dangerous pirates. I won't go through all the R & R but the paper which was issued to all passengers was serious in its content. It also reminded of the days in Britain during "The War" when blackout was rigorously maintained with ARP wardens looking for any small give-away chink of light spilling from any house. This period was a quite sobering time on board and everyone was grateful when it was declared that a party would be held to celebrate the fact that we had "Beaten the Pirates". The truth was that we were probably as much indebted to the rough seas and the weather which made sorties by any marauding band impracticable than was attributable to our diligence. Extreme six: Dubai, in my opinion, is tottering on the brink of bankruptcy. A bold statement I know but throughout our two day stay here I felt, as did many others, that it was sucking energy from us far more than it ever returned. The whole place, described by someone as "Disneyland for the Rich" is somehow hollow and fake. How on earth they ever expect to find enough rich people to fill all the empty houses and offices beats me and how they will survive the extra amount of cars, should that ever happen, will be a miracle. Even with the amount of vehicles currently polluting the air and stagnating at intersections the traffic systems are close to melt-down. I will be the first to admit that I was over-ambitious with my plans for this city and the logistics failure was frustrating in the extreme. We were late into port because of the unavoidable previous event and I assumed that I could zip around doing what I wanted. The fact is that those who saw most were the ones who planned small distinct episodes, they achieved everything they planned whereas the over adventurous were defeated by the enormity of the task and the slowness of the traffic. The one gladdening thing, particularly for us Brits and for the world's Cunard lovers was that we were parked right next to QE2 and they haven't, as rumour has had it, turned off the engines. We were also told that she would be on her way in the future to Cape Town although given the restrictive aura that hangs over this city I still have my doubts about that. Extreme seven: I would imagine that those seeking refuge from persecution have an easier time entering most countries than tourists do trying to get their visas stamped by the Indian Immigration Authorities. Yes, I know we Brits gave them the rudimentary ideas of how administration works but they have developed that idea into an art form with the emphasis being on "form" and rubber stamp. It took three officials all day to grant permission to fewer than seven hundred passengers and that included the effort they made reading Ida's passport and stamping my visa so there was no real co-ordination between hand and eye at all. At least none of us were asked for a bribe euphemistically called "Tea money" as happens to the large majority of taxi drivers in this country. Am I being unfair? I will leave that to you to decide. Extreme eight: Mumbai is a city of extremes, it houses some really wealthy people whilst at the same time taking in over 300 new people every day who gather under it's extremely dirty and damaged yet semi protective wing. You wonder how such extremes can co-exist and yet they do and they do it in a symbiotic way. What is waste to one person is valuable to another, what is sold to one rebounds down the chain until it eventually reaches the lowest level, albeit with a vastly reduced worth. All this mish-mash of society has huge problems with personal survival yet here they were smiling with their friends and colleagues and with such an air of confidence. I found this extremely hard to comprehend and yet comforting that they had to feel all is not lost and that life has a positive side. Some passengers did not feel as I did and were disturbed by the situation, I can only hope that their thoughts and feelings were wrong. We visited the workhouse side of the city where nothing is too menial if it brings reward and we also visited the creative and profound side with a boat ride to Elephanta Island. The trip of about an hour out to the island from the marvellously designed Gateway of India Arch is a pleasant experience which in our case was enhanced by some very exuberant singing by a group of twenty somethings. They were playing a game which involved singing a song and when they stopped the next person had to continue with the last word of their song but in a different song, they sometimes just collapsed into honest laughter which was quite infectious. There is a small train which carries people from the boat staging on the island to a point at the bottom of a lengthy hill. This train and carriages would have caused heart failure to any self-respecting Health and Safety official in this country but was considered perfect where it was in use. The hill with its quite large steps is edged by traders selling touristy items and I am sure that they all sold things but I can't recall anyone doing so during my ascent and descent. The reason for not noticing sales may have been because I was trying to get a photo of Her Imperial Majesty, the Queen Ida, being transported on a chair with four young, fit pole bearers and waving regally to all beneath her. After that the caves and the ornate carvings, although superbly executed and intricate made, sort of faded in comparison (another joke it was marvellous really). Extreme nine: Cochin, the next time I go to this fascinating but really hot and humid place I will make the effort to go all the way down to the backwaters. The town is filled with tourists doing the touristy things and visiting all the touristy places like the Chinese Fishing Nets, The Dutch Church, and the Mattancherry Palace etc. etc. etc. But I love bird watching and not once in Cochin did I see and Indian Roller or a Bee Eater or and eagle of any description so we will go back and leave the hustle and the bustle to enjoy a boat-ride through the Indian "Everglades" and experience nature, calmness and rural harmony as opposed to the frenetic, cacophony of careless taxis, stuffed buses, puffing lorries and scooters with up to five passengers and a driver all vying for a bit of road with the littlest amount of potholes and puddles. Extreme ten: Penang, where one is greeted by a flood of trishaws, each with a seat that will easily accommodate two Asian bottoms but seldom two from the Western World and a large parasol carefully placed with the pedaller in mind, not the passengers. The trikes are backed up firstly with the gang bosses of the taxi contingent who cajole everyone who escapes the clutches of the cycling brigade with assurances of the trip of a lifetime at a ridiculously low price, according to them, and if you manage to circumvent them you are now confronted with the noisiest and loudest individuals with larger vehicles. They have become so used to shouting, I assume, because when firmly seated in their 6,7,or 8 seaters the engine noise and the road surface noise combine to compete against the spoken word. I had always wanted to see the Tropical Spice Gardens in the north of the island and after a slow traffic packed ride to the gardens I found myself being totally underwhelmed by them. Every horticultural spot I had previously visited in Penang had been more that I had hoped for but not this one and I would not be able to recommend a visit there. I would, however, recommend and praise our final stop, a place that I visit on every trip to Penang. The Eastern and Oriental Hotel is a five star colonial masterpiece, there are very few similarly styled places left in the world now so make the most of them whilst they are around to enjoy. It is on a par with the Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Raffles in Singapore, The Galle Face in Colombo and the Mount Nelson in Cape Town. Make sure, as you enter, to clap your hands once and listen to the equivalent of a sonic Mexican wave as the sound of one clap reverberates around the dome in the ceiling then when you laugh at the result listen to that laugh repeat continuously for another circuit. Gin and Tonics by the swimming pool alongside the ocean are the only civilised way to complete your visit and as a contrast to two / three of previous ports you do not even think once about the ice added to your drink, the service is just as assuring. Extreme eleven: Normally when you arrive in a port you have a choice of places to go and see, close by and more distance options are the rule but Port Kalang is an exception to this rule. Here you have the option of going to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, or a Mall twenty minutes away. So it's really KL or bust. It seems there is nothing of interest anywhere around this port and coastal area that sticks its head above the grass and says, "Look at me". We have been to KL several times and as this was to be our last day on board we decided to lounge and be lazy and in the afternoon do the thing that all of us really dislike....the packing. Extreme twelve: Docked beside Sentosa Island, we said our farewells to so many people because this was one of the most convivial cruises I have ever made. Normally I hate "Goodbyes" and avoid them obsequiously but this time was different as saying "Goodbye" seemed like an extension of the cruise not to be missed and totally acceptable and the confirmation of this was completely verified when our departure was acknowledged by Ken Yap, the Food and Beverage Manager, Anton Winkler, The Hotel Director, Sue Denning, the Cruise Director and Captain Leif Karlsson . Never before have I experienced such a parade and all of them had been and still were very much a part of a great cruise. Singapore is a terrific place with loads to do but with luggage it is not that easy which is why we booked, prior to the cruise, a day room at the Pan Pacific Hotel. This turned out to be one of our better ideas and it allowed us to go where we wanted in Singapore and then come back to relax by the pool have a snack and then a rest and a shower before we changed and went to the airport for an 11-20pm flight. We also treated ourselves to a couple of places at the Skyview Lounge at the airport. There are very few seating areas at Changi Airport and in the evening we found this to be a great way to relax in comfort before the 14 hours of night-time flying. Extreme thirteen: A highly appropriate name and number. Singapore is in the equatorial tropics with a humid atmosphere and a daytime temperature above 90'F., it's not much different throughout the night. We arrived in London at 5-30 am with an outside temperature of -6'C. and a gantry and walkway which had jammed with ice. The 90 mile drive home was not brilliant as the further south we went the worse the conditions became. Finally close to the end of this slow advance we were informed that freezing rain had caused two major pile-ups and we were advised by the sweet little girl that talks to me via the Sat Nav (Amer trans: GPS) that I should change my route. Oh! She's a blessing, that one, and it was the best advice I had that day. 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Sail Date November 2009
Having read other reviews we booked the cruise on Azamara Quest from Athens to Singapore and some aspects of the cruise did not live up to our expectations, based on previous reviews. I will cover both the positive and negative points ... Read More
Having read other reviews we booked the cruise on Azamara Quest from Athens to Singapore and some aspects of the cruise did not live up to our expectations, based on previous reviews. I will cover both the positive and negative points below, in order to provide a more balanced review, which I hope will be of assistance to those considering an Azamara cruise. EMBARKATION. If, like us, you arrived in a coach from Athens airport, the small number of check in staff were completely overwhelmed and we waited about half an hour to board the ship. Not a good start to the cruise. CABIN. We had a balcony cabin which although starting to show its age, was generally in good condition and was kept clean by our "Butler" and his assistant. We found both of them to be friendly and efficient. We heard another passenger comment that his butler had introduced himself and said "if you look after me, I will look after you". I would like to think it was a misunderstanding, since their command of English is very limited. The bed was not too soft, not too hard and we found it very comfortable. Soap, shampoo and conditioner were provided, but no shower gel. Fresh drinking water and ice were provided twice a day and a bowl of fruit was replenished as it was eaten. We and other passengers found the cabin air conditioning cold and the temperature could only be lowered, not increased, or turned off. I understand from the crew that the last cruises in the Med at the end of the season provided many more complaints about the cabins and other areas of the ship being too cold. TELEVISION. The quality of the picture on the flat screen TVs in the cabins was better than on many other cruise ships. The variety of programs was limited and there was no real choice of music channels. One particularly annoying feature was the film channel. We were provided with a TV guide, but after a few days, whoever was responsible for the timing of the films decided to change the timing and sequence of the films, so you never knew what was on, or at what time. After several complaints to Guest Relations, a new guide was provided - which was exactly the same as the previous one!! Towards the end of the cruise the timing of the films was shown each day on one of spare channels, but even this was wrong. On some of the films the sound was not loud enough, even with the volume turned to maximum. After about a week at sea a very poor quality chart (map) showed the moving position of the ship. Its accuracy was so poor that when approaching and leaving Dubai, it showed the ship to be on the Iranian coast. Not reassuring for anyone with a nervous disposition! It is small points such as these where you expect a cruise line which is part of Royal Caribbean, to be able to get it right. CREW. Azamara claim to employ 60 different nationalities. Unfortunately, most speak their own limited version of English and communication could be difficult if you asked a question which was outside the vocabulary they had learnt. The more experienced and senior members of the crew, had a much better command of English, as did the officers. We did, nevertheless, find all the crew to be extremely friendly and helpful, more so than those we have encountered on other cruise lines. DINING. We found the concept of open dining to be so much more relaxed. We never had any difficulty in being shown immediately to a table (for two if we so wished). We found the quality of the food in the main restaurant (Discoveries) to be very variable, but with care it was possible to choose the better options from the menu, often with help from the waiter. The self service food in Windows Cafe was generally good and varied for Breakfast and Lunch. It was advisable to avoid the busiest periods, as the area around the two food counters became congested and it was often difficult to find a free table. Various burgers, hot dogs, kebabs, chips and salads were available from the Pool Grill from 11am - 6pm. The quality of the kebabs and stir fried vegetables varied, depending on the chef, but could be very good. Adjacent to this was a self serve ice cream machine - even more calories! Our favourite restaurant and that of many other passengers we spoke to, was Aqualina. It served an excellent quality European/American varied, but fixed menu. We were able to dine there on about 10 nights, paying the $5 gratuity, which was a bargain, as the quality, service and relaxed atmosphere was worth well in excess of $5. We were not impressed with the other Speciality Restaurant, Prime C. We found the steaks and most other dishes to be lacking in flavour and finesse, but perhaps it just did not suit our tastes. A very good room service breakfast menu is provided with a number of cooked choices, which always arrived hot. DRINKS. As has been said by others, the mark up on the drinks is excessive, even before they add another 18% service charge! As a result many other passengers did not order any drinks with their meals. We also noted that fewer people were drinking in the bars, lounges and around the pool. If Azamara reduced the prices they would almost certainly sell more drinks and therefore make a greater overall profit. We know many passengers "smuggled" bottles onboard to keep in their cabins. We see that from April this year Azamara will be including house wine with lunch and dinner, but they seem to have missed the point. If they lowered the prices they would sell more drinks. Entertainment. There have been many comments about the poor quality of the entertainers. During our cruise, other passengers described some of the acts as "childish" or "amateur". In this life, you generally get what you pay for. Azamara ships are small and offer reasonably priced cruises. That means they do not have the budget to employ a first class cruise director or entertainers. Having said that, the individual musical entertainers were generally very good. Punctuality. The Captain, or whoever calculated the time necessary to travel the distances required appears to have miscalculated, or more likely, could not afford the fuel costs to steam at full speed. As a result we were 6 hours late arriving in Dubai and 3 hours late in Penang. To be fair, we did have to make an unscheduled stop in Oman for a sick passenger to be taken to hospital, but in our experience when this has happened on other ships, the Captain has increased speed to compensate for the delay. SHORE EXCURSIONS. As on many cruise lines, we found the shore excursions to be grossly overpriced and in this case we received misleading information from the excursions manager. As a result we always used local taxis and transport and enjoyed our trips ashore. We heard many complaints about the poor quality of the excursions, so I would recommend some time spent on research before the cruise, to find out what is available at each port. For instance, we found we could often obtain a taxi for half the price by walking a few hundred metres from the port entrance. OTHER PASSENGERS. On this cruise there was a broad mix of nationalities. The largest proportion were American, plus a mix of British, German, Italian, French, Australian and others. DISEMBARKATION. The disembarkation process was faultless with us leaving the ship exactly at the prearranged time. The Captain was at the gangway to say goodbye ! OVERALL IMPRESSION. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and found it to offer exceptional value for money. If only Azamara could tighten up on some aspects of management on board, Azamara cruises could be close to perfect. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Having sailed on the same ship during a much shorter trip in January, my wife and I were interested in finding out whether the same high standards would be maintained over the 24 days that passed between our embarkation in Athens to the ... Read More
Having sailed on the same ship during a much shorter trip in January, my wife and I were interested in finding out whether the same high standards would be maintained over the 24 days that passed between our embarkation in Athens to the time we disembarked in Singapore. In his review, Neil Down has already commented on many aspects of the cruise, and we would agree with almost all that he has said. The people on-board would have to be one of the happiest and most pleasant groups that we have had the pleasure to sail with. Interaction between these people was fantastic, as was interaction with the Captain, other crew members, activities staff and especially the Cruise Director Sue Denning. Sue was an absolute ball of fire, and was also a consumate entertainer in her own right. By chance, we happened to have the same Stateroom Attendant (Made) as on our January cruise. He again looked after our every need, as did our Butler Malik. There seems little point in repeating most of the things that have been mentioned in other reviews of this cruise. However, we would like to say that, in our opinion, the food in Discoveries and Windows was every bit as varied and enjoyable as on the previous cruise. Food in Prime C and Aquilina was, if anything, better than in January. Our only disappointment was that the serving staff seemed to be somewhat overworked, and had little time in which they could engage in conversation with guests in the dining rooms. Although very happy with the opportunity to dine when we wished, we did miss the cameraderie with fellow guests and waiters that we have enjoyed on ships that have set dining arrangements. A word about the entertainment. We managed to attend almost all of the evening shows in the Cabaret. It's a matter of personal taste, but we found things generally very good. The Irish comic was absolutely superb, and the violinist, singers and pianist very talented. The 'Best of the Quest' show which included all of the on-board entertainers was very good, and provided them with an opportunity to fully display their talents. Jim Badger, the harpist and the guitarist, who played at various venues around the ship developed a very loyal following, and Sue Denning, in her own show, was a real pro. Unfortunately, there were three magicians of sorts who appeared at various times during the cruise. Mediocre, at best. Of course, we cannot miss mentioning the two folkloric presentations while in port. The show given in Mumbai was varied and quite entertaining. The same cannot be said for the sad effort that we saw while in Dubai. After the latest experience, would we sail with Azamara Quest again. Providing the itinerary and price are of interest, the answer is definely YES. Nevernever Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
just finished reading a review by Neil, who was apparently on the same cruise, and took some of the same tours. I concur entirely with his comments on Dubai and KL, both ports new to us---no reason to return to either unless it's the ... Read More
just finished reading a review by Neil, who was apparently on the same cruise, and took some of the same tours. I concur entirely with his comments on Dubai and KL, both ports new to us---no reason to return to either unless it's the only way to get somewhere else; in Dubai, the only thing of real interest, unless you like treeless compounds or are heavy into architecture and/or spending money just to say you did, is the old spice and gold souks; KL didn't even have that. couldn't get enough of the ship, however, and would gladly stayed on for it's trip to Hong Kong even though we have been to most of the ports. The Quest was incredible, small, compact yet spacious---even eight days at sea, which I had anticipated would be daunting, was instead delightful and restful; things to do for people who wanted, or, for those like me, one could sit and watch the ocean go by; then of course, there was also the excitement of pirates. Dining on board was a wonderful experience, wherever we dined--including the buffets, which I usually avoid. Loved the specialty restaurants, and also two special wine dinners; our cabin, a balcony on the 8th deck was spacious and well appointed; our butler while more than adequate for our needs, was actually the low point on service which everywhere else was superb. Public rooms also were comfortable and spacious; somewhere between visions of the Titanic and Agatha Christie; not once on the entire cruise did I feel crowded, unable to find a (favorite) chair, have to wait in lines (oh, I take that back...there was Indian immigration, not the fault of the ship). Overall, I would rate this a five+---except for the shore excursions. even when planning them, they seemed expensive for what they offered. nevertheless, both my husband and I were pressed and didn't do the research we usually do before traveling, so we just "signed up". as it was we opted out of certain things---like a three day tour to the Taj--which was priced as much as the entire cruise. when we got on board, we discovered that others had planned private tours at around 1/4 the cost. similarly, the flight to Luxor was prohibitively expensive; apparently others thought so too, since it was ultimately cancelled. which leads me to Alexandria: apparently Neil took the same tour we did--or one very similar; but we were obviously on different buses; whereas he seemed to enjoy his tour, ours dragged us to one after another "beautiful" locations--the "beautiful" public park--a few shrubs strewn with garbage, the "beautiful" beach---more garbage; the local mosque, which was gorgeous--except for the garbage, buildings to which we could not gain entrance, then to a mediocre at best "Italian" restaurant---where one of our own tour members smoked a cigar throughout. Ignoring the cigar (if one can), I didn't travel to Egypt to eat Italian. The one highpoint was the Roman amphitheater, relatively recently uncovered and still more or less pristine; it won't be for long if, despite signs everywhere, tourists are not only allowed, but encouraged by the guides, to trample all over it. The highlight of the tour, however, was purportedly exhibits from the underwater excavations of the palace of Cleopatra; this is why we opted for the tour. Don't know where they were but except for a few enlarged photos at the amphitheater, which I thought were the prelude to what we would see, or unless I missed them in the discussion which I couldn't hear during our museum tour (crowded with competing groups), unlikely--I can still read---there was nothing. This was not at all as described. This was $130.00/person; we should have stayed on board. A number of people on this tour complained; apparently we all got the same negative response. When we talked to the tour directors about these problems, they were totally unresponsive. In KL, after a tour of the local government buildings, a few of historical interest, and a 1/2 hour in Chinatown, we were literally dropped off for three hours at the twin Towers; again, we couldn't get up in them (apparently access is by reservation only), and were limited to the first several floors---another large shopping mall with upscale international stores. We did, on our own, find a good Malay lunch, but, again, I didn't go all the way to KL to find another Armani and Gucci. $68.00/person---not including lunch. To give them their due, we had wonderful tours to the Elephanta Caves in Mumbai, a large part due to a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide (the Market Tour next day with another guide somehow got "redirected" by some members of the tour who wanted to "buy souvenirs"; it was all we could do to hang on to Crawford Market); a nice Harbor Tour in Cochin, and a fun trishaw ride in Penang. So...word to the wise: do take the ship; we will again. but plan your own shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Going Cruising .. At 12.30 we arrived at the ship in Piraeus. We checked our bags in curbside and boarded straight away. There was a convenient hand luggage check-in, to avoid the need to drag bags everywhere, and lunch was being served ... Read More
Going Cruising .. At 12.30 we arrived at the ship in Piraeus. We checked our bags in curbside and boarded straight away. There was a convenient hand luggage check-in, to avoid the need to drag bags everywhere, and lunch was being served in the buffet. So far so good !! Cabins were ready by 2pm and we headed off to 7116 .. complete with Sunset Veranda where our view for 24 days was the wake .. and it was lovely. Our next door neighbors were Sandy & George, who we had 'met' through the Cruise Critic boards prior to sailing. In fact there were 30+ members of CC on the ship at the get-together - a great way to start a cruise, knowing so many people ! The Ship .. The Azamara Quest comes from the famous Renaissance Cruises Fleet R1 - R8, the Quest sailed as the R7 Delphin Renaissance and later the Blue Moon, when she sailed for Pulmanter [Spanish Cruise Company that RCCL purchased]. Note: See where they all went .. http://www.allanfox.id.au/Slant%20on%20life/Where%20R%20You.pdf We had previously cruised on the Pacific Princess [R3] [who was berthed in Alexandria with us, small world] so we had a good understanding of the layout. Of course this never stopped Robyn turning left instead of right - but hey, she was never going to get lost, so no problem ! • The Quest was in very good condition and you could routinely see crew keeping her that way. I like that in a ship .. • Cabins were about the same size as normal [at least for us], storage could be better .. • Bathroom was a little small but functional .. • The Sunset Veranda was about 3 x bigger than the standard veranda but unfortunately was a magnet for 'soot' whenever we were in port [we had a bath mat at our sliding door to stop the dirt tracking into the cabin] however it was still quite magnificent to go out and watch the wake .. • Sun loungers around the pool were teak not plastic. I like that in a ship too .. The 'smoking policy' on board provides 2 areas where a smoker can light up. One corner of the pool deck and one corner of the Looking Glass lounge. Staterooms are supposed to be non-smoking however I think this has mixed compliance, given the smell of smoke that can be encountered around the accommodation decks. Personally I have no idea why a smoker would want to cruise on Azamara. The Staff .. The Staff were excellent and I routinely heard about them swapping between the Journey and the Quest - which I think is a terrific methodology for maintaining similar standards on the ships. The Butler position was a bit of a 'furphy', I tested him out on a few things and overall it was handled well however he was pretty much the same as any room steward. I suspect that the suites and penthouses get more value from these roles than the regular state rooms. The Service .. The Service was very good in every area ! I did question the 18% gratuity on the wine bill, I had no issues with the charge on the other bar and drinks services. My rational was that the sommelier took the order and served and then disappeared, never to return again. The table steward served for the remainder of the meal and similarly if you had [say] a half bottle and wanted another of the same you never saw a sommelier at all and still paid the 18%. I saw this as smoke and mirrors because you already had a daily gratuity that covered the dining room service and I subsequently discussed it with the Director of Guest Services. No point going home without saying something. Note: There was a mid cruise survey that I responded to and I was suitably impressed to see some immediate changes, in line with comments that I had made. Who knows this may also be addressed. We spent $400 in the shops [on mostly perfumes] and received a $150 credit, what a deal ! The Food .. The Food in the restaurants was excellent and I never had a meal I thought was average ! The specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, were wonderful and we particularly enjoyed Prime C. The Director of Guest Services mentioned that Azamara like to see 80-120 persons per night dine in the specialty restaurants to ensure that the main restaurant can flow smoothly. Accordingly, Azamara do not charge an extra fee to dine in the specialty restaurants, but they do ask for an additional $5 tip, which from our perspective worked really well. I think we dined in Prime C on 4 or 5 occasions and twice in Aqualina. One of the features of Prime C is a marble high table that seats 12 persons. I thought that this was a great table and that to host a dinner there would be a lot of fun. So, on 8 December I booked the table and invited some folks to come and dine & wine with us. Needless to say it was a wonderful evening. The buffet on this design of ship is a bow tie design [narrow in the middle] which causes some congestion and the hot food was invariably not quite as hot as you'd like [but is any buffet ?] however the pizza's were very good and the pool grill served excellent burgers and pea soup ! Ergo the upside significantly outweighed the downside. The Entertainment .. The Entertainment is the only real area that we had any kind of issue with, and in saying this I know that others will not necessarily agree; • They had all the normal stuff - heaps of trivia - line dancing - cooking demonstrations - bridge - gambling, etc • They had an orchestra that played predominantly in the Cabaret Lounge, when something was on, and in odd places and configurations from time to time .. • They had an excellent troupe [5 persons] - that performed on average once a week, I saw them on the deck and in the bar more than on the stage, which I couldn't comprehend .. • They had a Pianist and a Harpist that played mostly on Deck 5 [outside the shop] and who had their own followings .. • They had a 3 piece band that played around the place but mostly in the Looking Glass on Deck 10 and they were strong on jazz - which unfortunately we don't enjoy .. In my view they should have been more of a cover band playing to the mass market whereas I think they saw themselves as more of a feature act .. • They had about 6 Artists on board at various times - some were really good - some were not to our taste .. BUT they didn't meet the basic requirements as we see them, i.e.; 1. A bit of music to dance to before dinner .. 2. An evening show of some kind .. 3. And some music to take you into the night. Unfortunately, there were 'gaps' where you'd go for a drink and there would be nothing happening except canned music, or you'd seek out a show only to find that there wasn't one scheduled. To conclude, unfortunately we don't feel that Azamara have this aspect worked out as well as they need to and cannot decide if they want to adopt small ship standards or big ship style entertainment. Note: Here's a tip, take a look at WindStar, they do small ship really well and Celebrity certainly know how to do big ship well. The Passengers .. The passengers on board were overwhelmingly a well travelled bunch, with lots of cruises under their belts. I sensed that most had picked the itinerary for the journey [as we had really] and loved the sea days. They were from all over the world - we had announcements in English and German every day and when it was a special announcement we also had French and Spanish versions. The Cruise Critic Boards gave us a head start on meeting people and we shared quality time with a number of them throughout the cruise. It felt as if most passengers were teetotallers because the bars were invariably as quiet as the proverbial grave and we routinely found ourselves with a barman, a waiter and a DJ, and no one else. Whilst at dinner we were often the only ones drinking wine - except the night we ordered the same as a second couple and it took a while to decide which bottle belonged to whom ? Feast or famine ? On the positive side there was never a problem getting served. The Ports .. The Ports were largely interesting however not necessarily the places we would re-visit, then again we cruise primarily for the ships and the sea, and ports are secondary for us .. • We managed to visit Athens before the riots .. we saw our hotel under siege on the CNN coverage .. • The Pyramids and Sphinx were incredible whilst the litter and rubbish was a disgrace. 80 million people live there, you'd think someone could tidy up. If you do visit Egypt, get used to having armed guards wherever you go .. • The Suez Canal was fascinating, so different from the Panama Canal process. Ships head North and South in convoy and pass each other in a lake in the middle .. • The Quest avoided the Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden by accelerating out of any problems. The Nautica was attacked and she was in convoy behind us. Interestingly, the hose pipe is the weapon of defense .. • Mumbai was in the news when terrorists took over the Taj Hotel, so in the interests of safety Azamara rescheduled the itinerary and went to Muscat and Goa. That was a pity because we had a great tour organized, a trip to the spice market followed by a cooking class. In Conclusion .. We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, Azamara do most things really well and what we weren't 100% happy with did not spoil anything for us. I read a definition of 'luxury' that went along the lines of, Luxury is being treated the way you want to be treated and I think that this cruise meets this definition. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008

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